They say he was an “unknown.” He left school at age 11 to help his father in the local coal mine. He worked there for 12 years and then became an apprentice to a blacksmith for a year. He battled with depression, which would prove a life-long struggle for him.
Evan Roberts had come to Christ as a teenager. His friends remembered that throughout his teen years he was a committed follower of Jesus in word and deed. His private spiritual life matched his public profession.
Evan Roberts had been dreaming about revival. He later wrote, “I said to myself: I will have the Spirit... For eleven years I [had] prayed for revival. I could sit up all night to read or talk about revivals. It was the Spirit who moved me to think about revival.”
One night when he was 24, Roberts was awakened from his sleep. He had heard a pastor preach that people should pray, “Bend us! Bend us!” Roberts was being confronted with God’s sovereign purpose for his life. Evan Roberts was a man of prayer. Later that night, Roberts cried out to the Lord, “Bend me! Bend me!” and fully surrendered to the will of God. He prayed, “Not my will but Thy will be done. Bend me, O Lord. Bend me!”
God gave Roberts a vision, a dream, for Wales. He told a friend, “I have wonderful news for you. I had a vision of all Wales being lifted up to heaven. We are going to see the mightiest revival that Wales has ever known – and the Holy Spirit is coming... We must get ready.”
About a month later, Roberts felt led to share a “Bend me! Bend me!” message with his home youth group in a series of small meetings. This grew into a localized revival that lasted two weeks. Over 60 people responded. And then, Roberts started a whirl-wind tour of South Wales churches. During nine months of intense revival, 100,000 new believers were added to the Welsh Church.
Newspapers began covering the story because it was national news. Political meetings were cancelled. Theaters closed. Casinos lost customers. Doctrinal differences among churches didn’t matter. News reporters came to Christ. Bars closed. Sporting events were cancelled. Former prostitutes now held Bible studies. Bar-hopping husbands and dead-beat dads began to support their families. People paid their debts. The tunnels in the underground coal mines echoed with the sounds of prayer and hymns. Strained relationships were repaired. Stealing became less and less frequent so that often a judge would come to court and find there were no cases on the docket.
And I love this story. The men who delivered coal to homes drove wagons pulled by ponies. As a result of the revival, the ponies quit pulling the wagons. Why? They were used to being cussed out and sworn at. But the colliers weren’t swearing any more. And the ponies didn’t understand when the commands were given with wholesome words.
Word about the Welsh revival began to spread. People came from South Africa, Russia, India, Ireland, Norway, Canada, and Holland. And the spirit of revival began to touch other nations. A journalist from California, Frank Bartleman, wrote to Roberts and asked how to bring revival to America. Roberts encouraged him and assured him of his prayers from Wales. And revival broke out in America. Barlteman wrote about what’s called the Azusa Street Revival that started in Southern California in 1906. And that revival changed the landscape of 20th Century Christianity in the USA.
The 1903-1904 Welsh Revival tells us that God can use any of us to bring about His purposes. If God’s Spirit can use Evan Roberts, then He can use you.
Today, God is looking for more people like Evan Roberts who will dare to dream – who will dare to claim the Lord’s promises to renew us, to rebuild us, and to regroup us. Is there an Evan Roberts out there? Is there an Ezekiel out there – for your family, for your ministry, for your business, for your church, for your city?
Since Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He can work in the same way as today as He did in the past. So, we can look at the record of God's activity in the past. We look at the Scriptures and we see what God has already done. We look at church history and we see what God has done. And we pray, Lord, if you did it before, You can do it again. So we trust Him. Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes from the word of God.