Praying for True Revival

Restore us, O God of our salvation, And cause Your indignation toward us to cease. Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations? Will You not Yourself revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your lovingkindness, O Lord, And grant us Your salvation.

(Psalm 85:4–7, NASB95) 

What is true biblical revival? Where does revival come from and what needs to precede true revival in order for heartfelt change to occur in each person? And what about the broader culture? How does a revival in the Church spread to a revival in society? All of these questions are answered in these verses, leading us to seek the only true source of life–God Himself! 

Although verse 4 is a cry for restoration, restoration was not enough for Israel. They knew that their disobedience betrayed an ugly truth about their spiritual state. They were spiritually dead. They needed to be brought back to life; they needed revival.

When the Bible refers to “revival” we need to know that it is not simply whipping up some experience in the church. It’s not a tent meeting. It isn’t where the Holy Spirit shows up with a special outpouring in a new and fresh way like being slain in the Spirit, or some other ecstatic experience. These aren’t even biblical practices. So, what is a revival?

Walter Chantry helps us to understand it a little better when he writes, 

“There have been outstanding periods in the history of the church when the intensified activity of the Holy Spirit has amazed her. Such times are known as revivals. True revivals do not result from some special work of the Spirit of God different from his normal gracious influences! Rather they are the effect of an increased measure of precisely the same power and grace which operate at every time and in every place that the church has been found since Pentecost. In revival times the Spirit’s work remains what it has ever been since Pentecost, namely, the work of inwardly convincing the unconverted by the Word, inwardly regenerating sinners by the Wordinwardly teaching and sanctifying saints by the Word, and inwardly prompting worship of Father and Son by the Word.[i]

What I want you to see in Chantry’s definition and as seen in Psalm 85:4-7 is that revival, as biblically defined, is a mighty work of God, and not of man. Just like forgiveness, which must come from God’s mercy, so too revival is a result of the mercy of God, or else we would never have it.

Secondly, I want you to see that revival is an inward work of God that results in soul-work—reviving of a person who is dead in their trespasses and sins, bringing them to new life. They are vivified, they are born again. So, when a church wants to see revival, it must recognize that it is speaking of two related but different matters—either it recognizes that it is spiritually dead and filled with many unbelievers who think that they are believers and need new life, or it is speaking of evangelism outside of the church. Often true revival of the church will have the effect of spreading out to the community around it when those newborn Christians begin to live and speak for the glory of God.

With these things in mind, let us turn tour attention to Psalm 85:6-7. Again, “revive” refers to being made alive, to recover life. This verb in Hebrew is in the piel form, which means that God must put into action what the psalmist is asking. To say it differently, just like normal human life finds its origins in God, so too God must bring revival. If God does not bring it about, it will not happen.

There is an amazing picture of revival found in Ezekiel 37:1-14. I’ll leave you to read the passage for yourself. But in it the prophet Ezekiel is shown an old battlefield where there are probably hundreds of human skeletons lying about on the ground. These bones have been here for a long time because they no longer have flesh on them and are bleached out from being exposed to the sun. The Lord asks Ezekiel if these bones can once again become alive. The prophet wisely says that it depends upon God, who alone knows. After all, unless God raises dead bones, they will remain dead. 

Then God tells the prophet to speak to the bones….

Notice a few things about this biblical illustration:

  • The question of whether the bones could be made alive again was not dependent upon the response of the bones, but God-v. 3.
  • Although it was ridiculous, the means that God chose to “activate” these dry bones was the Word of God as spoken by his servant Ezekiel-vv. 4-10.
  • Also notice in those words of prophecy that the power for life comes not from the bones, nor from the prophet, but from God alone who can cause these dry bones to live-v. 5.
  • Finally note that this whole scenario was set by God to show Ezekiel that God alone revives the spiritually dead.

Every time that God saves a person, he revives their dead souls. But that isn’t what we mean by revival—a soul saved here and there. That happens all the time. Revival is the accelerated work of God, whereby a small stream of people saved join together to become a torrent of saved souls. When this happens, the work of God is the same, but He acts in a wider and broader way with more people.

But with an increasing work of God in revival, there is more than just increased activity of the Spirit bringing about saving faith—there is a sudden influx of new Christians whose changed hearts are producing changed lives and then changing society around them. 

We need to keep ever before us that when the gospel message changes a heart, it will change a life, and that means changed actions. This makes sense because our allegiances and loyalties are radically altered from darkness to light and from the evil one to Christ. When God changes a heart, he changes a whole life.

In the New Testament, as the gospel swept through the world, people were changed. These changes weren’t a fad, or even popular among unbelievers. These new Christians were despised and rejected of men, like their Savior. They had to survive wave after wave of persecution from the unbelieving world around them.

But they did it. 

And as Psalm 85:6 says, if God will bring about revival, it will bring about the result that his people will rejoice in him. You see, rejoicing will not come until revival in the heart has occurred. Revival will not happen until God does his cleansing and saving work in us. 

[i] Chantry, Walter, Signs of the Apostles: Observations on Pentacostalism Old and New. Banner of Truth, 1976, 129-30. Italics in the original.

Help for New Pastors-Planning a Funeral

Although there isn’t a substitute for actually conducting a funeral yourself, it is possible to be better prepared to have those conversations that will make for a better memorial and graveside service. Like many things in pastoral ministry, after struggling to figure out how to do something as a new pastor, I figured out a way that worked for me and then standardized a format that made my “system” repeatable.

After being contacted by a church member or someone who has lost a loved one, it is best to set a day and time as soon as possible to meet together to talk about planning their service(s). Because most people have been to a funeral, we can assume that they might have some idea about how they would want the service of their loved one to be ordered. That assumption is almost 99% incorrect. Most people have no idea how a service should be ordered, what elements they might want to include, who they want to speak, or even how long they want the service to be.

We obviously think about the need for comfort as a part of ministering to those who are mourning, but part of bringing comfort is helping the loved ones walk through a very confusing and difficult time by leading and guiding them through a very scary and unfamiliar process.

I developed my Funeral Service Planner as a way of walking through the typical services that people desire for a funeral, including a viewing/wake, memorial service, and graveside service. I not only ask about the particular elements that the family might want, but I also mark the order of each element in the service as well as which family members will be involved. The lines to the right are for names of those involved, including the pastor, if desired. The short lines to the left of service elements are to place a number for the order of the element when it will occur in the service.

Viewings or wakes are normally connected to Roman Catholicism, but sometimes they are conducted by a family of different faiths. If no priest will be present, then a Protestant pastor might be looked at as one who should do something. If this is the case, you might want to choose some passages of Scripture to read and pray. The rest of the time can be left for family to mourn together and if the casket is open, for them to say their goodbyes.

The last element, “full burial” follows the graveside service. Some families opt to wait until the casket is lowered and the vault (a concrete protective box) is placed over the casket, and then the whole thing is covered by dirt. In many funeral services, this is done for an extra fee and must be pre-arranged. If this occurs, it extends the time at the cemetery, and can be somewhat traumatic for the family to watch because it involves heavy machinery pounding down the ground to compact the soil. It would be best to know this so the family will be aware of the extra cost and what happens.

My form looks like this:

Funeral Service Planner

Decedent’s Full Name:__________________________________ Age:______ Saved? ____

Viewing/ Wake? Date, Time and Location: ______________________________________

Officiating? ____________________________________ Scripture Reading ____________________________________

Prayer ____________________________________

Other elements? ____________________________________

Memorial Service Date, Time and Location:_________________________________________

Suggested Order of Service (Length of Service? _________)

Welcome _________________________

Opening Prayer
___Scripture Reading _________________________
___Eulogy- Writing _____________________ Reading _________________________

___Video Presentation/Slideshow (How long? ________)

___Family and Friends Memories (Prepared or open? _________ How many?____ )

___Gospel Message

Closing Prayer

Other elements?

Special music? _________________________

Other minister co-officiating? __________________________

Graveside Service? Date, Time and Location: ____________________________________

Scripture Reading (Jn 11:25; Ps 103)

Words of Interment

Other elements? ____________________________________

Full burial?

Contact info: Pastor Richard Bargas Office: (XXX) XXX-XXXX

When I fill out the above form, I make sure to include as many details as possible. Some things, like particular family involvement, will sometimes be confirmed at a later date. After I have sat and walked through this process with the family, I will usually either photocopy or email a copy of the completed form to the family so they can know the order of the services and who is doing what. This is especially helpful the next day when they have a hard time remembering the meeting details because of their grief.

Normally, people are so overwhelmed with stress and the emotion of the day that they will need to be guided through each service element during the funeral, but it is good and comforting for them to know that you are in charge and know what is happening. I have included at the bottom of my form my church office number and my email in case they needed to get ahold of me, since I sometimes conducted funerals for friends of friends.

One last thing. There is a place in my form for a gospel message in the service. For me, this is a non-negotiable element. I won’t do a funeral if I’m not allowed to freely share the gospel, and I normally only take about 15 minutes to do so. I once had a person say they didn’t want me preaching at their guests. I replied that as a minister of the gospel I don’t know of any other hope to give to people than the hope of salvation in Christ. If they didn’t want this hope presented, then they didn’t want me to conduct the service. I spoke with a gentle but firm resolve. The widow took a second to think about what I said and then agreed that she did want this and asked me to do the service. She even thanked me after the service for the great comfort the Word of God brought. Fellow pastors, don’t fail to point the grieving to Christ, our only hope!

Below you can download a PDF copy of my form. Be aware that the contact info at the bottom of the form is no longer valid for me, so please don’t try to contact me at the phone number or email address.