August 8, 2022

How Do Spiritual Awakenings Happen?

“Great is the LORD’S anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us” (2 Kings 22:13).

Pastor Thorleif Holm-Glad was walking through the empty sanctuary of Bethlehem Church in Oslo, Norway when the old caretaker of the church stopped him and soberly announced, “See these empty seats? This year there will be revival in this church!”  The pastor was startled to say the least.  Yes, he knew the church had empty seats and plenty of them.  No, not during the week when people were working but during services when the empty seats should have been filled. He also knew the caretaker was a good man, not given to exaggeration.

The caretaker was described as “a very humble, soft-spoken man. Never a platform man or public speaker.  Just a quiet man, doing his job well.  But a man of prayer. An intercessor.”   And what happened?

It was in the early 1930s, and the churches of Norway were about as cold as the ice which filled the fjords in winter.  But within a year, the prophesy of the old caretaker was realized, and revival came such as had never before been known in that church or that country.   Armin Gesswein was a participant in this time of awakening: “It turned out to be one of the greatest revivals of this century,” he wrote.  “On and on the meeting went as the fire kept on burning….  In connection with the Bethlehem congregation alone thousands repented and were converted to Christ.  Like northern lights, the revival lit up the land of Norway.”

The year following the surprising announcement that revival would come, the old caretaker again approached the pastor.  “Do you remember, a year ago, when I told you there would be revival in this church in that year?” he asked.  “How could I ever forget it?” responded Pastor Holm-Glad.  “Now,” said the caretaker, “the Lord allows me to tell you something I was not free to tell you.”

He took the pastor up into the pulpit where he had preached week after week to empty seats.  Then he said, “If you knew how often, while cleaning this church, I knelt behind this pulpit and shed many tears, praying God to send the Holy Spirit in revival power to this church!”

What happened was more than a teary-eyed service or two, but a genuine spiritual awakening that lasted for nine years and spread from church to church all over the little country of Norway.

Question: Is your church in the condition of the Bethlehem Church of Oslo– filled with empty seats?  You can explain whatever growth takes place with good programs or social media presence, a praise band or a celebrity guest speaker, but certainly not the result of a genuine spiritual awakening?  If you say, “Yes, my church is pretty dead,” then remember it was the prayers of a janitor which sparked the revival in Norway, the man who cleaned the toilets and shoveled the snow from the door in winter–not exactly a well-known speaker who moved people towards God.

Remember that when God hears prayers, He doesn’t care whether they rise from a janitor, a seminary graduate, or a student.  He sees the heart, not your social position.  Understand that the God who answered the prayers of an old janitor who knelt where the pastor stood and pled for God to touch hardened hearts will answer your prayers as well.

To Israel God said, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).  That spells “Revival” –something that we desperately need in the body of Christ today.

Resource reading:

2 Kings 22:1-20