This article was originally published in Edition (2) of Prayer Magazine, Spring 2005.

Father Daniel Nash… Part II

The best-known revival of this period in American history was that which occurred in Rochester, New York. Over 100,000 were considered to have been soundly converted during those meetings.

Nash and Clary teamed up for the praying with the assistance of others. These two men were so similar in their praying that one is often described to explain the other. Such fervent praying in agony of soul brought sights that may seem strange to our eyes today. Our gentle prayers accomplish so little, but then they cost us so little.

Finney wrote: “I have never known a person sweat blood; but I have known a person pray till the blood started from his nose. And I have known persons pray until they were all wet with perspiration, in the coldest weather in winter. I have known persons pray for hours, till their strength was all exhausted with the agony of their minds. Such prayers prevailed with God. This agony in prayer was prevalent in Jonathan Edwards’ day in the revivals which then took place.”

During the Rochester meetings, there are several accounts of these two men in deep agony of soul while praying day and night. Some accounts name Nash, some Clary, others both. It seems they were together in fasting and prayer much of the time, weeping and crying out to God. Sometimes they lay prostrate without strength to stand up. Their concern over sinners being lost brought great stress to their minds and souls. They groaned under the load, they risked health and gave up comforts that the battle of the heavenlies might be won. Sometimes they ‘would writhe and groan in agony’ over souls. God honoured their burden-bearing and sent revival. Privately they prayed and publicly God answered.

‘Practically everyone in the city was converted, the only theatre in the city was converted into a livery stable, the only circus into a soap and candle factory and the grog shops (bars and taverns) were closed.’

Oswald J Smith explains the importance of such strivings in prayer during Finney’s ministry: ‘He always preached with the expectation of seeing the Holy Spirit suddenly outpoured. Until this happened, little or nothing was accomplished. But the moment the Spirit fell upon the people, Finney had nothing else to do but point them to the Lamb of God. Thus he lived and wrought for years in an atmosphere of revival.’

We refuse to so strive and should not be surprised at the lack of God’s stirrings. Is it not amazing that we have no problem with people wearing themselves out for sport for pleasure, work for money, politics for power, and programs for charity, but think it fanatical to so pray for souls? We would die for national freedom, but never for progress in the kingdom of God.

Is it any wonder we see so little of God’s great working? Nash would pray until he had to ‘go to bed absolutely sick, for weakness and faintness, under the pressure.’ The world would have no problem with such dedication except that it was due to prayer for souls. Why should it be such a strange thing to the Church?

Finney told of this relationship of intense prayer and successful preaching. Speaking of Nash, he wrote :

“I have seen Christians who would be in an agony, when the minister was going into the pulpit, for fear his mind should be in a cloud, or his heart cold, or he should have no unction, and so a blessing should not come. I have laboured with a man of this sort. He would pray until he got an assurance in his mind that God would be with me in preaching, and sometimes he would pray himself ill.

I have known the time when he has been in darkness for a season, while the people were gathering, and his mind was full of anxiety, and he would go again and again to pray, ‘til finally he would come into the room with a placid face, and say “The Lord has come, and He will be with us”, and I do not know that I ever found him mistaken.”

Nash had great confidence in a God who heard and answered prayer. He was not satisfied to stop praying until God answered in mighty power. Praying day and night, great strugglings and weakened health were but prices to be paid that God might move in power. The results were opened heavens, glorious power, souls saved, and God glorified.

This may well explain why over 80% of Finney’s converts stood without ever backsliding. This may also explain why less than 20% of todays converts last a couple of years.

We have seen some of the importance of Nash’s prayer life through various events and results. Now let us look a little closer at its principles and concepts.

PRIVATE PRAYER “Someone asked Finney what kind of man this Father Nash was. ‘We never see him,’ they said. ‘He doesn’t enter into any of the meetings.’

“Finney replied, ’Like anybody who does a lot of praying, Father Nash is a very quiet person’. Show me a person who is always talking and I’ll show you a Christian who never does much praying.”

The majority of prayer for those who would be so used must be in private. They do not seek either the eye nor ear of man, but rather the ear of God. They seek a closet alone with God. Nash used a cellar, a room in a boarding house, a nearby house, or a grove of trees where he could pour out his heart to God alone or with just a few others of similar burden and heart.

James A. Stewart emphasizes this point, “As in the case of ‘Praying Hyde and Father Nash, it may be a life of isolation from the Christian public for the ministry of intercession.”

FERVENCY IN PRAYER - Though he prayed in private, yet he often prayed with such fervency that others became aware of his praying. This was not intended, but simply was the release of a deeply burdened soul. The lady at the boarding house became aware of his groans as he prayed. His enemies claimed, “that it was impossible for him to pray in secret since, whether he went into his closet or the woods, he prayed with such vehemence that he could be heard half a mile away.”

While this was likely an exaggeration of his normal practice, there is a record of a single occurrence of note: “In the revival at Gouverner (in which the great majority of the inhabitants, Finney believed< were converted), Nash rose very early and went into a wood to pray. ‘It was one of those clear mornings,’ said Finney,’ on which it is possible to hear sounds at a great distance.’

Three quarters of a mile away lived an unconverted man who was suddenly arrested by hearing the voice of prayer. He could distinguish that it was Nash’s voice, and this brought to him such a sense of the reality of religion as he had never before experienced; he experienced no relief until he found it in Christ.

PRAYER LIST – An organized and systematic list of people and matters to pray for is a common tool of effective prayer warriors. Preparation of our case, listing our requests, and thoroughness in prayer help establish a meaningful ministry. It also helps us rejoice in written evidence of answers to prayer.

Nash used such a method: ‘Nash had remarkable power in prayer and was in the habit of making a ‘praying list’ of persons for whose conversion he daily prayed in secret…

The answers to his prayers sometimes seemed almost miraculous, for he did not confine his ‘list’ to those whom he thought might be reached by the revival, but the most obdurate and unlikely cases were made the subjects of prayer, with results that were truly astounding.’

Finney said of Nash and his prayer list, “Praying with him and hearing him pray in meetings, I found that his gift of prayer was wonderful and his faith almost miraculous.” Nash would pray for these not only daily, but for some many times a day.

Another issue of prayer lists is knowing the will of God as to who to put on the prayer list. To go by appearances is to walk by sight and not by faith. To be able to believe God for a person’s salvation requires some leading of God as to who to put on the list. Nash seemed especially sensitive in this area, as he put names on as he felt led, even if it seemed that they were the most unlikely candidates for salvation.

Finney in describing Nash and his list said:

“The plain truth of the matter is that the Spirit leads a man to pray; and if God leads a man to pray for an individual, the inference from the Bible, is that God designs to save that individual. If we find, by comparing our state of mind with the Bible, that we are led by the Spirit to pray for an individual, we have good evidence to believe that God is prepared to bless him.”

One example of Nash praying for an unlikely person is often written in various books as an example of the power of prayer. Here is the account in Finney’s own words:

“In a town in a north part of this state, where there was a revival, there was a certain man by the name of D who was a most violent and outrageous opposer. He kept a low tavern in a corner of the village and used to delight in swearing at a desperate rate, whenever there were Christians within hearing, on purpose to hurt their feelings. He went railing about the streets respecting the revival, and his house was the resort of all opposers of the revival.

One of the young converts lived almost across the way from him; and he told me that he meant to sell his place or give it away and move out of the neighbourhood, because every time he was out of doors and D saw him, he would come out and swear, and curse, and say everything he could to wound his feelings. He had not, I think, been at any of our meetings. Of course he was ignorant of the great truths of religion and despised the whole Christian enterprise.

“Father Nash heard us speak of this Mr D as a ‘hard case’ and was very much grieved and distressed for the individual. He immediately put his name on his ‘praying list’. The case weighed on his mind when he was asleep and when he was awake. He kept thinking about the ungodly man, and praying for him for days. In this manner the Spirit of God leads individual Christians to prayer for things which they would not pray for, unless they were led by the Spirit; and thus they pray for things ‘according to the will of God.’

“Not many days afterward, as we were holding an evening meeting with a very crowded house, who should come in but this notorious D. His entrance created a considerable movement in the congregation. People feared he had come in to make a disturbance. The fear and abhorrence of him had become very general among Christians, I believe; so that when he came in, some of the people got up and retired. I knew his countenance, and kept my eye upon him. I very soon became satisfied that he had not come in to oppose, and that he was in great anguish of mind. He sat and writhed upon his seat, and was very uneasy. He soon arose, and tremblingly asked me if he might say a few words. I told him that he might. He then proceeded to make one of the most heart-broken confessions I almost ever heard. His confession seemed to cover the whole ground of his treatment of God, of Christians, of the revival, and of everything good.

This thoroughly broke up the fallow ground in many hearts. It was the most powerful means that could have been used, just then, to give impetus to the work.

D soon came out and professed a hope, abolished all the revelry (including liquor) and profanity from his bar-room; and from that time, as long as I stayed there, and I know not how much longer, a prayer meeting was held in his bar-room nearly every night.”

Such is one evidence of Nash’s power in prayer in the use of his list.

PRAYING WITH OTHERS – As had been mentioned previously, Nash customarily sought for a few others to help carry the load in each of the places he went to minister in prayer. Many times he had as a partner Abel Clary who was gifted and exercised in a similar fashion. This praying together multiplies prayerpower: “One [shall] chase a thousand and two [shall] put ten thousand to flight.” The efforts of several with such a burden for victory greatly increases the power of prayer.

FOCUSING IN PRAYER – Strong praying must be effectual praying. There must be a desired effect. This effect must be definite and clear to the one praying. This effect will fill the mind of the saint and be a focus of thought, concern and prayer. Scattered praying in general directions is of little value.  A list is a starting point in this matter, yet the items on the list must be focused on one by one if we are to expect results. Hear Finney tell of Nash’s way in this matter:

“I was acquainted with an individual who used to keep a list of persons for whom he was especially concerned; and I have had the opportunity to know a multitude of persons, for whom he became thus interested, who were immediately converted. I have seen him pray for persons on his list when he was literally in an agony for them; and have sometimes known him call on some other person to help him pray for such-a-one. I have known his mind to fasten thus on an individual of hardened, abandoned character, and who could not be reached in an ordinary way.”

Such praying required mental effort to aim at the proper effect with true soul struggle. To move from real burden to solid faith often requires the path of soul agony. We are too committed to cop out with fatalism, unconcern or shifting the responsibility to the lost. It may require a wrestling in prayer until we obtain the desired blessing. This is on a far higher plane than the physical. These struggles of soul and spirit may produce more than weariness in the physical realm. But the body agony is but a result of such praying, and not an integral part. Some would counterfeit this soul struggle by physical manifestations. This may fool man but such hypocrisy is of no help in the courts of Heaven.

PRAYER OF FAITH – Nash was convinced that we have a responsibility for the destiny of souls. He felt that God has committed great tools to us, and to use or disuse them was a serious matter for which we would have to give an account to God. His ministry of prayer had this as a basic premise. He was despised by those of a more fatalistic position. He did write a letter on this subject shortly before his death. The only part of the letter to survive, to our knowledge, is a group of excerpts given in a book attacking his position.

How fully they represent his position is unknown, but they do give glimpses and points to ponder:

“Since you were here I have been thinking of prayer particularly of praying for the Holy Ghost and its descent. It seems to me I have always limited God in this request… I have never felt, ‘til since you left us, that I might rationally ask for the whole influence of the Spirit to come down; not only on individuals, but on a whole people, region, country, and world.

On Saturday, I set myself to do this, and the devil was very angry with me, yesterday, for it. I am now convinced, it is my duty and privilege, and the duty of every other Christian, to pray for as much of the Holy Spirit as came down on the day of Pentecost, and a great deal more. I know not why we may not ask for the entire and utmost influence of the Spirit to come down, and, asking in faith, see the full answer… I think I never did so freely ask the Holy Ghost for all mankind. My body is in pain, but I am happy in my God… I have only just begun to understand what Jesus meant when He said, ’All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.’ “I have felt a little like praying that I might be overwhelmed with the Holy Ghost, die in the operation, and go to Heaven thus; but God knows.”

To our knowledge, these are the last recorded words of Daniel Nash. Notice his humility. Hear his burden. Consider whether the Fulton Street Revival of the 1850’s was as spontaneous a revival of prayer as had often been thought. The youth of Nash’s day were the leaders of perhaps the greatest revival of prayer in history.

We now come to the scene of his death. In the small village of Vernon during the cold winter of an upstate New York December, when temperatures often run below zero, Daniel Nash continues this ministry of prayer.

Charles Finney gives an account of the leaving of his co-worker: “Said a good man to me: ‘Oh, I am dying for the want of strength to pray! My body is crushed, the world is on me, and how can I forbear praying?’ I have known that man go to bed absolutely sick, for weakness and faintness, under the pressure. And I have known him pray as if he would do violence to Heaven, and then have seen the blessing come as plainly in his answer to his prayer as if it were revealed, so that no person could doubt it any more than if God had spoken from Heaven.

Shall I tell you how he died? He prayed more and more; he used to take the map of the world before him, and pray, and look over the different countries and pray for them, ‘til he expired in his room, praying.

Blessed man! He was the reproach of the ungodly, and of carnal, unbelieving professors; but he was the favourite of Heaven, and a prevailing prince of prayer”

Thus he entered glory on his knees December 20, 1831, at the age of 56. His body is buried near where he pastored in that former church’s graveyard with a small stone to mark the spot.

Will you give yourself to ministry of prayer as God leads you and enables?

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