In Belfast, Ireland, in the 1930's, a church that ran about 200 experienced revival. Between 12 and 20 people were saved every night. 6:00 every morning found 50 people in the church praying for an hour. It was not singing, Bible study, and prayer, as much as the teacher in me wishes Bible study was the key to revival. They prayed.
J. Edwin Orr described one of these prayer meetings. The prayers were short, simple, to the point. Someone prayed for God to reach her wayward son who had gotten into bad company. There was a chorus of "amens" and "yes, Lords." One prayed, "Lord, bless the poor woman down the street, the one with the black eye. I'll try to bring her tonight." Someone prayed for God to bring conviction and conversion to the man who gave her the black eye.
An hour of prayer like this every morning preceded the 12 to 20 souls saved every night. Orr continued describing this prayer meeting.
"A second year theological student was in the meeting, and these brief, humble prayers ill-suited his idea of homiletics. He decided to show the folks how to pray, and soon was launched upon an oration with introduction, excellent paragraphing, and a theme running throughout the prayer.
"'We thank Thee, Heavenly Father, that in spite of the disobedience of our first parents, the seed of the woman didst bruise the serpent's head, and Thy plan didst triumph. We thank Thee, that in spite of the wickedness of the antediluvian world, Thou didst shut the family of Noah in the ark to preserve Thy seed, and Thy plan didst triumph....'
"The theological student prayed on about Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the children if Israel, and Moses. He was traveling with great velocity through the book of Second Kings when the minister interrupted him. 'Open your eyes, man,' he said. 'You're not praying. You're preaching a sermon.'
"We returned to the profitable intercession and sincere petition and we saw the answers come."
Years later, J. Edwin Orr would begin studying the history of revivals. He would become the world's authority on the history of revivals.
In 1952, he went to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where 81 churches began weekly prayer meetings for revival. Each meeting was dominated by a few monopolizing the time with long prayers. He told them about the church in Belfast and their prayer meeting. He told them about the short, simple prayers and the "amens" and "yes, Lords." He told about the second year theological student.
The prayer meetings in Brazil began to emphasize short, simple, sincere prayers. More people prayed in each of the prayer meetings. God began to work. Revival did come. Evangelical Christians in Brazil grew from two million to over five million in five years.
In The Fervent Prayer: The Worldwide Impact of the Great Awakening of 1858, J. Edwin Orr wrote, "The main marks of an Evangelical Awakening are always some repetition of the phenomena of the Acts of the Apostles..."
When we pray as the first church prayed, God will empower us as he empowered the first church and our altar calls will look like Peter's altar call.
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