"Father, I just want to be where you are
My life is filled with everything but you
Lord, I really want to see your Glory,
Let the fire of heaven fall on me.
Can you feel my passion, can you see my hunger,
Do you know how I long for you, no walls between us,
Take away this darkness, come break this heart of stone;
Hear my cry...OPEN UP THE SKY!"
Roberts Liardon in his book "God's Generals" writes this about Maria (pronounced Ma-ri-ah, not Ma-ree-ah) Woodworth-Etter:
"There hasn't been a greater demonstrator of God's Spirit since the book of Acts in Pentecostal history than Maria Woodworth-Etter. She was an incredible woman of vision and spiritual strength who stood in the face of fierce opposition, lifted her tiny hand, and allowed the Holy Spirit to spread His fire. Sister Etter lived in the realm of the spirit as a powerful vessel of God's divine leading and His supernatural manifestations."
It was October 1857, The "Third Great Awakening" was sweeping though America. The country was, once again, being touched by the Spirit of God. Churches everywhere were being shaken by a revival of prayer never before seen in Church history. 10,000 people in New York City alone gathered together daily, even left work, to pray. The same thing was taking place all over the country, in small towns as well as great cities. The "Awakening" was even spreading into Canada where groups of 5,000 or more were attending camp meetings daily in Ontario and Quebec. That is what was happening in the Kingdom of God but in the world it was a different story. A national financial crisis was occurring, with bank failures, railroads going into bankruptcy, and financial chaos arising everywhere. Civil War was just over the horizon, America tottered on the brink of disaster.
In a small church in New Lisbon, Ohio, a young thirteen year old girl was so taken aback by what was being preached that everything in her was shaking. At the call for repentance she rushed to the altar and gave her life to God, being "Born Again." The preacher who led her to the Lord prayed that her life "might be a shining light." God answered that prayer in abundance. That young girl would become a powerful voice in the Pentecostal movement. She would become the Legendary evangelist, who worked many "signs and wonders," Maria Woodworth-Etter.
Marie would always remember the voice of God she heard deep in her spirit that day:
"I heard the voice of Jesus calling me to go out in the highways and hedges and gather in the lost sheep."
One fact kept her from fulfilling that calling, in the mid 1800's there was no room for women preachers. At that time in Church history women, for the most part, were not allowed in the pulpit. So even though God said to go she stayed in her role not wanting to be frowned upon or ostracized by the church leadership. She settled into what she thought was a normal Christian lifestyle of marriage and having children. In 1863, Philo Horace Woodworth was discharged from the Union Army with a head wound. Living in the same town Maria and Philo soon met, courted and married. The marriage would produce six children of which Maria poured her love into only to watch as five would die from a terrible disease. Still that voice deep inside was calling her to the ministry. Her excuse this time was the necessities of marriage and a grieving husband who never could get over the death of the children. She became frustrated with her role as a wife and mother because she could not answer the call to preach. Another draw- back she was facing was that her husband had no desire for ministry. Through it all she never lost her desire for a sincere walk with God. She would fight to find time to read and study the Word of God. It was at this time she had a vision that changed her life. Angels came into her room and:
"They took her to the West, over prairies, lakes, forests, and rivers where she saw a long, wide field of waving golden grain. As the view unfolded she began to preach and saw the grains begin to fall like sheaves. Then Jesus told her that, ‘just as the grain fell, so people would fall' as she preached."
The vision was so real that immediately she cast out the fear of man and answered the call of God upon her life. She would preach no matter what the fathers of the church would say and she asked God to anoint her with great power and she then dedicated her life to Him.
The presence of the Lord was with Maria from the first. Her first preaching engagement was to a small group of people, mostly relatives, gathered in a meeting room. Marie began preaching and immediately the crowd began to be consumed by the Holy Spirit many weeping and falling to the floor. Some got up and ran out the door in tears unable to stand in the glorified presence of God. It wasn't long before churches from all over began asking her to come and revive their congregations. She traveled out west and held nine revivals, amazingly with no ministerial training at all. Over a short time she preached 200 sermons and started two churches with memberships of over 100 people each. God had called her years before but now He was redeeming the time and in one town the entire population cried and repented before the Lord. Believe it or not, that town's name was "Devils Den" and Marie brought the greatest manifestation of the presence of God the town had ever witnessed.
Her ministry was not just words of human wisdom but was in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1Corinthians 2:4). And it is there that she suffered fierce persecution. You see, the Church, throughout history was always quick to judge something it did not understand. Mostly because it has lost so much of the power the first Church lived and walked in. The manifestations that today's Church ridicules were common occurrences to first century Christians. Many talk against signs and wonders because it eases their conscience and allows them the safety of leading a less then holy life (Leviticus 11:44,45/1Peter 1:16). Many Christians walk far beneath the calling they have from Jesus (Mark 16: 17,18). Many are hiding behind the conscience soothing "doctrine" of Dispensationalism, the belief that the gifts and signs from God ended with the Apostles. That God was more faithful with one generation than He was with another. That is not Scriptural. The Bible says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He and His promises never change. Everything He speaks in His Word is for today's Christians as well as yesterdays, "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29). Scripture also tells us how Paul and the Apostles passed the power of The Holy Spirit, including the signs and wonders to other believers and gentiles (Acts 10:44-47; 19:1-6). These believers then passed the same Gifts of the Spirit to others from generation to generation (read first century Christian historian Eucebius's account of the power within the then Church). Through the centuries men began to place more trust in their own righteousness and more faith in their own selves, the created, instead of He who was the Creator and lost the anointing that is so needed in today's society (Romans 1:25).
Maria opened the door and pioneered the way for the Pentecostal manifestations that are so prominent in that movement today. She preached in meetings sponsored by Methodists, United Brethren, Churches of God, Presbyterian and others. In all those meetings she stressed the baptism in the "Holy Ghost." During an 1883 meeting in Fairview, Ohio, Maria wrote that as the people confessed sin and prayed for a baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire:
"Fifteen came to the altar screaming for mercy. Men and women fell and lay like dead. I had never seen anything like this. I felt it was the work of God, but did not know how to explain it, or what to say."
While Maria was lost for an explanation, the Bible explains it best (Matthew 28:4; John 18:6; Rev 1:17).
During that service those who were laying on the floor for some time, slain in the Spirit, would then arise with praises to the Lord God Almighty on their tongues (not exactly what a work of the devil would produce) and the ministers and elders all wept and praised God for His presence and power. Not only would people drop over "as if dead" but would also stagger about as if they had too much to drink (Acts 2:15). Word spread and at one meeting fifteen doctors came to investigate and expose this phenomenon of "His Pentecost Power." The leader of the group was a world-class leader in his field. Maria wrote of that meeting:
"He did not want to admit the power was of God. He would have been glad if they could prove it was something else. He came to investigate...to his surprise he found his son at the altar and wanted his father to pray for him. He could not pray. God showed him what he was and what he was doing. He began to pray for himself. While praying he fell (in the Spirit) and saw the horrors of hell. He was falling in...God saved him. He went on to work to win souls for Christ." (Editor's note: again, certainly not fruit of a work of the devil).
Another man, full of a religious spirit, witnessed the meeting and made some joking remark concerning the display of power. Filled with religious pride, he boldly headed toward the platform to investigate and expose this nonsense. Before he reached the front, he was "struck to the floor by the power of God" and laid there for over two hours. When he came to he was born again with his life forever changed. He later was quoted as saying:
"He regretted having spent sixty years lost in religion, never knowing the real Jesus Christ personally."
"Still newspapers and unbelieving ministers warned others to stay away from the meetings. They said they ‘would make a person insane.' (Editor's note: now that would be a quote from the devil). Liardon continues: "Nevertheless, thousands were saved, many being ‘struck down, laying as dead men' even on their way home. It is said many fell under the power in their homes, miles away from the meetings."
Maria believed in worshipping God totally, like King David did, with all that is within us, including dancing, shouting, and singing because He deserved nothing less. If one can go and act "the fool" at a sporting event he can worship his God with the same passion. When you read Scripture you find out that heaven is not quiet and serene. Wherever she preached people from all walks of life were saved. Entire towns changed personality. After one of her meetings in 1885, the police had never seen such a change in their city. They actually had nothing to do. The manifestations of the Holy Ghost that followed her ministry were always followed by hundreds coming to Christ. She allowed the Holy Spirit complete freedom in her meetings refusing to let the spirit of control take over by limiting the time of worship or the time of the service. Sometimes a meeting was all worship, sometimes all prayer and she fought the desire to preach, not that it was wrong but the Spirit was moving then among the people. Time would come to preach and there were meetings of just preaching. In every meeting signs and wonders in the form of manifestations of the Spirit were prevalent. Maria looked at these as:
"Nothing new; they were just something the Church had lost."
Once in a meeting a crowd rushed the platform to seek God, Maria raised her hand wanting to pray and:
"They went down (fell) by the mighty wind of the power of God...hundreds of sinners received the gift of eternal life."
Twenty-five thousand people crowded into one meeting place. A reporter wrote:
"Vehicles of all sorts began pouring into the city at an early hour-nothing short of a circus or a political rally ever before brought in so large a crowd."
Before Maria finished preaching the power of God fell on the large gathering and took control of about five hundred as they fell to the ground. When they came to they all, in unison, glorified God and gave their lives to Jesus.
Another move of God through the ministry of Maria was the healing of the sick. She studied His divine will in healing and together working hand in hand with the "Lord that heals you" (Exodus 15:26) thousands were won to Christ as a result of seeing others healed. Another "healing" evangelist at that time, John Alexander Dowie, was quite annoyed at her ministry encroaching on his territory and began to publically blast and defame her. Calling all she did as a "great delusion" she never a harsh word against him or his ministry telling those concerned that she "would leave him in the hands of God and that I would go right on with the Master...and that I would be living when he was dead." Soon Dowie's ministry fell in disgrace and Marie outlived him by seventeen years.
The enemy (devil) tried to do all he could to put an end to Marie's ministry. Failing in his attempt to eliminate her from the inside by using the self- righteous and religious people in the church he changed tactics and decided to use his own people. During a Crusade in Oakland, California, ruffians, hoodlums and gang members started harassing her meetings by shouting obscene language and throwing explosives among the people. Miraculously, no one was ever injured. She received death threats constantly and newspapers slandered her relentlessly. The Oakland Police Department deputized "bouncers" to protect the services but in most cases they were as bad in character as those who were causing the disturbances. Marie never wavered but kept on preaching:
"I have been in great dangers; many times not knowing when I would be shot down, either in the pulpit, or going to and from meetings...But I said I would never run, nor compromise. The Lord would always put His mighty power on me, so that He took all fear away, and made me like a giant...If in any way they had tried to shoot, or kill me, He would have struck them dead, and I sometimes told them so."
Those who came to investigate, condemn, or harass her seemed most at risk of "falling out" or being "slain in the Spirit." One man came to a meeting intent on disrupting it. He got to within ten feet of the platform and let out a stream of vulgarity and cursing. Then suddenly his voice just faded away as a "strange power seemed to grip his vocal chords." Two newspaper reporters who were there to write about the meeting asked the shaken man why his voice died away and the man still shaking from the experience said, "Go up there yourself and find out and feel that power." One night three well respected, dignified ministers walked into a meeting intent on getting to the bottom of these "heresies " that were befalling the people. They were going to "set matters right." The room was so full there wasn't a seat in the house. Being well known in the area, three platform preachers gave up their seats behind Maria. The stuffy ministers reluctantly took the seats. Marie started the service and the power of God fell upon the place. Suddenly one of the ministers fell off his chair into the sawdust on the floor and lay motionless. The other two tried to ignore what had happened when a second minister fell in the "Spirit" and landed beside the other on the floor. Soon the third fell off the platform and all three were like "dead men" as they were laid out under the power of God for over three hours. Then finally one by one they got up and walked in a daze toward the exit!
At the peak of her ministry news of the unfaithfulness of her husband became known. Unwillingness to quit his infidelity and change his ways forced Maria to get a divorce in January 1891. Less than a year later, he remarried and began to publically slander Maria's character. Within a few weeks he was dead of Typhoid Fever. Ten years later she met a godly man, Samuel Etter, and they were married. Samuel became a vital part of the ministry and together they preached and labored for the Lord until he died twelve years later. Marie referred to him as her "gift from God":
"He stood bravely with me in the hottest battle, and since the day we were married had never shrank. He will defend the Word and all the gifts, and operations of the Holy Ghost, but does not want any fanaticism, or foolishness. It makes no difference what I call on him to do. He will pray, and preach, and sing, and is very good around the altar. The Lord knew what I needed, and it was all brought about by the Lord, through His love and care for me and the work."
It is amazing that throughout her ministry the critics were many. But when you follow their trails you see where God silenced them all.
As the turn of the century passed, her fame for miraculous healings and revival services grew. It wasn't rare for some people to carry their sick over two thousand miles to a healing meeting. Doctors became a common sight at her meetings and many of the healings were documented and attested to by these notable physicians. The Topeka Capitol newspaper had this headline from a 1915 meeting in Topeka, Kansas," Boy Cured by Miracle" referring to a 10 year old boy Louis Romer. He was suffering with what was known as St. Vitus' dance (chorea). Louis said he shook so badly he couldn't feed himself, and his toes bent under his feet, preventing him from wearing shoes. When in his 90s' and living in Lowell, Oregon, he remembered that summer night long ago:
"Sister Etter laid her hands on my head, and I felt a cooling of my nerves as a tingling warmth went through my body. Then before my eyes my hands and feet straightened. I felt so good I just cried and cried and cried. The terrible shaking stopped immediately and in all these years has never come back. All this happened in less time than it takes for me to tell it."
The first thing Louis and his mother did was to go out and buy him his first pair of shoes.
Documented cases, by doctors, included invalids walking from their sick beds, the deaf heard, the blind saw, arthritis was healed instantly, tumors were destroyed and the disease of dropsy was eliminated all in the name of Jesus. Maria was emphatic about taking no credit for what she did not do, it was the Hand of God. One man had three broken ribs from a fall and could hardly stand because of the pain. Maria laid her hands on him and offered the prayer of faith. As she touched he flinched, then he began pounding on his healed rib cage shouting that the pain was gone. Another man had a hopeless case of tuberculosis and also plagued with an open sore that left a deep hole in his body. The power of God fell on him, through the laying on of hands, and he jumped off his cot and ran up and down the aisle in front of the crowd. A man was cured of cancer on his face and neck. It disappeared in front of everyone. He then jumped up on the altar and preached to the people. Three women were cured from being deaf and dumb. One of the ladies remembers:
"When Sister Etter put her finger in my mouth at the root of my tongue and then in my ears, commanding in the name of Jesus that a ‘deaf and dumb' spirit come out, God instantly opened my ears and gave me my voice!"
F.F. Bosworth, the great healing evangelist and pastor wrote about visiting one of Maria's healing services:
"Night after night, as soon as the invitation was given, all the available space around the fifty foot altar would be filled with so many suffering with diseases and afflictions and others seeking salvation and the baptism in the Holy Ghost, that it was difficult to get in and out among the seekers."
The healing of a young boy with a tumor the size of a fist is still talked about in West Indianapolis. The boy's mother helped him up on the platform and Maria said, "we'll just cut it out with the Sword of the Spirit." With that, Maria took her Bible and "whacked" the boy on the neck and he was instantly healed. That boy grew up to become a well know evangelist by the name of Roscoe Russell.
By 1912, Marie was fully part of the new Pentecostal Movement saying that:
"It was the greatest thing to happen to the Church since the Day of Pentecost."
After forty-five years of ministry and thousands and thousands of healings Maria decided to build a church next door to her home in Indianapolis, Indiana. The church would seat 500 and she called it "The Tabernacle." For the last six years of her life she would minister there. The church still remains today and is affiliated with the Assemblies of God under the name Lakeview Temple.
Marie repeatedly said during her ministry that she would "sooner wear out for Jesus than rust out." She was faithful to that saying by preaching and healing up to her last days. In 1924, at the age of eighty Maria Woodworth-Etter fell into a deep sleep and went to be with her Lord.
There is a quote from Maria in a Illinois newspaper dated 1885 that maybe will free many from the deception that keeps them from walking in the fullness of the Spirit:
"The power which was given to the apostles in their day had never been taken from the church. The trouble was, the churches had sunk to the level of the world and were without the unlimited faith that will heal the sick and make the lame to walk. I pray for the return of the old days and more faith in Christ among the people."
John 10: 37-38 "If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me. But if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him."
JJ (Dark) Di Pietro
Cane Creek Church