Brian Mills - "Prayer Triplets"
9:08AM Jul 9, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
Today it is our privilege and honor to be speaking with Brian Mills. Brian Mills formerly served as the prayer and revival secretary for the Evangelical Alliance of Britain. Brian, thank you so much for joining us today.
It's a pleasure. And thank you and greetings from England.
Brian, we understand that you served as the prayer and revival secretary for the Evangelical Alliance of Britain and it was during this time that you developed triplet prayer. Would you be willing to share with us please how it is that you came upon the idea of triplet prayer?
Yes, I I started with Evangelical Alliance as their evangelism secretary, and almost immediately got drawn into the preparation for a Billy Graham mission in Britain, which we called mission England, and it was in the early 1980s And I have the small team that put it together. I was the only one of a team of four that was actively involved in prayer with people in my own town from different denominational backgrounds. And they said, Brian, prayer is the most important thing we need to start with in preparation for this mission. Can you take this as your major responsibility to get us all going? So it's one thing to be praying with a group of people, you know, in your own small town is quite another thing to get the whole nation praying. So I said, help, Lord, what do I do? And I was getting no answer to start with, but I was getting encouragement to wait on God and not do anything until I heard directly from God one day. I believe God spoke to me in the bath. And I find this has been part of my life, a very important part of my life, the ability to hear God's voice and to recognize that every child has God should be able to hear his voice. He is our Father in heaven. And he's looking for his children to have relationship with his children. And my, my understanding is he expects to be able to converse with his children. So prayer is a two way conversation for me and always has been. And if you look at some of the stories of prayer in the Scriptures, you will find that there are many people that had that kind of conversational level of, of relationship with God, and as a consequence, did things that were in the realm of the extraordinary. So in my bath one day, and God said, he started to speak to me about threes. And I started thinking about what does that mean? What does that look like praying in threes and then three praying for three others each by name. So that between the group of three, a total of nine people would be prayed for that was the kernel of the idea. And and I shared it with my friends, who are on the leadership for this mission and They said That's it. That's it. We'll call it prayer triplets. Now, we, we started from scratch, there was no experience to build on. We launched the whole program through a series of public meetings across the United Kingdom. And we launched prayer triplets, and we got people to pray in threes in every meeting, and to pray for one friend each who is not a Christian. And so by the end of the, by the time we got this launch into England, we discovered that there were literally thousands and thousands of Christians who took this up, and began to pray in their churches with their friends, in their place of work in their schools in their neighborhood, praying for others by name, who they knew who were in their network of friends, and asking that God will open their eyes and draw their hearts towards him. And we found out before Billy Graham arrived here, literally thousands of new Christians. During the churches in as a consequence of God answering the personal prayers of individuals, and within the first six months of us launching it in the UK, we also discovered it, it was all around the world. And I never stepped outside my own country during that period. But within six months, it was around where we even heard of a Petra that's being formed in the in the Palace of the Kingdom of Tonga, and you can't get further away from England than Tonga, which is on the dateline. And we're on the Greenwich Mean Time area. So we just praise God, it was a period of unparalleled growth. And it's, it's stayed with the church in this country, and also in many other countries of the world ever since.
Brian, thank you for sharing that amazing story. How is it that evangelism and prayer are related to one another?
I believe so.
Only by experience, I can't say that it was necessarily present in Scripture though. You find Prayer being occurring many, many times in the Word of God, I always look back at scripture and say, Lord, what's my reference point in Scripture for what we're doing. And so for the the idea of prayer triplets, for example, we we referenced various passages in Scripture. So the story of Moses and Aaron and her on the mountaintop praying when Joshua was fighting the battle against the Amalekites in Exodus 17 was one when Jesus said to his, his friends, were two or three come together in my name, I'm there in the midst, that was another one. And and the third verse was, was obviously Jesus himself in his own prayer, triplet, Peter, James and john. And people say, Well, that was four, wasn't it? Not three. That's what Jesus is always in the midst. He's promised where two or three come together in my name, and they're in the midst. So we scripture was important for us in referencing what that meant. So I've only really applied the Word of God and help To promote it through the various channels we had access to. So I, I passionately believe, as a consequence of that experience, that prayer has to precede evangelism. So I encourage people whenever they go out to take a prayer team with them, if they're going to do street evangelism, or evangelism in a foreign country, you cannot expect to see progress unless you are preparing the way through prayer.
Brian, what have been the primary influences on your own theology of revival?
That's a big question. I would say that from my earliest days as a new believer in Jesus, I would be reading many books about the outpouring of God's Spirit in various cultures and countries and timescales. So I have a as you can probably see on my bookshelf behind me, shelves and shelves of books. There's a whole range of books just on revival subjects. And I used to look at these and read them and, and long for what I was reading to be a parent and present in my own generation in my own country. It's one thing to read about the stories that what God has done elsewhere in the world or elsewhere in history, it's another thing. He said, Lord, would you do it in my time, in my generation, and in my nation. And so, the stories are revival, stimulated my understanding that God would work would be at work at various stages and various times in history. And, and when you look at scripture, you have to say, what is the scriptural evidence of God working like that, and you have to start with a day of Pentecost, when, as as a consequence of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Peter stands up and preaches. And he references scripture. And in trying to explain what has happened, it was the first But the first time they had ever experienced something like this, it was extraordinary. It was an unprecedented in their experience. And Peter says this is that which is spoken of by the prophet Joel. So he had his reference point in the Old Testament, which helped to explain what was happening. And so my reference point and and particularly my reference point, after hearing Dr. Edwin or, which was he was a personal friend of mine, a mentor. And he often used to preach from X to the story of what happened on the day of Pentecost, in relation to the stories that he had researched in his understanding of the way in which spiritual awakening occurs around the world. There there is a difference in definition between the United States and UK in relation to what we understand about revival
revival in in the US would be understood as the reviving of what is in the Christian life that needs to be heightened and in and developed in our own experience of Jesus. Whereas here we would see it also to include people from outside the church but outside the believing community has suddenly drawn towards Jesus. In the Americans understanding they would look at that as, as a spiritual awakening and JJ Edwin or was often making this difference and saying spiritual awakening is the movement of uninstructed masses towards faith in Jesus Christ. And that would help to clarify the differences in understanding between the two sides of the Atlantic. So my theology was shaped in many respects from listening to Edwin or attending some of his conferences and for several years I was his UK representative and used to plan some of his conferences here.
Oxford, which some of you may know about in?
I did I think they are actually are being continued, but in another point by someone else now,
when did you first meet Dr. J. Edwin or
sometime in the 1980s, which is 30 years ago, and probably after the Billy Graham missions that we had in the UK, and we met became friends. And I had the privilege of ministering with him many, many times, and he stayed in my home.
What was it like to work in his office?
Do you know I never went to his office in the States because he lived in California, used to come to my office in the UK,
if that's what you mean by office,
but working with him, I used to take him, arrange tours for him. Open up opened up opportunities for him to engage with others who are looking at the history of risk. revivals and wanted to study as a theme at college or in their own personal life. And, and I used to just take him to meetings and look after him he was he would love to go into into university libraries or into the British Library in London. And he would follow up his latest research into what was happening in different countries of the world. And he would look at all the history books, so he would spend hours in in the these prestigious libraries looking at some of the stories from the past that wouldn't have been lost to history. Had he not done what he had done.
What was Dr. g? And when or like as a person, would you be willing to share a story or two?
Yeah, he was he was quick witted, that so he was Irish background. And he started his ministry as an Irish evangelist. And then God gave him he took him to Latin America. And he worked in different countries of Latin America as a missionary and then ended it up at at fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. And, but he was quick witted. So one day I remember taking him to a conference of Lydia conference, which is a lady's prayer ministry International. And it was a conference. That's one of our major conference centers in the UK with about 300 400 ladies present at it. So I dropped him at the conference and then picked him up afterwards. So as he got in the car, I said, How was it? So you said ever been Elian in identic Daniels. And that was he was always quick witted. And I loved him his character. We shared a conference. I remember in Holland a couple of years later, he asked me to speak about what my understanding of revival he had alongside him. Richard Lovelace, who was Professor at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, and I built as a consequence of that build a relationship with Richard Lovelace. I've got his work on my shelf behind me, dynamics of spiritual renewal. And so it was a privilege. I knew these as friends and colleagues in ministry. And it was just a joy and a privilege to have access to them. I remember one occasion not to do with Edwin or but with Richard Lovelace. There was a college revival going on in the US, and in many colleges simultaneously across the US, maybe about 20 years ago. And I was invited over to go to one of these colleges to speak. And it was close to Gordon called Gordon Conwell. It was called Gordon college. And so I went to speak and I said, I don't want to speak I want I hear that God's been working amongst you, would you tell me your story of what God was doing, how he's done it? What is meant to you? And what would be the repercussions? I just listened to ask them questions and listen for about two hours, to their story of how God moved in on them, and on their college, what it meant for them. And the leader of the class at the time said to me, during the course of this conversation, the one thing that has transformed these individuals is their quarter mission. We were about to abandon our missions program, but since God has met with him, they all want to go on mission to other parts of the world. And this has transformed our missions program that was the evidence of what God had done in their lives and I find this when God does something he doesn't just do it for us as individuals. He's equipping a new generation to be his ambassadors to the nations of the world. That was a true of the first time outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. They went and took the gospel wherever they could. And that should be true of every other outpouring ever since.
Brian, you've published papers on the Plymouth brethren movement, how is it that Plymouth brethren ism has shaped your own understanding of the spiritual life?
That takes me back to my youth. Prior to my involvement with Billy Graham, and mission England in the 1980s, I was one of the leaders in the present movement in the UK. And but I started as a teenager became a Christian through somebody witnessing to me in a hospital where I was a patient. And as a consequence of being involved with with the premise brethren, I found a gave me a grounding in Scripture that I needed, and God knew that I needed and it has helped that grounding And scripture has helped to shape me. So that whenever I'm doing something I want a biblical reference. I don't start with a biblical reference, I stop, I look for, I look for it afterwards, I may start from an experience. And then look, where is it? What's the biblical reference points? So it's not my it's not the origin of what I do. But I look, is there something in Scripture that can help me understand better what God is leading me into? So there are various issues, or various things that we do in the course of ministry, for example, where you have to find a theology that helps to shape what you do and how you do it. And that's where scripture for me has been very, very important. It's helping me to understand that God doesn't work outside scripture. He works with it and within it, it may not be the starting point, but it's always my reference point.
Brian, what is the secret to founding a prayer movement that sustains
I thought A lot about this. And I would say that it's it's, it's people who have a heart for God and want to pursue that relationship with God and who are prepared to grow in that relationship and grow in their knowledge of what prayer can do. So we may start at a very small level, praying about issues to do with family, neighborhood church. And then God seems to expand our understanding and develop our understandings or take us beyond where we expect what we have experienced before and the opens up a whole VISTA for people that then you then have to pass what the stories aren't of what God is leading you into. It's not it doesn't happen by accident. So I found a teaching when we started the project that scheme within the missionary Paired with Billy Graham, we had to devise teaching mechanisms with so we ran seminars around the country. And that sustained it, it helped to bring the people together, who were praying to tell the stories to one another of what God was doing. So shared experience was a was one product, they would then they would then begin to help others grow. So they would share their experience with people that didn't have access to prayer to try and encourage others. So you have to encourage the people that you're praying with, to grow in their faith and nothing thrills me more than to actually be able to go to conferences and gatherings, where you're equipping, you're helping to equip next generation, people to pray. So for example, we have something in the world called the children in prayer movement, and a Global Youth prayer movement. And to be amongst them, to let them ask you some new questions to help help them grow and develop, to take them with you into situations which they would not have thought about going into, helps them to grow in their understanding. So, for example, we've taken children into the United Nations, to pray for ambassadors and for some of the issues that United Nations has to deal with. Can children pray with that? Of course, can young people pray about that, of course, but for them at the beginning, it's a it's a completely new experience. But as a consequence of them, of the door being open for them, they're more likely to continue praying for those issues than if the door wasn't hasn't been open to them. So I think for those who are more experienced, we need to open the door for others into the realms of how prayer can help bring change to the world can bring transformation to nations, to bring the advanced that the kingdom of God can help to bring souls to Christ can Help to advance the kingdom so that wherever we're looking in mission terms, we're seeing God's plan through God's eyes, not through our own eyes. We have to say sometimes as we start, Lord, I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know how to go about this. But would you please show me what the steps are because every situation will be different. So I believe it's important for us to equip the next generation, and equip those that haven't had an experience of prayer, and to do so. So I find great joy in taking people with me into situations. So over over the period of years, I used to take people prayer, walking young people prayer walking with me in my own territory. And I don't so much now because the age is beginning to catch up with me but to take young people prayer walking, and to find out that in the process of then doing that with me, they then begin to grow in their understanding what prayer can do, and they then have many of the folks that are prior to taking on prayer walks that may have ended up in full time Christian ministry around the world.
Brian, when you look back on your life of prayer, what are some Would you be willing to share with us perhaps occasions when God answered a prayer that was very surprising to you?
That's been so, so many.
So many, I think
God is full of surprises.
And at the moment, I would say, I'm not surprised anymore at the goddess surprises in the way he does things. So but at the time when things change, yes.
So one story which
has to do with a war zone. And
we have there was a a war in Europe called the Bosnian War was in the Balkan region. And it was It was in the early 1980s. This was happening. And in my role at Evangelical Alliance, we challenged the church to pray for Bosnia, and to pray for what needed to happen to bring about the end of the war, peace in the region. And, and for the people who were suffering as a consequence of that war. There were a number of initiatives that emerged at local church level to do with the provision of aid and to increase a sense of partnership between local churches here and local churches, they're in the war zone. And then one day, because we've been praying, we've been promoting prayer and asking people to pray at various stages in the ongoing conflict. God said to me, woke me up one night and said, I want you to go to Bosnia.
So I said, Lord, when
and in the conversation at night, he gave me a date. So I marked it in my diary. It was nine months further on. I tried to get some of my friends who were involved in prayer leadership in Europe to come with me. But unfortunately, none of them were free or inspired or motivated to do so. But I kept the date open. And then about five days, six days before the date was in my diary, I have a fax from a man called john Rob, that some of you may have heard of, who's a personal friend, john and i had met at a conference in career in in 19. No, not the 1980s 1990s 1993. We met at a conference we'd never worked together. And john faxes me and says, Brian, I'm leading a prayer team to Bosnia. God has told me I've got to invite you. Are you free? This is when we start. And it was the exact date was in my diary. So I knew I was on assignment from heaven for this occasion. I've claimed he was going for I'd only had a one week mark type he was going for 10 days. So I gave my diary for the remainder period, joined him in in Bosnia, and went right into the war zone with a very small team. And we prayed for peace on the ground. And on our way into the very into the heart of the war zone, we were at the pace called twizzler. On the airport where the victims are the survivors, I should say, for no separate it's a massacre, which is one of the iconic massacres of that war had had been assembled by United Nations aid agencies. We walked amongst them. Our hearts were torn open because of the plight they were in. We were crying out to God for peace in that land. But on our way out, just before we came out, we made some amazing declarations, no more bonds, no more bullets. It stops now. From my understanding it was our prayer agreement between ourselves and with God because we knew that we were there on assignment from heaven. This wasn't Our idea was God's idea. He set it up. We knew he had a purpose in this. So we felt that God was telling us to make a declaration. No more bombs, no more bullets, unknown to us, until we got out of Bosnia, was at that precise day and time a peace agreement was being signed at international level. And the bombs in the bullets stopped that day, and peace came to that territory. The full story of that episode has been written up in a book called The peacemaking power of prayer, which is available in the States. And but that's just one that for many people, that's a way beyond where they're at. Spiritually in terms of their involvement, but when you see God at work in the big it encourages you that you can be at work in the small as well.
Thank you very much, Brian, for sharing that remarkable story. Brian, what do you say to those who have prayed perhaps for years for something specific and God has chosen not to answer their prayer?
Okay. If you if you've been praying for years, and you don't seem to have any breakthrough, my suggestion would be to share your concern with one or two other people. Why you're not getting breakthrough. And sometimes it's maybe because you're not praying with adequate faith. Now, please don't get me wrong here. If we're not getting our prayers answered, for one reason or another. Inevitably, our own sense of trusting God begins to diminish. We say Lord, we begin to doubt him. ability to work. And so somebody else coming alongside us with fresh face fresh and insight, fresh understanding, can actually help to lift our spirits. And then when you're praying with two or three, it goes back to the Scripture, we started our interview with, with two or three come together my name, I'm there in the midst, you invite Jesus into the picture. And you ask him, to show you what is in the way sometimes we haven't perceived that there is a battle going on in somebody's life or in some situation. We're praying for what we know what we see. We're not necessarily praying from God's perspective or not saying sorry, preparing, praying from the perspective of the person or the situation that we have on our minds. And we need somehow some time to get ourselves out of where we're at. We are into the place and the person that we're praying for. And then when that happens, there's a new dynamic, it's begins to get released, and our prayers begin to take off. That's In my experience, so it's asking others to come and join me and help me break through. And I also find that sometimes I'm praying for somebody or some situation. And I asked God, Lord, am I praying right here? So if you haven't got the access to another group, another few individuals, ask God Himself, no, what am I missing? What do you see as the primary need that I haven't so far seen? Is there something I need to be praying for that you can see has to be shifted first, before the ultimate prayer can be answered?
Brian, if I may close with a question that we've been asking all of the interviewees on this program, and that is this? What would it mean for the church to be united today? How would we recognize this unity and what is it that we can do to pursue the Unity for which Jesus prayed and john 17?
That's a very good question.
I love unity.
You mentioned earlier in the interview about what I learned from the wrestler movement, one of the one of the heroes of the present movement in its beginning used to say, in relation to this question, unity, how can you pray with somebody that you don't agree with? And he said, I would rather tolerate while they're evil than to be separated from all their good. The man's name is Anthony Norris groves, that has helped to formulate my understanding that God works in all kinds of situations and circumstances. So the basis of my relationship with somebody else in the body of Christ is not on light, but it's on love. If the love of Christ is in you, and the love of Christ is in me, we have a place of fellowship and relationship. And that cuts across all the denominational spectrums that exists within In the body of Christ, or the, or the gender exists, or the generational connections or the cultural connections, if you go from one culture to another, you'll find that Christians think in a different way they pray in a different way. So if I was to go into Africa, I would find my African friends were praying in a completely different way to what I'm used to. But we have to recognize that, you know, God is at work in them as he is in me. until you find a place of common love. Our relationship is based on love, not on light. If we're only looking for the people I agree with, that's, that's, that's a relationship based on light. If we look on love, as the as the factor that unites us together, we can pray with anybody. So I have in my friends that I pray with regularly, people from all kinds of backgrounds, sometimes I have no idea what their denominational connection or loyalty happens to be. And but I'm just rejoicing to be in their presence to be able to pray with him and it Doesn't matter so long as their hearts are so seeking God, as minus seeking God, I want God's work to be done on earth as it is in heaven, which is the prayer Jesus prayed, called, called his disciples to pray. And anybody who can pray that prayer, the Lord's Prayer, from whatever background, whatever language, I can have fellowship with Him, because it's the same prayer that Jesus gave me to pray, as he gave them to pray, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
It's been our extraordinary privilege today to be speaking with Brian Mills, former prayer and revival secretary for the Evangelical Alliance of Britain. Brian, thank you so much for sharing your insights and experiences with us today. We're deeply honored.
God bless you, and may the Lord Himself, reveal to you what role you can play in advancing his kingdom on this planet, in your history, in your generation, for the glory of his name.