Last week, we began a new series called “Revive Us”. In this series, we looking at what revival really means. We can all agree that our world right now needs revival. And we’ve been praying for a real revival to happen at the Revival on the Farm event in a few weeks. In fact, we’ve been praying that God wouldn’t wait even that long.
But what is a revival? Often when we hear that word, we think of a big tent full of people, a fiery preacher, and healings happening. But we often think it’s not for us, that it’s for all those people outside the church. “We’re already Christians, so we’re good.” When in reality, revival means reawaken. Meaning we’ve been woke up once, and we need it to happen again.
POINT #1 – Revival is a spiritual RE-awakening.
Revival means a spiritual reawakening, getting our attention, waking us up to something we’ve been neglecting. Revival also means resurfacing and renewing a love for God, an appreciation for His holiness, who He is and who we are in His sight, making a passion in us for His Word and His church. Revival is a convicting awareness of our sin, a desire for repentance and reconciliation, a desire to be obedient to God. It’s a spirit of great humility.
Revival is and can be for those who have never believed, but it is also if not more so, for the current believers as it revitalizes and deepens our faith. It’s like someone said in our bible study this past week, just as the Old Testament stories of God’s people go up and down, following God then not, getting close to God then far away, we do that in our individual lives as well. We have moments where we are following close, being obedient, deeply in love with God.
Then, we tend to have moments when we get comfortable, and distant, complacent to the world around us, and even forget about God. We know He’s there, He’s just not on the forefront of our minds.
As normal as that may be, that is not okay. We do it in our other relationships too, our marriages, our friendships, with our neighbors. We sort of lose our passion. But how do we get it back? Well, in my marriage, we date. I can tell when we are falling short and are not spending enough time together focusing on our relationship, because we argue. We get short with each other. We’re in too big of a hurry focusing on other things for far too long and then the relationship is strained.
It happens with friends as well. We go so long without talking to each other or spending any time together that eventually, the relationship no longer exists. This also is what we do with God.
But a revival opens our eyes back up to what we are missing or neglecting, to the truth once again in a fresh, new way. It’s a restart of living in obedience to God.
Roy Hession, an author and successful evangelist in England in the mid 1900’s said this in his book “The Calvary Road.”
“Revival simply means New Life, and that implies that there is already Life there, but that the Life has ebbed (receded, reduced). The unconverted do not need revival, for there is not any life there to revive. They need “vival.” It is the Christians who need revival. But that presupposes that there has been a declension (decline or moral deterioration). You only revive that which has grown weak. And they only are candidates for revival who are prepared to confess that there has been a declension in their lives. And the more specific the confession, the more definitely will God revive.”
Each week in this series, we’re looking further at what a revival is, and we’re also looking at what gets us there. Last week, we talked about the power of the Word of God and how when we commit to studying it, we learn more about God, His will, and become connected to Him. I asked you to read Psalm 119 which is the longest Psalm and chapter in the Bible. Almost every verse, 176 of them, speak of God’s Word, His commands, decree, and law showing us how important God’s Word is and how intertwined in our lives it needs to be.
The Word is the primary way God talks to us. If you want to know God’s will for your life, we need to be people of the Word. Read it. Memorize it. Study it. Know the Word. And above all, do what it says.
Even though studies are showing less people reading the Bible, it still ranks as the world’s best-seller. You may ask “How could such an ancient Book still be so relevant today?” Well, if we were talking about an old manual for building a computer from the 1980’s, I’d be concerned because the manual would talk about vacuum tubes and data cards and old technology that doesn’t help us at all today.
But because we’re talking about guidance for what we believe, how we live, and what is always true, I’d actually prefer a guide that’s been tested and proven over time. Every generation has its own biases and ideas, and culture changes so fast, but God’s written Word has been proven true for every generation for the last 3,500 years! (That’s how long the Bible’s been around – or at least parts of it.)
If you are a follower of Jesus, you need to be in the Bible every single day. Imagine eating only on Sunday and going with nothing except water the other six days every week. You might survive, but you wouldn’t be very healthy, and I don’t think you’d be very happy.
Today, we’re talking about the part prayer has in revival. And I want to start by reading a story from the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament, the last of the Old Testament historical books. There’s one more Old Testament book that was written after Nehemiah, Malachi which is known a letter from the prophet Malachi. Then for 400 years, we don’t have any books until the Gospels start in the New Testament.
Nehemiah records the history of the third and final return of God’s people to Jerusalem after captivity to rebuild the city walls. Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians, completely destroyed – the buildings, the outer walls, the Temple of God, they took anything of any worth, so that nothing was left but rubble. This all happened because once again God’s people turned from Him, so due to their disobedience, they were taken into captivity.
Seventy years later, due to the Persians, the new ruler, having a relaxed policy toward their captives, some were made free to leave captivity and rebuilt the Temple of God. Now this benefited the Persians, so don’t miss understand. They were still the guys in charge. But by spreading their allies out around them, it gave them more support. So when Jews, God’s people, go back they rebuild God’s Temple, but that was all that they were able to rebuild, not the city walls, not even homes. People were living on the outskirts of the city. And any city in that day without walls was vulnerable and in danger of being taken over again.
The account in Nehemiah takes the city to the next step – rebuilding the city walls. This fulfilled prophecies of Zechariah and Daniel. And the account in Nehemiah also tells of how the people were renewed in their faith once again.
The story begins with Nehemiah talking with fellow Jews who reported that the walls and gates of Jerusalem were in disrepair. This was disturbing news and rebuilding those walls became Nehemiah’s burden.
4 When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. 5 Then I said,
“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! 7 We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.
8 “Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. 9 But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’
10 “The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. 11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”
In those days I was the king’s cup-bearer.
Nehemiah was a Jew and the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes (Ar-ta-zurks-seez). When he hears that the Jews who’ve returned to Jerusalem are still living, two decades later, surrounded by remnants of the city walls, he is filled with grief. And that’s because the condition of the city mirrored the condition of the people’s faith. Both were in shambles and abandoned, and this distressed Nehemiah to great lengths.
He’s more than just concerned; he’s heartbroken and goes straight to God in prayer. He pleads with God to remember the covenant of Moses, just as Moses pleaded with God to remember His covenant in Exodus 32:13.
At the appropriate time, Nehemiah asked King Artaxerxes (Ar-ta-zurks-seez) for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild its fallen walls, and the king approves. Nehemiah knew that God wanted him to motivate the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, and the king’s agreeable answer was the affirmation he needed. So he left a responsible, prominent position in the Persian government to do what God wanted him to do. Nehemiah knew God could use his talents to get the job done. From the moment he arrived in Jerusalem, everyone knew who was in charge. He organized, managed, supervised, encouraged, met opposition, confronted injustice, met opposition again, and kept going until the walls were built.
Despite all the opposition, the entire wall around the city Jerusalem was completed in just fifty-two days. The wall was a little more than 1.5 miles long, 16ft. wide, and likely 20ft. tall. What a tremendous testimony of God’s love and faithfulness! Enemies and friends alike couldn’t help but admit that God’s hand had helped them to get this accomplished.
At the finish of the city wall, it and all that was done was dedicated to the Lord. The dedication of the wall was more than just a ceremony though. It became more than a wall that they were dedicating. Ezra, the prophet who had led the people back to build the Temple, led the entire city in worship and Bible instruction. This led the people’s hearts to break and be humbled knowing they were far from obedience to God. This then led them to confess their sin, to reaffirm their faith, to agree together to keep the law, and serve God faithfully. It was a celebration of the revived and purified community.
Nehemiah continued to organize the people, appointed gatekeepers, Levites, and other officials bound to the Torah, the Word of God. Everything was now present and in order that was necessary for the community to live in blessing.
The repeated prayers of Nehemiah and the community were the first step in this transformation. Prayer is very prominent throughout the entire book of Nehemiah. The refrain in each of the prayers is the Hebrew word zaḵar (za-kar) meaning remember, which occurs over two hundred times in the Old Testament. Nehemiah never hesitated to ask God to remember him and to remember God’s people.
POINT #2 – Prayer is Entrusting the Outcome to God
Prayer prepared Nehemiah’s heart and gave God room to work. Prayer gave Nehemiah the chance to put the expected results in God’s hands. Giving God credit for what happens before it happens keeps us from taking more credit than we should. Prayer gave Nehemiah a place to express his anger (keep in mind, Nehemiah did not take matters into his own hands), his prayers showed that he trusted God, relied on Him, entrusted justice to God. Prayer also keep Nehemiah’s mind clear as to why he was doing what he was doing, keeping his own motives in check.
Prayer is no guarantee of success, and it’s not a promise that you’re not going to have troubles. Nehemiah himself faced numerous challenges rebuilding the wall. Prayer instead is entrusting the work and its outcome to God. One of the best things we can be doing while waiting on God to revive us, is to pray, trusting the work and the outcome to Him. Next to that is reading God’s Word.
God speaks to us through His Word. Prayer is us simply being able to speak back. I find it amazing that through God’s Word and our prayers, we get to have a two-way conversation with God, submerged in truth and life. In John 14:13-14, Jesus told us, “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”
Now before you go out to buy your lottery ticket, let me just make one qualifier here. Jesus told us that He’d do whatever we ask in His name so the Father can be glorified.
POINT #3 – There is Power In the Name of Jesus.
Have you ever been given power of attorney for someone else? If you give someone power of attorney, you’re saying their signature has the same power and authority as your signature. And when they take on that power, they’re acting in your best interest and on your behalf. They have both the power of your name and the responsibility to protect your name.
So to pray in Jesus’ name is not just to tack on “In Jesus’ name, amen” to whatever you’re praying. It’s to try to understand and discern what Jesus’ will is in any situation and to work and pray toward that will. And the clearest and most complete way to know God’s will is to regularly be in His Word, to have a two-way conversation with God through prayer centered on His Word. God’s Word and prayer work together to change us and to change the world around us through truth.
Nehemiah’s commitment to prayer enabled him and the returned exiles to have the faith and perseverance to rebuild Jerusalem and renew their city. Likewise, prayer must permeate our lives and churches as we seek to experience renewal.
Author Rick Joyner said, “Every revival in history seems to be the result of a few people becoming so hungry for God that they wanted Him more than oxygen.”
Is that where you are today? Do you want God more than you want to breath? If not, we’ve got work to do. Please join me this week in reading the book of Nehemiah to hear and study the whole story of this great revival. And then be in prayer each day this week for revival in our lives and community today.