Did you know there has been a prayer meeting for Christian leaders in South Wales, focussed specifically on revival, on a regular basis for the last 44 years? That’s quite a long time.In fact the roots of this meeting go back much further – all the way to 1904.
Back in the 1960’s two pastors in the Swansea area (Luther Rees and I. B. Davies) found counsel and support in the company of an older pastor – George Griffiths from The Mission in Cwm Twrch. Whenever they were ‘down’ they would head up the valley and spend some time with ‘the old man’.George Griffiths, in his 70’s by then, was a man with a story. He had been converted, aged 19, in the 1904 Revival and then, in 1909, called to pastor Cwm Twrch Mission. The Mission at that time had just thirteen members. It was a big step to take.
It was in 1912 that unusual things began to happen. Stephen Jeffreys from Maesteg had been invited to Cwm Twrch to take some special services at Christmas time. Clearly he did not come alone. What started as a long-weekend preaching convention ignited and continued for seven whole weeks without a break. People were converted night after night. The Mission flourished and in the following years many were sent into Christian Ministry across the world. You can then, maybe, understand the attraction that time spent with George Griffiths could have for men who lived in leaner times and had never seen such things as this.
Out of those visits to Cwm Twrch a prayer meeting was born. George Griffiths had grown weary of recounting revival stories to younger Ministers, and with considerable insight he urged them instead to pray for God to do it again. So, stirred by the possibilities held out to them, the younger men sought to initiate a movement of prayer, under the leadership of Pastor Griffiths, with the sole aim of saying to God, ‘O Lord, do it again’.
Beginning in 1968 these prayer meetings ran every Friday morning. They continued weekly until 1982. That’s fourteen years of weekly prayer meetings. Since 1982 this prayer meeting has taken the form of special ‘days of prayer’, and then ‘half-days of prayer’, held quarterly in Bridgend. Initially these were under the leadership of Elwyn Davies, and then, since his retirement in 1990, they have been under the leadership of Luther Rees’ son, Neville.
what they were praying for
For a while now, for whatever reason, ‘revival’ has been out of fashion among us. But elsewhere the subject has gained new prominence. Tim Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, has written, blogged and preached extensively on the subject.Drawing on the writings of Jonathan Edwards, W. B. Sprague and D. M. Lloyd Jones, he defines revival as ‘a work of God in which the church is both beautified and empowered because the normal operations of the Holy Spirit (conviction of sin, enjoyment of grace, access to the presence of God) are intensified.It is’, he writes, ‘an outpouring of the Spirit on and within the congregation, so that the presence of God among his people becomes evident and palpable.’
Inevitably, when something as big as that happens, things change and they change wonderfully. Tim Keller again: ‘At such times people who think they know the gospel are brought to see that they really do not know it. Many nominal Christians realize they are not converted and cross over in to living faith, and many sleepy Christians wake up to why they have been living in anxiety, envy, anger, and boredom. The church stops ‘basing its justification on its sanctification’ and there is an enormous release of energy, The non-churched are then attracted and drawn in by the transformed life of the Christian community, which finally becomes a sign of the kingdom, a beautiful alternative to human society without Christ.’
That is quite a list. ‘The church beautified and empowered’. ‘An intensification of conviction of sin, of enjoyment of grace, and of access into the presence of God’. ‘Nominal Christians moving over into living faith’. ‘Sleepy Christians awakened’. ‘An enormous release of energy’. You have to wonder how that ever went out of fashion? I need these things. The church I belong to needs these things. The community I am part of needs these things. I don’t know of anyone, anywhere who doesn’t.
but why a prayer meeting
Keller again: ‘To kindle every revival the Holy Spirit uses what Jonathan Edwards called ‘extraordinary prayer’ – united, kingdom-centred, prevailing prayer.’ That is it. This work is God’s work. It is beyond us. We must pray for it. Specifically. Listen again to Keller: ‘Sometimes it begins with a single person or a small group of people praying for God’s glory in the community. What is important is not the number of people praying but the nature of the praying. [There is] ‘maintenance’ prayer and ‘frontline’ prayer. Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical and focussed on physical needs inside the church . . . frontline prayer [is about asking] for grace to confess sins and to humble ourselves, [for] compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church and the reaching of the lost [and] a yearning to know God, to see his face, to glimpse his glory.’ This ‘frontline’ praying is the sort of prayer this meeting has sought to pursue over the years. And it is still needed. To use a picture from another US Pastor, we will never win the ‘ground war’ until we’ve won the ‘air war’
when and where?
So here is the question: is now the time to bring this prayer meeting to an end? I don’t think so. I do not believe that now is the time to pray less. Surely now is the time for this 44 year old prayer meeting to gain new momentum.
In 2013 these meetings will be held in Bethlehem Evangelical Church, Sandfields, Port Talbot from 9.30am to 12.30pm on the following dates: Thursday 21th February 2013, Thursday 18th April, Thursday 6th June, Thursday 12th September, Thursday 7th November 2013