Revival is a strange concept to many. Some see it as just another religious service. Some see it as a way-out religious experience. Others know exactly what it is and that we need it, but are without hope that it will come.
Here are five good definitions of revival—from my book Purpose of Prayer.
1. Revival is an awakened interest in doing what is right. Generally speaking, revival is “an awakened interest in religion” (American Heritage Dictionary). It is having a sudden change of heart, a desire to do what is right—to go to church, to start being kind to our neighbors, to do what is good for the community, and to do all the will of God. This awakened interest is always preceded with a deep conviction and grieving over sin, and with an understanding that no good work can be done without God’s work of forgiveness, cleansing, and renewal.
2. Revival is a restoring by God. The Hebrew word for revival, Chayah, means to be quickened, or to be restored—from sickness to health, from discouragement to joy, from faintness to strength, or even from death to life.
The word Chayah in Psalms 85:6 brings us the idea of a restoring to joy—as the Psalmist prays that God would quicken the people of Israel from discouragement, and restore them to joy: “Wilt Thou not restore us again, that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?”
In Jeremiah 33:6-8 a promise of God is made to the people of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah. It is a beautiful picture of God’s promise of revival: “Behold I will bring to it [Jerusalem] health and healing, and I will heal them; and I will reveal to them and abundance of peace and truth. And I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and I will rebuild them as they were at first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquities by which they have sinned against me…”
So we see here the principle that revival comes to us from God and brings to us forgiveness, cleansing, and healing.
3. Revival is the stirring up of the Holy Spirit in us. The Greek word anazopureo, means to stir up or kindle up as a fire, and is sometimes translated as revive. This word is seen in 2 Timothy 1:6, where Paul said to Timothy, “Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you…” In this verse I believe we see the secret of revival. It is to kindle or to stir up the gift of God—which is the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Holy Spirit who dwells in the believer and is waiting to enter the heart of the nonbeliever, waits and expects to be stirred up. That is, He is waiting for us to fan the fire of His power by our prayers and diligent service.
4. Revival is God loving us. Wesley Duewel has said, “Revival is God holding out His arms of love to us and refusing to give up on us.” That, I would say, is only the beginning of revival. To carry it out we must receive His love and love Him in return. We must run to Him and climb into His arms of love. This receiving, this running to Him is what we could call the igniting or the stirring up of revival, which sets aflame the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit in our heart.
5. Revival is God pouring forth His Spirit, filling His people, as on the day of Pentecost. No one will doubt that the best example of revival was at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came and filled new believers who were gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-4). If this is true, then to get a clear understanding of what revival is we must pay attention to every detail of that historic moment. But surprisingly, there are only two basic details to record: 1) that they were all gathered together with one accord, and 2) that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. This I believe, in its simplest form is revival.