In 1746, a number of ministers in Scotland appealed to Christians in the American colonies to set aside a time to regularly pray for revival. This was a result of having seen the encouragement and blessing that flowed from regular prayer among their own people.
As this volume unfolds, the reader finds far more than Jonathan Edwards’ support for a call to prayer. He was a postmillenialist in his understanding of Revelation 20. This provides great impetus to his proposal for persevering in prayer for the lost. He brings together passages wherein God teaches that multitudes of sinners will be saved throughout the world. Although Edwards had recently witnessed a revival, he knew that the number of Christians in the world was nowhere near the number that would populate society and impact culture before Christ’s return. There was and is great reason to pray for God to send forth His Spirit to grant faith and repentance in the lives of many. Since God has clearly promised worldwide Christian advance, we can be certain that He will answer, in His time, our prayers for revival. Using Revelation 8 as an example, Edwards points out that God is pleased to ordain the prayers of Christians in His works of providence. We should expect God to honor our prayers for revival as He moves people to pray accordingly.
Edwards next begins to answer objections that could be raised against this call to concerted prayer. Some might say that such prayer is superstitious or legalistic. He also discusses whether the Great Tribulation must first occur. Another question pertains to whether or not the fall of the antichrist is far off. Edwards, as did the original Westminster Confession of Faith, believed the pope to be the antichrist. (That portion of the Confession has been edited out by most denominations that use that confession as their constitutional standard.) Prior to his concluding chapter, he devotes several pages to explaining why these proposed prayer meetings are not novelties.
Edwards is perhaps best known as a theologian, preacher, and philosopher. This volume reveals the heart of one who believed in persevering prayer. The editor has divided Edwards’ work into thirteen chapters. At the end of each chapter he provides provocative questions that are instructive and practical. These questions give the reader opportunity to interact with Edwards’ points, to pray through relevant psalms, and to begin to pray for revival. Explanatory, brief footnotes have been added.
This is a moving book. Whether or not one is a postmillenialist, there is an urgent need to pray for revival. Postmillenialists certainly agree with Edwards that there will be a great advance of God’s Kingdom prior to Christ’s return. This volume makes one pause to consider the role of prayer in God’s purpose to save the elect. We complain much regarding the retreat of Christianity from culture. Do we believe God can bring about change? Can revival come to the Western world, to our land? Are we praying toward that end?
Edwards’ reasoning and resolve remain as relevant today as they were in his day. This volume is reader-friendly and full of scriptural quotations and counsel. It can be thoughtfully and profitably read by individuals, with family members, in Bible studies, and in Sunday school classes.
- Byron Snapp
Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia. He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina. He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren.