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The Welsh Revival
Many have claimed that the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905 was the greatest revival in history, based on its tremendous power and worldwide impact. The revival’s visible leaders were largely children and teenagers. Evan Roberts, the revivals best known leader was only 26 years old. There were no great speakers or dynamic leaders, only nameless believers, sold out to God and fully obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Many of the world’s most renowned Christian leaders came from all corners of the world to marvel and sit at the feet of these children entirely under the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit.
One of the central themes of the revival was that God wasn’t looking for great eloquence, impressive leadership or great wisdom, He was looking for those who were humble and obedient to the voice of the Spirit, who despised worldly acclaim and desired above all else to exult God only! One truly astonishing feature of this revival was the absence of planning and promotion, everything was done under the spontaneous leading of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was always the main attraction in the revival, speakers and singers were not announced. When the meetings began there was no telling what was going to happen. Evan Roberts would enter a meeting and say nothing for hours or preach the entire time. Singers who planned to perform often kept silent if the Lord had other plans, other times singers would break out in spontaneous song. Roberts turned down interviews with world famous newspapermen and famous leaders and refused to get his photo taken other than for family pictures.
The Prayer Revolution
The revival experienced the power of prayer, seeing dramatic answers to specific prayers and the focus of prayers towards a burning agony for the lost! People in wales were praying everywhere, small prayer groups became swelling crowds at any time during the day or night. Whole communities rose up in prayer for neighboring towns, revival caught on like wildfire wherever they went! Prayer meetings often lasted till the early hours of the morning and people feared leaving lest they miss out on something wonderful.
Entire factories shut down so the people could pray! There was nowhere you could travel in Wales to escape the influence of the Spirit of God, the burning love and zeal of every Christian was evident wherever you went! Thousands upon thousands were being saved, mostly through the witness of individual believers.
The Origins of Revival
The seeds of the Welsh Revival were plants many years before; God was preparing the hearts of people all over Wales to carry the Ark of revival. Eloquent and influential Welsh ministers were being broken and humbled before God. They no longer sought to impress their congregations with outward performances but instead were driven by an inward passion and a desire to follow the leading of the Spirit! A holy desperation and a revelation of their true condition was what drove them to seek the depths of God.
Before the revival, Wales was a place in spiritual darkness. People were obsessed with soccer, drinking and a host of worldly pursuits. Crime and prostitution were at record high rates. Even in there worldly prosperity, people were dry and empty inside trying to fill a void that only God can! It was under this backdrop that God was preparing a young man who worked in the pit of a coal mine from the age of nine years old. His name was Evan Roberts.
Evan Roberts was born in Wales in 1878. After his father injured himself in a mining accident, he went to work in the mines at the age of 9, to earn about 75 cents a week.
Roberts had a passion for God and to preach at a very young age. He committed himself to prayer and to gaining a more intimate relationship with God for a period of 13 years before the revival in Wales. He went to prayer meetings almost every night of the week; the focus of his prayers was for a mighty visitation of the Spirit of God! Roberts entered a grammar school at the age of 26 with the goal of entering a college to study for the ministry. He was never able to complete his studies because God had other plans!
In the spring of 1904, Evan began to have powerful visitations from the Lord. This happened for several weeks on every night between one till 5 am. These encounters left him in a state of awe and wonder; he feared anything that would hinder these experiences. Soon after, a convention was held at Blaenanerch, with Evangelist Seth Joshua. Evan attended the meeting with his friend Sydney Evans and 19 other youths. Evan was visibly shaken at the end of the when Seth Joshua declared, “Bend us oh Lord”. The Spirit of the Lord, so branded this message on Evans heart that it never left him. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him with great power and he was filled with a supernatural passion and compassion for the souls of men.
A short time later, Sydney Evans witnessed Evan in his room with a holy light shining from his face. He asked Evan what was happening and Evan told him of his vision of the nation of Wales being lifted into the heavens and for 100,000 souls. Later, while in a chapel, Roberts had a vision directing him to go to his old friends and young people. The entire chapel was then filled with a heavenly light whereas he could scarcely see in front of him. Evan went to the Pastor at Moriah chapel and asked to hold services for the youth. That evening after a prayer meeting, Evan asked the young people to stay to so he could speak them. Only one girl and sixteen adults stayed to listen. The chapel was filled with a cloud of unbelief and Evan was tempted to doubt what God had showed him. Maybe he was tempted to think that his visions were the result a grand scheme of his imagination or worse yet, the onset of mental illness.
The following day services were held in nearby Pisgah but this time many more were in attendance. It was here Evan Roberts would speak on the importance of being filled with the Spirit and he would highlight the four tenants that became central conditions for living in the Spirit and for revival. These tenants are what guided the Welsh revival. The tenants required renouncing of all doubtful behavior, harboring no unforgiveness, unquestioning obedience to the Spirit of God, and public testimonies to the work of God.
On the following day November 3rd, Roberts returned To Moriah chapel and taught the children the pray, “Send the Holy Spirit to Moriah for Jesus sake”. He impressed upon them the necessity to believe in order for the work of the Spirit to move forward and to believe that Christ is able to remove any obstacle. The lord was increasingly laying this on his heart.
Faith and expectation continued to build with each meeting. Roberts spoke on Ephesians 5:18, exhorting to not be drunk with wine but to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Within a week the meetings had grown to an intensity never witnessed in times past!
On November 7th The Moriah chapel was packed as it had never been before! Evan Roberts opened to Malachi 4:2-3 and made a prophetic declaration that it would be fulfilled in Wales immediately. The question was would the people in Roberts hometown accept the instrument God had chosen to light the fire in Wales and worldwide. Many believe this was a crucial point where the revival was held in the balance, would the people have the humility accept God’s messenger? They did, the Spirit of God was so heavy in that place that the people in mass cried out in agony for the lost and in repentance of their sins. Cries of great joy and desperation were heard in mass throughout the meeting which lasted beyond 3 in the morning!
On November 9th and 10th reports or the revival had reached the secular press and from that time on, almost every major newspaper worldwide had stories about the revival. With the Moriah chapel packed to capacity, the people of Loughor opened their homes for meetings. People from all over the world began to arrive in wales. Food had to be brought in because people didn’t want to leave the glory they were experiencing.
The revival then began to spread throughout wales. Prayer meetings sprung up everywhere. Conviction of sin was so strong that taverns emptied with men leaving their drinks behind as they were gripped with a holy fear. Soccer stadiums were emptied because everyone was at the revival. Police had nothing to do because crime had completely stopped and the jails were empty. Virtually all debts were paid in the entire nation. Horses and mules had to be trained to respond to different commands because they had become accustomed to responding to curses. Now no one dared curse in all of Wales out of a fear of God!
Revival Spreads Worldwide
Over the preceding 18 months, Evan Roberts and five young ladies from Wales, would light revival fires all over Great Britain and worldwide. William T. Stead, one of the most powerful men in Great Britain at the time, had visited the revival and was interviewed. They asked what he thought of the revival, he responded “that it didn’t really matter what he thought of the revival but what it thinks of me and everyone else”! In the book, “The Great Revival in Wales” by S.B Shaw, the account of the interview with William T. Stead was quoted on pg56 as saying this;
“… For this is a very real thing, this revival, a live thing which seems to have a power and a grip which may get a hold of a good many of us who at the present time are mere spectators. … The revival is something like a revolution; it is apt to be wonderfully catching”
When asked if he dreaded the revival coming his way he said;
“No that is not so. Dread is not the right word. Awe expresses my sentiment better. For you are in the presence of an unknown. You have to read ghost stories and can imagine what you would feel if you were alone at midnight in the haunted chamber of some old castle and you heard the slow stealthy step stealing along the corridor where the visitor from another world was said to walk. If you go to south Wales and watch the revival you will feel pretty much just like that. There is something there from another world. You cannot say whence it came or whither it is going, but it lives and moves and reaches for you all the time. You see men and women go down in sobbing agony before your eyes as the invisible hand clutches at their heart. And you shutter. …”
When correspondence from the revival reached other places around the globe, revivals were often ignited there. Frank Bartleman and William Seymour of the Azusa Street revival had frequent correspondence with Evan Roberts, both revivals impacted the other.
The revival spurred a wave of missionaries to be sent out all over the world. The Pentecostal and charismatic movements which now encompasses about a third of all Christians worldwide, can trace their roots to either the Welch or Azusa Street revival. The Welch revival is a foretaste of an even greater revival that’s to come, that will sweep in multitudes before the return of Jesus at the end of the age.
Rick.Joyner,The World Aflame, 1993