Historic revivals have often been characterized by fervent prayer, the faithful preaching of God’s word, the personal conversions of many and a spiritual awakening among God’s people to live as transformed communities. Prayer that births revival, then, is not our prayer but God’s prayer for us and with us—a prayer that God invites us to join.
If you think about all that God has chosen to do through the Lausanne Movement over the last 50 years and the incredible advancement of the declaration and display of the good news of Jesus, you could ask ‘Where did this gospel seed come from?’ It came from God in response to the prayers of three friends: John Stott, Billy Graham and Bishop Jack Dain. It is through these three friends praying together in January 1967 that God seeded the Lausanne Movement in rich interdenominational and international soil.
While it’s challenging to provide an exhaustive list of all revivals that have occurred worldwide due to prayer, here are some significant recorded modern historic revivals from various parts of the world.
Iona Monastery: The Christian Celtic Awakening
Scotland and Ireland
Bishop Aiden of Lindisfarne and King Oswald of Northumbria
This awakening was characterized by a community in regular prayer and the reading of God’s word, sharing all they had with each other. Bishop Aidan would walk from one village to another, politely conversing with the people he saw and slowly interesting them in Christianity. By patiently talking to the people at their own level and taking an active interest in their lives and communities, he planted churches, monasteries and schools everywhere he went. Creativity and the arts flourished in the community’s life.
The Moravian Revival
Germany and present-day Czech Republic
Count Nikolaus Zinzendorf, John Andrew Rothe, and 11-year-old Susanne Kuhnel
1727 – 1757
A genuine seeking of and asking God to pour out his Holy Spirit, an overwhelming gentle presence of God, continual praying, weeping, singing and supplication to the Lord marked this revival. There was a great hunger for the word of God and evidence of the hand of God with signs and wonders. An incredible movement of prayer arose amongst the children, as did a radically transformed community across the denominations praying 24/7 in unity in all-night prayer meetings. The Moravians sent out over 100 missionaries to all the world.
The Great Awakening
United Kingdom and United States
Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, and George Whitefield
1730s – 1740s
This awakening emphasized repentance and personal conversion in declaring God’s word and living a holy life. It had a profound impact on the pioneering of colonial communities across the expanding British Empire. Schools, hospitals and welfare activities were transformed with incredible displays of God’s love.
The Second Great Awakening
Charles Finney, Lyman Beecher, and many others
Early 19th century
This revival was marked by large camp meetings, where thousands of people gathered for extended periods of prayer and worship. It had a significant impact on bringing people to Jesus, the abolition of human slavery and the temperance movements.
The Korean Revival
Korea (North and South)
No singular person, but many Christian leaders and believers were involved
1903 and later waves
Korea experienced multiple revivals throughout the 20th century, leading to the rapid growth of Christianity in the region. These revivals were often marked by intense prayer, repentance, and church growth.
The Great Welsh Revivals
1904 – 1905
The Welsh Revival is often considered one of the most significant revivals of the 20th century. It saw a dramatic increase in church attendance, people coming to know Jesus and sharing their faith with others, and social reform.
The Azusa Street Revival
Los Angeles, CA
William J. Seymour
1906 – 1909
The Azusa Street Revival is regarded as the birthplace of the modern Pentecostal movement. It was characterized by speaking in tongues and other manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
The East African Revival
Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania
Joe Church, Simeon Nsibambi
1930s – 1950s
This revival emphasized personal holiness, confession of sins, and deep repentance. It had a profound impact on the church in East Africa and contributed to church growth and transformation.
The Hebrides Revival
The Hebrides, Scotland
1949 – 1952
The Hebrides Revival was marked by fervent prayer, passionate worship, and significant numbers of people coming to Jesus Christ. Duncan Campbell’s faithful preaching of God’s word played a central role in this revival.
I would now like to highlight three aspects of prayer that births revival, framed by 2 Chronicles 7:14: If my people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek my face (believe), and turn from their evil ways (repent), then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land (reconcile and redeem).
Prayer that births revival needs us to consider: What are we asking God to do?
Do we believe that God is a God of revival and spiritual awakening? Our prayers reflect what we dare to believe God can do (Hebrews 5:11-14). The prayers of many followers of Jesus today, while heartfelt and beautiful, are self-centered and lacking in maturity. We need to mature our prayers and grow them up, to be ‘meat’ not just ‘milk’. In reflecting on your prayers ask these questions: ‘Is my God too small?’ ‘What am I asking God to do?’, ‘Do I believe God is able?’, ‘Do I trust God’s loving response?’
Prayer that births revival is characterized by an invitation to humility and repentance in complete dependence on God
Do we humbly repent before a Holy God? Do we submit to God’s word as breathed and inspired by God, as authoritative in our lives for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness? Do we let the word of God read our lives and submit to God’s reading of us? Do we give time for the Spirit of God to convict us of our sins? Are we tempted to think we somehow have something to do with the display of God’s power?
When God moves in the lives of individuals, families, churches and nations to bring revival we see his mercy and forgiveness flow like a rising tide in the face of heartfelt repentance. It is loving, beautiful, natural and supernatural at the same time. It is humbling, so that we fall to our knees in worship of a Holy God.
Prayer that births revival is marked by grace-filled compelling action: When we belong to God, we belong to the people of God and we participate in God’s redemptive purposes
God’s holistic transformation and redemptive design calls his people to grace-filled responsive action with love and repentance in all areas of life. Right relations with God and each other shape our collective lives through worship-filled awe, wonder and prayer with action.
We declare and display the good news of Jesus by demonstrating that the spiritual and material are integrative; by the stewarding with integrity of all creation and its resources, by the intentional participating in the personal and structural changes needed to reconcile all things, by amplifying God’s goodness and beauty amidst the nations. As in the life of Jesus, being, doing and saying are at the heart of our bearing witness to Jesus both individually and collectively. This visibly demonstrates God’s love in a needy world.
I pray this in some small way revives your prayers so that we think about what it is we are asking God to do. Consider the words in Ephesians 3:20: Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.
‘Come Holy Spirit, breathe afresh upon us, revive and re-awaken your church to the praise of your glorious grace. Amen.’
Pray with Us
Lord, you told us to ask the Father to send out workers to bring in the harvest. Please ignite a renewed passion for the gospel in our lives and a sense of urgency in our churches. May we preach your way of salvation clearly today, so that many may see and believe and put their trust in you. Mobilize us as a renewed missionary movement, where we live, and as we go to every tribe and tongue.
Let us glorify you, Heavenly Father, by proclaiming our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, in prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit, so that everyone will hear your call to repent. May we trust and serve you alone in unity, in love, and be established in the fellowship of your disciples while we await your return.
Assure us afresh, Lord, of your love through your Word and compel us with a sacrificial compassion for the last, the least, and the lost in all the world. Convict us with a new vision of humble Christlike leadership for the world today, with churches marked by a disciple-making culture so that godly multiplication and church planting are mobilized for every people and in every place. May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, bringing impact to every sphere of society.
Holy Spirit, revive us again. Come to us once more as you came to that first prayer room in Jerusalem, that we might be propelled from our meetings onto the streets with new courage to declare and display the good news of your love in Jesus, that thousands might encounter you as their resurrected Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. (Prayers authored by Carla Harding: 24/7 Prayer Movement Lectio 365 and Sarah Plummer’s prayer journal – 40 days with the Risen Lord.)