If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14

This summer I was invited to join a group of men who committed to pray together weekly for seven weeks. Gathering with this group was one of the highlights of my summer. When people are willing to invest meaningful time in corporate prayer, God shows up.

Throughout this season, I keep hearing “prayer is the work” echoing in my spirit.

As far as I know, I was the only United Methodist in this gathering. This was a blessing because there was no talk of denominational politics. There was no angst or cynicism about the future of the denomination. And I was given the chance to see what the Lord is up to outside of the UMC. And it was good.

Most of all, it was a blessing to get to hear these leaders’ hearts and pray with them for the world, our nation, and the church.

One of the outcomes of this time of prayer is dedicating a Sunday, September 27th, to specifically repent and pray for revival. Here is the invitation from the Repentance Sunday website:

On Sunday, September 27th, join with thousands of churches throughout America in dedicating time for prayers of repentance and revival during Sunday gathering or a special evening service in your local church. This solemn assembly, carried out by the pastor or elders within a local church, is being called in response to the continued division, destruction and degradation taking place throughout our land. We desire to follow God’s admonition that during severely difficult times, His people repent and return. Only then may we expect Him to hold off judgment or return blessing to the land.

Inspired by Old Testament calls to sacred assemblies, this special day (September 27) marks the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in the historic Church calendar. This is one of the most sacred days of the year for the Jewish community and an opportunity as the Christian church to practice what Revelation 2 and 3 require, a return to our first love, seeking forgiveness of our personal and corporate sins.

One of the things that is most powerful about repentance is that you can’t do it for anyone else.

It is tempting to confess other people’s sins and point out their need for repentance, perhaps especially right now. This is not a time for vague confession or repentance that is actually accusing others of what they have done wrong. Repentance is when we ourselves turn away from our sin and return to God.

The church’s witness is desperately needed in a culture that increasingly demands constant repentance without hope for forgiveness and reconciliation. We need to remember the promises of Scripture, like 1 John:

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins – and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. – 1 John 2:1-2

If you are a pastor reading this, please consider joining with Christians across the United States, and perhaps well beyond, in leading your church in a time of focused repentance. (And please fill out the brief form on this page so we can all be connected to each other.)

If you do not have authority for your local church’s worship services, consider passing this on to your pastor and inviting them to participate.

Here is why I support this:

Repentance always comes before revival in the history of Christianity.

Revival comes when people’s hearts are broken over their own sin and they cry out to God, confessing their sin, turning away from it, and turning back to God.

Repentance is hard. It takes courage to repent. It take humility. And it is essential for experiencing life in Christ. We do not have the option to come to Jesus on our own terms. We must come to him on his terms. And the offer of salvation is through forgiveness and pardon through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, not our own righteousness.

Repentance is hard. But one of the best things about being a Christian is that you know that true repentance always leads to forgiveness and reconciliation with God.

A church that gets on its knees and repents will be raised up. People will find pardon and peace with God.

Once you repent, it is appropriate to pray for revival.

In 1738 John Wesley began meeting in a small group called a band meeting. They did one key thing each week; they confessed their sins to one another and prayed for healing. John Wesley joined this group before his famous new birth experience at Aldersgate Street on May 24, 1738. This was a crucial beginning of Methodism. It started with confession of sin and repentance. The band meeting was at the heart of the very beginning of the 18th century Methodist revival.

Repentance always precedes revival.

Will you pray with me?

Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you.