Proving Jesus: The Man Who Prayed Under the Stage

Commissioner John Lawley

Commissioner John Lawley

In those glorious early days of the Salvation Army (The Christian Mission at that time) a young man of 17 named John Lawley was soundly converted as a result of the meetings led by William Booth.  It was 1877, John’s entire family were paupers.  His dad was a drunk, and the rest of the family eked out a meagre existence slaving away in workhouses.

When Lawley came to Christ he never looked back.  He became a bold evangelist with the mission and before 19 he was preaching 14 sermons a week on the streets!  14 Sermons!  On one occasion an angry crowd surrounded him and attacked him. 10 police officers tried to intervene but were unable to break through until a young Salvation Army lass pushed her way through the crowd to John who was crumpled on the ground.  She picked him up by the collar, raised her clenched fist at the crowd and dared anyone to even try touching John one more time.

William Booth

William Booth

John rose through the ranks of the Salvation Army to the the rank of Commissioner.  He eventually became William Booth’s right hand man.  He traveled with Booth, sang, led the prayer meetings, arranged travel, gave alter calls and interceded for Booth when he preached.

This is what I’d like to talk about for a moment.  Commissioner Lawley was an intercessory prayer warrior.  Lawley was known to literally crawl under the stage while Booth preached and pray fervently for the lost.  There in the darkness and dust he would cry out to God for the souls of men and women who were stumbling toward damnation.  Others, on occasion, would join him.  They would intercede for Booth and travail in prayer that he would receive the unction of the Holy Spirit.  William Booth literally had people  below his feet lifting him up in prayer!  Do you know the power of this?

So, what happened when William Booth preached?  The prostitutes, drunkards, criminals and sinners would cling to their pews under the conviction of their sins.  After the meetings the floor would be strewn with shredded and crumpled pages out of the hymn books.  Why?  Because under the weight and anxiety of their sin the lost would literally clench and tear whatever they could put their hands on!  The weight was to much for them to bare!

Then, as the enormity of their sin and guilt before God become unbearable, Booth would call for Lawley…”Where is Commissionar Lawley?!  Bring him out!” he would bark.  Lawley would crawl out from under that stage all dusty and sweaty.  Standing up, he would pierce the hopelessness and lostness of the crowd with the hope of salvation in Christ.  He would declare the forgiveness of sins by faith in Christ and make an appeal to them. Often, he would hardly need to be give any appeal at all because the people were desperate. They seized hold of Christ like drowning men and women!

The power of prayer..of secret and earnest prayer.  How much do you pray for your pastor? How ’bout while he is preaching?  What if one or two people in each church hid themselves away secretly like Lawley did?  What if they took hold of God on behalf of their pastor and the people?  What if you got down on your knees and implored God for the power of the Holy Spirit upon the preacher as he preached?  Your pastor doesn’t need improved speaking skills, flashier illustrations or a magnetic personality!  Your pastor needs the power of the Holy Spirit from on high to overshadow him! He needs anointing.  And the congregation? They need the Spirit of God to convict of sin so that they can repent.  John Lawley, is not a well known man today, but he inspired me.  I hope he inspires you too.  I find the darkness of the baptistry behind the stage at our church a handy spot to pray for my pastor.  Find yourself a spot too if God so leads.lonely prayer


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