Study 9 THE PRAYER FOR GOD TO REND THE HEAVENS
GREAT PRAYERS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Isaiah 64: 1-3
The great need on every hand is for spiritual revival, for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, for God to come in power; and in this study we are to consider whether such a reviving is possible and what we must do on our side to open the channels through which God may pour out such a blessing.
Of course revival is always the sovereign act of God. Scripture and experience prove that He can give it or withhold it, but it is also true that revival comes in response to certain human conditions. The Bible teaches this, and so does experience, and the words on which this study is based help us to see this truth. What do they tell us about revival?
1. The meaning of Revival is explained.
What is spiritual revival, revival in a Church? – it is the Lord God rending the heavens and coming down among His people (Isaiah 64:1). In other words, revival is a mighty manifestation of the presence and power of God. There was such a manifestation on the Day of Pentecost, when the early Christians were met in Jerusalem and suddenly they were all filled with the Holy Spirit – the heavens were opened and the Lord Himself came to His temple. What a change took place! – and the distinctive thing was that they were all conscious of a new and wonderful sense of the presence and power of God (Acts 2:1-21). If you had asked Peter, James, John or Mary, ‘What happened? What did you feel? How would you describe the experience?’ – they would have said, ‘The Lord came down among us and we were overwhelmed with the sense of His presence and power!’ This is what happened in Acts 4:31; on many occasions when Wesley and Whitefield preached; in the revival of 1859; in the valleys of Wales in 1904; this is what always happens when God’s people pray for revival, and God in His sovereign will is pleased to answer their prayers and rend the heavens and come down.
2. The need of Revival is declared.
Why is revival needed? Why do we need it in all the work in which we are engaged? What are the evidences that we need revival? The answer is that we must look in two places: (1) in God’s Word; and (2) in God’s Church.
- (1) When we look in God’s Word (Isaiah 64:1-11), we see the need that existed in BC 700, and it is similar to our need today:
-  Great mountains, obstacles, were hindering God’s blessing (verse 1).
-  There was a great deal of open sin – this is indicated by the words at the end of verse 5 and in verse 6.
-  There was prayerlessness (verse 7).
-  God’s judgment was resting on His people (verse 9).
-  The Holy City was in a state of desolation (verses 10-11).
- (2) When we look into our Churches we recognise the desperate need for revival. The situation here is descriptive of our need today, for in the Church there are those who profess to know the Lord but who do not in fact know Him (2 Timothy 3:5). Congregations are small, conversions are rare, prayer meetings are neglected and there is much coldness, deadness and worldliness; frequently the message of the gospel is not clearly proclaimed and the authority of the Bible is questioned; in many cases there are divisions, Christians not loving one another, and few seem to have a vision to save souls and fewer still are ready to go out to evangelise. How much we need revival, to sweep away sin and to remove the mountains of pride, jealousy, complacency and laziness!
3. The secret of Revival is revealed.
Notice in this chapter some of the conditions which must be met if revival is to come. We are not forgetting that God is sovereign and that He can send revival or withhold it, but we are emphasising that because the need is great, the responsibility rests on us to do all we possibly can to make it possible. Revival cannot be worked up; the language of our verse makes this so clear. Revival is the presence and power of God coming down. How can we secure this?
- (1) There must be intense desire – “Oh, that…” (Isaiah 64:1). They are words that convey passion, longing, a burden, tears and concern. Have you any real concern for God to come into His work in reviving power, or are you satisfied with things as they are?
- (2) There must be amendment of life. Surely this is inferred in this chapter – a confession and putting away of sin; there must be a drastic dealing with anything that would hinder God’s blessing, which would grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30); there must be a willingness on the part of God’s people to pray the prayer in Psalm 139:23-24.
- (3) There must be the prayer of intercession. This is such a prayer – it is definite and urgent. It is not simply, “Lord, bless us!” but it is, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down…!” What would happen in your Church if the members really prayed for revival like this? The people of God cannot really pray and go on praying without failing to experience some measure of true revival . So will you begin to pray until the answer comes?
- (4) There must be the exercise of faith. We must believe that revival is possible and that God longs to send it. Isaiah’s prayer was certainly one of faith (Isaiah 64:8-9) and what he really asked was this, “Lord, come down and move these mountains…!” – compare Mark 11:22-24.
To these four conditions may be added another: the prayer for revival must be offered with a pure motive. Isaiah asked for God’s glory – that is the true motive in prayer; and the result of praying along these lines is – revival!
4. The result of revival is stated.
We have this in Isaiah 64:1-2. Revival results in a mighty quickening work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and a movement of the Holy Spirit through the Church and in the world. When true revival comes the people are on fire for God’s glory, filled with a love for His Name, for His Word and for His work, and they go out to a needy world and proclaim the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit which causes the nations to “tremble before Him”.