It took a humbling experience for Andrew Murray to see how easily man can try to stop God's work of revival
Andrew Murray's family had emigrated from Scotland to South Africa, where his father was to pastor a church. It was a godly family where prayer was normal and hymns were sung around the house.
Most of all, Andrew's father prayed for revival. Every Friday evening he would read to his family accounts of the great movings of the Holy Spirit in history. Then he would go to his study and pour out his heart with tears to God for a similar outpouring on South Africa.
These experiences marked young Andrew deeply, as did a visit to Germany to hear Johann Blumhardt, who had a ministry of signs and wonders. Here, Andrew saw healings and deliverance from demons, and grew up convinced that greater power was available to the Church than she realised.
In time, Andrew himself became a pastor, and flung himself into his duties. He rode many miles, preaching and baptising, and won the loyal affection of his parishioners. Yet after a time, Andrew grew dissatisfied. He wrote: "When I look at my people, my peace forsakes me. I am forced to flee to the Master to seek a new and more entire surrender to His work. My prayer is for revival, but I am held back by the increasing sense of my own unfitness for the work. I lament that awful pride and self-complacency that have till now ruled in my heart. O that I may be more and more a minister of the Spirit."
God was humbling Andrew Murray and making him thirsty for the living water that was soon to come. Yet there was an obstacle. The young minister still felt instinctively that the Holy Spirit had to move through the preaching of the word, and therefore only through the pastor. God was to humble him by sending a revival that Andrew himself did not initiate, and, in fact tried to stop!
The churches in South Africa were at that time desperate for more leaders. They searched in vain, so sent to Europe for volunteers. They also called a conference at Worcester, Cape Town, in 1860, to consider the issue of revival and to begin united prayer for a move of the Spirit.
God did not keep them waiting long. One Sunday, a preacher invited people in his congregation to pray out what was on their heart. A black girl of about fifteen responded and cried aloud for God to visit His church. "While she was praying," wrote the pastor, "we heard a sound in the distance, which came nearer and nearer, until the whole hall seemed to shake. The entire congregation began to call on God, and the noise was deafening."
At this point Andrew Murray arrived, to find scenes of chaos in the church. Not recognising this as the revival he had so longed for, he went to the front and shouted: "People, be silent! God is a God of order, and this is confusion!" Nobody took any notice. All were too absorbed in God.
Andrew left, angry and confused. Meanwhile, the church came alive. Old and young, black and white, flocked to the meetings. Before long, there were three prayer meetings a day, and people were upset if they finished too early. The meetings would begin with quietness, then prayer, whereupon the same noise of a rushing wind would be heard. Some fell down under the anointing of the Spirit while others poured out their hearts to God in loud repentance.
Finally, God remembered Andrew. At a Bible study he began to pray, then let others pray. Immediately the sound of the wind was there and the Holy Spirit came upon the gathering. Andrew was about to quieten the people once more, when a visitor came up to him and said: "Be careful what you do! I have come from America, where revival has been moving. This is precisely what I have witnessed there. This is the Spirit of God." Andrew Murray needed no further confirmation. He humbled himself and let God have His way.
God's awakening power moved throughout the region. It was not confined to towns and villages. Even on remote farms and plantations, people were suddenly gripped with conviction of sin and a longing after Jesus. Lives were changed and holiness became popular.
Even opponents of the revival had to admit to the amazing changes that took place in previously godless people. Where once the churches had not been able to find one young man ready to be a leader for God, the revival raised up fifty in Andrew's area alone! His own parish recorded more conversions and changed lives in one month than in the whole course of its previous history.
Looking back on those days and the humbling lessons God taught him, Andrew later wrote: "If only we did not so often hinder Him with our much trying to serve, how surely and mightily would He accomplish His own work of renewing souls into the likeness of Jesus Christ."
This article has been extracted from Revival Fires, available online from the Jesus People Shop.
Useful Sources: Absolute Surrender (Andrew Murray, Lakeland,1962),
Andrew Murray, Apostle of Abiding Love (Leona Choy, CLC, 1978).