My dad was saved in a revival meeting in 1930. The revival meetings were held every night for six straight weeks! My grandfather loaded his family up into the Model A every evening and drove seven miles from the family farm to the church. Upon arrival, they listened to the preaching of an evangelist by the name of Shannon.
I love to hear the old-time stories of revival. Years ago in northern Wisconsin, a song leader told me how his family used to attend the Methodist camp meetings every night for weeks at a time. One day as a fifteen year-old boy, the song leader looked across the field and saw a neighbor kneeling down in the furrow behind a team of horses. He and his dad walked over to see what was wrong and heard their neighbor praying the sinner’s prayer. He was a proud, hardened old farmer, but the conviction of the preached Word broke him.
In a revival meeting near Detroit, Michigan in December of 1975, an elderly man lent me his overcoat for the week. When I tried to refuse his kindness, he told me how he sang in the choir during several Billy Sunday crusades. He had been praying for a revival to sweep across the nation once more. Stories like these make me thirsty for a pouring out of God’s Spirit again in a Great Awakening!
What would it take on our part for God to work in our generation? Francis Wayland (1796–1865) was probably one of the most qualified men to speak on the subject of revival. He was born just a couple of years before the second Great Awakening in America, which lasted until 1825. Toward the end of his life (1857–1858), he had the privilege of witnessing the Prayer Meeting Revival. Wayland served as President of Brown University (the first Baptist college in America) and wrote the biography of Adoniram Judson.
In assessing his forty-five years of ministry, Wayland pointed to “a simplicity of reliance on the power and grace of Christ to aid them, and render their work effectual.” This conscious weakness caused them to rely on God in earnest prayer. This is how he described the Baptist preachers of his day: “His knees smite one against another, as he ascends the pulpit stairs. In a voice scarcely audible, he calls upon God for His blessing upon the congregation. He commences his sermon. His own voice seems strange to him. Gradually he forgets himself, and loses his fears. As a prophet from God he delivers his message. The powers of his mind begin to react. He is transported beyond himself. He would that the whole world were present to hear the story of redeeming love. He pours out his soul in earnest entreaty. He warns the ungodly, as though he and they were already in view of the judgment seat. Words, burning and impressive, come unbidden to his bursting heart. The time will not allow him to say half that fills his soul. He sits down, and thanks God for fulfilling His promise.”
Prayer and preaching—it sounds simple—but it has worked in the past. Jonathan Edwards, who spent thirteen hours a day in his study praying and preparing to preach, stated: “. . . the spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in and wonderfully to work amongst us.” May God move into our ministries in 2010 and extraordinarily and wonderfully work among us in a mighty revival!