I love reading stores that inspire and challenge my faith. Over the summer I’ve been delving into some great books about prayer and reading stories from history where God has answered the prayers of his people in quite profound and extraordinary ways.
This week I’ve been reading about the story of R. Edward Miller, an American missionary who in the early 1950s was working in a small city in Argentina. He had been labouring for years in prayer without seeing any results, and felt that he had tried everything he knew how to do – except sustained, concerted intercession.
In secret without telling the people of his congregation, he began to pray for eight hours a day, asking God for revival in his life, and in his church family and his wider community. He prayed alone and kept on faithfully praying, eventually adding fasting because he was so determined to see results.
After six months of daily prayer, the Lord spoke to him. Only one word he spoke to this tired missionary – “continue”. So he kept on praying for several months to follow.
R.E. Millar was a watchman.
Eventually the Lord spoke to him again. This time he asked Miller to announce nightly prayer meetings at his church from eight until midnight, starting the following Monday evening. He objected and challenged the Lord saying “Are you sure? If I hold prayer meetings, the only ones who will come will be the little old ladies and all they will do is sit and watch me pray.” The Lord seemed to nod and say, “I know”.
So eventually Miller obeyed and announced a week of nightly prayer meetings and as he anticipated, the only people from his congregation who showed up were three of the little old ladies. They came, they sat silently and watched their pastor pray for hours. At midnight he asked if any of them had received a word from God and one women raised her hand and reported having had a strange desire to come up and knock on the wooden table in front of the sanctuary, but that seemed a ridiculous word to get from God, so they all went home for the night.
Next evening the same thing happened.
The three ladies arrived, sat down and did nothing but watch Miller pray for four hours and at the end of the evening the same women reported having the same sense about knocking on the wooden table. This was utterly crazy and once again they went home for the evening.
The following two evenings were the same and the women did not want to make a fool of herself so she refused to knock on the wooden table. Millar started to wonder if the obedience of this peculiar instruction would turn out to be the key to something bigger? So Millar tried to find a way of getting this old lady to at least try it out to see what would happen.
The final evening of the week had arrived for their scheduled prayer meetings and again only three old ladies came into the sanctuary and watched him pray. Again this lady had the same sense for the fifth evening in a row. Miller said, “Sister, we’re all going to walk around the table and knock on it”.
Surely she would not be able to refuse to follow through with this if everyone else did it. Miller went first and walked past the table and struck it with his hand. Then the other two women did the same and then the third lady stepped up to the table and knocked it with her knuckle.
Suddenly the Holy Spirit came and the four of them were overwhelmed with the presence of God. On the spot the three women where baptised in the Spirit and began to worship God in languages they had not learned. News spread fast, and more people began to join them in nightly prayer times. After everyone in the congregation had been touched by God, the revival spread to the capital city of Buenos Aires, where in 1954 thousands of people gathered in an outdoor stadium.
The great Argentine revival of the early 1950s had begun – all because one man watched, prayed and followed through with obedience – to the best of his ability.