Hailing from a tiny farming community in western Pennsylvania, his conversion was as a teenager in Akron, Ohio. While on his way home from work at a tire company, he overheard a street preacher say: "If you don't know how to be saved... just call on God." Upon returning home, he climbed into the attic, heeding the preacherís advice.
In 1919, five years after his conversion, and without formal theological training, Tozer accepted an offer to pastor his first church. This began forty four years of ministry, associated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), a Protestant evangelical denomination; thirty three of those years were served as a pastor in a number of churches. His first pastorate was in a small storefront church in Nutter Fort, West Virginia. Tozer also served as pastor for thirty years at Southside Alliance Church in Chicago (1928 to 1959), and the final years of his life were spent as pastor of Avenue Road Church in Toronto, Canada. In observing contemporary Christian living, he felt that the church was on a dangerous course towards compromising with "worldly" concerns.
In 1950, Tozer was elected editor of the Alliance Weekly magazine, now called, Alliance Life, the official publication of the C&MA. From his first editorial, dated June 3, 1950, he wrote "It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages, while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress. But it will pay in the long run and the true Christian is not much interested in anything short of that."
Among the more than forty books that he authored, at least two are regarded as Christian classics: The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy. His books impress on the reader the possibility and necessity for a deeper relationship with God.
Living a simple and non-materialistic lifestyle, he and his wife, Ada Cecelia Pfautz, never owned a car, preferring bus and train travel. Even after becoming a well-known Christian author, Tozer signed away much of his royalties to those who were in need.
Tozer had seven children, six boys and one girl. He was buried in Ellet cemetery, Akron, Ohio USA, with a simple epitaph marking his grave: "A. W. Tozer - A Man of God".
Prayer was of vital personal importance for Tozer. "His preaching as well as his writings were but extensions of his prayer life", comments his biographer, James L. Snyder in the book, In Pursuit of God: The Life Of A.W. Tozer. "He had the ability to make his listeners face themselves in the light of what God was saying to them", writes Snyder.