In 1927 my grandad, A. P. Elliff, went to be the pastor of First Baptist Church in Lavaca, Arkansas. Lavaca was a small farming community outside Ft. Smith, with just a few hundred people in the entire town.
Grandad and his wife, Sue, and two children (one was my dad) were coming from South Arkansas and had to wait a week to let the Arkansas River subside so the ferry could cross. The 1927 flood was the most devastating in Arkansas history, destroying entire towns. In some places, the water stood 30 feet deep for months.
The Mississippi, in certain places, was over 60 miles wide, sending water back into Arkansas rivers, along with the torrential rain. The White River flowed backward because of the rush of water from the Mississippi. Hundreds died in its path up and down the river, but the greatest devastation was in Arkansas.
Every year, when the crops were laid by, the church planned a two-week revival. In fact, they would meet until God came. There is no doubt that the tragedy of the flood lay deeply in the people’s minds as they planned for the annual meeting in August of 1927 with their new pastor.
A. P. was glad to be asked to lead the meeting in his new church of fewer than 100 people. He reconfigured the little church so more people could fit in the white frame building. He took out the windows so they could get better ventilation in the August heat.
The meeting was going well, with a few here and there coming to Christ. But my dad remembers, as a young boy, hearing my grandad and grandmother in the parlor of their little parsonage, praying every night. “The revival hasn’t broken,” he heard grandad say. “We must pray more.”
A few nights later, God gave my grandad a verse from Isaiah, that he specifically felt was for the moment:
When Zion travails, sons and daughters will be born unto her (Isaiah 66:8).
He went before the small congregation and asked them to come an hour early each night to labor in prayer … and they did. As the prayer increased, so did the crowds. Flatbed wagons were brought in and placed outside the windows for seating. The building was packed as news of God’s movement spread across the region. Hundreds came, and many were saved.
A few weeks later, 1725 people attended the baptism. There were 142 cars carrying 994 people, 58 wagons with 480 people, 3 flatbed trucks with 75 people, 6 buggies with 12 people, 10 people came on horseback, and 50 on foot. (My grandad meticulously recorded the details so all the glory would go to God!)
At the end of the meeting, my grandad wrote in his diary: “108 people baptized in 68 minutes in Vash Gash creed” as God brought spiritual awakening to an entire community … when the people of Zion travailed in prayer.
There are many components that go into such a season of spiritual harvest: the bold proclamation of the gospel; people inviting others to come into a gospel gathering (this is still one of God’s methods, by the way); and, most importantly, the divine, gracious working of our saving God.
But no such movement ever occurs, it seems, without the travail of the church. Such spiritual labor is the birth pangs of awakening.
What would happen, in your city, if every church had such an outpouring? In Central Arkansas where I serve, if every church had a similar work of God, it would mean over 65,000 people coming to Christ within a month. We must not laugh at this possibility, for God has done this before. Regularly, in fact, in seasons of great revival and spiritual awakening.
We long for such movement, but will we pay the price in preparation, proclamation, and travailing prayer?
Will we pray with no intermission?
Pray It In: Would you spend significant time in prayer today? Ask God to make you a person who prays without ceasing—all day, every day.
Then rise tomorrow, read your regular Bible reading, and look for what God is saying to you. After your reading, pray it in! Take the truth of the Scripture and spend time in prayer, asking for it to become true in your life and in the lives of those around you.
God is waiting for you today, and every day. Will you walk with Him and let Him teach you how to pray with no intermission?
Excerpt from Prayer with No Intermission: 40 Days to Unceasing Prayer.
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