Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in us.
Many of us will know this beloved passage: “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?…For I am convinced [nothing] can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:31-39). Just before this passage in Rom 8:26 Paul writes, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs to deep for words.”
The Holy Spirit prays in us; we are not the experts on prayer. For some, yesterday’s revival may have been an experience or return to the presence of the Holy Spirit around and within, while for other Episcopalians, it may have been a source of discomfort, even dismissal. However, much preparation was put in to make this something for everyone—the most traditional in our church to the most charismatic. May it serve as a reminder that it is the Holy Spirit who prays for and in us—we do not have the final word on prayer.
We are a church of prayer. If we do not pray, we are not a church. Yesterday’s revival worship was a call to prayer corporately (together) and individually. It is was call to build upon Bishop Curry’s message in the first sermon of Convention to jump into the heart of God. For many Episcopalians, yesterday’s revival may have not been the sort of jump they had in mind, but let it not be one we are unwilling to take.
For many, the formality of the Episcopal Church is comforting. It is fairly non-emotive, contained, and collected. One can, more or less, live inside a comfortable prayer “box” as prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer. In reality, however, prayer never has been nor ever will be contained within a book. Prayer is living and moving, and these revival services are meant to capture (or, more fittingly, to release) this living, moving and life-giving Spirit among and in us.
Understandably though, the movement outside the prayer “box” may be uncomfortable for many. At the conclusion of the revival, the order of service bid a time of prayer to “please follow your heart and the Holy Spirit.” For many, this meant right out the door and to the dinner/party outside. Outside there was a space for all. How can we follow the intention of these services and continue to open our hearts to the space for the Holy Spirit? Episcopal Revival services, like the one last night, have happened across the country since 2017. They are a “dedicated series of gatherings that combine inspiring worship, compelling teaching, honest faith-sharing, intensified prayer, and some form of engagement with the mission of God – all for the sake of the spiritual renewal and transformation of people and of society.” Some may argue, this is not the way to transformation for them. My hope is, as a church, we can open ourselves to accept that it is a way of transformation for many.
Upon arrival at yesterday’s service, I met a friend, a young adult newly attending a local Austin church who had come to see what all the hype is about. As the space filled in, the row behind us eventually filled with Convention-tagged folk. As this young woman and I spoke before the service, a couple behind us said, “Could you two sit down please? We’d like to see the band.” Said in a polite way this would be understandable, but, unfortunately, the tone of this was one of condescension as though we should know better than stand up and talk before the service. My friend began the service with a confirmation of some of her initial perceptions of the Episcopal Church as “uppity” in her words. However, she left the revival refreshed and hopeful. The Holy Spirit met her in that time. It is not for any of us to doubt that her encounter with the Holy Spirit did not happen there in that space. It is up to all of us to open our hearts to Christ among us—even in two people standing up before a service.
The Episcopal Church gives us space to ask questions, to voice our doubts, but it is good to test whether the doubts we have are positive—leading to truth and greater love—or destructive—tearing down ourself or others. We do not know it all, as Bishop Curry spoke in his message, and certainly none of us know everything about prayer. The revival service is not something to dismiss, but an invitation to a new way, a new understanding of prayer and a recognition of the Holy Spirit in and among us.
We do not know how to pray as we ought—the Holy Spirit teaches us how. God was absolutely giving us something yesterday. It is up to us to be open to what that is. In our prayers of the people, we prayed: Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me. A revival in us may look big or small, but if we simply pray those words, we will be changed and touched by the Holy Spirit. What these services recognize is we need that desperately now in our world, our church and in ourselves. Lord, send a revival and let it begin in me and you.