“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).
In days of revival I have turned to the Word of God for guidance as we seek Him for His fresh touch upon our lives. I have also turned to church history for descriptions of what times of revival looked like in various settings where God moved in an extraordinary way. What I read often leaves me dumbfounded because we rarely see these kinds of manifestations of God in our day.
Consider the accounts of the revival that moved through Korea in the early 1900s as recorded in Chosen for Choson by Stella Price. The book is primarily about the ministry of Robert Jermain Thomas, one of the first Protestant missionary to Korea. Thirty years after Thomas’ martyrdom in Korea a far-reaching revival and spiritual awakening was taking place in Korea, particularly in Pyongyang, the modern-day capital of North Korea.
Missionary George Shannon McCune wrote to a certain Dr. Brown in 1907: “The Holy Spirit has come in power. Last night in the meeting of the Central Church was the first real manifestation of His power and presence. None of us have ever seen anything like it before. We have read of the revivals in Wales, India, etc., but this surpasses anything that we have read about. During the evening meetings we had been praying for the Holy Spirit; we had been praying in a definite way that He would manifest Himself at this time; at certain times in the meetings the whole audience would break out unitedly in prayer for the Holy Spirit. Men have been agonizing for the Holy Spirit. We missionaries began last August in our Bible conference here at Pyongyang to plead for that power; we had special meetings every night for one week beginning the day after Christmas praying definitely for His power at this time.”
On the same day missionary Graham Lee wrote to the same Dr. Brown: “At times the whole audience would break out in prayer together and then some men in trying to make a confession would break down and from all over the room would come the sound of men crying to God in prayer and weeping with an uncontrollable emotion. As I write this morning and think of that meeting last night my own eyes well up with tears. One couldn’t help but weep. It was the Spirit of God cleansing our church and getting it ready for larger usefulness. Things were confessed last night that nothing but the Spirit of God would make men confess. Strong men who prided themselves in their strength broke down and wept as if their hearts would break. (My own cook confessed to deceiving me and cried aloud to me in agony, ‘Is there any hope of forgiveness for me?’ I tried to tell him there was hope but he still continued to cry out in an agony of spirit such as I have never seen. ‘If I am not forgiven I shall die.’) No words can describe that meeting. It was a manifestation of God’s Sprit such as I have never seen. God be praised for it and now may he keep these men as they go to their homes and use them greatly in their own churches.”
Admittedly these occurrences seem very unusual to us. This kind of emotional praying makes many of us a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps even the focus on the work of the Holy Spirit is rather foreign to us.
But in these descriptions I see a thread of authentic, biblical revival manifested in the following: fervent, united prayer; believers completely yielding to the Holy Spirit; confession and repentance of sin; the purpose to be of greater usefulness to God. The goal is not merely a person’s emotional experience, but true cleansing and preparation for usefulness by God. In the years to come tens of millions of Koreans would be saved. The 20th Century spiritual awakening in Korea goes down as one of the most amazing in church history. Today Korean churches are sending missionaries around the world.
Great movements of God such as the Korean revival in the 20th Century have been documented in nations all around the globe. We are long overdue for such a movement of God in our beloved nation. The first thing that must happen is that the church in America must be revived. For this kind of movement of God to gain traction we must stay focused in our seeking God in prayer. He is our only hope.
Spirit-anointed prayer gatherings like the one in Acts 4 and the ones in Korea are the birth pangs of revival.