THE EVANGELIST: Oral Roberts
We will discuss the life and ministry of Oral Roberts in three parts: 1) The
Making of the Evangelist (1918 to 1947), 2) The Ministry of the Evangelist (1947
to the present), and 3) The Message of the Evangelist. When Dr. David Harrell,
Jr., author of the definitive biography of Oral Roberts, interviewed administrators,
faculty, staff, and others, he often asked the question, "What is the genius of Oral
Roberts?" Since my training is in English literature, I said, "Oral Roberts is what
literary people would call a poet." A poet. The romantic writer Shelley called the
poets "the legislators of the world." As legislators of the world, they are the
shapers of mankind. I think that Oral Roberts could be called a poet, a shaper of
mankind, a legislator of the world. The poet senses the well-springs of human
need: the thoughts, the emotions, and the feelings that well up from the people.
He shapes these into a form and gives them expression. In other words, the poet
senses a need--a feeling, a thought, an emotion--rising from among the people. He
takes that concept, that little slice of life, and he puts it in a literary form and tries
to give an expression of that idea to the world. Oral Roberts is such a person.
Oral Roberts has always been at the forefront of the move of the Holy Spirit
because he is sensitive, through the Holy Spirit, to the heartbeat, the needs, and
the cries of the people. He has given expression to those needs through teachings
and institutions. In turn, the form that gives expression to those needs serves to
help meet the needs and to answer the heartcries of the individuals. Oral Roberts,
as a poet, has created many writings, concepts, and institutions that have
changed the Christian Church.
THE MAKING OF THE EVANGELIST--1918 to
Oral Roberts was born January 24, 1918. Three months before his birth his
mother was called to pray for a neighbor's child who was seriously ill. As she was
crossing the field, she stooped to climb through a fence. Sensing the presence of
God in the stirring of the wind, she made a vow to God. She vowed that if God
would heal the child and give her a baby boy, she would dedicate her son to Al-
mighty God for the ministry. God healed the neighbor's child that night, and
Mama Roberts made her vow good. When Oral Roberts was born, his mother
dedicated him to God and prayed that God would call him into the ministry.
It is difficult for many of us to understand the plight of a Pentecostal
preacher in Oklahoma in the 1930's, in the depression days. The depression was
a difficult time for many people: a time of poverty with little work, no way of
making any money, and bread lines everywhere. The Pentecostal message was
not popular in those days. The Pentecostal people were ridiculed, their homes
were stoned, their places of worship were bombed. Oral Roberts bore the brunt of
much of this persecution and ridicule. Not only was he a Pentecostal preacher's
son, but he was a stutterer and his name was "Oral." You can imagine what
happened when he started to school. The teachers would ask his name or ask him
to recite his lessons, and he would panic. He would run from the classroom with
the laughter of the teacher and children ringing in his ears.
At the age of 15, after several years of struggling, he ran away from home.
Probably all of the different pressures in which he grew up came together and he
felt that if he were to fulfill his dream of being a lawyer and governor of Oklahoma,
he would have to change his environment. As he prepared to leave home and told
his mother and father goodbye, his father said that he would send the authorities
after him. But Oral Roberts promised that he would only run away again. He
hoped that somewhere, somehow he would be able to fulfill his dream.
In 1935, at the age of 17, Oral Roberts came home. He was carried into the
house, his lungs hemorrhaging, by his basketball coach. He had contracted
tuberculosis, a disease which had plagued the Indians in Oklahoma for many years.
His grandfather and other relatives had died of tuberculosis. This was before the
day of the wonder drugs, so there was not much hope of anyone getting well from
tuberculosis. All that Roberts had to look forward to was being sent to the state
sanitarium at Talahina, Oklahoma, to die. That was the future that awaited Oral
Roberts as they brought him home from a basketball tournament, having collapsed
on the floor of the gymnasium. He was put to bed, where he laid for many
months, wasting away.
Then one day his sister Jewell came into his room and spoke seven life-
changing words to him. She said, "Oral, God is going to heal you." He answered,
"Is He Jewell?" He had never been converted; he knew very little about the
healing power of God. Some time later his brother Elmer came into his room and
told him that he was going to take him to a revival where a man was praying for
the sick. On the way to the service in Ada, Oklahoma, as he lay on a mattress
pad in the back seat of the car, Roberts heard God speaking in his heart, "Son, I
am going to heal you, and you are to take the message of My healing power to
your generation." A 17-year-old boy, dying of tuberculosis, heard the voice of
God speaking in his heart that God was going to heal him and that he was going to
take God's healing power to his generation. That night he was the last one to be
prayed for. As the minister prayed for him, God healed Oral Roberts. He could
breathe freely again. God, also, loosed his tongue and, for many minutes, he
stood and exhorted the individuals about what Jesus of Nazareth had done for
ORAL ROBERTS MEETS MISS EVELYN
Although it was almost a year before he regained his strength, from the time
of his healing, he began to preach. That was in 1935. In 1936, while attending a
camp meeting in Sulphur, Oklahoma, he took his place in the orchestra, looked
over at the young lady on his right, and said, "Is my hair combed? Do I look all
right?" She answered, "Oh, yes, you look very nice." Later that night Miss
Evelyn wrote in her diary, "I sat by my future husband tonight." That is how their
courtship began. He kept thinking that the Lord should provide him with a wife,
and he kept hearing the name of Miss Evelyn. He began to write to her. One day
he wrote to her and said something about her being a preacher's wife. She
replied, "If you think that, you are fooled. I don't intend spending my life in a
parsonage, raising a bunch of preacher's children." He wrote to her, "Who said
anything about you and me getting married. Goodbye." However, after letters of
apology, they continued their correspondence.
One day he took the money he had saved and bought a new, blue Chevrolet
coupe. He put his mother in the front seat and drove to Texas. When they arrived
at the school where Miss Evelyn was teaching, all of the children, of course, were
excited because Miss Evelyn's "boy friend" had come to visit her. On the last day
of his visit, he took her fishing, and, in his biography The Call he says, "The only
thing we caught was each other." "On the way back from fishing," he writes, "I
stopped my car on a sandbar to talk." He said, "Evelyn, my huge, happy, hilarious
heart is throbbing tumultuously, tremendously, triumphantly, in a lasting, long-lived
love for you. As I gaze into your beauteous, bounteous, beaming eyes, I am
literally lost in a daring, delightful dream in which your fair, felicitous, fancy-filled
face is ever present like a colossal, comprehensive constellation. Will you be my
sweet, smiling, soulful, satisfied spouse?" To that Miss Evelyn replied, "Listen
here, boy! If you're trying to propose to me, talk in the English language." So, he
said, "I did it over again, and I was accepted. And we sealed it with a kiss" (p.
150). Evelyn continued to teach school, and he continued to hold evangelistic
meetings. On Christmas Day, 1938, Oral and Evelyn were married.
THE SILENT YEARS
The twelve years from 1935 to 1947 are the silent years. Oral Roberts
seldom speaks of this part of his ministry, but they were part of the making of the
evangelist. As he pastored churches, evangelized, taught in Bible school, and
wrote books and articles, he was trying to fulfill the call of God upon his life.
In 1947, while pastoring in Enid, Oklahoma, and attending Phillips Univer-
sity, he became more and more miserable because he didn't seem to be having the
miracles and the signs and the wonders that he felt God would have him to
receive. One day in a sociology class, the Lord spoke in his heart and said, "Don't
be like other men; be like Jesus." He arose from his seat, walked out of the class,
and began to earnestly seek God concerning his ministry. God spoke to him again
and told him to read through the Gospels and the Book of Acts three times on his
knees. Night after night he would kneel by the little heater reading the New
Testament. As he read the Gospels and the Book of Acts, he began to see Jesus
Christ rise from the pages of the New Testament: a Christ who was a healing
Christ. Also, he kept having the same dream night after night, a dream in which
he heard the cries of suffering humanity crying for someone to come and to bring
deliverance to them.
THE FIRST HEALING SERVICE
Finally, he felt that it was time to settle the question about a healing
ministry. He rented an auditorium in Enid in which to hold a healing service.
Then, he put a fleece before the Lord, asking God for three things: 1) he wanted
over a thousand people to attend the service (he was preaching to around two
hundred every Sunday, and so that number seemed to be an impossibility), 2) he
wanted God to help him pay the rent on the building ($160 for a Sunday after-
noon), and 3) he wanted God to give him a miracle--God would heal someone to
validate the healing ministry. He announced the healing service, then got a job at
a men's clothing store in case the fleece didn't prove true. If God did not confirm
his call, he was going to leave the ministry and start selling clothes.
The day of the healing service, everyone stood around after the church
service, waiting till time to go to the healing meeting. When he walked into the
building, the custodian said, "Preacher, I hear you want at least one thousand
people? Well, there are 1,200 seated in the auditorium." When they took up the
offering for the rent for the building, they received $163.03. (Three dollars and
three cents more than the expense of the building.) Two conditions were met.
But what about the miracle? While Oral Roberts was preaching, he jumped off the
platform, and, at that moment, a German lady who had a crippled hand was
healed. God had opened her hand. As a result of that miracle, seven men
accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. That was the beginning of Oral Roberts' healing
This is the making of the Evangelist. In The Call he writes, "From poverty,
to a runaway, to deathbed, and healing--it all combined to make me a preacher.
Within two months of my healing I delivered my first sermon. It was a little
sermon, but it was a start" (p. 35).
THE MINISTRY OF THE EVANGELIST
Later that year he came to Tulsa. Reverend Steve Pringle had a large tent
on the north side of the city, and he invited Roberts to preach in the tent meeting.
One night, as Roberts was ministering, a man standing across the street fired a
bullet within a few inches of his head. As a result, he became a nationally known
evangelist. The meeting continued several weeks, and God performed many
healings. Oral Roberts decided he would move to Tulsa. In November 1947, he
started publishing the Healing Waters magazine, and in 1948, he incorporated the
Healing Waters organization. The first year, they mailed 25,000 letters, 30,000
prayer cloths, 15,000 books, and 90,000 copies of the Healing Waters.
THE TENT CRUSADES
In 1948, Roberts began his first crusade in Durham, North Carolina, in a tent
seating 3000 people. When that tent was destroyed in 1950, by a storm in
Amarillo, Texas, he purchased a new tent seating 7,500 people. In 1953, he pur-
chased his last tent, seating 12,500 people. His last tent crusade was held in
Over the twenty years of tent crusades, thousands of people were saved, blessed,
and healed. As we consider the ministry of Roberts across those years, we find
that, from 1961 to 1970, he visited over 54 different countries.
THE TELEVISION MINISTRY
He began his television ministry in 1954. In order to televise the services in
the big tent, he introduced the "Blessing Pact Covenant." This was the forerunner
of the Seed-Faith concept. He asked four hundred twenty people to enter a
covenant of $100 a year to raise the finances for televising the tent crusades, in
order to take his healing ministry into the living rooms of the homes in America.
He offered people a money back guarantee. If God did not prosper and bless
them, he would return their money. I understand that two people wrote for their
money back. One of them only wanted to see if his money would really be
returned. In 1955, the first tent crusade was televised, and, from 1955 to May of
1967, the ministry was on television. In 1967, Roberts took his ministry off
television. Then, in 1969, he began to televise the prime time specials with
Mahalia Jackson as his first guest star. Oral Roberts ushered in a new age of
Christian television ministry.
A SHORT HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF
In 1961, the land for the University was purchased--a miracle story within
itself. In 1962, Roberts broke ground for the school, and in 1963, he held the first
International Ministerial Seminar in the chapel in the north end of Timko-Barton
building. In 1965, the school opened with three hundred students, and in 1967,
the University was dedicated by Billy Graham.
In 1971, ORU received accreditation from North Central Association. Only
one other school had received accreditation from North Central for its programs in
such a short time.
In 1975, Oral Roberts announced the plans for the graduate and profes-
sional schools, and in 1978, all of the graduate and professional schools were
open. In 1982, students were graduated from all of the schools of the University:
undergraduate, graduate, and professional.
This is a brief overview of the ministry of Oral Roberts, and a sketch of Oral
Roberts University from the day the land was purchased until the present when the
University is accredited by the North Central Association, the Association of
Theological Schools, and National Association of Schools of Music and has gradu-
ated over ten thousand students. ORU is a miracle. You live in the midst of a
THE MESSAGE OF THE
In The Call, Roberts summed up the making of the evangelist when he said,
"From poverty to a runaway to deathbed to healing, it all combined to make me a
preacher. Within two months of my healing, I delivered my first sermon. It was a
little sermon, but it was a start" (p. 35). From poverty to a runaway to deathbed
to healing, this is the making of the evangelist.
The year 1947 was the beginning of the great healing revival that swept
across the nation and circled the world. Oral Roberts and William Branham were
the two apostles of healing that God used to bring forth that great healing revival.
As a result of their proclamation of the healing of power of God, many evangelists
were encouraged to bring the message of divine healing to the world during those
years, from 1947 through the early 60's. Roberts was a pioneer, bringing a new
emphasis of the doctrine of healing to the Christian Church. From 1948, when he
raised his tent in Durham, North Carolina, until 1968, when he took it down in
Anaheim, California, there were almost 20 years of unbroken ministry, of preach-
ing divine healing and that God is a good God.
In discussing the message of Oral Roberts, I have divided it into two parts,
the contributions he has made to the church and the concepts that are the
foundation of his ministry.
ORAL ROBERTS' CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE
Oral Roberts major contribution to the Christian Church was the joining
together of prayer and medicine. God called him to take His healing power to his
generation. However, as I have reviewed his ministry over the years, I believe he
has been instrumental in making prayer a vital force in various areas of our
society: the business and professional world, the educational world, the church
world, the entertainment world, as well as the medical world. When I speak of
prayer, I am speaking about the Charismatic dimension of the Spirit: the fulness of
the Holy Spirit with all of the gifts of the Spirit, the charismata.
PRAYER AND THE BUSINESS AND
In 1951, Demos Shakarian shared with Roberts a vision he had of a group of
business and professional people who would serve the Lord Jesus Christ. As they
talked about this vision, Roberts felt that the vision was of the Lord and encour-
aged Shakarian to pursue his dream. As a result, Roberts and Shakarian met with
twenty-one businessmen in Clifton's Cafeteria in Los Angeles, California, with
Roberts as the speaker. Out of that meeting was born the greatest institution of
this generation for spreading the charismatic revival--The Full Gospel Business-
men's International Fellowship. Probably more people from the business and
professional worlds have met the Lord Jesus Christ and have been filled with the
Spirit through this institution than through any other organization. As of 1987,
Demos Shakarian told me that they had over 700,000 members in approximately
40,000 chapters world-wide, and, by the end of the century, their hope was to
have over one million members. This association is the greatest lay witness
ministry in the Charismatic Movement. Oral Roberts was instrumental in joining
together the charismatic dimension of Christianity with the business and profes-
PRAYER AND EDUCATION
Roberts also has been the leader in the joining together of prayer and educa-
tion--creating an institution where students may excel academically as well as
spiritually. In my view, one of the greatest events that has happened, outside of
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in this generation, is the founding of Oral Roberts
University. I believe that we have a tremendous opportunity to change the course
of human events through what the students will contribute to the kingdom of God,
if we fulfill the vision of ORU. This is a unique place where persons of all different
churches can come together in the Holy Spirit and seek after the truth as it is
revealed in Christ Jesus.
In the early 60's, when Roberts shared his vision of a university with me, I
became excited and determined to be a part of it. I was pastoring a church here in
the city of Tulsa at the time he began to share his dream. To have an institution
where all Christians, regardless of their church affiliation, could come together in
the Spirit and search after the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, was, I thought, a
As a young man in junior college, I met the Lord Jesus Christ and was filled
with the Holy Spirit. I dropped out of junior college to go preach, because I
believed that Jesus was going to be here that very year. He did not come that
year, but I still look for him. However, after I was married and had a family, I
accepted a church in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and enrolled in John Brown
University. My desire was to see if a person could believe in the supernatural
power of the Holy Spirit and achieve academic excellence. In my studies, leading
to a doctorate, I found that a person can live in the fulness of the Spirit and also
receive the accolades of the academic world. A Christian can excel academically
At ORU, one of the great institutions in the world, a student can be as
spiritual as he wants to be, following the Holy Spirit, and, at the same time, he can
cultivate the intellect, excelling academically. The academic and the spiritual
complement each other here without any disparity, without any conflict.
PRAYER AND THE TRADITIONAL
In 1968, Oral Roberts returned to the Methodist Church, causing quite a
controversy among the Pentecostals. This event was important in that one of the
great Protestant churches, the Methodist Church, opened its doors to accept a
Charismatic, healing evangelist. They accepted him in the fulness of his ministry,
which encouraged other churches to accept the Charismatic dimension of the
gospel, until, today, almost every church has a renewal movement within the
church--a group of Charismatic members who believe in the fulness of the Spirit.
PRAYER AND THE ENTERTAINMENT
In 1969, Oral Roberts told the ORU faculty that he was going to go back on
television with prime time television specials, joining the best of a Christian
Charismatic ministry with the superstars of the entertainment world. Mahalia
Jackson was the first superstar to be invited on the program. As a result of these
Oral Roberts' specials, many of the great entertainers were touched by the Spirit
of the Lord. It was not unusual, in those days, to have the top entertainers of the
nation visit the University.
Through this joining together of prayer and entertainment, I believe Roberts
opened the door for some of the top entertainers to be willing to make a public
confession of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. As he went to California to
make his specials, many persons from the worlds of film, theater, and entertain-
ment were converted as they came into contact with Oral Roberts and his ministry
on the television set.
Through his television ministry, he laid the foundation and created the
format for the electronic church that has within it the potential to "preach the
gospel to every creature."
PRAYER AND MEDICINE
In dedicating the City of Faith, in 1981, Roberts joined prayer and medicine.
He probably has made as profound an impact upon health care in the United States
as any non-medical person in history by bringing whole person medicine into
prominence. Not "holistic medicine," but whole person medicine--where
people are treated not just as physical beings, but also as spiritual and mental
beings. Many hospitals have become interested in the spiritual well-being of the
patients they serve.
These are a few of the major contributions which Oral Roberts has made to
society and to the church. I am sure that only God knows the full impact of
Roberts' ministry in this nation and around the world. Many of the successful
Charismatic ministers are indebted to him in some way: his ministry brought them
salvation; his books deepened their ministry; his teachings challenged their faith;
his faith gave them confidence; his creativity inspired their vision; his vision gave
them courage to dream.
THE SEVEN CONCEPTS THAT CHANGED
ORAL ROBERTS' LIFE
In a Holy Spirit conference sponsored by the School of Theology and
Missions, Roberts spoke of seven concepts that changed his life. To understand
him and his ministry, you need to have an understanding of these seven concepts.
THE OFFICE OF THE EVANGELIST
Roberts believes God has set him in the church as an evangelist. Even
though he has functioned in each of the major offices set in the church by Jesus
Christ, as listed by Paul in Ephesians (Eph. 4:11), Roberts feels that God has called
him to be an evangelist--to take God's healing power to this generation. In our
discussion of the office of the evangelist, I pointed out that the message of the
evangelist is "the good news," and that we must allow the evangelist to bring the
good tidings. Some feel that when the evangelist preaches the goodness of God,
or the blessings of God, or the prosperity of God, he is overemphasizing a part of
the gospel. But remember, the office of the evangelist is to bring the good news
of the salvation of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the emphasis of Roberts' evangelistic
ministry is that "God is a good God." Roberts teaches that God is at the point of
your need; God is the source of all blessings; a Christian should plant a seed out of
his need and expect a miracle harvest; Jesus is a healing Jesus; and Jesus came
to give life and that more abundantly. These are all concepts of blessing and
THE GIFTS OF HEALINGS
In 1961, Oral Roberts published The Abundant Life Edition of the Bible
(referred to as A.L.E.), a Lamsa translation of the Eastern Orthodox scriptures. It
is a fascinating book because it includes a series of essays concerning the Abun-
dant Life. In these essays, Roberts writes about healing, prosperity, the concept
that God is a good God, the abundant life, the point of contact, the resurrection,
and the first key of seed faith--God is your source.
It is interesting to compare what Oral Roberts preaches today with what he
wrote in 1961, over 32 years ago. When Roberts talks today about joining prayer
and medicine, about the gifts of healings, about the abundant life, it is interesting
to go back and see what the evangelist preached years ago.
In his essay on, "The Bible Way to Health and Healing" (A.L.E., p. 17), he
discusses four ways that God heals: 1) God heals through the forces of nature--
sunshine, fresh air, climate, good food, nutrition; 2) God heals through love and
understanding--to receive love and understanding from persons around you who
care for you and support you; 3) God heals through the skill of physicians, of body
and mind--by the skillful use of forces placed on earth by God, dedicated men and
women are able to correct many disharmonies in the human system; and 4) God
heals miraculously by his own supernatural power. These are the four ways that
God heals: nature, love, physicians, and supernaturally.
Elaborating on the supernatural means of healing, he says that God has
seven aids to health: 1) The laying on of hands--They shall lay hands on the sick,
and they shall recover, Mark 16:18; 2) Anointing with oil--Let them anoint him
with oil, and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up,
James 5:14; 3) Confess your faults one to another--Confess your faults one to
another that you may be healed, James 5:15; 4) Pray one for another that you
might be healed--As you pray for another person, expect the healing to come back
to you, James 5:15; 5) The Word of God--God sent His Word and healed them,
Psalms 107:20; 6) The joy of the Lord--A merry heart doeth good like a medicine,
Prov. 17:22; and 7) Holy Communion, I Cor. 11:23-30. These are supernatural
aids to health. These are the ways that God has set in the body of Christ in order
to bring health to the body of Christ. These are the ways God has for ministering
abundant life in the physical realm. These are God's means of healing.
GOD IS A GOOD GOD
The concept that "God is a good God" was controversial when Roberts
started preaching it years ago. While it seems like a cliche to us today, when he
began preaching that "God is a good God, and the devil is a bad devil," it was a
One day as he ran out the door to catch the bus going to Phillips University,
he remembered that he had forgotten to read his Bible. He ran back in the house,
grabbed his Bible, and it opened to III John 2:
Beloved, I wish above all things thou mayest prosper
and be in health, even as thy soul prospers (III John
He called for Evelyn, read the verse to her, and asked her if she knew that it
was in the Bible. She said that she didn't know that the scripture was in the Bible.
He did not go to school that day but stayed home and discussed the scripture with
her. That verse of scripture changed his concept of God and changed his life.
After reading III John 2, He began to preach: "God is a good God." He also began
to preach the abundant life:
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and
to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and
that they might have it more
abundantly (John 10:10).
He emphasized that God desired to bless His people and to meet their needs.
Oral Roberts' theology begins with the concept that God is at the point of
your need. You meet God at the point of your need, and, because God is a good
God, He wants to meet your need. In "The Formula for Prosperity" (A.L.E., p. 25),
Roberts provides a biblical formula for prosperity. The Christian's answer to any
question concerning the true measure of prosperity is found in two scriptures: 1)
The words of Agur (Proverbs 30:7-9) and 2) The words of Paul (I Cor. 9:8).
Agur desired two things of God:
Two things have I required of thee; deny me them
not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies:
give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with
food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny
thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and
steal, and take the name of my God in vain (Prov.
In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he writes what Oral Roberts calls
the "clearest definition of prosperity ever written":
And God is able to make all grace abound toward
you; that ye always having all sufficiency in all
things, may abound to every good work.... Now he
that ministereth seed to the sower [God gives you
seed to plant] both minister bread for your food [God
meets your needs], and multiply your seed sown
[God multiplies what you sow], and increase the
fruits of your righteousness [God gives you an in-
crease]; Being enriched in every thing to all bounti-
fulness [God prospers you], which causeth through
us thanksgiving to God (II Cor. 9:8-11).
I have added the basic concepts of SEED FAITH in italics to the above
scripture. When Roberts wrote about prosperity in 1961, he had defined only the
first concept of the "Three Keys to Seed Faith"--"God is your source."
The theme that ties these two scriptures together is "sufficiency in all
things." Agur prayed neither for riches nor for poverty, but for sufficiency.
Likewise, Paul promised neither wealth nor lack, but sufficiency in all things. Oral
Roberts comments on Paul's writing:
It [prosperity] is the possession of everything that you
need for yourself and your loved ones and enough left
over to give to those who need help. It stands to reason
that if you have only the bare necessities of life, you are
not prosperous. And if you have all the sufficiencies of
life, but no more, that is not prosperity, for you are still
barely getting by. Your cup is not yet running over. You
may still be subject to the temptations King Agur prayed
to avoid. But if you have everything you need with
something left over for the poor, that is prosperity. If,
after you have paid the tithe of your normal income, you
still have something with which you can send missionar-
ies into the foreign field to preach the Word of God and
to make it possible for Jesus of Nazareth to be taken,
through his Word, to those who know him not, that is
prosperity (A.L.E., p. 25).
This is the clearest statement that I have ever read of what Oral Roberts
believes is prosperity. When you have enough for you and your family, and
enough left over to give to the poor, and enough to support the work of God, you
have Bible prosperity. That is the God that Oral Roberts preaches, a God who
wants to meet your needs; a God who wants to give you all sufficiency in all
things in order that you might have seed to sow (your needs are met), your seed
will be multiplied (you will receive an increase), and you will be bountifully blessed
(you will receive a harvest). God, who is a good God, makes all grace abound
POINT OF CONTACT
It is almost impossible to understand Oral Roberts' ministry without under-
standing a point of contact. A point of contact is something you do, and, when
you do it, you release your faith. To Roberts, faith is an action. Faith is some-
thing you do. It is not passive. A point of contact is something you do, so that
when you do it, you release your faith. Probably the best Biblical example is the
woman with the issue of blood who said, "If I may but touch his garment, I shall
be whole" (Matt. 9:21). She had a point of contact. If I can touch, I will be
healed. When she touched, she was made well. This is a point of contact. All
through the scriptures, we find examples of people using a point of contact:
washing in the pool of Siloam, showing themselves to the high priest, dipping in
Jordan seven times, speaking the word, anointing with oil, laying hands on the
sick, speaking to a rock, stretching out a rod, breaking their pitchers--all something
they did. Over and over again, they used a point of contact to release their faith.
In almost every letter Roberts sends to his partners, he includes a point of
contact: a piece of rope, a packet of water, a prayer cloth, an outline of his hand,
a vial of oil, a ribbon. Many people believe that these are gimmicks. However, by
using a point of contact Oral Roberts is in good company. One of the greatest
prophets in the Old Testament used a similar point of contact to help the people
remember God." God told Moses to have the people sew a piece of blue ribbon on
the hem of their garments and expect a miracle:
Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that
they make them fringes in the borders of their gar-
ments throughout their generations, and that they
put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:
And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look
upon it, and remember the commandments of the
Lord, and do them (Num. 15:38-39).
What would the critics say if Oral Roberts told his partners to sew blue
fringe on their blue jeans and expect a miracle? Yet, that is what God told Moses
to tell the people. The fact that Moses gave the people a point of contact is
accepted by the church as scriptural and proper; however, if a modern day
prophet tells people to do something similar, they criticize him.
Be that as it may, in spite of the criticism, Roberts still uses a point of
contact. In the big tent, he always asked the audience to touch the seat in front
when someone was being prayed for. In his radio ministry, Roberts asked the
listeners to lay hands on the radio when he prayed. And later, on television, he
asked them to lay hands on the television set. Always he asked the people to do
something as a point of contact for the releasing of their faith. They had to act
In order to understand Oral Roberts and to understand his ministry to his
partners, one must understand what he means by a point of contact. It is some-
thing he tells his partners to do, that when they do it, they turn their faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ loose and receive the answer to their prayers.
PRAYING WITH THE SPIRIT and PRAYING
WITH THE UNDERSTANDING
The insight into the value of praying with the Spirit and praying with the
understanding came out of building the University. As Roberts walked over these
grounds praying, trying to understand how to build a university, he began to pray
in the Spirit and he began to pray in English. There seemed to be a correlation
between the two. As he continued, he was given a word of knowledge. He
began to see how to bring ORU into existence. As a result of those experiences,
he began to teach the therapeutic value of praying in tongues, of praying in the
Spirit. Out of that came the concept of what we call the prayer language. The
first time I ever heard anyone discuss the value of speaking in tongues--praying
with the Spirit and praying with the understanding--was in 1963 at the First
International Ministers Seminar held in Timko-Barton Hall of ORU.
Oral Roberts addressed two problem areas: the value of speaking in tongues
and the emotionalism associated with speaking in tongues. He began to teach
that speaking in tongues illuminated the intellect as one prayed with the Spirit and
prayed with the understanding. The Spirit of God would heighten the understand-
ing through the interpretation of the tongues in which one spoke.
One of the major criticisms of the Pentecostal movement had always been
its emotionalism. Many of the commentaries on the Bible spoke of speaking in
tongues as an ecstatic experience, the result of one's being in a trance-like state.
However, Oral Roberts began to teach that speaking in tongues was under the
control of the will of the individual--the spirit of the prophet was subject to the
prophet--and speaking in tongues was controlled by the will of the speaker. This
teaching had a profound influence upon the spread of the Charismatic Movement
among professors, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and businessmen The reason that
many of the intellectuals and professionals had not accepted speaking with
tongues was the exaggerated emphasis on the emotional quality of the experience.
Oral Roberts took speaking with tongues out of the emotions and put it under the
will, and they accepted it.
The forerunner of the concept of Seed Faith was the "Blessing Pact" that
Roberts developed in 1954. In the essay "The Bible Formula for Prosperity"
(A.L.E., p. 26), we find the outlines of Seed Faith with the first Key defined, "God
is the Source," and the scripture reference for the second Key:
Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure,
pressed down, and shaken together, and running
over, shall men give into your bosom
By 1961, the seeds of Seed Faith were germinating: the way to prosperity
was to recognize God is the Source, follow the Word, and honor God with your
Later, as he was being persecuted in a crusade in Florida, God told him to
expect a miracle and to tell his partners to expect a miracle. That was how the
last key of seed faith--EXPECT A MIRACLE--came into being.
These are the three Keys of Seed Faith: 1) God is your source, 2) Give as a
seed out of your need that it might be given to you, and 3) expect a miracle. As
with many of Roberts' teachings, Seed Faith is controversial, even though the
principle of sowing and reaping, seed time and harvest, is built into the universe.
One objection to Seed Faith is that we are trying to manipulate God by giving in
order to receive. My answer is that it is impossible to manipulate God, even
though we may try. If I understand the Bible, God has given to us "all things that
pertain to life and godliness" in Jesus Christ. If this is true, then how can I
manipulate God into doing something for me that He has already done? He has
already given to me all that He has in Christ Jesus, so how can I manipulate Him?
He is more willing to give, than I am to receive. May I say that again? God is
more willing to give, than I am to receive. In fact, I believe God has many bless-
ings that He would like to give me, if I would earnestly desire them.
The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the
violent take it by force (Matt. 12:12).
In our halfhearted efforts in prayer, we may try to manipulate God, but God
is more than ready to answer "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man"
Many critics do not understand the foundation of Seed Faith. Roberts
teaches that you must first give yourself as a seed to God in love. Out of the
planting of the self in love will come the planting of your seeds in the lives of
others in love. This complete consecration of your will to God will destroy any
ulterior motive in your service to God.
Another question that is raised is "How can Oral Roberts teach that we give
to get, if love asks for nothing except the privilege of loving?" To answer this
question the Spirit directed my mind to the Key verse in Luke 6:38 and told me to
read the context:
But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies,
do good to them which hate you, Bless them that
curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use
you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one
cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away
thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to
every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh
away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye
would that men should do to you, do ye also to them
likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what
thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love
them. And if ye do good to them which do good to
you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even
the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope
to receive what thank have ye? for sinners also lend
to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye
your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for
nothing again; and your reward shall be great and ye
shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind
unto the unthankful and to the evil....Give, and it
given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and
shaken together, and running over, shall men give
into your bosom (Luke 6:27-38).
As you read this, you may wonder if the same person was speaking. The
first part of the teaching informs us that we are to give to our enemies, we are to
lend without expecting any return, we are to offer our coat to those who take our
cloak, especially to our enemies and those who hate us, and from those who take
our goods, we do not ask them back again. That is giving in love without expecta-
tion. Then, the same Jesus told us to give and it would be given back unto us by
men, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. Many of
us were taught the first part; a few of us were taught the second part. However,
the same Christ taught it all in the same lesson. We see here the two sides of
giving: the commandment and the promise. Jesus commands us to give in love
even to our enemies without expecting anything from the ones to whom we give;
however, if we give in love as Jesus commanded us, He has promised that He will
cause men to give to us, and we will receive an abundant harvest. Some ministers
emphasize the commandment; Oral Roberts emphasizes the promise.
The greatest example of Seed Faith is found in God's giving His Son Jesus
Christ. All of the principles of Seed Faith are exhibited in this act of God: God is
the source; He planted His Son in the earth as a seed; He focused his giving on the
nation of Israel (Jesus came to the Jews), He gave out of a need to redeem His
creation, He gave to receive a harvest of believers (called the firstfruits); He has
not fully received from those to whom the gift of His Son was given (the Jews);
but He will reap in due season (all Israel will be saved); and He expects this miracle
to happen according to His Word.
One of the most provocative statements that I have heard on seed faith is
"Your seed is someone's harvest." We ought to meditate on that. The seed that
you plant is someone's harvest. If we all were in the rhythm of Seed Faith giving,
our sowing and our reaping would complete a cycle. When you had a need, I
would plant my seed to meet your need, and you would have your harvest. In
turn, you would give, and your giving would meet someone else's need, and they
would have their harvest. The planting of their seed would result in another
person's needs being met. The result would be that each member of the body of
Christ would minister to each member of the body and the body would have no
lack. Paul had this in mind when he wrote:
[We] may grow up into him in all things, which is the
head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly
joined together and compacted by that which every
joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in
the measure of every part, maketh increase of the
body unto the edifying of itself in love (Eph. 4:15-1-
If every member of the body of Christ, properly placed and firmly knitted
together in love, worked effectually at giving the measure of supply that God had
provided for it to every other member of the body, the church of Jesus Christ
would have no lack. This would make an increase in every area of the life of the
members of the church, and the body would edify itself in love. Notice that God
did not say He would increase and edify; He said each member of the body by
being joined to another member and giving its measure would cause the increase
and edify the body. Two members of the body must come together and make a
joint; it is the joint that supplies the increase. The rhythmic cycle of Seed Faith
would supply the fulness and take away the lack in the body of Christ.
Oral Roberts teaches Seed Faith as an act and Seed Faith as a process:
Seed Faith giving and Seed Faith living. Seed Faith giving is an act, an act of
planting of a seed for a desired result. In Seed Faith living, however, one must
first give himself to God in love. When one gives himself to God, then all that he
does becomes a seed. Everything he does is an act of love towards the Father,
and everything he gives is a seed that he plants to honor and glorify Him. Seed
Faith becomes a life style, a way of living in sowing and reaping.
You probably have not heard Oral Roberts preach much about the resurrec-
tion, but in the Holy Bible with Personal Commentary (referred to as H.B.C.), he
reveals the central place that the teaching of the resurrection has in his ministry.
In commenting on Jesus' statement, "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John
14:19), Roberts writes, "Our whole expectation for miracles is based upon the
resurrection of Jesus Christ."
And again, he writes,
Through the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, God
gave Jesus a name above everything that is named in
this world and in the world to come, putting ALL things
under His feet. When I began to see this in 1947, and
now see it greater and greater, I know we as Christians
must take time to FOCUS our faith on Jesus' NAME and
see it as being ABOVE any name (H.B.C.: Commentary
on Eph. 1:17-22).
At the resurrection, God gave Jesus Christ a name which is above every
name, and, by the power of Jesus' resurrection, we are made alive unto God. In
1947, when Roberts began to realize this, he recognized that God has given the
believer power and authority over all the powers of the devil. He writes,
Paul reminds every Christian that we have been raised
UP from the death "of sins and trespasses"...and MADE
to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This is
our divine right in the new covenant (H.B.C., comment
on Eph. 2:1-6).
As Christians we not only believe in immortality, but we believe in the
resurrection of the body. This is the "earnest expectation of every creature." Paul
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth
for the manifestation of the sons of God...Be-cause
the creature itself also shall be delivered from the
bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the
children of God...For we know the whole creation
groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now...e-
ven we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for,
to wit, the redemption of our body (Rom. 8:16-23).
Every created thing is waiting with expectancy the coming of the Lord Jesus
Christ and the resurrection of the saints. Paul calls this the "manifestation of the
sons of God" (verse. 16). John calls this the hope of the Christian:
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not
yet appear what we shall be: but we know that,
when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we
shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this
hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure (I
Our hope is not only that Jesus will come and deliver us from bondage, but
that when we see Him as He is, we shall be changed into His likeness. If we have
such a hope "in him," we purify ourselves as He is pure. This is the "manifesta-
tion of the sons of God." And Paul reminds the Ephesians that it is "by the
church" that God will make all principalities and powers know what His eternal
purpose was in Christ Jesus:
To the intent that now unto the principalities and
powers in heavenly places might be known by the
church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the
eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus
our Lord (Eph. 3:10-11).
That purpose was to "bring many sons and daughters unto glory" (Heb.
2:10), each one transformed into the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). The
resurrection will complete the work of the Holy Spirit in transforming the child of
God into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
These are the seven concepts that have changed Oral Roberts' life: the
ministry of the evangelist, the gifts of healings, God is a good God, a point of
contact, praying with the Spirit and praying with the understanding, Seed Faith,
and the resurrection.