Possibilities of Prayer
E. M. Bounds
"The story of prayer is the story of great achievements. Prayer is a wonderful
power placed by Almighty God in the hands of His saints, which may be used to
accomplish great purposes and to achieve unusual results. Prayer reaches to
everything, takes in all things great and small which are promised by God to
the children of men. The only limits to prayer are the promises of God and His
ability to fulfill those promises."
Discover for yourself the infinite possibilities of prayer. Chapters like
"Answered Prayer," "Prayer Miracles," and "Wonders of God Through Prayer" will
help you understand what can be accomplished if we will only pray.
A practical, challenging look at prayer and its power.
Edward McKendree Bounds (1835-1913) practiced law for three years until he was
called to preach the gospel. While serving as chaplain during the Civil War, he
was captured and held prisoner in Nashville, Tennessee. After his release, he
held several pastorates. His books on prayer have been continual best-sellers
for over fifty years.
The Possibilities of Prayer
E. M. Bounds
Scanned by Harry Plantinga, email@example.com,
From the uncopyrighted
MOODY PRESS EDITION, 1980
This etext is in the public domain.
I. THE MINISTRY OF PRAYER
II. PRAYER AND THE PROMISES
III. PRAYER AND THE PROMISES (Continued)
IV. PRAYER -- ITS POSSIBILITIES
V. PRAYER -- ITS POSSIBILITIES (Continued)
VI. PRAYER -- ITS POSSIBILITIES (Continued)
VII. PRAYER -- ITS WIDE RANGE
VIII. PRAYER -- FACTS AND HISTORY
IX. PRAYER -- FACTS AND HISTORY (Continued)
X. ANSWERED PRAYER
XI. ANSWERED PRAYER (Continued)
XII. ANSWERED PRAYER (Continued)
XIII. PRAYER MIRACLES
XIV. WONDERS OF GOD THROUGH PRAYER
XV. PRAYER AND DIVINE PROVIDENCE
XVI. PRAYER AND DIVINE PROVIDENCE (Continued)
"Prayer should be the breath of our breathing, the thought of
our thinking, the soul of our feeling, and the life of our living, the sound of
our hearing, the growth of our growing." Prayer in its magnitude is length
without end, width without bounds, height without top, and depth without
bottom. Illimitable in its breadth, exhaustless in height, fathomless in depths
and infinite in extension. -- HOMER W. HODGE
THE ministry of prayer has been the peculiar distinction of all of God's
saints. This has been the secret of their power. The energy and the soul of
their work has been the closet. The need of help outside of man being so great,
man's natural inability to always judge kindly, justly, and truly, and to act
the Golden Rule, so prayer is enjoined by Christ to enable man to act in all
these things according to the Divine will. By prayer, the ability is secured to
feel the law of love, to speak according to the law of love, and to do
everything in harmony with the law of love.
God can help us. God is a Father. We need
God's good things to help us to "do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly
before God." We need Divine aid to act brotherly, wisely, and nobly, and to
judge truly, and charitably. God's help to do all these things in God's way is
secured by prayer. "Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock,
and it shall be opened unto you."
In the marvellous output of Christian graces and
duties, the result of giving ourselves wholly to God, recorded in the twelfth
chapter of Romans, we have the words, "Continuing instant in prayer," preceded
by "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation," followed by, "Distributing to
the necessity of the saints, given to hospitality." Paul thus writes as if
these rich and rare graces and unselfish duties, so sweet, bright, generous,
and unselfish, had for their center and source the ability to pray.
This is the same word which is used of the prayer
of the disciples which ushered in Pentecost with all of its rich and glorious
blessings of the Holy Spirit. In Colossians, Paul presses the word into the
service of prayer again, "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with
thanksgiving." The word in its background and root means strong, the ability to
stay, and persevere steadfast, to hold fast and firm, to give constant
In Acts, chapter six, it is translated, "Give
ourselves continually to prayer." There is in it constancy, courage, unfainting
perseverance. It means giving such marked attention to, and such deep concern
to a thing, as will make it conspicuous and controlling.
This is an advance in demand on "continue."
Prayer is to be incessant, without intermission, assiduously, no check in
desire, in spirit or in act, the spirit and the life always in the attitude of
prayer. The knees may not always be bended, the lips may not always be vocal
with words of prayer, but the spirit is always in the act and intercourse of
There ought to be no adjustment of life or spirit
for closet hours. The closet spirit should sweetly rule and adjust all times
and occasions. Our activities and work should be performed in the same spirit
which makes our devotion and which makes our closet time sacred. "Without
intermission, incessantly, assiduously," describes an opulence, and energy, and
unabated and ceaseless strength and fulness of effort; like the full and
exhaustless and spontaneous flow of an artesian stream. Touch the man of God
who thus understands prayer, at any point, at any time, and a full current of
prayer is seen flowing from him.
But all these untold benefits, of which the Holy
Spirit is made to us the conveyor, go back in their disposition and results to
prayer. Not on a little process and a mere performance of prayer is the coming
of the Holy Spirit and of His great grace conditioned, but on prayer set on
fire, by an unquenchable desire, with such a sense of need as cannot be denied,
with a fixed determination which will not let go, and which will never faint
till it wins the greatest good and gets the best and last blessing God has in
store for us.
The First Christ, Jesus, our Great High Priest,
forever blessed and adored be His Name, was a gracious Comforter, a faithful
Guide, a gifted Teacher, a fearless Advocate, a devoted Friend, and an all
powerful Intercessor. The other, "another Comforter," the Holy Spirit, comes
into all these blessed relations of fellowship, authority and aid, with all the
tenderness, sweetness, fulness and efficiency of the First Christ.
Was the First Christ the Christ of prayer? Did He
offer prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears unto God? Did He
seek the silence, the solitude and the darkness that He might pray unheard and
unwitnessed save by heaven, in His wrestling agony, for man with God? Does He
ever live, enthroned above at the Father's right hand, there to pray for us?
Then how truly does the other Christ, the other
Comforter, the Holy Spirit, represent Jesus Christ as the Christ of prayer!
This other Christ, the Comforter, plants Himself not in the waste of the
mountain nor far into the night, but in the chill and the night of the human
heart, to rouse it to the struggle, and to teach it the need and form of
prayer. How the Divine Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, puts into the human
heart the burden of earth's almighty need, and makes the human lips give voice
to its mute and unutterable groanings!
What a mighty Christ of prayer is the Holy
Spirit! How He quenches every flame in the heart but the flame of heavenly
desire! How He quiets, like a weaned child, all the self-will, until in will,
in brain, and in heart, and by mouth, we pray only as He prays. "Making
intercession for the saints, according to the will of God."
You need not utterly despair even of those who for the present
"turn again and rend you." For if all your arguments and persuasives fail,
there is yet another remedy left, and one that is frequently found effectual,
when no other method avails. This is prayer. Therefore, whatsoever you desire
or want, either for others or for your own soul, "Ask, and it shall be given
you." -- JOHN
WITHOUT the promise prayer is eccentric and baseless. Without prayer, the
promise is dim, voiceless, shadowy, and impersonal. The promise makes prayer
dauntless and irresistible. The Apostle Peter declares that God has given to us
"exceeding great and precious promises." "Precious" and "exceeding great"
promises they are, and for this very cause we are to "add to our faith," and
supply virtue. It is the addition which makes the promises current and
beneficial to us. It is prayer which makes the promises weighty, precious and
practical. The Apostle Paul did not hesitate to declare that God's grace so
richly promised was made operative and efficient by prayer. "Ye also helping
together by prayer for us."
The promises of God are "exceeding great and
precious," words which clearly indicate their great value and their broad
reach, as grounds upon which to base our expectations in praying. Howsoever
exceeding great and precious they are, their realization, the possibility and
condition of that realization, are based on prayer. How glorious are these
promises to the believing saints and to the whole Church! How the brightness
and bloom, the fruitage and cloudless midday glory of the future beam on us
through the promises of God! Yet these promises never brought hope to bloom or
fruit to a prayerless heart. Neither could these promises, were they a
thousandfold increased in number and preciousness, bring millennium glory to a
prayerless Church. Prayer makes the promise rich, fruitful and a conscious
Prayer as a spiritual energy, and illustrated in
its enlarged and mighty working, makes way for and brings into practical
realization the promises of God.
God's promises cover all things which pertain to
life and godliness, which relate to body and soul, which have to do with time
and eternity. These promises bless the present and stretch out in their
benefactions to the illimitable and eternal future. Prayer holds these promises
in keeping and in fruition. Promises are God's golden fruit to be plucked by
the hand of prayer. Promises are God's incorruptible seed, to be sown and
tilled by prayer.
Prayer and the promises are interdependent. The
promise inspires and energizes prayer, but prayer locates the promise, and
gives it realization and location. The promise is like the blessed rain falling
in full showers, but prayer, like the pipes, which transmit, preserve and
direct the rain, localizes and precipitates these promises, until they become
local and personal, and bless, refresh and fertilize. Prayer takes hold of the
promise and conducts it to its marvellous ends, removes the obstacles, and
makes a highway for the promise to its glorious fulfillment.
While God's promises are "exceeding great and
precious," they are specific, clear and personal. How pointed and plain God's
promise to Abraham:
"And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham
out of heaven the second time,
"And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the
Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son,
thine only son;
"That in blessing I will bless thee, and in
multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand
which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his
"And in thy seed shall all the nations of the
earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."
But Rebekah through whom the promise is to flow
is childless. Her barren womb forms an invincible obstacle to the fulfillment
of God's promise. But in the course of time children are born to her.
Isaac becomes a man of prayer through whom the
promise is to be realized, and so we read:
"And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife,
because she was barren, and the Lord was entreated for him, and Rebekah his
Isaac's praying opened the way for the fulfilment
of God's promise, and carried it on to its marvellous fulfillment, and made the
promise effectual in bringing forth marvellous results.
God spoke to Jacob and made definite promises to
"Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy
kindred, and I will be with thee."
Jacob promptly moves out on the promise, but Esau
confronts him with his awakened vengeance and his murderous intention, more
dreadful because of the long years, unappeased and waiting. Jacob throws
himself directly on God's promise by a night of prayer, first in quietude and
calmness, and then when the stillness, the loneliness and the darkness of the
night are upon him, he makes the all-night wrestling prayer.
"With thee I mean
all night to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day."
God's being is involved, His promise is at stake,
and much is involved in the issue. Esau's temper, his conduct and his character
are involved. It is a notable occasion. Much depends upon it. Jacob pursues his
case and presses his plea with great struggles and hard wrestling. It is the
highest form of importunity. But the victory is gained at last. His name and
nature are changed and he becomes a new and different man. Jacob himself is
saved first of all. He is blessed in his life and soul. But more still is
accomplished. Esau undergoes a radical change of mind. He who came forth with
hate and revenge in his heart against his own brother, seeking Jacob's
destruction, is strangely and wonderfully affected, and he is changed and his
whole attitude toward his brother becomes radically different. And when the two
brothers meet, love takes the place of fear and hate, and they vie with each
other in showing true brotherly affection.
The promise of God is fulfilled. But it took that
all night of importunate praying to do the deed. It took that fearful night of
wrestling on Jacob's part to make the promise sure and cause it to bear fruit.
Prayer wrought the marvellous deed. So prayer of the same kind will produce
like results in this day. It was God's promise and Jacob's praying which
crowned and crowded the results so wondrously.
"Go show thyself to Ahab and I will send rain on
the earth," was God's command and promise to His servant Elijah after the sore
famine had cursed the land. Many glorious results marked that day of heroic
faith and dauntless courage on Elijah's part. The sublime issue with Israel had
been successful, the fire had fallen, Israel had been reclaimed, the prophets
of Baal had been killed, but there was no rain. The one thing, the only thing,
which God had promised, had not been given. The day was declining, and the
awestruck crowds were faint, and yet held by an invisible hand.
Elijah turns from Israel to God and from Baal to
the one source of help for a final issue and a final victory. But seven times
is the restless eagerness of the prophet stayed. Not till the seventh repeated
time is his vigilance rewarded and the promise pressed to its final
fulfillment. Elijah's fiery, relentless praying bore to its triumphant results
the promise of God, and rain descended in full showers.
"Thy promise, Lord,
is ever sure,
they that in Thy house would dwell
That happy station
still in holiness excel."
Our prayers are too little and feeble to execute
the purposes or to claim the promises of God with appropriating power.
Marvellous purposes need marvellous praying to execute them. Miracle-making
promises need miracle-making praying to realize them. Only Divine praying can
operate Divine promises or carry out Divine purposes. How great, how sublime,
and how exalted are the promises God makes to His people! How eternal are the
purposes of God! Why are we so impoverished in experience and so low in life
when God's promises are so "exceeding great and precious"? Why do the eternal
purposes of God move so tardily? Why are they so poorly executed? Our failure
to appropriate the Divine promises and rest our faith on them, and to pray
believingly is the solution. "We have not because we ask not." "We ask and
receive not because we ask amiss."
Prayer is based on the purpose and promise of
God. Prayer is submission to God. Prayer has no sigh of disloyalty against
God's will. It may cry out against the bitterness and the dread weight of an
hour of unutterable anguish: "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me."
But it is surcharged with the sweetest and promptest submission. "Yet not my
will, but thine be done."
But prayer in its usual uniform and deep current
is conscious conformity to God's will, based upon the direct promise of God's
Word, and under the illumination and application of the Holy Spirit. Nothing is
surer than that the Word of God is the sure foundation of prayer. We pray just
as we believe God's Word. Prayer is based directly and specifically upon God's
revealed promises in Christ Jesus. It has no other ground upon which to base
its plea. All else is shadowy, sandy, fickle. Not our feelings, not our merits,
not our works, but God's promise is the basis of faith and the solid ground of
"Now I have found
the ground wherein
my soul's anchor may remain;
The wounds of Jesus
-- for my sin,
the world's foundation slain."
The converse of this proposition is also true.
God's promises are dependent and conditioned upon prayer to appropriate them
and make them a conscious realization. The promises are inwrought in us,
appropriated by us, and held in the arms of faith by prayer. Let it be noted
that prayer gives the promises their efficiency, localizes and appropriates
them, and utilizes them. Prayer puts the promises to practical and present
uses. Prayer puts the promises as the seed in the fructifying soil. Promises,
like the rain, are general. Prayer embodies, precipitates, and locates them for
personal use. Prayer goes by faith into the great fruit orchard of God's
exceeding great and precious promises, and with hand and heart picks the ripest
and richest fruit. The promises, like electricity, may sparkle and dazzle and
yet be impotent for good till these dynamic, life-giving currents are chained
by prayer, and are made the mighty forces which move and bless.
Every promise of Scripture is a writing of God, which may be
pleaded before Him with this reasonable request: "Do as Thou hast said." The
Creator will not cheat His creature who depends upon His truth; and, far more,
the Heavenly Father will not break His word to His own child. "Remember the
word unto Thy servant, on which Thou hast caused me to hope," is most prevalent
pleading. It is a double argument: It is Thy Word, wilt Thou not keep it? Why
hast Thou spoken of it if Thou wilt not make it good? Thou hast caused me to
hope in it; wilt Thou disappoint the hope which Thou hast Thyself begotten in
me? -- C. H.
THE great promises find their fulfillment along the lines of prayer. They
inspire prayer, and through prayer the promises flow out to their full
realization and bear their ripest fruit.
The magnificent and sanctifying promise in
Ezekiel, thirty-sixth chapter, a promise finding its full, ripe, and richest
fruit in the New Testament, is an illustration of how the promise waits on
"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and
ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I
"A new heart also will I give you, and a new
spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your
flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.
"And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause
you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.
"And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to
your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God."
And concerning this promise, and this work, God
"I will yet for this be inquired of by the house
of Israel, to do it for them."
The more truly men have prayed for these rich
things, the more fully have they entered into this exceeding great and precious
promise, for in its initial, and final results as well as in all of its
processes, realized, it is entirely dependent on prayer.
"Give me a new, a
doubt, and fear, and sorrow free;
The mind which was
in Christ impart,
let my spirit cleave to thee.
"O take this heart of stone away!
sway it doth not, cannot own;
In me no longer let
take away this heart of stone!"
No new heart ever throbbed with its pulsations of
Divine life in one whose lips have never sought in prayer with contrite spirit,
that precious boon of a perfect heart of love and cleanness. God never has put
His Spirit into the realm of a human heart which had never invoked by ardent
praying the coming and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. A prayerless spirit has
no affinity for a clean heart. Prayer and a pure heart go hand in hand. Purity
of heart follows praying, while prayer is the natural, spontaneous outflowing
of a heart made clean by the blood of Jesus Christ.
In this connection let it be noted that God's
promises are always personal and specific. They are not general, indefinite,
vague. They do not have to do with multitudes and classes of people in a mass,
but are directed to individuals. They deal with persons. Each believer can
claim the promise as his own. God deals with each one personally. So that every
saint can put the promises to the test. "Prove me now herewith, saith the
Lord." No need of generalizing, nor of being lost in vagueness. The praying
saint has the right to put his hand upon the promise and claim it as his own,
one made especially to him, and one intended to embrace all his needs, present
should all fail,
foes all unite,
Yet one thing secures us,
The promise assures
Lord will provide."
Jeremiah once said, speaking of the captivity of
Israel and of its ending, speaking for Almighty God: "After seventy years be
accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you, and will perform my good word toward
you, in causing you to return to this place."
But this strong and definite promise of God was
accompanied by these words, coupling the promise with prayer: "Then shall ye
call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
And ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your
heart." This seems to indicate very clearly that the promise was dependent for
its fulfillment on prayer.
In Daniel we have this record, "I, Daniel,
understood by books the number of the years whereof the word of the Lord came
to Jeremiah, the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the
desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord God to seek by prayer
and supplications with fastings and sackcloth and ashes."
So Daniel, as the time of the captivity was
expiring, set himself in mighty prayer in order that the promise should be
fulfilled and the captivity be brought to an end. It was God's promise by
Jeremiah and Daniel's praying which broke the chains of Babylonish captivity,
set Israel free and brought God's ancient people back to their native land. The
promise and prayer went together to carry out God's purpose and to execute His
God had promised through His prophets that the
coming Messiah should have a forerunner. How many homes and wombs in Israel had
longed for the coming to them of this great honour! Perchance Zacharias and
Elizabeth were the only ones who were trying to realize by prayer this great
dignity and blessing. At least we do know that the angel said to Zacharias, as
he announced to him the coming of this great personage, "Thy prayer is heard."
It was then that the word of the Lord as spoken by the prophets and the prayer
of the old priest and his wife brought John the Baptist into the withered womb,
and into the childless home of Zacharias and Elizabeth.
The promise given to Paul, engraven on his
apostolic commission, as related by him after his arrest in Jerusalem, when he
was making his defense before King Agrippa, was on this wise: "Delivering thee
from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom I now send thee.'' How did
Paul make this promise efficient? How did he make the promise real? Here is the
answer. In trouble by men, Jew and Gentile, pressed by them sorely, he writes
to his brethren at Rome, with a pressing request for prayer:
"Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus
Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me
in your prayers to God for me;
"That I may be delivered from them that do not
believe in Judea."
Their prayers, united with his prayer, were to
secure his deliverance and secure his safety, and were also to make the
apostolic promise vital and cause it to be fully realized.
All is to be sanctified and realized by the Word
of God and prayer. God's deep and wide river of promise will turn into the
deadly miasma or be lost in the morass, if we do not utilize these promises by
prayer, and receive their full and life-giving waters into our hearts.
The promise of the Holy Spirit to the disciples
was in a very marked way the "Promise of the Father," but it was only realized
after many days of continued and importunate praying. The promise was clear and
definite that the disciples should be endued with power from on high, but as a
condition of receiving that power of the Holy Spirit, they were instructed to
"tarry in the city of Jerusalem till ye be endued with power from on high." The
fulfillment of the promise depended upon the "tarrying." The promise of this
"enduement of power" was made sure by prayer. Prayer sealed it to glorious
results. So we find it written, "These continued with one accord, in prayer and
supplication, with the women." And it is significant that it was while they
were praying, resting their expectations on the surety of the promise, that the
Holy Spirit fell upon them and they were all "filled with the Holy Ghost." The
promise and the prayer went hand in hand.
After Jesus Christ made this large and definite
promise to His disciples, He ascended on high, and was seated at His Father's
right hand of exaltation and power. Yet the promise given by Him of sending the
Holy Spirit was not fulfilled by His enthronement merely, nor by the promise
only, nor by the fact that the Prophet Joel had foretold with transported
raptures of the bright day of the Spirit's coming. Neither was it that the
Spirit's coming was the only hope of God's cause in this world. All these
all-powerful and all-engaging reasons were not the immediate operative cause of
the coming of the Holy Spirit. The solution is found in the attitude of the
disciples. The answer is found in the fact that the disciples, with the women,
spent several days in that upper room, in earnest, specific, continued prayer.
It was prayer that brought to pass the famous day of Pentecost. And as it was
then, so it can be now. Prayer can bring a Pentecost in this day if there be
the same kind of praying, for the promise has not exhausted its power and
vitality. The "promise of the Father" still holds good for the present-day
Prayer, mighty prayer, united, continued, earnest
prayer, for nearly two weeks, brought the Holy Spirit to the Church and to the
world in Pentecostal glory and power. And mighty continued and united prayer
will do the same now.
"Lord God, the Holy
this accepted hour;
As on the day of
in all Thy power.
"We meet with one accord,
our appointed place,
And wait the
promise of our Lord,
Spirit of all grace."
Nor must it be passed by that the promises of God
to sinners of every kind and degree are equally sure and steadfast, and are
made real and true by the earnest cries of all true penitents. It is just as
true with the Divine promises made to the unsaved when they repent and seek
God, that they are realized in answer to the prayers of broken-hearted sinners,
as it is true that the promises to believers are realized in answer to their
prayers. The promise of pardon and peace was the basis of the prayers of Saul
of Tarsus during those days of darkness and distress in the house of Judas,
when the Lord told Ananias in order to allay his fears, "Behold he prayeth."
The promise of mercy and an abundant pardon is
tied up with seeking God and caring upon Him by Isaiah:
"Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, and call
ye upon him while he is near.
"Let the wicked forsake his way and the
unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will
have mercy, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
The praying sinner receives mercy because his
prayer is grounded on the promise of pardon made by Him whose right it is to
pardon guilty sinners. The penitent seeker after God obtains mercy because
there is a definite promise of mercy to all who seek the Lord in repentance and
faith. Prayer always brings forgiveness to the seeking soul. The abundant
pardon is dependent upon the promise made real by the promise of God to the
While salvation is promised to him who believes,
the believing sinner is always a praying sinner. God has no promise of pardon
for a prayerless sinner just as He has no promise for the prayerless professor
of religion. "Behold he prayeth" is not only the unfailing sign of sincerity
and the evidence that the sinner is proceeding in the right way to find God,
but it is the unfailing prophecy of an abundant pardon. Get the sinner to
praying according to the Divine promise, and he then is near the kingdom of
God. The very best sign of the returning prodigal is that he confesses his sins
and begins to ask for the lowliest place in his father's house.
It is the Divine promise of mercy, of forgiveness
and of adoption which gives the poor sinner hope. This encourages him to pray.
This moves him in distress to cry out, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy
"Thy promise is my
this I venture nigh;
Thou call'st the
burdened soul to Thee,
such, O Lord, am I."
How large are the promises made to the saint! How
great the promises given to poor, hungry-hearted, lost sinners, ruined by the
fall! And prayer has arms sufficient to encompass them all, and prove them. How
great the encouragement to all souls, these promises of God! How firm the
ground on which to rest our faith! How stimulating to prayer! What firm ground
on which to base our pleas in praying!
The Lord hath
promised good to me,
word my hope secures;
He will my shield
and portion be
long as life endures."
The Holy Ghost comes down into our hearts sometimes in prayer
with a beam from heaven, whereby we see more at once of God and His glory, more
astounding thoughts and enlarged apprehensions God, many beams meeting in one
and falling to the center of our hearts. By these coming downs or divine
influxes, God slides into our hearts by beams of Himself; we come not to have
communion with God by way of many broken thoughts put together, but there is a
contraction of many beams from heaven, which is shed into our souls, so that we
know more of God and have more communion with Him in a quarter-hour than we
could know in a year by the way of wisdom only. -- THOS.
HOW vast are the possibilities of prayer! How wide is its reach! What great
things are accomplished by this divinely appointed means of grace! It lays its
hand on Almighty God and moves Him to do what He would not otherwise do if
prayer was not offered. It brings things to pass which would never otherwise
occur. The story of prayer is the story of great achievements. Prayer is a
wonderful power placed by Almighty God in the hands of His saints, which may be
used to accomplish great purposes and to achieve unusual results. Prayer
reaches to everything, takes in all things great and small which are promised
by God to the children of men. The only limits to prayer are the promises of
God and His ability to fulfill those promises. "Open thy mouth wide and I will
The records of prayer's achievements are
encouraging to faith, cheering to the expectations of saints, and an
inspiration to all who would pray and test its value. Prayer is no mere untried
theory. It is not some strange unique scheme, concocted in the brains of men,
and set on foot by them, an invention which has never been tried nor put to the
test. Prayer is a Divine arrangement in the moral government of God, designed
for the benefit of men and intended as a means for furthering the interests of
His cause on earth, and carrying out His gracious purposes in redemption and
providence. Prayer proves itself. It is susceptible of proving its virtue by
those who pray. Prayer needs no proof other than its accomplishments. "If any
man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine." If any man will know the
virtue of prayer, if he will know what it will do, let him pray. Let him put
prayer to the test.
What a breadth is given to prayer! What heights
it reaches! It is the breathing of a soul inflamed for God, and inflamed for
man. It goes as far as the Gospel goes, and is as wide, compassionate and
prayerful as is that Gospel.
How much of prayer do all these unpossessed,
alienated provinces of earth demand in order to enlighten them, to impress them
and to move them toward God and His Son, Jesus Christ? Had the professed
disciples of Christ only have prayed in the past as they ought to have done,
the centuries would not have found these provinces still bound in death, in
sin, and in ignorance.
Alas! how the unbelief of men has limited the
power of God to work through prayer! What limitations have disciples of Jesus
Christ put upon prayer by their prayerlessness! How the Church, with her
neglect of prayer, has hedged about the Gospel and shut up doors of access!
Prayer possibilities open doors for the entrance
of the Gospel: "Withal praying also for us that God would open to us a door of
utterance." Prayer opened for the Apostles doors of utterance, created
opportunities and made openings to preach the Gospel. The appeal by prayer was
to God, because God was moved by prayer. God was thereby moved to do His own
work in an enlarged way and by new ways. Prayer possibility gives not only
great power, and opens doors to the Gospel, but gives facility as well to the
Gospel. Prayer makes the Gospel to go fast and to move with glorious fastness.
A Gospel projected by the mighty energies of prayer is neither slow, lazy nor
dull. It moves with God's power, with God's effulgence and with angelic
"Brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord
may have free course and be glorified," is the request of the Apostle Paul,
whose faith reached to the possibilities of prayer for the preached Word. The
Gospel moves altogether too slowly, often timidly, and with feeble steps. What
will make this Gospel go rapidly like a race runner? What will give this Gospel
Divine effulgence and glory, and cause it to move worthy of God and of Christ?
The answer is at hand. Prayer, more prayer, better prayer will do the deed.
This means of grace will give fast going, splendour and divinity to the
The possibilities of prayer reach to all things.
Whatever concerns man's highest welfare, and whatever has to do with God's
plans and purposes concerning men on earth, is a subject for prayer. In
"whatsoever ye shall ask," is embraced all that concerns us or the children of
men and God. And whatever is left out of "whatsoever" is left out of prayer.
Where will we draw the lines which leave out or which will limit the word
"whatsoever"? Define it, and search out and publish the things which the word
does not include. If "whatsoever" does not include all things, then add to it
the word "anything." "If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it."
What riches of grace, what blessings, spiritual
and temporal, what good for time and eternity, would have been ours had we
learned the possibilities of prayer and our faith had taken in the wide range
of the Divine promises to us to answer prayer! What blessings on our times and
what furtherance to God's cause had we but learned how to pray with large
expectations! Who will rise up in this generation and teach the Church this
lesson? It is a child's lesson in simplicity, but who has learned it well
enough to put prayer to the test? It is a great lesson in its matchless and
universal good. The possibilities of prayer are unspeakable, but the lesson of
prayer which realizes and measures up to these possibilities, who has
In His discourse in John, fifteenth chapter, our
Lord seems to connect friendship for Him with that of prayer, and His choosing
of His disciples seemed to have been with a design that through prayer they
should bear much fruit.
"Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command
"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,
and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit
should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he may give
it to you."
Jesus puts fruit-bearing and fruit-remaining,
ripe, unwithered, and rich fruit, that prayer might come to its full
possibilities in order that the Father might give. Here we have again the
undefined and unlimited word, "whatsoever," as covering the rights and the
things for which we are to pray in the possibilities of prayer.
We have still another declaration from Jesus:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye
shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you.
"Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name; ask,
and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."
Here is a very definite exhortation from our Lord
to largeness in praying. Here we are definitely urged by Him to ask for large
things, and announced with the dignity and solemnity indicated by the double
amen, "Verily, Verily." Why these marvellous urgencies in this last recorded
and vital conversation of our Lord with His disciples? The answer is that our
Lord might prepare them for the New Dispensation, in which prayer was to have
such marvellous results, and in which prayer was to be the chief agency to
conserve and make aggressive His Gospel.
In our Lord's language to His disciples about
choosing them that should bear fruit, in this affluent statement of our Lord,
He clearly teaches us that this matter of praying and fruit-bearing is not a
petty business of our choice, or a secondary matter in relation to other
matters, but that He has chosen us for this very business of praying. He had
specially in mind our praying, and He has chosen us of His own Divine
selection, and He expects us to do this one thing of praying and to do it
intelligently and well. For He before says that He had made us His friends, and
had brought us into bosom confidence with Him, and also into free and full
conference with Him. The main object of choosing us as His disciples and of
friendship for Him was that we might be the better fitted to bear the fruit of
Let us not forget that we are noting the
possibilities of the true praying ones. "Anything" is the word of area and
circumference. How far it reaches we may not know. How wide it spreads, our
minds fail to discover. What is there which is not within its reach? Why does
Jesus repeat and exhaust these words, all-inclusive and boundless words, if He
does not desire to emphasize the unbounded magnificence and illimitable
munificence of prayer? Why does He press men to pray, so that our very poverty
might be enriched and our limitless inheritance by prayer be secured?
We affirm with absolute certainty that Almighty
God answers prayer. The vast possibilities and the urgent necessity of prayer
lie in this stupendous fact that God hears and answers prayer. And God hears
and answers all prayer. He hears and answers every prayer, where the true
conditions of praying are met. Either this is so or it is not. If not, then is
there nothing in prayer. Then prayer is but the recitation of words, a mere
verbal performance, an empty ceremony. Then prayer is an altogether useless
exercise. But if what we have said is true, then are there vast possibilities
in prayer. Then is it far reaching in its scope, and wide is its range. Then is
it true that prayer can lay its hand upon Almighty God and move Him to do great
and wonderful things.
The benefits, the possibilities and the necessity
of prayer are not merely subjective but are peculiarly objective in their
character. Prayer aims at a definite object. Prayer has a direct design in
view. Prayer always has something specific before the mind's eye. There may be
some subjective benefits which accrue from praying, but this is altogether
secondary and incidental. Prayer always drives directly at an object and seeks
to secure a desired end. Prayer is asking, seeking and knocking at a door for
something we have not, which we desire, and which God has promised to us.
Prayer is a direct address to God. "In everything
let your requests be made known unto God." Prayer secures blessings, and makes
men better because it reaches the ear of God. Prayer is only for the betterment
of men when it has affected God and moved Him to do something for men. Prayer
affects men by affecting God. Prayer moves men because it moves God to move
men. Prayer influences men by influencing God to influence them. Prayer moves
the hand that moves the world.
"That power is
prayer, which soars on high,
Jesus to the throne;
And moves the hand
which moves the world,
bring salvation down."
The utmost possibilities of prayer have rarely
been realized. The promises of God are so great to those who truly pray, when
He puts Himself so fully into the hands of the praying ones, that it almost
staggers our faith and causes us to hesitate with astonishment. His promise to
answer, and to do and to give "all things," "anything," "whatsoever," and "all
things whatsoever," are so large, so great, so exceeding broad, that we stand
back in amazement and give ourselves to questioning and doubt. We "stagger at
the promises through unbelief." Really the promises of God to prayer have been
pared down by us to our little faith, and have been brought down to the low
level of our narrow notions about God's ability, liberality and resources. Let
us ever keep in mind and never for one moment allow ourselves to doubt the
statement that God means what He says in all of His promises. God's promises
are His own word. His veracity is at stake in them. To question them is to
doubt His veracity. He cannot afford to prove faithless to His word. "In hope
of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began."
His promises are for plain people, and He means to do for all who pray just
what He says He will do. "For He is faithful that hath promised."
Unfortunately we have failed to lay ourselves out
in praying. We have limited the Holy One of Israel. The ability to pray can be
secured by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, but it demands so strenuous
and high a character that it is a rare thing for a man or woman to be on
"praying ground and on pleading terms with God." It is as true to-day as it was
in the days of Elijah, that "the fervent, effectual prayer of a righteous man
availeth much." How much such a prayer avails, who can tell?
The possibilities of prayer are the possibilities
of faith. Prayer and faith are Siamese twins. One heart animates them both.
Faith is always praying. Prayer is always believing. Faith must have a tongue
by which it can speak. Prayer is the tongue of faith. Faith must receive.
Prayer is the hand of faith stretched out to receive. Prayer must rise and
soar. Faith must give prayer the wings to fly and soar. Prayer must have an
audience with God. Faith opens the door, and access and audience are given.
Prayer asks. Faith lays its hand on the thing asked for.
God's omnipotent power is the basis of omnipotent
faith and omnipotent praying. "All things are possible to him that believeth,"
and "all things whatsoever" are given to him who prays. God's decree and death
yield readily to Hezekiah's faith and prayer. When God's promise and man's
praying are united by faith, then "nothing shall be impossible." Importunate
prayer is so all-powerful and irresistable that it obtains promises, or wins
where the prospect and the promise seem to be against it. In fact, the New
Testament promise includes all things in heaven and in earth. God, by promise,
puts all things He possesses into man's hands. Prayer and faith put man in
possession of this boundless inheritance.
Prayer is not an indifferent or a small thing. It
is not a sweet little privilege. It is a great prerogative, far-reaching in its
effects. Failure to pray entails losses far beyond the person who neglects it.
Prayer is not a mere episode of the Christian life. Rather the whole life is a
preparation for and and the result of prayer. In its condition, prayer is the
sum of religion. Faith is but a channel of prayer. Faith gives it wings and
swiftness. Prayer is the lungs through which holiness breathes. Prayer is not
only the language of spiritual life, but makes its very essence and forms its
"O for a faith that
will not shrink
pressed by every foe;
That will not
tremble on the brink
any earthly woe.
"Lord, give us such a faith as this,
then, whate'er may come,
We'll taste e'en
here, the hallowed bliss
our eternal home."
He who has the spirit of prayer has the highest interest in the
court of heaven. And the only way to retain it is to keep it in constant
employment. Apostasy begins in the closet. No man ever backslid from the life
and power of Christianity who continued constant and fervent in private prayer.
He who prays without ceasing is likely to rejoice evermore. -- ADAM
AFTER a comprehensive and cursory view of the possibilities of prayer, as
mapped out in what has been said, it is important to descend to particulars, to
Bible facts and principles in regard to this great subject. What are the
possibilities of prayer as disclosed by Divine revelation? The necessity of
prayer and its being are coexistent with man. Nature, even before a clear and
full revelation, cries out in prayer. Man is, therefore prayer is. God is,
therefore prayer is. Prayer is born of the instincts, the needs and the
cravings and the very being of man.
The prayer of Solomon at the dedication of
the temple is the product of inspired wisdom and piety, and gives a lucid and
powerful view of prayer in the wideness of its range, the minuteness of its
details, and its abounding possibilities and its urgent necessity. How minute
and exactly comprehending is this prayer! National and individual blessings are
in it, and temporal and spiritual good is embraced by it. Individual sins,
national calamities, sins, sickness, exile, famine, war, pestilence, mildew,
drought, insects, damage to crops, whatever affects husbandry,
enemies-whatsoever sickness, one's own sore, one's own guilt, one's own sin --
one and all are in this prayer, and all are for prayer.
For all these evils prayer is the one universal
remedy. Pure praying remedies all ills, cures all diseases, relieves all
situations, however dire, most calamitous, most fearful and despairing. Prayer
to God, pure praying, relieves dire situations because God can relieve when no
one else can. Nothing is too hard for God. No cause is hopeless which God
undertakes. No case is mortal when Almighty God is the physician. No conditions
are despairing which can deter or defy God.
Almighty God heard this prayer of Solomon, and
committed Himself to undertake, to relieve and to remedy if real praying be
done, despite all adverse and inexorable conditions. He will always relieve,
answer and bless if men will pray from the heart, and if they will give
themselves to real, true praying.
After Solomon had finished his magnificent,
illimitable and all-comprehending prayer, this is the record of what God said
"And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and
said to him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for
a house of sacrifice.
"If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if
I command the locusts that they devour the land, or if I send pestilence among
"If my people which are called by my name, shall
humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways,
then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their
"Now my eyes shall be open, and my ears attentive
to the prayer that is made in this place.
"For now I have chosen and sanctified this house,
that my name may be there forever."
God put no limitation to His ability to save
through true praying. No hopeless conditions, no accumulation of difficulties,
and no desperation in distance or circumstance can hinder the success of real
prayer. The possibilities of prayer are linked to the infinite rectitude and to
the omnipotent power of God. There is nothing too hard for God to do. God is
pledged that if we ask, we shall receive. God can withhold nothing from faith
surpasses all my thought,
faithful is my Lord;
Through unbelief I
God hath spoke the word.
faith, the promise sees,
looks to that alone;
cries, 'It shall be done!'"
The many statements of God's Word fully set forth
the possibilities and far-reaching nature of prayer. How full of pathos! "Call
upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."
Again, read the cheering words: "He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honour him."
How diversified the range of trouble! How almost
infinite its extent! How universal and dire its conditions! How despairing its
waves! Yet the range of prayer is as great as trouble, is as universal as
sorrow, as infinite as grief. And prayer can relieve all these evils which come
to the children of men. There is no tear which prayer cannot wipe away or dry
up. There is no depression of spirits which it cannot relieve and elevate.
Where is no despair which it cannot dispel.
"Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show
thee great things and difficult, which thou knowest not." How broad these words
of the Lord, how great the promise, how cheering to faith! They really
challenge the faith of the saint. Prayer always brings God to our relief to
bless and to aid, and brings marvellous revelations of His power. What
impossibilities are there with God? Name them. "Nothing," He says, "is
impossible to the Lord." And all the possibilities in God are in prayer.
Samuel, under the Judges of Israel, will fully
illustrate the possibility and the necessity of prayer. He himself was the
beneficiary of the greatness of faith and prayer in a mother who knew what
praying meant. Hannah, his mother, was a woman of mark, in character and in
piety, who was childless. That privation was a source of worry and weakness and
grief. She sought unto God for relief, and prayed and poured out her soul
before the Lord. She continued her praying, in fact she multiplied her praying,
to such an extent that to Old Eli she seemed to be intoxicated, almost beside
herself in the intensity of her supplications. She was specific in her prayers.
She wanted a child. For a man child she prayed.
And God was specific in His answer. A man child
God gave her, a man indeed he became. He was the creation of prayer, and grew
himself to a man of prayer. He was a mighty intercessor, especially in
emergencies in the history of God's people. The epitome of his life and
character is found in the statement, "Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel,
and the Lord heard him." The victory was complete, and the Ebenezer was the
memorial of the possibilities and necessity of prayer.
Again, at another time, Samuel called unto the
Lord, and thunder and rain came out of season in wheat harvest. Here are some
statements concerning this mighty intercessor, who knew how to pray, and whom
God always regarded when he prayed: "Samuel cried unto the Lord all night."
Says he at another time in speaking to the Lord's
people, "Moreover, as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in
ceasing to pray for you."
These great occasions show how this notable ruler
of Israel made prayer a habit, and that this was a notable and conspicuous
characteristic of his dispensation. Prayer was no strange exercise to Samuel.
He was accustomed to it. He was in the habit of praying, knew the way to God,
and received answers from God. Through him and his praying God's cause was
brought out of its low, depressed condition, and a great national revival
began, of which David was one of its fruits.
Samuel was one of the notable men of the Old
Dispensation who stood out prominently as one who had great influence with God
in prayer. God could not deny him anything he asked of Him. Samuel's praying
always affected God, and moved God to do what would not have otherwise been
done had he not prayed. Samuel stands out as a striking illustration of the
possibilities of prayer. He shows conclusively the achievements of prayer.
Jacob is an illustration for all time of the
commanding and conquering forces of prayer. God came to him as an antagonist.
He grappled Jacob, and shook him as if he were in the embrace of a deadly foe.
Jacob, the deceitful supplanter, the wily, unscrupulous trader, had no eyes to
see God. His perverted principles, and his deliberate overreaching and
wrong-doing had blinded his vision.
To reach God, to know God, and to conquer God,
that was the demand of this critical hour. Jacob was alone, and all night
witnessed to the intensity of the struggle, its changing issues, and its
veering fortunes, as well as the receding and advancing lines in the conflict.
Here was the strength of weakness, the power of self-despair, the energy of
perseverance, the elevation of humility, and the victory of surrender. Jacob's
salvation issued from the forces which he massed in that all-night conflict.
He prayed and wept and importuned until the fiery
hate of Esau's heart died and it was softened into love. A greater miracle was
wrought on Jacob than on Esau. His name, his character and his destiny were all
changed by that all-night praying. Here is the record of the results of that
night's praying struggle: "As a prince hast thou power with God and with men,
and hast prevailed." "By his strength he had power with God, yea, he had power
over the angel and prevailed."
What forces lie in importunate prayer! What
mighty results are gained by it in one night's struggle in praying! God is
affected and changed in attitude, and two men are transformed in character and
Satan dreads nothing but prayer. . . . The Church that lost its
Christ was full of good works. Activities are multiplied that meditation may be
ousted, and organizations are increased that prayer may have no chance. Souls
may be lost in good works, as surely as in evil ways. The one concern of the
devil is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless
studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at
our wisdom, but trembles when we pray. -- SAMUEL
THE possibilities of prayer are seen in its results in temporal matters. Prayer
reaches to everything which concerns man, whether it be his body, his mind or
his soul. Prayer embraces the very smallest things of life. Prayer takes in the
wants of the body, food, raiment, business, finances, in fact everything which
belongs to this life, as well as those things which have to do with the eternal
interests of the soul. Its achievements are seen not only in the large things
of earth, but more especially in what might be called the little things of
life. It brings to pass not only large things, speaking after the manner of
men, but also the small things.
Temporal matters are of a lower order than
the spiritual, but they concern us greatly. Our temporal interests make up a
great part of our lives. They are the main source of our cares and worries.
They have much to do with our religion. We have bodies, with their wants, their
pains, their disabilities and their limitations. That which concerns our bodies
necessarily engages our minds. These are subjects of prayer, and prayer takes
in all of them, and large are the accomplishments of prayer in this realm of
Our temporal matters have much to do with our
health and happiness. They form our relations. They are tests of honesty and
belong to the sphere of justice and righteousness. Not to pray about temporal
matters is to leave God out of the largest sphere of our being. He who cannot
pray in everything, as we are charged to do by Paul in Philippians, fourth
chapter, has never learned in any true sense the nature and worth of prayer. To
leave business and time out of prayer is to leave religion and eternity out of
it. He who does not pray about temporal matters cannot pray with confidence
about spiritual matters. He who does not put God by prayer in his struggling
toil for daily bread will never put Him in his struggle for heaven. He who does
not cover and supply the wants of the body by prayer will never cover and
supply the wants of his soul. Both body and soul are dependent on God, and
prayer is but the crying expression of that dependence.
The Syrophenician woman prayed for the health
things. In fact the Old Testament is but the record of God in dealing with His
people through the Divine appointment of prayer. Abraham prayed that Sodom
might be saved from destruction. Abraham's servant prayed and received God's
direction in choosing a wife for Isaac. Hannah prayed, and Samuel was given
unto her. Elijah prayed, and no rain came for three years. And he prayed again,
and the clouds gave rain. Hezekiah was saved from a mortal sickness by his
praying. Jacob's praying saved him from Esau's revenge. The Old Bible is the
history of prayer for temporal blessings as well as for spiritual blessings.
In the New Testament we have the same principles
illustrated and enforced. Prayer in this section of God's Word covers the whole
realm of good, both temporal and spiritual. Our Lord, in His universal prayer,
the prayer for humanity, in every clime, in every age and for every condition,
puts in it the petition, "Give us this day our daily bread." This embraces all
necessary earthly good.
In the Sermon on the Mount, a whole paragraph is
taken up by our Lord about food and raiment, where He is cautioned against
undue care or anxiety for these things, and at the same time encouraging to a
faith which takes in and claims all these necessary bodily comforts and
necessaries. And this teaching stands in close connection with His teachings
about prayer. Food and raiment are taught as subjects of prayer. Not for one
moment is it even hinted that they are things beneath the notice of a great
God, nor too material and earthly for such a spiritual exercise as prayer.
The Syrophenician woman prayed for the health of
her daughter. Peter prayed for Dorcas to be brought back to life. Paul prayed
for the father of Publius on his way to Rome, when cast on the island by a
shipwreck, and God healed the man who was sick with a fever. He urged the
Christians at Rome to strive with him together in prayer that he might be
delivered from bad men.
When Peter was put in prison by Herod, the Church
was instant in prayer that Peter might be delivered from the prison, and God
honoured the praying of these early Christians. John prayed that Gaius might
"prosper and be in health, even as his soul prospered."
The Divine directory in James, fifth chapter,
says: "Is any among you afflicted, let him pray. Is any sick among you? Let him
call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him."
Paul, in writing to the Philippians, fourth
chapter, says: "Be careful for nothing; but in everything, by prayer and
supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." This
provides for all kinds of cares business cares, home cares, body cares, and
soul cares. All are to be brought to God by prayer, and at the mercy seat our
minds and souls are to be disburdened of all that affects us or causes anxiety
or uneasiness. These words of Paul stand in close connection with what he says
about temporal matters specially: "But now I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that
now at the last your care of me hath flourished again: wherein ye were also
careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect to want, for I
have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
And Paul closes his Epistle to these Christians
with the words, which embrace all temporal needs as well as spiritual wants:
"But my God shall supply all your need, according
to his riches in glory, by Christ Jesus."
Unbelief in the doctrine that prayer covers all
things which have to do with the body and business affairs, breeds undue
anxiety about earth's affairs, causes unnecessary worry, and creates very
unhappy states of mind. How much needless care would we save ourselves if we
but believed in prayer as the means of relieving those cares, and would learn
the happy art of casting all our cares in prayer upon God, "who careth for us!"
Unbelief in God as one who is concerned about even the smallest affairs which
affect our happiness and comfort limits the Holy One of Israel, and makes our
lives altogether devoid of real happiness and sweet contentment.
We have in the instance of the failure of the
disciples to cast the devil out of the lunatic son, brought to them by his
father, while Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration, a suggestive lesson of
the union of faith, prayer and fasting, and the failure to reach the
possibilities and obligations of an occasion. The disciples ought to have cast
the devil out of the boy. They had been sent out to do this very work, and had
been empowered by their Lord and Master to do it. And yet they signally failed.
Christ reproved them with sharp upbraidings for not doing it. They had been
sent out on this very specific mission. This one thing was specified by our
Lord when He sent them out. Their failure brought shame and confession on them,
and discounted their Lord and Master and His cause. They brought Him into
disrepute, and reflected very seriously upon the cause which they represented.
Their faith to cast out the devil had signally failed, simply because it had
not been nurtured by prayer and fasting. Failure to pray broke the ability of
faith, and failure came because they had not the energy of a strong
The promise reads, and we cannot too often refer
to it, for it is the very basis of our faith and the ground on which we stand
when we pray: "All things whatsoever ye ask in prayer, believing, ye shall
receive." What enumeration table can tabulate, itemize, and aggregate "all
things whatsoever"? The possibilities of prayer and faith go to the length of
the endless chain, and cover the unmeasurable area.
In Hebrews, eleventh chapter, the sacred penman,
wearied with trying to specify the examples of faith, and to recite the
wonderful exploits of faith, pauses a moment, and then cries out, giving us
almost unheard-of achievements of prayer and faith as exemplified by the saints
of the olden times. Here is what he says:
"And what shall I say more? For the time would
fail me to tell of Gideon, of Barak, of Samson, of Jephtha, of David also;
and-Samuel, and the prophets;
"Who through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought
righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions;
"Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge
of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned
to flight the armies of the aliens;
"Women received their dead raised to life again,
and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a
What an illustrious record is this! What
marvellous accomplishments, wrought not by armies, or by man's superhuman
strength, nor by magic, but all accomplished simply by men and women noted
alone for their faith and prayer! Hand in hand with these records of faith's
illimitable range are the illustrious records of prayer, for they are all one.
Faith has never won a victory nor gained a crown where prayer was not the
weapon of the victory, and where prayer did not jewel the crown. If "all things
are possible to him that believeth," then all things are possible to him that
"Depend on him;
thou canst not fail;
all thy wants and wishes known:
Fear not; his
merits must prevail;
but in faith, it shall be done."
Nothing so pleases God in connection with our prayer as our
praise, . . . and nothing so blesses the man who prays as the praise which he
offers. I got a great blessing once in China in this connection. I had received
bad and sad news from home, and deep shadows had covered my soul. I prayed, but
the darkness did not vanish. I summoned myself to endure, but the darkness only
deepened. Just then I went to an inland station and saw on the wall of the
mission home these words: "Try Thanksgiving." I did, and in a moment every
shadow was gone, not to return. Yes, the Psalmist was right, "It is a good
thing to give thanks unto the Lord." -- HENRY W.
THE possibilities of prayer are gauged by faith in God's ability to do. Faith
is the one prime condition by which God works. Faith is the one prime condition
by which man prays. Faith draws on God to its full extent. Faith gives
character to prayer. A feeble faith has always brought forth feeble praying.
Vigorous faith creates vigorous praying. At the close of a parable, "And he
spake a parable unto them to this end, that men always ought to pray, and not
to faint," in which He stressed the necessity of vigorous praying, Christ asks
this pointed question, "When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the
In the case of the lunatic child which the
father brought first to the disciples, who could not cure him, and then to the
Lord Jesus Christ, the father cried out with all the pathos of a declining
faith and of a great sorrow, "If thou canst do anything for us, have compassion
on us and help us." And Jesus said unto him, "If thou canst believe, all things
are possible to him that believeth." The healing turned on the faith in the
ability of Christ to heal the boy. The ability to do was in Christ essentially
and eternally, but the doing of the thing turned on the ability of the faith.
Great faith enables Christ to do great things.
We need a quickening faith in God's power. We
have hedged God in till we have little faith in His power. We have conditioned
the exercise of His power till we have a little God, and a little faith in a
The only condition which restrains God's power,
and which disables Him to act, is unfaith. He is not limited in action nor
restrained by the conditions which limit men.
The conditions of time, place, nearness, ability
and all others which could possibly be named, upon which the actions of men
hinge, have no bearing on God. If men will look to God and cry to Him with true
prayer, He will hear and can deliver, no matter how dire soever may be the
state, how remediless their conditions may be.
Strange how God has to school His people in His
ability to do! He made a promise to Abraham and Sarah that Isaac would be born.
Abraham was then nearly one hundred years old, and Sarah was barren by natural
defect, and had passed into a barren, wombless age. She laughed at the thought
of having a child as preposterous. God asked, "Why did Sarah laugh? Is anything
too hard for the Lord?" And God fulfilled His promise to these old people to
Moses hesitated to undertake God's purpose to
liberate Israel from Egyptian bondage, because of his inability to talk well.
God checks him at once by an inquiry:
"And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am
not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant;
but I am slow of speech and of a slow tongue.
"And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man's
mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I
"Now, therefore, go, and I will be with thy
mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say."
When God said He would feed the children of
Israel a whole month with meat, Moses questioned His ability to do it. The Lord
said unto Moses, "Is the Lord's hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my
word shall come to pass unto thee or not."
Nothing is too hard for the Lord to do. As Paul
declared, "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or
think." Prayer has to do with God, with His ability to do. The possibility of
prayer is the measure of God's ability to do.
The "all things," the "all things whatsoever,"
and the "anything," are all covered by the ability of God. The urgent entreaty
reads, "Ask whatsoever ye will," because God is able to do anything and all
things that my desires may crave, and that He has promised. In God's ability to
do, He goes far beyond man's ability to ask. Human thoughts, human words, human
imaginations, human desires and human needs, cannot in any way measure God's
ability to do.
Prayer in its legitimate possibilities goes out
on God Himself. Prayer goes out with faith not only in the promise of God, but
faith in God Himself, and in God's ability to do. Prayer goes out not on the
promise merely, but "obtains promises," and creates promises.
Elijah had the promise that God would send the
rain, but no promise that He would send the fire. But by faith and prayer he
obtained the fire, as well as the rain, but the fire came first.
Daniel had no specific promise that God would
make known to him the dream of the king, but he and his associates joined in
united prayer, and God revealed to Daniel the king's dream and the
interpretation, and their lives were spared thereby.
Hezekiah had no promise that God would cure him
of his desperate sickness which threatened his life. On the contrary the word
of the Lord came to him by the mouth of the prophet, that he should die.
However, he prayed against this decree of Almighty God, with faith, and he
succeeded in obtaining a reversal of God's word and lived.
God makes it marvellous when He says by the mouth
of His prophet: "Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel and his Maker: Ask
me of things to come, concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands,
command ye me." And in this strong promise in which He commits Himself into the
hands of His praying people, He appeals in it to His great creative power: "I
have created the earth and made man upon it. I, even my hands, have stretched
out the heavens, and all their hosts have I commanded."
The majesty and power of God in making man and
man's world, and constantly upholding all things, are ever kept before us as
the basis of our faith in God, and as an assurance and urgency to prayer. Then
God calls us away from what He Himself has done, and turns our minds to Himself
personally. The infinite glory and power of His Person are set before our
contemplation: "Remember ye not the former things neither consider the things
of old?" He declares that He will do a "new thing," that He does not have to
repeat Himself, that all He has done neither limits His doing nor the manner of
His doing, and that if we have prayer and faith, He will so answer our prayers
and so work for us, that His former work shall not be remembered nor come into
mind. If men would pray as they ought to pray, the marvels of the past would be
more than reproduced. The Gospel would advance with a facility and power it has
never known. Doors would be thrown open to the Gospel, and the Word of God
would have a conquering force rarely if ever known before.
If Christians prayed as Christians ought, with
strong commanding faith, with earnestness and sincerity, men, God-called men,
God-empowered men everywhere, would be all burning to go and spread the Gospel
world-wide. The Word of the Lord would run and be glorified as never known
heretofore. The God-influenced men, the God-inspired men, the God-commissioned
men, would go and kindle the flame of sacred fire for Christ, salvation and
heaven, everywhere in all nations, and soon all men would hear the glad tidings
of salvation and have an opportunity to receive Jesus Christ as their personal
Saviour. Let us read another one of those large illimitable statements in God's
Word, which are a direct challenge to prayer and faith:
"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered
him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?"
What a basis have we here for prayer and faith,
illimitable, measureless in breadth, in depth and in height! The promise to
give us all things is backed up by the calling to our remembrance of the fact
that God freely gave His only Begotten Son for our redemption. His giving His
Son is the assurance and guarantee that He will freely give all things to him
who believes and prays.
What confidence have we in this Divine statement
for inspired asking! What holy boldness we have here for the largest asking! No
commonplace tameness should restrain our largest asking. Large, larger, and
largest asking magnifies grace and adds to God's glory. Feeble asking
impoverishes the asker, and restrains God's purposes for the greatest good and
obscures His glory.
How enthroned, magnificent and royal the
intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ at His Father's right hand in heaven! The
benefits of His intercession flow to us through our intercessions. Our
intercession ought to catch by contagion, and by necessity the inspiration and
largeness of Christ's great work at His Father's right hand. His business and
His life are to pray. Our business and our lives ought to be to pray, and to
pray without ceasing.
Failure in our intercession affects the fruits
His intercession. Lazy, heartless, feeble, and indifferent praying by us mars
and hinders the effects of Christ's praying.
The particular value of private prayer consists in being able to
approach God with more freedom, and unbosom ourselves more fully than in any
other way. Between us and God there are private and personal interests, sins to
confess and wants to be supplied, which it would be improper to disclose to the
world. This duty is enforced by the example of good men in all ages. --
THE possibilities of prayer are established by the facts and the history of
prayer. Facts are stubborn things. Facts are the true things. Theories may be
but speculations. Opinions may be wholly at fault. But facts must be deferred
to. They cannot be ignored. What are the possibilities of prayer judged by the
facts? What is the history of prayer? What does it reveal to us? Prayer has a
history, written in God's Word and recorded in the experiences and lives of
God's saints. History is truth teaching by example. We may miss the truth by
perverting the history, but the truth is in the facts of history.
"He spake with
Abraham at the oak,
called Elisha from the plough;
David he from the
day, thine hour of grace, is now."
God reveals the truth by the facts. God reveals
Himself by the facts of religious history. God teaches us His will by the facts
and examples of Bible history. God's facts, God's Word and God's history are
all in perfect harmony, and have much of God in them all. God has ruled the
world by prayer; and God still rules the world by the same divinely ordained
The possibilities of prayer cover not only
individuals but reach to cities and nations. They take in classes and peoples.
The praying of Moses was the one thing which stood between the wrath of God
against the Israelites and His declared purpose to destroy them and the
execution of that Divine purpose, and the Hebrew nation still survived.
Notwithstanding Sodom was not spared, because ten righteous men could not be
found inside its limits, yet the little city of Zoar was spared because Lot
prayed for it as he fled from the storm of fire and brimstone which burned up
Sodom. Nineveh was saved because the king and its people repented of their evil
ways and gave themselves to prayer and fasting.
Paul in his remarkable prayer in Ephesians,
chapter three, honours the illimitable possibilities of prayer and glorifies
the ability of God to answer prayer. Closing that memorable prayer, so
far-reaching in its petitions, and setting forth the very deepest religious
experience, he declares that "God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all
that we can ask or think." He makes prayer all-inclusive, comprehending all
things, great and small. Where is no time nor place which prayer does not cover
and sanctify. All things in earth and in heaven, everything for time and for
eternity, all are embraced in prayer. Nothing is too great and nothing is too
small to be subject of prayer. Prayer reaches down to the least things of life
and includes the greatest things which concern us.
"If pain afflict or
cares distract, or fears dismay;
If guilt deject, or
every case still watch and pray."
One of the most important, far-reaching,
peace-giving, necessary and practical prayer possibilities we have in Paul's
words in Philippians, chapter four, dealing with prayer as a cure for undue
"Be careful for nothing; but in everything, by
prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known
"And the peace of God which passeth all
understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
"Cares" are the epidemic evil of mankind. They
are universal in their reach. They belong to man in his fallen condition. The
predisposition to undue anxiety is the natural result of sin. Care comes in all
shapes, at all times, and from all sources. It comes to all of every age and
station. There are the cares of the home circle, from which there is no escape
save in prayer. There are the cares of business, the cares of poverty, and the
cares of riches. Ours is an anxious world, and ours is an anxious race. The
caution of Paul is well addressed, "In nothing be anxious." This is the Divine
injunction, and that we might be able to live above anxiety and freed from
undue care, "In everything, by prayer and supplication, let your requests be
made known unto God." This is the divinely prescribed remedy for all anxious
cares, for all worry, for all inward fretting.
The word, "careful," means to be drawn in
different directions, distraction, anxious, disturbed, annoyed in spirit. Jesus
had warned against this very thing in the Sermon on the Mount, where He had
earnestly urged His disciples, "Take no thought for the morrow," in things
concerning the needs of the body. He was endeavouring to show them the true
secret of a quiet mind, freed from anxiety and unnecessary care about food and
raiment. To-morrow's evils were not to be considered. He was simply teaching
the same lesson found in Psalm 37: 3, "Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt
thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed." In cautioning against
the fears of to-morrow's prospective evils, and the material wants of the body,
our Lord was teaching the great lesson of an implicit and childlike confidence
in God. "Commit thy way unto the Lord: trust also in him, and he shall bring it
"'Day by day,' the
Daily strength for daily needs
Cast foreboding fears away;
Take the manna of to-day."
Paul's direction is very specific, "Be careful
for nothing." Be careful for not one thing. Be careful for not anything, for
any condition, chance or happening. Be troubled about not anything which
creates one disturbing anxiety. Have a mind freed from all anxieties, all
cares, all fretting, and all worries. Cares divide, distract, bewilder, and
destroy unity, forces and quietness of mind. Cares are fatal to weak piety and
are enfeebling to strong piety. What great need to guard against them and learn
the one secret of their cure, even prayer!
What boundless possibilities there are in prayer
to remedy the situation of mind of which Paul is speaking! Prayer over
everything can quiet every distraction, hush every anxiety, and lift every care
from care-enslaved lives and from care-bewildered hearts. The prayer specific
is the perfect cure for all ills of this character which belong to anxieties,
cares and worries. Only prayer in everything can drive dull care away, relieve
of unnecessary heart burdens, and save from the besetting sin of worrying over
things which we cannot help. Only prayer can bring into the heart and mind the
"peace which passeth all understanding," and keep mind and heart at ease, free
from carking care.
Oh, the needless heart burdens borne by fretting
Christians! How few know the real secret of a happy Christian life, filled with
perfect peace, hid from the storms and billows of a fretting careworn life!
Prayer has a possibility of saving us from "carefulness," the bane of human
lives. Paul in writing to the Corinthians says, "I would have you without
carefulness," and this is the will of God. Prayer has the ability to do this
very thing. "Casting all your care on him, for he careth for you," is the way
Peter puts it, while the Psalmist says, "Fret not thyself in any wise to do
evil." Oh, the blessedness of a heart at ease from all inward care, exempt from
undue anxiety, in the enjoyment of the peace of God which passeth all
Paul's injunction which includes both God's
promise and His purpose, and which immediately precedes his entreaty to be
"careful for nothing," reads on this wise:
"Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say,
"Let your moderation be made known to all men.
The Lord is at hand."
In a world filled with cares of every kind, where
temptation is the rule, where there are so many things to try us, how is it
possible to rejoice always? We look at the naked, dry command, and we accept it
and reverence it as the Word of God, but no joy comes. How are we to let our
moderation, our mildness, and our gentleness be universally and always known?
We resolve to be benign and gentle. We remember the nearness of the Lord, but
still we are hasty, quick, hard and salty. We listen to the Divine charge, "Be
careful for nothing," yet still we are anxious, care-worn, care-eaten, and
care-tossed. How can we fulfill the Divine word, so sweet and so large in
promise, so beautiful in the eye, and yet so far from being realized? How can
we enter upon the rich patrimony of being true, honest, just, pure, and possess
lovely things? The recipe is infallible, the remedy is universal, and the cure
is unfailing. It is found in the words which we have so often herein referred
to of Paul: "Be careful for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and
supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God."
This joyous, care-free, peaceful experience
bringing the believer into a joyousness, living simply by faith day by day, is
the will of God. Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul tells them: "Rejoice
evermore; pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks, for this is the
will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." So that not only is it God's will
that we should find full deliverance from all care and undue anxiety, but He
has ordained prayer as the means by which we can reach that happy state of
The Revised Version makes some changes in the
passage of Paul, about which we have been speaking. The reading there is" In
nothing be anxious," and "the peace of God shall guard your hearts and your
minds." And Paul puts the antecedent in the air of prayer, which is "Rejoice in
the Lord always." That is, be always glad in the Lord, and be happy with Him.
And that you may thus be happy, "Be careful for nothing." This rejoicing is the
doorway for prayer, and its pathway too. The sunshine and buoyancy of joy in
the Lord are the strength and boldness of prayer, the peans of its victory.
"Moderation" makes the rainbow of prayer. The word means mildness, fairness,
gentleness, sweet reasonableness. The Revised Version changes it to
"forbearance," with the margin reading "gentleness." What rare ingredients and
beautiful colourings! These are colourings and ingredients which make a strong
and beautiful character and a wide and positive reputation. A rejoicing, gentle
spirit, positive in reputation, is well fitted for prayer, rid of the
distractions and unrest of care.
The neglect of prayer is a grand hindrance to holiness. "We have
not because we ask not." Oh, how meek and gentle, how lowly in heart, how full
of love both to God and to man, might you have been at this day, if you had
only asked! If you had continued instant in prayer! Ask, that you may
thoroughly experience and perfectly practice the whole of that religion which
our Lord has so beautifully described in the Sermon on the Mount. -- JOHN
IT is to the closet Paul directs us to go. The unfailing remedy for all
carking, distressing care is prayer. The place where the Lord is at hand is the
closet of prayer. There He is always found, and there He is at hand to bless,
to deliver and to help. The one place where the Lord's presence and power will
be more fully realized than any other place is the closet of prayer.
Paul gives the various terms of prayer,
supplication and giving of thanks as the complement of true praying. The soul
must be in all of these spiritual exercises. There must be no half-hearted
praying, no abridging its nature, and no abating its force, if we would be
freed from this undue anxiety which causes friction and internal distress, and
if we would receive the rich fruit of that peace which passeth all
understanding. He who prays must be an earnest soul, all round in spiritual
"In everything, let your requests be made known
unto God," says Paul. Nothing is too great to be handled in prayer, or to be
sought in prayer. Nothing is too small to be weighed in the secret councils of
the closet, and nothing is too little for its final arbitrament. As care comes
from every source, so prayer goes to every source. As there are no small things
in prayer, so there are no small things with God. He who counts the hairs of
our head, and who is not too lofty and high to notice the little sparrow which
falls to the ground, is not too great and high to note everything which
concerns the happiness, the needs and the safety of His children. Prayer brings
God into what men are pleased to term the little affairs of life. The lives of
people are made up of these small matters, and yet how often do great
consequences come from small beginnings?
"There is no
sorrow, Lord, too light
bring in prayer to Thee;
There is no anxious
care too slight
wake Thy sympathy.
"There is no secret
sigh we breathe,
meets Thine ear Divine,
And every cross
grows light beneath
shadow, Lord, of Thine."
As everything by prayer is to be brought to the
notice of Almighty God, so we are assured that whatever affects us concerns
Him. How comprehensive is this direction about prayer! "In everything by
prayer." There is no distinction here between temporal and spiritual things.
Such a distinction is against faith, wisdom and reverence. God rules everything
in nature and in grace. Man is affected for time and eternity by things secular
as well as by things spiritual. Man's salvation hangs on his business as well
as on his prayers. A man's business hangs on his prayers just as it hangs on
The chief hindrances to piety, the wiliest and
the deadliest temptations of the devil, are in business, and lie alongside the
things of time. The heaviest, the most confusing and the most stupefying cares
lie beside secular and worldly matters. So in everything which comes to us and
which concerns us, in everything which we want to come to us, and in everything
which we do not want to come to us, prayer is to be made for all. Prayer
blesses all things, brings all things, relieves all things and prevents all
things. Everything as well as every place and every hour is to be ordered by
prayer. Prayer has in it the possibility to affect everything which affects us.
Here are the vast possibilities of prayer.
How much is the bitter of life sweetened by
prayer! How are the feeble made strong by prayer! Sickness flees before the
health of prayer. Doubts, misgivings, and trembling fears retire before prayer.
Wisdom, knowledge, holiness and heaven are at the command of prayer. Nothing is
outside of prayer. It has the power to gain all things in the provision of our
Lord Jesus Christ. Paul covers all departments and sweeps the entire field of
human concernment, conditions, and happenings by saying, "In everything by
Supplications and thanksgiving are to be joined
with prayer. It is not the dignity of worship, the gorgeousness of ceremonials,
the magnificence of its ritual, nor the plainness of its sacraments, which
avail. It is not simply the soul's hallowed and lowly abasement before God,
neither the speechless awe, which benefits in this prayer service, but the
intensity of supplication, the looking and the lifting of the soul in ardent
plea to God for the things desired and for which request is made.
The radiance and gratitude and utterance of
thanksgiving must be there. This is not simply the poetry of praise, but the
deep-toned words and the prose of thanks. There must be hearty thanks, which
remembers the past, sees God in it, and voices that recognition in sincere
thanksgiving. The hidden depths within must have utterance. The lips must speak
the music of the soul. A heart enthused of God, a heart illumined by His
presence, a life guided by His right hand, must have something to say for God
in gratitude. Such is to recognize God in the events of past life, to exalt God
for His goodness, and to honour God who has honoured it.
"Make known your requests unto God." The
"requests" must be made known unto God. Silence is not prayer. Prayer is asking
God for something which we have not, which we desire, and which He has promised
to give in answer to prayer. Prayer is really verbal asking. Words are in
prayer. Strong words and true words are found in prayer. Desires in prayer are
put in words. The praying one is a pleader. He urges his prayer by arguments,
promises, and needs.
Sometimes loud words are in prayer. The Psalmist
said, "Evening, morning and at noon will I pray, and cry aloud." The praying
one wants something which he has not got. He wants something which God has in
His possession, and which he can get by praying. He is beggared, bewildered,
oppressed and confused. He is before God in supplication, in prayer, and in
thanksgiving. These are the attitudes, the incense, the paraphernalia, and the
fashion of this hour, the court attendance of his soul before God.
"Requests" mean to ask for one's self. The man is
in a strait. He needs something, and he needs it badly. Other help has failed.
It means a plea for something to be given which has not been done. The request
is for the Giver, -- not alone His gifts but Himself. The requests of the
praying one are to be made known unto God. The requests are to be brought to
the knowledge of God. It is then that cares fly away, anxieties disappear,
worries depart, and the soul gets at ease. Then it is there steals into the
heart "the peace of God that passeth all understanding."
heart, my God's I am,
formed me man, forbids my fear;
The Lord hath
called me by my name;
Lord protects, forever near;
His blood for me
did once atone,
And still He loves and guards His
In James, chapter five, we have another
marvellous description of prayer and its possibilities. It has to do with
sickness and health, sin and forgiveness, and rain and drouth. Here we have
James' directory for praying:
"Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any
merry? Let him sing psalms.
"Is any sick among you? Let him call for the
elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the
name of the Lord.
"And the prayer of faith shall save the sick; and
the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one
for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual, fervent prayer of a
righteous man availeth much.
"Elias was a man subject to like passions as we
are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not on the
earth by the space of three years and six months.
"And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain,
and the earth brought forth her fruit."
Here is prayer for one's own needs and
intercessory prayer for others; prayer for physical needs and prayer for
spiritual needs; prayer for drouth and prayer for rain; prayer for temporal
matters and prayer for spiritual things. How vast the reach of prayer! How
wonderful under these words its possibilities!
Here is the remedy for affliction and depression
of every sort, and here we find the remedy for sickness and for rain in the
time of drouth. Here is the way to obtain forgiveness of sins. A stroke of
prayer paralyzes the energies of nature, stays its clouds, rain and dew, and
blasts field and farm like the simoon. Prayer brings clouds, and rain and
fertility to the famished and wasted earth.
The general statement, "The effectual, fervent
prayer of a righteous man availeth much," is a statement of prayer as an
energetic force. Two words are used. One signifies power in exercise, operative
power, while the other is power as an endowment. Prayer is power and strength,
a power and strength which influences God, and is most salutary, widespread and
marvellous in its gracious benefits to man. Prayer influences God. The ability
of God to do for man is the measure of the possibility of prayer.
"Thou art coming to
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such
None can ever ask too much."
In his "Soldier's Pocket Book," Lord Wolseley says if a young
officer wishes to get on, he must volunteer for the most hazardous duties and
take every possible chance of risking his life. It was a spirit and courage
like that which was shown in the service of God by a good soldier of Jesus
Christ named John McKenzie who died a few years ago. One evening when he was a
lad and eager for work in the Foreign Mission field he knelt down at the foot
of a tree in the Ladies' Walk on the banks of the Lossie at Elgin and offered
up this prayer: "O Lord send me to the darkest spot on earth." And God heard
him and sent him to South Africa where he laboured many years first under the
London Missionary Society and then under the British Government as the first
Resident Commissioner among the natives of Bechuanaland. -- J.O.
IT is answered prayer which brings praying out of the realm of dry, dead
things, and makes praying a thing of life and power. It is the answer to prayer
which brings things to pass, changes the natural trend of things, and orders
all things according to the will of God. It is the answer to prayer which takes
praying out of the regions of fanaticism, and saves it from being Eutopian, or
from being merely fanciful. It is the answer to prayer which makes praying a
power for God and for man, and makes praying real and divine. Unanswered
prayers are training schools for unbelief, an imposition and a nuisance, an
impertinence to God and to man.
Answers to prayer are the only surety that we
have prayed aright. What marvellous power there is in prayer! What untold
miracles it works in this world! What untold benefits to men does it secure to
those who pray! Why is it that the average prayer by the million goes a begging
for an answer?
The millions of unanswered prayers are not to be
solved by the mystery of God's will. We are not the sport of His sovereign
power. He is not playing at "make-believe" in His marvellous promises to answer
prayer. The whole explanation is found in our wrong praying. "We ask and
receive not because we ask amiss." If all unanswered prayers were dumped into
the ocean, they would come very near filling it. Child of God, can you pray?
Are your prayers answered? If not, why not? Answered prayer is the proof of
your real praying.
The efficacy of prayer from a Bible standpoint
lies solely in the answer to prayer. The benefit of prayer has been well and
popularly maximized by the saying, "It moves the arm which moves the universe."
To get unquestioned answers to prayer is not only important as to the
satisfying of our desires, but is the evidence of our abiding in Christ. It
becomes more important still. The mere act of praying is no test of our
relation to God. The act of praying may be a real dead performance. It may be
the routine of habit. But to pray and receive clear answers, not once or twice,
but daily, this is the sure test, and is the gracious point of our vital
connection with Jesus Christ.
Read our Lord's words in this connection:
"If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye
shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
To God and to man, the answer to prayer is the
all-important part of our praying. The answer to prayer, direct and
unmistakable, is the evidence of God's being. It proves that God lives, that
there is a God, an intelligent being, who is interested in His creatures, and
who listens to them when they approach Him in prayer. There is no proof so
clear and demonstrative that God exists than prayer and its answer. This was
Elijah's plea: "Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou
art the Lord God."
The answer to prayer is the part of prayer which
glorifies God. Unanswered prayers are dumb oracles which leave the praying ones
in darkness, doubt and bewilderment, and which carry no conviction to the
unbeliever. It is not the act or the attitude of praying which gives efficacy
to prayer. It is not abject prostration of the body before God, the vehement or
quiet utterance to God, the exquisite beauty and poetry of the diction of our
prayers, which do the deed. It is not the marvellous array of argument and
eloquence in praying which makes prayer effectual. Not one or all of these are
the things which glorify God. It is the answer which brings glory to His
Elijah might have prayed on Carmel's heights till
this good day with all the fire and energy of his soul, and if no answer had
been given, no glory would have come to God. Peter might have shut himself up
with Dorcas' dead body till he himself died on his knees, and if no answer had
come, no glory to God nor good to man would have followed, but only doubt,
blight and dismay.
Answer to prayer is the convincing proof of our
right relations to God. Jesus said at the grave of Lazarus:
"Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
"And I knew that thou hearest me always, but
because of the people that stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou
hast sent me."
The answer of His prayer was the proof of His
mission from God, as the answer to Elijah's prayer was made to the woman whose
son he raised to life. She said, "Now by this I know that thou art a man of
God." He is highest in the favour of God who has the readiest access and the
greatest number of answers to prayer from Almighty God.
Prayer ascends to God by an invariable law, even
by more than law, by the will, the promise and the presence of a personal God.
The answer comes back to earth by all the promise, the truth, the power and the
love of God.
Not to be concerned about the answer to prayer is
not to pray. What a world of waste there is in praying. What myriads of prayers
have been offered for which no answer is returned, no answer longed for, and no
answer is expected! We have been nurturing a false faith and hiding the shame
of our loss and inability to pray, by the false, comforting plea that God does
not answer directly or objectively, but indirectly and subjectively. We have
persuaded ourselves that by some kind of hocus pocus of which we are wholly
unconscious in its process and its results, we have been made better. Conscious
that God has not answered us directly, we have solaced ourselves with the
delusive unction that God has in some impalpable way, and with unknown results,
given us something better. Or we have comforted and nurtured our spiritual
sloth by saying that it is not God's will to give it to us. Faith teaches God's
praying ones that it is God's will to answer prayer. God answers all prayers
and every prayer of His true children who truly pray.
"Prayer makes the
darkened cloud withdraw,
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings every blessing from above."
The emphasis in the Scriptures is always given to
the answer to prayer. All things from God are given in answer to prayer. God
Himself, His presence, His gifts and His grace, one and all, are secured by
prayer. The medium by which God communicates with men is prayer. The most real
thing in prayer, its very essential end, is the answer it secures. The mere
repetition of words in prayer, the counting of beads, the multiplying mere
words of prayer, as works of supererogation, as if there was virtue in the
number of prayers to avail, is a vain delusion, an empty thing, a useless
service. Prayer looks directly to securing an answer. This is its design. It
has no other end in view.
Communion with God of course is in prayer. There
is sweet fellowship there with our God through His Holy Spirit. Enjoyment of
God there is in praying, sweet, rich and strong. The graces of the Spirit in
the inner soul are nurtured by prayer, kept alive and promoted in their growth
by this spiritual exercise. But not one nor all of these benefits of prayer
have in them the essential end of prayer. The divinely appointed channel
through which all good and all grace flows to our souls and bodies is
appointed to convey
The blessings God designs to give."
Prayer is divinely ordained as the means by which
all temporal and spiritual good are gained to us. Prayer is not an end in
itself. It is not something done to be rested in, something we have done, about
which we are to congratulate ourselves. It is a means to an end. It is
something we do which brings us something in return, without which the praying
is valueless. Prayer always aims at securing an answer.
We are rich and strong, good and holy, beneficent
and benignant, by answered prayer. It is not the mere performance, the
attitude, nor the words of prayer, which bring benefit to us, but it is the
answer sent direct from heaven. Conscious, real answers to prayer bring real
good to us. This is not praying merely for self, or simply for selfish ends.
The selfish character cannot exist when the prayer conditions are fulfilled.
It is by these answered prayers that human nature
is enriched. The answered prayer brings us into constant and conscious
communion with God, awakens and enlarges gratitude, and excites the melody and
lofty inspiration of praise. Answered prayer is the mark of God in our praying.
It is the exchange with heaven, and it establishes and realizes a relationship
with the unseen. We give our prayers in exchange for the Divine blessing. God
accepts our prayers through the atoning blood and gives Himself, His presence
and His grace in return.
All holy affections are affected by answered
prayers. By the answers to prayer all holy principles are matured, and faith,
love and hope have their enrichment by answered prayer. The answer is found in
all true praying. The answer is in prayer strongly as an aim, a desire
expressed, and its expectation and realization give importunity and realization
to prayer. It is the fact of the answer which makes the prayer, and which
enters into its very being. To seek no answer to prayer takes the desire, the
aim, and the heart out of prayer. It makes praying a dead, stockish thing, fit
only for dumb idols. It is the answer which brings praying into Bible regions,
and makes it a desire realized, a pursuit, an interest, that clothes it with
flesh and blood, and makes it a prayer, throbbing with all the true life of
prayer, affluent with all the paternal relations of giving and receiving, of
asking and answering.
God holds all good in His own hands. That good
comes to us through our Lord Jesus Christ because of His all atoning merits, by
asking it in His name. The only and the sole command in which all the others of
its class belong, is "Ask, seek, knock." And the one and sole promise is its
counterpart, its necessary equivalent and results: "It shall be given -- ye
shall find -- it shall be opened unto you."
God is so much involved in prayer and its hearing
and answering, that all of His attributes and His whole being are centered in
that great fact. It distinguishes Him as peculiarly beneficent, wonderfully
good, and powerfully attractive in His nature. "O thou that hearest prayer! To
thee shall all flesh come."
"Faithful, O Lord,
Thy mercies are
rock that cannot move;
A thousand promises
constancy of love."
Not only does the Word of God stand surety for
the answer to prayer, but all the attributes of God conspire to the same end.
God's veracity is at stake in the engagements to answer prayer. His wisdom, His
truthfulness and His goodness are involved. God's infinite and inflexible
rectitude is pledged to the great end of answering the prayers of those who
call upon Him in time of need. Justice and mercy blend into oneness to secure
the answer to prayer. It is significant that the very justice of God comes into
play and stands hard by God's faithfulness in the strong promise God makes of
the pardon of sins and of cleansing from sin's pollutions:
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just
to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
God's kingly relation to man, with all of its
authority, unites with the fatherly relation and with all of its tenderness to
secure the answer to prayer.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is most fully committed to
the answer of prayer. "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that
the Father may be glorified in the Son." How well assured the answer to prayer
is, when that answer is to glorify God the Father! And how eager Jesus Christ
is to glorify His Father in heaven! So eager is He to answer prayer which
always and everywhere brings glory to the Father, that no prayer offered in His
name is denied or overlooked by Him. Says our Lord Jesus Christ again, giving
fresh assurance to our faith, "If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do
it." So says He once more, "Ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto
"Come, my soul, thy
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay."
Constrained at the darkest hour to confess humbly that without
God's help I was helpless, I vowed a vow in the forest solitude that I would
confess His aid before men. A silence as a death was around me; it was
midnight, I was weakened by illness, prostrated with fatigue and worn with
anxiety for my white and black companions, whose fate was a mystery. In this
physical and mental distress I besought God to give me back my people. Nine
hours later we were exulting with rapturous joy. In full view of all was the
crimson flag with the crescent and beneath its waving folds was the long-lost
rear column. -- HENRY M. STANLEY
GOD has committed Himself to us by His Word in our praying. The Word of God is
the basis and the inspiration and the heart of prayer. Jesus Christ stands as
the illustration of God's Word, its illimitable good in promise as well as in
realization. God takes nothing by halves. He gives nothing by halves. We can
have the whole of Him when He has the whole of us. His words of promise are so
far-reaching, and so all-comprehending, that they seem to have deadened our
comprehension and have paralyzed our praying. This appears when we consider
those large words, when He almost exhausts human language in promises, as in
"whatever," "anything," and in the all-inclusive "whatsoever," and "all
things." These oft-repeated promises, so very great, seem to daze us, and
instead of allowing them to move us to asking, testing, and receiving, we turn
away full of wonder, but empty handed and with empty hearts.
We quote another passage from our Lord's
teaching about prayer. By the most solemn verification, He declares as
"And in that day ye shall ask me nothing; Verily,
Verily, I say unto you: Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will
give it to you.
"Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name. Ask,
and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."
Twice in this passage He declares the answer, and
pledging His Father, "He will give it to you," and declaring with impressive
and most suggestive iteration, "Ask, and ye shall receive." So strong and so
often did Jesus declare and repeat the answer as an inducement to pray, and as
an inevitable result of prayer, the Apostles held it as so fully and invincibly
established, that prayer would be answered, they held it to be their main duty
to urge and command men to pray. So firmly were they established as to the
truth of the law of prayer as laid down by our Lord, that they were led to
affirm that the answer to prayer was involved in and necessarily bound up with
all right praying. God the Father and Jesus Christ, His Son, are both strongly
committed by all the truth of their word and by the fidelity of their
character, to answer prayer.
Not only do these and all the promises pledge
Almighty God to answer prayer, but they assure us that the answer will be
specific, and that the very thing for which we pray will be given.
Our Lord's invariable teaching was that we
receive that for which we ask, and obtain that for which we seek, and have that
door opened at which we knock. This is according to our Heavenly Father's
direction to us, and His giving to us for our asking. He will not disappoint us
by not answering, neither will He deny us by giving us some other thing for
which we have not asked, or by letting us find some other thing for which we
have not sought, or by opening to us the wrong door, at which we were not
knocking. If we ask bread, He will give us bread. If we ask an egg, He will
give us an egg. If we ask a fish, He will give us a fish. Not something like
bread, but bread itself will be given unto us. Not something like a fish, but a
fish will be given. Not evil will be given us in answer to prayer, but good.
Earthly parents, though evil in nature, give for
the asking, and answer to the crying of their children. The encouragement to
prayer is transferred from our earthly father to our Heavenly Father, from the
evil to the good, to the supremely good; from the weak to the omnipotent, our
Heavenly Father, centering in Himself all the highest conceptions of
Fatherhood, abler, readier, and much more than the best, and much more than the
ablest earthly father. "How much more," who can tell? Much more than our
earthly father, will He supply all our needs, give us all good things, and
enable us to meet every difficult duty and fulfill every law, though hard to
flesh and blood, but made easy under the full supply of our Father's beneficent
and exhaustless help.
Here we have in symbol and as initial, more than
an intimation of the necessity, not only of perseverance in prayer, but of the
progressive stages of intentness and effort in the outlay of increasing
spiritual force. Asking, seeking, and knocking. Here is an ascending scale from
the mere words of asking, to a settled attitude of seeking, resulting in a
determined, clamorous and vigorous direct effort of praying.
Just as God has commanded us to pray always, to
pray everywhere, and to pray in everything, so He will answer always,
everywhere and in everything.
God has plainly and with directness committed
Himself to answer prayer. If we fulfill the conditions of prayer, the answer is
bound to come. The laws of nature are not so invariable and so inexorable as
the promised answer to pray. The ordinances of nature might fail, but the
ordinances of grace can never fail. There are no limitations, no adverse
conditions, no weakness, no inability, which can or will hinder the answer to
prayer. God's doing for us when we pray has no limitations, is not hedged
about, by provisos in Himself, or in the peculiar circumstances of any
particular case. If we really pray, God masters and defies all things and is
above all conditions.
God explicitly says, "Call unto me, and I will
answer." There are no limitations, no hedges, no hindrances in the way of God
fulfilling the promise. His word is at stake. His word is involved. God
solemnly engages to answer prayer. Man is to look for the answer, be inspired
by the expectation of the answer, and may with humble boldness demand the
answer. God, who cannot lie, is bound to answer. He has voluntarily placed
Himself under obligation to answer the prayer of him who truly prays.
"To God your every
instant prayer display;
Pray always; pray,
and never faint;
without ceasing, pray.
"In fellowship, alone,
God with faith draw near;
courts, beseech His throne,
all the power of prayer."
The prophets and the men of God of Old Testament
times were unshaken in their faith in the absolute certainty of God fulfilling
His promises to them. They rested in security on the word of God, and had no
doubt whatever either as to the fidelity of God in answering prayer or of His
willingness or ability. So that their history is marked by repeated asking and
receiving at the hands of God,
The same is true of the early Church. They
received without question the doctrine their Lord and Master had so often
affirmed that the answer to prayer was sure. The certainty of the answer to
prayer was as fixed as God's Word was true. The Holy Ghost dispensation was
ushered in by the disciples carrying this faith into practice. When Jesus told
them to "Tarry at Jerusalem till they were endued with power from on high,"
they received it as a sure promise that if they obeyed the command, they would
certainly receive the Divine power. So in prayer for ten days they tarried in
the upper room, and the promise was fulfilled. The answer came just as Jesus
So when Peter and John were arrested for healing
the man who sat at the beautiful gate of the temple, after being threatened by
the rulers in Jerusalem, they were released. "And being let go, they went to
their own company," they went to those with whom they were in affinity, those
of like minds, and not to men of the world. Still believing in prayer and its
efficacy, they gave themselves to prayer, the prayer itself being recorded in
Acts, chapter four. They recited some things to the Lord, and "when they had
prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were
filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness."
Here they were refilled for this special occasion
with the Holy Ghost. The answer to prayer responded to their faith and prayer.
The fullness of the Spirit always brings boldness. The cure for fear in the
face of threatenings of the enemies of the Lord is being filled with the
Spirit. This gives power to speak the word of the Lord with boldness. This
gives courage and drives away fear.
A young man had been called to the foreign field. He had not
been in the habit of preaching, but he knew one thing, how to prevail with God;
and going one day to a friend he said: "I don't see how God can use me on the
field. I have no special talent." His friend said: "My brother, God wants men
on the field who can pray. There are too many preachers now and too few
pray-ers." He went. In his own room in the early dawn a voice was heard weeping
and pleading for souls. All through the day, the shut door and the hush that
prevailed made you feel like walking softly, for a soul was wrestling with
Yet to this home, hungry souls would flock, drawn by some irresistible
Ah, the mystery was unlocked. In the secret chamber lost souls were pleaded for
and claimed. The Holy Ghost knew just where they were and sent them along. --
J. HUDSON TAYLOR
WE put it to the front. We unfold it on a banner never to be lowered or folded,
that God does hear and answer prayer. God has always heard and answered prayer.
God will forever hear and answer prayer. He is the same yesterday, to-day and
forever, ever blessed, ever to be adored. Amen. He changes not. As He has
always answered prayer, so will He ever continue to do so.
To answer prayer is God's universal rule. It
is His unchangeable and irrepealable law to answer prayer. It is His
invariable, specific and inviolate promise to answer prayer. The few denials to
prayer in the Scriptures are the exceptions to the general rule, suggestive and
startling by their fewness, exception and emphasis.
The possibilities of prayer, then, lie in the
great truth, illimitable in its broadness, fathomless in its depths,
exhaustless in its fullness, that God answers every prayer from every true soul
who truly prays.
God's Word does not say, "Call unto me, and you
will thereby be trained into the happy art of knowing how to be denied. Ask,
and you will learn sweet patience by getting nothing." Far from it. But it is
definite, clear and positive: "Ask, and it shall be given unto you."
We have this case among many in the Old
"Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, O
that thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thy hand
might be with me, and that thou wouldst keep me from evil, that it may not
And God readily granted him the things which he
Hannah, distressed in soul because she was
childless, and desiring a man child, repaired to the house of prayer, and
prayed, and this is the record she makes of the direct answer she received:
"For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me the petition which I asked
God's promises and purposes go direct to the fact
of giving for the asking. The answer to our prayers is the motive constantly
presented in the Scriptures to encourage us to pray and to quicken us in this
spiritual exercise. Take such strong, clear passages as these:
"Call unto me, and I will answer thee."
"He shall call unto me, and I will answer."
"Ask; and it shall be given you. Seek, and ye
shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
This is Jesus Christ's law of prayer. He does not
say, "Ask, and something shall be given you." Nor does He say, "Ask, and you
will be trained into piety." But it is that when you ask, the very thing asked
for will be given. Jesus does not say, "Knock, and some door will be opened."
But the very door at which you are knocking will be opened. To make this doubly
sure, Jesus Christ duplicates and reiterates the promise of the answer: "For
every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that
knocketh, it shall be opened."
Answered prayer is the spring of love, and is the
direct encouragement to pray. "I love the Lord because he hath heard my voice
and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will
I call upon him as long as I live."
The certainty of the Father's giving is assured
by the Father's relation, and by the ability and goodness of the Father.
Earthly parents, frail, infirm, and limited in goodness and ability, give when
the child asks and seeks. The parental heart responds most readily to the cry
for bread. The hunger of the child touches and wins the father's heart. So God,
our Heavenly Father, is as easily and strongly moved by our prayers as the
earthly parent. "If ye being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your
children, how much more shall your father in heaven give good gifts unto them
that ask him?" "Much more," just as much more does God's goodness, tenderness
and ability exceed that of man's.
Just as the asking is specific, so also is the
answer specific. The child does not ask for one thing and get another. He does
not cry for bread, and get a stone. He does not ask for an egg, and receive a
scorpion. He does not ask for a fish, and get a serpent. Christ demands
specific asking. He responds to specific praying by specific giving.
To give the very thing prayed for, and not
something else, is fundamental to Christ's law of praying. No prayer for the
cure of blind eyes did He ever answer by curing deaf ears. The very thing
prayed for is the very thing which He gives. The exceptions to this are
confirmatory of this great law of prayer. He who asks for bread gets bread, and
not a stone. If he asks for a fish, he receives a fish, and not a serpent. No
cry is so pleading and so powerful as the child's cry for bread. The cravings
of hunger, the appetite felt, and the need realized, all create and propel the
crying of the child. Our prayers must be as earnest, as needy, and as hungry as
the hungry child's cry for bread. Simple, artless and direct and specific must
be our praying, according to Christ's law of prayer and His teaching of God's
The illustration and enforcement of the law of
prayer are found in the specific answers given to prayer. Gethsemane is the
only seeming exception. The prayer of Jesus Christ in that awful hour of
darkness and hell was conditioned on these words, "If it be possible, let this
cup pass from me." But beyond these utterances of our Lord was the soul and
life prayer of the willing, suffering Divine victim, "Nevertheless not as I
will, but as thou wilt." The prayer was answered, the angel came, strength was
imparted, and the meek sufferer in silence drank the bitter cup.
Two cases of unanswered prayer are recorded in
the Scriptures in addition to the Gethsemane prayer of our Lord. The first was
that of David for the life of his baby child, but for good reasons to Almighty
God the request was not granted. The second was that of Paul for the removal of
the thorn in the flesh, which was denied. But we are constrained to believe
these must have been notable as exceptions to God's rule, as illustrated in the
history of prophet, priest, apostle and saint, as recorded in the Divine Word.
There must have been unrevealed reasons which moved God to veer from His
settled and fixed rule to answer prayer by giving the specific thing prayed
Our Lord did not hold the Syrophenician woman in
the school of unanswered prayer in order to test and mature her faith, neither
did He answer her prayer by healing or saving her husband. She asks for the
healing of her daughter, and Christ healed the daughter. She received the very
thing for which she asked the Lord Jesus Christ. It was in the school of
answered prayer our Lord disciplined and perfected her faith, and it was by
giving her a specific answer to her prayer. Her prayer centered on her
daughter. She prayed for the one thing, the healing of her child. And the
answer of our Lord centered likewise on the daughter.
We tread altogether too gingerly upon the great
and precious promises of God, and too often we ignore them wholly. The promise
is the ground on which faith stands in asking of God. This is the one basis of
prayer. We limit God's ability. We measure God's ability and willingness to
answer by prayer by the standard of men. We limit the Holy One of Israel. How
full of benefaction and remedy to suffering mankind are the promises as given
us by James in his Epistle, fifth chapter! How personal and mediate do they
make God in prayer! They are a direct challenge to our faith. They are
encouraging to large expectations in all the requests we make of God. Prayer
affects God in a direct manner, and has its aim and end in affecting Him.
Prayer takes hold of God, and induces Him to do large things for us, whether
personal or relative, temporal or spiritual, earthly or heavenly.
The great gap between Bible promises to prayer
and the income from praying is almost unspeakably great, so much so that it is
a prolific source of infidelity. It breeds unbelief in prayer as a great moral
force, and begets doubt really as to the efficacy of prayer. Christianity needs
to-day, above all things else, men and women who can in prayer put God to the
test and who can prove His promises. When this happy day for the world begins,
it will be earth's brightest day, and will be heaven's dawning day on earth.
These are the sort of men and women needed in this modern day in the Church. It
is not educated men who are needed for the times. It is not more money that is
required. It is not more machinery, more organization, more ecclesiastical
laws, but it is men and women who know how to pray, who can in prayer lay hold
upon God and bring Him down to earth, and move Him to take hold of earth's
affairs mightily and put life and power into the Church and into all of its
The Church and the world greatly need saints who
can bridge this wide gap between the praying done and the small number of
answers received. Saints are needed whose faith is bold enough and sufficiently
far-reaching to put God to the test. The cry comes even now out of heaven to
the people of the present-day Church, as it sounded forth in the days of
Malachi: "Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts." God is waiting to be
put to the test by His people in prayer. He delights in being put to the test
on His promises. It is His highest pleasure to answer prayer, to prove the
reliability of His promises. Nothing worthy of God nor of great value to men
will be accomplished till this is done.
Our Gospel belongs to the miraculous. It was
projected on the miraculous plane. It cannot be maintained but by the
supernatural. Take the supernatural out of our holy religion, and its life and
power are gone, and it degenerates into a mere mode of morals. The miraculous
is Divine power. Prayer has in it this same power. Prayer brings this Divine
power into the ranks of men and puts it to work. Prayer brings into the affairs
of earth a supernatural element. Our Gospel when truly presented is the power
of God. Never was the Church more in need of those who can and will test
Almighty God. Never did the Church need more than now those who can raise up
everywhere memorials of God's supernatural power, memorials of answers to
prayer, memorials of promises fulfilled. These would do more to silence the
enemy of souls, the foe of God and the adversary of the Church than any modern
scheme or present-day plan for the success of the Gospel. Such memorials reared
by praying people would dumbfound God's foes, strengthen weak saints, and would
fill strong saints with triumphant rapture.
The most prolific source of infidelity, and that
which traduces and hinders praying, and that which obscures the being and glory
of God most effectually, is unanswered prayer. Better not to pray at all than
to go through a dead form, which secures no answer, brings no glory to God, and
supplies no good to man. Nothing so indurates the heart and nothing so blinds
us to the unseen and the eternal, as this kind of prayerless praying.
George Benfield, a driver on the Midland Railway, living at
Derby, was standing on the footplate oiling his engine, the train being
stationary, when his foot slipped; he fell on the space between the lines. He
heard the express coming on, and had only time enough to lie full length on the
"six-foot" when it rushed by, and he escaped unhurt. He returned to his home in
the middle of the night and as he was going up-stairs he heard one of his
children, a girl about eight years old, crying and sobbing. "Oh, father," she
said, "I thought somebody came and told me that you were going to be killed,
and I got out of bed and prayed that God would not let you die." Was it only a
dream, a coincidence? George Benfield and others believed that he owed his life
to that prayer. -- DEAN
THE earthly career of our Lord Jesus Christ was no mere episode, a sort of
interlude, in His eternal life. What He was and what He did on earth was
neither abnormal nor divergent, but characteristic. What He was and what He did
on earth is but the figure and the illustration of what He is and what He is
doing in heaven. He is "the same yesterday and to-day, and forever." This
statement is the Divine summary of the eternal unity and changelessness of His
character. His earthly life was made up largely of hearing and answering
prayer. His heavenly life is devoted to the same Divine business. Really the
Old Testament is the record of God hearing and answering prayer. The whole
Bible deals largely with this all important subject.
Christ's miracles are object lessons. They
are living pictures. They talk to us. They have hands which take hold of us.
Many valuable lessons do these miracles teach us. In their diversity, they
refresh us. They show us the matchless power of Jesus Christ, and at the same
time discover to us His marvellous compassion for suffering humanity. These
miracles disclose to us His ability to endlessly diversify His operations.
God's method in working with man is not the same in all cases. He does not
administer His grace in rigid ruts. There is endless variety in His movements.
There is marvellous diversity in His operations. He does not fashion His
creations in the same mould. Just so our Lord is not circumscribed in His
working nor trammelled by models. He works independently. He is His own
architect. He furnishes His own patterns which have unlimited variety.
When we consider our Lord's miracles, we discover
that quite a number were performed unconditionally. At least there were no
conditions accompanying them so far as the Divine record shows. At His own
instance, without being solicited to do so, in order to glorify God and to
manifest His own glory and power, this class of miracles was wrought. Many of
His mighty works were performed at the moving of His compassion and at the call
of suffering and need, as well as at the call of His power. But a number of
them were performed by Him in answer to prayer. Some were wrought in answer to
the personal prayers of those who were afflicted. Others were performed in
answer to the prayers of the friends of those who were afflicted. Those
miracles wrought in answer to prayer are very instructive in the uses of
In these conditional miracles, faith holds the
primacy and prayer is faith's vicegerent. We have an illustration of the
importance of faith as the condition on which the exercise of Christ's power
was based, or the channel through which it flowed, in the incident of a visit
He made to Nazareth with its results, or rather its lack of results. Here is
the record of the case:
"And he could there do no mighty work, save that
he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.
"And he marvelled because of their unbelief."
Those people at Nazareth may have prayed our Lord
to raise their dead, or open the eyes of the blind, or heal the lepers, but it
was all in vain. The absence of faith, however much of performance may be seen,
restrains the exercise of God's power, paralyzes the arm of Christ, and turns
to death all signs of life. Unbelief is the one thing which seriously hinders
Almighty God in doing mighty works. Matthew's record of this visit to Nazareth
says, "And he did not any mighty works there because of their unbelief." Lack
of faith ties the hands of Almighty God in His working among the children of
men. Prayer to Christ must always be based, backed and impregnated with
The miracle of miracles in the earthly career of
our Lord, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, was remarkable for its prayer
accompaniment. It was really a prayer issue, something after the issue between
the prophets of Baal and Elijah. It was not a prayer for help. It was one of
thanksgiving and assured confidence. Let us read it:
"And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, Father, I
thank thee that thou hast heard me.
"And I know that thou hearest me always. But
because of the people that stand by, I said it, that they may believe that thou
hast sent me."
It was a prayer mainly for the benefit of those
who were present, that they might know that God was with Him because He had
answered His prayers, and that faith in God might be radiated in their
Answered prayers are sometimes the most
convincing and faith-creating forces. Unanswered prayers chill the atmosphere
and freeze the soil of faith. If Christians knew how to pray so as to have
answers to their prayers, evident, immediate, and demonstrative answers from
God, faith would be more widely diffused, would become more general, would be
more profound, and would be a much more mighty force in the world.
What a valuable lesson of faith and intercessory
prayer does the miracle of the healing of the centurion's servant bring to us!
The simplicity and strength of the faith of this Roman officer are remarkable,
for He believed that it was not needful for our Lord to go directly to his
house in order to have his request granted, "But speak the word only, and my
servant shall be healed." And our Lord puts His mark upon this man's faith by
saying, "Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in
Israel." This man's prayer was the expression of his strong faith, and such
faith brought the answer promptly.
The same invaluable lesson we get from the prayer
miracle of the case of the Syrophenician woman who went to our Lord in behalf
of her stricken daughter, making her daughter's case her own, by pleading,
"Lord, help me." Here was importunity, holding on, pressing her case, refusing
to let go or to be denied. A strong case it was of intercessory prayer and its
benefits. Our Lord seemingly held her off for a while but at last yielded, and
put His seal upon her strong faith: "O woman, great is thy faith! Be it unto
thee even as thou wilt." What a lesson on praying for others and its large
Individual cases could be named, where the
afflicted persons interceded for themselves, illustrations of wonderful things
wrought by our Lord in answer to the cries of those who were afflicted. As we
read the Evangelists' record, the pages fairly glisten with records of our
Lord's miracles wrought in answer to prayer, showing the wonderful things
accomplished by the use of this divinely appointed means of grace.
If we turn back to Old Testament times, we have
no lack of instances of prayer miracles. The saints of those days were well
acquainted with the power of prayer to move God to do great things. Natural
laws did not stand in the way of Almighty God when He was appealed to by His
praying ones. What a marvellous record is that of Moses as those successive
plagues were visited upon Egypt in the effort to make Pharaoh let the children
of Israel go that they might serve God! As one after another of these plagues
came, Pharaoh would beseech Moses, "Entreat the Lord your God that he may take
away this death." And as the plagues themselves were miracles, prayer removed
them as quickly as they were sent by Almighty God. The same hand which sent
these destructive agencies upon Egypt was moved by the prayers of His servant
Moses to remove these same plagues. And the removal of the plagues in answer to
prayer was as remarkable a display of Divine power as was the sending of the
plagues in the first instance. The removal in answer to prayer would do as much
to show God's being and His power as would the plagues themselves. They were
miracles of prayer.
All down the line in Old Testament days we see
these prayer miracles. God's praying servants had not the least doubt that
prayer would work marvellous results and bring the supernatural into the
affairs of earth. Miracles and prayer went hand in hand. They were companions.
The one was the cause, the other was the effect. The one brought the other into
existence. The miracle was the proof that God heard and answered prayer. The
miracle was the Divine demonstration that God, who was in heaven, interfered in
earth's affairs, intervened to help men, and worked supernaturally if need be
to accomplish His purposes in answer to prayer.
Passing to the days of the early Church, we find
the same Divine record of prayer miracles. The sad news came to Peter that
Dorcas was dead and he was wanted at Joppa. Promptly he made his way to that
place. Peter put everybody out of the room, and then he kneeled down and
prayed, and with faith said, "Tabitha, arise," and she opened her eyes and sat
up. Knee work on the part of Peter did the work. Prayer brought things to pass
and saved Dorcas for further work on earth.
Paul was on that noted journey to Rome under
guard, and had been shipwrecked on an island. The chief man of the island was
Publius, and his old father was critically ill of a bloody flux. Paul laid his
hands on the old man, and prayed for him, and God came to the rescue and healed
the sick man. Prayer brought the thing desired to pass. God interfered with the
laws of nature, either suspending or setting them aside for a season, and
answered the prayer of this praying servant of His. And the answer to prayer
among those heathen people convinced them that a supernatural power was at work
among them. In fact so true was this that they seemed to think a supernatural
being had come among them.
Peter was put in prison by Herod after he had
killed James with the sword. The young Church was greatly concerned, but they
neither lost heart nor gave themselves over to needless fretting and worrying.
They had learned before this from whence their help came. They had been
schooled in the lesson of prayer. God had intervened before in the behalf of
His servants and interfered when His cause was at stake. "Prayer was made
without ceasing of the Church unto God for him." An angel on swift wings comes
to the rescue, and in a marvellous and supernatural way releases Peter and
leaves the prison doors locked. Locks and prison doors and an unfriendly king
cannot stand in the way of Almighty God when His people cry in prayer unto Him.
Miracles if need be will be wrought in their behalf to fulfill His promises and
to carry forward His plans. After this order does the Word of God illustrate
and enlarge and confirm the possibilities of prayer by what may be termed
How quickly to our straits follow our
enlargements! God wrought a wonderful work through Samson in enabling him with
a crude instrument, the jaw bone of an ass, to slay a thousand men, giving him
a great deliverance. Shortly afterward he was abnormally thirsty, and he was
unable to obtain any water. It seemed as if he would perish with thirst. God
had saved him from the hands of the Philistines. Could he not as well save him
from thirst? So Samson cried unto the Lord, and "God clave a hollow place that
was in the jaw, and there came water thereout, and when he had drunk, his
spirit came again and he revived." God could bring water out of the jaw bone
just as well as He could give victory by it to Samson. God could change that
which had been death-dealing to His enemies and make it life-giving to His
servant. God can and will work a miracle in answer to prayer in order to
deliver His friends, sooner than He will work one to destroy His enemies. He
does both, however, in answer to prayer.
All natural forces are under God's control. He
did not create the world and put it under law, and then retire from it, to work
out its own destiny, irrespective of the welfare of His intelligent creatures.
Natural laws are simply God's laws, by which He governs and regulates all
things in nature. Nature is nothing but God's servant. God is above nature, God
is not the slave of nature. This being true, God can and will suspend the
working of nature's laws, can hold them in abeyance by His almighty hand, can
for the time being set them aside, to fulfill His higher purposes in
redemption. It is no violation of nature's laws when, in answer to prayer, He
who is above nature makes nature His servant, and causes nature to tarry out
His plans and purposes.
This is the explanation of that wonderful prayer
miracle of Old Testament times, when Joshua, in the strength and power of the
Lord God, commanded the sun and moon to stand still in order to give time to
complete the victory over the enemies of Israel. Why should it be thought a
thing incredible that the God of nature and of grace should interfere with His
own natural laws for a short season in answer to prayer, and for the good of
His cause? Is God tied hand and foot? Has He so circumscribed Himself that He
cannot operate the law of prayer? Is the law of nature superior to the law of
prayer? Not by any means. He is the God of prayer as well as the God of nature.
Both prayer and nature have God as their Maker, their Ruler and their Executor.
And prayer is God's servant, just as nature is His servant.
The prayer force in God's government is as strong
as any other force, and all natural and other forces must give way before the
force of prayer. Sun, moon and stars are under God's control in answer to
prayer. Rain, sunshine and drouth obey His will. "Fire and hail, snow and
vapour, stormy wind fulfilling his word." Disease and health are governed by
Him. All, all things in heaven and earth, are absolutely under the control of
Him who made heaven and earth, and who governs all things according to His own
Prayer still works miracles among men and brings
to pass great things. It is as true now as when James wrote his Epistle, "The
fervent, effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much." And when the
records of eternity are read out to an assembled world, then will it appear how
much prayer has wrought in this world. Little is now seen of the fruits of
prayer compared to all that it has accomplished and is accomplishing. At the
judgment day, then will God disclose the things which were brought to pass in
this world through the prayers of the saints. Many occurrences which are now
taken as a matter of course will then be seen to have happened because of the
Lord's praying ones.
The work of George Muller in Bristol, England,
was a miracle of the nineteenth century. It will take the opening of the books
at the great judgment day to disclose all he wrought through prayer. His
orphanage, in which hundreds of fatherless and motherless children were cared
for, to sustain which this godly man never asked any one for money with which
to pay its running expenses, is a marvel of modern times. His practice was
always to ask God for just what was needed, and the answers which came to him
read like a record of apostolic times. He prayed for everything and trusted
implicitly to God to supply all his needs. And it is a matter of record that
never did he and the orphans ever lack for any good thing.
Of a holy man who has done so much for Christ and
suffering humanity, it was said at the grave about him:
"He prayed up the walls of an hospital, and the
hearts of the nurses. He prayed mission stations into being, and missionaries
into faith. He prayed open the hearts of the rich, and gold from the most
Luther is quoted as once saying: "The Christian's
trade is praying." Certainly, for a great reason, the preacher's trade should
be praying. We fear greatly that many preachers know nothing of this trade of
praying, and hence they never succeed at this trade. A severe apprenticeship in
the trade of praying must be served in order to become a journeyman in it. Not
only is it true that there are few journeymen at work at this praying trade,
but numbers have never even been apprentices at praying. No wonder so little is
accomplished by them. God and the supernatural are left out of their
Many do not understand this trade of praying
because they have never learned it, and hence do not work at it. Many miracles
ought to be worked by our praying. Why not? Is the arm of the Lord shortened
that He cannot save? Is His ear heavy that He cannot hear? Has prayer lost its
power because iniquity abounds and the love of many has grown cold? Has God
changed from what He once was? To all these queries we enter an emphatic
negative. God can as easily to-day work miracles by praying as He did in the
days of old. "I am the Lord; I change not." "Is anything too hard for the
He who works miracles by praying will first of
all work the chief miracle on himself. Oh, that we might fully understand well
the Christian's trade of praying, and follow the trade day by day and thus make
to ourselves great spiritual wealth!
Wisdom and Revelation distinguished by Experience and Scripture.
By Experience. Take a weak understanding (but one exceeding holy), having
little knowledge of God by way of discursive wisdom and laying this thing to
that, and so knowing God: such poor soul is oftentimes hardly able to speak
wisely and he will know more of God in one prayer than a great scholar (though
also very holy) hath known of Him in all his life; God often deals thus with
the weak who are very holy; for if such were shut up to knowing God by way of a
sanctified reason, large understandings would have infinite advantage of them
and they would grow little in grace and holiness; therefore God makes a supply
by breaking in upon their spirits by such irradiations as these. -- THOS.
IN the fearful contest in this world between God and the devil, between good
and evil, and between heaven and hell, prayer is the mighty force for
overcoming Satan, giving dominion over sin, and defeating hell. Only praying
leaders are to be counted on in this dreadful conflict. Praying men alone are
to be put to the front. These are the only sort who are able to successfully
contend with all the evil forces.
The "prayers of all saints" are a perpetual
force against all the powers of darkness. These prayers are a mighty energy in
overcoming the world, the flesh and the devil and in shaping the destiny of
God's movements, to overcome evil and get the victory over the devil and all
his works. The character and energy of God's movements lie in prayer. Victory
is to come at the end of praying.
The wonders of God's power are to be kept alive,
made real and present, and repeated only by prayer. God is not now so evident
in the world, so almighty in manifestation as of old, not because miracles have
passed away, nor because God has ceased to work, but because prayer has been
shorn of its simplicity, its majesty, and its power. God still lives, and
miracles still live while God lives and acts, for miracles are God's ways of
acting. Prayer is dwarfed, withered and petrified when faith in God is
staggered by doubts of His ability, or through the shrinking caused by fear.
When faith has a telescopic, far-off vision of God, prayer works no miracles,
and brings no marvels of deliverance. But when God is seen by faith's closest,
fullest eye, prayer makes a history of wonders.
Think about God. Make much of Him, till He
broadens and fills the horizon of faith. Then prayer will come into its
marvellous inheritance of wonders. The marvels of prayer are seen when we
remember that God's purposes are changed by prayer, God's vengeance is stayed
by prayer, and God's penalty is remitted by prayer. The whole range of God's
dealing with man is affected by prayer. Here is a force which must be
increasingly used, that of prayer, a force to which all the events of life
ought to be subjected.
To "pray without ceasing," to pray in everything,
and to pray everywhere -- these commands of continuity are expressive of the
sleepless energy of prayer, of the exhaustless possibilities of prayer, and of
its exacting necessity. Prayer can do all things. Prayer must do all things.
"Prayer is the
simplest form of speech
infant lips can try;
sublimest strains that reach
majesty on high."
Prayer is asking God for something, and for
something which He has promised. Prayer is using the divinely appointed means
for obtaining what we need and for accomplishing what God proposes to do on
appointed to convey
blessings God designs to give;
Long as they live
should Christians pray,
learn to pray when first they live."
And prayer brings to us blessings which we need,
and which only God can give, and which prayer can alone convey to us.
In their broadest fullness, the possibilities of
prayer are to be found in the very nature of prayer. This service of prayer is
not a mere rite, a ceremony through which we go, a sort of performance. Prayer
is going to God for something needed and desired. Prayer is simply asking God
to do for us what He has promised us He will do if we ask Him. The answer is a
part of prayer, and is God's part of it. God's doing the thing asked for is as
much a part of the prayer as the asking of the thing is prayer. Asking is man's
part. Giving is God's part. The praying belongs to us. The answer belongs to
Man makes the plea and God makes the answer. The
plea and the answer compose the prayer. God is more ready, more willing and
more anxious to give the answer than man is to give the asking. The
possibilities of prayer lie in the ability of man to ask large things and in
the ability of God to give large things.
God's only condition and limitation of prayer is
found in the character of the one who prays. The measure of our faith and
praying is the measure of His giving. Like as our Lord said to the blind man,
"According to your faith be it unto you," so it is the same in praying,
"According to the measure of your asking, be it unto you." God measures the
answer according to the prayer. He is limited by the law of prayer in the
measure of the answers He gives to prayer. As is the measure of prayer, so will
be the answer.
If the person praying has the characteristics
which warrant praying, then the possibilities are illimitable. They are
declared to be "all things whatsoever." Here is no limitation in character or
kind, in circumference or condition. The man who prays can pray for anything
and for everything, and God will give everything and anything. If we limit God
in the asking, He will be limited in the giving.
Looking ahead, God declares in His Word that the
wonder of wonders will be so great in the last days that everything animate and
inanimate will be excited by His power:
"For behold, I create new heavens and a new
earth; and the former shall not be remembered nor come to mind.
"But be ye glad and rejoice, forever, in that
which I create; for behold I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a
But these days of God's mighty working, the days
of His magnificent and wonder-creating power, will be days of magnificent
"And it shall come to pass that before they call,
I will answer, and while they are yet speaking, I will hear."
It has ever been so. God's marvellous,
miracle-working times have been times of marvellous, miracle-working praying.
The greatest thing in God's worship by His own estimate is praying. Its chief
service and its distinguishing feature is prayer:
"Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and
make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offering and their
sacrifices shall be accepted upon my altar, for my house shall be called a
house of prayer for all people."
This was true under all the gorgeous rites and
parade of ceremonies under the Jewish worship. Sacrifice, offering and the
atoning blood were all to be impregnated with prayer. The smoke of burnt
offering and perfumed incense which filled God's house was to be but the flame
of prayer, and all of God's people were to be anointed priests to minister at
His altar of prayer. So all things were to be done with mighty prayer, because
mighty prayer was the fruitage and inspiration of mighty faith. But much more
is it now true every way under the more simple service of the Gospel.
The course of nature, the movements of the
planets, and the clouds, have yielded to the influence of prayer, and God has
changed and checked the order of the sun and the seasons under the mighty
energies of prayer. It is only necessary to note the remarkable incident when
Joshua, through this divine means of prayer, caused the sun and the moon to
stand still in order that a more complete victory could be given to the armies
of Israel in the contest with the armies of the Amorites.
If we believe God's word, we are bound to believe
that prayer affects God, and affects Him mightily; that prayer avails, and that
prayer avails mightily. There are wonders in prayer because there are wonders
in God. Prayer has no talismanic influence. It is no mere fetish. It has no
so-called powers of magic. It is simply making known our requests to God for
things agreeable to His will in the name of Christ. It is just yielding our
requests to a Father, who knows all things, who has control of all things, and
who is able to do all things. Prayer is infinite ignorance trusting to the
wisdom of God. Prayer is the voice of need crying out to Him who is
inexhaustible in resources. Prayer is helplessness reposing with childlike
confidence on the word of its Father in heaven. Prayer is but the verbal
expression of the heart of perfect confidence in the infinite wisdom, the power
and the riches of Almighty God, who has placed at our command in prayer
everything we need.
How all the gracious results of such gracious
times are to come to the world through prayer, we are taught in God's Word.
God's heart seems to overflow with delight at the prospect of thus blessing His
people. By the mouth of the Prophet Joel, God thus speaks:
"Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice; for the
Lord will do great things.
"Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field; for the
pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the
fig-tree and the vine do yield their strength.
"Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice
in the Lord your God; for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he
will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain
in the first month.
"And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the
fats shall overflow with wine and oil.
"And I will restore to you the years that the
locust hath eaten, the canker worm and the caterpillar, and the palmer worm, my
great army which I sent among you.
"And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you;
and my people shall never be ashamed.
"And ye shall know that I am in the midst of
Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else; and my people shall
never be ashamed."
What wonderful material things are these which
God proposes to bestow upon His people! They are marvellous temporal blessings
He promises to bestow on them. They almost astonish the mind when they are
studied. But God does not restrict His large blessings to temporal things.
Looking down the ages, He foresees Pentecost, and makes these exceeding great
and precious promises concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, these very
words being quoted by Peter on that glad day of Pentecost:
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will
pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons shall prophesy, your old men
shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions;
"And also upon the servants and upon the
handmaidens in those days will I pour out my Spirit.
"And I will show wonders in the heavens and in
the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke;
"The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the
moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord shall
"And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall
call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in
Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom
the Lord shall call."
But these marvellous blessings will not be
bestowed upon the people by sovereign power, nor be given unconditionally.
God's people must do something precedent to such glorious results. Fasting and
prayer must play an important part as conditions of receiving such large
blessings. By the mouth of the same prophet, God thus speaks:
"Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye to
me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with
"And rend your heart, and not your garments; and
turn unto the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger,
and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
"Who knoweth if he will turn and repent, and
leave a blessing behind him, even a meat offering, and a drink offering, unto
the Lord your God?
"Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast, call
a solemn assembly.
"Gather the people; sanctify the congregation;
assemble the elders; gather the children; and those that suck the breasts; let
the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
"Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep
between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord,
and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over
them; Wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?
"Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and
pity his people.
"Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto his
people, Behold I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be
satisfied therewith; and I will no more make you a reproach among the
Prayer reaches even as far as does the presence
of God go. It reaches everywhere because God is everywhere. Let us read from
"If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I
make my bed in hell, behold thou art there.
"If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in
the uttermost part of the sea;
"Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right
hand shall hold me."
This may be said as truly of prayer as it is said
of the God of prayer. The mysteries of death have been fathomed by prayer, and
its victims have been brought back to life by the power of prayer, because God
holds dominion over death, and prayer reaches where God reigns. Elisha and
Elijah both invaded the realms of death by their prayers, and asserted and
established the power of God as the power of prayer. Peter by prayer brings
back to life the saintly Dorcas to the early Church. Paul doubtless exercised
the power of prayer as he fell upon and embraced Eutychus who fell out of the
window when Paul preached at night.
Our Lord several times explicitly declared the
far-reaching possibilities and the illimitable nature of prayer as covering
"all things whatsoever." The conditions of prayer are exalted into a personal
union with Himself. That successful praying glorified God was the condition
upon which labourers of first quality and sufficient in numbers were to be
secured in order to press forward God's work in the world. The giving of all
good things is conditioned upon asking for them. The giving of the Holy Spirit
to God's children is based upon the asking of the children of God. God's will
on earth can only be secured by prayer. Daily bread is obtained and sanctified
by prayer. Reverence, forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from the evil one,
and salvation from temptation, are in the hands of prayer.
The first jewelled foundation Christ lays as the
basic principle of His religion in the Sermon on the Mount reads on this wise:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." As
prayer follows from the inner sense of need, and prayer is the utterance of a
deep poverty-stricken spirit, so it is evident he who is "poor in spirit" is
where he can pray and where he does pray.
Prayer is a tremendous force in the world. Take
this picture of prayer and its wonderful possibilities. God's cause is quiet
and motionless on the earth. An angel, strong and impatient to be of service,
waits round about the throne of God in heaven, and in order to move things on
earth and give impetus to the movements of God's cause in this world, he
gathers all the prayers of all God's saints in all ages, and puts them before
God just like Aaron used to cloud, flavour and sweeten himself with the
delicious incense when he entered the holy sanctuary, made awful by the
immediate presence of God. The angel impregnates all the air with that holy
offering of prayers, and then takes its fiery body and casts it on the
Note the remarkable result. "There were voices
and thunderings and lightnings and an earthquake." What tremendous force is
this which has thus convulsed the earth? The answer is that it is the "prayers
of the saints," turned loose by the angel round about the throne, who has
charge of those prayers. This mighty force is prayer, like the power of earth's
Take another fact showing the wonders of prayer
wrought by Almighty God in answer to the praying of His true prophet. The
nation of God's people was fearfully apostate in head and heart and life. A man
of God went to the apostate king with the fearful message which meant so much
to the land, "There shall not be rain nor dew these years but according to my
word." Whence this mighty force which can stay the clouds, seal up the rain,
and hold back the dew? Who is this who speaks with such authority? Is there any
force which can do this on earth? Only one, and that force is prayer, wielded
in the hands of a praying prophet of God. It is he who has influence with God
and over God in prayer, who thus dares to assume such authority over the forces
of nature. This man Elijah is skilled in the use of that tremendous force. "And
Elijah prayed earnestly, and it rained not on the earth for three years and six
But this is not all the story. He who could by
prayer lock up the clouds and seal up the rain, could also unlock. the clouds
and unseal the rain by the same mighty power of prayer. "And he prayed again,
and the heaven gave rain, and the earth gave forth her fruit."
Mighty is the power of prayer. Wonderful are its
fruits. Remarkable things are brought to pass by men of prayer. Many are the
wonders of prayer wrought by an Almighty hand. The evidences of prayer's
accomplishments almost stagger us. They challenge our faith. They encourage our
expectations when we pray.
From a cursory compend like this, we get a
bird's-eye view of the large possibilities of prayer and the urgent necessity
of prayer. We see how God commits Himself into the hands of those who truly
pray. Great are the wonders of prayer because great is the God who hears and
answers prayer. Great are these wonders because great are the rich promises
made by a great God to those who pray.
We have seen prayer's far-reaching possibilities
and its absolute, unquestioned necessity, and we have also seen that the
foregoing particulars and elaboration were requisite in order to bring the
subject more clearly, truly and strongly before our minds. The Church more than
ever needs profound convictions of the vast importance of prayer in prosecuting
the work committed to it. More praying must be done and better praying if the
Church shall be able to perform the difficult, delicate and responsible task
given to it by her Lord and Master. Defeat awaits a non-praying Church. Success
is sure to follow a Church given to much prayer. The supernatural element in
the Church, without which it must fail, comes only through praying. More time,
in this busy bustling age, must be given to prayer by a God-called Church. More
thought must be given to prayer in this thoughtless, silly age of superficial
religion. More heart and soul must be in the praying that is done if the Church
would go forth in the strength of her Lord and perform the wonders which is her
heritage by Divine promise.
"O Spirit of the
all thy plenitude of grace,
Where'er the foot
of man hath trod,
on our apostate race.
"Give tongues of fire and hearts of love,
preach the reconciling word,
Give power and
unction from above,
the joyful sound is heard."
It might be in order to give an instance or two
in the life of Rev. John Wesley, showing some remarkable displays of spiritual
power. Many times it is stated this noted man gathered his company together,
and prayed all night, or till the mighty power of God came upon them. It was at
a Watch Night service, at Fetter Lane, December 31, 1738, when Charles and John
Wesley, with Whitfield, sat up till after midnight singing and praying. This is
"About three o'clock in the morning, as we were
continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, so that
many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we
had recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of His
Majesty, we broke out with one voice, 'We praise thee, O God! We acknowledge
thee to be the Lord!'"
On another occasion, Mr. Wesley gives us this
"After midnight, about a hundred of us walked
home together, singing, rejoicing and praising God."
Often does this godly man make the record to this
effect, "We continued in ministering the Word and in prayer and praise till
One of his all-night wrestlings in prayer alone
with God is said to have greatly affected a Catholic priest, who was really
awakened by the occurrence to a realization of his spiritual condition.
As often as God manifested His power in
Scriptural times in working wonders through prayer, He has not left Himself
without witness in modern times. Prayer brings the Holy Spirit upon men to-day
in answer to importunate, continued prayer just as it did before Pentecost. The
wonders of prayer have not ceased.
Again a poor soul is tempted to doubt the being of a God;
arguments by way of reason and wisdom may convince him he may get a little
light from them; but sometimes God will come into his soul with an immediate
beam and scatter all his doubts, more than a thousand arguments can do; the way
of wisdom thus of knowing there is a God, that unties the knot; but the other
cuts it in pieces presently; so it is in all temptations else a man goes the
way of wisdom and sanctified reason, and looks into his own heart and there
sees the work of grace and argues from all God's dealings with him; yet all
these satisfy not a man: but God comes with a light in his spirit and all his
bolts and shackles are knocked off in a moment; here we see the way of Wisdom
and the way of Revelation. -- THOS.
PRAYER and the Divine providence are closely related. They stand in close
companionship. They cannot possibly be separated. So closely connected are they
that to deny one is to abolish the other. Prayer supposes a providence, while
providence is the result of and belongs to prayer. All answers to prayer are
but the intervention of the providence of God in the affairs of men. Providence
has to do specially with praying people. Prayer, providence and the Holy Spirit
are a trinity, which cooperate with each other and are in perfect harmony with
one another. Prayer is but the request of man for God through the Holy Spirit
to interfere in behalf of him who prays.
What is termed providence is the Divine
superintendence over earth and its affairs. It implies gracious provisions
which Almighty God makes for all His creatures, animate and inanimate,
intelligent or otherwise. Once admit that God is the Creator and Preserver of
all men, and concede that He is wise and intelligent, and logically we are
driven to the conclusion that Almighty God has a direct superintendence of
those whom He has created and whom He preserves in being. In fact creation and
preservation suppose a superintending providence. What is called Divine
providence is simply Almighty God governing the world for its best interests,
and overseeing everything for the good of mankind.
Men talk about a "general providence" as separate
from a "special providence." There is no general providence but what is made up
of special providences. A general supervision on the part of God supposes a
special and individual supervision of each person, yea, even every creature,
animal and all alike.
God is everywhere, watching, superintending,
overseeing, governing everything in the highest interest of man, and carrying
forward His plans and executing His purposes in creation and redemption. He is
not an absentee God. He did not make the world with all that is in it, and turn
it over to so-called natural laws, and then retire into the secret places of
the universe having no regard for it or for the working of His laws. His hand
is on the throttle. The work is not beyond His control. Earth's inhabitants and
its affairs are not running independent of Almighty God.
Any and all providences are special providences,
and prayer and this sort of providences work hand in hand. God's hand is in
everything. None are beyond Him nor beneath His notice. Not that God orders
everything which comes to pass. Man is still a free agent, but the wisdom of
Almighty God comes out when we remember that while man is free, and the devil
is abroad in the land, God can superintend and overrule earth's affairs for the
good of man and for His glory, and cause even the wrath of man to praise
Nothing occurs by accident under the
superintendence of an all-wise and perfectly just God. Nothing happens by
chance in God's moral or natural government. God is a God of order, a God of
law, but none the less a superintendent in the interest of His intelligent and
redeemed creatures. Nothing can take place without the knowledge of God.
surrounding sight surveys
rising and our rest;
Our public walks,
our private ways,
secrets of our breasts."
Jesus Christ sets this matter at rest when He
says, "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall
on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all
numbered. Fear ye not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."
God cannot be ruled out of the world. The
doctrine of prayer brings Him directly into the world, and moves Him to a
direct interference with all of this world's affairs.
To rule Almighty God out of the providences of
life is to strike a direct blow at prayer and its efficacy. Nothing takes place
in the world without God's consent, yet not in a sense that He either approves
everything or is responsible for all things which happen. God is not the author
The question is sometimes asked, "Is God in
everything?" as if there are some things which are outside of the government of
God, beyond His attention, with which He is not concerned. If God is not in
everything, what is the Christian doing praying according to Paul's directions
to the Philippians?
"Be careful for nothing, but in everything, by
prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known
Are we to pray for some things and about things
with which God has nothing to do? According to the doctrine that God is not in
everything, then we are outside the realm of God when "in everything we make
our requests unto God."
Then what will we do with that large promise so
comforting to all of God's saints in all ages and in all climes, a promise
which belongs to prayer and which is embraced in a special providence: "And we
know that all things work together for good to them that love God"?
If God is not in everything, then what are the
things we are to expect from the "all things" which "work together for good to
them that love God"? And if God is not in everything in His providence what are
the things which are to be left out of our praying? We can lay it down as a
proposition, borne out by Scripture, which has a sure foundation, that nothing
ever comes into the life of God's saints without His consent. God is always
there when it occurs. He is not far away. He whose eye is on the sparrow is
also upon His saints. His presence which fills immensity is always where His
saints are. "Certainly I will be with thee," is the word of God to every child
"The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them
that fear him and delivereth them." And nothing can touch those who fear God
only with the permission of the angel of the Lord. Nothing can break through
the encampment without the permission of the captain of the Lord's hosts.
Sorrows, afflictions, want, trouble, or even death, cannot enter this Divine
encampment without the consent of Almighty God, and even then it is to be used
by God in His plans for the good of His saints and for carrying out His plans
"For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to
"Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our
These evil things, unpleasant and afflictive, may
come with Divine permission, but God is on the spot, His hand is in all of
them, and He sees to it that they are woven into His plans. He causes them to
be overruled for the good of His people, and eternal good is brought out of
them. These things, with hundreds of others, belong to the disciplinary
processes of Almighty God in administering His government for the children of
The providence of God reaches as far as the realm
of prayer. It has to do with everything for which we pray. Nothing is too small
for the eye of God, nothing too insignificant for His notice and His care.
God's providence has to do with even the stumbling of the feet of His
"For he shall give his angels charge concerning
thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
"They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest
thou dash thy foot against a stone."
Read again our Lord's words about the sparrow,
for He says, "Five sparrows are sold for two farthings, and not one of them is
forgotten before God." Paul asks the pointed question, "Doth God care for
oxen?" His care reaches to the smallest things and has to do with the most
insignificant matters which concern men. He who believes in the God of
providence is prepared to see His hand in all things which come to him, and can
pray over everything.
Not that the saint who trusts the God of
providence, and who takes all things to God in prayer, can explain the
mysteries of Divine providence, but the praying ones recognize God in
everything, see Him in all that comes to them, and are ready to say as John
said to Peter at the Sea of Galilee, "It is the Lord."
Praying saints do not presume to interpret God's
dealings with them nor undertake to explain God's providences, but they have
learned to trust God in the dark as well as in the light, to have faith in God
even when "cares like a wild deluge come, and storms of sorrow fall."
"Though he slay me, yet will I trust him."
Praying saints rest themselves upon the words of Jesus to Peter, "What I do
thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." None but the praying ones
can see God's hands in the providences of life. "Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God," shall see God here in His providences, in His Word, in
His Church. These are they who do not rule God out of earth's affairs, and who
believe God interferes with matters of earth for them.
While God's providence is over all men, yet His
supervision and administration of His government are peculiarly in the interest
of His people.
Prayer brings God's providence into action.
Prayer puts God to work in overseeing and directing earth's affairs for the
good of men. Prayer opens the way when it is shut up or straitened.
Providence deals more especially with
temporalities. It is in this realm that the providence of God shines brightest
and is most apparent. It has to do with food and raiment, with business
difficulties, with strangely interposing and saving from danger, and with
helping in emergencies at very opportune and critical times.
The feeding of the Israelites during the
wilderness journey is a striking illustration of the providence of God in
taking care of the temporal wants of His people. His dealings with those people
show how He provided for them in that long pilgrimage.
"Day by day the
O to learn this lesson well!
Still by constant mercy fed,
Give me, Lord, my daily bread.
"Day by day the promise reads,
Daily strength for daily needs;
Cast foreboding fears away,
Take the manna of to-day."
Our Lord teaches this same lesson of a providence
which clothes and feeds His people, in the Sermon on the Mount, when He says,
"Take no thought what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your
body, what ye shall put on." Then He directs attention to the fact that it is
God's providence which feeds the fowls of the air, clothes the lilies of the
field, and asks if God does all this for birds and flowers, will He not care
All of this teaching leads up to the need of a
childlike, implicit trust in an overruling providence, which looks after the
temporal wants of the children of men. And let it be noted specially that all
this teaching stands closely connected in the utterances of our Lord with what
He says about prayer, thus closely connecting a Divine oversight with prayer
and its promises.
We have an impressive lesson on Divine providence
in the case of Elijah when he was sent to the brook Cherith, where God actually
employed the ravens to feed His prophet. Here was an interposition so plain
that God cannot be ruled out of life's temporalities. Before God will allow His
servant to want bread, He moves the birds of the air to do His bidding and take
care of His prophet.
Nor was this all. When the brook ran dry, God
sent him to a poor widow, who had just enough meal and oil for the urgent needs
of the good woman and her son. Yet she divided with him her last morsel of
bread. What was the result? The providence of God interposed, and as long as
the drouth lasted, the cruse of oil never failed nor did the meal in the barrel
The Old Testament sparkles with illustrations of
the provisions of Almighty God for His people, and show clearly God's
overruling providence. In fact the Old Testament is largely the account of a
providence which dealt with a peculiar people, anticipating their every
temporal want, which ministered to them when in emergencies, and which
sanctified to them their troubles.
It is worth while to read that old hymn of
Newton's, which has in it so much of the providence of God:
assail, and dangers affright,
Though friends should all fail, and foes all unite,
Yet one thing secures me, whatever betide,
The promise assures us, the Lord will provide.
"The birds without barns, or storehouse are fed,
From them let us learn, to trust for our bread;
His saints what is fitting, shall ne'er be denied,
So long as it's written, the Lord will
In fact many of our old hymns are filled with
sentiments in song about a Divine providence, which are worth while to be read
and sung even in this day.
God is in the most afflictive and sorrowing
events of life. All such events are subjects of prayer, and this is so for the
reason that everything which comes into the life of the praying one is in the
providence of God, and takes place under His superintending hand. Some would
rule God out of the sad and hard things of life. They tell us that God has
nothing to do with certain events which bring such grief to us. They say that
God is not in the death of children, that they die from natural causes, and
that it is but the working of natural laws.
Let us ask what are nature's laws but the laws of
God, the laws by which God rules the world? And what is nature anyway? And who
made nature? How great the need to know that God is above nature, is in control
of nature, and is in nature? We need to know that nature or natural laws are
but the servants of Almighty God who made these laws, and that He is directly
in them, and they are but the Divine servants to carry out God's gracious
designs, and are made to execute His gracious purposes. The God of providence,
the God to whom the Christians pray, and the God who interposes in behalf of
the children of men for their good, is above nature, in perfect and absolute
control of all that belongs to nature. And no law of nature can crush the life
out of even a child without God giving His consent, and without such a sad
event occurring directly under His all-seeing eye, and without His being
David believed this doctrine when he fasted and
prayed for the life of his child, for why pray and fast for a baby to be
spared, if God has nothing to do with its death should it die?
Moreover, "does care for oxen," and have a direct
oversight of the sparrows which fall to the ground, and yet have nothing to do
with the going out of this world of an immortal child? Still further, the death
of a child, no matter if it should come alone as some people claim by the
operation of the laws of nature, let it be kept in mind that it is a great
affliction to the parents of the child. Where do these innocent parents come in
under any such doctrine? It becomes a great sorrow to mother and father. Are
they not to recognize the hand of God in the death of the child? And is there
no providence or Divine oversight in the taking away of their child to them?
David recognized the facts clearly that God had to do with keeping his child in
life; that prayer might avail in saving his child from death, and that when the
child died it was because God had ordered it. Prayer and providence in all this
affair worked in harmonious cooperation, and David thoroughly understood it. No
child ever dies without the direct permission of Almighty God, and such an
event takes place in His providence for wise and beneficent ends. God works it
into His plans concerning the child himself and the parents and all concerned.
Moreover, it is a subject of prayer whether the child lives or dies.
"In each event of
life how clear,
Thy ruling hand I see;
Each blessing to my soul most dear,
Because conferred by Thee."
A proper idea of prayer is the pouring out of the soul before
God, with the hand of faith placed on the head of the Sacrificial Offering,
imploring mercy, and presenting itself a free-will offering of itself unto God,
giving up body, soul and spirit, to be guided and governed as may seem good to
His heavenly wisdom, desiring only perfectly to love Him, and to serve Him with
all its powers, at all times, while He has a being. -- ADAM
TWO kinds of providences are seen in God's dealings with men, direct
providences and permissive providences. God orders some things, others He
permits. But when He permits an afflictive dispensation to come into the life
of His saint, even though it originate in a wicked mind, and it be the act of a
sinner, yet before it strikes His saint and touches him, it becomes God's
providence to the saint. In other words, God consents to some things in this
world, without in the least being responsible for them, or in the least
excusing him who originates them, many of them very painful and afflictive, but
such events or things always become to the saint of God the providence of God
to him. So that the saint can say in each and all of these sad and distressing
experiences, "It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good." Or with the
Psalmist, he may say, "I was dumb; I opened not my mouth, because thou didst
This was the explanation of all of Job's
severe afflictions. They came to him in the providence of God, even though they
had their origin in the mind of Satan, who devised them and put them into
execution. God gave Satan permission to afflict Job, to take away his property,
and to rob him of his children. But Job did not attribute these things to blind
chance, nor to accident, neither did he charge them to Satanic agency, but
said, "The Lord hath given, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name
of the Lord." He took these things as coming from his God, whom he feared and
served and trusted.
And to the same effect are Job's words to his
wife when she left God out of the question, and wickedly told her husband,
"Curse God and die." Job replied, "Thou speakest as one of the foolish women
speaketh. What! Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not
It is no surprise under such a view of God's
dealings with Job that it should be recorded of this man of faith, "In all this
did not Job sin with his lips," and in another place was it said, "In all this
Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." In nothing concerning God and the
events of life do men talk more foolishly and even wickedly than in ignorantly
making up their judgments on the providences of God in this world. O that we
had men after the type of Job, who though afflictions and privations are severe
in the extreme, yet they see the hand of God in providence and openly recognize
God in it.
The sequel to all these painful experiences are
but illustrations of that familiar text of Paul, "And we know that all things
work together for good to them that love God." Job received back more in the
end than was ever taken away from him. He emerged from under these tremendous
troubles with victory, and became till this day the exponent and example of
great patience and strong faith in God's providences. "Ye have heard of the
patience of Job," rings down the line of Divine revelation. God took hold of
the evil acts of Satan, and worked them into His plans and brought great good
out of them. He made evil work out for good without in the least endorsing the
evil or conniving at it.
We have the same gracious truth of Divine
providence evidenced in the story of Joseph and his brethren, who sold him
wickedly into Egypt and forsook him and deceived their old father. All this had
its origin in their evil minds. And yet when it reached God's plans and
purposes, it became God's providence both to Joseph and to the future of
Jacob's descendants. Hear Joseph as he spoke to his brethren after he had
discovered himself to them down in Egypt, -- in which he traces all the painful
events back to the mind of God and made them have to do with fulfilling God's
purposes concerning Jacob and his posterity:
"Now therefore be not grieved nor angry with
yourselves that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve
life. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity on the earth, and
to save your lives by a great deliverance.
"So that it was not you that sent me hither, but
Cowper's well-known hymn might well be read in
this connection, one verse of which is sufficient just now:
"God moves in a
wonders to perform;
He plants His
footsteps in the sea,
rides upon the storm."
The very same line of argument appears in the
betrayal of our Lord by Judas. Of course it was the wicked act of an evil man,
but it never touched our Lord till the Father gave His consent, and God took
the evil design of Judas and worked it into His own plans for the redemption of
the world. It did not excuse Judas in the least that good came out of his
wicked act, but it does magnify the wisdom and greatness of God in so
overruling it as that man's redemption was secured. It is so always in God's
dealings with man. Things which come to us from second causes are no surprise
to God, nor are they beyond His control. His hand can take hold of them in
answer to prayer and lie can make afflictions, from whatever quarter they may
come, "work for us a more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
The providence of God goes before His saints,
opens the way, removes difficulties, solves problems and brings deliverances
when escape seems hopeless. God brought Israel out of Egypt by the hand of
Moses, His chosen leader of that people. They came to the Red Sea. But there
were the waters in front, with no crossing nor bridges. On one side were high
mountains, and behind came the hosts of Pharaoh. Every avenue of escape was
closed. There seemed no hope. Despair almost reigned. But there was one way
open which men overlooked, and that was the upward way. A man of prayer, Moses,
the man of faith in God, was on the ground. This man of prayer, who recognized
God in providence, with commanding force, spoke to the people on this wise:
"Fear ye not; stand still and see the salvation
of the Lord."
With this he lifted up his rod, and according to
Divine command, he stretched his hand over the sea. The waters divided, and the
command issued forth, "Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward."
And Israel went over the sea dry shod. God had opened a way, and what seemed an
impossible emergency was remarkably turned into a wonderful deliverance. Nor is
this the only time that God has interposed in behalf of His people when their
way was shut up.
The whole history of the Jews is the story of
God's providence. The Old Testament cannot be accepted as true without
receiving the doctrine of a Divine, overruling providence. The Bible is
preeminently a Divine revelation. It reveals things. It discovers, uncovers,
brings to light things concerning God, His character and His manner of
governing this world, and its inhabitants, not discoverable by human reason, by
science or by philosophy. The Bible is a book in which God reveals Himself to
men. And this is particularly true when we consider God's care of His creatures
and His oversight of the world, His superintendence of its affairs. And to
dispute the doctrine of providence is to discredit the entire revelation of
God's Word. Everywhere this Word discovers God's hand in man's affairs.
The Old Testament especially, but also the New
Testament, is the story of prayer and providence. It is the tale of God's
dealings with men of prayer, men of faith in His direct interference in earth's
affairs, and with God's manner of superintending the world in the interest of
His people and in carrying forward His work in His plans and purposes in
creation and redemption.
Praying men and God's providence go together.
This was thoroughly understood by the praying ones of the Scripture. They
prayed over everything because God had to do with everything. They took all
things to God in prayer because they believed in a Divine providence which had
to do with all things. They believed in an ever present God, who had not
retired into the secret recesses of space, leaving His saints and His creatures
to the mercy of a tyrant, called nature, and its laws, blind, unyielding, with
no regard for any one who stood in its way. If that be the correct conception
of God, why pray to Him? He is too far away to hear them when they pray, and
too unconcerned to trouble Himself about those on earth.
These men of prayer had an implicit faith in a
God of special providence, who would gladly, promptly and readily respond to
their cries for help in times of need and in seasons of distress.
The so-called "laws of nature" did not trouble
them in the least. God was above nature, in control of nature, while nature was
but the servant of Almighty God. Nature's laws were but His own laws, since
nature was but the offspring of the Divine hand. Laws of nature might be
suspended and no evil would result. Every intelligent person is conversant
every day when he sees man overruling and overcoming the law of gravitation,
and no one is surprised or raises his hand or voice in horror at the thought of
nature's laws being violated. God is a God of law and order, and all His laws
in nature, in providence and in grace work together in perfect accord, with no
clash nor disharmony.
God suspends or overcomes the laws of disease and
rain often without or independent of prayer. But quite often He does this in
answer to prayer. Prayer for rain or for dry weather is not outside the moral
government of God, nor is it asking God to violate any law which He has made,
but only asking Him to give rain in His own way, according to His own laws. So
also the prayer for the rebuking of disease is not a request at war with law
either natural or otherwise, but is a prayer in accordance with law, even the
law of prayer, a law set in operation by Almighty God as the so-called natural
law which governs rain or which controls disease.
The believer in the law of prayer has strong
ground on which to base his plea. And the believer in a Divine providence, the
companion of prayer, stands equally on strong granite foundations, from which
he need not be shaken. These twin doctrines stand fast and will abide
condition, in sickness, in health,
In poverty's vale or abounding in wealth;
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea,
As thy days may demand shall thy strength ever