O Arglwydd, Plyg Ni

Slate and glass. Early morning. A drizzle tap dances on the chapel roof, a September draft chilling the window panes. Though the space is cold, the air seems almost electrified by the words of the preacher; his words, though simple, cut straight to the heart.

The young man sits, head tipped against hands folded in prayer—an unassuming figure in a lake of congregants. This is a position he well knows—eager supplication, desperately hungering for the spirit of God to fall upon him, to consume him. The silent cry of Evan Roberts’s heart is the same as it has been since he was 12 years old: “Holy Spirit, come. Come.” Around him, Roberts can feel the stir of anticipation, the atmosphere buzzing like the moments before a torrential downpour; the anxious ticks of the clock as the moments before the clock chimes the hour. 

The young man’s heart flames with expectancy as the speaker closes the morning session with prayer. His supplication ends with the phrase: “O Arglwydd, plyg ni.”

“O Lord, bend us.”

It is the spark to the kindling. Roberts shoots up in his seat, his back straight as a lightning rod. His eyes darken with conviction and purpose: the Spirit he has sought for more than a decade has spoken to him: “This is what you stand in need of.” This is what he has been searching for, the missing piece. As the meeting ends, he sways to his feet and leaves the chapel doors, repeating the prayer within himself with a fervor like never before: “O Lord, bend us.” 

An hour later the meeting resumes, the impassioned young man bursting with the inexplicable. The preacher commends the meeting into the charge of the Spirit and immediately, Roberts knows he must pray. The Spirit seethes within him, threatening to incinerate his bones. The Word is in him; he cannot hold it back. Before the prayers of others have even receded, he begs the Spirit, “Shall I pray now?” The Spirit tells him to wait. More prayers are offered up, and he asks again, “Shall I now?” 

It is time. 

Without much more, the young man falls to his knees, his prayer coming with the force of a burst fire hydrant. Only by gripping the bench in front of him can he support himself—his body heaves, the sweat pouring down his face mingling with his tears. There are only three words he can speak: “Bend me, bend me, bend me; Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!” Several of the women of the church rush to wipe his face, feeling themselves stirred by the Spirit-filled cries of Roberts, meeting his own cries with those of their own: “Oh wonderful grace!” The congregation, overwhelmed by the Saviour’s love for them, sing heartily together: “I hear Thy welcome Voice!”

Roberts weeps, first filled with a great sense of the love of his Saviour—God “commending His love” when Roberts had hardly before seen something worth commending. He has, indeed, been bent by the Spirit, bent by God. But as the song continues around him, his tears deepen into a marrow-deep compassion, with a realization of those who will be bent at the Judgment— when it is too late. His weeping persists. “Henceforth the salvation of souls became the burden of [his] heart.”

And so is lit the fire.

‘We Must Obey the Spirit’: Pentecost Continued

The revival cannot end with him, Roberts determines; he will travel “the length and breadth of Wales to tell of the Saviour”. Impressed to return to his beloved Loughor, as the apostles following the Spirit’s outpouring, Roberts, without invitation or commission, begins his ministry at home. 

The pastor of his church, the Moriah Chapel, is uncertain what to do with him, and skeptically allows him an evening to preach after the main prayer meeting has concluded. Roberts’s inaugural message is to an audience of sixteen to seventeen people and one little girl. His message is simple: the Holy Spirit wants to be poured out upon them, but they are not fulfilling the conditions. When he lays out the conditions, the small congregation is gripped by the conviction of the Spirit. The steps are clear:

Confess all known sin to God; Put away all doubtful habits; Obey the Holy Spirit promptly; Confess Christ publicly. 

The evening ends with every attendant’s confession of Christ. 

Roberts is invited to speak again. The second night, there are more in the congregation. Again he is invited to speak. The third night, still more people. By the end of a fortnight, the small chapel is brimming with individuals desperate to be partakers in this outpouring. There is barely room to stand, but if the voice of Roberts does not reach the hundreds packed in the doorways, the songs of praise do.

Strangely perhaps to any newcomer to these meetings, Roberts does not speak much. After he offers his central appeal—here is Christ, come to Him—the Spirit takes control of the assemblies. Singing, prayer, and testimonies echo throughout the hall—though spontaneous, they are somehow orderly, and when people’s prayers are interrupted by singing, the prayer will lead into the singing, then the singing back into prayer. 

Through Robert’s impassioned minimalism, the Spirit moves throughout the towns. For hours, congregations are engaged: they pray, confess their sins publicly, and when one makes a decided stand for Christ, the church bursts into the refrain, “Diolch iddo!” When Roberts slips out from the meeting, his absence is unnoticed. 

The meetings continue with no human leader; Roberts inspires, but the Spirit leads. Over the next six months, Roberts passes across Wales with his revival campaign. Everywhere he goes, the Spirit lights the candles. From the seventeen souls of his first address, God increases the harvest exponentially: After nine months, more than 100,000 souls have been brought to Christ.

And so burns bright the kindling.

Snow White Gloves

The revolution spills from the chapel pews to the town streets. Taverns and public houses begin to close down for lack of business, with the sums people wasted on drinking being given to the church, saved, or used to take care of their families. Foul-mouthed coal miners give up their profanities, but the work in the mines slows down because the pit ponies are unaccustomed to the polite and respectful language of the new converts. Reconciliation sweeps through the nation ending years of quarrels and disputes. People put to rights debts owed, and theft and robbery disappear almost overnight. With no cases to try, the magistrates are handed white gloves, a symbol of the welcome abandonment of the courts. Pocket Bibles abound, as does prayer and the palpable presence of the Holy Spirit.

Wales is changed. Wales has been transformed, not by the power or might of a young man, but by the very Spirit of God.

And so sears hot the flame.

A Nation of Singing Birds

“The revival is borne along upon billowing waves of sacred song. It is the singing, not the preaching, that is the instrument which is most efficacious in striking the hearts of men.” And what do they sing of? The love of Christ, the need for Jesus, the grace of God; the praises ring out in thunderous unison across the country. The fervent songs of the Welsh congregations filter through the country, then through the Protestant continent, bringing with them the same spirit of prayer and confession. 

Christians in England turn to more fervent prayer; church memberships see a marked increase. From England, the flame leaps to mainland Europe, burning through Scandinavia, Central Europe, France, Germany, and even Russia. The fires are unable to be contained: they reach Latin America, particularly Chile and Brazil, and Oceania, with Australia, Hawaii and Madagascar caught in the tail end of the blaze. Africa is ignited, and the once ‘impossible’ Islamic strongholds of North Africa are melted in the furnace of the Spirit. Missionaries begin work in Asia, in the Philippines and China; Japan experiences an explosion, reaping nearly 5,000 souls in five weeks; a single church in Burma baptizes more than 3,000 individuals in a year; Korea sees what many call the spiritual birth of Korean Christianity.

Wherever the methods and results of the Welsh Revival are shared, believers are encouraged in their national efforts. At the beginning of the 20th century, there are around 522 million Christians worldwide—by the close of the century, there are 1.89 billion. 

Few seem to draw the connection between the raging inferno of this global Christian Awakening, and the kindling of the Spirit in a small Welsh town, one unassuming September morning.

The 1904 Formula

There is nothing magical or novel about the ministry of Roberts. His words, when spoken, are simple and few. He does not whip up a frenzy, preach fire and brimstone, nor cater to the base senses of the congregation. But, wherever the Spirit takes him, his messages are consistent: Confess, forsake, obey, believe. His appeals are straightforward: If you are a sinner, come to Christ. When you have come to Christ, be filled with the Spirit. 

So the question remains: how was this possible? Where is that transformative power—that image which brought forth the Spirit into the hearts and minds of all those gathered? And what do we need to have a similar spiritual revival and reformation experience? “If we as teachers and workers are to learn an abiding lesson from this revival, it is here: What we need is a fresh vision of the Cross. And may that mighty, all-embracing love of His be no longer a fitful, wavering influence in our lives, but the ruling passion of our souls.” 

Christ, His cross, must ever be the center. Ellen White, nearly half a century earlier, commented on this very same fact: 

“Truth must be kept before the people, and dependence and faith in Christ Jesus must be the woof and warp of every sermon, the very sum and substance of every discourse, woven into every appeal, the substance of every prayer, and thus you will reveal Him in whom your hopes of eternal life are centered. . . . Preach not yourself, but preach Christ.


The prayers of the then-26-year-old Welshman, Evan Roberts, had been ascending to heaven since beginning work in the coal mines nearly 15 years prior. Known for his unusual devotion to God from such a young age, his Bible accompanied him throughout his entire day, and when the work day was over, he would faithfully attend evening meetings every night. Roberts spent hours reading, talking, and praying about revival, the central theme of his life. He eventually died in 1951, buried in a family grave behind his beloved Moriah Chapel in Loughor. The back of his memorial bears an inscription in Roberts’ own handwriting, posthumously transcribed:

Dear Friend,

God loves you. Therefore Seek Him diligently, Pray to Him earnestly. Read His Word constantly.

Yours in the Gospel,

Evan Roberts

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