My "By the Way" column in The Medicine Hat News last Saturday:
Revival is on my mind and in my prayers these days. Medicine Hat Evangelical Association pastors pray for it almost every time they get together to pray. They and other groups across the church have been praying for revival in Medicine Hat for years. I’ve been adding my “Amen” since I came to Medicine Hat, but somewhat routinely and without much real warmth and passion. It was just another of those things, like healing and world peace, for which Christians pray.
Then I watched a DVD featuring Edwin Orr entitled “The Role of Prayer In Spiritual Awakening” in which he referred to a certain Trinity Episcopal Church in Chicago which went from a hundred and twenty one members in 1857 to fourteen hundred in 1860. That’s almost a twelve-fold increase in three years! And not only that, Episcopal is American for Anglican! The same “mainline” denomination as mine. I had to know more about that. So I’ve been reading and listening to more of Edwin Orr.
I found that what happened to Trinity Episcopal Church was part of The Great Awakening of 1857 onwards in which a million people came to saving faith in Jesus across North America. Canada’s Atlantic Provinces and Hamilton, Ontario, were also affected by it. It was a spiritual awakening which went around the world. There were even evangelistic meetings in St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in London, England, every Sunday evening for five years. That’s Church of England, which is British for Anglican!
How did it all start? With prayer. Ordinary Christian people from across the denominations got together to pray. The prayer was not for particular congregations, events, campaigns or ministries but just that God would breathe new life into His whole church across the land and around the world. Small monthly prayer meetings became larger weekly ones, department stores and businesses closed for daily lunch hour prayer times, churches were filled and justice happened as crime rates dropped, slavery was abolished, prisons were reformed and animals were treated better in industry.
“When God intends great mercy for His people He first sets them praying,” Matthew Henry wrote. Maybe the Lord Jesus Himself is stirring me and some of you out there to get serious about praying for another Great Awakening. During Lent, there’s a small group of us Anglicans meeting at St Barnabas on Sunday evenings at 6 to pray quietly for just that in all our churches. You’d be welcome to join us, or why not call a group together in your own church to do the same?
O Lord, “Will you not REVIVE us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6)