“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.” Eph 6:18 NLT

In August, 1806, five Williams College students met in a field for one of their twice-weekly prayer meetings when a thunderstorm drove them to take refuge in a nearby haystack. Continuing in prayer, Samuel John Mills shared his burden that Christianity be sent abroad, and the group prayed that American missions would spread Christianity through the east. The haystack prayer meeting held in Williamstown, Massachusetts, is viewed by many scholars as the spark that ignited American support for world missions. In 1808, the haystack prayer group and other Williams students formed “The Brethren,” a society organized to effect, in the persons of its members, a mission to the heathen. Within a few years they inspired the founding of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). Several of the students, including Adoniram Judson, went to Asia as missionaries (the first foreign missioners sent from America in 1812). Samuel John Mills stayed stateside to recruit others, and helped organize the American Bible Society and the United Foreign Missionary Society. In its fifty years, ABCFM sent out over 1,250 missionaries. In 1961, the American Board merged to form the United Church Board for World Missions (UCBWM). After 150 years, the American Board had sent out nearly 5,000 missionaries to thirty-four different fields. And it all began with five young men praying in a haystack! Nothing can take the place of prayer—not money, not programs. The truth is, we can do great things after we pray, but we cannot do great things until we pray. So the word for you today is, “Let us pray.”