In his autobiography, Charles G. Finney (1792-1875) spoke of prayer as the great means of revival. In 1830, the Lord greatly used Finney during a revival that began in Rochester, New York and spread throughout the region. Below are Finney’s words concerning the power of prayer.
“When I was on my way to Rochester, as we passed through a village some thirty miles east of Rochester, a brother minister whom I knew, seeing me on the canal boat, jumped aboard to have a little conversation with me, intending to ride but a little way and return. He, however, became interested in conversation, and upon finding where I was going, he made up his mind to keep on and go with me to Rochester. We had been there but a few days when this minister became so convicted that he could not help weeping aloud at one time as he passed along the street. The Lord gave him a powerful spirit of prayer, and his heart was broken. As he and I prayed together, I was struck with his faith in regard to what the Lord was going to do there. I recollect he would say, ‘Lord, I do not know how it is; but I seem to know that Thou art going to do a great work in this city.’ The spirit of prayer was poured out powerfully, so much so, that some persons stayed away from the public services to pray, being unable to restrain their feelings under preaching.
“And here I must introduce the name of a man, whom I shall have occasion to mention frequently, Mr. Abel Clary. He was the son of a very excellent man and an elder of the church where I was converted. He was converted in the same revival in which I was. He had been licensed to preach; but his spirit of prayer was such he was so burdened with the souls of men that he was not able to preach much, his whole time and strength being given to prayer. The burden of his soul would frequently be so great that he was unable to stand, and he would writhe and groan in agony. I was well acquainted with him, and knew something of the wonderful spirit of prayer that was upon him. He was a very silent man, as almost all are who have that powerful spirit of prayer.
“The first I knew of his being in Rochester, a gentleman who lived about a mile west of the city called on me one day, and asked me if I knew a Mr. Abel Clary, a minister, and I told him that I knew him well. ‘Well,’ said he, ‘he is at my house, and has been there for some time, and I don’t know what to think of him.’ I said, ‘I have not seen him at any of our meetings.’ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘he cannot go to meetings, he says. He prays nearly all the time day and night, and in such an agony of mind that I do not know what to make of it. Sometimes he cannot even stand on his knees, but will lie prostrate on the floor, and groan and pray in a manner that quite astonishes me.’ I said to the brother, ‘I understand it; please keep still. It will come out all right; he will surely prevail.’
“I knew at the time a considerable number of men who were exercised in the same way. A Deacon P—of Camden, Oneida County; a Deacon T—of Adams, in the same county; this Mr. Clary, and many others among the men, and a large number of women partook of the same spirit, and spent a great part of their time in prayer. Father Nash, as we called him, who in several of my fields of labor came to me and aided me, was another of those men that had such a powerful spirit of prevailing prayer. This Mr. Clary continued in Rochester as long as I did, and did not leave it until after I had left. He never, that I could learn, appeared in public, but gave himself wholly to prayer.”