I believe the very first revival message God ever gave me to preach was from 2nd Chronicles 7:14 (KJV), "If my people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land."
You see, revival has a very big IF! Revival also has more to do with his people than with the world. Through the years God in prayer and study has taught me a lot about revival. One great misnomer which I always debunk — the mistaken belief that all revivals are just "sovereign moves of God."
People, imagine that one day Father was just hovering over Los Angeles, California, in the early 1900s, and said to the Holy Spirit, "Hey, wonder what the boys down at the Azusa Street Mission are doing. Let's drop down there for a few years and pay them a visit. Thousands of people will be saved!"
I know that sounds sarcastic, but think about this. The greatest revivals in world history experienced outpourings in which thousands were saved as a result of His overwhelming, convicting presence. If these were just acts of His sovereign will and His will alone, then how has He been fair and just to the untold millions of peoples in other parts of the world throughout history upon whom He did not pour out revival?
However, IF WE are our brothers' keeper according to Genesis 4:9, then the responsibility falls on us of the saving of souls from eternal damnation, not God. Further evidence of this responsibility is recorded according to the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19 (KJV). "Go YE therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world."
IF the responsibility falls on us for the souls of men and women to be born again and not be lost, then God is still as fair and just as He ever was. The question then becomes, what should we do to usher in the outpouring?
Crucially, we need to stop ignoring the fact that every great true outpouring in history, of His Holy Spirit, in true God-sent revivals were preceded by intense corporate prayer. In almost every case, prayer intercession started with a faithful few. In some cases, it was started by a few youth who gathered to pray. Eventually many came. Then the prayer went to more nights of the week, before the revival hit, often prayer spread to seven nights a week. What were they praying for in every situation? They were praying for a great visitation from God on their area! God by His Holy Spirit loves to go where He is invited. He loves to come a little where invited a little. He loves to come some where He is invited some. Most of all, He loves to come a lot, where He is wholeheartedly invited a lot.
You see "IF my people which are called by my name would humble themselves and pray and seek my face...." IF IF IF, that's the big question. Did you know that our human nature, our flesh, if you will, does not like to pray? In my preaching I point out the fact that many church going Christians will fight revival the way a sinner will resist coming to Christ in the first place. Why? It is really the very same reason that sinners resist. We are rebellious at heart, and we want to do our own thing, and we want to do it when we want to. We resist the crucified life and rebel against the tug of the Holy Spirit on our hearts.
"If MY people which are called by MY name will humble themselves and pray..." Any preacher will get a lot of "amen's" if he wants to stand behind a pulpit and talk about the sins of the world. Revivals will eventually touch the sinner like nothing else but God-sent revivals always start with the lukewarm saints in the pews.
Praying requires humility. We must "humble ourselves and pray." We are so independent and rebellious we don't like to get on our knees, let alone on our faces, before God. We will gladly go to almost anything at the church except for prayer meetings. However, God still says "If my people will humble themselves and pray...."
The verse goes on to specify, "...And seek my face." Quite simply, to seek the face of God quite simply is to want to look upon it, speaking metaphorically, in the Spirit realm, to see what he is saying. Is He pleased? Is He angry? Does He have a concerned look on his face? I am convinced one of the greatest sins in the modern American Church is that we do not truly pray enough. That we do not seek His face about our every decision, especially as it concerns the building of His Kingdom in this last days' hour of the church.
There is another condition. The verse goes on to say, "...and turn from their wicked ways". I'm just going to use one word here. "SELF!" All of our sins have always been and always will be for the serving of self.
"THEN I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sin, and heal their land! THEN God can pour out His Holy Spirit in our churches and communities. THEN God is not held back by our traditions and religiosity. THEN Jesus the true King of Kings and Lord of Lord can have a place of rightful leadership in all our hearts. THEN the true revivals can be poured out which historically have transformed towns and villages, bringing crime rates to zero and healing marriages and families.
If my people.....