KEY THOT: When we talk about revival, we usually begin with prayer and fasting. And rightly so. But too often the focus is wrong. Instead of prayer and fasting for the salvation of the unchurched, we focus on praying against the unchurched and the preservation of churched people. But the Lord is saying in today's scripture that our motivation for revival prayer and fasting should be to seek and save the lost sheep who are harrassed and helpless. The Lord is not repudiating fasting in our text today. Rather, he is asking of his people to focus their fast on ministry to people who are in bondage to sin and the devil: "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?"
It's only when our fasting is focused on the right issues that we may have the kind of revival we hope for: the return of God's glory in our midst and our prayers answered: "Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'" (vv.8-9).
In the last Pastors' Prayer Summit in Melaka, there was a rallying call for churches to pray for revival in Singapore. At the same time, there was also a call to make evangelism the focus of our prayer of revival. I believe the reason why despite the many years of national prayer rallies and Days of Prayer in Singapore, we have yet to see a massive increase in church attendance is because we have not been focusing our prayer and fasting on rescuing the lost. Our revival prayer and fasting was largely focused on the spiritual renewal of the saints.
While it is good that the saints should become more godly or prayerful, these are fruits, not roots of our spirituality. It's only when the churches start focusing on the true purpose of revival--setting captives free, opening blind eyes, and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favour--that we will have revival. I have observed that churches with a regular evangelistic outreach ministry (like Alpha) are more likely to experience continual revival marked by answered prayers and a strong presence of God in their worship services and prayer meetings. It's only when we "Go and make disciples..." that we will grow as we experience the Lord's presence among us: "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20). That is true revival.
So the starting point for revival is repentance: turning away from our self-focused prayer and fasting towards a lost-focused prayer and fasting to "loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke" (v.6).
May the Lord bring a revival among churches through a renewed focus on evangelizing the sinners instead of just edifying the saints. We only grow as we go.
Father, open our eyes to see what You see, that we may repent from our apathy and seek the lost for whom Jesus has died. Amen.