“Prayer and Importunity” E M Bounds


THE NECESSITY OF PRAYER

by  E. M. Bounds

6.  Prayer And Importunity

“How glibly we talk of praying without ceasing! Yet we are quite apt to quit, if our prayer remained unanswered but one week or month! We assume that by a stroke of His arm or an action of His will, God will give us what we ask. It never seems to dawn on us, that He is the Master of nature, as of grace, and that, sometimes He chooses one way, and sometimes another in which to do His work. It takes years, sometimes, to answer a prayer and when it is answered, and we look backward we can see that it did. But God knows all the time, and it is His will that we pray, and pray, and still pray, and so come to know, indeed and of a truth, what it is to pray without ceasing.”-Anon.

OUR Lord Jesus declared that “men ought always to pray and not to faint,” and the parable in which His words occur, was taught with the intention of saving men from faint-heartedness and weakness in prayer. Our Lord was seeking to teach that laxity must be guarded against, and persistence fostered and encouraged. There can be no two opinions regarding the importance of the exercise of this indispensable quality in our praying.

Importunate prayer is a mighty movement of the soul toward God. It is a stirring of the deepest forces of the soul, toward the throne of heavenly grace. It is the ability to hold on, press on, and wait. Restless desire, restful patience, and strength of grasp are all embraced in it. It is not an incident, or a performance, but a passion of soul. It is not a want, half-needed, but a sheer necessity.

The wrestling quality in importunate prayers does not spring from physical vehemence or fleshly energy. It is not an impulse of energy, not a mere earnestness of soul; it is an inwrought force, a faculty implanted and aroused by the Holy Spirit. Virtually, it is the intercession of the Spirit of God, in us; it is, moreover, “the effectual, fervent prayer, which availeth much.” The Divine Spirit informing every element within us, with the energy of His own striving, is the essence of the importunity which urges our praying at the mercy-seat, to continue until the fire falls and the blessing descends. This wrestling in prayer may not be boisterous nor vehement, but quiet, tenacious and urgent. Silent, it may be, when there are no visible outlets for its mighty forces.

Nothing distinguishes the children of God so clearly and strongly as prayer. It is the one infallible mark and test of being a Christian. Christian people are prayerful, the worldly-minded, prayerless. Christians call on God; worldlings ignore God, and call not on His Name. But even the Christian had need to cultivate continual prayer. Prayer must be habitual, but much more than a habit. It is duty, yet one which rises far above, and goes beyond the ordinary implications of the term. It is the expression of a relation to God, a yearning for Divine communion. It is the outward and upward flow of the inward life toward its original fountain. It is an assertion of the soul’s paternity, a claiming of the sonship, which links man to the Eternal.

Prayer has everything to do with moulding the soul into the image of God, and has everything to do with enhancing and enlarging the measure of Divine grace. It has everything to do with bringing the soul into complete communion with God. It has everything to do with enriching, broadening and maturing the soul’s experience of God. That man cannot possibly be called a Christian, who does not pray. By no possible pretext can he claim any right to the term, nor its implied significance. If he do not pray, he is a sinner, pure and simple, for prayer is the only way in which the soul of man can enter into fellowship and communion with the Source of all Christlike spirit and energy. Hence, if he pray not, he is not of the household of faith.

In this study however, we turn our thought to one phase of prayer-that of importunity; the pressing of our desires upon God with urgency and perseverance; the praying with that tenacity and tension which neither relaxes nor ceases until its plea is heard, and its cause is won.

He who has clear views of God, and Scriptural conceptions of the Divine character; who appreciates his privilege of approach unto God; who understands his inward need of all that God has for him-that man will be solicitous, outspoken and importunate. In Holy Writ, the duty of prayer, itself, is advocated in terms which are only barely stronger than those in which the necessity for its importunity is set forth. The praying which influences God is declared to be that of the fervent, effectual outpouring of a righteous man. That is to say, it is prayer on fire, having no feeble, flickering flame, no momentary flash, but shining with a vigorous and steady glow.

The repeated intercessions of Abraham for the salvation of Sodom and Gomorrah present an early example of the necessity for, and benefit deriving from importunate praying. Jacob, wrestling all night with the angel, gives significant emphasis to the power of a dogged perseverance in praying, and shows how, in things spiritual, importunity succeeds, just as effectively as it does in matters relating to time and sense.

As we have noted, elsewhere, Moses prayed forty days and forty nights, seeking to stay the wrath of God against Israel, and his example and success are a stimulus to present-day faith in its darkest hour. Elijah repeated and urged his prayer seven times ere the raincloud appeared above the horizon, heralding the success of his prayer and the victory of his faith. On one occasion Daniel though faint and weak, pressed his case three weeks, ere the answer and the blessing came.

Many nights during His earthly life did the blessed Saviour spend in prayer. In Gethsemane He presented the same petition, three times, with unabated, urgent, yet submissive importunity, which involved every element of His soul, and issued in tears and bloody sweat. His life crises were distinctly marked, his life victories all won, in hours of importunate prayer. And the servant is not greater than his Lord.

The Parable of the Importunate Widow is a classic of insistent prayer. We shall do well to refresh our remembrance of it, at this point in our study:

“And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man; and there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary. And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God nor regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you He will avenge them speedily.”

This parable stresses the central truth of importunate prayer. The widow presses her case till the unjust judge yields. If this parable does not teach the necessity for importunity, it has neither point nor instruction in it. Take this one thought away, and you have nothing left worth recording. Beyond all cavil, Christ intended it to stand as an evidence of the need that exists, for insistent prayer.

We have the same teaching emphasized in the incident of the Syrophenician woman, who came to Jesus on behalf of her daughter. Here, importunity is demonstrated, not as a stark impertinence, but as with the persuasive habiliments of humility, sincerity, and fervency. We are given a glimpse of a woman’s clinging faith, a woman’s bitter grief, and a woman’s spiritual insight. The Master went over into that Sidonian country in order that this truth might be mirrored for all time-there is no plea so efficacious as importunate prayer, and none to which God surrenders Himself so fully and so freely.

The importunity of this distressed mother, won her the victory, and materialized her request. Yet instead of being an offence to the Saviour, it drew from Him a word of wonder, and glad surprise. “O woman, great is thy faith! Be it unto thee, even as thou wilt.”

He prays not at all, who does not press his plea. Cold prayers have no claim on heaven, and no hearing in the courts above. Fire is the life of prayer, and heaven is reached by flaming importunity rising in an ascending scale.

Reverting to the case of the importunate widow, we see that her widowhood, her friendlessness, and her weakness counted for nothing with the unjust judge. Importunity was everything. “Because this widow troubleth me,” he said, “I will avenge her speedily, lest she weary me.” Solely because the widow imposed upon the time and attention of the unjust judge, her case was won.

God waits patiently as, day and night, His elect cry unto Him. He is moved by their requests a thousand times more than was this unjust judge. A limit is set to His tarrying, by the importunate praying of His people, and the answer richly given. God finds faith in His praying child-the faith which stays and cries-and He honours it by permitting its further exercise, to the end that it is strengthened and enriched. Then He rewards it by granting the burden of its plea, in plenitude and finality.

The case of the Syrophenician woman previously referred to is a notable instance of successful importunity, one which is eminently encouraging to all who would pray successfully. It was a remarkable instance of insistence and perseverance to ultimate victory, in the face of almost insuperable obstacles and hindrances. But the woman surmounted them all by heroic faith and persistent spirit that were as remarkable as they were successful. Jesus had gone over into her country, “and would have no man know it.” But she breaks through His purpose, violates His privacy, attracts His attention, and pours out to Him a poignant appeal of need and faith. Her heart was in her prayer.

At first, Jesus appears to pay no attention to her agony, and ignores her cry for relief. He gives her neither eye, nor ear, nor word. Silence, deep and chilling, greets her impassioned cry. But she is not turned aside, nor disheartened. She holds on. The disciples, offended at her unseemly clamour, intercede for her, but are silenced by the Lord’s declaring that the woman is entirely outside the scope of His mission and His ministry.

But neither the failure of the disciples to gain her a hearing nor the knowledge-despairing in its very nature-that she is barred from the benefits of His mission, daunt her, and serve only to lend intensity and increased boldness to her approach to Christ. She came closer, cutting her prayer in twain, and falling at His feet, worshipping Him, and making her daughter’s case her own cries, with pointed brevity-“Lord, help me!” This last cry won her case; her daughter was healed in the self-same hour. Hopeful, urgent, and unwearied, she stays near the Master, insisting and praying until the answer is given. What a study in importunity, in earnestness, in persistence, promoted and propelled under conditions which would have disheartened any but an heroic, a constant soul.

In these parables of importunate praying, our Lord sets forth, for our information and encouragement, the serious difficulties which stand in the way of prayer. At the same time He teaches that importunity conquers all untoward circumstances and gets to itself a victory over a whole host of hindrances. He teaches, moreover, that an answer to prayer is conditional upon the amount of faith that goes to the petition. To test this, He delays the answer. The superficial pray-er subsides into silence, when the answer is delayed. But the man of prayer hangs on, and on. The Lord recognizes and honours his faith, and gives him a rich and abundant answer to his faith-evidencing, importunate prayer.

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Charles Finney One The Issue of Christians and Politics


And if Christians will do the same in politics, they will sway the

destinies of nations, without involving themselves at all in the base

and corrupting strife of parties. Only let Christians generally

determine to vote for no man for any office, that is not an honest man

and a man of pure morals, and let it be known that Christians are

united in this, whatever may be their difference in political

sentiments, and no man would be put up who is not such a character. In

three years it would be talked about in taverns and published in

newspapers, when any man is set up as a candidate for office, “What a

good man he is, how moral, how pious!” and the like. And any political

party would no more set up a known Sabbath-breaker, or a gambler, or a

profane swearer, or a whoremonger, or a rum-seller, as their candidate

for office, than they would set up the devil himself for president. The

carnal policy of many professors, who undertake to correct politics by

such means as wicked men employ, and who are determined to vote with a

party, let the candidate be ever so profligate, is all wrong–wrong in

principle, contrary to philosophy and common sense, and ruinous to the

best interests of mankind. The dishonesty of the church is cursing the

world. I am not going to preach a political sermon, I assure you. But I

want to show you, that if you mean in impress men favorably to your

religion by your lives, you must be honest, strictly honest, in

business, politics, and every thing you do. What do you suppose those

ungodly politicians, who know themselves to be playing a dishonest game

in carrying an election, think of your religion when they see you

uniting with them? They know you are a hypocrite!

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HOMILY 19. “What kind of change CHRIST works in the Christian.” John Wesley


HOMILY 19. What kind of change CHRIST works in the Christian.

1. HE that comes to GOD, and desires to be the person that sitteth with CHRIST upon his throne, ought to come to him upon this very view, that he may be changed from his former state and conversation; that he may be a new man, who carries nothing of the old man about him: ” For if any man be in CHRIST, he is a new creature.” For our Lord JESUS CHRIST came for this very reason, that he might change, and renew, and create afresh this soul that had been perverted by vile affections, tempering it with his own Divine Spirit. He came to work a new mind, and a new soul, and new eyes, new ears, a new spiritual tongue; yea, to make them that believe in him new men, that he might pour into them the new wine, which is his Spirit.

2. For as the enemy, when he had gotten man into his own hands, wrought him anew for himself, having clothed him with vile affections, and poured into him the spirit of sin; so also the Lord, having redeemed him from the enemy, wrought him anew, and poured his own Spirit into him. For he that changed the nature of the burning fire to bedew them that were in the furnace; and for Daniel’s sake tamed the nature of the lions, can also transform the soul that was grown wild by sin into his own goodness and peace by the Holy Spirit of promise.

3. For as the shepherd can heal a diseased sheep, and keep him from the wolves; so the true Shepherd is able to heal the sheep that was lost, even man from the leprosy of sin. The priests and levites, and the teachers that were before, were never able to heal the soul by their oblations of gifts and sacrifices; yea, they were not able to heal themselves. “For it was not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin.” But the Lord can heal every disease, and every sickness of the soul. And the true healing of the soul is from the Lord only.

4. The good shepherd therefore healeth the sheep. But the sheep itself can never heal the sheep. And unless man be healed, there is no entrance for him into the congregation of the Lord in heaven. Thus also was it said in the law through a shadow; “A leper shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” But he commanded the leper to go to the priest, who was to bring him into the house of his tabernacle, put his hands upon the leprosy, the place marked with the infection, and heal it. After the same manner, CHRIST, the true high-priest of good things to come, in condescension to leprous souls, enters into the tabernacle of their body, takes care of their disorders, and healeth them. And thus will the soul be able to enter into the heavenly church of the saints of the true Israel. But every soul that bears the leprosy of sin in her affections, and will not come to the true high-priest, and be taken care of now, finds no admission into the camp of the saints. It behooveth- therefore the soul that truly beii- eth in CHRIST, to be changed from her present nature into another nature, which is Divine, and to be wrought new herself through the power of the Holy Spirit. And to obtain this, will be allowed to us who believe and love him in truth, and walk in all his holy commandments.

5. No man can of himself go over the sea, unless he have a vessel, which is able to go upon the waters; after the same manner is it impossible for the soul to pass over the sea of sin, and the abyss of the powers of darkness; unless it receive the Spirit of CHRIST that walks, and makes its way over all wickedness, -by means of which he will arrive by a quick and straight passage at the heavenly port of rest.

6. But as a ship stands in need of a pilot, in order to sail well; the Lord himself is a pilot to the faithful soul, and conveys it through all the waves of wickedness, and the strong winds of sin. without CHRIST, it is impossible for any one to get over the wicked sea of the powers, of darkness. “They mount up, (says the Psalmist,) to the heavens, and go down again to the depths.” But he is well acquainted with the whole art of a pilot, and tramples upon their fierce waves. For he, says the apostle, “Having himself been tempted, is able to succor them that are tempted.”

7. We ought therefore to believe faith our whole heart his unspeakable promises, to love – the Lord, and to be industrious in all virtues, and to beg continually, that we may receive the promise of his Spirit entirely and perfectly; that so our souls might be quickened whilst we are yet in the flesh. For unless the soul shall in this world receive the sanctification of the Spirit through much faith and prayer, and be made partaker of the Divine nature, (through which it will be able without blame and in purity to perform every commandment it is unfit for the kingdom of heaven. For whatever good a man has possessed in this world, the same shall in that day be his life, through the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost for ever! Amen.

“Much Time Should Be Given To Prayer” E.M. Bounds


Much Time Should Be Given to Prayer

The great masters and teachers in Christian doctrine have always found

in prayer their highest source of illumination. Not to go beyond the

limits of the English Church, it is recorded of Bishop Andrews that he

spent five hours daily on his knees. The greatest practical resolves

that have enriched and beautified human life in Christian times have

been arrived at in prayer.–Canon Liddon

WHILE many private prayers, in the nature of things, must be short;

while public prayers, as a rule, ought to be short and condensed; while

there is ample room for and value put on ejaculatory prayer–yet in our

private communions with God time is a feature essential to its value.

Much time spent with God is the secret of all successful praying.

Prayer which is felt as a mighty force is the mediate or immediate

product of much time spent with God. Our short prayers owe their point

and efficiency to the long ones that have preceded them. The short

prevailing prayer cannot be prayed by one who has not prevailed with

God in a mightier struggle of long continuance. Jacob’s victory of

faith could not have been gained without that all-night wrestling.

God’s acquaintance is not made by pop calls. God does not bestow his

gifts on the casual or hasty comers and goers. Much with God alone is

the secret of knowing him and of influence with him. He yields to the

persistency of a faith that knows him. He bestows his richest gifts

upon those who declare their desire for and appreciation of those gifts

by the constancy as well as earnestness of their importunity. Christ,

who in this as well as other things is our Example, spent many whole

nights in prayer. His custom was to pray much. He had his habitual

place to pray. Many long seasons of praying make up his history and

character. Paul prayed day and night. It took time from very important

interests for Daniel to pray three times a day. David’s morning, noon,

and night praying were doubtless on many occasions very protracted.

While we have no specific account of the time these Bible saints spent

in prayer, yet the indications are that they consumed much time in

prayer, and on some occasions long seasons of praying was their custom.

We would not have any think that the value of their prayers is to be

measured by the clock, but our purpose is to impress on our minds the

necessity of being much alone with God; and that if this feature has

not been produced by our faith, then our faith is of a feeble and

surface type.

The men who have most fully illustrated Christ in their character, and

have most powerfully affected the world for him, have been men who

spent so much time with God as to make it a notable feature of their

lives. Charles Simeon devoted the hours from four till eight in the

morning to God. Mr. Wesley spent two hours daily in prayer. He began at

four in the morning. Of him, one who knew him well wrote: “He thought

prayer to be more his business than anything else, and I have seen him

come out of his closet with a serenity of face next to shining.” John

Fletcher stained the walls of his room by the breath of his prayers.

Sometimes he would pray all night; always, frequently, and with great

earnestness. His whole life was a life of prayer. “I would not rise

from my seat,” he said, “without lifting my heart to God.” His greeting

to a friend was always: “Do I meet you praying?” Luther said: “If I

fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the

victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on

without spending three hours daily in prayer.” He had a motto: “He that

has prayed well has studied well.”

Archbishop Leighton was so much alone with God that he seemed to be in

a perpetual meditation. “Prayer and praise were his business and his

pleasure,” says his biographer. Bishop Ken was so much with God that

his soul was said to be God-enamored. He was with God before the clock

struck three every morning. Bishop Asbury said: “I propose to rise at

four o’clock as often as I can and spend two hours in prayer and

meditation.” Samuel Rutherford, the fragrance of whose piety is still

rich, rose at three in the morning to meet God in prayer. Joseph

Alleine arose at four o’clock for his business of praying till eight.

If he heard other tradesmen plying their business before he was up, he

would exclaim: “O how this shames me! Doth not my Master deserve more

than theirs?” He who has learned this trade well draws at will, on

sight, and with acceptance of heaven’s unfailing bank.

One of the holiest and among the most gifted of Scotch preachers says:

“I ought to spend the best hours in communion with God. It is my

noblest and most fruitful employment, and is not to be thrust into a

corner. The morning hours, from six to eight, are the most

uninterrupted and should be thus employed. After tea is my best hour,

and that should be solemnly dedicated to God. I ought not to give up

the good old habit of prayer before going to bed; but guard must be

kept against sleep. When I awake in the night, I ought to rise and

pray. A little time after breakfast might be given to intercession.”

This was the praying plan of Robert McCheyne. The memorable Methodist

band in their praying shame us. “From four to five in the morning,

private prayer; from five to six in the evening, private prayer.”

John Welch, the holy and wonderful Scotch preacher, thought the day ill

spent if he did not spend eight or ten hours in prayer. He kept a plaid

that he might wrap himself when he arose to pray at night. His wife

would complain when she found him lying on the ground weeping. He would

reply: “O woman, I have the souls of three thousand to answer for, and

I know not how it is with many of them!”

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“A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ”: (Stanza One) John of the Cross


STANZA I

THE BRIDE

Where have You hidden Yourself,

And abandoned me to my sorrow, O my Beloved!

You have fled like the hart,

Having wounded me.

I ran after You, crying; but You were gone.

IN this first stanza the soul, enamored of the Word, the Son of God,

the Bridegroom, desiring to be united to Him in the clear and

substantial vision, sets before Him the anxieties of its love,

complaining of His absence. And this the more so because, now pierced

and wounded with love, for which it had abandoned all things, even

itself, it has still to endure the absence of the Beloved, Who has not

released it from its mortal flesh, that it might have the fruition of

Him in the glory of eternity. Hence it cries out,

“Where have You hidden Yourself?”

2. It is as if the soul said, “Show me, O You the Word, my Bridegroom,

the place where You are hidden.” It asks for the revelation of the

divine Essence; for the place where the Son of God is hidden is,

according to St. John, “the bosom of the Father,” [18] which is the

divine Essence, transcending all mortal vision, and hidden from all

human understanding, as Isaiah says, speaking to God, “Verily You are a

hidden God.” [19] From this we learn that the communication and sense

of His presence, however great they may be, and the most sublime and

profound knowledge of God which the soul may have in this life, are not

God essentially, neither have they any affinity with Him, for in very

truth He is still hidden from the soul; and it is therefore expedient

for it, amid all these grandeurs, always to consider Him as hidden, and

to seek Him in His hiding place, saying,

“Where have You hidden Yourself?”

3. Neither sublime communications nor sensible presence furnish any

certain proof of His gracious presence; nor is the absence thereof, and

aridity, any proof of His absence from the soul. “If He come to me, I

shall not see Him; if He depart, I shall not understand.” [20] That is,

if the soul have any great communication, or impression, or spiritual

knowledge, it must not on that account persuade itself that what it

then feels is to enjoy or see God clearly and in His Essence, or that

it brings it nearer to Him, or Him to it, however deep such feelings

may be. On the other hand, when all these sensible and spiritual

communications fail it, and it is itself in dryness, darkness, and

desolation, it must not on that account suppose that God is far from

it; for in truth the former state is no sign of its being in a state of

grace, nor is the latter a sign that it is not; for “man knows not

whether he is worthy of love or hatred” [21] in the sight of God.

4. The chief object of the soul in these words is not to ask only for

that affective and sensible devotion, wherein there is no certainty or

evidence of the possession of the Bridegroom in this life; but

principally for that clear presence and vision of His Essence, of which

it longs to be assured and satisfied in the next. This, too, was the

object of the bride who, in the divine song desiring to be united to

the Divinity of the Bridegroom Word, prayed to the Father, saying,

“Show me where You feed, where You lie in the midday.” [22] For to ask

to be shown the place where He fed was to ask to be shown the Essence

of the Divine Word, the Son; because the Father feeds nowhere else but

in His only begotten Son, Who is the glory of the Father. In asking to

be shown the place where He lies in the midday, was to ask for the same

thing, because the Son is the sole delight of the Father, Who lies in

no other place, and is comprehended by no other thing, but in and by

His beloved Son, in Whom He reposes wholly, communicating to Him His

whole Essence, in the “midday,” which is eternity, where the Father is

ever begetting and the Son ever begotten.

5. This pasture, then, is the Bridegroom Word, where the Father feeds

in infinite glory. He is also the bed of flowers whereupon He reposes

with infinite delight of love, profoundly hidden from all mortal vision

and every created thing. This is the meaning of the bride-soul when she

says,

“Where have You hidden Yourself?”

6. That the thirsty soul may find the Bridegroom, and be one with Him

in the union of love in this life — so far as that is possible — and

quench its thirst with that drink which it is possible to drink of at

His hands in this life, it will be as well — since that is what the

Soul asks of Him — that we should answer for Him, and point out the

special spot where He is hidden, that He may be found there in that

perfection and sweetness of which this life is capable, and that the

soul may not begin to loiter uselessly in the footsteps of its

companions.

7. We must remember that the Word, the Son of God, together with the

Father and the Holy Spirit, is hidden in essence and in presence, in

the inmost being of the soul. That soul, therefore, that will find Him,

must go out from all things in will and affection, and enter into the

profoundest self-recollection, and all things must be to it as if they

existed not. Hence, St. Augustine says: “I found You not without, O

Lord; I sought You without in vain, for You are within,” [23] God is

therefore hidden within the soul, and the true contemplative will seek

Him there in love, saying,

“Where have You hidden Yourself?”

8. O you soul, then, most beautiful of creatures, who so long to know

the place where your Beloved is, that you may seek Him, and be united

to Him, you know now that you are yourself that very tabernacle where

He dwells, the secret chamber of His retreat where He is hidden.

Rejoice, therefore, and exult, because all your good and all your hope

is so near you as to be within you; or, to speak more accurately, that

you can not be without it, “for lo, the kingdom of God is within you.”

[24] So says the Bridegroom Himself, and His servant, St. Paul, adds:

“You are the temple of the living God.” [25] What joy for the soul to

learn that God never abandons it, even in mortal sin; how much less in

a state of grace! [26]

9. What more can you desire, what more can you seek without, seeing

that within you have your riches, your delight, your satisfaction, your

fullness and your kingdom; that is, your Beloved, Whom you desire and

seek? Rejoice, then, and be glad in Him with interior recollection,

seeing that you have Him so near. Then love Him, then desire Him, then

adore Him, and go not to seek Him out of yourself, for that will be but

distraction and weariness, and you shall not find Him; because there is

no fruition of Him more certain, more ready, or more intimate than that

which is within.

10. One difficulty alone remains: though He is within, yet He is

hidden. But it is a great matter to know the place of His secret rest,

that He may be sought there with certainty. The knowledge of this is

that which you ask for here, O soul, when with loving affection you

cry,

“Where have You hidden Yourself?”

11. You will still urge and say, How is it, then, that I find Him not,

nor feel Him, if He is within my soul? It is because He is hidden, and

because you hide not yourself also that you may find Him and feel Him;

for he that will seek that which is hidden must enter secretly into the

secret place where it is hidden, and when he finds it, he is himself

hidden like the object of his search. Seeing, then, that the Bridegroom

whom you love is “the treasure hidden in the field” [27] of your soul,

for which the wise merchant gave all that he had, so you, if you will

find Him, must forget all that is yours, withdraw from all created

things, and hide yourself in the secret retreat of the spirit, shutting

the door upon yourself — that is, denying your will in all things —

and praying to your Father in secret. [28] Then you, being hidden with

Him, will be conscious of His presence in secret, and will love Him,

possess Him in secret, and delight in Him in secret, in a way that no

tongue or language can express.

12. Courage, then, O soul most beautiful, you know now that your

Beloved, Whom you desire, dwells hidden within your breast; strive,

therefore, to be truly hidden with Him, and then you shall embrace Him,

and be conscious of His presence with loving affection. Consider also

that He bids you, by the mouth of Isaiah, to come to His secret

hiding-place, saying, “Go, . . . enter into your chambers, shut your

doors upon you”; that is, all your faculties, so that no created thing

shall enter: “be hid a little for a moment,” [29] that is, for the

moment of this mortal life; for if now during this life which is short,

you will “with all watchfulness keep your heart,” [30] as the wise man

says, God will most assuredly give you, as He has promised by the

prophet Isaiah, “hidden treasures and mysteries of secrets.” [31] The

substance of these secrets is God Himself, for He is the substance of

the faith, and the object of it, and the faith is the secret and the

mystery. And when that which the faith conceals shall be revealed and

made manifest, that is the perfection of God, as St. Paul says, “When

that which is perfect is come,” [32] then shall be revealed to the soul

the substance and mysteries of these secrets.

13. Though in this mortal life the soul will never reach to the

interior secrets as it will in the next, however much it may hide

itself, still, if it will hide itself with Moses, “in the hole of the

rock” — which is a real imitation of the perfect life of the

Bridegroom, the Son of God — protected by the right hand of God, it

will merit the vision of the “back parts”; [33] that is, it will reach

to such perfection here, as to be united, and transformed by love, in

the Son of God, its Bridegroom. So effectually will this be wrought

that the soul will feel itself so united to Him, so learned and so

instructed in His secrets, that, so far as the knowledge of Him in this

life is concerned, it will be no longer necessary for it to say: “Where

have You hidden Yourself?”

14. You know then, O soul, how you are to demean yourself if you will

find the Bridegroom in His secret place. But if you will hear it again,

hear this one word full of substance and unapproachable truth: Seek Him

in faith and love, without seeking to satisfy yourself in anything, or

to understand more than is expedient for you to know; for faith and

love are the two guides of the blind; they will lead you, by a way you

know not, to the secret chamber of God. Faith, the secret of which I am

speaking, is the foot that journeys onwards to God, and love is the

guide that directs its steps. And while the soul meditates on the

mysterious secrets of the faith, it will merit the revelation, on the

part of love, of that which the faith involves, namely, the Bridegroom

Whom it longs for, in this life by spiritual grace, and the divine

union, as we said before, [34] and in the next in essential glory, face

to face, hidden now.

15. But meanwhile, though the soul attains to union, the highest state

possible in this life, yet inasmuch as He is still hidden from it in

the bosom of the Father, as I have said, the soul longing for the

fruition of Him in the life to come, ever cries, “Where have You hidden

Yourself?”

16. You do well, then, O soul, in seeking Him always in His secret

place; for you greatly magnify God, and draw near to Him, esteeming Him

as far beyond and above all you can reach. Rest, therefore, neither

wholly nor in part, on what your faculties can embrace; never seek to

satisfy yourself with what you comprehend of God, but rather with what

you comprehend not; and never rest on the love of, and delight in, that

which you can understand and feel, but rather on that which is beyond

your understanding and feeling: this is, as I have said, to seek Him by

faith.

17. God is, as I said before, [35] inaccessible and hidden, and though

it may seem that you have found Him, felt Him, and comprehended Him,

yet you must ever regard Him as hidden, serve Him as hidden, in secret.

Do not be like many unwise, who, with low views of God, think that when

they cannot comprehend Him, or be conscious of His presence, that He is

then farther away and more hidden, when the contrary is true, namely,

that He is nearer to them when they are least aware of it; as the

prophet David says, “He put darkness His covert,” [36] Thus, when you

are near to Him, the very infirmity of your vision makes the darkness

palpable; you do well, therefore, at all times, in prosperity as well

as in adversity, spiritual or temporal, to look upon God as hidden, and

to say to Him, “Where have You hidden Yourself?

And left me to my sorrow, O my Beloved?”

18. The soul calls Him “my Beloved,” the more to move Him to listen to

its cry, for God, when loved, most readily listens to the prayer of him

who loves Him. Thus He speaks Himself: “If you abide in Me . . . you

shall ask whatever thing you will, and it shall be done to you.” [37]

The soul may then with truth call Him Beloved, when it is wholly His,

when the heart has no attachments but Him, and when all the thoughts

are continually directed to Him. It was the absence of this that made

Delilah say to Samson, “How do you say you love me when your mind is

not with me?” [38] The mind comprises the thoughts and the feelings.

Some there are who call the Bridegroom their Beloved, but He is not

really beloved, because their heart is not wholly with Him. Their

prayers are, therefore, not so effectual before God, and they shall not

obtain their petitions until, persevering in prayer, they fix their

minds more constantly upon God and their hearts more wholly in loving

affection upon Him, for nothing can be obtained from God but by love.

19. The words, “And left me to my sorrow,” tell us that the absence of

the Beloved is the cause of continual sadness in him who loves; for as

such a one loves none else, so, in the absence of the object beloved,

nothing can console or relieve him. This is, therefore, a test to

discern the true lover of God. Is he satisfied with anything less than

God? Do I say satisfied? Yes, if a man possess all things, he cannot be

satisfied; the greater his possessions the less will be his

satisfaction, for the satisfaction of the heart is not found in

possessions, but in detachment from all things and in poverty of

spirit. This being so, the perfection of love in which we possess God,

by a grace most intimate and special, lives in the soul in this life

when it has reached it, with a certain satisfaction, which however is

not full, for David, notwithstanding all his perfection, hoped for that

in heaven saying, “I shall be satisfied when Your glory shall appear.”

[39]

20. Thus, then, the peace and tranquillity and satisfaction of heart to

which the soul may attain in this life are not sufficient to relieve it

from its groaning, peaceful and painless though it be, while it hopes

for that which is still wanting. Groaning belongs to hope, as the

Apostle says of himself and others, though perfect, “Ourselves also,

who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within

ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God.” [40] The soul

groans when the heart is enamored, for where love wounds there is heard

the groaning of the wounded one, complaining feelingly of the absence

of the Beloved, especially when, after tasting of the sweet

conversation of the Bridegroom, it finds itself suddenly alone, and in

aridity, because He has gone away. That is why it cries,

“You have fled like the hart.”

21. Here it is to be observed that in the Canticle of Canticles the

bride compares the Bridegroom to the roe and the hart on the mountains

— “My Beloved is like a roe and to a fawn of harts” [41] — not only

because He is shy, solitary, and avoids companions as the hart, but

also for his sudden appearance and disappearance. That is His way in

His visits to devout souls in order to comfort and encourage them, and

in the withdrawing and absence which He makes them feel after those

visits in order to try, humble, and teach them. For that purpose He

makes them feel the pain of His absence most keenly, as the following

words show:

“Having wounded me.”

22. It is as if it had said, “It was not enough that I should feel the

pain and grief which Your absence causes, and from which I am

continually suffering, but You must, after wounding me with the arrow

of Your love, and increasing my longing and desire to see You, run away

from me with the swiftness of the hart, and not permit me to lay hold

of You, even for a moment.”

23. For the clearer understanding of this we are to keep in mind that,

beside the many kinds of God’s visits to the soul, in which He wounds

it with love, there are commonly certain secret touches of love, which,

like a fiery arrow, pierce and penetrate the soul, and burn it with the

fire of love. These are properly called the wounds of love, and it is

of these the soul is here speaking. These wounds so inflame the will,

that the soul becomes so enveloped with the fire of love as to appear

consumed thereby. They make it go forth out of itself, and be renewed,

and enter on another life, as the phoenix from the fire.

24. David, speaking of this, says, “My heart has been inflamed, and my

reins have been changed; and I am brought to nothing, and I knew not.”

[42] The desires and affections, called the reins by the prophet, are

all stirred and divinely changed in this burning of the heart, and the

soul, through love, melted into nothing, knowing nothing but love. At

this time the changing of the reins is a great pain, and longing for

the vision of God; it seems to the soul that God treats it with

intolerable severity, so much so that the severity with which love

treats it seems to the soul unendurable, not because it is wounded —

for it considers such wounds to be its salvation — but because it is

thus suffering from its love, and because He has not wounded it more

deeply so as to cause death, that it may be united to Him in the life

of perfect love. The soul, therefore, magnifying its sorrows, or

revealing them, says,

“Having wounded me.”

25. The soul says in effect, “You have abandoned me after wounding me,

and You have left me dying of love; and then You have hidden Yourself

as a hart swiftly running away.” This impression is most profound in

the soul; for by the wound of love, made in the soul by God, the

affections of the will lead most rapidly to the possession of the

Beloved, whose touch it felt, and as rapidly also, His absence, and its

inability to have the fruition of Him here as it desires. Thereupon

succeed the groaning because of His absence; for these visitations of

God are not like those which recreate and satisfy the soul, because

they are rather for wounding than for healing — more for afflicting

than for satisfying it, seeing that they tend rather to quicken the

knowledge, and increase the longing, and consequently pain with the

longing for the vision of God. They are called the spiritual wounds of

love, most sweet to the soul and desirable; and, therefore, when it is

thus wounded the soul would willingly die a thousand deaths, because

these wounds make it go forth out of itself, and enter into God, which

is the meaning of the words that follow:

“I ran after You, crying; but You were gone.”

26. There can be no remedy for the wounds of love but from Him who

inflicted them. And so the wounded soul, urged by the vehemence of that

burning which the wounds of love occasion, runs after the Beloved,

crying to Him for relief. This spiritual running after God has a

two-fold meaning. The first is a going forth from all created things,

which is effected by hating and despising them; the second, a going

forth out of oneself, by forgetting self, which is brought about by the

love of God. For when the love of God touches the soul with that

vividness of which we are here speaking, it so elevates it, that it

goes forth not only out of itself by self-forgetfulness, but it is also

drawn away from its own judgment, natural ways and inclinations, crying

after God, “O my Bridegroom,” as if saying, “By this touch of Yours and

wound of love have You drawn me away not only from all created things,

but also from myself — for, in truth, soul and body seem now to part

— and raised me up to Yourself, crying after You in detachment from

all things that I might be attached to You:

“You were gone.”

27. As if saying, “When I sought Your presence, I found You not; and I

was detached from all things without being able to cling to You —

borne painfully by the gales of love without help in You or in myself.”

This going forth of the soul in search of the Beloved is the rising of

the bride in the Canticle: “I will rise and go about the city; in the

streets and the high ways I will seek Him Whom my soul loves. I have

sought Him and have not found . . . they wounded me.” [43] The rising

of the bride — speaking spiritually — is from that which is mean to

that which is noble; and is the same with the going forth of the soul

out of its own ways and inferior love to the ennobling love of God. The

bride says that she was wounded because she found him not; [44] so the

soul also says of itself that it is wounded with love and forsaken;

that is, the loving soul is ever in pain during the absence of the

Beloved, because it has given itself up wholly to Him hoping for the

reward of its self-surrender, the Possession of the Beloved. Still the

Beloved withholds Himself while the soul has lost all things, and even

itself, for Him; it obtains no compensation for its loss, seeing that

it is deprived of Him whom it loves.

28. This pain and sense of the absence of God is wont to be so

oppressive in those who are going onwards to the state of perfection,

that they would die if God did not interpose when the divine wounds are

inflicted upon them. As they have the palate of the will wholesome, and

the mind pure and disposed for God, and as they taste in some degree of

the sweetness of divine love, which they supremely desire, so they also

suffer supremely; for, having but a glimpse of an infinite good which

they are not permitted to enjoy, that is to them an ineffable pain and

torment.

__________________________________________________________________

[18] John 1:18

[19] Isa. 45:15

[20] Job 9:11

[21] Eccles. 9:1

[22] Cant. 1:6

[23] Soliloq.,’ c. 31. Opp. Ed. Ben. tom. vi. app. p. 98.

[24] Luke 17:21

[25] 2 Cor. 6:16

[26] Mt. Carmel,’ Bk. 2, c. 5. sect. 3.

[27] Matt. 13:44

[28] Matt. 6:6

[29] Isa. 26:20

[30] Prov. 4:23

[31] Isa. 45:3

[32] 1 Cor. 13:10

[33] Exod. 33:22, 23

[34] Sect. 4.

[35] Sect. 2.

[36] Ps. 17:12

[37] John 15:7

[38] Judg. 16:15

[39] Ps. 16:15

[40] Rom. 8:23

[41] Cant. 2:9

[42] Ps. 72:21, 22

[43] Cant. 3:2, 5:7

[44] Cant. 5:6, 7

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“The Spirit of Prayer ” Charles Grandison Finney


THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:26, 27.

My last Lecture but one was on the subject of Effectual Prayer; in which I observed that one of the most important attributes of effectual or prevailing prayer is FAITH. This was so extensive a subject that I reserved it for a separate discussion. And accordingly my last Lecture was on the subject of Faith in Prayer, or, as it is termed, the Prayer of Faith. It was my intention to discuss the subject in a single Lecture. But as I was under the necessity of condensing so much on some points, it occurred to me, and was mentioned by others, that there might be some questions which people would ask, that ought to be answered more fully, especially as the subject is one on which there is so much darkness. One grand design in preaching is to exhibit the truth in such a way as to answer the questions which would naturally arise in the minds of those who read the Bible with attention, and who want to know what it means, so that they can put it in practice. In explaining the text, I propose to show:

I. What Spirit is here spoken of: “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities.”

II. What that Spirit does for us.

III. Why He does what the text declares Him to do.

IV. How He accomplishes it.

V. The degree in which He influences the minds of those who are under His influence.

VI. How His influences are to be distinguished from the influences of evil spirits. or from the suggestions of our own minds.

VII. How we are to obtain this agency of the Holy Spirit.

VIII. Who have a right to expect to enjoy His influences in this matter – or for whom the Spirit does the things spoken of in the text.

I. WHAT SPIRIT IS SPOKEN OF.

Some have supposed that the Spirit spoken of in the text means our own spirit – our own mind. But a little attention to the text will show plainly that this is not the meaning. “The Spirit helpeth our infirmities” would then read, “Our own spirit helpeth the infirmities of our own spirit” – and “Our own spirit maketh intercession for our own spirit.” You can make no sense of it on that supposition. It is evident from the manner in which the text is introduced that the Spirit referred to is the Holy Ghost.

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:13-16). And the text is plainly speaking of the same Spirit.

II. WHAT THE SPIRIT DOES.

He intercedes for the saints. “He maketh intercession for us,” and “helpeth our infirmities,” when “we know not what to pray for as we ought.” He helps Christians to pray “according to the will of God,” or for the things that God desires them to pray for.

III. WHY IS THE HOLY SPIRIT THUS EMPLOYED?

Because of our ignorance. Because we know not what we should pray for as we ought. We are so ignorant both of the will of God, revealed in the Bible, and of His unrevealed will, as we ought to learn it from His providence.

Mankind are vastly ignorant both of the promises and prophecies of the Bible, and blind to the providence of God. And they are still more in the dark about those points of which God has said nothing but through the leadings of His Spirit. I have named these four sources of evidence on which to ground faith in prayer – promises, prophecies, providences, and the Holy Spirit. When all other means fail of leading us to the knowledge of what we ought to pray for, the Spirit does it.

IV. HOW DOES HE MAKE INTERCESSION?

In what mode does He operate, so as to help our infirmities?

1. Not by superseding the use of our faculties. It is not by praying for us, while we do nothing. He prays for us by exciting our faculties. Not that He immediately suggests to us words, or guides our language. But He enlightens our minds, and makes the truth take hold of our souls. He leads us to consider the state of the Church, and the condition of sinners around us. The manner in which He brings the truth before the mind, and keeps it there till it produces its effect, we cannot tell. But we can know as much as this – that He leads us to a deep consideration of the state of things; and the result of this, the natural and philosophical result, is, deep feeling.

When the Spirit brings the truth before a man’s mind there is only one way in which he can keep from deep feeling. That is, by turning away his thoughts, and leading his mind to think of other things. Sinners, when the Spirit of God brings the truth before them, must feel. They feel wrong, as long as they remain impenitent. So, if a man is a Christian, and the Holy Spirit brings the subject into warm contact with his heart, it is just as impossible he should not feel as it is that your hand should not feel if you put it into the fire. If the Spirit of God leads a man to dwell on things calculated to excite overpowering feelings regarding the salvation of souls, and he is not excited thereby, it proves that he has no love for souls, nothing of the Spirit of Christ, and knows nothing about Christian experience.

2. The Spirit makes the Christian feel the value of souls and the guilt and danger of sinners in their present condition. It is amazing how dark and stupid Christian often are about this. Even Christian parents let their children go right down to hell before their eyes, and scarcely seem to exercise a single feeling, or put forth an effort to save them. And why?

Because they are so blind to what hell is, so unbelieving about the Bible, so ignorant of the precious promises which God has made to faithful parents. They grieve the Spirit of God away – and it is in vain to make them pray for their children, while the Spirit of God is away from them.

3. He leads Christians to understand and apply the promises of Scripture.

It is wonderful that in no age have Christians been able fully to apply the promises of Scripture to the events of life, as they go along. This is not because the promises themselves are obscure. But there has always been a wonderful disposition to overlook the Scriptures, as a source of light respecting the passing events of life. How astonished the apostles were at Christ’s application of so many prophecies to Himself! They seemed to be continually ready to exclaim: “Astonishing! Can it be so? We never understood it before!” Who, that has witnessed the manner in which the apostles, influenced and inspired by the Holy Ghost, applied passages of the Old Testament to Gospel times, has not been amazed at the richness of meaning which they found in the Scriptures? So it has been with many a Christian; while deeply engaged in prayer he has seen that passages of Scripture are appropriate which he never thought of before as having any such application.

I once knew an individual who was in great spiritual darkness. He had retired for prayer, resolved that he would not desist till he had found the Lord. He kneeled down and tried to pray. All was dark, and he could not pray. He rose from his knees, and stood awhile; but he could not give it up, for he had promised that he would not let the sun go down before he had given himself to God. He knelt again; but was all dark, and his heart was as hard as before. He was nearly in despair, and said in agony: “I have grieved the Spirit of God away, and there is no promise for me. I am shut out from the presence of God.” But his resolution was formed not to give over, and again he knelt down. He had said but a few words when this passage came into his mind, as fresh as if he had just read it: “Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). He saw that though this promise was in the Old Testament, and addressed to the Jews, it was still as applicable to him as to them. And it broke his heart, like the hammer of the Lord, in a moment.

And he prayed, and rose up happy in God.

Thus it often happens when professors of religion are praying for their children. Sometimes they pray, and are in darkness and doubt, feeling as if there were no foundation for faith, and no special promises for the children of believers. But while they have been pleading, God has shown them the full meaning of some promise, and their soul has rested on it as on His mighty arm. I once heard of a widow who was greatly exercised about her children, till this passage was brought powerful to her mind: “Thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let Thy widows trust in Me” (Jeremiah 49:11). She saw it had an extended meaning, and she was enabled to lay hold of it, as it were, with her hands. She prevailed in prayer, and her children were converted. The Holy Spirit was sent into the world by the Savior to guide His people, and instruct them and bring things to their remembrance, as well as to convince the world of sin.

4. The Spirit leads Christians to desire and pray for things of which nothing is specifically said in the Word of God. Take the case of an individual. That God is willing to save is a general truth. So it is a general truth that He is willing to answer prayer. But how shall I know the will of God respecting that individual – whether I can pray in faith according to the will of God for the conversion and salvation of that individual, or not?

Here the agency of the Spirit comes in to lead the minds of God’s people to pray for those individuals, and at those times, when God is prepared to bless them. When we know not what to pray for, the Holy Spirit leads the mind to dwell on some object, to consider its situation, to realize its value, and to feel for it, and pray, and “travail in birth,” till the person is converted. This sort of experience, I know, is less common in cities than it is in some parts of the country, because of the infinite number of things which in cities divert the attention and grieve the Spirit.

I have had much opportunity to know how it has been in some districts. I was acquainted with an individual who used to keep a list of persons for whom he was especially concerned; and I have had the opportunity to know a multitude of persons, for whom he became thus interested, who were immediately converted. I have seen him pray for persons on his list when he was literally in an agony for them; and have sometimes known him call on some other person to help him pray for such a one. I have known his mind to fasten thus on an individual of hardened, abandoned character, and who could not be reached in any ordinary way. In a town in a north part of this State, where there was a revival, there was a certain individual who was a most violent and outrageous opposer. He kept a tavern, and used to delight in swearing at a desperate rate, whenever there were Christians within hearing, on purpose to hurt their feelings. He was so bad that one man said he believed he should have to sell his place, or give it away, and move out of town, for he could not live near a man who swore so. This good man of whom I was speaking passed through the town, and, hearing of the case, was very much grieved and distressed for the individual. He took him on his praying list. The case weighed on his mind when he was asleep and when he was awake. He kept thinking about the ungodly man, and praying for him for days. And, the first we knew of it, the tavern keeper came into a meeting, got up and confessed his sins, and poured out his soul. His barroom immediately became the place where they held prayer meetings. In this manner the Spirit of God leads individual Christians to pray for things which they would not pray for, unless they were led by the Spirit; and thus they pray for things “according to the will of God.”

Great evil has been done by saying that this kind of influence amounts to a new revelation. Many people will be so afraid of it, if they hear it called a new revelation, that they will not stop to inquire what it means, or whether the Scriptures teach it or not. The plain truth of the matter is, that the Spirit leads a man to pray; and if God leads a man to pray for an individual, the inference from the Bible is, that God designs to save that individual. If we find, by comparing our state of mind with the Bible, that we are led by the Spirit to pray for an individual, we have good evidence to believe that God is prepared to bless him.

5. By giving to Christians a spiritual discernment respecting the movements and developments of Providence. Devoted, praying Christians often see these things so clearly, and look so far ahead, as greatly to stumble others. They sometimes almost seem to prophesy. No doubt persons may be deluded, and sometimes are, by leaning to their own understanding when they think they are led by the Spirit. But there is no doubt that a Christian may be made to discern clearly the signs of the times, so as to understand, by Providence, what to expect, and thus to pray for it in faith. Thus they are often led to expect a revival, and to pray for it in faith, when nobody else can see the least signs of it.

There was a woman in New Jersey, in a place where there had been a revival. She was very positive there was going to be another. She wanted to have “conference meetings” appointed. But the minister and elders saw nothing to encourage it, and would do nothing. She saw they were blind, and so she went forward, and got a carpenter to make seats for her, for she said she would have meetings in her own house; there was certainly going to be a revival. She had scarcely opened her doors for meetings, before the Spirit of God came down with great power, and these sleepy Church members found themselves surrounded all at once with convicted sinners.

They could only say: “Surely the Lord is in this place; and we knew it not” (Genesis 28:16). The reason why such persons as this praying woman understand the indication of God’s will is not because of the superior wisdom that is in them, but because the Spirit of God leads them to see the signs of the times. And this, not by revelation; but they are led to see that converging of providences to a single point which produces in them a confident expectation of a certain result.

V. THE DEGREE OF INFLUENCE.

In what degree are we to expect the Spirit of God to affect the minds of believers? The text says: “The Spirit maketh intercession with groanings that cannot be uttered.” The meaning of this I understand to be, that the Spirit excites desires too great to be uttered except by groans – making the soul too full to utter its feelings by words, so that the person can only groan them out to God, who understands the language of the heart.

VI. DISTINGUISHING THE INFLUENCES.

How are we to know whether it is the Spirit of God that influences our minds, or not?

1. Not by feeling that some external influence or agency is applied to us.

We are not to expect to feel our minds in direct physical contact with God.

If such a thing can be, we know of no way in which it can be made sensible. We know that we exercise our minds freely, and that our thoughts are exercised on something that excites our feelings. But we are not to expect a miracle to be wrought, as if we were led by the hand, sensibly, or like something whispered in the ear, or any miraculous manifestation of the will of God.

Individuals often grieve the Spirit away, because they do not harbor Him and cherish His influences. Sinners often do this ignorantly. They suppose that if they were under conviction by the Spirit, they should have such-and-such mysterious feelings – a shock would come upon them which they could not mistake. Many Christians are so ignorant of the Spirit’s influences, and have thought so little about having His assistance in prayer, that when they have such influences they do not know it, and so do not yield to them, and cherish them. We are sensible of nothing in the case, only the movement of our own minds. There is nothing else that can be felt. We are merely sensible that our thoughts are intensely employed on a certain subject.

Christians are often unnecessarily misled and distressed on this point, for fear they have not the Spirit of God. They feel intensely, but they know not what makes them feel. They are distressed about sinners; but should they not be distressed, when they think of their condition? They keep thinking about them all the time, and why should they not be distressed?

Now the truth is, that the very fact that you are thinking upon them is evidence that the Spirit of God is leading you. Do you not know that the greater part of the time these things do not affect you so? The greater part of the time you do not think much about the case of sinners. You know their salvation is always equally important. But at other times, even when you are quite at leisure, your mind is entirely dark, and vacant of any feeling for them. But now, although you may be busy about other things, you think, you pray, and feel intensely for them, even while you are about business that at other times would occupy all your thoughts. Now, almost every thought you have is: “God have mercy upon them!” Why is this?

Why, their case is placed in a strong light before your mind. Do you ask what it is that leads your mind to exercise benevolent feelings for sinners, and to agonize in prayer for them? What can it be but the Spirit of God?

There are no devils that would lead you so. If your feelings are truly benevolent, you are to consider it as the Holy Spirit leading you to pray for things according to the will of God.

2. “Try the spirits” by the Bible. People are sometimes led away by strange fantasies and crazy impulses. If you compare them faithfully with the Bible, you never need be led astray. You can always know whether your feelings are produced by the Spirit’s influences, by comparing your desires with the spirit and temper of religion, as described in the Bible.

The Bible commands you to “try the spirits.” “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4-1).

VII. HOW SHALL WE GET THIS INFLUENCE OF THE SPIRIT?

1. It must be sought by fervent, believing prayer. Christ says: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” (Luke 11:13). Does any one say, I have prayed for it, and it does not come? It is because you do not pray aright. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3). You do not pray from right motives. A professor of religion, and a principal member in a Church, once asked a minister what he thought of his case; he had been praying week after week for the Spirit, and had not found any benefit. The minister asked: what was his motive in praying?

He replied that “he wanted to be happy.” He knew those who had the Spirit were happy, and he wanted to enjoy his mind as they did. Why, the devil himself might pray so! That is mere selfishness. The man, when this was shown him, at first turned away in anger. He saw that he had never known what it was to pray. He was convinced he was a hypocrite, and that his prayers were all selfish, dictated only by a desire for his own happiness. David prayed that God would uphold him by His free Spirit, that he might teach transgressors and turn sinners to God. A Christian should pray for the Spirit that he may be the more useful and glorify God more; not that he himself may be more happy. This man saw clearly where he had been in error, and he was converted. Perhaps many here have been making just the same mistake. You ought to examine and see if your prayers are not tinctured with selfishness.

2. Use the means adapted to stir up your minds on the subject, and to keep your attention fixed there. If a man prays for the Spirit, and then diverts his mind to other objects; if he uses no other means, but goes away to worldly objects, he tempts God, he swings loose from his object, and it would be a miracle if he should get what he prays for. How is a sinner to get conviction? Why, by thinking of his sins. That is the way for a Christian to obtain deep feeling – by thinking upon the object. God is not going to pour these things on you without any effort of your own. You must cherish the slightest impressions. Take the Bible, and go over the passages that show the condition and prospects of the world. Look at the world, look at your children, and your neighbors, and see their condition while they remain in sin; then, persevere in prayer and effort till you obtain the blessing of the Spirit of God to dwell in you. This was the way, doubtless, that Dr. Watts came to have the feelings which he has described in his hymn:

My thoughts on awful subjects dwell, Damnation and the dead; What horrors seize the guilty soul Upon a dying bed!

Look, as it were, through a telescope that will bring it up near to you; look into hell, and hear them groan; then turn the glass upwards and look into heaven, and see the saints there, in their white robes, with their harps in their hands, and hear them sing the song of redeeming love; and ask yourself: “Is it possible that I should prevail with God to elevate the sinner there?” Do this, and if you are not a wicked man, and a stranger to God, you will soon have as much of the spirit of prayer as your body can sustain.

3. You must watch unto prayer. You must keep a look-out, and see if God grants the blessing when you ask Him. People sometimes pray, and never look to see if the prayer is granted. Be careful also, not to grieve the Spirit of God. Confess and forsake your sins. God will never lead you as one of His hidden ones, and let you into His secrets, unless you confess and forsake your sins. Be not always confessing and never forsaking, but confess and forsake too. Make redress wherever you have committed an injury. You cannot expect to get the spirit of prayer first, and repentance afterwards. You cannot fight it through so. Professors of religion, who are proud and unyielding, and justify themselves, never will force God to dwell with them.

4. Aim to obey perfectly the written law. In other words, have no fellowship with sin. Aim at being entirely above the world; “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). If you sin at all, let it be your daily grief. The man who does not aim at this, means to live in sin. Such a man need not expect God’s blessing, for he is not sincere in desiring to keep all His commandments.

VIII. FOR WHOM DOES THE SPIRIT INTERCEDE.

The answer is that “He maketh intercession for the saints,” for all saints, for any who are saints.

REMARKS.

1. Why do you suppose it is that so little stress is laid on the influences of the Spirit in prayer, when so much is said about His influences in conversion? Many people are amazingly afraid the Spirit’s influences will be left out. They lay great stress on the Spirit’s influences in converting sinners. But how little is said, how little is printed, about His influence in prayer! How little complaining there is that people do not make enough of the Spirit’s influence in leading Christians to pray according to the will of God! Let it never be forgotten that no Christian ever prays aright, unless led by the Spirit. He has natural power to pray, and so far as the will of God is revealed, is able to do it; but he never does, unless the Spirit of God influences him; just as sinners are able to repent, but never do, unless influenced by the Spirit.

2. This subject lays open the foundation of the difficulty felt by many persons on the subject of the Prayer of Faith. They object to the idea that faith in prayer is a belief that we shall receive the very things for which we ask, and insist that there can be no foundation or evidence upon which to rest such a belief.

In a sermon upon this subject a writer brings toward this difficulty, and presents it in its full strength. “I have,” says he, “no evidence that the thing prayed for will be granted, until I have prayed in faith; because, praying in faith is the condition upon which it is promised. And, of course, I cannot claim the promise, until I have fulfilled the condition.

Now, if the condition is that I am to believe I shall receive the very blessing for which I ask, it is evident that the promise is given upon the performance of an impossible condition, and is, of course, a mere nullity.

The promise would amount to just this: You shall have whatsoever you ask, upon the condition that you first believe that you shall receive it.

Now I must fulfill the condition before I can claim the promise. But I can have no evidence that I shall receive it until I have believed that I shall receive it. This reduces me to the necessity of believing that I shall receive it, before I have any evidence that I shall receive it – which is impossible.”

The whole force of this objection arises out of the fact that the Spirit’s influences are entirely overlooked, which He exerts in leading an individual to the exercise of faith. It has been supposed that the passage in Mark 11:22-24, with other kindred promises on the subject of the Prayer of Faith, relate exclusively to miracles. But suppose this were true. I would ask: “What were the apostles to believe, when they prayed for a miracle?

Were they to believe that the precise miracle would be performed for which they prayed?” It is evident that they were. In the verses just alluded to, Christ says: “For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Here it is evident, that the thing to be believed, and which they were not to doubt in their heart, was that they should have the very blessing for which they prayed. Now the objection above stated, lies in all its force against this kind of faith, when praying for the performance of a miracle. If it be impossible to believe this in praying for any other blessing, it was equally so in praying for a miracle. I might ask: “Could an apostle believe that the miracle would be wrought, before he had fulfilled the condition, inasmuch as the condition was, that he should believe that he should receive that for which he prayed?” Either the promise is a nullity and a deception, or there is a possibility of performing the condition.

Now, as I have said, the whole difficulty lies in the fact that the Spirit’s influences are entirely overlooked, and that faith which is of the operation of God, is left out of the question. If the objection is goods against praying for any object, it is as good against praying in faith for the performance of a miracle. The fact is, that the Spirit of God could give evidence, on which to believe that any particular miracle would be granted; could lead the mind to a firm reliance upon God, and trust that the blessing sought would be obtained. And so at the present day He can give the same assurance, in praying for any blessing that we need.

Praying is the same thing, whether you pray for the conversion of a soul, or for a miracle. Faith is the same thing in the one case as in the other; it only terminates on a different object; in the one case on the conversion of a soul, and in the other on the performance of a miracle. Nor is faith exercised in the one more than in the other without reference to a promise; and a general promise may with the same propriety be applied to the conversion of a soul as to the performance of a miracle. And it is equally true in the one case as the other, that no man ever prays in faith without being influenced by the Spirit of God. And if the Spirit could lead the mind of an apostle to exercise faith in regard to a miracle, He can lead the mind of another Christian to exercise faith in regard to receiving any other blessing, by a reference to the same general promise.

Should any one ask: “When are we under an obligation to believe that we shall receive the blessing for which we ask?” I answer –

(a) When there is a particular promise, specifying the particular blessing: as where we pray for the Holy Spirit. This blessing is particularly named in the promise, and here we have evidence, and we are bound to believe, whether we have any Divine influence or not: just as sinners are bound to repent whether the Spirit strives with them or not, their obligation resting not upon the Spirit’s influences, but upon the powers of moral agency which they possess; upon their ability to do their duty. And while it is true that not one of them ever will repent without the influences of the Spirit, still they have power to do so, and are under obligation to do so whether the Spirit strives with them or not. So with the Christian. He is bound to believe where he has evidence. And although he never does believe, even where he has an express promise, without the Spirit of God, yet his obligation to do so rests upon his ability, and not upon the Divine influence.

(b) Where God makes a revelation by His providence, we are bound to believe in proportion to the clearness of the providential indication.

(c) So where there is a prophecy, we are bound also to believe. But in neither of these cases do we, in fact, believe, without the Spirit of God.

But where there is neither promise, providence, nor prophecy, on which we are to repose our faith, we are under no obligation to believe, unless, as I have shown in this discourse, the Spirit gives us evidence, by creating desires, and by leading us to pray for a particular object. In the case of those promises of a general nature, where we are honestly at a loss to know in what particular cases to apply them, it may be considered rather as our privilege than as our duty, in many instances, to apply them to particular cases; but whenever the Spirit of God leads us to apply them to a particular object, then it becomes our duty so to apply them. In this case, God explains His own promise, and shows how He designed it should be applied. Our obligation, then, to make this application, and to believe in reference to this particular object, remains in full force.

3. Some have supposed that Paul prayed in faith for the removal of the thorn in the flesh, and that it was not granted. But they cannot prove that Paul prayed in faith. The presumption is all on the other side, as I have shown in a former Lecture. He had neither promise, nor prophecy, nor providence, nor the Spirit of God, to lead him to believe. The whole objection goes on the ground that the apostle might pray in faith without being led by the Spirit. This is truly a short method of disposing of the Spirit’s influences in prayer. Certainly, to assume that he prayed in faith, is to assume, either that he prayed in faith without being led by the Spirit, or that the Spirit of God led him to pray for that which was not according to the will of God.

I have dwelt the more on this subject, because I want to have it made so plain that you will be careful not to grieve the Spirit. I want you to have high ideas of the Holy Ghost, and to feel that nothing good will be done without His influences. No praying or preaching will be of any avail without Him. If Jesus Christ were to come down here and preach to sinners, not one would be converted without the Spirit. Be careful, then, not to grieve Him away, by slighting or neglecting His heavenly influences when He invites you to pray.

4. In praying for an object, it is necessary to persevere till you obtain it.

Oh, with what eagerness Christians sometimes pursue a sinner in their prayers, when the Spirit of God has fixed their desires on him! No miser pursues gold with so fixed a determination.

5. The fear of being led by impulses has done great injury, by not being duly considered. A person’s mind may be led by an ignis fatuus. But we do wrong if we let the fear of impulses lead us to resist the good impulses of the Holy Ghost. No wonder Christians have not the spirit of prayer, if they are unwilling to take the trouble to distinguish; but will reject or resist all impulses, and all leadings of invisible agents. A great deal has been said on the subject of fanaticism, that is very unguarded, and that causes many minds to reject the leadings of the Spirit of God. “As many as are led by the Spirit or God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). And it is our duty to “try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). We should insist on a close scrutiny, and an accurate discrimination. There must be such a thing as being led by the Spirit. And when we are convinced it is of God, we should be sure to follow – follow on, with full confidence that He will not lead us wrong.

6. We see from this subject the absurdity of using set forms of prayer. The very idea of using a form rejects, of course, the leadings of the Spirit.

Nothing is more calculated to destroy the spirit of prayer, and entirely to darken and confuse the mind, as to what constitutes prayer, than to use forms. Forms of prayer are not only absurd in themselves, but they are the very device of the devil to destroy the spirit and break the power of prayer. It is of no use to say the form is a good one. Prayer does not consist in words. And it matters not what the words are if the heart is not led by the Spirit of God. If the desire is not enkindled, the thoughts directed, and the whole current of feeling produced and led by the Spirit of God, it is not prayer. And set forms are, of all things, best calculated to keep an individual from praying as he ought.

7. The subject furnishes a test of character. “The Spirit maketh intercession” – for whom? For the saints. Those who are saints are thus exercised. If you are saints you know by experience what it is to be thus exercised; or, if you do not, it is because you have grieved the Spirit of God so that He will not lead you. You live in such a manner that this Holy Comforter will not dwell with you, nor give you the spirit of prayer. If this is so, you must repent. Do not stop to settle whether you are a Christian or not, but repent, as if you never had repented. Do your first works. I do not take it for granted that you are a Christian, but go, like a humble sinner, and pour out your heart unto the Lord. You never can have the spirit of prayer in any other way.

8. It is important to understand this subject:-

(a) In order to be useful. Without this spirit there can be no such sympathy between God and you, that you can either walk with God or work with God. You need to have a strong beating of your heart with His, or you need not expect to be greatly useful.

(b) As being important to your sanctification. Without such a spirit you will not be sanctified, nor will you understand the Bible, and therefore you will not know how to apply it to your case. I want you to feel the importance of having God with you all the time. If you live as you ought, He says He will come unto you, and make His abode with you, and sup with you, and you with Him.

9. If people know not the spirit of prayer, they are very apt to be unbelieving in regard to the results of prayer. They do not see what takes place, or do not see the connection, or do not see the evidence. They are not expecting spiritual blessings. When sinners are convicted, they conclude that such are merely frightened by terrible preaching. And when people are converted, they feel no confidence, saying: “We will see how they turn out.”

10. Those who have the spirit of prayer know when the blessing comes. It was just so when Jesus Christ appeared. Those ungodly doctors did not know Him. Why? Because they were not praying for the redemption of Israel. But Simeon and Anna knew Him. How was that? Mark what they said, how they prayed, and how they lived. They were praying in faith, and so they were not surprised when He came (Luke 2:25-38). So it is with the Christians of whom I speak. If sinners are convicted or converted, they are not surprised at it. They are expecting just such things. They know God when He comes, because they are looking out for His visits.

11. There are three classes of persons in the Church who are liable to error, or have left the truth out of view, on this subject.

(a) Those who place great reliance on prayer, and use no other means.

They are alarmed at any special means, and talk about your “getting up a revival.”

(b) Over against these are those who use means, and pray, but never think about the influences of the Spirit in prayer. They talk about prayer for the Spirit, and feel the importance of the Spirit in the conversion to sinners, but do not realize the importance of the Spirit in prayer. And their prayers are all cold talk, nothing that anybody can feel, or that can take hold of God.

(c) Those who have certain strange notions about the Sovereignty of God, and are waiting for God to convert the world without prayer or means.

There must be in the Church a deeper sense of the need of the spirit of prayer. The fact is, that, generally, those who use means most assiduously, and make the most strenuous efforts for the salvation of men, and who have the most correct notions of the manner in which means should be used for converting sinners, also pray most for the Spirit of God, and wrestle most with God for His blessing. And what is the result?

Let facts speak, and say whether these persons do or do not pray, and whether the Spirit of God does not testify to their prayers, and follow their labors with His power.

12. Nothing will produce an excitement and opposition so quickly as the spirit of prayer. If any person should feel burdened with the case of sinners, so as to groan in his prayer, some become nervous, and he is visited at once with rebuke and opposition! From my soul I abhor all affectation of feeling where none exists, and all attempts to work one’s self up into feeling, by groans. But I feel bound to defend the position, that there is such a thing as being in a state of mind in which there is but one way to keep from groaning; and that is, by resisting the Holy Ghost. I was once present where this subject was discussed. It was said that “groaning ought to be discountenanced.” The question was asked, in reply: Whether God cannot produce such a state of feeling, that to abstain from groaning is impossible? The answer was: “Yes, but He never does.” Then the apostle Paul was egregiously deceived when he wrote about groanings that cannot be uttered. Edwards was deceived when he wrote his book upon revivals.

Revivals are all in the dark. Now, no man who reviews the history of the Church will adopt such a sentiment. I do not like this attempt to shut out, or stifle, or keep down, or limit, the spirit of prayer. I would sooner cut off my right hand than rebuke the spirit of prayer, as I have heard of its being done by saying: “Do not let me hear any more groaning!”

I hardly know where to end this subject. I should like to discuss it a month, indeed, till the whole Church could understand it, so as to pray the prayer of faith. Beloved, I want to ask you: Do you believe all this? Or do you wonder that I should talk so? Perhaps some of you have had some glimpses of these things. Now, will you give yourselves up to prayer, and live so as to have the spirit of prayer, and have the Spirit with you all the time? Oh, for a praying Church! I once knew a minister who had a revival fourteen winters in succession. I did not know how to account for it, till I saw one of his members get up in a prayer meeting and make a confession.

“Brethren,” said he, “I have been long in the habit of praying every Saturday night till after midnight, for the descent of the Holy Ghost among us. And now, brethren,” and he began to weep, “I confess that I have neglected it for two or three weeks.” The secret was out. That minister had a praying Church. Brethren, in my present state of health, I find it impossible to pray as much as I have been in the habit of doing, and yet continue to preach. It overcomes my strength. Now, shall I give myself up to prayer, and stop preaching? That will not do. Now, will not you, who are in health, throw yourselves into this work, and bear this burden, and give yourselves to prayer, till God shall pour out His blessing upon us?

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E M Bounds: Prayer Takes In The Whole Man


THE ESSENTIALS OF PRAYER

by  E. M. Bounds

1. 

“Henry Clay Trumbull spoke forth the Infinite in the terms of our world, and the Eternal in the forms of our human life. Some years ago, on a ferry-boat, I met a gentleman who knew him, and I told him that when I had last seen Dr. Trumbull, a fortnight before, he had spoken of him. ‘Oh, yes,’ said my friend, ‘he was a great Christian, so real, so intense. He was at my home years ago and we were talking about prayer.’ ‘Why, Trumbull,’ I said, ‘you don’t mean to say if you lost a pencil you would pray about it, and ask God to help you find it’ ‘Of course I would; of course I would,’ was his instant and excited reply. Of course he would. Was not his faith a real thing? Like the Saviour, he put his doctrine strongly by taking an extreme illustration to embody his principle, but the principle was fundamental. He did trust God in everything. And the Father honoured the trust of His child.”-Robert E. Speer

PRAYER has to do with the entire man. Prayer takes in man in his whole being, mind, soul and body. It takes the whole man to pray, and prayer affects the entire man in its gracious results. As the whole nature of man enters into prayer, so also all that belongs to man is the beneficiary of prayer. All of man receives benefits in prayer. The whole man must be given to God in praying. The largest results in praying come to him who gives himself, all of himself, all that belongs to himself, to God. This is the secret of full consecration, and this is a condition of successful praying, and the sort of praying which brings the largest fruits.

The men of olden times who wrought well in prayer, who brought the largest things to pass, who moved God to do great things, were those who were entirely given over to God in their praying. God wants, and must have, all that there is in man in answering his prayers. He must have whole-hearted men through whom to work out His purposes and plans concerning men. God must have men in their entirety. No double-minded man need apply. No vacillating man can be used. No man with a divided allegiance to God, and the world and self, can do the praying that is needed.

Holiness is wholeness, and so God wants holy men, men whole-hearted and true, for His service and for the work of praying. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” These are the sort of men God wants for leaders of the hosts of Israel, and these are the kind out of which the praying class is formed.

Man is a trinity in one, and yet man is neither a trinity nor a dual creature when he prays, but a unit. Man is one in all the essentials and acts and attitudes of piety. Soul, spirit and body are to unite in all things pertaining to life and godliness.

The body, first of all, engages in prayer, since it assumes the praying attitude in prayer. Prostration of the body becomes us in praying as well as prostration of the soul. The attitude of the body counts much in prayer, although it is true that the heart may be haughty and lifted up, and the mind listless and wandering, and the praying a mere form, even while the knees are bent in prayer.

Daniel kneeled upon his knees three times a day in prayer. Solomon kneeled in prayer at the dedication of the temple. Our Lord in Gethsemane prostrated Himself in that memorable season of praying just before His betrayal. Where there is earnest and faithful praying the body always takes on the form most suited to the state of the soul at the time. The body, that far, joins the soul in praying.

The entire man must pray. The whole man, life, heart, temper, mind, are in it. Each and all join in the prayer exercise. Doubt, double-mindedness, division of the affections, are all foreign to the closet character and conduct, undefiled, made whiter than snow, are mighty potencies, and are the most seemly beauties for the closet hour, and for the struggles of prayer.

A loyal intellect must conspire and add the energy and fire of its undoubting and undivided faith to that kind of all hour, the hour of prayer. Necessarily the mind enters into the praying. First of all, it takes thought to pray. The intellect teaches us we ought to pray. By serious thinking beforehand the mind prepares itself for approaching a throne of grace. Thought goes before entrance into the closet and prepares the way for true praying. It considers what will be asked for in the closet hour. True praying does not leave to the inspiration of the hour what will be the requests of that hour. As praying is asking for something definite of God, so, beforehand, the thought arises-“What shall I ask for at this hour?” All vain and evil and frivolous thoughts are eliminated, and the mind is given over entirely to God, thinking of Him, of what is needed, and what has been received in the past. By every token, prayer, in taking hold of the entire man, does not leave out the mind. The very first step in prayer is a mental one. The disciples took that first step when they said unto Jesus at one time, “Lord, teach us to pray.” We must be taught through the intellect, and just in so far as the intellect is given up to God in prayer, will we be able to learn well and readily the lesson of prayer.

Paul spreads the nature of prayer over the whole man. It must be so. It takes the whole man to embrace in its god-like sympathies the entire race of man-the sorrows, the sins and the death of Adam’s fallen race. It takes the whole man to run parallel with God’s high and sublime will in saving mankind. It takes the whole man to stand with our Lord Jesus Christ as the one Mediator between God and sinful man. This is the doctrine Paul teaches in his prayer-directory in the second chapter of his first Epistle to Timothy.

Nowhere does it appear so clearly that it requires the entire man in all departments of his being, to pray than in this teaching of Paul. It takes the whole man to pray till all the storms which agitate his soul are calmed to a great calm, till the stormy winds and waves cease as by a Godlike spell. It takes the whole man to pray till cruel tyrants and unjust rulers are changed in their natures and lives, as well as in their governing qualities, or till they cease to rule. It requires the entire man in praying till high and proud and unspiritual ecclesiastics become gentle, lowly and religious, till godliness and gravity bear rule in Church and in State, in home and in business, in public as well as in private life.

It is man’s business to pray; and it takes manly men to do it. It is godly business to pray and it takes godly men to do it. And it is godly men who give over themselves entirely to prayer. Prayer is far-reaching in its influence and in its gracious effects. It is intense and profound business which deals with God and His plans and purposes, and it takes whole-hearted men to do it. No half-hearted, half-brained, half-spirited effort will do for this serious, all-important, heavenly business. The whole heart, the whole brain, the whole spirit, must be in the matter of praying, which is so mightily to affect the characters and destinies of men.

The answer of Jesus to the scribe as to what was the first and greatest commandment was as follows:

“The Lord our God is one Lord; And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.”

In one word, the entire man without reservation must love God. So it takes the same entire man to do the praying which God requires of men. All the powers of man must be engaged in it. God cannot tolerate a divided heart in the love He requires of men, neither can He bear with a divided man in praying.

In the one hundred and nineteenth Psalm the Psalmist teaches this very truth in these words:

“Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.”

It takes whole-hearted men to keep God’s commandments and it demands the same sort of men to seek God. These are they who are counted “blessed.” Upon these whole-hearted ones God’s approval rests.

Bringing the case closer home to himself the Psalmist makes this declaration as to his practice: “With my whole heart have I sought thee; O let me not wander from thy commandments.”

And further on, giving us his prayer for a wise and understanding heart, he tells us his purposes concerning the keeping of God’s law:

“Give me understanding and I shall keep thy law; Yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.”

Just as it requires a whole heart given to God to gladly and fully obey God’s commandments, so it takes a whole heart to do effectual praying.

Because it requires the whole man to pray, praying is no easy task. Praying is far more than simply bending the knee and saying a few words by rote.

“’Tis not enough to bend the knee,

And words of prayer to say;

The heart must with the lips agree,

Or else we do not pray.”

Praying is no light and trifling exercise. While children should be taught early to pray, praying is no child’s task. Prayer draws upon the whole nature of man. Prayer engages all the powers of man’s moral and spiritual nature. It is this which explains somewhat the praying of our Lord described as in Hebrews 5:7:

“Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.”

It takes only a moment’s thought to see how such praying of our Lord drew mightily upon all the powers of His being, and called into exercise every part of His nature. This is the praying which brings the soul close to God and which brings God down to earth.

Body, soul and spirit are taxed and brought under tribute to prayer. David Brainerd makes this record of his praying:

“God enabled me to agonise in prayer till I was wet with perspiration, though in the shade and in a cool place.”

The Son of God in Gethsemane was in an agony of prayer, which engaged His whole being:

“And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray ye that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him, from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22:40-44.

Here was praying which laid its hands on every part of our Lord’s nature, which called forth all the powers of his soul, His mind and His body. This was praying which took in the entire man.

Paul was acquainted with this kind of praying. In writing to the Roman Christians, he urges them to pray with him after this fashion:

“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.”

The words, “strive together with me,” tells of Paul’s praying, and how much he put into it. It is not a docile request, not a little thing, this sort of praying, this “striving with me.” It is of the nature of a great battle, a conflict to win, a great battle to be fought. The praying Christian, as the soldier, fights a life-and-death struggle. His honour, his immortality, and eternal life are all in it. This is praying as the athlete struggles for the mastery, and for the crown, and as he wrestles or runs a race. Everything depends on the strength he puts in it. Energy, ardour, swiftness, every power of his nature is in it. Every power is quickened and strained to its very utmost. Littleness, half-heartedness, weakness and laziness are all absent.

Just as it takes the whole man to pray successfully, so in turn the whole man receives the benefits of such praying. As every part of man’s complex being enters into true praying, so every part of that same nature receives blessings from God in answer to such praying. This kind of praying engages our undivided hearts, our full consent to be the Lord’s, our whole desires.

God sees to it that when the whole man prays, in turn the whole man shall be blessed. His body takes in the good of praying, for much praying is done specifically for the body. Food and raiment, health and bodily vigour, come in answer to praying. Clear mental action, right thinking, an enlightened understanding, and safe reasoning powers, come from praying. Divine guidance means God so moving and impressing the mind, that we shall make wise and safe decisions. “The meek will he guide in judgment.”

Many a praying preacher has been greatly helped just at this point. The unction of the Holy One which comes upon the preacher invigorates the mind, loosens up thought and gives utterance. This is the explanation of former days when men of very limited education had such wonderful liberty of the Spirit in praying and in preaching. Their thoughts flowed as a stream of water. Their entire intellectual machinery felt the impulse of the Divine Spirit’s gracious influences.

And, of course, the soul receives large benefits in this sort of praying. Thousands can testify to this statement. So we repeat, that as the entire man comes into play in true, earnest effectual praying, so the entire man, soul, mind and body, receives the benefits of prayer.

Charles Grandison Finney : “Prevailing Prayer”


PREVAILING PRAYER

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. – James 5:16.

There are two kinds of means requisite to promote a revival: the one to influence man, the other to influence God. The truth is employed to influence men, and prayer to move God. When I speak of moving God, I do not mean that God’s mind is changed by prayer, or that His disposition or character is changed. But prayer produces such a change in us as renders it consistent for God to do as it would not be consistent for Him to do otherwise. When a sinner repents, that state of feeling makes it proper for God to forgive him. God has always been ready to forgive him on that condition, so that when the sinner changes his feelings and repents, it requires no change of feeling in God to pardon him. It is the sinner’s repentance that renders His forgiveness proper, and is the occasion of God’s acting as he does. So when Christians offer effectual prayer, their state of feeling renders it proper for God to answer them. He was never unwilling to bestow the blessing – on the condition that they felt aright, and offered the right kind of prayer.

Prayer is an essential link in the chain of causes that lead to a revival, as much so as truth is. Some have zealously used truth to convert men, and laid very little stress on prayer. They have preached, and talked, and distributed tracts with great zeal, and then wondered that they had so little success. And the reason was, that they forgot to use the other branch of the means, effectual prayer. They overlooked the fact that truth, by itself, will never produce the effect, without the Spirit of God, and that the Spirit is given in answer to prayer.

Sometimes it happens that those who are the most engaged in employing truth are not the most engaged in prayer. This is always unhappy. For unless they have the spirit of prayer (or unless some one else has), the truth, by itself will do nothing but harden men in impenitence. Probably in the Day of Judgment it will be found that nothing is ever done by the truth, used ever so zealously, unless there is a spirit of prayer somewhere in connection with the presentation of truth.

Others err in the reverse direction. Not that they lay too much stress on prayer. But they overlook the fact that prayer might be offered for ever, by itself, and nothing would be done. Because sinners are not converted by direct contact of the Holy Ghost, but by the truth, employed as a means.

To expect the conversion of sinners by prayer alone, without the employment of truth, is to tempt God.

Our subject being Prevailing Prayer, I propose: –

I. To show what is effectual or prevailing prayer.

II. To state some of the most essential attributes of prevailing prayer.

III. To give some reasons why God requires this kind of prayer.

IV. To show that such prayer will avail much.

I. WHAT PREVAILING PRAYER IS.

Effectual, prevailing prayer, does not consist in benevolent desires alone

1. Benevolent desires are doubtless pleasing to God. Such desires pervade heaven and are found in all holy beings. But they are not prayer. Men may have these desires as the angels and glorified spirits have them. But this is not the effectual, prevailing prayer spoken of in the text. Prevailing prayer is something more than this.

2. Prevailing, or effectual prayer, is that prayer which attains the blessing that it seeks. It is that prayer which effectually moves God. The very idea of effectual prayer is that it effects its object.

II. ESSENTIAL ATTRIBUTES OF PREVAILING PRAYER.

I cannot detail in full all the things that go to make up prevailing prayer.

But I will mention some things that are essential to it; some things which a person must do in order to prevail in prayer.

1. He must pray for a definite object. He need not expect to offer such prayer if he prays at random, without any distinct or definite object. He must have an object distinctly before his mind. I speak now of secret prayer. Many people go away into their rooms alone “to pray,” simply because “they must say their prayers.” The time has come when they are in the habit of going by themselves for prayer – in the morning, or at noon, or at whatever time of day it may be. But instead of having anything to say, any definite object before their mind, they fall down on their knees and pray for just what comes into their minds – for everything that floats in the imagination at the time, and when they have done they can hardly tell a word of what they have been praying for. This is not effectual prayer. What should we think of anybody who should try to move a Legislature so, and should say: “Now it is winter, and the Legislature is in session, and it is time to send up petitions,” and should go up to the Legislature and petition at random, without any definite object? Do you think such petitions would move the Legislature?

A man must have some definite object before his mind. He cannot pray effectually for a variety of objects at once. The mind is so constituted that it cannot fasten its desires intensely upon many things at the same time.

All the instances of effectual prayer recorded in the Bible are of this kind.

Wherever you see that the blessing sought for in prayer was attained, you will find that the prayer which was offered was prayer for that definite object.

2. Prayer, to be effectual, must be in accordance with the revealed will of God. To pray for things contrary to the revealed will of God, is to tempt God. There are three ways in which God’s will is revealed to men for their guidance in prayer.

(a) By express promises or predictions in the Bible, that He will give or do certain things; promises in regard to particular things, or in general terms, so that we may apply them to particular things. For instance, there is this promise: “What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24).

(b) Sometimes God reveals His will by His Providence. When He makes it clear that such and such events are about to take place, it is as much a revelation as if He had written it in His Word. It would be impossible to reveal everything in the Bible. But God often makes it clear to those who have spiritual discernment that it is His will to grant such and such blessings.

(c) By His Spirit. When God’s people are at a loss what to pray for, agreeable to His will, His Spirit often instructs them. Where there is no particular revelation, and Providence leaves it dark, and we know not what to pray for as we ought, we are expressly told that “the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities,” and “the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). A great deal has been said on the subject of praying in faith for things not revealed. It is objected that this doctrine implies a new revelation. I answer that, new or old, it is the very revelation that Jehovah says He makes. It is just as plain here as if it were now revealed by a voice from heaven, that the Spirit of God helps the people of God to pray according to the will of God, when they themselves know not what they ought to pray for. “And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27); and He leads Christians to pray for just those things, “with groanings which cannot be uttered.” When neither the Word nor Providence enables them to decide, let them be “filled with the Spirit,” as God commands them to be. He says: “Be filled with the Spirit”

(Ephesians 5:18). And He will lead their minds to such things as God is willing to grant.

3. To pray effectually you must pray with submission to the will of God.

Do not confound submission with indifference. No two things are more unlike. I once knew an individual come where there was a revival. He himself was cold, and did not enter into the spirit of it, and had no spirit of prayer; and when he heard the brethren pray as if they could not be denied, he was shocked at their boldness, and kept all the time insisting on the importance of praying with submission; when it was as plain as anything could be that he confounded submission with indifference.

Again, do not confound submission in prayer with a general confidence that God will do what is right. It is proper to have this confidence that God will do right in all things. But this is a different thing from submission. What I mean by submission in prayer is, acquiescence in the revealed will of God. To submit to any command of God is to obey it.

Submission to some supposable or possible, but secret, decree of God is not submission. To submit to any dispensation of Providence is impossible till it comes. For we never can know what the event is to be, till it takes place.

Take a case: David, when his child was sick, was distressed, and agonized in prayer, and refused to be comforted. He took it so much to heart that when the child died his servants were afraid to tell him. But as soon as he heard that the child was dead, he laid aside his grief, and arose, and asked for food, and ate and drank as usual. While the child was yet alive he did not know what was the will of God, and so he fasted and prayed, and said: “Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that my child may live”? He did not know but that his prayer, his agony, was the very thing on which it turned, whether the child was to live or not. He thought that if he humbled himself and entreated God, perhaps God would spare him this blow. But as soon as God’s will appeared, and the child was dead, he bowed like a saint. He seemed not only to acquiesce, but actually to take a satisfaction in it. “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me”(2 Samuel 12:15-23). This was true submission. He reasoned correctly in the case. While he had no revelation of the will of God he did not know but that the child’s recovery depended on his prayer. But when he had a revelation of the will of God he submitted. While the will of God is not known, to submit, without prayer, is tempting God. Perhaps, and for aught you know, the fact of your offering the right kind of prayer may be the thing on which the event turns. In the case of an impenitent friend, the very condition on which he is to be saved from hell may be the fervency and importunity of your prayer for that individual.

4. Effectual prayer for an object implies a desire for that object commensurate with its importance. If a person truly desires any blessing, his desires will bear some proportion to the greatness of the blessing. The desires of the Lord Jesus Christ for the blessing He prayed for were amazingly strong, amounting even to agony. If the desire for an object is strong, and is a benevolent desire, and the thing is not contrary to the will and providence of God, the presumption is that it will be granted. There are two reasons for this presumption:

(a) From the general benevolence of God. If it is a desirable object; if, so far as we can see, it would be an act of benevolence in God to grant it, His general benevolence is presumptive evidence that He will grant it.

(b) If you find yourself exercised with benevolent desires for any object, there is a strong presumption that the Spirit of God is exciting these very desires, and stirring you up to pray for that object, so that it may be granted in answer to prayer. In such a case no degree of desire or importunity in prayer is improper. A Christian may come up, as it were, and take hold of the hand of God. See the case of Jacob, when he exclaimed, in an agony of desire: “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me” (Genesis 32:26) Was God displeased with his boldness and importunity? Not at all; but He granted him the very thing he prayed for.

So in the case of Moses. God said to him: “Let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation” (Exodus 32:10). What did Moses do? Did he stand aside and let God do as He said? No; his mind runs back to the Egyptians, and he thinks how they will triumph. “Wherefore should the Egyptians say, For mischief did He bring them out?” It seemed as if he took hold of the uplifted hand of God, to avert the blow. Did God rebuke him and tell him he had no business to interfere? No; it seemed as if He was unable to deny anything to such importunity, and so Moses stood in the gap, and prevailed with God.

Prevailing prayer is often offered in the present day, when Christians have been wrought up to such a pitch of importunity and such a holy boldness afterwards when they looked back upon it, they were frightened and amazed at themselves, to think they should have dared to exercise such importunity with God. And yet these prayers have prevailed, and obtained the blessing. And many of these persons, with whom I am acquainted, are among the holiest persons I know in the world

5. Prayer, to be effectual, must be offered from right motives. Prayer should not be selfish, but should be dictated by a supreme regard for the glory of God. A great deal is offered from pure selfishness. Women sometimes pray for their husbands, that they may be converted, because, they say: “It would be so much more pleasant to have my husband go to Church with me,” and all that. And they seem never to lift up their thoughts above self at all. They do not seem to think how their husbands are dishonoring God by their sins, nor how God would be glorified in their conversion. So it is very often with parents. They cannot bear to think that their children should be lost. They pray for them very earnestly indeed. But if you talk with them upon the subject they are very tender about it and tell you how good their children are – how they respect religion, and how they are, indeed, “almost Christians now”; and so they talk as if they were afraid you would hurt their children by simply telling them the truth. They do not think how such amiable and lovely children are dishonoring God by their sins; they are only thinking what a dreadful thing it will be for them to go to hell. Unless their thoughts rise higher than this, their prayers will never prevail with a holy God.

The temptation to selfish motives is so strong that there is reason to fear a great many parental prayers never rise above the yearnings of parental tenderness. And that is the reason why so many prayers are not answered and why so many pious, praying parents have ungodly children. Much of the prayer for the heathen world seems to be based on no higher principle than sympathy. Missionary agents and others are dwelling almost exclusively upon the six hundred millions of heathens going to hell, while little is said of their dishonoring God. This is a great evil, and until the Church learns to have higher motives for prayer and missionary effort than sympathy for the heathen, her prayers and efforts will never amount to much.

6. Prayer, to be effectual, must be by the intercession of the Spirit. You never can expect to offer prayer according to the will of God without the Spirit. In the first two cases, it is not because Christians are unable to offer such prayer, where the will of God is revealed in His Word or indicated by His providence. They are able to do it, just as they are able to be holy. But the fact is, that they are so wicked that they never do offer such prayer, unless they are influenced by the Spirit of God. There must be a faith, such as is produced by the effectual operation of the Holy Ghost.

7. It must be persevering prayer. As a general thing, Christians who have backslidden and lost the spirit of prayer, will not get at once into the habit of persevering prayer. Their minds are not in a right state, and they cannot fix their thoughts so as to hold on till the blessing comes. If their minds were in that state in which they would persevere till the answer came, effectual prayer might be offered at once, as well as after praying ever so many times for an object. But they have to pray again and again, because their thoughts are so apt to wander away and are so easily diverted from the object.

Most Christians come up to prevailing prayer by a protracted process. Their minds gradually become filled with anxiety about an object, so that they will even go about their business sighing out their desires to God.

Just as the mother whose child is sick goes round her house sighing as if her heart would break. And if she is a praying mother, her sighs are breathed out to God all the day long. If she goes out of the room where her child is, her mind is still on it; and if she is asleep, still her thoughts are on it, and she starts in her dreams, thinking that perhaps it may be dying. Her whole mind is absorbed in that sick child. This is the state of mind in which Christians offer prevailing prayer.

For what reason did Jacob wrestle all night in prayer with God? He knew that he had done his brother Esau a great injury, in getting away the birthright, a long time before. And now he was informed that his injured brother was coming to meet him with an armed force, altogether too powerful to contend with. And there was great reason to suppose that Esau was coming with a purpose of revenge. There were two reasons then why Jacob should be distressed. The first was that he had done this great injury and had never made any reparation. The other was that Esau was coming with a force sufficient to crush him. Now what does he do? He first arranges everything in the best manner he can to placate and meet his brother: sending his present first, then his property, then his family, putting those he loved most farthest behind. And by this time his mind was so exercised that he could not contain himself. He goes away alone over the brook and pours out his very soul in an agony of prayer all night.

And just as the day was breaking, the Angel of the Covenant said: “Let me go”; and Jacob’s whole being was, as it were, agonized at the thought of giving up, and he cried out: “I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.”

His soul was wrought up into an agony, and he obtained the blessing, but he always bore the marks of it, and showed that his body had been greatly affected by this mental struggle. This is prevailing prayer.

Now, do not deceive yourselves with thinking that you offer effectual prayer, unless you have this intense desire for the blessing. I do not believe in it. Prayer is not effectual unless it is offered up with an agony of desire. The apostle Paul speaks of it as a travail of the soul. Jesus Christ, when he was praying in the garden, was in such an agony that “His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). I have never known a person sweat blood; but I have known a person pray till the blood started from his nose. And I have known persons pray till they were all wet with perspiration, in the coldest weather in winter. I have known persons pray for hours, till their strength was all exhausted with the agony of their minds. Such prayers prevailed with God.

This agony in prayer was prevalent in President Edwards’ day, in the revivals which then took place. It was one of the great stumbling blocks in those days to persons who were opposed to the revival, that people used to pray till their body was overpowered with their feelings. I will give a paragraph of what President Edwards says on the subject, to let you see that this is not a new thing in the Church, but has always prevailed wherever revivals prevailed with power. It is from his “Thoughts on Revivals”:

“We cannot determine that God shall never give any person so much of a discovery of Himself, not only as to weaken their bodies, but to take away their lives. It is supposed by very learned and judicious divines, that Moses’ life was taken away after this manner, and this has also been supposed to be the case with some other saints.

“If God gives a great increase of discoveries of Himself and of love to Him, the benefit is infinitely greater than the calamity, though the life should presently after be taken away….

“There is one particular kind of exercise and concern of mind that many have been empowered by, that has been especially stumbling to some; and that is, the deep concern and distress that they have been in for the souls of others. I am sorry that any put us to the trouble of doing that which seems so needless, as defending such a thing as this. It seems like mere trifling in so plain a case, to enter into a formal and particular debate, in order to determine whether there be anything in the greatness and importance of the case that will answer and bear a proportion to the greatness of the concern that some have manifested. Men may be allowed, from no higher a principle than common ingenuousness and humanity, to be very deeply concerned, and greatly exercised in mind, at seeing others in great danger of no greater a calamity than drowning or being burned up in a house on fire. And if so, then doubtless it will be allowed to be equally reasonable, if they saw them in danger of a calamity ten times greater, to be still much more concerned: and so much more still, if the calamity were still vastly greater. And why, then, should it be thought unreasonable and looked upon with a very suspicious eye, as if it must come from some bad cause, when persons are extremely concerned at seeing others in very great danger of suffering the wrath of Almighty God to all eternity? And besides, it will doubtless be allowed that those that have very great degrees of the Spirit of God, that is, a spirit of love, may well be supposed to have vastly more of love and compassion to their fellow creatures than those that are influenced only by common humanity.

“Why should it be thought strange that those that are full of the Spirit of Christ should be proportionally in their love to souls, like Christ? – who had so strong a love for them, and concern for them, as to be willing to drink the dregs of the cup of God’s fury for them; and at the same time that He offered up His blood for souls, offered up also, as their High Priest, strong crying and tears, with an extreme agony, wherein the soul of Christ was, as it were, in travail for the souls of the elect; and, therefore in saving them He is said to ‘see of the travail of His soul.’ As such a spirit of love to, and concern for, souls was the spirit of Christ, so it is the spirit of the Church; and therefore the Church, in desiring and seeking that Christ might be brought forth in the world, and in the souls of men, is represented (Revelation 12:1, 2) as ‘a woman crying, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.’ The spirit of those that have been in distress for the souls of others, so far as I can discern, seems not to be different from that of the apostle, who travailed for souls, and was ready to wish himself accursed from Christ for others (Romans 9:3). Nor from that of the Psalmist (Psalm 119:53): ‘Horror hath taken hold upon me, because of the wicked that forsake Thy law.’ And (ver. 136): ‘Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not Thy law.’ Nor from that of the prophet Jeremiah (4:19): ‘My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me: I cannot hold my peace, because Thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.’ And so chapter 9:1, and 13:17, and Isaiah 22:4. We read of Mordecai, when he saw his people in danger of being destroyed with a temporal destruction (Esther 4:1), that he ‘rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry.’ And why then should persons be thought to be distracted when they cannot forbear crying out at the consideration of the misery of those that are going to eternal destruction?

I have quoted this to show that this thing was common in the great revivals of those days. It has always been so in all great revivals, and has been more or less common in proportion to the greatness, and extent, and depth of the work. It was so in the great revivals in Scotland, and multitudes used to be overpowered, and some almost died, by the depth of their agony.

So also, prayer prevailed at Cambuslang, 1741-2, in the revival under William McCulloch and Whitefield. When Whitefield reached Cambuslang he immediately preached, on the braeside, to a vast congregation (on a Tuesday at noon). At six o’clock he preached again, and a third time at nine. Then McCulloch took up the parable and preached till one in the morning, and still the people were unwilling to leave. So many were convicted, crying to God for mercy, that Whitefield described the scene as “a very field of battle.” On the ensuing Communion Sunday, Whitefield preached to twenty thousand people; and again on the Monday, when, he said: “you might have seen thousands bathed in tears, some at the same time wringing their hands, others almost swooning, and others crying out and mourning over a pierced Savior. It was like the Passover in Josiah’s time.” On the voyage from London to Scotland, prior to this campaign, Whitefield had “spent most of his time on board ship in secret prayer.” (See Gledstone’s “George Whitefield, M.A., Field Preacher.”)

8. If you mean to pray effectually, you must pray a great deal. It was said of the Apostle James that after he was dead it was found that his knees were callous, like a camel’s knees, by praying so much. Ah, here was the secret of the success of those primitive ministers! They had callous knees!

9. If you intend prayer to be effectual, you must offer it in the name of Christ. You cannot come to God in your own name. You cannot plead your own merits. But you can come in a name that is always acceptable.

You all know what it is to use the name of a man. If you should go to the bank with a draft or note, endorsed by John Jacob Astor, that would be giving you his name, and you know you could get the money from the bank just as well as he could himself. Now, Jesus Christ gives you the use of His name. And when you pray in the name of Christ the meaning of it is, that you can prevail just as well as He could Himself, and receive just as much as God’s well beloved Son would if He were to pray Himself for the same things. But you must pray in faith.

10. You cannot prevail in prayer without renouncing all your sins. You must not only recall them to mind, and repent of them, but you must actually renounce them, and leave them off, and in the purpose of your heart renounce them all for ever.

11. You must pray in faith. You must expect to obtain the things for which you ask. You need not look for an answer to prayer, if you pray without any expectation of obtaining it. You are not to form such expectations without any reason for them. In the cases I have supposed, there is a reason for the expectation. In case the thing is revealed in God’s Word, if you pray without an expectation of receiving the blessings, you just make God a liar. If the will of God is indicated by His providence, you ought to depend on it, according to the clearness of the indication, so far as to expect the blessing if you pray for it. And if you are led by His Spirit to pray for certain things, you have as much reason to expect those things to be done as if God had revealed it in His Word.

But some say: “Will not this view of the leadings of the Spirit of God lead people into fanaticism?” I answer that I know not but many may deceive themselves in respect to this matter. Multitudes have deceived themselves in regard to all the other points of religion. And if some people should think they are led by the Spirit of God, when it is nothing but their own imagination, is that any reason why those who know that they are led by the Spirit should not follow the Spirit? Many people suppose themselves to be converted when they are not. Is that any reason why we should not cleave to the Lord Jesus Christ? Suppose some people are deceived in thinking they love God, is that any reason why the pious saint who knows he has the love of God shed abroad in his heart should not give vent to his feelings in songs of praise? Some may deceive themselves in thinking they are led by the Spirit of God. But there is no need of being deceived. If people follow impulses, it is their own fault. I do not want you to follow impulses. I want you to be sober minded, and follow the sober, rational leadings of the Spirit of God. There are those who understand what I mean, and who know very well what it is to give themselves up to the Spirit of God in prayer.

III. WHY GOD REQUIRES SUCH PRAYER.

I will state some of the reasons why these things are essential to effectual prayer. Why does God require such prayer, such strong desires, such agonizing supplications?

1. These strong desires strongly illustrate the strength of God’s feelings.

They are like the real feelings of God for impenitent sinners. When I have seen, as I sometimes have, the amazing strength of love for souls that has been felt by Christians, I have been wonderfully impressed with the amazing love of God, and His desires for their salvation. The case of a certain woman, of whom I read, in a revival, made the greatest impression on my mind. She had such an unutterable compassion and love for souls, that she actually panted for breath. What must be the strength of the desire which God feels, when His Spirit produces in Christians such amazing agony, such throes of soul, such travail – God has chosen the best word to express it: it is travail – travail of the soul.

I have seen a man of as much strength of intellect and muscle as any man in the community fall down prostrate, absolutely overpowered by his unutterable desires for sinners. I know this is a stumbling block to many; and it always will be as long as there remain in the Church so many blind and stupid professors of religion. But I cannot doubt that these things are the work of the Spirit of God. Oh, that the whole Church could be so filled with the Spirit as to travail in prayer, till a nation should be born in a day!

It is said in the Word of God that “as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth” (Isaiah 66:8). What does that mean? I asked a professor of religion this question once. He was taking exception to our ideas of effectual prayer, and I asked what he supposed was meant by Zion’s travailing.

“Oh,” said he, “it means that as soon as the Church shall walk together in the fellowship of the Gospel, then it will be said that Zion travels! This walking together is called traveling.” Not the same term, you see.

2. These strong desires that I have described are the natural results of great benevolence and clear views regarding the danger of sinners. It is perfectly reasonable that it should be so. If the women who are present should look up yonder and see a family burning to death in a fire and hear their shrieks, and behold their agony, they would feel distressed, and it is very likely that many of them would faint away with agony. And nobody would wonder at it, or say they were fools or crazy to feel so much distressed at such an awful sight. It would be thought strange if there were not some expressions of powerful feeling. Why is it any wonder, then, if Christians should feel as I have described when they have clear views of the state of sinners, and the awful danger they are in? The fact is, that those individuals who never have felt so have never felt much real benevolence, and their piety must be of a very superficial character. I do not mean to judge harshly, or to speak unkindly, but I state it as a simple matter of fact; and people may talk about it as they please, but I know such piety is superficial. This is not censoriousness, but plain truth.

People sometimes “wonder at Christians having such feelings.” Wonder at what? Why, at the natural, and philosophical, and necessary results of deep piety towards God, and deep benevolence towards man, in view of the great danger they see sinners to be in.

3. The soul of a Christian, when it is thus burdened, must have relief. God rolls this weight upon the soul of a Christian, for the purpose of bringing him nearer to Himself. Christians are often so unbelieving that they will not exercise proper faith in God till He rolls this burden upon them so heavily that they cannot live under it, but must go to Him for relief. It is like the case of many a convicted sinner. God is willing to receive him at once, if he will come right to Him, with faith in Jesus Christ. But the sinner will not come. He hangs back, and struggles, and groans under the burden of his sins, and will not throw himself upon God, till his burden of conviction becomes so great that he can live no longer; and when he is driven to desperation, as it were, and feels as if he were ready to sink into hell, he makes a mighty plunge, and throws himself upon God’s mercy as his only hope. It was his duty to come before. God had no delight in his distress, for its own sake.

So, when professors of religion get loaded down with the weight of souls, they often pray again and again, and yet the burden is not gone, nor their distress abated, because they have never thrown it all upon God in faith.

But they cannot get rid of the burden. So long as their benevolence continues, it will remain and increase; and unless they resist and quench the Holy Ghost, they can get no relief, until, at length, when they are driven to extremity, they make a desperate effort, roll the burden upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and exercise a child-like confidence in Him. Then they feel relieved; then they feel as if the soul they were praying for would be saved. The burden is gone, and God seems in kindness to soothe the mind with a sweet assurance that the blessing will be granted. Often, after a Christian has had this struggle, this agony in prayer, and has obtained relief in this way, you will find the sweetest and most heavenly affections flow out – the soul rests sweetly and gloriously in God, and rejoices “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

Do any of you think that there are no such things now in the experience of believers? If I had time, I could show you, from President Edwards and other approved writers, cases and descriptions just like this. Do you ask why we never have such things here? I tell you it is not at all because you are so much wiser than Christians are in rural districts, or because you have so much more intelligence or more enlarged views of the nature of religion, or a more stable and well regulated piety. I tell you, no; instead of priding yourselves in being free from such extravagances, you ought to hide your heads, because Christians in the city are so worldly, and have so much starch, and pride, and fashion, that they cannot come down to such spirituality as this. I wish it could be so. Oh, that there might be such a spirit in this city and in this Church! I know it would make a noise if we had such things done here. But I would not care for that. Let them say, if they please, that the folks in Chatham Chapel 20 are getting deranged. We need not be afraid of that, if we live near enough to God to enjoy His Spirit in the manner I have described.

4. These effects of the spirit of prayer upon the body are themselves no part of religion. It is only that the body is often so weak that the feelings of the soul overpower it. These bodily effects are not at all essential to prevailing prayer; but are only a natural or physical result of highly excited emotions of the mind. It is not at all unusual for the body to be weakened, and even overcome, by any powerful emotion of the mind, on other subjects besides religion. The doorkeeper of Congress, in the time of the Revolution, fell down dead on the reception of some highly cheering intelligence. I knew a woman in Rochester who was in a great agony of prayer for the conversion of her son-in-law. One morning he was at an anxious meeting, and she remained at home praying for him. At the close of the meeting he came home a convert, and she was so rejoiced that she fell down and died on the spot. It is no more strange that these effects should be produced by religion than by strong feeling on any other subject.

It is not essential to prayer, but is the natural result of great efforts of the mind.

5. Doubtless one great reason why God requires the exercise of this agonizing prayer is, that it forms such a bond of union between Christ and the Church. It creates such a sympathy between them. It is as if Christ came and poured the overflowings of His own benevolent heart into His people, and led them to sympathize and to cooperate with Him as they never do in any other way. They feel just as Christ feels – so full of compassion for sinners that they cannot contain themselves. Thus it is often with those ministers who are distinguished for their success in preaching to sinners; they often have such compassion, such overflowing desires for their salvation, that these are shown in their speaking, and their preaching, just as though Jesus Christ spoke through them. The words come from their lips fresh and warm, as if from the very heart of Christ. I do not mean that He dictates their words; but He excites the feelings that give utterance to them. Then you see a movement in the hearers, as if Christ Himself spoke through lips of clay.

6. This travailing in birth for souls creates also a remarkable bond of union between warm-hearted Christians and the young converts. Those who are converted appear very dear to the hearts that have had this spirit of prayer for them. The feeling is like that of a mother for her first-born. Paul expresses it beautifully when he says: “My little children!” His heart was warm and tender to them. “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again” – they had backslidden, and he has all the agonies of a parent over a wandering child – “I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you”

(Galatians 4:19); “Christ, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). In a revival, I have often noticed how those who had the spirit of prayer, loved the young converts. I know this is all so much algebra to those who have never felt it. But to those who have experienced the agony of wrestling, prevailing prayer, for the conversion of a soul, you may depend upon it, that soul, after it is converted, appears as dear as a child is to the mother. He has agonized for it, received it in answer to prayer, and can present it before the Lord Jesus Christ, saying: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me” (Isaiah 8:18. See also Hebrews 2:13).

7. Another reason why God requires this sort of prayer is, that it is the only way in which the Church can be properly prepared to receive great blessings without being injured by them. When the Church is thus prostrated in the dust before God, and is in the depth of agony in prayer, the blessing does them good. While at the same time, if they had received the blessing without this deep prostration of soul, it would have puffed them up with pride. But as it is, it increases their holiness, their love, their humility.

IV. SUCH PRAYER WILL AVAIL MUCH.

The prophet Elijah mourned over the declensions of the house of Israel, and when he saw that no other means were likely to be effectual, to prevent a perpetual going away into idolatry, he prayed that the judgments of God might come upon the guilty nation. He prayed that it might not rain, and God shut up the heavens for three years and six months, till the people were driven to the last extremity. And when he sees that it is time to relent what does he do? See him go up to the mountain and bow down in prayer. He wished to be alone; and he told his servant to go seven times, while he was agonizing in prayer. The last time, the servant told him that a little cloud had appeared, like a man’s hand, and he instantly arose from his knees – the blessing was obtained. The time had come for the calamity to be turned back. “Ah, but,” you say, “Elijah was a prophet.” Now, do not make this objection. They made it in the apostle’s days, and what does the apostle say? Why he brought forward this very instance, and the fact that Elijah was a man of like passions with ourselves, as a case of prevailing prayer, and insisted that they should pray so too ( 1 Kings 17:1; 18:41-5; James 5:17).

John Knox was a man famous for his power in prayer, so that Queen Mary of England used to say that she feared his prayers more than all the armies of Europe. And events showed that she had reason to do it. He used to be in such an agony for the deliverance of his country, that he could not sleep. He had a place in his garden where he used to go to pray.

One night he and several friends were praying together, and as they prayed, Knox spoke and said that deliverance had come. 21 He could not tell what had happened, but he felt that something had taken place, for God had heard their prayers. What was it? Why, the next news they had was, that Mary was dead!

Take a fact which was related in my hearing by a minister. He said that in a certain town there had been no revival for many years; the Church was nearly extinct, the youth were all unconverted, and desolation reigned unbroken. There lived in a retired part of the town, an aged man, a blacksmith by trade, and of so stammering a tongue that it was painful to hear him speak. On one Friday, as he was at work in his shop, alone, his mind became greatly exercised about the state of the Church and of the impenitent. His agony became so great that he was induced to lay by his work, lock the shop door, and spend the afternoon in prayer.

He prevailed, and on the Sabbath called on the minister and desired him to appoint a “conference meeting.” After some hesitation, the minister consented; observing however, that he feared but few would attend. He appointed it the same evening at a large private house. When evening came, more assembled than could be accommodated in the house. All were silent for a time, until one sinner broke out in tears, and said, if any one could pray, would he pray for him? Another followed, and another, and still another, until it was found that persons from every quarter of the town were under deep conviction. And what was remarkable was, that they all dated their conviction at the hour that the old man was praying in his shop. A powerful revival followed. Thus this old stammering man prevailed, and as a prince had power with God.

REMARKS.

1. A great deal of prayer is lost, and many people never prevail in prayer, because, when they have desires for particular blessings, they do not follow them up. They may have desires, benevolent and pure, which are excited by the Spirit of God; and when they have them, they should persevere in prayer, for if they turn off their attention, they will quench the Spirit. When you find these holy desires in your minds:

(a) Do not quench the Spirit;

(b) Do not be diverted to other objects. Follow the leadings of the Spirit till you have offered that “effectual fervent prayer” that “availeth much” (James 5:16).

2. Without the spirit of prayer, ministers will do but little good. A minister need not expect much success unless he prays for it. Sometimes others may have the spirit of prayer and obtain a blessing on his labors. Generally, however, those preachers are the most successful who have most of the spirit of prayer themselves.

3. Not only must ministers have the spirit of prayer, but it is necessary that the Church should unite in offering that effectual fervent prayer which can prevail with God. “I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it” (Ezekiel 36:37).

Now I have only to ask you, in regard to what I have set forth: “Will you do it?” Have you done what I said to you at the last Lecture? Have you gone over your sins, and confessed them, and got them all out of the way?

Can you pray now? And will you join and offer prevailing prayer that the Spirit of God may come down here?

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Isaac Newton Move Over, I am Posting The Two Most Essential Universal Laws


A law is a living principle, and axiom, that postulates that under particular circumstances, specific results will always occur.

“Newton’s law of universal gravitation states that every point mass in the universe attracts every other point mass with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.” Wikipedia

In other words,  whatever is thrown up in the air, must come down to the ground as it is affected by the impulses generated by the law of gravity.

Humanity, is subject to many types of laws.

Romans 7:23  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Ro 8:2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death

The two most essential universal laws are the ones which we scarcely talk about.

These two are  the “ law of the Spirit of life which resides in Christ Jesus” and “the law of sin which results in death”.

The latter dwells in the soul, members, extremities, and organs of every human being.

To sin, is to miss the bull’s eye of what God has intended for mankind.

The law of sin and death was nonexistent until Adam disobeyed God, missed God’s  bull’s eye, and triggered said law.

I am bold to say that every man and woman is directly under the control  of either the law of sin and death, or the law of the Spirit of life found inside the Person of Christ Jesus.

There is no middle ground, its either one or the other.

Like Bob Dylan said “ you gotta serve somebody”… you are either serving the law of sin and death or that of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Some will say, “ Jose, how can you be so arrogantly narrowed minded to tell me that Christ is the only way? What about the Muslim or the Hindu? There are many ways to reach the One God!”

I’d say“ Very well, show me another historical figure that not only destroyed the law of sin which results in death, but introduced the law which gives an incorruptible, eternal type of life. If you can show me I will also investigate his or her claims.

It’s important to know that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is available to every human being on planet earth.

The law of the Spirit of life residing inside the Person of Christ Jesus is the universe’s foremost and essential law.

It has shattered the law of sin and death which produces unremitting impulses to sin, and that has kept most of human civilization as its unwilling victimized slave from the creation of the earth.

The law of sin and death then, is the universe’s second most essential law.

Death, illness, wars, blindness to the presence of God, greed, infidelity, hatred, and the eventual annihilation of this world,  are the products  of the incessant impulses generated by this law.

Worse than this; this law also   generates impulses which create an arrogant and antagonistic independence in mankind to the very one, Christ Jesus, who can set it free from its grasp!  This my friends, is the horribleness of sin.

Mankind, through deception, would rather die in the claws of the law of sin and death than to come to the one who will embed it with the law of the Spirit of life.

Man will not go to heaven or hell centered on whether he was good or bad, but rather to what law he was subjected to.

Heaven cannot invite those who are subject to the law of sin and death, as much as hell will reject those who are subject to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Let’s conclude by looking at some of the marvels of the law of the Spirit of Life which resides in Christ Jesus

Ro 7:22  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

The law of the Spirit of Life which resides in Christ Jesus generates its impulses from an inward man in a human,  mainly Christ Jesus. The person who does not have Christ does not have this new inward man, and this law.

 Rom 8:9  But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so it be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.

If man has not invited Christ Jesus into his life, He is not of God. By that I mean, is that Christ, and the law of the Spirit of life in Him, will not be inside the man, who rejects Him.

This poor man remains clutched by the law of sin and death, and has no share in heaven based on that heaven  will not embrace anyone who is subject to the impulses which generate sin.

Ro 8:2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death

The law of the Spirit of Life which resides in Christ Jesus not only has set me free from the law of sin and death,  but also  eradicates my sinful habits, until I have no memory of sin, and find myself effortlessly living by the impulses of heaven’s endless and incorruptible life.

11  But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.

The law of the Spirit of Life which resides in Christ Jesus will begin to nourish the extremities of your body with this eternal type of life. Though you will die because of sin, you can achieve better health and longevity due to the impulses of the law of the Spirit of life gracing the human body.

29   For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

The law of the Spirit of Life which resides in Christ Jesus will take us into a process of being conformed, that it is to assume the same form, as the glorious and eternal Christ. This process is not perfected now, but because we negotiate with a law, its impulses will lead us onward into this con – forming process.

30  Moreover, whom He predestined, those He also called; and whom He called, those He also justified; and whom He justified, those He also glorified.

To be justified is to be declared innocent. The most innocent being is a corpse. A dead man has  no sin. He is wholly innocent.

The Bible tells us that he who is dead is justified or innocent from sin.

The law of the Spirit of Life which resides in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death because I am co crucified with Christ. When Christ died, I died. I am a corpse, and thusly justified.

Now that I am justified by the law of the Spirit of life, I have the right to be transformed into the very same glory which God Himself has.

32  He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

The law of the Spirit of Life which resides in Christ Jesus will give us all things freely. This wonderful word  “freely give” is charizomai.  That is an extravagant, abundant, lavish, not ties giving. God will not hold anything back from us if its In Christ.

Jas 1:25  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

Jas 2:12  So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty

The law of the Spirit of Life which resides in Christ Jesus is the law which gives mankind perfect liberty. Liberty is not do to what we feel, based on personal choices, or rights. Much of that is really bondage. True liberty can only be found in following the impulses of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Sir Isaac Newton

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