For any people ever tempted to give up on prayer, take a trip to Jamaica Wine House at St Michael’s Alley in the City of London. It’s a place to get re-inspired as to what God can do through a group of praying activists who decide to take on the world.
Jamaica Wine House was formerly Jamaica Coffee House, and was the place where merchants who owned plantations in the West Indies would meet to do business. In other words, it was at the centre of the British slave trade, and was central in the fight those merchants put up as they tried to defend the trade from those wanting to abolish it.
When William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, James Ramsey and others decided to take on the slave trade, they were fighting against one of the most entrenched financial systems in the country. It’s estimated that when they started their campaign in the 1780s, the British were transporting 40,000 slaves every year from West Africa to the West Indies and North America. That trade accounted for around 5% of the British economy, and a huge 80% of our foreign trade. No wonder people said that to abolish the slave trade was folly.
But Wilberforce, Clarkson and their friends continued, believing that the nation would eventually come to realise that the stories of rape, torture and cruelty that were intrinsic to the slave trade were crimes that simply could not be ignored, no matter how much money they might bring in for the merchants.
It was at Jamaica Wine House that the opposition met. It was here they planned how to grind to a halt in parliament the annual bills that Wilberforce brought to the Commons. It was here they plotted threats against Clarkson’s life, creating such intimidation that he eventually had a nervous breakdown and fled to the Lake District. And it was here they vilified the reputation of Ramsey so much he died early, worn out by fighting the constant lies they told about him.
A huge toll was paid by those who fought the slave trade. But after 20 years of fighting, the miraculous happened. In 1807 the slave trade was abolished, and in 1833 all the slaves throughout the British Empire were eventually set free. A group of praying activists had taken on the impossible, and they had won!
In 1791 an old John Wesley wrote to the young William Wilberforce, to encourage him to persevere in the fight against slavery. He wrote:
Unless the divine power has raised you up… I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.
What’s your prayer for London? What’s the Kingdom cause that you are labouring towards?
– A new era of corporate responsibility?
– All FTSE 100 companies giving away 5% of their profits to charity?
– An honest media that chases truth and corruption rather than celebrity and titillation?
– Bankers and politicians who act for the good of society rather than themselves?
– A university atmosphere where faith in God in encouraged rather than ridiculed?
Share it with us so we can pray alongside you. And perhaps a new generation of praying activists can see God do some mind-blowing things in our city?
Mark Williamson also blogs regularly at One Rock International, a training organisation resourcing missionary leaders across the globe. He’s passionate about good films, good food, getting into deep conversations, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.