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Prevailing Prayer Over the Weather

The Arrested Storm

The history of the children of God, in all their generations, abounds with facts which indicate the interposition of a divine Providence in answer to the prayer of faith. And though, in the present age of rampant unbelief, men question these facts, and speculate concerning their origin, yet from time to time there are not wanting fresh witnesses who testify that there is a God in heaven who hears and answers prayer ; and that he who “gathered the wind in his fists,” and “hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm,” has neither lost his power nor changed his character, since the days when, at the prayer of a man of “like passions as we are,” “it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months;” or since, at the potent word of Jesus Christ, the Galilean tempest hushed its fury, and “a calm” fell upon its storm-tossed waves.

The following account, taken from a sketch by Rev. Maxwell P. Gaddis, an eye-witness, published in the Ladies’ Repository, for March, 1849, will serve as one more illustration of the efficacy of prevailing supplication, and the power of a prayer-answering God.

In the year 1832, a company of humble believers gathered together in a beautiful spot on the waters of Straight Creek, a few miles northwest of Russellville, Ohio, for purposes of Christian worship. The meeting commenced on Saturday; the people gathered from far and near, some eager for the novelty of a camp-meeting, some glad of a brief escape from care and toil, some hungering for the bread of life and thirsting for the waters of salvation, and others ready to proclaim in that forest temple, built by the hand of God, the unsearchable riches of Christ, to larger assemblies than could be accommodated in the ordinary places of worship in that new region of country.

The morning was cool and pleasant, and the people assembled from various quarters. The opening discourse, delivered by Rev. Burroughs Westlake, was from the words, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” and was an earnest and powerful appeal; but while he spoke, the outer circle of the ground was the scene of much confusion. The face of the whole heavens had become overcast with heavy clouds, and all around gave token of a coming storm. All who were not congregated for worship at the stand, were busily engaged in erecting their temporary tents, tightening the cords of those already pitched, fixing the roofs of their rude cabins, and in various ways were making all possible preparations to protect themselves from the approaching storm. As the preacher closed his sermon, deep anxiety was depicted on every countenance, and many hearts were sunk in despondency and sadness by the threatening aspect of the gloomy sky. All were of opinion that the services of the meeting would be interrupted, if not entirely broken off, by the rain, and that the congregation, young and old, robust and feeble, courageous and timorous, must prepare to brave the terrors of a storm in the dense forest, and perhaps the dreadful dangers of the thunderbolts, crashing amid the giant trees and smiting the monarchs of the forest in their might and power.

A thunder-storm! The eloquence of Heaven!
Who hath not paused beneath its hollow groan,
And felt Omnipotence around him thrown!
When every cloud is from its slumber driven!

With what a gloom the ushering scene appears!
The leaves all fluttering with instinctive fears,
The waters curling with a fellow dread,
A breezeless fervor round creation spread.

“And last, the heavy rain’s reluctant shower,
With big drops spattering on the tree and bower,
While wizzard shapes the lowering sky deform
All mark the coming of the thunder-storm.”

At this moment, when sin oppressive silence reigned throughout the encampment, one was seen coming out from the preacher’s tent, in the rear of the pulpit, and ascending the stand to close the services of the hour. His voice was low, sweet, and melodious; and as he proceeded to line out Cowper’s beautiful and well-known hymn.

“God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

“Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.

“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread,
Are big with mercy, and shall break
With blessings on your head,”

All eyes were riveted upon the stranger. With the reading and singing of each verse of that appropriate hymn, the devotional feeling increased, until the tear of joy sparkled in many an eye, while the hearty “Amen,” as it fell from the warm lips of the trusting Christian, gave added interest to the scene.

The singing closed; the assembly knelt in prayer, and the voice of the stranger was lifted up before the throne of grace. At first his low and subdued petitions were scarcely audible from the surrounding confusion, which was increased by every new arrival, and by the continued preparations for sheltering the people from the impending storm. But as he “continued in prayer,” and breathed forth the deep longings of a burdened heart in soft and solemn tones, a hush fell on the gathering tumult; an awful presence seemed to rest upon the encampment; men paused in their labors and, falling on their knees, united in the petitions that were ascending; the sound of the woodman’s axe and the wagoner’s whip died away; not a voice or foot fall on the forest leaves disturbed the sacred silence of the hour, and every heart seemed to heed the whisper of a still, small voice, like that which said of old: “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” Few of those present had known until that day the full efficacy of fervent prayer. The stranger was conversing with his God, as man with his friend. After lifting up his petitions for the conversion of sinners and the success and prosperity of the meeting, he began to plead with the Almighty, if consistent with his will, to stop “the bottles of heaven,” and grant the people fair weather to worship him in the grove. And as he proceeded, his mouth was filled with arguments, and passage after passage of the word of God seemed freshly brought to his mind. He spoke of the might of Deity: “Behold, God is great; . . . for he maketh small the drops of water; they pour down rain according to the vapor thereof, which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly.” “For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength . . . Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud; he scattereth his bright cloud; and it turned round about by his counsels, that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth. He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy.” Job xxxvi. 26-28 ; xxxvii. 6-13. He addressed the heavenly Father as the God of Providence, who “caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city;” Amos iv. 7; "who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will, and who had said that snow and vapor and stormy wind fulfilled his word;" Ps. cxlviii. 8; "who hath his way in the whirlwind, and who plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.”

“With such words as these did he approach the mercy-seat, to present his supplications at the throne of grace, and more than two or three were there agreeing with him to ask this favor of the Lord. And their prayers were not in vain.

Before the stranger left off speaking with his God, the heavy clouds rolled their riven shades away, the bright blue sky gleamed through the fleeting vapors, the cheerful sunlight fell upon the gladdened faces that had been upturned in earnest prayer, and fair weather banished their anxieties and blessed them with comfort during all their sojourn in the tented grove.

That day was memorable to hundreds. But though it seemed to them that they could testify that “there was no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man,” yet it was only the ancient power of Elijah’s God, revealed in answer to the prayers of his trusting saints.

On inquiring the name of the man of prayer, it was found to be “William B. Christie, a member of the Ohio conference. The following Monday at nine o’clock, he preached with convincing speech and earnest and persuasive power, from the words, “There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape, that ye may he able to bear it.”

Under that sermon many were convinced of sin, and led to seek the Lord. And at the close of his discourse, an infidel, whose skepticism and boldness both had vanished while he sat upon his horse in the rear of the stand and listened in that awful silence to the mighty prayer of faith, came forward and yielded his broken heart to Christ, united with the people of God, and henceforth was a devoted servant of the God that heareth prayer.

The skeptic may mock at this recital, but, says the narrator, “Hundreds of living witnesses to this day will unite their testimony with mine in saying that they fully believe that it was in answer to ‘the prayer of faith,’ at that moment, that the rain was withheld from falling on the encampment. And hundreds of other witnesses, both living and dead, in all the ages of the world, can bear steadfast and sufficient testimony that “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers.” -

ANSWERS TO PRAYER.

It was the remark of an eminent minister, that he who will observe God’s providences, shall never lack for providences to observe. And the Psalmist, after recounting the wonderful deliverances of the imperiled sons of men by land and sea, thus concludes:

“Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, Even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.”

Taken from Hastings' Ebenezers; Records of Prevailing Prayer

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