Lord, Let It Begin with Me

How a six-word prayer for personal revival can unleash grace all around you.


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A SIMPLE BUSINESSMAN

The 1850s was a decade of extraordinary tension. With the shadow of armed conflict looming heavily over the United States, labor strikes, economic depression, and failing banks only intensified the palpable air of simmering violence. It isn’t surprising that the dark cloud of civil war overshadows a lesser-known light in the mid-nineteenth century.

That light was the New York awakening of 1857. It is estimated that over two million people were converted to Christ with countless others renewed in their walk with Jesus. How did such a dramatic awakening take place? What if we could trace it back to the very first spark that ignited the awakening?

We can. It was that year when a quiet, 46-year-old businessman named Jeremiah Lamphier sensed God leading him to start a simple, noontime prayer meeting in the city. People could attend for a few minutes or stay as long as an hour. The first day he prayed by himself for half-an-hour. Though nobody else had shown up, he kept praying. By end of the hour, six men from four different denominations had joined him. 

Over the next few days, the group grew steadily to twenty, then forty. In a couple of weeks, one hundred men were meeting at noon. Just to pray.

Amazingly, within six months ten thousand men were meeting in New York City to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the churches. But it all began with personal revival in the life of one man. One person affected a few, and those few impacted a few more until the gospel began to spread like wildfire.

What if you were that one man, or woman, or teen? What if you could be the epicenter of revival like Jeremiah Lamphier? Maybe not in New York. But what about in your family? In your marriage, with your kids? In your workplace or with your roommates?

Can you imagine? I hope so, because that is the aim of this message—to challenge you to pray for revival and ask that it begin with you.


THE RIPPLE EFFECT OF REVIVAL

The impetus for Psalm 51 was David coming face to face with the depth of his depravity and at the same time believing the Lord would show mercy by providing a sacrifice whose blood would atone for his sin—as heinous and harmful as it was. Personal repentance and renewed faith led to spiritual revival in his life. So much so, that by the end of the Psalm, he is praying for a New York Awakening to break out in Israel.

In the final two verses of Psalm 51, David expresses his desire for what began in him to spread throughout the kingdom.

18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

If you are not familiar with the Old Testament, it may help to know that the sacrificial system of offering animals on an altar was a foreshadowing of the sacrifice Jesus would make of himself as the Lamb of God slain for sinners upon a cross. In the New Testament letter of Hebrews 10:1, 11-12, 14, the author explains, writing,

1 The [Old Covenant] is only a shadow of the good things that [were] coming… 11 Day after day every priest [stood and performed] his religious duties; again and again he [offered] the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest [Christ] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins [himself!], he sat down at the right hand of God… 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

When David writes this Psalm, it is still a thousand years before the incarnation of Jesus. The sacrifices, offices of prophet, priest, and king, Sabbaths, feast days and the like we're all shadows of the coming reality (the “good things”) to be fulfilled through the Messiah. This is why sacrifices for atonement were being offered then but not now.

And yet, regardless of the redemptive era in which we find ourselves, David made it clear that it is possible to participate in outward forms of worship in such a way that reveals an inward spiritual disconnect with God. We may be present, but something is wrong. It is like a lamp that has a bulb but doesn’t shine because it is not plugged in. By allowing his sin to go unconfessed, David had become like the Israelites in the days of Isaiah.

These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men (Isaiah 29:13).

They sang and prayed and recited the creeds. Worship wasn’t filled with thankful praise and joy. It was all duty and obligation and formality. They were spiritually unplugged.

If this describes you, be encouraged. This is the condition that precedes revival! But what is your next step?


THE ROAD TO RENEWAL

David learned that the road to revival is the path of repentant faith. If we go back to verse one of this Psalm, we can trace at least seven steps along the trail.  

  1. A genuine conviction of personal sin.

  2. A confession of sin that makes no excuses.

  3. An expression of deep sorrow and grief for the wounds sin has caused (not just for getting caught).

  4. A deep longing to walk in holiness of life by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

  5. A desire to help other sinners discover the extravagantly abundant mercies of God to the repentant.

  6. A new and beautiful humility of spirit.

  7. A heart that overflows with joyful praise and thanksgiving to God. The crescendo of revival culminates in worship.

By the way, when we speak of revival, it is important to note that this is something that happens within the church. Conversion takes place in the world, but revival takes place in the congregation. After all, renewal can only happen to those who have first been awakened to some degree. Revival takes place when lukewarm and nominal believers catch fire by coming alive to the wonder, beauty, and transforming power of the gospel. These are folks who have professed to be followers of Christ but all the gospel terminology of grace, love, and mercy that had once been ho-hum black and white is turned into living color. The revived see themselves, God, the world, and the gospel in an entirely new way—almost as if they had never understood it before. That is what happens when a believer is ignited with spiritual renewal.

In light of all this that happened in the lives of David, Jeremiah Lamphier, and what we know about the nature of how revival works, I want to challenge you to pray a dangerous prayer. If you feel God is stirring something inside you—a holy discontent where you are saying, “I want more. I’m not satisfied with the disconnect. I want to be plugged in!” If that is where you are right now, I want to give you something actionable. Six dangerous words. “Lord, let revival begin with me.”

Can you image what could happen? How might that affect your marriage? How would it impact your kids? How about your roommates? Maybe Creekstone would become the center of the Dahlonega Revival of 2021? Or the revival of the Caston household or wherever the Lord creates a spark.

Frances Havergal wrote a hymn in 1874 that captures what happens when we start praying for God to “let it begin with me.” You probably know the lyrics.

1 Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in endless praise.

2 Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee.

3 Take my voice and let me sing
always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
filled with messages from thee.

4 Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
every power as thou shalt choose.

5 Take my will and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne.

6 Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.

Paul would write about say much the same thing in Romans 12:1-2, showing how God’s mercy fuels a consecrated life.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

THE CONSECRATED LIFE

Paul and Frances Havergal agree. As I behold Jesus consecrate himself for me as a dying sacrifice, I am compelled to consecrate myself to him as a living sacrifice, where all of life becomes a devotional act of worship.

My role as a husband is consecrated to Jesus. My parenting is consecrated to Jesus. My vocation, my time, my money, my voice, my motives, and my affections—everything is consecrated to the Lordship of the King who gave his life to save me from my sins. What else could I possibly do?

This is how we know that we’re on the road to revival. When the desires of our inner life begin to impact our outer life. When fruit begins to grow on the tree.

  • We will be more easily convicted of sin, with a deep sorrow that makes no excuses.

  • We will begin to walk with renewed holiness of life in the power of the Spirit.

  • Others will notice our humility and gentleness as songs of praise and thanksgiving begin to rise from our lips because of the free and full forgiveness that is ours through the blood of Christ.

All of this and more, for those who are willing to pray, “Lord, let revival begin with me!”


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