My own prayer life has been significantly impacted by the prayer lives of others, and one of these is a man named Dawson Trotman. Like King David, Daws was a man after God’s own heart and was used greatly by God to start The Navigators, a Christian organization emphasizing a personal walk with God, evangelism, discipleship and Scripture memory. The man who led me to Christ was part of this organization, and thus I attended Navigator meetings at West Point and eventually became a student leader with them at the University of Illinois.
There are two biographies (that I know of) written on Daws, and what follows is an excerpt from one of them, The Navigator, by Robert D. Foster. Foster describes how, early in his ministry (my guess – circa 1930), Daws and his friend Walt claimed a promise from God (Jeremiah 33:3) and subsequently saw incredible answers to their petitions:
Beginning that very week, early in the day before the sun came up, they rode out to a canyon near their homes, built a fire, and knelt in prayer. With open Bibles, they began to pray by name for the boys God had given them through their Sunday school and Boys’ Club ministry. For two hours each morning they brought their requests to God, pausing only to reread from the Bible the great and precious promises that spurred them on when they felt their prayers were going nowhere. Often they would break up grudgingly, in order to get to work by 8:00 a.m. On Sunday morning, they met and prayed for three hours.
Dawson recalled that as the days passed, “We prayed for Harbor City and Torrance and Long Beach and San Pedro and Los Angeles and Pasadena and then the surrounding cities. I had received calls from Christian leaders and pastors asking us to come over to their churches and show them how they could reach young boys. The third and fourth weeks we began extending our prayer interests up the West Coast – San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, and Seattle.” Daws and Walt decided that if God could answer prayer right where they lived in southern California, He surely could do it in other places too…While these promises were soaking in their souls, God began giving them faith to believe that He was going to enable them to reach for Christ men from all of the forty-eight states. They started praying for men from Washington, Oregon, Texas, Illinois, and then throughout the eastern U.S. on down to Florida.
Dawson continued: “I don’t know which one of us suggested that we get a map of the world, for that surely would give us a good prayer list for weeks to come. We bought a world map with all the nations in beautiful color and would leave it up there in the hills, covered up at night with a piece of old canvas. Each morning we would roll it out and put our fingers on China, Japan, a little island called Formosa, and the Philippines. As we moved in our prayer time, we started praying for Greece, the island of Cyprus, Egypt, and the countries of Africa. What exciting days as we covered the world in our intercession, praying by name for each nation and asking, ‘God allow us to serve You some day in each of these places and enable us to reach men for You in every one of these continents of the world.'”
At the end of forty-two days, they felt the burden lift, and they began to thank God that he had heard them and was going to fulfill what He had promised. During the six weeks they had spent over one hundred hours in prayer in the hills together with God, asking Him to use them to win and train men for His glory around the world. Little did they realize what was in store for them in the years to come!
Many years later, while looking through some papers in a drawer, Daws found a purple card with “Washington” written on it, and under it was the name of a sailor from that state won to Christ through Daw’s witness. Here were other names – Les from Illinois, John from Texas, Ed from Wisconsin. Daws and Lila discoved that evening that men from every one of the forty-eight states had been touched by their ministry…
The end of that forty-two day prayer meeting marked a turning point in the life of this man who believed God…That turning point in Daws’s life came when he made a covenant with God to believe God’s promises and to intercede for men. Daws believed that this kind of prayer was not the privilege of a select few, but the right and responsibility of every Christian. His only regret later in life was, “I only wish that I had asked God for more!”
Having been personally led to Christ and discipled by The Navigators, I don’t think it’s too far off to think that my own Christian life is an answer to those prayers in the southern California hills some 80 years ago, and maybe…those whom God has used me to touch and reach as well…