Although William J. Seymour is acknowledged as the leader of the Azusa Street Revival, it was a black woman, Lucy Farrow, who provided the initial spark that ignited that revival. According to Mother Cotton, an early participant in the revival, no one spoke in tongues until Farrow arrived and began laying hands on the people and praying for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit. 

Farrow, who was the niece of the famous abolitionist, Frederick Douglas, had been Seymour’s pastor in Houston and he first heard of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues from her. That she was held in high esteem by Seymour, is indicated by the fact that he specifically asked her to come to Los Angeles.

After a time in Los Angeles, Farrow ministered with power across the southern United States and in Liberia in West Africa. She lived out her final years in Los Angeles where there were reported healings and remarkable answers to prayer through her ministry.

She is an incredible example for the church today of how one can overcome pain, prejudice and social obstacles and make an eternal impact on this world.

Farrow Overcomes Prejudicial Opposition

Little is known of Farrow’s early life including the exact date of her birth. What is known is that she was born into slavery in the state of Virginia. As a black woman living in the South during Reconstruction, life would not have been easy.

Nonetheless, she became a powerful voice in the early Pentecostal revival and provided the spark in Los Angeles that ignited the revival that has spread around the world and impacted all of Christendom. She is an example of how one can become a force for God and good even in the most difficult and aggravating circumstances

Somewhere along the way Farrow moved to Houston, TX, probably around 1900, and became the pastor of a small, black, Holiness congregation. In Houston she would have lived under southern Jim Crow laws that were passed by southern states to keep blacks “in their place.”

These laws mandated racially segregated public facilities including separate public restrooms and drinking fountains, and separate seating in restaurants and on buses. Public schools were segregated and voting laws made it next to impossible for blacks to vote in elections.

These laws, however, were only outward manifestations of a deeply ingrained prejudice and hatred that Farrow faced every day of her life. But instead of becoming bitter and taking on a victim mentality, she allowed the faith of God and the love of God to so fill her heart that she was able to be used by God to bring down racial barriers and minister powerfully to both blacks and whites in the fledgling Pentecostal revival. 

Divine Connections

While pastoring in Houston, Farrow met Charles Parham who came there from Baxter Springs, Kansas in October of 1905 to hold a meeting in Bryan Hall. Parham was preaching a message about a baptism in the Holy Spirit that would be accompanied by speaking in tongues, which he called the “Bible evidence.”

He also told about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that had occurred in his Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas in January of 1901 when virtually every student had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoken in tongues.

Farrow attended these meetings (in a segregated area) and was intrigued by what she heard. She acquainted herself with Parham and his wife, Sarah, and they obviously were impressed with her, for when they returned to Baxter Springs they invited Farrow to go with them. Farrow accepted their invitation and turned the pastored of her congregation to one of her young parishioners named William Seymour.

While in the Parham home Farrow experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. This proved to a turning point in her life that positioned her to be an important catalyst in what would turn out to be the most dynamic and fastest growing movement in modern Christendom—the modern Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement.

When the Parhams returned to Houston in December to begin a Bible school in the New Year, Farrow returned with them and reconnected with her congregation. She told Seymour of her experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit and encouraged him to enroll in the Bible school.

Seymour followed her advice and enrolled in the school where he learned more about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the “Bible evidence” of speaking in tongues. Although he did not receive the experience while in the school, he was convinced of its veracity and began to preach it to others. Farrow, demonstrating the true humility of her character, volunteered to be the cook for the school.

Seymour Precedes Farrow to Los Angeles

Seymour was in the school for about six weeks before departing for Los Angeles to accept the invitation to pastor a small store-front church in that city. When, however, he broached the subject of a baptism in the Holy Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues, the elders decided he was preaching heresy and locked him out.

The Edward Lee family then invited Seymour stay in their home and they began attending prayer meetings being held in the Asberry home at 214 Bonnie Brae Street. Seymour soon became the recognized leader of the group and even though he had not received the baptism in the Holy Spirit himself, he shared with the people what he knew and encouraged them to pray for this Pentecostal experience.

Seymour also shared with the group about Farrow and how the baptism in the Holy Spirit had impacted her life. The group was so stirred that they took up a collection to purchase a train ticket for her to come to Los Angeles. They sent off the ticket with their invitation and a prayer that the Lord would speak to her to accept their invitation.

Farrow Sparks Pentecostal Revival in Los Angeles

Probably out of her deep sense of need, Farrow had developed a radical dependence on God and a rare sensitivity to His Holy Spirit. This dependence on God characterized every part of her life and ministry.

She did not have an “assembly line” approach in praying for people but only prayed as she was prompted by the Holy Spirit. This sort of radical dependence on God and sensitivity to the Spirit would characterize the revival that would break forth through her ministry in Los Angeles.

She arrived in Los Angeles probably in late March and was taken to the Lee home where she would be hosted. Shortly after her arrival, Edward Lee arrived home from work and met the woman Seymour had told them so much about.

Lee was so hungry for the baptism in the Holy Spirit that, after a brief introduction, he pleaded, “Sister, if you will lay your hands on me I believe I will get my baptism right now.” Farrow humbly replied, “I cannot do it unless the Lord says so.”

Shortly thereafter, while eating the evening meal, Farrow laid down her fork and pushed her chair back from the table. She arose and walked around the table to Edward Lee and said, “The Lord tells me to lay my hands on you for the Holy Ghost.” She then laid her hands on Lee who immediately fell out of his chair, and while lying on the kitchen floor, began speaking in tongues.

Revival Breaks Forth

That same evening the Lees and Farrow departed for the prayer meeting at the Asberry home with their hearts overflowing with the presence and joy of the Lord. As Edward Lee walked through the door, he lifted his hands and began speaking in tongues.

The power of God fell on those present and several fell to the floor and began speaking in tongues. Different gifts of the Spirit began to manifest. A young woman, Jenny Moore, who had never had a music lesson and played no musical instrument, arose from her seat and seated herself at a piano that was in the room. She then began playing beautifully and singing in tongues.

Word spread quickly that God was pouring out a new Pentecost on Bonnie Brae Street and people began to come from every direction. The house filled with people and the crowed overflowed onto the porch and into the yard. One participant said, “By the next morning there was no way of getting near the house.”

Realizing they needed more space, they searched and found an old abandoned building in downtown Los Angeles at 312 Azusa Street. They moved the prayer meeting to that location and had their first meeting on April 14, 1906. For the next three years the meetings ran around the clock as thousands flocked to Azusa Street from across America and form other nations as well.

Revival in Houston

After the move to Azusa Street, Farrow remained in Los Angeles for another four months, ministering with Seymour and providing a much-needed stability in the early days of revival. In August, she departed for Virginia, planning from there to go to Liberia in West Africa from whence her ancestors had been brought as slaves to America.

On her journey eastward she stopped in Houston and preached in Parham’s summer camp meeting. The large white audience was electrified as she told about the revival that was underway in Los Angeles.

She then prayed for many to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and, again and again, as in the book of Acts, they would break forth speaking in tongues as she laid her hands on them. One participant, Howard Goss, said, “She had an amazing gift for laying hands on people and them receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

It was an amazing demonstration of how real revival breaches racial and cultural barriers. Here was a black woman in the Jim Crow south preaching in a white camp meeting and laying hands on the participants who were being powerfully touched by God and baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

Revival in Virginia & Africa

Farrow lived by faith, having no settled fund from which to draw, but trusting God to meet every need as she walked in obedience to Him. From Houston she traveled on to Virginia and in Portsmouth held a series of meetings that lasted several weeks. It was reported that about 200 were saved and 150 received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Sensing an urgent call to Africa but realizing the powerful work that had begun in Portsmouth needed care, Farrow contacted Seymour and asked that a replacement be sent so she could continue on in her mission to Africa.

After help arrived from Los Angeles, Farrow traveled to New York and then sailed for Africa. She settled in Johnsonville about 25 miles from the capital of Monrovia from where she carried on a ministry of preaching, teaching, praying for the sick and leading people into the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It was reported that many were brought to Christ during her short stay in that country.

Final Years in Los Angeles

Farrow returned to Los Angeles and lived out her final years in a small “faith cottage” located behind the Azusa Street Mission. Many visited her there to receive of her wisdom and her prayers. Many testified of being healed, baptized in the Holy Spirit, or to having received a “greater” infilling of the Spirit through her prayers. The time and circumstances surrounding her death are unknown.

Sadly, Lucy Farrow's name was, for the most part, left out of accounts of the Azusa Street  Revival. And to this date no one has located a picture or painting of her. Though forgotten on earth, I am sure the angels rejoiced and gave her a hero's welcome as she entered her eternal home. No doubt, she heard those priceless words from the Lord, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:23).

Dr. Eddie Hyatt is the author and creator of the Revival History course, consisting of the textbook, 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity, its companion Study Guide, and 20 video lessons. The textbook and Study Guide are available from Amazon and His website at www.eddiehyatt.com. The video lessons are available on a USB drive from his website but can also be accessed free of charge on the youtube channel, "Advanced Christian Learning Center." https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCW7oGkkZBrEa40U9uJdwPRgat 



A personal prophecy should always confirm what we already know in our hearts. It is dangerous to build one’s life and make important decisions based solely on prophecies. This was dramatically illustrated in the lives of two of the greatest revivalists of all time.

Wesley’s Strange Word to Whitefield

Twenty-six-year-old George Whitefield sat on a ship ready to sail for America from the port of Deal, located approximately 70 miles southeast of London. For some time, he had experienced a compelling call to preach the gospel to colonial America and now the day for his departure had finally arrived. His heart was filled with gratitude, excitement, and expectation.

As he waited for the ship's crew to hoist anchor and sail, a letter was delivered to him from John Wesley who had just returned from Georgia. He opened the letter and was stunned by what he read.

Wesley had written, “When I saw God, by the wind which was carrying you out, brought me in, I asked counsel of God. His answer you have enclosed.” The message Wesley had enclosed was, “Let him return to London.”

Whitefield was shocked and momentarily confused. Wesley was ten years his senior and had been a mentor to him. He held the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, in very high esteem. However, this word from John contradicted everything he believed about his call to America.

He Finds the Answer in God’s Word

As he prayed there came to his mind a story from the Old Testament where a prophet lost his life because he listened to the words of another prophet instead of diligently adhering to what God had told him.

I Kings 13 contains the story of an unnamed prophet to whom God spoke and instructed to go to Bethel and prophesy against the idolatrous altars that had been established there by King Jeroboam. God instructed him not to stop to eat or drink but to return directly home to Judah when he had completed his assignment.

Based on this directive from the Lord, the prophet went to Bethel. As he prophesied against the idolatrous altars as instructed, they miraculously split apart and the ashes were poured out on the ground. As a result of that miracle and a miracle of healing for King Jeroboam, the king invited the prophet to his home. He refused and recounted to the king what the Lord had told him.

But as he departed Bethel, an old prophet, who heard of what had happened, saddled his donkey and caught up with the prophet and invited him to his home to eat and drink. When the first prophet recounted to him what the Lord had instructed him, the old prophet said, I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, “Bring him back with you to your house that he may eat bread and drink water.” The old prophet, however, was lying.

Contrary to the instructions given him by the Lord, the prophet went back with the old prophet. While they were eating, the Spirit of the Lord came upon the old prophet and he prophesied to him that because of his disobedience he would not be buried in the tombs of his ancestors. Sure enough, upon leaving the old prophet’s home, he was met by a lion in the road, which killed him, fulfilling the old lying prophet’s prediction of his demise because of his disobedience.

As Whitefield prayed about Wesley’s letter, this story was powerfully impressed on his mind and heart. He knew that God was highlighting to him the importance of obeying the directions he had received from the Lord and to not listen to this word from another party, even such a respected one as John Wesley.

Three Powerful Lessons From This Story

It turns out that Wesley had “cast a lot” concerning whether Whitefield should go to America. This was something Wesley and others practiced, if after diligent prayer they were unable to discern the will of God.

Exactly how he cast the lot is not clear, but it may have been as simple as putting two sheets of paper in a bowl on which was written, “Proceed to America” and “Let him return to London” and then drawing the one that said, “Let him return to London.”

Hindsight is 20/20 and it is abundantly clear that Whitefield made the right decision in ignoring Wesley’s prophecy and sailing for America. He ignited the Great Awakening that transformed Colonial America and prepared her for statehood. Because of the massive crowds that attended his meetings, he became the most recognizable figure in colonial America and has been called “America’s Spiritual Founding Father.”

There are three powerful lessons to be derived from Whitefield’s experience:

1.    We are not to be led by lots, omens, or fleeces, but by the Spirit of God within our own hearts (Romans 8:14).

2.    Prophetic utterances are to be tested, even when they come from the most esteemed among us.

3.    We must be confident in our own ability to hear God and know His will.

This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s latest book entitled, Prophets and Prophecy. The book is available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.