Offering Lenten Prayers and Fasting for Revival in the Church
To God be the glory
Just before the beginning of Lent several years ago, I was awakened in our bedroom at around 4 in the morning. I knew there was an angel standing in the corner of the room/ I saw the outline of a blue angel with a long horn he was holding with his right hand, near to his lips. I heard, "PROCLAIM A FAST FOR REVIVAL, BEGINNING IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, TO THE NATIONS!"
I was so shocked that I couldn't sleep for a long time afterwards. When we got up, we talked and prayed about what I had seen, and felt it was of the Lord. We also submitted it to our spiritual director, Fr. Fernando. He confirmed it was of the Lord, and truly very soon after we sought to follow the direction of the vision by creating a video promoting prayer and fasting during Lent, we were launched into the foreign mission field. We went to India, the Philippines, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, where we led praise and worship, gave workshops and helped with retreats, etc. Praise the Lord!
In His Word, the Lord promises to send revival to His people:
“In their affliction they will rise early to me: Come, and let us return to the Lord: For he hath taken us, and he will heal us: he will strike, and he will cure us. He will revive us after two days: on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. We shall know, and we shall follow on, that we may know the Lord.” (Hos. 6:1-3a)
It is “in their affliction” that the people cry out to the Lord for the revival of His people. The prescript for this chapter in the Douay Rheims Bible states, “Affliction shall be a means to bring many to Christ.”
During Lent, Catholics are encouraged to “afflict themselves,” that is, not perform self-abuse, but rather offer sacrifices and prayers:
“Can. 1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence...
Can. 1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.”(link)
Catholics know that in Lent (as well as every Friday during the year!), a deepening of fasting and abstinence, prayers and good works is our obligation. But what is the reason for it- only our own holiness? Is this the goal?
Certainly, fasting and prayer draws us closer to the Lord- but Jesus said (quoting Hos. 6:6) He desires “mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matt. 9:13) Soon, we will hear in the Lenten readings of the Church- “Is not this rather the fast that I have chosen? loose the bands of wickedness, undo the bundles that oppress, let them that are broken go free, and break asunder every burden. Deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the needy and the harbourless into thy house: when thou shalt see one naked, cover him, and despise not thy own flesh.” (Is. 58:6-7) In other words, our sacrifices are meant for others. We will draw closer to the Lord through prayer and fasting, if we seek Him with our whole hearts. “But thou, when thou fastest anoint thy head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father who is in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret, will repay thee…” (Matt. 6:17-18) But He blesses us with gifts, so that we can bless others (as He blessed us). "Freely you have received; freely give."(Matt. 10:8)
True Revival Comes from the Secret Place
Before I saw the angel, and heard him say to proclaim a fast for revival beginning in the Catholic Church, to the nations, I had honestly never thought of offering my Lenten fast for something/someone. I had been taught about intercession- surely our ministry, which the Lord gave to Lee Anne, practices a 24-hour prayer line and we know to offer prayers and sacrifices for others. Yet, in our common practice, Lent seems to be individualistic. Can you imagine if all approx. 1.3 billion Catholics in the world all offered their Lenten fast for revival in the Church? Going into their "secret place" (Ps. 91) and truly praying and crying out from the heart that God send His Holy Spirit once again to revive the Church in this day and age? It would be earth-shaking! We are all praying and fasting anyway- why not offer it for some purpose?
What the angel said to me can be found in Joel 2, which is often read both during Lent and Pentecost. In verse 15 the Lord says through the prophet, “Blow the trumpet in Sion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly.” This is very close to what I heard! Joel 2 explains how revival comes about:
Steps Towards Revival
-“Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning.”(12) It’s a matter of the heart- not actions without meaning or empty ritual for its own sake (a religious spirit) but rather our actions and hearts coming together as one and crying out “Abba, Father!”
- “Blow the trumpet in Sion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather together the people, sanctify the church, assemble the ancients, gather together the little ones, and them that suck at the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth from his bed, and the bride out of her bride chamber.” (15-16) It is the whole unified Church, from “the youngest child to the oldest saint.” Everyone should be crying out to God to revive His people once again.
-“Between the porch and the altar the priests the Lord's ministers shall weep, and shall say: Spare, O Lord, spare thy people: and give not thy inheritance to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them. Why should they say among the nations: Where is their God?” (17) Leonard Ravenhill, author of the important work Why Revival Tarries, said “The formula of revival is: Preachers need to hit the altars and weep because they have no tears. Groan because there is no moving of the Spirit of God. Apologize to God that we've kind of manipulated the supernatural…I think the greatest miracle that God can do is to take an unholy man out of an unholy world, and make that unholy man holy and put him back in an unholy world and keep him holy. But we are more afraid of holiness today in the church than we are of sinfulness.” (“Between the Porch and the Altar,” http://articles.ochristian.com/article6917.shtml)
Healings and miracles mean nothing if they don’t bring people to a conversion of life, of becoming disciples of Jesus, born anew of His Spirit and His Blood!
On any given Sunday, in most every town in North America, there are at least 2 or 3, sometimes a great many more preachers preaching the Word. But, there is little revival…how many places do we know of that are totally on fire for God- that have an abundance of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, people leaving all things and going into the mission field, miracles, signs and wonders happening?
We can see the reality of this scriptural principle lived out in the experience of the Church in her countless revivals and renewals in the past.
The mendicant movement began with the personal revivals of St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi. When the Lord spoke to St. Francis to “go and rebuild My Church, for as you can see, it is falling into ruin,” he immediately began praying and fasting, and rebuilding churches. As his understanding grew, the Holy Spirit taught him that it was the interior, spiritual renewal of the Church, which the Lord had referred to. So, every effort was made through intercession, preaching and teaching and good works, so that the Church would be revived. Many men began to join him, and soon hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were being converted and enlivening the Church (in the middle of the so-called 'Dark Ages'). Similar movements of the Holy Spirit occurred during the ministries of Sts. Clare of Assisi, Bernard of Clairvaux, Dominic, Francis Xavier, and more recently through Pope St. John Paul II, Fr. Fernando Suarez, St. Teresa of Calcutta and others.
Among our Protestant brothers and sisters, in the Welsh Revival, the bars were nearly shut down because no one cared to spend their free time drinking, but rather partaking of the New Wine in revival services that spontaneously erupted throughout the land. Yet, it was Evan Roberts who prayed for 12 years as a young man, working in the mines, studying Scripture each night, attending church through the week and crying out to God before revival swept across the land, saving approx. 100,000 souls. It came out later, that others had been inspired to pray and fast for revival as well, leading up to a great breakthrough of the Spirit.
God gives us the formula for revival in Joel 2, and also in 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“And my people, upon whom my name is called, being converted, shall make supplication to me, and seek out my face, and do penance for their most wicked ways: then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
It was two elderly ladies of the Church who felt the call of the Lord to begin praying for revival in their church in the Hebrides, Scotland, where eventually great revival broke out among the people. “Two old women, one of them 84 years of age and the other 82-one of them stone blind, were greatly burdened because of the appalling state of their own parish. It was true that not a single young person attended public worship. Not a single young man or young woman went to the church. They spent their day perhaps reading or walking but the church was left out of the picture. And those two women were greatly concerned and they made it a special matter of prayer.
A verse gripped them: "I will pour water on him that is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground." They were so burdened that both of them decided to spend so much time in prayer twice a week. On Tuesday they got on their knees at 10 o'clock in the evening and remained on their knees until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning--two old women in a very humble cottage.” (Revival in the Hebrides, Duncan Campbell, link)
How many parishes are like this in the world? We are aware of the problem of “not a single young person” attending Mass and the other sacraments…but what is one solution? Fasting and prayer for revival.
Let us join our Lenten fasting and prayers for the revival of the Church. Our Lady has asked us, in Fatima, Lourdes, Medjugorje and at many other times, to pray and sacrifice for the salvation of souls. It is not hard to pray for souls to be saved. St. Bernadette said that Our Lady told her that “I must also pray, she said, for the conversion of sinners. I asked her many times what she meant by that, but she only smiled.” (Office of Readings for February 11) The children of Fatima were told to “"pray much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because there is no one to make sacrifices for them."
Perhaps the unsaved in our families, workplaces, towns and cities are there for us to pray for them. Why were we placed in this place, and not another?
Lent is a privileged time of grace (literally “springtime”) in the Church for us to draw nearer to the Lord and be converted completely to Him. Yet, it is also a time when the Holy Spirit convicts and calls His people to pray and fast for souls.
Join us in Prayer
Lord, send Your Spirit as You promised like streams of water on the thirsty ground! You promised if we called upon You from the four winds, You would breathe upon them that have been slain, that they may live again! The youth are among the greatest victims today, but so many have fallen away from You, or not been introduced to You. It’s not programs, it’s not our own efforts, but the effort You already made on the Cross, Lord Jesus that saves. It is Your Blood that saves. Inspire us to pray, even as the early Church prayed, that You “grant unto thy servants, that with all confidence they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thy hand to cures, and signs, and wonders to be done by the name of thy holy Son Jesus.” (Acts 4:30) We know and believe that as we pray, just as it was for them, our parishes shall be “moved wherein they were assembled; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spoke the word of God with confidence.” (v.31) So let it be again! Bend us to Your holy will, and conform us to the image of Christ Jesus Your Son. As Pope St. John Paul II, Your servant, prayed on Ash Wednesday of 2000, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your holy Spirit from me" (Ps 51: 10-11)… " May the merciful Lord grant us all to open our hearts to the gift of his grace, so that we can all take part with new maturity in the paschal mystery of Christ, our only Redeemer.” (link)
In Christ Jesus,
Daniel Devine, M. Div
Anointed Catholic Praise and Worship
Your gifts help support Mary's House, a house of prayer and refuge for people with no place to go.