A shtiebel (Yiddish: שטיבל shtibl, pl. shtiblekh or shtiebels, meaning “little house” or “little room” cognate with German Stübel) is a place used for communal Jewish prayer. In contrast to a formal synagogue, a shtiebel is far smaller and approached more casually. It is typically as small as a room in a private home or a place of business which is set aside for the express purpose of prayer, or it may be as large as a small-sized synagogue.
Steibel House of prayer is presently open for prayer on Tuesday from 10.30 till 12 noon – this will increase as teams develop to pray across our city.
We are at 19 Stiebel Place Frankston
Come and check us out – or Contact us on 9770 0660
The Wells of revival in Melbourne
Melbourne has a rich history of revival. Whilst many do not see or understand this heritage, I believe it is a part of our collective destiny and there is still much ground to be gained.
In the 1880’s, John McNeil – a Scottish presbyterian minister in Abbottsford in Melbourne attended the first of what was to become weekly ‘all-nights of prayer’. Those that attended consisted of a little company of ministers, feeling deeply that in their own lives they had not experienced the richness of blessing which the Bible had led them to expect. Therefore, their ministry was not so fruitful as it might be! They agreed to spend one night a week on their knees pleading for themselves, their congregations, and the Colony.
The next thing was a ‘Day of Prayer’ in Melbourne, and wherever else could be encouraged to join.
This prayer meeting with the other pastors went for 2 hours every Saturday afternoon. They considered that they were living on the wrong side of Pentecost. They prayed for a deeper infilling of the Holy Spirit.
‘The Band’, as they were to become known, expanded to include ministers of all denominations. They began to pray for what they called ‘the big revival’.
From this point on the phrase, ‘the big revival’ was often on their lips and the longing for it deep in their hearts. They determined to pray for it no matter how long it took.
John McNeil sent a letter to every minister in Victoria, inviting them to join the Band in prayer. The result was a day of prayer held on 3 October 1889 in the Temperance Hall in the city with over seven hundred ministers in attendance.
AN ENTRY FROM JOHN’S PERSONAL DIARY
October 3rd, 1889, is over and gone – a day the like of which Melbourne has never seen. The results will be felt through Eternity. We sent a circular to every Minister in the Colony, asking them to fall in with us. At 10 a.m. we met in the Temperance Hall, an ‘upper room,’ and went on till 5, the attendance growing all day, till there must have been 700 present ere the afternoon closed.
The Day of Prayer was widely advertised across all the Churches. Even some people in Adelaide joined with the Melbourne team.
Nine months later, MacNeil reported that
‘Ever since 14 August  a band of men, not despairing, but hopeful, have been found waiting together on God in a certain room in Melbourne every Wednesday Night, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., pleading in fervent, believing, importunate prayer for such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, for such an awakening, as will usher in a new era in the religious history of this land …
Of course, it is patent to all that the great revival, the definite blessing for which we have been crying has not yet been granted;… Many of our churches have been visited with times of refreshing… In some of the churches, not a week passes without cases of awakening and conversion.’
John also mentioned a Thursday afternoon prayer meeting of the Melbourne Ministers’ Prayer Union, which ‘still holds on its way.’
The longing of ‘the big revival’ continued to burn in John’s life, and they held a retreat and ultimately a convention in March 1891 at Como near Geelong, the theme of these meetings was Apostolic Christianity. They longed to duplicate in their own lives the power and faith of the early Christians and so all those who were seeking a deepening of their spiritual life and a revival of the Lord’s Church were invited to be present.
This event was a forerunner of the Keswick Conventions held every Christmas and Easter at Belgrave Heights in Melbourne!
The Geelong Convention gave birth to several smaller conventions in various country towns. Through these, the longing of the ‘band’ for the unity of the body of Christ and the power of the ‘second blessing’ was encouraged.
Psalm 133 is a powerful promise when Christian brothers dwell together
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing –
As John McNeil and the others who stood together to pray for the nation, they were stepping into a promise of a commanded blessing. As he and his fellow ministers humbled themselves before the Lord – the commanded blessing of God was released into their lives and their ministries.
John continued to report, over the next few years, very sizeable and growing gatherings for prayer in which he was involved. These were an extension of the Day of Prayer plan, to which he gave the name the ‘League of Prayer.’
Sadly, on the morning of the 27th August, John MacNeil suddenly stepped from this life unexpectantly, into the presence of his Lord. He was only 41 years old!
John’s health had been an issue for many years and whilst he had pushed through many challenges, sadly his home calling came suddenly whilst in a shop in Brisbane, where he had gone to pick up a Gladstone bag that had been repaired. Whilst John was still a relatively young man, he was burnt out by his strenuous labours for Christ throughout the nation.
His body was immediately embalmed and sent to Victoria for burial.
His funeral was performed at the graveside in the Melbourne General Cemetery, and the minister of Saint Cuthbert’s Rev. David Gordon was one of 5 ministers who conducted the service. The many members of the band sent a letter of sympathy and honour to Hannah, John’s grieving widow.
LETTER FROM THE ‘BAND.’
September 4th, 1896.
Dear Mrs MacNeil,
‘He maketh the storm a calm so that the waves thereof are still.’ – Ps. 107: 29.
We, the members of the Melbourne ‘Band,’ of which Mr MacNeil was for so many years the devoted and honoured secretary, cannot let this season of your deep affliction pass away without a united message of profound sympathy.
What your husband was to the whole people of Australia, as a man evidently sent from God, who seemed to stand ever in full view of Eternity, and who was forever engaged in seeking their salvation, we know, at least, in part.
What he was to the Church at large as the stern enemy of error, laxity, or compromise; as the eloquent advocate of whole-hearted self-surrender, and as a pattern of patient endurance and joy in service, we know in fuller measure.
What he was to ourselves as a loving companion, leader, champion, and torch of heavenly flame, we are only just beginning to realise.
But what he was to you and to your children we can only faintly imagine. We are well aware that we cannot estimate the greatness of your loss or the depth of your sorrow, and we therefore only ask your permission to stand almost in silence side by side with your beloved Lord, Who, while He is stooping down to wipe away your tears, is also lifting up His hands to crown His servant’s head with a wreath of undying glory. In that holy, solemn, compassionate
Presence, we wish to assure you that we desire nothing more earnestly than to drink more deeply, as Mr MacNeil used to drink, from the Fountain of Zion’s waters; to follow the Master more fully, as he used to follow, with cheerful, unfaltering step; to breathe, as he used to breathe, only, always, and altogether for his King; to die, as he died, in the very thick of battle; and to shine, as he shall shine, like the stars forever and ever.
We wish, moreover, to express our confident belief that his name will never be forgotten in our Australasian Churches and that his words will be re-echoed by his spiritual children as long as we are a nation.
And now reminding you, dear Mrs MacNeil, that you stand in a relationship to God which was impossible before—even to God as ‘ The Father of the Fatherless and the God of the widow ‘; that the most exquisite balm for your grief will be found in seeking to enter more and more into your husband’s joy, and in the perpetuation of his prayer for the ‘ Great Revival ‘ ; in looking, as he used to look, for the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in realising that the separation is only for a ‘little while,’
We are, yours in the blessed hope, ‘
Alfred Bird, W. Y. Blackwell, Samuel Chapman, William H. George, Edward Harris, J. East Harrison, Matthew G. Hart, W. H. Hosken, Edward Isaac, S. C. Kent, Samuel Knight, Charles Lancaster, H. B. Macartney, D. S. Mac Coll, D. O’Donnell, Thomas Porter, Joseph Ross, George Soltau, George Sproule, E. S. Sumner, John Watsford, Allan W. Webb, W. Williams,
John had developed such rapport with ministers from right across the religious divide, he was honoured and respected by many in the church in his hour, as is testament to the many names on the letter to his widow.
The list represents a veritable ‘Who’s who’ of the prominent evangelical leaders in Melbourne in all the denominations at that time.
But more importantly, the fervour in his life continued in the hearts and lives of those he touched and affected!
The Bible tells us in John 12:24
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
God had His ‘seed’, and John MacNeil’s legacy and spirit continued in the lives of the band as they pledged themselves to continue to pray for ‘the big revival’.
John’s wife, Hannah, penned these words after his passing:
He used often to say, ‘I do not expect to die, but if I have to, I intend to be ready;’ but when he sang his last hymn.
‘I hear thy welcome voice, that calls me Lord to Thee, I am coming Lord!’ he was utterly unconscious of the glad surprise that awaited him the very day after, and of the fact, his next song would be, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.’
Although he did not know that his departure was so near, he was nevertheless ‘quite ready.’ God grant that we may all be ‘ready’ too, whether for our ‘going’ or for His ‘coming.’
As well as John McNeil, another man, Presbyterian James Balfour, longed for a renewal of the Church by the Holy Spirit. One of the elders at Saint Cuthbert’s in Brighton, he was also a prominent parliamentarian and successful businessman in Melbourne. In 1883, at his office, 27 Christians, mostly laypeople, formed the Evangelisation Society of Victoria (Now ESA) The ESA’s remit was to reach the non-churchgoing population of Victoria.
‘The band’ continued their regular prayer and stood in faith for the ‘the big revival’ to fall in their midst, just as John McNeil had so eagerly encouraged them.
Eventually, they felt challenged that they were to invite a prominent evangelist to come to the shores of Australia, to lead what they saw as the next step in this promised outpouring. They chose to ask D. L. Moody.
Dwight L. Moody, an American evangelist and publisher, was connected with the Holiness Movement. He founded the Moody Church, Northfield School and Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts. One of his most famous quotes was ‘Faith makes all things possible… Love makes all things easy.’
However, Dwight Moody never would visit Australia, even though a petition, inviting him to evangelise Australian cities, signed by 15,381 people, was given to him in 1899, sadly, the year of his death.
Meanwhile, in 1898, a small group of people at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago felt led to gather from 9 to 10 on Saturday evenings to cry out in prayer for an awakening.
Soon the group grew to over 300 passionate intercessors.
One Sunday morning, a few members remained to agonise and intercede into the early hours.
A. Torrey, the principal of the school, joined this small group, burdened to pray for worldwide revival. During that intense time of intercession, Torrey asked God to send him around the world. Within a week of that prayer, two strangers approached Torrey and asked him to come to Melbourne, Australia to preach.
These two men had left Australia many months before in search of a man that they believed God would use to bring revival to their nation. Upon meeting Torrey, they thought they had found God’s man!
As a result of that Chicago prayer meeting, an invitation for Torrey to come to Australia was issued. He and his friend, song leader Charles M. Alexander arrived on our shores in April 1902.
By the time the pair arrived and on the night before the first meeting, many thousands of people were waiting on God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that they believed had been promised. Meetings were held at the Melbourne Town Hall whilst at the same time Melbourne ministers held missions at over 50 centres in the suburbs, including one in the Brighton Town Hall.
R A Torrey himself explained:
When Mr Alexander and I reached Australia we found that there was a group of about ten or twelve men who had been praying for years for a great revival in Australia. They had banded together to pray for ‘the big revival,’ as they called it in their prayers, to pray for the revival no matter how long it took.
The group was led by the Rev John MacNeil, the author of The Spirit-Filled Life, but he had died before we reached Australia. A second member of the group, Rev. Allan Webb, died the first week of our meetings in Melbourne. He had come to Melbourne to assist in the meetings and died on his knees in prayer.
A third member of the group, even before we had been invited to Australia, had been given a vision of great crowds flocking to the Exposition Hall, people hanging on to the loaded street cars wherever they could, and when that vision was fulfilled, he came a long distance to Melbourne just to see with his own eyes what God had revealed to him before.
We also found that a lady in Melbourne had read a book on Prayer and had been very deeply impressed by one short sentence in the book, ‘pray through,’ and that she had organised prayer-meetings all over the city before we reached the place; indeed, we found when we reached Melbourne that there were 1,700 neighbourhood prayer-meetings being held every week in Melbourne!
The evangelical churches drew together in support of the mission’s committee of seventy, chaired by Baptist pastor, Samuel Pearce Carey.
Each house in every district where the meetings were held was visited twice by one of the team. It was a more significant and even more important event than Federation!
The central meetings downtown were held at first in the Melbourne Town Hall, but after a short time was moved to the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton, which could seat over 7,000 people.
The timetable was intense with up to four meetings a day being held at the Royal Exhibition Building throughout the campaign. Charles Alexander, who was personally selected by Dr Torrey to organise the music for the campaign, led a choir of over 1,200 voices each evening.
Alexander would sometimes arrive at the Exhibition Building two hours before the evening service only to find a large congregation waiting for him and eager to sing. He would immediately launch an impromptu song service which would continue until the service began two hours later.
On his arrival in Melbourne, he published a booklet called Alexander’s Revival Songs and before long they were being sung everywhere with immense gusto. The impact of these hymns spread through the country like a wildfire. A particular favourite The Glory Song, was immensely popular. It was sung in shops and factories, ground out from hand-organs, whistled on the streets, hummed in trains and trams, and became a widespread favourite.
The words and music were printed in many publications, including Melbourne magazine Punch. One writer declared that the song set Australia on fire!
Alexander had a warm and friendly disposition, and an infectious smile. His affect was depicted by an enthusiastic journalist in glowing terms:
The Mission hymns took hold of the people all through the city; the melodies were being hummed, sung or whistled as Mr. Alexander’s irresistible personality impressed itself upon all who came within the scope of his influence. His magnetic conducting, deep spirituality and whole-souled devotion to his work were such as to compel admiration and love.
Charles Alexander said of his craft:
I look at a Gospel song as a sermon – a sermon on wheels, and when you teach a good Gospel song to a man, it is like starting a wagon down a hill with the brakes off.
There were 50 mission centres with 50 local evangelists preaching in halls and 30 large tents, while in the city, the town hall, several theatres, and the exhibition buildings were packed. Weekly attendance across the city reached 250,000 people!
God worked mightily right across the city of Melbourne, and by the time the great Melbourne Mission came to a close on 10th of May, the weekly attendance was over a quarter of a million people.
Yet the population of the whole state of Victoria was only around a million at this time. Dr Torrey related that 8,642 definite professions of faith had been made during the campaign
In another one of Torrey’s meetings in Australia, 15,000 people tried to pack themselves into a building that could only seat 8,000. For six months, Torrey and Alexander traveled from town to town preaching. Revival swept the nation.
Whole families were brought to Christ. Many lives were utterly changed. The police in some areas had very little work to do for some time, the Church was renewed and revitalised. The prayers of the band had been answered. Many were filled with the Holy Spirit and a new optimism fell upon the state!
A Melbourne doctor, William Warren, who had been one of the messengers that was dispatched to the US to find the man God had called to minister in our nation, reported: ‘Within a few weeks the Spirit of God laid hold of the Christians, and there was a conscious assurance that the city and its suburbs of nearly five hundred thousand population were going to be moved as never before . . . Do you wonder? God’s people were in earnest, the Holy Spirit was given His way and sway, Whole families were brought to Christ, as well as infidels, publicans, and actresses.’
Once the outpouring got underway, Christians greeted each other with the words ‘The Big Revival has begun, glory be to God.’
Torrey stated that the key to the awakening was prayer. A lady in Melbourne read his book on prayer. She was so moved by his teaching, that she organized over 1700 prayer circles. She was impacted by the decree – ‘Pray Through.’
Praying Through, in essence, meant praying until something happens!
This determination to stay in prayer until an answer is obtained is one of the keys of this outpouring. This pregnant and succinct statement was the foundation stone on which many stood in believing for the Lord to do as He had promised.
A. Torrey, who was well known for his powerful messages and writings on prayer well said:
Oh, men and women, pray through; pray through! Do not just begin to pray and pray a little while and throw up your hands and quit, but pray and pray and pray until God bends the heavens and comes down.
This move of God spread into Britain, Ireland, India and into other countries. By 1904, 30,000 of God’s people were enrolled in daily prayer groups. Their prayer was ‘Revive Thy work, Oh Lord.’
John Wesley once wrote – ‘God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.’
James tells us in James 5:16
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
The foundation of prayer cannot be underestimated in this outbreak and in many others throughout the world.
These prayers ultimately resulted in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 1905 in Wales, Britain, America, in India and China! Wales was rocked by a mighty awakening. London experienced a five-month-long revival. A mighty choir of 4,000 made Londoners wonder what music must be like in Heaven!
It is estimated that Torrey and his partner Alexander during this season, led over 100,000 souls into the Kingdom of God.
The foundation was a small band of people praying, ‘Revive thy work, Oh Lord’ in Chicago! This was indeed the match, but the fuel was provided by the men who gave themselves to Pray Through in the heart of Melbourne Australia!
Once the spark of revival was ignited, other outbreaks were recorded across the nation and even throughout the globe.
It is often the case when God starts to move in one location He simultaneously moves in other settings. Stuart Piggin, Revival historian and the Head of the Department of Christian Thought of the Australian College of Theology. considered records several outbreaks that began to happen across the nation of Australia during this same season.
In Outpourings of the presence of God in the Victorian goldfields, miners from Cornwall and Yorkshire remembered the revivals of earlier years. They joined with the preachers in earnestly beseeching a divine outpouring!
These moves of God, it is said, ‘followed the pattern of the Irish Revival, with prayer meetings every night in the churches, with all the phenomena of the Ulster movement, except prostrations’.
The 1902-3 tent meeting crusade in rural New South Wales, which resulted in the conversion of 25,000, was nowhere more wonderful in its manifestation than in the coal-mining villages of the Illawarra.
There, some 2735 (or some 15 per cent) of the region’s population, professed conversion. The fire of the Spirit fell on every coal mining village in a work described as ‘gloriously monotonous’: at Mt Kembla, 131 professed conversions; at Mt Keira, 214; Balgownie, 183; Bulli, 292; Helensburgh, 234 and so on.
At Mt Kembla one observer said ‘an intense emotion with an evident assent to the Preacher’s burning words were imprinted on every face and feature’.
But what about the effect on the community? At Mt Kembla, the local Worker’s Club, which was a key drinking spot, lost many of its members. At Balgownie, the community dancing salon lost its grip on the young.
At Mount Keira swearing disappeared, and the pit ponies in the mines stopped work as they could no longer understand their instructions, a phenomenon also reported in the Welsh revival three years later.
There have been some that have associated the powerful outpouring in Wales in 1905 with what transpired in Melbourne in 1902 and other parts of the nation.
Stuart Piggin writing in Fountain of Public Prosperity actually poses the question – Did the Welsh revival begin in Australia? He states there are a number of references of people who have linked the Australian outpouring with that pivotal move of God.
He said: Contemporaries acknowledged that the waters of a revival flood, which peaked in Wales and India, started to flow first in Australia.
Helen Dyer, biographer of Pandita Ramabai, founder of the Mukti mission wrote:
‘The outpouring in Australia which commenced the days of grace of this present era – one of the very greatest women in India’s history, sent her daughter, Manoramabai, to Australia to ‘catch the inspiration of revival fire and form praying bands for Mukti among the Australian Christians’
T. Stead, author of The Revival of 1905 said: ‘It began at the uttermost ends of the earth. It was in response to a call from Australia that Dr. Torrey came.
Today that great call to prayer is still being heard across our city.
We believe that Melbourne has a destiny that is yet to fully be realised and the steps to that destiny is to pray.
There is a very specific promise taken from 2nd Chronicles 7:14
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
This promise is predicated on the two words – IF and THEN!
IF we choose to humble ourselves and pray and seek His face and turn from our wickedness, THEN God will respond and forgive us and heal our land!
Every significant move of God in history can find its source in Christians on their knees. I suspect that there is tremendous honour for those that are willing ‘stand in the gap’ for the nations.
More than ever today, we need God to move in our midst, there is a cry from the heart of the Lord for those willing to pray – willing to stand to see Him move again.
Revive thy work, Oh Lord!
Mark Julian Whitby – 2022