Summary: Threat, throne, thrill. Some comments on the prayer meetings which ushered in the 1859 revival in Ulster.
150 years ago a prayer meeting started which was to change the spiritual climate in Ulster forever. Four men decided to meet every Friday night for Bible study and prayer. Their names? James McQuilkin, Jeremiah Meneely, Robert Carlisle and John Wallace. They met in an old schoolhouse near the village of Kells in County Antrim. Each of them brought an armful of peat for the fire. It was a long winter, but they remained faithful in prayer. The peat warmed their bodies and the fire of God warmed their hearts as they prayed for revival. The rest is history. 2600 years ago, four other men gathered for a prayer meeting. Their names? Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
1. FOUR MEN WITH A THREAT HANGING OVER THEM
"The decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain".
What was the threat in 1857?
(a) The threat of a lost generation. Multitudes were perishing. They still are. Today, two people die every second.
(b) The threat of a lukewarm organization. The Church in Ulster was lukewarm. Here is what one minister had to say – “Our condition was deplorable. The congregation seemed dead to God, formal, cold, prayerless, worldly, and stingy in religious things. Twice I tried a prayer meeting of my elders, but failed; for after the fifth or sixth night I was left alone. Great was my disappointment, as year after year passed, yet still no fruit, no outpouring of the Spirit. I wondered and was grieved at what seemed so mysterious. What alarmed me most was the almost hostility of the people to meetings for prayer. They seemed mostly to think that they were well enough, and that I was unnecessarily disturbing them. I had never been so despondent or distressed as during the weeks immediately preceding the awakening. I had almost ceased to hope. I felt as if I was almost alone, no one mourning or praying with me; and I told my people I was appalled at their determination to have no prayer meetings, and that we would not have a drop of the shower of grace which was going round, but would be left utterly reprobate”.
2. FOUR MEN WITH A THRONE BECKONING TO THEM
"Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon".
(a) God’s throne calls for time. "Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time".
Samuel Chadwick - “Hurry is the death of prayer”.
(b) God’s throne calls for togetherness. Daniel and his friends met together for prayer. The four men in Ulster met together for prayer. There were no visible results for three months, but on New Years Day 1858 the first convert joined them. After that others were born from above and joined the meetings. By the end of 1858 about 50 men were meeting with them to wrestle and prevail in prayer. The cry and burden of all their prayers was for an outpouring of the Spirit of God upon themselves and the surrounding area. They were hungry and determined to pray through to God. Many of local church people ridiculed, mocked and opposed this type of praying. They were happy to sit back and do nothing saying the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost and so we don’t need to pray for Him. But the small band prayed on.
3. FOUR MEN WITH A THRILL WAITING FOR THEM
"Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision".
(a) The thrill of salvation. "Destroy not the wise men of Babylon" (v.24). In Ulster, 100 000 souls were saved in 1859.
(b) The thrill of restoration. Empty churches filled up in a short space of time. One minister commented – “The difficulty used to be getting people into the church, now it’s getting them out”.
(c) The thrill of exaltation. The LORD got all the glory. "The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret" (v.47).
What various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy seat;
Yet who that knows the worth of prayer,
But wishes to be often there.
Have you no words? Ah, think again,
Words flow apace when you complain;
And fill your fellow creature’s ear
With the sad tale of all your care.
Were half the breath thus vainly spent,
To Heav’n in supplication sent;
Your cheerful song would oft’ner be,
"Hear what the Lord has done for me".