Bill Bright

"A wonderful revival is sweeping over Wales. The whole country, from the city to [the mines] underground, is aflame with gospel glory. . ." *


The leader of this great spiritual awakening in 1904 was a young Welsh miner with coal dust in his hair and grime beneath his fingernails. He possessed no skills as an orator, nor was he widely read. The only book he knew was the Bible, and his heart burned with a passion for God and His holy Word.


For years, Evan Roberts yearned to preach the gospel, and he cried out daily to his heavenly Father to change him and use him. When Roberts reached twenty-five, his landlady evicted him for preaching and praying loudly in his room. Down in the mines, while friends smoked and laughed on their breaks, he sat quietly reading his Bible.


One day in 1904 while Roberts was in prayer, God revealed to him that He was going to send a revival to Wales, and that one hundred thousand unbelievers would turn to Christ. Then the Holy Spirit showed Roberts that the coming revival would spread like a prairie fire to England, then to all of Europe, Africa and Asia.


Burning with this vision, Roberts sought opportunity to preach, but found none. He begged his pastor to let him preach, but at first the bewildered minister said no to this overly enthusiastic coal miner. Finally, after much pleading, the pastor relented.


"All right, Evan, you can preach following the Wednesday night service," he said, "if anyone chooses to stay and listen."


Seventeen curious seekers stayed behind. The young evangelist boldly proclaimed that he had heard from God. His message was simple: (1) You must confess every known sin to God; (2) you must remove every doubtful habit from your life; (3) you must obey the Holy Spirit's prompting; and (4) you must go public with your witness for Christ.


Although Roberts was unskilled in preaching, the pastor and those seventeen church members began to burn with a fiery touch from God.


The next night more came to hear the young preacher, and the fire quickly spread to other churches. In the next thirty days, thirty-seven thousand came forward to repent of their sins and receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Within five months, one hundred thousand were swept into Christ's kingdom across the country, and Roberts' vision was fulfilled.


A newspaper called the Ram's Horn reported that Evan Roberts was an unknown, but "then came the summons, and he obeyed. He insists that he has been called to his present work by the direct guidance of the Holy Ghost. At once, without question and without hesitation, he was accepted by the people. Wherever he went, hearts were set aflame with the love of God." ** The Methodist Recorder reported:


          Wales is in the throes and ecstasies of the most remarkable revival it has ever known. It is nothing less than a "moral revolution." ***

Welsh newspapers began to print lists of names of those being born into the Kingdom of God.


Colleges closed down, and students marched singing and praising God on their way to prayer meetings.


Children held their own meetings in homes and in barnyards, emulating their heroes--the ministers of the churches.


Men's "prayer brigades" began to form. Reports say their prayer was fierce and passionate. One town boasted a "Get-out-of-the-bed" prayer brigade. These men would pray into the night--sometimes all night--for God to rouse other men out of bed, convict them of sin and save their souls. There were reports of men crawling out of bed in the middle of the night, finding a meeting and crying out to the Lord Jesus to save them.


One account reported that a defendant in court received Christ when the judge and jury stopped to pray over him.


Revival broke out in the coal mines as well. It was reported that the profane language of the miners was so cleaned up that their beasts of burden could no longer understand them --and refused to obey them.


But everyone was not happy with this revival. In a time when clergy viewed religion with an awesome seriousness, some ministers labeled Evan Roberts a youthful seer with unorthodox methods. They could not understand why he smiled when he prayed, or why he laughed when he preached. But those who came to hear him said he had the light of God in his countenance and the joy of the Lord in his heart.


Just as God had shown him, Roberts saw the revival leap to England. There, an estimated two million people received Christ. Then the Holy Spirit coursed out into Western and Northern Europe. When He "fell" upon Norway, so many packed the churches that the clergy had to ordain lay persons in order to serve communion to the masses. Then the Spirit of revival swept across the world to Africa, India, China and Korea.


In America, ministers tracked the move of God as best they could from sketchy reports from overseas. The excited Americans called clergy meetings in the large cities to decide how to react when the move of God reached their nation. For them, it was not a matter of "if" but "when." And God rewarded their anticipation: The Spirit came, and His holy fire burned from city to city.


In Atlantic City, New Jersey, in a population of sixty thousand, it was said that "not even fifty" refused to come to the Lord Jesus Christ.


In Paduka, Kentucky, the First Baptist Church added one thousand new converts to its role; the pastor died, reportedly from exhaustion.


In Burlington, Iowa, every store and factory closed so employees could attend prayer meetings.


In Denver the mayor declared a day of prayer and by ten in the morning the churches were filled, and another twelve thousand packed downtown theaters and halls.


In Portland two hundred and forty stores signed an agreement to close from eleven in the morning to two in the afternoon to encourage employees and customers to freely seek God.


In Los Angeles thousands marched in the streets celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit, and two hundred thousand gathered for a single open air meeting.


Historians estimate that twenty million people came to Christ while this revival burned in America.


Our Task

In America today, we need not wait for a sovereign act of God to bring revival. We do not have to wait for a general out-pouring of the Holy Spirit on the church and the nation. Our task is to surrender to the lordship of Christ and the control of the Holy Spirit, fast and pray, and obey God's Word. Meeting these conditions, we can expect the Holy Spirit to transform our lives.


I liken this to the story of two Christian farmers. They lived on adjoining farms. They were both poor when they started, and each had similar equipment. Today one is wealthy, and the other is poor.


The wealthy farmer works hard. He chooses his seed carefully. He fertilizes the soil, waters it, and carefully works the field. And, at the right time, he harvests the grain.


The other farmer is lazy and undisciplined. He does not choose good seed. He does not fertilize his soil properly, and he leaves too much to chance. He loves to sit on his front porch and watch the world pass by on the state highway.


God sends sun and rain on both farms. But he expects the farmers to add shoe leather and elbow grease to what He entrusts to them.


I believe the same is true spiritually. God wants to send revival to the individual who is willing to repent and seek Him. Jesus said:


            Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6).

God's Word promises us that if we humble ourselves, reverence and worship God, He will bless us. But for the slothful person, the disobedient person, there is no blessing--only discipline, or worse.


The Holy Spirit of God is sovereign. He works when and where He chooses. But we should always pray and plan for His sovereign work in the affairs of people and nations. But personal revival begins with an inner call to the heart by the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:13). The conscience finds itself stirred by that call. The will makes the decision to obey or ignore it.


Today, our decision is crucial as individuals, as a church and as a nation. God is asking us to seek Him with all of our being. The revival which He promises begins when we humble ourselves, repent, fast, pray, and seek His face and turn from our evil ways. God has promised to respond with revival fire for any person who will hear, love, trust and obey Him.


* Winkie Pratney, Revival (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1984), p. 189.

** Pratney, p.190.

*** Pratney, p.188.


By Bill Bright, The Coming Revival


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