How To Pray
R. A. Torrey
"One of the greatest needs of the present day is men and women who will
not only start out to pray for things,
but pray on and on and on until they obtain that which they seek from the Lord."
What was true in Torrey's day still applies today. His practical
pointers clearly unfold the conditions
God has established for intelligent, effective prayer that brings his answers,
emphasizing the purpose and importance of prayer.
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- Chapter 1 - The
Importance of Prayer
- Chapter 2 - Praying
- Chapter 3 - Obeying
- Chapter 4 - Praying
in the Name of Christ and According to the Will of God
- Chapter 5 - Praying
in the Spirit
- Chapter 6 - Always
Praying and Not Fainting
- Chapter 7 - Abiding
- Chapter 8 - Praying
- Chapter 9 - Hindrances
- Chapter 10 - When to
- Chapter 11 - The Need
of A General Revival
- Chapter 12 - The Place
of Prayer Before and During Revivals
THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER
In the 6th chapter of Ephesians in the 18th verse we read
words which put the tremendous importance of prayer with startling and
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching
thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints."
When we stop to weigh the meaning of these words, then note the connection in
which they are found, the intelligent child of God is driven to say,
"I must pray, pray, pray. I must put all my energy and all my heart into prayer.
Whatever else I do, I must pray."
The Revised Version is, if possible, stronger than the Authorized:
"With all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the spirit, and
watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints."
Note the ALLS: "with ALL prayer," "at ALL seasons," "in ALL perseverance," "for
ALL the saints." Note the piling up of strong words, "prayer," "supplication,"
"perseverance." Note once more the strong expression, "watching thereunto," more
literally, "being sleepless thereunto." Paul realized the natural slothfulness
of man, and especially his natural slothfulness in prayer. How seldom we pray
things through! How often the church and the individual get right up to the
verge of a great blessing in prayer and just then let go, get drowsy, quit. I
wish that these words "being sleepless unto prayer" might burn into our hearts.
I wish the whole verse might burn into our hearts.
But why is this constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer so needful?
- 1. First of all, BECAUSE THERE IS A DEVIL. He is cunning,
he is mighty, he never rests, he is ever plotting the downfall of the child of
God; and if the child of God relaxes in prayer, the devil will succeed in
- This is the thought of the context. The 12th verse reads:
"For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the
principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness,
against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (R.V.) Then
comes the 13th verse: "Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may
be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand." (R.V.)
Next follows a description of the different parts of the Christian's armor,
which we are to put on if we are to stand against the devil and his mighty
wiles. Then Paul brings all to a climax in the 18th verse, telling us that to
all else we must add prayer -- constant, persistent, untiring, sleepless
prayer in the Holy Spirit, or all else will go for nothing.
- 2. A second reason for this constant, persistent,
sleepless, overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IS GOD'S APPOINTED WAY FOR
OBTAINING THINGS, AND THE GREAT SECRET OF ALL LACK IN OUR EXPERIENCE, IN OUR
LIFE AND IN OUR WORK IS NEGLECT OF PRAYER.
- James brings this out very forcibly in the 4th chapter and
2nd verse of his epistle: "Ye have not because ye ask not." These words
contain the secret of the poverty and powerlessness of the average Christian
-- neglect of prayer.
"Why is it," many a Christian is asking, "I make so little progress in my
"Neglect of prayer," God answers. "You have not because you ask not."
"Why is it," many a minister is asking, "I see so little fruit from my
Again God answers, "Neglect of prayer. You have not because you ask not."
"Why is it," many a Sunday-School teacher is asking, "that I see so few
converted in my Sunday-School class?"
Still God answers, "Neglect of prayer. You have not because you ask not."
"Why is it," both ministers and churches are asking, "that the church of
Christ makes so little headway against unbelief and error and sin and
Once more we hear God answering, "Neglect of prayer. You have not because you
- 3. The third reason for this constant, persistent,
sleepless, overcoming prayer is that THOSE MEN WHOM GOD SET FORTH AS A PATTERN
OF WHAT HE EXPECTED CHRISTIANS TO BE -- THE APOSTLES -- REGARDED PRAYER AS THE
MOST IMPORTANT BUSINESS OF THEIR LIVES.
- When the multiplying responsibilities of the early church
crowded in upon them, they "called the multitude of the disciples unto them,
and said, It is not reason that we should leave the Word of God, and serve
tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report,
full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But
WE WILL GIVE OURSELVES CONTINUALLY TO PRAYER and to the ministry of the Word."
It is evident from what Paul wrote to the churches and to individuals about
praying for them, that very much of his time and strength and thought was
given to prayer. (Rom. 1:9, R.V.; Eph. 1:15,16; Col. 1:9, R.V.; 1_Thess. 3:10;
2_Tim. 1:3, R.V.)
All the mighty men of God outside the Bible have been men of prayer. They have
differed from one another in many things, but in this they have been alike.
- 4. But there is a still weightier reason for this constant,
persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer. It is, PRAYER OCCUPIED A VERY
PROMINENT PLACE AND PLAYED A VERY IMPORTANT PART IN THE EARTHLY LIFE OF OUR
- Turn, for example, to Mark 1:35. We read, "And in the
morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a
solitary place, and there prayed." The preceding day had been a very busy and
exciting one, but Jesus shortened the hours of needed sleep that He might
arise early and give Himself to more sorely needed prayer.
> Turn again to Luke 6:12, where we read, "And it came to pass in those days
that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to
God." Our Savior found it necessary on occasion to take a whole night for
> The words "pray" and "prayer" are used at least twenty-five times in
connection with our Lord in the brief record of His life in the four Gospels,
and His praying is mentioned in places where the words are not used. Evidently
prayer took much of the time and strength of Jesus, and a man or woman who
does not spend much time in prayer, cannot properly be called a follower of
- 5. There is another reason for constant, persistent,
sleepless, overcoming prayer that seems if possible even more forcible than
this, namely, PRAYING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE PRESENT MINISTRY OF
OUR RISEN LORD.
- Christ's ministry did not close with His death. His atoning
work was finished then, but when He rose and ascended to the right hand of the
Father, He entered upon other work for us just as important in its place as
His atoning work. It cannot be divorced from His atoning work; it rests upon
that as its basis, but it is necessary to our complete salvation.
What that great present work is, by which He carries our salvation on to
completeness, we read in Heb. 7:25, "Wherefore He is able also to save them to
the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing HE EVER LIVETH TO MAKE
INTERCESSION FOR THEM." This verse tells us that Jesus is able to save us unto
the uttermost, not merely FROM the uttermost, but UNTO the uttermost, unto
entire completeness, absolute perfection, because He not merely died, but
because He also "ever liveth." The verse also tells us for what purpose He now
lives, "TO MAKE INTERCESSION FOR US," to pray. Praying is the principal thing
He is doing in these days. It is by His prayers that He is saving us.
The same thought is found in Paul's remarkable, triumphant challenge in Rom.
8:34 -- "Who is he that shall condemn? It is Christ Jesus that died, yea
rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, WHO
ALSO MAKETH INTERCESSION FOR US." (R.V.)
> If we then are to have fellowship with Jesus Christ in His present work, we
must spend much time in prayer; we must give ourselves to earnest, constant,
persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer. I know of nothing that has so
impressed me with a sense of the importance of praying at all seasons, being
much and constantly in prayer, as the thought that that is the principal
occupation at present of my risen Lord. I want to have fellowship with Him,
and to that end I have asked the Father that whatever else He may make me, to
make me at all events an intercessor, to make me a man who knows how to pray,
and who spends much time in prayer.
This ministry of intercession is a glorious and a mighty ministry, and we can
all have part in it. The man or the woman who is shut away from the public
meeting by sickness can have part in it; the busy mother; the woman who has to
take in washing for a living can have part -- she can mingle prayers for the
saints, and for her pastor, and for the unsaved, and for foreign missionaries,
with the soap and water as she bends over the washtub, and not do the washing
any more poorly on that account; the hard driven man of business can have part
in it, praying as he hurries from duty to duty. But of course we must, if we
would maintain this spirit of constant prayer, take time -- and take plenty of
it -- when we shall shut ourselves up in the secret place alone with God for
nothing but prayer.
- 6. The sixth reason for constant, persistent, sleepless,
overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IS THE MEANS THAT GOD HAS APPOINTED FOR OUR
RECEIVING MERCY, AND OBTAINING GRACE TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED.
- Heb. 4:16 is one of the simplest and sweetest verses in the
Bible, -- "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may
obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." These words make it
very plain that God has appointed a way by which we shall seek and obtain
mercy and grace. That way is prayer; bold, confident, outspoken approach to
the throne of grace, the most holy place of God's presence, where our
sympathizing High Priest, Jesus Christ, has entered in our behalf. (Verses 14,
Mercy is what we need, grace is what we must have, or all our life and effort
will end in complete failure. Prayer is the way to get them. There is infinite
grace at our disposal, and we make it ours experimentally by prayer. Oh, if we
only realized the fullness of God's grace, that is ours for the asking, its
height and depth and length and breadth, I am sure that we would spend more
time in prayer. The measure of our appropriation of grace is determined by the
measure of our prayers.
Who is there that does not feel that he needs more grace? Then ask for it. Be
constant and persistent in your asking. Be importunate and untiring in your
asking. God delights to have us "shameless" beggars in this direction; for it
shows our faith in Him, and He is mightily pleased with faith. Because of our
"shamelessness" He will rise and give us as much as we need (Luke 11:8). What
little streams of mercy and grace most of us know, when we might know rivers
overflowing their banks!
- 7. The next reason for constant, persistent, sleepless,
overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST IS THE WAY JESUS
CHRIST HIMSELF HAS APPOINTED FOR HIS DISCIPLES TO OBTAIN FULLNESS OF JOY.
- He states this simply and beautifully in John 16:24,
"Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name; ask, and ye shall receive, that
your joy may be fulfilled." "Made full" is the way the Revised Version reads.
Who is there that does not wish his joy filled full? Well, the way to have it
filled full is by praying in the name of Jesus. We all know people whose joy
is filled full, indeed, it is just running over, is shining from their eyes,
bubbling out of their very lips, and running off their finger tips when they
shake hands with you. Coming in contact with them is like coming in contact
with an electrical machine charged with gladness. Now people of that sort are
always people that spend much time in prayer.
> Why is it that prayer in the name of Christ brings such fullness of joy? In
part, because we get what we ask. But that is not the only reason, nor the
greatest. It makes God real. When we ask something definite of God, and He
gives it, how real God becomes! He is right there! It is blessed to have a God
who is real, and not merely an idea. I remember how once I was taken suddenly
and seriously sick all alone in my study. I dropped upon my knees and cried to
God for help. Instantly all pain left me -- I was perfectly well. It seemed as
if God stood right there, and had put out His hand and touched me. The joy of
the healing was not so great as the joy of meeting God.
There is no greater joy on earth or in heaven, than communion with God, and
prayer in the name of Jesus brings us into communion with Him. The Psalmist
was surely not speaking only of future blessedness, but also of present
blessedness when he said, "In Thy presence is fullness of joy." (Ps. 16.11.) O
the unutterable joy of those moments when in our prayers we really press into
the presence of God!
Does some one say. "I have never known any such joy as that in prayer"?
Do you take enough leisure for prayer to actually get into God's presence? Do
you really give yourself up to prayer in the time which you do take?
- 8. The eighth reason for constant, persistent, sleepless,
overcoming prayer is that PRAYER, IN EVERY CARE AND ANXIETY AND NEED OF LIFE,
WITH THANKSGIVING, IS THE MEANS THAT GOD HAS APPOINTED FOR OBTAINING FREEDOM
FROM ALL ANXIETY, AND THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSETH ALL UNDERSTANDING.
- "Be careful for nothing," says Paul, "but in everything by
prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto
God, and the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your
hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:6,7.) To many this seems at
the first glance, the picture of a life that is beautiful, but beyond the
reach of ordinary mortals; not so at all. The verse tells us how the life is
attainable by every child of God: "Be careful for nothing," or as the Revised
Version reads, "In nothing be anxious." The remainder of the verse tells us
how, and it is very simple: "But in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." What could be plainer
or more simple than that? Just keep in constant touch with God, and when any
trouble or vexation, great or small, comes up, speak to Him about it, never
forgetting to return thanks for what He has already done. What will the result
be? "The peace of God which passeth all understanding shall guard your hearts
and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." (R.V.)
> That is glorious, and as simple as it is glorious! Thank God, many are
trying it. Don't you know any one who is always serene? Perhaps he is a very
stormy man by his natural make-up, but troubles and conflicts and reverses and
bereavements may sweep around him, and the peace of God which passeth all
understanding guards his heart and his thoughts in Christ Jesus.
We all know such persons. How do they manage it?
Just by prayer, that is all. Those persons who know the deep peace of God, the
unfathomable peace that passeth all understanding, are always men and women of
> Some of us let the hurry of our lives crowd prayer out, and what a waste of
time and energy and nerve force there is by the constant worry! One night of
prayer will save us from many nights of insomnia. Time spent in prayer is not
wasted, but time invested at big interest.
- 9. The ninth reason for constant, persistent, sleepless,
overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IS THE METHOD THAT GOD HIMSELF HAS APPOINTED
FOR OUR OBTAINING THE HOLY SPIRIT.
- Upon this point the Bible is very plain. Jesus says, "If ye
then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much
more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?"
(Luke 11:13.) Men are telling us in these days, very good men too, "You must
not pray for the Holy Spirit," but what are they going to do with the plain
statement of Jesus Christ, "How much more will your heavenly Father give the
Holy Spirit TO THEM THAT ASK HIM?"
Some years ago when an address on the baptism with the Holy Spirit was
announced, a brother came to me before the address and said with much feeling,
"Be sure and tell them not to pray for the Holy Spirit."
"I will surely not tell them that, for Jesus says, 'How much more shall your
heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him'."
"Oh, yes," he replied, "but that was before Pentecost."
"How about Acts 4:31? was that before Pentecost, or after?"
"After, of course."
"'And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled
together; and they were all FILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST, and they spake the
Word of God with boldness.'"
"How about Acts 8:15? was that before Pentecost or after?"
"'Who, when they were come down PRAYED for them, that they might receive the
He made no answer. What could he answer? It is plain as day in the Word of God
that before Pentecost and after, the first baptism and the subsequent fillings
with the Holy Spirit were received in answer to definite prayer. Experience
also teaches this.
Doubtless many have received the Holy Spirit the moment of their surrender to
God before there was time to pray, but how many there are who know that their
first definite baptism with the Holy Spirit came while they were on their
knees or faces before God, alone or in company with others, and who again and
again since that have been filled with the Holy Spirit in the place of prayer!
I know this as definitely as I know that my thirst has been quenched while I
was drinking water. Early one morning in the Chicago Avenue Church prayer
room, where several hundred people had been assembled a number of hours in
prayer, the Holy Spirit fell so manifestly, and the whole place was so filled
with His presence, that no one could speak or pray, but sobs of joy filled the
place. Men went out of that room to different parts of the country, taking
trains that very morning, and reports soon came back of the out-pouring of
God's Holy Spirit in answer to prayer. Others went out into the city with the
blessing of God upon them. This is only one instance among many that might be
cited from personal experience.
If we would only spend more time in prayer, there would be more fullness of
the Spirit's power in our work. Many and many a man who once worked
unmistakably in the power of the Holy Spirit is now filling the air with empty
shoutings, and beating it with his meaningless gesticulations, because he has
let prayer be crowded out. we must spend much time on our knees before God, if
we are to continue in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- 10. The tenth reason for constant, persistent, sleepless,
overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IS THE MEANS THAT CHRIST HAS APPOINTED
WHEREBY OUR HEARTS SHALL NOT BECOME OVERCHARGED WITH SURFEITING AND
DRUNKENNESS AND CARES OF THIS LIFE, AND SO THE DAY OF CHRIST'S RETURN COME
UPON US SUDDENLY AS A SNARE.
- One of the most interesting and solemn passages upon prayer
in the Bible is along this line. (Luke 21:34-36) "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. For as a snare
shall it come on all them that dwell in the face of the whole earth. Watch ye
therefore, and PRAY ALWAYS, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all
these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man."
According to this passage there is only one way in which we can be prepared
for the coming of the Lord when He appears, that is, through much prayer.
The coming again of Jesus Christ is a subject that is awakening much interest
and much discussion in our day; but it is one thing to be interested in the
Lord's return, and to talk about it, and quite another thing to be prepared
for it. We live in an atmosphere that has a constant tendency to unfit us for
Christ's coming. The world tends to draw us down by its gratifications and by
its cares. There is only one way by which we can rise triumphant above these
things--by constant watching unto prayer, that is, by sleeplessness unto
prayer. "Watch" in this passage is the same strong word used in Eph. 6:18, and
"always" the same strong phrase "in every season." The man who spends little
time in prayer, who is not steadfast and constant in prayer, will not be ready
for the Lord when He comes. But we may be ready. How? Pray! Pray! Pray!
- 11. There is one more reason for constant, persistent,
sleepless, overcoming prayer, and it is a mighty one: BECAUSE OF WHAT PRAYER
ACCOMPLISHES. Much has really been said upon that already, but there is much
also that should be added.
- (1) Prayer promotes our spiritual growth as almost
nothing else, indeed as nothing else but Bible study; and true prayer and
true Bible study go hand in hand.
It is through prayer that my sin is brought to light, my most hidden sin. As
I kneel before God and pray, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me,
and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me,"
(Ps.139:23,24), God shoots the penetrating rays of His light into the
innermost recesses of my heart, and the sins I never suspected are brought
to view. In answer to prayer, God washes me from mine iniquity and cleanses
me from my sin (Ps. 51:2). In answer to prayer my eyes are opened to behold
wondrous things out of God's Word (Ps. 119:18). In answer to prayer I get
wisdom to know God's way (Jas. 1:5) and strength to walk in it. As I meet
God in prayer and gaze into His face, I am changed into His own image from
glory to glory ( 2_Cor. 3:18). Each day of true prayer life finds me liker
to my glorious Lord.
John Welch, son-in-law to John Knox, was one of the most faithful men of
prayer this world ever saw. He counted that day ill-spent in which seven or
eight hours were not used alone with God in prayer and the study of His
Word. An old man speaking of him after his death said, "He was a type of
How came he to be so like his Master?
His prayer life explains the mystery.
- (2) Prayer brings power into our work.
If we wish power for any work to which God calls us, be it preaching,
teaching, personal work, or the rearing of our children, we can get it by
A woman with a little boy who was perfectly incorrigible, once came to me in
desperation and said:
"What shall I do with him?"
I asked, "Have you ever tried prayer?"
She said that she had prayed for him, she thought. I asked if she had made
his conversion and his character a matter of definite, expectant prayer. She
replied that she had not been definite in the matter. She began that day,
and at once there was a marked change in the child, and he grew up into
How many a Sunday-school teacher has taught for months and years, and seen
no real fruit from his labors, and then has learned the secret of
intercession, and by earnest pleading with God, has seen his scholars
brought one by one to Christ! How many a poor preacher has become a mighty
man of God by casting away his confidence in his own ability and gifts, and
giving himself up to God to wait upon Him for the power that comes from on
high! John Livingstone spent a night, with some others likeminded, in prayer
to God and religious conversation, and when he preached next day in the Kirk
of Shotts five hundred people were converted, or dated some definite uplift
in their life to that occasion. Prayer and power are inseparable.
- (3) Prayer avails for the conversion of others. There are
few converted in this world unless in connection with some one's prayers. I
formerly thought that no human being had anything to do with my own
conversion, for I was not converted in church or Sunday-school, or in
personal conversation with any one. I was awakened in the middle of the
night and converted. As far as I can remember I had not the slightest
thought of being converted, or of anything of that character, when I went to
bed and fell asleep; but I was awakened in the middle of the night and
converted probably inside of five minutes. A few minutes before I was about
as near eternal perdition as one gets. I had one foot over the brink and was
trying to get the other one over. I say I thought no human being had
anything to do with it, but I had forgotten my mother's prayers, and I
afterward learned that one of my college classmates had chosen me as one to
pray for until I was saved.
Prayer often avails where everything else fails. How utterly all of Monica's
efforts and entreaties failed with her son, but her prayers prevailed with
God, and the dissolute youth became St. Augustine, the mighty man of God. By
prayer the bitterest enemies of the Gospel have become its most valiant
defenders, the greatest scoundrels the truest sons of God, and the vilest
women the purest saints. Oh, the power of prayer to reach down, down, down,
where hope itself seems vain, and lift men and women up, up, up into
fellowship with and likeness to God. It is simply wonderful! How little we
appreciate this marvelous weapon!
- (4) Prayer brings blessings to the church.
The history of the church has always been a history of grave difficulties to
overcome. The devil hates the church and seeks in every way to block its
progress; now by false doctrine, again by division, again by inward
corruption of life. But by prayer, a clear way can be made through
everything. Prayer will root out heresy, allay misunderstanding, sweep away
jealousies and animosities, obliterate immoralities, and bring in the full
tide of God's reviving grace. History abundantly proves this. In the hour of
darkest portent, when the case of the church, local or universal, has seemed
beyond hope, believing men and believing women have met together and cried
to God and the answer has come.
It was so in the days of Knox, it was so in the days of Wesley and
Whitfield, it was so in the days of Edwards and Brainerd, it was so in the
days of Finney, it was so in the days of the great revival of 1857 in this
country and of 1859 in Ireland, and it will be so again in your day and
mine. Satan has marshaled his forces. Christian science with its false
Christ-- a woman--lifts high its head. Others making great pretensions of
apostolic methods, but covering the rankest dishonesty and hypocrisy with
these pretensions, speak with loud assurance. Christians equally loyal to
the great fundamental truths of the Gospel are glowering at one another with
a devil-sent suspicion. The world, the flesh and the devil are holding high
carnival. It is now a dark day, BUT--now "it is time for Thee, Lord, to
work; for they have made void Thy law." (Ps. 199:126). And He is getting
ready to work, and now He is listening for the voice of prayer. Will He hear
it? Will He hear it from you? Will He hear it from the church as a body? I
believe He will.
PRAYING UNTO GOD
We have seen something of the tremendous importance and the
resistless power of prayer, and now we come directly to the question- -how to
pray with power.
- 1. In the 12th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we have
the record of a prayer that prevailed with God, and brought to pass great
results. In the 5th verse of this chapter, the manner and method of this
prayer is described in few words:
- "Prayer was made without ceasing of the church UNTO GOD for
The first thing to notice in this verse is the brief expression "unto God."
The prayer that has power is the prayer that is offered unto God.
But some will say, "Is not all prayer unto God?"
No. Very much of so-called prayer, both public and private, is not unto God.
In order that a prayer should be really unto God, there must be a definite and
conscious approach to God when we pray; we must have a definite and vivid
realization that God is bending over us and listening as we pray. In very much
of our prayer there is really but little thought of God. Our mind is taken up
with the thought of what we need, and is not occupied with the thought of the
mighty and loving Father of whom we are seeking it. Oftentimes it is the case
that we are occupied neither with the need nor with the One to whom we are
praying, but our mind is wandering here and there throughout the world. There
is no power in that sort of prayer. But when we really come into God's
presence, really meet Him face to face in the place of prayer, really seek the
things that we desire FROM HIM, then there is power.
> If, then, we would pray aright, the first thing that we should do is to see
to it that we really get an audience with God, that we really get into His
very presence. Before a word of petition is offered, we should have the
definite and vivid consciousness that we are talking to God, and should
believe that He is listening to our petition and is going to grant the thing
that we ask of Him. This is only possible by the Holy Spirit's power, so we
should look to the Holy Spirit to really lead us into the presence of God, and
should not be hasty in words until He has actually brought us there.
> One night a very active Christian man dropped into a little prayer-meeting
that I was leading. Before we knelt to pray, I said something like the above,
telling all the friends to be sure before they prayed, and while they were
praying, that they really were in God's presence, that they had the thought of
Him definitely in mind, and to be more taken up with Him than with their
petition. A few days after I met this same gentleman, and he said that this
simple thought was entirely new to him, that it had made prayer an entirely
new experience to him.
> If then we would pray aright, these two little words must sink deep into our
hearts, "UNTO GOD."
- 2. The second secret of effective praying is found in the
same verse, in the words "WITHOUT CEASING."
- In the Revised Version, "without ceasing" is rendered
"earnestly." Neither rendering gives the full force of the Greek. The word
means literally "stretched-out-ed-ly." It is a pictorial word, and wonderfully
expressive. It represents the soul on a stretch of earnest and intense desire.
"Intensely" would perhaps come as near translating it as any English word. It
is the word used of our Lord in Luke 22:44 where it is said, "He prayed more
earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to
We read in Heb. 5:7 that "in the days of His flesh" Christ "offered up prayers
and supplications with strong crying and tears." In Rom. 15:30, Paul beseeches
the saints in Rome to STRIVE together with him in their prayers. The word
translated "strive" means primarily to contend as in athletic games or in a
fight. In other words, the prayer that prevails with God is the prayer into
which we put our whole soul, stretching out toward God in intense and
agonizing desire. Much of our modern prayer has no power in it because there
is no heart in it. We rush into God's presence, run through a string of
petitions, jump up and go out. If someone should ask us an hour afterward for
what we prayed, oftentimes we could not tell. If we put so little heart into
our prayers, we cannot expect God to put much heart into answering them.
We hear much in our day of the rest of faith, but there is such a thing as the
fight of faith in prayer as well as in effort. Those who would have us think
that they have attained to some sublime height of faith and trust because they
never know any agony of conflict or of prayer, have surely gotten beyond their
Lord, and beyond the mightiest victors for God, both in effort and prayer,
that the ages of Christian history have known. When we learn to come to God
with an intensity of desire that wrings the soul, then shall we know a power
in prayer that most of us do not know now.
But how shall we attain to this earnestness in prayer?
Not by trying to work ourselves up into it. The true method is explained in
Rom. 8:26, "And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we
know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession
for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (R.V.) The earnestness that we
work up in the energy of the flesh is a repulsive thing. The earnestness
wrought in us by the power of the Holy Spirit is pleasing to God. Here again,
if we would pray aright, we must look to the Spirit of God to teach us to
It is in this connection that fasting comes. In Dan. 9:3 we read that Daniel
set his face "unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with
fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes." There are those who think that fasting
belongs to the old dispensation; but when we look at Acts 14:23, and Acts
13:2,3, we find that it was practised by the earnest men of the apostolic day.
If we would pray with power, we should pray with fasting. This of course does
not mean that we should fast every time we pray; but there are times of
emergency or special crisis in work or in our individual lives, when men of
downright earnestness will withdraw themselves even from the gratification of
natural appetites that would be perfectly proper under other circumstances,
that they may give themselves up wholly to prayer. There is a peculiar power
in such prayer. Every great crisis in life and work should be met in that way.
There is nothing pleasing to God in our giving up in a purely Pharisaic and
legal way things which are pleasant, but there is power in that downright
earnestness and determination to obtain in prayer the things of which we
sorely feel our need, that leads us to put away everything, even the things in
themselves most right and necessary, that we may set our faces to find God,
and obtain blessings from Him.
- 3. A third secret of right praying is also found in this
same verse, Acts 12:5. It appears in the three words "OF THE CHURCH."
- There is power in UNITED PRAYER. Of course there is power
in the prayer of an individual, but there is vastly increased power in united
prayer. God delights in the unity of His people, and seeks to emphasize it in
every way, and so He pronounces a special blessing upon united prayer. We read
in Matt. 18:19, "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that
they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven."
This unity, however, must be real. The passage just quoted does not say that
if two shall agree in asking, but if two shall agree AS TOUCHING anything they
shall ask. Two persons might agree to ask for the same thing, and yet there be
no real agreement as touching the thing they asked. One might ask it because
he really desired it, the other might ask it simply to please his friend. But
where there is real agreement, where the Spirit of God brings two believers
into perfect harmony as concerning that which they may ask of God, where the
Spirit lays the same burden on two hearts; in all such prayer there is
absolutely irresistible power.
OBEYING AND PRAYING
- 1. One of the most significant verses in the Bible on
prayer is 1 John 3:22. John says, "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him,
because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His
- What an astounding statement! John says in so many words,
that everything he asked for he got. How many of us can say this: "Whatsoever
I ask I receive"? But John explains why this was so, "Because we keep His
commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight." In other
words, the one who expects God to do as he asks Him, must on his part DO
WHATEVER GOD BIDS HIM. If we give a listening ear to all God's commands to us,
He will give a listening ear to all our petitions to Him. If, on the other
hand, we turn a deaf ear to His precepts, He will be likely to turn a deaf ear
to our prayers. Here we find the secret of much unanswered prayer. We are not
listening to God's Word, and therefore He is not listening to our petitions.
I was once speaking to a woman who had been a professed Christian, but had
given it all up. I asked her why she was not a Christian still. She replied,
because she did not believe the Bible. I asked her why she did not believe the
"Because I have tried its promises and found them untrue."
"The promises about prayer."
"Which promises about prayer?"
"Does it not say in the Bible, 'Whatsoever ye ask believing ye shall
"It says something nearly like that."
"Well, I asked fully expecting to get and did not receive, so the promise
"Was the promise made to you?"
"Why, certainly, it is made to all Christians, is it not?"
"No, God carefully defines who the 'ye's' are, whose believing prayers He
agrees to answer."
I then turned her to 1_John 3:22, and read the description of those whose
prayers had power with God.
"Now," I said, "were you keeping His commandments and doing those things which
are pleasing in His sight?"
She frankly confessed that she was not, and soon came to see that the real
difficulty was not with God's promises, but with herself. That is the
difficulty with many an unanswered prayer to-day: the one who offers it is not
If we would have power in prayer, we must be earnest students of His Word to
find out what His will regarding us is, and then having found it, do it. One
unconfessed act of disobedience on our part will shut the ear of God against
- 2. But this verse goes beyond the mere keeping of God's
commandments. John tells us that we must DO THOSE THINGS THAT ARE PLEASING IN
- There are many things which it would be pleasing to God for
us to do which He has not specifically commanded us. A true child is not
content with merely doing those things which his father specifically commands
him to do. He studies to know his father's will, and if he thinks that there
is any thing that he can do that would please his father, he does it gladly,
though his father has never given him any specific order to do it. So it is
with the true child of God. He does not ask merely whether certain things are
commanded or certain things forbidden. He studies to know his Father's will in
There are many Christians to-day who are doing things that are not pleasing to
God, and leaving undone things which would be pleasing to God. When you speak
to them about these things they will confront you at once with the question,
"Is there any command in the Bible not to do this thing?" And if you cannot
show them some verse in which the matter in question is plainly forbidden,
they think they are under no obligation whatever to give it up; but a true
child of God does not demand a specific command. If we make it our study to
find out and to do the things which are pleasing to God, He will make His
study to do the things which are pleasing to us. Here again we find the
explanation of much unanswered prayer: We are not making it the study of our
lives to know what would please our Father, and so our prayers are not
Take as an illustration of questions that are constantly coming up, the matter
of theater going, dancing and the use of tobacco. Many who are indulging in
these things will ask you triumphantly if you speak against them, "Does the
Bible say, 'Thou shalt not go to the theater'?" "Does the Bible say, 'Thou
shalt not dance'?" "Does the Bible say, 'Thou shalt not smoke'?" That is not
the question. The question is, Is our heavenly Father well pleased when He
sees one of His children in the theater, at the dance, or smoking? That is a
question for each to decide for himself, prayerfully, seeking light from the
Holy Spirit. "Where is the harm in these things?" many ask. It is aside from
our purpose to go into the general question, but beyond a doubt there is this
great harm in many a case; they rob our prayers of power.
- 3. Psalm 145:18 throws a great deal of light on the
question of how to pray: "The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him,
to all that call upon Him in truth."
- That little expression "in truth" is worthy of study. If
you will take your concordance and go through the Bible, you will find that
this expression means "in reality," "in sincerity." The prayer that God
answers is the prayer that is real, the prayer that asks for something that is
Much prayer is insincere. People ask for things which they do not wish. Many a
woman is praying for the conversion of her husband, who does not really wish
her husband to be converted. She thinks that she does, but if she knew what
would be involved in the conversion of her husband, how it would necessitate
an entire revolution in his manner of doing business, and how consequently it
would reduce their income and make necessary an entire change in their method
of living, the real prayer of her heart would be, if she were to be sincere
"O God, do not convert my husband."
She does not wish his conversion at so great cost.
Many a church is praying for a revival that does not really desire a revival.
They think they do, for to their minds a revival means an increase of
membership, an increase of income, an increase of reputation among the
churches, but if they knew what a real revival meant, what a searching of
hearts on the part of professed Christians would be involved, what a radical
transformation of individual, domestic and social life would be brought about,
and many other things that would come to pass if the Spirit of God was poured
out in reality and power; if all this were known, the real cry of the church
"O God, keep us from having a revival."
Many a minister is praying for the baptism with the Holy Spirit who does not
really desire it. He things he does, for the baptism with the Spirit means to
him new joy, new power in preaching the Word, a wider reputation among men, a
larger prominence in the church of Christ. But if he understood what a baptism
with the Holy Spirit really involved, how for example it would necessarily
bring him into antagonism with the world, and with unspiritual Christians, how
it would cause his name to be "cast out as evil," how it might necessitate his
leaving a good comfortable living and going down to work in the slums, or even
in some foreign land; if he understood all this, his prayer quite likely would
be--if he were to express the real wish of his heart,--
"O God, save me from being baptized with the Holy Ghost."
But when we do come to the place where we really desire the conversion of
friends at any cost, really desire the outpouring of the Holy Spirit whatever
it may involve, really desire the baptism with the Holy Ghost come what may,
where we desire anything "in truth" and then call upon God for it "in truth,"
God is going to hear.
PRAYING IN THE NAME OF CHRIST AND ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD
- 1. It was a wonderful word about prayer that Jesus spoke to
His disciples on the night before His crucifixion, "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."
- Prayer in the name of Christ has power with God. God is
well pleased with His Son Jesus Christ. He hears Him always, and He also hears
always the prayer that is really in His name. There is a fragrance in the name
of Christ that makes acceptable to God every prayer that bears it.
But what is it to pray in the name of Christ?
Many explanations have been attempted that to ordinary minds do not explain.
But there is nothing mystical or mysterious about this expression. If one will
go through the Bible and examine all the passages in which the expression "in
My name" or "in His name" or synonymous expressions are used, he will find
that it means just about what it does in modern usage. If I go to a bank and
hand in a check with my name signed to it, I ask of that bank IN MY OWN NAME.
If I have money deposited in that bank, the check will be cashed; if not, it
will not be. If, however, I go to a bank with somebody else's name signed to
the check, I am asking IN HIS NAME, and it does not matter whether I have
money in that bank or any other, if the person whose name is signed to the
check has money there, the check will be cashed.
> If, for example, I should go to the First National Bank of Chicago, and
present a check which I had signed for $50.00, the paying teller would say to
"Why, Mr. Torrey, we cannot cash that. You have no money in this bank."
But if I should go to the First National Bank with a check for $5,000.00 made
payable to me, and signed by one of the large depositors in that bank, they
would not ask whether I had money in that bank or in any bank, but would honor
the check at once.
So it is when I go to the bank of heaven, when I go to God in prayer. I have
nothing deposited there, I have absolutely no credit there, and if I go in my
own name I will get absolutely nothing; but Jesus Christ has unlimited credit
in heaven, and He has granted to me the privilege of going to the bank with
His name on my checks, and when I thus go, my prayers will be honored to any
To pray then in the name of Christ is to pray on the ground, not of my credit,
but His; to renounce the thought that I have any claims on God whatever, and
approach Him on the ground of God's claims. Praying in the name of Christ is
not merely adding the phrase "I ask these things in Jesus' name" to my prayer.
I may put that phrase in my prayer and really be resting in my own merit all
the time. But when I really do approach God, not on the ground of my merit,
but on the ground of Christ's merit, not on the ground of my goodness, but on
the ground of the atoning blood (Heb. 10:19), God will hear me. Very much of
our modern prayer is vain because men approach God imagining that they have
some claim upon God whereby He is under obligations to answer their prayers.
Years ago when Mr. Moody was young in Christian work, he visited a town in
Illinois. A judge in the town was an infidel. This judge's wife besought Mr.
Moody to call upon her husband, but Mr. Moody replied:
"I cannot talk with your husband. I am only an uneducated young Christian, and
your husband is a book infidel."
But the wife would not take no for an answer, so Mr. Moody made the call. The
clerks in the outer office tittered as the young salesman from Chicago went in
to talk with the scholarly judge.
> The conversation was short. Mr. Moody said:
"Judge, I can't talk with you. You are a book infidel, and I have no learning,
but I simply want to say if you are ever converted, I want you to let me
The judge replied: "Yes, young man, if I am ever converted I will let you
know. Yes, I will let you know."
The conversation ended. The clerks tittered still louder when the zealous
young Christian left the office, but the judge was converted within a year.
Mr. Moody visiting the town again asked the judge to explain how it came
about. The judge said:
"One night, when my wife was at prayer meeting, I began to grow very uneasy
and miserable. I did not know what was the matter with me, but finally retired
before my wife come home. I could not sleep all that night. I got up early,
told my wife that I would eat no breakfast, and went down to the office. I
told the clerks they could take a holiday, and shut myself up in the inner
office. I kept growing more and more miserable, and finally I got down and
asked God to forgive my sins, but I would not say `for Jesus' sake,' for I was
a Unitarian and I did not believe in the atonement. I kept praying 'God
forgive my sins'; but no answer came. At last in desperation I cried, 'O God,
for Christ's sake forgive my sins,' and found peace at once."
> The judge had no access to God until he came in the name of Christ, but when
he thus came, he was heard and answered at once.
- 2. Great light is thrown upon the subject "How to Pray" by
1_John 5:14,15: "And this is the boldness which we have toward Him, that if we
ask anything ACCORDING TO HIS WILL, He heareth us; and if we know that He
heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have
asked of Him." (R.V.)
- This passage teaches us plainly that if we are to pray
aright, we must pray according to God's will, then will we beyond a
peradventure get the thing we ask of Him.
But can we know the will of God? Can we know that any specific prayer is
according to His will?
We most surely can.
- (1) First by the Word. God has revealed His will in His
Word. When anything is definitely promised in the Word of God, we know that
it is His will to give that thing. If then when I pray, I can find some
definite promise of God's Word and lay that promise before God, I know that
He hears me, and if I know that He hears me, I know that I have the petition
that I have asked of Him. For example, when I pray for wisdom I know that it
is the will of God to give me wisdom, for He says so in James 1:5: "If any
of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally,
and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." So when I ask for wisdom I
know that the prayer is heard, and that wisdom will be given me. In like
manner when I pray for the Holy Spirit I know from Luke 11:13 that it is
God's will, that my prayer is heard, and that I have the petition that I
have asked of Him: "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto
your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit
to them that ask Him?"
Some years ago a minister came to me at the close of an address on prayer at
a Y.M.C.A. Bible school, and said,
"You have produced upon those young men the impression that they can ask for
definite things and get the very things that they ask."
I replied that I did not know whether that was the impression that I
produced or not, but that was certainly the impression that I desired to
"But," he replied, "that is not right. We cannot be sure, for we don't know
I turned him at once to James 1:5, read it and said to him, "Is it not God's
will to give us wisdom, and if you ask for wisdom do you not know that you
are going to get it?"
"Ah!" he said, "we don't know what wisdom is." I said, "No, if we did, we
would not need to ask; but whatever wisdom may be, don't you know that you
will get it?"
Certainly it is our privilege to know. When we have a specific promise in
the Word of God, if we doubt that it is God's will, or if we doubt that God
will do the thing that we ask, we make God a liar.
Here is one of the greatest secrets of prevailing prayer: To study the Word
to find what God's will is as revealed there in the promises, and then
simply take these promises and spread them out before God in prayer with the
absolutely unwavering expectation that He will do what He has promised in
- (2) But there is still another way in which we may know
the will of God, that is, by the teaching of His Holy Spirit. There are many
things that we need from God which are not covered by any specific promise,
but we are not left in ignorance of the will of God even then. In Rom.
8:26,27 we are told, "And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our
infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit Himself
maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; and He
that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the spirit, because He
maketh intercession for the saints ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD." (R.V.)
Here we are distinctly told that the Spirit of God prays in us, draws out
our prayer, in the line of God's will. When we are thus led out by the Holy
Spirit in any direction, to pray for any given object, we may do it in all
confidence that it is God's will, and that we are to get the very thing we
ask of Him, even though there is no specific promise to cover the case.
Often God by His Spirit lays upon us a heavy burden of prayer for some given
individual. We cannot rest, we pray for him with groanings which cannot be
uttered. Perhaps the man is entirely beyond our reach, but God hears the
prayer, and in many a case it is not long before we hear of his definite
The passage 1_John 5:14,15 is one of the most abused passages in the Bible:
"This is THE CONFIDENCE that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything
according to His will, He heareth us; and if we know that He hear us,
whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of
Him." The Holy Spirit beyond a doubt put it into the Bible to encourage our
faith. It begins with "This is THE CONFIDENCE that we have in Him," and
closes with "WE KNOW that we have the petitions that we desired of Him;" but
one of the most frequent usages of this passage, which was so manifestly
given to beget confidence, is to introduce an element of uncertainty into
our prayers. Oftentimes when one waxes confident in prayer, some cautious
brother will come and say:
"Now, don't be too confident. If it is God's will He will do it. You should
put in, `If it be Thy will.'"
Doubtless there are many times when we do not know the will of God, and in
all prayer submission to the excellent will of God should underlie it; but
when we know God's will, there need be no "ifs"; and this passage was not
put into the Bible in order that we might introduce "ifs" into all our
prayers, but in order that we might throw our "ifs" to the wind, and have
"CONFIDENCE" and "KNOW that we have the petitions which we have asked of
PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT
- 1. Over and over again in what has already been said, we
have seen our dependence upon the Holy Spirit in prayer. This comes out very
definitely in Eph. 6:18, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication IN
THE SPIRIT," and in Jude 20, "Praying IN THE HOLY GHOST." Indeed the whole
secret of prayer is found in these three words, "in the Spirit." It is the
prayer that God the Holy Spirit inspires that God the Father answers.
- The disciples did not know how to pray as they ought, so
they came to Jesus and said, "Lord teach us to pray." We know not how to pray
as we ought, but we have another Teacher and Guide right at hand to help us
(John 14:16,17), "The Spirit helpeth our infirmity" (Rom. 8:26, R.V.). He
teaches us how to pray. True prayer is prayer in the Spirit; that is, the
prayer the Spirit inspires and directs. When we come into God's presence we
should recognize "our infirmity," our ignorance of what we should pray for or
how we should pray for it, and in the consciousness of our utter inability to
pray aright we should look up to the Holy Spirit, casting ourselves utterly
upon Him to direct our prayers, to lead out our desires and to guide our
utterance of them.
Nothing can be more foolish in prayer than to rush heedlessly into God's
presence, and ask the first thing that comes into our mind, or that some
thoughtless friend has asked us to pray for. When we first come into God's
presence we should be silent before Him. We should look up to Him to send His
Holy Spirit to teach us how to pray. We must wait for the Holy Spirit, and
surrender ourselves to the Spirit, then we shall pray aright.
Oftentimes when we come to God in prayer, we do not feel like praying. What
shall one do in such a case? cease praying until he does feel like it? Not at
all. When we feel least like praying is the time when we most need to pray. We
should wait quietly before God and tell Him how cold and prayerless our hearts
are, and look up to Him and trust Him and expect Him to send the Holy Spirit
to warm our hearts and draw them out in prayer. It will not be long before the
glow of the Spirit's presence will fill our hearts, and we will begin to pray
with freedom, directness, earnestness and power. Many of the most blessed
seasons of prayer I have ever known have begun with a feeling of utter
deadness and prayerlessness, but in my helplessness and coldness I have cast
myself upon God, and looked to Him to send His Holy Spirit to teach me to
pray, and He has done it.
When we pray in the Spirit, we will pray for the right things and in the right
way. There will be joy and power in our prayer.
- 2. If we are to pray with power we must pray WITH FAITH. In
Mark 11:24 Jesus says, "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye
desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
No matter how positive any promise of God's Word may be, we will not enjoy it
in actual experience unless we confidently expect its fulfillment in answer to
our prayer. "If any of you lack wisdom," says James, "let him ask of God that
giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
Now that promise is as positive as a promise can be, but the next verse adds,
"But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the
surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think
that he shall receive anything of the Lord." (R.V.) There must then be
confident unwavering expectation. But there is a faith that goes beyond
expectation, that believes that the prayer is heard and the promise granted.
This comes out in the Revised Version of Mark 11:24, "Therefore I say unto
you, All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye HAVE received
them, and ye shall have them."
- But how can one get this faith?
Let us say with all emphasis, it cannot be pumped up. Many a one reads this
promise about the prayer of faith, and then asks for things that he desires
and tries to make himself believe that God has heard the prayer. This ends
only in disappointment, for it is not real faith and the thing is not granted.
It is at this point that many people make a collapse of faith altogether by
trying to work up faith by an effort of their will, and as the thing they made
themselves believe they expected to get is not given, the very foundation of
faith is oftentimes undermined.
But how does real faith come?
Rom 10:17 answers the question: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing
BY THE WORD OF GOD." If we are to have real faith, we must study the Word of
God and find out what is promised, then simply believe the promises of God.
Faith must have a warrant. Trying to believe something that you want to
believe is not faith. Believing what God says in His Word is faith. If I am to
have faith when I pray, I must find some promise in the Word of God on which
to rest my faith. Faith furthermore comes through the Spirit. The Spirit knows
the will of God, and if I pray in the Spirit, and look to the Spirit to teach
me God's will, He will lead me out in prayer along the line of that will, and
give me faith that the prayer is to be answered; but in no case does real
faith come by simply determining that you are going to get the thing that you
want to get.
> If there is no promise in the Word of God, and no clear leading of the
Spirit, there can be no real faith, and there should be no upbraiding of self
for lack of faith in such a case. But if the thing desired is promised in the
Word of God, we may well upbraid ourselves for lack of faith if we doubt; for
we are making God a liar by doubting His Word.
ALWAYS PRAYING AND NOT FAINTING
In two parables in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus teaches with
great emphasis the lesson that men ought always to pray and not to faint. The
first parable is found in Luke 11:5-8, and the other in Luke 18:1-8.
"And He said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him
at midnight, and say unto him: 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of
mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?' And he
from within shall answer and say: 'Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my
children are with me in bed. I cannot rise and give thee.' I say unto you,
Though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of
his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth." (Luke 11:5-8)
"And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men always ought 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 to him, saying:
"'Avenge me of mine 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 that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man
cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:1-8)
In the former of these two parables Jesus sets forth the necessity of
importunity in prayer in a startling way. The word rendered "importunity" means
literally "shamelessness," as if Jesus would have us understand that God would
have us draw nigh to Him with a determination to obtain the things we seek that
will not be put to shame by any seeming refusal or delay on God's part. God
delights in the holy boldness that will not take "no" for an answer. It is an
expression of great faith, and nothing pleases God more than faith.
Jesus seemed to put the Syro-Phoenician woman away almost with rudeness, but she
would not be put away, and Jesus looked upon her shameless importunity with
pleasure, and said, "O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou
wilt." (Matt. 15:28) God does not always let us get things at our first effort.
He would train us and make us strong men by compelling us to work hard for the
best things. So also He does not always give us what we ask in answer to the
first prayer; He would train us and make us strong men of prayer by compelling
us to pray hard for the best things. He makes us PRAY THROUGH.
I am glad that this is so. There is no more blessed training in prayer than that
that comes through being compelled to ask again and again and again even through
a long period of years before one obtains that which he seeks from God. Many
people call it submission to the will of God when God does not grant them their
requests at the first or second asking, and they say:
"Well, perhaps it is not God's will."
As a rule this is not submission, but spiritual laziness. We do not call it
submission to the will of God when we give up after one or two efforts to obtain
things by action; we call it lack of strength of character. When the strong man
of action starts out to accomplish a thing, if he does not accomplish it the
first, or second or one hundredth time, he keeps hammering away until he does
accomplish it; and the strong man of prayer when he starts to pray for a thing
keeps on praying until he prays it through, and obtains what he seeks. We should
be careful about what we ask from God, but when we do begin to pray for a thing
we should never give up praying for it until we get it, or until God makes it
very clear and very definite to us that it is not His will to give it.
Some would have us believe that it shows unbelief to pray twice for the same
thing, that we ought to "take it" the first time that we ask. Doubtless there
are times when we are able through faith in the Word or the leading of the Holy
Spirit to CLAIM the first time that which we have asked of God; but beyond
question there are other times when we must pray again and again and again for
the same thing before we get our answer. Those who have gotten beyond praying
twice for the same thing have gotten beyond their Master, (Matt. 26:44). George
Muller prayed for two men daily for upwards of sixty years. One of these men was
converted shortly before his death, I think at the last service that George
Muller held, the other was converted within a year after his death. One of the
great needs of the present day is men and women who will not only start out to
pray for things, but pray on and on and on until they obtain that which they
seek from the Lord.
ABIDING IN CHRIST
"If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask
what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7) The whole secret of
prayer is found in these words of our Lord. Here is prayer that has unbounded
power: "Ask WHAT YE WILL, and it shall be done unto you."
There is a way then of asking and getting precisely what we ask and getting all
we ask. Christ gives two conditions of this all- prevailing prayer:
- 1. The first condition is, "If ye abide in Me."
- What is it to abide in Christ?
Some explanations that have been given of this are so mystical or so profound
that to many simple-minded children of God they mean practically nothing at
all; but what Jesus meant was really very simple.
He had been comparing Himself to a vine, His disciples to the branches in the
vine. Some branches continued in the vine, that is, remained in living union
with the vine, so that the sap or life of the vine constantly flowed into
these branches. They had no independent life of their own. Everything in them
was simply the outcome of the life of the vine flowing into them. Their buds,
their leaves, their blossoms, their fruit, were really not theirs, but the
buds, leaves, blossoms and fruit of the vine. Other branches were completely
severed from the vine, or else the flow of the sap or life of the vine into
them was in some way hindered. Now for us to abide in Christ is for us to bear
the same relation to Him that the first sort of branches bear to the vine;
that is to say, to abide in Christ is to renounce any independent life of our
own, to give up trying to think our thoughts, or form our resolutions, or
cultivate our feelings, and simply and constantly look to Christ to think His
thoughts in us, to form His purposes in us, to feel His emotions and
affections in us. It is to renounce all life independent of Christ, and
constantly to look to Him for the inflow of His life into us, and the
outworking of His life through us. When we do this, and in so far as we do
this, our prayers will obtain that which we seek from God.
This must necessarily be so, for our desires will not be our own desires, but
Christ's, and our prayers will not in reality be our own prayers, but Christ
praying in us. Such prayers will always be in harmony with God's will, and the
Father heareth Him always. When our prayers fail it is because they are indeed
our prayers. We have conceived the desire and framed the petition of
ourselves, instead of looking to Christ to pray through us.
To say that one should be abiding in Christ in all his prayers, looking to
Christ to pray through Him rather than praying himself, is simply saying in
another way that one should pray "in the Spirit." When we thus abide in
Christ, our thoughts are not our own thoughts, but His, our joys are not our
own joys, but His, our fruit is not our own fruit, but His; just as the buds,
leaves, blossoms and fruit of the branch that abides in the vine are not the
buds, leaves, blossoms and fruit of the branch, but of the vine itself whose
life is flowing into the branch and manifests itself in these buds, leaves,
blossoms and fruit.
To abide in Christ, one must of course already be in Christ through the
acceptance of Christ as an atoning Savior from the guilt of sin, a risen
Savior from the power of sin, and a Lord and Master over all his life. Being
in Christ, all that we have to do to abide (or continue) in Christ is simply
to renounce our self-life--utterly renouncing every thought, every purpose,
every desire, every affection of our own, and just looking day by day and hour
by hour for Jesus Christ to form His thoughts, His purposes, His affections,
His desires in us. Abiding in Christ is really a very simple matter, though it
is a wonderful life of privilege and of power.
- 2. But there is another condition stated in this verse,
though it is really involved in the first: "And My words abide in you."
- If we are to obtain from God all that we ask from Him,
Christ's words must abide or continue in us. We must study His words, fairly
devour His words, let them sink into our thought and into our heart, keep them
in our memory, obey them constantly in our life, let them shape and mold our
daily life and our every act.
This is really the method of abiding in Christ. It is through His words that
Jesus imparts Himself to us. The words He speaks unto us, they are spirit and
they are life. (John 6:33) It is vain to expect power in prayer unless we
meditate much upon the words of Christ, and let them sink deep and find a
permanent abode in our hearts. There are many who wonder why they are so
powerless in prayer, but the very simple explanation of it all is found in
their neglect of the words of Christ. They have not hidden His words in their
hearts; His words do not abide in them. It is not by seasons of mystical
meditation and rapturous experiences that we learn to abide in Christ; it is
by feeding upon His word, His written word as found in the Bible, and looking
to the Holy Spirit to implant these words in our hearts and to make them a
living thing in our hearts. If we thus let the words of Christ abide in us,
they will stir us up in prayer. They will be the mold in which our prayers are
shaped, and our prayers will be necessarily along the line of God's will, and
will prevail with Him. Prevailing prayer is almost an impossibility where
there is neglect of the study of the Word of God.
Mere intellectual study of the Word of God is not enough; there must be
meditation upon it. The Word of God must be revolved over and over and over in
the mind, with a constant looking to God by His Spirit to make that Word a
living thing in the heart. The prayer that is born of meditation upon the Word
of God is the prayer that soars upward most easily to God's listening ear.
George Muller, one of the mightiest men of prayer of the present generation,
when the hour for prayer came would begin by reading and meditating upon God's
Word until out of the study of the Word a prayer began to form itself in his
heart. Thus God Himself was a real author of the prayer, and God answered the
prayers which He Himself had inspired.
The Word of God is the instrument through which the Holy Spirit works, it is
the sword of the Spirit in more senses than one; and the one who would know
the work of the Holy Spirit in any direction must feed upon the Word. The one
who would pray in the Spirit must meditate much upon the Word, that the Holy
Spirit may have something through which He can work. The Holy Spirit works His
prayers in us through the Word, and neglect of the Word makes praying in the
Holy Spirit an impossibility. If we would feed the fire of our prayers with
the fuel of God's Word, all our difficulties in prayer would disappear.
PRAYING WITH THANKSGIVING
There are two words often overlooked in the lesson about
prayer which Paul gives us in Phil. 4:6,7, "In nothing be anxious; but in
everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be
made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,
shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." (R.V.) The two
important words often overlooked are, "WITH THANKSGIVING."
In approaching God to ask for new blessings, we should never forget to return
thanks for blessings already granted. If any one of us would stop and think how
many of the prayers which we have offered to God have been answered, and how
seldom we have gone back to God to return thanks for the answers thus given, I
am sure we would be overwhelmed with confusion. We should be just as definite in
returning thanks as we are in prayer. We come to God with most specific
petitions, but when we return thanks to Him, our thanksgiving is indefinite and
Doubtless one reason why so many of our prayers lack power is because we have
neglected to return thanks for blessings already received. If any one were to
constantly come to us asking help from us, and should never say "Thank you" for
the help thus given, we would soon tire of helping one so ungrateful. Indeed,
regard for the one we were helping would hold us back from encouraging such rank
ingratitude. Doubtless our heavenly Father out of a wise regard for our highest
welfare oftentimes refuses to answer petitions that we send up to Him in order
that we may be brought to a sense of our ingratitude and taught to be thankful.
God is deeply grieved by the thanklessness and ingratitude of which so many of
us are guilty. When Jesus healed the ten lepers and only one came back to give
Him thanks, in wonderment and pain He exclaimed,
"Were not the ten cleansed? but where are the nine?" (Luke 17:17, R.V.)
How often must He look down upon us in sadness at our forgetfulness of His
repeated blessings, and His frequent answer to our prayers.
Returning thanks for blessings already received increases our faith and enables
us to approach God with new boldness and new assurance. Doubtless the reason so
many have so little faith when they pray, is because they take so little time to
meditate upon and thank God for blessings already received. As one meditates
upon the answers to prayers already granted, faith waxes bolder and bolder, and
we come to feel in the very depths of our souls that there is nothing too hard
for the Lord. As we reflect upon the wondrous goodness of God toward us on the
one hand, and upon the other hand upon the little thought and strength and time
that we ever put into thanksgiving, we may well humble ourselves before God and
confess our sin.
The mighty men of prayer in the Bible, and the mighty men of prayer throughout
the ages of the church's history have been men who were much given to
thanksgiving and praise. David was a mighty man of prayer, and how his Psalms
abound with thanksgiving and praise. The apostles were mighty men of prayer; of
them we read that "they were continually in the temple, praising and blessing
God." Paul was a mighty man of prayer, and how often in his epistles he bursts
out in definite thanksgiving to God for definite blessings and definite answers
to prayers. Jesus is our model in prayer as in everything else. We find in the
study of His life that His manner of returning thanks at the simplest meal was
so noticeable that two of His disciples recognized Him by this after His
Thanksgiving is one of the inevitable results of being filled with the Holy
Spirit and one who does not learn "in everything to give thanks" cannot continue
to pray in the Spirit. If we would learn to pray with power we would do well to
let these two words sink deep into our hearts: "WITH THANKSGIVING."
HINDRANCES TO PRAYER
We have gone very carefully into the positive conditions of
prevailing prayer; but there are some things which hinder prayer. These God has
made very plain in His Word.
- 1. The first hindrance to prayer we will find in James 4:3,
"Ye ask and receive not BECAUSE YE ASK AMISS, THAT YE MAY SPEND IT IN YOUR
- A selfish purpose in prayer robs prayer of power. Very many
prayers are selfish. These may be prayers for things for which it is perfectly
proper to ask, for things which it is the will of God to give, but the motive
of the prayer is entirely wrong, and so the prayer falls powerless to the
ground. The true purpose in prayer is that God may be glorified in the answer.
If we ask any petition merely that we may receive something to use in our
pleasures or in our own gratification in one way or another, we "ask amiss"
and need not expect to receive what we ask. This explains why many prayers
For example, many a woman is praying for the conversion of her husband. That
certainly is a most proper thing to ask; but many a woman's motive in asking
for the conversion of her husband is entirely improper, it is selfish. She
desires that her husband may be converted because it would be so much more
pleasant for her to have a husband who sympathized with her; or it is so
painful to think that her husband might die and be lost forever. For some such
selfish reason as this she desires to have her husband converted. The prayer
is purely selfish. Why should a woman desire the conversion of her husband?
First of all and above all, that God may be glorified; because she cannot bear
the thought that God the Father should be dishonored by her husband trampling
underfoot the Son of God.
Many pray for a revival. That certainly is a prayer that is pleasing to God,
it is along the line of His will; but many prayers for revivals are purely
selfish. The churches desire revivals in order that the membership may be
increased, in order that the church may have a position of more power and
influence in the community, in order that the church treasury may be filled,
in order that a good report may be made at the presbytery or conference or
association. For such low purposes as these, churches and ministers oftentimes
are praying for a revival, and oftentimes too God does not answer the prayer.
Why should we pray for a revival? For the glory of God, because we cannot
endure it that God should continue to be dishonored by the worldliness of the
church, by the sins of unbelievers, by the proud unbelief of the day; because
God's Word is being made void; in order that God may be glorified by the
outpouring of His Spirit on the Church of Christ. For these reasons first of
all and above all, we should pray for a revival.
Many a prayer for the Holy Spirit is a purely selfish prayer. It certainly is
God's will to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him--He has told us so
plainly in His Word (Luke 11:13), but many a prayer for the Holy Spirit is
hindered by the selfishness of the motive that lies back of the prayer. Men
and women pray for the Holy Spirit in order that they may be happy, or in
order that they may be saved from the wretchedness of defeat in their lives,
or in order that they may have power as Christian workers, or for some other
purely selfish motive. Why should we pray for the Spirit? In order that God
may no longer be dishonored by the low level of our Christian lives and by our
ineffectiveness in service, in order that God may be glorified in the new
beauty that comes into our lives and the new power that comes into our
- 2. The second hindrance to prayer we find in Is. 59:1,2:
"Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His
ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But YOUR INIQUITIES HAVE SEPARATED BETWEEN YOU
AND YOUR GOD, and YOUR SINS HAVE HID HIS FACE FROM YOU, THAT HE WILL NOT
- Sin hinders prayer. Many a man prays and prays and prays,
and gets absolutely no answer to his prayer. Perhaps he is tempted to think
that it is not the will of God to answer, or he may think that the days when
God answered prayer, if He ever did, are over. So the Israelites seem to have
thought. They thought that the Lord's hand was shortened, that it could not
save, and that His ear had become heavy that it could no longer hear.
"Not so," said Isaiah, "God's ear is just as open to hear as ever, His hand
just as mighty to save; but there is a hindrance. That hindrance is your own
sins. Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins
have hid His face from you that He will not hear."
It is so to-day. Many and many a man is crying to God in vain, simply because
of sin in his life. It may be some sin in the past that has been unconfessed
and unjudged, it may be some sin in the present that is cherished, very likely
is not even looked upon as sin, but there the sin is, hidden away somewhere in
the heart or in the life, and God "will not hear."
Any one who finds his prayers ineffective should not conclude that the thing
which he asks of God is not according to His will, but should go alone with
God with the Psalmist's prayer, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me,
and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me" (Ps.
139:23,24), and wait before Him until He puts His finger upon the thing that
is displeasing in His sight. Then this sin should be confessed and put away.
I well remember a time in my life when I was praying for two definite things
that it seemed that I must have, or God would be dishonored; but the answer
did not come. I awoke in the middle of the night in great physical suffering
and great distress of soul. I cried to God for these things, reasoned with Him
as to how necessary it was that I get them, and get them at once; but no
answer came. I asked God to show me if there was anything wrong in my own
life. Something came to my mind that had often come to it before, something
definite but which I was unwilling to confess as sin. I said to God, "If this
is wrong I will give it up"; but still no answer came. In my innermost heart,
though I had never admitted it, I knew it was wrong.
At last I said:
"This is wrong. I have sinned. I will give it up."
I found peace. In a few moments I was sleeping like a child. In the morning I
woke well in body, and the money that was so much needed for the honor of
God's name came.
Sin is an awful thing, and one of the most awful things about it is the way it
hinders prayer, the way it severs the connection between us and the source of
all grace and power and blessing. Any one who would have power in prayer must
be merciless in dealing with his own sins. "If I regard iniquity in my heart,
the Lord will not hear me." (Ps. 66:18) So long as we hold on to sin or have
any controversy with God, we cannot expect Him to heed our prayers. If there
is anything that is constantly coming up in your moments of close communion
with God, that is the thing that hinders prayer: put it away.
- 3. The third hindrance to prayer is found in Ez. 14:3, "Son
of man, these men have taken their idols into their heart, and put the
stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of
at all by them?" (R.V.) IDOLS IN THE HEART CAUSE GOD TO REFUSE TO LISTEN TO
- What is an idol? An idol is anything that takes the place
of God, anything that is the supreme object of our affection. God alone has
the right to the supreme place in our hearts. Everything and
everyone else must be subordinate to Him.
Many a man makes an idol of his wife. Not that a man can love his wife any too
much, but he can put her in the wrong place, he can put her before God; and
when a man regards his wife's pleasure before God's pleasure, when he gives
her the first place and God the second place, his wife is an idol, and God
cannot hear his prayers.
Many a woman makes an idol of her children. Not that we can love our children
too much. The more dearly we love Christ, the more dearly we love our
children; but we can put our children in the wrong place, we can put them
before God, and their interests before God's interests. When we do this our
children are our idols.
Many a man makes an idol of his reputation or his business. Reputation or
business is put before God. God cannot hear the prayers of such a man.
One great question for us to decide, if we would have power in prayer is, Is
God absolutely first? Is He before wife, before children, before reputation,
before business, before our own lives? If not, prevailing prayer is
God often calls our attention to the fact that we have an idol, by not
answering our prayers, and thus leading us to inquire as to why our prayers
are not answered, and so we discover the idol, put it away, and God hears our
- 4. The fourth hindrance to prayer is found in Prov. 21:13,
"WHOSO STOPPETH HIS EARS AT THE CRY OF THE POOR, HE ALSO SHALL CRY HIMSELF,
BUT SHALL NOT BE HEARD."
- There is perhaps no greater hindrance to prayer than
stinginess, the lack of liberality toward the poor and toward God's work. It
is the one who gives generously to others who receives generously from God.
"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken
together, running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what measure
ye mete it shall be measured to you again." (Luke 6:38, R.V.) The generous man
is the mighty man of prayer. The stingy man is the powerless man of prayer.
One of the most wonderful statements about prevailing prayer (already referred
to) 1_John 3:22, "Whatsoever we ask we receive of Him, because we keep His
commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight," is made in
direct connection with generosity toward the needy. In the context we are told
that it is when we love, not in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth,
when we open our hearts toward the brother in need, it is then and only then
we have confidence toward God in prayer.
Many a man and woman who is seeking to find the secret of their powerlessness
in prayer need not seek far; it is nothing more nor less than downright
stinginess. George Muller, to whom reference has already been made, was a
mighty man of prayer because he was a mighty giver. What he received from God
never stuck to his fingers; he immediately passed it on to others. He was
constantly receiving because he was constantly giving. When one thinks of the
selfishness of the professing church to-day, how the orthodox churches of this
land do not average $1.oo per year per member for foreign missions, it is no
wonder that the church has so little power in prayer. If we would get from
God, we must give to others. Perhaps the most wonderful promise in the Bible
in regard to God's supplying our need is Phil. 4:19, "And my God shall fulfill
every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (R.V.)
This glorious promise was made to the Philippian church, and made in immediate
connection with their generosity.
- 5. The fifth hindrance to prayer is found in Mark 11:25,
"And when ye stand praying, FORGIVE, if ye have ought against any; that your
Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."
- An unforgiving spirit is one of the commonest hindrances to
prayer. Prayer is answered on the basis that our sins are forgiven; and God
cannot deal with us on the basis of forgiveness while we are harboring
ill-will against those who have wronged us. Any one who is nursing a grudge
against another has fast closed the ear of God against his own petition. How
many there are crying to God for the conversion of husband, children, friends,
and wondering why it is that their prayer is not answered, when the whole
secret is some grudge that they have in their hearts against some one who has
injured them, or who they fancy has injured them. Many and many a mother and
father are allowing their children to go down to eternity unsaved, for the
miserable gratification of hating somebody.
- 6. The sixth hindrance to prayer is found in 1_Peter 3:7,
"Ye husbands, in like manner, dwell with your wives according to knowledge,
giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel as being also
joint-heirs of the grace of life; to the end that your prayers be not
hindered." (R.V.) Here we are plainly told that A WRONG RELATION BETWEEN
HUSBAND AND WIFE IS A HINDRANCE TO PRAYER.
- In many and many a case the prayers of husbands are
hindered because of their failure of duty toward their wives. On the other
hand, it is also doubtless true that the prayers of wives are hindered because
of their failure in duty toward their husbands. If husbands and wives should
seek diligently to find the cause of their unanswered prayers, they would
often find it in their relations to one another.
Many a man who makes great pretensions to piety, and is very active in
Christian work, shows but little consideration in his treatment of his wife,
and is oftentimes unkind, if not brutal; then he wonders why it is that his
prayers are not answered. The verse that we have just quoted explains the
seeming mystery. On the other hand, many a woman who is very devoted to the
church, and very faithful in attendance upon all services, treats her husband
with the most unpardonable neglect, is cross and peevish toward him, wounds
him by the sharpness of her speech, and by her ungovernable temper; then
wonders why it is that she has no power in prayer.
There are other things in the relations of husbands and wives which cannot be
spoken of publicly, but which doubtless are oftentimes a hindrance in
approaching God in prayer. There is much of sin covered up under the holy name
of marriage that is a cause of spiritual deadness, and of powerlessness in
prayer. Any man or woman whose prayers seem to bring no answer should spread
their whole married life out before God, and ask Him to put His finger upon
anything in it that is displeasing in His sight.
- 7. The seventh hindrance to prayer is found in James 1:5-7,
"But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all
liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask IN
FAITH, NOTHING DOUBTING: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea
driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall
receive anything of the Lord." (R.V.)
- Prayers are hindered by unbelief. God demands that we shall
believe His Word absolutely. To question it is to make Him a liar. Many of us
do that when we plead His promises, and is it any wonder that our prayers are
not answered? How many prayers are hindered by our wretched unbelief! We go to
God and ask Him for something that is positively promised in His Word, and
then we do not more than half expect to get it. "Let not that man think that
he shall receive anything of the Lord."
WHEN TO PRAY
If we would know the fullness of blessing that there is in the
prayer life, it is important not only that we pray in the right way, but also
that we pray at the right time. Christ's own example is full of suggestiveness
as to the right time for prayer.
- 1. In the 1st chapter of Mark, the 35th verse, we read,
"And IN THE MORNING, rising up A GREAT WHILE BEFORE DAY, He went out, and
departed into a solitary place, and there prayed."
- JESUS CHOSE THE EARLY MORNING HOUR FOR PRAYER. Many of the
mightiest men of God have followed the Lord's example in this. In the morning
hour the mind is fresh and at its very best. It is free from distraction, and
that absolute concentration upon God which is essential to the most effective
prayer is most easily possible in the early morning hours. Furthermore, when
the early hours are spent in prayer, the whole day is sanctified, and power is
obtained for overcoming its temptations, and for performing its duties. More
can be accomplished in prayer in the first hours of the day than at any other
time during the day. Every child of God who would make the most out of his
life for Christ, should set apart the first part of the day to meeting God in
the study of His Word and in prayer. The first thing we do each day should be
to go alone with God and face the duties, the temptations, and the service of
that day, and get strength from God for all. We should get victory before the
hour of trial, temptation or service comes. The secret place of prayer is the
place to fight our battles and gain our victories.
- 2. In the 6th chapter of Luke in the 12th verse, we get
further light upon the right time to pray. We read, "And it came to pass in
those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued ALL NIGHT
in prayer to God."
- Here we see Jesus praying in the night, spending the entire
night in prayer. Of course we have no reason to suppose that this was the
constant practice of our Lord, nor do we even know how common this practice
was, but there were certainly times when the whole night was given up to
prayer. Here too we do well to follow in the footsteps of the Master.
Of course there is a way of setting apart nights for prayer in which there is
no profit; it is pure legalism. But the abuse of this practice is no reason
for neglecting it altogether. One ought not to say, "I am going to spend a
whole night in prayer," with the thought that there is any merit that will win
God's favor in such an exercise; that is legalism. But we oftentimes do well
to say, "I am going to set apart this night for meeting God, and obtaining His
blessing and power; and if necessary, and if He so leads me, I will give the
whole night to prayer." Oftentimes we will have prayed things through long
before the night has passed, and we can retire and find more refreshing and
invigorating sleep than if we had not spent the time in prayer. At other times
God doubtless will keep us in communion with Himself away into the morning,
and when He does this in His infinite grace, blessed indeed are these hours of
Nights of prayer to God are followed by days of power with men. In the night
hours the world is hushed in slumber, and we can easily be alone with God and
have undisturbed communion with Him. If we set apart the whole night for
prayer, there will be no hurry, there will be time for our own hearts to
become quiet before God, there will be time for the whole mind to be brought
under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there will be plenty of time to pray
things through. A night of prayer should be put entirely under God's control.
We should lay down no rules as to how long we will pray, or as to what we
shall pray about, but be ready to wait upon God for a short time or a long
time as He may lead, and to be led out in one direction or another as He may
- 3. Jesus Christ prayed BEFORE ALL THE GREAT CRISES IN HIS
- He prayed before choosing the twelve disciples; before the
sermon on the mount; before starting out on an evangelistic tour; before His
anointing with the Holy Spirit and His entrance upon His public ministry;
before announcing to the twelve His approaching death; before the great
consummation of His life at the cross. (Luke 6:12,13; Luke 9:18,21,22; Luke
3:21,22; Mark 1:35-38; Luke 22:39 -46.) He prepared for every important crisis
by a protracted season of prayer. So ought we to do also. Whenever any crisis
of life is seen to be approaching, we should prepare for it by a season of
very definite prayer to God. We should take plenty of time for this prayer.
- 4. Christ prayed not only before the great events and
victories of His life, but He also prayed AFTER ITS GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS AND
- When He had fed the five thousand with the five loaves and
two fishes, and the multitude desired to take Him and make Him king, having
sent them away He went up into the mountain apart to pray, and spent hours
there alone in prayer to God (Matt. 14:23; Jn. 6:15). So He went on from
victory to victory.
It is more common for most of us to pray before the great events of life than
it is to pray after them, but the latter is as important as the former. If we
would pray after the great achievements of life, we might go on to still
greater; as it is we are often either puffed up or exhausted by the things
that we do in the name of the Lord, and so we advance no further. Many and
many a man in answer to prayer has been endued with power and thus has wrought
great things in the name of the Lord, and when these great things were
accomplished, instead of going alone with God and humbling himself before Him,
and giving Him all the glory for what was achieved, he has congratulated
himself upon what has been accomplished, has become puffed up, and God has
been obliged to lay him aside. The great things done were not followed by
humiliation of self, and prayer to God, and so pride has come in and the
mighty man has been shorn of his power.
- 5. Jesus Christ gave a special time to prayer WHEN LIFE WAS
UNUSUALLY BUSY. He would withdraw at such a time from the multitudes that
thronged about Him, and go into the wilderness and pray. For example, we read
in Luke 5:15,16, "But so much the more went abroad the report concerning Him:
and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed of their
infirmities. But He withdrew Himself in the deserts and prayed." (R.V.)
- Some men are so busy that they find no time for prayer.
Apparently the busier Christ's life was, the more He prayed. Sometimes He had
no time to eat (Mark 3:20), sometimes He had no time for needed rest and sleep
(Mark 6:31,33,46), but He always took time to pray; and the more the work
crowded the more He prayed.
Many a mighty man of God has learned this secret from Christ, and when the
work has crowded more than usual they have set an unusual amount of time apart
for prayer. Other men of God, once mighty, have lost their power because they
did not learn this secret, and allowed increasing work to crowd out prayer.
Years ago it was the writer's privilege, with other theological students, to
ask questions of one of the most useful Christian men of the day. The writer
was led to ask,
"Will you tell us something of your prayer life?"
The man was silent a moment, and then, turning his eyes earnestly upon me,
"Well, I must admit that I have been so crowded with work of late that I have
not given the time I should to prayer."
Is it any wonder that that man lost power, and the great work that he was
doing was curtailed in a very marked degree? Let us never forget that the more
the work presses on us, the more time must we spend in prayer.
- 6. Jesus Christ prayed BEFORE THE GREAT TEMPTATIONS OF HIS
- As He drew nearer and nearer to the cross, and realized
that upon it was to come the great final test of His life, Jesus went out into
the garden to pray. He came "unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto
the disciples, Sit ye here while I go and pray yonder." (Matt. 26:36) The
victory of Calvary was won that night in the garden of Gethsemane. The calm
majesty of His bearing in meeting the awful onslaughts of Pilate's Judgment
Hall and of Calvary, was the outcome of the struggle, agony and victory of
Gethsemane. While Jesus prayed the disciples slept, so He stood fast while
they fell ignominiously.
Many temptations come upon us unawares and unannounced, and all that we can do
is to lift a cry to God for help then and there; but many of the temptations
of life we can see approaching from the distance, and in such cases the
victory should be won before the temptation really reaches us.
- 7. In 1_Thess. 5:17 we read, "Pray WITHOUT CEASING," and in
Eph. 6:18, R.V., "praying AT ALL SEASONS."
- Our whole life should be a life of prayer. We should walk
in constant communion with God. There should be a constant upward looking of
the soul to God. We should walk so habitually in His presence that even when
we awake in the night it would be the most natural thing in the world for us
to speak to Him in thanksgiving or in petition.
THE NEED OF A GENERAL REVIVAL
If we are to pray aright in such a time as
this, much of our prayer should be for a general revival. If there was ever a
time in which there was need to cry unto God in the words of the Psalmist, "Wilt
Thou not revive us again, that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?" (Ps. 85:6) it is
this day in which we live. It is surely time for the Lord to work, for men have
made void His law (Ps. 199:126). The voice of the Lord given in the written Word
is set at naught both by the world and the church. Such a time is not a time for
discouragement--the man who believes in God and believes in the Bible can never
be discouraged; but it is a time for Jehovah Himself to step in and work. The
intelligent Christian, the wide-awake watchman on the walls of Zion, may well
cry with the Psalmist of old, "It is time for Jehovah to work, for they have
made void Thy law." (Ps. 119:126, Am.R.V.)
The great need of the day is a general revival.
Let us consider first of all what a general revival is.
A revival is a time of quickening or impartation of life. As God alone can give
life, a revival is a time when God visits His people and by the power of His
Spirit imparts new life to them, and through them imparts life to sinners dead
in trespasses and sins. We have religious excitements gotten up by the cunning
methods and hypnotic influence of the mere professional evangelist; but these
are not revivals and are not needed. They are the devil's imitations of a
revival. NEW LIFE FROM GOD--that is a revival. A general revival is a time when
this new life from God is not confined to scattered localities, but is general
throughout Christendom and the earth.
The reason why a general revival is needed is that spiritual dearth and
desolation and death is general. It is not confined to any one country, though
it may be more manifest in some countries than in others. It is found in foreign
mission fields as well as in home fields. We have had local revivals. The
life-giving Spirit of God has breathed upon this minister and that, this church
and that, this community and that; but we need, we sorely need, a revival that
shall be widespread and general.
Let us look for a few moments at the results of a revival. These results are
apparent in ministers, in the church and in the unsaved.
- 1. The results of a revival in a minister
- (1) The minister has a new love for
souls. We ministers as a rule have no such love for souls as we ought to
have, no such love for souls as Jesus had, no such love for souls as Paul
had. But when God visits His people the hearts of ministers are greatly
burdened for the unsaved. They go out in great longing for the salvation of
their fellow men. They forget their ambition to preach great sermons and for
fame, and simply long to see men brought to Christ.
- (2) When true revivals come ministers get
a new love for God's Word and a new faith in God's Word. They fling to the
winds their doubts and criticisms of the Bible and of the creeds, and go to
preaching the Bible and especially Christ crucified. Revivals make ministers
who are loose in their doctrines orthodox. A genuine wide- sweeping revival
would do more to turn things upside down and thus get them right side up
than all the heresy trials ever instituted.
- (3) Revivals bring to ministers new
liberty and power in preaching. It is no week-long grind to prepare a
sermon, and no nerve-consuming effort to preach it after it has been
prepared. Preaching is a joy and a refreshment, and there is power in it in
times of revival.
- 2. The results of a revival on Christians
generally are as marked as its results upon the ministry.
- (1) In times of revival Christians come
out from the world and live separated lives. Christians who have been
dallying with the world, who have been playing cards and dancing and going
to the theater and indulging in similar follies, give them up. These things
are found to be incompatible with increasing life and light.
- (2) In times of revival Christians get a
new spirit of prayer. Prayer-meetings are no longer a duty, but become the
necessity of a hungry, importunate heart. Private prayer is followed with
new zest. The voice of earnest prayer to God is heard day and night. People
no longer ask, "Does God answer prayer?" They know He does, and besiege the
throne of grace day and night.
- (3) In times of revival Christians go to
work for lost souls. They do not go to meeting simply to enjoy themselves
and get blessed. They go to meeting to watch for souls and to bring them to
Christ. They talk to men on the street and in the stores and in their homes.
The cross of Christ, salvation, heaven and hell become the subjects of
constant conversation. Politics and the weather and new bonnets and the
latest novels are forgotten.
- (4) In times of revival Christians have
new joy in Christ. Life is joy, and new life is new joy. Revival days are
glad days, days of heaven on earth.
- (5) In times of revival Christians get a
new love for the Word of God. They want to study it day and night. Revivals
are bad for saloons and theaters, but they are good for bookstores and Bible
- 3. But revivals also have a decided
influence on the unsaved world.
- (1) First of all, they bring deep
conviction of sin. Jesus said that when the Spirit was come He would
convince the world of sin (Jn. 16:7,8). Now we have seen that a revival is a
coming of the Holy Spirit, and therefore there must be a new conviction of
sin, and there always is. If you see something men call a revival, and there
is no conviction of sin, you may know at once that it is bogus. It is a sure
- (2) Revivals bring also conversion and
regeneration. When God refreshes His people, He always converts sinners
also. The first result of Pentecost was new life and power to the one
hundred and twenty disciples in the upper room; the second result was three
thousand conversions in a single day. It is always so. I am constantly
reading of revivals here and there, where Christians were greatly helped but
there were no conversions. I have my doubts about that kind. If Christians
are truly refreshed, they will get after the unsaved by prayer and testimony
and persuasion, and there will be conversions.
WHY A GENERAL REVIVAL IS NEEDED
We see what a general revival is, and what it does; let us now face the question
why it is needed at the present time.
I think that the mere description of what it is and what it does shows that it
is needed, sorely needed, but let us look at some specific conditions that exist
to-day that show the need of it. In showing these conditions one is likely to be
called a pessimist. If facing the facts is to be called a pessimist, I am
willing to be called a pessimist. If in order to be an optimist one must shut
his eyes and call black white, and error truth, and sin righteousness, and death
life, I don't want to be called an optimist. But I am an optimist all the same.
Pointing out the real condition will lead to a better condition.
- 1. Look first at the ministry.
- (1) Many of us who are professedly
orthodox ministers are practically infidels. That is plain speech, but it is
also indisputable fact. There is no essential difference between the
teachings of Tom Paine and Bob Ingersoll and the teachings of some of our
theological professors. The latter are not so blunt and honest about it;
they phrase it in more elegant and studied sentences; but it means the same.
Much of the so-called new learning and higher criticism is simply Tom Paine
infidelity sugar-coated. Prof. Howard Osgood, who is a real scholar and not
a mere echo of German infidelity, once read a statement of some positions,
and asked if they did not fairly represent the scholarly criticism of
to-day, and when it was agreed that they did, he startled his audience by
- "I am reading from Tom Paine's `Age of
There is little new in the higher criticism. Our future ministers oftentimes
are being educated under infidel professors, and being immature boys when
they enter the college or seminary, they naturally come out infidels in many
cases, and then go forth to poison the church.
- (2) Even when our ministers are
orthodox--as thank God so very many are!--they are oftentimes not men of
prayer. How many modern ministers know what it is to wrestle in prayer, to
spend a good share of a night in prayer? I do not know how many, but I do
know that many do not.
- (3) Many of us who are ministers have no
love for souls. How many preach because they MUST preach, because they feel
that men every where are perishing, and by preaching they hope to save some?
And how many follow up their preaching as Paul did, by beseeching men
everywhere to be reconciled to God?
- Perhaps enough has been said about us
ministers; but it is evident that a revival is needed for our sake or some
of us will have to stand before God overwhelmed with confusion in an awful
day of reckoning that is surely coming.
- 2. Look now at the church:
- (1) Look at the doctrinal state of the
church. It is bad enough. Many do not believe in the whole Bible. The book
of Genesis is a myth, Jonah is an allegory, and even the miracles of the Son
of God are questioned. The doctrine of prayer is old-fashioned, and the work
of the Holy Spirit is sneered at. Conversion is unnecessary, and hell is no
longer believed in. Then look at the fads and errors that have sprung up out
of this loss of faith, Christian Science, Unitarianism, Spiritualism,
Universalism, Babism, Metaphysical Healing, etc., etc., a perfect
pandemonium of doctrines of devils.
- (2) Look at the spiritual state of the
church. Worldliness is rampant among church members. Many church members are
just as eager as any in the rush to get rich. They use the methods of the
world in the accumulation of wealth, and they hold just as fast to it as any
when they have gotten it.
- Prayerlessness abounds among church
members on every hand. Some one has said that Christians on the average do
not spend more than five minutes a day in prayer.
Neglect of the Word of God goes hand in hand with neglect of prayer to God.
Very many Christians spend twice as much time every day wallowing through
the more of the daily papers as they do bathing in the cleansing laver of
God's Holy Word. How many Christians average an hour a day spent in Bible
Along with neglect of prayer and neglect of the Word of God goes a lack of
generosity. The churches are rapidly increasing in wealth, but the
treasuries of the missionary societies are empty. Christians do not average
a dollar a year for foreign missions. It is simply appalling.
Then there is the increasing disregard for the Lord's Day. It is fast
becoming a day of worldly pleasure, instead of a day of holy service. The
Sunday newspaper with its inane twaddle and filthy scandal takes the place
of the Bible; and visiting and golf and bicycle, the place of the
Sunday-school and church service.
Christians mingle with the world in all forms of questionable amusements.
The young man and young woman who does not believe in dancing with its rank
immodesties, the card table with its drift toward gambling, and the theater
with its ever-increasing appeal to lewdness, is counted an old fogy.
Then how small a proportion of our membership has really entered into
fellowship with Jesus Christ in His burden for souls! Enough has been said
of the spiritual state of the church.
- 3. Now look at the state of the world.
- (1) Note how few conversions there are.
The Methodist church, which has led the way in aggressive work has actually
lost more members than it has gained the last year. Here and there a church
has a large number of accessions upon confession of faith, but these
churches are rare exceptions; and where there are such accessions, in how
few cases are the conversions deep, thorough and satisfactory.
- (2) There is lack of conviction of sin.
Seldom are men overwhelmed with a sense of their awful guilt in trampling
under foot the Son of God. Sin is regarded as a "misfortune" or as
"infirmity," or even as "good in the making"; seldom as enormous wrong
against a holy God.
- (3) Unbelief is rampant. Many regard it
as a mark of intellectual superiority to reject the Bible, and even faith in
God and immortality. It is about the only mark of intellectual superiority
many possess, and perhaps that is the reason they cling to it so
- (4) Hand in hand with this widespread
infidelity goes gross immorality, as has always been the case. Infidelity
and immorality are Siamese twins. They always exist and always grow and
always fatten together. This prevailing immorality is found everywhere.
- Look at the legalized adultery that we
call divorce. Men marry one wife after another, and are still admitted into
good society; and women do likewise. There are thousands of supposedly
respectable men in America living with other men's wives, and thousands of
supposedly respectable women living with other women's husbands.
This immorality is found in the theater. The theater at its best is bad
enough, but now "Sapphos," and the "Degenerates," and all the unspeakable
vile accessories of the stage rule the day, and the women who debauch
themselves by appearing in such plays are defended in the newspapers and
welcomed by supposedly respectable people.
Much of our literature is rotten, but decent people will read books as bad
as "Trilby" because it is the rage. Art is oftentimes a mere covering for
shameless indecency. Women are induced to cast modesty to the winds that the
artist may perfect his art and defile his morals.
Greed for money has become a mania with rich and poor. The multi-millionaire
will often sell his soul and trample the rights of his fellow men under foot
in the mad hope of becoming a billionaire, and the laboring man will often
commit murder to increase the power of the union and keep up wages. Wars are
waged and men shot down like dogs to improve commerce, and to gain political
prestige for unprincipled politicians who parade as statesmen.
The licentiousness of the day lifts its serpent head everywhere. You see it
in the newspapers, you see it on the bill- boards, you see it on the
advertisements of cigars, shoes, bicycles, patent medicines, corsets and
everything else. You see it on the streets at night. You see it just outside
the church door. You find it not only in the awful cesspools set apart for
it in the great cities, but it is crowding further and further up our
business streets and into the residence portions of our cities. Alas! now
and then you find it, if you look sharp, in supposedly respectable homes;
indeed it will be borne to your ears by the confessions of broken- hearted
men and women. The moral condition of the world in our day is disgusting,
We need a revival, deep, widespread, general, in the power of the Holy
Ghost. It is either a general revival or the dissolution of the church, of
the home, of the state. A revival, new life from God, is the cure, and the
only cure. That will stem the awful tide of immorality and unbelief. Mere
argument will not do it; but a sign from heaven, a new outpouring of the
Spirit of God, It was not discussion but the breath of God that relegated
Tom Paine, Voltaire, Volney and other of the old infidels to the limbo of
forgetfulness; and we need a new breath from God to send the Wellhausens and
the Kuenens and the Grafs and the parrots they have trained to occupy chairs
and pulpits in England and America to keep them company. I believe that
breath from God is coming.
The great need of to-day is a general revival. The need is clear. It admits
of no honest difference of opinion. What then shall we do? Pray. Take up the
Psalmist's prayer, "Revive us again, that Thy people may rejoice in Thee."
Take up Ezekiel's prayer, "Come from the four winds, O breath (breath of
God), and breathe upon these slain that they may live." Hark, I hear a
noise! Behold a shaking! I can almost feel the breeze upon my cheek. I can
almost see the great living army rising to their feet. Shall we not pray and
pray and pray and pray, till the Spirit comes, and God revives His people?
THE PLACE OF PRAYER BEFORE AND DURING REVIVALS
No treatment of the subject How to Pray would be at all
complete if it did not consider the place of prayer in revivals.
The first great revival of Christian history had its origin on the human side in
a ten-days' prayer-meeting. We read of that handful of disciples, "These all
with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer." (Acts 1:14, R.V.) The result
of that prayer- meeting we read of in the 2nd chapter of the Acts of the
Apostles, "They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with
other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (v.4) Further on in the
chapter we read that "there were added unto them in that day about three
thousand souls." (v.41,R.V.) This revival proved genuine and permanent. The
converts "continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the
breaking of bread and the prayers." (v.42,R.V.) "And the Lord added to them day
by day those that were being saved." (v.47,R.V.)
Every true revival from that day to this has had its earthly origin in prayer.
The great revival under Jonathan Edwards in the 18th century began with his
famous call to prayer. The marvelous work of grace among the Indians under
Brainerd had its origin in the days and nights that Brainerd spent before God in
prayer for an endowment of power from on high for this work.
A most remarkable and widespread display of God's reviving power was that which
broke out at Rochester, New York, in 1830, under the labors of Charles G.
Finney. It not only spread throughout the State but ultimately to Great Britain
as well. Mr. Finney himself attributed the power of this work to the spirit of
prayer that prevailed. He describes it in his autobiography in the following
"When I was on my way to Rochester, as we passed through a village, some thirty
miles east of Rochester, a brother minister whom I knew, seeing me on the
canal-boat, jumped aboard to have a little conversation with me, intending to
ride but a little way and return. He, however, became interested in
conversation, and upon finding where I was going, he made up his mind to keep on
and go with me to Rochester. We had been there but a few days when this minister
became so convinced that he could not help weeping aloud at one time as we
passed along the street. The Lord gave him a powerful spirit of prayer, and his
heart was broken. As he and I prayed together, I was struck with his faith in
regard to what the Lord was going to do there. I recollect he would say, `Lord,
I do not know how it is; but I seem to know that Thou art going to do a great
work in this city.' The spirit of prayer was poured out powerfully, so much so
that some persons stayed away from the public services to pray, being unable to
restrain their feelings under preaching.
"And here I must introduce the name of a man, whom I shall have occasion to
mention frequently, Mr. Abel Clary. He was the son of a very excellent man, and
an elder of the church where I was converted. He was converted in the same
revival in which I was. He had been licensed to preach; but his spirit of prayer
was such, he was so burdened with the souls of men, that he was not able to
preach much, his whole time and strength being given to prayer. The burden of
his soul would frequently be so great that he was unable to stand, and he would
writhe and groan in agony. I was well acquainted with him, and knew something of
the wonderful spirit of prayer that was upon him. He was a very silent man, as
almost all are who have that powerful spirit of prayer.
"The first I knew of his being in Rochester, a gentleman who lived about a mile
west of the city, called on me one day and asked me if I knew a Mr. Abel Clary,
a minister. I told him that I knew him well. 'Well,' he said, 'he is at my
house, and has been there for some time, and I don't know what to think of him.'
I said, 'I have not seen him at any of our meetings.' 'No,' he replied, 'he
cannot go to meeting, he says. He prays nearly all the time, day and night, and
in such agony of mind that I do not know what to make of it. Sometimes he cannot
even stand on his knees, but will lie prostrate on the floor, and groan and pray
in a manner that quite astonishes me.' I said to the brother, 'I understand it:
please keep still. It will all come out right; he will surely prevail.'
"I knew at the time a considerable number of men who were exercised in the same
way. A Deacon P---, of Camden, Oneida county; a Deacon T---, of Rodman,
Jefferson county; a Deacon B---, of Adams, in the same county; this Mr. Clary
and many others among the men, and a large number of women partook of the same
spirit, and spent a great part of their time in prayer. Father Nash, as we
called him, who in several of my fields of labor came to me and aided me, was
another of those men that had such a powerful spirit of prevailing prayer. This
Mr. Clary continued in Rochester as long as I did, and did not leave it until
after I had left. He never, that I could learn, appeared in public, but gave
himself wholly to prayer.
"I think it was the second Sabbath that I was at Auburn at this time, I observed
in the congregation the solemn face of Mr. Clary. He looked as if he was borne
down with an agony of prayer. Being well acquainted with him, and knowing the
great gift of God that was upon him, the spirit of prayer, I was very glad to
see him there. He sat in the pew with his brother, the doctor, who was also a
professor of religion, but who had nothing by experience, I should think, of his
brother Abel's great power with God.
"At intermission, as soon as I came down from the pulpit, Mr. Clary, with his
brother, met me at the pulpit stairs, and the doctor invited me to go home with
him and spend the intermission and get some refreshments. I did so.
"After arriving at his house we were soon summoned to the dinner table. We
gathered about the table, and Dr. Clary turned to his brother and said, 'Brother
Abel, will you ask the blessing?' Brother Abel bowed his head and began,
audibly, to ask a blessing. He had uttered but a sentence or two when he broke
instantly down, moved suddenly back from the table, and fled to his chamber. The
doctor supposed he had been taken suddenly ill, and rose up and followed him. In
a few moments he came down and said, 'Mr. Finney, brother Abel wants to see
you.' Said I, 'What ails him?' Said he, 'I do not know but he says, you know. He
appears in great distress, but I think it is the state of his mind.' I
understood it in a moment, and went to his room. He lay groaning upon the bed,
the Spirit making intercession for him, and in him, with groanings that could
not be uttered. I had barely entered the room, when he made out to say, 'Pray,
brother Finney.' I knelt down and helped him in prayer, by leading his soul out
for the conversion of sinners. I continued to pray until his distress passed
away, and then I returned to the dinner table.
"I understood that this was the voice of God. I saw the spirit of prayer was
upon him, and I felt his influence upon myself, and took it for granted that the
work would move on powerfully. It did so. The pastor told me afterward that he
found that in the six weeks that I was there, five hundred souls had been
Mr. Finney in his lectures on revivals tells of other remarkable awakenings in
answer to the prayers of God's people. He says in one place, "A clergyman in
W----n told me of a revival among his people, which commenced with a zealous and
devoted woman in the church. She became anxious about sinners, and went to
praying for them; she prayed, and her distress increased; and she finally came
to her minister, and talked with him, and asked him to appoint an anxious
meeting, for she felt that one was needed. The minister put her off, for he felt
nothing of it. The next week she came again, and besought him to appoint an
anxious meeting, she knew there would be somebody to come, for she felt as if
God was going to pour out His Spirit. He put her off again. And finally she said
to him, 'If you do not appoint an anxious meeting I shall die, for there is
certainly going to be a revival.' The next Sabbath he appointed a meeting, and
said that if there were any who wished to converse with him about the salvation
of their souls, he would meet them on such an evening. He did not know of one,
but when he went to the place, to his astonishment he found a large number of
In still another place he says, "The first ray of light that broke in upon the
midnight which rested on the churches in Oneida county, in the fall of 1825, was
from a woman in feeble health, who, I believe had never been in a powerful
revival. Her soul was exercised about sinners. She was in agony for the land.
She did not know what ailed her, but she kept praying more and more, till it
seemed as if her agony would destroy her body. At length she became full of joy
and exclaimed, 'God has come! God has come! There is no mistake about it, the
work is begun, and is going over all the region!' And sure enough the work
began, and her family were almost all converted, and the work spread all over
that part of the country."
The great revival of 1857 in the United States began in prayer and was carried
on by prayer more than by anything else. Dr. Cuyler in an article in a religious
newspaper some years ago said, "Most revivals have humble beginnings, and the
fire starts in a few warm hearts. Never despise the day of small things. During
all my own long ministry, nearly every work of grace had a similar beginning.
One commenced in a meeting gathered at a few hour's notice in a private house.
Another commenced in a group gathered for Bible study by Mr. Moody in our
mission chapel. Still another--the most powerful of all--was kindled on a bitter
January evening at a meeting of young Christians under my roof. Dr. Spencer, in
his `Pastor's Sketches', (the most suggestive book of its kind I have ever
read), tells us that a remarkable revival in his church sprang from the fervent
prayers of a godly old man who was confined to his room by lameness. That
profound Christian, Dr. Thomas H. Skinner, of the Union Theological Seminary,
once gave me an account of a remarkable coming together of three earnest men in
his study when he was the pastor of the Arch Street Church in Philadelphia. They
literally wrestled in prayer. They made a clean breast in confession of sin, and
humbled themselves before God. One and another church officer came in and joined
them. The heaven-kindled flame soon spread through the whole congregation in one
of the most powerful revivals ever known in that city."
In the early part of the seventeenth century there was a great religious
awakening in Ulster, Ireland. The lands of the rebel chiefs which had been
forfeited to the British crown, were settled up by a class of colonists who for
the most part were governed by a spirit of wild adventure. Real piety was rare.
Seven ministers, five from Scotland and two from England, settled in that
country, the earliest arrivals being in 1613. Of one of these ministers named
Blair it is recorded by a contemporary, "He spent many days and nights in
prayer, alone and with others, and was vouchsafed great intimacy with God." Mr.
James Glendenning, a man of very meager natural gifts, was a man similarly
minded as regards prayer. The work began under this man Glendenning. The
historian of the time says, "He was a man who never would have been chosen by a
wise assembly of ministers nor sent to begin a reformation in this land. Yet
this was the Lord's choice to begin with him the admirable work of God which I
mention on purpose that all may see how the glory is only the Lord's in making a
holy nation in this profane land, and that it was 'not by might, nor by power,
nor by man's wisdom, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.'" In his preaching at
Oldstone multitudes of hearers felt in great anxiety and terror of conscience.
They looked on themselves as altogether lost and damned, and cried out, "Men and
brethren, what shall we do to be saved?" They were stricken into a swoon by the
power of His Word. A dozen in one day were carried out of doors as dead. These
were not women, but some of the boldest spirits of the neighborhood; "some who
had formerly feared not with their swords to put a whole market town into a
fray." Concerning one of them, then a mighty strong man, now a mighty Christian,
say that his end in coming into church was to consult with his companions how to
work some mischief."
This work spread throughout the whole country. By the year 1626 a monthly
concert of prayer was held in Antrim. The work spread beyond the bounds of Down
and Antrim to the churches of the neighboring counties. So great became the
religious interest that Christians would come thirty or forty miles to the
communions, and continue from the time they came until they returned without
wearying or making use of sleep. Many of them neither ate nor drank, and yet
some of them professed that they "went away most fresh and vigorous, their souls
so filled with the sense of God."
This revival changed the whole character of northern Ireland.
Another great awakening in Ireland in 1859 had a somewhat similar origin. By
many who did not know, it was thought that this marvelous work came without
warning and preparation, but Rev. William Gibson, the moderator of the General
Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1860, in his very interesting
and valuable history of the work tells how there had been preparation for two
years. There had been constant discussion in the General Assembly of the low
estate of religion, and of the need of a revival. There had been special
sessions for prayer. Finally four young men, who became leaders in the origin of
the great work, began to meet together in an old schoolhouse in the neighborhood
of Kells. About the spring of 1858 a work of power began to manifest itself. It
spread from town to town, and from county to county. The congregations became
too large for the buildings, and the meetings were held in the open air,
oftentimes attended by many thousands of people. Many hundreds of persons were
frequently convicted of sin in a single meeting. In some places the criminal
courts and jails were closed for lack of occupation. There were manifestations
of the Holy Spirit's power of a most remarkable character, clearly proving that
the Holy Spirit is as ready to work to-day as in apostolic days, when ministers
and Christians really believe in Him and begin to prepare the way by prayer.
Mr. Moody's wonderful work in England and Scotland and Ireland that afterwards
spread to America had its origin on the manward side in prayer. Mr. Moody made
little impression until men and women began to cry to God. Indeed his going to
England at all was in answer to the importunate cries to God of a bed-ridden
saint. While the spirit of prayer continued the revival abode in strength, but
in the course of time less and less was made of prayer and the work fell off
very perceptibly in power. Doubtless one of the great secrets of the
unsatisfactoriness and superficiality and unreality of many of our modern
so-called revivals, is that more dependence is put upon man's machinery than
upon God's power, sought and obtained by earnest, persistent, believing prayer.
We live in a day characterized by the multiplication of man's machinery and the
diminution of God's power. The great cry of our day is work, work, work, new
organizations, new methods, new machinery; the great need of our day is prayer.
It was a master stroke of the devil when he got the church so generally to lay
aside this mighty weapon of prayer. The devil is perfectly willing that the
church should multiply its organizations, and deftly contrive machinery for the
conquest of the world for Christ if it will only give up praying. He laughs as
he looks at the church to-day and says to himself:
"You can have your Sunday-schools and your Young People's Societies, your Young
Men's Christian Associations and your Women's Christian Temperance Unions, your
Institutional Churches and your Industrial Schools, and your Boy's Brigades,
your grand choirs and your fine organs, your brilliant preachers and your
revival efforts too, if you don't bring the power of Almighty God into them by
earnest, persistent, believing, mighty prayer."
Prayer could work as marvelous results today as it ever could, if the church
would only betake itself to it.
There seem to be increasing signs that the church is awakening to this fact.
Here and there God is laying upon individual ministers and churches a burden of
prayer that they have never known before. Less dependence is being put upon
machinery and more dependence upon God. Ministers are crying to God day and
night for power. Churches and portions of churches are meeting together in the
early morning hours and the late night hours crying to God for the latter rain.
There is every indication of the coming of a mighty and widespread revival.
There is every reason why, if a revival should come in any country at this time,
it should be more widespread in its extent than any revival of history. There is
the closest and swiftest communication by travel, by letter, and by cable
between all parts of the world. A true fire of God kindled in America would soon
spread to the uttermost parts of the earth. The only thing needed to bring this
fire is prayer.
It is not necessary that the whole church get to praying to begin with. Great
revivals always begin first in the hearts of a few men and women whom God
arouses by His Spirit to believe in Him as a living God, as a God who answers
prayer, and upon whose heart He lays a burden from which no rest can be found
except in importunate crying unto God.
May God use this book to arouse many others to pray that the greatly-needed
revival may come, and come speedily.
LET US PRAY
Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Sermons and
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