Plea for Revival -- By: Eric J. Alexander

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 02:4 (Fall 1993)
Article: Plea for Revival
Author: Eric J. Alexander


Plea for Revival

Eric J. Alexander

The place of prayer in every true revival of religion is as much logical as theological. If revival is a sovereign work of God, as we declare it to be, then the calling of the people of God in relation to revival is to pray for it. In that sense, prayer is fundamental to revival both biblically and historically.

But it is important at the beginning of our thinking on this theme to see the danger of making a false connection between prayer and revival, in which we could easily fall into the kind of error Charles G. Finney exemplified. He said that it was possible for God’s people to have a revival at any time or place simply by fulfilling certain conditions. We can find ourselves thinking that prayer is a lever which inevitably produces revival, so that all we need to do if we want to see a revival is arrange a concert of prayer (as they did in the eighteenth century) or all-night prayer meetings (as people have done at other times), and revival will come.

That is a form of the antiquarian fallacy which sees that before any extraordinary work of grace in history, God’s people were put to prayer in an extraordinary way. From this we wrongly conclude that if we do as they did, we will experience what they experienced as a matter of course.

Calvin Colton, an American minister of the last century, wrote quite properly in his book, The History and Character of American Revivals:

A revival is a special and manifest outpouring of the Spirit of God when the work no longer labors in the hands of men but seems to be taken up by God Himself, and the people are then seen rushing in unwonted crowds and under the deepest solemnity to the house of prayer.

The proper connection between prayer and revival is also expressed by Jonathan Edwards in his Thoughts on Revival:

It is God’s will that the prayers of His saints should be one great and principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s kingdom in the world. When God has very great things to accomplish in His church, it is His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of His people, as is manifest in Ezekiel 36:37: “I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” And it is revealed that when God is about to do great things for His church, he will begin by remarkably pouring out the spirit of grace and supplication (Zech. 12:10).

Special prayer for revival is therefore a spirit that God pours out upon His people. It results from a new zeal for God’s honor and...

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