By Vivian Chen
Have you heard of a man named Rees Howells? Neither had I until my family embarked on a class assignment for the Children’s Intercessory School, that started at the beginning of this year. My hope when I signed up for the School was to develop in my children a life of prayer together — prayer beyond the standard wish list style and instead based on anointed teaching and on the presence of God.
“Intercession” is a term I have become familiar with in recent years, but I discovered that my understanding was limited: I thought of how Moses stood in the gap pleading with God to spare the lives of His people (after they disrespected God). Interceding in this way was already a stretch for me, but I discovered through Rees Howells’ life what it means to be a true intercessor.
Although Rees lived during a different era, there are many truths and lessons that I can apply to my journey of faith in Christ. Growing up in Wales in the 1880s, Rees was aware of God’s invisible presence and never missed church or a prayer meeting. But at 12 years of age, he stopped going to school and started to work in a tin mill. Money called to him when he was 22, so he went to the United States where people were making in one day what would take a week to make in Wales. The turning point in his faith came when he got typhoid fever.
On his deathbed, he prayed to God, and God allowed him to get well from the fever — Rees then began in earnest to search for God. One day at church after his recovery, he heard God say “Behold I stand at the door and knock. May I come in to you? Will you accept me?” Rees said “Yes” and God’s love came into him. He no longer was driven by money but instead returned home, hoping to witness to his parents, in 1904, the year of the Welsh Revival, when thousands were added to churches and the spiritual conflict began. As the church realized the conflict was not against flesh and blood but against the Enemy of souls, Rees and other leaders felt they lacked sufficient power to teach and intercede for the new believers.
“The intercession of the Holy Spirit for the saints in this present evil world must be made through believers filled with the Holy Spirit” (Grubbs). As Rees sought the Lord for the power for service, the Holy Spirit spoke, “As the Savior had a body, so I dwell in the cleansed temple of the believer. I am a person. I am God and I come to ask you to give your body to Me that I may work through it. The life I will live in you will be 100% for others. You will never be able to save yourself, any more than the Savior could when He was on earth. Are you willing?” Rees surrendered and when the Holy Spirit entered Rees at age 26, he began to speak with boldness, a great transformation from the naturally quiet person that he was known to be.
When the Holy Spirit took possession of Rees, the cultivation of Rees’ heart began for the purpose of fruitfulness. Every selfish motive and every selfish thought was dealt with by the Holy Spirit. For Rees, it was the love of money, personal ambition, natural affection for parents and the appetites of the body. Rees wrote, “The strictest man I knew in my boyhood days was my Schoolmaster, but how often I said that the Holy Spirit was a thousand times more strict — the Schoolmaster could only judge by actions, but the Holy Spirit was judging by the motive.”
The life that Rees lived challenges me to a new level of how to approach prayer and be a living sacrifice. How often in my own life, I live for myself, defend my own cause, and hold onto my rights? By God’s grace, I have hope that I can fully surrender what is being asked of me. Upon surrendering, God has an unlimited promise, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Just as abiding in Jesus was crucial in Rees’ life and ministry, I want to be in that place of abiding, where the willingness for the Holy Spirit to live the life Jesus would have lived if He had been in my place. Where am I in my abiding? What areas am I struggling to surrender? Through this assignment, God has been showing me “The path of the intercessor is the way of the cross.” Everything that makes me to live for myself has to die at the cross.
Grubb, Norman. Rees Howells, Intercessor: The Story of a Life Lived for God. CLC Publications, 1952.