You are likely familiar with the name of Charles G Finney. Born in Connecticut in 1792, the youngest of nine children, his first career was as a lawyer. But after a rather dramatic conversion to Christianity, Finney gave up the practice of law and in 1824 became a Presbyterian pastor. His effect on the young American nation was legendary. He is often called the Father of Modern Revivalism and was the driving force behind the Second Great Awakening in the 1830’s, an era that touched the edges of our own Movement.
A contemporary of his would say, “The whole community was stirred. Religion was the topic of conversation in the house, in the shop, in the office and on the street. The only theater in the city was converted into a livery stable; the only circus into a soap and candle factory. Grog (liquor) shops were closed; the Sabbath was honored; the sanctuaries were thronged with happy worshipers…”
Other names stand out in his generation, but few left a more vivid mark. Of the thousands who became followers of Christ under Finney’s ministry, nearly 80% stayed faithful to Christ. Some would say that his leadership abilities, musical skill, six-foot three-inch stature, and piercing eyes explained his unusual influence in his community. But let me set the record straight…
Into Finney’s story comes the name, Daniel Nash. Nash was born in 1775 and at the age of 40 he became pastor of a Presbyterian Church; during his first year there around 70 people were saved in something of a mini-revival. But the Board of Deacons fired Nash. In the days that followed he developed a serious eye infection. No medical treatment could be found so he spent several weeks in a dark room where he could not read or write. The broken preacher began to pray earnestly and thus began one of the greatest prayer evangelism ministries ever.
When Finney came to Evan Mills in New York to start his evangelistic work, Nash joined him in a partnership which was to last until the death of Nash, seven years later. The thought behind their work was that before you can evangelize an area, it needs to be prepared through prayer. Daniel Nash would quietly enter the town where Finney was intending to preach, find two or three people who would pray with him in unity and together they would pray intensely that God would work in the lives of the people in the town.
While Finney was preaching to the masses and seeing remarkable conversions, a humble man was prostrate in a house nearby, in intensive prayer for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. So important was Nash to Finney, that, a few weeks after Nash’s death Finney went back to an ordinary pastoral ministry.
On Daniel Nash’s gravestone in Oberlin, Ohio, is this terse line. “Laborer with Finney. Mighty in Prayer.” Who is going to be the Daniel Nash of our generation? I invite you to make yourself available for that assignment.
By Don Jacobsen