The Welsh revival of 1904-1905 was truly exceptional. Over the course of only one year, more than 100,000 people were converted to Christ, prayer meetings and services ran at all hours of the day, there was significant societal change with crime rates dropping by 50 per cent, sporting teams burning their kits and pubs closing early.
Revival even touched the animals of Wales when the pit ponies needed to be retrained after the coal miners were convicted of their swearing and cussing – it had been all the ponies knew! And of course, it can also be linked to the birthplace of Pentecostalism, which now has affected more than 500 million individual souls.
But the nation of Wales was not exactly ready for revival as we would see it. There was no unification of churches coming together to pray. The culture was certainly full of idolatry and sin. And in looking at the landscape of the day, I see many correlations between the instability in society in Wales at the turn of the 20th century and our current day.
Wales had a Christian history, so do we.
Wales had political unrest, so do we.
Wales had a falling out of faith, so do we.
Wales had churches fighting for attendance, so do we.
Wales had a great need for revival, so do we.
I mean, we really do! If you were to look at the state of our world right now, you would agree we need to pray continually for revival! Our nation is hurting, our nation is bleeding, and we have the solution.
The solution is Jesus!
So, what exactly are we to pray for? Jonathan Edwards, one of America’s finest philosophical theologians and ‘revivalists’, defines revival as “God’s major means of extending His kingdom”. At its basic level, revival can look like anything to do with God extending His kingdom. Sometimes it looks like healings and other times it looks like the Spirit being poured out in great measure. Most often, it looks like salvation, with many people being swept into the Kingdom of God!
Revival should look like something; it’s not meant to be a metaphysical idea. Revival should be a visceral and tangible reality that we can see and experience “on earth as it is in heaven”.
Don’t you just long for that? Don’t you just want to see thousands of people come to know Jesus? I know that is one of my deepest desires! Not to fill an auditorium for the number’s sake, or to pay off a debt, but to see thousands of people spend eternity with their God rather than in the darkness.
Evan Roberts, another young leader, was desperate to see God move in his nation. Growing up in the South of Wales, he prayed that he might receive the Spirit, at any cost. He was desperate for revival. Revival, first within his own heart, and then within the nation. Listen to his words on the cusp of revival breaking out:
“For a long, long time I was much troubled in my soul and my heart by thinking over the failure of Christianity. Oh! it seemed such a failure—such a failure—and I prayed and prayed, but nothing seemed to give me any relief. But one night, after I had been in great distress praying about this, I went to sleep, and at one o'clock in the morning suddenly I was waked up out of my sleep, and I found myself with unspeakable joy and awe in the very presence of the Almighty God.” Evan Roberts 1904
From these encounters, Evan was convinced of the power of God. And eventually he prayed the famous prayer, “Oh Lord, bend me”, that ended up blossoming into the theme of the Welsh Revival: “Bend the Church and save the world”.
What a prayer, “Oh Lord, bend me.”
If we are to see revival in our day, this must be on our lips as well. We need to come to a point of surrender and submission where we pray the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane; “Father…not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42). This is a prayer of submission that we need to pray, and when we do, collectively, we will see mighty things on earth as it is in heaven!
The Welsh Revival changed the nation of Wales in such a short period of time. And while it shook the nation, unfortunately, it didn’t last long. In fact, this young leader Evan Roberts ended up burning out as he suffered from depression and exhaustion. God clearly used him, and the fruit of the revival did outlive him. And perhaps this is for an article at a later date when we are in the midst of a Riverlife Revival, but I believe that more than anything, we need to see a family revival that bridges across the generations.
The youth might have the passion, but they do not yet have the persistence or perseverance to carry revival alone. Young families might have the new life, but they don’t have the capacity that singles do. The older generations might have the history and heritage of God, but how many of these stories have been passed on to the coming generations?
If we are to see a sustained revival in our day, that would outlive our own generation, we need to pray for a family revival. We need to submit our dreams, our desires, our wills and our ways, to the Lord by praying “Oh Lord, bend me”. Only when we join Jesus in praying this prayer of submission, will God bring forth a sustained, family revival in our day.
We are desperate for You to move here in our day. Do it again, Lord!
Prompt: Having read this article, why don’t you spend a moment praying this prayer of submission “Oh Lord, bend me” and perhaps read again Luke 22:39-46. What is it that God is revealing? Journal what the Holy Spirit is saying to you.