What Awakenings Have Accomplished

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Jonathan Edwards, who lived 250 years ago and is regarded as one of America's greatest thinkers, was ablaze for God. He was God's instrument in bringing about the First Great Awakening—a spiritual revival that spread over New England and to the South. His study of the "History of Redemption" brought him to believe that the advancement of the kingdom of God in the world has made its best gains in times of spiritual awakenings. Here is what he said:

From the fall of man to our day, the work of redemption ... has mainly been carried on by remarkable communications of the Spirit of God. Though there be a more constant influence of God's Spirit always in some degree attending [the work of the church], yet the way in which the greatest things have been done towards carrying on this work always have been by remarkable [outpourings], at special seasons.

These "remarkable seasons" of God's power have often come like the great sea vessels into the harbor on the rising tide of prayer in the churches. When the tide is out, the great power-laden vessels cannot come near to the shore because the port of prayer is too shallow. But when the tide comes in, the vessels of awakening and power come too.

PRAYER '89 IS PART OF A GREAT RISING TIDE OF PRAYER AROUND THE WORLD. Please be a part of it this Saturday at the Metrodome at 6:00 PM.

Consider what God has done through awakenings of the past:

Of the nine colonial colleges in America, six were born as the result of spiritual awakenings.

American and British awakenings led to the worldwide Evangelical Awakening, which spread the gospel around the world throughout the 19th century. In 1800, Christians were concentrated in Europe and North America; by 1900, many Christians were in China, India and Africa.

Awakenings started the great foreign missions movement in America. It started in a haystack, during a thunderstorm! In 1806, during an awakening at Williams College in Western Massachusetts, Samuel Mills and four other students hid themselves in a haystack (where the cows had eaten away the lower part, leaving an overhang) to avoid a summer thunderstorm. While there, they united in prayer and pledged themselves to go as missionaries wherever God might lead them. Out of this group went the first American missionaries.

Some of the best impulses for social reform in America's history have come from awakenings. The anti-slavery movement in America was mainly a part of the reform movement generated by the Second Great Awakening, as were movements for prison reform, child labor laws, women's rights, inner-city missions, and many more.

The Third Great Awakening of 1858-1859 was brought about by prayer meetings in cities in Canada and America, and was led not by clergy, but by devoted laypersons.

Expecting great things from God,

Pastor John