One of the great Baptist traditions (along with several other denominations) is to pray for revival. I grew up in churches that prayed for revival. It never really bothered us that the word “revival” does not actually appear in the Scriptures, that’s what we were supposed to pray for. From time to time we would even schedule revival. That never took hold, so we would go back to praying for it.
Along the way, I began to notice a disconnect when I saw that many of the people that prayed for revival most fervently were some of the people most resistant to change. And then I discovered something: praying for revival is code. It’s code for: “Lord, we’re not willing to change and do what’s necessary to reach the community around us and the next generation, so we’re asking you to change the culture back to the 1950s so everyone will come back to church and we won’t have to change.” When you sit in or lead a church that is unwilling to change but you’re praying for revival, your prayers aren’t as spiritual as they sound. Since you’re cemented in tradition and not willing to change, you’re asking God to change everyone else.
As sad as that reality is, it’s actually brilliant. Because when you pray for revival and it never comes (as evidenced by the continuing decline of the Southern Baptist Convention along with other denominations), you have an ‘out.’ It’s not your fault that you didn’t change, it’s God’s fault that He didn’t send revival.
I’m not saying that all prayer for revival is bad or useless, I’m just saying that it can be wasted breath if we pray for revival while being unwilling to do what He’s already asked us to do. If our churches more closely resemble the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law in the New Testament (high Bible knowledge, high judgmentalism, low practical love for the least and lost), then we shouldn’t be disappointed when God doesn’t answer our prayers that God make everyone else like us so that we don’t have to change. Start living the radical life of Jesus. Then you don’t have to pray for revival anymore because revival will have already come.