Revival came to Florence, Italy in 1496 to 1498. God’s human instrument was the Italian Roman Catholic monk Savonarola. When this revival began Martin Luther was just a small boy. Savonarola, as a youth, would walk beside the River Po and talk with God about the vice and immorality he saw in Italian society and the corruption he witnessed in the Church. He wept and grieved over the lewdness, luxury, and cruelty of many leaders of the Church. He would lie for hours prostrate on the altar steps in the church, weeping and praying about the sins of the age and the sins of the Church.
What can one unknown monk do in an age of immorality both in society and in the only church exisiting at the time? He prayed. Savonarola’s prayers and spirit-filled life helped prepare the way for the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther called him a Protestant martyr. His life is a glorious testimony that one prayer warrior by the grace of God can be used to turn the tide and prepare the way for a mighty revival.
History states (Revival Fire – Chapter Six – pages 44-47):
“For years Savonarola studied Scripture, waited for God, and prayed. Suddenly one day God gave him a vision: the heavens opened and a voice commanded him to announce the future calamities of the church to the people. Filled with a new powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit, Savonarola began to preach to the people.
When the Spirit of God came upon him, the voice of Savonarola thundered as he denounced the sine of the people. Revival power gripped the whole area. Savonarola’s audience – men and women, poets and philosophers, caraftsmen and laborers – all sobbed and wept. People walked the streets so gripped by conviction from the Holy Spirit that they were half-dazed and speechless.
The Spirit of the Lord was upon Savonarola. He prophesied that the city ruler, the pope, and the king of Naples would all die within a year, and so they did. For months he predicted that God would punish Florence with an invasion from across the Alps. King Charles VIII of France and his army crossed the Alps and prepared to attack. Savonarola went alone to meet them. He faced the French army single-handed and twice persuaded Charles to turn back and not attack Florence.
The wicked city government was overthrown…the revival brought tremendous moral change…(But) the corrupt pope, the cardinals, and the priests were outraged. In time, the political and religious enemies incited a rough mob against Savonarola. They battered down the doors of the sanctuary of the convent where he was staying and captured him.
Savonarola was severely tortured as his enemies tried to get him to confess to heresy … Returning to his cell, Savonarola would kneel and ask God to forgive the people. Finally Savonarola and two companion monks were brought out to be executed before a mob of thousands of onlookers. An awesome silence settled down over the crowd. Savonarola’s last words were, “Should I not die willingly for Him who suffered so much for me?” … He and his two friends were hanged in the public square, and then their bodies were burned.”
On lone man, totally surrendered to God, burning with passion for revival in the Church and nation and the salvation of the people, had for several years turned the tide against evil in church, government, and the lives of the people. If God could use one Savonarola to bring such a mighty revival at such an impossible time, what could he not do in answer to a movement of truly prevailing prayer by the thousands of believers and Chistian leaders who love Christ today?”
BUT, will we prepare the way of the Lord through prayer like Savonarola did? Will we feed on God’s Word and memorize much of the Bible by heart as he did? Will we spend the nights and hours in prayer and fasting as he did? Will we obey the voice of the Lord as he did? Will we fear God more than we fear man and demons? Will we spend the quality time necessary to know God and hear His voice accurately? Will we be willing to declare a prophetic word that calls people to repentance and drives regions and nations to their knees (instead of the mostly “bless you My children” prophecies we hear today)? Are we willing to take the time needed to hear God accuarately about future world events and coming natural disasters so as to proclaim them accurately ahead of time (and not release the words afterwards – or reinterpret a previous word to match the current situation)? Are we willing to be instruments in God’s hand regardless of the cost to us personally?
Those are questions I have been wrestling with since I recently re-read the story of Savonarola, the Italian Roman Catholic monk. This man (and there is a lot known about him and the revival that he was instrumental in releasing) was a step beyond anything I see in the Church today – or, in my own life for that matter. His dedication, focus, commitment, passion, determination, willingness and sacrifical approach to the Lord’s call on his life are amazing and, at times, overwhelming (if you think about them too deeply).
It makes me realize that I am so busy with so much but with so few real and lasting results. That maybe, just maybe, if I spent more time with God and in His presence (which I love to do) then more could be and would be accomplished in less time because the hand of God would be upon all that I do. How a person manages that in the “ministry world” in which we function I am uncertain – but I do plan to spend time during this Christmas season thinking upon such things as I work towards my annual spiritual review that I do every year during the Christmas and New Year’s break in travel and ministry. Much to think about. Decisions need to be made.