“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6).

We are in desperate need of revival. Our marriages, our families, our churches, our nation (no matter what nation we hail from)—in every arena of life and society and religion we need the omnipotent, renewing visitation of the Holy Spirit.

Many of us as Christians do not know what “revival” even means precisely. We love the idea of hoards of unbelievers being converted, of packed church houses, of passionate worship experiences. But these things—while not bad in themselves—are the symptoms of revival rather than the substance of it.

What would it mean for us to experience a revival in our day? What would it look like? What would it necessarily involve?

What Revival Is Not

When we speak of the need for revival, I want to be very clear, first of all, about what revival is not.

For one thing, revival is not a denigration of those devoted saints who continue to faithfully pursue God’s Word and God’s will, even in times of relative spiritual drought. These are the unsung heroes whom God uses to perpetuate his church. It is upon the labors of these dedicated men and women and children that revival is built when it does finally come.

Second, revival is not an excuse for personal spiritual lethargy. Revival does not ever have to wait on anyone else; it can be enjoyed personally and immediately by any devoted child of God who is committed to pursuing Christ with all his or her heart and soul and mind and strength. Jesus himself assures us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Personal revival is never dependent on the temperature of other souls. Jesus is willing to commune with anyone, at any time, who opens the door to him.

Third, revival is not a feel-good change only. It will indeed feel good to have the Spirit of God moving in a mighty way among us, but it will also cause great discomfort to our old way of life. True revival will affect our money, our time, our priorities. You see, if true revival comes, we will be better employees, but we will realize that family is more important than career. We will also recognize that pointing our family to the Lord is more important than leading them to a good education, sports success, etc. In fact, we will also realize that personal devotion must come before we can lead our family to the Lord.

So true revival will be a radical inward change of heart towards the Lord, which will consequently radiate such a powerful magnetism, from our core, that it will result in a compass-shift for our family, career, church—and if sent on a widespread scale—even our culture and global community.

What Revival Always Involves

Now that we understand what we are not looking for in a revival, it is vital that we consider what any widespread revival always involves.

First, revival always involves prayer. We might put it this way: prayer has happened without widespread revival, but a widespread revival has never happened without prayer.

If we are hoping for revival, we must ask, “Who is weeping? Who is agonizing in prayer?”

Agonizing in prayer is often accompanied, in the Scriptures, with fasting as well. Fasting is a physical discipline which encourages and manifests an inward wrestling and temperance of soul. Isaiah writes, “Thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite’.” (Isaiah 57:15).

Second, revival always involves repentance. This is because the very word revival presupposes a declination. One dictionary defines revival in this way:

  1. To return to life or consciousness.
  2. To impart new health, vigor, or spirit to.
  3. To return to use, currency, or notice.

Wouldn’t you love to see all of these descriptions coming true in the Church today? In the First Great Awakening, a return to new life and awareness of God’s gracious demands, along with new health and vigor and spirit imparted to the church of Jesus Christ and the gospel as it is preached resulted in Christian churches faithfully declaring and witnessing to a watching world.

If true revival comes in our day, we will not have to tell others about it; it will be evident to all who know or hear or come in contact with us. As Leonard Ravenhill observes, “You never have to advertise a fire.” It is its own advertisement!

Third, revival involves growth. This growth is both personal and numerical. When God comes to church, things happen. People start changing. Crowds start attending. Converts start appearing. Growth starts occurring.

The same labors that have faithfully been taking place for years suddenly bear countless and genuine and unmistakable fruit. The sowers are planting and watering the same seed, but God is giving an exponential and supernatural measure of growth.

It is informative and inspiring to read Benjamin Franklin’s account (being not himself a Christian) of the revival that swept America in the 1730’s, under the preaching of men like George Whitefield:

It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants…From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.

Does this describe your heart’s desire, your prayers’ plea, your soul’s yearning? Then let us join together in fervent echo of David’s prayer: “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6).