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.

-- C.C.

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.

Wilkes-Barre, Pa.


"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

right early.

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

implicit obedience.

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.


"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

unto God."

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



"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." --

William Horst.

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?

How absurd!

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."


"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." --

Jacob Behmen.

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

sincere desire."

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

acquire it.

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

or lukewarm.

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.


"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

unto God.

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

great earnestness:

"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.


"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



"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

importunate intercession.

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.


"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

our lives.

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

good works."

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

holy things.

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

of Jeremiah:

"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

our lives.

"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

and conduct.

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

become new.

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

Divine will.

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



"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

His love."

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

very thing.

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-

fearing life.

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

praying hosts.

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.


"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,

and answer.

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,

obeys God?

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

to God.

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! "


"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

Christian life.

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

than conqueror!

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



"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-

prevailing power.

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

our God:

"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.


"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.


"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

the nation:

"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.
 HTML conversion by Dr. Copy freely

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