The ancient prophet once cried out, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!” That cry has been echoed all down through the generations of those who have hungered for the manifestation of the presence of the living God. Throughout the history of the church, God has rent the heavens and intervened on behalf of His people.
The Great Chicago Visitation of 1913 was such a time. It was one of the most powerful visitations of divine presence that this city has ever experienced.
Maria Woodworth-Etter, a well-known evangelist, had been invited to hold a series of meetings at the Stone Church, located at 37Th and Indiana, beginning on July 2, 1913. Posters had been placed throughout the city to advertise the meeting. The services were to last until the end of July. This was a time of divine appointment for the city of Chicago; God rent the heavens and came down!! Scenes from the days of the Early Church began to occur at Stone Church. Word began to spread throughout Chicago of miraculous healings, deliverance from demonic possession, conversions, and of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit happening in these meetings. Advertisement was no longer necessary!
Incredible healings were reported. A woman, who had been blind 15 years and had never seen her children, was instantly healed. A paralyzed man, whose joints were ossified, could not move any limb or his head, had to be fed with a spoon, and could barely speak, was prayed for. For eight years, he suffered the confines of this prison of infirmity. Sister Woodworth-Etter commanded him in the name of Jesus to rise and walk. The power of God fell on him. He jumped from his wheel chair, ran down the isle of the church and a half a block down the street. Many followed him outside and waved their hats in the air yelling, “Hurrah for Jesus.” He ran back into the church and shouted praises to God. A young woman, who had lost total hearing in one ear and was losing hearing in the second ear, came for prayer. She was instantly healed. During one song service, four crippled people were healed and began to walk without the use of canes or crutches.
Word spread throughout the city of the miraculous intervention of God. Thousands came on trolleys, buggies, and trains, while many walked. Some came from hundreds of miles away. 1200 to 1500 packed into Stone Church each night. The basement was filled and many stood out on the street. Street meetings were held to accommodate them. Three services were held on Sundays. No services were scheduled for Saturdays so that the ministers could have a day of rest. However, some came on Saturdays and were met by Christians who prayed for them. A crippled woman, not knowing that services were not held on Saturdays, came on the trolley. She got off and hobbled down the street to the church. A German woman met her at the church and informed that no services had been scheduled for Saturdays. However, she invited the crippled woman to come into the church and she and others would pray for her. As soon as the woman walked into the church, she was instantly healed. A father traveled from Oklahoma bringing his two daughters with him. One could not use her limbs nor talk. The other was born deaf and dumb. Both were instantly healed. One of the girls wept and laughed when she heard singing for the first time in her life.
God had rent the heavens and came down into Chicago. Thousands were healed, incredible miracles occurred; multitudes were saved, and thousands were filled with the Holy Spirit. The meeting, which was scheduled to last for a month, lasted for six months. Sister Woodworth-Etter and believers dug a deep well of revival.
The Chicago Visitation possessed several remarkable characteristics:
1. The success of the work was not due to preaching of profound theological doctrine and differences. Instead, the Gospel was presented in its simplicity. The people were drawn by the manifestation of the presence and power of God.
2. There was extraordinary unity among Christians. Denominational lines vanished. Christians from all backgrounds joined in the work. Great harmony prevailed among believers. Controversy was not tolerated and was absent. It was a “strife-free zone.”
3. Worship was in its purest form. Entertainment and obvious display of talent did not exist. Music, singing and praise were to glorify God and Him only.
4. The entire Body of Christ was involved in ministry. Laying – on of hands was not regulated to the evangelist or pastor. People ministered to one another.
5. Ministers and members from all denominations were baptized in the Holy Spirit.
6. A prophetic word was given the last night of this six-month long meeting.
As Christians prayed around the altar, Sister Woodworth-Etter and others gave a powerful prophecy and divine promise for the future:
“We are not yet up to the fullness of the Former Rain and that when the Latter Rain comes, it will far exceed anything we have seen!”
Frank Bartleman, the chronicler of the Azusa Street Awakening of 1907, once wrote, “In order to understand what God is going to do, we must understand what He once did.” It is imperative that we study and understand these “old wells of revival.” We need to understand the divine dynamics of these moves of God. We need to know the promises that God has made in the past, which will impact us in our day. God has ways of reminding His people of that promise. In 1999, before I had any knowledge of the Chicago Visitation of 1913, I had a dream. In the dream, I was standing with a small group of believers in the basement of Stone Church. A pastor friend of mine asked us to form a circle and offer up “pure praise and worship” to God. I looked around and saw many, many rooms filled with hospital beds containing the sick. In these beds were people suffering from a diversity of illnesses and infirmities. Caring for them was an elderly head nurse. As we began to worship and praise God, the nurse left the sick and came and joined in the worship. As the worship continued, I saw all of the sick rise from their hospital beds. They were instantly healed and came to join in the worship! I awoke from my dream. Now, ten years later I understand the meaning of the dream. The same things that occurred in the Visitation of 1913 will happen again. Pure worship and praise will ascend unto God. The blind will see, the deaf hear, the lame walk and the dumb will talk. Healing and miracles will flow again throughout this great city. God IS going to reopen this “old well of revival” in Chicago! Why, because He promised that He would and that it will far exceed the Visitation of 1913!
What is our responsibility in the reopening of this old well of revival? Second Chronicles 7:14 gives us that needed direction, “If My people who are called by My Name, shall humble themselves and pray, seek My Face and turn from their wicked ways, I WILL HEAR FROM HEAVEN AND HEAL THEIR LAND.” It is time to come clean with God, to be honest about our wicked ways and repent. As Joshua
told the Israelites the day before crossing the Jordan River into the promised land, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” We must heed that advice today.