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Daniel Nash pastored a small church in the backwoods of New York for six years, and traveled with and prayed for a traveling 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 U.S. 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 mans 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 percent 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 percent of his converts last.
Today, a well-known evangelist (well-financed and highly organized) recently stated that he would be delighted if 20 percent 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....
Nashs labors 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 labor that would influence praying people to this day.
Charles Finneys labors 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 Daniels 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 mans parish unless called....We have room enough to work and work enough 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 to get two or three people to enter into a covenant of prayer with him. Sometimes he had with him a man of similar prayer ministry, Able Clary. Together they would begin to pray fervently for God to move in the community. One record of such is told by 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 havent 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 didnt know what to do. Would you please come see about them?
"No, it isnt necessary, Finney replied. They just have a spirit of travail in prayer.
"Charles Finney so realized the need of Gods 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 Spirits 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 nearly been lost in these days of organizers, promoters, big names, etc. Such praying men not only sustained Finneys ministry, but explain the power in preaching and long-lasting results....
Oswald J. Smith explains the importance of such strivings in prayer during Finneys 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...."
Praying with Others
As has 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 prayer power: "One [shall] chase a thousand and two [shall] put ten thousand to flight" (Deut. 32:30). 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 Nashs 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 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 prayer, and not an integral part. Some would counterfeit this soul struggle by physical manifestations. They 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 the use or disuse of 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.