November 19, 2020
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
These are the opening words from A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dicken’s epic novel about life in London and Paris during the tumultuous time of the French Revolution. It tells about a time of chaos, conflicts, and despair, as well as happiness. In fact, it tells us about a time of extreme opposites with few in-betweens.
The interesting thing is that the two cities were so different. London, as well as all of England, was “conservative” and peaceful, compared to Paris. Paris and virtually all of France was full of hostilities, violence, tensions from the leadership down to the common people. Why? The answer according to many historians was The Great Awakening that occurred in the 1740s-50s as a result of the Wesley revival. John Wesley and his brother Charles had radical conversions and became active Jesus-followers in the late 1730s. They spent the rest of their lives being willing to give up prestige, power, and political clout in order to take Jesus to the people. They got kicked out of their churches, so they preached in the fields, the coal mines, and anywhere they could get a hearing. They called believers to a renewal of faith in action, and unbelievers to know the transforming power of Jesus Christ. The revival spread like wildfire and many people came to faith. England was radically changed at the core of the country.
But there is a story behind the story. Fifty years before the bloody massacre of the French revolution, something small and then relatively unnoticed happened. A New Year’s Eve prayer meeting in England continued well into the early morning hours of January 1, 1739. It became famous as time passed because the congregants of the church where John Wesley pastored were joined in fervent prayer for revival in England. Churchmen and historians believe that this prayer meeting was part of a larger picture of spiritual life that saved England from the French revolution and its bloody reign of terror. Even secular historians believed that the same bloodletting that occurred in France against the monarchy, the church, and nobility would very likely have occurred in England had it not been for the revival and awakening there. It was vigorously led by the prayers, lives, and ministries of the Wesley brothers and their congregations. It began in the late hours of 1738 and the early hours of 1739.
Great movements of God have nearly always been preceded by times of great darkness and peril, interrupted by great moments of prayer by people who are determined to see God move instead of listening to themselves moan and complain. Most of us have never witnessed our nation in a darker moral or spiritual era than what we presently experience. Too many of us have reduced ourselves to moaners, complainers, and fearful people instead of seeing ourselves as lights in the darkness, people who can be agents of change. America can be saved from its winter of despair if we Jesus-followers will seek and find the same connection with God John Wesley and the others found back then—the power of prayer and revival.
Lord, let there be another great awakening, and let it start right here.