Today in various circles of the American Church there is emphasis on prayer for what is called “revival.” In our 21st Century Church the priority of most Christians is on what God can do for them and their families, and not on what they can do for God in thankfulness for what He has already done for them through His Son Jesus Christ. Most believers are primarily interested in receiving God’s blessing. “Being a blessing” is an afterthought. We might well be the Laodicean Church which was severely rebuked by Jesus Christ in Revelation 3, and therefore we must pray for “revival.”
Our opinion is that prayer to God for the harvest is far more important to God, especially during these last days. As we pray and focus on the harvest, the Lord will revive us and provide for us.
First of all, the Lord never specifically taught us to pray for “revival.” But he did clearly teach us to ask him to send out workers into his harvest field.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. (Luke 10:1-2)
“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10)
He taught us to pray that his kingdom would come, his will would be done, on earth as it is in heaven. In order words, we are to pray that his kingdom would come and be manifest on earth—a clear reference to the appearing of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom on earth at His Second Coming. What must the Church do in order for the end to come?
Matthew 24:3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” …14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Before the end at which Christ returns to reign, we must preach the gospel of the kingdom in the whole world as a testimony to all nations. This must be the Church’s focus during these last days instead of “revival” for ourselves.
But how can we focus on the Great Commission unless we are first revived? That is a reasonable question. But Jesus never told us to pray for revival, he simply taught us to pray for workers to be raised up and sent into his harvest field, and for his kingdom to come on earth. If we obey him and pray in this way, he will be faithful to revive us and send us out. We must stop focusing on our own needs—whether spiritual or otherwise—and instead focus on obeying his commands.
Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well…
…including “our daily bread” and necessities—which come only after “your kingdom come.”
If the Church seeks first his kingdom on earth where his righteousness will reign, God will revive us, raise us up, and send us out to fulfill the Great Commission.
Let us (bury our heads in the sand and) pray
Usually the scripture for the emphasis today on prayer gatherings is taken from the Old Testament.
…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
First of all, this was a prescription for God’s people in the Old Testament—the nation of Israel. Today it is often applied to America by believers who live in the United States. However, America is definitely not the New Testament equivalent to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. Rather, the New Testament equivalent of Israel is the body of believers—the Church of Jesus Christ—found in every nation under heaven. Therefore, echoing our cessationist brethren, 2 Chronicles 7:14 should be considered by us as mere description from the Old Testament, and not prescription for what the New Testament Church should be doing today.
Moreover, it would behoove us New Testament believers—who are not Old Testament believers—to examine the Book of Acts which records the very beginning of the Church which many today would seek to emulate. Note that the title of this book is not “Prayer” but rather “Acts.” It is not the “Book of Prayer” but specifically the “Book of Acts” referring to what the apostles actually did in terms of action following Pentecost. While Acts does indeed record believers praying, it is primarily a record of what the disciples and the early church actually did—most likely after they sought the Lord in prayer. And what did they do? They preached the kingdom of God and spread the Word of God throughout the known world.
What is recorded in Acts from the New Testament is clearly a prescription for what the New Testament Church should be doing today.
Of course we acknowledge that prayer comes first. But prayer is preparation for us to actually EXECUTE and DO what God commands us to do. The disciples in the Upper Room prayed for ten days before the Spirit descended upon them on the day of Pentecost. But after that what they actually did changed the course of Western Civilization. Similarly, if all we do is come together to pray asking God to save America but after that do relatively little in reaching out to the lost with the gospel as did the disciples in Acts, little indeed will happen despite all our prayers. Can we really pray and ask God to save the lost, and after that leave the rest up to Him? Are we entitled to feel that after praying for the lost or for revival of the Church, we have done our duty to God and can go home feeling that we have done His will and have pleased God?
God will not answer such prayers. Let us instead pray as Jesus taught us:
“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:38)
Only when workers are sent into the harvest field is the gospel preached to the lost and the backslidden restored to the Lord. It is much easier, however, to gather together in our comfortable churches to pray than to go out to preach the gospel and make disciples.
In this regard the Roman Catholics actually had it right: Ora et labora.