In American history there have been several periods of time known as the Great Awakening. Each was characterized by widespread revivals led by evangelical ministers. There was a sharp increase of interest in religion, a profound sense of conviction and redemption on the part of those affected, an increase in evangelical church membership and the formation of new religious movements and denominations.
The Awakenings all resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of personal guilt and of their need of salvation by Christ. They pulled away from empty ritual and ceremony. Religion became intensely personal to the average person by fostering a deep sense of spiritual guilt and redemption. It also encouraged introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality.
The first Awakening was during the 1730s to the 1740s. Key preachers were Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards’ grandfather, and George Whitefield. It mostly affected the church attenders, changed pastoral ministry and fostered thinking that ushered in the American Revolution.
The second Awakening began in the late 1700s to the middle of the 19th century. Noted for hellfire and damnation preaching from the likes of Charles Finney, Peter Cartwright and Henry Ward Beecher, it did much to move the nation towards temperance, abolition and women’s suffrage.
The third Awakening, 1850s to 1900s, saw the modern missionary movement, new denominations, the YMCA and D. L. Moody. John and Betty Stam, missionaries to China, were a part of this time and their martyrdom resulted in many others becoming missionaries.
The fourth Awakening is a debated time. But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, conservative churches were growing rapidly and I was saved during that time (1970)!
Revivals are known for the changes that take place in the lives of sinners and saints alike. And in my reading on the Great Awakenings I discovered that these times were preceded by great and effectual prayers being offered for our country. In fact, I learned a few weeks after I was saved, our church’s youth group had been praying for me each week from May (when I began attending) through August 2nd, the day I was saved!
What’s my point, dear reader? Each of us are greatly concerned for what we have seen and heard this past week – the senseless killings, the rants and rage by and over political candidates, terrorism and lack of hope. It is right and reasonable to do what we can to promote peace and protect our citizens. But actions alone are only a temporary fix until the next crisis appears on the horizon. What we need, what America needs, what every country needs is a revival, a Great Awakening! And that my friend will be the result of the grace of God as He hears, sees and responds to His people on their knees.
“…The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16
Think about it.