This article was originally published in Edition (1) of Prayer Magazine, Autumn 2004.

Daniel Nash pastored a small church in the backwoods of New York for six years and travelled with and prayed for a travelling evangelist for seven more years until his death. As far as we know, he never ministered outside the region of upstate New York during days when much of it was frontier.

His tombstone is in a neglected cemetery along a dirt road behind a livestock auction barn. His church no longer exists, its meetinghouse location marked by a historical marker in a corn field; the building is gone, its timber used to house grain at a feed mill four miles down the road. No books tell his life story, no pictures or diaries can be found, his descendants (if any) cannot be located, and his messages are forgotten. He wrote no books, started no schools, led no movements, and generally kept out of sight.

Yet this man saw revival twice in his pastorate, and then was a key figure in one of the greatest revivals in the history of the United States. In many ways, he was to the US what Praying Hyde was to India. He is known almost exclusively for his powerful prayer ministry.

The great evangelist, Charles Finney, left his itinerant ministry for the pastorate within three or four months after this man’s death. Finney never counted on his theology, messages, preaching style, logic or methods, to save souls. He looked rather, to mighty prayer and the resulting powerful work of the Holy Spirit to sweep in with great conviction on his audience, that his conversions might be thorough. This may well explain why 80% of those converted in his meetings stood the test of time.

Years later, Moody followed a similar pattern but without such a prayer warrior. He saw perhaps 50% of his converts last.

Today, a well-known evangelist (well-financed and highly organized) recently stated that he would be delighted if 20% of his converts were genuinely converted. In this day of apostasy, with many decisions but few true conversions, with many programs but little prayer, with much organizing but little agonizing, we would be wise to learn lessons from the past. One of our godly forefathers whose life can teach us such is Daniel Nash.

His early years seem mostly lost from the records. This much we do know – he was born November 27, 1775, and by November 11, 1816, at the age of 40, he had accepted the pastorate of the Stow’s Square Congregational-Presbyterian Church, Lowville Township.

He had moved there from Onondaga County (the area around Syracuse), and had a farm at least by 1825, the time of the first census in the area.

During his first year of pastoring this union church, he saw Revival with at least 70 being converted. One of the first he baptized was a Sally Porter (December 18, 1816), to whom he was married by February of 1817. He baptized five of her children before spring and possibly a sixth several years later.

Typical church problems were dealt with clearly by church discipline – broken contracts between members, heresy regarding the Trinity, etc. A meetinghouse was built beginning June 7, 1819 and “dedicated to the service of God” December 13, 1819.

There was a group who split from the main group during the period of the building program or shortly thereafter. They located four miles south where the village of Lowville was beginning to develop. Pastor Nash was able to peaceably work with this group and establish it as a mission throughout the rest of his pastorate.

Upon the completion of the meetinghouse and while working with the mission work to the south, he was able to start a Sabbath School in the Union church.

Such a ministry would seem to be the basis for a long term relationship. However, on September 25, 1822, a strange church meeting was called at an unusual time and he was voted out by a vote of nine to three! The only reasons surviving to this day in the records were that they wanted “a young man to settle in”. At the age of 46 they felt him too old, and resented his travelling.

While his term as pastor was ended as of November 10, 1822, he often came to preach, act as moderator, baptize converts, and hold communion over the next several years!

During this ending of his pastoring, and the ministry that followed, there was a second move of revival (1822-23) where over 200 were converted. This occurred in a township of only 308 homes with a population of approximately 2,000 people!

Imagine God blessing a rejected pastor with such a revival, and the church taking no steps to recall him! Through all of this, God was breaking and preparing the heart of His man to leave a public ministry of preaching for a private one of prayer.

Such rejection by those he loved and ministered to did its crushing work, and by 1824 he was so damaged spiritually that any human hope of a prayer ministry seemed impossible.

At this time Charles Finney was to be examined for a license to preach, and he records his first meeting with Daniel Nash as follows:

“At this meeting of the presbytery I first saw Rev Daniel Nash, who is generally known as ‘Father Nash’. He was a member of the presbytery. A large congregation was assembled to hear my examination. I got in a little late and saw a man standing in the pulpit speaking to the people, as I supposed. He looked at me, I observed, as I came in; and was looking at others as they passed up the aisle. As soon as I reached my seat and listened, I observed that he was praying. I was surprised to see him looking all over the house, as if he were talking to the people; while in fact he was praying to God. Of course, it did not sound to me much like prayer; and he was at that time indeed in a very cold and back-slidden state.”

After this meeting Nash was struck with a serious case of inflamed eyes. For several weeks, he had to be kept in a dark room where he could neither read nor write. During this time “he gave himself up almost entirely to prayer. He had a terrible overhauling of his whole Christian experience; and as soon as he was able to see, with a double black veil before his face, he sallied forth to labour for souls.”

His labours did not take the form of personal evangelism or of evangelistic preaching. Instead he began one of the greatest ministries of prayer evangelism recorded in history. This rejected and broken former preacher gave himself to a labour that would influence praying people to this day.

Charles Finney’s labours in evangelism began in the region of Evans Mills, New York, and here Daniel Nash headed to start his special prayer ministry. When he arrived, Finney stated, “He was full of the power of prayer.” The two men were drawn into a partnership that was ended only by Daniel’s death seven years later. Their goals were stated simply in a letter as follows:

“When Mr Finney and I began our race, we had no thought of going amongst ministers. Our highest ambition was to go where there was neither minister or reformation and try to look up the lost sheep, for whom no man cared. We began and the Lord prospered… But we go into no man’s parish unless called… We have room enough to work and enough work to do.”

This evangelistic team operated on the basis of prayer being essential for the preparation of an area for evangelism. This idea was so strong that Finney often sent Nash to an area to prepare the place and people for his coming. Often it would take 3 or 4 weeks of prayer to get the area ready. Let us examine a little more closely just how such a thing was accomplished.

When God would direct where a meeting was to be held, Father Nash would slip quietly into town and seek two or three people to enter into a covenant of prayer with him. Sometimes he had with him a man of similar prayer ministry, Abel Clary. Together they would begin to pray fervently for God to move in the community.

One record of such is Leonard Ravenhill: “I met an old lady who told me a story about Charles Finney that has challenged me over the years. Finney went to Bolton to minister, but before he began, two men knocked on the door of her humble cottage, wanting lodging. The poor woman looked amazed, for she had no extra accommodations.

Finally, for about twenty five cents a week, the two men, none other than Fathers Nash and Clary, rented a dark and damp cellar for the period of the Finney meetings (at least two weeks), and there in that self-chosen cell, those prayer partners battled the forces of darkness.

Another record tells: “On one occasion when I got to town to start a revival, a lady contacted me who ran a boarding house. She said, “Brother Finney, do you know a Father Nash? He and two other men have been at my boarding house for the last three days, but they haven’t eaten a bite of food. I opened the door and peeped in at them because I could hear them groaning, and I saw them down on their faces. They have been this way for three days lying prostrate on the floor and groaning. I thought something awful must have happened to them. I was afraid to go in and I didn’t know what to do. Would you please come and see about them?”

“No, it isn’t necessary,” Finney replied. “They just have a spirit of travail in prayer.”

Another states: “Charles Finney so realized the need of God’s working in all his service that he was wont to send godly Father Nash on in advance to pray down the power of God into the meetings which he was about to hold.”

Not only did Nash prepare the communities for preaching, but he also continued in prayer during the meetings.

“Often Nash would not attend meetings, and while Finney was preaching, Nash was praying for the Spirit’s outpouring upon him. Finney stated ‘ I did the preaching altogether, and brother Nash gave himself up almost continually to prayer.’ Often while the evangelist preached to the multitudes, Nash in some adjoining house would be upon his face in an agony of prayer, and God answered in the marvels of His grace. With all due credit to Mr Finney for what was done, it was the praying men who held the ropes. The tears they shed, the groans they uttered are written in the book of the chronicles of the things of God.”

It is said of Finney that “his evangelistic party consisted of prayer partners, who went before him and sought the Lord in some secluded spot. And when Finney was preaching, Father Nash and Mr Clary were hidden away somewhere praying for him. No wonder cities were stirred and a vast harvest of souls reaped.”

This concept of an evangelistic party made up of praying men has been nearly lost in these days of organizers, promotors, big names, etc. Such praying men not only sustained Finney’s ministry, but explain the power in preaching and long-lasting results.

Charles Finney could always go to Brother Nash when an obstacle arose in the meetings. One such occasion occurred at Gouverneur where some “young men seemed to stand like a bulwark in the way of the progress of the work.”

“In this state of things Brother Nash and myself (Finney), after consultation, made up our minds that that thing must be overcome by prayer, and that it could not be reached in any other way. We therefore retired to a grove and gave ourselves to prayer until we prevailed, and we felt confident that no power which earth or Hell could interpose, would be allowed permanently to stop the revival.”

Now there are times when confidence gained in prayer requires action, and this was such a time. Brother Nash was by nature a quiet man, and by practice stayed out of the limelight.

Yet confidence in prayer may cause this to change if God so leads. Here is Finney’s own account of what happened in a service shortly after the victory was won in prayer.

“The meeting house was filled. Near the close of the meeting. Brother Nash arose, and addressed that company of young men who had joined hand in hand to resist the revival. I believe they were all there, and they sat braced up against the Spirit of God. It was too solemn for them to really make ridicule of what they heard and saw; and yet their brazen-facedness and stiffneckedness were apparent to everybody.

“Brother Nash addressed them very earnestly, and pointed out the guilt and the danger of the course they were taking. Toward the close of his address he waxed exceedingly warm, and said to them, ‘Now, mark me, young men! God will break your ranks in less than one week, either by converting some of you, or by sending some of you to Hell. He will do this as certainly the Lord is my God!’ He was standing where he brought his hand down on the top of the pew before him, so as to make it thoroughly jar. He sat immediately down, dropped his head, and groaned with pain.

“the house was as still as death, and most of the people held down their heads. I could see that most of the young men were agitated. For myself, I regretted that Brother Nash had gone so far. He had committed himself, that God would either take the life of some of them, and send them to Hell, or convert some of them, within a week.

However, on Tuesday morning of the same week, the leader of these young men came to me in the greatest distress of mind. He was all prepared to submit; and as soon as I came to press him, he broke down like a child, confessed, and manifestly gave himself to Christ. Then he said, ‘What shall I do, Mr Finney?’ I replied, ‘Go immediately to all your young companions, and pray with them, and exhort them at once, to turn to the Lord’ He did so; and before the week was out, nearly, if not all of that class of young men were hoping in Christ”

There is no doubt that Finney’s “over-wrought” concern “that his co-worker had gone too far” in this bold handling of the problem was relieved by such a speedy answer (from Sunday night to Tuesday morning). He never did get to speak words of warning and correction to “this man of prayer”.

Nash’s prayer ministry made him “as remarkable a character in his way as Finney himself.” 

The importance of such to Finney’s ministry and success cannot be overestimated. “Finney depended more on the prayers of Fathers Nash & Clary to bring down Holy Ghost revival than upon his own resistless logic. So accustomed are we to the Laodicean condition of the church that the all-pervading influence of prayer in Finney’s time amazes us. “Of the great revival in Rochester”, Finney said that the key which unlocked the Heavens in this revival was the prayer of Clary, Father Nash, and other unnamed folks who laid themselves prostrate before God’s throne and besought Him for a divine out-pouring.

Considering the souls being saved and the very culture of the area being changed in such a thorough revival, it should be no surprise that persecution came to these co-labourers. Some came from jealous ministers, some from those of other doctrinal persuasions, and some from the lost.

False statements were sent to newspapers by his enemies. Nash wrote a letter May 11, 1826, telling of some of the opposition. Part of it said, “The work of God moves forward in power, in some places against dreadful opposition. Mr Finney and I have both been hanged and burned in effigy. We have frequently been disturbed in our religious meetings. Sometimes the opposers make a noise in the house of God; sometimes they gather round the house and stone it, and discharge guns. There is almost as much writing, intrigue and lying, and reporting of lies, as there would be if we were on the eve of a presidential election. Oh, what a world! How much it hates the truth! How unwilling to be saved! But I think the work will go on.”

In this letter, he refers to b hung and burned in effigy. Here is an account of the event:

“Swinging above your heads are two distorted figures suspended on ropes. At the touch of the torch, they leap into flames and the crowd screams in sheer delight.

Sound like a scene from a lynching… a race riot? Not at all. It is a religious gathering. The charred creatures smouldering in the air represent the public’s expression of opposition to the preaching and praying of America’s greatest evangelistic team. Charles Grandison Finney and his partner-in-prayer, Father Nash, have just been burned in effigy. Preachers and pew-warmers alike joined forces against the two men who did more to spearhead revival than any other pair in American history.

The enemies of revival counted Nash a full partner to Finney in his work. They feared and hated his praying at least as much as they did Finney’s preaching.

Continued in the next issue of Prayer Magazine….

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