Exactly Who Was A.W. Tozer?
TOZER KNOWN AS A MODERN-DAY PROPHET Early Life A.W. Tozer was born in the small farming town of La Jose, Pennsylvania in 1897 to a poor family. Primarily self-educated, due to his home life, most of what
TOZER KNOWN AS A MODERN-DAY PROPHET
A.W. Tozer was born in the small farming town of La Jose, Pennsylvania in 1897 to a poor family. Primarily self-educated, due to his home life, most of what he learned, he taught himself, especially throughout his high school and college years. However, he did receive an honorary degree, a Doctor of Letters, from Wheaton College.
His conversion to Christianity happened during his teenage years when he happened to hear a preacher on the street give a simple call to God. He said that if a person did not know how to be saved, all he had to do was call out to God, saying “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner”.
Dedication To God
Aiden Wilson Tozer accepted his first position as a pastor only five years after his conversion, in 1919, in Nutter Fort, West Virginia. He had no formal training, but he was known to be given to three primary tasks, which were to pray, to study and to proclaim.
It is said that he would arrive in the early morning hours at his office, where he would change from his slacks into old pants and beginning praying. Lasting for sometimes as much as three hours, he would begin by praying on his office couch, but would eventually move to the floor, where he lay face down in prayer.
His years in the ministry were fruitful and he served thirty of those years as the pastor of a Chicago church known as Southside Alliance Church, from 1928 until 1959. The last church he pastored was in Toronto, Canada, the Avenue Road.
Tozer Was An Avid Reader
Most of his study time was spent in meditation on the Scriptures, but he chose to read a great many other author’s works as well. He was well-read, choosing books by the early fathers of the church, reformers, puritans, philosophers and even mystics and authors from the Middle Ages. It’s not only an impressive list from a normal standpoint, but certainly magnified since his formal education ended during his sixth grade year.
It’s also interesting to note that, in order to have time that was completely devoted to reading, Tozer would often board a train, ride some hours in one direction, and then board another train to come back. He even chose private compartments in the train to do so.
Tozer As A Man
On a personal level, Tozer was just as unique as he was in a spiritual sense. He was gritty, as a Midwesterner, yet his heart was the heart of a true shepherd. He had a very firm countenance, but a warm and inviting sense of humor. With sharp rhetoric, he kept his mind unrelentingly focused.
However, it was the depth of his devotion to Christ and his dependence on the Holy Spirit that outshined all else about him as a man.
May people considered him a prophet of the day, as he was greatly concerned that the church was becoming too compromising and worldly. In an editorial that he wrote for Alliance Weekly (now called Alliance Life), of which he became editor in 1950, he stated that many men found themselves caught up in a rush of life, confusing progress for motion.
One of the most important facets of Tozer’s life was prayer. Even his sermons and writings became extensions of that conviction, and he was able to make those who heard and read begin to see themselves in regard to what God happened to be saying to the person at the time.
Tozer, The Author
Tozer wrote in excess of forty books, two of which are regarded as endearing classics in Christian Literature. Both The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy, did what most of his writings aimed at: pushing the reader towards a deeper life in following Christ. He believed that the greatest approach to God was one of simplicity, and that to make the Word alive and yet simple was the way to reach lost souls.
As profound and timeless as his books are, his quotes are just as profound and just as timeless. Few authors can make an entire statement in just a few words, but Tozer certainly had that ability. Today, his quotes are as popular as his books, and many today still use them frequently across a wide gamut of resources.
Some of the topics he covered most, as a preacher and an author, include mercy, wisdom and grace, but his primary focus was holiness and God’s glory. Leonard Ravenhill said that there was likely to never be another man like Tozer, one not bred from a college but rather taught solely by the Spirit of God.
Tozer’s Personal Life
His lifestyle was not based on material goods and was very simple. Married to Ada Cecelia Pfautz, they did not own a vehicle and chose to ride the bus or the train to get where they needed to go. Even after becoming renowned as an author, he was often known to sign away royalties to those who were in a position of great need.
Even though Tozer was completely given over to the worship of God, he was severely introverted and lacked an intimate relationship with his wife. After sermons that he preached, he would quickly make his way to the nursery, making as good an excuse as possible for his absence. It was plain, however, that he simply was not comfortable around a host of people.
In the same way, he was very attentive to his children while they were infants, but lacked a close relationship with them once they had grown. Towards the end of his life, Tozer stated that he had lived a lonely life. And his wife, being asked about Tozer, after she had remarried, said that Tozer had been God’s man, but her new husband was hers alone.
He died in May of 1963, of a heart attack, having ministered right up until that time. He was sixty-six years old. Buried in Akron, Ohio in the Ellet Cemetery, Tozer’s epitaph simply reads, “A.W. Tozer – A Man of God”.
To Better Know A.W. Tozer
If you would like a deeper glimpse into who A.W. Tozer really was, all you need to do is pick up one of his books. In fact, here are a few to get you started, as they are a great addition to any library of Christian classics.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name be the glory
Because of Your love and your faithfulness!