When the Divine Owner takes possession of a property, He has a twofold objective: intense cultivation and abounding fruitfulness. But if the land is fallow ground, He can only till it acre by acre. We shall see the Owner now at work in His newly claimed estate.
The first acre He put under fresh cultivation in Rees Howells was the prayer life. Rees had been used to praying general prayers, but if someone had asked him if he knew he was going to get an answer, he would not have known what to say. Now the Spirit told him, “the meaning of prayer is answer and of all that I give you, see that you lose nothing.” He also told him that effectual praying must be guided praying, and that he was no longer to pray for all kinds of things at his own whim or fancy, but only the prayers that the Holy Ghost gave him.
Coupled with this was another important lesson, that he was never again to ask God to answer a prayer through others, if He could answer it through him. That included his money. When there was a prayer for money, he must allow his own to be used. The Holy Ghost showed him that in the unsurrendered state he could spend time in asking God to supply the foreign fields and other causes, and yet not be willing for God to answer the prayer through him; and that often the Lord is “wearied with our words.” All this unreality was to be put on one side, and the Scriptures acted on in the most practical sense.
The first prayer of this kind that the Holy Ghost prayed through him was for a young man named Will Battery. He had come to the district some years before to live with his uncle, after having had meningitis which had left him in a very weak condition; in this state liquor had got a hold on him, and he had gone from bad to worse. He hadn’t slept in a bed for two years, but spent his nights on the boilers of the tin mill. He was dirty and unshaven; he wore no socks and never tied his shoe laces. The Revival had been in the district and hundreds had been converted, but no one had reached him. It was for this man that Mr. Howells, to his own surprise found the Holy Ghost travailing in Him. He was to pray him through to sanity and salvation, and love him “not in word neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth”. “It wouldn’t have come to my mind to love him,” he said, “but when the Holy Ghost comes in, He brings in the love of the Saviour. It seemed as if I could lay down any life for this man; there was a love pouring out of me that I never knew before. Naturally speaking, he would be the last one with whom I would spend my spare time, and the tin mill would be the last place.”
In his free hours he made this man his friend, and spent all his Sundays with him. He had more joy, he said, seeking to win this one, than at chapel in the company of the other believers. He even walked about the village with him, although embarrassed once or twice as people turned and stared at them, but “the Lord pulled me up on it,” he said.
About ten days before Christmas, the Spirit asked Rees what gift he would like, as this was the first Christmas since He had come into his life. The choice Rees made was obvious: that Will Battery should have a blessing. But from that day on Battery disappeared! “I sought him for ten evenings,” Rees said, “as a mother looks for her child. I didn’t yet know the ways of the Holy Ghost, and that He wanted me to trust Him.” Then the day before Christmas Battery came to look for him. “I can hear his footsteps now,” said Rees, “and oh, the sensation of it! I hadn’t the faintest idea of the love of the Holy Ghost for a lost soul, until He loved one through me. What an evening we had together! The next day I had the joy of spending my first Christmas after the Holy Ghost had come in, in the tin mill with this young man, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. My mother gave me a basket with Christmas dinner for the two of us; but my joy was too great to eat. Battery had the lot! At 4 p.m. he asked if he could come with me to the cottage meeting. What joy I had in walking with him there! I had never asked him to go myself, for fear of embarrassing him.”
But the work was not done in a few weeks or months. Stage by stage he was lifted, until Rees was able to put him in lodgings and get him to take a job in the mine. But even then there were lapses, such as when Rees was summoned to face an angry landlady. Will Battery had gone to bed with his pit clothes on — boots included! He hastily told her to send the sheets to the laundry at his expense! The day came when the chapel people were amazed to see Battery sitting in the meetings respectably dressed; but it took three years for the final victory, when at last Mr. Howells was able to persuade him to go home to his mother, who was a converted woman and had prayed for him for years. “In this way,” said Mr. Howells, “I started at the bottom and loved just one; and if you love one, you can love many; and if many, you cart love all.”
The second outstanding prayer the Holy Ghost prayed through him was for a man who went by the name of Jim Stakes, his real name being James Thomas. It was also the means by which the Holy Spirit gave Rees Howells his first lesson in “princely giving”. As he said later; “Since my money now belongs to the New Tenant, the old tenant has to be impartial about the amount He gives. The new Tenant by His nature is more generous than the old one; the latter has lived so long in Egypt and later in the wilderness under the law, that he has only been used at best to giving the tithe; so when the new Tenant wants to give princely gifts, He first tests the reality of the surrender; if it is proved genuine, then there will be no future conflicts when large amounts are called for.” The test for Rees was on Jim Stakes.
This man had been such a low character that the common saying was: What Jim Stakes would not do, the devil himself could not do! He was one of the worst drunkards, and there was a great sensation during the Revival when he went under conviction and came out for salvation in a prayer meeting. He had a house full of children, and through his old drinking habit was in great poverty. Rees Howells had only met him once, but knew him well by repute. One morning when in prayer, quite unexpectedly, this man “stood before” him. “I had never before known such a conflict for a soul in the spiritual realm,” Rees said. “For an hour it was as much as I could do to allow the Holy Ghost to pray through me. I saw the devil attacking him, and that if he could get him back, it would be one of the best things he could do to counteract the work of the Revival. I saw that it was a conflict between God and the devil for a soul, and I told the Lord I would do anything, if He would keep him.”
That very evening there was a man at the door to see him. He never had a greater surprise. It was Jim Stakes! He had come a distance of two miles, because he said that while he was working in the mine that morning, at ten o’clock Rees Howells had “stood before” him. It was at that very hour in the morning that Jim Stakes. had “stood before” Rees, and the burden of prayer had come on him! “Are you in trouble?” Rees asked him. He was indeed. He was two years behind in his rent, and that morning the bailiffs had marked his furniture and were coming to fetch it. Two years’ rent! That was a lot of money. After a moment’s hesitation Mr. Howells said, “I’ll give you one year’s rent — and I have a friend who, I believe, will give you the other half.” He went upstairs to fetch the money, but before he reached the top, the Holy Spirit spoke to him. “Didn’t you tell Me this morning that you would give all you had to save him? Why are you only giving him half? Did not the Saviour pay all your debt and set you free?” Rees Howells turned and ran down the stairs, and said to the man, “I’m sorry I told you I would only give one year’s rent. I am to give you two years’ rent, and all you need beside. I am to deliver you in such a way that the devil can’t use this situation any longer to get at you.” “The moment I said that,” Mr. Howells declared later, “the joy of heaven came down. It was as if something snapped in my nature, and it became more blessed to give than to receive.” The amount of the gift was ú70.
Mr. Howells took him straight over that evening to see a friend, and have prayer together; and on the way he asked him if his wife .was converted. Hadn’t she seen a change in him and wasn’t she glad? “Yes,” Jim replied, “but she is not saved; she hasn’t had the clothes to go to meetings.” As he listened Rees Howells said he felt in the Spirit as though virtue had gone out to her, and he knew that she too would be converted. The following Sunday he went to their house and found her under conviction. The “princely gift” had broken her down, love had conquered, and the Holy Spirit led her to the foot of the Cross, where she saw that a still greater debt had been paid for her, and paid with a greater price — the precious blood of Christ.
The blessing of this couple was what Rees called “the beginning of days” in the district, because cottage meetings were started in their home every Saturday and Sunday evening, led by Rees Howells and his friends. Many came to them, and some of the worst characters gave their hearts to the Lord.
In this new experience of life in the Holy Ghost, Rees had one whose fellowship meant much to him — his Uncle Dick. When he returned from Llandrindod, not all believers by any means could see the need of this total surrender to the Holy Spirit, and some even opposed; but God gave him one of like mind and heart in his uncle. Of all the believers in the district it might have been thought that Uncle Dick had least need of this full surrender. For twenty-six years he had been an invalid, not able to walk more than a few yards, nor to read to himself more than a few minutes at a time. He had accepted this condition as the will of God, and spent hours daily in prayer,, or in having the Bible read to him by members of the family. Before the Revival, when the spiritual state in the country had been so low, he had joined with many in praying for a quickening, and had greatly rejoiced when the answer came.
Yet he also knew his own need. Before the Revival, even among the most godly in the churches, few had known of eternal life as a free gift, or of assurance of forgiveness of sins; and even after the Revival, the truth of the Holy Spirit as a divine Person living in the believer’s body was hidden from most, including Uncle Dick. He had a longing for more power in prayer, and had never known how to get it.
He rejoiced in Rees’ conversion, and Rees had continued to look up to his uncle as his most valued spiritual guide, and naturally he would be the first to whom Rees would go on his return from Llandrindod to tell of his new experience. But the visit was not an easy one, because the Lord had revealed to Rees that he was to offer the Holy Spirit to his uncle, and where the younger had been accustomed to be blessed through the elder, the reverse was now to be the case.
But Uncle Dick was ready. As Rees told him of the blessing and price — a complete surrender of the will with no reserve — his uncle recognized it as the Word of the Lord and the truth of the Scriptures. It took him three weeks to settle the matter, Each visit Rees made, his uncle would say, “I am sure I will be through in a few days”; and when he did come through, it was to glorious victory. He was an illustration of the fact that a man may be godly and devoted, and yet still need the Holy Ghost, and find it by no means easy to make a full surrender.
From that time onwards, and for many years, the fellowship in the Spirit between uncle and nephew was very deep. It was a spiritual partnership in which Uncle Dick became Rees’ chief prayer partner. He continued his prayer-work for some eight hours a day, but with this difference: up to the time when the Holy Ghost took full possession, any need that arose automatically became a subject of prayer; but from henceforward, as with Rees, it was guided praying with specific objectives, victorious travail and definite answers.