CHAPTER 3: "ASK OF ME AND I WILL GIVE"
GOD wants me to pray, to be much in prayer --
because all success in spiritual work is dependent on prayer.
A preacher who prays little may see some results
of his labors, but if he does it will be because someone, somewhere is praying
for him. The "fruit" is the pray-er's -- not the preacher's. How surprised
some of us preachers will be one day, when the Lord shall "reward every man
according to his works." "Lord! Those were my converts! It was I who
conducted that mission at which so many were brought into the fold." Ah, yes
-- I did the preaching, the pleading, the persuading; but was it "I" who did
Every convert is the result of the Holy Spirit's
pleading in answer to the prayers of some believer.
O God, grant that such surprise may not be ours.
O Lord, teach us to pray!
We have had a vision of a God pleadingly calling
for prayer from His children. How am I treating that call? Can I say, with
St. Paul, ."I am 'not disobedient to the heavenly vision' " ? Again we repeat,
if there are any regrets in heaven, the greatest will be that we spent so
little time in real intercession whilst we were on earth.
Think of the wide sweep of prayer! "Ask of Me,
and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts
of the earth for thy possession" (Psalm ii. 8). Yet many people do not trouble
to bring even the little details of their own lives to God in prayer, and nine
out of ten Christian people never think of praying for the heathen!
One is staggered at the unwillingness of
Christians to pray. Perhaps it is because they have never experienced, or even
heard of, convincing answers to prayer.
In this chapter we are setting out to do the
"impossible." What is that? We long to bring home to the heart and conscience
of every reader the power of prayer. We venture to describe this as
"impossible." For if men will not believe, and act upon, our Lord's promises
and commands, how can we expect them to be persuaded by any mere human
But do you remember that our Lord, when speaking
to His disciples, asked them to believe that He was in the Father and the
Father in Him? Then he added: "If you cannot believe My bare word about this,
believe Me for the very works' sake" (John xiv. 11). It was as if He said, "If
My Person, My sanctified life, and My wonderful words do not elicit belief in
Me, then look at My works: surely they are sufficient to compel belief?
Believe Me because of what I do."
Then He went on to promise that if they would
believe, they should do greater works than these. It was after this utterance
that He gave the first of those six wonderful promises in regard to prayer.
The inference surely is that those "greater works" are to be done only as the
outcome of prayer.
May the disciple therefore follow the Master's
method? Fellow-worker, if you fail to grasp, fail to trust our Lord's
astounding promises regarding prayer, will you not believe them "for the very
works' sake"? That is, because of those "greater works" which men and women
are performing today -- or, rather, the works which the Lord Jesus is doing,
through their prayerful co-operation?
What are we "out for"? What is our real aim in
life? Surely we desire most of all to be abundantly fruitful in the Master's
service. We seek not position, or prominence, or power. But we do long to be
fruitful servants. Then we must be much in prayer. God can do more through
our prayers than through our preaching. A. J. Gordon once said, "You can do
more than pray, after you have prayed, but you can never do more than pray
until you have prayed." If only we would believe this!
A lady in India was cast down through the failure
of her life and work. She was a devoted missionary, but somehow or other
conversions never resulted from her ministry.
The Holy Spirit seemed to say to her, "Pray
more." But she resisted the promptings of the Spirit for some time. "At
length," said she, "I set apart much of my time for prayer. I did it in fear
and trembling lest my fellow-workers should complain that I was shirking my
work. After a few weeks I began to see men and women accepting Christ as their
Savior. Moreover, the whole district was soon awakened, and the work of all
the other missionaries was blessed as never before. God did more in six months
than I had succeeded in doing in six years. And," she added, "no one ever
accused me of shirking my duty." Another lady missionary in India felt the
same call to pray. She began to give much time to prayer. No opposition came
from without, but it did come from within. But she persisted, and in two years
the baptized converts increased sixfold!
God promised that He would "pour out the Spirit
of grace and supplication upon all flesh" (Joel ii. 28). How much of that
Spirit of "supplication" is ours? Surely we must get that Spirit at all costs?
Yet if we are not willing to spend time in "supplication," God must perforce
withhold His Spirit, and we become numbered amongst those who are "resisting
the Spirit," and possibly "quenching" the Spirit. Has not our Lord promised
the Holy Spirit to them that ask? (Luke xi. 13).
Are not the very converts from heathendom putting
some of us to shame?
A few years ago, when in India, I had the great
joy of seeing something of Pandita Ramabai's work. She had a boarding-school
of 1,500 Hindu girls. One day some of these girls came with their Bibles and
asked a lady missionary what St. Luke xii. 49 meant -- "I came to cast fire
upon the earth; and what will I, if it is already kindled?" The missionary
tried to put them off with an evasive answer, not being very sure herself what
those words meant. But they were not satisfied, so they determined to pray for
this fire. And as they prayed -- and because they prayed -- the very fire of
heaven came into their souls. A very Pentecost from above was granted them.
No wonder they continued to pray!
A party of these girls upon whom God had poured
the "Spirit of supplication" came to a mission house where I spent some weeks.
"May we stay here in your town and pray for your work?" they asked. The
missionary did not entertain the idea with any great enthusiasm. He felt that
they ought to be at school, and not "gadding about" the country. But they only
asked for a hall or barn where they could pray; and we all value prayers on our
behalf. So their request was granted, and the good man sat down to his evening
meal, thinking. As the evening wore on, a native pastor came round. He broke
down completely. He explained, with tears running down his face, that God's
Holy Spirit had convicted him of sin, and that he felt compelled to come and
openly confess his wrongdoing. He was quickly followed by one Christian after
another, all under deep conviction of sin.
There was a remarkable time of blessing.
Back-sliders were restored, believers were sanctified, and heathen brought into
the fold -- all because a few mere children were praying.
God is no respecter of persons. If anyone is
willing to conform to His conditions, He for His part will assuredly fulfill
His promises. Does not our heart burn within us, as we hear of God's wonderful
power? And that power is ours for the asking. I know there are "conditions."
But you and I can fulfill them all through Christ. And those of us who cannot
have the privilege of serving God in India or any other overseas mission, may
yet take our part in bringing down a like blessing. When the Revival in Wales
was at its height, a Welsh missionary wrote home begging the people to pray
that India might be moved in like manner. So the coal-miners met daily at the
pit-mouth half an hour before dawn to pray for their comrade overseas. In a
few weeks' time the welcome message was sent home: "The blessing has come."
Isn't it just splendid to know that by our
prayers we can bring down showers of blessing upon India, or Africa, or China,
just as readily as we can get the few drops needed for our own little plot?
Many of us will recall the wonderful things which
God did for Korea a few years ago, entirely in answer to prayer. A few
missionaries decided to meet together to pray daily at noon. At the end of the
month one brother proposed that, "as nothing had happened," the prayer-meeting
should be discontinued. "Let us each pray at home as we find it convenient,"
said he. The others, however, protested that they ought rather to spend even
more time in prayer each day. So they continued the daily prayer-meeting for
four months. Then suddenly the blessing began to be poured out. Church
services here and there were broken up by weeping and confessing of sins. At
length a mighty revival broke out. At one place during a Sunday evening
service the leading man in the church stood up and confessed that he had stolen
one hundred dollars in administering a widow's legacy. Immediately conviction
of sin swept the audience. That service did not end till 2 o'clock on Monday
morning. God's wondrous power was felt as never before. And when the Church
was purified, many sinners found salvation.
Multitudes flocked to the churches out of
curiosity. Some came to mock, but fear laid hold of them, and they stayed to
pray. Amongst the "curious" was a brigand chief, the leader of a robber band.
He was convicted and converted. He went straight off to the magistrate and
gave himself up. "You have no accuser," said the astonished official, "yet you
accuse yourself! We have no law in Korea to meet your case." So he dismissed
One of the missionaries declared, "It paid well
to have spent several months in prayer, for when God gave the Holy Spirit, He
accomplished more in half a day than all the missionaries together could have
accomplished in half a year." In less than two months, more than 2,000 heathen
were converted. The burning zeal of those converts has become a byword. Some
of them gave all they had to build a church, and wept because they could not
give more. Needless to say, they realized the power of prayer. Those converts
were themselves baptized with the "Spirit of supplication." In one church it
was announced that a daily prayer-meeting would be held at 4:30 every morning.
The very first day 400 people arrived long before the stated hour -- eager to
pray! The number rapidly increased to 600 as days went on. At Seoul, 1,100 is
the average attendance at the weekly prayer-meeting.
Heathen people came -- to see what was happening.
They exclaimed in astonishment, "The living God is among you." Those poor
heathen saw what many Christians fail to see. Did not Christ say, "Where two
or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them"?
(Matt. xviii. 20). What is possible in Korea is possible here. God is "no
respecter" of nations. He is longing to bless us, longing to pour His Spirit
Now, if we -- here in this so-called Christian
country -- really believed in prayer, i.e., in our Lord's own gracious
promises, should we avoid prayer-meetings? If we had any genuine concern for
the lost condition of thousands in our own land and tens of thousands in
heathen lands, should we withhold our prayers? Surely we do not think, or we
should pray more. "Ask of Me -- I will give," says an almighty, all-loving
God, and we scarcely heed His words!
Verily, converts from heathendom put us to shame.
In my journeyings I came to Rawal Pindi, in N.W. India. What do you think
happened there? Some of Pandita Ramabai's girls went there to camp. But a
little while before this, Pandita Ramabai had said to her girls, "If there is
any blessing in India, we may have it. Let us ask God to tell us what we must
do in order to have the blessing."
As she read her Bible she paused over the verse,
"Wait for the promise of the Father . . . ye shall receive power after that the
Holy Ghost is come upon you" (Acts i. 4-8). "'Wait'! Why, we have never done
this," she cried. "We have prayed, but we have never expected any greater
blessing today than we had yesterday!" Oh, how they prayed! One prayer-meeting
lasted six hours. And what a marvelous blessing God poured out in answer to
Whilst some of these girls were at Rawal Pindi, a
lady missionary, looking out of her tent towards midnight, was surprised to see
a light burning in one of the girls' tents -- a thing quite contrary to rules.
She went to expostulate, but found the youngest of those ten girls -- a child
of fifteen -- kneeling in the farthest corner of the tent, holding a little
tallow candle in one hand and a list of names for intercession in the other.
She had 500 names on her list -- 500 out of the 1,500 girls in Pandita
Ramabai's school. Hour after hour she was naming them before God. No wonder
God's blessing fell wherever those girls went, and upon whomsoever those girls
Pastor Ding Li Mei, of China, has the names of
1,100 students on his prayer-list. Many hundreds have been won to Christ
through his prayers. And so out-and-out are his converts that many scores of
them have entered the Christian ministry.
It would be an easy matter to add to these
amazing and inspiring stories of blessing through prayer. But there is no need
to do so. I know that God wants me to pray. I know that God wants you to
"If there is any blessing in England we may have
it." Nay, more -- if there is any blessing in Christ we may have it. "Blessed
be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every
spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. i. 3). God's great
storehouse is full of blessings. Only prayer can unlock that storehouse.
Prayer is the key, and faith both turns the key and opens the door, and claims
the blessing. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. And to
see Him is to pray aright.
Listen! We have come -- you and I -- once more
to the parting of the ways. All our past failure, all our past inefficiency
and insufficiency, all our past unfruitfulness in service, can be banished now,
once and for all, if we will only give prayer its proper place. Do it today.
Do not wait for a more convenient time.
Everything worth having depends upon the decision
we make. Truly God is a wonderful God! And one of the most wonderful things
about Him is that He puts His all at the disposal of the prayer of faith.
Believing prayer from a wholly-cleansed heart never fails. God has given us
His word for it. Yet vastly more wonderful is the amazing fact that Christian
men and women should either not believe God's word, or should fail to put it to
When Christ is "all in all" -- when He is Savior
and Lord and King of our whole being, then it is really He Who prays our
prayers. We can then truthfully alter one word of a well-known verse and say
that the Lord Jesus ever liveth to make intercession in us. Oh, that we might
make the Lord Jesus "marvel" not at our unbelief but at our faith! When our
Lord shall again "marvel," and say of us, "Verily . . . I have not found so
great faith, no, not in Israel" (Matt. viii. 10), then indeed shall "palsy" --
paralysis -- be transformed into power.
Has not our Lord come to "cast fire" upon us?
Are we "already kindled"? Can He not use us as much as he used those mere
children of Khedgaon? God is no respecter of persons. If we can humbly and
truthfully say, "To me to live is Christ" (Phil. i. 21), will He not manifest
forth His mighty power in us?
Some of us have been reading about Praying Hyde.
Truly, his intercession changed things. Men tell us that they were thrilled
when John Hyde prayed. They were stirred to their inmost being when he just
pleaded the name "Jesus! -- Jesus! -- Jesus!" and a baptism of love and power
came upon them.
But it was not John Hyde, it was the Holy Spirit
of God whom one consecrated man, filled with that Spirit, brought down upon all
around him. May we not all become "Praying Hydes"? Do you say "No! He had a
special gift of prayer"? Very well -- how did he get it? He was once just an
ordinary Christian man -- just like any of us.
Have you noticed that, humanly speaking, he owed
his prayer-life to the prayers of his father's friend? Now get hold of this
point. It is one of greatest importance, and one which may profoundly affect
your whole life. Perhaps I may be allowed to tell the story fully, for so much
depends upon it. Shall we quote John Hyde himself? He was on board a ship
sailing for India, whither he was going as a missionary. He says, "My father
had a friend who greatly desired to be a foreign missionary, but was not
permitted to go. This friend wrote me a letter directed in care of the ship.
I received it a few hours out of New York harbor. The words were not many, but
the purport of them was this: 'I shall not cease praying for you, dear John,
until you are filled with the Holy Spirit.' When I had read the letter I
crumpled it up in anger and threw it on the deck. Did this friend think I had
not received the baptism of the Spirit, or that I would think of going to India
without this equipment? I was angry. But by and by better judgment prevailed,
and I picked up the letter, and read it again. Possibly I did need something
which I had not yet received. I paced up and down the deck, a battle raging
within. I felt uncomfortable: I loved the writer; I knew the holy life he
lived, and down in my heart there was a conviction that he was right, and that
I was not fit to be a missionary. . . . This went on for two, or three days,
until I felt perfectly miserable. . . . At last, in a kind of despair, I asked
the Lord to fill me with the Holy Spirit; and the moment I did this . . . I
began to see myself, and what a selfish ambition I had."
But he did not yet receive the blessing sought.
He landed in India and went with a fellow-missionary to an open-air service.
"The missionary spoke," said John Hyde, "and I was told that he was speaking
about Jesus Christ as the real Savior from sin. When he had finished his
address, a respectable-looking man, speaking good English, asked the missionary
whether he himself had been thus saved? The question went home to my heart;
for if it had been asked me, I would have had to confess that Christ had not
fully saved me, because I knew there was a sin in my life which had not been
taken away. I realized what a dishonor it would be on the name of Christ to
have to confess that I was preaching a Christ that had not delivered me from
sin, though I was proclaiming to others that He was a perfect Savior. I went
back to my room and shut myself in, and told the Lord that it must be one of
two things: either He must give me victory over all my sins, and especially
over the sin that so easily beset me, or I must return to America and seek
there for some other work. I said I could not stand up to preach the Gospel
until I could testify of its power in my own life. I . . . realized how
reasonable this was, and the Lord assured me that He was able and willing to
deliver me from all sin. He did deliver me, and I have not had a doubt of this
It was then, and then only, that John Hyde became
Praying Hyde. And it is only by such a full surrender and such a definite
claiming to be delivered from the power of sin in our lives that you and I can
be men of prevailing prayer. The point we wish to emphasize, however, is the
one already mentioned. A comparatively unknown man prays for John Hyde, who
was then unknown to the world, and by his prayers brings down such a blessing
upon him that everyone knows of him now as "Praying Hyde." Did you say in your
heart, dear reader, a little while ago, that you could not hope to be a Praying
Hyde? Of course we cannot all give so much time to prayer. For physical or
other reasons we may be hindered from long-continued praying. But we may all
have his spirit of prayer. And may we not all do for others what the unnamed
friend did for John Hyde?
Can we not pray the blessing down upon others --
upon your vicar or pastor? Upon your friend? Upon your family? What a
ministry is ours, if we will but enter it! But to do so, we must make the full
surrender which John Hyde made. Have we done it? Failure in prayer is due to
fault in the heart. Only the "pure in heart" can see God. And only those who
"call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (II Tim. ii. 22) can confidently claim
answers to their prayers.
What a revival would break out, what a mighty
blessing would come down if only everyone who read these words would claim the
fullness of the Holy Spirit now!
Do you not see why it is that God wants us to
pray? Do you now see why everything worth having depends upon prayer? There
are several reasons, but one stands out very clearly and vividly before us
after reading this chapter. It is just this: if we ask and God does not give,
then the fault is with us. Every unanswered prayer is a clarion call to search
the heart to see what is wrong there; for the promise is unmistakable in its
clearness: "If ye shall ask anything in My name, that will I do" (John xiv.
Truly he who prays
puts, not God, but his own spiritual life to the test!
Let me come closer to Thee, Jesus,
Oh, closer every day;
Let me lean harder on Thee, Jesus,
Yes, harder all the way.