Last year I spent some time in Seoul, South Korea. I had the fantastic experience of joining in the early morning prayer meetings of a church as they gathered hundreds of people together to pray each day at 4.30am.
It made me think about our experiences here in the UK. So many people here are longing for revival, but churches don’t tend to fill out early morning prayer meetings. In fact, churches often struggle to get attendance at prayer meetings held at any time of the day. What’s the reason for that?
It made me think about four connected links in a chain.
So many of us are longing for revival. And by revival I don’t simply mean renewal within the church; I mean seeing huge numbers of people who are not Christians making commitments to start following Jesus. Genuine revival is always about seeing people come to faith in large numbers. And the accompanying sign of revival is the transformation of society, not just transformation of the church.
If we want to see revival then we need to pray. We see this in Scripture, and we also see it throughout church history. The early disciples prayed constantly for ten days after Jesus’ ascension, and on the 11th day the Holy Spirit was poured out in a dramatic way, and three thousand people got saved. Fast forward nineteen centuries, and after years of praying we had the Welsh revival of 1904, and the Hebridean revivals after World War Two. Prayer always precedes revival.
And yet, in the UK at least, we struggle to get people to pray. I think this is because we have a lack of faith amongst Christians. Many of us have stopped actually believing that God answers our prayers, and a lack of faith leads to a lack of prayer. Jesus explicitly linked prayer and faith in Luke 18 when he told the story of the persistent widow. The parable is told so that his disciples “should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1), but the parable ends with the challenge, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Faith and prayer are clearly linked; those with faith will keep on praying, those without faith will give up on prayer.
And so where does faith come from? “Faith comes from hearing the word” (Romans 10:17). Faith comes from hearing, studying and memorising the Bible and its message. Reading it builds faith in God. Has the church stopped believing in the Bible in this country? I think huge sections of it have. We’ve turned away from much of it, become embarrassed by parts of it, and lost our confidence in it. And that in turn has led us to a lack of faith, and a dearth of prayer.
If we really are longing for revival then we’ll pray, but we’ll only pray when we have faith, and we’ll only have faith when we return to the Bible. So please, if you long to see revival, get your Bible out and keep reading it, and then be encouraging others to do the same. It will be more than your own life that gets transformed.
Mark Williamson also blogs regularly for One Rock, a training organisation developing missionary leaders across the globe. He’s passionate about good films, good food, getting into deep conversations, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markonerock.