By Jim Jarman
Converge missionary appointees to Sweden
The year was 1950. The famous revival on the windswept Isle of Lewis in the Scottish Outer Hebrides was already underway. It was a revival that began when two elderly sisters fervently prayed. Peggy Smith was 84 and completely blind. Christine, her younger sister by two years, could hardly walk and was bent over double from arthritis.
God had given them a simple promise from Scripture: I will pour water on him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground (Isa. 44:3, KJV).
With a deep burden in their hearts they began praying. Twice a week for many months, they went down on feeble knees at 10:00 at night and did not rise until 3 or 4:00 in the morning. In the midst of their prayers, God gave them a vision of a man they had never met, a man who would be used by God to change the island. The man’s name was Duncan Campbell – and he would be the first to admit the dramatic spiritual change that happened was not because of him.
In his later accounts of this awakening, Campbell would write,
In speaking about the revival in the Hebrides, I would like to make it perfectly clear what I understand to be real revival. When I speak of revival, I am not thinking of high-pressure evangelism. I am not thinking of crusades or of special efforts convened and organized by people. That is not in my mind at all. Revival is far beyond evangelism at its highest level. It is a moving of God whereby the whole community suddenly becomes God-conscious before anyone says a word about God.
Supernatural Movement of God
People on the island were inexplicably drawn to Christ. Without publicity, telephones, or Internet, they were awakened in the middle of the night and drawn to gather in a farmer’s field or at a local parish church. Sometimes they did not make it – and instead simply fell by the side of the road confessing their sins to God. Bars and dance halls shut their doors for good. Starting with the small town of Barvas, the entire Isle of Lewis was turning from darkness to light. Whole towns were being converted to Christ, with the exception of the stubborn little parish of Arnol.
Arnol was defiant in its resistance to the gospel. No one wanted to hear what Duncan Campbell had to say. In fact, the citizenry held opposition meetings to denounce the revival. Campbell and his fellow leaders knew that the only answer was prayer.
They gathered one evening in a farmhouse and began to pray, earnestly appealing to the promises God had made in the Bible. At midnight, Campbell asked John, the local blacksmith, to pray, which he did for more than two hours. Near the end of his prayer, with his cap in his hand, John looked heavenward and said,
God, do you know that your honor is at stake? You promised to pour water on the thirsty and floods on the dry ground. . . . I stand before You as an empty vessel and I am thirsty – thirsting for Thee and for a manifestation of Thy power. I’m thirsty to see the devil defeated in this parish. I’m thirsty to see this community gripped as You gripped Barvas. I’m longing for revival and, God, You are not doing it! I’m thirsty and You promised to pour water on me. God, Your honor is at stake, and I take it upon myself to challenge You now to fulfill Your covenant engagement.
At that moment, the house shook violently. A jug on the sideboard crashed to the ground and broke. Those who were present said that wave after wave of power swept over the room.
At the same time, the town of Arnol was awakened from its slumber. Lights went on. People came into the streets and started praying. Others knelt where they were and asked God to forgive them. Men carried chairs and women held stools, asking if there was room for them in the church. At 2:00 in the morning, revival came to this last resistant town on the island.
As I reflect on this historic account, I wonder why my prayers don’t seem to shake much except my own confidence in prayer itself. How can I connect with God in such an intimate way that I can pray with absolute certainty that God has both heard and will answer? Why do I so willingly accept a “No” from God and chalk it up to His all-knowing nature instead of taking the time to understand His heart so that He can respond “Yes” to me?
Am I really that thirsty to know God? Do I want Him to water the dryness of my own heart? Am I willing to acknowledge my own cracked and parched soul?
There is no question that our society needs a shaking from God, a response that manifests His presence and His power, a deliverance that restores communities and nations. But I sense that any outward shaking will be preceded by an inward one that changes the very core of my being.
Before I can challenge God to remember His covenant, it is God’s prerogative to challenge me on the condition of my heart. Does my pulse stay in sync with the rhythm of His? Do I know God’s heartbeat well enough to pray His will so that He can say, “Yes”?
The history of revivalism shows that prevailing prayer precedes all major moves of God’s Spirit. “Lord, do not callous my heart. Callous my knees.” This is my longing as I pray. I hope it’s yours as well.
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly (Acts 4:31, NIV).
Jim and Lynn Jarman are Converge missionary appointees to Sweden. They will be serving as Team Leaders for Church Plants and Ethnic Groups at New Life Church Stockholm.
For more information on their ministry or to receive prayer updates, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.