Praying for Revival in 2019
Since "resolutions" are synonymous with the holiday we celebrate today, I thought I'd share something from Jonathan Edwards, whose own resolutions aren't quite of the same nature as the ones we usually make, but demonstrate the positive, Puritan virtue of seeking to live out our days in careful obedience to God's Word.
What I want to share is some of Edward's thoughts on revival, a subject which, according to J.I. Packer, is Edwards' "most original contribution to theology." A short and clear summary of what Edwards thought about revival can be found in the last chapter of Packer's book, A Quest for Godliness, which I finished reading last month. Packer reports that, for Edwards, "revival is an extraordinary work of God the Holy Spirit reinvigorating and propagating Christian piety in a community." Having experienced two historical revivals himself, Edwards is eager not only to give definition to revival but also to differentiate between true and false outward forms that it may take.
But what I want to highlight today is what Edwards had to say about prayer for revival. I want to share this because, if there is anything Christians ought to desire in this life, it ought to be "an extraordinary work of God" in their lives which impacts and transforms the community around them. Now that would make for an exciting 2019.
Edwards was, of course, a strong believer in the doctrines of grace, yet he just as strongly believed "that the prayers of his saints should be one great and principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ's kingdom in the world." Wrote Edwards: "When God has something very great to accomplish for his church, it is his will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of his people." As Packer observes, this truth ought to give us as Christians who desire revival "a strong incentive to pray for it."
The logic is simple and sound. God loves to move in response to the prayers of his people. And, this being so, Christians have all the reason and motivation they need to pray for revival.This is why, for the past few years at Crosstown, we begin the New Year with Global Focus Sunday (this coming Sunday, January 6) and Prayer Week (Jan 6-12). The hope is that we might be reminded to align our priorities for this new year with God's, earnestly asking him for a revival within our own congregation that will spill over into our communities and, indeed, out to the nations, just as the revival that flourished in the last decade of the 18th century produced such great missionary activity in the 19th.
Edwards points out that this is what most of the prayers in the Bible are all about, the revival of the church so that the kingdom of God will dramatically advance in the world. Accordingly, "that which God abundantly makes the subject of his promises, God's people should abundantly make the subject of their prayers," Edwards said.
Let's do this, Crosstown Church! Join us this weekend for Global Focus Sunday in morning worship and corporate prayer Sunday evening. Commit to coming to prayer at least one morning or evening during prayer week. Ask the Lord to prosper this church by reviving us together in your own personal and family times of prayer and fasting.
What more could you and I want for 2019 than a genuine spiritual revival like this? And yet, "We have not because we ask not" (Jas 4:2-3).
So let's start asking with patience and perseverance. For, as Edwards reminds us, God will, "without fail, at last succeed those who continue instant in prayer."