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Christian Union
February 15, 2016

Historian Notes Link between Prayer and Revival

by Catherine Elvy, Staff Writer

At their core, major manifestations from God involve prayer movements.

"Prayer movements have been fundamental to the advancement of Christ's kingdom as long as we can trace," says Bob Bakke, a church historian, author, and pastor.

"God is drawn to united prayer."

To illustrate the commanding significance of prayer to God, Bakke points to Revelation 8.In the chapter, the Apostle John described how Heaven was utterly silent for about a half hour after the Lamb opened the seventh seal.

Then, with precision, the seven angels who stand before God were given seven trumpets, and another angel with a golden censer arrived and stood at the altar.

"He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God's people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God's people, went up before God from the angel's hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake."

That poignant account suggests how supplications from the saints are "so fundamental to the unfolding of God's purpose on earth that God would wait in silence for a half hour," said Bakke.

As for modern believers, "perhaps, God is waiting for the incense of the prayers of saints in America to arise before He gives permission for another revival."

In January, Bakke spoke to Christian Union ministry fellows at their winter conference in Princeton, New Jersey. Revivals reflect a foretaste of God's master plan, he said.

"When we see revival, we see an approximation of consummation," Bakke said. "We're seeing a little bit of what God actually intends to consummate when history comes to an end."

Bakke, the teaching pastor of Hillside Church in Minnesota, is deeply versed in the significance of prayer. He holds a doctorate in church history from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and helped found the Global Day of Prayer, an initiative that included television, radio, and Internet broadcast outlets.

More recently, Bakke is researching and writing for a major film on America's Second Great Awakening, arguably the most powerful revival in the nation's history.
Likewise, in his book, The Power of Extraordinary Prayer, Bakke traced the history of corporate prayer from 1660 to 1860, including the noteworthy Concert of Prayer efforts.

During his lecture in Princeton, Bakke highlighted the role of united intercession in sparking revival fires. Among them, the Second Great Awakening began around 1790, during the infancy of the United States, and it ignited a series of notable supernatural episodes.

Not surprisingly, Bakke spotlighted how 21st-century ministers can glean a plethora of spiritual lessons from the Second Great Awakening.

In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, Americans were a "battered people, a bankrupt people," Bakke said. "The entirety of the nation was a wounded fellowship."

As well, the undeveloped country faced continual existential threats from bordering colonies of the United Kingdom, France, and Spain – then the world's super powers. Likewise, after American commercial vessels lost the protection of their former motherland, they suffered frequent attacks from pirates and terrorists along Atlantic trade routes.

On the home front, the young nation dealt with real estate collapses, plagues, diseased crops, political rancor, and the like.

"Could we survive as a nation? Could anyone govern this nation?" Bakke asked rhetorically, noting the hurdles confronting the United States during its infancy.

In addition to such formidable challenges, major enlightenment philosophies began to infiltrate the country's premier institutions, ushering an open questioning of religious orthodoxy.

Still, "there was a hope to be found in God," Bakke said.

With the dawn of the 19th century, reports began to spread of outpourings and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, especially along the American frontier, as the United States pushed its rugged boundaries westward.

In particular, revival historians point to the watershed nature of the camp meetings orchestrated by Rev. James McGready in June 1800. In the aftermath of the gatherings in Red River, Kentucky, news spread of powerful visitations of the Holy Spirit that were strikingly reminiscent of the wonders of the early church's Pentecost celebrations.

In late July 1800, McGready staged another gathering in nearby Gasper River. This time, as many as 8,000 people arrived from distances as far away as 100 miles, giving rise to the term camp meeting, according to historical accounts.

Then, in 1801, Rev. Barton Stone organized the mammoth Cane Ridge Revival, which attracted more than 10,000 visitors from as far away as Ohio and Tennessee.
The revival, along a ridge Daniel Boone named inside Bourbon County, was famed for its palpable fervor and enthusiasm, according to documents.

"The reputation was that God was on the move," said Bakke. "The Holy Spirit was so powerful upon this place."

In particular, as the Holy Spirit swept across the crowds, waves of participants collapsed to the ground, including a 7-year-old girl. When she eventually rose with a radiant face, she exhorted onlookers by reciting Scriptures for hours.

"I could go on," Bakke said.

Out of the severity of frontier life, a major awakening spread across the nation's remote corridor for decades and gave rise to a series of churches, denominations, schools, and hospitals.

In an article for Revive Magazine, Bakke pointed out how the leaders that sparked the Second Great Awakening focused on three main elements: united prayer, prolonged gatherings (semi-annual and annual camp meetings), and intense, frequent Gospel proclamation.

"They entered into covenants of prayer, leading their churches to set aside specific days of prayer and specific times to pray," wrote Bakke. "In particular, they asked believers to pray at sundown on Saturday evenings and at sunrise Sunday mornings for the outpouring of God's Spirit on the preaching of His Word at Sunday services, and for the salvation of the lost. They also set aside days to fast once a month, to unite as believers in a town or area for corporate prayer for an extraordinary work of the Spirit."

"When God speaks, everything changes. He can transform any environment that we face."

As for our nation's current army of prayer warriors, "we face difficult days, racially across the country, and economically in certain portions of the country."

Still, believers can maintain confidence in the Lord they worship and adore.

"God has faced difficult times before, and He has been victorious over such times," Bakke said. "He can do so again today."

The challenge remains for modern believers, even in hostile settings, to sustain prayer as the heartbeat of all of their efforts. "We're a people of prayer. We're totally dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit," Bakke said. "Revival comes either by desperation or devastation."

As such, Bakke is encouraging believers and ministry leaders to embrace the centrality of the Holy Spirit's role in ushering revival. The longtime minister and broadcaster pointed to the energizing words of Ezekiel 36:26-27: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws."

Believers should consider their labors to be a "work of the Holy Spirit or no work at all," Bakke said. "Apart from the work of the Spirit, there is no work at all."

After all, God sovereignly designed the transmission of the Gospel to be a partnership. "The first order of business is to be before His feet," Bakke said.

Bob Bakke is the teaching pastor of Hillside Church in Minnesota. He holds a doctorate in church history from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and helped found the Global Day of Prayer, an initiative that included television, radio, and Internet broadcast outlets.