Jesus instructed His disciples to “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem” (Luke 24:49, KJV) until they were clothed with power from on high. They did, and ten days later the fire of Pentecost fell. I wonder what God might do in our day if we devoted more time to ‘tarrying’ together in His presence.
Tarrying Rooms, Azusa Street Revival
The idea of “tarrying” for the Holy Spirit is rooted in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4, and finds an historical counterpart in the Pentecostal Revival which started in 1906 at the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles.
In 1906, William J. Seymour decided to find a larger facility after the over-crowed the porch at Richard Asberry’s home caved-in.
He found an abandoned old Methodist church building that had been used as a tenement house and delivery stable. It was a two story wooden structure located on 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles. After the building was acquired, it was cleaned out. Make shift benches were made and used for seating. An old dry goods box was used for a pulpit. Seymour used the upstairs Sunday school rooms as living quarters. The down stairs area was set up as an assembly room. Another upstairs room was designated as the `tarrying room’. It was the place where persons went who desired to be baptized in the Holy Ghost. The ‘tarrying room’ contained a sign that read `No talking above a whisper.’[i]
Amos Morgan wrote, “We believe that the afternoon tarrying prayer meetings began there about the first of April 1906.”[ii]
Brother Frank Bartleman was an itinerant Holiness evangelist who joined the Pentecostal movement and chronicled the advent of the Apostolic Faith in southern California. Regarding the Azusa Street Mission’s ‘tarrying room’ he wrote, “We had a `Tarrying Room’ upstairs for those especially seeking God for the Holy Spirit baptism, though many got it in the main assembly room also.”[iii]
An Eyewitness Account from Azusa Street (1906-1909)
Revival participant A. C. Valdez, Sr. wrote:
On the platform, a black man [William J. Seymour] sat behind two wooden boxes, one on top of the other. They were his pulpit…. Occasionally, as Pastor Seymour prayed, his head would be so low that it disappeared behind the top wooden box…. Everything about the Azusa Street Mission fascinated me–especially the prayer or “tarrying room” on the second floor. Usually one hundred or more black, brown and white people prayerfully waited there for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. Dozens of canes, braces, crutches and blackened smoking pipes leaned against the barnlike walls.
Many times waves of glory would come over the tarrying room or meeting room, and people would cry out prayers of thanks or praise as they received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Meetings used to go past midnight and into the early hours of the morning. Hours there seemed like minutes. Sometimes after a wave of glory, a lot of people would speak in tongues. Then a holy quietness would come over the place, followed by a chorus of prayer in languages we had never before heard.
Many were slain in the Spirit [in a trance-like state], buckling to the floor, unconscious, in a beautiful Holy Spirit cloud, and the Lord gave them visions. How I enjoyed shouting and praising God. During the tarrying, we used to break out in songs about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, “Fill Me Now,” “Joy Unspeakable,” and “Love Lifted Me.” Praise about the cleansing and precious blood of Jesus would just spring from our mouths. In between choruses, heavenly music would fill the hall, and we would break into tears. Suddenly the crowd seemed to forget how to sing in English. Out of their mouths would come new languages and lovely harmony that no human beings could have learned.[iv]
R.A. Torrey’s Testimony
R.A. Torrey (1856-1928) was not a down-and-out, uneducated country bumpkin. Rather, each day he read the New Testament in Greek and the Old Testament in Hebrew. Eventually the famous evangelist, D.L. Moody, called Torrey to serve as the superintendent of the Bible Institute of Chicago. Although he was a Congregational minister, this intellectual giant recognized his need for more than mere intellect. Torrey wrote,
I had been a minister for some years before I came to the place where I saw that I had no right to preach until I was definitely baptized with the Holy Ghost. I went to a business friend of mine and said to him in private, ‘I am never going to enter my pulpit again until I have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and know it, or until God in some way tells me to go.’ Then just as far as I could, I shut myself up alone in my study and spent the time continually on my knees asking God to baptize me with the Holy Spirit. As the days passed, the devil tried to tempt me by saying,
‘Suppose Sunday comes and you are not baptized with the Holy Spirit, what then?’
I replied, ‘Whatever comes, I will not go into my pulpit and preach again until I have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and know it, or God in some way tells me to go; even though I have to tell my people that I have never been fit to preach.’
But Sunday did not come before the blessing came. I had it more or less definitely mapped out in my mind what would happen; but what I had mapped out in my mind did not happen. I recall the exact spot where I was kneeling in prayer in my study. I could go to the very spot in that house at 1348 N. Adams St., Minneapolis. It was a very quiet moment, one of the most quiet moments I ever knew; indeed, I think one reason I had to wait [tarry] so long was because it took that long before my soul could get quiet before God. Then God simply said to me, not in any audible voice, but in my heart, ‘It’s yours. Now go and preach.’ I went and preached, and I have been a new minister from that day to this. ’[v]
Pastor-teacher Steven J. Cole observed,
The Pentecostals teach that we need to wait for a dramatic experience with the Holy Spirit, which they call the baptism of the Spirit. But they fail to see that Pentecost was a unique, sovereign act of God in history. The reason Jesus told the disciples to wait [tarry] in Jerusalem was that in God’s time table, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit was to coincide with the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, fifty days after Passover.[vi]
Although Cole is technically correct, I wonder ….
What might Jesus do in our lives, in our small groups, and in our churches if we took time to tarry [linger, wait] in His presence??
[i] Dr. Reve’ M. Pete. The Impact of Holiness Preaching as taught by John Wesley and the Outpouring of the Holy Ghost on Racism. Chapter 9: The outpouring of the Holy Ghost at Azusa Street Mission. http://www.revempete.us/research/holiness/azusa.html
[ii] The Azusa Street Mission Time Line, by Amos Morgan. http://www.azusabooks.com/time.shtml#1
[iii] A Biography of Frank Bartleman. Azusa Street: First Hand Accounts of the Revival. Chapter Two: The Fire Falls at Azusa. http://books.google.com/books
[iv] Post by Suzanne on Lit4ever Prophetic List Forum. Azusa Street Revival. Los Angeles 1906: A New Pentecost. http://lit4ever.org/revivalforum/index.php?topic=47.0
[v] R.A. Torrey, The Holy Spirit: Who He Is and What He Does (Old Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1977) . p. 189.
[vi] DOING JESUS’ WORK, Acts 1:3-11, By Steven J. Cole, September 10, 2000. Page 4.