Why Revival Tarries By Leonard Ravenhill
Fifty years ago Leonard Ravenhill wrote Why Revival Tarries. It is now a modern classic. It has sold over half a million copies, and is translated into numerous languages. It is still widely available today.
This book is a devotional classic because its author is one who was more concerned about the verdict of the Almighty than his own reputation; more interested in holiness than happiness; and more interested in the glory and honour of God than the praise and applause of men.
It is actually composed of various articles he had written earlier, but because it flows from a heart on fire for God, and a life dedicated to holiness and sanctification, the words contain fire and power. No one who is sick of the ordinary and is desirous only of God and his best will be untouched by this powerful book.
How can one adequately review a book such as this? Every page has memorable ideas and burning words. Perhaps the best way to present this book to others is simply to feature many of its valuable quotes.
Ravenhill argues that we do not have revival for the simple reason that we really don’t want revival. We are simply too contented, too smug, too self-satisfied, and too carnal. Our hearts are not broken and we do not earnestly long for a powerful move of God.
“Revival comes as a result of a cleansed section of the Church, bent and bowed in supplication and intercession,” says Ravenhill. “The price of revival,” he says, “is travail.” But where is the prayer, the brokenness, the seeking after God?
As he says elsewhere, “The only reason we don’t have revival is because we are willing to live without it!” That is our problem. We have become too comfortable, too lazy, too apathetic and too indifferent. In other words, we are neither hot nor cold, but, like the Laodicean church, are simply lukewarm, and we deserve to be spewed out of the Lord’s mouth.
Prayer is the key to revival, and Ravenhill speaks as much to our prayerlessness as anything else. Unless we get serious about prayer, and forget our trivial pursuits and worldly amusements, we simply will not see revival break forth.
Prayer is the key says Ravenhill: “No man is greater than his prayer life.” Our greatness for the Kingdom will be directly proportional to our greatness in prayer. “To be much for God, we must be much with God.” The praying man is unstoppable: “He who fears God fears no man. He who kneels before God will stand in any situation.”
Ravenhill reminds us that “As the Church goes, so goes the world.” The world is in a mess because the church is in a mess. And the church is in a mess because so many of its leaders and preachers are in a mess: “The tragedy of this late hour is that we have too many dead men in the pulpits giving out too many dead sermons to too many dead people.”
If our churches are not full of dead men and women, they certainly seem to be full of sleeping men and women. “In the church pillars have given place to pillows.” How can God move in such a situation? How can God work when the material in his hands is hard, unwieldy and crumbling?
Until we start to see our spiritual need, and start to cry out to God, revival will elude us. “If the Church today had as many agonizers as she has advisors, we would have a revival in a year.” Where are the men and women of God who travail and agonise over the woeful situation we find ourselves in?
Until we are broken and repentant, we will see no fresh move of God’s Spirit. “The church must first repent; then the world will break! The church must first weep; then our altars will be filled with weeping penitents.” Ravenhill goes so far as to suggest, “This generation of preachers is responsible for this generation of sinners.”
Strong words, but true. Our problem is ourselves and our spiritual leaders. We need to break up the fallow ground and seek for the new rains. We simply cannot keep blaming the world for all our troubles. In many ways we have only ourselves to blame:
“I do not marvel so much at the patience of the Lord with the stonyhearted sinners of the day. After all, would we not be patient with a man both blind and deaf? And such are the sinners. But I do marvel at the Lord’s patience with the sleepy, sluggish, selfish Church! A prodigal Church in a prodigal world, is God’s real problem.”
He reminds us of 1 Peter 4:17: “Judgement must first begin in the house of God.” This is where we must begin. It is long overdue. If we do not act, and act soon, then the chances of revival – at least in the West – look very slim indeed.
This book is spiritual dynamite. Those who already have it should pull it off the shelves and reread it. Those who do not yet have it need to go out and get it. The revival we all so desperately need basically tarries because of us – because of our coldness and hardness. This book will go a long way in helping to melt the ice and soften our hardened hearts.
[Commentary by Review by Bill Muehlenberg]