Lillie Price Dunaway: Unashamed of the Spirit

Lillie Price Dunaway
Lillie Price Dunaway

HE WENT TO the service to make fun of the people, but God touched her heart that night and she left a changed person.”

These were the reflections of Rawls Price about the night his mother, Lillie Price Dunaway (1891-1992), received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

In 1931, Lillie and her husband, Arthur “Ott” Price, attended a sing- ing at Mount Sinai Church of God near Darbun, Mississippi. Although they personally had resisted the Pentecostal message for more than 15 years, they were entertained by watching Church of God people worship the Lord with shouting, dancing, trembling, and speaking in tongues. They were comfortable with their own church and considered such emotional expressions unnecessary. Lillie often commented there was no need for people to act in such a way.

On the night they attended the singing, an altar call was given for those who wanted to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Ott and Lillie were shocked to see their 12-year-old son, Rawls, respond to the invitation. After praying for some time at the altar, Rawls felt a hand on his back and heard a familiar voice praying for him. It was his mother. While in prayer, both Rawls and Lillie were baptized with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Lillie had gone to the service to be amused, but, as she would later testify, she left the service being “one of them.”

Lillie’s Pentecostal experience was a radical shift from her previous mind-set. The first two weeks following her newfound experience, Lillie was in a state of continual worship. Her family observed her shout and dance throughout their house. She even burned some meals while overcome with rejoicing in the kitchen! She later reflected how God’s power seemed like electricity flowing through her being, and she felt an inner love she had never experienced before. When Lillie spoke, her English was overtaken as she began to speak in tongues. She became unashamedly bold in her witness for Christ and demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power.

Soon Lillie joined a nearby Church of God congregation and spent hours each week in personal prayer and Bible study. She boldly prayed in public, both in English and in the Spirit. No matter where she was, if she heard an emergency siren, she prayed for God to intervene in whatever was transpiring.

Lillie laid her hands on and prayed for every visitor to her home, including salespersons and politicians. The gift of healing operated through her, with people from different denominations visiting her home for prayer. Individuals testified of healing from various illnesses, including cancer, after Lillie prayed for them.

Living to age 100, Lillie spent six decades in active Christian witness. Often as she testified during church services, people responded with shouts of joy as the Holy Spirit ministered to them. Lillie’s example inspired countless individuals in various denominations to seek the Pentecostal experience, and in her lifetime she helped more than 100 individuals “pray through” to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. More than 20 years after her death, individuals continue to speak highly of Lillie Price Dunaway and how their own spiritual experience was strengthened because she was unashamed of the Holy Spirit.

Louis F. Morgan, Ph.D., is an associate professor and director of library services at Lee University. He also serves on the Church of God Historical Commission.