"The world became our parish and we were led to be responsible to intercede for countries and nations." –Rees Howells
On Dec. 26, 1934, Rees Howells received a vision from the Holy Spirit in the middle of the night. It was 3 a.m., and the Lord began to call him into faith for world evangelism and the completion of the Great Commission.
Rees was an intercessor with powerful testimonies of answered prayer, so he took this very seriously. He knew it would naturally require him to take direct responsibility to see it come to pass. His burden of prayer shifted from local concerns to that of national and international focus. Rees became a man with a world vision—the "Every Creature Vision" as Jesus gave His disciples in Mark 16:15.
From Inspiration to Provocation
We're all on a mission, whether we choose to act like it or not. What is universal to everyone endeavoring to follow Jesus and advance His kingdom is the need to live a life of faith and radical obedience.
When I arrived at my missionary assignment in Washington, D.C., I was introduced to the life of Rees Howells—a man somewhat hidden in the past century. In decades past, the biography Rees Howells: Intercessor, published in 1952, has inspired a generation of praying people to elevate their faith-filled prayers for global impact. It was 66 years ago this week—on Feb. 13, 1950—that Rees Howells encountered his Savior face-to-face in heaven.
No doubt, many readers could probably find this old classic collecting dust on a lonely bookshelf. There are so many new books on the market today, presenting exciting theories for the modern church; few people read the old books. However, this book gripped me. Its words came alive and provoked me like never before.
The book tells of a man whose prayers and intercessions shaped the world around him and extended around the globe. The gospel advanced. Wars were restrained. Wicked leaders and regimes were overturned. Maps were redrawn. The impact of his hidden life of prayer, along with the community of believers under his leadership in Wales, Great Britain, is immeasurable throughout the 20th century.
Imagine the impact on the world if every believer aspired to a life of prayer like that of Rees Howells!
Abiding in the Vine
Rees Howells grew in a life of faith through small things and then bigger things. Tests of obedience were met with simple willingness to empty himself—his own opinions, attitudes and pre-conceived ideas—and abide in Christ. So often many fail to realize that abiding in the vine is the only way to enter into a life of fullness, power, direction and fruit.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5, ESV).
As faith grows through the experiences of testing and obedience, the believer is led into a life of prayer for God's purposes to be made manifest in the earth. What we call the Lord's Prayer is better understood as "the disciple's prayer," for it is the way Jesus teaches us to pray.
"Pray then like this: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven'" (Matt. 6:9-10, ESV).
Jesus taught us to pray dangerous prayers. Think about it. His prescribed method is to lay hold of the reality of God's perfect will in heaven and invoke it into the suffocating atmosphere of our world in conflict. There is no qualification placed on the size or nature of the crisis.
No situation is too small or too big. Our prayers are meant to inject the possibilities of heaven into every sphere of darkness and decay that surrounds us—whether that's an illness in our family or a refugee migration disrupting the borders of nations.
The Heartache of Delay
Yet when there seems to be a delay in the materialization of answered prayer, we're often left scratching our heads wondering: What went wrong? The pain of disappointment can quickly lead to sudden changes of personal direction, abandonment of our assignment or the far worse outcome of disillusionment and apathy. I have heard way too many sad stories from Christians who gave up, thinking, Prayer didn't work.
Granted, we all have to evaluate the content of our prayers. Are we praying in agreement with God's written Word? Are we praying prayers inspired by the Holy Spirit, or are we mainly hanging on to our own wants and desires? Once we determine that to the best of our understanding, we are praying according to God's will, how do we handle the ache of delayed answers?
Rees Howells discovered the secret life of abiding in Christ—resting in His Word and His promises. From that place of security and power, he was taught by the Holy Spirit to sustain a life of contending for the promises to be made reality.
It is in that tension that another factor comes into focus that can cause significant delay to our answered prayers. The apostle Paul pulled back the veil to the invisible realm when he said, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12, ESV).
The prophet Daniel actually provided us our first glimpse in Scripture of this epic conflict. In Daniel 10, he was led to pray and intercede over a matter of international importance, and 21 days later, an angel arrived with an answer from heaven.
However, it was revealed that the answer to his prayers had been immediately dispatched—but a demonic principality over that part of the world had withstood the answer all that time. Daniel's 21-day fast was a divine partnership to see God's purposes made manifest in the earth.
Obstacles and Opposition
Rees Howells knew that prepared messengers and the Word needed to be thrust out with fresh intensity, but he and his students soon learned just how ferocious the invisible realm of opposition could be.
Almost as soon as the vision came for the gospel to go to every creature, there was a conspicuous rise of evil dictators—Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini—who posed real threats to the nations of the earth. Rees Howells came to understand that these wicked leaders and governmental systems were Satan's strategy to halt the gospel's advancement.
In a short period of time, the whole world was swept into war. Hitler was crushing nation after nation under his seemingly unstoppable war machine. Scores of people were dying, and the fate of the world was hanging in the balance.
When Hitler's focus turned on Britain in 1940, very little stood in his way. Never losing sight of the "Every Creature Vision," Rees and the young people at the Bible College of Wales were called to contend for spiritual victory so that real battles on the ground could be won.
Under the black clouds of world war, Rees Howells declared: "The Holy Spirit does not know doubt, misery or worry, these are of self. ... Unless we believe in a test we have never believed. If I only take a thought that the devil is stronger than the Holy Spirit, I can close this book (the Bible) once and for all."
Theory-based faith is one thing, but tested and proven faith is altogether different. God allows us to fight giants so that we know how to defeat giants. These are the kinds of experiences we need to be able to complete our end-time assignment, which will take place in the context of pressures unparalleled in human history.
"Now is the best time to test the Bible in wars, because we are in one ourselves." –Rees Howells
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