THURSDAY, September 29, 1904. The stirrings of a spiritual awakening had already begun among the youth in several towns of South Wales when Evan Roberts, a 26-year-old excoalminer training for the Calvinistic Methodist ministry, attended a mission conference led by the evangelist Seth Joshua. For years, Roberts had been longing for the Holy Spirit to set his heart on fire. Joshua, meanwhile, had been praying that God would raise up a man from the coal mines or fields to bring revival to the churches. Both men found answers to their prayers that morning in Blaenannerch. Roberts described the moment:
The 7.00 am. meeting was devoted to asking and answering questions. At the close, the Revd Seth Joshua prayed, and said during his prayer, ‘Lord, do this, and this, and this, etc and bend us.’ He did not say, ‘Oh Lord, bend us.’ It was the Spirit that put the emphasis for me on ‘bend us.’ ‘That is what you need,’ said the Spirit to me. And as I went out I prayed, ‘Oh Lord, bend me.’ On the way to the 9.00 [am.] meeting, the Revd Seth Joshua remarked, ‘We are going to have a wonderful meeting today!’ To this I replied, ‘I feel myself almost bursting.’ The meeting, having been opened, was handed over to the Spirit. I was conscious that I would have to pray. As one and the other prayed I put the question to the Spirit, ‘Shall I pray now?’ ‘Wait a while,’ said He. When others prayed I felt a living force come into my bosom. It held my breath, and my legs shivered and after every prayer I asked, ‘Shall I now?’ The living force grew and grew, and I was almost bursting. And instantly someone ended his prayer—my bosom boiling. I would have burst if I had not prayed. What boiled me over was that verse, ‘God commending His Love.’ I fell on my knees with my arms over the seat in front of me, and the tears and perspiration flowed freely. I thought blood was gushing forth. Mrs Davies, Mona, New Quay came to wipe my face. On my right was Mag Phillips and on my left Maud[e] Davies. For about two minutes it was fearful. I cried, ‘Bend me! Bend me! Bend us!’ Then, ‘Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!’ and Mrs Davies said, ‘Oh wonderful grace!’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘Oh, wonderful grace!!’ What bent me was God commending His love, and I not seeing anything in it to commend. After I was bent a wave of peace came over me. Oh wonderful, this is life! You've heard it said of joy being felt by men to the tops of their fingers. Yes, it is literally true. And the audience sang, ‘I hear thy welcome voice!’ And as they sang I thought of the bending at the judgment Day, and I was filled with compassion for those who would be bent on that day. And I wept.
In the months that followed this dramatic “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” Evan Roberts carried his message throughout Wales with a youthful, unconventional zeal that vaulted him to celebrity status. He soon became the controversial hero of a rapidly spreading revival characterized by spontaneity rather than liturgical order, open prayer and confession rather than formal preaching, and obedience to the promptings of the Spirit rather than human direction. The revival brought an estimated 100,000 new converts into the churches and sent shock waves throughout Britain and beyond—even as far as Los Angeles, where reports of the Welsh awakening contributed to the birth of Pentecostalism in 1906. Evan Roberts’ simple prayer, “Oh Lord, bend me,” blossomed into the theme of the revival: “Bend the Church and save the world.” —Jennifer Trafton
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #83 in 2004]
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