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  • Writer's pictureMatt Beaney


The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.’ (Jonah 3:5-8)

Summary: A move of the Spirit in revival leads to radical repentance.

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This narrative gives us an insight into what happens in what is called revival - when the Spirit of God moves in a community in a powerful fashion. When the Spirit of God is moving the church and the wider community is transformed. We are told that the Nineties believed God (faith) a repented of their sinful lifestyles The Hebrew word for repent (shub - to turn) is repeated 4 times in verse 8-10.

Brian Edwards in his book Revival, a People Saturated with God writes of Howel Harris’ account of the preaching of Daniel Rowland in Wales during March 1743:

‘O! such power as generally attends the labours of brother Rowland, in particular, is indeed uncommon and almost incredible until one sees it himself. Their singing and praying is indeed full of God! O! how did my soul burn with sacred love when I was among them! They fall almost as dead by the power of the Word, and continue weeping for joy, having found the Messiah; some mourning under a sense of their vileness, and some in the pangs of the new birth! I am now in Pembrokeshire where Rowland has been preaching; he has been wonderfully attended with blessings in these borders also. The power at the conclusion of his sermons, was such that multitudes continued weeping and crying out for the Saviour and could not possibly forbear.’

Conviction of sin, salvation and joy all mingle together when the Spirit is poured as as, we presume, was happening in Nineveh.

The Ninevites’ response was fourfold:

1. They fasted - In this culture, this was a sign of mourning for sin.

2. Put on sackcloth - Like fasting, this was a demonstration of sorrow for sin.

3. Called urgently on God - Conviction of sin leads to prayer for mercy.

4. Gave up their evil and violence - They repented of their sin.

Duncan Campbell, who experienced revival in the Western Isles of Scotland between 1949 and 1952 wrote of its impact on the church and the community:

‘In writing of the movement, I would like first to state what I mean by revival as witnessed in the Hebrides. I do not mean a time of religious entertainment, with crowds gathering to enjoy an evening of bright gospel singing; I do not mean sensational or spectacular advertising – in a God-sent revival you do not need to spend money on advertising. I do not mean high-pressure methods to get men to an inquiry room – in revival every service is an inquiry room; the road and hill side become sacred spots to many when the winds of God blow. Revival is a going of God among His people, and an awareness of God laying hold of the community. Here we see the difference between a successful campaign and revival; in the former we may see many brought to a saving knowledge of the truth, and the church or mission experience a time of quickening, but so far as the town or district is concerned no real change is visible; the world goes on its way and the dance and picture-shows are still crowded; but in revival the fear of God lays hold upon the community, moving men and women, who until then had no concern for spiritual things, to seek after God.’ (Campbell, Duncan, Revival in the Hebrides)


Let’s persist in praying for revival. Pray for God to pour out His Spirit in a fresh way upon the church and our communities. Let’s refuse to shrink God down to our experience or our methods. God is mighty to save and can do far more that we can ask or imagine.




It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.

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What has God been speaking to you about from His Word this week?



Please read Jonah 3:4-10



Jonah began and so must we. For anything to happen, it must be begun. The first step is essential for any progress in anything. If we want to get things done - become more effective in evangelism, for example, we must make a practical first step and begin. It’s easy to talk about doing hard things, but it’s the doing that’s really important. God does a great thing through Jonah’s simple step of obedience - the city and even the king believe and repent.


The king and the Ninevites sets us an example of urgency in prayer. In Nineveh we see fasting, repentance and urgency in their response to Jonah’s message. Let’s compare our own spiritual fervour with the Ninevites’: having come to know God, does fasting, repentance and urgency mark our lives and prayer meetings? They knew that God’s judgement was coming and they were led to urgent prayer. We know that judgement is coming, God wants our compassion to lead to urgency in prayer.

What we see in Nineveh can be compared to what we see in a move of God in revival. Revival starts in the church and spills over into bringing many into the Kingdom of God. Revival always starts with prayer. Here is an example from the 1859 ‘Prayer Meeting Revival:

‘Have you ever heard of the great 1858 American revival? An obscure man laid it up in his heart to pray that God would bless his country. That man was Jeremiah Lanphier…burdened by the need around him, he decided to invite others to join him in a noonday prayer meeting every Wednesday in Fulton Street…for one hour. The first meeting six attended, the next week twenty, third week forty. They decided to hold a mid-day prayer meeting daily. Then came a financial crash and ensuing panic as banks failed. The atmosphere was ripe for God to move. The prayer meeting grew to a hundred, the others began to start prayer meetings; at last there was scarcely a street in New Your that was with a prayer meeting…6,000 were attending daily prayer meetings in New York. This spread to other cities… by May it was reliably estimated that there were 50,000 conversions in New York, the population of which was around 80,000…There were several New England towns in which not a single person can be found unconverted’…The revival become known as the ‘prayer meeting revival’. Edwin Orr, after long and careful research, endorsed the estimate ‘that fully one-million were converted out of a population of less than thirty million, in the revival in the two-year period of 1858-59. The churches actually increased their membership by this figure…solid, lasting converts.’ (Great Revivals, Colin Whittaker)

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because I’m God’s child and am saved by grace that urgency, persistence or passion in prayer is irrelevant. However, Intensity in prayer goes hand in hand with a move of God; Revival - the outpouring of God’s Spirit - is instigated and is sustained by prayer. Jesus taught us to pray with persistence and urgency:

‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.’ (Matthew 7:7-8)

I cannot explain why simply asking is not enough, why we sometimes have to add seeking, or why we sometimes have to add knocking. All I can say is that Jesus teaches us that fervent and persistent prayer leads to doors being opened. URGENT PRAYER MOVES GOD!


  • We read that ‘Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city’. What does Jonah's simple beginning lead to?

  • Do you have any examples of how taking simple steps of obedience has led to big things in your life?

  • Why should urgency in prayer mark our lives and our church culture?

  • Have you, like Jonah, 'begun'? How have you Served, Invested and Invited in your communities this week? (Let’s share about this again next week)

  • How have you got on with making a list and praying for your non-believing friends each day? (Let’s share about this again next week)

  • Let’s now pray for specific people that God has put on your heart and in your life.

  • Let’s pray for each other that the Spirit would fill us with His resurrection power so as to be compassionate and courageous this week.

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