“The ills that shake the very foundation of our civilization have their roots in the spiritual and not in the material.” (Duncan Campbell)
Seventy-one years ago, the Scottish evangelist Duncan Campbell watched God perform one of the most remarkable divine renewals of the twentieth century. Occurring among the outlying islands of Scotland called the Hebrides, the Holy Spirit descended supernaturally into parishes that were long devoid of His Presence. From 1949 to 1953, spiritual awareness of God seemed to fall from the heavens, gripping people with their need of Him even as they tended their fields, walked the roads, or drank in the pubs.
The spiritual climate of their day was not unlike our own. The desire for comfort and prosperity had replaced the love of truth, and selfishness reigned supreme. Churches found themselves at a loss to keep their youth in attendance after high school graduation. The Presbytery of the Isle of Lewis grappled with their low state by publishing a declaration of concern “to take a serious view…not only of the chaotic conditions of international politics and domestic economics and morality, but also…to realize that…the Most High has a controversy with the nation.”
This declaration impressed two elderly women in the parish of Barvas to pray for the young people in their community. In their eighties, Peggy and Christine Smith decided to commit six hours twice a week in prayer to God. Requesting their minister to visit, they challenged him and the “office-bearers” of their church to join them. “You’ve tried special evangelists, Mr. Mackay,” they told their pastor. “But have you tried God?”
So it began. In two locations, the two elderly sisters within their cottage and the men in a barn, this handful of faithful began to pray every Tuesday and Friday evenings from 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. Over the next six weeks, they claimed the verse God had given through the Smith sisters: “I will pour water on him that is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground” (Isaiah 44:3). Mercy drops may have fallen around them, but it was for the showers they pled.
One night in the barn, a deacon read Psalm 24: “Who shall ascend the hill of God? Who shall stand in His Holy place? He that has clean hands and a pure heart.” Then speaking directly back to the God of this Word, the young man asked, “God, are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?” Even as he spoke, the Holy One fell upon the barn and soon throughout the parishes and neighboring islands.
Evangelist Duncan Campbell would later testify that hunger and thirst gripped the people. Altar calls were unnecessary for God’s conviction was as easily felt in the pub as well as in the church. Hundreds of people would show up together at the same time, sometimes at 11:00 at night and sometimes 4:00, magnetically drawn together by a spiritual hunger they could not explain. Publicity and planning were not needed, for God directed the schedule.
Oh, that the Lord would rend the heavens and come down upon us during these days (Isaiah 64:1). Do we not sense the urgent necessity of His divine intervention? Let us learn from the Hebrides Revival that the outpouring of His righteousness is in direct correspondence with His people’s faithful prayers. And then, may we begin to pray in earnest.
“Wilt Thou not Thyself revive us again, that Thy people may rejoice in Thee? Show us Thy lovingkindness, O Lord and grant us Thy salvation” (Psalm 85:6-7).
To find out more about the Hebrides Revival, listen to the audio testimony by Duncan Campbell. You may want to follow along with the text version of the testimony as his Scottish brogue may be difficult for some listeners to understand. Or read “Revival in the Hebrides” by Duncan Campbell, compiled by Wayne Kraus.