The Interceders Encourager No. 39
The Hebrides Revival and Awakening 1949-1953
A. The Characteristics of the Awakening
1. The Awareness of the Presence of the Lord.
Without question, this was the outstanding characteristic of the movement, as it is of all genuine awakenings. Duncan Campbell referred to it as "the overwhelming sense of the subduing Spirit of God, a consciousness of God that lifts people out of the realm of the ordinary." People spoke of it as being like heaven on earth for the believer, an awareness that the ground they were walking on was holy ground. Prayer and praise became natural, and holiness became the overriding desire. People went on their knees anywhere. His presence made believers afraid to do anything to grieve the Spirit, afraid, sometimes to lift their heads. The fear of the Lord was present, and there was a deep brokenness that was nothing to do with emotionalism. The things of earth did not seem to matter any more. Only the things of the Lord and of eternity seemed important.
On one occasion, some men were walking home from a meeting in the early hours of the morning. They stopped and looked back at the area they had just come from, where lights were still burning in the homes. Without saying a word, they removed their caps and stood in the darkness, while one of them said softly, "Brothers, God is everywhere." The respect they showed in removing their caps reminds me of the elder on Berneray who when he knew God was about to come, stood, took off his hat, and said "Stand still, Mr Campbell, God has come!"
"I have no hesitation in saying," wrote Duncan Campbell, "that this is the crying need of the church today." He said that in the 1950s. How much greater is the need today.
2. The Conviction of Sin.
The awareness of the presence of a holy God brought great conviction of sin to unbelievers, as we have seen. "There was deep conviction as the solemnity of eternity fell on the people. People wept and were broken over their sins. They knew they had to stand before Almighty God, and give an account. Eternity was real. Heaven was real. Hell was real. Their plight was terrible; their judgment certain and eternal. How wretched their condition; how unenviable their position before a just and holy God. They knew that they were doomed and damned." (Mary Peckham) People were so under conviction that they were writhing in agony. The judgment of God became so real that they saw no hope for themselves. The Holy Spirit of God did such a deep and thorough work that they could not be satisfied with anything less than the assurance that their sins were forgiven; without knowing that they were accepted by a holy God, and had been born again.
This is one of the cardinal marks of all true revivals and awakenings, which only the Holy Spirit can bring.
The revival was wonderful, yet it was also awful, for it was meeting with God face to face. In this sense, the whole experience was terrible, for the awareness of the holiness of God was overwhelming and supernatural, completely different from ordinary, earthly things. Everyone who experienced it was touched, moved and changed. They were made to face eternal realities, and would never be the same again. Those who were broken and convicted had their lives dramatically turned round and altered for the better. Those who rejected became sour and bitter for the rest of their days.
Margaret MacDonald of Shader said, "People who have never been in revival do not understand the intensity of it all. God is real. Eternity is real. People come to Christ in an atmosphere that is saturated with God. There is no flippancy or light heartedness. You are dealing with eternal things. I thank the Lord that I was privileged to be there."
4. The Power of God
The power of God was very noticeable right from the beginning when God brought people to the chapel at Shader without any advertising, when he convicted people at the dance, and so many were brought under conviction in the fields and at the roadside without anybody speaking to them. God was consistently shown as a powerful God releasing His power, as he did at Arnol and on Bernera, and every place where He overcame opposition, and radically transformed people’s lives from sin to holiness.
The power of the Lord was felt when people sang their praises to the Lord, and when they prayed. One man said to John Murdo Smith, "When I got up to pray, I felt the Holy Spirit coming down, as if He were pouring corn seed out of a barrel."
5. Anointed Biblical Preaching
This was a very noticeable aspect of the whole movement. This is what makes revivals Bible based, makes people understand what the true gospel is, and makes converts strong and secure. Duncan Campbell, and the other ministers who were helping, preached strongly on the holiness of God, on the sinfulness of man, on the judgment of God and His wrath against all sin, on the doom of the sinner, on an eternity without God, on the power of the Cross, on the need for holiness, on the glory of the redeemed, on the wonders of heaven. As Mary Peckham said, "It was terrible in the ears of sinners, but thrilling to those who had yielded to the Saviour. We understood very well that there was a hell to shun and a heaven to gain."
Kenneth Macdonald testified that, in contrast with other preachers, whose sermons might be Biblical and theologically correct, "Duncan preached from the heart, to the heart, with tremendous authority and boldness, thundering forth the message with the utmost sincerity. His preaching was plain, personal, passionate, powerful, penetrating and practical. You knew where you stood before a holy God at the end of those meetings."
Chirsty Maggie Macleod remembered his preaching the night that the Spirit was poured out at Arnol. "It was simply overpowering," she said. "The Holy Spirit was applying the word to many hearts as we listened to the intense presentation of the gospel… Duncan Campbell was inspired. He was fiery, and his penetrating words spoke to the heart…He was certainly God’s chosen instrument at that time."
6. Great Joy in the Lord
This was one of the outstanding features of the movement. When people were converted, there was great rejoicing among all the saints, especially by those who had been praying for those particular people to be converted. When people found release from the burden of their sin, their joy was overwhelming. Everywhere, believers were rejoicing at what God had done for them. "Every time the saints gathered together in services, in homes for prayer and Bible study, there was spontaneous and exuberant joy. When they met at the roadside, they spoke about the Lord, and their joy knew no bounds." (Mary Peckham) True conviction of sin produces great joy in the heart when the Saviour is found . When Norman Campbell, of Point, found the Lord, he said, "my chains were loosed and I was set free…My heart was filled with joy."
7. Heartfelt Singing
In some ways, this was the most noticeable outward characteristic of the awakening. The singing in the meetings was full of joy and spiritual power. Often the singing of the word of God brought the Lord’s presence into the meetings. As people sang from their hearts, the atmosphere would change dramatically. "They were singing the word of God, and this, filled with the presence of God, made the singing powerful. The words became arrows in the hands of the Almighty, and many were slain of the Lord as His word penetrated the hearts of the people with enormous power." (Mary Peckham) Another person described the singing as "fire going through my whole being." The Holy Spirit revealed the Lord Jesus in converting power as they sang, while believers felt transported into heaven.
Then there was the singing outside the services. People, especially young people, would sing on their way home, in the buses or on the road. They would join hands and form circles and sing until, reluctantly they made their way home.
There were many songs composed during the awakening, so these were sung along with many of the metrical psalms they loved to sing. These included Psalm 126, Psalm 72: 17-19, Psalm 132, Psalm 50, which was often used to end the services, and the psalm of the awakening, Psalm 103: 13-22, which was sung regularly, especially at the united gatherings in Stornoway. A reporter wrote of a crowd of over 600 people by the Town Hall at 11 o’clock at night, raising their voices to the Lord as they stood and sang: "Thou shalt arise, and mercy yet, Thou to Mount Zion shall extend."
8. Great Hunger and Zeal for the Lord
The Holy Spirit caused unbelievers to go to any length to find the Lord, and find relief from the huge burden of sin they were carrying. Difficult weather; difficult paths or roads, or no roads at all; lack of transport, necessitating walking for hours, even through gales and snowstorms; people being squashed into houses or church buildings without any heating in the middle of winter; having to sit on pulpit steps because all the seats were used; standing outside church buildings for hours when there was no room inside; all were considered of no importance and were brushed aside. Believers, in the same way,
would go to any lengths to get to meetings, and would stay at them for hours and hours.
It must be obvious that we are here dealing with something way beyond anything that we normally experience; the Spirit of God affecting, influencing , motivating, drawing, persuading, convicting people so that they act in ways completely different to their normal behaviour. This is our God, acting in supernatural ways, and thereby giving the greatest evidence of His existence and saving power. How we need that today.
9. Emphasis on Prayer
Prayer was the dominant feature, before and during the awakening. Before any movement of the Spirit, as we noted, there were many people praying individually and in groups, so that the Christians in the Barvas area could be called "a community at prayer." The whole movement could be called a testimony to prevailing prayer. Later, the men from this area, having paid the price of praying down the revival, became giants of intercession, so that when things became difficult for Duncan, he would often call on the praying men of Barvas to come and help him win the victory.
The whole movement, in the words of Duncan Campbell, "showed that nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer, except that which lies outside the will of God." When opposition was encountered in any place, "prayer, the mighty weapon of the awakening, was resorted to, and hours given to waiting upon God.
When God came down, then opposition and spiritual death fled before the Lord of life."
Once the revival started, people prayed everywhere and all the time. Wherever they worked, out on the moor, in their cottages, they prayed. Prayer was not a burden to them, but a delight. One man testified that he was praying without ceasing all day long at his work, and yet he couldn’t wait to get to the prayer meeting in the evening, to join with others and pray for the unconverted.
Converts were numbered by their attendance at the church prayer meetings. According to Owen Murphy, absence from the prayer meeting meant a "doubted conversion!" He then asks the question: "If we judged our ‘converts,’ or even our ‘membership,’ by attendance at the prayer meetings, what would happen to our church membership totals?"
Another wonderful aspect of the movement was that people realized that, even though the awakening had come, it did not absolve them from further prayer. In fact, it placed them under a burden to pray more, for they knew it was only God who could do His work, and bring others to conviction and salvation. So, all through the day, and especially when they went to services, before they started, they would implore the Holy Spirit to come down and do His work. And come He did. This is why we read of fresh waves of divine power coming down over services again and again in places where the awakening had already been; and explains why the awakening continued for so many years.
10. The Centrality of the Bible as the word of God
Duncan Campbell, along with many other ministers, made sure that the preaching and teaching of the Bible was a primary emphasis during the days of the awakening; for he knew it was essential for converts to be grounded in the word of God. "Preach the word, sing the word and live the word. Anything outside of this has no sanction in heaven," declared the missioner. He confronted people with what God had said. This was His authority, and was the strength of his preaching. And God confirmed the truth of His word by using it as the Sword of the Spirit, so that when Campbell spoke about sin, each sinner felt that the word was directed at him or her. Moreover, the Spirit often gave him just the right word from Scripture to pin point areas of disobedience in people’s lives.
All revivals and awakenings need to have this emphasis. Without it, the fire dies down quicker, and converts do not stay strong and faithful; as has sadly been witnessed on many occasions, most notably at and after the last Welsh Awakening. In this awakening in the Hebrides, the word of God took a very prominent position at every service and meeting, including house fellowships.
The sense of expectancy was another outstanding feature of the awakening. This expectancy was at a level that has rarely, if ever, been equalled in any other awakening. Before the Spirit was poured out, faith in God and His promises was so strong that they were expecting God to answer their prayers at any moment, and if He didn’t, they wanted to know why.
Once the awakening started, this same faith not only continued, but grew, so they were continually expecting God to do greater things. Everywhere, people were praying, trusting and expecting God to work. At every meeting, believers were full of anticipation, wondering who would be the next people to be convicted and which of those convicted would be born again. Of course, they didn’t just expect, but prayed earnestly for their relatives and friends, confidently expecting them to come to faith very soon. John Murdo Smith, who was converted on the first night of the awakening, December 11th, 1949, said "God’s people were united, watching and waiting for the coming of the Lord into their midst, just as they were at Pentecost. The empty pews in our churches today are a tragic evidence of the lack of expectancy."
12. Love and Unity, with No Age Gap
Not surprisingly, the coming of the Spirit of unity brought great love and unity amongst God’s people. It did not matter to which church anyone belonged. The Holy Spirit broke the barriers down. They were all enveloped in the wonderful love of God.
When the Spirit of conviction comes down, everybody is brought to the foot of the Cross, and where there is true humility, there is no room for pride, and true love can flourish.
One of the beautiful results of this unity and oneness was that there was no age gap.
When the Spirit of God is present in power, He draws all to Himself, from the young to the old.
Rev. Jack MacArthur wrote: "We think today that children cannot understand spiritual things. Yet I cannot ever remember not understanding what was said when I heard the gospel at a young age. There were no children’s meetings. The doctrine of sin, the holiness of God, the justice of God, my responsibility, were all clear to me. The fact that I was only a junior child and not a full grown adult, did not make one single iota of difference. The Holy Spirit was working. That is all that matters."
Very elderly people were also won for the Lord. But all were one in the Lord, in fact, according to Kenneth MacDonald, "the old became young. There was simply a blending of spirit and a oneness of desire, of longing, of waiting on God and of seeking His face. The unity was tangible."
There was no need of any programmes to entertain or amuse. Everyone was hungry for the Lord and His word, and wanted to meet just for that. The Holy Spirit caused young and old to have an unquenchable desire for the things of the Lord.
Because of this, the young converts loved to be in the company of older, experienced Christians whenever they could, and would visit them in their homes, for they knew they would learn so much from them, and be encouraged by them. How we need that today.
The Spirit of the Eternal God also took away tiredness from people. Meetings went on until the early hours of the morning, but those who attended were not tired. People would arrive home at 3, 4 or 5 am, then be up in the morning at 7 am to go to work, without being tired. Sometimes they would have no sleep at all, but would feel no after effects.
It was the God who never slumbers or sleeps who imparted His life to the believers, so that their tiredness was taken away. The fact that it was He who was enabling believers to live like this was well illustrated when, at one meeting, "two young unbelievers were sitting dozing on the stairs of a crowded house, but as an elder prayed, the Spirit of God fell upon the gathering, jerking the girls awake, as though they had been struck with lightning." (Andrew Woolsey)
The sense of time seemed to vanish as the life giving Spirit energized those involved in the movement. Groups of converts, unwilling to go home, would gather on the roadside or on the sea shore, singing praises to God. As Duncan, himself, said, "in revival, time ceases to exist."
14. The Faithfulness of the Converts
We have noted that Duncan Campbell, when revisiting places where he had ministered before, was very encouraged to discover that all the converts were going on so well. After more than two and a half years, he was able to report hardly any backsliding, only four out of the hundreds, and possibly thousands, who had professed.
At the end of August 1953, nearly four years after the awakening commenced, he, along with other ministers, visited Uig, Bernera, Barvas and Arnol, and found that not a single convert in those areas had gone back.
Duncan spoke of one parish minister who was asked to give a report on the fruit of the revival, as to whether the converts stood. This is what he wrote: "I will confine my remarks to my own parish. In one village, 122 young people found the Saviour during the first day of the awakening in our parish. Today, I can say that they are growing like flowers in the garden of God. There is not a single backslider among them."
James Murray MacKay was also able to report that in his district not one of the converts had gone back. "Their behaviour," he reported, "is fragrant. Their fellowship is blessed. Their love is living and warm. They are trophies of grace as beautiful as any ever seen by men."
One cannot but compare this with the rate of backsliding seen after today’s evangelistic crusades, which is usually well over 50%.
15. Song Writing
Even though the psalms were the hymnbook of the churches, many new hymns were written during the period of the revival, and these were often sung at informal gatherings and in the open air. Duncan reported that "83 new hymns were written by the converts, some as fine as anything we have in our Gaelic literature," and the amazing thing is that even though the thrust of his preaching was on the wrath and the judgment of God, "all the hymns, without one single exception, were on the love of Jesus or the wonder of the Saviour." This proves again the fact that we fully appreciate the wonder of the grace of God, only when we understand it in relation to the terrible judgment and punishment from which we have been saved.
B. The Phenomena of the Awakening
There were some unusual phenomena, but they were not the most important things.
We have already related the story of the trance into which the elder at the barn cottage fell on the night when the Spirit was poured out in November 1949, and the similar experience at the church building at Shader on December 11th 1949. This was repeated on other occasions. Duncan Campbell reported that in Uig, there were physical prostrations and swoonings. Margaret Macdonald related how, a number of times, she had seen people fall unconscious due to the fullness of the revelation they had received through the word, and their faces were radiant as they reflected the heavenly visions they had seen. Kenneth Macdonald of Point spoke of how some people fell into a trance for the duration of the meeting. They would sit silently with their hands upraised, and when they came round at the end of the meeting, their words seemed to have the scent of heaven.
Norman Campbell had a very unique experience on the night he was converted. For a very long time he had fought against the Lord, but eventually gave in and went to an after meeting. He knelt down with Duncan, who prayed and pointed him to the Saviour, but Norman seemed unable to understand, and in despair, he thought, "I’m lost, really lost. There’s nothing but hell for me." His whole being seemed suspended between heaven and hell. Then Duncan asked Norman to pray, but he said, "I don’t know what to pray."
"Ask the Lord to have mercy on you," said Duncan, so Norman did, and almost as soon as he started, the miracle happened; the intolerable burden slipped away, and the joy of forgiveness flooded in. Looking down, he seemed to see materialized on the floor the locks and chains of sin which had bound him. He leapt up in an ecstasy of love to Christ, thinking that he was going straight to heaven. We will let Norman continue the story, "Later, as we approached the bus to go home, suddenly a light like the brightness of the sun shone around us…I looked up to see where the light was coming from, and I saw the face of Jesus…I shall never forget it. It was just like the sun; and the joy on that face, and the love reflected from that face. I cannot explain or describe it." A church elder was standing next to him, but the elder did not see the vision.
The most outstanding physical phenomenon was, of course, the house shaking at Arnol, that we have already related, but the most beautiful phenomenon was the heavenly singing that was heard. Wesley Duewel, after speaking with Duncan Campbell, wrote that "on at least two occasions, Duncan heard singing by heavenly choirs. On one occasion, about 2 o’clock in the morning, the congregation in one church building left to walk together across the fields to another church building where the Spirit had been working. As they walked in the night, they suddenly heard choirs singing in the sky, and all two hundred of them fell on their knees. The experience was overwhelmingly sacred."
At a cottage meeting in Arnol, Chirsty Maggie Macleod heard heavenly music, as though a choir of angels was passing through. She said that it was "somehow not like voices, but like an orchestra, yet more wonderful. It was simply a marvellous sound that brought a sense of awe and reverence."
Catherine Campbell said "there were numbers of occasions when heavenly singing was heard, and told of a time when her mother called her and her father out of the house, and said, ‘Come and hear this.’ They heard the voices of angels singing. They followed the sound to a house two doors away, and there they found two women crying in distress of soul, and were reminded of the words of Jesus that there will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents."
Catriona Macaulay tells of a meeting during the revival at Lemreway, where she heard wonderful singing. She said, "I had never heard anything like it. Rev. MacRae from Tarbert was there, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, the Lord is with us.’ Amazing and unexpected things happen in revival. Oh that He would again come amongst us in power."
C. The Results of the Awakening
We have already noted the first results, the hundreds, if not thousands, of people. especially young people, who were soundly converted, and did not backslide, but remained faithful.
What is specially noticeable were the number of young men who were converted, and the number of ministers who were raised up. God answered the prayers of His people who had prayed Ezek.37:37 back to Him, and the numbers of men were increased like a flock. We have mentioned the amazing number of men who went into the ministry, at least eleven out of those who were converted on the first night of the awakening. Duncan thanked God for the stream of young people who had gone into the ministry, into the Faith Mission, and on to the mission fields of the world.
Family Worship was instated or reinstated in every home; five or six prayer meetings a week were established in every parish. More people attended prayer meetings than attended public worship on the Sabbath day before the outbreak of the awakening. Social evils and worldly amusements were swept away as by a flood in the night. Drinking places were closed down for lack of business.
"Only eternity will reveal the full story of the revival and its extent," said Alistair MacDonald. "Like the ripples of the ocean as it ebbs and flows without restraint, so the fruits of this awakening touch the far ends of the earth through the lives of those who have gone forth, bearing the message of the gospel to distant lands."
D. The Opposition to the Awakening
One of the painful aspects of the work was the opposition that was encountered. All revivals and awakenings have their critics, "a sign that is spoken against." Mary Peckham wrote, "It is sad to speak of these things, but to gain a picture of the whole, this subject needs to be mentioned, not to rekindle controversy, but so that lessons may be learnt, and such unwelcome events will never be repeated."
The opposition came from the ministers of the Free Church, who objected to the mission because it was centred on the Church of Scotland, which was largely liberal in its theology. The tragedy was that these ministers did not look carefully enough at the facts. In the first place, all the Church of Scotland ministers on the island were evangelical! In the second place, the Free Church leaders criticized the missioner, but not one of them ever went to hear him! Had they done so, they would have realized that he emphasized all the things that they thought so important: the truthfulness and reliability of God’s word, the greatness and holiness of God, the depravity of the human heart, the inevitable judgment of God, Christ as the only answer to man’s sin, the blood of Christ as necessary to atone for sin and cleanse from all sin, and the sovereignty of God, though not in a sense that is alien to Scripture. Thirdly, the awakening had all the characteristics of a genuine awakening, as we have noticed, in fact, it had them to an extent that very few other awakenings have had, so they should have rejoiced at what God was doing.
This makes it all a matter of great sadness that these ministers were so critical of the movement. They wrote against the movement in the local press, and held opposition meetings near where Duncan was holding his. "Their opposition was vicious at times, and resulted in division and bitterness. Some Free Church people who had been converted in the awakening were barred from the Lord’s table, and whole churches were split because of the intransigence of their ministers." (Mary Peckham)
Foremost among these was the minister of the largest Free Church on the island, in Stornoway, from 1931 to 1964, Kenneth MacRae. I have read the life story of MacRae, and know that all his life he was praying for revival, yet when it came to the very island where he was living, he rejected it, because of ignorance and prejudice. He missed out on what should have been the greatest time of his life. What a tragedy that was.
However, we can be thankful that so many of the Free Church people disregarded the advice of their ministers; and particularly thankful that it was an elder from a Free Church who was the one who read from Psalm 24 in that momentous prayer meeting in the barn cottage in November 1949. Later, many Free Church people went to the meetings, and were thrilled with the messages they heard, with seeing the power of God at work in drawing, convicting and saving, and with joining the people of God in praying and praising. These people were so impressed, that Duncan was invited to hold meetings in Free Church areas in spite of the opposition of the ministers. They were abundantly blessed through doing so, while their leaders lost out, and hindered the work of God.
For they did hinder the work. Campbell quotes one leader who said, "I verily believe that revival would have come to other places, if prayerful sympathy, instead of carnal criticism, had been shown." Yet whatever the devil brings against the Church is always an opportunity for God to display His power. In place after place, where there was opposition, men of God prayed over the situation until the devil was defeated and victory was achieved. Duncan referred to one occasion on an island when he was being opposed, and some of the opposers were actually present at the meeting. The atmosphere was very hard, so Duncan asked Young Donald to pray. "He prayed for some time, then realizing the truth of the situation, said, ‘Excuse me Lord, while I address the devil. ‘"Devil, I command you in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the power of His blood, that you depart from this farmhouse and from this island."’ Immediately, such power was felt that the men who were opposing the missioner were struck to the ground, the Spirit was poured out, and all organized opposition ceased."
We can also be thankful that there was one Free church minister who did not oppose the work. Rev. William Campbell in Point had previously experienced revival, so he knew very well the signs of God working in a community, and when the movement came to Point, he recognized it as a genuine work of God, and cooperated fully with it.
Kenneth Macdonald also tells of a man in Shader, Point,(not the Shader near Barvas), who was opposed to the meetings, but when he heard that people whom he knew to be sinful and Godless, had been converted and were now praying at the prayer meeting, he could not understand it, so "he sought God about it. God gave him the vision He gave to Simon Peter, telling him, ‘What God has cleansed, do not call common or unclean.’ So one evening, he stood in the middle of the road outside his house, and invited everyone to come in. When they were all inside, "the tears ran down his face as he told them of his opposition to the work of God, how God had spoken to him, and how he was so sorry for his blindness about this. From that time on, he identified fully with awakening, and was involved in all the meetings and activities."
It is true that we need to test all claims to revival and awakening to make sure they are true to the Bible and to the pattern that God has shown. If they pass the test, then we should rejoice at what God is doing, and welcome them fully.
From the point of view of being in the centre of things, it is amazing that revival came to Lewis, which, in 1949, was a five hour boat journey from the north west coast of Scotland, probably the most remote part of Britain, with a treeless flat countryside and a very inhospitable climate, saturated by brine soaked winds straight off the Atlantic. Moreover, the churches had no choirs, no organs, no guitars, no musical instruments at all, no padded seats, no meetings for children or young people, no meetings for mothers and toddlers, no Holiday Bible Clubs, no overhead projectors, no power point programmes, no transport laid on to bring people in, and very few people had a car. All they had were Sunday Services and prayer meetings, and with that God performed miracles in their midst, and brought hundreds, if not thousands of people out of darkness into His marvellous light, for He doesn’t need any of these other things.
What was the secret of this visitation by God?
It came about because "many people all over the island prayed definitely, prayed expectantly, prayed wholeheartedly, and prayed believingly. They pressed through into the courtyard of heaven, and touched the throne. They came to know the secret of humility, of seeking the Lord, of persistently laying hold of Him, and travailing with Him." (Colin and Mary Peckham)
It also came about, as Owen Murphy points out, because "one minister and eight others, all materially poor, but spiritually rich, covenanted together to meet in two little old houses, with no modern conveniences, prepared to forego sleep and comfort, (Ps.132:3-4) night after night, to ‘stand in the gap,’ and pay the full price that God had demanded, until God answered. Let us notice:
1) Their faith in a covenant keeping God.
Here were people who believed in the ‘covenant’ promises of God. God had promised: ‘If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray, seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways: I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.’ (2 Chronicles 7:14)." He had also promised: "I will pour water on the one who is thirsty and floods on the dry ground.’(Is. 44:3) His word also declared ‘The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and shines forth and comes. He will not keep silent, a fire will devour before Him; Gather to me my faithful ones, who have made a covenant with Me, …to him who orders his way aright, I will show the salvation of God." (Ps.50:1-5 &23) They also obeyed God’s word that instructed them: "You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest and give Him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth." (Is.62: 6-7) A covenant is an agreement binding on both parties. If then, God is a covenant keeping God, His word and His promises are binding upon Him as well as upon us. If we fulfil our part of the covenant, then He must fulfill His! Everything, therefore, depended on His people keeping the conditions that God had laid down. Staking everything upon this, twice each week they met to keep the conditions of the covenant promises, confident that their covenant-keeping God would stand by His word, hear from heaven and answer their prayers.
2) Their humbling, surrender and brokenness before God.
These men and women were prepared to meet every demand of God, whatever the personal cost might be, that revival might come. That price, which has never varied through the ages, is brokenness before God, an emptying of self in all its manifestations, a forsaking of all sin, and total surrender to God and His purposes.
3) Their travailing and prevailing in prayer.
Every revival that has broken upon the face of the earth has been preceded by the people of God upon their knees travailing before God. For long, weary weeks, undeterred by the cold and discomforts of their situation: undeterred by the seeming "silence" of God; undeterred by the fact that no one else seemed so concerned about revival, and the world seemed to be as godless as ever; they travailed before God. Kneeling on the rough floor, or upon their faces before the Lord in agony of soul, they cried unto the throne. And their prayers were not the half-hearted, sentimental, selfish, half-doubting prayers to which we are accustomed today, and which accomplish so little. As these men and women wrestled with God, drawing into the spiritual conflict every power and energy they possessed, we are reminded of the prayer of the Master: ‘Who, in the days of His flesh...offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears.’ They had covenanted to stand in the gap for revival, so they prayed until they travailed, and travailed until they prevailed, until God answered. Travail must always precede prevail. ‘When Zion travailed, she brought forth.’"
We have traced the story of this remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of God in the Hebrides 60 years ago, and have realized that:
i) it came about through:
a) the persistent prayers of many who were humble, yet believed in a covenant keeping God;
b) the pleading, agonizing prayers of a smaller number, who in surrender and brokenness
before God, yet in boldness, travailed in prayer until they claimed the answer;
and ii) that it was sustained through the continuing, faithful and expectant prayer of many.
So: ask the Lord to make you one of these, an interceder who:
takes this responsibility seriously, as they did then,
prays in faith and expectancy, as they did then,
pleads in desperation, as they did then,
is willing to sacrifice everything, as they were then,
agonizes in prayer until the point of confidence is reached, as they did then,
in holy boldness, claims the answer, as they did then.
"But to stay in the presence of God," wrote Colin and Mary Peckham, "and to wait upon Him, baring your soul to His searching gaze, costs everything. The one who prays must be transformed. Prayer must make him or her holier, purer and more Christlike…. Let no excuse hinder your prayer time, for your real effectiveness depends upon your communion with God….Get through the barriers of wandering thought and weary bodies, and press on into the presence of God…Prayer demands every faculty of mind and heart, but the treasures it yields are always worth the price that it demands."