s part of this devotional series, we now focus on a unique figure in church history. Rees
Howells was a man of prayer powerfully used by God during one of the darkest periods of
human history. Howells gives us a stunning model for prayer and intercession at a critical time
when the globe shifted from the uni-polar dominance of the British Empire into the chaos of a
multi-polar geopolitical world.
Howells emerged on the scene at a time when a series of events, set in motion from June to
August 1914, led to a tragic new reality no one could have imagined—a “war to end all wars.”
A few years ago, I was gifted a vintage world map. It was the kind that pulled down like a
window shade that you might see in an old classroom. That map, in particular, was precious
because someone had preserved it from 1918. As I looked over the details, I was curious to see
that this map was somewhat unfinished. There were hand-drawn lines on the printed paper
depicting new European and Middle Eastern boundaries. Red ink captured real-time updates.
World War 1 had just ended, and borders were being redrawn based on the 1919 Treaty of
While looking over that old map, a thought suddenly struck me: “This was Rees Howells’
world.” In other words, this is the world in crisis that he prayed over. I felt like I saw things
through his eyes for a moment. That thought would have a prophetic impact on us all today
because similar dark clouds are already forming on our horizon.
The globe made a dramatic shift beginning in 1914. After WWI, the chaos continued as nations
and systems struggled to stabilize, only to collapse again and again. A few short years later, the
Great Depression shattered the wealth of many. Ineffective government systems in Europe
limped along, ultimately leading to the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany. In just over twenty
years, a generation saw not one but two world wars—the second one eclipsed the death toll and
destruction of the first.
Right in the middle of that global chaos, Rees Howells emerged with a school designed to teach
young leaders how to pray. The world had changed, and international missions began to go into
decline. Missionaries needed a new way of praying in order to see the Gospel advance despite
the new colossal challenges they faced.
Rees Howells was a wartime leader perfectly suited for the times in which he lived.
We now live in times that closely parallel the days of Rees Howells. Each of us must embrace
the moment we are in and remember that we were created “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
Even as missionary work began to decline during that period, Howells became a man possessed
with a world vision stating, “The world became our parish, and we were led to be responsible to
intercede for countries and nations.”
Those prayers posed a real problem for the devil, and Howells came to understand that the rise of
the dictators of the day was in direct response to their intercession for the fulfillment of the Great
Commission. Taken from Mark 16:15-16, Rees Howells called it the Every Creature Vision.
Satan raised up Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin to stop the Gospel from going to every creature in
that generation; therefore, they had to be dealt with accordingly.
During that time, Howells wrote a book titled God Challenges the Dictators. That title alone is
very provocative. How many in the church today think that way, much less pray that way?
Howells led a company of intercessors in prayers that did more than merely respond to crises
around the world. Instead, their prayers created a crisis for the devil.
“Rees Howells was taught by the Holy Spirit that any person, government or international
situation that hindered the spread of the Gospel would become a legitimate target to be
challenged and defeated through intercession.” (Norman Grubb, Rees Howells: Intercessor)
There’s no place in today’s missions-minded church for people with a reactive and defeatist
mentality. What’s needed now more than ever are intercessors who can identify and discern what
God wants to do around the globe and then pray those things into being.
Right now, God wants to raise up people who are fully committed to His work despite the
challenges. Will you be a courageous one who stands in the face of giants instead of cowering in
fear? Your prayers can sabotage the plans of the enemy. Nations hang in the balance.
Once you develop a world vision for the advancement of the Gospel, discern special initiatives
for prayer that are God-ordained, and are not deterred by the current geopolitical forces that
stand in opposition, you must accept responsibility for those assignments until you have gained the victory.
The deeper call for responsibility is the area that defines the difference between simply praying for a matter versus becoming an intercessor.
Howells believed that “a prayer warrior can pray for a thing to be done without necessarily being
willing for the answer to come through himself; and he is not even bound to continue in the
prayer until it is answered. But an intercessor is responsible to gain his objective, and he can
never be free till he has gained it.” This is what he referred to as “praying through.”
The intercessor will often find themselves caught up in the events they pray over as they happen.
In a very real sense, their prayers become as much a decisive factor in the outcomes as anything
else bearing down on a situation. Faith holds them in that pivotal place as they stand day after
day with a firm grasp on what God has promised.
To the one who has accepted responsibility for a matter, there is no limit placed on the revelation
and light they might receive that prophetically directs prayer in increasingly specific ways.
Rather than a blunt instrument being swung around on a spiritual battlefield, their intercession
more resembles the scalpel in the hand of a skilled surgeon removing a cancerous tumor.
The call, once again, is for a new way to pray in a rapidly changing world. This new way
forward is not a matter of invention but a process of rediscovery. When we look over the world
map of 2022, do we see what God sees? The times are coming and are already here when the
keys to unlocking unreached people groups much be found by the intercessors. Let’s follow the
example of Rees Howells, a humble man of God whose life has inspired thousands of
intercessors around the globe.
Written by Matt Lockett, Bound4LIFE