The Weapon of Prayer
By E. M. Bounds
Bounds, Edward M. (1835-1913)
Table of Contents
p. ii About This Book. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
p. 1 I. PRAYER ESSENTIAL TO GOD. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
p. 6 II. PUTTING GOD TO WORK. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
p. 13 III. THE NECESSITY FOR PRAYING MEN. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
p. 17 IV. GOD’S NEED OF MEN WHO PRAY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
p. 21 V. PRAYERLESS CHRISTIANS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
p. 25 VI. PRAYING MEN AT A PREMIUM. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
p. 29 VII. THE MINISTRY AND PRAYER. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
p. 36 VIII. PRAYERLESSNESS IN THE PULPIT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
p. 41 IX. PRAYER-EQUIPMENT FOR PREACHERS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
p. 47 X. THE PREACHER’S CRY—PRAY FOR US!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
p. 52 XI. MODERN EXAMPLES OF PRAYER. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
p. 59 XII. MODERN EXAMPLES OF PRAYER (Continued). . . . . . . . . . . . . .
p. 65 Indexes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
p. 65 Index of Scripture References. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
iii E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
iv E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
THE WEAPON OF PRAYER
I. PRAYER ESSENTIAL TO GOD
“Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here
I am. 14th verse: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride
upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for
the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”—Isaiah 58:9.
It must never be forgotten that Almighty God rules this world. He is not an absentee God. His band is ever on the throttle of human affairs. He is everywhere present in the concerns of time. “His eyes behold, his eyelids try the children of men.” He rules the world just as He rules the Church by prayer. This lesson needs to be emphasized, iterated and reiterated in the ears of men of modern times and brought to bear with cumulative force on the consciences of this generation whose eyes have no vision for the eternal things, whose ears are deaf toward God. Nothing is more important to God than prayer in dealing with mankind. But it is likewise all-important to man to pray. Failure to pray is failure along the whole line of life. It is failure of duty, service, and spiritual progress. God must help man by prayer. He who does not pray, therefore, robs himself of God’s help and places God where He cannot help man. Man must pray to God if love for God is to exist. Faith and hope, and patience and all the strong, beautiful, vital forces of piety are withered and dead in a prayerless life. The life of the individual believer, his personal salvation, and personal Christian graces have their being, bloom and fruitage in prayer. All this and much more can be said as to the necessity of prayer to the being, and culture of piety in the individual. But prayer has a larger sphere, a more obligated duty, a loftier inspiration.
Prayer concerns God, whose purposes and plans are conditioned on prayer. His will and His glory are bound up in praying. The days of God’s splendour and renown have always been the great days of prayer. God’s great movements in this world have been conditioned on, continued and fashioned by prayer. God has put Himself in these great movements just as men have prayed. Present, prevailing, conspicuous and mastering prayer has always brought God to be present. The real and obvious test of a genuine work of God is the prevalence of the spirit of prayer. God’s mightiest forces surcharge and impregnate a movement when prayer’s mightiest forces are there. God’s movement to bring Israel from Egyptian bondage had its inception in prayer. Thus early did God and the human race put the fact of prayer as one of the granite forces upon which His world movements were to be based.
Hannah’s petition for a son began a great prayer movement for God in Israel. Praying women,
whose prayers like those of Hannah, can give to the cause of God men like Samuel, do more for the Church and the world than all the politicians on earth. Men born of prayer are the saviours of the state, and men saturated with prayer give life and impetus to the Church. Under God they are saviours and helpers of both Church and state. We must believe that the divine record of the facts about prayer and God are given in order that we might be constantly reminded of Him, and be ever refreshed by the faith that God holds His Church for the entire world, and that God’s purpose will be fulfilled. His plans concerning the
Church will most assuredly and inevitably be carried out. That record of God has been given without doubt that we may be deeply impressed that the prayers of God’s saints are a great factor, a supreme factor, in carrying forward God’s work, with facility and in time.
When the Church is in the condition of prayer God’s cause always flourishes and His kingdom on earth always triumphs. When the Church fails to pray, God’s cause decays and evil of every kind prevails. In other words, God works through the prayers of His people, and when they fail Him at this point, decline and deadness ensue. It is according to the divine plans that spiritual prosperity comes through the prayer-channel. Praying saints are God’s agents for carrying on His saving and providential work on earth. If His agents fail Him, neglecting to pray, then His work fails. Praying agents of the Most High are always
forerunners of spiritual prosperity. The men of the Church of all ages who have held the Church for God have had in affluent fullness and richness the ministry of prayer. The rulers of the Church which the Scriptures reveal have had preeminence in prayer.
Eminent, they may have been, in culture, in intellect and in all the natural or human forces; or they may have been lowly in physical attainments and native gifts; yet in each case prayer was the all potent force in the rulership of the Church. And this was so because God was with and in what they did, for prayer always carries us back to God. It recognizes God and brings God into the world to work and save and bless. The most efficient agents in
disseminating the knowledge of God, in prosecuting His work upon the earth, and in standing as breakwater against the billows of evil, have been praying Church leaders. God depends upon them, employs them and blesses them.
Prayer cannot be retired as a secondary force in this world. To do so is to retire God from the movement. It is to make God secondary. The prayer ministry is an all-engaging force. It must be so, to be a force at all. Prayer is the sense of God’s need and the call for God’s help to supply that need. The estimate and place of prayer is the estimate and place of God. To give prayer the secondary place is to make God secondary in life’s affairs. To substitute other forces for prayer, retires God and materializes the whole movement.
Prayer is an absolute necessity to the proper carrying on of God’s work. God has made it so.
This must have been the principal reason why in the early Church, when the complaint that the widows of certain believers had been neglected in the daily administration of the Church’s benefactions, that the twelve called the disciples together, and told them to look out for seven men, “full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdom,” who they would appoint over that benevolent work, adding this important statement, “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” They surely realized that the success of the Word and the progress of the Church were dependent in a preeminent sense upon their “giving themselves to prayer.” God could effectively work through them in proportion as they gave themselves fully to prayer.
The Apostles were as dependent upon prayer as other folks. Sacred work,—Church
activities—may so engage and absorb us as to hinder praying, and when this is the case, evil results always follow. It is better to let the work go by default than to let the praying go by neglect. Whatever affects the intensity of our praying affects the value of our work. “Too busy to pray” is not only the keynote to backsliding, but it mars even the work done. Nothing is well done without prayer for the simple reason that it leaves God out of the account. It is so easy to be seduced by the good to the neglect of the best, until both the good and the best perish.
How easily may men, even leaders in Zion, be led by the insidious wiles of Satan to cut short our praying in the interests of the work! How easy to neglect prayer or abbreviate our praying simply by the plea that we have Church work on our hands. Satan has effectively disarmed us when he can keep us too busy doing things to stop and pray.
“Give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.” The Revised Version has
it, “We will continue steadfastly in prayer.” The implication of the word used here means to be strong, steadfast, to be devoted to, to keep at it with constant care, to make a business out of it. We find the same word in Col. 4:12, and in Romans 12:12, which is translated, “Continuing instant in prayer.”
The Apostles were under the law of prayer, which law recognizes God as God, and depends
upon Him to do for them what He would not do without prayer. They were under the necessity of prayer, just as all believers are, in every age and in every clime. They had to be devoted to prayer in order to make their ministry of the Word efficient. The business of preaching is worth very little without it be in direct partnership with the business of praying. Apostolic preaching cannot be carried on unless there be apostolic praying. Alas, that this plain truth has been so easily forgotten by those who minister in holy things! Without in any way passing a criticism on the ministry, we feel it to be high time that somebody or other declared to its members that effective preaching is conditioned on effective praying. The preaching which is most successful is that ministry which has much of prayer in it. Perhaps one might go so far as to say that it is the only kind that is
successful. God can mightily use the preacher who prays. He is God’s chosen messenger for good, whom the Holy Spirit delights to honour, God’s efficient agent in saving men and in edifying the saints.
In Acts 6:1-8 we have the record of how, long ago, the Apostles felt that they were losing—had lost—in apostolic power because they did not have relief from certain duties in order that they might give themselves more to prayer. So they called a halt because they discovered to their regret that they were too deficient in praying. Doubtless they kept up the form of praying, but it was seriously defective in intensity and in point of the amount of time given to it. Their minds were too much preoccupied with the finances of the Church. Just as in this day we find in many places both laymen and ministers are so busily engaged in “serving tables,” that they are glaringly deficient in praying. In fact in present-day Church affairs men are looked upon as religious because they give largely of their money to the Church, and men are chosen for official positions not because they are men of prayer, but because they have the financial ability to run Church finances and to get money for the Church.
Now these Apostles, when they looked into this matter, determined to put aside these hindrances growing out of Church finances, and resolved to “give themselves to prayer.” Not that these finances were to be ignored or set aside, but ordinary laymen, “full of faith and the Holy Ghost” could be found, really religious men, who could easily attend to this money business without in the least affecting their piety or their praying, thus giving them something to do in the Church, and at the same time taking the burden from the Apostles who would be able now to pray more, and praying more, to be blessed themselves in soul, and at the same time to more effectually do the work to which they had been called.
They realized, too, as they had not realized before, that they were being so pressed by attention to material things, things right in themselves, that they could not give to prayer that strength, ardour, and time which its nature and importance demanded. And so we will discover, under close scrutiny of ourselves sometimes, that things legitimate, things right in themselves, things commendable, may so engross our attention, so preoccupy our minds and so draw on our feelings, that prayer may be omitted, or at least very little time may be given to prayer. How easy to slip away from the closet! Even the Apostles had to guard themselves at that point. How much do we need to watch ourselves at the same place!
Things legitimate and right may become wrong when they take the place of prayer. Things right in themselves may become wrong things when they are allowed to fasten themselves inordinately upon our hearts. It is not only the sinful things which hurt prayer. It is not alone questionable things which are to be guarded against. But it is things which are right
in their places, but which are allowed to sidetrack prayer and shut the closet door, often with the self-comforting plea that “we are too busy to pray.” Possibly this has had as much to do with the breaking down of family prayer in this age as any other one cause. It is at this point that family religion has decayed, and just here is one cause of the decline of the prayer meeting. Men and women are too busy with legitimate things to “give themselves to prayer.”
Other things are given the right of way. Prayer is set aside or made secondary. Business comes first. And this means not always that prayer is second, but that prayer is put entirely
out. The Apostles drove directly at this point, and determined that even Church business should not affect their praying habits. Prayer must come first. Then would they be in deed and truth God’s real agents in His world, through whom He could effectually work, because they were praying men, and thereby put themselves directly in line with His plans and purposes, which was that He works through praying men.
When the complaint came to their ears the Apostles discovered that that which they had been doing did not fully serve the divine ends of peace, gratitude, and unity, but discontent, complainings, and division were the result of their work, which had far too little prayer in it. And so prayer was put prominently to the front. Praying men are a necessity in carrying out the divine plan for the salvation of men. God has made it so. He it is who established prayer as a divine ordinance, and this implies men are to do the praying. So that praying men are a necessity in the world. The fact that so often God has employed men of prayer to accomplish His ends clearly proves the proposition.
It is altogether unnecessary to name all the instances where God used the prayers of righteous men to carry out His gracious designs. Time and space are too limited for the list. Yet one or two cases might be named. In the case of the golden calf, when God purposed to destroy the Israelites because of their great sin of idolatry, at the time when Moses was receiving the law at God’s bands, the very being of Israel was imperiled, for Aaron had been swept away by the strong popular tide of unbelief and sin. All seemed lost but Moses and prayer, and prayer became more efficient and wonder-working in behalf of Israel than Aaron’s magic rod. God was determined on the destruction of Israel and Aaron. His anger waxed hot. It was a fearful and a critical hour. But prayer was the levee which held back heaven’s desolating fury. God’s hand was held fast by the interceding of Moses, the mighty intercessor.
Moses was set on delivering Israel. It was with him a long and exhaustive struggle of praying
for forty days and forty nights. Not for one moment did he relax his hold on God. Not for one moment did he quit his place at the feet of God, even for food. Not for one moment did he moderate his demand or ease his cry. Israel’s existence was in the balance. Almighty God’s wrath must be stayed. Israel must be saved at all hazards. And Israel was saved. Moses would not let God alone. And so, today, we can look back and give the credit of the present race of the Jews to the praying of Moses centuries ago.
Persevering prayer always wins; God yields to importunity and fidelity. He has no heart to say No to such praying as Moses did. Actually God’s purpose to destroy Israel is changed by the praying of this man of God. It is but an illustration of how much just one praying is worth in this world, and how much depends upon him. When Daniel, in Babylon, refused to obey the decree of the king not to ask any petition of any god or man for thirty days, he shut his eyes to the decree which would shut him off from his praying room, and refused to be deterred from calling upon God from fear of the consequences. So he “kneeled upon his knees three times a day”, and prayed as he had before done, leaving it all with God as to the consequences of thus disobeying the king.
There was nothing impersonal about Daniel’s praying. It always had an objective, and was an
appeal to a great God, who could do all things. There was no coddling of self, nor looking after subjective or reflex influences. In the face of the dreadful decree which is to precipitate him from place and power, into the lion’s den, “he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and gave thanks to God as aforetime.” The gracious result was that prayer laid its hands upon an Almighty arm, which interposed in that den of vicious, cruel lions and closed their mouths and preserved His servant Daniel, who had been true to Him and who had called upon Him for protection. Daniel’s praying was an essential factor in defeating the king’s decree and in discomfiting the wicked, envious rulers, who had set the trap for Daniel in order to destroy him and remove him from place and power in the kingdom.
II. PUTTING GOD TO WORK
“For from of old men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye
seen a God beside thee who worketh for him that waiteth for him.”—Isaiah 64:4.
The assertion voiced in the title given this chapter is but another way of declaring that God has of His own motion placed Himself under the law of prayer, and has obligated Himself to answer the prayers of men. He has ordained prayer as a means whereby He will do things through men as they pray, which He would not otherwise do. Prayer is a specific divine appointment, an ordinance of heaven, whereby God purposes to carry out His gracious designs on earth and to execute and make efficient the plan of salvation.
When we say that prayer puts God to work, it is simply to say that man has it in his power by prayer to move God to work in His own way among men, in which way He would not work if
prayer was not made. Thus while prayer moves God to work, at the same time God puts prayer to work. As God has ordained prayer, and as prayer has no existence separate from men, but involves men, then logically prayer is the one force which puts God to work in earth’s affairs through men and their prayers.
Let these fundamental truths concerning God and prayer be kept in mind in all allusions to
prayer, and in all our reading of the incidents of prayer in the Scriptures. If prayer puts God to work on earth, then, by the same token, prayerlessness rules God out of the world’s affairs, and prevents Him from working. And if prayer moves God to work in this world’s affairs, then prayerlessness excludes God from everything concerning men, and leaves
man on earth the mere creature of circumstances, at the mercy of blind fate or without help of any kind from God. It leaves man in this world with its tremendous responsibilities and its difficult problems, and with all of its sorrows, burdens and afflictions, without any God at all. In reality the denial of prayer is a denial of God Himself, for God and prayer are so inseparable that they can never be divorced. Prayer affects three different spheres of existence—the divine, the angelic and the human. It puts God to work, it puts angels to work, and it puts man to work. It lays its hands upon God, angels and men. What a wonderful reach there is in prayer! It brings into play the forces of heaven and earth. God, angels and men are subjects of this wonderful law of prayer, and all these have to do with the possibilities and the results of prayer.
God has so far placed Himself subject to prayer that by reason of His own appointment, He is induced to work among men in a way in which He does not work if men do not pray. Prayer lays hold upon God and influences Him to work. This is the meaning of prayer as it concerns God. This is the doctrine of prayer, or else there is nothing whatever in prayer. Prayer puts God to work in all things prayed for. While man in his weakness and poverty waits, trusts and prays, God undertakes the work. “For from old men have not heard, nor perceived by
the ear, neither hath the eye seen a God beside thee, which worketh for him that waiteth for thee.”
Jesus Christ commits Himself to the force of prayer. “Whatsoever ye ask in My Name,” He
says, “that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in My Name, I will do it.” And again: “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what he will and it shall be done unto you.”
To no other energy is the promise of God committed as to that of prayer. Upon no other force are the purposes of God so dependent as this one of prayer. The Word of God dilates on the results and necessity of prayer. The work of God stays or advances as prayer puts forth its strength. Prophets and apostles have urged the utility, force and necessity of prayer. “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night. Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” Prayer, with its antecedents and attendants, is the one and only condition of the final triumph of the Gospel. It is the one and only condition which honours the Father and glorifies the Son. Little
and poor praying has weakened Christ’s power on earth, postponed the glorious results of His reign, and retired God from His sovereignty.
Prayer puts God’s work in His hands, and keeps it there. It looks to Him constantly and depends on Him implicitly to further His own cause. Prayer is but faith resting in, acting with, and leaning on and obeying God. This is why God loves it so well, why He puts all power into its hands, and why He so highly esteems men of prayer. Every movement for the advancement of the Gospel must be created by and inspired by prayer. In all these movements of God, prayer precedes and attends as an invariable and necessary condition.
In this relation, God makes prayer identical in force and power with Himself and says to those on earth who pray: “You are on the earth to carry on My cause. I am in heaven, the Lord of all, the Maker of all, the Holy One of all. Now whatever you need for My cause, ask Me and I will do it. Shape the future by your prayers, and all that you need for present supplies, command Me. I made heaven and earth, and all things in them. Ask largely. Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. It is My work which you are doing. It concerns My cause.
Be prompt and fall in praying. Do not abate your asking, and I will not wince nor abate in My giving.” Everywhere in His Word God conditions His actions on prayer. Everywhere in His Word His actions and attitude are shaped by prayer. To quote all the Scriptural passages which prove the immediate, direct and personal relation of prayer to God, would be to transfer whole pages of the Scripture to this study. Man has personal relations with God. Prayer is the divinely appointed means by which man comes into direct connection with God. By His own ordinance God holds Himself bound to hear prayer. God bestows His great good on His children when they seek it along the avenue of prayer.
When Solomon closed his great prayer which he offered at the dedication of the Temple, God appeared to him, approved him, and laid down the universal principles of His action. In 2 Chron. 7:12-15 we read as follows:
“And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night and said unto him, I have heard thy
prayer, and have chosen this place to myself, for a house of sacrifice.
“If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the
land, or if I send pestilence among the people; if my people which are called by my
name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked
ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Now my eyes shall be open, and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this
In His purposes concerning the Jews in the Babylonish captivity (Jeremiah 29:10-13) God
asserts His unfailing principles:
“For thus saith the Lord, that after seventy years be accomplished, at Babylon, I
will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this
place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace,
and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall
go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me and find me,
when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
In Bible terminology prayer means calling upon God for things we desire, asking things of God. Thus we read: “Call upon me and I will answer thee, and will show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3). “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee” (Psalm 50:15). “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am” (Isaiah 58:9). Prayer is revealed as a direct application to God for some temporal or spiritual good. It is an appeal to God to intervene in life’s affairs for the good of those for whom we pray. God is recognized as the source and fountain of all good, and prayer implies that all His good is held in His keeping for those who call upon Him in truth.
That prayer is an application to God, intercourse with God, and communion with God, comes
out strongly and simply in the praying of Old Testament saints. Abraham’s intercession for Sodom is a striking illustration of the nature of prayer, intercourse with God, and showing the intercessory side of prayer. The declared purpose of God to destroy Sodom confronted Abraham, and his soul within him was greatly moved because of his great interest in that fated city. His nephew and family resided there. That purpose of God must be changed. God’s decree for the destruction of this evil city’s inhabitants must be revoked. It was no small undertaking which faced Abraham when he conceived the idea of beseeching God to spare Sodom. Abraham sets himself to change God’s purpose and to save Sodom with the
other cities of the plain. It was certainly a most difficult and delicate work for him to undertake to throw his influence with God in favour of those doomed cities so as to save them. He bases his plea on the simple fact of the number of righteous men who could be found in Sodom, and appeals to the infinite rectitude of God not to destroy the righteous with the wicked.“ That be far from thee to slay the righteous with the wicked. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” With what deep self-abasement and reverence does Abraham enter upon his high and divine work! He stood before God in solemn awe, and meditation, and then drew near to God and spake. He advanced step by step in faith, in demand and urgency, and God granted every request which he made. It has been well said that “Abraham left off asking before God left off granting.” It seems that Abraham had a kind of optimistic view of the piety of Sodom. He scarcely expected when he undertook this matter to have it end in failure. He was greatly in earnest, and had every encouragement to press his case. In his final request he surely thought that with Lot, his wife, his daughters, his sons, and his sons-in-law, he had his ten righteous persons for whose sake God would
spare the city.
But alas! The count failed when the final test came. There were not ten righteous
people in that large population. But this was true. If he did not save Sodom by his importunate praying, the purposes of God were stayed for a season, and possibly had not Abraham’s goodness of heart over-estimated the number of pious people in that devoted city, God might have saved it had he reduced his figures still further. This is a representative case illustrative of Old Testament praying, and disclosing God’s mode
of working through prayer. It shows further how God is moved to work in answer to prayer in this
world even when it comes to changing His purposes concerning a sinful community. This praying
of Abraham was no mere performance, no dull, lifeless ceremony, but an earnest plea, a strong
advocacy, to secure a desired end, to have an influence, one person with another person.
How full of meaning is this series of remarkable intercessions made by Abraham! Here we
have arguments designed to convince God, and pleas to persuade God to change His purpose. We
see deep humility, but holy boldness as well, perseverance, and advances made based on victory
in each petition. Here we have enlarged asking encouraged by enlarged answers. God stays and
answers as long as Abraham stays and asks. To Abraham God is existent, approachable, and all
powerful, but at the same time He defers to men, acts favourably on their desires, and grants them
favours asked for. Not to pray is a denial of God, a denial of His existence, a denial of His nature,
and a denial of His purposes toward mankind.
God has specifically to do with prayer promises in their breadth, certainty and limitations. Jesus
Christ presses us into the presence of God with these prayer promises, not only by the assurance
that God will answer, but that no other being but God can answer. He presses us to God because
only in this way can we move God to take a hand in earth’s affairs, and induce Him to intervene
in our behalf.
“All things whatsoever ye ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive,” says Jesus, and this
all-comprehensive condition not only presses us to pray for all things, everything great and small,
but it sets us on and shuts us up to God, for who but God can cover the illimitable of universal
things, and can assure us certainly of receiving the very thing for which we may ask in all the
Thesaurus of earthly and heavenly good?
It is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who makes demands on us to pray, and it is He who puts
Himself and all He has so fully in the answer. He it is who puts Himself at our service and answers
our demands when we pray.
And just as He puts Himself and the Father at our command in prayer, to come directly into
our lives and to work for our good, so also does He engage to answer the demands of two or more
believers who are agreed as touching any one thing. “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching
anything, that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” None but
God could put Himself in a covenant so binding as that, for God only could fulfill such a promise
and could reach to its exacting and all controlling demands. God only can answer for the promises.
God needs prayer, and man needs prayer, too. It is indispensable to God’s work in this world,
and is essential to getting God to work in earth’s affairs. So God binds men to pray by the most
solemn obligations. God commands men to pray, and so not to pray is plain disobedience to an
imperative command of Almighty God. Prayer is such a condition without which the graces, the
salvation and the good of God are not bestowed on men. Prayer is a high privilege, a royal prerogative
and manifold and eternal are the losses by failure to exercise it. Prayer is the great, universal force
to advance God’s cause; the reverence which hallows God’s name; the ability to do God’s will,
and the establishment of God’s kingdom in the hearts of the children of men. These, and their
coincidents and agencies, are created and affected by prayer.
One of the constitutional enforcements of the Gospel is prayer. Without prayer, the Gospel can
neither be preached effectively, promulgated faithfully, experienced in the heart, nor be practiced
in the life. And for the very simple reason that by leaving prayer out of the catalogue of religious
duties, we leave God out, and His work cannot progress without Him.
The movements which God purposed under Cyrus, king of Persia, prophesied about by Isaiah
many years before Cyrus was born, are conditioned on prayer. God declares His purpose, power,
independence and defiance of obstacles in the way of Him carrying out those purposes. His
omnipotent and absolutely infinite power is set to encourage prayer. He has been ordering all events,
directing all conditions, and creating all things, that He might answer prayer, and then turns Himself
over to His praying ones to be commanded. And then all the results and power He holds in His
hands will be bestowed in lavish and unmeasured munificence to carry out prayers and to make
prayer the mightiest energy in the world.
The passage in Isaiah 46 is too lengthy to be quoted in its entirety but it is well worth reading.
It closes with such strong words as these, words about prayer, which are the climax of all which
God has been saying concerning His purposes in connection with Cyrus:
“Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: Ask me of things to
come, concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. I
have made the earth, and created man upon it; I, even my hands, have stretched out the
heavens, and all their hosts have I commanded.”
In the conclusion of the history of Job, we see how God intervenes in behalf of Job and calls
upon his friends to present themselves before Job that he may pray for them. “My wrath is kindled
against thee and against thy two friends,” is God’s statement, with the further words added, “My
servant Job shall pray for you, for him will I accept,” a striking illustration of God intervening to
deliver Job’s friends in answer to Job’s prayer.
We have heretofore spoken of prayer affecting God, angels and men. Christ wrote nothing while
living. Memoranda, notes, sermon writing, sermon making, were alien to Him. Autobiography was
not to His taste. The Revelation of John was His last utterance. In that book we have pictured the
great importance, the priceless value, and the high position which prayer obtains in the movements,
history, and unfolding progress of God’s Church in this world. We have this picture in Rev. 8:3,
disclosing the interest the angels in heaven have in the prayers of the saints and in accomplishing
the answers to those prayers:
“And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer, and there
was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints,
upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense which
came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God, out of the angel’s hand.
And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the
earth, and there were voices, and thunderings and lightnings and an earthquake.”
Translated into the prose of everyday life, these words show how the capital stock by which
heaven carries on the business of salvation under Christ, is made up of the prayers of God’s saints
on earth, and discloses how these prayers in flaming power come back to earth and produce its
mighty commotions, influences and revolutions.
Praying men are essential to Almighty God in all His plans and purposes. God’s secrets, councils
and cause have never been committed to prayerless men. Neglect of prayer has always brought loss
of faith, loss of love, and loss of prayer. Failure to pray has been the baneful, inevitable cause of
backsliding and estrangement from God. Prayerless men have stood in the way of God fulfilling
His Word and doing His will on earth. They tie the divine hands and interfere with God in His
gracious designs. As praying men are a help to God, so prayerless men are a hindrance to Him.
We press the Scriptural view of the necessity of prayer, even at the cost of repetition. The subject
is too important for repetition to weaken or tire, too vital to be trite or tame. We must feel it anew.
The fires of prayer have burned low. Ashes and not flames are on its altars.
No insistence in the Scriptures is more pressing than prayer. No exhortation is oftener reiterated,
none is more hearty, none is more solemn and stirring, than to pray. No principle is more strongly
and broadly declared than that which urges us to prayer. There is no duty to which we are more
strongly obliged than the obligation to pray. There is no command more imperative and insistent
than that of praying. Art thou praying in everything without ceasing, in the closet, hidden from the
eyes of men, and praying always and everywhere? That is the personal, pertinent and all-important
question for every soul.
Many instances occur in God’s Word showing that God intervenes in this world in answer to
prayer. Nothing is clearer when the Bible is consulted than that Almighty God is brought directly
into the things of this world by the praying of His people. Jonah flees from duty and takes ship for
a distant port. But God follows him, and by a strange providence this disobedient prophet is cast
out of the vessel, and the God who sent him to Nineveh prepares a fish to swallow him. In the fish’s
belly he cries out to the God against whom he had sinned, and God intervenes and causes the fish
to vomit Jonah out on dry land. Even the fishes of the great deep are subject to the law of prayer.
Likewise the birds of the air are brought into subjection to this same law. Elijah had foretold
to Ahab the coming of that prolonged drouth, and food and even water became scarce. God sent
him to the brook Cherith, and said unto him, “It shall be that thou shalt drink of the brook, and I
have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. And the ravens brought bread and flesh in the
morning, and bread and flesh in the evening.” Can any one doubt that this man of God, who later
on shut up and opened the rain clouds by prayer was not praying about this time, when so much
was at stake? God interposed among the birds of the air this time and strangely moved them to take
care of His servant so that he would not want food and water.
David in an evil hour, instead of listening to the advice of Joab, his prime minister, yielded to
the suggestion of Satan, and counted the people, which displeased God. So God told him to choose
one of three evils as a retribution for his folly and sin. Pestilence came among the people in violent
form, and David betakes himself to prayer.
“And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered?
Even I it is that hath sinned and done evil indeed. But as for these sheep, what have they
done? Let thy hand, I pray thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father’s house;
but not on thy people, that they should be plagued” (1 Chron. 21:17).
And though God had been greatly grieved at David for numbering Israel, yet He could not resist
this appeal of a penitent and prayerful spirit, and God was moved by prayer to put His hand on the
springs of disease and stop the fearful plague. God was put to work by David’s prayer.
Numbers of other cases could be named. These are sufficient. God seems to have taken great
pains in His divine revelation to men to show how He interferes in earth’s affairs in answer to the
praying of His saints.
The question might arise just here in some over-critical minds as to the so-called “laws of
nature,” who are not strong believers in prayer, as if there was a conflict between what they call
the “laws of nature” and the law of prayer. These people make nature a sort of imaginary god
entirely separate of Almighty God. What is nature anyway? It is but the creation of God, the Maker
of all things. And what are the “laws of nature” but the laws of God, through which He governs
the material world. As the law of prayer is also the law of God, there cannot possibly be any conflict
between the two sets of laws, but all must work in perfect harmony. Prayer does not violate any
natural law. God may set aside one law for the higher working of another law, and this He may do
when He answers prayer. Or Almighty God may answer prayer working through the course of
natural law. But whether or not we understand it, God is over and above all nature, and can and
will answer prayer in a wise, intelligent and just manner, even though man may not comprehend
it. So that in no sense is there any discord or conflict between God’s several laws when God is
induced to interfere with human affairs in answer to prayer.
In this connection another word might be said. We used the form of words to which there can
be no objection, that prayer does certain things, but this of course implies not that prayer as a human
means accomplishes anything, but that prayer only accomplishes things instrumentally. Prayer is
the instrument, God is the efficient and active agent. So that prayer in itself does not interfere in
earth’s affairs, but prayer in the hands of men moves God to intervene and do things, which He
would not otherwise do if prayer was not used as the instrument.
It is as we say, “faith hath saved thee,” by which is simply meant that God through the faith of
the sinner saves him, faith being only the instrument used by the sinner which brings salvation to
III. THE NECESSITY FOR PRAYING MEN
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit and watching thereunto
with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”—Ephes. 6:18.
“Without praying for us also that God would open unto us a door of utterance to speak
the mystery of Christ, for which I am in bonds: that I may make it manifest as I ought to
One of the crying things of our day is for men whose faith, prayers and study of the Word of God
have been vitalized, and a transcript of that Word is written on their hearts, and who will give it
forth as the incorruptible seed that liveth and abideth forever. Nothing more is needed to clear up
the haze by which a critical unfaith has eclipsed the Word of God than the fidelity of the pulpit in
its unwavering allegiance to the Bible and the fearless proclamation of its truth. Without this the
standard-bearer fails, and wavering and confusion all along the ranks follow. The pulpit has wrought
its mightiest work in the days of its unswerving loyalty to the Word of God.
In close connection with this, must we have men of prayer, men in high and low places who
hold to and practice Scriptural praying. While the pulpit must hold to its unswerving loyalty to the
Word of God, it must, at the same time, be loyal to the doctrine of prayer which that same Word
illustrates and enforces upon mankind.
Schools, colleges and education considered simply as such cannot be regarded as being leaders
in carrying forward the work of God’s kingdom in the world. They have neither the right, the will
nor the power to do the work. This is to be accomplished by the preached Word, delivered in the
power of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, sown with prayerful hands, and watered with the
tears of praying hearts. This is the divine law, and so “nominated in the bond.” We are shut up and
sealed to it—we would follow the Lord.
Men are demanded for the great work of soul saving, and men must go. It is no angelic or
impersonal force which is needed. Human hearts baptized with the spirit of prayer, must bear the
burden of this message, and human tongues on fire as the result of earnest, persistent prayer, must
declare the Word of God to dying men.
The Church, today, needs praying men to execute her solemn and pressing responsibility to
meet the fearful crisis which is facing her. The crying need of the times is for men, in increased
numbers—God-fearing men, praying men, Holy Ghost men, men who can endure hardness, who
will count not their lives dear unto themselves, but count all things but dross for the excellency of
the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Saviour. The men who are so greatly needed in this age of the
Church are those who have learned the business of praying,—learned it upon their knees, learned
it in the need and agony of their own hearts.
Praying men are the one commanding need of this day, as of all other days, in which God is to
have or make a showing. Men who pray are, in reality, the only religious men, and it takes a
full-measured man to pray. Men of prayer are the only men who do or can represent God in this
world. No cold, irreligious, prayerless man can claim the right. They misrepresent God in all His
work, and all His plans. Praying men are the only men who have influence with God, the only kind
of men to whom God commits Himself and His Gospel. Praying men are the only men in which
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
the Holy Spirit dwells, for the Holy Spirit and prayer go hand-in-hand. The Holy Spirit never
descends upon prayerless men. He never fills them, He never empowers them. There is nothing
whatever in common between the Spirit of God and men who do not pray. The Spirit dwells only
in a prayer atmosphere.
In doing God’s work there is no substitute for praying. The men of prayer cannot be displaced
with other kinds of men. Men of financial skill, men of education; men of worldly influence—none
of these can possibly be put in substitution for the men of prayer. The life, the vigour, the
motive-power of God’s work is formed by praying men. A vitally diseased heart is not a more
fearful symptom of approaching death than non-praying men are of spiritual atrophy.
The men to whom Jesus Christ committed the fortunes and destiny of His Church were men of
prayer. To no other kind of men has God ever committed Himself in this world. The Apostles were
preeminently men of prayer. They gave themselves to prayer. They made praying their chief
business. It was first in point of importance and first in results. God never has, and He never will,
commit the weighty interests of His kingdom to prayerless men, who do not make prayer a
conspicuous and controlling factor in their lives. Men never rise to any eminence of piety who do
not pray. Men of piety are always men of prayer. Men are never noted for the simplicity and strength
of their faith who are not preeminently men of prayer. Piety flourishes nowhere so rapidly and so
rankly as in the closet. The closet is the garden of faith.
The Apostles allowed no duty, however sacred, to so engage them as to infringe upon their time
and prevent them from making prayer the main thing. The Word of God was ministered by apostolic
fidelity and zeal. It was spoken by men with apostolic commissions and whose heads the fiery
tongues of Pentecost had baptized. The Word was pointless and powerless without they were freshly
endued with power by continuous and mighty prayer. The seed of God’s Word must be saturated
in prayer to make it germinate. It grows readier and roots deeper when it is prayer-soaked.
The Apostles were praying men, themselves. They were teachers of prayer, and trained their
disciples in the school of prayer. They urged prayer upon their disciples not only that they might
attain to the loftiest eminence of faith, but that they might be the most powerful factors in advancing
Jesus Christ was the divinely appointed leader of God’s people, and no one thing in His life
proves His eminent fitness for that office so fully as His habit of prayer. Nothing is more suggestive
of thought than Christ’s continual praying, and nothing is more conspicuous about Him than prayer.
His campaigns were arranged, His victories gained, in the struggles and communion of His all-night
praying. His praying rent the heavens. Moses and Elijah and the Transfiguration glory waited on
His praying. His miracles and His teaching had their force from the same source. Gethsemane’s
praying crimsoned Calvary with serenity and glory. His prayer makes the history and hastens the
triumphs of His Church. What an inspiration and command to prayer is Christ’s life! What a
comment on its worth! How He shames our lives by His praying!
Like all His followers who have drawn God nearer to the world and lifted the world nearer to
God, Jesus was the man of prayer, made of God a leader and commander to His people. His
leadership was one of prayer. A great leader He was, because He was great in prayer. All great
leaders for God have fashioned their leadership in the wrestlings of their closets. Many great men
have led and moulded the Church who have not been great in prayer, but they were great only in
their plans, great for their opinions, great for their organization, great by natural gifts, by the force
of genius or of character. However, they were not great for God. But Jesus Christ was a great leader
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
for God. His was the great leadership of great praying. God was in His leadership greatly because
prayer was in it greatly. We might just well express the wish that we be taught by Him to pray, and
to pray more and more.
Herein has been the secret of the men of prayer in the past history of the Church. Their hearts
were after God, their desires were on Him, their prayers were addressed to Him. They communed
with Him, sought nothing of the world, sought great things of God, wrestled with Him, conquered
all opposing forces, and opened up the channel of faith deep and broad between them and heaven.
And all this was done by the use of prayer. Holy meditations, spiritual desires, heavenly drawings,
swayed their intellects, enriched their emotions, and filled and enlarged their hearts. And all this
was so because they were first of all men of prayer.
The men who have thus communed with God and who have sought after Him with their whole
hearts, have always risen to consecrated eminence, and no man has ever risen to this eminence
whose flames of holy desire have not all been dead to the world and all aglow for God and heaven.
Nor have they ever risen to the heights of the higher spiritual experiences unless prayer and the
spirit of prayer have been conspicuous and controlling factors in their lives.
The entire consecration of many of God’s children stands out distinctly like towering
mountain-peaks. Why is this? How did they ascend to these heights? What brought them so near
to God? What made them so Christ-like? The answer is easy-prayer. They prayed much, prayed
long, and drank deeper and deeper still. They asked, they sought, and they knocked, till heaven
opened its richest inner treasures of grace to them. Prayer was the Jacob’s Ladder by which they
scaled those holy and blessed heights, and the way by which the angels of God came down to and
ministered to them.
The men of spiritual mould and might always value prayer. They took time to be alone with
God. Their praying was no hurried performance. They had many serious wants to be relieved, and
many weighty pleas they had to offer. Many large supplies they must secure. They had to do much
silent waiting before God, and much patient iteration and reiteration to utter to Him. Prayer was
the only channel through which supplies came, and was the only way to utter pleas. The only
acceptable waiting before God of which they knew anything was prayer. They valued praying. It
was more precious to them than all jewels, more excellent than any good, more to be valued than
the greatest good of earth. They esteemed it, valued it, prized it, and did it. They pressed it to its
farthest limits, tested its greatest results, and secured its most glorious patrimony. To them prayer
was the one great thing to be appreciated and used.
The Apostles above everything else were praying men, and left the impress of their prayer
example and teaching upon the early Church. But the Apostles are dead, and times and men have
changed. They have no successors by official entail or heirship. And the times have no commission
to make other apostles. Prayer is the entail to spiritual and apostolical leadership. Unfortunately
the times are not prayerful times. God’s cause just now needs very greatly praying leaders. Other
things may be needed, but above all else this is the crying demand of these times and the urgent
first need of the Church.
This is the day of great wealth in the Church and of wonderful material resources. But
unfortunately the affluence of material resources is a great enemy and a severe hindrance to strong
spiritual forces. It is an invariable law that the presence of attractive and potent material forces
creates a trust in them, and by the same inevitable law, creates distrust in the spiritual forces of the
Gospel. They are two masters which cannot be served at one and the same time. For just in proportion
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
as the mind is fixed on one, will it be drawn away from the other. The days of great financial
prosperity in the Church have not been days of great religious prosperity. Moneyed men and praying
men are not synonymous terms.
Paul in 1 Tim. 2, emphasizes the need of men to pray. Church leaders in his estimation are to
be conspicuous for their praying. Prayer ought and must of necessity shape their characters, and
must be one of their distinguishing characteristics. Prayer ought to be one of their most powerful
elements, so much so that it cannot be hid. Prayer ought to make Church leaders notable. Character,
official duty, reputation and life, all should be shaped by prayer. The mighty forces of prayer lie
in its praying leaders in a marked way. The standing obligation to pray rests in a peculiar sense on
Church leaders. Wise will the Church be to discover this prime truth and give prominence to it.
It may be laid down as an axiom, that God needs, first of all, leaders in the Church who will be
first in prayer, men with whom prayer is habitual and characteristic, men who know the primacy
of prayer. But even more than a habit of prayer, and more than prayer being characteristic of them,
Church leaders are to be impregnated with prayer—men whose lives are made and moulded by
prayer, whose heart and life are made up of prayer. These are the men—the only men—God can
use in the furtherance of His kingdom and the implanting of His message in the hearts of men.
IV. GOD’S NEED OF MEN WHO PRAY
“We do what He commands. We go where He wants us to go. We speak what He wants
us to speak. His will is our law. His pleasure our joy. He is, today, seeking the lost and He
would have us seek with Him. He is shepherding the lambs and He wants our cooperation.
He is opening doors in heathen lands, and He wants our money and our prayers.”—Anon.
We proceed now to declare that it demands prayer-leadership to hold the Church to God’s aims,
and to fit it for God’s uses. Prayer-leadership preserves the spirituality of the Church, just as
prayerless leaders make for unspiritual conditions. The Church is not spiritual simply by the mere
fact of its existence, nor by its vocation. It is not held to its sacred vocation by generation, nor by
succession. Like the new birth, “It is not of blood, neither of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but
The Church is not spiritual simply because it is concerned and deals in spiritual values. It may
hold its confirmations by the thousand, it may multiply its baptisms, and administer its sacraments
innumerable times, and yet be as far from fulfilling its true mission as human conditions can make
This present world’s general attitude retires prayer to insignificance and obscurity. By it,
salvation and eternal life are put in the background. It cannot be too often affirmed, therefore, that
the prime need of the Church is not men of money nor men of brains, but men of prayer. Leaders
in the realm of religious activity are to be judged by their praying habits, and not by their money
or social position. Those who must be placed in the forefront of the Church’s business, must be,
first of all, men who know how to pray.
God does not conduct His work, solely, with men of education or of wealth or of business
capacity. Neither can He carry on His work through men of large intellects or of great culture, nor
yet through men of great social eminence and influence. All these can be made to count provided
they are not regarded as being primary. These men, by the simple fact of these qualities and
conditions, cannot lead in God’s work nor control His cause. Men of prayer, before anything else,
are indispensable to the furtherance of the kingdom of God on earth. No other sort will fit in the
scheme or do the deed. Men, great and influential in other things, but small in prayer, cannot do
the work Almighty God has set out for His Church to do in this, His world.
Men who represent God and who stand here in His stead, men who are to build up His kingdom
in this world, must be in an eminent sense men of prayer. whatever else they may have, whatever
else they may lack, they must be men of prayer. Having everything else and lacking prayer, they
must fall. Having prayer and lacking all else, they can succeed. Prayer must be the most conspicuous
and the most potent factor in the character and conduct of men who undertake divine commission.
God’s business requires men who are versed in the business of praying.
It must be kept in mind that the praying to which the disciples of Christ is called by Scriptural
authority and enforcement, is a valorous calling, for manly men. The men God wants and upon
whom He depends, must work at prayer just as they work at their worldly calling. They must follow
this business of praying through, just as they do their secular pursuits. Diligence, perseverance,
heartiness, and courage, must all be in it if it is to succeed.
Everything secured by Gospel promise, defined by Gospel measure, and represented by Gospel
treasure are to be found in prayer. All heights are scaled by it, all doors are opened to it, all victories
are gained through it, and all grace distills on it. Heaven has all its good and all its help for men
How marked and strong is the injunction of Christ which sends men from the parade of public
giving and praying to the privacy of their closets, where with shut doors, and in encircling silence
they are alone in prayer with God!
In all ages, those who have carried out the divine will on the earth, have been men of prayer.
The days of prayer are God’s halcyon days. His heart, His oath, and His glory are committed to
one issuance—that every knee should bow to Him. The day of the Lord, in a preeminent sense,
will be a day of universal prayer.
God’s cause does not suffer through lack of divine ability, but by reason of the lack of
prayer-ability in man. God’s action is just as much bound up in prayer at this time, as it was when
He said to Abimelech, “Abraham shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live.” So also it was when God
said to Job’s friends, “My servant Job shall pray for you, for him will I accept.”
God’s great plan for the redemption of mankind is as much bound up to prayer for its prosperity
and success as when the decree creating the movement was issued from the Father, bearing on its
frontage the imperative, universal and eternal condition, “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen
for thy inheritance and the uttermost part of the earth for thy possession.”
In many places an alarming state of things has come to pass, in that the many who are enrolled
in our churches are not praying men and women. Many of those occupying prominent positions in
church life are not praying men. It is greatly to be feared that much of the work of the Church is
being done by those who are perfect strangers to the closet. Small wonder that the work does not
While it may be true that many in the Church say prayers, it is equally true that their praying
is of the stereotyped order. Their prayers may be charged with sentiment, but they are tame, timid,
and without fire or force. Even this sort of praying is done by a few straggling men to be found at
prayer-meetings. Those whose names are to be found bulking large in our great Church assemblies
are not men noted for their praying habits. Yet the entire fabric of the work in which they are
engaged has, perforce, to depend on the adequacy of prayer. This fact is similar to the crisis which
would be created were a country to have to admit in the face of an invading foe that it cannot fight
and have no knowledge of the weapons whereby war is to be waged.
In all God’s plans for human redemption, He proposes that men pray. The men are to pray in
every place, in the church, in the closet, in the home, on sacred days and on secular days. All things
and everything are dependent on the measure of men’s praying.
Prayer is the genius and mainspring of life. We pray as we live; we live as we pray. Life will
never be finer than the quality of the closet. The mercury of life will rise only by the warmth of the
closet. Persistent non-praying eventually will depress life below zero.
To measure and weigh the conditions of prayer, is readily to discover why men do not pray in
larger numbers. The conditions are so perfect, so blessed, that it is a rare character who can meet
them. A heart all love, a heart that holds even its enemies in loving contemplation and prayerful
concern, a heart from which all bitterness, revenge and envy are purged—how rare! Yet this is the
only condition of mind and heart in which a man canexpect to command the efficacy of prayer.
There are certain conditions laid down for authentic praying. Men are to pray, “lifting up holy
hands”; hands here being the symbol of life. Hands unsoiled by stains of evil doing are the emblem
of a life unsoiled by sin. Thus are men to come into the presence of God, thus are they to approach
the throne of the Highest, where they can “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Here, then, is one reason why men do not pray. They are too worldly in heart and too secular in
life to enter the closet; and even though they enter there, they cannot offer the “fervent, effectual
prayer of the righteous man, which availeth much.”
Again, “hands” are the symbols of supplication. Outstretched hands stand for an appeal for
help. It is the silent yet eloquent attitude of a helpless soul standing before God, appealing for mercy
and grace. “Hands,” too, are symbols of activity, power and conduct. Hands outstretched to God
in prayer must be “holy hands,” unstained hands. The word “holy” here means undefiled, unspotted,
untainted, and religiously observing every obligation. How far remote is all this from the character
of the sin-loving, worldly-minded, fleshly disposed men, soiled by fleshly lusts, spotted by worldly
indulgence, unholy in heart and conduct! “He who seeks equity must do equity,” is the maxim of
earthly courts. So he who seeks God’s good gifts must practice God’s good deeds. This is the maxim
of heavenly courts.
Prayer is sensitive, and always affected by the character and conduct of him who prays. Water
cannot rise above its own level, and a spotless prayer cannot flow from a spotted heart. Straight
praying is never born of crooked conduct. The men, what men are, behind their praying, that gives
character to their supplication. The craven heart cannot do brave praying. Soiled men cannot make
clean, pure supplication.
It is neither words, nor thoughts nor ideas, nor feelings, which shape praying, but character and
conduct. Men must walk in upright fashion in order to be able to pray well. Bad character and
unrighteous living break down praying until it be-comes a mere shibboleth. Praying takes its tone
and vigour from the life of the man or the woman exercising it. when character and conduct are at
a low ebb, praying can but barely live, much less thrive.
The man of prayer, whether layman or preacher, is God’s right-hand man. In the realm of
spiritual affairs, he creates conditions, inaugurates movements, brings things to pass.
By the fact and condition of their creation and redemption, all men are under obligation to pray.
Every man can pray, and every man should pray. But when it comes to the affairs of the Kingdom,
let it be said, at once, that a prayerless man in the Church of God is like a paralyzed organ of the
physical body. He is out of place in the communion of saints, out of harmony with God, and out
of accord with His purposes for mankind. A prayerless man handicaps the vigour and life of the
whole system like a demoralized soldier is a menace to the force of which he forms part, in the day
of battle. The absence of prayer lessens all the life-forces of the soul, cripples faith, sets aside holy
living, shuts out heaven. Between praying saints and non-praying men, in Holy Scripture, the line
is sharply drawn. Of Fletcher of Madeley—one of the praying saints—it is written that
“He was far more abundant in his public labours than the greater part of his
companions in the holy ministry. Yet these bore but little proportion to those internal
exercises of prayer and supplication to which he was wholly given up in private, which
were almost uninterruptedly maintained from hour to hour. He lived in the spirit of
prayer, and whatever employment in which he was engaged, this spirit of prayer was
constantly manifested through them all.
“Without this he neither formed any design, nor entered upon any duty. Without
this he neither read nor conversed. Without this, he neither visited nor received a visitor.
There have been seasons of supplications in which he appeared to be carried out far
beyond the ordinary limits of devotion, when, like his Lord upon the Mount of
Transfiguration, while he continued to pour out his mighty prayer, the fashion of his
countenance has been changed, and his face has appeared as the face of an angel.”
O God, raise up more men of praying like John Fletcher! How we do need, in this our day, men
through whom God can work!
V. PRAYERLESS CHRISTIANS
“If there was ever a time when Peter, James and John needed to remain awake it was
in Gethsemane. If James had persisted in keeping awake it might have saved his decapitation
a few years later. If Peter had stirred himself to really intercede for himself and others he
would not have denied his Christ that night in the palace of Caiaphas.”—H. W. Hodge.
There is great need in this day for Christian business men to inform their mundane affairs with the
spirit of prayer. There is a great army of successful merchants of almost every kind who are members
of Christ’s Church and it is high time these men attended to this matter. This is but another version
of the phrase, “putting God into business,” the realization and restraint of His presence and of His
fear in all the secularities of life. We need the atmosphere of the prayer-closet to pervade our public
sales-rooms and counting-houses. The sanctity of prayer is needed to impregnate business. We
need the spirit of Sunday carried over to Monday and continued until Saturday. But this cannot be
done by prayerless men, but by men of prayer. We need business men to go about their concerns
with the same reverence and responsibility with which they enter the closet. Men are badly needed
who are devoid of greed, but who, with all their hearts carry God with them into the secular affairs
Men of the world imagine prayer to be too impotent a thing to come into rivalry with business
methods and worldly practices. Against such a misleading doctrine Paul sets the whole commands
of God,. the loyalty to Jesus Christ, the claims of pious character, and the demands of the salvation
of the world. Men must pray, and put strength and heart into their praying. This is part of the primary
business of life, and to it God has called men, first of all.
Praying men are God’s agents on earth, the representative of government of heaven, set to a
specific task on the earth. While it is true that the Holy Spirit, the angels of God, are agents of God
in carrying forward the redemption of the human race, yet among them there must be praying men.
For such men God has great use. He can make much of them, and in the past has done wonderful
things through them. These are His instruments in carrying out God’s great purposes on the earth.
They are God’s messengers, His watchmen, shepherds, workmen, who need not be ashamed. Fully
equipped for the great work to which they are appointed, they honour God and bless the world.
Above all things beside, Christian men and women must, primarily, be leaders in prayer. No
matter how conspicuous they may be in other activities, they fail if they are not conspicuous in
prayer. They must give their brain and heart to prayer. Men who make and shape the program of
Christ’s Church, who map out its line of activity, should, themselves, be shaped and made by prayer.
Men controlling the Church finances, her thought, her action—should all be men of prayer.
The progress to consummation of God’s work in this world has two basic principles—God’s
ability to give and man’s ability to ask. Failure in either one is fatal to the success of God’s work
on earth. God’s inability to do or to give would put an end to redemption. Man’s failure to pray
would, just as surely, set a limit to the plan. But God’s ability to do and to give has never failed
and cannot fail; but man’s ability to ask can fail, and often does. Therefore the slow progress which
is being made toward the realization of a world won for Christ lies entirely with man’s limited
asking. There is need for the entire Church of God, on the earth, to betake itself to prayer. The
Church upon its knees would bring heaven upon the earth.
The wonderful ability of God to do for us is thus expressed by Paul in one of his most
comprehensive statements, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you,” he says, “that
ye, always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”
Study, I pray you, that remarkable statement—“God is able to make all grace abound.” That
is, He is able to give such sufficiency, that we may abound—overflow—to every good work. Why
are we not more fully fashioned after this overflowing order? The answer is—lack of prayer-ability.
“We have not because we ask not.” We are feeble, weak and impoverished because of our failure
to pray. God is restrained in doing because we are restrained by reason of our non-praying. All
failures in securing heaven are traceable to lack of prayer or misdirected petition.
Prayer must be broad in its scope—it must plead for others. Intercession for others is the
hall-mark of all true prayer. When prayer is confined to self and to the sphere of one’s personal
needs, it dies by reason of its littleness, narrowness and selfishness. Prayer must be broad and
unselfish or it will perish. Prayer is the soul of a man stirred to plead with God for men. In addition
to being interested in the eternal interests of one’s own soul it must, in its very nature, be concerned
for the spiritual and eternal welfare of others. One’s ability to pray for self, finds its climax in the
compassion its concern expresses for others.
In 1 Tim. 1, the Apostle Paul urges with singular and specific emphasis, that those who occupy
positions of influence and places of authority, are to give themselves to prayer. “I will, therefore,
that the men pray everywhere.” This is the high calling of the men of the Church, and no calling
is so engaging, so engrossing and so valuable that we can afford to relieve Christian men from the
all-important vocation of secret prayer. Nothing whatever can take the place of prayer. Nothing
whatever can atone for the neglect of praying. This is uppermost, first in point of importance and
first in point of time. No man is so high in position, or in grace, to be exempt from an obligation
to pray. No man is too big to pray, no matter who he is, nor what office he fills. The king on his
throne is as much obligated to pray as the peasant in his cottage. None is so high and exalted in
this world or so lowly and obscure as to be excused from praying. The help of every one is needed
in prosecuting the work of God, and the prayer of each praying man helps to swell the aggregate.
The leaders in place, in gifts and in authority are to be chiefs in prayer.
Civil and Church rulers shape the affairs of this world. And so civil and Church rulers themselves
need to be shaped personally in spirit, heart and conduct, in truth and righteousness, by the prayers
of God’s people.
This is in direct line with Paul’s words:
“I exhort therefore,” he says, “that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions,
and giving of thanks be made for all men, for rulers and all that are in authority.”
It is a sad day for righteousness when church politics instead of holy praying, shapes the
administration of the Kingdom and elevates men to place and power. Why pray for all men? Because
God wills the salvation of all men. God’s children on earth must link their prayers to God’s will.
Prayer is to carry out the will of God. God wills the salvation of all men. His heart is set on this
one thing. Our prayers must be the creation and exponent of God’s will. We are to grasp humanity
in our praying as God grasps humanity in His love, His interest and His plans to redeem humanity.
Our sympathies, prayers, wrestling and ardent desires must run parallel with the will of God, broad,
generous, world-wide and Godlike. The Christian man must in all things, first of all, be conformed
to the will of God, but nowhere shall this royal devotion be more evident than in the salvation of
the race of men. This high partnership with God, as His vicegerents on earth, is to have its fullest,
richest, and most efficient exercise in prayer for all men.
Men are to pray for all men, are to pray especially for rulers in Church and state, “that we may
lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” Peace on the outside and peace on the
inside. Praying calms disturbing forces, allays tormenting fears, brings conflict to an end. Prayer
tends to do away with turmoil. But even if there be external conflicts, it is well to have deep peace
within the citadel of the soul. “That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life.” Prayer brings the inner
calm and furnishes the outward tranquillity. Praying rulers and praying subjects were they world-wide
would allay turbulent forces, make wars to cease, and peace to reign.
Men must pray for all men that we may lead lives “in all godliness and honesty.” That is with
godliness and gravity. Godliness is to be like God. It is to be godly, to have God-likeness, having
the image of God stamped upon the inner nature, and showing the same likeness in conduct and in
temper. Almighty God is the very highest model, and to be like Him is to possess the highest
character. Prayer moulds us into the image of God, and at the same time tends to mould others into
the same image just in proportion as we pray for others. Prayer means to be God-like, and to be
God-like is to love Christ and love God, to be one with the Father and the Son in spirit, character
and conduct. Prayer means to stay with God till you are like Him. Prayer makes a godly man, and
puts within him “the mind of Christ,” the mind of humility, of self-surrender, of service, of pity,
and of prayer. If we really pray, we will become more like God, or else we will quit praying.
“Men are to pray everywhere,” in the closet, in the prayer-meeting, about the family altar, and
to do it, “lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” Here is not only the obligation laid
upon the men to pray, but instructions as to how they should pray. “Men must pray without wrath.”
That is, without bitterness against their neighbours or brethren; without the obstinacy and pertinacity
of a strong will, and hard feelings, without an evil desire or emotion kindled by nature’s fires in
the carnal nature. Praying is not to be done by these questionable things, nor in company with such
evil feelings, but “without” them, aloof and entirely separate from them. This is the sort of praying
the men are called upon to do, the sort which God hears and the kind which prevails with God and
accomplishes things. Such praying in the hands of Christian men become divine agencies in God’s
hands for carrying on God’s gracious purposes and executing His designs in redemption.
Prayer has a higher origin than man’s nature. This is true whether man’s nature as separate from
the angelic nature, or man’s carnal nature unrenewed and unchanged be meant. Prayer does not
originate in the realms of the carnal mind. Such a nature is entirely foreign to prayer simply because
“the carnal mind is enmity against God.” It is by the new Spirit that we pray, the new spirit sweetened
by the sugar of heaven perfumed with the fragrance of the upper world, and invigorated by a breath
from the crystal sea. The “new spirit” is native to the skies, panting after the heavenly things,
inspired by the breath of God. It is the praying temper from which all the old juices of the carnal,
unregenerate nature have been expelled, and the fire of God has created the flame which has
consumed worldly lusts, and the juices of the Spirit have been injected into the soul, and the praying
is entirely divorced from wrath.
Men are also to pray “without doubting.” The Revised Version puts it, “without disputings.”
Faith in God, belief in God’s Word, they must have “without question.” No doubting or disputing
must be in the mind. There must be no opinions, nor hesitancy, no questioning, no reasoning, no
intellectual quibbling, no rebellion, but a strict, stead-fast loyalty of spirit to God, a life of loyalty
in heart and intellect to God’s Word.
God has much to do with believing men, who have a living, transforming faith in Jesus Christ.
These are God’s children. A father loves his children, supplies their needs, hears their cries and
answers their requests. A child believes his father, loves him, trusts in him, and asks him for what
he needs, believing without doubting that his father will hear his requests. God has everything to
do with answering the prayer of His children. Their troubles concern Him, and their prayers awaken
Him. Their voice is sweet to Him. He loves to hear them pray, and He is never happier than to
answer their prayers.
Prayer is intended for God’s ear. It is not man, but God who hears and answers prayer. Prayer
covers the whole range of man’s need. Hence, “in everything, by prayer and supplication,” are
“requests to be made known unto God.” Prayer includes the entire range of God’s ability. “Is
anything too hard for God?” Prayer belongs to no favoured segment of man’s need, but reaches to
and embraces the entire circle of his wants, simply because God is the God of the whole man. God
has pledged Himself to supply the needs of the whole man, physical, intellectual and spiritual. “But
my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Prayer is the
child of grace, and grace is for the whole man, and for every one of the children of men.
VI. PRAYING MEN AT A PREMIUM
“Our Redeemer was in the Garden of Gethsemane. His hour was come. He felt as if He
would be strengthened somewhat, if He had two or three disciples near Him. His three
chosen disciples were within a stone’s cast of the scene of His agony; but they were all
asleep that the Scripture might be fulfilled—‘I have trodden the winepress alone, and of
the people there was none with Me.’ The eight, in the distance, were good and true disciples;
but they were only ordinary men, or men with a commonplace call.”—Alexander Whyte.
No insistence in the Bible is more pressing than the injunction it lays upon men to pray. No
exhortation contained therein is more hearty, more solemn, and more stirring. No principle is more
strongly inculcated than that “men ought always to pray and not to faint.” In view of this enjoinder
it is pertinent to inquire as to whether Christian people are praying men and women in anything
like body and bulk? Is prayer a fixed course in the schools of the Church? In the Sunday school,
the home, the colleges, have we any graduates in the school of prayer? Is the Church producing
those who have diplomas from the great university of prayer? This is what God requires, what He
commands, and it is those who possess such qualifications that He must have to accomplish His
purposes and to carry out the work of His Kingdom on earth.
And it is earnest praying that had need to be done. Languid praying, without heart or strength,
with neither fire nor tenacity, defeats its own avowed purpose. The prophet of olden times laments
that in a day which needed strenuous praying there was no one who “stirred up himself to take hold
of God.” Christ charges us “not to faint” in our praying. Laxity and indifference are great hindrances
to prayer, both to the practice of praying and the process of receiving; it requires a brave, strong,
fearless and insistent spirit to engage in successful prayer. Diffuseness, too, interferes with
effectiveness. Too many petitions break tension and unity, and breed neglect. Prayers should be
specific and urgent. Too many words, like too much width, breeds shallows and sand-bars. A single
objective which absorbs the whole being and inflames the entire man, is the properly constraining
force in prayer.
It is easy to see how prayer was a decreed factor in the dispensations preceding the coming of
Jesus, and how that their leaders had to be men of prayer; how that God’s mightiest revelation of
Himself was a revelation made through prayer. And, finally, how that Jesus Christ, in His personal
ministry, and in His relation to God, was great and constant in prayer. His labours and dispensation
overflowed with fullness in proportion to His prayers. The possibilities of His praying were unlimited
and the possibilities of His ministry were in keeping. The necessity of His praying was equaled
only by the constancy with which He practiced it during His early life.
The dispensation of the Holy Spirit is a dispensation of prayer, in a preeminent sense. Here
prayer has an essential and vital relation. Without depreciating the possibilities and necessities of
prayer in all the preceding dispensations of God in the world it must be declared that it is in this
latter dispensation that the engagements and demands of prayer are given their greatest authority,
their possibilities rendered unlimited and their necessity insuperable.
These days of ours have sore need of a generation of praying men, a band of men and women
through whom God can bring His great and His greatest movements more fully into the world. The
Lord our God is not straitened within Himself, but He is straitened in us, by reason of our little
faith and weak praying. A breed of Christian is greatly needed who will seek tirelessly after
God,—who will give Him no rest, day and night, until He hearken to their cry. The times demand
praying men who are all athirst for God’s glory, who are broad and unselfish in their desires,
quenchless for God, who seek Him late and early, and who will give themselves no rest until the
whole earth be filled with His glory.
Men and women are needed whose prayers will give to the world the utmost power of God;
who will make His promises to blossom with rich and full results. God is waiting to hear us and
challenges us to bring Him to do this thing by our praying. He is asking us, today, as He did His
ancient Israel, to “prove Him now herewith.” Behind God’s Word is God Himself, and we read:
“Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, his Maker: Ask of me of things to come and concerning
my sons, and concerning the work of my bands, command ye me.” As though God places Himself
in the hands and at the disposal of His people who pray—as indeed He does.
The dominant element of all praying is faith, that is conspicuous, cardinal and emphatic. Without
such faith it is impossible to please God, and equally impossible to pray.
There is a current conception of spiritual duties which tends to separate the pulpit and the pew,
as though the pulpit bore the entire burden of spiritual concerns, and while the pew was concerned
only with duties that relate to the lower sphere of the secular and worldly. Such a view needs drastic
correction. God’s cause, its obligations, efforts and successes, lie with equal pressure on pulpit and
But the man in the pew is not taxed with the burden of prayer as he ought to be, and as he must
be, ere any new visitation of power come to the Church. The Church never will be wholly for God
until the pews are filled with praying men. The Church cannot be what God wants it to be until
those of its members who are leaders in business, politics, law, and society, are leaders in prayer.
God began His early movements in the world with men of prayer. He chose such a man to be
the father of that race who became His chosen people in the world for hundreds of years, to whom
He committed His oracles, and from whom sprang the Promised Messiah. Abraham, a leader of
God’s cause, was preeminently a praying man. When we consider his conduct and character, we
readily see how prayer ruled and swayed this great leader of God’s people in the wilderness.
“Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting
God,” and it is an outstanding fact that wherever he pitched his tent and camped for a season, with
his household, there he erected the altar of sacrifice and of prayer. His was a personal and a family
religion, in which prayer was a prominent and abiding factor.
Prayer is the medium of divine revelation. It is through prayer that God reveals Himself to the
spiritual soul today, just as in the Old Testament days He made His revelations to the men who
prayed. God shows Himself to the man who prays. “God is with thee in all that thou doest.” This
was the clear conviction of those who would fain make a covenant with Abraham, and the reason
for this tribute was the belief commonly held concerning the patriarch that, not only was he a man
of prayer, but a man whose prayers God would answer. This is the summary and secret of divine
rule in the Church. In all ages God has ruled the Church by prayerful men. When prayer fails, the
divine rulership falls. As we have seen, Abraham, the father of the faithful, was a prince and a priest
in prayer. He had remarkable influence with God. God stays His vengeance while Abraham prays.
His mercy is suspended and conditioned on Abraham’s praying. His visitations of wrath are removed
by the praying of this ruler in Israel. The movements of God are influenced by the prayers of
Abraham, the friend of God. Abraham’s righteous prayerfulness permits him to share the secrets
of God’s counsels, while the knowledge of these secrets draws out and intensifies his praying. With
Abraham, the altar of sacrifice is hard by the altar of prayer. With him the altar of prayer sanctifies
the altar of sacrifice. To Abimelech God said, “Abraham is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee,
and thou shalt live.”
Christian people must pray for men. On one occasion, Samuel said unto the people, “Moreover
as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.” Fortunate for
these sinful people who had rejected God, and desired a human king, that they had in Israel a man
of prayer. The royal way to enlarge personal grace is to pray for others. Intercessory prayer is a
means of grace to those who exercise it. We enter the richest fields of spiritual growth and gather
its priceless riches in the avenues of intercessory prayer. To pray for men is of divine nomination,
and represents the highest form of Christian service.
Men must pray, and men must be prayed for. The Christian must pray for all things, of course,
but prayers for men are infinitely more important, just as men are infinitely more important than
things. So also prayers for men are far more important than prayers for things because men more
deeply concern God’s will and the work of Jesus Christ than things. Men are to be cared for,
sympathized with and prayed for, because sympathy, pity, compassion and care accompany and
precede prayer for men, when they are not called out for things.
All this makes praying a real business, not child’s play, not a secondary affair, nor a trivial
matter but a serious business. The men who have made a success of praying have made a business
of praying. It is a process demanding the time, thought, energy and hearts of mankind. Prayer is
business for time, business for eternity. It is a man’s business to pray, transcending all other business
and taking precedence over all other vocations, professions or occupations. Our praying concerns
ourselves, all men, their greatest interests, even the salvation of their immortal souls. Praying is a
business which takes hold of eternity and the things beyond the grave. It is a business which involves
earth and heaven. All worlds are touched and worlds are influenced by prayer. It has to do with
God and men, angels and devils.
Jesus was preeminently a leader in prayer, and His praying is an incentive to prayer. How
prominently prayer stands out in His life! The leading events of His earthly career are distinctly
marked by prayer. The wonderful experience and glory of the Transfiguration was preceded by
prayer, and was the result of the praying of our Lord. What words He used as He prayed we know
not, nor do we know for what He prayed. But doubtless it was night, and long into its hours the
Master prayed. It was while He prayed the darkness fled, and His form was lit with unearthly
splendour. Moses and Elijah came to yield to Him not only the palm of law and prophecy, but the
palm of praying. None other prayed as did Jesus nor had any such a glorious manifestation of the
divine presence or heard so clearly the revealing voice of the Father, “This is my beloved Son; hear
ye him.” Happy disciples to be with Christ in the school of prayer!
How many of us have failed to come to this glorious Mount of Transfiguration because we
were unacquainted with the transfiguring power of prayer! It is the going apart to pray, the long,
intense seasons of prayer, in which we engage which makes the face to shine, transfigures the
character, makes even dull, earthly garments to glisten with heavenly splendour. But more than
this: it is real praying which makes eternal things real, close and tangible, and which brings the
glorified visitors and the heavenly visions. Transfigured lives would not be so rare if there were
more of this transfigured praying. These heavenly visits would not be so few if there was more of
this transfigured praying.
How difficult it appears to be for the Church to understand that the whole scheme of redemption
depends upon men of prayer! The work of our Lord, while here on the earth, as well of the Apostle
Paul was, by teaching and example, to develop men of prayer, to whom the future of the Church
should be committed. How strange that instead of learning this simple and all important lesson, the
modern Church has largely overlooked it! We have need to turn afresh to that wondrous Leader of
spiritual Israel, our Lord Jesus Christ, who by example and precept enjoins us to prayer and to the
great Apostle to the Gentiles, who by virtue of his praying habits and prayer lessons is a model and
an example to God’s people in every age and clime.
VII. THE MINISTRY AND PRAYER
“Of course the preacher is above all others distinguished as a man of prayer. He prays
as an ordinary Christian, else he were a hypocrite. He prays more than ordinary Christians
else he were disqualified for the office he has undertaken If you as ministers are not very
prayerful you are to be pitied. If you become lax in sacred devotion, not only will you need
to be pitied but your people also, and the day cometh in which you will be ashamed and
confounded. Our seasons of fastings and prayer at the Tabernacle have been high days
indeed; never has heaven’s gate stood wider; never have our hearts been nearer the central
glory.”—Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Preachers are God’s leaders. They are divinely called to their holy office and high purpose and,
primarily, are responsible for the condition of the Church. Just as Moses was called of God to lead
Israel out of Egypt through the wilderness into the Promised Land, so, also, does God call His
ministers to lead His spiritual Israel through this world unto the heavenly land. They are divinely
commissioned to leadership, and are by precept and example to teach God’s people what God
would have them be. Paul’s counsel to the young preacher Timothy is in point: “Let no man despise
thy youth,” he says, “but be thou an example of the believers, in word, conversation, in charity, in
spirit, in faith, in purity.”
God’s ministers shape the Church’s character, and give tone and direction to its life. The
prefacing sentence of the letter to each of the seven churches in Asia reads, “To the angel of the
Church,” seeming to indicate that the angel—the minister—was in the same state of mind and
condition of life as the membership and that these “angels” or ministers were largely responsible
for the spiritual condition of things existing in each Church. The “angel” in each case was the
preacher, teacher, or leader. The first Christians knew full well and felt this responsibility. In their
helplessness, consciously felt, they cried out, “And who is sufficient for things?” as the tremendous
responsibility pressed upon their hearts and heads. The only reply to such a question was, “God
only.” So they were necessarily compelled to look beyond themselves for help and throw themselves
on prayer to secure God. More and more as they prayed, did they feel their responsibility, and more
and more by prayer did they get God’s help. They realized that their sufficiency was of God.
Prayer belongs in a very high and important sense to the ministry. It takes vigour and elevation
of character to administer the prayer-office. Praying prophets have frequently been at a premium
in the history of God’s people. In every age the demand has been for leaders in Israel who pray.
God’s watchmen must always and everywhere be men of prayer.
It ought to be no surprise for ministers to be often found on their knees seeking divine help
under the responsibility of their call. These are the true prophets of the Lord, and these are they
who stand as mouthpieces of God to a generation of wicked and worldly-minded men and women.
Prayer preachers are boldest, the truest and the swiftest ministers of God. They mount up highest
and are nearest to Him who has called them. They advance more rapidly and in Christian living
are most like God.
In reading the record of the four evangelists, we cannot but be impressed by the supreme effort
made by our Lord to rightly instruct the twelve Apostles in the things which would properly qualify
them for the tremendous tasks which would be theirs after He had gone back to the bosom of the
Father. His solicitude was for the Church that she should have men, holy in life and in heart, and
who would know full well from whence came their strength and power in the work of the ministry.
A large part of Christ’s teaching was addressed to these chosen Apostles, and the training of the
twelve occupied much of His thought and consumed much of His time. In all that training, prayer
was laid down as a basic principle.
We find the same thing to be true in the life and work of the Apostle Paul. While he addressed
himself to the edification of the churches to whom he ministered and wrote, it was in his mind and
purpose to rightly instruct and prepare ministers to whom would be committed the interests of
God’s people. The two epistles to Timothy were addressed to a young preacher, while that to Titus
was also written to a young minister. And Paul’s design appears to have been to give to each of
them such instruction as would be needed rightly to do the work of the ministry to which they had
been called by the Spirit of God. Underlying these instructions was the foundation-stone of prayer,
since by no means would they be able to “show themselves approved unto God, workmen that
needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” unless they were men of prayer.
The highest welfare of the Church of God on earth depends largely upon the ministry, and so
Almighty God has always been jealous of His watchmen—His preachers. His concern has been
for the character of the men who minister at His altars in holy things. They must be men who lean
upon Him, who look to Him, and who continually seek Him for wisdom, help and power effectively
to do the work of the ministry. And so He has designed men of prayer for the holy office, and has
relied upon them successively to perform the tasks He has assigned them.
God’s great works are to be done as Christ did them; are to be done, indeed, with increased
power received from the ascended and exalted Christ. These works are to be done by prayer. Men
must do God’s work in God’s way, and to God’s glory, and prayer is a necessity to its successful
The thing far above all other things in the equipment of the preacher is prayer. Before everything
else, he must be a man who makes a specialty of prayer. A prayerless preacher is a misnomer. He
has either missed his calling, or has grievously failed God who called him into the ministry. God
wants men who are not ignoramuses, who “study to show themselves approved.” Preaching the
Word is essential; social qualities are not to be underestimated, and education is good; but under
and above all else, prayer must be the main plank in the platform of the man who goes forth to
preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to a lost and hungry world. The one weak spot in our
Church institutions lies just here. Prayer is not regarded as being the primary factor in church life
and activity, and other things, good in their places, are made primary. First things need to be put
first, and the first thing in the equipment of a minister is prayer.
Our Lord is the pattern for all preachers, and, with Him, prayer was the law of life. By it He
lived. It was the inspiration of His toil, the source of His strength, the spring of His joy. With our
Lord prayer was no sentimental episode, nor an afterthought, nor a pleasing, diverting prelude, nor
an interlude, nor a parade or form. For Jesus, prayer was exacting, all-absorbing, paramount. It was
the call of a sweet duty to Him, the satisfying of a restless yearning, the preparation for heavy
responsibilities, and the meeting of a vigorous need. This being so, the disciple must be as his Lord,
the servant as his Master. As was the Lord Himself, so also must be those whom He has called to
be His disciples. Our Lord Jesus Christ chose His twelve Apostles only after He had spent a night
in praying; and we may rest assured that He sets the same high value on those He calls to His
ministry, in this our own day and time.
No feeble or secondary place was given to prayer in the ministry of Jesus. It comes
first—emphatic, conspicuous, controlling. Of prayerful habits, of a prayerful spirit, given to long
solitary communion with God, Jesus was above all else, a man of prayer. The crux of His earthly
history, in New Testament terminology, is condensed to a single statement, to be found in Hebrews
“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.”
As was their Lord and Master, whose they are and whom they serve, so let His ministers be.
Let Him be their pattern, their example, their leader and teacher. Much reference is made in some
quarters about “following Christ,” but it is confined to the following of Him in modes and ordinances,
as if salvation were wrapped up in the specific way of doing a thing. “The path of prayer Thyself
hath trod,” is the path along which we are to follow Him, and in no other. Jesus was given as a
leader to the people of God, and no leader ever exemplified more the worth and necessity of prayer.
Equal in glory with the Father, anointed and sent on His special mission by the Holy Spirit, His
incarnate birth, His high commission, His royal anointing—all these were His but they did not
relieve Him from the exacting claims of prayer. Rather did they tend to impose these claims upon
Him with greater authority. He did not ask to be excused from the burden of prayer; He gladly
accepted it, acknowledged its claims and voluntarily subjected Himself to its demands.
His leadership was preeminent, and His praying was preeminent. Had it not been, His leadership
had been neither preeminent nor divine. If, in true leadership, prayer had been dispensable, then
certainly Jesus could have dispensed with it. But He did not, nor can any of His followers who
desire effectiveness in Christian activity do other than follow their Lord.
While Jesus Christ practiced praying Himself, being personally under the law of prayer, and
while His parables and miracles were but exponents of prayer, He laboured directly to teach His
disciples the specific art of praying. He said little or nothing about how to preach or what to preach.
But He spent His strength and time in teaching men how to speak to God, how to commune with
Him, and how to be with Him. He knew full well that he who has learned the craft of talking to
God, will be well versed in talking to men. We may turn aside for a moment to observe that this
was the secret of the wonderful success of the early Methodist preachers, who were far from being
learned men. But with all their limitations, they were men of prayer, and they did great things for
All ability to talk to men is measured by the ability with which a preacher can talk to God for
men. He “who ploughs not in his closet, will never reap in his pulpit.”
The fact must ever be kept in the forefront and emphasized that Jesus Christ trained His disciples
to pray. This is the real meaning of that saying, “The Training of the Twelve.” It must be kept in
mind that Christ taught the world’s preachers more about praying than He did about preaching.
Prayer was the great factor in the spreading of His Gospel. Prayer conserved and made efficient
all other factors. Yet He did not discount preaching when He stressed praying, but rather taught
the utter dependence of preaching on prayer.
“The Christian’s trade is praying,” declared Martin Luther. Every Jewish boy had to learn a
trade. Jesus Christ learned two, the trade of a carpenter, and that of praying. The one trade subserved
earthly uses; the other served His divine and higher purposes. Jewish custom committed Jesus when
a boy to the trade of a carpenter; the law of God bound Him to praying from His earliest years, and
remained with Him to the end.
Christ is the Christian’s example, and every Christian must pattern after Him. Every preacher
must be like his Lord and Master, and must learn the trade of praying. He who learns well the trade
of praying masters the secret of the Christian art, and becomes a skilled workman in God’s workshop,
one who needeth not to be ashamed, a worker together with his Lord and Master.
“Pray without ceasing,” is the trumpet call to the preachers of our time. If the preachers will
get their thoughts clothed with the atmosphere of prayer, if they will prepare their sermons on their
knees, a gracious outpouring of God’s Spirit will come upon the earth.
The one indispensable qualification for preaching is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and it was for
the bestowal of this indispensable gift that the disciples were charged to tarry in Jerusalem. The
absolute necessity there is for receiving this gift if success is to attend the efforts of the ministry,
is found in the command the first disciples had to stay in Jerusalem till they received it, and also
with the instant and earnest prayerfulness with which they sought it. In obedience to their Lord’s
command to tarry in that city till they were endued with power from on high, they immediately,
after He left them for heaven, entered on securing it by continued and earnest prayer. “These all
with one accord, continued steadfastly in prayer, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus
and with his brethren.” To this same thing John refers in his First Epistle. “Ye have an unction from
the Holy One,” he says. It is this divine unction that preachers of the present day should sincerely
desire, pray for, remaining unsatisfied till the blessed gift be richly bestowed.
Another allusion to this same important procedure is made by our Lord shortly after His
resurrection, when He said to His disciples: “And ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost
is come upon you.” At the same time Jesus directed the attention of His disciples to the statement
of John the Baptist concerning the Spirit, the identical thing for which He had commanded them
to tarry in the city of Jerusalem—“power from on high.” Alluding to John the Baptist’s words Jesus
said, “For John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many
days hence.” Peter at a later date said of our Lord: “God anointed him with the Holy Ghost and
These are the divine statements of the mission and ministry of the Holy Spirit to preachers of
that day and the same divine statements apply with equal force to the preachers of this day. God’s
ideal minister is a God-called, divinely anointed, Spirit-touched man, separated unto God’s work,
set apart from secularities and questionable affairs, baptized from above, marked, sealed and owned
by the Spirit, devoted to his Master and His ministry. These are the divinely-appointed requisites
for a preacher of the Word; without them, he is inadequate, and inevitably unfruitful.
Today, there is no dearth of preachers who deliver eloquent sermons on the need and nature of
revival, and advance elaborate plans for the spread of the kingdom of God, but the praying preachers
are far more rare and the greatest benefactor this age can have is a man who will bring the preachers,
the Church and the people back to the practice of real praying. The reformer needed just now is
the praying reformer. The leader Israel requires is one who, with clarion voice, will call the ministry
back to their knees.
There is considerable talk of the coming revival in the air, but we need to have the vision to
see that the revival we need and the only one that can be worth having is one that is born of the
Holy Spirit, which brings deep conviction for sin, and regeneration for those who seek God’s face.
Such a revival comes at the end of a season of real praying, and it is utter folly to talk about or
expect a revival without the Holy Spirit operating in His peculiar office, conditioned on much
earnest praying. Such a revival will begin in pulpit and pew alike, will be promoted by both preacher
and lay-man working in harmony with God.
The heart is the lexicon of prayer; the life the best commentary on prayer, and the outward
bearing its fullest expression. The character is made by prayer; the life is perfected by prayer. And
this the ministry needs to learn as thoroughly as the laymen. There is but one rule for both.
So averse was the general body of Christ’s disciples to prayer, having so little taste for it, and
having so little sympathy with Him in the deep things of prayer, and its mightier struggles, that the
Master had to select a circle of three more apt scholars—Peter, James and John—who had more
of sympathy, and relish for this divine work, and take them aside that they might learn the lesson
of prayer. These men were nearer to Jesus, fuller of sympathy, and more helpful to Him because
they were more prayerful.
Blessed, indeed, are those disciples whom Jesus Christ, in this day, calls into a more intimate
fellowship with Him, and who, readily responding to the call, are found much on their knees before
Him. Distressing, indeed, is the condition of those servants of Jesus who, in their hearts, are averse
to the exercise of the ministry of prayer.
All the great eras of our Lord, historical and spiritual, were made or fashioned by His praying.
In like manner His plans and great achievements were born in prayer and impregnated by the spirit
thereof. As was the Master, so also must His servant be; as his Lord did in the great eras of His
life, so should the disciple do when faced by important crises. “To your knees, O Israel!” should
be the clarion-call to the ministry of this generation.
The highest form of religious life is attained by prayer. The richest revelations of God—Father,
Son, and Spirit—are made, not to the learned, the great or the “noble” of earth, but men of prayer.
“For ye see your calling, brethren, that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not
many noble, are called,” to whom God makes known the deep things of God, and reveals the higher
things of His character, but to the lowly, inquiring, praying ones. And again must it be said, his is
as true of preachers as of laymen. It is the spiritual man who prays, and to praying ones God makes
His revelations through the Holy Spirit.
Praying preachers have always brought the greater glory to God, have moved His Gospel onward
with its greatest, speediest rate and power. A non-praying preacher and a non-praying Church may
flourish outwardly and advance in many aspects of their life. Both preacher and church may become
synonyms for success, but unless it rest on a praying basis all success will eventually crumble into
deadened life and ultimate decay.
“Ye have not because ye ask not,” is the solution of all spiritual weakness both in the personal
life and in the pulpit. Either that or it is, “Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss.” Real praying
lies at the foundation of all real success of the ministry in the things of God. The stability, energy
and facility with which God’s kingdom is established in this world are dependent upon prayer. God
has made it so, and so God is anxious for men to pray. Especially is He concerned that His chosen
ministers shall be men of prayer, and so gives that wonderful statement in order to encourage His
ministers to pray, which is found in Matthew 6:9:
“But I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock,
and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth, and he that seeketh,
findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”
Thus both command and direct promise give accent to His concern that they shall pray. Pause
and think on these familiar words. “Ask, and it shall be given you.” That itself would seem to be
enough to set us all, laymen and preachers, to praying, so direct, simple and unlimited. These words
open all the treasures of heaven to us, simply by asking for them.
If we have not studied the prayers of Paul, primarily a preacher to the Gentiles, we can have
but a feeble view of the great necessity for prayer, and how much it is worth in the life and the
work of a minister of the Gospel. Furthermore, we shall have but a very limited view of the
possibilities of the Gospel to enrich and make strong and perfect Christian character, as well as to
equip preachers for their high and holy task. Oh, when will we learn the simple yet all important
lesson that the one great thing needed in the life of a preacher to help him in his personal life, to
keep his soul alive to God, and to give efficacy to the Word preached by him, is real, constant
Paul with prayer uppermost in his mind, assures the Colossians that “Epaphras is always
labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand complete and perfect in all the will of
God.” To this high state of grace, “complete in all the will of God,” he prays they may come. So
prayer was the force which was to bring them to that elevated, vigorous and stable state of heart.
This is in line with Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians, “And he gave some pastors and teachers, for
the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,”
where it is evidently affirmed that the whole work of the ministry is not merely to induce sinners
to repent, but it is also the “perfecting of the saints.” And so Epaphras “laboured fervently in prayers”
for this thing. Certainly he was himself a praying man, in thus so earnestly praying for these early
The Apostles put out their force in order that Christians should honour God by the purity and
consistency of their outward lives. They were to reproduce the character of Jesus Christ. They were
to perfect His image in themselves, imbibe His temper and reflect His carriage in all their tempers
and conduct. They were to be imitators of God as dear children, to be holy as He was holy. Thus
even laymen were to preach by their conduct and character, just as the ministry preached with their
To elevate the followers of Christ to these exalted heights of Christian experience, they were
in every way true in the ministry of God’s Word, in the ministry of prayer, in holy consuming zeal,
in burning exhortation, in rebuke and reproof. Added to all these, sanctifying all these, invigorating
all these, and making all of them salutary, they centered and exercised constantly the force of
mightiest praying. “Night and day praying exceedingly,” that is, praying out of measure, with
intense earnestness, superabundantly, beyond measure, exceeding abundantly.
“Night and day praying exceeding abundantly, that we might see your face, and
might perfect that which is lacking in your faith. Now God himself, and our Father, and
our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.
“And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and
toward all men, even as we do toward you; to the end he may establish your hearts
unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ with all his saints.”
It was after this fashion that these Apostles—the first preachers in the early Church—laboured
in prayer. And only those who labour after the same fashion are the true successors of these Apostles.
This is the true, the Scriptural “apostolical succession,” the succession of simple faith, earnest desire
for holiness of heart and life, and zealous praying. These are the things today which make the
ministry strong, faithful and efficient, “workmen who needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing
the word of truth.”
Jesus Christ, God’s Leader and Commander of His people, lived and suffered under this law
of prayer. All His personal conquests in His life on earth were won by obedience to this law, while
the conquests which have been won by His representatives since He ascended to heaven, were
gained only when this condition of prayer was heartily and fully met. Christ was under this one
prayer condition. His Apostles were under the same prayer condition. His saints are under it, and
even His angels are under it. By every token, therefore, preachers are under the same prayer law.
Not for one moment are they relieved or excused from obedience to the law of prayer. It is their
very life, the source of their power, the secret of their religious experience and communion with
Christ could do nothing without prayer. Christ could do all things by prayer. The Apostles were
helpless without prayer—and were absolutely dependent upon it for success in defeating their
spiritual foes. They could do all things by prayer.
VIII. PRAYERLESSNESS IN THE PULPIT
“Henry Martyn laments that ‘want of private devotional reading and shortness of prayer
through incessant sermon-making had produced much strangeness between God and his
soul.’ He judges that he had dedicated too much time to public ministrations and too little
to private communion with God. He was much impressed with the need of setting apart
times for fasting and to devote times to for solemn prayer. Resulting from this he records
‘Was assisted this morning to pray for two hours.’”—E. M. B.
All God’s saints came to their sainthood by the way of prayer. The saints could do nothing without
prayer. We can go further and say that the angels in heaven can do nothing without prayer, but can
do all things by praying. These messengers of the Highest are largely dependent on the prayers of
the saints for the sphere and power of their usefulness, which open avenues for angelic usefulness
and create missions for them on the earth. And as it is with all the Apostles, saints and angels in
heaven, so is it of preachers. “The angels of the churches” can do nothing without prayer which
opens doors of usefulness and gives power and point to their words.
How can a preacher preach effectively, make impressions on hearts and minds, and have fruits
to his ministry, who does not get his message first-hand from God? How can he deliver a rightful
message without having his faith quickened, his vision cleared, and his heart warmed by his closeting
It would be well for all of us, in this connection, to read again Isaiah’s vision recorded in the
seventh chapter of his prophecy when, as he waited, and confessed and prayed before the throne,
the angel touched his lips with a live coal from God’s altar:
“Then flew one of the seraphim unto me,” he says, “having a live coal in his hand,
which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar; and he laid it upon my mouth, and
said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thy iniquity is taken away and thy sin is purged.”
Oh, the need there is for present-day preachers to have their lips touched with a live coal from
the altar of God! This fire is brought to the mouths of those prophets who are of a prayerful spirit,
and who wait in the secret place for the appointed angel to bring the living flame. Preachers of the
same temper as Isaiah received visits from the angel who brings live coals to touch their lips. Prayer
always brings the living flame to unloose tongues, to open doors of utterance, and to open great
and effectual doors of doing good. This, above all else, is the great need of the prophets of God.
As far as the abiding interests of religion are concerned, a pulpit without a closet will always
be a barren thing. Blessed is the preacher whose pulpit and closet are hard by each other, and who
goes from the one into the other. To consecrate no place to prayer, is to make a beggarly showing,
not only in praying, but in holy living, for secret prayer and holy living are so closely joined that
they can never be dissevered. A preacher or a Christian may live a decent, religious life, without
secret prayer, but decency and holiness are two widely different things. And the former is attained
only by secret prayer.
A preacher may preach in an official, entertaining and learned way, without prayer, but between
this kind of preaching and the sowing of God’s precious seed there is distance not easily covered.
We cannot declare too often or too strongly that prayer, involving all of its elements, is the one
prime condition of the success of Christ’s kingdom, and that all else is secondary and incidental.
Prayerful preachers, prayerful men and prayerful women only can press this Gospel with aggressive
power. They only can put in it conquering forces. Preachers may be sent out by the thousand, their
equipments be ever so complete, but unless they be men skilled in the trade of prayer, trained to
its martial and exhaustive exercise, their going will be lacking in power and effectiveness. Moreover,
except the men and women who are behind these preachers, who furnish their equipment, are men
and women in whose characters prayer has become to be serious labour, their outlay will be a vain
and bootless effort.
Prayer should be the inseparable accompaniment of all missionary effort, and must be the one
equipment of the missionaries as they go out to their fields of labour, and enter upon their delicate
and responsible tasks. Prayer and missions go hand in hand. A prayerless missionary is a failure
before he goes out, while he is out, and when he returns to his native land. A prayerless board of
missions, too, needs to learn the lesson of the necessity of prayer.
Prayer enthrones God as sovereign and elevates Jesus Christ to sit with Him, and had Christian
preachers used to its full the power of prayer, long ere this the “kingdoms of this world would have
become the kingdom of God and of his Christ.” Added to all the missionary addresses, the money
raised for missions, to the scores being sent out to needy fields, is prayer. Missions have their root
in prayer, must have prayer in all of its plans, and prayer must precede, go with and follow all of
its missionaries and labourers.
In the face of all difficulties which face the Church in its great work on earth, and the almost
superhuman and complex obstacles in the way of evangelizing the world, God encourages us by
His strongest promises: “Call unto me and I will answer thee, and show great and mighty things
which thou knowest not.” The revelations of God to him who is of a prayerful spirit go far beyond
the limits of the praying. God commits Himself to answer the specific prayer, but He does not stop
there. He says, “Ask of me things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my
hands, command ye me.” Think over that remarkable engagement of God to those who pray,
“Command ye me,” He actually places Himself at the command of praying preachers and a praying
Church. And this is a sufficient answer to all doubts, fears and unbelief, and a wonderful inspiration
to do God’s work in His own way, which means by the way of prayer.
And as if to still fortify the faith of His ministry and of His Church, to hedge about and fortify
against any temptation to doubt or discouragement, He declares by the mouth of the great Apostle
to the Gentiles, “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that ye can ask or think.”
It is unquestionably taught that preachers in going forward with their God-appointed tasks, in
their prayers, can command God, which is to command His ability, His presence and His power.
“Certainly I will be with thee,” is the reply to every sincere inquiring minister of God. All of God’s
called men in the ministry are privileged to stretch their prayers into regions where neither words
nor thought can go, and are permitted to expect from Him beyond their praying, and for their
praying, God Himself, and then in addition, “great and mighty things which thou knowest not.”
Real heart-praying, live-praying, praying by the power of the Spirit, direct, specific, ardent,
simple praying—this is the kind of praying which legitimately belongs to the pulpit. This is the
kind demanded just now by the men who stand in the pulpit. There is no school in which to learn
to pray in public but in the closet. Preachers who have learned to pray in the closet, have mastered
the secret of pulpit praying. It is but a short step from secret praying to effectual, live, pulpit praying.
Good pulpit praying follows from good secret praying. A closed closet with the preacher makes
for cold, spiritless, formal praying in the pulpit. Study how to pray, O preacher, but not by studying
the forms of prayer, but by attending the school of prayer on your knees before God. Here is where
we learn not only to pray before God, but learn also how to pray in the presence of men. He who
has learned the way to the closet has discovered the way to pray when he enters the pulpit.
How easily we become professional and mechanical in the most sacred undertakings! Henry
Martyn learned the lesson so hard to learn, that the cultivation and perfection of personal
righteousness was the great and prime factor in the preacher’s true success. So likewise he that
learns the lesson so hard to learn, that live, spiritual, effective pulpit praying is the outgrowth of
regular secret praying, has learned his lesson well. More-over: his work, as a preacher, will depend
upon his praying.
The great need of the hour is for good pray-ers in the pulpit as well as good preachers. Just as
live, spiritual preaching is the kind which impresses and moves men, so the same kind of pulpit
praying moves and impresses God. Not only is the preacher called to preach well, but also he must
be called to pray well. Not that he is called to pray after the fashion of the Pharisees, who love to
stand in public and pray that they may be seen and heard of men. The right sort of pulpit praying
is far removed from Pharisaical praying, as far distant as light is from darkness, as great as heat is
from cold, as life is from death.
Where are we? What are we doing? Preaching is the very loftiest work possible for a man to
do. And praying goes hand-in-hand with preaching. It is a mighty, a lofty work. Preaching is a
life-giving work sowing the seeds of eternal life. Oh, may we do it well, do it after God’s order,
do it successfully! May we do it divinely well, so that when the end comes, the solemn close of
earthly probation, we may hear from the Great Judge of all the earth, “Well done, good and faithful
servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
When we consider this great question of preaching, we are led to exclaim, “With what reverence,
simplicity and sincerity ought it to be done!” What truth in the inward parts is demanded in order
that it be done acceptably to God and with profit to men! How real, true and loyal those who practise
it ought to be! How great the need to pray as Christ prayed, with strong cryings, and tears, with
godly fear! Oh, may we as preachers do the real thing of preaching, with no sham, with no mere
form of words, with no dull, cold, professional utterances, but give ourselves to prayerful preaching
and prayerful praying! Preaching which gives life is born of praying which gives life. Preaching
and praying always go together, like Siamese twins, and can never be separated without death to
one or the other, or death to both.
This is not the time for kid-glove methods nor sugar-coated preaching. This is no time for
playing the gentleman as a preacher nor for putting on the garb of the scholar in the pulpit, if we
propose to disciple all nations, destroy idolatry, crush the rugged and defiant forces of
Mohammedanism, and overcome and destroy the tremendous forces of evil now opposing the
kingdom of God in this world. Brave men, true men, praying men—afraid of nothing but God, are
the kind needed just now. There will be no smiting the forces of evil which now hold the world in
thralldom, no lifting of the degraded hordes of paganism, to light and eternal life, by any but praying
men. All others are merely playing at religion, make-believe soldiers, with no armour and no
ammunition, who are absolutely helpless in the face of a wicked and gainsaying world. None but
soldiers and bond servants of Jesus Christ can possibly do this tremendous work. “Endure hardness
as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” cries the great Apostle. This is no time to think of self, to consult
with dignity, to confer with flesh and blood, to think of ease, or to shrink from hardship, grief and
loss. This is the time for toil, suffering, and self-denial. We must lose all for Christ in order to gain
all for Christ. Men are needed in the pulpit, as well as in the pew, who are “bold to take up, firm
to sustain, the consecrated cross.” Here is the sort of preachers God wants. And this sort are born
of much praying. For no man is sufficient for these things who is a prayerless preacher. Praying
preachers alone can meet the demand and will be equal to the emergency.
The Gospel of Jesus has neither relish nor life in it when spoken by prayerless lips or handled
by prayerless hands. Without prayer the doctrines of Christ degenerate into dead orthodoxy.
Preaching them without the aid of the Spirit of God, who comes into the preacher’s messages only
by prayer, is nothing more than mere lecturing, with no life, no grip, no force in the preaching. It
amounts to nothing more than live rationalism or sickly sentimentalism. “But we will give ourselves
continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word,” was the settled and declared purpose of the
apostolic ministry. The kingdom of God waits on prayer, and prayer puts wings on the Gospel and
power into it. By prayer it moves forward with conquering force and rapid advance.
If prayer be left out of account, the preacher rises to no higher level than the lecturer, the
politician or the secular teacher. That which distinguishes him from all other public speakers is the
fact of prayer. And as prayer deals with God, this means that the preacher has God with him, while
other speakers do not need God with them to make their public messages effective. The preacher
above everything else is a spiritual man, a man of the Spirit, who deals with spiritual things. And
this implies that he has to do with God in His pulpit work in a high and holy sense. This can be
said of no other public speaker. And so prayer must necessarily go with the preacher and his
preaching. Pure intellectuality is the only qualification for other public speakers. Spirituality which
is born of prayer belongs to the preacher.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus Christ often speaks of prayer. It stands out prominently in
His utterances on that occasion. The lesson of prayer which He taught was one of hallowing God’s
name, of pushing God’s kingdom. We are to long for the coming of the kingdom of God. It is to
be longed for, and must be first in our intercourse with God. God’s will must have its royal way in
the hearts and wills of those who pray. The point of urgency is made by our Lord that men are to
pray in earnest, by asking, seeking, knocking, in order to hallow God’s name, bring His will to
pass, and to forward His kingdom among men.
And let it be kept in mind that while this prayer-lesson has to do with all men, it has a peculiar
application to the ministry, for it was the twelve would-be preachers who made the request of our
Lord Jesus Christ, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” So that primarily these
words were spoken first to twelve men just entering upon their work as ministers. Jesus was talking
as Luke records it, to preachers. So He speaks to the preachers of this day. How He pressed these
twelve men into the ministry of prayer! The present-day ministry needs the same lesson to be taught
them, and needs the same urgency pressing them to prayer as their habit of life.
Notwithstanding all he may claim for himself, nor how many good things may be put down to
his credit, a prayerless preacher will never learn well God’s truth, which He is called upon to declare
with all fidelity and plainness of speech. Blind and blinding still will he be if he lives a prayerless
life. A prayerless ministry cannot know God’s truth, and not knowing it, cannot teach it to ignorant
men. He who teaches us the path of prayer, must first of all walk in the same path. A preacher
cannot teach what he does not know. A blind leader of the blind will be the preacher who is a
stranger to prayer. Prayer opens the preacher’s eyes, and keeps them open to the evil of sin, the
peril of it, and the penalty it incurs. A blind leader leading the blind will be the vocation of him
who is prayerless in his own life.
The best and the greatest offering which the Church and the ministry can make to God is an
offering of prayer. If the preachers of the twentieth century will learn well the lesson of prayer, and
use it fully in all its exhaustless efficiency, the millennium will come to its noon ere the century
The Bible preacher prays. He is filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with God’s Word, and is filled
with faith. He has faith in God, faith in God’s only begotten Son, his personal Saviour, and he has
implicit faith in God’s Word. He cannot do otherwise than pray. He cannot be other than a man of
prayer. The breadth of his life and the pulsations of his heart are prayer. The Bible preacher lives
by prayer, loves by prayer, and preaches by prayer. His bended knees in the place of secret prayer
advertise what kind of preacher he is.
Preachers may lose faith in God, in Jesus Christ as their personal and present Saviour, become
devoid of the peace of God and let the joy of salvation go out of their hearts, and yet be unconscious
of it. How needful for the preacher to be continually examining himself, and inquiring into his
personal relations to God and into his religious state! The preachers, like the philosophers of old,
may defer to a system; and earnestly contend for it after they have lost all faith in its great facts.
Men may in the pulpit with hearts of unbelief, minister at the altars of the Church, while alien to
the most sacred and vital principles of the Gospel.
It is a comparatively easy task for preachers to become so absorbed in the material and external
affairs of the Church as to lose sight of their own souls, forget the necessity of prayer so needful
to keep their own souls alive to God, and lose the inward sweetness of a Christian experience.
The prayer which makes much of our preaching must itself be made much of. The character of
our praying will determine the character of our preaching. Serious praying will give serious weight
to preaching. Prayer makes preaching strong, gives it unction and makes it stick. In every ministry,
weighty for good, prayer has always been a serious business prophetic of good.
It cannot be said with too much emphasis, the preacher must be preeminently a man of prayer.
He must learn to pray, and he must have such an estimate of prayer and its great worth that he
feels he cannot afford to omit it from the catalogue of his private duties. His heart must be attuned
to prayer, while he himself touches the highest note of prayer. In the school of prayer only can the
heart learn to preach. No gifts, no learning, no brain-force, can atone for the failure to pray. No
earnestness, no diligence, no study, no amount of social service, will supply its lack. Talking to
men for God may be a great thing, and may be very commendable. But talking to God for men, is
far more valuable and commendable.
The power of Bible preaching lies not simply or solely in superlative devotion to God’s Word,
and jealous passion for God’s truth. All these are essential, valuable, helpful. But above all these
things, there must be the sense of the divine presence, and the consciousness of the divine power
of God’s Spirit on the preacher and in him. He must have an anointing, an empowering, a sealing
of the Holy Spirit, for the great work of preaching, making him akin to God’s voice, and giving
him the energy of God’s right hand, so that this Bible preacher can say, “Thy words were found,
and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart. For I am called
by thy name, O Lord of hosts.”
IX. PRAYER-EQUIPMENT FOR PREACHERS
“Go back! Back to that upper room; back to your knees; back to searching of heart and
habit, thought and life; back to pleading, praying, waiting, till the Spirit of the Lord floods
the soul with light, and you are endued with power from on high. Then go forth in the power
of Pentecost, and the Christ-life shall be lived, and the works of Christ shall be done. You
shall open blind eyes, cleanse foul hearts, break men’s fetters, and save men’s souls. In the
power of the indwelling Spirit, miracles become the commonplace of daily living.”—Samuel
Almost the last words uttered by our Lord before His ascension to heaven, were those addressed
to the eleven disciples, words which, really, were spoken to, and having directly to do with, preachers,
words which indicate very clearly the needed fitness which these men must have to preach the
Gospel, beginning at Jerusalem: “But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem,” says Jesus, “till ye be
endued with power from on high.”
Two things are very clearly set forth in these urgent directions. First, the power of the Holy
Ghost for which they must tarry. This was to be received after their conversion, an indispensable
requisite, equipping them for the great task set before them. Secondly, the “promise of the Father,”
this “power from on high,” would come to them after they had waited in earnest, continuous prayer.
A reference to Acts 1:14 will reveal that these same men, with the women, “continued with one
accord in prayer and supplication,” and so continued until the Day of Pentecost, when the power
from on high descended upon them.
This “power from on high,” as important to those early preachers as it is to present-day preachers,
was not the force of a mighty intellect, holding in its grasp great truths, flooding them with light,
and forming them into verbal shapeliness and beauty. Nor was it the acquisition of great learning,
or the result of an address, faultless and complete by rule of rhetoric. None of these things. Nor
was this spiritual power held then, nor is it held now, in the keeping of any earthly sources of power.
The effect and energy of all human forces are essentially different in source and character, and do
not at all result from this “power from on high.” The transmission of such power is directly from
God, a bestowal, in rich measure, of the force and energy which pertains only to God, and which
is transmitted to His messengers only in answer to a longing, wrestling attitude of his soul before
his Master, conscious of his own impotency and seeking the omnipotency of the Lord he serves,
in order more fully to understand the given Word and to preach the same to his fellow-men.
The “power from on high” may be found in combination with all sources of human power, but
is not to be confounded with them, is not dependent upon them, and must never be superseded by
them. Whatever of human gift, talent or force a preacher may possess it is not to be made paramount,
or even conspicuous. It must be hidden, lost, overshadowed by this “power from on high.” The
forces of intellect and culture may all be present, but without this inward, heaven-given power, all
spiritual effort is vain and unsuccessful. Even when lacking the other equipment but having this
“power from on high,” a preacher cannot but succeed. It is the one essential, all-important vital
force which a messenger of God must possess to give wings to his message, to put life into his
preaching, and to enable him to speak the Word with acceptance and power.
A word is necessary here. Distinctions need to be kept in mind. We must think clearly upon
this question. “Power from on high” means “the unction of the Holy One” resting on and abiding
in the preacher. This is not so much a power which bears witness to a man being the child of God
as it is a preparation for delivering the Word to others. Unction must be distinguished from pathos.
Pathos may exist in a sermon while unction is entirely absent. So also, may unction be present and
pathos absent. Both may exist together; but they are not to be confused, nor be made to appear to
be the same thing. Pathos promotes emotion, tender feeling, sometimes tears. Quite often it results
from the relation of an affecting incident, or when the tender side is peculiarly appealed to. But
pathos is neither the direct nor indirect result of the Holy Spirit resting upon the preacher as he
But unction is. Here we are given the evidence of the workings of an undefinable agency in the
preacher, which results directly from the presence of this “power from on high,” deep, conscious,
life-giving and carrying, giving power and point to the preached Word. It is the element in a sermon
which arouses, stirs, convicts and moves the souls of sinners and saints. This is what the preacher
requires, the great equipment for which he should wait and pray. This “unction of the Holy One”
delivers from dryness, saves from superficiality, and gives authority to preaching. It is the one
quality which distinguishes the preacher of the Gospel from other men who speak in public; it is
that which makes a sermon unique, unlike the deliverance of any other public speaker.
Prayer is the language of a man burdened with a sense of need. It is the voice of the beggar,
conscious of his poverty, asking of another the things he needs. It is not only the language of lack,
but of felt lack, of lack consciously realized. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” means not only that
the fact of poverty of spirit brings the blessing, but also that poverty of spirit is realized, known
and acknowledged. Prayer is the language of those who need something—something which they,
themselves, cannot supply but which God has promised them, and for which they ask. In the end,
poor praying and prayerlessness amount to the same thing, for poor praying proceeds from a lack
of the sense of need, while prayerlessness has its origin in the same soil. Not to pray is not only to
declare there is nothing needed, but to admit to a non-realization of that need. This is what aggravates
the sin of prayerlessness. It represents an attempt at instituting an independence of God, a
self-sufficient ruling of God out of the life. It is a declaration made to God that we do not need
Him, and hence do not pray to Him.
This is the state in which the Holy Spirit, in His messages to the Seven Churches in Asia, found
the Laodicean Church and “the Laodicean state” has come to stand for one in which God is ruled
out, expelled from the life, put out of the pulpit. The entire condemnation of this Church is summed
up in one expression: “Because thou sayest, I have need of nothing,” the most alarming state into
which a person, or church or preacher can come. Trusting in its riches, in its social position, in
things outward and material, the Church at Laodicea omitted God, leaving Him out of their church
plans and church work, and declared, by their acts and by their omission of prayer, “I have need
No wonder the self-satisfied declaration brought forth its sentence of punishment—“Because
thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” The idea conveyed
is that such a backslidden state of heart is as repulsive to God as an emetic is to the human stomach,
and as the stomach expels that which is objectionable, so Almighty God threatens to “spue out of
His mouth” these people who were in such a religious condition so repulsive to Him. All of it was
traceable to a prayerless state of heart, for no one can read this word of the Spirit to this Laodicean
Church and not see that the very core of their sin was prayerlessness. How could a Church, given
to prayer, openly and vauntingly declare, “I have need of nothing,” in the face of the Spirit’s assertion
that it needed everything, “Thou knowest not that thou art wretched, and poor, and miserable, and
blind, and naked”? In addition to their sin of self-sufficiency and of independence of God, the
Laodiceans were spiritually blind. Oh, what dullness of sight, what blindness of soul! These people
were prayerless, and knew not the import of such prayerlessness. They lacked everything which
goes to make up spiritual life, and force, and self-denying piety, and vainly supposed themselves
to need nothing but material wealth, thus making temporal possessions a substitute for spiritual
wealth, leaving God entirely out of their activities, relying upon human and material resources to
do the work only possible to the divine and supernatural, and secured alone by prayer.
Nor let it be forgotten that this letter (in common with the other six letters) was primarily
addressed to the preacher in charge of the church. All this strengthens the impression that the “angel
of the church” himself was in this lukewarm state. He himself was living a prayerless life, relying
upon things other than God, practically saying, “I have need of nothing.” For these words are the
natural expression of the spirit of him who does not pray, who does not care for God, and who does
not feel the need of Him in his life, in his work and in his preaching. Furthermore, the words of the
Spirit seem to indicate that the “angel of the church” at Laodicea was indirectly responsible for this
sad condition into which the Laodicean Church had fallen.
May not this sort of a church be found in modern times? Is it not likely that we could discover
some preachers of modern times who fall under a similar condemnation to that passed upon the
“angel of the church” of Laodicea?
Preachers of the present age excel those of the past in many, possibly in all, human elements
of success. They are well abreast of the age in learning, research, and intellectual vigour. But these
things neither insure “power from on high” nor guarantee a live, thriving religious experience, or
righteous life. These purely human gifts do not bring with them an insight into the deep things of
God, or strong faith in the Scriptures, or an intense loyalty to God’s divine revelation.
The presence of these earthly talents even in the most commanding and impressive form, and
richest measure do not in the least abate the necessity for the added endowment of the Holy Spirit.
Herein lies the great danger menacing the pulpit of today. All around us we see a tendency to
substitute human gifts and worldly attainments for that supernatural, inward power which comes
from on high in answer to earnest prayer.
In many instances modern preaching seems to fail in the very thing which should create and
distinguish true preaching, which is essential to its being, and which alone can make of it a divine
and powerfully aggressive agency. It lacks, in short, “the power from on high” which alone can
make it a living thing. It fails to become the channel through which God’s saving power can be
made to appeal to men’s consciences and hearts.
Quite often, modern preaching fails at this vital point, for lack of exercising a potent influence
which disturbs men in their sleep of security, and awakens them to a sense of need and of peril.
There is a growing need of an appeal which will quicken and arouse the conscience from its ignoble
stupor and give it a sense of wrong-doing and a corresponding sense of repentance. There is need
of a message which searches into the secret places of man’s being, dividing, as it were, the joints
and the marrow, and laying bare the mysterious depths before himself and his God. Much of our
present-day preaching is lacking in that quality which infuses new blood into the heart and veins
of faith, that arms it with courage and skill for the battle with the powers of darkness, and secures
it a victory over the forces of the world.
Such high and noble ends can never be accomplished by human qualifications, nor can these
great results be secured by a pulpit clothed only with the human elements of power, however
gracious, comfortable, and helpful they may be. The Holy Spirit is needed. He alone can equip the
ministry for its difficult and responsible work in and out of the pulpit. Oh, that the present-day
ministry may come to see that its one great need is an enduement of “power from on high,” and
that this one need can be secured only by the use of God’s appointed means of grace—the ministry
Prayer is needed by the preacher in order that his personal relations with God may be maintained
and that because there is no difference between him and any other kind of a man in so far as his
personal salvation is concerned. This he must work out “with fear and trembling,” just as all other
men must do. Thus prayer is of vast importance to the preacher in order that he may possess a
growing religious experience, and be enabled to live such a life that his character and conduct will
back up his preaching and give force to his message.
A man must have prayer in his pulpit work, for no minister can preach effectively without
prayer. He also has use for prayer in praying for others. Paul was a notable example of a preacher
who constantly prayed for those to whom he ministered.
But we come, now, to another sphere of prayer, that of the people praying for the preacher.
“Brethren, pray for us,” This is the cry which Paul set in motion, and which has been the cry of
spiritually minded preachers—those who know God and who know that value of prayer—in all
succeeding ages. No condition of success or the reverse of it must abate the cry. No degree of
culture, no abundance of talents, must cause that cry to cease. The learned preacher, as well as the
unlearned, has equal need to call out to the people they serve, “Withal, praying also for us.” Such
a cry voices the felt need of a preacher’s heart who feels the need there is for sympathies of a people
to be in harmony with its minister. It is but the expression of the inner soul of a preacher who feels
his insufficiency for the tremendous responsibilities of the pulpit, who realizes his weakness and
his need of the divine unction, and who throws himself upon the prayers of his congregation, and
calls out to them, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication, in the Spirit, and for me, that
utterance may be given me.” It is the cry of deep felt want in the heart of the preacher who feels
he must have this prayer made specifically for him that he may do his work in God’s own way.
When this request to a people to pray for the preacher is cold, formal and official, it freezes
in-stead of fructifies. To be ignorant of the necessity for the cry, is to be ignorant of the sources of
spiritual success. To fail to stress the cry, and to fall to have responses to it, is to sap the sources
of spiritual life. Preachers must sound out the cry to the Church of God. Saints everywhere and of
every kind, and of every faith speedily respond and pray for the preacher. The imperative need of
the work demands it. “Pray for us,” is the natural cry of the hearts of God’s called men—faithful
preachers of the Word.
Saintly praying in the early Church helped apostolic preaching mightily, and rescued apostolic
men from many dire straits. It can do the same thing today. It can open doors for apostolic labours,
and apostolic lips to utter bravely and truly the Gospel message. Apostolic movements wait their
ordering from prayer, and avenues long closed are opened to apostolic entrance by and through the
power of prayer. The messenger receives his message and is schooled as to how to carry and deliver
the message by prayer. The forerunner of the Gospel, and that which prepares the way, is prayer;
not only by the praying of the messenger himself, but by the praying of the Church of God.
Writing along this line in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul is first general in his
request and says, “Brethren, pray for us.” Then he becomes more minute and particular:
“Finally, brethren, pray for us,” he goes on, “that the word of the Lord may have
free course and be glorified, even as it is with you. And that we may be delivered from
unreasonable and wicked men; for all men have not faith.”
The Revised Version has for “free course” the word “run.” “The Word” means doctrine, and
the idea conveyed is that this doctrine of the Gospel is rapidly propagated, a metaphor taken from
the running of a race, and is an exhortation to exert one’s self, to strive hard, to expend strength.
Thus the prayer for the spread of the Gospel gives the same energy to the Word of the Lord, as the
greatest outlay of strength gives success to the racer. Prayer in the pew gives the preached Word
energy, facility, and success. Preaching without the backing of mighty praying is as limp and
worthless an effort as can be imagined. Prayerlessness in the pew is a serious hindrance to the
running of the Word of the Lord.
The preaching of the Word of the Lord falls to run and be glorified from many causes. The
difficulty may lie with the preacher himself, should his outward conduct be out of harmony with
the rule of the Scriptures and his own profession. The Word lived must be in accord with the Word
delivered; the life must be in harmony with the sermon. The preacher’s spirit and behaviour out of
the pulpit must run parallel with the Word of the Lord spoken in the pulpit. Otherwise, a man is an
obstacle to the success of his own message.
Again, the Word of the Lord may fail to run, may be seriously encumbered and crippled by the
inconsistent lives of those who are the hearers thereof. Bad living in the pew will seriously cripple
the Word of the Lord, as attempts to run on its appointed course. Unrighteous lives among the laity
heavily weights down the Word of the Lord and hampers the work of the ministry. Yet prayer will
remove this burden which seriously handicaps the preached Word. It will tend to do this in a direct
way, or in an indirect manner. For just as you set laymen to praying, for the preacher or even for
themselves, it awakens conscience, stirs the heart, and tends to correct evil ways and to promote
good living. No man will pray long and continue in sin. Praying breaks up bad living, while bad
living breaks down prayer. Praying goes into bankruptcy when a man goes to sinning. To obey the
cry of the preacher, “Brethren, pray for us,” sets men to doing that which will induce right living
in them, and will tend to break them away from sin. So it comes about that it is worth no little to
get the laity to pray for the ministry. Prayer helps the preacher, is an aid to the sermon, assists the
hearer and promotes right living in the pew.
Prayer also moves him who prays for the preacher and for the Word of the Lord, to use all his
influence to remove any hindrance to that Word which he may see, and which lies in his power to
But prayer reaches the preacher directly. God hears the praying of a church for its minister.
Prayer for the preached Word is a direct aid to it. Prayer for the preacher gives wings to the Gospel,
as well as feet. Prayer makes the Word of the Lord go forward strongly and rapidly. It takes the
shackles off of the message, and gives it a chance to run straight to the hearts of sinners and saints,
alike. It opens the way, clears the track, furnishes a free course. The failure of many a preacher
may be found just here. He was hampered, hindered, crippled by a prayerless church. Non-praying
officials stood in the way of the Word preached, and became veritable stumbling blocks in the way
of the Word, definitely preventing its reaching the hearts of the unsaved.
Unbelief and prayerlessness go together. It is written of our Lord in Matthew’s Gospel that
when He entered into His own country, “he did not many mighty works there because of their
unbelief.” Mark puts it a little differently, but giving out the same idea: “And he could there do no
mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folks and healed them. And he marveled
because of their unbelief.” Unquestionably the unbelief of that people hindered our Lord in His
gracious work and tied His hands. And if that be true, it requires no undue straining of the Scriptures
when we say that the unbelief and prayerlessness of a church can tie the hands of its preacher, and
prevent him from doing many great works in the salvation of souls and in edifying saints.
Prayerlessness, therefore, as it concerns the preacher is a very serious matter. If it exists in the
preacher himself, then he ties his own hands and makes the Word as preached by him ineffective
and void. If prayerless men be found in the pew, then it hurts the preacher, robs him of an invaluable
help, and interferes seriously with the success of his work. How great the need of a praying church
to help on the preaching of the Word of the Lord! Both pew and pulpit are jointly concerned in this
preaching business. It is a copartnership. The two go hand in hand. One must help the other, one
can hinder the other. Both must work in perfect accord or serious damage will result, and God’s
plan concerning the preacher and the preached Word be defeated.
X. THE PREACHER’S CRY—PRAY FOR US!
“That the true apostolic preacher must have the prayers of others—good people to give
to his ministry its full quota of success, Paul is a preeminent example. He asks, he covets,
he pleads in an impassionate way for the help of all God’s saints, He knew that in the
spiritual realm as elsewhere, in union there is strength; that the consecration and
aggregation of faith, desire, and prayer increased the volume of spiritual force until it
became overwhelming and irresistible in its power. Units of prayer combined, like drops
of water, make an ocean that defies resistance”—E. M. B.
How far does praying for the preacher help preaching? It helps him personally and officially. It
helps him to maintain a righteous life, it helps him in preparing his message, and it helps the Word
preached by him to run to its appointed goal, unhindered and unhampered.
A praying church creates a spiritual atmosphere most favourable to preaching. What preacher
knowing anything of the real work of preaching doubts the veracity of this statement? The spirit
of prayer in a congregation begets an atmosphere surcharged with the Spirit of the Highest, removes
obstacles and gives the Word of the Lord right of way. The very attitude of such a congregation
constitutes an environment most encouraging and favorable to preaching. It renders preaching an
easy task; it enables the Word to run quickly and without friction, helped on by the warmth of souls
engaged in prayer.
Men in the pew given to praying for the preacher, are like the poles which hold up the wires
along which the electric current runs. They are not the power, neither are they the specific agents
in making the Word of the Lord effective. But they hold up the wires, along which the divine power
runs to the hearts of men. They give liberty to the preacher, exemption from being straitened, and
keep him from “getting in the brush.” They make conditions favorable for the preaching of the
Gospel. Preachers, not a few, who know God, have had large experience and are aware of the truth
of these statements. Yet how hard have they found it to preach in some places! This was because
they had no “door of utterance,” and were hampered in their delivery, there appearing no response
whatever to their appeals. On the other hand, at other times, thought flowed easily, words came
freely, and there was no failure in utterance. The preacher “had liberty,” as the old men used to
The preaching of the Word to a prayerless congregation falls at the very feet of the preacher.
It has no traveling force; it stops because the atmosphere is cold, unsympathetic, unfavorable to its
running to the hearts of men and women. Nothing is there to help it along. Just as some prayers
never go above the head of him who prays, so the preaching of some preachers goes no farther than
the front of the pulpit from which it is delivered. It takes prayer in the pulpit and prayer in the pew
to make preaching arresting, life-giving and soul-saving.
The Word of God is inseparably linked with prayer. The two are conjoined, twins from birth,
and twins by life. The Apostles found themselves absorbed by the sacred and pressing duty of
distributing the alms of the Church, till time was not left for them to pray. They directed that other
men should be appointed to discharge this task, that they might be the better able to give themselves
continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.
So it might likewise be said that prayer for the preacher by the church is also inseparably joined
to preaching. A praying church is an invaluable help to the faithful preacher. The Word of the Lord
runs in such a church, “and is glorified” in the saving of sinners in the reclamation of back-sliders,
and in the sanctifying of believers. Paul connects the Word of God closely in prayer in writing to
“For every creature of God is good,” he says, “and nothing to be refused, if it be
received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.”
And so the Word of the Lord is dependent for its rapid spread and for its full, and most glorious
success in prayer.
Paul indicates that prayer transmutes the ills which come to the preacher: “For I know that this
shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” It was
“through their prayer” he declares these benefits would come to him. And so it is “through the
prayer of a church” that the pastor will be the beneficiary of large spiritual things.
In the latter part of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we have Paul’s request for prayer for himself
addressed to the Hebrew Christians, basing his request on the grave and eternal responsibilities of
the office of a preacher:
“Obey them that have the rule over you,” he says, “and submit yourselves; for they
watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and
not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you. Pray for us; for we trust we have a good
conscience in all things willing to live honestly.”
How little does the Church understand the fearful responsibility attaching to the office and work
of the ministry! “For they watch for your souls as they that must give account.” God’s appointed
watchmen, to warn when danger is nigh; God’s messengers sent to rebuke, reprove and exhort with
all long-suffering; ordained as shepherds to protect the sheep against devouring wolves. How
responsible is their position! And they are to give account to God for their work, and are to face a
day of reckoning. How much do such men need the prayers of those to whom they minister! And
who should be more ready to do this praying than God’s people, His own Church, those presumably
who are in heart sympathy with the minister and his all-important work, divine in its origin.
Among the last messages of Jesus to His disciples are those found in the fourteenth, fifteenth
and sixteenth chapters of John’s Gospel. In the fourteenth, as well as in the others, are some very
specific teachings about prayer, designed for their help and encouragement in their future work.
We must never lose sight of the fact that these last discourses of Jesus Christ were given to disciples
alone, away from the busy crowds, and seem primarily intended for them in their public ministry.
In reality, they were words spoken to preachers, for these eleven men were to be the first preachers
of the new dispensation.
With this thought in mind, we are able to see the tremendous importance given to prayer by
our Lord, and the high place He gave it in the life-work of preachers, both in this day and in that
First our Lord proposes that He will pray for these disciples, that the Father might send them
another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world could not receive. He preceded this
statement by a direct command to them to pray, to pray for anything, with the assurance that they
would receive what they asked for.
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
If, therefore, there was value in their own praying, and it was of great worth that our Lord should
intercede for them, then of course it would be worth while that the people to whom they would
minister should also pray for them. It is no wonder then that the Apostle Paul should take the key
from our Lord, and several times break out with the urgent exhortation, “Pray for us.”
True praying done by the laymen helps in many ways, but in one particular way. It helps very
materially the preacher to be brave and true. Read Paul’s request to the Ephesians:
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication,” he says, “in the Spirit, and
watching thereunto with all perseverance, and supplication for all saints; and for me,
that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known
the mystery of the gospel; for which I am an ambassador in bonds, that therein I may
speak as I ought to speak.”
How much of the boldness and loyalty of Paul was dependent upon the prayers of the Church,
or rather how much he was helped at these two points, we may not know. But unquestionably there
must have come to him through the prayers of the Christians at Ephesus, Colossæ and Thessalonica,
much aid in preaching the Word, of which he would have been deprived had these churches not
have prayed for him. And in like manner, in modern times, has the gift of ready and effective
utterance in the preacher been bestowed upon a preacher through the prayers of a praying church.
The Apostle Paul did not desire to fall short of that most important quality in a preacher of the
Gospel, namely, boldness. He was no coward, or time-server, or man-pleaser, but he needed prayer,
in order that he might not, through any kind of timidity, fail to declare the whole truth of God, or
through fear of men, declare it in an apologetic, hesitating way. He desired to remove himself as
far as possible from an attitude of this kind. His constant desire and effort was to declare the Gospel
with consecrated boldness and with freedom. “That I may open my mouth boldly, to make known
the mystery of the Gospel, that I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak,” seemed to be his great
desire, and it would appear that, at times, he was really afraid that he might exhibit cowardice, or
be affected by the fear of the face of man.
This is a day that has urgent need of men after the mould of the great Apostle—men of courage,
brave and true, who are swayed not by the fear of men, or reduced to silence or apology by the
dread of consequences. And one way to secure them is for the pew to engage in earnest prayer for
In Paul’s word to the Ephesian elders given when on his way to Jerusalem, Paul exculpates
himself from the charge of blood-guiltiness, in that he had not failed to declare the whole counsel
of God to them. To his Philippian brethren, also, he says, that through their prayers, he would prove
to be neither ashamed nor afraid.
Nothing, perhaps, can be more detrimental to the advancement of the kingdom of God among
men than a timid, or doubtful statement of revealed truth. The man who states only the half of what
he believes, stands side by side with the man who fully declares what he only half believes. No
coward can preach the Gospel, and declare the whole counsel of God. To do that, a man must be
in the battle-attitude not from passion, but by reason of deep conviction, strong conscience and
full-orbed courage. Faith is in the custody of a gallant heart while timidity surrenders, always, to
a brave spirit. Paul prayed, and prevailed on others to pray that he might be a man of resolute
courage, brave enough to do everything but sin. The result of this mutual praying is that history
has no finer instance of courage in a minister of Jesus Christ than that displayed in the life of the
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
Apostle Paul. He stands in the premier position as a fearless, uncompromising, God-fearing preacher
of the Gospel of his Lord.
God seems to have taken great pains with His prophets of old time to save them from fear while
delivering His messages to mankind. He sought in every way to safeguard His spokesmen from
the fear of man, and by means of command, reasoning and encouragement sought to render them
fearless and true to their high calling. One of the besetting temptations of a preacher is the “fear”
of the face of man. Unfortunately, not a few surrender to this fear, and either remain silent at times
when they should be boldly eloquent, or temper with smooth words the stern mandate it is theirs
to deliver. “The fear of man bringeth a snare.”
With this sore temptation Satan often besets the preacher of the Word and few there be who
have not felt the force of this temptation. It is the duty of ministers of the Gospel to face this
temptation to fear the face of man with resolute courage and to steel themselves against it, and, if
need be, trample it under foot. To this important end, the preacher should be prayed for by his
church. He needs deliverance from fear, and prayer is the agency whereby it can be driven away
and freedom from the bondage of fear given to his soul.
We have a striking picture of the preacher’s need of prayer, and of what a people’s prayers can
do for him in Exodus 17. Israel and Amalek were in battle, and the contest was severe and close.
Moses stood on top of the hill with his rod lifted up in his hands, the symbol of power and victory.
As long as Moses held up the rod, Israel prevailed, but when he let down his hand with the rod,
Amalek prevailed. While the contest was in the balance, Aaron and Hur came to the rescue, and
when Moses’ hands were heavy, these two men “stayed up his hands, . . . until the going down of
the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people.”
By common consent, this incident in the history of ancient Israel has been recognized as a
striking illustration of how a people may sustain their preacher by prayer, and of how victory comes
when the people pray for their preacher.
Some of the Lord’s very best men in Old Testament times had to be encouraged against fear
by Almighty God. Moses himself was not free from the fear which harasses and compromises a
leader. God told him to go to Pharaoh, in these words: “Come now therefore, and I will send thee
unto Pharaoh, that thou mayst bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But
Moses, largely through fear, began to offer objections and excuses for not going, until God became
angry with him, and said, finally, that He would send Aaron with Moses to do the talking, as long
as Moses insisted that he “was slow of speech and of slow tongue.” But the fact was, Moses was
afraid of the face of Pharaoh, and it took God some time to circumvent his fears and nerve him to
face the Egyptian monarch and deliver God’s message to him.
And Joshua, too, the successor of Moses, and a man seemingly courageous, must needs be
fortified by God against fear, lest he shrink from duty, and be reduced to discouragement and
timidity. “Be strong and of good courage,” God commanded him. “Have I not commanded thee?
Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou
As good and true a man as Jeremiah was sorely tempted to fear and had to be warned and
strengthened lest he prove false to his charge. When God ordained him a prophet unto the nations,
Jeremiah began to excuse himself on the ground that he could not speak, being but a child in that
regard. So the Lord had to safeguard him from the temptation of fear, that he might not prove
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
faithless: “Thou therefore, gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them,” God said to His
servant, “all that I command thee; be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.”
Since these great men of old time were so beset with this temptation, and disposed to shrink
from duty we need not be surprised that preachers of our own day are to be found in similar case.
The devil is the same in all ages; nor has human nature undergone any change. How needful, then,
that we pray for the leaders of our Israel especially that they may receive the gift of boldness, and
speak the Word of God with courage.
This was one reason why Paul insisted so vigorously that the brethren pray for him, so that a
door of utterance might be given him, and that he might be delivered from the fear of man, and
blessed with holy boldness in preaching the Word.
The challenge and demand of the world in our own day is that Christianity be made practical;
that its precepts be expressed in practice, and brought down from the realm of the ideal to the levels
of every-day life. This can be done only by praying men, who being much in sympathy with their
ministers will not cease to bear them up in their prayers before God.
A preacher of the Gospel cannot meet the demands made upon him, alone, any more than the
vine can bear grapes without branches. The men who sit in the pews are to be the fruit-bearing
ones. They are to translate the “ideal” of the pulpit into the “real” of daily life and action. But they
will not do it, they cannot do it, if they be not devoted to God and much given to prayer. Devotion
to God and devotion to prayer are one and the same thing.
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
XI. MODERN EXAMPLES OF PRAYER
“When the dragon-fly rends his husk and harnesses himself, in a clean plate of sapphire
mail, his is a pilgrimage of one or two sunny days over the fields and pastures wet with
dew, yet nothing can exceed the marvelous beauty in which he is decked. No flowers on
earth have a richer blue than the pure colour of his cuirass. So is it in the high spiritual
sphere. The most complete spiritual loveliness may be obtained in the shortest time, and
the stripling may die a hundred years old, in character and grace.”—History Of David
God has not confined Himself to Bible days in showing what can be done through prayer. In modern
times, also, He is seen to be the same prayer-hearing God as aforetime. Even in these latter days
He has not left Himself without witness. Religious biography and Church history, alike, furnish us
with many noble examples and striking illustrations of prayer, its necessity, its worth and its fruits,
all tending to the encouragement of the faith of God’s saints and all urging them on to more and
better praying. God has not confined Himself to Old and New Testament times in employing praying
men as His agents in furthering His cause on earth, and He has placed Himself under obligation to
answer their prayers just as much as He did the saints of old. A selection from these praying saints
of modern times will show us how they valued prayer, what it meant to them, and what it meant
Take for example, the instance of Samuel Rutherford, the Scottish preacher, exiled to the north
of Scotland, forbidden to preach, and banished from his home and pastoral charge. Rutherford lived
between 1600 and 1661. He was a member of the Westminster Assembly, Principal of New College,
and Rector of St. Andrews’ University. He is said to have been one of the most moving and
affectionate preachers of his time, or, perhaps, in any age of the Church. Men said of him, “He is
always praying,” and concerning his and his wife’s praying, one wrote: “He who had heard either
pray or speak, might have learned to bemoan his ignorance. Oh, how many times have I been
convinced by observing them of the evil of insincerity before God and unsavouriness in discourse!
He so prayed for his people that he himself says, ‘There I wrestled with the Angel and prevailed.’”
He was ordered to appear before Parliament to answer the charge of high treason, although a
man of scholarly attainments and rare genius. At times he was depressed and gloomy; especially
was this the case when he was first banished and silenced from preaching, for there were many
murmurings and charges against him. But his losses and crosses were so sanctified that Christ
became more and more to him. Marvelous are the statements of his estimate of Christ. This devoted
man of prayer wrote many letters during his exile to preachers, to state officers, to lords temporal
and spiritual, to honourable and holy men, to honourable and holy women, all breathing an intense
devotion to Christ, and all born of a life of great devotion to prayer.
Ardour and panting after God have been characteristics of great souls in all ages of the Church
and Samuel Rutherford was a striking example of this fact. He was a living example of the truth
that he who prays always, will be enveloped in devotion and joined to Christ in bonds of holy union.
Then there was Henry Martyn, scholar, saint, missionary, and apostle to India. Martyn was born
February 18, 1781, and sailed for India August 31, 1805. He died at Tokal, Persia, October 16,
1812. Here is part of what he said about himself while a missionary:
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
“What a knowledge of man and acquaintance with the Scriptures, and what
communion with God and study of my own heart ought to prepare me for the awful work
of a messenger from God on business of the soul.”
Said one of this consecrated missionary:
“Oh, to be able to emulate his excellencies, his elevation of piety, his diligence, his
superiority to the world, his love for souls, his anxiety to improve all occasions to do
souls good, his insight into the mystery of Christ, and his heavenly temper! These are
the secrets of the wonderful impression he made in India.”
It is interesting and profitable to note some of the things which Martyn records in his diary.
Here is an example:
“The ways of wisdom appear more sweet and reasonable than ever,” he says, “and
the world more insipid and vexatious. The chief thing I mourn over is my want of power,
and lack of fervour in secret prayer, especially when attempting to plead for the heathen.
Warmth does not increase within me in proportion to my light.”
If Henry Martyn, so devoted, ardent and prayerful, lamented his lack of power and want of
fervour in prayer, how ought our cold and feeble praying abase us in the very dust? Alas, how rare
are such praying men in the Church of our own day!
Again we quote a record from his diary. He had been quite ill, but had recovered and was filled
with thankfulness because it had pleased God to restore him to life and health again.
“Not that I have yet recovered my former strength,” he says, “but I consider myself
sufficiently restored to prosecute my journey. My daily prayer is that my late chastisement
may have its intended effect, and make me, all the rest of my days, more humble and
“Self-confidence has often led me down fearful lengths, and would, without God’s
gracious interference, prove my endless perdition. I seem to be made to feel this evil of
my heart more than any other at this time. In prayer, or when I write or converse on
the subject, Christ appears to me my life and my strength; but at other times I am
thoughtless and bold, as if I had all life and strength in myself. Such neglects on our
part are a diminution of our joys.”
Among the last entries in this consecrated missionary’s journal we find the following:
“I sat in the orchard and thought, with sweet comfort and peace, of my God, in
solitude, my Company, my Friend, my Comforter. Oh, when shall time give place to
Note the words, “in solitude,”—away from the busy haunts of men, in a lonely place, like his
Lord, he went out to meditate and pray.
Brief as this summary is, it suffices to show how fully and faithfully Henry Martyn exercised
his ministry of prayer. The following may well serve to end our portrayal of him:
“By daily weighing the Scriptures, with prayer, he waxed riper and riper in his
ministry. Prayer and the Holy Scriptures were those wells of salvation out of which he
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
drew daily the living water for his thirsty immortal soul. Truly may it be said of him,
he prayed always with all prayer and supplication, in the Spirit, and watched thereunto
with all perseverance.”
David Brainerd, the missionary to the Indians, is a remarkable example of a praying man of
God. Robert Hale thus speaks of him:
“Such invincible patience and self-denial; such profound humility, exquisite
prudence, indefatigable industry; such devotedness to God, or rather such absorption
of the whole soul in zeal for the divine glory and the salvation of men, is scarcely to be
paralleled since the age of the Apostles. Such was the intense ardour of his mind that
it seems to have diffused the spirit of a martyr over the common incidents of his life.”
Dr. A. J. Gordon speaks thus of Brainerd:
“In passing through Northampton, Mass., I went into the old cemetery, swept off
the snow that lay on the top of the slab, and I read these simple words:
“‘Sacred to the memory of David Brainerd, the faithful and devoted missionary to
the Susquehanna, Delaware and Stockbridge Indians of America, who died in this town,
October 8th, 1717.’
“That was all there was on the slab. Now that great man did his greatest work by
prayer. He was in the depths of those forests alone, unable to speak the language of the
Indians, but he spent whole days literally in prayer. What was he praying for? He knew
he could not reach these savages, for he did not understand their language. If he wanted
to speak at all, he must find somebody who could vaguely interpret his thought. Therefore
he knew that anything he could do must be absolutely dependent upon God. So he spent
whole days in praying, simply that the power of the Holy Ghost might come upon him
so unmistakably that these people would not be able to stand before him.
“What was his answer? Once he preached through a drunken interpreter, a man so
intoxicated that he could hardly stand up. This was the best he could do. Yet scores
were converted through that sermon. We can account for it only that it was the
tremendous power of God behind him.
“Now this man prayed in secret in the forest. A little while afterward, William Carey
read his life, and by its impulse he went to India. Payson read it as a young man, over
twenty years old, and he said that he had never been so impressed by anything in his
life as by the story of Brainerd. Murray McCheyne read it, and he likewise was impressed
“But all I care is simply to enforce this thought, that the hidden life, a life whose
days are spent in communion with God, in trying to reach the source of power, is the
life that moves the world. Those living such lives may be soon forgotten. There may be
no one to speak a eulogy over them when they are dead. The great world may take no
account of them. But by and by, the great moving current of their lives will begin to tell,
as in the case of this young man, who died at about thirty years of age. The missionary
spirit of this nineteenth century is more due to the prayers and consecration of this one
man than to any other one.
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
“So I say. And yet that most remarkable thing is that Jonathan Edwards, who watched
over him all those months while he was slowly dying of consumption, should also say:
‘I praise God that it was in His Providence that he should die in my house, that I might
hear his prayers, and that I might witness his consecration, and that I might be inspired
by his example.’
“When Jonathan Edwards wrote that great appeal to Christendom to unite in prayer
for the conversion of the world, which has been the trumpet call of modern missions,
undoubtedly it was inspired by this dying missionary.”
To David Brainerd’s spirit, John Wesley bore this testimony:
“I preached and afterward made a collection for the Indian schools in America. A
large sum of money is now collected. But will money convert heathens? Find preachers
of David Brainerd’s spirit, and nothing can stand before them. But without this, what
will gold or silver do? No more than lead or iron.”
Some selections from Brainerd’s diary will be of value as showing what manner of man he
“My soul felt a pleasing yet painful concern,” he writes, “lest I should spend some
moments without God. Oh, may I always live to God! In the evening I was visited by
some friends, and spent the time in prayer, and such conversation as tended to edification.
It was a comfortable season to my soul. I felt an ardent desire to spend every moment
with God. God is unspeakably gracious to me continually. In time past, He has given
me inexpressible sweetness in the performance of duty. Frequently my soul has enjoyed
much of God, but has been ready to say, ‘Lord, it is good to be here;’ and so indulge
sloth while I have lived on the sweetness of my feelings. But of late God has been pleased
to keep my soul hungry almost continually, so that I have been filled with a kind of
pleasing pain. When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of Him the more insatiable,
and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable.
“Oh, that I may feel this continual hunger, and not be retarded, but rather animated
by every duster from Canaan, to reach forward in the narrow way, for the full enjoyment
and possession of the heavenly inheritance! Oh, may I never loiter in my heavenly
“It seems as if such an unholy wretch as I never could arrive at that blessedness,
to be holy as God is holy. At noon I longed for sanctification and conformity to God.
Oh, that is the one thing, the all!
“Toward night enjoyed much sweetness in secret prayer, so that my soul longed for
an arrival in the heavenly country, the blessed paradise of God.”
If inquiry be made as to the secret of David Brainerd’s heavenly spirit, his deep consecration
and exalted spiritual state, the answer will be found in the last sentence quoted above. He was given
to much secret prayer, and was so close to God in his life and spirit that prayer brought forth much
sweetness to his inner soul.
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
We have cited the foregoing cases as illustrative of the great fundamental fact that God’s great
servants are men devoted to the ministry of prayer; that they are God’s agents on earth who serve
Him in this way, and who carry on His work by this holy means.
Louis Harms was born in Hanover, in 1809, and then came a time when he was powerfully
convicted of sin. Said he, “I have never known what fear was. But when I came to the knowledge
of my sins, I quaked before the wrath of God, so that my limbs trembled.” He was mightily converted
to God by reading the Bible. Rationalism, a dead orthodoxy, and worldliness, held the multitudes
round Hermansburgh, his native town. His father, a Lutheran minister, dying, he became his
He began with all the energy of his soul to work for Christ, and to develop a church of a pure,
strong type. The fruit was soon evident. There was a quickening on every hand, attendance at public
services increased, reverence for the Bible grew, conversation on sacred things revived, while
infidelity, worldliness and dead orthodoxy vanished like a passing cloud. Harms proclaimed a
conscious and present Christ, the Comforter, in the full energy of His mission, the revival of apostolic
piety and power. The entire neighbourhood became regular attendants at church, the Sabbath was
restored to its sanctity, and hallowed with strict devotion, family altars were erected in the homes,
and when the noon bell sounded, every head was bowed in prayer. In a very short time the whole
aspect of the country was entirely changed. The revival in Hermansburgh was essentially a prayer
revival, brought about by prayer and yielding fruits of prayer in a rich and an abundant ingathering.
William Carvosso, an old-time Methodist class-leader, was one of the best examples which
modern times has afforded of what was probably the religious life of Christians in the apostolic
age. He was a prayer-leader, a class-leader, a steward and a trustee, but never aspired to be a
preacher. Yet a preacher he was of the very first quality, and a master in the art and science of
soul-saving. He was a singular instance of a man learning the simplest rudiments late in life. He
had up to the age of sixty-five years never written a single sentence, yet he wrote letters which
would make volumes, and a book which was regarded as a spiritual classic in the great world-wide
Not a page nor a letter, it is believed, was ever written by him on any other subject but religion.
Here are some of his brief utterances which give us an insight into his religious character. “I want
to be more like Jesus.” “My soul thirsteth for Thee, O God.” “I see nothing will do, O God, but
being continually filled with Thy presence and glory.”
This was the continual out-crying of his inner soul, and this was the strong inward impulse
which moved the outward man. At one time we hear him exclaiming, “Glory to God! This is a
morning without a cloud.” Cloudless days were native to his sunny religion and his gladsome spirit.
Continual prayer and turning all conversation toward Christ in every company and in every home,
was the inexorable law he followed, until he was gathered home.
On the anniversary of his spiritual birth when he was born again, in great joyousness of spirit
he calls it to mind, and breaks forth: “Blessed be Thy name, O God! The last has been the best of
the whole. I may say with Bunyan, ‘I have got into that land where the sun shines night and day.’
I thank Thee, O my God, for this heaven, this element of love and joy, in which my soul now lives.”
Here is a sample of Carvosso’s spiritual experiences, of which he had many:
“I have sometimes had seasons of remarkable visitation from the presence of the
Lord,” he says. “I well remember one night when in bed being so filled, so over-powered
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
with the glory of God, that had there been a thousand suns shining at noonday, the
brightness of that divine glory would have eclipsed the whole. I was constrained to shout
aloud for joy. It was the overwhelming power of saving grace. Now it was that I again
received the impress of the seal and the earnest of the Spirit in my heart. Beholding as
in a glass the glory of the Lord I was changed into the same image from glory to glory
by the Spirit of the Lord. Language fails in giving but a faint description of what I there
experienced. I can never forget it in time nor to all eternity.
“Man years before I was sealed by the Spirit in a somewhat similar manner. While
walking out one day, I was drawn to turn aside on the public road, and under the canopy
of the skies, I was moved to kneel down to pray. I had not long been praying with God
before I was so visited from Him that I was overpowered by the divine glory, and I
shouted till I could be heard at a distance. It was a weight of glory that I seemed
incapable of bearing in the body, and therefore I cried out, perhaps unwisely, Lord,
stay Thy hand. In this glorious baptism these words came to my heart with indescribable
power: ‘I have sealed thee unto the day of redemption.’
“Oh, I long to be filled more with God! Lord, stir me up more in earnest. I want to
be more like Jesus. I see that nothing will do but being continually filled with the divine
presence and glory. I know all that Thou hast is mine, but I want to feel a close union.
Lord, increase my faith.”
Such was William Carvosso—a man whose life was impregnated with the spirit of prayer, who
lived on his knees, so to speak, and who belonged to that company of praying saints which has
blessed the earth.
Jonathan Edwards must be placed among the praying saints—one whom God mightily used
through the instrumentality of prayer. As in the instance of the great New Englander, purity of heart
should be ingrained in the very foundation areas of every man who is a true leader of his fellows
and a minister of the Gospel of Christ and a constant practicer in the holy office of prayer. A sample
of the utterances of this mighty man of God is here given in the shape of a resolution which he
formed, and wrote down:
“Resolved,” he says, “to exercise myself in this all my life long, viz., with the greatest
openness to declare my ways to God, and to lay my soul open to God—all my sins,
temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and everything and every
We are not surprised, therefore, that the result of such fervid and honest praying was to lead
him to record in his diary:
“It was my continual strife day and night, and my constant inquiry how I should be
more holy, and live more holily. The heaven I desired was a heaven of holiness. I went
on with my eager pursuit after more holiness and conformity to Christ.”
The character and work of Jonathan Edwards were exemplifications of the great truth that the
ministry of prayer is the efficient agency in every truly God-ordered work and life. He himself
gives some particulars about his life when a boy. He might well be called the “Isaiah of the Christian
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
dispensation.” There was united in him great mental powers, ardent piety, and devotion to study,
unequaled save by his devotion to God. Here is what he says about himself:
“When a boy I used to pray five times a day in secret, and to spend much time in
religious conversation with other boys. I used to meet with them to pray together. So it
is God’s will through His wonderful grace, that the prayers of His saints should be one
great and principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s kingdom in the world.
Pray much for the ministers and the Church of God.”
The great powers of Edwards’ mind and heart were exercised to procure an agreed union in
extraordinary prayer of God’s people everywhere. His life, efforts and his character are an
exemplification of his statement.
“The heaven I desire,” he says, “is a heaven spent with God; an eternity spent in
the presence of divine love, and in holy communion with Christ.”
At another time he said:
“The soul of a true Christian appears like a little white flower in the spring of the
year, low and humble on the ground, opening its bosom to receive the pleasant beams
of the sun’s glory, rejoicing as it were in a calm rapture, diffusing around a sweet
fragrance, standing peacefully and lovingly in the midst of other flowers.”
Again he writes:
“Once as I rode out in the woods for my health, having alighted from my horse in
a retired place, as my manner has been to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I
had a view, that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God as Mediator
between God and man, and of His wonderful, great, full, pure, and sweet grace and
love, and His meek and gentle condescension. This grace that seemed so calm and sweet,
appeared also great above the heavens. The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent
with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception, which
continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour. It kept me the greater part of the time
in a flood of tears and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul to be, what I know not
otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated, to lie in the dust; to be full of Christ
alone, to love Him with my whole heart.”
As it was with Jonathan Edwards, so it is with all great intercessors. They come into that holy
and elect condition of mind and heart by a thorough self-dedication to God, by periods of God’s
revelation to them, making distinct marked eras in their spiritual history, eras never to be forgotten,
in which faith mounts up with wings as eagles, and has given it a new and fuller vision of God, a
stronger grasp of faith, a sweeter, clearer vision of all things heavenly, and eternal, and a blessed
intimacy with, and access to, God.
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
XII. MODERN EXAMPLES OF PRAYER (Continued)
“Edward Bounds did not merely pray well that he might write well about prayer. He
prayed for long years upon subjects to which easy-going Christians rarely give a thought.
He prayed for objects which men of less faith are ready to call impossible. Yet from these
continental, solitary prayer-vigils, year by year there arose a gift of prayer-teaching equaled
by few men. He wrote transcendently about prayer because he was transcendent in its
practice.”—C. L. Chilton, Jr.
Lady Maxwell was contemporary with John Wesley, and a fruit of Methodism in its earlier phases.
She was a woman of refinement, of culture and of deep piety. Separating herself entirely from the
world, she sought and found the deepest religious experience, and was a woman fully set apart to
God. Her life was one of prayer, of complete consecration to God, living to bless others. She was
noted for her systematic habits of life, which entered into and controlled her religion. Her time was
economized and ordered for God. She arose at four o’clock in the morning, and attended preaching
at five o’clock. After breakfast she held a family service. Then, from eleven to twelve o’clock she
observed a season of intercessory prayer. The rest of the day was given to reading, visiting and acts
Her evenings were spent in reading. At night, before retiring, religious services were held for
the family and sometimes in praising God for His mercies.
Rarely has God been served with more intelligence, or out of a richer experience, a nobler
ardour, a richer nobility of soul. Strongly, spiritually and ardently attached to Wesley’s doctrine of
entire dedication, she sought it with persistency, and a never flagging zeal. She obtained it by faith
and prayer, and illustrated it in a life as holy and as perfect as is given mortals to reach. If this great
feature of Wesley’s teaching had, today, models and teachers possessed of the profound spiritual
understanding and experience as had Fletcher of Madeley and Lady Maxwell of Edinburgh, it would
not have been so misunderstood, but would have commended itself to the good and pure everywhere
by holy lives, if not by its verbiage.
Lady Maxwell’s diary yields some rich counsel for secret prayer, holy experience, and
consecrated living. One of the entries runs as follows:
“Of late I feel painfully convinced that I do not pray enough. Lord, give me the spirit
of prayer and of supplication. Oh, what a cause of thankfulness is it that we have a
gracious God to whom to go on all occasions! Use and enjoy this privilege and you can
never be miserable. Who gives thanks for this royal privilege? It puts God in everything,
His wisdom, power, control and safety. Oh, what an unspeakable privilege is prayer!
Let us give thanks for it, I do not prove all the power of prayer that I wish.”
Thus we see that the remedy for non-praying is praying. The cure for little praying is more
praying. Praying can procure all things necessary for our good.
With this excellent woman praying embraced all things and included everything. To one of her
most intimate friends she writes:
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
“I wish I could provide you with a proper maid, but it is a difficult matter. You have
my prayers for it, and if I hear of one I will let you know.”
So small a matter as the want of a housemaid for a friend was with her an event not too small
to take to God in prayer.
In the same letter, she tells her friend that she wants “more faith. Cry mightily for it, and stir
up the gift of God that is in you.”
Whether the need was a small secular thing as a servant, or a great spiritual grace, prayer was
the means to attain that end and supply that want. “There is nothing,” she writes to a dear
correspondent, “so hurtful to the nervous system as anxiety. It preys upon the vitals and weakens
the whole frame, and what is more than all, it grieves the Holy Spirit.” Her remedy, again, for a
common evil, was prayer.
How prayer disburdens us of care by bringing God in to relieve and possess and hold?
“Be careful for nothing,” says the Apostle, “but in everything by prayer and
supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests he made known unto God. And the
peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through
The figure is that of a beleagured and distressed garrison, unable to protect the fort from the
enemies which assault it, into which strong reinforcements are poured. Into the heart oppressed,
distracted and discouraged, true prayer brings God, who holds it in perfect peace and in perfect
safety. This Lady Maxwell fully understood theoretically, but which was better, experimentally.
Christ Jesus is the only cure for undue care and over anxiety of soul, and we secure God, His
presence and His peace by prayer. Care is so natural and so strong, that none but God can eject it.
It takes God, the presence and personality of God Himself, to oust the care and to enthrone quietness
and peace. When Christ comes in with His peace, all tormenting fears are gone, trepidation and
harrowing anxieties capitulate to the reign of peace, and all disturbing elements depart. Anxious
thought and care assault the soul, and feebleness, faintness and cowardice are within. Prayer
reinforces with God’s peace, and the heart is kept by Him. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on Thee.” All now is safety, quietness and assurance. “The work of
righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.”
But to ensure this great peace, prayer must pass into strenuous, insistent, personal supplication,
and thanksgiving must bloom into full flower. Our exposed condition of heart must be brought to
the knowledge of God, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. The peace of God will keep
the heart and thoughts, fixed and fearless. Peace, deep, exhaustless, wide, flowing like a river, will
Referring again to Lady Maxwell, we hear her saying:
“God is daily teaching me more simplicity of spirit, and makes me willing to receive
all as His unmerited gift, and to call on Him for everything I need, as I need it, and He
supplies my wants according to existing needs. But I have certainly felt more of it this
last eighteen months than in former periods. I wish to pray without ceasing. I see the
necessity of praying always, and not fainting.”
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
Again we hear her declaring: “I wish to be much in prayer. I greatly need it. The prayer of faith
shuts or opens heaven. Come, Lord, and turn my captivity.” If we felt the need of prayer as this
saintly woman did, we could bear her company in her saintly ascension. Prayer truly “shuts or
opens heaven.” Oh, for a quality of faith that would test to the uttermost the power of prayer!
Lady Maxwell utters a great truth when she says:
“When God is at work either among a people, or in the heart of an individual, the
adversary of souls is peculiarly at work also. A belief of the former should prevent
discouragement, and a fear of the latter should stir us up to much prayer. Oh, the power
of faithful prayer! I live by prayer! May you prove its sovereign efficacy in every difficult
We find a record among Lady Maxwell’s writings which shows us that in prayer and meditation
she obtained enlarged views of the full salvation of God, and what is thus discovered, faith goes
out after, and according to its strength are its returns.
“I daily feel the need of the precious blood of sprinkling,” she says, “and dwell
continually under its influence, and most sensibly feel its sovereign efficacy. It is by
momentary faith in this blood alone that I am saved from sin. Prayer is my chief employ.”
If this last statement “prayer, the chief employ” had ever been true of God’s people, this world
would have been by this time quite another world, and God’s glory, instead of being dim, and
shadowy, and only in spots, would now shine with universal and unrivaled effulgence and power.
Here is another record of her ardent and faithful praying: “Lately, I have been favoured with a
more ardent spirit of praying than almost ever formerly.”
We need to study these words—“favoured with a more ardent spirit of praying”—for they are
pregnant words. The spirit of prayer, the ardent spirit of prayer and its increase, and the more ardent
spirit of prayer—all these are of God. They are given in answer to prayer. The spirit of prayer and
the more ardent spirit are the result of ardent, importunate secret prayer.
At another time, Lady Maxwell declared that secret prayer was the means whereby she derived
the greatest spiritual benefit.
“I do Indeed prove it to be an especial privilege,” she says. “I could not live without
it, though I do not always find comfort in it. I still ardently desire an enlarged sphere
of usefulness, and find it comfortable to embrace the opportunities afforded me.”
An “enlarged sphere of usefulness” is certainly a proper theme of intense prayer, but that prayer
must ever be accompanied with an improvement of the opportunities afforded by the present.
Many page might be filled with extracts from Lady Maxwell’s diary as to the vital importance
of, and the nature of the ministry of prayer, but we must forbear. For many years she was in ardent
supplication for an enlargement of her sphere of usefulness, but all these years of ardent praying
may be condensed into one statement:
“My whole soul has been thirsting after a larger sphere of action,” she says,
“agreeably to the promises of a faithful God. For these few last weeks I have been led
to plead earnestly for more holiness. Lord, give me both, that I may praise Thee.”
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
These two things, for which this godly woman prayed, must go together. They are one, and not
to be separated. The desire for a larger field of work without the accompanying desire for an increase
of consecration, is perilous, and may be supremely selfish, the offspring of spiritual pride.
John Fletcher, also a contemporary of John Wesley, was intimately associated with the founder
of Methodism. He was a scholar of courtesy and refinement, a strong, original thinker, eloquent in
simplicity and truth. That which qualified him as a spiritual leader was his exceedingly great faith
in God, his nearness to God and his perfect assurance of dear unquestioned relationship to his Lord.
Fletcher had profound convictions concerning the truth of God, a deep and perpetual communion
with his Lord and Saviour, and was profound and humble in his knowledge of God and Christian
experience. He was a man of deep spiritual insight into the things of God, and his thorough
earnestness, his truth, and his consecration, marked him as a man of God, well equipped by all
these things for a leader in Israel.
Unceasing prayer was the sign and secret of Fletcher’s sainthood, its power and influence. His
whole life was one of prayer. So intently was his mind fixed on God, that he sometimes said, “I
would not rise from my seat without lifting up my heart to God.” A friend relates the fact that
whenever they met, his first salute was, “Do I meet you praying?” If they were talking on theology,
in the midst of it he would break off abruptly and say, “Where are our hearts now?” If the misconduct
of any person who was absent was mentioned, he would say, “Let us pray for him.”
The very walls of his room—so it was said—were stained by the breath of his prayers. Spiritually,
Madeley was a dreary, desolate desert when he went to live there, but it was so revolutionized by
his prayers that it bloomed and blossomed like the garden of the Lord. A friend of his thus writes
“Many of us have at times gone with him aside, and there we would continue for
two or three hours, wrestling like Jacob for the blessing, praying one after another. And
I have seen him on these occasions so filled with the love of God that he could contain
no more, but would cry out, ‘O my God, withhold Thy hand or the vessel will burst!’
His whole life was a life of prayer.”
John Foster, a man of exalted piety and deep devotion to God, while on his dying bed, thus
spoke concerning prayer when about to depart this life:
“Pray without ceasing has been the sentence repeating itself in my silent thoughts,
and I am sure that it will be, it must be, my practice till the last conscious hour of my
life. O why was it not my practice throughout that long, indolent, inanimate half century
past! I often think mournfully of the difference it would have made in me. Now there
remains so little time for a mere genuine, effective spiritual life.”
The Reformation of the fifteenth century owes its origin to prayer. In all his life-work, begun,
continued and ended, Martin Luther was instant in prayer. The secret of his extraordinary activity
is found in this statement: “I have so much work to do that I cannot get along without giving three
hours daily of my best time to prayer.” Another of his sayings was, “It takes meditation and prayer
to make a divine,” while his every day motto was, “He that has prayed well, has studied well.”
At another time he thus confessed his lack: “I was short and superficial in prayer this morning,”
he says. How often is this the case with us! Let it be remembered that the source of decline in
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
religion and the proof of decline in a Christian life is found just here, in “short and superficial
praying.” Such praying betokens and secures strangeness with God.
William Wilberforce once said of himself: “I have been keeping too late hours, and hence have
had but a hurried half hour to myself. I am lean and cold and hard. I had better allow more time,
say two hours, or an hour-and-a-half, daily to religious exercises.”
He must be much skilled and habituated to long praying whose short prayers are not superficial.
Short prayers make shallow lives. Longer praying would work like magic in many a decayed
spiritual life. A holy life would not be so difficult and rare a thing if our praying was not so brief,
cold and superficial.
George Muller, that remarkable man of such simple yet strong faith in God, a man of prayer
and Bible reading, founder and promoter of the noted orphanage in England, which cared for
hundreds of orphan children, conducted the institution solely by faith and prayer. He never asked
a man for anything, but simply trusted in the Providence of God, and it is a notorious fact that never
did the inmates of the home lack any good thing. From his paper he always excluded money matters,
and financial difficulties found no place in it. Nor would he mention the sums which had been given
him, nor the names of those who made contributions. He never spoke of his wants to others nor
asked a donation. The story of his life and the history of this orphanage read like a chapter from
the Scriptures. The secret of his success was found in this simple statement made by him: “I went
to my God and prayed diligently, and received what I needed.” That was the simple course which
he pursued. There was nothing he insisted on with greater earnestness than that, be the expenses
what they might be, let them increase ever so suddenly, he must not beg for anything. There was
nothing in which he took more delight and showed more earnestness in telling than that he had
prayed for every want which ever came to him in his great work. His was a work of continuous
and most importunate praying, and he always confidently claimed that God had guided him
throughout it all. A stronger proof of a divine providence, and of the power of simple faith and of
answered prayer, cannot be found in Church history or religious biography.
In writing to a friend at one time. John Wesley helps, urges and prays, as we will see from the
following from his own pen: “Have you received a gleam of light from above, a spark of faith? If
you have, let it not go! Hold fast by His grace that earnest of your inheritance. Come just as you
are, and come boldly to the throne of grace. You need not delay. Even now the bowels of Jesus
yearn over you. What have you to do with tomorrow? I love you today. And how much more does
He love you?
“‘He pities still His wandering sheep,
And longs to bring you to His fold.’
“Today hear His voice, the voice of Him that speaks as never man spake.”
The seekings of Madame Guyon after God were sincere, and her yearnings were strong and
earnest. She applied to a devout Franciscan friar for advice and comfort. She stated her convictions
and told him of her long and fruitless seeking. After she had finished speaking to him, the friar
remained silent for some time, in inward meditation and prayer. Then he said to her:
“Your efforts have been unsuccessful, because you have sought without what you
can only find within. Accustom yourself to seek God in your heart, and you will not fail
to find Him.”
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
“When God has specially promised the thing,” said Charles G. Finney, “we are bound to believe
we shall receive it when we pray for it. You have no right to put in an ‘if,’ and say, ‘Lord, if it be
Thy will, give me Thy Holy Spirit.’ This is to insult God. To put an ‘if’ in God’s promise when
God has put none there, is tantamount to charging God with being insincere. It is like saying, ‘O
God, if Thou art in earnest in making these promises, grant us the blessing we pray for.’”
We may fittingly conclude this chapter by quoting a word of Adoniram Judson’s, the noted
missionary to Burma. Speaking of the prevailing power of prayer he said:
“‘Nothing is impossible,’ said one of the seven sages of Greece, ‘to industry.’ Let
us change the word, ‘industry,’ to ‘persevering prayer,’ and the motto will be more
Christian and more worthy of universal adoption. God loves importunate prayer so
much that He will not give us much blessing without it. God says, ‘Behold I will do a
new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the
wilderness and rivers in the desert. This people have I formed for myself; they shall
shew forth my praise.’”
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer
Index of Scripture References
46 58:9 58:9 64:4
E. M. Bounds The Weapon of Prayer