Imagine for a moment that you are a student at a highly respected theological seminary. You attend church twice a week and greet newcomers at the door once a month. You tithe regularly and stay to help clean up after the midweek service when you’re not too tired from school. Today’s the day you’ve anticipated for over a month. You get to meet the well-known evangelist Leonard Ravenhill. You walk up to the door of his office, take a deep breath, and knock.
A voice from inside says, “Come in.” You push open the door and take a moment for your eyes to adjust to the dim light. An aging man sits in a large chair, a cup of tea on his right and a Bible in his lap.
“Reverend Ravenhill, it’s an honor to meet you,” you say, extending your hand.
He shakes it and looks into your eyes. You shift uncomfortably, feeling as though his piercing eyes can see into your soul.
“Hello,” he says back, and you’re surprised by the strength and power behind his voice. “Do you know God?”
Taken aback by the question, you stammer, “Um, well, I’m studying at seminary to be a pastor like you.”
“Yes,” he waves his hand dismissively. “But do you know God? When did you last meet with him? When were you last prostrate before Him?” More uncomfortable than before, you shift again.
“Um, well I attended church just yesterday.”
Still, with the same piercing look, he asks you again, “But do you know Him?”
While the above encounter may not have happened between yourself and Reverend Ravenhill, he had many similar interactions throughout his lifetime. He was a man so involved in knowing God and in having a personal relationship with Him that the first question he often asked was, “Do you know God?”
Leonard was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1907. He spent most of his life relentlessly spreading the word of God throughout England and later the United States until his death in 1994. Thousands of people came to know their Creator through his preaching, but more than anything else, Leonard left a legacy of prayer and intimacy with God that very few others have.
His close friend, A.W. Tozer, said of him, “He is not the professional evangelist who leaves the wrought-up meeting as soon as it is over to hurry to the most expensive restaurant to feast and crack jokes with his retainers. Such evangelists will find this man something of an embarrassment, for he cannot turn off the burden of the Holy Ghost as one would turn off a faucet. He insists upon being a Christian all the time, everywhere.”
Leonard spoke powerfully and never felt the need to “water down” the gospel to make it more palatable to his listeners. He spoke the truths he learned from his time in prayer and trusted the Holy Spirit to move.
If his life and worldview could be summed up in one quote, it would be, “No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.”