Importance of Prayer
The place of prayer in the Second Great Awakening
There was a Scottish Presbyterian minister in Edinburgh named John Erskine, who published a Memorial (he called it) pleading with the people of Scotland and elsewhere to unite in prayer for the revival of religion. He sent one copy of this little book to Jonathan Edwards in New England. That great theologian was so moved he wrote a response which grew longer than a letter, so that finally he published it as a book, entitled: “A Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and the Visible Union of All God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on earth, pursuant to Scripture Promises and Prophecies concerning the Last Time.” That was the title of the book, not the book itself.
But do not miss its message: “A Humble Attempt” (New England’s modesty) “to promote explicit agreement and visible union of God’s people in extraordinary prayer for a revival of religion and extension of Christ’s Kingdom.” Is not this what is missing so much from all our evangelistic efforts: explicit agreement; visible union, unusual prayer? This movement had started in Britain through William Carey, Andrew Fuller and John Sutcliffe and other leaders who began what the British called “the Union of Prayer.” Hence, the year after John Wesley died, the Second Great Awakening began and swept Great Britain. In New England, there was a man of prayer named Isaac Backus, a Baptist pastor, who in 1794, when conditions were at their worst, addressed an urgent plea for prayer for revival to pastors of every Christian denomination in the United States.
Churches knew that their backs were to the wall. So the Presbyterians of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania adopted it for all their churches. Bishop Francis Asbury adopted it for all the Methodists. The Congregational and Baptist Associations, the Reformed and the Moravians all adopted the plan, until America like Britain was interlaced with a network of prayer meetings, which set aside the first Monday of each month to pray. It was not long before the revival reached the frontier in Kentucky, it encountered a people really wild and irreligious. Congress had discovered that in Kentucky there had not been more than one court of justice held in five years. Peter Cartwright, Methodist evangelist, wrote that when his father settled in Logan County, it was known as Rogues’ Harbor. If someone committed a murder in Massachusetts or robbery in Rhode Island, all he needed to do was to cross the Alleghenies. The decent people in Kentucky formed regiments of vigilantes to fight for law and order, fought a pitched battle with outlaws and lost.
There was a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian minister named James McGready whose chief claim to fame was he was so ugly that he attracted attention. It was reported that people sometimes stopped in the street to ask: ‘What does he do?” “He’s a preacher.” Then they reacted, saying: “A man with a face like that must really have something to say.” McGready settled in Logan County, pastor of three little churches. He wrote in his diary that the winter of 1799, for the most part, was “weeping and mourning with the people of God.” Lawlessness prevailed everywhere. McGready was such a man of prayer that, not only did he promote the concert of prayer every first Monday of the month, but he got his people to pray for him at sunset on Saturday evening and sunrise Sunday morning. Then in the summer of 1800 came the great Kentucky revival. Eleven thousand people came to a communion service. McGready hollered for help, regardless of denomination. Baptists and Methodists came in response and the great camp meeting revivals started to sweep Kentucky and Tennessee, then spread over North and South Carolina, along with the frontier.
Out of that second great awakening after the death of John Wesley came the whole modern missionary movement and its societies. Out of it came the abolition of slavery, and popular education, Bible societies and Sunday schools, and many social benefits accompanying the
J. Edwin Orr, The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening.
The place of prayer in the 1859 Revival
In September 1857, a man of prayer, Jeremiah Lanphier, started a prayer meeting in the upper room of the Dutch Reformed Church Consistory building, in Manhattan. In response to his advertisement, only six people out of the population of a million showed up. But, the following week, there were fourteen, and then twenty-three, when it was decided to meet every day for prayer. By late winter, they were filling the Dutch Reformed Church, then the Methodist Church of John Street, then Trinity Episcopal Church on Broadway at Wall Street. In February and March of 1858, every church and public hall in downtown New York were filled.
Horace Greeley, the famous editor, sent a reporter with horse and buggy racing around the prayer meetings to see how many men were praying: in one hour, he could get to only twelve meetings, but he counted 6100 men attending. Then a landslide of prayer began, which overflowed to the churches in the evenings. People began to be converted, ten thousand a week in New York City alone.
The movement spread throughout New England, the church bells bringing people to prayer at eight in the morning, twelve noon, six in the evening. The revival raced up the Hudson and down the Mohawk, where the Baptists, for example, had so many people to baptise that they went down to the river, cut a big hole in the ice, and baptised them in the cold water: when Baptists do that, they really are on fire.
When the revival reached Chicago, a young shoe salesman went to the superintendent of the Plymouth Congregational Church and asked if he might teach Sunday School. The superintendent said, “I am sorry, young fellow. I have sixteen teachers too many, but I will put you on the waiting list.” The young man insisted: “I want to do something just now.” “Well, start a class.” “How do I start a class?” “Get some boys off the street, but don’t bring them here. Take them out into the country and after a month you will have control of them, so bring them in. They will be your class.” He took them to a beach on Lake Michigan and he taught them Bible verses and Bible games; then he took them to the Plymouth Congregational Church. The name of the young man was Dwight Lyman Moody, and that was the beginning of his ministry that lasted forty years.
For instance, Trinity Episcopal Church in Chicago had 121 members in 1857; in 1860,1400. That was typical of the churches. More than a million people were converted to God in one year out of a population of thirty million. Then that same revival jumped the Atlantic, appeared in Ulster, Scotland and Wales, then England, parts of Europe, South Africa and South India, anywhere there was an evangelical cause. It sent mission pioneers to many countries. Effects were felt for forty years. Having begun in a movement of prayer, it was sustained by a movement of prayer.
J. Edwin Orr, The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening.
The place of prayer in the Welsh Revival
Most people have heard of the Welsh Revival, which started in 1904. It began as a movement of prayer. I knew Evan Roberts personally (of course, I met him thirty years later), a man devoted to God. Seth Joshua, the Presbyterian evangelist, had come to the Newcastle Emlyn College where Evan Roberts was studying for the ministry. Evan Roberts, then 26, had been a coal miner. The students were so moved that they asked if they could attend his next campaign nearby, so they cancelled classes to go to Blaenanerch, where Seth Joshua prayed publicly “O God, bend us.” And Evan Roberts went forward, where he prayed with great agony, “O God, bend me.”
Upon his return, he could not concentrate on his studies. He went to the principal of his college and explained: “I keep hearing a voice that tells me I must go home to speak to our young people in my home church. Principal Phillips, is that the voice of the devil or the voice of the Spirit?” Principal Phillips answered, very wisely, “The devil never gives orders like that. You can have a week off.”
So he went back home to Loughor and announced to the pastor, “I’ve come to preach.” The pastor was not at all convinced, but asked: “How about speaking at the prayer meeting on Monday?” He did not even let him speak to the prayer meeting, but told the praying people, “Our young brother, Evan Roberts, feels he has a message for you if you care to wait.” Seventeen people waited behind, to be impressed with the directness of the young man’s words. Evan Roberts told him follow members; “I have a message for you from God. You must confess any known sin to God and put any wrong done to man right. Second, you must put away any doubtful habit. Third, you must obey the Spirit promptly. Finally, you must confess your faith in Christ publicly.” And by ten o’clock, all seventeen had responded. The pastor was so pleased that he asked “How about your speaking at the mission service tomorrow night? Midweek service Wednesday night?” He preached all week, and was asked to stay another week, and then “the break “came.
I have read the Welsh newspapers of the period. In them were snippets of ecclesiastical news, such as: “The Rev. Peter Jones has just been appointed the chaplain to the Bishop of St. David’s.” “Mowbray Street Methodist Church had a very interesting sale.” But suddenly there was a headline, “Great Crowds of People Drawn to Loughner.” For some days a young man named Evan Roberts was causing great surprise. The main road between Uanelly and Swansea on which the church was situated was packed, wall to wall, people trying to get into the church. Shopkeepers closed early to find a place in the big church.
Now the news was out. A reporter was sent down and he described vividly what he saw, a strange meeting, which closed at 4:25 in the morning, and even then the people did not seem willing to go home. They were still standing in the street outside the church, talking about what had taken place. There was a very British Summary: “I felt that this was no ordinary gathering.” Next day, every grocery shop in that industrial valley was emptied of groceries by people attending the meetings, and on Sunday, every church was filled. The movement went like a tidal wave over Wales, in five months there are a hundred thousand people converted throughout the country. Five years later, Dr J.V. Morgan wrote a book to debunk the revival, his main criticism that, of a hundred thousand joining the churches in five months of excitement, after five years only 75,000 still stood in the membership of those churches. The loss of 25,000 could be explained by a drifting away of unsympathetic people, or of others attracted to mission halls and the emerging groups of Pentecostals after glossolalia in 1907, or emigration.
It was the social impact that was astounding. For example, judges were presented with white gloves, not a case to try; no robberies, no burglaries, no rapes, no murders, and no embezzlements, nothing. District councils held emergency meetings to discuss what to do with the police now that they were unemployed. In one place, the sergeant of the police was sent for, and asked: “What do you do with your time?” He replied, “Before the revival, we had two main jobs, to prevent crime and to control crowds, as at football games. Since the revival started, there is practically no crime, so we just go with the crowds.” A councillor asked: “What does that mean?” The sergeant replied: “You know where the crowds are. They are packing out the churches.” “But how does that affect the police?” He was told: “We have seventeen police in our station, but we have three quartets; and if any church wants a quartet to sing, they simply call the police station.”
As the revival swept Wales, drunkenness was cut in half. There was a wave of bankruptcies, but nearly all taverns. There was even a slowdown in the mines. You say, “How could a religious revival cause a strike?” It did not cause a strike, just a slow down, for so many Welsh coal miners were converted and stopped using bad language that horses that dragged the trucks in the mines could not understand what was being said to them, hence transportation slowed down for a while until they learned the language of Canaan.
That revival also affected sexual moral standards. I had discovered through the figures given by British government experts that, in Radnorshire and Merionethshire, the actual illegitimate birth rate had dropped 44% within a year of the beginning of the revival. That revival swept Britain. It so moved all of Norway that the Norwegian Parliament passed special legislation to permit laymen to conduct
Communion because the clergy could not keep up with the number of the converts desiring to partake. It swept Sweden, Finland and Denmark, Germany, Canada from coast to coast, all of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, West Africa, touching also Brazil, Mexico, and Chile.. .yet, until 1973, the extent of that revival was unknown. As always, it began through a movement of prayer …
J. Edwin Orr, The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening
Revival in an Indian school through prayer, 1930
At a school for the sons of missionaries in Ootacamund, South India, there was a remarkable movement of the Spirit, during a mission held by R. T. Naish, although the work began before he arrived. Out of 130 boys in the school 100 professed conversion and with almost all of these there was a deep conviction of sin and much brokenness. It took the staff completely by surprise, for they had no expectation of it and were unable to cope with it. One day the lads were ordinary boys, full of fun, mischief and distraction. The next they were singing hymns all day, became intensely Bible-conscious, many spontaneously desired baptism and the communion table was filled with devoted converts.
What was the explanation for this sudden movement? It was afterwards discovered that three boys, under the age of twelve, had been going out in the early morning to the edge of the jungle to pray. They had prevailed with God and He had answered by fire. Psalms 8:2 From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
Arthur Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power, p121
The Hebrides Revival, 1949
One night God gave one of the sisters a vision in which she saw the churches crowded with young people and she told her sister, “I believe revival is coming to the parish.” At that time, there was not a single young person attending public worship, a fact which cannot be disputed. Sending for the minister, she told him her story, and he took her message as a word from God to his heart. Turning to her he said, “What do you think we should do?” What?” she said, “Give yourself to prayer; give yourself to waiting upon God. Get your elders and deacons together and spend at least two nights a week waiting upon God in prayer. If you will do that at your end of the parish, my sister and I will do it at our end of the parish from ten o’clock at night until two or three o’clock in the morning.”
So, the minister called his leaders together and for several months they waited upon God in a barn among the straw. During this time they plead one promise, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” (Isaiah 44:3). This went on for at least three months. Nothing happened. But one night a young deacon rose and began reading from Psalm 24, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation” (Psalm 24:3-5). Closing his Bible, he addressed the minister and other office bearers in words that sound crude in English, but not so crude in our Gaelic language, “It seems to me so much humbug. To be waiting as we are waiting, to be praying as we are praying, when we ourselves are not rightly related to God.” Then, he lifted his hands toward heaven and prayed, “O God, are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?” Then, he went to his knees and fell into a trance. Now, don’t ask me to explain the physical manifestations of this movement because I can’t, but this I do know, that something happened in the barn at that moment in that young deacon. There was a power loosed that shook the heavens and an awareness of God gripped those gathered together.
Duncan Cambell, transcript of a sermon
Praying in faith
Referring to the awakening in Kilsyth, July 23rd, 1839, William Burns wrote, ‘Some of the people of God who had been longing and wrestling for a time of refreshing from the Lord’s presence, and who had, during much of the previous night, been travailing in birth for souls, came to the meeting, not only with the hope, but with well-nigh the certain anticipation of God’s glorious appearing.
Arthur Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power, p149
A Medley of revivalists at prayer:
John Livingstone 1630
“John Livingstone spent the whole night prior to June 21, 1630, in prayer and conference, being designated to preach next day. After he had been speaking for an hour and a half a few drops of rain disconcerted the people, but Livingstone asking them if they had any shelter from the storm of God’s wrath went on another hour. There were about 5oo converted on the spot. “—Livingstone of Shotts.
“I once knew a minister who had a Revival fourteen winters in succession. I did not know how to account for it, till I saw one of his members get up to a prayer meeting and make a confession. ‘Brethren,’ said he, ‘I have been long in the habit of praying every Saturday night till after midnight, for the descent of the Holy Ghost upon us. And now, brethren,’ and he began to weep, ‘I confess that I have neglected it for two or three weeks.’ The secret was out. That minister had a praying church.”—Chas. G. Finney.
“Prevailing, or effectual prayer is that prayer which attains the blessing that it seeks. It is that prayer which effectually moves God. The very idea of effectual prayer is that it effects its objects.”— Chas. G. Finney.
“In a certain town there had been no Revival for many years; the Church was nearly extinct, the youth were all unconverted and desolation reigned unbroken. There lived in a retired part of the town an aged man, a blacksmith by trade, and of so stammering a tongue that it was painful to hear him speak. On one Friday, as he was at work in his shop alone, his mind became greatly exercised about the state of the Church and of the impenitent. His agony became so great that he was induced to lay by his work, lock the shop door, and spend the afternoon in prayer.
“He prevailed, and on the Sabbath called on the minister and desired him to appoint a ‘conference meeting.’ After some hesitation, the minister consented, observing, however, that he feared few would attend. He appointed it the same evening at a large private house. When evening came, more assembled than could be accommodated in the house. All were silent for a time, until one sinner broke out in tears, and said if anyone could pray, would they pray for him. Another followed, and another, and still another, until it was found that persons from every quarter of the town were under deep conviction. And what was remarkable was that they all dated their conviction at the hour the old man was praying in his shop. A powerful Revival followed. Thus this old stammering man prevailed, and as a prince had power with God.”— Chas. G. Finney.
“It loaded me down with great agony. As I returned to my room I felt almost as if I should stagger under the burden that was on my mind, and I struggled, and groaned, and agonised, but could not frame to present the case before God in words, but only in groans and tears. The spirit struggled within me with groanings that could not be uttered.”—Chas. G. Finney.
“I proposed that we should observe a closet concert of prayer for the revival of God’s work; that we should pray at sunrise, at noon, and at sunset, in our closets, and continue this for one week when we should come together again and see what further was to be done. No other means were used for the revival of God’s work. But the spirit of prayer was immediately poured out wonderfully upon the young converts. Before the week was out I learned that some of them, when they would attempt to observe this season of prayer, would lose all their strength and be unable to rise to their feet, or even stand upon their knees in their closets; and that some would be prostrate on the floor, and pray with unutterable groanings for the Outpourings of the Spirit of God. The Spirit was poured out and before the week ended all the meetings were thronged, and there was as much interest in religion, I think, as there has been at any time during the Revival. “—Chas. G. Finney.
“‘I have pleaded with God this day for hours, in the wood, for souls; He will give them. I know His sign. I shall have souls to-night. Yours, I trust will be one.’ Night came and with it such a power as I had never felt. Cries for mercy rang all over the chapel. Before the sermon was done, I, with many others, fell upon my knees to implore salvation..”—One of Thos. Collins’ Converts.
“I went to my lonely retreat among the rocks. I wept much as I brought the Lord to give me souls. “—Thos. Collins.
“I spent Friday in secret fasting, meditation, and prayer for help on the Lord’s Day. About the middle of the sermon a man cried out; at the cry, my soul ran over. I fell to prayer, nor could we preach anymore for cries and tears all over the chapel. We continued in intercessions, and salvation came.” —Thos. Collins.
“He gave himself unto prayer. Woods and lonely wayside places became closets. In such exercises, time flew unheeded. He stopped amid the solitary crags to pray, and Heaven so met him there that hours elapsed unconsciously. Strong in the might of such baptisms, he became bold to declare the cross and willing to bear it.”—Life of Thos. Collins.
“I have often seen him come downstairs in the morning after spending several hours in prayer, with his eyes swollen with weeping. He would soon introduce the subject of his anxiety by saying, ‘I am a broken-hearted man; yes, indeed, T am an unhappy man; not for myself, but on account of others. God has given me such a sight of the value of precious souls that I cannot live if souls are not saved. Oh give me souls, or else I die!’” —Life of John Smith.
“Where the result which he desired did not attend his own ministry, he would spend days and nights almost constantly on his knees, weeping and pleading before God; and especially deploring his own inadequacy to the great work of saving souls. He was at times when he perceived no movement in the church, literally in agonies; travailing in birth for precious souls, till he saw Christ magnified in their salvation.”—Life of John Smith.
“God enabled me to so agonise in prayer that I was quite wet with perspiration, though in the shade and the cool wind. My soul was drawn out very much from the world, for multitudes of souls.”— David Brainerd.
“Near the middle of the afternoon, God enabled me to wrestle ardently in intercession for my friends. But just at night, the Lord visited me marvellously in prayer. I think my soul never was in such an agony before. I felt no restraint; for the treasures of Divine grace were opened to me. I wrestled for my friends, for the ingathering of souls, for multitudes of poor souls, and for many that I thought were the children of God, personally in many different places. I was in such an agony from a sun, half an hour high, till near dark, that I was all over wet with sweat.”—David Brainerd.
“I withdrew for prayer, hoping for strength from above. In prayer, I was exceedingly enlarged and my soul was as much drawn out as I ever remember it to have been in my life. I was in such anguish, and pleaded with so much earnestness and importunity, that when I rose from my knees I felt extremely weak and overcome. I could scarcely walk straight; my joints were loosed; the sweat ran down my face and body, and nature seemed as if it would dissolve.”—David Brainerd.
“Prayer must carry on our work, as well as preaching. He does not preach heartily to his people who does not pray for them. If we do not prevail with God to give them repentance and faith, we are not likely to prevail with them to repent and believe. Paul gives us frequently his example of praying night and day for his hearers. “— Richard Baxter.
“Several members of Jonathan Edwards’ church had spent the whole night in prayer before he preached his memorable sermon, ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.’ The Holy Ghost was so mightily poured out, and God so manifest in holiness and majesty during the preaching of that sermon, that the elders threw their arms around the pillars of the church and cried, ‘Lord, save us, we are slipping down to hell!’”
“I find it necessary to begin at five in the morning and to pray at all opportunities till ten, or eleven, at night. “—Wm. Bramwell.
“Almost every night there has been a shaking among the people, and I have seen nearly twenty set at liberty. I believe I should have seen much more, but I cannot yet find one pleading man. There are many good people, but I have found no wrestlers with God. At two or three small places, we had cried for mercy; and several were left in a state of deep distress. “—Wm. Bramwell.
“If you spend several hours in prayer daily, you will see great things. “—John Nelson.
“He made it a rule to rise out of bed about twelve o’clock, and sit up till two, for prayer and converse with God; then he slept till four; at which time he always rose.”—Life of John Nelson.
“Be instant and constant in prayer. The study, books, eloquence, fine sermons, are all nothing without prayer. Prayer brings the spirit, the life, the power. “—Memoir of David Stoner.
All above quoted by Oswald J. Smith, The Revival We Need, p24-32
The 1859 revival in Ulster
James McQuilkin and three others began to meet in a school house every week for prayer and Bible study. They kept themselves warm with armfuls of peat gathered on the way to the school house every Friday evening. While peat warmed their bodies, the Spirit kindled the fire in their hearts. By the end of 1858, the participants at the prayer meeting had grown to fifty. Intercession without distraction to other subjects was made for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on themselves and the country. Their prayers and possibly much more were wonderfully answered in 1859 when an estimated 100,000 were added to the churches in Ulster.
Prayer revived New York and the nation
It was not a good time for churches in downtown Manhattan, and the North Dutch Reformed Church on Fulton Street resorted to creative measures, hiring a businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier as a sort of outreach minister. He knocked on doors in the neighbourhood and distributed pamphlets and Bibles, but response generally was dismal.
“One day as I was walking along the streets,” Lanphier wrote in his journal, “the idea was suggested to my mind that an hour of prayer, from twelve to one o’clock, would be beneficial to businessmen.” The idea blossomed: a weekly prayer time open to anyone, bankers to broom-pushers. Come when you can, leave when you must. Handbills advertised the first meeting – at noon on September 23, 1857.
Lanphier waited for the first attenders. No one showed up for the first thirty minutes. Then one man straggled in, then another. The hour ended with six men present, praying. The following week there were twenty, the next week forty. Soon a hundred. Rooms were packed. The church had to ask another church to handle the overflow. When churches ran out of the room, the prayer meetings moved to theatres.
By March 1858, the New York Times could report that Burton ’s Theater on Chambers Street was packed as famous preacher Henry Ward Beecher led a crowd of 3,000 in prayer. Some estimate that up to a million people became Christians in the 1857-58 revival.
What caused such immense interest in prayer? A stock market crash might have had something to do with it. Business leaders enslaved by money were suddenly seeking a more reliable master. But when he started his humble prayer time, Jeremiah Lanphier had no way of knowing about the impending financial collapse. He just knew people needed to pray.
William J. Petersen, 100 Amazing Answers to Prayer
An incident is told of a place called Filey in the early days of Methodism, to which preacher after the preacher had been sent, but all to no purpose. The village was a stronghold of Satanic power, and each one, in turn, had been driven out until at last it was decided to give it up as a hopeless task.
Just before the matter was finally settled, however, the now famous John Oxtoby, or “Praying Johnny” as he was called, begged the Conference to send him, and so let the people have one more chance. They agreed, and a few days afterwards John set out on his journey. On the way, a person who knew him inquired where he was going. “To Filey,” was the reply, “where the Lord is going to revive His work.”
As he drew near the place, on ascending the hill between Muston and Filey, suddenly a view of the town burst upon his sight. So intense were his feelings that he fell upon his knees under a hedge and wrestled and wept and prayed for the success of his mission. We have been told that a Miller, who was on the other side of the hedge, heard a voice and stopped in astonishment to listen when he heard Johnny say “Thou Munna mak a feal o’ me! Thou Munna mak a feal o’ me! I told them at Bridlington that Thou was going to revive Thy work, and Thou must do so, or I shall never be able to show my face among them again, and then what will the people say about praying and believing?”
He continued to plead for several hours. The struggle was long and heavy, but he would not cease. He made his very weakness and inefficiency a plea. At length, the clouds dispersed, the glory filled his soul, and he rose exclaiming, ‘It is done, Lord. It is done. Filey is taken. Filey is taken.’
And taken it was, and all in it, and no mistake. Fresh from the Mercy-seat he entered the place and commenced singing up the streets, “Turn to the Lord and seek salvation,” etc. A crowd of stalwart fishermen flocked to listen. Unusual power attended his address, hardened sinners wept, strong men trembled, and while he prayed over a dozen of them fell on their knees, and cried aloud for mercy and found it.”
Oswald J. Smith, The Revival We Need, p70-72
The mighty prayers of a feeble woman
“The first ray of light that broke in upon the midnight which rested on the Churches in Oneida County, in the fall of 1825 was a woman in feeble health, who, I believe, had never been in a powerful revival. Her soul was exercised about sinners. She was in an agony for the land. She did not know what ailed her, but she kept praying more and more, till it seemed as if her agony would destroy her body. At length, she became full of joy. and exclaimed: ‘God has come! God has come! There is no mistake about it, the work is begun, and is going all over the region.’ And sure enough the work began, and her family were all converted, and the work spread all over that part of the country.” – Chas. G. Finney.
Daily prayer for revival
The story is told of an invalid who formed the habit of praying for a Revival, daily, for some thirty towns and communities, and from time to time made this entry in his diary: “I was enabled to pray the prayer of faith for—– today.” After his death Revivals swept over each of these thirty places, almost exactly in the order he had noted them down. God had spoken, and though he did not live to see any of the answers, yet he was given the assurance that he had been heard.
Oswald J. Smith, The Revival We Need, p73-74
The burden of prayer for souls quickly heard and answered
Here is a scene witnessed during the first days of the movement: a crowded church: the service is over: the congregation, reluctant to disperse, stand outside the church in a silence that is tense. Suddenly a cry is heard within: a young man, burdened for the souls of his fellow men, is pouring out his soul in intercession. He prays until he falls into a trance and lies prostrate on the floor of the church. But heaven had heard, and the congregation, moved by a power that they could not resist, came back into the church, and a wave of conviction of sin swept over the gathering, moving strong men to cry to God for mercy. This service continued until the small hours of the morning, but so great was the distress and so deep the hunger which gripped men and women, that they refused to go home, and already were assembling in another part of the parish. An interesting and amazing feature of this early morning visitation, was the number who made their way to the church, moved by a power they had not experienced before: others were deeply convicted of their sin and crying for mercy, in their own homes, before ever coming near the church…..
There was a moving scene, some weeping in sorrow and distress, others, with joy and love filling their hearts, falling upon their knees, conscious only of the presence and power of God who had come in revival blessing. Within a matter of days the whole parish was in the grip of a spiritual awakening. Churches became crowded, with services continuing until three o’clock in the morning. Work was largely put aside, as young and old were made to face eternal realities. Soon the fire of blessing spread to the neighbouring parishes. Carloway witnessed a gracious manifestation of the power of God that will surely live in the annals of Lewis revivals
Duncan Campbell, The Lewis Awakening, 1949-1953, p17-18
The mighty weapon of prayer in the Hebrides revival
Perhaps the greatest miracle of all was in the village of Arnold. Here, indifference to the things of God held the field and a good deal of opposition was experienced, but prayer, the mighty weapon of the revival, was resorted to and an evening given to waiting upon God. Before midnight God came down, the mountains flowed down at His presence, and a wave of revival swept the village opposition and spiritual death fled before the presence of the Lord of life. Here was demonstrated the power of prevailing prayer, and that nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God. There are those in Arnold to-day who will bear witness to the fact that, while a brother prayed, the very house shook. I could only stand in silence as wave after wave of Divine power swept through the house, and in a matter of minutes following this heaven-sent visitation, men and women were on their faces in distress of soul. It is true that in this village God had His “watchmen.” Thank God there are many such in Lewis and Harris; it is one of such men who, when he witnessed the mighty power of God in this village, asked that we might sing the 126th Psalm:-
“When Sion’s bondage God turned back,
As men that dreamed were we,
Then filled with laughter was our mouth,
Our tongue with melody.”
Duncan Campbell, The Lewis Awakening, 1949-1953, p19
More revival prayers answered in the Hebrides
Bernera is a small island off the coast of Harris, with a population of about 400. In April 1952, it was my privilege to visit this parish and witness one of the most remarkable movements of the revival, Here, as in other districts, there were men who, on their faces before God, cried for an outpouring of His Spirit; and an incident occurred which goes to demonstrate the power of prevailing prayer and to reveal how true it is that “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.” One morning an elder of the Church of Scotland was greatly exercised in spirit, as he thought of the state of the church and the growing carelessness toward Sabbath observance and public worship. While waiting upon God, this good man was strangely moved, and was enabled to pray the prayer of faith and lay hold upon the promise, “I will be as the dew unto Israel.” This word from God came with such conviction and power, that he was assured that revival was going to sweep the island, and in that confidence he rose from his knees.
While this man was praying in his barn, I myself, taking part in the Faith Mission Convention at Bangor in Northern Ireland, was suddenly arrested by the conviction that I must leave at once and go to the Island of Bernera, where I found myself within three days! Almost immediately on arriving, I was in the midst of a most blessed movement. Again the promise was being fulfilled, “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground.” The first few meetings were very ordinary, but the prayers offered by elders of the congregation breathed a confidence in the sure promise of God. Again and again reference was made to the words of Psalm 50, verse 3, “Our God shall surely come.” They did not wait long for the fulfilment of this word from God! One evening, just as the congregation was leaving the church and moving down towards the main road, the Spirit of God fell upon the people in Pentecostal power: no other word can describe it: and in a few minutes the awareness of the presence of the Most High became so wonderful and so subduing, that one could only say with Jacob of old, “Surely the Lord is in this place.” There, under the open heavens and by the road side, the voice of prayer was mingled with the groans of the penitent, as “free grace awoke men with light from on high.” Soon the whole island was in the grip of a mighty movement of the Spirit, bringing deep conviction of sin and a hunger for God. This movement was different from that in Lewis in this respect, that while in Lewis there were physical manifestations and prostrations, such were not witnessed here; but the work was as deep and the results as enduring, as in any other part touched by the revival.
Duncan Campbell, The Lewis Awakening, 1949-1953, p23-24
How Whitefield prayed
In 1737 George Whitefield was on his way to Georgia when he prayed, ‘God, give me a deep humility, a well-guided zeal, a burning love and a single eye, and then let men or devils do their worst!’ Five years later he could still record in his diary: ‘I spent most part of my time in secret prayer…..Pray that I may be very little in my own eyes, and not rob my dear Master of any part of his glory.’
Quoted Brian Edwards, Revival, p57
The Lewis Awakening in 1949 began in a prayer burden
I believe this gracious movement of the Holy Spirit – The Lewis Awakening in 1949 – began in a prayer burden; indeed there is no doubt about that. It began in a small group who were really burdened. They entered into a covenant with God that they would “give Him no rest until He had made Jerusalem a praise in the earth”. They waited. The months passed, and nothing happened until one young man took up his Bible and read from Psalm 24: “Who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart… He shall receive the blessing from the Lord.” The young man closed the Bible and, looking at his companions on their knees before God, he cried: “Brethren, it is just so much humbug to be waiting thus night after night, month after month, if we ourselves are not right with God. I must ask myself – “Is my heart pure? Are my hands clean?”
Duncan Campbell, quoted A.Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power