William Thomas of Wales: The Kind of Older Man I Hope to Be

William Thomas of Wales: The Kind of Older Man I Hope to Be

One pastor said of William Thomas of Pyle, Wales, “He was better known as William Thomas the pray-er than as William Thomas the preacher” (all information and quotes about Thomas are from The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, Vol. 2, Banner of Truth, 2008, 160-5). In his old age, he became deaf, but he could still pray. Though the image perhaps seems strange to us, in his later years he would “stand at the pulpit steps” and the congregation would see his lips moving and “conclude that he was praying for the preacher and for their salvation.”

William Thomas also had a heart for younger people, in particular fellow preachers of the gospel. One story illustrates this well:

“If he came across some young man with indication of ability and of God’s intention of making use of him, he would rejoice greatly. On one occasion a young man from Carmarthenshire came to Pyle to preach and had a fairly successful meeting. He was to sleep that evening at Tydraw [Thomas’ cottage]. After long conversation, they retired to their beds. After a while the young man heard a murmuring from the next room. Full of curiosity, he strained to hear and discovered that William Thomas was praying for him in the next room — pleading with God to grant him success on his journey to keep him from falling, to make him an instrument for the salvation of many. After listening a long time, the young preacher fell asleep. He awoke some time later, only to hear the old man still at the same task and with the same object in view. As might be expected, the incident greatly affected the young man.”

When I’m an Older Man

My wife tries to convince me that I’m not old yet, but here’s the reality: I’m also not in my 20s or 30s anymore, and I’m heading out of my 40s! I’m on my way to becoming an “older man,” and it has me wondering, “What kind of older man will I be?”

The example of William Thomas helps. Like him, I want to be an older man who mentors younger men with the confidence that the Lord will use them greatly in the future. Some men, as they grow older, become increasingly critical about younger believers. That’s such an unhelpful attitude. Instead, I want to teach younger men the Bible, believing they will grow and honor Jesus. And I plan on having thousands of thoughtful conversations with them. And I’ll aim to demonstrate godliness before them. This wasn’t only William Thomas’ approach, but also Paul’s (2 Tim 2:2) and Christ’s (Mk 3:14).

Thomas’ fervent prayers for others are also worth emulating. I’ve seen this in other elderly people — that when they just couldn’t do anything else, they could still pray. We may never know the far-reaching, kingdom-advancing effects the prayers of older saints have had.

Most probably shouldn’t make “praying through the night” like Thomas did a regular expectation. But most of us, if we’re still not “older,” would do well to become more intentional now about praying for others, so that the discipline is already in place when we’re older. I confess I’m weak in this area, but inspired to “get with it.” I’m sure there’s an app that could aid this, but just a plain small journal might be what any of us need to begin writing names down for the purpose of regularly taking them to the Lord in prayer.

I’ve been told that becoming an older man guarantees more aches and pains. I hope it also means more expectant mentoring, and more earnest prayer. May the Lord help me.