The following is excerpted from the new Bible course, Effectual Prayer in Perilous Times, www.wayoflife.org -
Prayer before special meetings. These used to be called “cottage prayer meetings” and they were common in some parts of America in the first part of the 20th century. They were still fairly common in the 1960s and 1970s. But they have gone by the way side in most churches. Special meetings are not preceded by special prayer, and the result is a lack of spiritual power. We tend to depend more on advertising, decorations, special music, food, and the dynamism of the special speaker.
In his autobiography, evangelist Monroe Parker gives many examples of the power of prayer in his meetings. One of these was in Homerville, Georgia, where the meeting was restricted by hardness of heart caused by moral scandals in the churches of that area.
“One night I asked all who would to go to the basement and pray that revival would shake the city. Only twenty-seven people responded, but they prayed earnestly and fervently. One young lady prayed that God would send revival even if He had to take unsaved loved ones to bring large numbers of unsaved people to Christ. ... The next afternoon that girl’s unsaved half-brother died. I had talked to him that morning, and pleaded with him to be saved. He said, ‘I will do it tonight.’ I said, ‘You cannot decide this morning that you will be saved tonight. You cannot be saved tonight without repentance. Repentance is a change of attitude, and if you are willing to change your attitude tonight, you will do it right now.’ He said, ‘I will do it tonight.’ He died that afternoon in an awful convulsion while damning the name of God, and it seemed to affect the whole town. When I got to the service that night, the building was packed. ... I preached on John 3:16. When I gave the invitation, scores and scores of people came forward, and we saw revival in Homersville” (Parker, Through Sunshine and Shadows).
Pelham Baptist Church in South Carolina, was pastored by Harold B. Sightler from 1942 until 1952. Consider the following testimony about the power of prayer for revival and evangelism:
“In 1946 only three people were baptized at Pelham, and so in early 1947 a week of prayer meetings were held at night at the church, prayer only, for revival and salvation of souls, with no preaching or singing. People began to get saved, and the church grew. The prayer meetings continued, and by 1949 were being held on Sunday nights after church in a pasture. These often drew a hundred people and sometimes lasted until one o’clock in the morning. A rock altar was built around a tree. Each represented a person being prayed for by name” (James Sightler, “Observations on Dr. Harold B. Sightler’s Early Ministry and the Heritage of Tabernacle Baptist Church,” http://tabernacleministries.org/Church/ history.php4).
“In the day that my father’s church saw souls saved at almost every service, the service was preceded by 30 minutes of prayer. In our revivals back when I was a child, the prayer room was crowded 30-45 minutes before the opening of the service. Shut-ins were contacted so that they could join our efforts from their beds. Everything about those early meetings was bathed in prayer, and the results showed it. Revival is God’s gift in answer to our prayers. It is not given without conditions” (Evangelist Phil Shuler, “The Importance of Prayer in Evangelism”).
“I was saved just weeks when my pastor Jim Phillips mentioned having cottage prayer meetings. I wanted to have one. Whatever it was. I had a large den in my house so he told me to invite some folks to come to my house on Friday night and he would come to my house and lead the meeting. ... Many there beside me were moved so powerfully that we met almost every Friday night for over three years. Oh, if I only had space to tell you of the hundreds of answers to prayers, the growth in the Lord of those that attended” (Roy Harris, “Cottage Prayer Meetings”).
“Many times I have been grieved and disturbed of soul as I have watched folks labor so intensely in all manner of preparation for some spiritual event, but little or no prayer effort was expended at all. I have found that those churches that tarry long at prayer in preparation for their revival meetings have power on the meetings that is unusual and supernatural. I believe that the church should be called to prayer and fasting months before the meetings are to begin. Whether it be a revival meeting, a Bible conference, a missions conference or an evangelistic crusade, prayer must be the foundation for those endeavors. Prayer for these special events should be encouraged in each Sunday school class, in the youth department, the junior church, ladies Bible study groups, men's prayer breakfasts and prayer groups, and certainly on Wednesday evening at prayer meeting. As the time is drawing close for the revival endeavor, ‘cottage prayer meetings’ would be a good idea. Perhaps four or five families in the church could open their homes to folks to come and pray at a given time. If this is a well-led effort, it can be a blessing to all. This prayer thrust could take place perhaps one evening a week in the last two or three weeks before the revival meetings begin. ... Once the revival meeting begins, the men of the church ought to gather together with the pastor and the evangelist for prayer each night at least an hour before the beginning of the services” (Paul Mershon, “No Prayer, No Power”).
“The first time that I experienced revival, there was a spirit of prayer that permeated the church and the evangelistic meetings. It began with a praying pastor. He refused to give up--to quit. He continued praying in spite of bleak circumstances. Then one day, God came. He visited His people. ... The church building couldn’t hold the people. ... I would not try to make you believe that I understand all the reasons why that is so. I just know it’s a spiritual law. It’s true. Prayer and revival are always partners in the manifestation of the glory of God. ... There is much talk today about revival. I simply know one thing about revival. It always descends on the wings of prayer. A praying people will ultimately be a revival people. Pray and stand back and see what He will do” (Sammy Tippit, “Revival and Victorious Praying”).
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