There were many pointers throughout the sermon. But that which stood out for me were:
If there is spiritual growth, it ought to lead to numerical growth; while there is absolutely nothing we can do to effect a revival, yet, there are many things we can do (instead of waiting for things to happen); the place of posture; holiness.
Key to the experience of revival in Nehemiah’s day can be found in 1:4 – ‘As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.’ Hence, revival calls for the need to agonise in prayer.
The Hebrides experience of revival, started with two very old ladies, eighty-two and eighty-four years old, one of whom was blind, who took it upon themselves to pray and involved the leadership. It reminds us of our very own faithful senior citizens at our mid-week prayer services, praying alongside the younger ones. They are such an encouragement to us.
It seems that the Lord is pleased to use the faithful prayers of unsung heroes, praying and making things happen. The story of George Verwer’s spiritual growth and missionary endeavour (founding what is today’s Operation Mobilisation) is well-known. It was a lady, by the name of Dorothea Clapp who prayed for his salvation (who was given a Bible by Mrs. Clapp’s son). Two years later, George Verwer received the Lord as Saviour at a Billy Graham Crusade. The story went on to describe how Mrs Clapp continued to pray for him to be a missionary. The rest is history.
The story of the two old ladies, reminded me not just this familiar story surrounding George Verwer, but also a little less heard story, this time involving a lone woman who prayed. Many years ago, I heard first-hand the story (in a London classroom) from a man who related that as a kid, he wasn’t very promising, always getting himself into trouble. However, despite that, there was an old lady who reached out to him, inviting him to Sunday School. Not infrequently, the old lady would say to him, ‘Peter, I am praying for you.’ Still, he stubbornly kept his distance from Sunday School.
Eventually one day, Peter started attending church, to the surprise of not a few. Soon, unkind remarks were made concerning him. One day, someone said to this old lady, ‘Peter will not stand.’ The remark was made as it was felt that his true colours will quickly show, disappearing from church in no time. Apparently, the old lady replied, ‘Yes indeed, Peter will not stand. He will keep going.’
The old lady took upon herself to continue in ernest prayer for him. Indeed, he did not just stand. Peter (Cotterrel) went on to become a missionary in Ethiopia. Later in life, he took up position as Principal of London Bible College (presently known as London Theological Seminary). After his retirement, through his direction, the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology was formed in 1998. All these started (much like The Hebrides Story), because someone prayed. Imagine what may happen if all of us take time to pray – for ourselves and for the church?
Sister Helen Lai