Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Recommendation--In Light of Eternity--A Biography of Leonard Ravenill

I will never forget the first Leonard Ravenhill book that I bought and read. I had just started by first year (1989) at TBC and one of my instructors, A. B. Keating, mentioned a book to us in class by Ravenhill entitled “Why Revival Tarries.” It was not too long afterwards that I went to a conference and found a paperback copy that I still have this day. Ravenhill is not for the faint-hearted and I have a feeling that most probably would not warm to his writings too well especially in our entertainment driven age.

Ravenhill writes in such a way that you can grasp the majesty of God and immediately understand the frailty of man and his efforts to go through the motions of the ministry. Ravenhill’s books are always very good for personal revival and spiritual renewal. I have especially benefited from his books during the early months of every year when there is a tendency to want to stretch the soul. I would encourage you to read all of his books and then set aside a time for personal revival. Ravenhill will convict and encourage you all at the same time.



Up until yesterday, I was unaware of any biographical material on Leonard Ravenhill who died in 1994. However, I stumbled over a biography that was written by Mack Tomlinson in October 2010 entitled “In Light of Eternity.” It is a 600+ page book and it is well worth your time either downloaded through Amazon of purchase of the hardbound copy. I spent much of the evening and morning with this biography and it is one of the best biographies that I have ever read.

Tomlinson goes into a very good historical account of Ravenhill (whom he calls Len in his book) of the early days of revival in England. This is immediately prior to Hitler flexing his muscles in the late ‘30’s. Tomlinson explains the itinerant evangelistic ministry of LR and several other young men as they walked across England which is 400 miles twice from 1931-1937. They only had their Bibles and sleeping bags and what few clothes they were wearing as they worked closely with the holiness movement that was brought to life by John Wesley. Much of their preaching was open-air either on street corners or under tents at the edges of the towns they went through.

Tomlinson does an excellent job explaining about the patterns of prayer that LR and his cohorts gave themselves to. They spent entire days in prayer leading up to their nightly evangelistic singing and preaching events. As I read this account, I could not help but think about what a pastor from across the country said to me the other day, “You can hardly find a praying evangelist much anymore. They are too busy playing golf or fishing during the day.” Perhaps the same could be said for the ministry at large. There cannot be very much spiritual success achieved in our churches without the prayers of its leaders.

There is a chapter that Tomlinson devotes entirely to the pastor and his prayer. In this chapter, he also wrote about some of the avenues and discipline of prayer that Ravenhill undertook. It is both inspiring and convicting to read of this man and his praying. Some of the quotes from this chapter follow:

I’ve always loved books and I collect them. I hope to collect more. There’s a two-volume Life of William Booth by Harold Begbie and two volumes on Hudson Taylor, The Growth of a Soul and The Growth of a Work of God. . . I see more and more that the weapon God has give us is prayer. Jesus’ disciples never said, “Lord, teach us to do miracles; teach us to heal; teach us to preach.” But they did say, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Samuel Chadwick, who was Ravenhill’s teacher, wrote: The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from prayer. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil and mocks our wisdom, but trembles when we pray. No man is greater than his prayer life.

Tomlinson wrote about some of Ravenhill’s preaching concerning prayerlessness: In his lifetime, the twentieth century American church had forsaken the historical practice of a daily or weekly prayer meeting, which was only a downgrade in his view. He would offend or awaken pastors by telling them the weakest thing in any church is the prayer meeting. Leonard directly connected the effectiveness of true ministry with the prayer life of a church.

From one of Ravenhill’s sermons: Oh, my ministry brethren! Much of our praying is only giving God advice. Our praying is discolored with ambition, either for ourselves or for our denomination. Perish the thought! Our goal must be God alone. It is his honor that is at stake. . . Do you have a weekly prayer meeting in your church? Your answer reflects how spiritual you are and how much you are depending on God or on human ability and organization. . . If we are weak in prayer, then we are weak everywhere.

From another sermon: Can we let our swords rust in the scabbards of doubt? Shall our prayer harps hang tuneless on the willows of unbelief?. . . I pray that you and I might covet something of this holy art of intercession. . . Prayer is taxing and exacting. Prayer means enduring and denying self, a daily dying by choice. It is wrong when, instead of praying, we do things just to please others. . . What a millstone the preacher has around his neck if he is not a praying man!

There are two other extremely provoking chapters later on in the book. Chapter 17—Preaching: The Most Serious Thing In the World and Chapter 18—The Marks of a True Preacher are very good. There are five appendices in the back that are very good resources to help you find LR’s sermons (MP3) and books on the internet. Most of the MP3s are free.

As E. E. Jolley used to say, “This sentence (or paragraph or chapter) is worth the price of the book!” You will find the whole book to be profitable for you.

You can get it from Amazon for Kindle users or you can purchase the hardbound copy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for recommending Leonard Ravenhill's book, Why Revival Tarries. It is truly a classic. It stirred my soul when I read it as a young home missions pastor. It put me on my face in repentance. Advance Ministries (advanceministries.org)is now carrying the updated reprint of this book. Blessings...J. R. Ensey