What causes a great revival? Why does the Spirit move upon a group of people in powerful ways? The word revival evokes images of tent meetings, hundreds of people coming forward at a Billy Graham Crusade, and thousands of people sitting on a hill at the feet of Christ.
But what if revival begins with the repentance and fervent prayers of one or two people? What if those who know Jesus personally, and walk with him intimately, are the spark to a wildfire of revival? What if God started a revival in my own heart that spread to the hearts of many? What if my role in revival is prayer followed by obedience to share God’s message of repentance and love with others?
In the book of Nehemiah, God describes a great revival. It began with the fervent prayers of those who sought hard after God. “For days I mourned, fasted and prayed to the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:4) “Lord, Look down and see me praying night and day for your people, Israel.” (Nehemiah 1:6)
Praise began Nehemiah’s prayer. He remembered the character, strength, and love of God. “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer!” (Nehemiah 1:5)
Nehemiah’s heartfelt repentance led to confession. In the presence of our great God, we fall to our knees. We remember that we are unworthy of His favor, yet while we were sinners, Christ died for us. Nehemiah said, “I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.” (Nehemiah 1:6-7)
After worship and confession, Nehemiah brought his requests before the throne of grace. We, too, can humbly pray for our friends and loved ones. “O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you.” (Nehemiah 1:10)
Nehemiah’s prayers changed his heart and behavior first. His meditation on the character of God increased his faith and eventually the faith of those who followed him. “Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious . . . “(Nehemiah 4:14) he told the people.
The results? . . . Revival.
The people assembled with a unified purpose to hear and obey the Word of God. “All the people assembled with a unified purpose….” (Nehemiah 8:1) “Ezra the priest brought the Book of the Law before the assembly, which included the men and women and all the children old enough to understand. From early morning until noon he read aloud to everyone who could understand. And the people listened closely to the Book of the Law.” (Nehemiah 8:3) “They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage.” (Nehemiah 8:8)
“Then Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people chanted, ‘Amen! Amen!’ as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” (Nehemiah 8:6)
Repentance of the Group
“For three more hours they confessed their own sins and worshiped the Lord their God.”(Nehemiah 9:3)
Revival was followed by celebration. “The joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10) “”So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them.” (Nehemiah 8:12)
Lasting revival results in continued obedience, praise and Joy
If revival is genuine, it will bring lasting results of obedience and joy. “And as they studied the Law, they discovered . . .” (Nehemiah 8:14) “May your glorious name be praised! May it be exalted above all blessing and praise! You alone are the Lord. You made the skies and the heavens and all the stars. You made the earth and the seas and everything in them. You preserve them all, and the angels of heaven worship you.” (Nehemiah 9:5-6)
. . . “and they were all filled with great joy!” (Nehemiah 8: 17)