Rees Howells: Intercessor
Rees Howells said, during the crisis days of World War II – “You don’t leave anything to chance in this. Don’t allow those young men at the front to do more than you do here.” He referred to the responsibility Christians have to do spiritual warfare through fervent, faith-filled prayers.
Early Years As Missionary and College Founder
Rees Howells (1879-1950) is one of history’s outstanding intercessors. Saved as a young man, he was filled with the Holy Spirit as a result of the Welsh Revival. From that time on, God developed in him a life of intercession. After a few years of work in the coal mines, God called him to preach. From chapel to chapel in his native Wales he traveled, preaching the Gospel and winning souls.
It was after marriage, while praying with his wife about the “regions beyond,” that God led the Howells to South Africa as missionaries. There God blessed their ministry with remarkable revival. They traveled thousands of miles, from one mission station to another. Many thousands of Christians confessed and forsook sin in their lives and were revived. Countless sinners were saved.
For six years they labored in Africa, and then while in Britain on furlough, the Lord led them to establish a training college for young people who wanted to serve the Lord. This was a surprising, almost overwhelming assignment, and was undertaken only after much intercession. Starting with only two shillings in hand, Mr. Howells purchased an estate in Swansea to serve as home for the college. After five years, including times of severe testing, Mr. Howells was able to report that they had six tutors on the staff and thirty students. Tuition was given free, and the room and board were provided at about half the actual cost. Finances came in as the need existed. They rarely had enough to operate for three days in advance.
After about six years in the first location, Mr. Howells was led of the Lord to purchase a larger estate of 17 acres. This would enable them to double the number of students. This, too, was a great challenge to faith and could be undertaken only after serious intercession.
Before funds were received to complete payment of the second estate, God led Mr. Howells to begin building – a chapel to seat 200 people and a conference hall to seat 400, plus hostels for both men and women to house one hundred students.
As the building program was nearing an end, the Lord put it on his heart to establish a home for missionaries’ children who were unable to accompany their parents to the field. Again there was the challenge to faith and intercession as a third home was purchased and as a children’s school was established, and as a dormitory and classrooms and gymnasium were built. There was not a penny on hand when the building was begun.
Mr. Howells began the college with two shillings, and during the next fourteen years the Lord sent him 125,000 pounds. Some of these years were depression years. Many businesses were not prospering and some were even in bankruptcy, but God’s provisions failed not as His servants sought Him earnestly in fasting and prayer and claimed the promises that He brought to them. What a testimony to the faithfulness of God, as He finds those who will listen for His voice and dare to stand the strain of stepping out in faith, often amid criticism and seemingly adverse conditions!
The Gospel to Every Creature
One burden that God laid on Rees Howells and which he conveyed to the faculty and students of the college, was that every creature must be reached with the Gospel. He had long prayed that God would give the Savior the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession (Psa. 2:8). The world was his parish. The college personnel faithfully prayed that the Lord would send forth laborers into His harvest field, knowing that it meant holding themselves ready to be an answer to their own prayers if God so willed – to give, to go, to pray.
Mr. Howells, with a heart burden for reaching into all the world with the Gospel, was led to pray for national and international affairs that affected the evangelization of the world. When war broke out on the Continent in 1936, most earnest prayer was begun. There were three weeks of fasting and prayer. A great plea before the Lord was for the stopping of hostile forces that would hinder the Gospel going to every creature. It is a priority with God that the Gospel go into all the world, and He needs men to work with Him in faith and prayer and labors to bring it to pass.
With war on the Continent, great intercessions began at the college. Some from among the faculty and students offered themselves to fight the devil in prayer much as the men in service were fighting the human enemy on the front lines. As men had to forgo comforts and loved ones and pleasures at home, so must there be those who would give themselves without reservations to fight the Lord’s battles.
There came a time of a remarkable visitation of the Holy Spirit upon the praying company at the college. The Holy Spirit took possession of the yielded, cleansed vessels in a way they had not known before. They had made the surrender to be living sacrifices, and now it was being made real in their lives. They were set apart for the evangelizing of the world as never before.
Days and nights of intense intercession were interspersed with times of shouting and praise, as they “prayed through” and faith claimed the victory – and later praises were offered when the victory was announced over the airwaves.
At one point, Hitler was of a mind to invade Britain before she was prepared for war. “Bend Hitler!” was an incessant plea of the intercessors. For some “unknown” reason that later made Hitler uneasy with himself, he decided to “bend” to the voices of those who were against invasion at that time.
After war was declared between Britain and Germany in September 1939, this praying company at the college was in prayer every night from 7 p.m. to 12 p.m., plus an hour in the morning and often at midday. Never a day was missed and from time to time whole days were given up to prayer. At times they had to hold on in faith from a victory vantage point, when the British troops were retreating and everything looked very dark. “God will not do a bit more through you than you have faith for,” was a principle that kept them looking to God and His Word in spite of appearances. Ever they had in mind they were fighting for liberty for the spread of the Gospel.
The Miracle of Dunkirk
On May 21, 1940, the situation looked extremely black for Britain. It was an hour of near panic. Invasion of Britain looked certain. It was her hour of extremity. The college intercessors pled for God to intervene at Dunkirk to save the retreating British troops. Many others were likewise praying. Today the miracle of Dunkirk is history. Even leaders acknowledge it as an intervention of God, with a calm sea allowing even the smallest boats to evacuate the troops back to Britain’s shores, saved from annihilation.
A few months later came an intense battle of intercession over the very heavy air raids upon Britain. The Lord assured Mr. Howells that no bombs would fall on the college property. God gave such assurance, in spite of nightly bombings, sirens and anti-aircraft firing going on around them that they could carry on as though there were no war.
Following a national day of prayer, Mr. Howells urged to faith, for he said, “God cannot guide the battle without faith.” A few days after the national day of prayer, when all British reserves had been thrown into the air battle and even so, victory for Germany seemed but minutes away, the German bombers in a surprising move flew back home and victory against invasion was again won.
Throughout the war intercessions continued, with one victory after another occurring, following the path of intercessions and the taking of victory by faith. Always the chief motive was that the way be kept open for the spread of the Gospel, which was necessary preparation for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today the world finds itself again in a serious crisis. Where are the intercessors who wait upon God, and get His leading, and pray for the accomplishing of His plans and purposes in the world? Prevailing prayer turns the tide and makes way for God’s program to move victoriously ahead.