Prior to the day of Pentecost, Jesus’ disciples committed themselves to prayer in an upper room (Acts 1:12-14). Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift God the Father had promised (Acts 1:4). Never underestimate the power of prayer. God has many times used the prayers of his people to accomplish great things.
The nineteenth century Scottish pastor and theologian George Smeaton said of those who prayed in the upper room: “They prayed for the Spirit though they had received the Spirit. They waited for more of the Spirit that they had in compliance with their Lord’s command. This is the true attitude of the Christian church in every age.”
Take for instance the state of affairs in our country before the Second Great Awakening. J. Edwin Orr, a prolific writer and scholar of revivalism, described the situation like this: “Not many people realize that in the wake of the American Revolution […] there was a moral slump. Drunkenness became epidemic. Out of a population of five million, 300,000 were confirmed drunkards; Profanity was of the most shocking kind. For the first time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence. […] The Methodist were losing more members than they were gaining. The Baptist said that they had their most wintry season. The Presbyterians in general assembly deplored the nation’s ungodliness. In a typical Congregational church, the Rev. Samuel Shepherd of Lenox, Massachusetts, in sixteen years had not taken one young person into fellowship. The Lutherans were so languishing that they discussed uniting with Episcopalians who were even worse off. […] The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the Church ‘was too far gone ever to be redeemed.’”
Do you see the similarities? Replace epidemic of drunkenness with epidemic of opioids, and it sounds eerily like today.
This all changed during the Second Great Awakening, which started with a call for prayer in Scotland that worked its way to Britain and then traveled over the Atlantic to America. As one scholar put it, “There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.”
What if we are getting the diagnosis wrong? What if the solution to our problems are not political, economic, or diplomatic? What if they are spiritual? Like those disciples in the upper room, let us pray for revival for ourselves and around the globe.