The man behind the revivals

Charles Finney was the leader in the Second Great Awakening in the United States. He has been called The Father of Modern Revivalism

Daniel Nash, a remarkable intercessor

I HAVE known people who prayed till they were soaked in sweat on a cold winter’s day. I have known people who have prayed for hours until they were totally drained of strength because of the agony of their souls. I have worked with a man of this calibre. – Charles Finney

While Charles Finney was preaching to the masses and seeing remarkable conversions, a humble man was prostrate in a house nearby, in intensive prayer for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The story of the almost unknown Daniel Nash is the story of a very powerful prayer ministry. So important was Nash to Finney, that, a few weeks after Nash’s death, Finney went back to an ordinary pastoral ministry.

Daniel Nash was born in 1775 at an unknown place in the USA. No one knows what happened to his life before he was 40. What we know is that at the age of 40 he became the pastor of a Presbyterian Church and during his first year there around 70 people were saved in something of a mini-revival.

But he withdrew after being voted out of the church. The rejection from those he loved wounded him deeply. Also, as a result of a serious eye infection, he spent several weeks in a dark room where he could not read or write. The broken preacher began to pray earnestly and so began one of the greatest prayer evangelism ministries ever.

When Finney came to Evan Mills in New York to start his evangelistic work, Nash joined him in a partnership which was to last until the death of Nash, seven years later. Their aim was to go to the lost ones where no one had previously preached the gospel.

The foundational thought behind their work was that before you can evangelise an area, it needs to be prepared through prayer. Daniel Nash would quietly enter the town where Finney was intending to preach, and find two or three people who would pray with him in unity. Together they would pray intensively that God would work in the lives of the people in the town. Often it took three to four weeks of prayer before Finney could come.

Finney recounts one episode: “When I came to a town to start revival, a lady contacted me. She said, ‘Brother Finney, do you know a Father Nash? He and two other men have been staying with me for the last three days, but they haven’t eaten anything. I heard them groaning, so I looked in and saw them prostrate. They have been lying like that for three days. I thought something terrible must have happened, but I was afraid to go in and didn’t know what to do. Could you please come and see if they are all right?’ No, that’s unnecessary, I said. They are only travailing in prayer.”

Nash didn’t just pray before Finney came. While Finney was preaching, Nash and other intercessors were in a separate room, praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the preacher. Finney clearly saw that the important thing in fruitful ministry was powerful prayer which meant that the Holy Spirit came on the assembly with such conviction that the conversions were real. Remarkably, up to 80 percent of the converts made during his preaching remained believers.

With many conversions, it was not surprising that these two men were persecuted. False accusations were sent to the newspapers. Meetings were disturbed by noise – stones were thrown at the building or shots fired outside. On one occasion, effigies of Finney and Nash were hanged and burnt before a great crowd of people. The enemies of revival counted Nash as an equal to Finney in the work. They feared and hated his prayers at least as much as Finney’s preaching.

Nash used to have a list of people whose salvation he prayed for daily. Even several times a day he would pray for the same people and he got results. As Finney said, “He concentrated entirely on praying for people who were so hard that they could not be reached in any other way.” 

Reprinted with permission from Prepare the Way issue 100 2018

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