Friday, January 27, 2006

Prayer & Revival: J Edwin Or

This historical article is too INSPIRING not to share. Please read and be FUELED with
God's Passion for REVIVAL in our generation through UNITED PRAYER....DO IT AGAIN LORD!!!!



by J. Edwin Orr.

[J. Edwin Orr was one of the foremost authorities on Revival in the

last century. This article, based on one of his messages, is adapted

from articles reproduced in the National Fellowship for Revival

newsletters in New Zealand and Australia].


Dr A. T. Pierson once said, 'There has never been a spiritual awakening

in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.' Let me

recount what God has done through concerted, united, sustained prayer.

Not many people realize that in the wake of the American Revolution

(following 1776-1781) there was a moral slump.

Drunkenness became epidemic. Out of a population of five million,

300,000 were confirmed drunkards; they were burying fifteen thousand of

them each year. Profanity was of the most shocking kind. For the first

time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to go

out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were a daily


What about the churches? The Methodists were losing more members than

they were gaining. The Baptists said that they had their most wintry

season. The Presbyterians in general assembly deplored the nation's

ungodliness. In a typical Congregational church, the Rev. Samuel

Shepherd of Lennos, Massachusetts, in sixteen years had not taken one

young person into fellowship.

The Lutherans were so languishing that they discussed uniting with

Episcopalians who were even worse off. The Protestant Episcopal Bishop

of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost, quit functioning; he had confirmed

no one for so long that he decided he was out of work, so he took up

other employment.

The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the

Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the Church 'was too far gone

ever to be redeemed.' Voltaire averred and Tom Paine echoed,

'Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years.

Take the liberal arts colleges at that time. A poll taken at Harvard

had discovered not one believer in the whole student body. They took a

poll at Princeton, a much more evangelical place, where they discovered

only two believers in the student body, and only five that did not

belong to the filthy speech movement of that day. Students rioted.

They held a mock communion at Williams College, and

they put on antiChristian plays at Dartmouth. They burned down the

Nassau Hall at Princeton. They forced the resignation of the president

of Harvard. They took a Bible out of a local Presbyterian church in New

Jersey, and they burnt it in a public bonfire. Christians were so few

on campus in the 1790's that they met in secret, like a communist cell,

and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know.

How did the situation change? It came through a concert of prayer.

There was a Scottish Presbyterian minister in Edinburgh named John

Erskine, who published a Memorial (as he called it) pleading with the

people of Scotland and elsewhere to unite in prayer for the revival of

religion. He sent one copy of this little book to Jonathan Edwards in

New England. The great theologian was so moved he wrote a response

which grew longer than a letter, so that finally he published it is a

book entitled 'A Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and

Visible Union of all God's People in Extraordinary Prayer for the

Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ's Kingdom on Earth,

pursuant to Scripture Promises and Prophecies...'

Is not this what is missing so much from all our evangelistic efforts:

explicit agreement, visible unity, unusual prayer?

1792 - 1800

This movement had started in Britain through William Carey, Andrew

Fuller and John Sutcliffe and other leaders who began what the British

called the Union of Prayer. Hence, the year after John Wesley died (he

died in 1791), the second great awakening began and swept Great


In New England, there was a man of prayer named Isaac Backus, a Baptist

pastor, who in 1794, when conditions were at their worst, addressed an

urgent plea for prayer for revival to pastors of every Christian

denomination in the United States.

Churches knew that their backs were to the wall. All the churches

adopted the plan until America, like Britain was interlaced with a

network of prayer meetings, which set aside the first Monday of each

month to pray. It was not long before revival came.

When the revival reached the frontier in Kentucky, it encountered a

people really wild and irreligious. Congress had discovered that in

Kentucky there had not been more than one court of justice held in five

years. Peter Cartwright, Methodist evangelist, wrote that when his

father had settled in Logan County, it was known as Rogue's Harbour.

The decent people in Kentucky formed regiments of vigilantes to fight

for law and order, then fought a pitched battle with outlaws and lost.

There was a ScotchIrish Presbyterian minister named James McGready

whose chief claim to fame was that he was so ugly that he attracted

attention. McGready settled in Logan County, pastor of three little

churches. He wrote in his diary that the winter of 1799 for the most part

was 'weeping and mourning with the people of God.' Lawlessness prevailed everywhere.

McGready was such a man of prayer that not only did he promote the

concert of prayer every first Monday of the month, but he got his

people to pray for him at sunset on Saturday evening and sunrise Sunday

morning. Then in the summer of 1800 come the great Kentucky revival.

Eleven thousand people came to a communion service. McGready hollered

for help, regardless of denomination.

Out of that second great awakening, came the whole modern missionary

movement and its societies. Out of it came the abolition of slavery,

popular education, Bible Societies, Sunday Schools, and many social

benefits accompanying the evangelistic drive.

1858 - 1860

Following the second great awakening, which began in 1792 just after

the death of John Wesley and continued into the turn of the century,

conditions again deteriorated. This is illustrated from the United


The country was seriously divided over the issue of slavery, and

second, people were making money lavishly.

In September 1857, a man of prayer, Jeremiah Lanphier, started a

businessmen's prayer meeting in the upper room of the Dutch Reformed

Church Consistory Building in Manhattan. In response to his

advertisement, only six people out of a population of a million showed

up. But the following week there were fourteen, and then twenty-three

when it was decided to meet everyday for prayer. By late winter they

were filling the Dutch Reformed Church, then the Methodist Church on

John Street, then Trinity Episcopal Church on Broadway at Wall Street.

In February and March of 1858, every church and public hall in down

town New York was filled.

Horace Greeley, the famous editor, sent a reporter with horse and buggy

racing round the prayer meetings to see how many men were praying. In

one hour he could get to only twelve meetings, but he counted 6,100 men


Then a landslide of prayer began, which overflowed to the churches in

the evenings. People began to be converted, ten thousand a week in New

York City alone. The movement spread throughout New England, the church

bells bringing people to prayer at eight in the morning, twelve noon,

and six in the evening. The revival raced up the Hudson and down the

Mohawk, where the Baptists, for example, had so many people to baptise

that they went down to the river, cut a big hole in the ice, and

baptised them in the cold water. When Baptists do that they are really

on fire!

More than a million people were converted to God in one year out of a

population of thirty million. Then that same revival jumped the

Atlantic, appeared in Ulster, Scotland and Wales, then England, parts

of Europe, South Africa and South India anywhere there was an

evangelical cause. It sent mission pioneers to many countries. Effects

were felt for forty years. Having begun in a movement of prayer, it was

sustained by a movement of prayer.

1904 - 1905

That movement lasted for a generation, but at the turn of the century

there was need of awakening again. A general movement of prayer began,

with special prayer meetings at Moody Bible Institute, at Keswick

Conventions in England, and places as far apart as Melbourne, Wonsan in

Korea, and the Nilgiri Hills of India.

So all around the world believers were praying that there might be

another great awakening in the twentieth century.

* * *

In the revival of 1905, I read of a young man who became a famous

professor, Kenneth Scott Latourette. He reported that, at Yale in 1905,

25% of the student body were enrolled in prayer meetings and in Bible


As far as churches were concerned, the ministers of Atlantic City

reported that of a population of fifty thousand there were only fifty

adults left unconverted.

Take Portland in Oregon: two hundred and forty major stores closed from

11 to 2 each day to enable people to attend prayer meetings, signing an

agreement so that no one would cheat and stay open.

Take First Baptist Church of Paducah in Kentucky: the pastor, an old

man, Dr J. J. Cheek, took a thousand members in two months and died of

overwork, the Southern Baptists saying, 'a glorious ending to a devoted


That is what was happening in the United States in 1905. But how did it


* * *

Most people have heard of the Welsh Revival which started in 1904.

It began as a movement of prayer.

Seth Joshua, the Presbyterian evangelist, came to Newcastle Emlyn

College where a former coal miner, Evan Roberts aged 26, was studying

for the ministry. The students were so moved that they asked if they

could attend Joshua's next campaign nearby.

So they cancelled classes to go to Blaenanerch where Seth Joshua prayed

publicly, 'O God, bend us.'

Evan Roberts went forward where he prayed with great agony, 'O God,

bend me.'

Upon his return he could not concentrate on his studies. He went to the

principal of his college and explained, 'I keep hearing a voice that

tells me I must go home and speak to our young people in my home

church. Principal Phillips, is that the voice of the devil or the voice

of the Spirit?'

Principal Phillips answered wisely, 'The devil never gives orders like

that. You can have a week off.'

So he went back home to Loughor and announced to the pastor, 'I've come

to preach.'

The pastor was not at all convinced, but asked, 'How about speaking at

the prayer meeting on Monday?'

He did not even let him speak to the prayer meeting, but told the

praying people, 'Our young brother, Evan Roberts, feels he has a

message for you if you care to wait.'

Seventeen people waited behind, and were impressed with the directness

of the young man's words.

Evan Roberts told his fellow members, 'I have a message for you from


* You must confess any known sin to God and put any wrong done to

others right.

* Second, you must put away any doubtful habit.

* Third, you must obey the Spirit promptly.

* Finally, you must confess your faith in Christ publicly.'

By ten o'clock all seventeen had responded. The pastor was so pleased

that he asked, 'How about your speaking at the mission service tomorrow

night? Midweek service Wednesday night?'

He preached all week, and was asked to stay another week. Then the

break came.

Suddenly the dull ecclesiastical columns in the Welsh papers changed:

'Great crowds of people drawn to Loughor.'

The main road between Llanelly and Swansea on which the church was

situated was packed with people trying to get into the church.

Shopkeepers closed early to find a place in the big church.

Now the news was out. A reporter was sent down and he described vividly

what he saw: a strange meeting which closed at 4.25 in the morning, and even then

people did not seem willing to go home. There was a very British summary: 'I felt

that this was no ordinary gathering.'

Next day, every grocery shop in that industrial valley was emptied of

groceries by people attending the meetings, and on Sunday every church

was filled.

The movement went like a tidal wave over Wales, in five months there

being a hundred thousand people converted throughout the country. Five

years later, Dr J. V. Morgan wrote a book to debunk the revival, his

main criticism being that, of a hundred thousand joining the churches

in five months of excitement, after five years only seventy-five

thousand still stood in the membership of those churches!

The social impact was astounding. For example, judges were presented

with white gloves, not a case to try; no robberies, no burglaries, no

rapes, no murders, and no embezzlements, nothing.

District councils held emergency meetings to discuss what to do with

the police now that they were unemployed. In one place the sergeant of police was

sent for and asked, 'What do you do with your time?'

He replied, 'Before the revival, we had two main jobs, to prevent crime

and to control crowds, as at football games. Since the revival started

there is practically no crime. So we just go with the crowds.'

A councillor asked, 'What does that mean?'

The sergeant replied, 'You know where the crowds are. They are packing

out the churches.'

'But how does that affect the police?'

He was told, 'We have seventeen police in our station, but we have

three quartets, and if any church wants a quartet to sing, they simply

call the police station.'

As the revival swept Wales, drunkenness was cut in half. There was a

wave of bankruptcies, but nearly all taverns. There was even a slowdown

in the mines, for so many Welsh coal miners were converted and stopped

using bad language that the horses that dragged the coal trucks in the

mines could not understand what was being said to them.

That revival also affected sexual moral standards. I had discovered

through the figures given by British government experts that in

Radnorshire and Merionethshire the illegitimate birth rate had dropped

44% within a year of the beginning of the revival.

The revival swept Britain, Scandinavia, Germany, North America,

Australasia, Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Chile.

As always, it began through a movement of prayer.

What do we mean by extraordinary prayer? We share ordinary prayer in

regular worship services, before meals, and the like. But when people

are found getting up at six in the morning to pray, or having a half

night of prayer until midnight, or giving up their lunch time to pray

at noonday prayer meetings, that is extraordinary prayer. It must be

united and concerted.


(c) Renewal Journal #1 (93:1), Brisbane, Australia, pp. 1318.


At 1/27/2006 12:12:00 PM , Blogger campustransform said...

Nice article! So much to learn from!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home