Every revival in history was preceded by extraordinary prayer.
Revival is a sovereign act of God. As much as we need revival, we are powerless to bring it about. When God intervenes by pouring out His Spirit, it is obvious that it is God doing it. That said, we have a role to play. In the story of Elijah on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18, Elijah was facing a nation that had turned away from the LORD and had given itself to the worship of the Baals (the Canaanite gods). What Israel needed was for God to show up and reveal himself.
Elijah set up a showdown on Mt. Carmel with the prophets of Baal. He said, in essence “you build an altar and I’ll build an altar, and you prepare a sacrifice and I’ll prepare a sacrifice, and then you call on your god and I’ll call on the LORD. And the God who answers by fire is the true God.” Elijah could not produce the fire from heaven that was needed, but Elijah could build the altar on which that fire was to fall. Altar building is the human side of revival preparation. It is the act of setting aside space, clearing away other activities, in order to call on God and seek Him.
In 2015, I embraced a calling to “build the altars of prayer and worship.” When that happened, I started talking about altars with everyone. My wife, Sarah, is a very strategic (and at times literal) thinker. She turned to me and said, “Greg, I keep hearing you talk about building altars but I haven’t seen one yet. What exactly does an altar look like? Do you get the supplies to build it at Home Depot? Do you need a permit? Does it involve fire? Where does it go? In the backyard? What will the neighbors think?”
I realized that it was important to emphasize that an altar is not a physical item, but it is a Biblical metaphor for a certain kind of space we carve out in the life of the Church…a space for a certain kind of prayer. When we “build an altar,” what we are doing is setting aside a special space for believers to engage in what Tim Keller calls “extraordinary, Kingdom-focused prayer.” Prayer meetings can be a dime a dozen - there is one in most churches. As we know, some of these prayer meetings can be rather boring and tedious. But when revival comes, the character of the church’s prayer meetings begins to shift. They become more intense, more forceful, more passionate. They become God-focused and Kingdom-focused. Men and women begin pleading with God for more of His presence and power. Altars of prayer and worship refer to this kind of communal, extraordinary, Kingdom-focused prayer.
When we look back through the history of past revivals, every time the Holy Spirit has come in power on the people of God, every time there has been fire from heaven, there is always somebody who built an altar. When the fire of Pentecost came, it fell on the upper room in Jerusalem. What had the 120 disciples been doing in that upper room for the past ten days? They had built an altar of prayer, joining together to wait on God for power from on high. This is true in Acts 4 as well, and in the Great Awakenings, the Welsh Revival, the Korean Pentecost, the Azusa Street Revival, and so on and so forth.
One of our primary strategic goals over the next five years as we seek to ready the church for revival is a network of 100 “altars of prayer and worship,” established within local churches. These will be regular spaces where believers are gathering for extraordinary, Kingdom-focused prayer. Some of these “altars” don’t exist yet…and we are launching a movement to plant them. Other “altars” do already exist in the form of a prayer gathering that is already happening. Our hope is to offer encouragement and equipping wherever it is wanted.
Please pray for Revive New England as we begin this journey to 100 altars of prayer. Ask God to connect us with churches who have the desire to see their prayer lives and prayer cultures deepened. Ask God to give us the ability to train and equip praying communities to seek God for revival. Ask God to activate and call church members and leaders to covenant with each other to seek God for revival until He sends it.
God comes where he is wanted. An altar is a culture of prayer, either in a human heart or a group of people, where the primary cry of the heart is “God, we want you here.” We can build an altar in our heart, in our home, in our church, and in our region.
Need help getting started? Check out our Prayer Prompts below:
Would you like to plant revival-seeking prayer community in your church or local network? We'd love to help you get started!
Do you already have a prayer community seeking revival? Connect your altar with the Revive New England network.
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