Prayer: The Key to Revival
By Rev. Oliver W. Price
Did you know in that in the 1790's so many people fled to the Kentucky frontier to escape conviction from murder, robbery and other crimes that Logan County was nicknamed Rogues' Harbor? Moral recovery began when a Presbyterian minister named James McGready united his three small congregations in a solemn covenant of prayer. Finally, crowds ranging from 10,000 to 25,000 gathered for the great camp meeting revivals that transformed the frontier.
By January of 1801 the great revivals that began in the camp meetings were spreading from county to county in Kentucky and Tennessee. The Elkhorn Baptist Association had a phenomenal growth from 29 conversions in 1799 to 3,022 in 1801. Church histories say that these new converts became outstanding members for a generation to come.
In 1791 the ministers of the First and Second Baptist Churches of Boston saw the need for a fresh breath from heaven and decided to hold a union prayer meeting following the example of the English Baptists. Soon the main auditorium was filled and overflowing. Even during winter blizzards the crowds came to pray and God abundantly answered.
Many New York ministers and their congregations joined in the Concert of Prayer for spiritual awakening on the First Monday of each month for 1795 onwards. The awakening swept through Long Island in 1799 continuing through the spring of 1800. Infidelity was swept away. Taverns were deserted. Family feuds gave way to brotherly love.
In the early 1800's a long-lasting spiritual awakening began in Newark, New Jersey with a day of humiliation and prayer for the mighty work of the Spirit. Christians banded together to pray for their pastors. Entire congregations were deeply moved through intense prayer. Ministers in pairs preached in prepared congregations and saw large numbers profess faith.
Charles G. Finney, who lived from 1792 to 1875, had a remarkable ministry that revived many Christians and God used his preaching to bring 500,000 to Christ. Finney said that the spirit of prayer which prevailed in his meetings was a very marked feature. New converts were so moved that they sometimes spent whole nights of prayer. A preacher named Daniel Nash traveled with Finney as a prayer partner. Nash would pray three or four hours a day. Finney himself spent so much time in prayer that he sometimes thought he was literally praying "without ceasing." Through prayer God moved mightily.
"Stop the mill, and let the people attend to religion; for it is more important that our souls be saved than that this factory run," shouted the owner of a cotton mill. It all began when two girls laughed at revivalist Charles Finney who was touring the mill. Suddenly they burst into tears as he drew near. Conviction spread all over the factory.
A powerful spiritual awakening swept through Troy, New York under Finney's preaching in 1826. A remarkable spirit deepened during the 11:00 a.m. daily prayer meetings. At one meeting a bank cashier was so burdened for the salvation of his boss that he could not get off of his knees. The whole group shared his agony. Soon their prayers were answered.
A young lady came to Troy, New York to buy a dress for a ball. Her cousin persuaded her to go to Finney's meetings. She was converted and forgot all about the dress and the ball. Instead she returned home praying for revival in New Lebanon and her prayers were soon answered.
A woman whose hometown was a moral waste and whose minister had become an infidel sought the help of Charles Finney who was preaching in a neighboring town. Visiting in her home he heard her praying and weeping in an upstairs room nearly all night. A powerful spirit of prayer and revival spread until nearly everyone in that town was converted.
In the spring of 1829, lumbermen came down to Philadelphia from the wilderness and were converted through Finney's preaching. They returned home to spread the good news. By 1831 they said that 5,000 people had been converted without a single minister of the gospel. People who had never before heard a prayer were now holding prayer meetings.
In January of 1831 in New York City thousands of Christians were praying as they had never prayed before. Churches were daily packed with overflow crowds. Conversions to Christ were occurring in all parts of the city. God was moving. New York had never before experienced such a great spiritual awakening.
During the great revival that swept New York City in 1831 two mothers spent some time praying together. Each of them had a daughter who was not born again. One of the daughters received Christ while the mothers were praying and the other came to the Lord the next day.
How Can I Best Promote Revival?
The noted Evangelist A.B. Earle was asked that question. His answer: "A Revival like fire must begin somewhere. It often begins with a little match and works its way through the combustible material around it. The great fire of Portland originated with a firecracker. So a work of grace often commences with a single Christian ...whoever would promote a Revival should begin with his own heart, and pray and confess and believe until he feels subdued by the Holy Spirit, until his love for Christ is glowing, fervid, burning ...until like Jesus he prays more earnestly.
Then let him get a few to join him in special prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let that little company hold on in united prayer, persistent, nothing-wavering prayer until the windows of heaven are opened.
The disciples at Jerusalem continued in prayer about 10 days before they received the promised power from on high. It does not appear that the meeting attracted much attention until the disciples were filled with the Spirit.
I have observed for nearly 40 years that the secret of success in promoting Revivals is in having our own hearts filled with the Holy Spirit.
Let none of us preach complaining sermons, or scolding, or make unkind remarks about those who differ from us, or do not come up to the work as we would have them. Let the melting, subduing love of Christ flow from our hearts and lips ...we will find ourselves in the midst of a glorious outpouring of the Spirit ...with no more need of asking, 'How can I promote a Revival'" (A.B. Earle, Bringing in the Sheaves, 1868, quoted by Armin Gesswin).
What is the "outpouring of the Spirit"? An outpouring of the spirit in revival occurs when the churches are filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4: 4:31-31: Ephesians 3:19b) and the pagan world is turned right side up through the preaching of the gospel (Acts 17:6). Meet with a group to pray for revival on the first Monday of each month until God fills our churches with the Spirit and Christians reach a multitude of the lost with the gospel in our generation.
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