I was preaching in a well known college two years ago. I was preaching on Hannah, because I think Hannah is typical of the true intercessor. The intercessor believes, “The thing will happen through me. I have to stand in the gap.” You know, when you talk about intercessors we always go back and say, “Well, America’s had some of the best intercessors.” You’re right; we had.
We had praying Payson of Portland back in the eighteen hundreds. The floor in his room was as hard as this metal and yet there were two grooves side by side where his knees used to rub in the floor. What about Jonathan Goforth that went out and had revival in China? What about John Hyde, one of the greatest men ever in prayer? You know, the first thing that really moved me to God after I got saved? Somebody gave me an abridged edition of the life of David Brainard. I just could not believe it; I could not take it in. Could a man be so utterly selfless? The thing that is crippling us is our prosperity. Materialism is choking the church as well as the world. We want ease and comfort. When I read of a young man that could walk out in the snow, snow up to his chin sometimes, wrestling in prayer from sunrise to sunset with a tubercular body…
When I read about a man that wrestled in prayer like that, I was dumbfounded. And since the church I went to was pretty sleepy and I was only about seventeen, I went out into Sherwood forest – I lived on the edge of it – and started praying by myself at night. We have some bracken there, and it grows seven or eight feet high, I used to creep in it and weep and groan and pray for revival. And revival came. Because I prayed? No, No. I was one of a number. But a man called George Jefferys came. Very humble… He never stopped to meet you… never mentioned money…He just came there, they sang about one chorus, but the ministry and the authority of God was upon him, and again the Acts of the Apostles were repeated. I don’t think that a move of miracles like that is the only answer. In fact I think we could by-pass that. In the last thirty years America has had more healing crusades than all the nations of the world put together. What we need now is a revival of holiness, a revival of character, a revival of people who are utterly selfless and prepared to lay their lives on the altar for God.
Paul Koffman went to Nagaland, India, to see what happened and expected something like Finney. When he got there he saw signs and wonders and miracles, cripples were healed, blind people were seeing, every distorted, perverted thing was put right. So what? Hey, did you ever hear of a revival like this? The government has made an inquiry. Why has the drink traffic gone down? Why is it the kids are behaving in the street? Why are we not having a problem with drugs? Why is the nation convulsed? Why is the government inquirying? They were the most rebellious, lawless state in India and now they are the calmest. The crime has gone. People are civilized and gentle and loving. Well, it’s the same old story. They discovered a group of people, underground people, who had been praying twenty years for revival.
No man – I don’t care how colossal his intellect - No man is greater than his prayer life. To stand before men on behalf of God is one thing. To stand before God on behalf of men is something entirely different. We’ve urged people to tithe, haven’t we? But we only mean their money. You see, we want a “revival” which is a painless Pentecost. We want something that won’t disturb our status quo. It’s “easy street” everywhere else, so why not here? There never has been a revival that I can trace, that hasn’t been birthed back there with true, true, true intercession.
In the city of Leeds, where I lived in England, the revival came. It came because there was a little man there, he was unlettered, he had no degree, but boy, did he have a burning heart. And he labored, and he had three breakdowns, not mentally, but physically. You know why? Because he fasted so much. But he had authority. Paul says in Ephesians 6:19, “Pray for me, that utterance may be given me.” In other words he means, let the Word be endued with that mysterious thing that you can’t define and nobody can give. The thing that we call unction. The anointing of God! If money could buy it, my, some of you would sell your house to get it, but you can’t get it with money. And you can’t get it at the university.
We are trying to marry Christianity to prosperity, and popularity, and personalities. And it isn’t working. Oh, you can preach the prosperity doctrine because that feeds our carnality. Look, why don’t those men that preach that go to the third world to preach it where they need it? I know wealthy people, many of them are lovely people and I believe God lets them have a ministry in supplying needs. But when the church of Jesus Christ is prosperous, she never has revival. It’s when she’s poor. Prayer is the language of the poor. “Bow down Thine ear and hear me, for I am poor and needy.” The self-satisfied don’t need to pray. The self-sufficient don’t want to pray. The self-righteous cannot pray. But the man who realizes, “I need something outside of anything that’s human at all,” he wants to bathe his soul in prayer.
I went to a little Bible school in England, there were only thirty five students, but I’m glad that the man who was the principal was a man of prayer – Samuel Chadwick who wrote the book “The Path of Prayer.” The weakest meeting in almost any church without exception is the prayer meeting. And when we are not strong in prayer we are saying to God, “We can manage.” (Of course, we shall pray if we have an invasion, we shall pray if we have a famine – we have a great “utility” God.)
Very often we say to young people, “Now look, you have to read your Bible and maintain your prayer. You need to maintain your prayer life to maintain your Christian life.” No! Not so. Not so. You need to maintain your Christian life in order to pray. The greatest expositor in the world living today told me personally, “I don’t have any trouble. I delight to expound the Word. My books…” he wrote many, many books, but he said, “I’ve always found prayer so tough. I just find prayer the most difficult thing in the world.” Read the Acts of the Apostles and all you read about is prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer. When they had prayed the place was shaken. If you want to read the prayer life of Jesus you would read the Gospel according to Luke because in every instance he gives Jesus as a praying man…
I remember a series of meeting we had in Wales in 1949. After three days a lady, Mrs. Lewis, said to me, “Brother Ravenhill, this is the nearest thing to the Welsh revival that we’ve had.” That was forty years after the Welsh revival. “Mrs. Lewis, what’s the point of identification?” “Because we walk up the hill now as we walked then.” And she explained, “Last night, the night before, the night before that,” she said “it wasn’t until we got to the cross roads and bid each other ‘good night,’ that we realized that nobody had said a word. We were so awed with the majesty and the presence of God.” Our people don’t get off the door step of the church – “Hey, do you think the Cowboys will win today?” It’s dribble! It’s nonsense! When did you last tiptoe out of the sanctuary when you dare not say a word? The church has to rediscover two things. One, the majesty and the Holiness of God, and the other, the sinfulness of sin.
Prayer is not the easiest thing in the world, Prayer is the hardest thing in the world. Prayer is the most demanding thing in the world. I had the pleasure of praying very often with Duncan Campbell, a man God used in the Hebrides revival, 1950 onward. I asked him one day about a certain event, he said, “Yes, that’s right. When I was ministering the place was like iron; it seemed as though God was a million miles away. And my message was like throwing a rubber ball at the wall, my words came back on me.” In front of him were all kinds of ministers, but he didn’t say anything to the preachers and the deacons and the elders. He pointed to a boy sitting over there, called him by name and said, “Laddie, will you pray?” A sixteen year old high school boy! And he stood up, and he said in his Scottish way, “Ach, what is the good of praying if we are not right with God?” And he began to quote Psalm 24, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? He that hath clean hands and pure heart.” and so forth and so on. “And when he’d finished,” Duncan told me, “The stillness of eternity was on the building.” And the boy prayed 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 45 minutes. And then, when he prayed as though he could see the invisible. He said, “Satan.” Oh, I’ve heard people say this almost facetiously in some meetings, “Get the Devil out of this place.” The young boy stood there and said, “Satan, I rebuke you. Get out of this territory! In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. I plead the blood of Christ, BE GONE!”
And just as though a switch was pulled in heaven God came on the meeting, He came on a tavern at the end of the road and people left it. He came on a dance at the end of the road and people left it. We have to drag people to the altar; there are no altar calls in the New Testament if you want to be REALLY scriptural. Altar calls are an invention for when the Holy Ghost doesn’t deal with people. This boy prayed, the Holy Ghost came and that whole community vibrated with God.
You see preacher, you’ve only two things to do, not twenty two. You are not supposed to be the janitor and running a business and finding about the church’s bank balance and all that junk. If you are going to be a true Biblical preacher you got two things to do according to Acts 6:4, give yourself continually to prayer and the Word of God. That’s all you have to do. Who is going to visit the sick? The deacons. Who is going to bury the dead? The deacons. (The Scripture clearly says, “Let the dead bury the dead.” – I like to tease, you know.)
You see, we want the church to function our way. “God bless our plans.” “God bless what we do.”When Alexander McClaren went to that great big church in Manchester, England – and I’ve ministered in that church – seats maybe a couple of thousand or so – the deacons, great bearded fellows they were in those days, asked him a host of questions which he answered. Finally they said, “We’ve asked you to be the pastor of this great church. We’ll give you a new house, we’ll furnish it, we’ll buy you a carriage and pair,” as we say in England, “and we’ll give you a large salary.” After they went on, and on, and on, they asked, “Will you accept this?” And he said, “All right, I’ll accept it – that is if you accept my terms.” “You have terms?” (You know most churches think when they get a pastor they are renting a Hertz car. You better come and fit in!) “And what are the conditions?” And he laid some down, but one vital thing that he laid down was this, “I shall do no visiting.”
Dr. Tozer, I loved that precious man and talked with him often, just the two of us in his office and prayed with him. Dr. Tozer never went to Bible school, he never went to the seminary. Yet he was one of the most learned men I ever met. I stayed in the house of a member of his church and she said, “You know what? I have gone to his church twenty five years and he has not been in my house five times.” But I’ll tell you what, he spread the table, and that’s all you have to do.
You know brethren, you never have to advertise a fire. You don’t have to advertise it in the newspaper, forget it. You let the glory of the Lord fill the temple; people will come from hundreds of miles. Because it’s starvation everywhere. My phone rings constantly, “I’m going to move here, I’m going to move there. Do you know a church that really is on fire for God? A church where they have all night prayer meetings?” No church should function these days without a whole night prayer. What do you want… social standing? Do you just want numbers of people? Do you want to fill the pews? Or do you want fire?
I said last night, I think the greatest honor that was ever given to a preacher in history was not given by men, it was given by demons. When those demons said, “Jesus I know and Paul I know.” Come on preacher, do you think if the devil has a danger list of the ten most wanted men in America you are one of them? I would rather be the last man on the devil’s danger list than the first man on any honor roll you could give us about preaching. I’ll say it again: brother, if you are not known in hell you are not worth a hill of beans.
We must realize we are not just fighting a local situation, we are not fighting drug addiction, we are not fighting massive pornography. We are surrounded by an arrogant, militant paganism. If you told your grandfather forty years ago that forty thousand homosexuals would march down main street, he would have said, “Not in America.” You know what? Adultery and divorce is getting to plague proportions even in the church of God. We don’t have decent morality in some churches, never mind spirituality. We don’t elect deacons because they are full of the faith and the Holy Ghost – we appoint them because they own two Texaco stations and a hot dog stand. Another thing Jesus did, He prayed all night before He chose His disciples. If we prayed all night before we chose our deacons, I guarantee half of them wouldn’t get in… if we had to get the witness of the Spirit about it.
You see, I have people saying, “Why don’t you write a book about some methods of revival.” No, no. I can’t do that. We don’t need to find the formula for revival. The formula for revival is in the Word of God or else there isn’t one. The formula of revival is: Preachers need to hit the altars and weep because they have no tears; Groan because there is no moving of the Spirit of God; Apologize to God that we’ve kind of manipulated the supernatural. Now, I am not just thinking of miracles of twisted limbs and other things. I think the greatest miracle that God can do is to take an unholy man out of an unholy world, and make that unholy man holy and put him back in an unholy world and keep him holy. But we are more afraid of holiness today in the church than we are of sinfulness.
If an unclean man with an unclean spirit does unclean things, if a man that’s vile does vile things because he has a vile spirit, surely the man who has the Holy Spirit in him will live a holy life. I don’t ask people if they are saved anymore. Forget it, everybody is “saved;” it doesn’t mean a thing. Don’t ask a man if he is born again, just look gently at him, it doesn’t matter who he is, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Methodist or Mennonite, just say, “Brother, does Christ live in you?” Well, isn’t that the standard of the New Birth? Isn’t that what Paul says, “Christ in you the hope of glory”?