Monday, July 11, 2016

Praying for Revival or Not Praying for Revival

In response to my first post of last week, entitled, "Reports of Revival in America," someone wrote, who was critical of this one question, "Can we stop looking for revival across America?"  The critic thought that question or statement to be very, very bad, not good at all, terrible.  So the question follows, should believers be praying for revival?  And perhaps previous to that question, one must answer, what is revival?

For revival being such a big deal according to many for those in the church, the New Testament doesn't once use the word "revival."  Actually, the English word "revival" doesn't occur once in the King James Version of the entire Bible.  If "revival" were so important for Christians, and something they should expect and be praying for, one would think, it seems, that it would appear in the Bible one time.

On the other hand, the English verb "revive" (revive, revived, and reviving) does appear in both the Old and New Testaments.  Here are the usages:


Nehemiah 4:2, And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?
Psalm 85:6, Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?
Psalm 138:7, Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.
Isaiah 57:15, For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
Hosea 6:2, After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.
Hosea 14:7, They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
Habakkuk 3:2, O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.


Genesis 45:27, And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived:
Judges 15:19, But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof Enhakkore, which is in Lehi unto this day.
1 Kings 17:22, And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.
2 Kings 13:21, And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.
Romans 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
Romans 14:9, For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.


Ezra 9:8-9, And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.  For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.

The only time any form of "revive occurs in the New Testament is in Romans 7:9 and Romans 14:9, the Greek word anazao, which means, "to come back to life."  That Greek word is also found in Luke 15:24, 32 and Revelation 20:5.  Here are those usages:
Luke 15:24, For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
Luke 15:32, It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
Revelation 20:5, But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
The Hebrew word translated “revive and revived” is always the verb, hayah.  It is very common, found 357 times in the Old Testament, translated first “living” in Genesis 1:24, and then “beast” in Genesis 1:25 (living thing).  Sometimes it is translated “lived,” as in Genesis 5:3, “And Adam lived.”

In the few times the King James Version translates hayah, “revive,” it is found in each instance the piel, except for Isaiah 57:15, where it is in the hiphil.  The qal form of hayah translates “revived” in all four instances.  Hayah means "to be alive" in the qal, the piel is "to cause to be alive," and the hiphil is "to cause to live."

The two usages of “reviving,” both in Ezra 9:8-9 translate a different Hebrew term, mihyah.  It is not a very often used word, only eight times in the entire Old Testament, always a noun and in addition to “reviving” translated “preserve life,” “quick,” “sustenance,” “victuals,” and “recover” in those instances in the King James Version.

I want to look just at the English usages, because those are the ones from which the critics are receiving their doctrine.  The only times the word surely means something spiritual, whether “revive,” “revived,” or “reviving” are in Psalm 85:6, Isaiah 57:15, Habakkuk 3:2, Ezra 9:8-9.  Neither of the two in the New Testament are a spiritual reviving.  Two of the four in total are in prayers, both of course in the Old Testament.

First, of the two that are not prayers, God speaks in Isaiah 57:15 and promises that He will preserve the humble and contrite, as Matthew Henry writes,
He will give them reviving joys and hopes sufficient to counterbalance all the griefs and
fears that break their spirits. He dwells with them, and his presence is reviving.
Second, Ezra 9:8-9 do not use the same Hebrew word, as I referenced above.  Nonetheless, the “reviving” is encouragement from the Lord to keep going, despite their opposition to completing the task God has them to do as returning captives.  Neither these first and second examples correlate to the almost exclusive idea of revival especially promoted by revivalists.

The two classic “revival” texts, to which are most commonly referred, come from Psalm 85:6 and Habbakkuk 3:2.  They are both prayers, the former the request of God to revive people and the second to revive God’s work.  They are quoted above, but here are the two again:
Psalm 85:6, Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?
Habakkuk 3:2, O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.
It is important not to superimpose over these two usages what someone already thinks or perceives about revival.  The wording of Psalm 85:6 reads as lamenting a condition.  It is a request, but spoken in a negative way:  "Wilt thou not revive us again?"  Is this the state in which we will be left?  Do we have no hope?  It is not so much a prayer for revival as it is a prayer to be informed as to whether this present state is going to end.  Yes or no, are things going to end this way or are You going to give us some hope that would bring us joy in this desolation and discouragement?

Psalm 85 looks to have been written concerning an exilic or post-exilic Israel, who seemed herself to have been left for dead with no hope of future restoration either to the land or to her former state. Israel was under God's wrath and was looking to be returned to her former condition. This psalm could allude to any period where Israel would be brought back to the place of God's original intention for her.  No doubt, Israel's poor state as a nation related to her faithless departure from following the Lord.  She suffered under God's chastisement and she cried to God to return her to her former condition.

Israel had a basis for a prayer of restoration.  At the dedication of the temple, Solomon prayed to God in 2 Chronicles 6 for the right or privilege to pray to God during times of judgment or chastisement. He asked God if Israel could pray toward this temple with hope of restoration.  In answer to this prayer, God gave him the familiar promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14:  "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."  The United States of America does not have the same promise given to it.

Habbakuk 3:2 is similar except for the obvious.  Habbakuk does not pray for the reviving of the nation itself, but of God's work.  If you consider the model prayer of Jesus in Matthew 6 and Luke 11, you read the request, "Thy will be done."  If you replaced "will" with "work," it would read, "Thy work be done."  Men need and desire the work of God.  Israel was defined by the work of God. Without the work of God, she was nothing.  God had promised Israel a future, so Habbakuk had a biblical basis for praying it.  God's desire for Israel was also Habbakuk's desire.

I don't see a New Testament equivalent to the above mentioned prayers in the Old Testament.  God gave certain promises to Israel and the psalmist and Habakkuk prayed according to those promises. God would return Israel to its former place.  God had promised.  They were requesting according to the will of God, which is what every believer should do when he prays, that is, pray for the will of God.

Believers should not be praying, like revivalists, for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit or that the Holy Spirit would come down and meet with them in a special way -- those types of prayers.  They are praying for some event accompanied by some indication that something amazing is occurring, a quasi-sign of some sort.  Then they produce the cause for the effect with the music and the style of speaking.  This was nothing like the great awakening with Whitefield in the colonial period.

No one should pray for the Spirit to come, since He's already here.  No one should pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, because He has already been poured out.  These are second blessing prayers.  These are Keswick prayers.  They are actually faithless prayers.  Why would someone pray for something that already occurred?  Why not just believe that it occurred?  They want more of these events, these signs, these occurrences as a validation.  They are seeking after signs.

God's Word is powerful.  The Holy Spirit will work through God's Word.  God has promised.  We should, like the apostles, pray for boldness in preaching the Word of God.  Pray for doors of opportunity.  Are these two prayers, boldness and opportunity, big events?  They are obedience to God.  We should look at obedience to God as a big enough event for us.  God is already working providentially all around and all over.  God's power is immense and He wants us already to acknowledge it, not seek for more.

Instead of praying what the revivalists pray, believers should pray like what the Apostle Paul did for the church at Ephesus in Ephesians 3:16:  "that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man."  Believers have all the power of the universe within them in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  However, there is still the struggle to sin that Paul reveals at the end of Romans 7.  Believers have the Holy Spirit, but they need to be strengthened by the Spirit in their struggle over sin.  Prayer is one of the ways they have that victory not to sin.  This is parallel with the request in the model prayer in Matthew 6:13 and Luke 11:4:  "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever."  This is a prayer believers ought to pray for themselves and for others.


Tyler Robbins said...

Excellent. Many thanks!

Gary Webb said...

Thanks Pastor Brandenburg. I preached on the subject of "revival" Sunday evening, since our church is located about 35 miles from the "revival" in Burlington, NC. I am familiar with the preacher, the music he sings, & his home church. It has been my observation over the years that people love a "holy hoedown" but they are not that keen on repentance that means actually obeying the Lord.

There is an example of the type of things that occur at "revivals" & camp meetings recorded in Luke 11:27-28. A woman got emotionally carried away & yelled out that Mary's womb & breasts were blessed by God [that was a spiritual exclamation :)]. Jesus responded that the people who are blessed are those who hear the Word of God & keep it.

It is my prayer that people will be saved in this meeting. I have hope for this because God uses flawed messengers. However, that hope is not very strong because of the very serious warning Paul gave to the Corinthians in I Corinthians 1:17 - "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." When the organizers of this meeting use man's wisdom in the emotionalism & carnal music to entice people, they may completely destroy the power of the cross itself.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Bro Webb,

Very good comment. I'm probably going to follow up on Wednesday.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Bro Webb,

Thanks for the comment. Are they preaching a true gospel there? Is it charismatic? What kind of music are they using?

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...


This will give you an idea.

Kent Brandenburg said...

And here:

KJB1611 said...

From what I can tell, the preaching did not contain anything false, and if people want to be excited and yell a lot, there's noting wrong with that. The music was terrible, not something one would connect to the Holy Spirit, though. I may be limited in what I can see since I don't have a Facebook account.

Kent Brandenburg said...

You can't see these?

KJB1611 said...

Not on my phone, and not on some computers, at least.

KJB1611 said...

I was able to see the link from a different computer and seeing him read off names of people who asked Jesus into their heart was not very encouraging, not something one saw in Acts or the Gospels when people were saved. The only numbers counted in Acts were new baptized church members, not people who asked Jesus into their heart. In Acts there were zero people who did that.