I think the United States of America is standing at a crossroads right now. We have never been in worse shape morally. Crime continues to explode. Families continue to splinter. And the fabric of society continues to unravel.
People are trying to make sense out of a chaotic world. Why? Because we want a better world. We want a better life. We want changes in our own lives, even. But we don’t know how to get them.
At my house, we have electronic gadgets that have their own alarms. While I’m having breakfast, I’ll hear an alarm, which means the microwave is ready. I’ll hear another alarm, and that means it’s time to get the clothes out of the dryer. Later I will hear an alarm on my printer, which is telling me that it needs a new ink cartridge. But sometimes I have to get out the manual for one of these gadgets because it’s showing an error code. I have to find out what’s wrong and then try to correct the problem.
I think there are multiple alarms being sounded in our country right now. The error codes are there. And God has given us His manual, which of course is the Word of God. It tells us what to do when a society unravels. What we need in America today and, for that matter, around the globe, is a far-reaching, Heaven-sent revival.
What does that mean? Revival is a word that we bandy about a lot. Some churches even claim to be having a revival: “Revival this week only, Monday through Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.” They may be having some great meetings, and I understand they are using the word revival merely to describe what is taking place. But if it is a real revival, then it is not something that we can start or stop. It is something that God does supernaturally.
There are times in human history when God has intervened. It always has been during a very dark time when there was a moral breakdown that God, in His grace, has stepped in and brought about a spiritual awakening. That is what we need in America today.
The word revive means to restore to its original condition. Some people like to restore old cars. They are real sticklers about original paint and original parts. They want the real stuff, the original equipment. In the same way, to be revived means to get back to God’s original design.
Charles Finney, who was known to be a part of a great revival, said, “The experience of revival is nothing more than a new beginning of obedience to God.”
And A.W. Tozer defined revival as that which changes the moral climate of a community.
That is what we need today. But any genuine revival that has ever happened in human history has brought about repentance in the lives of people, a change in the community and evangelism en masse.
We need a real revival today – not just an emotional experience, not just a tingle down the backbone. We need to see God work, because our nation needs it like never before. We don’t need some new thing. We don’t even need a so-called fresh word from the Lord. We need to get back to the old things, to the very standards that God gave us, and we need to practice those.
Jeremiah 6:16 tells us, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls'” (NKJV).
The early church, the one Jesus started, turned their world upside down. They set the world on fire. But the church of today, which is much larger than the early church was, with considerable resources and incredible technology to utilize, is being turned upside down by the world instead. Why aren’t we setting our world on fire? Because we need a revival. We need an awakening.
Historically, revivals often began with one individual, one person who decided to do something. The last American revival, which took place from 1857 to 1859, began with a 48-year-old businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier. On Sept. 23, 1857, he began a noontime prayer meeting on Fulton Street in New York City. Only a handful of people showed up at first, but he was persistent, and they kept meeting for prayer.
Then something dramatic took place. The stock market crashed, and suddenly the prayer meeting grew. People started praying, and then it went beyond that and began to explode. Prayer meetings quickly popped up throughout New York City, and within six months, 10,000 people were gathering for prayer in New York. It was unexplainable. They were meeting in concert halls and theatres, packing them out at noon with men and women calling on the name of the Lord.
God began to work, and it is reported that 50,000 New Yorkers came to know the Lord between March and May. During that single year, the number of reported conversions throughout the country reached an average of 50,000 each week for a couple of years. Weekly, 10,000 people were added to church membership rolls. And when it was all over, 1 million people had come to faith.
It wasn’t orchestrated. It wasn’t a campaign planned by people. It was a work of God in which He poured out His Spirit. We need to see that today.
Jeremiah Lanphier wasn’t a great preacher or someone who was famous. He was just an ordinary man who decided to pray. And we can do the same.