Read below to be inspired by stories of powerful Holy Spirit encounters in the lives of world-changers.
Evan Roberts was the spark plug of the great Welsh revival of 1904–1906. During this time, more than one hundred thousand souls were saved, and a complete transformation of a nation took place. But even more significant was the fact that this move of God sparked the Azusa Street revival that has since gone all over the world.
Evan had a series of unusual experiences with God, including a number of face-to-face encounters. He described these in an interview with W. T. Stead, the editor of the British newsletter “Review of Reviews.” That interview is quoted in Stead’s book The Story of the Welsh Revival, written in 1905.
For a long, long time, I was much troubled in my soul and my heart by thinking over the failure of Christianity?.?.?.?but that night, after I had been in great distress praying about this, I went to sleep, and at 1 am in the morning suddenly I was wakened up?.?.?.?and found myself with unspeakable joy and awe in the very presence of the Almighty God. And for the space of four hours I was privileged to speak face to face with Him, as a man speaks face to face with a friend. At 5 am it seemed to me as if I again returned to earth.?.?.?.?And it was not only that morning, but every morning for three or four months.?.?.?.?I felt it and it seemed to change all my nature, and I saw things in a different light, and I knew that God was going to work in the land, and not in this land only, but in all the world.
John G. Lake was a wealthy insurance salesman who was touched by God in an extraordinary way. Day and night, earnestly and at great length, he sought more of the Holy Spirit.
Lake had an early experience in which he felt what he called “Waves of Holy Glory” by which he “was lifted into a new realm of God’s presence and power. After this, answers to prayer were frequent and miracles of healing occurred from time to time. I felt myself on the borderland of a great spiritual realm, but was unable to enter in fully, so my nature was not satisfied with the attainment.”
In response, he pursued God’s face more and more, dedicating certain hours of the day to prayer and maintaining communion with God’s Spirit as he conducted his daily business. Almost every evening after his day’s business was completed, Lake preached and ministered. He also met with a group of like-minded friends. Together, they were determined to “pray through” to their goal—a complete baptism of the Holy Spirit, as they believed the early disciples had received it, with signs following.
Lake said to the Lord, “God, if you will baptize me in the Holy Spirit, and give me the power of God, nothing shall be permitted to stand between me and a hundred-fold obedience.”
One day, the Lord said to him, “Be patient until autumn,” and Lake knew his prayers were being heard. One afternoon that fall, a fellow minister asked Lake to accompany him to the home of a woman who had requested prayers for healing. For ten years this woman had been in a wheelchair because of inflammatory rheumatism. As his friend spoke with the lady to prepare her for prayer, Lake sat across the large room in a low chair. There, he had a powerful encounter with God:
My soul was crying out to God in a yearning too deep for words, when suddenly it seemed to me that I had passed under a shower of warm tropical rain, which was not falling upon me but through me. My spirit and soul and body, under this influence, was soothed into such a deep still calm as I had never known. My brain, which had always been so active, became perfectly still. An awe of the presence of God settled over me. I knew it was God.
Some moments passed; I do not know how many. The Spirit said, “I have heard your prayers, I have seen your tears. You are now baptized in the Holy Spirit.” Then currents of power began to rush through my being from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. The shocks of power increased in rapidity and voltage. As these currents of power would pass through me, they seemed to come upon my head, rush through my body and through my feet into the floor. The power was so great that my body began to vibrate intensely so that I believe if I had not been sitting in such a deep low chair I might have fallen upon the floor.
At that point, his friend, not noticing the state he was in, invited Lake to come to help him pray. Lake could hardly walk, he was trembling so violently. While his friend continued to kneel down in front of the woman’s wheelchair, Lake simply touched her head lightly (so as not to jar her with his trembling), and he felt “currents of holy power” pass through his body. He knew she felt it too, even though she didn’t say anything.
My friend who had been talking to her in his great earnestness had been kneeling as he talked to her. He arose saying, “Let us pray that the Lord will now heal you.” As he did so he took her by the hand. At the instant their hands touched, a flash of dynamic power went through my person and through the sick woman, and as my friend held her hand the shock of power went through her hand into him. The rush of power into his person was so great that it caused him to fall on the floor. He looked up at me with joy and surprise, and springing to his feet said, “Praise the Lord, John, Jesus has baptized you in the Holy Ghost!”
Then he took the crippled hand, that had been set for so many years. The clenched hands opened and the joints began to work, first the fingers, then the hand and the wrist, then the elbow and shoulder.
Lake himself was thrilled at the inexpressible peace and joy that flooded his inner being. He felt that truly the Spirit had imparted to him “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14, KJV). God’s love poured through him. He saw people as lost sheep, and the passionate desire of his soul became the proclamation of the salvation message of Jesus, accompanied by powerful healing and blessing.
Charles Finney was a lawyer who became a revivalist. The experience he had with God changed everything about his life, enabling him to bring about great transformation to the nation. Here is the story in his own words:
By evening we got the books and furniture adjusted; and I made up, in an open fire-place, a good fire, hoping to spend the evening alone. Just at dark Squire W——, seeing that everything was adjusted, bade me good-night and went to his home. I had accompanied him to the door; and as I closed the door and turned around my heart seemed to be liquid within me. All my feelings seemed to rise and flow out; and the utterance of my heart was, “I want to pour my whole soul out to God.” The rising of my soul was so great that I rushed into the room back of the front office to pray.
There was no fire, and no light, in the room; nevertheless it appeared to me as if it were perfectly light. As I went in and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It did not occur to me that it was wholly a mental state. On the contrary it seemed to me that I saw him as I would see any other man. He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at his feet. I have always since regarded this as a most remarkable state of mind; for it seemed that he stood before me, and I fell down at his feet and poured out my soul to him. I wept aloud like a child, and made such confessions as I could with my choked utterance.
I must have continued in this state for a good while; but my mind was too much absorbed with the interview to recollect anything that I said. But I know, as soon as my mind became calm, I returned to the front office, and found that the fire that I had made of large wood was nearly burned out. But as I turned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without any expectation of it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love; for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, like immense wings.
No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, “I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me.” I said, “Lord, I cannot bear any more;” yet I had no fear of death.
How long I continued in this state I do not know. But it was late in the evening when a member of my choir came to see me. He was a member of the church. He found me in this state of loud weeping, and said, “Mr. Finney, what ails you?” I could make him no answer for some time. He then said, “Are you in pain?” I gathered myself up as best I could, and replied, “No, but so happy that I cannot live.”
He left the office, and in a few minutes returned with one of the elders of the church, whose shop was nearly across the way from our office. This elder was a very serious man; and in my presence had been very watchful, and I had scarcely ever seen him laugh. He asked me how I felt, and I began to tell him. Instead of saying anything, he fell into a most spasmodic laughter. It seemed as if it was impossible for him to keep from laughing from the very bottom of his heart.
There was a young man in the neighborhood who was preparing for college, with whom I had been very intimate. Our minister, as I afterward learned, had repeatedly talked with him on the subject of religion, and warned him against being misled by me. He informed him that I was a very careless young man about religion; and he thought that if he associated much with me his mind would be diverted, and he would not be converted.
After I was converted, and this young man was converted, he told me that he had said to Mr. Gale several times, when he had admonished him about associating so much with me, that my conversations had often affected him more, religiously, than his preaching. I had, indeed, let out my feelings a good deal to this young man.
But just at this time when I was giving an account of my feelings to this elder of the church, and to the other member who was with him, this young man came into the office. I was sitting with my back toward the door, and barely observed that he came in. He listened with astonishment to what I was saying, and the first I knew he partly fell upon the floor, and cried out in the greatest agony of mind, “Do pray for me!” The elder of the church and the other member knelt down and began to pray for him; and when they had prayed, I prayed for him myself. Soon after this they all retired and left me alone.
The question then arose in my mind, “Why did Elder B—— laugh so? Did he not think that I was under a delusion, or crazy?” This suggestion brought a kind of darkness over my mind; and I began to query with myself whether it was proper for me—such a sinner as I had been—to pray for that young man. A cloud seemed to shut in over me; I had no hold upon anything in which I could rest; and after a little while I retired to bed, not distressed in mind, but still at a loss to know what to make of my present state. Notwithstanding the baptism I had received, this temptation so obscured my view that I went to bed without feeling sure that my peace was made with God.
I soon fell asleep, but almost as soon awoke again on account of the great flow of the love of God that was in my heart. I was so filled with love that I could not sleep. Soon I fell asleep again, and awoke in the same manner. When I awoke, this temptation would return upon me, and the love that seemed to be in my heart would abate; but as soon as I was asleep, it was so warm within me that I would immediately awake. Thus I continued till, late at night, I obtained some sound repose.
When I awoke in the morning the sun had risen, and was pouring a clear light into my room. Words cannot express the impression that this sunlight made upon me. Instantly the baptism that I had received the night before returned upon me in the same manner. I arose upon my knees in the bed and wept aloud with joy, and remained for some time too much overwhelmed with the baptism of the Spirit to do anything but pour out my soul to God. It seemed as if this morning’s baptism was accompanied with a gentle reproof, and the Spirit seemed to say to me, “Will you doubt?” “Will you doubt?” I cried, “No! I will not doubt; I cannot doubt.” He then cleared the subject up so much to my mind that it was in fact impossible for me to doubt that the Spirit of God had taken possession of my soul.
In this state I was taught the doctrine of justification by faith, as a present experience. That doctrine had never taken any such possession of my mind, that I had ever viewed it distinctly as a fundamental doctrine of the Gospel. Indeed, I did not know at all what it meant in the proper sense. But I could now see and understand what was meant by the passage, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I could see that the moment I believed, while up in the woods all sense of condemnation had entirely dropped out of my mind; and that from that moment I could not feel a sense of guilt or condemnation by any effort that I could make. My sense of guilt was gone; my sins were gone; and I do not think I felt any more sense of guilt than if I never had sinned.
These stories were excerpted from Face to Face With God by Bill Johnson. Click here to purchase the book.