We are in the middle of 24 hours of continuous prayer to conclude our week of prayer and fasting in the local church. With the crowd which gathered during our Friday evening session, we shared some of these inspirational stories which serve well to complete this short series of the habits of prayer heroes.
In Ulster it all started with four new young converts - James McQuilkin, Jeremiah Meneely, Robert Carlisle and John Wallace. They agreed to meet weekly on a Friday night to pray through the long winter of 1857-1858 in the Old Schoolhouse near Kells.
They took armfuls of peat for the fire in with them and in Paisley's words 'The peats made a fire in the schoolhouse grate and warmed their bodies from the winter chill, but their prayers brought down unquenchable fire from heaven which set all Ulster ablaze for God, and warmed with saving rays at least 100,000.'
Jeremiah Meneely described their meetings as follows: 'The prayer meeting was started in the autumn of 1857 and continued for 3 months before there were any visible results.' Only 2 more men joined them during that time, but on New Years Day 1858 their first conversion took place.
After that, their records show they saw salvation each friday night through the year - at the prayer meeting! By the end of 1858 there were 50 young men taking part.
Meneely continues: 'Women were not allowed in the meeting during the first year and after that they had a prayer meeting of their own. We had so much opposition and persecution to encounter that we did not think it advisable to allow women in. The world would have said that the meetings were held only for the purpose of flirtation.'
There was a remarkable momentum building that was about to overflow. 'Our one great object at the meetings was to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon ourselves and upon the surrounding country. This was the one great object and burden of our prayers. We held right to the one thing and did not run off to anything else.'
Many people ridiculed their stance, telling them that God poured out His Spirit at Pentecost already. Meneely retorted, 'The Lord knows what we want and we kept right on praying until the power came!'
What about Peggy Smith in Barvas, Hebridies at the start of the 1949 revival? This, the last genuine revival in UK.
Peggy and Christine Smith (aged 84 and 82) prayed constantly for revival in their cottage near Barvas village on the Isle of Lewis, the largest of the Hebrides Islands in the bleak northwest of Scotland.
God showed Peggy in a dream that revival was coming. Months later, early one winter’s morning as the sisters were praying, God gave them an unshakable conviction that revival was near.
Peggy asked her minister James Murray Mackay to call the church leaders to prayer.
Three nights a week the leaders prayed together for months. One night, having begun to pray at 10pm, a young deacon from the Free Church read Psalm 24 and challenged everyone to be clean before God. As they waited on God his awesome presence swept over them in the barn at 4 a.m.
Mackay invited Duncan Campbell to come and lead meeting’s. He replied that he could not come until the following year. God intervened and changed Duncan’s plans and commitments. Within 10 days he was on the island of Lewis.
At the close of his first meeting in the Presbyterian church in Barvas the travel weary preacher was invited to join an all night prayer meeting! Thirty people gathered for prayer in a nearby cottage.
Duncan Campbell described it:
'God was beginning to move, the heavens were opening, we were there on our faces before God.
Three o’clock in the morning came, and GOD SWEPT IN. About a dozen men and women lay prostrate on the floor, speechless. Something had happened; we knew that the forces of darkness were going to be driven back, and men were going to be delivered.
We left the cottage at 3 am to discover men and women seeking God. I walked along a country road, and found three men on their faces, crying to God for mercy. There was a light in every home, no one seemed to think of sleep.'
Later in a village opposed to the revival. At midnight in a prayer meeting, Campbell asked the local Blacksmith to pray. 'Oh God, You made a promise to pour water upon him that is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground, and, Lord, it's not happening.' He paused again and then continued: 'Oh God, Your honour is at stake, and I now challenge You to fulfil your covenant engagement and do what you have promised to do.'
Many who were present witnessed that at that moment the house shook. Dishes rattled in the sideboard, as wave after wave of Divine power swept through the building.
A minister standing beside Duncan turned and said: 'Mr. Campbell, an earth tremor!' But Duncan's mind, however, was in the fourth chapter of Acts, where the early Christians were gathered in prayer and, we read: 'When they had prayed the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.'
They came out of the prayer meeting to find every house open and people moving to the church, carrying chairs and needing to get right with God.
The most provocative thing about these 3 blogs on the prayer heroes habits is that none of them are really heroic - just ordinary believers like us who have made a decision to take hold of God until he does that which he has promised. Oh for such ordinary heroes in our generation!