Nearly one hundred and twenty years ago, a world-shaking revival broke out in a dilapidated building at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles. Only a few hundred people could fit into the “Azusa Street Mission,” but repercussions were felt around the world as the Holy Spirit touched lives and brought dramatic healings for nearly three years. What started as a prayer meeting attended by a handful of spiritually thirsty believers has grown into the fastest-growing segment of Christianity today—with an estimated 600 million adherents.
What brought about this remarkable move of the Holy Spirit? The human leadership of the revival was clearly unimpressive by worldly standards. One of the leaders mightily used by God was William J. Seymour, an uneducated preacher who grew up in poverty as the son of former slaves. Before entering the ministry, Seymour was a railroad porter and a waiter at several restaurants. Smallpox had left him blind in one eye.
Eye-witness accounts of the Azusa Street Revival say little about Seymour’s preaching or leadership skills—for those attributes weren’t the secret to his effectiveness. Here’s how a newspaper described his role:
Their preacher [Seymour] stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn’t talk very much, but at times he can be heard shouting “Repent”—and he’s supposed to be running the thing…
The breakthrough at Azusa Street clearly wasn’t the result of great preaching, marketing techniques, financial backing, or organizational abilities. Instead, the secret of the Azusa Street Revival was simply this: world-shaking prayer.
Let’s Arise and Shine!
What does world-shaking prayer look like? In addition to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2), the early Christians experienced several other “power encounters” in response to their prayers:
When they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).
While we might be awestruck at the physical shaking that occurred after these believers prayed, that was only a by-product of something much more important: They experienced a fresh encounter with God and new boldness to proclaim the Gospel. The church today needs this same kind of encounter with God, but it will only happen as we give ourselves to passionate intercession, as the early believers did.
Too many believers still have a “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer life. Instead of shaking the world through their powerful intercession, their prayers are more akin to spiritual tranquilizers. In this day of “deep darkness,” it’s time for God’s people to arise from slumber and shine the light of the Gospel to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 60:1-2).
This is a great day to be alive! Do you realize that half of all the people who have ever lived are alive today? We have an incredible opportunity to pierce the world’s spiritual darkness with the light of Jesus Christ. God has put powerful new technological tools in our hands that enable us to span the entire globe in milliseconds!
But let’s never forget the lesson of Azusa Street: A world-shaking revival will only come when there has first been world-shaking prayer. An awesome worldwide harvest is ours for the asking, but God commands us to come to Him and ask:
Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as your possession (Psalm 2:8).
What a fantastic promise!
Ben Cerullo has been named by Charisma Magazine as one of the “30 Emerging Voices” who will lead the church in the next decade. His ministry carries a powerful anointing and prophetic message. Traveling extensively, both domestically and internationally, he has spoken in more than 27 nations. God continues to use him to reach people with the Gospel, confirming His Word with signs following.