This is the first post in a short series on Rees Howells and the intercession of Wales Bible College during World War 2. Links to the other posts are found at the bottom of this page.
What would World War 2 history look like if told from the point of view of heaven? The most famous take on this question, I suspect, is found in the preface to C. S. Lewis’ wartime masterpiece, The Screwtape Letters: “The history of the European War, except in so far as it happens now and then to impinge upon the spiritual condition of one human being, was obviously of no interest to Screwtape.”
Lewis does discuss the impact of war on the individual, but doesn’t at all address the impact of the individual on the war.
But what if Lewis, on this little point, was wrong? As believers we have a pronounced tendency to pray in moments of world or national crisis. In our generation most believers offered heartfelt prayers during and after the 9/11 attacks. What about the equally heartfelt prayers that must have been offered during World War 2? Did they change the course of the war? There is evidence that they did.Rees Howells became a believer at about the time of the Welsh revival in 1904. He experienced the power of God in response to intercessory prayer as a coalminer, minister, and missionary to Africa. In 1924 he founded the Wales Bible College, modeled after the Moody Bible Institute. Rees Howells began to train students in intercessory prayer, that the Gospel might go out to ‘every creature’ and the Great Commission be fulfilled.
The story of his life is told in Norman Grubbs book Rees Howells, Intercessor. Many of the details in the posts that follow are drawn from this book, which is in the public domain.
A very well-done summary of Rees Howells’ life, with a number of pictures, can be found at Welldigger, a blog about the work of the Holy Spirit in Wales.
Praying for the Nation of Israel
In 1938 the College began to pray for the Jews of Europe – specifically that God would allow them to return to their ancestral land. This became a repeated prayer theme up to and including the historic 1947 United Nations decree that re-established the nation of Israel. Did God re-form the nation in answer to prayer? Those who piece together chains of cause-and-effect would say that every step in the process had a human explanation. But it may be that as people of faith we need to see the supernatural at work behind the natural, God’s hand guiding the affairs of men and nations.
It’s interesting that Rees Howells was not content to just pray for the Jews. By faith he also raised funds and built a facility to house Jewish orphans who would be rescued from Italy and Germany. The outbreak of the war prevented the full fruition of this scheme, but it shows that the heart of the College was to will and to work for God’s good pleasure.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting short excerpts from Rees Howells, Intercessor, along with the historical context of the prayers.