After I posted the prayer quotes by Leonard Ravenhill earlier this week, I got interested in more about this man. I found a two-hour interview of him where he shared about past revivals and his view of Church today.Here are some takeaways I had from the interview.
1. Prayer was important to these revivals.
This may sound obvious, but when I listened to the interview I was overwhelmed at the intensity he held for prayer. He prayed with his elders for 45 minutes to an hour before any service. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, prayed with his team from the end of one day’s service for four hours for the next day’s service. Evan Roberts of the Welsh revival started meetings with 3 hours of prayer, spoke for 15 minutes, then prayed all night for the next day’s service. Their commitment to prayer was not idle words, but backed with a depth of experience. One statement of Ravenhill stood out to me, there were often more people packing the altar before a meeting than there was afterwards.
2. Holy living was an overflow of these revivals.
When William Booth or W.P. Nicholson preached, people will get so convicted of the Holy Spirit that pages of hymnals would be commonly shredded in the pews from people fidgeting as light came into their souls. When they converted, they gave all to God. Missionaries going to the far reaches of the world – not for a few years of sight-seeing, but giving their lives away. C.T. Studd immediately gave up his professional athletic career to follow Hudson Taylor to China. Studd’s words summarize the heart of many during that time:
I am getting desperately afraid of going to heaven for I have had the vision of the shame I shall suffer as I get my first glimpse of the Lord Jesus; His majesty, power and marvellous love for me, who treated Him so meanly and shabbily on earth, and acted as though I did Him a favour in serving Him! No wonder God shall have to wipe away the tears off all faces, for we shall be broken-hearted when we see the depth of His love and the shallowness of ours.
3. There was a burden for the lost in those revivals.
When their hearts were so touched by the love of God, these revivalists were convicted of the need for all to know. The preaching of hell was not so much of the drawing conversions but a reminder of the Christians that some people Jesus’ died for were on their way to hell. Booth would come to an end of a sermon and if nobody came forward, he would turn to his team and tell them to pray then give another altar call. There is an amazing story about this in the interview, which is a must listen, that occurs just after the 30 minute mark.
The area that Ravenhill was passionate about in the interview was how in the current church (mid-90’s), those who came forward were given a quick prayer and then sent back on their way. We are turning people around quicker than it takes to get a car wash. We are not called to ask Jesus into our head, but we are to invite Him into our hearts. This takes time. We are teaching people bad habits and the fruit of our labors are showing it.
Now the main thing is to get the eyes of the people open. They need to see hell as the result of their sin, and that produces fear, the fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom. Once they get this fear and all will be comparatively easy; but if this fear does not lay hold of a man, his so-called conversion is a sham. – C.T. Studd
In conclusion, I am not saying Ravenhill has cornered the market on revivals. A lot of what he said made me feel uncomfortable. At the same time, I don’t doubt Ravenhill to be someone who loved God and had lots of experience. I’m comfortable in realizing that I still have growth and receive his challenges as I desire more of God and for revival in this generation.
- What are your thoughts Ravenhill’s ideas on holiness and prayer?
For more from Leonard Ravenhill on revival, check out his book, Revival Praying: An Urgent and Powerful Message for the Family of Christ.