Andrew Murray (1828–1917) was a South African theologian, teacher, pastor and revivalist whose legacy is still felt today through his writings. Andrew Murray, an evangelist from South Yorkshire, draws out spiritual lessons for us to learn from his life
The first lesson we can learn from the life of Andrew Murray is his hunger for the Holy Spirit. As a young minister, Murray was dismayed by the lack of fruit he was seeing and what he perceived to be a lack of any spiritual power in his preaching. This led to him pursuing an encounter with the Holy Spirit which took him on an 11-year journey to a place where he felt he truly knew what it was to abide in God’s presence. He stated that his desire was that ‘not a single moment of my life would be spent outside the light, love and joy of God’s presence’.
Once we have encountered the presence of God, this should produce in us a passion for the lost – and this was certainly the case for Andrew Murray. As he travelled throughout South Africa he became increasingly distressed by the spiritually barren climate of the country. He came to the conclusion that ‘nothing but God’s mighty Spirit is able to conquer the deep enmity of the unconverted heart’.
He began to have a deep burden for souls and for revival to sweep the nation. It’s here that, as an aside, we should briefly look at Murray’s father – Andrew Murray Snr.
A Dutch Reformed missionary, Murray Snr would read accounts of historical revival to his sons every week and would pray with them for God to visit South Africa. No doubt this left a deep impression on his son. Every Friday night for 36 years, Murray Snr would pray for revival. How many times must he have felt like giving up? Yet it was a prayer that God heard, and that God would answer – and he would use Murray Jnr to play a major part in the awakening that would later break out.
In 1860, Murray Jnr took up the pastorate at Worcester, South Africa, arriving just in time for a conference that the church was hosting – the theme being ‘Revival’. During the conference, Murray himself took the pulpit, preaching on ‘The Ministry Of The Spirit’. He preached with such power and emotion that one eye witness said it was ‘like one of the prophets of old had risen from the dead’. People began to weep under conviction of sin as they began to get right with God.
A short time later, during a prayer meeting, a girl of 15 stood up to pray. As she prayed with passion and brokenness before God, witnesses described how they began to hear a heavenly sound in the distance. The sound grew nearer and nearer and louder and louder before it seemed like the whole building shook. Suddenly people spontaneously began to pray and cry out to God.
In the days and weeks that followed, more prayer meetings started. These services were packed and full of fire and zeal. God had answered the prayers of Andrew Murray Snr and Jnr, and sent a great revival to South Africa.
Despite the reports of what God was doing, there was one person who was unhappy with what was happening – Andrew Murray Jnr himself. Despite having prayed and preached revival for years, he didn’t like the outbursts of emotion and unusual manifestations that were happening in the meetings. He thought it was fleshly and that things were getting out of control.
During one of these early prayer meetings he began to shout at the people to cease and tried to do his best to bring some kind of order. At that point, a visitor from America, who had witnessed revival in the States, gently approached Murray and told him: “Be careful what you do here, this is God’s Spirit at work.” Taking notice of this warning, Murray let the meeting continue and never again did he stand in the way of the Spirit of God.
Here we see a great lesson for pastors and leaders everywhere. Many of us desire God to move, but what do we do if it happens in a way we don’t like, expect or that makes us feel uncomfortable? Andrew Murray showed great humility by allowing God to have his way, even if it meant going against his own traditions. He learned the lesson that revival should be judged by its fruit, not its manifestations.
The move of God spread far and wide, and was accompanied by the usual fruits of revival – repentance, renewal and a deepening of devotion to God. The meetings affected the entire region – rich and poor, black and white, male and female, young and old. There are stories of people dropping to their knees, even in the surrounding farms, and spontaneously crying out to God to be saved. In some church meetings, people were so overwhelmed by God’s presence that they fell to the ground and had to be carried home.
It was here that Andrew Murray showed great wisdom. He immediately recognised that the new converts needed some kind of Bible teaching in order to be discipled properly. And so the famous and now worldwide writing ministry of Andrew Murray began.
Read all about Andrew Murray plus much, much more inside the July – September edition of Heroes of the Faith
It was through Murray’s writings that he became internationally known, his ministry taking him on preaching trips to the Keswick Convention in the UK and throughout America. In total, he wrote nearly 250 books and tracts, many of which are still in circulation today. These include classics such as ‘Absolute Surrender’, ‘With Christ In The School Of Prayer’, ‘The Spirit Of Christ’ and ‘Waiting On God’. There can be no doubt that it was this combination of Holy Spirit-led evangelism and the discipleship of new converts through teaching that enabled his ministry to have such an impact, and this is a huge lesson for evangelists today.
Many revivalists are known for their short-term success, but historically, moves of God end and preachers sometimes disappear into obscurity. This didn’t happen with Andrew Murray. Why? One word – missions!
Murray recognised that the revival couldn’t be contained in one location, but that the fire had to spread. He was passionate about raising up other evangelists and personally trained and sent out hundreds of missionaries. In 1889, he helped found ‘South African General Mission’, an organisation that continues today under the name ‘Serving In Mission’ and currently has around 2,000 missionaries serving in nearly 50 nations.
It was Andrew Murray’s opinion that ‘missions is the chief end of the Church’. This passion for the lost and commitment to evangelism should be a great inspiration to us all.
In 1881, disaster occurred when Murray lost his voice and was unable to preach. At the time he didn’t totally believe in the doctrine of divine healing and so struggled with his sickness for three years.
But in his desperation he visited a healing home in London started by WE Boardman. Following prayer, Murray was healed and never again had a problem with his voice. This led to him totally accepting the gifts of the Spirit as being for today and this was a subject he would preach on until the day of his death.
Again, here we see the great humility of Murray. Even as an experienced Christian and leader, he was still able to embrace new teaching and change his theology as the Holy Spirit dealt with him. Let us all keep our hearts soft and open before God, and have a teachable spirit.
As well as his preaching and writing ministry, Andrew Murray also showed the love of God in more practical ways, becoming involved in extensive social work and founding various educational institutions. He reached out to those often neglected, starting ministries to help needy women, the poor and those who had been racially discarded.
Andrew Murray was married to Emily and together they had eight children. His ministry lasted 60 years. He died in 1917, just short of his 89th birthday.
We can learn many great lessons from this hero of the faith – his commitment to prayer, his deep desire for revival and the infilling of the Spirit and the humble and sensitive way in which he got over his own traditions and allowed God to change his heart. Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn is how to sustain a move of the Holy Spirit – by remaining passionate about reaching the lost, training and sending missionaries and by a commitment to the discipleship and training of new converts.
A man who was brought up by a praying father, who saw a revival start in a prayer meeting and who wrote extensively on prayer, it seems fitting to end with a quote from Murray’s classic book ‘With Christ In The School Of Prayer’: “If there is one thing I think the Church needs to learn, it is that God means prayer to have an answer, and that it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive what God will do for his child who gives himself to believe that his prayer will be heard. God hears prayer; this is a truth universally admitted, but of which very few understand the meaning, or experience the power.”