Sixteen years ago, Lou Engle started asking the Lord how he could be part of turning America back to God. This John the Baptist-style prophet and intercessor discerned the perils facing our nation before 9/11, before the Great Recession, before this new wave of racial tension—and before the rise of an Islamic terrorist group that is beheading Christians and threatening to “strike America at its heart.”
Lou’s humble question birthed TheCall, a prayer movement that has gathered hundreds of thousands of believers to stadiums in America for solemn assemblies in the spirit of Joel 2. TheCall is a summons to prayer, fasting, repentance and sacrificial worship that does not advertise bands or promote speakers—but exalts the Lord Jesus Christ.
On April 9, 2016—the 110th anniversary of the Azusa Street outpouring that essentially birthed the modern-day Pentecostal movement—Lou is taking this holy prescription to the Los Angeles Coliseum. The goal is to unite believers in urgent, humble fasting and prayer, seeking the Joel 2 promise that God will pour out His Spirit again. It’s noteworthy that this is the same venue where Billy Graham once preached the gospel to 140,000 souls.
TheCall Azusa Now could be the most pivotal of all prayer meetings for Lou, who found Christ during the Jesus Movement—and was mowing lawns and sweeping basements for a living when he says he heard the voice of the Lord speak these words clearly in 1975: “I’ve called you to be an instrument of revival.”
“I began dancing in the room—and that began my journey. That call became more clear in 1984 when I was reading a book called Azusa Street by Frank Bartleman, who prayed and fasted before the Azusa Street Revival. His wife thought he would die,” says the 63-year-old revivalist. “I went into days of fasting and one night cried out to the Lord to give me the mantle of Frank Bartleman.”
Marked for Prayer
It seems God took him up on his petition. As Lou tells the story, the very night he was crying out for Bartleman’s mantle, his friend had a dream in which he saw a big black book with the title “revival.” In that dream, his friend opened the book to the inside cover and there was a picture of Frank Bartleman—and his face turned into Lou’s face.
“From that moment on, I knew my calling was revival and I was an intercessor for revival. My calling is to fast and pray,” Lou told Charisma in his characteristic rough voice. “I am a fire starter in prophetic intercession who calls people into fasting and prayer for breakthroughs with the end goal of seeing the spirit of revival.”
Lou entered full-time ministry when Ché Ahn, founding pastor of HRock Church in Pasadena, California, set him in place as his intercessor in 1984. Ché, who is also the founder of Harvest International Ministry and international chancellor of Wagner Leadership Institute, describes Lou as “one of the most amazing prophet-intercessors I’ve ever met.”
“TheCall and mobilizing prayer for revival has been historic,” Ché told Charisma. “There has been a turning point. Even though laws haven’t changed, the number of abortions is declining almost every year—especially since 2000, when abortion was the primary focus of TheCall D.C. that saw 400,000 people crying out to God.”
Ending abortion has been a burden on Lou’s heart for decades. In 2004, he founded Justice House of Prayer DC, which is committed to pray for national leaders and seeks spiritual transformation and cultural reformation from the government gate of our nation’s capital, and Bound4LIFE. Both ministries were birthed after 50 days and nights of 24/7 prayer and fasting that led a large group of prayer warriors to Washington, D.C., to re-enact a prophetic dream one of the intercessors had during the fast. On Oct. 4, 2004, they stood in a silent siege (Ezek. 4:1-3), wearing red tape with the word “LIFE” written over it, praying for an end to abortion.
This Bound4LIFE grass-roots movement, which seeks to exalt Jesus, see an end to abortion and contend for a great awakening in every sphere of society, has spread like wildfire in the pro-life community, even finding its way to the cover of TIME magazine. Although Roe v. Wade still stands, pro-life laws are passing across the nation and a recent Associated Press report reveals abortions have dropped by 12 percent nationwide since 2010.
“Lou has pioneered for a whole generation the reality that we have to stop abortion,” says Cindy Jacobs, co-founder of Generals International, a prayer-based organization that works to change lives and transform nations. “History will say Lou was a major voice that was the impetus for abortion to be stopped.”
40-Day Fast and a Dream
Perhaps the king of 40-day fasts, Lou is known for fasting as much as he is for prayer. His ministry is marked by prophetic dreams and visions God uses to lead and guide him on each step of his journey. One of those dreams came in 1996 during a 40-day fast inspired by Bill Bright, the late founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru). Bright, who also wrote The Four Spiritual Laws and was the visionary behind the Jesus film, realized that evangelism efforts were not bearing transformational fruit. He called 2 million people to join him in his annual 40-day juice and water fast. Lou responded to the call.
“I had a dream, and I was supposed to be giving a letter to a little boy named Joel. I lost the letter and I was looking for it frantically,” recalls Lou, who says he was raised on Derek Prince’s book Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting. In Prince’s book, the late Bible teacher declared the only answer in the last days would be united fasting and prayer. “I woke up and the Lord just spoke to me: Don’t lose Joel’s letter. Call the youth of America to fasting and prayer, the book of Joel. Little did I realize I would be calling solemn assemblies.”
On Oct. 4, 1997, Lou watched in awe as Promise Keepers, a men’s ministry on a mission to ignite and unite men to become warriors who will change their world, assembled 1.4 million men on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In a subsequent meeting with 600 young people, Lou started proclaiming from Malachi 4:6 that the hearts of the fathers would return to the children, and the hearts of the children would return to the fathers. He says he saw in the Spirit a corresponding move of young people—a John-the-Baptist, Nazarite generation—who would go to the National Mall and fast and pray as the older men had. When that day came, Lou declared prophetically, it would be a sign that America is turning back to God.
Then it happened. In 1999, a woman asked Lou if he had ever considered putting young people on the National Mall like Promise Keepers did two years earlier. When he told her about his proclamation and prophetic insight, the woman wrote him a check for $100,000 to fund what would become Lou’s first major solemn assembly. TheCall D.C. hit the mall Sept. 2, 2000, shortly after a dream Lou says he had in which he was overwhelmed with the possibility of America turning back to God.
“In that dream, a scroll rolled down before me, and I read Luke 1:17 to go on before the Lord in the spirit of Elijah and turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the rebellious to the wisdom of the righteous,” Lou says. “I woke up, and the Lord told me, ‘What I’m pouring out is stronger than the rebellion.’ I knew TheCall was a John-the-Baptist, Nazarite movement. If TheCall is truly a John-the-Baptist movement, you can bet there’s a Jesus Movement coming.”
Mike Bickle, director of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, got to know Lou when he was at IHOP for five years. Mike told Charisma Lou has a gift for national assignments that galvanize thousands of intercessors and mobilize them to action in a key day. Lou has held TheCall at over 20 sites in America with strategic focuses. For example, TheCall D.C. focused largely on abortion. TheCall Nashville in 2007 focused on the church renewing her marital covenant with the Lord, to repent of her tolerance of Jezebel and to pray for a new Jesus Movement to sweep the nation. TheCall Detroit focused on uniting races and ethnicities to pray as one unified body.
“Only people with these values gather to Lou’s voice—people who are desperate for breakthrough and are confident it’s coming,” Mike says. “Some people are desperate, but they are not confident. Some people are confident, but they are not desperate. Lou brings thousands of desperate, confident people together, and they are encouraged because they are not alone. They see there’s an army out there.”
Facing Down Goliaths
Lou’s ministry moves in a prophetic swirl of sorts, but he’s had plenty of spiritual warfare along the way. He’s tackled principalities such as Baal and Jezebel and wrestles with the spirit of mammon. In fact, he says funding has always been one of his greatest challenges: “It’s hard for people to lock on to funding prayer, but it happens.” But he says his feelings of personal failure and weakness are the greatest challenge. Indeed, Lou Engle says his greatest challenge is Lou Engle.
“It’s the challenge of having faith when you can’t see results,” Lou says. “You don’t even know people are coming. The enemy lies and says, ‘You can’t do it.’ And yet we have fought through and seen hundreds of thousands gathered. That in itself is a miracle. People say God is not answering the prayers. People criticize prayer rallies. Prayer rallies of 100,000 or 400,000 or 40,000 are the answer because it is the birthing. Prayer has always been the birthday of the great awakenings.”
Lou points to the Bright 40-day fast in 2000 as the catalyst for the greatest harvest in America’s history to date. After that, day-and-night prayer exploded around the world, the Global Day of Prayer was born, and TheCall was established. Lou believes God has answered Bright’s prayers and fasting with a massive proliferation of prayer that’s preparing the way for an explosive worldwide outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And Lou’s going to keep praying and fasting—and calling others to join him—until he sees it.
“People say we don’t see immediate answers to prayer,” Lou says. “I tell you, bowls have to be filled, and it might take years until they overflow. Think of the 70 years of people crying out for release from communism. In one moment, the Berlin wall came down. Everything shifts. Give us one moment of revival. God will change everything. I think God is bringing a massive prayer movement as part of the answers to our prayers.”
Dutch Sheets, an internationally recognized author, teacher and conference speaker, says he has never met anyone who lives what he preaches and teaches more than Lou, particularly with regard to prayer and fasting. “There’s no one more committed to the cause of the Lord, and more specifically, the causes that God has put on his heart: the pro-life issue and awakening and revival,” Dutch told Charisma. “Those things have made him so powerful and flow out of who he is. You’ll never find a more passionate person than Lou Engle.”
Lou will go down in charismatic church history as a general of intercession who mobilized the church to pray; a John-the-Baptist-like prophet who called the nation to repentance; a pro-life leader who understood that the blood of abortion is on our hands; a spiritual warrior who refused to tolerate Jezebel; and, hopefully an instrument of transforming revival.
“What releases the spirit of prayer is the spirit of prophecy,” Lou says. “When I tell the story of Azusa, bones start rattling, movement occurs, people begin to pray. I am convinced that the problem is not that there isn’t enough prayer. The problem is there’s not enough prophetic unction to create the spirit of prayer, or it’s the unbelief of the church, (who) won’t believe the prophecies until she sees.”
James Goll, president of Encounters Network, international director of Prayer Storm and founder of God Encounters Training, compared Lou to Kentucky Fried Chicken—he does one thing and does it right. “Lou Engle is not a show horse—he’s a trained racehorse with God-given blinders that hems him in to see the finish line,” James told Charisma. “Lou keeps his eyes on the prize to pay the price no matter what the cost. The prize is Jesus.”
Lou not only has his eyes on the prize, but he has inserted himself into the storyline. He’s standing in the gap and making up the hedge. He’s positioned himself as a watchman on the wall. And he is encouraged by what he sees: a growing number of churches across the nation holding 21-day, 30-day and 40-day fasts every year. He’s encouraged because he hasn’t seen this since Bright led the charge.
“The problem in the church isn’t unmotivated people,” Lou says. “It’s that we’re not listening to the right dreamers. When the Israelites were re-establishing the house of prayer when they came back from Babylon, the prophet Zechariah started prophesying, and it stirred the people. We’ve had 20 years now of storyline that’s fueling fasting, fueling prayer. God is in this generational Elijah movement, and I think we’re about ready to shift.”
Brian Kim, director of the Antioch Center for Training and Sending School of Frontier Missions in Colorado Springs, Colorado, told Charisma Lou embodies the marriage of prayer and prophecy and called him a visionary dreamer in every right.
“I have seen him lead hundreds of thousands in prayer, and I have seen him weeping in prayer in the early hours of the morning when he thought no one was watching, seeking solace in the front seat of his 15-passenger van for lack of a proper prayer closet,” Brian says. “I have seen him give literally all he has for the sake of the gospel—and not just one time, but on numerous occasions.”
Significance of This Call
Indeed, Lou sold his house in Pasadena to fund Asuza Now, and he’s hoping to fill the stadium for the glory of God. Beyond fasting, prayer and worship, Bill Johnson, senior pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California, is joining forces with TheCall Azusa Now to hit the streets with evangelism in the weeks leading up to the main event. The evangelism component marks a shift of strategy toward proclamation of the gospel with the signs and wonders Lou sensed prophetically in 2011.
Leaders in the prayer movement agree that TheCall Azusa Now is significant at a time when America desperately needs revival. God never sends revival without first stirring united prayer.
As James Goll sees it, TheCall Azusa Now is strategic in the life of Lou Engle, which makes it strategic in the life of the nation. “There’s going to be grace, grace, grace, grace, and it’s a turning point to turn the innie into an outie,” James says. “TheCall is going to take us into a modern-day Salvation Army where we are not just doing prayer and fasting in rooms; we are taking it to the streets coupled with the worship and evangelists and gifts of healing and working of miracles. It is a turning point.”
Dutch believes God has another outpouring in mind at the Azusa Street level and says TheCall is part of the prayer momentum toward that outpouring. “God wouldn’t be moving so sovereignly if there was not hope for this awakening,” Dutch says. “TheCall is very significant and will bring great hope.”
Mike sees TheCall Azusa Now as important for several reasons. Beyond the 110th anniversary of Azusa Street, he’s looking at Lou’s 30-year history of blowing the trumpet and gathering people to prayer. “Lou is a class of his own,” Mike says. “I don’t know of another person who has his resume in the Spirit. That’s what makes this significant. That’s what gets my attention.”
“We are not saying this event will be what brings revival to America,” Ché says. “TheCall is one of a number of initiatives for revival. But gathering to humble ourselves and pray and fast and seek His face en masse is especially significant on the 110th anniversary of Azusa Street.”
Lou is asking the body of Christ some serious questions: Can you believe with us that denominations will unite, that the races could come together, that God could make us one as the antidote to the terrific division in our day? Could you believe with us for stadium Christianity where signs and wonders are breaking out and mass evangelism explodes across our country—the Third Great Awakening?
“I don’t believe that God will fasten our soul to a dead-end vision,” Lou says. “I stand in awe of the God who has been faithful to His promises. He will come to us like the rain. Though darkness covers the Earth, the glory of the Lord rises upon us. I pray your heart burns with this faith. Can a nation be saved? I still believe!”
Lou may or may not see 140,000 people fill the Los Angeles Coliseum as they did in Billy Graham’s day, but tens of thousands are likely to unite in prayer, fasting and worship, intent on turning America back to God. Cindy Jacobs told Charisma TheCall Azusa Now is one of those events that, 10 years from now, people will say “I was there” or “I wish I had been there.”
Jennifer LeClaire is senior editor of Charisma, director of the Awakening House of Prayer, a senior leader of the New Breed Revival Network and author of many books, including Jezebel’s Puppets: Exposing the Agenda of False Prophets. Visit her online at jenniferleclaire.org.
Watch the incredible story of how God prophetically orchestrated each step leading up to TheCall Azusa Now at azusanow.charismamag.com.