What is the use of a prayer meeting? There are many uses. Believers are encouraged and strengthened; the cause of God is maintained; the truth of God is watered after it is sown; and prosperity is rained down through the opened windows of heaven, according to the Lord's promise.
In the beginning of the year 1799, Thomas Charles of Bala lost a thumb through frostbite.1 Alarming symptoms arose, and his friends feared that his life was in danger. A special prayer meeting was appointed. Fervent supplications were offered to God on his behalf and one person in particular, an old man, was much noticed for his very importunate prayer. Referring to the fifteen years added to Hezekiah's life, he entreated the Lord to spare Mr. Charles' life at least fifteen years. He repeated the following words with such importunity as greatly affected all present: 'Fifteen years more, O Lord! We beseech Thee to add fifteen years more to the life of Thy servant. And wilt Thou not, oh our God, give fifteen years more, for the sake of Thy church and Thy cause?'
The prayers of the people were heard, and Mr. Charles set to work again with renewed vigour. He often said he must be diligent, as the fifteen years would soon be up.
As this period drew near to its close, he frequently named it in conversation; and about a year before his death, he spoke freely and fully to the poor man who in 1799 had so fervently asked God to prolong his life. He often expressed a desire to live to see his Welsh Bible printed: 'Then I will be content,' he said, 'to lie my head upon my pillow and die.' He did live to see it completed; and the last words he ever wrote were: 'It is finished,' in reference to that. And, what is remarkable, he died within a week of the close of fifteen years from the date of the poor man's prayer.
It was during this term of fifteen years that Mr. Charles did the most important work of his life - labour that bears fruit all over the world to the present day. He wrote several books, organised Sunday schools throughout Wales, translated the Bible into Welsh, and was instrumental, with others, in the establishment of the Bible Society. It was through him that Wales was supplied with the Word of God; and many distant lands have blessed the name of Thomas Charles. Who can tell the full results of that fervent prayer of that Welsh Christian? This, remember, was at a prayer meeting.
1. This story can be found in Volume 2 of The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, pp.306-7. Chapters 30 - 32 cover the life of Thomas Charles of Bala. The Trust also publishes Thomas Charles' Spiritual Counsels.
Cheering Words, September 1986.