The Place of Prayer in Revivals


By: Evangelist Joe Henry Hankins


I want to read two or three passages of Scripture for the basis of this message. In Luke 24:49 Jesus speaks these words to His disciples, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”

Then in Acts 1:13-14 we have this statement after Jesus had been taken up into Heaven: “And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the
women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”

Then I want to call your attention to some very striking words in the fourth chapter of the book of Acts. When persecution broke out, the first case of persecution, Peter and John were arrested and taken before the Sanhedrin. They were threatened and turned loose and commanded not to preach any more in the name of Jesus. Then they went back to the church. I have often wondered what would happen in a church today if the pastor were arrested, taken into court, beaten, and threatened with death if he preached any more in the name of Christ. The first thing we would do, I think, would be to get up a petition to the mayor of the town to stop such foolishness, or to send a petition to the governor of the state. But this crowd took their case to the Supreme Court of the universe. In verse 31 we read: “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” And then in verse 33: “And with great power gave the apostles
witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”

Dr. R. A. Torrey used to say, “I have a theory and I believe it to be true, that there is not a church, chapel, or mission on earth where you cannot have a revival, provided there is a little nucleus of faithful people who will hold on to God until it comes.”

Four men brought the revival to all the north of Ireland in 1859. Two were farmers, one a blacksmith and one a school teacher. These four men held on to God week after week. Though at first there did not seem to be any results, the fire came at last. Ireland, Scotland and Wales were shaken by the power of God. That
has always been the experience of God’s people through the ages.

God not only wants His people to pray, but He also wants them to agonize in prayer. I have this conviction, a conviction as deep as my soul, that there never was and there never will be a real Holy Ghost, Heaven-sent revival until God’s people agonize in prayer. I just do not believe that one ever comes any other way. When there is a revival, somebody has paid the price on his knees, maybe just one man or one woman. Yes, I believe that one person who is willing to stay at the throne of grace until God opens the windows of Heaven, one person who prays in the spirit of the song, “I Would Not Be Denied,” can bring arevival from Heaven. I think Pentecost, I know Pentecost would have come had nobody prayed. I have heard preachers say that Pentecost would never have come if it had not been for that prayer meeting. God had spoken all through the Old Testament of this day of Pentecost, Jesus had promised it. But I tell you, I think it would have been a day without conversions and without the results if God’s people had not prayed. I think that ten days and ten nights in the upper room was directly the cause of three thousand conversions that day.

If I could stand before old Simon Peter, I would not take one bit of the honor, the glory, the credit from that great preacher of God for those three thousand souls that day. But I think that Peter would tell you and me that we have given him far too much credit for what happened that day. Peter’s preaching was only the
climax of something else, just a cap stone, if you please, of the praying of those ten days. Ten days of prayer, the outpouring of the Spirit of God, then the 120 people in the power of the Holy Ghost gave testimony in at least fifteen different languages of the mighty work of God in their own lives. Then when that was finished, Peter got up and preached. Who couldn’t preach at a time like that! Three thousand souls were saved!


I. The Bible Is Full of Examples of Revivals in Answer to Prayer

The fact is, every revival recorded in the Word of God, as far as I have been able to ascertain, was preceded by prayer, came in on the wings of prayer.

The other night I sat down and read through the book of Judges. Again and again I ran across these statements: “The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord,” and “When the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel.” The revival came when the cry to God came from the heart of His people.

In the seventh chapter of I Samuel is a record of a mighty revival in Israel. If you read that entire account you will find that Israel was just about at rock bottom. They had gone down to the depths. I mean that everything was gone. Twice the Philistines had come in like a flood and plundered and murdered and burned everything. They had taken all their weapons away from them. They had reduced them to abject poverty. But Samuel, the man of God, called a meeting of the elders of Israel. The first thing they did was to confess their sins. They brought water and poured it out before the Lord, which typified the pouring out of their souls before God and the dedication of everything in them to God. Then Samuel killed the sucking lamb and took the blood of the atoning sacrifice, put it on the altar of God, and lifted his heart to God in prayer. Just at that time the Philistines heard of the gathering of the leaders of Israel and they said, ‘Now is the time to fall on them and blot them out. We will be through with this crowd forever. They have all their leaders together and at one stroke we can be rid of them.’ Then the Philistines came into view, and, the record says, “But the Lord . . .” There is the turning point every time to the children of God, when God steps in. “But the Lord . . .”! “But the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines.”

It is different now. God’s people who had been the helpless victims of these same enemies before, have now confessed their sin. They have now laid themselves on the altar for God. They now come back again to the blood and put their sins once again under the blood. And they are praying, led by that great prophet, Samuel. God thundered from Heaven, confusion took hold of the Philistines, and they fell on one another and slew one another in full view of the people of God, in answer to prayer and s confession of sin by the people of God and a dedication of life and a putting of themselves under the blood again. Brother, I believe it will do the job anywhere, any time, with any people.

Read the revival under Nehemiah. When God’s people had been carried away captive, Jerusalem had been destroyed and the temple had been torn down, word came to Nehemiah in the palace of Shushan. It broke his heart even though he himself was well established, with a fine position for life. As far as material things were concerned, he would never want for anything. But there was something to Nehemiah that was greater than material security. We talk about security. We hear it on every hand today and people talk about security from the cradle to the grave. I know the security that America needs. Jesus Christ said that if you will seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these other things will be added unto you. We need faith enough in Him who made the promise to put Him first, and the cause of a lost world first, and trust Him for all the rest. Nehemiah sat down and fasted and wept and prayed until God from Heaven moved upon the heart of the heathen king. God is still able to make the wicked praise God. God is still able to turn the devices of men to praise God.

I shall never forget when I was just a lad I read the story of that negro slave orator, Frederick Douglass. To my thinking he was one of the greatest negro orators ever born in America. One day it is said that Frederick Douglass was addressing a group of his people. He was very much discouraged, sounding a low note, feeling in his heart that there was no future for his people and that they would never again see the light of freedom’s hour. Right in the midst of his speech that day a dear old negro woman, who loved the Lord and knew Him in an experience of grace, rose in the back of the house and raised her hand and said, “Mr. Douglass, may I ask you one question?”

The negro orator said, “Yes, you may.”

She said, “Mr. Douglass, am God dead?”

The orator was dumbfounded. He stood a moment speechless and said, “Why, no, surely God is not dead!”

Then she said, “Might I ask you one more question, then? Am you a child of God?”

The orator said, “Yes, I am. Praise the Lord!”

Then she said, “Mr. Douglass, as long as God lives, no child of His need despair.”God is still on His throne. He is still able. Oh, “I am with you alway,” said my Lord Jesus. He did not say, “I will go with you,” but “I am with you.” Brother, that means a lot more to me than “I will go with you.” It is that eternal presence, “I am.”

When Nehemiah prayed, God moved upon the heart of a heathen king. God provided an open door. God provided not only permission to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, but God provided through that heathen king the resources for the task. They went back and built again for God. Then Nehemiah finished the walls of Jerusalem and called the people together. Oh, how interesting it is to read in that ninth chapter of that book how the revival really came.

The first thing the people did was to humble themselves before God. They clothed themselves in sackcloth and ashes. This signified not only humility but also signified the confession of their absolute helplessness before God and their absolute dependence upon Him.

Then they separated themselves from all strangers. Oh, how we need to learn a lesson here. Separation! Separation!

Then for a fourth part of the day they stood up and read out of the Book of God, and for a fourth part of the day they confessed their sins. Wouldn’t you like to be in one more real old-time confession meeting, not where people stand up and say, “If I have done so and so I hope the Lord will forgive me,” but where people
stand face to face with their sins under the power of God and come clean for God?

In the jail of Philippi in Acts, chapter 16, is another Biblical example of the coming of the mighty power of God in answer to prayer. Paul had not accomplished much by his preaching in Philippi. About all that he had accomplished was the conversion of s few women and getting himself in jail. But at the midnight hour
while Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God, an earthquake came. The doors of the prison were opened, and every man’s bands were loosed. A revival started in the Philippi jail in answer to prayer.


II. The Bible Full of Promises of Revival in Answer to Prayer

The Bible is not only full of examples of revival in answer to prayer, but the Bible is full of promises of revival and the power of God in answer to prayer. I put the two together because to me they are absolutely inseparable and synonymous. A revival means the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon the people of God. That is what it means to me. You can organize, you can preach, you can sing, you can have enthusiasm, you can have tent meetings, but you can have no revival without God’s power. The trouble is that so many times we go far afield, we substitute pep many times for power. But to me there is no revival until the power of God comes upon the meeting. The two are synonymous. The only anxiety I ever have about a revival campaign is in waiting until the power of God comes. When the power of God comes, I do not worry about it any more. When God opens the floodgates, when God opens the windows of Heaven, when people can feel the thrill and the grip of the power of the divine Spirit, the revival has broken through, the beachhead has been established, victory is in sight. But not until then, not until then!

In II Chronicles 7:14 is that blessed promise, to “my people, which are called by my name.” And I stop here to say that you can search the pages of God’s Book and you will find that the people of God have always held the key. Do not blame the sinners around us for lack of revival. Do not blame anything on the outsiders. The people of God hold the key. “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 will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

The reason we have such sin and such a flood of ungodliness is that there is not enough salt. A great deal of that which we have has lost its savor. When Abraham stood yonder with the angel of God on that hill overlooking Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham said to that angel of God, “Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?”

God’s answer was, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”

I believe Abraham was thinking about Lot and his family who had been in Sodom all these years. He must have thought, “Surely Lot has won fifty people to God down there in these years.” But then Abraham’s courage failed. After God had said He would spare it for fifty, Abraham remembered what a selfish fellow Lot was, what a materially-minded fellow he was, what a contentious sort of a person he was, how worldly-minded he was; and Abraham must have said to himself: “Well, I am afraid that maybe Lot has not won fifty. Maybe I had better cut it down to forty.” Then he asked the Lord if He would spare the city if forty righteous could be found.

The Lord answered, “I will not do it for forty’s sake.”

Abraham’s heart failed him again, knowing what he did about Lot, how he tried to cheat him, how he tried to take advantage of him. He said, “Lord, wouldn’t You spare it for thirty?”

‘I will not destroy it if I find thirty there.’

‘For twenty?’

‘Yes, for twenty I will spare Sodom.’

Then old Abraham must have thought, “Well, surely old Lot has won as many as ten during all these years he has been down there. He has a family of his own, with five or six children. Surely he has won them and a few others.” He said, ‘Lord, wouldn’t You spare it for ten?”

‘Yes, for ten.’

But Lot had so completely failed God that he had not won his own family. And Sodom and Gomorrah went down under the curse of God and the judgment of God because a family had failed. The key is in the hands of the people of God. “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 will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

And again I call your attention to that promise in Luke 24:49, “…tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”

I am not much of a theologian, but I believe the Bible, and the Lord made this promise in Luke 11:13: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” I believe with all of my heart in asking God for that divine power. I believe that God will give it in answer to prayer. You can talk about the Holy Spirit’s indwelling the believer I believe that; you can talk about the Holy Spirit’s being here upon the earth in this age to guide the church–I believe that; but I believe that a special outpouring and a special filling of the Spirit of God is given in answer to prayer, and without that we shall never have a revival.


III. Christian History Is Full of Examples of Revivals in Answer to Prayer

Then let me close my message by saying this: not only is the Bible full of the promises of this power and the promises of revival and the promises of victory in answer to prayer, but history is full of examples of the people of God from the day of Pentecost until now. Let me read you one or two testimonies.

One testimony is taken from the autobiography of Charles G. Finney. A tract had fallen into his hands, deeply impressing him; and he was speaking of the need of a revival being rekindled that had already started and died down. He said, “. . . this article set me into a flood of weeping. I was at that time boarding with Mr. Gale, and I took the article to him. I was so overcome with a sense of the divine goodness in hearing and answering prayer, and with a felt assurance that he would hear and answer prayer for the revival of his work in Adams, that I went through the house weeping aloud like a child. . . . At the next meeting of the young people, I proposed that we should observe a closed concert of prayer for the revival of God’s work; that we should pray at sunrise, at noon, and at sunset, in our closets, and continue this for one week, when we should come together again and see what further was to be done. No other means were used for the revival of God’s work. But the spirit of prayer was immediately poured out wonderfully upon
the young converts. Before the week was out I learned that some of them, when they would attempt to observe this season of prayer, would lose all their strength and be unable to rise to their feet, or even stand upon their knees in their closets; and that some would lie prostrate on the floor, and pray with unutterable
groanings for the out-pouring of the Spirit of God.”

Finney’s next statement reads: “The Spirit was poured out, and before the week ended all the meetings were thronged; and there was as much interest in religion, I think, as there had been at any time during the revival.”

Listen to this same man in another testimony, speaking of a time when he and another man went out and prayed for a special service. In that prayer out there in the woods God gave a definite assurance of victory. “As the time came for meeting, we left the woods and went to the village. The people were already thronging to the place of worship; and those who had not already gone, seeing us go through the village, turned out of their stores and places of business, or threw down their ball clubs where they were playing upon the green, and packed the house to its utmost capacity.”

Then when he arose to preach, he had this to say, “The Spirit of God came upon me with such power, that it was like opening s battery upon them. For more than an hour, and perhaps for an hour and a half, the Word of God came through me to them in a manner that I could see was carrying all before it. It was a fire and a hammer breaking the rock; and as the sword that was piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit. I saw that a general conviction was spreading over the whole congregation. Many of them could not hold up their heads.”

Brother, that is what my poor heart is crying for today. If God would put His Spirit like that on Charles G. Finney, God can do it to Joe Hankins. He is no respecter of persons. God can do it to John Rice. And, brother, that is what we need–not only what we need, but hear me, that is what we must have!

In the revival of Wales in 1905 (that is not an ancient time, many of you were living at that time as I was), G. Campbell Morgan, that great preacher in England who was on the scene at the time of that mighty Welsh revival, went into his pulpit and preached this sermon from which I read an extract or two.

“Let us look at the Welsh revival more generally. Let me speak of some of the incidental peculiarities of the revival as I saw it, and gathered information concerning it on the ground. In connection with the awakening there is no preaching, no order, no hymnbooks, no choirs, no organs, no collection, and finally, no advertising.”

Think of that for a moment again will you? Think of all our work. I am not saying these things are wrong. I simply want you to see what God was doing. G. Campbell Morgan continues: “There were, the organs, but silent; the ministers, but among the people, rejoicing and prophesying with the rest, only there was no preaching. Yet the Welsh revival is the revival of preaching in Wales. Everybody is preaching. No order, yet it moves from day to day, week to week, county to county, with matchless precision, with the order of an attacking force. No song books, but ah, me, I nearly wept tonight over the singing of our last hymn. When the Welsh sing they abandon themselves to their singing. We sing as though we thought it would not be respectable to be heard by the one next to us. No choir, did I say? It was all choir!

“Whence has it come? All over Wales–I am giving you roughly the result of the questioning of fifty or more persons at random in the week–a praying remnant has been agonizing before God about the state of the beloved land, and it is through prayer the answer of fire has come.

“What effect is this work producing upon men? First of all, it is turning Christians everywhere into evangelists. There is nothing more remarkable about it than that, I think. People you never expected to see doing this kind of thing are becoming personal workers. The revival is characterized by the most remarkable confessions of sin, confessions that must be costly. I heard some of them, men rising who had been members of the church, and officers of the church, confessing hidden sin in their heart, impurity committed and condoned, and seeking prayer for its putting away.”

Then he mentions things in the way of a revival: “The church needs first to set itself to get things out of the way for God. What things? I do not know. All the things that are in His way: your habit that you know is unholy; your method in business that will not bear the light of day; your unforgiving heart toward a church member. Oh, God forgive me that I mention anything! You know, you know! They are in God’s way, these things. They must be cleared out. That is the first thing. There may be other things in God’s way. Any organization in church life that does not make for the salvation of men is a fungus growth and the sooner we drop it off the better. . . . Are we ready to put things out of the way for God? I think we are,” says this great preacher. “Oh, if there is anything, we must be prepared to sweep everything out for God to have the highway.”

Then hear his last word and that impassioned plea: “Oh, God, lay the world’s needs on our hearts. There is nothing so important as the saving of men, and when the church says that, and is ready, God will come. We need then to wait upon Him in earnest, constant prayer. Oh brothers, sisters, pray! Pray! Pray alone! Pray in secret.”


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