We are living in one of the most uncomfortable times I’ve ever known. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to its knees. Workplaces are closed. Hospitals are overcrowded. The global economy teeters on the edge of collapse while everyone shelters in place. And fear is spreading faster than the virus itself.
Meanwhile, the normally bustling congregations of America are eerily quiet. All gatherings are canceled—including funerals. Many churches are conducting outreaches and food distribution, but social distancing makes any event challenging. Pastors are preaching their Sunday sermons into video cameras while their auditoriums are empty.
It’s a strange time—and the anxiety has triggered so many questions. Is this the end of the world? Is the coronavirus God’s judgment? Are globalist world leaders going to take over the world with vaccines and computer chips? People are wringing their hands and making themselves sick by listening to doom-and-gloom predictions and negative news reports.
Today I asked the Holy Spirit to help me understand what’s going on, and how He wants the church to respond to this crisis. As I prayed in the spirit, I sensed He spoke to me: “Remember Rees Howells—and pray like he prayed.”
Rees Howells was a humble missionary who established the Bible College of Wales in 1924. During the years leading up to World War II, and during that awful conflict, he led his students to pray for the defeat of dictators like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. They also prayed fervently for Allied forces during the Battle of Britain, Dunkirk and D-Day. (Howells even wrote a book in 1939 called God Challenges the Dictators, in which he prophesied the defeat of Nazi and communist regimes.)
Before his death in 1950, Howells became a model of what prayer can accomplish. Like Daniel, Ezekiel and Elijah, Howells believed God can use one person’s faith-filled prayers to change history. And like the apostle Paul, Howells taught that Christians must engage in intense spiritual warfare against invisible demonic forces.
Richard A. Maton, who wrote a biography of Howells’ son called Samuel Rees Howells, A Life of Intercession, said: “Rees Howells was taught by the Holy Spirit that any person, government or international situation that hindered the spread of the gospel would become a legitimate target to be challenged and defeated through intercession. It was the Lord’s will for the gospel to go to every person, and anything that got in the way of God’s plan had to be confronted.”
If there were ever a time in modern history when we need the faith of Rees Howells, it is in 2020—when so many dark spiritual powers are conspiring to stop the third great spiritual awakening that has been prophesied. All hell has been unleashed, and our comfortable Western churches cannot hope to defeat this enemy with our coffee bars, 20-minute sermons and moral compromise. We must become a praying church again. If we hope to engage the enemy, we must allow God to shake everything that can be shaken.
I don’t feel qualified to be an intercessor of the same caliber as Rees Howells, but I’m asking God to train me for battle. I’m willing to be deployed in this crisis moment. Are you willing to be a spiritual warrior? Here are a few ways you can begin:
- Become more aggressive. Status quo prayers won’t be enough in seasons of spiritual battle. There is a time to go to war in the spirit, and it requires a militant attitude toward the enemy. When Elisha told King Joash to take arrows and strike the ground, in preparation for a battle, the king halfheartedly hit the ground only three times. Elisha said: “You should have struck it five or six times. Then you would have stricken Aram until you had finished them” (2 Kings 13:18-19). Too often we are satisfied with small victories because we didn’t pray with enough intensity.
- Ask big. We can limit what God wants to do in the earth by praying in a puny way. Why would we settle for less when God can do the impossible? Elijah asked God to withhold the rain, and the rain stopped for three years. Then he prayed again and the rain returned. Rees Howells and his small band of prayer warriors in Wales asked God to remove Adolf Hitler from power. We must stop being so timid and begin to ask for global miracles.
- Combine fasting with prayer. Fasting is not a way to bribe God. You do not need to forfeit food to get His attention. But fasting helps you focus on the Lord—and it intensifies prayer power. There are certain spiritual obstacles that need an extra push. When speaking of a demon that needed to be cast out, Jesus told His disciples: “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:21). With all of us sheltering in our homes, this is the perfect time to fast and pray.
- Do a night watch. There are moments in our lives when the Lord may woo us to spend time with Him in the night hours. In Song of Solomon, the bride hears her beloved calling her to get out of bed (5:2-6) and she doesn’t respond quickly enough. Many of us are too distracted by the busyness of life to hear God call us to a season of prayer. Yet the Lord is looking for people who will listen to His battle secrets. Will you let Him pray through you?
- Go to the depths of prayer. People who have allowed God to use them in intercession know that certain situations require travail. This is not easy prayer—it is the spiritual equivalent of childbirth! When Elijah prayed for rain to end a seven-year drought, the Bible says he “threw himself down on the ground and put his face between his knees” (1 Kings 18:42). It is travailing prayer that will bring a true, world-changing outpouring of God’s Spirit.
The apostle Paul also knew this level of agonizing travail, and he told the Romans that the Holy Spirit “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). We are invited to know the depths of prayer, but too often we are too busy, too lazy or too distracted to venture into the unknown realms of true spiritual maturity.
When Rees Howells engaged the spiritual forces operating in Nazi Germany, he said: “This is the battle of the ages, and victory here means victory for millions of people.” We, too, must know that millions of souls are hanging in the balance. If we really want the world to find Jesus in the midst of this dark crisis, we must allow the Holy Spirit to pray through us in a deeper, messier and noisier way. Please enlist now.