THE NECESSITY OF PRAYER
The Necessity of Prayer and other books by E.M. Bounds are
unfailing wells for a lifetime of spiritual water-drawing. His
wise counsel on prayer are words that originated on the anvil of
His thoughts are inspiring, dynamic, and forthright. Probably no
one has ever written more convincingly on the subject of prayer
than E.M. Bounds. The Necessity of Prayer will help today's
earnest Christians to discover the mystery and the majesty of
The Necessity of Prayer
Edward M. Bounds
EDWARD McKENDREE BOUNDS did not merely pray well that he might
write well about prayer. He prayed because the needs of the world
were upon him. He prayed, for long years, upon subjects which the
easy-going Christian rarely gives a thought, and for objects which
men of less thought and faith are always ready to call impossible.
From his solitary prayer-vigils, year by year, there arose
teaching equaled by few men in modern Christian history. He wrote
transcendently about prayer, because he was himself, transcendent
in its practice.
As breathing is a physical reality to us so prayer was a
reality for Bounds. He took the command, "Pray without ceasing"
almost as literally as animate nature takes the law of the reflex
nervous system, which controls our breathing.
Prayer-books -- real text-books, not forms of prayer -- were
the fruit of this daily spiritual exercise. Not brief articles for
the religious press came from his pen -- though he had been
experienced in that field for years -- not pamphlets, but books
were the product and result. He was hindered by poverty,
obscurity, loss of prestige, yet his victory was not wholly
reserved until his death.
In 1907, he gave to the world two small editions. One of
these was widely circulated in Great Britain. The years following
up to his death in 1913 were filled with constant labour and he
went home to God leaving a collection of manuscripts. His letters
carry the request that the present editor should publish these
products of his gifted pen.
The preservation of the Bounds manuscripts to the present
time has clearly been providential. The work of preparing them for
the press has been a labour of love, consuming years of effort.
These books are unfailing wells for a lifetime of spiritual
water-drawing. They are hidden treasures, wrought in the darkness
of the dawn and the heat of the noon, on the anvil of experience,
and beaten into wondrous form by the mighty stroke of the Divine.
They are living voices whereby he, being dead, yet speaketh.
The above Foreword was written by Claude Chilton, Jr., an
ardent admirer of Dr. Bounds, and to whom we owe many obligations
for suggestions in editing the Bounds Spiritual Life Books. We
buried Claude L. Chilton February 18, 1929. What a meeting of
these two great saints of God, of shining panoply and knightly
Homer W. Hodge.
I. PRAYER AND FAITH
"A dear friend of mine who was quite a lover of the chase,
told me the following story: 'Rising early one morning,' he said,
'I heard the baying of a score of deerhounds in pursuit of their
quarry. Looking away to a broad, open field in front of me, I saw
a young fawn making its way across, and giving signs, moreover,
that its race was well-nigh run. Reaching the rails of the
enclosure, it leaped over and crouched within ten feet from where
I stood. A moment later two of the hounds came over, when the fawn
ran in my direction and pushed its head between my legs. I lifted
the little thing to my breast, and, swinging round and round,
fought off the dogs. I felt, just then, that all the dogs in the
West could not, and should not capture that fawn after its
weakness had appealed to my strength.' So is it, when human
helplessness appeals to Almighty God. Well do I remember when the
hounds of sin were after my soul, until, at last, I ran into the
arms of Almighty God." -- A. C. Dixon.
IN any study of the principles, and procedure of prayer, of its
activities and enterprises, first place, must, of necessity, be
given to faith. It is the initial quality in the heart of any man
who essays to talk to the Unseen. He must, out of sheer
helplessness, stretch forth hands of faith. He must believe, where
he cannot prove. In the ultimate issue, prayer is simply faith,
claiming its natural yet marvellous prerogatives -- faith taking
possession of its illimitable inheritance. True godliness is just
as true, steady, and persevering in the realm of faith as it is in
the province of prayer. Moreover: when faith ceases to pray, it
ceases to live.
Faith does the impossible because it brings God to undertake
for us, and nothing is impossible with God. How great -- without
qualification or limitation -- is the power of faith! If doubt be
banished from the heart, and unbelief made stranger there, what we
ask of God shall surely come to pass, and a believer hath
vouchsafed to him "whatsoever he saith."
Prayer projects faith on God, and God on the world. Only God
can move mountains, but faith and prayer move God. In His cursing
of the fig-tree our Lord demonstrated His power. Following that,
He proceeded to declare, that large powers were committed to faith
and prayer, not in order to kill but to make alive, not to blast
but to bless.
At this point in our study, we turn to a saying of our Lord,
which there is need to emphasize, since it is the very keystone of
the arch of faith and prayer.
"Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire when
ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
We should ponder well that statement -- "Believe that ye
receive them, and ye shall have them." Here is described a faith
which realizes, which appropriates, which takes. Such faith is a
consciousness of the Divine, an experienced communion, a realized
Is faith growing or declining as the years go by? Does faith
stand strong and four square, these days, as iniquity abounds and
the love of many grows cold? Does faith maintain its hold, as
religion tends to become a mere formality and worldliness
increasingly prevails? The enquiry of our Lord, may, with great
appropriateness, be ours. "When the Son of Man cometh," He asks,
"shall He find faith on the earth?" We believe that He will, and
it is ours, in this our day, to see to it that the lamp of faith
is trimmed and burning, lest He come who shall come, and that
Faith is the foundation of Christian character and the
security of the soul. When Jesus was looking forward to Peter's
denial, and cautioning him against it, He said unto His disciple:
"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, to
sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fall
Our Lord was declaring a central truth; it was Peter's faith
He was seeking to guard; for well He knew that when faith is
broken down, the foundations of spiritual life give way, and the
entire structure of religious experience falls. It was Peter's
faith which needed guarding. Hence Christ's solicitude for the
welfare of His disciple's soul and His determination to fortify
Peter's faith by His own all-prevailing prayer.
In his Second Epistle, Peter has this idea in mind when
speaking of growth in grace as a measure of safety in the
Christian life, and as implying fruitfulness.
"And besides this," he declares, "giving diligence, add to
your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge
temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience
Of this additioning process, faith was the starting-point --
the basis of the other graces of the Spirit. Faith was the
foundation on which other things were to be built. Peter does not
enjoin his readers to add to works or gifts or virtues but to
faith. Much depends on starting right in this business of growing
in grace. There is a Divine order, of which Peter was aware; and
so he goes on to declare that we are to give diligence to making
our calling and election sure, which election is rendered certain
adding to faith which, in turn, is done by constant, earnest
praying. Thus faith is kept alive by prayer, and every step taken,
in this adding of grace to grace, is accompanied by prayer.
The faith which pcreates powerful praying is the
faith which centres itself on a powerful Person. Faith in
Christ's ability to do and to do greatly, is the faith which prays
greatly. Thus the leper lay hold upon the power of Christ. "Lord,
if Thou wilt," he cried, "Thou canst make me clean." In this
instance, we are shown how faith centered in Christ's ability to
do, and how it secured the healing power.
It was concerning this very point, that Jesus questioned the
blind men who came to Him for healing:
"Believe ye that I am able to do this?" He asks. "They said
unto Him, Yea, Lord. Then touched He their eyes, saying, According
to your faith be it unto you."
It was to inspire faith in His ability to do that Jesus left
behind Him, that last, great statement, which, in the final
analysis, is a ringing challenge to faith. "All power," He
declared, "is given unto Me in heaven and in earth."
Again: faith is obedient; it goes when commanded, as did the
nobleman, who came to Jesus, in the day of His flesh, and whose
son was grievously sick.
Moreover: such faith acts. Like the man who was born blind,
it goes to wash in the pool of Siloam when told to wash. Like
Peter on Gennesaret it casts the net where Jesus commands,
instantly, without question or doubt. Such faith takes away the
stone from the grave of Lazarus promptly. A praying faith keeps
the commandments of God and does those things which are well
pleasing in His sight. It asks, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to
do?" and answers quickly, "Speak, Lord, Thy servant heareth."
Obedience helps faith, and faith, in turn, helps obedience. To do
God's will is essential to true faith, and faith is necessary to
Yet faith is called upon, and that right often to wait in
patience before God, and is prepared for God's seeming delays in
answering prayer. Faith does not grow disheartened because prayer
is not immediately honoured; it takes God at His Word, and lets
Him take what time He chooses in fulfilling His purposes, and in
carrying on His work. There is bound to be much delay and long
days of waiting for true faith, but faith accepts the conditions
-- knows there will be delays in answering prayer, and regards
such delays as times of testing, in the which, it is privileged to
show its mettle, and the stern stuff of which it is made.
The case of Lazarus was an instance of where there was delay,
where the faith of two good women was sorely tried: Lazarus was
critically ill, and his sisters sent for Jesus. But, without any
known reason, our Lord delayed His going to the relief of His sick
friend. The plea was urgent and touching -- "Lord, behold, he whom
Thou lovest is sick," -- but the Master is not moved by it, and
the women's earnest request seemed to fall on deaf ears. What a
trial to faith! Furthermore: our Lord's tardiness appeared to
bring about hopeless disaster. While Jesus tarried, Lazarus died.
But the delay of Jesus was exercised in the interests of a
greater good. Finally, He makes His way to the home in Bethany.
"Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am
glad for your sakes, that I was not there, to the intent ye may
believe; nevertheless let us go unto him."
Fear not, O tempted and tried believer, Jesus will come, if
patience be exercised, and faith hold fast. His delay will serve
to make His coming the more richly blessed. Pray on. Wait on. Thou
canst not fail. If Christ delay, wait for Him. In His own good
time, He will come, and will not tarry.
Delay is often the test and the strength of faith. How much
patience is required when these times of testing come! Yet faith
gathers strength by waiting and praying. Patience has its perfect
work in the school of delay. In some instances, delay is of the
very essence of the prayer. God has to do many things, antecedent
to giving the final answer -- things which are essential to the
lasting good of him who is requesting favour at His hands.
Jacob prayed, with point and ardour, to be delivered from
Esau. But before that prayer could be answered, there was much to
be done with, and for Jacob. He must be changed, as well as Esau.
Jacob had to be made into a new man, before Esau could be. Jacob
had to be converted to God, before Esau could be converted to
Among the large and luminous utterances of Jesus concerning
prayer, none is more arresting than this:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the
works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these
shall he do; because I go unto My Father. And whatsoever ye shall
ask in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified
in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in My Name, I will do it."
How wonderful are these statements of what God will do in
answer to prayer! Of how great importance these ringing words,
prefaced, as they are, with the most solemn verity! Faith in
Christ is the basis of all working, and of all praying. All
wonderful works depend on wonderful praying, and all praying is
done in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amazing lesson, of wondrous
simplicity, is this praying in the name of the Lord Jesus! All
other conditions are depreciated, everything else is renounced,
save Jesus only. The name of Christ -- the Person of our Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ -- must be supremely sovereign, in the hour
and article of prayer.
If Jesus dwell at the fountain of my life; if the currents of
His life have displaced and superseded all self-currents; if
implicit obedience to Him be the inspiration and force of every
movement of my life, then He can safely commit the praying to my
will, and pledge Himself, by an obligation as profound as His own
nature, that whatsoever is asked shall be granted. Nothing can be
clearer, more distinct, more unlimited both in application and
extent, than the exhortation and urgency of Christ, "Have faith in
Faith covers temporal as well as spiritual needs. Faith
dispels all undue anxiety and needless care about what shall be
eaten, what shall he drunk, what shall be worn. Faith lives in the
present, and regards the day as being sufficient unto the evil
thereof. It lives day by day, and dispels all fears for the
morrow. Faith brings great ease of mind and perfect peace of
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on
Thee: because he trusted in Thee."
When we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," we are, in
a measure, shutting tomorrow out of our prayer. We do not live in
tomorrow but in today. We do not seek tomorrow's grace or
tomorrow's bread. They thrive best, and get most out of life, who
live in the living present. They pray best who pray for today's
needs, not for tomorrow's, which may render our prayers
unnecessary and redundant by not existing at all!
True prayers are born of present trials and present needs.
Bread, for today, is bread enough. Bread given for today is the
strongest sort of pledge that there will be bread tomorrow.
Victory today, is the assurance of victory tomorrow. Our prayers
need to be focussed upon the present, We must trust God today, and
leave the morrow entirely with Him. The present is ours; the
future belongs to God. Prayer is the task and duty of each
recurring day -- daily prayer for daily needs.
As every day demands its bread, so every day demands its
prayer. No amount of praying, done today, will suffice for
tomorrow's praying. On the other hand, no praying for tomorrow is
of any great value to us today. To-day's manna is what we need;
tomorrow God will see that our needs are supplied. This is the
faith which God seeks to inspire. So leave tomorrow, with its
cares, its needs, its troubles, in God's hands. There is no
storing tomorrow's grace or tomorrow's praying; neither is there
any laying-up of today's grace, to meet tomorrow's necessities. We
cannot have tomorrow's grace, we cannot eat tomorrow's bread, we
cannot do tomorrow's praying. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil
thereof;" and, most assuredly, if we possess faith, sufficient
also, will be the good.
II. PRAYER AND FAITH (Continued)
"The guests at a certain hotel were being rendered
uncomfortable by repeated strumming on a piano, done by a little
girl who possessed no knowledge of music. They complained to the
proprietor with a view to having the annoyance stopped. 'I am
sorry you are annoyed,' he said. 'But the girl is the child of one
of my very best guests. I can scarcely ask her not to touch the
piano. But her father, who is away for a day or so, will return
tomorrow. You can then approach him, and have the matter set
right.' When the father returned, he found his daughter in the
reception-room and, as usual, thumping on the piano. He walked up
behind the child and, putting his arms over her shoulders, took
her hands in his, and produced some most beautiful music. Thus it
may be with us, and thus it will be, some coming day. Just now, we
can produce little but clamour and disharmony; but, one day, the
Lord Jesus will take hold of our hands of faith and prayer, and
use them to bring forth the music of the skies." -- Anon
GENUINE, authentic faith must be definite and free of doubt. Not
simply general in character; not a mere belief in the being,
goodness and power of God, but a faith which believes that the
things which "he saith, shall come to pass." As the faith is
specific, so the answer likewise will be definite: "He shall have
whatsoever he saith." Faith and prayer select the things, and God
commits Himself to do the very things which faith and persevering
prayer nominate, and petition Him to accomplish.
The American Revised Version renders the twenty-fourth verse
of the eleventh chapter of Mark, thus: "Therefore I say unto you,
All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye receive
them, and ye shall have them." Perfect faith has always in its
keeping what perfect prayer asks for. How large and unqualified is
the area of operation -- the "All things whatsoever!" How definite
and specific the promise -- "Ye shall have them!"
Our chief concern is with our faith, -- the problems of its
growth, and the activities of its vigorous maturity. A faith which
grasps and holds in its keeping the very things it asks for,
without wavering, doubt or fear -- that is the faith we need --
faith, such as is a pearl of great price, in the process and
practise of prayer.
The statement of our Lord about faith and prayer quoted above
is of supreme importance. Faith must be definite, specific; an
unqualified, unmistakable request for the things asked for. It is
not to be a vague, indefinite, shadowy thing; it must be something
more than an abstract belief in God's willingness and ability to
do for us. It is to be a definite, specific, asking for, and
expecting the things for which we ask. Note the reading of Mark
"And shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that
those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have
whatever he saith."
Just so far as the faith and the asking is definite, so also
will the answer be. The giving is not to be something other than
the things prayed for, but the actual things sought and named. "He
shall have whatsoever he saith." It is all imperative, "He shall
have." The granting is to be unlimited, both in quality and in
Faith and prayer select the subjects for petition, thereby
determining what God is to do. "He shall have whatsoever he
saith." Christ holds Himself ready to supply exactly, and fully,
all the demands of faith and prayer. If the order on God be made
clear, specific and definite, God will fill it, exactly in
accordance with the presented terms.
Faith is not an abstract belief in the Word of God, nor a
mere mental credence, nor a simple assent of the understanding and
will; nor is it a passive acceptance of facts, however sacred or
thorough. Faith is an operation of God, a Divine illumination, a
holy energy implanted by the Word of God and the Spirit in the
human soul -- a spiritual, Divine principle which takes of the
Supernatural and makes it a thing apprehendable by the faculties
of time and sense.
Faith deals with God, and is conscious of God. It deals with
the Lord Jesus Christ and sees in Him a Saviour; it deals with
God's Word, and lays hold of the truth; it deals with the Spirit
of God, and is energized and inspired by its holy fire. God is the
great objective of faith; for faith rests its whole weight on His
Word. Faith is not an aimless act of the soul, but a looking to
God and a resting upon His promises. Just as love and hope have
always an objective so, also, has faith. Faith is not believing
just anything; it is believing God, resting in Him, trusting His
Faith gives birth to prayer, and grows stronger, strikes
deeper, rises higher, in the struggles and wrestlings of mighty
petitioning. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the
assurance and realization of the inheritance of the saints. Faith,
too, is humble and persevering. It can wait and pray; it can stay
on its knees, or lie in the dust. It is the one great condition of
prayer; the lack of it lies at the root of all poor praying,
feeble praying, little praying, unanswered praying.
The nature and meaning of faith is more demonstrable in what
it does, than it is by reason of any definition given it. Thus, if
we turn to the record of faith given us in that great honour roll,
which constitutes the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, we see
something of the wonderful results of faith. What a glorious list
it is -- that of these men and women of faith! What marvellous
achievements are there recorded, and set to the credit of faith!
The inspired writer, exhausting his resources in cataloguing the
Old Testament saints, who were such notable examples of wonderful
faith, finally exclaims:
"And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to
tell of Gideon and Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David
also, and Samuel, and of the prophets."
And then the writer of Hebrews goes on again, in a wonderful
strain, telling of the unrecorded exploits wrought through the
faith of the men of old, "of whom the world was not worthy." "All
these," he says, "obtained a good report through faith."
What an era of glorious achievements would dawn for the
Church and the world, if only there could be reproduced a race of
saints of like mighty faith, of like wonderful praying! It is not
the intellectually great that the Church needs; nor is it men of
wealth that the times demand. It is not people of great social
influence that this day requires. Above everybody and everything
else, it is men of faith, men of mighty prayer, men and women
after the fashion of the saints and heroes enumerated in Hebrews,
who "obtained a good report through faith," that the Church and
the whole wide world of humanity needs.
Many men, of this day, obtain a good report because of their
money-giving, their great mental gifts and talents, but few there
be who obtain a "good report" because of their great faith in God,
or because of the wonderful things which are being wrought through
their great praying. Today, as much as at any time, we need men of
great faith and men who are great in prayer. These are the two
cardinal virtues which make men great in the eyes of God, the two
things which create conditions of real spiritual success in the
life and work of the Church. It is our chief concern to see that
we maintain a faith of such quality and texture, as counts before
God; which grasps, and holds in its keeping, the things for which
it asks, without doubt and without fear.
Doubt and fear are the twin foes of faith. Sometimes, they
actually usurp the place of faith, and although we pray, it is a
restless, disquieted prayer that we offer, uneasy and often
complaining. Peter failed to walk on Gennesaret because he
permitted the waves to break over him and swamp the power of his
faith. Taking his eyes from the Lord and regarding the water all
about him, he began to sink and had to cry for succour -- "Lord,
save, or I perish!"
Doubts should never be cherished, nor fears harboured. Let
none cherish the delusion that he is a martyr to fear and doubt.
It is no credit to any man's mental capacity to cherish doubt of
God, and no comfort can possibly derive from such a thought. Our
eyes should be taken off self, removed from our own weakness and
allowed to rest implicitly upon God's strength. "Cast not away
therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward."
A simple, confiding faith, living day by day, and casting its
burden on the Lord, each hour of the day, will dissipate fear,
drive away misgiving and deliver from doubt:
"Be careful for nothing, but in everything, by supplication
and prayer, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known
That is the Divine cure for all fear, anxiety, and undue
concern of soul, all of which are closely akin to doubt and
unbelief. This is the Divine prescription for securing the peace
which passeth all understanding, and keeps the heart and mind in
quietness and peace.
All of us need to mark well and heed the caution given in
Hebrews: "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil
heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God."
We need, also, to guard against unbelief as we would against
an enemy. Faith needs to be cultivated. We need to keep on
praying, "Lord, increase our faith," for faith is susceptible of
increase. Paul's tribute to the Thessalonians was, that their
faith grew exceedingly. Faith is increased by exercise, by being
put into use. It is nourished by sore trials.
"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than
of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be
found unto praise and honour and glow at the appearing of Jesus
Faith grows by reading and meditating upon the Word of God.
Most, and best of all, faith thrives in an atmosphere of prayer.
It would be well, if all of us were to stop, and inquire
personally of ourselves: "Have I faith in God? Have I real faith,
-- faith which keeps me in perfect peace, about the things of
earth and the things of heaven?" This is the most important
question a man can propound and expect to be answered. And there
is another question, closely akin to it in significance and
importance -- "Do I really pray to God so that He hears me and
answers my prayers? And do I truly pray unto God so that I get
direct from God the things I ask of Him?"
It was claimed for Augustus Caesar that he found Rome a city
of wood, and left it a city of marble. The pastor who succeeds in
changing his people from a prayerless to a prayerful people, has
done a greater work than did Augustus in changing a city from wood
to marble. And after all, this is the prime work of the preacher.
Primarily, he is dealing with prayerless people -- with people of
whom it is said, "God is not in all their thoughts." Such people
he meets everywhere, and all the time. His main business is to
turn them from being forgetful of God, from being devoid of faith,
from being prayerless, so that they become people who habitually
pray, who believe in God, remember Him and do His will. The
preacher is not sent to merely induce men to join the Church, nor
merely to get them to do better. It is to get them to pray, to
trust God, and to keep God ever before their eyes, that they may
not sin against Him.
The work of the ministry is to change unbelieving sinners
into praying and believing saints. The call goes forth by Divine
authority, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be
saved." We catch a glimpse of the tremendous importance of faith
and of the great value God has set upon it, when we remember that
He has made it the one indispensable condition of being saved. "By
grace are ye saved, through faith." Thus, when we contemplate the
great importance of prayer, we find faith standing immediately by
its side. By faith are we saved, and by faith we stay saved.
Prayer introduces us to a life of faith. Paul declared that the
life he lived, he lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved him
and gave Himself for him -- that he walked by faith and not by
Prayer is absolutely dependent upon faith. Virtually, it has
no existence apart from it, and accomplishes nothing unless it be
its inseparable companion. Faith makes prayer effectual, and in a
certain important sense, must precede it.
"For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that
He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."
Before prayer ever starts toward God; before its petition is
preferred, before its requests are made known -- faith must have
gone on ahead; must have asserted its belief in the existence of
God; must have given its assent to the gracious truth that "God is
a rewarder of those that diligently seek His face." This is the
primary step in praying. In this regard, while faith does not
bring the blessing, yet it puts prayer in a position to ask for
it, and leads to another step toward realization, by aiding the
petitioner to believe that God is able and willing to bless.
Faith starts prayer to work -- clears the way to the mercy-
seat. It gives assurance, first of all, that there is a mercy-
seat, and that there the High Priest awaits the pray-ers and the
prayers. Faith opens the way for prayer to approach God. But it
does more. It accompanies prayer at every step she takes. It is
her inseparable companion and when requests are made unto God, it
is faith which turns the asking into obtaining. And faith follows
prayer, since the spiritual life into which a believer is led by
prayer, is a life of faith. The one prominent characteristic of
the experience into which believers are brought through prayer, is
not a life of works, but of faith.
Faith makes prayer strong, and gives it patience to wait on
God. Faith believes that God is a rewarder. No truth is more
clearly revealed in the Scriptures than this, while none is more
encouraging. Even the closet has its promised reward, "He that
seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly," while the most
insignificant service rendered to a disciple in the name of the
Lord, surely receives its reward. And to this precious truth faith
gives its hearty assent.
Yet faith is narrowed down to one particular thing -- it does
not believe that God will reward everybody, nor that He is a
rewarder of all who pray, but that He is a rewarder of them that
diligently seek Him. Faith rests its care on diligence in prayer,
and gives assurance and encouragement to diligent seekers after
God, for it is they, alone, who are richly rewarded when they
We need constantly to be reminded that faith is the one
inseparable condition of successful praying. There are other
considerations entering into the exercise, but faith is the final,
the one indispensable condition of true praying. As it is written
in a familiar, primary declaration: "Without faith, it is
impossible to please Him."
James puts this truth very plainly.
"If any of you lack wisdom," he says, "let him ask of God,
that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall
be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he
that wavereth (or doubteth) is like a wave of the sea, driven with
the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall
receive any thing of the Lord."
Doubting is always put under the ban, because it stands as a
foe to faith and hinders effectual praying. In the First Epistle
to Timothy Paul gives us an invaluable truth relative to the
conditions of successful praying, which he thus lays down: "I will
therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without
wrath and doubting."
All questioning must be watched against and eschewed. Fear
and peradventure have no place in true praying. Faith must assert
itself and bid these foes to prayer depart.
Too much authority cannot be attributed to faith; but prayer
is the sceptre by which it signalizes its power. How much of
spiritual wisdom there is in the following advice written by an
eminent old divine.
"Would you be freed from the bondage to corruption?" he asks.
"Would you grow in grace in general and grow in grace in
particular? If you would, your way is plain. Ask of God more
faith. Beg of Him morning, and noon and night, while you walk by
the way, while you sit in the house, when you lie down and when
you rise up; beg of Him simply to impress Divine things more
deeply on your heart, to give you more and more of the substance
of things hoped for and of the evidence of things not seen."
Great incentives to pray are furnished in Holy Scriptures,
and our Lord closes His teaching about prayer, with the assurance
and promise of heaven. The presence of Jesus Christ in heaven, the
preparation for His saints which He is making there, and the
assurance that He will come again to receive them -- how all this
helps the weariness of praying, strengthens its conflicts,
sweetens its arduous toil! These things are the star of hope to
prayer, the wiping away of its tears, the putting of the odour of
heaven into the bitterness of its cry. The spirit of a pilgrim
greatly facilitates praying. An earth-bound, earth-satisfied
spirit cannot pray. In such a heart, the flame of spiritual desire
is either gone out or smouldering in faintest glow. The wings of
its faith are clipped, its eyes are filmed, its tongue silenced.
But they, who in unswerving faith and unceasing prayer, wait
continually upon the Lord, do renew their strength, do mount up
with wings as eagles, do run, and are not weary, do walk, and not
III. PRAYER AND TRUST
"One evening I left my office in New York, with a bitterly
cold wind in my face. I had with me, (as I thought) my thick, warm
muffler, but when I proceeded to button-up against the storm, I
found that it was gone. I turned back, looked along the streets,
searched my office, but in vain. I realized, then, that I must
have dropped it, and prayed God that I might find it; for such was
the state of the weather, that it would be running a great risk to
proceed without it. I looked, again, up and down the surrounding
streets, but without success. Sudden]y, I saw a man on the
opposite side of the road holding out something in his hand. I
crossed over and asked him if that were my muffler? He handed it
to me saying, 'It was blown to me by the wind.' He who rides upon
the storm, had used the wind as a means of answering prayer." --
PRAYER does not stand alone. It is not an isolated duty and
independent principle. It lives in association with other
Christian duties, is wedded to other principles, is a partner with
other graces. But to faith, prayer is indissolubly joined. Faith
gives it colour and tone, shapes its character, and secures its
Trust is faith become absolute, ratified, consummated. There
is, when all is said and done, a sort of venture in faith and its
exercise. But trust is firm belief, it is faith in full flower.
Trust is a conscious act, a fact of which we are sensible.
According to the Scriptural concept it is the eye of the new-born
soul, and the ear of the renewed soul. It is the feeling of the
soul, the spiritual eye, the ear, the taste, the feeling -- these
one and all have to do with trust. How luminous, how distinct, how
conscious, how powerful, and more than all, how Scriptural is such
a trust! How different from many forms of modern belief, so
feeble, dry, and cold! These new phases of belief bring no
consciousness of their presence, no "Joy unspeakable and full of
glory" results from their exercise. They are, for the most part,
adventures in the peradventures of the soul. There is no safe,
sure trust in anything. The whole transaction takes place in the
realm of Maybe and Perhaps.
Trust like life, is feeling, though much more than feeling.
An unfelt life is a contradiction; an unfelt trust is a misnomer,
a delusion, a contradiction. Trust is the most felt of all
attributes. It is all feeling, and it works only by love. An
unfelt love is as impossible as an unfelt trust. The trust of
which we are now speaking is a conviction. An unfelt conviction?
Trust sees God doing things here and now. Yea, more. It rises
to a lofty eminence, and looking into the invisible and the
eternal, realizes that God has done things, and regards them as
being already done. Trust brings eternity into the annals and
happenings of time, transmutes the substance of hope into the
reality of fruition, and changes promise into present possession.
We know when we trust just as we know when we see, just as we are
conscious of our sense of touch. Trust sees, receives, holds.
Trust is its own witness.
Yet, quite often, faith is too weak to obtain God's greatest
good, immediately; so it has to wait in loving, strong, prayerful,
pressing obedience, until it grows in strength, and is able to
bring down the eternal, into the realms of experience and time.
To this point, trust masses all its forces. Here it holds.
And in the struggle, trust's grasp becomes mightier, and grasps,
for itself, all that God has done for it in His eternal wisdom and
plenitude of grace.
In the matter of waiting in prayer, mightiest prayer, faith
rises to its highest plane and becomes indeed the gift of God. It
becomes the blessed disposition and expression of the soul which
is secured by a constant intercourse with, and unwearied
application to God.
Jesus Christ clearly taught that faith was the condition on
which prayer was answered. When our Lord had cursed the fig-tree,
the disciples were much surprised that its withering had actually
taken place, and their remarks indicated their in credulity. It
was then that Jesus said to them, "Have faith in God."
"For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto
this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea, and
shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things
which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he
saith. Therefore, I say unto you, What things soever ye desire,
when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have
Trust grows nowhere so readily and richly as in the prayer-
chamber. Its unfolding and development are rapid and wholesome
when they are regularly and well kept. When these engagements are
hearty and full and free, trust flourishes exceedingly. The eye
and presence of God give vigorous life to trust, just as the eye
and the presence of the sun make fruit and flower to grow, and all
things glad and bright with fuller life.
"Have faith in God," "Trust in the Lord" form the keynote and
foundation of prayer. Primarily, it is not trust in the Word of
God, but rather trust in the Person of God. For trust in the
Person of God must precede trust in the Word of God. "Ye believe
in God, believe also in Me," is the demand our Lord makes on the
personal trust of His disciples. The person of Jesus Christ must
be central, to the eye of trust. This great truth Jesus sought to
impress upon Martha, when her brother lay dead, in the home at
Bethany. Martha asserted her belief in the fact of the
resurrection of her brother:
"Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in
the resurrection at the last day."
Jesus lifts her trust clear above the mere fact of the
resurrection, to His own Person, by saying:
"I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me,
though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and
believeth in Me, shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith
unto Him, Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son
of God, which should come into the world."
Trust, in an historical fact or in a mere record may be a
very passive thing, but trust in a person vitalizes the quality,
fructifies it, informs it with love. The trust which informs
prayer centres in a Person.
Trust goes even further than this. The trust which inspires
our prayer must be not only trust in the Person of God, and of
Christ, but in their ability and willingness to grant the thing
prayed for. It is not only, "Trust, ye, in the Lord," but, also,
"for in the Lord Jehovah, is everlasting strength."
The trust which our Lord taught as a condition of effectual
prayer, is not of the head but of the heart. It is trust which
"doubteth not in his heart." Such trust has the Divine assurance
that it shall be honoured with large and satisfying answers. The
strong promise of our Lord brings faith down to the present, and
counts on a present answer.
Do we believe, without a doubt? When we pray, do we believe,
not that we shall receive the things for which we ask on a future
day, but that we receive them, then and there? Such is the
teaching of this inspiring Scripture. How we need to pray, "Lord,
increase our faith," until doubt be gone, and implicit trust
claims the promised blessings, as its very own.
This is no easy condition. It is reached only after many a
failure, after much praying, after many waitings, after much trial
of faith. May our faith so increase until we realize and receive
all the fulness there is in that Name which guarantees to do so
Our Lord puts trust as the very foundation of praying. The
background of prayer is trust. The whole issuance of Christ's
ministry and work was dependent on implicit trust in His Father.
The centre of trust is God. Mountains of difficulties, and all
other hindrances to prayer are moved out of the way by trust and
his virile henchman, faith. When trust is perfect and without
doubt, prayer is simply the outstretched hand, ready to receive.
Trust perfected, is prayer perfected. Trust looks to receive the
thing asked for -- and gets it. Trust is not a belief that God can
bless, that He will bless, but that He does bless, here and now.
Trust always operates in the present tense. Hope looks toward the
future. Trust looks to the present. Hope expects. Trust possesses.
Trust receives what prayer acquires. So that what prayer needs, at
all times, is abiding and abundant trust.
Their lamentable lack of trust and resultant failure of the
disciples to do what they were sent out to do, is seen in the case
of the lunatic son, who was brought by his father to nine of them
while their Master was on the Mount of Transfiguration. A boy,
sadly afflicted, was brought to these men to be cured of his
malady. They had been commissioned to do this very kind of work.
This was a part of their mission. They attempted to cast out the
devil from the boy, but had signally failed. The devil was too
much for them. They were humiliated at their failure, and filled
with shame, while their enemies were in triumph. Amid the
confusion incident to failure Jesus draws near. He is informed of
the circumstances, and told of the conditions connected therewith.
Here is the succeeding account:
"Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse
generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer
you? Bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil, and he
departed out of him and the child was cured from that very hour.
And when He was come into the house, His disciples asked Him
privately, Why could not we cast him out? And He said unto them,
This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting."
Wherein lay the difficulty with these men? They had been lax
in cultivating their faith by prayer and, as a consequence, their
trust utterly failed. They trusted not God, nor Christ, nor the
authenticity of His mission, or their own. So has it been many a
time since, in many a crisis in the Church of God. Failure has
resulted from a lack of trust, or from a weakness of faith, and
this, in turn, from a lack of prayerfulness. Many a failure in
revival efforts has been traceable to the same cause. Faith had
not been nurtured and made powerful by prayer. Neglect of the
inner chamber is the solution of most spiritual failure. And this
is as true of our personal struggles with the devil as was the
case when we went forth to attempt to cast out devils. To be much
on our knees in private communion with God is the only surety that
we shall have Him with us either in our personal struggles, or in
our efforts to convert sinners.
Everywhere, in the approaches of the people to Him, our Lord
put trust in Him, and the divinity of His mission, in the
forefront. He gave no definition of trust, and He furnishes no
theological discussion of, or analysis of it; for He knew that men
would see what faith was by what faith did; and from its free
exercise trust grew up, spontaneously, in His presence. It was the
product of His work, His power and His Person. These furnished and
created an atmosphere most favourable for its exercise and
development. Trust is altogether too splendidly simple for verbal
definition; too hearty and spontaneous for theological
terminology. The very simplicity of trust is that which staggers
many people. They look away for some great thing to come to pass,
while all the time "the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and
in thy heart."
When the saddening news of his daughter's death was brought
to Jairus our Lord interposed: "Be not afraid," He said calmly,
"only believe." To the woman with the issue of blood, who stood
tremblingly before Him, He said:
"Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and
be whole of thy plague."
As the two blind men followed Him, pressing their way into
the house, He said:
"According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were
When the paralytic was let down through the roof of the
house, where Jesus was teaching, and placed before Him by four of
his friends, it is recorded after this fashion:
"And Jesus seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the
palsy: Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee."
When Jesus dismissed the centurion whose servant was
seriously ill, and who had come to Jesus with the prayer that He
speak the healing word, without even going to his house, He did it
in the manner following:
"And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou
hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed
in the selfsame hour."
When the poor leper fell at the feet of Jesus and cried out
for relief, "Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean," Jesus
immediately granted his request, and the man glorified Him with a
loud voice. Then Jesus said unto him, "Arise, go thy way; thy
faith hath made thee whole."
The Syrophenician woman came to Jesus with the case of her
afflicted daughter, making the case her own, with the prayer,
"Lord, help me," making a fearful and heroic struggle. Jesus
honours her faith and prayer, saying:
"O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou
wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour."
After the disciples had utterly failed to cast the devil out
of the epileptic boy, the father of the stricken lad came to Jesus
with the plaintive and almost despairing cry, "If Thou canst do
anything, have compassion on us and help us." But Jesus replied,
"If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that
Blind Bartimaeus sitting by the wayside, hears our Lord as He
passes by, and cries out pitifully and almost despairingly,
"Jesus, Thou son of David, have mercy on me." The keen ears of our
Lord immediately catch the sound of prayer, and He says to the
"Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately
he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way."
To the weeping, penitent woman, washing His feet with her
tears and wiping them with the hair of her head, Jesus speaks
cheering, soul-comforting words: "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in
One day Jesus healed ten lepers at one time, in answer to
their united prayer, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us," and He
told them to go and show themselves to the priests. "And it came
to pass as they went, they were cleansed."
IV. PRAYER AND DESIRE
"There are those who will mock me, and tell me to stick to my
trade as a cobbler, and not trouble my mind with philosophy and
theology. But the truth of God did so burn in my bones, that I
took my pen in hand and began to set down what I had seen." --
DESIRE is not merely a simple wish; it is a deep seated craving;
an intense longing, for attainment. In the realm of spiritual
affairs, it is an important adjunct to prayer. So important is it,
that one might say, almost, that desire is an absolute essential
of prayer. Desire precedes prayer, accompanies it, is followed by
it. Desire goes before prayer, and by it, created and intensified.
Prayer is the oral expression of desire. If prayer is asking God
for something, then prayer must be expressed. Prayer comes out
into the open. Desire is silent. Prayer is heard; desire, unheard.
The deeper the desire, the stronger the prayer. Without desire,
prayer is a meaningless mumble of words. Such perfunctory, formal
praying, with no heart, no feeling, no real desire accompanying
it, is to be shunned like a pestilence. Its exercise is a waste of
precious time, and from it, no real blessing accrues.
And yet even if it be discovered that desire is honestly
absent, we should pray, anyway. We ought to pray. The "ought"
comes in, in order that both desire and expression be cultivated.
God's Word commands it. Our judgment tells us we ought to pray --
to pray whether we feel like it or not -- and not to allow our
feelings to determine our habits of prayer. In such circumstance,
we ought to pray for the desire to pray; for such a desire is God-
given and heaven-born. We should pray for desire; then, when
desire has been given, we should pray according to its dictates.
Lack of spiritual desire should grieve us, and lead us to lament
its absence, to seek earnestly for its bestowal, so that our
praying, henceforth, should be an expression of "the soul's
A sense of need creates or should create, earnest desire. The
stronger the sense of need, before God, the greater should be the
desire, the more earnest the praying. The "poor in spirit" are
eminently competent to pray.
Hunger is an active sense of physical need. It prompts the
request for bread. In like manner, the inward consciousness of
spiritual need creates desire, and desire breaks forth in prayer.
Desire is an inward longing for something of which we are not
possessed, of which we stand in need -- something which God has
promised, and which may be secured by an earnest supplication of
His throne of grace.
Spiritual desire, carried to a higher degree, is the evidence
of the new birth. It is born in the renewed soul:
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that
ye may grow thereby."
The absence of this holy desire in the heart is presumptive
proof, either of a decline in spiritual ecstasy, or, that the new
birth has never taken place.
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after
righteousness: for they shall be filled."
These heaven-given appetites are the proof of a renewed
heart, the evidence of a stirring spiritual life. Physical
appetites are the attributes of a living body, not of a corpse,
and spiritual desires belong to a soul made alive to God. And as
the renewed soul hungers and thirsts after righteousness, these
holy inward desires break out into earnest, supplicating prayer.
In prayer, we are shut up to the Name, merit and intercessory
virtue of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest. Probing down, below
the accompanying conditions and forces in prayer, we come to its
vital basis, which is seated in the human heart. It is not simply
our need; it is the heart's yearning for what we need, and for
which we feel impelled to pray. Desire is the will in action; a
strong, conscious longing, excited in the inner nature, for some
great good. Desire exalts the object of its longing, and fixes the
mind on it. It has choice, and fixedness, and flame in it, and
prayer, based thereon, is explicit and specific. It knows its
need, feels and sees the thing that will meet it, and hastens to
Holy desire is much helped by devout contemplation.
Meditation on our spiritual need, and on God's readiness and
ability to correct it, aids desire to grow. Serious thought
engaged in before praying, increases desire, makes it more
insistent, and tends to save us from the menace of private prayer
-- wandering thought. We fail much more in desire, than in its
outward expression. We retain the form, while the inner life fades
and almost dies.
One might well ask, whether the feebleness of our desires for
God, the Holy Spirit, and for all the fulness of Christ, is not
the cause of our so little praying, and of our languishing in the
exercise of prayer? Do we really feel these inward pantings of
desire after heavenly treasures? Do the inbred groanings of desire
stir our souls to mighty wrestlings? Alas for us! The fire burns
altogether too low. The flaming heat of soul has been tempered
down to a tepid lukewarmness. This, it should be remembered, was
the central cause of the sad and desperate condition of the
Laodicean Christians, of whom the awful condemnation is written
that they were "rich, and increased in goods and had need of
nothing," and knew not that they "were wretched, and miserable,
and poor, and blind."
Again: we might well inquire -- have we that desire which
presses us to close communion with God, which is filled with
unutterable burnings, and holds us there through the agony of an
intense and soul-stirred supplication? Our hearts need much to be
worked over, not only to get the evil out of them, but to get the
good into them. And the foundation and inspiration to the incoming
good, is strong, propelling desire. This holy and fervid flame in
the soul awakens the interest of heaven, attracts the attention of
God, and places at the disposal of those who exercise it, the
exhaustless riches of Divine grace.
The dampening of the flame of holy desire, is destructive of
the vital and aggressive forces in church life. God requires to be
represented by a fiery Church, or He is not in any proper sense,
represented at all. God, Himself, is all on fire, and His Church,
if it is to be like Him, must also be at white heat. The great and
eternal interests of heaven-born, God-given religion are the only
things about which His Church can afford to be on fire. Yet holy
zeal need not to be fussy in order to be consuming. Our Lord was
the incarnate antithesis of nervous excitability, the absolute
opposite of intolerant or clamorous declamation, yet the zeal of
God's house consumed Him; and the world is still feeling the glow
of His fierce, consuming flame and responding to it, with an ever-
increasing readiness and an ever-enlarging response.
A lack of ardour in prayer, is the sure sign of a lack of
depth and of intensity of desire; and the absence of intense
desire is a sure sign of God's absence from the heart! To abate
fervour is to retire from God. He can, and does, tolerate many
things in the way of infirmity and error in His children. He can,
and will pardon sin when the penitent prays, but two things are
intolerable to Him -- insincerity and lukewarmness. Lack of heart
and lack of heat are two things He loathes, and to the Laodiceans
He said, in terms of unmistakable severity and condemnation:
"I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art
lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My
This was God's expressed judgment on the lack of fire in one
of the Seven Churches, and it is His indictment against individual
Christians for the fatal want of sacred zeal. In prayer, fire is
the motive power. Religious principles which do not emerge in
flame, have neither force nor effect. Flame is the wing on which
faith ascends; fervency is the soul of prayer. It was the
"fervent, effectual prayer" which availed much. Love is kindled in
a flame, and ardency is its life. Flame is the air which true
Christian experience breathes. It feeds on fire; it can withstand
anything, rather than a feeble flame; and it dies, chilled and
starved to its vitals, when the surrounding atmosphere is frigid
True prayer, must be aflame. Christian life and character
need to be all on fire. Lack of spiritual heat creates more
infidelity than lack of faith. Not to be consumingly interested
about the things of heaven, is not to be interested in them at
all. The fiery souls are those who conquer in the day of battle,
from whom the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and who take
it by force. The citadel of God is taken only by those, who storm
it in dreadful earnestness, who besiege it, with fiery, unabated
Nothing short of being red hot for God, can keep the glow of
heaven in our hearts, these chilly days. The early Methodists had
no heating apparatus in their churches. They declared that the
flame in the pew and the fire in the pulpit must suffice to keep
them warm. And we, of this hour, have need to have the live coal
from God's altar and the consuming flame from heaven glowing in
our hearts. This flame is not mental vehemence nor fleshy energy.
It is Divine fire in the soul, intense, dross-consuming -- the
very essence of the Spirit of God.
No erudition, no purity of diction, no width of mental
outlook, no flowers of eloquence, no grace of person, can atone
for lack of fire. Prayer ascends by fire. Flame gives prayer
access as well as wings, acceptance as well as energy. There is no
incense without fire; no prayer without flame.
Ardent desire is the basis of unceasing prayer. It is not a
shallow, fickle inclination, but a strong yearning, an
unquenchable ardour, which impregnates, glows, burns and fixes the
heart. It is the flame of a present and active principle mounting
up to God. It is ardour propelled by desire, that burns its way to
the Throne of mercy, and gains its plea. It is the pertinacity of
desire that gives triumph to the conflict, in a great struggle of
prayer. It is the burden of a weighty desire that sobers, makes
restless, and reduces to quietness the soul just emerged from its
mighty wrestlings. It is the embracing character of desire which
arms prayer with a thousand pleas, and robes it with an invincible
courage and an all-conquering power.
The Syrophenician woman is an object lesson of desire,
settled to its consistency, but invulnerable in its intensity and
pertinacious boldness. The importunate widow represents desire
gaining its end, through obstacles insuperable to feebler
Prayer is not the rehearsal of a mere performance; nor is it
an indefinite, widespread clamour. Desire, while it kindles the
soul, holds it to the object sought. Prayer is an indispensable
phase of spiritual habit, but it ceases to be prayer when carried
on by habit alone. It is depth and intensity of spiritual desire
which give intensity and depth to prayer. The soul cannot be
listless when some great desire fires and inflames it. The urgency
of our desire holds us to the thing desired with a tenacity which
refuses to be lessened or loosened; it stays and pleads and
persists, and refuses to let go until the blessing has been
"Lord, I cannot let Thee go,
Till a blessing Thou bestow;
Do not turn away Thy face;
Mine's an urgent, pressing case."
The secret of faint heartedness, lack of importunity, want of
courage and strength in prayer, lies in the weakness of spiritual
desire, while the non-observance of prayer is the fearful token of
that desire having ceased to live. That soul has turned from God
whose desire after Him no longer presses it to the inner chamber.
There can be no successful praying without consuming desire. Of
course there can be much seeming to pray, without desire of any
Many things may be catalogued and much ground covered. But
does desire compile the catalogue? Does desire map out the region
to be covered? On the answer, hangs the issue of whether our
petitioning be prating or prayer. Desire is intense, but narrow;
it cannot spread itself over a wide area. It wants a few things,
and wants them badly, so badly, that nothing but God's willingness
to answer, can bring it easement or content.
Desire single-shots at its objective. There may be many
things desired, but they are specifically and individually felt
and expressed. David did not yearn for everything; nor did he
allow his desires to spread out everywhere and hit nothing. Here
is the way his desires ran and found expression:
"One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek
after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of
my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His
It is this singleness of desire, this definiteness of
yearning, which counts in praying, and which drives prayer
directly to core and centre of supply.
In the Beatitudes Jesus voiced the words which directly bear
upon the innate desires of a renewed soul, and the promise that
they will be granted: "Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst
after righteousness, for they shall be filled."
This, then, is the basis of prayer which compels an answer --
that strong inward desire has entered into the spiritual appetite,
and clamours to be satisfied. Alas for us! It is altogether too
true and frequent, that our prayers operate in the arid region of
a mere wish, or in the leafless area of a memorized prayer.
Sometimes, indeed, our prayers are merely stereotyped expressions
of set phrases, and conventional proportions, the freshness and
life of which have departed long years ago.
Without desire, there is no burden of soul, no sense of need,
no ardency, no vision, no strength, no glow of faith. There is no
mighty pressure, no holding on to God, with a deathless,
despairing grasp -- "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless
me." There is no utter self-abandonment, as there was with Moses,
when, lost in the throes of a desperate, pertinacious, and all-
consuming plea he cried: "Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin;
if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book." Or, as there was
with John Knox when he pleaded: "Give me Scotland, or I die!"
God draws mightily near to the praying soul. To see God, to
know God, and to live for God -- these form the objective of all
true praying. Thus praying is, after all, inspired to seek after
God. Prayer-desire is inflamed to see God, to have clearer,
fuller, sweeter and richer revelation of God. So to those who thus
pray, the Bible becomes a new Bible, and Christ a new Saviour, by
the light and revelation of the inner chamber.
We iterate and reiterate that burning desire -- enlarged and
ever enlarging -- for the best, and most powerful gifts and graces
of the Spirit of God, is the legitimate heritage of true and
effectual praying. Self and service cannot be divorced -- cannot,
possibly, be separated. More than that: desire must be made
intensely personal, must be centered on God with an insatiable
hungering and thirsting after Him and His righteousness. "My soul
thirsteth for God, the living God." The indispensable requisite
for all true praying is a deeply seated desire which seeks after
God Himself, and remains unappeased, until the choicest gifts in
heaven's bestowal, have been richly and abundantly vouchsafed.
V. PRAYER AND FERVENCY
"St. Teresa rose off her deathbed to finish her work. She
inspected, with all her quickness of eye and love of order the
whole of the house in which she had been carried to die. She saw
everything put into its proper place, and every one answering to
their proper order, after which she attended the divine offices of
the day. She then went back to her bed, summoned her daughters
around her . . . and, with the most penitential of David's
penitential prayers upon her tongue, Teresa of Jesus went forth to
meet her Bridegroom." -- Alexander Whyte.
PRAYER, without fervour, stakes nothing on the issue, because it
has nothing to stake. It comes with empty hands. Hands, too, which
are listless, as well as empty, which have never learned the
lesson of clinging to the Cross.
Fervourless prayer has no heart in it; it is an empty thing,
an unfit vessel. Heart, soul, and life, must find place in all
real praying. Heaven must be made to feel the force of this crying
Paul was a notable example of the man who possessed a fervent
spirit of prayer. His petitioning was all-consuming, centered
immovably upon the object of his desire, and the God who was able
to meet it.
Prayers must be red hot. It is the fervent prayer that is
effectual and that availeth. Coldness of spirit hinders praying;
prayer cannot live in a wintry atmosphere. Chilly surroundings
freeze out petitioning; and dry up the springs of supplication. It
takes fire to make prayers go. Warmth of soul creates an
atmosphere favourable to prayer, because it is favourable to
fervency. By flame, prayer ascends to heaven. Yet fire is not
fuss, nor heat, noise. Heat is intensity -- something that glows
and burns. Heaven is a mighty poor market for ice.
God wants warm-hearted servants. The Holy Spirit comes as a
fire, to dwell in us; we are to be baptized, with the Holy Ghost
and with fire. Fervency is warmth of soul. A phlegmatic
temperament is abhorrent to vital experience. If our religion does
not set us on fire, it is because we have frozen hearts. God
dwells in a flame; the Holy Ghost descends in fire. To be absorbed
in God's will, to be so greatly in earnest about doing it that our
whole being takes fire, is the qualifying condition of the man who
would engage in effectual prayer.
Our Lord warns us against feeble praying. "Men ought always
to pray," He declares, "and not to faint." That means, that we are
to possess sufficient fervency to carry us through the severe and
long periods of pleading prayer. Fire makes one alert and
vigilant, and brings him off, more than conqueror. The atmosphere
about us is too heavily charged with resisting forces for limp or
languid prayers to make headway. It takes heat, and fervency and
meteoric fire, to push through, to the upper heavens, where God
dwells with His saints, in light.
Many of the great Bible characters were notable examples of
fervency of spirit when seeking God. The Psalmist declares with
"My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto Thy
judgments at all times."
What strong desires of heart are here! What earnest soul
longings for the Word of the living God!
An even greater fervency is expressed by him in another
"As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my
soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living
God: when shall I come and appear before God?"
That is the word of a man who lived in a state of grace,
which had been deeply and supernaturally wrought in his soul.
Fervency before God counts in the hour of prayer, and finds a
speedy and rich reward at His hands. The Psalmist gives us this
statement of what God had done for the king, as his heart turned
toward his Lord:
"Thou hast given him his heart's desire, and hast not
withholden the request of his lips."
At another time, he thus expresses himself directly to God in
preferring his request:
"Lord, all my desire is before Thee; and my groaning is not
hid from Thee."
What a cheering thought! Our inward groanings, our secret
desires, our heart-longings, are not hidden from the eyes of Him
with whom we have to deal in prayer.
The incentive to fervency of spirit before God, is precisely
the same as it is for continued and earnest prayer. While fervency
is not prayer, yet it derives from an earnest soul, and is
precious in the sight of God. Fervency in prayer is the precursor
of what God will do by way of answer. God stands pledged to give
us the desire of our hearts in proportion to the fervency of
spirit we exhibit, when seeking His face in prayer.
Fervency has its seat in the heart, not in the brain, nor in
the intellectual faculties of the mind. Fervency therefore, is not
an expression of the intellect. Fervency of spirit is something
far transcending poetical fancy or sentimental imagery. It is
something else besides mere preference, the contrasting of like
with dislike. Fervency is the throb and gesture of the emotional
It is not in our power, perhaps, to create fervency of spirit
at will, but we can pray God to implant it. It is ours, then, to
nourish and cherish it, to guard it against extinction, to prevent
its abatement or decline. The process of personal salvation is not
only to pray, to express our desires to God, but to acquire a
fervent spirit and seek, by all proper means, to cultivate it. It
is never out of place to pray God to beget within us, and to keep
alive the spirit of fervent prayer.
Fervency has to do with God, just as prayer has to do with
Him. Desire has always an objective. If we desire at all, we
desire something. The degree of fervency with which we fashion our
spiritual desires, will always serve to determine the earnestness
of our praying. In this relation, Adoniram Judson says:
"A travailing spirit, the throes of a great burdened desire,
belongs to prayer. A fervency strong enough to drive away sleep,
which devotes and inflames the spirit, and which retires all
earthly ties, all this belongs to wrestling, prevailing prayer.
The Spirit, the power, the air, and food of prayer is in such a
Prayer must be clothed with fervency, strength and power. It
is the force which, centered on God, determines the outlay of
Himself for earthly good. Men who are fervent in spirit are bent
on attaining to righteousness, truth, grace, and all other sublime
and powerful graces which adorn the character of the authentic,
unquestioned child of God.
God once declared, by the mouth of a brave prophet, to a king
who, at one time, had been true to God, but, by the incoming of
success and material prosperity, had lost his faith, the following
"The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole
earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is
perfect toward Him. Herein hast thou done foolishly; therefore,
from henceforth thou shalt have wars."
God had heard Asa's prayer in early life, but disaster came
and trouble was sent, because he had given up the life of prayer
and simple faith.
In Romans 15:30, we have the word, "strive," occurring, in
the request which Paul made for prayerful cooperation.
In Colossians 4:12, we have the same word, but translated
differently: "Epaphras always labouring fervently for you in
prayer." Paul charged the Romans to "strive together with him in
prayer," that is, to help him in his struggle of prayer. The word
means to enter into a contest, to fight against adversaries. It
means, moreover, to engage with fervent zeal to endeavour to
These recorded instances of the exercise and reward of faith,
give us easily to see that, in almost every instance, faith was
blended with trust until it is not too much to say that the former
was swallowed up in the latter. It is hard to properly distinguish
the specific activities of these two qualities, faith and trust.
But there is a point, beyond all peradventure, at which faith is
relieved of its burden, so to speak; where trust comes along and
says: "You have done your part, the rest is mine!"
In the incident of the barren fig tree, our Lord transfers
the marvellous power of faith to His disciples. To their
exclamation, "How soon is the fig tree withered alway!" He said:
"If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this
which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this
mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall
be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer,
believing, ye shall receive."
When a Christian believer attains to faith of such
magnificent proportions as these, he steps into the realm of
implicit trust. He stands without a tremor on the apex of his
spiritual outreaching. He has attained faith's veritable top stone
which is unswerving, unalterable, unalienable trust in the power
of the living God.
VI. PRAYER AND IMPORTUNITY
"How glibly we talk of praying without ceasing! Yet we are
quite apt to quit, if our prayer remained unanswered but one week
or month! We assume that by a stroke of His arm or an action of
His will, God will give us what we ask. It never seems to dawn on
us, that He is the Master of nature, as of grace, and that,
sometimes He chooses one way, and sometimes another in which to do
His work. It takes years, sometimes, to answer a prayer and when
it is answered, and we look backward we can see that it did. But
God knows all the time, and it is His will that we pray, and pray,
and still pray, and so come to know, indeed and of a truth, what
it is to pray without ceasing." -- Anon.
OUR Lord Jesus declared that "men ought always to pray and not to
faint," and the parable in which His words occur, was taught with
the intention of saving men from faint-heartedness and weakness in
prayer. Our Lord was seeking to teach that laxity must be guarded
against, and persistence fostered and encouraged. There can be no
two opinions regarding the importance of the exercise of this
indispensable quality in our praying.
Importunate prayer is a mighty movement of the soul toward
God. It is a stirring of the deepest forces of the soul, toward
the throne of heavenly grace. It is the ability to hold on, press
on, and wait. Restless desire, restful patience, and strength of
grasp are all embraced in it. It is not an incident, or a
performance, but a passion of soul. It is not a want, half-needed,
but a sheer necessity.
The wrestling quality in importunate prayers does not spring
from physical vehemence or fleshly energy. It is not an impulse of
energy, not a mere earnestness of soul; it is an inwrought force,
a faculty implanted and aroused by the Holy Spirit. Virtually, it
is the intercession of the Spirit of God, in us; it is, moreover,
"the effectual, fervent prayer, which availeth much." The Divine
Spirit informing every element within us, with the energy of His
own striving, is the essence of the importunity which urges our
praying at the mercy-seat, to continue until the fire falls and
the blessing descends. This wrestling in prayer may not be
boisterous nor vehement, but quiet, tenacious and urgent. Silent,
it may be, when there are no visible outlets for its mighty
Nothing distinguishes the children of God so clearly and
strongly as prayer. It is the one infallible mark and test of
being a Christian. Christian people are prayerful, the worldly-
minded, prayerless. Christians call on God; worldlings ignore God,
and call not on His Name. But even the Christian had need to
cultivate continual prayer. Prayer must be habitual, but much more
than a habit. It is duty, yet one which rises far above, and goes
beyond the ordinary implications of the term. It is the expression
of a relation to God, a yearning for Divine communion. It is the
outward and upward flow of the inward life toward its original
fountain. It is an assertion of the soul's paternity, a claiming
of the sonship, which links man to the Eternal.
Prayer has everything to do with moulding the soul into the
image of God, and has everything to do with enhancing and
enlarging the measure of Divine grace. It has everything to do
with bringing the soul into complete communion with God. It has
everything to do with enriching, broadening and maturing the
soul's experience of God. That man cannot possibly be called a
Christian, who does not pray. By no possible pretext can he claim
any right to the term, nor its implied significance. If he do not
pray, he is a sinner, pure and simple, for prayer is the only way
in which the soul of man can enter into fellowship and communion
with the Source of all Christlike spirit and energy. Hence, if he
pray not, he is not of the household of faith.
In this study however, we turn our thought to one phase of
prayer -- that of importunity; the pressing of our desires upon
God with urgency and perseverance; the praying with that tenacity
and tension which neither relaxes nor ceases until its plea is
heard, and its cause is won.
He who has clear views of God, and Scriptural conceptions of
the Divine character; who appreciates his privilege of approach
unto God; who understands his inward need of all that God has for
him -- that man will be solicitous, outspoken and importunate. In
Holy Writ, the duty of prayer, itself, is advocated in terms which
are only barely stronger than those in which the necessity for its
importunity is set forth. The praying which influences God is
declared to be that of the fervent, effectual outpouring of a
righteous man. That is to say, it is prayer on fire, having no
feeble, flickering flame, no momentary flash, but shining with a
vigorous and steady glow.
The repeated intercessions of Abraham for the salvation of
Sodom and Gomorrah present an early example of the necessity for,
and benefit deriving from importunate praying. Jacob, wrestling
all night with the angel, gives significant emphasis to the power
of a dogged perseverance in praying, and shows how, in things
spiritual, importunity succeeds, just as effectively as it does in
matters relating to time and sense.
As we have noted, elsewhere, Moses prayed forty days and
forty nights, seeking to stay the wrath of God against Israel, and
his example and success are a stimulus to present-day faith in its
darkest hour. Elijah repeated and urged his prayer seven times ere
the raincloud appeared above the horizon, heralding the success of
his prayer and the victory of his faith. On one occasion Daniel
though faint and weak, pressed his case three weeks, ere the
answer and the blessing came.
Many nights during His earthly life did the blessed Saviour
spend in prayer. In Gethsemane He presented the same petition,
three times, with unabated, urgent, yet submissive importunity,
which involved every element of His soul, and issued in tears and
bloody sweat. His life crises were distinctly marked, his life
victories all won, in hours of importunate prayer. And the servant
is not greater than his Lord.
The Parable of the Importunate Widow is a classic of
insistent prayer. We shall do well to refresh our remembrance of
it, at this point in our study:
"And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought
always to pray, and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a
judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man; and there was a
widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of my
adversary. And he would not for a while; but afterward he said
within himself, Though I fear not God nor regard man; yet because
this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual
coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge
saith. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and
night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you He will
avenge them speedily."
This parable stresses the central truth of importunate
prayer. The widow presses her case till the unjust judge yields.
If this parable does not teach the necessity for importunity, it
has neither point nor instruction in it. Take this one thought
away, and you have nothing left worth recording. Beyond all cavil,
Christ intended it to stand as an evidence of the need that
exists, for insistent prayer.
We have the same teaching emphasized in the incident of the
Syrophenician woman, who came to Jesus on behalf of her daughter.
Here, importunity is demonstrated, not as a stark impertinence,
but as with the persuasive habiliments of humility, sincerity, and
fervency. We are given a glimpse of a woman's clinging faith, a
woman's bitter grief, and a woman's spiritual insight. The Master
went over into that Sidonian country in order that this truth
might be mirrored for all time -- there is no plea so efficacious
as importunate prayer, and none to which God surrenders Himself so
fully and so freely.
The importunity of this distressed mother, won her the
victory, and materialized her request. Yet instead of being an
offence to the Saviour, it drew from Him a word of wonder, and
glad surprise. "O woman, great is thy faith! Be it unto thee, even
as thou wilt."
He prays not at all, who does not press his plea. Cold
prayers have no claim on heaven, and no hearing in the courts
above. Fire is the life of prayer, and heaven is reached by
flaming importunity rising in an ascending scale.
Reverting to the case of the importunate widow, we see that
her widowhood, her friendlessness, and her weakness counted for
nothing with the unjust judge. Importunity was everything.
"Because this widow troubleth me," he said, "I will avenge her
speedily, lest she weary me." Solely because the widow imposed
upon the time and attention of the unjust judge, her case was won.
God waits patiently as, day and night, His elect cry unto
Him. He is moved by their requests a thousand times more than was
this unjust judge. A limit is set to His tarrying, by the
importunate praying of His people, and the answer richly given.
God finds faith in His praying child -- the faith which stays and
cries -- and He honours it by permitting its further exercise, to
the end that it is strengthened and enriched. Then He rewards it
by granting the burden of its plea, in plenitude and finality.
The case of the Syrophenician woman previously referred to is
a notable instance of successful importunity, one which is
eminently encouraging to all who would pray successfully. It was a
remarkable instance of insistence and perseverance to ultimate
victory, in the face of almost insuperable obstacles and
hindrances. But the woman surmounted them all by heroic faith and
persistent spirit that were as remarkable as they were successful.
Jesus had gone over into her country, "and would have no man know
it." But she breaks through His purpose, violates His privacy,
attracts His attention, and pours out to Him a poignant appeal of
need and faith. Her heart was in her prayer.
At first, Jesus appears to pay no attention to her agony, and
ignores her cry for relief. He gives her neither eye, nor ear, nor
word. Silence, deep and chilling, greets her impassioned cry. But
she is not turned aside, nor disheartened. She holds on. The
disciples, offended at her unseemly clamour, intercede for her,
but are silenced by the Lord's declaring that the woman is
entirely outside the scope of His mission and His ministry.
But neither the failure of the disciples to gain her a
hearing nor the knowledge -- despairing in its very nature -- that
she is barred from the benefits of His mission, daunt her, and
serve only to lend intensity and increased boldness to her
approach to Christ. She came closer, cutting her prayer in twain,
and falling at His feet, worshipping Him, and making her
daughter's case her own cries, with pointed brevity -- "Lord, help
me!" This last cry won her case; her daughter was healed in the
self-same hour. Hopeful, urgent, and unwearied, she stays near the
Master, insisting and praying until the answer is given. What a
study in importunity, in earnestness, in persistence, promoted and
propelled under conditions which would have disheartened any but
an heroic, a constant soul.
In these parables of importunate praying, our Lord sets
forth, for our information and encouragement, the serious
difficulties which stand in the way of prayer. At the same time He
teaches that importunity conquers all untoward circumstances and
gets to itself a victory over a whole host of hindrances. He
teaches, moreover, that an answer to prayer is conditional upon
the amount of faith that goes to the petition. To test this, He
delays the answer. The superficial pray-er subsides into silence,
when the answer is delayed. But the man of prayer hangs on, and
on. The Lord recognizes and honours his faith, and gives him a
rich and abundant answer to his faith-evidencing, importunate
VII. PRAYER AND IMPORTUNITY (Continued)
"Two-thirds of the praying we do, is for that which would
give us the greatest possible pleasure to receive. It is a sort of
spiritual self-indulgence in which we engage, and as a consequence
is the exact opposite of self-discipline. God knows all this, and
keeps His children asking. In process of time -- His time -- our
petitions take on another aspect, and we, another spiritual
approach. God keeps us praying until, in His wisdom, He deigns to
answer. And no matter how long it may be before He speaks, it is,
even then, far earlier than we have a right to expect or hope to
deserve." -- Anon.
THE tenor of Christ's teachings, is to declare that men are to
pray earnestly -- to pray with an earnestness that cannot be
denied. Heaven has harkening ears only for the whole-hearted, and
the deeply-earnest. Energy, courage, and persistent perseverance
must back the prayers which heaven respects, and God hears. All
these qualities of soul, so essential to effectual praying, are
brought out in the parable of the man who went to his friend for
bread, at midnight. This man entered on his errand with
confidence. Friendship promised him success. His plea was
pressing: of a truth, he could not go back empty-handed. The flat
refusal chagrined and surprised him. Here even friendship failed!
But there was something to be tried yet -- stern resolution, set,
fixed determination. He would stay and press his demand until the
door was opened, and the request granted. This he proceeded to do,
and by dint of importunity secured what ordinary solicitation had
failed to obtain.
The success of this man, achieved in the face of a flat
denial, was used by the Saviour to illustrate the necessity for
insistence in supplicating the throne of heavenly grace. When the
answer is not immediately given, the praying Christian must gather
courage at each delay, and advance in urgency till the answer
comes which is assured, if he have but the faith to press his
petition with vigorous faith.
Laxity, faint-heartedness, impatience, timidity will be fatal
to our prayers. Awaiting the onset of our importunity and
insistence, is the Father's heart, the Father's hand, the Father's
infinite power, the Father's infinite willingness to hear and give
to His children.
Importunate praying is the earnest, inward movement of the
heart toward God. It is the throwing of the entire force of the
spiritual man into the exercise of prayer. Isaiah lamented that no
one stirred himself, to take hold of God. Much praying was done in
Isaiah's time, but it was too easy, indifferent and complacent.
There were no mighty movements of souls toward God. There was no
array of sanctified energies bent on reaching and grappling with
God, to draw from Him the treasures of His grace. Forceless
prayers have no power to overcome difficulties, no power to win
marked results, or to gain complete victories. We must win God,
ere we can win our plea.
Isaiah looked forward with hopeful eyes to the day when
religion would flourish, when there would be times of real
praying. When those times came, the watchmen would not abate their
vigilance, but cry day and night, and those, who were the Lord's
remembrancers, would give Him no rest. Their urgent, persistent
efforts would keep all spiritual interests engaged, and make
increasing drafts on God's exhaustless treasures.
Importunate praying never faints nor grows weary; it is never
discouraged; it never yields to cowardice, but is buoyed up and
sustained by a hope that knows no despair, and a faith which will
not let go. Importunate praying has patience to wait and strength
to continue. It never prepares itself to quit praying, and
declines to rise from its knees until an answer is received.
The familiar, yet heartening words of that great missionary,
Adoniram Judson, is the testimony of a man who was importunate at
prayer. He says:
"I was never deeply interested in any object, never prayed
sincerely and earnestly for it, but that it came at some time, no
matter how distant the day. Somehow, in some shape, probably the
last I would have devised, it came."
"Ask, and ye shall receive. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock,
and it shall be opened unto you." These are the ringing challenges
of our Lord in regard to prayer, and His intimation that true
praying must stay, and advance in effort and urgency, till the
prayer is answered, and the blessing sought, received.
In the three words ask, seek, knock, in the order in which He
places them, Jesus urges the necessity of importunity in prayer.
Asking, seeking, knocking, are ascending rounds in the ladder of
successful prayer. No principle is more definitely enforced by
Christ than that prevailing prayer must have in it the quality
which waits and perseveres, the courage that never surrenders, the
patience which never grows tired, the resolution that never
In the parable preceding that of the Friend at Midnight, a
most significant and instructive lesson in this respect is
outlined. Indomitable courage, ceaseless pertinacity, fixity of
purpose, chief among the qualities included in Christ's estimate
of the highest and most successful form of praying.
Importunity is made up of intensity, perseverance, patience
and persistence. The seeming delay in answering prayer is the
ground and the demand of importunity. In the first recorded
instance of a miracle being wrought upon one who was blind, as
given by Matthew, we have an illustration of the way in which our
Lord appeared not to hearken at once to those who sought Him. But
the two blind men continue their crying, and follow Him with their
continual petition, saying, "Thou Son of David, have mercy on us."
But He answered them not, and passed into the house. Yet the needy
ones followed Him, and, finally, gained their eyesight and their
The case of blind Bartimaeus is a notable one in many ways.
Especially is it remarkable for the show of persistence which this
blind man exhibited in appealing to our Lord. If it be -- as it
seems -- that his first crying was done as Jesus entered into
Jericho, and that he continued it until Jesus came out of the
place, it is all the stronger an illustration of the necessity of
importunate prayer and the success which comes to those who stake
their all on Christ, and give Him no peace until He grants them
their hearts' desire.
Mark puts the whole incident graphically before us. At first,
Jesus seems not to hear. The crowd rebukes the noisy clamour of
Bartimaeus. Despite the seeming unconcern of our Lord, however,
and despite the rebuke of an impatient and quick-tempered crowd,
the blind beggar still cries, and increases the loudness of his
cry, until Jesus is impressed and moved. Finally, the crowd, as
well as Jesus, hearken to the beggar's plea and declare in favour
of his cause. He gains his case. His importunity avails even in
the face of apparent neglect on the part of Jesus, and despite
opposition and rebuke from the surrounding populace. His
persistence won where half-hearted indifference would surely have
Faith has its province, in connection with prayer, and, of
course, has its inseparable association with importunity. But the
latter quality drives the prayer to the believing point. A
persistent spirit brings a man to the place where faith takes
hold, claims and appropriates the blessing.
The imperative necessity of importunate prayer is plainly set
forth in the Word of God, and needs to be stated and re-stated
today. We are apt to overlook this vital truth. Love of ease,
spiritual indolence, religious slothfulness, all operate against
this type of petitioning. Our praying, however, needs to be
pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency
which will not be denied, and a courage which never fails.
We have need, too, to give thought to that mysterious fact of
prayer -- the certainty that there will be delays, denials, and
seeming failures, in connection with its exercise. We are to
prepare for these, to brook them, and cease not in our urgent
praying. Like a brave soldier, who, as the conflict grows sterner,
exhibits a superior courage than in the earlier stages of the
battle; so does the praying Christian, when delay and denial face
him, increase his earnest asking, and ceases not until prayer
prevail. Moses furnishes an illustrious example of importunity in
prayer. Instead of allowing his nearness to God and his intimacy
with Him to dispense with the necessity for importunity, he
regards them as the better fitting him for its exercise. When
Israel set up the golden calf, the wrath of God waxed fierce
against them, and Jehovah, bent on executing justice, said to
Moses when divulging what He purposed doing, "Let Me alone!" But
Moses would not let Him alone. He threw himself down before the
Lord in an agony of intercession in behalf of the sinning
Israelites, and for forty days and nights, fasted and prayed. What
a season of importunate prayer was that!
Jehovah was wroth with Aaron, also, who had acted as leader
in this idolatrous business of the golden calf. But Moses prayed
for Aaron as well as for the Israelites; had he not, both Israel
and Aaron had perished, under the consuming fire of God's wrath.
That long season of pleading before God, left its mighty
impress on Moses. He had been in close relation with God
aforetime, but never did his character attain the greatness that
marked it in the days and years following this long season of
There can be no question but that importunate prayer moves
God, and heightens human character! If we were more with God in
this great ordinance of intercession, more brightly would our face
shine, more richly endowed would life and service be, with the
qualities which earn the goodwill of humanity, and bring glory to
the Name of God.
VIII. PRAYER AND CHARACTER AND CONDUCT
"General Charles James Gordon, the hero of Khartum, was a
truly Christian soldier. Shut up in the Sudanese town he gallantly
held out for one year, but, finally, was overcome and slain. On
his memorial in Westminster Abbey are these words, 'He gave his
money to the poor; his sympathy to the sorrowing; his life to his
country and his soul to God.'" -- Homer W. Hodge.
PRAYER governs conduct and conduct makes character. Conduct, is
what we do; character, is what we are. Conduct is the outward
life. Character is the life unseen, hidden within, yet evidenced
by that which is seen. Conduct is external, seen from without;
character is internal -- operating within. In the economy of grace
conduct is the offspring of character. Character is the state of
the heart, conduct its outward expression. Character is the root
of the tree, conduct, the fruit it bears.
Prayer is related to all the gifts of grace. To character and
conduct its relation is that of a helper. Prayer helps to
establish character and fashion conduct, and both for their
successful continuance depend on prayer. There may be a certain
degree of moral character and conduct independent of prayer, but
there cannot be anything like distinctive religious character and
Christian conduct without it. Prayer helps, where all other aids
fail. The more we pray, the better we are, the purer and better
The very end and purpose of the atoning work of Christ is to
create religious character and to make Christian conduct.
"Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all
iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of
In Christ's teaching, it is not simply works of charity and
deeds of mercy upon which He insists, but inward spiritual
character. This much is demanded, and nothing short of it, will
In the study of Paul's Epistles, there is one thing which
stands out, clearly and unmistakably -- the insistence on holiness
of heart, and righteousness of life. Paul does not seek, so much,
to promote what is termed "personal work," nor is the leading
theme of his letters deeds of charity. It is the condition of the
human heart and the blamelessness of the personal life, which form
the burden of the writings of St. Paul.
Elsewhere in the Scriptures, too, it is character and conduct
which are made preeminent. The Christian religion deals with men
who are devoid of spiritual character, and unholy in life, and
aims so to change them, that they become holy in heart and
righteous in life. It aims to change bad men into good men; it
deals with inward badness, and works to change it into inward
goodness. And it is just here where prayer enters and demonstrates
its wonderful efficacy and fruit. Prayer drives toward this
specific end. In fact, without prayer, no such supernatural change
in moral character, can ever be effected. For the change from
badness to goodness is not wrought "by works of righteousness
which we have done," but according to God's mercy, which saves us
"by the washing of regeneration." And this marvellous change is
brought to pass through earnest, persistent, faithful prayer. Any
alleged form of Christianity, which does not effect this change in
the hearts of men, is a delusion and a snare.
The office of prayer is to change the character and conduct
of men, and in countless instances, has been wrought by prayer. At
this point, prayer, by its credentials, has proved its divinity.
And just as it is the office of prayer to effect this, so it is
the prime work of the Church to take hold of evil men and make
them good. Its mission is to change human nature, to change
character, influence behaviour, to revolutionize conduct. The
Church is presumed to be righteous, and should be engaged in
turning men to righteousness. The Church is God's manufactory on
earth, and its primary duty is to create and foster righteousness
of character. This is its very first business. Primarily, its work
is not to acquire members, nor amass numbers, nor aim at money-
getting, nor engage in deeds of charity and works of mercy, but to
produce righteousness of character, and purity of the outward
A product reflects and partakes of the character of the
manufactory which makes it. A righteous Church with a righteous
purpose makes righteous men. Prayer produces cleanliness of heart
and purity of life. It can produce nothing else. Unrighteous
conduct is born of prayerlessness; the two go hand-in-hand. Prayer
and sinning cannot keep company with each other. One, or the
other, must, of necessity, stop. Get men to pray, and they will
quit sinning, because prayer creates a distaste for sinning, and
so works upon the heart, that evil-doing becomes repugnant, and
the entire nature lifted to a reverent contemplation of high and
Prayer is based on character. What we are with God gauges our
influence with Him. It was the inner character, not the outward
seeming, of such men as Abraham, Job, David, Moses and all others,
who had such great influence with God in the days of old. And,
today, it is not so much our words, as what we really are, which
weighs with God. Conduct affects character, of course, and counts
for much in our praying. At the same time, character affects
conduct to a far greater extent, and has a superior influence over
prayer. Our inner life not only gives colour to our praying, but
body, as well. Bad living means bad praying and, in the end, no
praying at all. We pray feebly because we live feebly. The stream
of prayer cannot rise higher than the fountain of living. The
force of the inner chamber is made up of the energy which flows
from the confluent streams of living. And the weakness of living
grows out of the shallowness and shoddiness of character.
Feebleness of living reflects its debility and langour in the
praying hours. We simply cannot talk to God, strongly, intimately,
and confidently unless we are living for Him, faithfully and
truly. The prayer-closet cannot become sanctified unto God, when
the life is alien to His precepts and purpose. We must learn this
lesson well -- that righteous character and Christlike conduct
give us a peculiar and preferential standing in prayer before God.
His holy Word gives special emphasis to the part conduct has in
imparting value to our praying when it declares:
"Then shalt thou call and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt
cry, and He shall say, Here I am; if thou take away from the midst
of thee the yoke, the putting forth the finger, and speaking
The wickedness of Israel and their heinous practices were
definitely cited by Isaiah, as the reason why God would turn His
ears away from their prayers:
"And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes
from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your
hands are full of blood."
The same sad truth was declared by the Lord through the mouth
"Therefore, pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a
cry or prayer for them; for I will not hear them in the time that
they cry unto Me for their trouble."
Here, it is plainly stated, that unholy conduct is a bar to
successful praying, just as it is clearly intimated that, in order
to have full access to God in prayer, there must be a total
abandonment of conscious and premeditated sin.
We are enjoined to pray, "lifting up holy hands, without
wrath and doubting," and must pass the time of our sojourning
here, in a rigorous abstaining from evil if we are to retain our
privilege of calling upon the Father. We cannot, by any process,
divorce praying from conduct.
"Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His
commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in His
And James declares roundly that men ask and receive not,
because they ask amiss, and seek only the gratification of selfish
Our Lord's injunction, "Watch ye, and pray always," is to
cover and guard all our conduct, so that we may come to our inner
chamber with all its force secured by a vigilant guard kept over
"And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be
overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this
life, and so that day come upon you unawares."
Quite often, Christian experience founders on the rock of
conduct. Beautiful theories are marred by ugly lives. The most
difficult thing about piety, as it is the most impressive, is to
be able to live it. It is the life which counts, and our praying
suffers, as do other phases of our religious experience, from bad
In primitive times preachers were charged to preach by their
lives, or not to preach at all. So, today, Christians, everywhere,
ought to be charged to pray by their lives, or not to pray at all.
The most effective preaching, is not that which is heard from the
pulpit, but that which is proclaimed quietly, humbly and
consistently; which exhibits its excellencies in the home, and in
the community. Example preaches a far more effective sermon than
precept. The best preaching, even in the pulpit, is that which is
fortified by godly living, in the preacher, himself. The most
effective work done by the pew is preceded by, and accompanied
with, holiness of life, separation from the world, severance from
sin. Some of the strongest appeals are made with mute lips -- by
godly fathers and saintly mothers who, around the fireside, feared
God, loved His cause, and daily exhibited to their children and
others about them, the beauties and excellencies of Christian life
The best-prepared, most eloquent sermon can be marred and
rendered ineffective, by questionable practices in the preacher.
The most active church worker can have the labour of his hands
vitiated by worldliness of spirit and inconsistency of life. Men
preach by their lives, not by their words, and sermons are
delivered, not so much in, and from a pulpit, as in tempers,
actions, and the thousand and one incidents which crowd the
pathway of daily life.
Of course, the prayer of repentance is acceptable to God. He
delights in hearing the cries of penitent sinners. But repentance
involves not only sorrow for sin, but the turning away from wrong-
doing, and the learning to do well. A repentance which does not
produce a change in character and conduct, is a mere sham, which
should deceive nobody. Old things must pass away, all things must
Praying, which does not result in right thinking and right
living, is a farce. We have missed the whole office of prayer if
it fail to purge character and rectify conduct. We have failed
entirely to apprehend the virtue of prayer, if it bring not about
the revolutionizing of the life. In the very nature of things, we
must quit praying, or our bad conduct. Cold, formal praying may
exist side by side, with bad conduct, but such praying, in the
estimation of God, is no praying at all. Our praying advances in
power, just in so far as it rectifies the life. Growing in purity
and devotion to God will be a more prayerful life.
The character of the inner life is a condition of effectual
praying. As is the life, so will the praying be. An inconsistent
life obstructs praying and neutralizes what little praying we may
do. Always, it is "the prayer of the righteous man which availeth
much." Indeed, one may go further and assert, that it is only the
prayer of the righteous which avails anything at all -- at any
time. To have an eye to God's glory; to be possessed by an earnest
desire to please Him in all our ways; to possess hands busy in His
service; to have feet swift to run in the way of His commandments
-- these give weight and influence and power to prayer, and secure
an audience with God. The incubus of our lives often breaks the
force of our praying, and, not unfrequently, are as doors of
brass, in the face of prayer.
Praying must come out of a cleansed heart and be presented
and urged with the "lifting up of holy hands." It must be
fortified by a life aiming, unceasingly, to obey God, to attain
conformity to the Divine law, and to come into submission to the
Let it not be forgotten, that, while life is a condition of
prayer, prayer is also the condition of righteous living. Prayer
promotes righteous living, and is the one great aid to uprightness
of heart and life. The fruit of real praying is right living.
Praying sets him who prays to the great business of "working out
his salvation with fear and trembling;" puts him to watching his
temper, conversation and conduct; causes him to "walk
circumspectly, redeeming the time;" enables him to "walk worthy of
the vocation wherewith he is called, with all lowliness and
meekness;" gives him a high incentive to pursue his pilgrimage
consistently by "shunning every evil way, and walking in the
IX. PRAYER AND OBEDIENCE
"An obedience discovered itself in Fletcher of Madeley, which
I wish I could describe or imitate. It produced in him a ready
mind to embrace every cross with alacrity and pleasure. He had a
singular love for the lambs of the flock, and applied himself with
the greatest diligence to their instruction, for which he had a
peculiar gift. . . . All his intercourse with me was so mingled
with prayer and praise, that every employment, and every meal was,
as it were, perfumed therewith." -- John Wesley.
UNDER the Mosaic law, obedience was looked upon as being "better
than sacrifice, and to harken, than the fat of lambs." In
Deuteronomy 5:29, Moses represents Almighty God declaring Himself
as to this very quality in a manner which left no doubt as to the
importance He laid upon its exercise. Referring to the waywardness
of His people He cries:
"O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear
Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well
with them, and with their children after them."
Unquestionably obedience is a high virtue, a soldier quality.
To obey belongs, preeminently, to the soldier. It is his first and
last lesson, and he must learn how to practice it all the time,
without question, uncomplainingly. Obedience, moreover, is faith
in action, and is the outflow as it is the very test of love. "He
that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth
Furthermore: obedience is the conserver and the life of love.
"If ye keep My commandments," says Jesus, "ye shall abide in
My love, even as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in
What a marvellous statement of the relationship created and
maintained by obedience! The Son of God is held in the bosom of
the Father's love, by virtue of His obedience! And the factor
which enables the Son of God to ever abide in His Father's love is
revealed in His own statement, "For I do, always, those things
that please Him."
The gift of the Holy Spirit in full measure and in richer
experience, depends upon loving obedience:
"If ye love Me, keep My commandments," is the Master's word.
"And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another
Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever."
Obedience to God is a condition of spiritual thrift, inward
satisfaction, stability of heart. "If ye be willing and obedient,
ye shall eat the fruit of the land." Obedience opens the gates of
the Holy City, and gives access to the tree of life.
"Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may
have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the
gates, into the city."
What is obedience? It is doing God's will: it is keeping His
commandments. How many of the commandments constitute obedience?
To keep half of them, and to break the other half -- is that real
obedience? To keep all the commandments but one -- is that
obedience? On this point, James the Apostle is most explicit:
"Whosoever shall keep the whole law," he declares, "and yet offend
in one point, he is guilty of all."
The spirit which prompts a man to break one commandment is
the spirit which may move him to break them all. God's
commandments are a unit, and to break one strikes at the principle
which underlies and runs through the whole. He who hesitates not
to break a single commandment, would -- it is more than probable
-- under the same stress, and surrounded by the same
circumstances, break them all.
Universal obedience of the race is demanded. Nothing short of
implicit obedience will satisfy God, and the keeping of all His
commandments is the demonstration of it that God requires. But can
we keep all of God's commandments? Can a man receive moral ability
such as enables him to obey every one of them? Certainly he can.
By every token, man can, through prayer, obtain ability to do this
Does God give commandments which men cannot obey? Is He so
arbitrary, so severe, so unloving, as to issue commandments which
cannot be obeyed? The answer is that in all the annals of Holy
Scripture, not a single instance is recorded of God having
commanded any man to do a thing, which was beyond his power. Is
God so unjust and so inconsiderate as to require of man that which
he is unable to render? Surely not. To infer it, is to slander the
character of God.
Let us ponder this thought, a moment: Do earthly parents
require of their children duties which they cannot perform? Where
is the father who would think, even, of being so unjust, and so
tyrannical? Is God less kind and just than faulty, earthly
parents? Are they better and more just than a perfect God? How
utterly foolish and untenable a thought!
In principle, obedience to God is the same quality as
obedience to earthly parents. It implies, in general effect, the
giving up of one's own way, and following that of another; the
surrendering of the will to the will of another; the submission of
oneself to the authority and requirements of a parent. Commands,
either from our heavenly Father or from our earthly father, are
love-directing, and all such commands are in the best interests of
those who are commanded. God's commands are issued neither in
severity nor tyranny. They are always issued in love and in our
interests, and so it behooves us to heed and obey them. In other
words, and appraised at its lowest value -- God having issued His
commands to us, in order to promote our good, it pays, therefore,
to be obedient. Obedience brings its own reward. God has ordained
it so, and since He has, even human reason can realize that He
would never demand that which is out of our power to render.
Obedience is love, fulfilling every command, love expressing
itself. Obedience, therefore, is not a hard demand made upon us,
any more than is the service a husband renders his wife, or a wife
renders her husband. Love delights to obey, and please whom it
loves. There are no hardships in love. There may be exactions, but
no irk. There are no impossible tasks for love.
With what simplicity and in what a matter-of-fact way does
the Apostle John say: "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him,
because we keep His commandments, and do those things which are
pleasing in His sight."
This is obedience, running ahead of all and every command. It
is love, obeying by anticipation. They greatly err, and even sin,
who declare that men are bound to commit iniquity, either because
of environment, or heredity, or tendency. God's commands are not
grievous. Their ways are ways of pleasantness, and their paths
peace. The task which falls to obedience is not a hard one. "For
My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."
Far be it from our heavenly Father, to demand impossibilities
of His children. It is possible to please Him in all things, for
He is not hard to please. He is neither a hard master, nor an
austere lord, "taking up that which he lays not down, and reaping
that which he did not sow." Thank God, it is possible for every
child of God, to please his heavenly Father! It is really much
easier to please Him than to please men. Moreover, we may know
when we please Him. This is the witness of the Spirit -- the
inward Divine assurance, given to all the children of God that
they are doing their Father's will, and that their ways are well-
pleasing in His sight.
God's commandments are righteous and founded in justice and
wisdom. "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and
just and good." "Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints."
God's commandments, then, can be obeyed by all who seek supplies
of grace which enable them to obey. These commandments must be
obeyed. God's government is at stake. God's children are under
obligation to obey Him; disobedience cannot be permitted. The
spirit of rebellion is the very essence of sin. It is repudiation
of God's authority, which God cannot tolerate. He never has done
so, and a declaration of His attitude was part of the reason the
Son of the Highest was made manifest among men:
"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through
the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful
flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the
righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not
after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
If any should complain that humanity, under the fall, is too
weak and helpless to obey these high commands of God, the reply is
in order that, through the atonement of Christ, man is enabled to
obey. The Atonement is God's Enabling Act. That which God works in
us, in regeneration and through the agency of the Holy Spirit,
bestows enabling grace sufficient for all that is required of us,
under the Atonement. This grace is furnished without measure, in
answer to prayer. So that, while God commands, He, at the same
time, stands pledged to give us all necessary strength of will and
grace of soul to meet His demands. This being true, man is without
excuse for his disobedience and eminently censurable for refusing,
or failing, to secure requisite grace, whereby he may serve the
Lord with reverence, and with godly fear.
There is one important consideration those who declare it to
be impossible to keep God's commandments strangely overlook, and
that is the vital truth, which declares that through prayer and
faith, man's nature is changed, and made partaker of the Divine
nature; that there is taken out of him all reluctance to obey God,
and that his natural inability to keep God's commandments, growing
out of his fallen and helpless state, is gloriously removed. By
this radical change which is wrought in his moral nature, a man
receives power to obey God in every way, and to yield full and
glad allegiance. Then he can say, "I delight to do Thy will, O my
God." Not only is the rebellion incident to the natural man
removed, but a heart which gladly obeys God's Word, blessedly
If it be claimed, that the unrenewed man, with all the
disabilities of the Fall upon him, cannot obey God, there will be
no denial. But to declare that, after one is renewed by the Holy
Spirit, has received a new nature, and become a child of the King,
he cannot obey God, is to assume a ridiculous attitude, and to
display, moreover, a lamentable ignorance of the work and
implications of the Atonement.
Implicit and perfect obedience is the state to which the man
of prayer is called. "Lifting up holy hands, without wrath and
doubting," is the condition of obedient praying. Here inward
fidelity and love, together with outward cleanness are put down as
concomitants of acceptable praying.
John gives the reason for answered prayer in the passage
previously quoted: "And whatsoever we ask we receive of Him
because we keep His commandments and do those things which are
pleasing in His sight."
Seeing that the keeping of God's commandments is here set
forth as the reason why He answers prayer, it is to be reasonably
assumed that we can keep God's commandments, can do those things
which are pleasing to Him. Would God make the keeping of His
commandments a condition of effectual prayer, think you, if He
knew we could not keep His statutes? Surely, surely not!
Obedience can ask with boldness at the Throne of grace, and
those who exercise it are the only ones who can ask, after that
fashion. The disobedient folk are timid in their approach and
hesitant in their supplication. They are halted by reason of their
wrong-doing. The requesting yet obedient child comes into the
presence of his father with confidence and boldness. His very
consciousness of obedience gives him courage and frees him from
the dread born of disobedience.
To do God's will without demur, is the joy as it is the
privilege of the successful praying-man. It is he who has clean
hands and a pure heart, that can pray with confidence. In the
Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter
into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My
Father which is in heaven."
To this great deliverance may be added another:
"If ye keep My commandments ye shall abide in My love, even
as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in His love."
"The Christian's trade," says Luther, "is prayer." But the
Christian has another trade to learn, before he proceeds to learn
the secrets of the trade of prayer. He must learn well the trade
of perfect obedience to the Father's will. Obedience follows love,
and prayer follows obedience. The business of real observance of
God's commandments inseparably accompanies the business of real
One who has been disobedient may pray. He may pray for
pardoning mercy and the peace of his soul. He may come to God's
footstool with tears, with confession, with penitent heart, and
God will hear him and answer his prayer. But this kind of praying
does not belong to the child of God, but to the penitent sinner,
who has no other way by which to approach God. It is the
possession of the unjustified soul, not of him who has been saved
and reconciled to God.
An obedient life helps prayer. It speeds prayer to the
throne. God cannot help hearing the prayer of an obedient child.
He always has heard His obedient children when they have prayed.
Unquestioning obedience counts much in the sight of God, at the
throne of heavenly grace. It acts like the confluent tides of many
rivers, and gives volume and fulness of flow as well as power to
the prayer chamber. An obedient life is not simply a reformed
life. It is not the old life primed and painted anew nor a church-
going life, nor a good veneering of activities. Neither is it an
external conformation to the dictates of public morality. Far more
than all this is combined in a truly obedient Christian, God-
A life of full obedience; a life settled on the most intimate
terms with God; where the will is in full conformity to God's
will; where the outward life shows the fruit of righteousness --
such a life offers no bar to the inner chamber but rather, like
Aaron and Hur, it lifts up and sustains the hands of prayer.
If you have an earnest desire to pray well, you must learn
how to obey well. If you have a desire to learn to pray, then you
must have an earnest desire to learn how to do God's will. If you
desire to pray to God, you must first have a consuming desire to
obey Him. If you would have free access to God in prayer, then
every obstacle in the nature of sin or disobedience, must be
removed. God delights in the prayers of obedient children.
Requests coming from the lips of those who delight to do His will,
reach His ears with great celerity, and incline Him to answer them
with promptitude and abundance. In themselves, tears are not
meritorious. Yet they have their uses in prayer. Tears should
baptize our place of supplication. He who has never wept
concerning his sins, has never really prayed over his sins. Tears,
sometimes, is a penitent's only plea. But tears are for the past,
for the sin and the wrongdoing. There is another step and stage,
waiting to be taken. It is that of unquestioning obedience, and
until it is taken, prayer for blessing and continued sustenance,
will be of no avail.
Everywhere in Holy Scripture God is represented as
disapproving of disobedience and condemning sin, and this is as
true in the lives of His elect as it is in the lives of sinners.
Nowhere does He countenance sin, or excuse disobedience. Always,
God puts the emphasis upon obedience to His commands. Obedience to
them brings blessing, disobedience meets with disaster. This is
true, in the Word of God, from its beginning to its close. It is
because of this, that the men of prayer, in Holy Writ, had such
influence with God. Obedient men, always, have been the closest to
God. These are they who have prayed well and have received great
things from God, who have brought great things to pass.
Obedience to God counts tremendously in the realm of prayer.
This fact cannot be emphasized too much or too often. To plead for
a religious faith which tolerates sinning, is to cut the ground
from under the feet of effectual praying. To excuse sinning by the
plea that obedience to God is not possible to unregenerate men, is
to discount the character of the new birth, and to place men where
effective praying is not possible. At one time Jesus broke out
with a very pertinent and personal question, striking right to the
core of disobedience, when He said: "Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord,
and do not the things I say?"
He who would pray, must obey. He who would get anything out
of his prayers, must be in perfect harmony with God. Prayer puts
into those who sincerely pray a spirit of obedience, for the
spirit of disobedience is not of God and belongs not to God's
An obedient life is a great help to prayer. In fact, an
obedient life is a necessity to prayer, to the sort which
accomplishes things. The absence of an obedient life makes prayer
an empty performance, a mere misnomer. A penitent sinner seeks
pardon and salvation and has an answer to his prayers even with a
life stained and debauched with sin. But God's royal intercessors
come before Him with royal lives. Holy living promotes holy
praying. God's intercessors "lift up holy hands," the symbols of
righteous, obedient lives.
X. PRAYER AND OBEDIENCE (Continued)
"Many exemplary men have I known, holy in heart and life,
within my four score years. But one equal to John Fletcher -- one
so inwardly and outwardly obedient and devoted to God -- I have
not known." -- John Wesley.
IT is worthy of note that the praying to which such transcendent
position is given and from which great results are attributable,
is not simply the saying of prayers, but holy praying. It is the
"prayers of the saints," the prayers of the holy men of God.
Behind such praying, giving to it energy and flame are the men and
women who are wholly devoted to God, who are entirely separated
from sin, and fully separated unto God. These are they who always
give energy, force and strength to praying.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was preeminent in praying, because He
was preeminent in saintliness. An entire dedication to God, a full
surrender, which carries with it the whole being, in a flame of
holy consecration -- all this gives wings to faith and energy to
prayer. It opens the door to the throne of grace, and brings
strong influence to bear on Almighty God.
The "lifting up of holy hands" is essential to Christly
praying. It is not, however, a holiness which only dedicates a
closet to God, which sets apart merely an hour to Him, but a
consecration which takes hold of the entire man, which dedicates
the whole life to God.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate
from sinners," had full liberty of approach and ready access to
God in prayer. And He had this free and full access because of His
unquestioning obedience to His Father. Right through His earthly
life His supreme care and desire was to do the will of His Father.
And this fact, coupled with another -- the consciousness of having
so ordered His life -- gave Him confidence and assurance, which
enabled Him to draw near to the throne of grace with unbounded
confidence, born of obedience, and promising acceptance, audience,
Loving obedience puts us where we can "ask anything in His
name," with the assurance, that "He will do it." Loving obedience
brings us into the prayer realm, and makes us beneficiaries of the
wealth of Christ, and of the riches of His grace, through the
coming of the Holy Spirit who will abide with us, and be in us.
Cheerful obedience to God, qualifies us to pray effectually.
This obedience which not only qualifies but fore-runs prayer,
must be loving, constant, always doing the Father's will, and
cheerfully following the path of God's commands.
In the instance of King Hezekiah, it was a potent plea which
changed God's decree that he should die and not live. The stricken
ruler called upon God to remember how that he had walked before
Him in truth, and with a perfect heart. With God, this counted. He
hearkened to the petition, and, as a result, death found his
approach to Hezekiah barred for fifteen years.
Jesus learned obedience in the school of suffering, and, at
the same time, He learned prayer in the school of obedience. Just
as it is the prayer of a righteous man which availeth much, so it
is righteousness which is obedience to God. A righteous man is an
obedient man, and he it is, who can pray effectually, who can
accomplish great things when he betakes himself to his knees.
True praying, be it remembered, is not mere sentiment, nor
poetry, nor eloquent utterance. Nor does it consist of saying in
honeyed cadences, "Lord, Lord." Prayer is not a mere form of
words; it is not just calling upon a Name. Prayer is obedience. It
is founded on the adamantine rock of obedience to God. Only those
who obey have the right to pray. Behind the praying must be the
doing; and it is the constant doing of God's will in daily life
which gives prayer its potency, as our Lord plainly taught:
"Not every one which saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter
into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My
Father which is in heaven. Many will say unto Me in that day,
Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name, and in Thy Name have
cast out devils? And in Thy Name done many wonderful works? And
then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me,
ye that worketh iniquity."
No name, however precious and powerful, can protect and give
efficiency to prayer which is unaccompanied by the doing of God's
will. Neither can the doing, without the praying, protect from
Divine disapproval. If the will of God does not master the life,
the praying will be nothing but sickly sentiment. If prayer do not
inspire, sanctify and direct our work, then self-will enters, to
ruin both work and worker.
How great and manifold are the misconceptions of the true
elements and functionings of prayer! There are many who earnestly
desire to obtain an answer to their prayers but who go unrewarded
and unblest. They fix their minds on some promise of God and then
endeavour by dint of dogged perseverance, to summon faith
sufficient to lay hold upon, and claim it. This fixing of the mind
on some great promise may avail in strengthening faith, but, to
this holding on to the promise must be added the persistent and
importunate prayer that expects, and waits till faith grows
exceedingly. And who is there that is able and competent to do
such praying save the man who readily, cheerfully and continually,
Faith, in its highest form, is the attitude as well as the
act of a soul surrendered to God, in whom His Word and His Spirit
dwells. It is true that faith must exist in some form, or another,
in order to prompt praying; but in its strongest form, and in its
largest results, faith is the fruit of prayer. That faith
increases the ability and the efficiency of prayer is true; but it
is likewise true that prayer increases the ability and efficiency
of faith. Prayer and faith, work, act and react, one upon the
Obedience to God helps faith as no other attribute possibly
can. When obedience -- implicit recognition of the validity, the
paramountcy of the Divine commands -- faith ceases to be an almost
superhuman task. It requires no straining to exercise it.
Obedience to God makes it easy to believe and trust God. Where the
spirit of obedience fully impregnates the soul; where the will is
perfectly surrendered to God; where there is a fixed, unalterable
purpose to obey God, faith almost believes itself. Faith then
becomes almost involuntary. After obedience it is, naturally, the
next step, and it is easily and readily taken. The difficulty in
prayer is not with faith, but with obedience, which is faith's
We must look well to our obedience, to the secret springs of
action, to the loyalty of our heart to God, if we would pray well,
and desire to get the most out of our praying. Obedience is the
groundwork of effectual praying; this it is, which brings us nigh
The lack of obedience in our lives breaks down our praying.
Quite often, the life is in revolt and this places us where
praying is almost impossible, except it be for pardoning mercy.
Disobedient living produces mighty poor praying. Disobedience
shuts the door of the inner chamber, and bars the way to the Holy
of holies. No man can pray -- really pray -- who does not obey.
The will must be surrendered to God as a primary condition of
all successful praying. Everything about us gets its colouring
from our inmost character. The secret will makes character and
controls conduct. The will, therefore, plays an important part in
all successful praying. There can be no praying in its richest
implication and truest sense, where the will is not wholly and
fully surrendered to God. This unswerving loyalty to God is an
utterly indispensable condition of the best, the truest, the most
effectual praying. We have "simply got to trust and obey; there's
no other way, to be happy in Jesus -- but to trust, and obey! "
XI. PRAYER AND VIGILANCE
"David Brainerd was pursued by unearthly adversaries, who
were resolved to rob him of his guerdon. He knew he must never
quit his armour, but lie down to rest, with his corselet laced.
The stains that marred the perfection of his lustrous dress, the
spots of rust on his gleaming shield, are imperceptible to us; but
they were, to him, the source of much sorrow and ardency of
yearning." -- Life Of David Brainerd.
THE description of the Christian soldier given by Paul in the
sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, is compact and
comprehensive. He is depicted as being ever in the conflict, which
has many fluctuating seasons -- seasons of prosperity and
adversity, light and darkness, victory and defeat. He is to pray
at all seasons, and with all prayer, this to be added to the
armour in which he is to fare forth to battle. At all times, he is
to have the full panoply of prayer. The Christian soldier, if he
fight to win, must pray much. By this means, only, is he enabled
to defeat his inveterate enemy, the devil, together with the Evil
One's manifold emissaries. "Praying always, with all prayer," is
the Divine direction given him. This covers all seasons, and
embraces all manner of praying.
Christian soldiers, fighting the good fight of faith, have
access to a place of retreat, to which they continually repair for
prayer. "Praying always, with all prayer," is a clear statement of
the imperative need of much praying, and of many kinds of praying,
by him who, fighting the good fight of faith, would win out, in
the end, over all his foes.
The Revised Version puts it this way:
"With all prayer and supplication, praying at all seasons in
the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and
supplications, for all saints, and on my behalf, that utterance
may be given unto me, in opening my mouth to make known with
boldness the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am in bonds."
It cannot be stated too frequently that the life of a
Christian is a warfare, an intense conflict, a lifelong contest.
It is a battle, moreover, waged against invisible foes, who are
ever alert, and ever seeking to entrap, deceive, and ruin the
souls of men. The life to which Holy Scripture calls men is no
picnic, or holiday junketing. It is no pastime, no pleasure jaunt.
It entails effort, wrestling, struggling; it demands the putting
forth of the full energy of the spirit in order to frustrate the
foe and to come off, at the last, more than conqueror. It is no
primrose path, no rose-scented dalliance. From start to finish, it
is war. From the hour in which he first draws sword, to that in
which he doffs his harness, the Christian warrior is compelled to
"endure hardness like a good soldier."
What a misconception many people have of the Christian life!
How little the average church member appears to know of the
character of the conflict, and of its demands upon him! How
ignorant he seems to be of the enemies he must encounter, if he
engage to serve God faithfully and so succeed in getting to heaven
and receive the crown of life! He seems scarcely to realize that
the world, the flesh and the devil will oppose his onward march,
and will defeat him utterly, unless he give himself to constant
vigilance and unceasing prayer.
The Christian soldier wrestles not against flesh and blood,
but against spiritual wickedness in high places. Or, as the
Scriptural margin reads, "wicked spirits in high places." What a
fearful array of forces are set against him who would make his way
through the wilderness of this world to the portals of the
Celestial City! It is no surprise, therefore, to find Paul, who
understood the character of the Christian life so well, and who
was so thoroughly informed as to the malignity and number of the
foes, which the disciple of the Lord must encounter, carefully and
plainly urging him to "put on the whole armour of God," and "to
pray with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit." Wise, with a
great wisdom, would the present generation be if all professors of
our faith could be induced to realize this all-important and vital
truth, which is so absolutely indispensable to a successful
It is just at this point in much present-day Christian
profession, that one may find its greatest defect. There is
little, or nothing, of the soldier element in it. The discipline,
self-denial, spirit of hardship, determination, so prominent in
and belonging to the military life, are, one and all, largely
wanting. Yet the Christian life is warfare, all the way.
How comprehensive, pointed and striking are all Paul's
directions to the Christian soldier, who is bent on thwarting the
devil and saving his soul alive! First of all, he must possess a
clear idea of the character of the life on which he has entered.
Then, he must know something of his foes -- the adversaries of his
immortal soul -- their strength, their skill, their malignity.
Knowing, therefore, something of the character of the enemy, and
realizing the need of preparation to overcome them, he is prepared
to hear the Apostle's decisive conclusion:
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in he power
of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able
to stand against the wiles of the devil. Wherefore, take unto you
the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand in the evil
day, and having done all, to stand."
All these directions end in a climax; and that climax is
prayer. How can the brave warrior for Christ be made braver still?
How can the strong soldier be made stronger still? How can the
victorious battler be made still more victorious? Here are Paul's
explicit directions to that end:
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the
Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and
supplication for all saints."
Prayer, and more prayer, adds to the fighting qualities and
the more certain victories of God's good fighting-men. The power
of prayer is most forceful on the battle-field amid the din and
strife of the conflict. Paul was preeminently a soldier of the
Cross. For him, life was no flowery bed of ease. He was no dress-
parade, holiday soldier, whose only business was to don a uniform
on set occasions. His was a life of intense conflict, the facing
of many adversaries, the exercise of unsleeping vigilance and
constant effort. And, at its close -- in sight of the end -- we
hear him chanting his final song of victory, a I have fought a
good fight," and reading between the lines, we see that he is more
In his Epistle to the Romans, Paul indicates the nature of
his soldier-life, giving us some views of the kind of praying
needed for such a career. He writes:
"Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's
sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with
me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from
them that do not believe in Judaea."
Paul had foes in Judaea -- foes who beset and opposed him in
the form of "unbelieving men" and this, added to other weighty
reasons, led him to urge the Roman Christians to "strive with him
in prayer." That word "strive" indicated wrestling, the putting
forth of great effort. This is the kind of effort, and this the
sort of spirit, which must possess the Christian soldier.
Here is a great soldier, a captain-general, in the great
struggle, faced by malignant forces who seek his ruin. His force
is well-nigh spent. What reinforcements can he count on? What can
give help and bring success to a warrior in such a pressing
emergency? It is a critical moment in the conflict. What force can
be added to the energy of his own prayers? The answer is -- in the
prayers of others, even the prayers of his brethren who were at
Rome. These, he believes, will bring him additional aid, so that
he can win his fight, overcome his adversaries, and, ultimately,
The Christian soldier is to pray at all seasons, and under
all circumstances. His praying must be arranged so as to cover his
times of peace as well as his hours of active conflict. It must be
available in his marching and his fighting. Prayer must diffuse
all effort, impregnate all ventures, decide all issues. The
Christian soldier must be as intense in his praying as in his
fighting, for his victories will depend very much more on his
praying than on his fighting. Fervent supplication must be added
to steady resolve, prayer and supplication must supplement the
armour of God. The Holy Spirit must aid the supplication with His
own strenuous plea. And the soldier must pray in the Spirit. In
this, as in other forms of warfare, eternal vigilance is the price
of victory; and thus, watchfulness and persistent perseverance,
must mark the every activity of the Christian warrior.
The soldier-prayer must reflect its profound concern for the
success and well-being of the whole army. The battle is not
altogether a personal matter; victory cannot be achieved for self,
alone. There is a sense, in which the entire army of Christ is
involved. The cause of God, His saints, their woes and trials,
their duties and crosses, all should find a voice and a pleader in
the Christian soldier, when he prays. He dare not limit his
praying to himself. Nothing dries up spiritual secretions so
certainly and completely; nothing poisons the fountain of
spiritual life so effectively; nothing acts in such deadly
fashion, as selfish praying.
Note carefully that the Christian's armour will avail him
nothing, unless prayer be added. This is the pivot, the connecting
link of the armour of God. This holds it together, and renders it
effective. God's true soldier plans his campaigns, arranges his
battle-forces, and conducts his conflicts, with prayer. It is all
important and absolutely essential to victory, that prayer should
so impregnate the life that every breath will be a petition, every
sigh a supplication. The Christian soldier must needs be always
fighting. He should, of sheer necessity, be always praying.
The Christian soldier is compelled to constant picket-duty.
He must always be on his guard. He is faced by a foe who never
sleeps, who is always alert, and ever prepared to take advantage
of the fortunes of war. Watchfulness is a cardinal principle with
Christ's warrior, "watch and pray," forever sounding in his ears.
He cannot dare to be asleep at his post. Such a lapse brings him
not only under the displeasure of the Captain of his salvation,
but exposes him to added danger. Watchfulness, therefore,
imperatively constitutes the duty of the soldier of the Lord.
In the New Testament, there are three different words, which
are translated "watch." The first means "absence of sleep," and
implies a wakeful frame of mind, as opposed to listlessness; it is
an enjoinder to keep awake, circumspect, attentive, constant,
vigilant. The second word means "fully awake," -- a state induced
by some rousing effort, which faculty excited to attention and
interest, active, cautious, lest through carelessness or
indolence, some destructive calamity should suddenly evolve. The
third word means "to be calm and collected in spirit,"
dispassionate, untouched by slumberous or beclouding influences, a
wariness against all pitfalls and beguilements.
All three definitions are used by St. Paul. Two of them are
employed in connection with prayer. Watchfulness intensified, is a
requisite for prayer. Watchfulness must guard and cover the whole
spiritual man, and fit him for prayer. Everything resembling
unpreparedness or non-vigilance, is death to prayer.
In Ephesians, Paul gives prominence to the duty of constant
watchfulness, "Watching thereunto with all perseverance and
supplication." Watch, he says, watch, WATCH! "And what I say unto
you, I say unto all, Watch."
Sleepless wakefulness is the price one must pay for victory
over his spiritual foes. Rest assured that the devil never falls
asleep. He is ever "walking about, seeking whom he may devour."
Just as a shepherd must never be careless and unwatchful lest the
wolf devour his sheep, so the Christian soldier must ever have his
eyes wide open, implying his possession of a spirit which neither
slumbers nor grows careless. The inseparable companions and
safeguards of prayer are vigilance, watchfulness, and a mounted
guard. In writing to the Colossians Paul brackets these
inseparable qualities together: "Continue in prayer," he enjoins,
"and watch in the same, with thanksgiving."
When will Christians more thoroughly learn the twofold
lesson, that they are called to a great warfare, and that in order
to get the victory they must give themselves to unsleeping
watchfulness and unceasing prayer?
"Be sober, be vigilant," says Peter, "because your adversary,
the devil, walketh about seeking whom he may devour."
God's Church is a militant host. Its warfare is with unseen
forces of evil. God's people compose an army fighting to establish
His kingdom in the earth. Their aim is to destroy the sovereignty
of Satan, and over its ruins, erect the Kingdom of God, which is
"righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." This militant
army is composed of individual soldiers of the Cross, and the
armour of God is needed for its defence. Prayer must be added as
that which crowns the whole.
"Stand then in His great might,
With all His strength endued;
But take, to arm you for the fight,
The panoply of God."
Prayer is too simple, too evident a duty, to need definition.
Necessity gives being and shape to prayer. Its importance is so
absolute, that the Christian soldier's life, in all the breadth
and intensity of it, should be one of prayer. The entire life of a
Christian soldier -- its being, intention, implication and action
-- are all dependent on its being a life of prayer. Without prayer
-- no matter what else he have -- the Christian soldier's life
will be feeble, and ineffective, and constitute him an easy prey
for his spiritual enemies.
Christian experience will be sapless, and Christian influence
will be dry and arid, unless prayer has a high place in the life.
Without prayer the Christian graces will wither and die. Without
prayer, we may add, preaching is edgeless and a vain thing, and
the Gospel loses its wings and its loins. Christ is the lawgiver
of prayer, and Paul is His Apostle of prayer. Both declare its
primacy and importance, and demonstrate the fact of its
indispensability. Their prayer-directions cover all places,
include all times, and comprehend all things. How, then, can the
Christian soldier hope or dream of victory, unless he be fortified
by its power? How can he fail, if in addition to putting on the
armour of God he be, at all times and seasons, "watching unto
XII. PRAYER AND THE WORD OF GOD
"How constantly, in the Scriptures, do we encounter such
words as 'field,' 'seed,' 'sower,' 'reaper,' 'seed-time,'
'harvest'! Employing such metaphors interprets a fact of nature by
a parable of grace. The field is the world and the good seed is
the Word of God .Whether the Word be spoken or written, it is the
power of God unto salvation. In our work of evangelism, the whole
world is our field, every creature the object of effort and every
book and tract, a seed of God." -- David Fant, Jr.
GOD'S Word is a record of prayer -- of praying men and their
achievements, of the Divine warrant of prayer and of the
encouragement given to those who pray. No one can read the
instances, commands, examples, multiform statements which concern
themselves with prayer, without realizing that the cause of God,
and the success of His work in this world is committed to prayer;
that praying men have been God's vicegerents on earth; that
prayerless men have never been used of Him.
A reverence for God's holy Name is closely related to a high
regard for His Word. This hallowing of God's Name; the ability to
do His will on earth, as it is done in heaven; the establishment
and glory of God's kingdom, are as much involved in prayer, as
when Jesus taught men the Universal Prayer. That "men ought always
to pray and not to faint," is as fundamental to God's cause,
today, as when Jesus Christ enshrined that great truth in the
immortal settings of the Parable of the Importunate Widow.
As God's house is called "the house of prayer," because
prayer is the most important of its holy offices; so by the same
token, the Bible may be called the Book of Prayer. Prayer is the
great theme and content of its message to mankind.
God's Word is the basis, as it is the directory of the prayer
of faith. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all
wisdom," says St. Paul, "teaching and admonishing one another in
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your
hearts to the Lord."
As this word of Christ dwelling in us richly is transmuted
and assimilated, it issues in praying. Faith is constructed of the
Word and the Spirit, and faith is the body and substance of
In many of its aspects, prayer is dependent upon the Word of
God. Jesus says:
"If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask
what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
The Word of God is the fulcrum upon which the lever of prayer
is placed, and by which things are mightily moved. God has
committed Himself, His purpose and His promise to prayer. His Word
becomes the basis, the inspiration of our praying, and there are
circumstances under which, by importunate prayer, we may obtain an
addition, or an enlargement of His promises. It is said of the old
saints that they, "through faith obtained promises." There would
seem to be in prayer the capacity for going even beyond the Word,
of getting even beyond His promise, into the very presence of God,
Jacob wrestled, not so much with a promise, as with the
Promiser. We must take hold of the Promiser, lest the promise
prove nugatory. Prayer may well be defined as that force which
vitalizes and energizes the Word of God, by taking hold of God,
Himself. By taking hold of the Promiser, prayer reissues, and
makes personal the promise. "There is none that stirreth up
himself to take hold of Me," is God's sad lament. "Let him take
hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me," is God's
recipe for prayer.
By Scriptural warrant, prayer may be divided into the
petition of faith and that of submission. The prayer of faith is
based on the written Word, for "faith cometh by hearing, and
hearing by the Word of God." It receives its answer, inevitably --
the very thing for which it prays.
The prayer of submission is without a definite word of
promise, so to speak, but takes hold of God with a lowly and
contrite spirit, and asks and pleads with Him, for that which the
soul desires. Abraham had no definite promise that God would spare
Sodom. Moses had no definite promise that God would spare Israel;
on the contrary, there was the declaration of His wrath, and of
His purpose to destroy. But the devoted leader gained his plea
with God, when he interceded for the Israelites with incessant
prayers and many tears. Daniel had no definite promise that God
would reveal to him the meaning of the king's dream, but he prayed
specifically, and God answered definitely.
The Word of God is made effectual and operative, by the
process and practice of prayer. The Word of the Lord came to
Elijah, "Go show thyself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the
earth." Elijah showed himself to Ahab; but the answer to his
prayer did not come, until he had pressed his fiery prayer upon
the Lord seven times.
Paul had the definite promise from Christ, that he "would be
delivered from the people and the Gentiles," but we find him
exhorting the Romans in the urgent and solemn manner concerning
this very matter:
"Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's
sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with
me in your prayers to God for me; that I may be delivered from
them that do not believe in Judaea, and that my service which I
have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints."
The Word of God is a great help in prayer. If it be lodged
and written in our hearts, it will form an outflowing current of
prayer, full and irresistible. Promises, stored in the heart, are
to be the fuel from which prayer receives life and warmth, just as
the coal, stored in the earth, ministers to our comfort on stormy
days and wintry nights. The Word of God is the food, by which
prayer is nourished and made strong. Prayer, like man, cannot live
by bread alone, "but by every word which proceedeth out of the
mouth of the Lord."
Unless the vital forces of prayer are supplied by God's Word,
prayer, though earnest, even vociferous, in its urgency, is, in
reality, flabby, and vapid, and void. The absence of vital force
in praying, can be traced to the absence of a constant supply of
God's Word, to repair the waste, and renew the life. He who would
learn to pray well, must first study God's Word, and store it in
his memory and thought.
When we consult God's Word, we find that no duty is more
binding, more exacting, than that of prayer. On the other hand, we
discover that no privilege is more exalted, no habit more richly
owned of God. No promises are more radiant, more abounding, more
explicit, more often reiterated, than those which are attached to
prayer. "All things, whatsoever" are received by prayer, because
"all things whatsoever" are promised. There is no limit to the
provisions, included in the promises to prayer, and no exclusion
from its promises. "Every one that asketh, receiveth." The word of
our Lord is to this all-embracing effect: "If ye shall ask
anything in My Name, I will do it."
Here are some of the comprehensive, and exhaustive statements
of the Word of God about prayer, the things to be taken in by
prayer, the strong promise made in answer to prayer:
"Pray without ceasing;" "continue in prayer;" "continuing
instant in prayer;" "in everything by prayer, let your request be
made known unto God;" "pray always, pray and not faint;" "men
should pray everywhere;" "praying always, with all prayer and
What clear and strong statements are those which are put in
the Divine record, to furnish us with a sure basis of faith, and
to urge, constrain and encourage us to pray! How wide the range of
prayer, as given us, in the Divine Revelation! How these
Scriptures incite us to seek the God of prayer, with all our
wants, with all our burdens!
In addition to these statements left on record for our
encouragement, the sacred pages teem with facts, examples,
incidents, and observations, stressing the importance and the
absolute necessity of prayer, and putting emphasis on its all-
The utmost reach and full benefit of the rich promises of the
Word of God, should humbly be received by us, and put to the test.
The world will never receive the full benefits of the Gospel until
this be done. Neither Christian experience nor Christian living
will be what they ought to be till these Divine promises have been
fully tested by those who pray. By prayer, we bring these promises
of God's holy will into the realm of the actual and the real.
Prayer is the philosopher's stone which transmutes them into gold.
If it be asked, what is to be done in order to render God's
promises real, the answer is, that we must pray, until the words
of the promise are clothed upon with the rich raiment of
God's promises are altogether too large to be mastered by
desultory praying. When we examine ourselves, all too often, we
discover that our praying does not rise to the demands of the
situation; is so limited that it is little more than a mere oasis
amid the waste and desert of the world's sin. Who of us, in our
praying, measures up to this promise of our Lord:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the
works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these
shall he do, because I go to My Father."
How comprehensive, how far reaching, how all-embracing! How
much is here, for the glory of God, how much for the good of man!
How much for the manifestation of Christ's enthroned power, how
much for the reward of abundant faith! And how great and gracious
are the results which can be made to accrue from the exercise of
commensurate, believing prayer!
Look, for a moment, at another of God's great promises, and
discover how we may be undergirded by the Word as we pray, and on
what firm ground we may stand on which to make our petitions to
"If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask
what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
In these comprehensive words, God turns Himself over to the
will of His people. When Christ becomes our all-in-all, prayer
lays God's treasures at our feet. Primitive Christianity had an
easy and practical solution of the situation, and got all which
God had to give. That simple and terse solution is recorded in
John's First Epistle:
"Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His
commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in His
Prayer, coupled with loving obedience, is the way to put God
to the test, and to make prayer answer all ends and all things.
Prayer, joined to the Word of God, hallows and makes sacred all
God's gifts. Prayer is not simply to get things from God, but to
make those things holy, which already have been received from Him.
It is not merely to get a blessing, but also to be able to give a
blessing. Prayer makes common things holy and secular things,
sacred. It receives things from God with thanksgiving and hallows
them with thankful hearts, and devoted service.
In the First Epistle to Timothy, Paul gives us these words:
"For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be
refused, if it be received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified
by the word of God and prayer."
That is a statement which gives a negative to mere
asceticism. God's good gifts are to be holy, not only by God's
creative power, but, also, because they are made holy to us by
prayer. We receive them, appropriate them and sanctify them by
Doing God's will, and having His Word abiding in us, is an
imperative of effectual praying. But, it may be asked, how are we
to know what God's will is? The answer is, by studying His Word,
by hiding it in our hearts, and by letting the Word dwell in us
richly. "The entrance of Thy word, giveth light."
To know God's will in prayer, we must be filled with God's
Spirit, who maketh intercession for the saints, and in the saints,
according to the will of God. To be filled with God's Spirit, to
be filled with God's Word, is to know God's will. It is to be put
in such a frame of mind, to be found in such a state of heart, as
will enable us to read and interpret aright the purposes of the
Infinite. Such filling of the heart, with the Word and the Spirit,
gives us an insight into the will of the Father, and enables us to
rightly discern His will, and puts within us, a disposition of
mind and heart to make it the guide and compass of our lives.
Epaphras prayed that the Colossians might stand "perfect and
complete in all the will of God." This is proof positive that, not
only may we know the will of God, but that we may know all the
will of God. And not only may we know all the will of God, but we
may do all the will of God. We may, moreover, do all the will of
God, not occasionally, or by a mere impulse, but with a settled
habit of conduct. Still further, it shows us that we may not only
do the will of God externally, but from the heart, doing it
cheerfully, without reluctance, or secret disinclination, or any
drawing or holding back from the intimate presence of the Lord.
XIII. PRAYER AND THE WORD OF GOD (Continued)
"Some years ago a man was travelling in the wilds of
Kentucky. He had with him a large sum of money and was well armed.
He put up at a log-house one night, but was much concerned with
the rough appearance of the men who came and went from this abode.
He retired early but not to sleep. At midnight he heard the dogs
barking furiously and the sound of someone entering the cabin.
Peering through a chink in the boards of his room, he saw a
stranger with a gun in his hand. Another man sat before the fire.
The traveller concluded they were planning to rob him, and
prepared to defend himself and his property. Presently the
newcomer took down a copy of the Bible, read a chapter aloud, and
then knelt down and prayed. The traveller dismissed his fears, put
his revolver away and lay down, to sleep peacefully until morning
light. And all because a Bible was in the cabin, and its owner a
man of prayer." -- Rev. F. F. Shoup.
PRAYER has all to do with the success of the preaching of the
Word. This, Paul clearly teaches in that familiar and pressing
request he made to the Thessalonians:
"Finally, brethren, pray for us that the Word of the Lord may
have free course, and be glorified."
Prayer opens the way for the Word of God to run without let
or hindrance, and creates the atmosphere which is favourable to
the word accomplishing its purpose. Prayer puts wheels under God's
Word, and gives wings to the angel of the Lord "having the
everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth,
and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." Prayer
greatly helps the Word of the Lord.
The Parable of the Sower is a notable study of preaching,
showing its differing effects and describing the diversity of
hearers. The wayside hearers are legion. The soil lies all
unprepared either by previous thought or prayer; as a consequence,
the devil easily takes away the seed (which is the Word of God)
and dissipating all good impressions, renders the work of the
sower futile. No one for a moment believes, that so much of
present-day sowing would go fruitless if only the hearers would
prepare the ground of their hearts beforehand by prayer and
Similarly with the stony-ground hearers, and the thorny-
ground hearers. Although the word lodges in their hearts and
begins to sprout, yet all is lost, chiefly because there is no
prayer or watchfulness or cultivation following. The good-ground
hearers are profited by the sowing, simply because their minds
have been prepared for the reception of the seed, and that, after
hearing, they have cultivated the seed sown in their hearts, by
the exercise of prayer. All this gives peculiar emphasis to the
conclusion of this striking parable: "Take heed, therefore, how ye
hear." And in order that we may take heed how we hear, it is
needful to give ourselves continually to prayer.
We have got to believe that underlying God's Word is prayer,
and upon prayer, its final success will depend. In the Book of
Isaiah we read:
"So shall My word be that goeth out of My mouth; it shall not
return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please,
and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
In Psalm 19, David magnifies the Word of God in six
statements concerning it. It converts the soul, makes wise the
simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, endures
eternally, and is true and righteous altogether. The Word of God
is perfect, sure, right, pure. It is heart-searching, and at the
same time purifying, in its effect. It is no surprise therefore
that after considering the deep spirituality of the Word of God,
its power to search the inner nature of man, and its deep purity,
the Psalmist should close his dissertation with this passage:
"Who can understand his errors?" And then praying after this
fashion: "Cleanse Thou me from secret faults. Keep back Thy
servant also from presumptuous sins. Let them not have dominion
over me. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my
heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my
James recognizes the deep spirituality of the Word, and its
inherent saving power, in the following exhortation:
"Wherefore, lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of
naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which
is able to save your souls."
And Peter talks along the same line, when describing the
saving power of the Word of God:
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of
incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth
Not only does Peter speak of being born again, by the
incorruptible Word of God, but he informs us that to grow in grace
we must be like new-born babes, desiring or feeding upon the
"sincere milk of the Word."
That is not to say, however, that the mere form of words as
they occur in the Bible have in them any saving efficacy. But the
Word of God, be it remembered, is impregnated with the Holy
Spirit. And just as there is a Divine element in the words of
Scripture, so also is the same Divine element to be found in all
true preaching of the Word, which is able to save and convert the
Prayer invariably begets a love for the Word of God, and sets
people to the reading of it. Prayer leads people to obey the Word
of God, and puts into the heart which obeys a joy unspeakable.
Praying people and Bible-reading people are the same sort of folk.
The God of the Bible and the God of prayer are one. God speaks to
man in the Bible; man speaks to God in prayer. One reads the Bible
to discover God's will; he prays in order that he may receive
power to do that will. Bible-reading and praying are the
distinguishing traits of those who strive to know and please God.
And just as prayer begets a love for the Scriptures, and sets
people to reading the Bible, so, also, does prayer cause men and
women to visit the house of God, to hear the Scriptures expounded.
Church-going is closely connected with the Bible, not so much
because the Bible cautions us against "forsaking the assembling of
ourselves together as the manner of some is," but because in God's
house, God's chosen minister declares His Word to dying men,
explains the Scriptures, and enforces their teachings upon his
hearers. And prayer germinates a resolve, in those who practise
it, not to forsake the house of God.
Prayer begets a church-going conscience, a church-loving
heart, a church-supporting spirit. It is the praying people, who
make it a matter of conscience, to attend the preaching of the
Word; who delight in its reading; exposition; who support it with
their influence and their means. Prayer exalts the Word of God and
gives it preeminence in the estimation of those who faithfully and
wholeheartedly call upon the Name of the Lord.
Prayer draws its very life from the Bible, and has no
standing ground outside of the warrant of the Scriptures. Its very
existence and character is dependent on revelation made by God to
man in His holy Word. Prayer, in turn, exalts this same
revelation, and turns men toward that Word. The nature, necessity
and all-comprehending character of prayer, is based on the Word of
Psalm 119 is a directory of God's Word. With three or four
exceptions, each verse contains a word which identifies, or
locates, the Word of God. Quite often, the writer breaks out into
supplication, several times praying, "Teach me Thy statutes." So
deeply impressed is he with the wonders of God's Word, and of the
need for Divine illumination wherewith to see and understand the
wonderful things recorded therein, that he fervently prays:
"Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out
of Thy law."
From the opening of this wonderful Psalm to its close, prayer
and God's Word are intertwined. Almost every phase of God's Word
is touched upon by this inspired writer. So thoroughly convinced
was the Psalmist of the deep spiritual power of the Word of God
that he makes this declaration:
"Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against
Here the Psalmist found his protection against sinning. By
having God's Word hidden in his heart; in having his whole being
thoroughly impregnated with that Word; in being brought completely
under its benign and gracious influence, he was enabled to walk to
and fro in the earth, safe from the attack of the Evil One, and
fortified against a proneness to wander out of the way.
We find, furthermore, the power of prayer to create a real
love for the Scriptures, and to put within men a nature which will
take pleasure in the Word. In holy ecstasy he cries, "O, how I
love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day." And again: "How
sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my
Would we have a relish for God's Word? Then let us give
ourselves continually to prayer. He who would have a heart for the
reading of the Bible must not -- dare not -- forget to pray. The
man of whom it can be said, "His delight is in the law of the
Lord," is the man who can truly say, "I delight to visit the place
of prayer." No man loves the Bible, who does not love to pray. No
man loves to pray, who does not delight in the law of the Lord.
Our Lord was a man of prayer, and He magnified the Word of
God, quoting often from the Scriptures. Right through His earthly
life Jesus observed Sabbath-keeping, church-going and the reading
of the Word of God, and had prayer intermingled with them all:
"And He came to Nazareth where He had been brought up, and as
His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath Day, and
stood up to read."
Here, let it be said, that no two things are more essential
to a spirit-filled life than Bible-reading and secret prayer; no
two things more helpful to growth in grace; to getting the largest
joy out of a Christian life; toward establishing one in the ways
of eternal peace. The neglect of these all-important duties,
presages leanness of soul, loss of joy, absence of peace, dryness
of spirit, decay in all that pertains to spiritual life.
Neglecting these things paves the way for apostasy, and gives the
Evil One an advantage such as he is not likely to ignore. Reading
God's Word regularly, and praying habitually in the secret place
of the Most High puts one where he is absolutely safe from the
attacks of the enemy of souls, and guarantees him salvation and
final victory, through the overcoming power of the Lamb.
XIV. PRAYER AND THE HOUSE OF GOD
"And dear to me the loud 'Amen,'
Which echoes through the blest abode --
Which swells, and sinks, then swells again,
Dies on the walls -- but lives with God! "
PRAYER stands related to places, times, occasions and
circumstances. It has to do with God and with everything which is
related to God, and it has an intimate and special relationship to
His house. A church is a sacred place, set apart from all
unhallowed and secular uses, for the worship of God. As worship is
prayer, the house of God is a place set apart for worship. It is
no common place; it is where God dwells, where He meets with His
people, and He delights in the worship of His saints.
Prayer is always in place in the house of God. When prayer is
a stranger there, then it ceases to be God's house at all. Our
Lord put peculiar emphasis upon what the Church was when He cast
out the buyers and sellers in the Temple, repeating the words from
Isaiah, "It is written, My house shall be called the house of
prayer." He makes prayer preeminent, that which stands out above
all else in the house of God. They, who sidetrack prayer or seek
to minify it, and give it a secondary place, pervert the Church of
God, and make it something less and other than it is ordained to
Prayer is perfectly at home in the house of God. It is no
stranger, no mere guest; it belongs there. It has a peculiar
affinity for the place, and has, moreover, a Divine right there,
being set, therein, by Divine appointment and approval.
The inner chamber is a sacred place for personal worship. The
house of God is a holy place for united worship. The prayer-closet
is for individual prayer. The house of God is for mutual prayer,
concerted prayer, united prayer. Yet even in the house of God,
there is the element of private worship, since God's people are to
worship Him and pray to Him, personally, even in public worship.
The Church is for the united prayer of kindred, yet individual
The life, power and glory of the Church is prayer. The life
of its members is dependent on prayer and the presence of God is
secured and retained by prayer. The very place is made sacred by
its ministry. Without it, the Church is lifeless and powerless.
Without it, even the building, itself, is nothing, more or other,
than any other structure. Prayer converts even the bricks, and
mortar, and lumber, into a sanctuary, a holy of holies, where the
Shekinah dwells. It separates it, in spirit and in purpose from
all other edifices. Prayer gives a peculiar sacredness to the
building, sanctifies it, sets it apart for God, conserves it from
all common and mundane affairs.
With prayer, though the house of God might be supposed to
lack everything else, it becomes a Divine sanctuary. So the
Tabernacle, moving about from place to place, became the holy of
holies, because prayer was there. Without prayer the building may
be costly, perfect in all its appointments, beautiful for
situation and attractive to the eye, but it comes down to the
human, with nothing Divine in it, and is on a level with all other
Without prayer, a church is like a body without spirit; it is
a dead, inanimate thing. A church with prayer in it, has God in
it. When prayer is set aside, God is outlawed. When prayer becomes
an unfamiliar exercise, then God Himself is a stranger there.
As God's house is a house of prayer, the Divine intention is
that people should leave their homes and go to meet Him in His own
house. The building is set apart for prayer especially, and as God
has made special promise to meet His people there, it is their
duty to go there, and for that specific end. Prayer should be the
chief attraction for all spiritually minded church-goers. While it
is conceded that the preaching of the Word has an important place
in the house of God, yet prayer is its predominating,
distinguishing feature. Not that all other places are sinful, or
evil, in themselves or in their uses. But they are secular and
human, having no special conception of God in them. The Church is,
essentially, religious and Divine. The work belonging to other
places is done without special reference to God. He is not
specifically recognized, nor called upon. In the Church, however,
God is acknowledged, and nothing is done without Him. Prayer is
the one distinguishing mark of the house of God. As prayer
distinguishes Christian from unchristian people, so prayer
distinguishes God's house from all other houses. It is a place
where faithful believers meet with their Lord.
As God's house is, preeminently, a house of prayer, prayer
should enter into and underlie everything that is undertaken
there. Prayer be longs to every sort of work appertaining to the
Church of God. As God's house is a house where the business of
praying is carried on, so is it a place where the business of
making praying people out of prayerless people is done. The house
of God is a Divine workshop, and there the work of prayer goes on.
Or the house of God is a Divine schoolhouse, in which the lesson
of prayer is taught; where men and women learn to pray, and where
they are graduated, in the school of prayer.
Any church calling itself the house of God, and failing to
magnify prayer; which does not put prayer in the forefront of its
activities; which does not teach the great lesson of prayer,
should change its teaching to conform to the Divine pattern or
change the name of its building to something other than a house of
On an earlier page, we made reference to the finding of the
Book of the Law of the Lord given to Moses. How long that book had
been there, we do not know. But when tidings of its discovery were
carried to Josiah, he rent his clothes and was greatly disturbed.
He lamented the neglect of God's Word and saw, as a natural
result, the iniquity which abounded throughout the land.
And then, Josiah thought of God, and commanded Hilkiah, the
priest, to go and make inquiry of the Lord. Such neglect of the
Word of the Law was too serious a matter to be treated lightly,
and God must be enquired of, and repentance shown, by himself, and
"Go enquire of the Lord for me, and for them that are left in
Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is
found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out upon
us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do
after all that is written in this book."
But that was not all. Josiah was bent on promoting a revival
of religion in his kingdom, so we find him gathering all the
elders of Jerusalem and Judah together, for that purpose. When
they had come together, the king went into the house of the Lord,
and himself read in all the words of the Book of the Covenant that
was found in the house of the Lord.
With this righteous king, God's Word was of great importance.
He esteemed it at its proper worth, and counted a knowledge of it
to be of such grave importance, as to demand his consulting God in
prayer about it, and to warrant the gathering together of the
notables of his kingdom, so that they, together with himself,
should be instructed out of God's Book concerning God's Law.
When Ezra, returned from Babylon, was seeking the
reconstruction of his nation, the people, themselves, were alive
to the situation, and, on one occasion, the priests, Levites and
people assembled themselves together as one man before the water
"And they spake unto Ezra the scribe, to bring the book of
the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel. And Ezra
the priest brought the law before the congregation, both of men
and women, and all that could hear with understanding. And he read
therein before the street that was before the water gate from the
morning until midday; and the ears of all the people were
attentive unto the book of the law."
This was Bible-reading Day in Judah -- a real revival of
Scripture-study. The leaders read the law before the people, whose
ears were keen to hear what God had to say to them out of the Book
of the Law. But it was not only a Bible-reading day. It was a time
when real preaching was done, as the following passage indicates:
"So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly and
gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading."
Here then is the Scriptural definition of preaching. No
better definition can be given. To read the Word of God distinctly
-- to read it so that the people could hear and understand the
words read; not to mumble out the words, nor read it in an
undertone or with indistinctness, but boldly and clearly -- that
was the method followed in Jerusalem, on this auspicious day.
Moreover: the sense of the words was made clear in the meeting
held before the water gate; the people were treated to a high type
of expository preaching. That was true preaching -- preaching of a
sort which is sorely needed, today, in order that God's Word may
have due effect on the hearts of the people. This meeting in
Jerusalem surely contains a lesson which all present-day preachers
should learn and heed.
No one having any knowledge of the existing facts, will deny
the comparative lack of expository preaching in the pulpit effort
of today. And none, we should, at least, imagine, will do other
than lament the lack. Topical preaching, polemical preaching,
historical preaching, and other forms of sermonic output have, one
supposes, their rightful and opportune uses. But expository
preaching -- the prayerful expounding of the Word of God is
preaching that is preaching -- pulpit effort par excellence.
For its successful accomplishment, however, a preacher needs
must be a man of prayer. For every hour spent in his study-chair,
he will have to spend two upon his knees. For every hour he
devotes to wrestling with an obscure passage of Holy Writ, he must
have two in the which to be found wrestling with God. Prayer and
preaching: preaching and prayer! They cannot be separated. The
ancient cry was: "To your tents, O Israel! "The modern cry should
be: "To your knees, O preachers, to your knees!"
Digitized by Harry Plantinga, 1994. This etext is in the public domain.
From the uncopyrighted 1976 Baker Book House edition, ISBN 0-8010-0659-7.
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