We’re told to pray, in fact, to pray continually. God is in the details. Sometimes we don’t believe it. Never underestimate the power of what can happen to a city, region, or nation when people pray. ♦
There’s a group of men who meet every Tuesday morning at 6:30 AM at various locations across the San Francisco bay area region. This is not a normal men’s Christian fellowship group where men hold each other accountable, study the Bible and build relationships.
These groups get together in board rooms of business offices in groups of 5 to 20 and, for one hour, they have simply one purpose: they pray for the Bay Area region.
The group is called Legends. The men are young and old from all walks of life and from different churches. It’s not a single church initiative, rather it’s a Church initiative. The local rendition was actually inspired by a group of men who started praying in and for New York City.
The concept, of course, is as old as the Old Testament Hebrews praying for city and regional blessings, protection, and contrition and revival.
And while we don’t fully understand it, there is something to prayer. Never underestimate its power or impact.
Case in Point: The Great Ulster Revival
I will share this story at the Legends group meeting I attend next Tuesday:
In 1856 in the province of Ulster in northern Ireland, James McQuilkin was invited to an afternoon gathering of friends. He was a worldly man known for rearing chickens for cock-fighting. At the gathering was a visiting Baptist missionary woman named Mrs. Colville, who herself was disappointed in the lack of tangible impact from her recent travels. The conversation moved from discussing the weather to the topic of religion and faith, a topic that McQuilkin found uncomfortable. After another guest described the nature of her Christian experience, Mrs. Colville said, “My dear, I don’t believe you have ever known the Lord Jesus.” McQuilkin later wrote, “I knew that she spoke what was true of me. I felt as if the ground were about to open beneath me and let me sink into hell. As soon as I could, I left the [gathering]. For two weeks I had no peace day or night. At the end of that time I found peace by trusting the Lord Jesus.”
Over the following year McQuilkin felt burdened to pray for his neighbors. He asked 3 friends to join him. Once a week the four men gathered at the schoolhouse in the small village of Ahoghill to pray for each person in the community by name. Unbeknownst to them, similar groups and pastors were praying throughout northern Ireland for revival of faith in their towns and region.
In December 1857 McQuilkin’s group saw their first conversion, then some more. Into the following year the weekly prayer group had grown to 50 men. (By the way, they purposely excluded women to avoid any distractions with “flirtation.”) While there was much growth and excitement, there no widespread revival.
But the men kept praying.
One night in March 1859, the McQuilkin prayer group invited Christians to a prayer meeting at the Ahoghill Presbyterian Church. The church was so crowded that they moved the meeting out into the street. There hundreds of people knelt in the mud and rain, confessing their sins and praising God. They were the first of 100,000 people that came to Christian faith in 1859 in what became known as the Ulster Revival.
In this revival was a great spiritual movement among young people. It was not uncommon for teenage boys to hold street meetings to reach their peers for Christ. At one such street meeting an Irish pastor counted 40 children and 80 adults listening to the preaching of 12-year-old boys.
The results of the revival were remarkable. In 1860 the entire county had empty jails and no crimes to investigate. Judges had no cases to hear. With their owners converted, pubs closed and alcohol consumption fell so dramatically that whisky distilleries were sold. Gambling at horse races fell off by 95%.
A visitor to Ulster reported “thronged church services, abundant prayer meetings, increased family prayers, unmatched Scripture reading, increased giving, converts remaining steadfast.”
The Ulster movement touched off similar revivals in England, Scotland, and Wales.
* Adapted from The Book of Christian History, by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten, 2003
What is interesting to note in this story is that any movement or revival has a catalyst or spark. Mrs. Colville thought she was not producing fruit in her own missionary efforts. Look what she started. James McQuilkin was not who anyone would have picked to begin a spiritual revival through prayer. I’m sure he and his 3 friends often went home wondering if their fervent prayer for their small village was really making any difference at all. Little did they know what profound impact they would have on so many lives.
But God is legendary in His working great and amazing things through small beginnings. A Christian’s simple response to the Gospel message of Christ and the call to pray continually can be the stuff of true legends. We can only seek to be legendary in our own humble and obedient prayers for His power to break through dark places and change our homes, our cities, our regions, our nations.
Are you legendary in prayer?
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22