Saturday, July 22, 2023

Evan Roberts and the Welsh Revival of 1904

 by Sherri Stewart

Just an ordinary person can start a revival that spreads to four continents. Evan Roberts was such a man. His beginnings were far from glorious. He grew up in a coal mining community in Wales and quit school to become a coal miner at the age of twelve.

Shortly after his conversion at thirteen, Young Evan heard a sermon that affected him deeply, and he determined at that moment he wanted all that God had for him. Despite his tiresome work in the coal mine, he attended every prayer meeting, every youth meeting, and every other meeting offered by the church. This involved him being at church six out of the seven days of the week. This he did consistently throughout his teen years. 

Evan heard about some of the great revivals that had occurred in other places and became obsessed with the subject. “I could sit up all night to read or talk about revivals.” As a young man he was once forced out of his rented room by his landlady, who would hear him pray and preach in his room for hours on end, and concluded he was quite likely insane. At the age of 25 he woke up one night and found himself in the presence of God. This deep communion went on for four hours, and then he fell asleep again. That same experience occurred every night for the next three months, as God prepared this poor young Welsh man for the great calling that lay ahead.

While at preparatory school for ministry, Evan attended a series of small meetings held nearby by the famous evangelist, Seth Joshua. At the end of one of the services, the evangelist prayed, “O God, bend us.” For some reason these words shook Evan to the core. During a church service soon afterwards, Evan saw visions of himself speaking to the young people at his home church in Loughor. He tried to get the picture out of his mind, but it kept returning. Finally, he agreed in his heart to return home.

His parents were puzzled to see their son home from college, and more puzzled still when he announced he had come to speak to the church and was considering going through the whole country of Wales to preach and win souls. However, the pastor of the home church didn’t quite know what to do with Evan. He allowed young Evan to speak only after the main prayer meeting was over. Sixteen people and one little girl decided to stay and hear what he had to say.

Evan wasted no time in getting to the heart of his message. He declared that they must fulfill four conditions:


1.    Confess all known sin to God.
2.    Put away all doubtful habits.
3.    Obey the Holy Spirit promptly.
4.    Confess Christ publicly.

By the end of the night, all sixteen young people and adults had confessed Christ. So powerful was this first meeting that Evan was given a second night to share, and then a third. With each passing night more and more people came. By the second week the church was packed out, and the revival was on!

While Evan seemed to be God’s chosen instrument to spearhead the revival, he was not alone. As word of what God was doing in Loughor spread, fervent prayer went forth all over Wales, and within weeks the fires of revival were blazing all through the nation.

The effects were astonishing. Churches which had been only half full were now unable to hold all the people eagerly coming to find Christ. Services which had been formal and lasting an exact designated time were now hotbeds of prayer, praise, and singing. One pastor, when asked about the times of his services, replied, “From six until midnight.” The astonished inquirer said, “You mean you have church from six p.m. until midnight?” “No,” said the pastor. “I meant from six a.m. until midnight.”

Within a couple of months, Wales was a changed nation. Crime was reduced to almost nothing. Often magistrates were given a ceremonial pair of white gloves when they arrived at the courtroom, signifying that there were no cases to try. Taverns were nearly vacant. One tavern owner, sickened by his loss of business, growled at the young people passing his establishment to attend the revival and threw a couple of empty ale pots at the youths.

The Llynfi Valley police court had been averaging 700 cases per week six months before the revival. After the revival was going full force, the average was 2. So radical was the change in the coal miners that there was a slowdown in the mines. The pit ponies, so used to being cursed at by the miners, didn’t know how to respond to a gentle giddyap.

Evan Roberts was modest to a fault. He often refused to allow his picture to be taken, fearing he would take the glory from His Lord. He would never announce where he would be speaking, lest he become too much the “star” of the revival. In one meeting where he showed up, he reminded the congregation of Christ’s promise that where two or three are gathered together, God would be there in their midst. When he asked the crowd if they believed that promise, they heartily responded, “Amen.” To which Evan announced, “Then you don’t need me,” and left the meeting.

In one year, by conservative estimates, around 150,000 souls were born again. The revival went on to sweep Europe, Canada, America, and many parts of Africa and India. Evan Roberts was an untrained young man, but what he lacked in education, he made up for in fervency, humility, and prayer.

Selah Award finalist Sherri Stewart loves a clean novel, sprinkled with romance and a strong message that challenges her faith. She spends her working hours with books—either editing others’ manuscripts or writing her own. Her passions are traveling to the settings of her books and sampling the food. She traveled to Paris for this book, and she still works daily on her French, although she doesn’t need to since everyone speaks English. A recent widow, Sherri lives in Orlando with her lazy dog, Lily. She shares recipes, tidbits of the book’s locations, and other authors' books in her newsletter.


Tricks and Treachery

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  1. Thank you for your post. This account of the revival in Wales is amazing. It's incredible what one person devoted to God can accomplish.

  2. Yes, I loved the part about the pit ponies not obeying their drivers because they'd stopped cussing.