I took advantage of an opportunity on Wednesday to spend two hours with church historian Dr. John Woodbridge. Much could be said about this deeply gifted scholar. But I love his humility, joyfulness, and his love for the Church. His love for the Church is communicated by his words and by the facial expressions he displays when speaking of church history, contemporary evangelicalism, and of doctrine. I don’t think I know another man who more consistently displays a desire to see the Church grow in humble unity and global witness.
And so it was no surprise Wednesday that our time focused on the topic of prayer, of the importance of praying for revival and awakening (a topic he is currently writing on). Prayer is how God’s people anticipate God’s power being poured out upon the Church, not through general and vague prayers, but via patient and specific prayers, prayers that whole cities would be overtaken by the awakening power of Holy Spirit.
He also re-emphasized the importance of reading literature that captures a glimpse of the awesome power of God’s Spirit, books written by previous generations that watched (with their own eyes) the awesome power of God at work. He recommended George Whitefield’s Journals.
Dr. Woodbridge’s words were humbling and convicting. Having not lived through anything resembling the multi-national awakening of the 18th century, I find it easy to forget about God’s awakening power, blind to the unseen wind of the Holy Spirit that rushed through whole towns, transforming the dry eyes of passive church-goers into wet eyes of a gospel affected hearts, and breaking through the hardest recalcitrant hearts resisting the gospel.
I was reminded that I am too apt to expect from God what I have already seen Him accomplish in the past, being too limited in my vision of the Spirit’s power, and too inhibited by unbelief. On Wednesday afternoon I realized that I am too focused on blog statistics, too focused on my puny life, too easily distracted by the temporal, too apt to forget the Holy Spirit’s power, too limited to pray for the awakening of whole cities, too selfish to pray beyond what I can accomplish on my own in one good day, too influenced by unbelief to see prayer as a priority over the distracting churning trivialities of this life.
Dr. Woodbridge reminds me of the greatness of God’s power on display in church history, and reminds me of the great God we serve, whose power is greater than we have seen and greater than we can imagine. May God give us eyes to look beyond the moment, to look back into the past, and to pray again, hope again, expect again, that God will once again answer the pleas of his children and pour out his awakening grace.
9 thoughts on “Praying for Awakening”
Thank you for this post. I pray that all of us – certainly that I – will be awakened again to the awesomeness of our glorious God. May we not be so earth-bound. I needed this today.
Thanks for sharing Bro. How wonderful it is to have God speak through man to see our sin and the great divide we put between our selfish lives on earth and his desires for us. A very encouraing post for me, as well. Thanks
I’m curious, brother, what you’ve discovered in Bavinck in terms of his thoughts on revival.
As you may know, there is a growing trend in reformed circles–and the epicentre seems to be in Grand Rapids–to view all things pertaining to revival with high disdain. Whitefield is sneered at. Lloyd-Jones fares no better.
A summary of Bavinck on the subject of revival would be helpful, for a number of reasons.
Grace and peace,
Excellent thought, Tom. A friend of mine is writing his doctoral thesis on post-Great Awakening erosion of ecclesiastical priorities that tended towards individualism and private spirituality. This may play a role. I’ll check with him. I know Bavinck mentions “revivalism” a lot in RD. I will look into this. Thanks! Tony
Thanks Tony. Let us know what you find. In the meantime, here’s an example of what I’m talking about, from a current and MAJOR contributor to reformed thought:
“I’m all in favor of experiential Calvinism but I want to let John Owen rather than Jonathan Edwards define what that means. I want to let William Perkins define vital piety.
“Modern Edwards scholarship makes it very difficult for us to treat Edwards as “one of us” without qualification. His theology was shot through with influences that created significant distance from classic Reformed theology, piety, and practice.”
And, on Wayne Grudem:
“I’ve read Wayne Grudem. He’s a great guy but his reading of Agabus and Ephesians just doesn’t hold up. At the end of the day he’s guilty of the QIRE – quest for illegitimate religious experience. The classic Reformed theologians had a different, more Christ-centered, piety of Word and sacrament.”
Tom, this is a great time to be alive for an essentially reformed/continuationist. If the jot/tittle confessionalists are ejecting them, we’re happy to claim Lloyd-Jones, Whitefield, and Edwards as our own.
We don’t have to limit ourselves to praying; there are hymns to stir the Spirit as well:
Pity the nations, O our God!
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.
Tony, your assessment in the next-to-last paragraph rings so true with me. What a joy to be encouraged by God’s work in history and to believe that He can show His power yet again.
“Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”