In 1900, following up on a personal request from Dwight Moody, R. A. Torrey wrote a book entitled How to Pray. It became an international best-seller and was translated into many languages.
Here is the story behind R. A. Torrey’s historic world tour as an evangelist and revivalist, as told by Basil Miller in his out-of-print book Prayer Meetings that Made History, chapter 12, pages 75-81.
The Prayer Meeting Producing a World-Wide Revival:
R. A. Torrey’s Evangelism
The path that prayer has hewn in the kingdom of God is a wide one indeed. Men have prayed alone, in secret, and immediately, on the other side of the globe, God has given the answer. Humble cottages have seen praye meetings which resulted in shaking the foundations of the kingdom of evil. Some small groups have prayed, and God ordained the upraising of missionary movements.
Here, however, is a prayer meeting which belted the globe with a revival. It began in the consecrated heart of one man, R. A. Torrey. Its answer was felt around the world, and by more than one hundred thousand people who were converted through its God-inspired ministry. From it came a revival that reached the yellow races in China and Japan, the mixed populations of Australia, and the dark-skinned natives of India, as well as the people of America and England.
This revival was born in a prayer meeting conducted by a group of students and teachers of the Moody Bible Institute. In the year 1898, just after the famous “Week of Prayer,” the Lord burdened the hearts of a few people in the famous church in Chicago which Moody had founded. The group was led by R. A. Torrey, and included his associates in the church and institute. A call was issued for a weekly prayer meeting to be held at the Institute each Saturday night from nine until ten o’clock.
The sole object of these prayer meetings was for a revival of religion which would be felt around the world. The attendance grew rapidly, and soon three hundred people were present, pleading with God. The meetings continued month after month, and yet no indications were seen of the awakening.
At the conclusion of one of these meetings Doctor Torrey and a few of his associates felt led to continue the prayer circle until later. They went into a small room and prayed until two o’clock on Sunday morning. This became a regular custom, and for three years the prayer meetings continued. Finally, one night God seemed to lead Doctor Torrey to pray that he would send him (Torrey) around the world preaching the gospel.
In speaking of this Torrey said, “This was a prayer that I had not dreamed of offering when we entered that hallowed place that night. The prayer was this, that God would send me around the world preaching the gospel; and when I had ceased praying I knew I was going around the world to preach the gospel. How, I did not know. I knew the call had come from God, and that God would open the way.”
The motto of Torrey, since those early days when he had read Mueller’s Life of Trust, had been, “Pray Through.” And here in this concluding meeting he had prevailed, and prayed through.
The marvelous answer was soon coming. Within a week two men came to Doctor Torrey at the close of a church prayer meeting and asked him in the name of the churches of Melbourne, Australia, to conduct a similar campaign in that city. He could not refuse, for he felt that this was the answer to his prayer circle which had beseeched the throne for three years for this very purpose.
Arrangements were soon made whereby he and Charles Alexander were to set sail on this trip which resulted in circling the globe with a revival. At first they met in Japan where hundreds were converted by the way. At length they arrived in Australia, and during the four weeks’ campaign, in which fifty evangelists were engaged, more than eight thousand converts were noted. The revival fires burst out everywhere in the land. The total number of conversions in Australia reached the number of twenty-thousand.
An unusual plan was hit upon in these campaigns whereby prayer circles were conducted in different parts of the city. There were more than two thousand of these going on each day during the meeting. They were organized by a woman who had read a book on prayer by Doctor Torrey in which she was struck with the sentence, “Pray through.” This became such a powerful motive in her soul that she gathered her friends in these prayer bands, whose desire was to reach the throne of grace by “praying through.”
The idea was taken to England, and soon in that land and all over Scotland, Wales, and Ireland these bands were praying for a world-wide revival. As a result the Spirit of God was poured out.
By 1904 there were thirty thousand people in these circles praying for God to send a mighty revival. A definite prayer for a definite answer produced a revival belting the globe.
Note the unbreakable chain of prayer. First a small group prayed each Sunday night in Chicago. Then two thousand prayer circles were organized in Melbourne, and finally thousands more sprang up in Great Britain. Wherever these circles were there the Spirit of God gave a revival.
The results? In two and a half years there had been converted more than a hundred thousand people. Such records of meetings as these mark the entire campaign: In Birmingham, 7,700 were converted in about four weeks; about 35,000 people tried to get into the closing meeting held at the Tournament Hall in Liverpool; nothing was witnessed like the crowds, the praying, and the singing since the days of Moody and Sankey.
A very unusual method of advertising was used in many of the revivals. In America an evangelist had passed out cards with the words, “Get Right with God,” printed on them. Torrey decided to print fourteen thousand of these for his meeting in Ballarat, Australia, and soon he discovered that God was employing them to reach hundreds of people. In Belfast, Ireland, fifteen thousand were printed and distributed among the population, and in Liverpool two hundred thousand were used as a means of spreading the tidings of salvation, and in a later campaign in the same city a quarter million of them were distributed. Many hundreds testified to the fact that it was this little card with the message on it that awakened them to their spiritual plight and led them to God.
“Second Timothy Two Fifteen” became the watch cry of the movement in the revivals from city to city. Thousands of letters were mailed with this verse on both the outside and the inside. Men sang it out everywhere.
The greatest single campaign of this world-wide revival was held in London. It lasted five months, and more than fifteen thousand people professed to be converted in this time.
Marvelous results indeed! The source of it is not far to seek: Torrey in his early ministry read a book, The Life of Trust, wherein George Mueller, prophet of prayer, outlined what God did for him through faith. Torrey was led to live a life of faith, and to depend upon God for all his needs. Ah, yes, many were the times when it looked as if God had forgotten this simple-hearted truster, but ere long the answer would come.
This life culminated in a three-year prayer meeting with the sole object that of a spiritual awakening in the world. Then a book on Prayer, written by Torrey, found entrance into the heart of a woman in Australia, who in turn sponsored prayer circles which soon reached the number of two thousand in her city, and thousands more in other nations.
A prayer meeting, from nine until ten on Saturday nights, and later until two on Sunday morning, and the world was reached with a revival.
Beginning on February 4, Biola University is encouraging 40 Days of Prayer leading up to its annual Missions Conference.