Revival Book Reviews

I’m moving some of the old book reviews I have written into this blog so they are all in one place. These are from a time about 5 years ago when I decided to read a load of books on revival. I would encourage you also to do this if you get the chance. It will change the way you think about prayer.

In the Day of Thy Power (Arthur Wallis) 5/5

This has to go down as one of the best Christian books I have ever read. It is full of Biblical teaching and covers far more than simply the subject of revival.

He begins by examining the nature of revival, and then goes on to consider its purpose and distinctive features. He looks at why revivals will invariably be opposed and spoken against. A strong challenge to prepare our hearts is then given, followed by four excellent chapters of teaching on prayer. Towards the close we are warned to count the cost involved in revival and also to consider the solemn alternative of judgement if God’s church forsake their first love.

To best give a feel of the book, I have selected a number of quotations.

A sign spoken against: “If we find a revival that is not spoken against, we had better look again to ensure that it is a revival. … Let all beware of an attitude which presumes to dictate to the Almighty how He shall conduct His work.”

This is the purpose: “The quickening of the saints is the root, the saving of the sinners is the fruit. … The church asleep is out of touch with spiritual reality, and needs to be awakened. … The church dormant becomes the church militant. … If we have a jealous desire for the glory of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, should we not all be thirsting for revival?”

Distinctive Features: “… the two foundation stones of every revival – the sovereignty of God and the preparedness of man. … At Pentecost, it was the ‘windows of heaven’, not the windows of the upper room, that were opened. The source of blessing was the heart of God, not the heart of man. … There is no mightier corrective to worldly methods in Christian service than a heaven sent revival.”

The Prepared Heart: “To ‘break up the fallow ground’ of our hearts means to bring them to a humble and contrite state before God, for this is the only state of heart that God can revive, the only state that is ready for the rain of revival.”

Chapters on Prayer: “While our prayer is cold and formal and tearless we need not expect God to work for us as He did for Nehemiah. … Nehemiah was able to prevail in prayer because he held God to be faithful and pleaded His promises. … Many who pray never obtain because they do not persevere. … Make no pretense of praying until that sin has been confessed and repented of … Such prayers are not only ineffective, they are an insult to the throne of God’s holiness. … God will resolutely turn his face from the prayers of all who cherish idols in their hearts. … When the motive in prayer is satisfying our own desires and pleasures, or when we desire the Almighty to pander to our own pride and love of reputation, or to act for our own convenience, the motive is clearly unholy, and God cannot and will not fulfil our petitions. … Our praying should be definite, … daring, … intense, … importunate, … vigilant, … thankful, … patient.”

I urge you to read this book and let God use it stir you to pray more earnestly.

Why Revival Tarries (Leonard Ravenhill) 5/5

To give you a feel for the author of this book, I will quote what A W Tozer says about him in the introduction.

“Toward Leonard Ravenhill it is impossible to be neutral. His acquantances are divided pretty neatly into two classes, those who love and admire him out of all proportion and those who hate him with perfect hatred.”

With an introduction like that, we can be sure that we are in for some pretty fiery preaching, and we are not disappointed. Leonard Ravenhill is totally unafraid to point out all the faults he sees in the modern evangelical church and he absolutely will not allow us to excuse ourselves for them. He aims his book particularly at preachers. He wishes that they would shut up unless God gave them unction. He is appalled at their lack of prayer and their tendency to judge their success on anything other than seeing souls saved. He urges them to be prophets, and not just preachers. For an example of his strong langauge, consider the following quote.

“Yet ministers who do not spend two hours a day in prayer are not worth a dime a dozen, degrees or no degrees.”

As with so many of the books on revival, prayer shines through as the vital lesson that needs to be learned. It is on the subject of prayer that the author is at his most eloquent and his in powerful way he comes out with delightful yet challenging quotes such as:

“Poverty-stricken as the Church is today in many things, she is most stricken here, in the place of prayer. We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.”

This book is different from the others on revival in that it does not seek to explain or enthuse us about revival. It takes it for granted that we believe we need it. What it seeks to show us, is that it is us to blame, not God if revival does not come. We are urged to battle in prayer and agonize before God for the souls of the lost until, like Paul, we are known in Hell.

Revival – Times of Refreshing (Selwyn Hughes) 2/5

This is one of the shortest books on revival, and yet it attempts to cover a lot of ground. It is not a deep theological book, rather a summary of the whole subject of revival, with the aim of causing us to desire it and seek after it. It is written in an easy to read style and is fairly practical. Compared with the other books I have read, it might be described as light-weight but it may suit someone who just wants a quick introduction to the subject. Due the the brevity of the book, I was often left wishing that the author would spend a bit more time backing up some of his points with Scripture. Although I agreed with most of the book, when a slightly controversial viewpoint was put forward, no real effort to back it up was made. Those looking for a more in depth theological analysis of the subject of revival should look elsewhere.

Despite that, the book did make some very good and challenging points. The most useful chapter was on the subject of God’s sovereignty, explaining how this is not contradicted by the assertion that revival comes as God’s people earnestly pray for it.

Finney on Revival (Charles Finney) 3/5

Charles Finney is a very interesting character. He is widely acknowledged by all the other writers on the subject of revival as being somewhat controversial, yet all consider his contribution to the subject matter very significant. This is probably due to the huge numbers of converts under his ministry as he experienced some remarkable revivals first hand. He was known for his powerful logic and persuasive arguments, and his life’s ministry undoubtably saw the blessing of God in abundant measure.

So why is he considered controversial, and what can we learn from his sermons? Well, rejecting climate of hyper-Calvinistic doctrine that he found in so many of the evangelical churches of his time which so often led to passivity with regards to evangelism, he took a more Arminian approach. In simple terms, his emphasis was strongly on the responsibility of man to pray for revival and meet the conditions to bring it. In terms of salvation, his emphasis was on man’s responsibility. Obviously, a Calvinist would not deny that we have a responsibility both in the areas of salvation and prayer but an overriding acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty in choosing those to save and choosing when and how to bring revival must also be noted.

Having said all that, the sermons in this little book are challenging, thought-provoking and inspiring. The language may be slightly out of date but most readers will not struggle too hard to follow. For example, a chapter entitled ‘How to promote a revival’ may cause you to imagine a chapter on advertising technique. In fact this sermon is totally devoted to causing Christians to look at the state of their own hearts and realise what wretched sinners they are. Another example would be the many references to ‘professors of religion’ – these are not people with Doctrates in Theology, but simply all who profess to be Christians.

In many ways, his style is similar to JC Ryle, who uncompromisingly challenges his readers to examine themselves in the light of God’s word. ‘Sins’ such as novel reading and drinking tea or coffee might cause us to dismiss these writings as legalistic, but I think that as those who emphasise grace we still must be open to the Spirit’s prompting and convicting in all areas of our lives.

Jonathan Edwards on Revival (Jonathan Edwards) 3/5

Jonathan Edwards’ writings on revival recently gained much attention due to the Toronto Blessing. He had experienced similar manifestations in some of his meetings and both proponents and opponents of the Toronto Blessing presented this book of his to indicate that Jonathan Edwards would have taken their opinion on this matter. I personally feel that it is unfair to claim saints of the past as supporting our view on modern issues as we simply do not know what stance they would have taken were they living in our times. In any case, we need to pay much more attention to what the Word of God has to say about these issues than trying to find support from other Christians, well respected as they may be.

One of the points that Edwards labours is that manifestations are not to be used as evidences either for or against the presence of the Spirit. If you have read “Religious Affections” by the same author you will know that Edwards places a great emphasis on a godly life as evidence of salvation rather than any experience or profession. Similarly he wants us to judge a revival on the fruit of transformed lives rather than on whether meetings are spectacular or not.

It is an interesting read, but as anyone who has already read some Edwards will know, the language is not too modern so you will need to concentrate if you are to follow the flow of thought.

2 thoughts on “Revival Book Reviews

  1. Classical Arminianism does stress the sovereignty of God and the need for grace, though. It seems to boil down to whether repentance and faith are regarded as works or not. As far as I can see, the scriptures contrast them.

    The sovereignty of God is greater for the Arminian, in that He permits free will. For me, the system of Classical Arminianism is both logically coherent, lacking paradoxes, and truer to what the scriptures reveal about God, His love and His relationships with men and women.

  2. Thank you for posting your reflections on these books. I’ve some of Leonard Ravenhill, who is a hero of mine in giving inspiration and challenge. A few of the others I’ve only touched on. I found your site helpful; I just wanted to let you know.

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