John G. Lake
No words of mine can convey to another soul the cry that was in my heart and the flame of hatred for death and sickness that the Spirit of God had stirred within me. The very wrath of God seemed to possess my soul!
These words summarized the passion that propelled the life-long ministry of John G. Lake. He spoke these words in reference to the intensity of emotion he felt as his thirty-four year old sister lay dying. He had already witnessed eight of his fifteen siblings die from illness–yet he had also witnessed the miraculous healing of his own childhood rheumatoid arthritis, as well as a sister’s cancer and brother’s blood disease under the ministry of John Alexander Dowie. It was already too late to take this sister who now lay dying to Dowie’s Healing Home in Chicago, so he telegraphed Dowie with a desperate plea for prayer. Dowie telegraphed back: “Hold on to God. I am praying. She will live.” That simple declaration caused John Lake to wage a furious spiritual attack on the power of death – and within the hour his sister was completely healed.
It was battles such as this—at death’s very door—that brought John G. Lake face to face with his convictions. Was he going to stand by as the enemy took yet another loved one from him, or was he going to choose to stand in the enemy’s way? Such an opportunity again presented itself on April 28, 1898, when his wife of five years lay dying. Jennie battled for breath in her final hours when Lake finally put his foot down. He would not tolerate the enemy stealing away the mother of his children and his spiritual partner. He determined to believe God’s Word as it was revealed to him for her healing and at 9:30 a.m. he contended for her life in prayer upon which she rose up healed, praising the Lord in a loud voice. News spread of Jennie’s miraculous healing, and from that time on, John Lake was sought after for the power of his healing anointing.
Such was the power of his anointing that he wrote about it as being like the lightning of Jesus: “You talk about the voltage from heaven and the power of God! Why there is lightning in the soul of Jesus! The lightnings of Jesus heal men by their flash! Sin dissolves and disease flees when the power of God approaches!” Lake would also compare the anointing of God’s Spirit to the power of electricity. Just as men had learned the laws of electricity, Lake had discovered the laws of the Spirit. And, as God’s “lightning rod,” he would rise within God’s calling to electrify the powers of darkness and solidify the body of Christ.
In 1901, at the age of thirty-one, Lake moved to Zion, Illinois, to study divine healing under John Alexander Dowie. But in 1904, when Dowie’s increasing financial problems began to surface, Lake decided to distance himself and relocated to Chicago. When his personal investments in Zion properties left him in near financial ruin following Dowie’s death in 1907, he bought himself a seat on the Chicago Board of Trade and over the next year was able to accumulate over $130,000 in the bank and real estate worth $90,000. This prompted the notice of top business executives who asked Lake to form a trust of the nation’s three largest insurance companies for a guaranteed salary of $50,000 a year. He was now a top business consultant to top business executives making money on the side through hearty commissions as well. By turn-of-the-century standards, John Lake was making a fortune.
For a while he was able to juggle his great secular success and grow in his desire for God. He had learned to walk in the Spirit as he described like this: “It became easy for me to detach myself from the course of life, so that while my hands and mind were engaged in the common affairs of every day, my spirit maintained its attitude of communion with God.” But by 1907, he yielded to the call to full-time ministry, and he and Jennie sold their estate and all their belongings. From that point on the Lake’s relied on God for provision as they traveled the country ministering. By January of 1908, they began praying for the necessary finances to take their team to Africa.
In April of that same year, the Lakes and their seven children left for Africa with only money to pay for passage on the ship. In faith, they believed God for the finances necessary to gain them admittance into the country and for provision once they arrived. He provided what they needed as they were lining up to pay upon leaving the ship, and once aground, a miraculous housing offer presented itself before they had even left the dock. They immediately settled into a furnished home in Johannesburg. Days later, John was asked to fill in for a South African pastor who was taking a leave of absence. Over five hundred Zulus were in attendance his first Sunday in the pulpit, and as a result, revival broke out so that within weeks multitudes in from the surrounding area were saved, healed, and baptized in the Holy Spirit. The success astounded Lake so that he wrote: “From the very start it was as though a spiritual cyclone had struck.” In less than a year, he had started one hundred churches.
Ministry success came at a price. Before the year was out, on December 22, 1908, Lake came home to find Jennie had died from physical exhaustion and malnutrition. He was devastated. Early in 1909, he returned to the States to recuperate, raise support, and recruit new workers. By January of 1910, he was headed back to Africa in the midst of a raging plague there. He was among few who ministered to the sick and dying. He proved to local physicians that the germs would not live on his body due to the Holy Spirit alive in Him. He actually verified this under a microscope showing that the germs died upon contact with his body. Those who witnessed the experiment stood in amazement as Lake gave glory to God explaining that: “It is the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. I believe that just as long as I keep my soul in contact with the living God so that His Spirit is flowing into my soul and body, that no germ will ever attach itself to me, for the Spirit of God will kill it.”
In 1912, after five years of ministry in Africa, having produced 1,250 preachers, 625 congregations, and 100,000 converts, Lake returned to the United States. In 1913 he married Florence Switzer with whom he had five children. They settled in Spokane, Washington, where they founded the Spokane Healing Home and the Apostolic Church, which drew thousands from around the world for ministry and healing. In May of 1920, the Lakes left Spokane for Portland, Oregon, where he started another Apostolic Church and healing ministry similar to the one in Spokane.
By 1924, Lake was known throughout America as a leading healing evangelist. He had established forty churches throughout the United States and Canada in which there had been so many healings that his congregations nicknamed him “Dr.” Lake. In December of that year, Gordon Lindsey, founder of Christ for the Nations in Dallas, Texas, was converted while hearing Lake preach in Portland. He attended his services nearly every night for a week and considered Lake to be a mentor. Lindsey later contracted deadly ptomaine poisoning, but was totally healed once he was able to get to Lake’s home.
In 1931, Lake returned to Spokane at the age of sixty-one. He was weak with fatigue and nearly blind. God ultimately restored his vision after Lake had a “talk” with the Lord about it. Sadly, on Labor Day of 1935, after returning from a church picnic, John G. Lake went home to be with the Lord. He was sixty-five years old.
I can see as my spirit discerns the future and reaches out to touch the heart of mankind and the desire of God, that there is coming from heaven a new manifestation of the Holy Spirit in power, and that new manifestation will be in sweetness, in love, in tenderness, and in the power of the Spirit, beyond anything your heart or mind ever saw. The very lightning of God will flash through men’s souls. The sons of God will meet the sons of darkness and prevail.