Is Revival Happening Now?

For years now, many of us have looked at the condition of our culture and concluded that the only hope we have is for a spiritual awakening. The strife and division we see in our land today feels a lot like what we experienced in America in 1969 and 1970. In the midst of the turmoil of those days, God sent a revival—what we now look back on as the Jesus Movement. Those of us who lived through it remember the impact this fresh move of God among young people had on our nation. 

In the past week, reports have surfaced about a similar move of God in our day on college campuses. Something began to happen during a chapel service at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, that has now lasted for days. Reports of what many are calling a revival or an awakening have spread. And as those reports have spread, there have been similar accounts from other colleges. Could this be the answer to the prayers many of us have been praying?

For those who are interested, there are many firsthand reports coming out of Asbury. Pastor Bill Elliff and his wife Holly traveled there to see what was happening, and Bill provided his analysis here. Tim Beougher has also been in Wilmore and offered his perspective. Even my local TV news is reporting on what’s happening. Nationally, Tucker Carlson talked about it on his show Tonight on Fox News.

Back in 2018, I preached a sermon series at the church I pastor on our need for a spiritual awakening and what the Bible has to say about a reviving work of God in a nation. (You can access that series here if you’d like to listen to the messages.) But let me provide some thoughts here about what’s happening in Wilmore and on other college campuses right now.

Revival Defined

First, we need to define our terms. What is a revival or an awakening? (I’ll use those terms interchangeably.) 

J. I. Packer defines a revival as “God’s quickening visitation of his people, touching their hearts and deepening his work of grace in their lives.”

Robert Coleman says it is "the awakening or quickening of God’s people to their true nature and purpose.”

Richard Owen Roberts explains it as “an extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit producing extraordinary results.”

Earle Cairns calls it “the work of the Holy Spirit in restoring the people of God to a more vital spiritual life, witness, and work by prayer and the Word after repentance in crisis for their spiritual decline.”

Andrew Murray says, “A true revival means nothing less than a revolution, casting out the spirit of worldliness, making God's love triumph in the heart.”

And Martyn Lloyd-Jones had a lot to say about the subject. “Revival, above everything else, is a glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the restoration of him to the center of the life of the Church.”

A revival can be a personal, individual experience. It can happen in a local church. In a community. Or throughout a state or a nation. 

In the 1700s, the United States experienced what has become known as the First Great Awakening, with men like George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards being used by God to bring revival. A generation later, there was a Second Great Awakening that spread across the American frontier. There have been other times in our history when we’ve witnessed an unusual work of God’s Spirit in the lives of men and women.

All of the historical awakenings have had certain characteristics in common. Some common elements a true revival will include are things like these:

  • People experience a growing reverence, a healthy fear of God.
  • People hunger and thirst for God’s Word.
  • People have a fresh desire to live godly, holy lives.
  • People are sobered by the reality of their sin.
  • People turn away from sin.
  • People pray more.
  • People experience an increased burden for the lost.
  • People share their faith more often.
  • People pray for and support the work of world missions.
  • People can’t wait to get to church.
  • People are quick to want to be reconciled, quick to repent, and quick to forgive and give grace.
  • People are moved to show sacrificial love for others.

It’s important to understand that these things aren’t prescriptive, they are descriptive. These aren’t the things we do to try to generate an awakening. These are things that describe what happens when God comes and people who were spiritually stagnant are awakened.

I believe all of us should be prayerful in these days, asking God to continue to pour out His Spirit as it appears we’re seeing Him do at Asbury and on other college campuses right now. 

And I believe we should be praying for God to do a reviving work in each of our lives. A good pattern to follow in praying for revival is the prayer found in Habakkuk 3. 

Habakkuk’s Prayer for Revival

Let me set the context. Habakkuk lived sometime between the fall of the northern Kingdom of Israel to the Assyrians in 612 BC and the Babylonian captivity of the southern Kingdom in 586 BC.

During this period, Israel had lapsed into a time of spiritual lethargy. One commentator says that during this time, “God’s people had become forgetful, formal and careless in their devotion and obedience to God. They had almost lost their testimony. God’s holy name was not honored. And His kingdom was not being extended.”

This was a regular pattern for Israel. It’s a pattern for all of us. We can easily, quickly drift into spiritual complacency and dullness. Affluence and comfort make us spiritually sluggish. 

Look at this prayer that Habakkuk prayed for Judah at the beginning of chapter 3:

“O LORD, I have heard the report of you” (Hab. 3:2 ESV). In other words, Lord, I know what our ancestors have told us about Your work and Your glory. “And your work, O LORD, do I fear.” Another translation says “I stand in awe of Your deeds” (CSB). Eugene Peterson says “your work has stopped me in my tracks.” Habakkuk continues in verse 2, “In the midst of the years revive it” (ESV). What does Habakkuk want God to revive? His work. He is asking God to do again what He did in earlier days. “In the midst of the years make it known.”

Habakkuk concludes his prayer in verse 2 this way: “In wrath,” he prays—in the season we’re in now where we are experiencing Your judgment because of our sin and rebellion—“in wrath remember mercy.” Be merciful to us, O Lord.

This is a prayer for God to bring a fresh sense of awe. To revive in His people a sober seriousness about who He is and His purposes for His people. It’s a good, simple prayer for God to do a work to awaken His sleepy people from their spiritual apathy and dullness.

And notice what’s at the center of Habakkuk’s prayer. A focus on God and His glory.

I hope you’ll join me in praying that what God is doing at Asbury will spread across our country. Pray that these events will bring lasting fruit in the lives of all who are touched by His Spirit in these days. 

Pray that God might bring a fresh wind of awakening in your state. Your city. In your church. In each one of our lives. Pray as Isaiah prays in Isaiah 64:

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
   that the mountains might quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
   and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
   and that the nations might tremble at your presence! (Isaiah 64:1–2 ESV)

One final note. Coincidentally perhaps, or more likely in God’s providence, the feature film Jesus Revolution opens in movie theaters across the country next weekend. It tells the story of how God brought revival at Calvary Chapel in Southern California in the early seventies. I’ve seen an early showing of the film and thought the filmmakers did a great job of showing how powerful and messy things can be when a work of God is happening in our midst. God’s done it before. Let’s ask Him to do it again.

We’ll be back next week with more on the topic of revival. Have more questions now? Check out our library of content on revival at

About the Author

Bob Lepine

Bob Lepine

Bob Lepine is best known to radio and podcast listeners as the long-time co-host of FamilyLife Today® and as the on-air announcer for Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. Bob is the teaching pastor at Redeemer Community Church in … read more …

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