'I HAVE read with care and no little profit, this new work on The Power of Intensified Prayer. There is the pulse of life in it, and no serious soul can read it without a spiritual impulse to seek a deeper life of prayer.
It contains some of the most powerful illustrations on the prayer-life I have ever read. Dr. Payne has not dwelt so much upon the rules and regulations of the prayer-life, but has taken us back to the Bible, and in a striking manner calls attention to the kind of prayers which God answers. He shows us how it is possible to bring the apostolic prayer-life up to date. His object is not to give the hungry soul an analysis of bread, but the pure bread itself. Readers are made to breathe the breath of prayer as they read ..... I wish it God-speed on its heaven-sent mission. '
SETH JOSHUA (From the Introduction)
We have included 5 of the 13 chapters.
"The Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."-Rom. viii. 26 (R.V.).
"The exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead." - Eph. i. 19, 20 (R.V.)
THE mighty power which God has put into the hands of men in the material world is constantly creating fresh surprise, and causing multitudes to wonder what further startling demonstrations of the material forces may yet be expected to take place. Scientists tell us that in every single drop of water in the ocean there is energy enough to generate two thunderstorms. The power is there, silent and hidden, ready at any moment to leap forth and do terrible execution.
One of the most powerful elements in nature that has ever been discovered is radium. Scientists tell us that it is practically an inexhaustible reservoir of energy. The President of the British Association in 1905 described it as, "perhaps a million times more powerful than dynamite," and he illustrated his remark by a statement to the effect that whereas 12000 tons of coal are required to drive a ship 6000 miles through the sea at 15 knots an hour, the same effect would be produced by 22 ounces of radium. Fourteen pounds of radium would keep a 50,000-horse-power engine running for a year; 1 ounce would drive one's motorcar during the whole term of one's natural life. A sufficient block would run an Atlantic liner for generations across the ocean. A piece of radium is calculated to continue in full activity for two million years.
These are all statements of leading scientific men of the day. There never was a time in the history of the world when there were so many evidences of existing powers in the material world; and never a time when there was a greater interest taken in discoveries or inventions of some new application of the powers already brought to light. As a rule men are not slow to make use of these combined forces placed at their disposal in the material world, but, alas, how slow we are to make use of the power and blessing which God has placed within our reach in the spiritual world!
It is possible to overrate the power and strength in relation to material forces, but there can be no mistake in this direction in our attempt to explain the greatness of the power of spiritual forces. The difficulty here lies in finding suitable words to express their greatness. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians tried to explain the power which God has placed at the disposal of believers, but he had to acknowledge that it is exceeding greatness. It is impossible to measure or explain it.
Who can measure or explain resurrection power? From death unto life in the spiritual realm, as well as in the physical, is beyond our thought. There is no power in the material universe that can approach it. Even the power of radium is infinitely behind it. Neither can we measure nor explain rightly the power in relation to prayer force: that is, intensified prayer when wrought in the soul by the power of the Holy Ghost. But we can read of mighty things which have been accomplished by its power in the past history of the Church and of the world, and of what our forefathers did by its mighty force in their day.
As one great writer expressed it, the prayer of faith is mightier than any dynamite, for it has the almightiness of God linked to it. It reaches round the world. It can touch the highest Heaven or shake the lowest Hell. Prayer is a Jacob's ladder with God's angels ascending and descending, taking up the petitions and bringing down the answers. Prayer may be as simple as a baby's cry, as eloquent as a tear, as secret as a heart pang, as swift as the lightning, as mighty as the tornado, as strong as love, and as divinely human as the Christ of God.
Prayer is only real prayer when inspired by Him and His Spirit. He has mastered but little of prayer who knows but little of the Spirit-groaning which cannot be uttered. No matter how great our petition, His promise is always "exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think." We also know that which we have proved again and again of its power and reality in our own lives, and what we have witnessed of its power among others.
The late Rev. T. G. SELBY, a very eminent saint and noted preacher and writer, calling attention to the fact that believers are the only channels for the transmission of spiritual force, says, " Some of the material forces of the universe can only be manifested through the special elements and agencies that are adapted to transmit them. Electricity must have a pathway of susceptible matter over which to travel, even if that pathway be one of indefinitely minute particles of ether only. So with the spiritual forces of the universe. If the power of the mediatorial presence has no conducting lines along which to travel, it must sleep for ever, and the world be left to swing in its old grooves of evil and death. The manifestation of all the energies of that presence can only come through the believing request of the disciples. Prayer, bound only by the human instincts of the faith that inspires it, and the rights of the Name in which it is presented, is a thing of illimitable power."
Dr. COURTLAND, who is considered to be one of the world's greatest and most renowned scientists, claims that: "Prayer is the mightiest force in the universe," and that the Christian world is blind to the fact. Judging by what is already accomplished, we have to acknowledge that if prayer is anything it is everything; if it is true, it is the greatest truth.
The Rev. J. A. MORGAN, Vicar of St. John's, Deritend, Birmingham, declared that, "True prayer is the Holy Ghost praying through us back to God." This statement is quite in harmony with the Apostle's teaching when he says, "The Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. viii. 26), which reveals the truth that it is not simply the power or influence of the Spirit, but rather the Holy Spirit Himself. While not setting aside our responsibility, He kindles the desire, begets the prayer, and also "maketh intercession for the saints according to the win of God" (Rom. viii. 27). It is this glorious fact that makes the true prayer of the righteous the greatest force on earth.
As we recognise that the Holy Spirit Himself inspired the Apostle to utter these words in his prayer: "The exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe," there is no room left for us to doubt the fact that prayer-force when wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit is the Greatest Force on Earth. Power that exceeds greatness in any sphere is beyond the region of human conception, but how much more when we think of the greatness of power, in relation to the Almighty! We may admit this in the abstract - His ability to create untold worlds in a moment of time if He chose - but here we discover that it is the exceeding greatness of His power in the subjective. Yes! even at our disposal, "to us-ward who believe."
This is still more encouraging when we consider that the exceeding greatness of His power may be received by us to advantage in the prayer-life. He, Himself, really comes to "make intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." O brethren, is not this an exceedingly great condescension on the part of the blessed and eternal Spirit - thus to help our infirmities, and to teach us how to pray intensely so as to prevail! Surely such exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward is past our comprehension and all our powers of expression. Nor can we measure its wonderful possibilities, especially when the Spirit of grace and supplication is allowed to have the complete control of our prayer-life.
Then we may settle it in our minds once and for ever that prayer-force - that is, if it is to be the greatest force on earth - is not worked-up force, physical, or material force of any kind, but a force that is wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit Himself; after the manner of the experience of Paul when he exclaimed, "Which worketh in me mightily" (Col. i. 29). And we may reckon that the workings of His mighty power in prayer and intercession in the divinely anointed soul is mightier than the power of dynamite, or lyddite, or radium, or any other power, intellectual or material. God does not look at the length or breadth or the polish of our prayers. He looks and listens to the Spirit's voice reproduced in us and through us. The Holy Spirit has a Voice that is distinguishable from all other voices by His sympathetic tones.
The sainted FRANK CROSSLEY of the Star Hall, Manchester, described this distinguishing feature of the Spirit's grace, in all who have received it, as a sanctified, or spiritual tone. Our Lord Himself, when instructing His disciples, said, "It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which is in you" (Matt. x. 20).
It is said that the secret of the success of that great preacher, GEORGE WHITEFIELD, was not so much his extraordinary sermons, but rather the spiritual tone and unction in which he preached them. When in the fulness of the Spirit he would utter the word "Oh!", the power of conviction would be so great that at times sinners would fall by hundreds, helpless to the ground, as if smitten by the hand of death. This is what St. Jude meant when speaking of the ministry of prayer, as praying in the Holy Ghost.
Such were the prayers of JOHN KNOX, when in the fulness of the Spirit he would pray all night in agonising tones, "Lord, give me Scotland or I die." God heard the voice of his supplications and shook Scotland in answer to his prayers. This is what the Vicar of Madeley, the Rev. JOHN FLETCHER, meant when he being asked what was to be experienced in the full accomplishment of the promise of the Father, replied, "Oh! what shall I say . . . the Spirit maketh intercession in the soul like a God wrestling with a God." Oh that we knew better how to pray in the Holy Ghost, and to rely absolutely upon Him for utterance! What wonders would be wrought in the Church in answer to our prayers! He knows the kind of prayer that will prevail with our Heavenly Father. He knows the kind of prayer that will bring about a world-wide revival. His eyes still run to and fro in the earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are perfect toward Him. (Lord, teach us to pray; and inspire us to expect greater things.) It is true, as expressed by one whose name we have already mentioned, we ask for toys when we should ask for continents, and be claiming the world for Christ.
Intensified prayer, when offered through the atoning merits of Jesus Christ and in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, is as the putting forth of vital energy and is considered to be the highest effort of which the human spirit is capable, and becomes an irresistible force. When we consider its wonderful possibilities and our own responsibilities in relation to our souls, we are overwhelmed with the thought of it. (O God! pour down a flood of divine illumination on the soul of the writer so that he may be able to stir up the souls of others in order that they may be able to realise the importance of this duty, and thereby create a spiritual awakening such as shall bring everlasting glory to Him who is the Author and Inspirer, as well as the Hearer and Answerer of prayer.)
If the Church fully realised the power of this grace and knew the experience of its divine operation, nothing would be impossible to her, because she would possess the key of Heaven's unspeakable treasures, and would be mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. As rightly expressed by Dr. ANDREW MURRAY: "We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring its power down to earth."
CHARLES H. SPURGEON remarked on one occasion that the "power of prayer can never be overrated. They who cannot serve God by preaching need not regret. If a man can but pray he can do anything. He who knows how to overcome with God in prayer has Heaven and earth at his disposal."
GOSSNER, the humble pastor of Bethlehem Church in Berlin, relied on prayer more than any other force. It was said of him that he prayed mission stations into being, and missionaries into faith; he prayed open the hearts of the rich, and gold from the distant lands. Before his life ended he had sent forth one hundred and forty-four missionaries, and usually had no less than twenty of them depending directly upon him for support. "Prayer," says one of our ablest writers on this vital subject, "is a spiritual law which cooperates with the mind of God. It has more in it than merely petition. It clothes itself in reality and power, with the force of God Himself. It is an attitude of spirit and mind. Language is secondary in true prayer."
We shall discover, as we proceed, that prayer is not only the greatest force on earth, but the greatest privilege on earth. Prayer is a means by which we may call in the intervention of the Almighty God and obtain instant deliverance in times of danger and sudden temptation. Prayer has been called the outlet of trouble and the inlet to comfort. Prayer is like a window in the soul by which we can let out that which is oppressive and let in that which is pure and refreshing. It is a medium by which we can let in the light, which will put out the darkness. Prayer is also a means by which we can hold fellowship with other Christians, and unite with them in making our appeal to God on behalf of the Church and the world.
All good things in Heaven and earth, and all the exceeding great and precious promises by which they may be obtained, are opened to the grasp of consistent persevering prayer. It is a further privilege that prayer, especially when "in the Holy Ghost," brings the soul into a clear atmosphere, because it brings us into fellowship with God Himself, "in Him there is no darkness at all" (I John i. 5) and, "if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin" (I John i. 7). Our Lord said, "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John xv. 7).
It is plain, therefore, that without any attempt to go beyond what is written, if we are to pray consistently and successfully, we must abide in the clear light of holiness; as saith the Apostle, "For what communion hath light with darkness." The two things are incompatible; you cannot at the same time have holiness and sin (see 2 Cor. vi. 14 to end of chapter).
As a compensation for consistent persevering prayer on the lines of truth and righteousness, the three Hebrew children were sustained in the burning fiery furnace, and were brought out of it, without having even the smell of fire upon them (Dan. iii. 20, 27). And multitudes since their day have been called to pass through the fiery trials of sorrow and persecution, slander and afflictions; but God, in answer to their intensified prayers "in the Holy Ghost," sustained them, and so kept them by His power that the flame did not kindle upon them, nor the waters overflow them.
In her last days Mrs. BOOTH of the Salvation Army sent this message to her friends - it is a triumphant death-song: "The waters are rising, but so am I. I am not going under, but over. Do not be concerned about your dying. Only go on living well, and the dying will be all right." Doubtless when the roll is called up yonder, a mighty army of saints will join the song of the ransomed, in praise to Him who in answer to their fervent prayers supplied them with grace sufficient to "glorify Him in the fires," and be able to witness, as expressed in the lines of the poem:
"He brought me through the scorching fire,
Altho' the flame waxed hotter, higher!
Yet, lo! what did those flames for me
But burned my bonds and set me free;
Thus through it all I learned to sing
The power and wisdom of my King.
L. A. BARTER SNOW.
It was in answer to the power of intensified prayer that God sent an earthquake and shook the foundations of the prison at Philippi, and not only brought Paul and Silas out of the inner prison but filled their souls to overflowing with songs of praise, and saved the jailor and his household, and gave birth to a church in a new centre.
"Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask Me of things to come; and concerning My sons, and concerning the work of My hands, command ye Me" (Isa. xlv. 11). If we rightly consider the character of the One who uttered these words, we may reverently conclude that actual authority is given (especially to those who pray "in the Holy Ghost" and through the atoning merits of Christ) for the right to believe that prayer is the one power on earth whereby we may command the Almighty. Or, as expressed by one writer, "Prayer is the power on earth that commands the Power in Heaven."
We are reminded that in launching an ironclad, the pressure of a baby's finger is not infrequently required to put into operation the ponderous machinery by which the iron leviathan glides evenly and majestically on to the ocean wave. So, if we may dare to say it, all the purposes of God, and the providential machinery by which they were to be executed, stood in suspense until the chosen people had asked for the things which He had promised and had even commanded Him concerning the work on which His heart was set. It is also admitted that "the Divine gauge of the worth of prayer is its pressure on the heart of God." "Concerning My sons, and concerning the work of My hands, command ye Me."
Mr. SPURGEON remarks that this is a wonderful expression, and calls upon us to rise to the sublimity of faith and be daring with our God. It is considered that our Lord used this tone when He said, "Father, I will"; and we shall discover that Moses used the same sublime daring when he stood in the breach, and in his supplication on behalf of Israel, prayed, "Forgive their sin, and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy Book which Thou hast written." Joshua rose to the same sublimity of faith and daring when, in the supreme moment of his triumph, he lifted his spear towards the setting sun and cried, "Sun, stand thou still." Elijah used the same sublimity of faith and daring when he shut up the heavens for three years and six months and again opened them. Yet, as well said by one, "After our greatest deeds of prayer and faith, we shall ever lie low before God; as Elijah did, who, after calling fire from Heaven, prostrated himself on the ground with his face between his knees."
It is likewise true if we have the intense desire that our prayers take rank with the mighty intensified prayers of those Old Testament saints, that we purpose calling attention to, then, as in their case, we must not be surprised if our prayers cost us real soul agony, if not blood and tears. But the love of God and the price paid by the awful tragedy of the Cross, and the needs of a dying world demand it. Therefore without further delay let us cross the Rubicon of doubt, cut the shore line of all carnal indulgences, and learn how to " pray in the Holy Ghost"; and, in the strength of Almighty God, the victory shall be ours.
"But Abraham stood yet before the Lord.., and said, Wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? " - GEN. xviii. 22, 23.
WHATEVER there may be to be proud of at the present day with reference to the world's progress in science and art compared with former ages, we have to admit that the Church has been slow to improve upon the examples of Old Testament saints in the power of intensified prayer. Their prayers are still looked upon as the outstanding wonder of all the ages.
In the study of the characters of some of these Old Testament heroes there are three things of which they seem to have had considerable knowledge. Firstly, they knew how to repent; secondly, they knew how to pray; and, thirdly, they knew how to make the best of their failures, as well as the most of their victories. And it would seem that their genuine repentance, as well as their faith, lay at the foundation of all their success. When they repented they burnt the bridges behind them. Perhaps they had discovered that where provision was made for the flesh or for some cherished idol or some sinful indulgence to fall back upon, it meant complete failure in the prayer-life (Josh. vii. 1-13; Ps. lxvi. 18). There is no reason, when, under the influence of God's Spirit, we peruse the victorious prayer-life of these Old Testament saints and others, why we may not gather inspiration and encouragement so as to expect to realise greater victories in our own individual prayer-life.
Abraham, the Father of the Faithful, is considered to be a remarkable example of the power of prevailing prayer. This we may gather from the manner of his pleading on behalf of Sodom. It is written that "Abraham drew near." This statement goes to the very root of the matter and explains more than anything else the real secret of his power in prayer. Had he failed to draw near to God, his petitions, however earnest or lucid, would have been nothing better than a lifeless form and not as it was - a living vital force. The power and victory that are possible in drawing near to God through prayer are indescribable. In fact, the joy and blessedness of Divine Communion when brought into close contact with God are often so far beyond human expression that our very Hallelujahs seem to fall infinitely short of the joy of it. There are infinite approaches to God even after we have entered the narrow way - not nearness of being, but of character, and nearness of affinity, of love, of faith, of communion and conformity to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, and more likeness to Him in the ministry of intercession. It is possible to be so taken up with our standing in Christ as to lose sight of the privilege of our approaching in likeness to Him. The path of the just is as the shining light, shining more and more, unto the perfect day. Then let us take care that we are not found standing when we should be walking, or walking when we should be running, or even running, when upon the wings of faith we should be soaring.
Another secret of Abraham's success in prevailing prayer was his deep humility of spirit. He considered himself to be but dust and ashes. And let us remember that Abraham at this time was about one hundred years old. Besides this, he was in the Covenant which God had promised to establish to him and his seed after him. Therefore he might have felt justified in urging his plea upon the ground of his position as the chosen of God. But instead of this he confessed that he was "dust and ashes." Abraham, without the advantage of any material temple or written form of worship or the privilege of an open Bible, such as we enjoy, was nevertheless able to meet all the requirements of God in such a manner as to be admitted into His own Council Chamber, where he had the privilege of pleading in soul contact with his God (Gen. xviii. 17).
With reference to Abraham's example in prayer on behalf of Sodom, Mrs. M. Baxter says: "When prayer is intense, we come to close quarters with God; it is no time for finely formed sentences; the fine music of ritualistic services has no place here, where real, intense business is transacted with God. 'Nothing between' is the heart's cry. 'I must have to do with my God face to face.'" Abraham drew near, and God did not repel him, or show him any aloofness: the man was sure of his affair, because God was sure of him: heart touched heart. And Abraham attempted to turn God from His purpose. "Wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?" Every petition he offered received an answer, neither was the presence of the mercy of God withdrawn so long as he continued to pray and to make intercession; which proves that it was possible for even Abraham to have been more intense and to have gone further with his petitions.
Whenever there are limitations, and we fail to reach the highest possibility in the prayer-life, the fault is always on the human side and never on the divine. We get a remarkable picture of this, only under rather different circumstances, when the prophet Elisha commanded Joash to take a bunch of arrows and smite the ground with them. "He smote three times and stayed" (2 Kings xiii. 18, is). The prophet was deeply grieved in spirit and said, " Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times, then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it, whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice." It is evident that God had intended to give him several signal victories to the complete overthrowing of Syria; but, through lack of perseverance, Joash gave in just at the point of a splendid final victory. And, oh! beloved brethren, is not this the cause of much of the failure and disappointment in our prayer-life and revival effort at the present day? How often has it happened that, when a splendid opportunity has been given for the winning of some glorious victory for Christ and His Kingdom, through the lack of perseverance or the want of knowing how to make the most of the victory, we have failed to rise to the occasion! Let us endeavour always to have a clear and definite aim in our petitions to the Throne of Heavenly Grace, and look for a victory such as is worthy of God. But, as rightly expressed, this cannot be done unless we concentrate all our strength and desires into every stroke of our prayers.
The strongholds of sin and Satan and error will not yield at soft indefinite blows and soulless petitions. No doubt the chief reason why Abraham discontinued his request was because he fully expected that ten righteous men could be found in the city. Otherwise it is possible he would have continued in prayer until the whole of the city was saved. One writer has said, "We think that it is great boldness thus to urge the majesty of Heaven, but we much mistake the God we pray to. He loves to be entreated and commands us to be urgent."
It is rather remarkable that while communion with God, which is the principal part of prayer, had continued more or less from the time of Adam onward, yet the word" prayer "does not appear on the inspired page until years later, when it will be seen that the first time that either the word of prayer or divine healing occurs is in connection with Abraham (Gen. xvii. 3; Gen. xx. 17). Then on each occasion we find that his prayers were answered on the very spot. In consideration of Abraham's success in the ministry of intercession, we would conclude that his unshaken faith in the Almighty must have brought a measure of the power of Omnipotence into his prayers. Indeed Abraham's faithfulness is recognised all through both Old and New Testament Scriptures. He is made mention of by Nehemiah in his prayers, who said, "Thou art the Lord the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham, and foundest his heart faithful before Thee, and madest a covenant with him" (Neh. ix. 7, 8). And Paul the Apostle testifies, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (Rom. iv. 3). This, we believe, was the true reason why God was able to take him into His Council Chamber and make known to him His purpose to overthrow the cities of the plain; as it is written, "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" It is evident that Abraham would not have known of Sodom's destruction but for this revelation; therefore he would not have been able to have prevailed in prayer for them. But one asks, Why did He make it known to Abraham? Because he was the chosen head of His people; because through him all the nations of the earth should be blessed, because Abraham was a faithful and righteous man; and finally with a view that he might intercede for Sodom. This justifies us in interceding for sinners, and even though there were not enough righteous men to save the city, yet Abraham's prayer was effectual in the deliverance of Lot and his daughters; so that God remembered Lot for Abraham's sake (Gen. xix. 29).
Dr. Murray says, " Intercession is the most perfect form of prayer. It is the prayer Christ ever liveth to pray on His throne." Doubtless one chief reason why Lot did not join in this ministry of intercession with Abraham was because he lacked the divine fellowship; therefore he had not the capacity to enter into this glorious ministry. Prayer and fellowship with God went hand-in-hand with Abraham, and it must be so with us if we expect our prayers to be effective.
The whole history of the Church proves that it is those who live in the closest fellowship with God to whom He reveals His mind. Abraham had fulfilled all the conditions that were necessary. As a result, God was well pleased to draw out from him the intensity of his prayers on behalf of Sodom. The most godly are always the most powerful both in prayer and in intercession, for the reason that they, like Abraham, keep most in touch with God; therefore they have a greater knowledge of His love, power, mercy, and justice, and have a heart at leisure to think on behalf of others.
But what a contrast to this do we find in the case of Lot! Although a child of God, he manifested a very different spirit from that of his uncle, Abraham. No agonising prayer is offered by him on behalf of the doomed city. No display of godly sympathy for the perishing multitude; no mention of gratitude for his safe deliverance. What little praying he did was all centred in himself, and had it not been for the intercession of Abraham, it is possible that both he and his daughters would have perished with the others. But, as it was, he was saved, as by fire.
Had God found the same spirit of faith and wholehearted devotion in Lot as was in the heart of his uncle, Abraham, it is possible that Sodom would have been saved. And who knows but that there may be a thousand cities in this the twentieth century just as corrupt as the "cities of the plain." Yet if the condition of the heathen at home and abroad was even a thousand times worse, the promise of God and His redeeming grace would be equal to the occasion. "Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession" (Ps. ii. 8). This promise, although given to Christ, can be applied by the Holy Spirit to the Church. It comes to her as a challenge on the ground of the Father's promise to His Son, so she can "demand" of Him as the Almighty Father to fulfil it. To say the least, such a promise is not only an encouragement to our faith, but an everlasting rebuke to our narrow views and our limited petitions, because the promise practically embraces the world for Christ.
Just now, as in Abraham's day, God is looking for men whom He can take into His confidence - men who know how to pray in faith and in the Holy Ghost. Dr. Cuyler uttered a great truth when he said," Nearly every revival starts with one or more souls that are filled with the Holy Ghost." And as one of our leading Church dignitaries prayed, "O Holy Ghost, fill but one or two hearts with Thy rushing mighty wind, and mitre one or two brows with the Pentecostal flame.'' To which we heartily say, ''Amen."
During one of his missions the writer came into touch with a minister of the Gospel whom he had heard preach with great power and unction. But upon hearing him pray and make intercession (especially in his private room and at his family altar), he forgot all about the minister's ability as a preacher, in the blessed realisation of God's presence in answer to his prayers. He felt fully convinced that the prayers of any two such men, when united, "would put ten thousand to flight," or possibly start a revival, the influence of which might be felt to the uttermost parts of the earth, and gladden the heart of the Saviour in the conversion of multitudes of the poor heathen. It is hardly possible to come into contact with such without feeling a deeper sense of one's own responsibility. Many who came in contact with such men as John Fletcher, Charles Finney and George Muller, and others of their stamp, have confessed to this. And we have cause to thank God for such men and women who exist to-day. And the reason we have not more of the same class is not for want of greater light or better opportunity. The privileges in these respects were never greater.
If the standard of judgment in our Saviour's day was the greater light and opportunity than that of former days, which is evident, as when our Lord upbraided the cities and said, "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! . . . and thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto Heaven, shalt be brought down to Hell; for if the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day" (Matt. xi. 21, 23), then, in the consideration of the greater light and privileges granted to us in these days, we would reverently ask (judging according to our deserts), - Could we expect any other if our Lord returned to-day, than to hear Him say to us as a nation, "Woe unto you, England," or, "Woe unto you, Great Britain, so long entrusted with the light of divine truth; for if the mighty works done in thee had been done in Africa, in India, in China, or in Japan, etc., they would have repented long ago"? Surely we have cause to be grateful that God has not entered into judgment with us. Yet, as remarked by a well-known writer, "There is hope, for God has not forgotten us. The great Intercessor is still in Heaven pleading; and the Holy Ghost is still in the world."
Then, in view of our present privileges and in the light of the coming judgment, let us in the spirit of true penitence and faith call upon God in earnest prayer that we may be raised to the occasion, and as we offer up our petitions in reliance upon the Holy Spirit and through the atoning merits of Christ, He will grant our request and pour out upon us in greater and richer abundance the spirit of grace and supplication, which always fits the soul for the ministry of intercession.
And who can tell how many towns and cities have been saved, in answer to the prevailing prayers of God's people, since the time that Abraham interceded on behalf of Sodom, from a moral and spiritual destruction which may be infinitely greater than that of a temporal nature. It is said that at the time when President C. G. Finney visited Bolton, Lancashire, the whole town was completely overwhelmed with sin and vice of every kind, and that gross darkness covered the minds of the people. But during the revival which took place under the ministry of Mr. Finney, and the united prayers and intercessions of the Christians, the whole town was brought under such a wave of divine influence that almost in every house, some one or more was converted to God.
Hudson Taylor asks: "Should we not do well to suspend our present operations and give ourselves to humiliation and prayer for nothing less than to be filled with the Spirit, and made channels through which He shall work with resistless power? Souls are perishing now for lack of this power. . . . God is blessing now some who are seeking this blessing from Him in faith. All things are ready if we are ready."
"In Abraham's God confide,
Who faithful souls prepares,
And with the Holy Spirit's might
Intensifies our prayers."
The following testimony reveals the power of intercessory prayer in a very remarkable manner. An infidel in London had a wife who possessed a Bible, which she read daily. Being annoyed at this, he threw the Book upon the fire; then went out. He afterwards returned to see if the last vestige of the volume had disappeared. The woman, who was naturally distressed at the loss, said she thought it must be completely destroyed. Her husband stirred the ashes to see if such was the case, when he read what fastened itself upon his mind and led to his conversion, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Word shall not pass away." The sister of that man was the wife of a London pastor, and just when the Bible was burning she was earnestly praying for her brother's conversion.
"Is it true," asked Canon Liddon, "that prayer is assumed little else than half-passive play of sentiment, which flows languidly on through the minutes and hours of easy reverie? " Let those who have really prayed give the answer. Such sometimes describe prayer, like the Patriarch Jacob, as a wrestling together with the Unseen Power, which may last not infrequently in an earnest life, late into the night hours, or even until break of day. They have, when praying, their eyes fixed on the Great Intercessor in Gethsemane, upon the drops of blood which fell to the ground in that agony of resignation and sacrifice. Importunity is of the essence of successful prayer.
"I will not let Thee go unless Thou bless me. " - Gen. xxxii. 26.
"Yea, he had power over the Angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication."-Hos. xii. 4.
MANY of God's children have confessed that after years of religious exercise they knew or understood but little of what it really meant to agonise in prayer, either for themselves or for others, until brought face to face with some great trial or calamity. Then were they greatly surprised when, for the first time, they discovered what little they knew of the spirit and power of "fervent effectual prayer." Doubtless for this reason God has often to allow some trouble or affliction to come over men's lives in order that He may be able to draw them out into a real spirit of prevailing prayer. Had it not been for this special trial and crisis which was permitted to overtake Jacob, it is possible that he would never have been changed from a supplanter to a Prince in Israel. It is evident that true prayer puts the heart into the best condition for the enduring of our troubles as well as for the exercise of our faith for complete and final victory.
For over twenty years Jacob and Esau were at variance. But now the command came from God to Jacob to return to his own land, to the place where his brother Esau dwelt. A tree that has been steadily growing for twenty long years is likely to get firmly rooted. And we may reckon that the root of bitterness and the spirit of enmity that had been growing in the heart of Esau for so long must have become very strong and stubborn. It had grown from the feeling of anger to that of malice and murder. He had said on a former occasion, "The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob" (Gen. xxvii. 41). Therefore we are able to understand to some extent the awful sense of despair and self-retribution that must have taken possession of Jacob, especially when he received the command to return to his own land. No doubt, he could already see the dark shadow of his brother's approach. To take steps in that direction would be to afford Esau just the opportunity he had long waited for in order to carry out his threat, which would mean to Jacob the suffering of a cruel death. With feelings such as these gnawing at his heart, we would think he must have felt strongly tempted to disobey the command. But, notwithstanding all his temptation and his fears, he is resolved to go forward in the path of duty.
After due preparation he set out on his journey, but only a few days pass before he is brought face to face with a fearful crisis - a crisis which is immortalised through the whole history of the Church. "Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men." Possibly as they marched forward they more likely gave the appearance of four thousand. What a tumult of thought must have been created in the breast of Jacob when the hostile host came within sight! Nothing can be more natural than to suppose that Esau fully intended to carry out his threat. Doubtless the aggravating event relating to Jacob's trickery and duplicity had gained strength with Esau, and had grown rapidly upon him during the whole length of the march. And, considering he is the leader and commander of his band of soldiers, he must have regard for his position. Besides, had not the prospect of victory been running high among rank and file of his devoted followers; and can he afford to cut off the hope of their expectation by manifesting a relenting or forgiving spirit? What will be said on their return? No! he must rally every opposing force of his nature and close down the door of his iron-like soul to every feeling of compassion, and put on the determined face, so as to appear with a warlike front and keep rank. Tramp, tramp, tramp, they march forward on their journey, fully resolved to wipe out the very name of Jacob and his followers for ever.
Without doubt, Jacob had had his times of self-reproach, but never a time like the present. I fancy he would say to himself, "I am to blame for all this. Too well do I remember my brother's disappointment when he found that I had not only robbed him of his birthright, but had also taken away his blessing. And now my family, together with all my innocent followers, have to suffer because of my guilt. I own that I deserve to be wiped out and my name blotted out for ever." Who can tell what feelings of remorse and consternation wrung the soul of Jacob when he saw the two bands rapidly approaching? And now, as they came within a stone's-throw of each other, lo, Esau, as if suddenly seized with a spirit of impatience to have his revenge upon his brother, ran to meet him. What indescribable horror must now enter the minds and hearts of Jacob's party! Surely they expect no other than to see him fall a victim to his brother's rage. When, to the astonishment of both parties, Esau falls on his brother Jacob's neck, and kisses him. "And they wept."
What power on earth, we ask, could have brought about a change like this? Compared with this the changing of the order of the material universe is as nothing. Only one answer can be given, and that is the omnipotency of prayer. In other words, Jacob's deliverance is the result of the operation of God's power in answer to his effectual fervent prayer. The following prayer offered by Jacob on the previous night is the best explanation of this remarkable victory:
"And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast shewed unto Thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. Deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. And Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude. . . . And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there" (Gen. xxxii. 9-29).
We do not know of any word that more fully expresses the prayer of Jacob than the word - intense. It is evident in this case that God allowed Jacob in his prayer to stretch out more strainedly until all the guile was completely taken out of his nature. Not only so, but under the power of God, Jacob was able to pray and to hold on just so long as the strain was necessary, and that too in a very successful manner, otherwise it would never have been recorded, "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." Thus Jacob, who represented the lowest type of manhood, was suddenly raised to the highest place of power and dignity, and named Israel. The prophet Hosea, referring to this occasion, speaks of Jacob's prayer as a spiritual exercise, and not, as some suppose, merely physical. Hence it is recorded that "he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him" (Hos. xii. 4).
Some tell us that Jacob did not wrestle at all; others say that he wrestled too long and put himself under too great a strain. The fault, however, with too many of our prayers is the fact that they are so very brittle that they break off long before they get to straining point. Some who know little or nothing about agonising prayer say God does not require it. Then it is certain He does not require our indolence or laziness.
It is said of a certain youth, being in the temple with Alexander, that, when offering incense to his god, a coal fell from the golden censer on to the youth's hand and burnt his wrist. The youth, considering what a sacred thing he was about, although he felt his wrist burning, yet would not stir, but continued to the end. Ought not this to shame those who sometimes allow mere trifles to break off their communion with God?
We may learn, however, from Jacob's prayer that the place of man's extreme weakness is the place of God's supreme power, as well as that it affords a place for divine opportunity. So very few are willing to be brought to a place of utter helplessness so as to learn like Jacob the uselessness of attempting to get the victory in our own strength. It is far easier for human nature to rely upon human might or wisdom than to come to a place of self-abasement and be willing that God alone shall be our deliverer. Paul, no doubt, had reached this point in his experience, when he exclaimed, "The sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead" (2 Cor. i. 9).
It was indeed a great miracle of mercy for Jacob when the Lord, in answer to his prayer, changed the whole spirit and purpose of his brother Esau towards him, so that suddenly matters were made right between them. But the display of God's power in the sanctification of Jacob's inner life, in the taking away, as it were, the twist out of his nature, far outranked the former transaction, because in this, the latter case, it removed the real cause of all the trouble and raised him to the position of a prince, a ruler with God, and so transfigured his life that ever afterward Jacob remained a superior man.
It is here, more especially, where the victory on the divine side comes in. One touch of the Almighty's grace when Jacob came into vital contact with Him immediately withered up all his subtlety and carnality. Up to this time, Jacob's chief supplication was, "Deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother." But the Lord led him to see that his greatest need was to be delivered from his deceitful self - the Jacob, the supplanter, the schemer. We repeat, it is more than likely that circumstances had been allowed to lead up to the highest point in the experience of Jacob in order to induce him to make a full and glad surrender and to afford an opportunity for a work to be wrought in his heart that would be a greater praise to the triumph of the Redeemer's grace than if He had created a new world. This we may gather from the fact that on three occasions, when reference is made to the above transaction, He, the Lord, is spoken of as the mighty God of Jacob (see Gen. xlix. 24; Ps. cxxxii. 2 and 5). Thus all the glory of this wonderful operation both in the inward and the outward deliverance of Jacob is ascribed, as it should be, to the Lord Himself.
There has been a time in the experience of most of us when, if the name of Jacob was mentioned, we were tempted to look upon him as no other than a trickster, a supplanter, or, as one who had taken advantage of his brother, and possessing guile enough to have played the same trick upon a thousand others were the opportunity given. But now, since we have learnt to look upon him from the transfigured side of his character, we see a man radiant with the presence of God.
Some we have known appear to be so well acquainted with the faults and failings of their brethren that they have failed to discover or to recognise the nobler qualities possessed by such men as Jacob, and others of his type. Nor would they trouble themselves to know anything about the spiritual struggles, or the days and nights spent by such in agonising prayer in order to get a complete victory over their faults. And should they by some means get to hear of such a victory, the possibility is that it will soon be forgotten. So that in vain, as far as they are concerned, has a Jacob, a David, or a Peter emerged triumphant in his struggles. The worldly, the lukewarm Christian, will still point to the dark shadow that has passed. But it is to be feared that many of this class have never experienced a real spiritual Waterloo in their lives. That is to say, they have never been brought under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit in a way so as to lay violent hands on their own pride and sloth and unbelief, or sought to put to death the Agag of their own hearts. Possibly, they have never spent a solid half-hour in real agonising prayer since the day they were born. Satan is quite aware of this and can therefore afford to let them alone, whereas he will bring his heaviest artillery to bear upon those who are skilled in the weapon of prevailing prayer. As a matter of fact he will not leave a stone unturned in order, if possible, to overthrow the faith of such as have joined the ranks of spiritual intercessors. But, God be praised, the prayers of such as approach God through faith in the Redeemer's merits, and in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, shall come off more than conquerors.
Some one asked the Rev. Dinsdale Young if it was possible for any one who had sinned as David did to be called a man after God's own heart. "Yes," said Mr. Young, "if he repents like David." The same is true with reference to Jacob.
We have a remarkable reference to the reward of faithfulness in this duty given in Hosea, namely,
"Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints" (Hos. xi. 12). Dr. Adam Clarke, in his commentary on the above verse, says, "There is an allusion here to Gen. xxxii. 24, when Jacob wrestled with the angel and his name was changed to Israel, one that ruleth with God. That glory Israel lost through idolatry, but Judah still retains the true worship, and so deserves the name Israel." It is evident, however, that Jacob as an individual retained the name Israel, and was not a whit behind the mightiest of God's intercessors, and because of this, his success in the power of prevailing prayer, his God - given name Israel is left on everlasting record. "Jacob, with all his mistakes," says the late C. H. Spurgeon, "was a master in the art of prayer." We talk about our battles of Waterloo, Sebastopol, Mons, the Somme, etc., but the spiritual battles won at Jabbok, Mount Carmel, Gethsemane, and other places, like the Upper Room Prayer-meeting, have done, and will do, infinitely more to change the destiny of nations and to bring about universal peace and righteousness than all the battles ever won by carnal weapons.
Oh, the wonderful possibilities that are placed at the disposal of those who, through the Spirit of all grace, have become wrestling Jacobs and prevailing Israels! This privilege, dear reader, is yours, even though your lot be cast among the poor and despised of earth and thou thyself looked upon as a worm and no man. Yet if thou hast learned to claim thy full inheritance in the Spirit of grace and supplication, thou too mayest become a spiritual force which, under God, may set in motion a glorious revival that shall turn multitudes from sin to righteousness, the influence of which, as in the case of Jacob, may give an inspiration to the prayer-life of untold millions. Volumes have been written and multitudes of sermons have been preached all down through the ages and in all parts of the world on the subject of Jacob's prevailing power in prayer and intercession. It is evident that no man unacquainted with the value and power of prayer, who lacks faith or power of intensity, can ever expect to prevail mightily with God as Jacob did. On this point one of our ablest writers remarked that Jacob in prayer became so potent that he overcame Omnipotence. He was so mighty that he overcame the Almighty (Gen. xxxii. 28; Hos. xii. 4). Nor can we deny, as stated by Mr. Spurgeon, that God had bound His own hands by His truth and His promise, "I will do thee good." This is the secret of all great prayer leaders who in the past have been mighty through God in the pulling down of strongholds. Like Jacob, they have learnt to base their petitions upon the unfailing Word of God. May the mighty God of Jacob raise up a multitude of such prayer leaders for the present and for the time to come!
"And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written." - Ex. xxxii. 31, 32.
NEARLY the whole of Church history furnishes us with some remarkable examples of the power of prevailing prayer - examples which should encourage us to lay hold of God's strength in the exercise of this important duty. Moreover, the Bible teems with promises which are backed up with testimonies of God's faithfulness in answer to the earnest pleadings of His people. Therefore it is possible, by these, and by the help we may derive from the following examples, to prove the omnipotence of prayer in a manner we have never yet dreamed, and should cause us thereby to let go all our doubts with regard to its reality and power.
It will be remembered, when Moses was on Mount Sinai, that the children of Israel quickly turned aside from the commandments of the Lord, and committed a great sin in that they made themselves gods of gold. Because of this, God purposed to cut them off as a nation. As it is written, "And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff necked people" (Ex. xxxii. 7-9).
It is believed that from the moment Moses received the tidings from the Lord that Israel had sinned in making them a golden calf to worship, he became so overwhelmed with grief that straightway he began to pour out his soul to God in prayer and supplication. And so fervently and continuously did he plead and make intercession in order to avert the doom of the nation, that the purpose of God with regard to the rebellious Israelites was prevented, and the Almighty was compelled to exclaim: "Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people, which Thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did He bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from Thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against Thy people. Remember Abraham Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants, to whom Thou swarest by Thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever" (Ex. xxxii. 10-13).
The prayers and intercessions of Moses had so mightily prevailed before his leaving the Mount that the execution of divine wrath was withheld until he had gone down and become fully acquainted with the facts of the case, and knew for himself the extent of the sin: "And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables. And it came to pass as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it. . . . And it came to pass on the morrow that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin" (Ex. xxxii. 15-30).
It is evident that while Moses had not lost heart because of the wilful rebellion of the children of Israel, yet it is apparent that his knowledge of the exceeding sinfulness of their sin had wonderfully increased his sympathy with the Almighty. In other words, he could now see what he had not been able to see before; that is, the greatness of God's goodness in not allowing His wrath suddenly to overtake them.
Furthermore, we notice that on the return of Moses from the mount, his intercession takes quite another turn. He now makes a special acknowledgment of their sin; as it is recorded, "And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold." It is possible that the tidings with reference to the manner of their transgression had so surprised and shocked him, that for a while he was quite unable to grasp the magnitude of their sin. But after his going down and witnessing for himself the facts, it seemed that the knowledge of the greatness of their sin grew rapidly upon him. It must have been an unspeakable blessing to Moses that the tidings of their transgression came to him when he was upon the mount in divine communion; otherwise it is possible that he would have been completely crushed and incapacitated.
On the first occasion it appears that Moses was able to draw sufficient arguments for his intercession from the covenant of God with Israel. But what can he now say, seeing that he has witnessed for himself the fact that they had broken their covenant with God and had allowed their sin to come between Him and His covenant with them. We may ask, Where can Moses now turn for a single promise in their favour? or find a suitable argument on which to base a single petition for their deliverance? Moses is conscious of the fact that there is not a man in all Israel upon whom he could rely, or who would be accepted to join him in the ministry of intercession. Even his own brother, Aaron the high priest, had yielded to the temptation and shared in the transgression. Therefore it fell entirely to Moses to fill the gap and to find sufficient grounds upon which to plead so as to prevail with God, and avert the nation's doom.
Here we find Moses face to face with a crisis in many respects equal to a thousand battles in one. But it is not the first time he has been put into a strait, as was the case when Israel was walled in between the Egyptians on the one hand and the Red Sea on the other. But God in their extremity made a path through the sea. On the present occasion he feels that he is walled in, as it were, with a rebellious people on the one hand and the wrath of an offended God on the other.
Already, as we have noticed, Moses had exhausted every strong argument in their favour. There is only one hope left. If that fails, then all must fail with it. That is, the hope of forgiveness in the exhaustless and unmerited mercy of a loving God. If justice requires a sacrifice before such mercy can be granted, then Moses is quite willing to give himself up as a sacrifice for their sake. In manifesting this spirit Moses was like the Apostle Paul, who in later years testified that he had continual sorrow of heart for Israel, and said, "For I could wish myself accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh (Rom. ix. 3).
Constrained by the power of omnipotent love, Moses again pours out his soul to God in supplication on Israel's behalf and says, "Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin - and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written." The prayer of Moses in this case was so intense that he was prepared to make the greatest possible sacrifice. He practically said, "Never mind me; put me out of Thy promise, out of Thy covenant. Blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book, but forgive Israel their sin."
Yes, brethren, we may learn from this that real effectual fervent prayer will be sure to cost us something - possibly much. Judging from the divine record, the effectual prayers of the past have cost blood and agony and rivers of tears. Its success, however, as we have noticed elsewhere, is stamped with the divine certainty, namely, "It availeth much." This is confirmed in the Book of Psalms; as it is written concerning this event, "Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He should destroy them" (Ps. cvi. 23).
Oh, to reach such a point of spiritual intercession as to be able to stand in the breach before the Almighty God, and by our intense pleading bind His wrath and hold back His omnipotent power; refusing, like Moses, to relax our hold upon the arm of God until we have conquered Him by our agonising, intensified, believing prayer!
But such prevailing prayers can be made possible only where they are steeped in the atoning merits of Jesus Christ, and where there is perfect reliance upon the Holy Spirit, who "maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." And when this is fully realised, and our petitions have their roots in God's boundless love and mercy and compassion, our prayers will become an irresistible force. So effectual were the prayers of Moses that Israel's sin of idolatry was forgiven and the nation's doom averted.
Yet on a second occasion, although it was more than a year later, we find that Israel, through their own wilful rebellion, had again brought themselves under the divine displeasure and were in the same danger of being wiped out. By their constant murmurings and their slowness of heart to believe, they shut themselves out of the Promised Land. "And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke Me, . . . for all the signs which I have shown among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they" (Num. xiv. 11, 12).
Such an offer of promotion, coming as it did from God Himself a second time, and under such circumstances, must have been a special test to Moses. Doubtless angels, principalities, and powers were deeply interested and possibly looked on with wonder, longing to know the effect which this second offer of promotion will have upon Moses, especially considering that the future hope, or the present doom of the Israelites, wholly depended upon his decision. Moses is well aware that if he accepts this present offer, he will not only be greatly promoted, but it will completely release him from the dreary task of having to return to the wilderness, the experience of which had already vexed his righteous soul; and it is only natural to suppose that Moses will remember the former occasion, when he refused to accept the first offer to be placed at the head of a mighty nation. And with regard to the Israelites, circumstances had grown considerably worse instead of better, so that we might expect that he would grasp at this second opportunity. Surely this is indeed an awful crisis in the life of Moses, and one which compels him to act.
God's wrath for Israel's sin has already waxed hot, and Moses is conscious that he has not a moment to lose. Notwithstanding, however, he would take time to think soberly, so as to act wisely. No doubt he feels that he must show the highest regard to Him who had condescended to make him such a transcendent offer. It is not a matter that can be treated lightly. God never throws His Gift or offers of promotion to any one. Had Moses been an office - seeker, or had he some special ambition for greatness, now was his opportunity. To have an offer of a large church with a more influential congregation, and to have the stipend doubled and trebled, falls infinitely short of an offer like this. Dr. F. B. Meyer, speaking with reference to this event, says, "There are few greater passages in the whole of the Bible than that in which Moses puts away the testing suggestion as impossible."
While the mind of Moses is reverting to the past events, he will remember the special sacrifice he willingly made for his brethren long years before, when, by faith, as it is written, "Moses when he was come to years refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.~~ He will also remember how he was graciously accepted by God as a leader and commander of His people Israel. These and many other things that had transpired during his experience with them would rush into his mind and heart in a way which is only possible for such as have passed through a similar experience to understand. Yet there can be no doubt but that the recollections of the experience Moses had passed through with them bound him to them like a threefold cord.
But the thing which carried the greatest weight with him, and which had the effect above all others of causing him to decline the offer of promotion, was the character of God. How could he think of accepting a higher position if thereby God's character would be at stake and His Name blasphemed among the heathen. Besides this, he would hear the wailing of a nation's doom and the cry of a lost Israel. Moses knew that it was impossible for him to accept the offer that had been made him without consenting that Israel be blotted out. And what would even Heaven itself be to him, much less a place at the head of a great and mightier nation, if Israel be lost and the nation blotted out. This, together with his great regard for God's character, carried the day, and compelled Moses to decide in Israel's favour.
Herein, we believe, lies the true secret of his fervent and effectual prayers. The more we study the life and character of Moses, the more we are struck with the true greatness of his character, so that it might be said of him that which had special reference to another, namely, "Thy gentleness hath made me great." But, on the other hand, the more we study the life and character of the Children of Israel as a nation, the more we are likely to be disappointed. If we carefully follow their history we soon learn that they had sinned almost against every attribute of God and humanity. And this, too, in spite of the fact that God had wrought miracle after miracle. He had spread for them a table in the wilderness and fed them with manna from heaven. Besides this, He gave His Spirit to guide them, His mercy to pardon them, His providence to support them, and His grace to preserve them. Yet they constantly murmured against God and against Moses and against Aaron, the Saint of God; yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word; therefore He lifted up His hand against them. But for the prayers of Moses, His servant, they would have been wiped out altogether.
We have a number of cases of self-sacrificing love given in different portions of Scripture and Church history, but, apart from the Man, Christ Jesus, there are none to excel Moses. It is because this spirit so dominated his whole being that he was ready to risk anything for the benefit of others. Moreover, we must remember that it was for a people who did not appreciate his self-sacrificing love, but rebelled against him and had also rejected him and said one to another, "Let us make a Captain and let us return to Egypt." Moses was fully aware that they were guilty of all this, and infinitely more, at the time he refused God's offer. In addition to this there yet remained the fact that God will be inquired of by Moses before Israel can entertain any hope of their deliverance. But a man like Moses, who had endured so much, who by his gentle yet heroic spirit had triumphed over so many difficulties, and had prevailed so mightily, can still be relied upon to pray effectually. But in this case, as in the former, Moses is entirely shut up to God's unmerited mercy. Therefore, he again, in reliance upon God's infinite compassion, pleads most intensely on Israel's behalf, and says, "Pardon, I beseech Thee, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Thy mercy, and as Thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. And the Lord said, I have pardoned them according to thy word" (Num. xiv. 19-20).
No doubt it was an unspeakable blessing to Moses personally as well as to the people of Israel that he met every crisis by which he was confronted in the spirit of prevailing prayer. Because of this the exceeding great and heavy trials which otherwise would have crushed him, only had the effect of calling out the best and noblest qualities which hitherto had been deeply buried within the soul of this great intercessor.
"And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord ... I have poured out my soul before the LORD." - I SAM. i. 12-15.
IT is considered that Hannah, the mother of Samuel, takes the foremost place, in the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures, among women who are noted for their personal piety and fervency in prayer. Like our Divine Lord and Master when in the Garden, Hannah's prayer was wrung from a soul that was overwhelmed with grief, the burden of which had been increasing as a result of cruel mocking which she had been called to endure from Peninnah. Year by year she went up to the House of the Lord. As it is recorded, "She was in bitterness of soul and prayed unto the Lord and wept sore.'' Children among the Jewish women were regarded as a blessing from the Lord, and the withholding of them was looked upon as a token of God's displeasure. Hannah's disappointment in this direction, together with the constant provocations she received from Peninnah, added greatly to the trial of her faith. Yet her deepest concern was not so much that she might have a child as that she might have a soul that she could train up for God. Realising, as she did, the awful, backslidden condition of God's chosen people Israel, it is quite possible that while encouraged by a prophetical spirit she would not consider it a thing incredible that God would give her a son worthy of filling a prophet's place, and such as would be able to restore a backslidden nation to the worship of the only true God. Under these circumstances her only resource was to go to Him in a humble spirit of fervent prayer. We have remarkable evidence of Hannah's genuine piety in the calm and gentle spirit she manifested when she was misjudged and falsely accused by the prophet Eli of being drunk. She did not use railing accusations against him as she might have done. She was, therefore, soon able to convince him that the silent movement of her lips was not the result of strong drink, but rather it was her trouble of heart and sorrowful spirit which had led her to pour out her soul before the Lord. Nor did she go unanswered, but, as it is written, "The woman went her way and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad." So that her long night of sorrow was soon followed by a morning of joy and gladness, seeing that her heart rejoiced in the Lord. Hannah's prayer was definite and she received a definite answer. She bare a son and called his name Samuel, saying, "Because I have asked him of the Lord." Her prayer was intensified by her trouble, but the real secret of her success was her inward devotion and her unselfish desire in her petitions. She prayed at a point of agony, but her voice was not heard because she prayed in her heart. Moreover, she vowed a vow unto the Lord that she would give the child to the Lord all the days of his life. Therefore Samuel was consecrated and blessed of the Lord before he was born. "Hannah," says a noted writer, "is an instance of God's forerunning grace, the grace that blesses us even before we see the light of the world, that blesses our ancestry, our homes, parents, and kindred - the grace that sanctifies us by a mother's piety and by the prayers offered to God before she knows a mother's joy." God's best men and women have been raised by a mother's prayers and vows, and a father's solemn consecration. Blessed indeed is the life of a man or woman, boy or girl, who has been heralded into the world not only by pain but also by prayer - their advent prefaced by the hand of a father or mother laying hold upon God. It is said that the true secret of greatness is often traced to a mother's prayers and personal piety. Little perhaps did Monica think of what an unspeakable blessing would follow her long years of agonising prayers for the conversion of her son Augustine, and the use God would make of him in after years for His cause and Kingdom. When Moffat's mother pleaded with him to accept Christ as his Saviour, she never thought that God in answer to her prayers would fill his renewed soul with such amazing zeal for the salvation of the heathen, and crown his labours with such abundant success. It is said that John Newton learned to pray at his mother's knee, and such was the influence of her life upon his mind that, although she was called to her Heavenly Home before her son John was eight years of age, in later years, when at sea and in the midst of dangers, his agonising prayer was "My mother's God, Thou God of Mercy, have mercy upon me." The prayer was heard, and from the time of his conversion the name of John Newton has been honoured in the churches. It was through Newton that Thomas Scott, the commentator, was led to Christ; also Wilberforce, the champion of the emancipation of slavery and the author of Practical Views of Christianity, which led Legh Richmond into the ministry of Christ. President Edwards, Bishop Hall, Philip Henry, Hooker, Payson, Doddridge, and the Wesleys all had praying mothers, to which through God they attributed the secret of their success. "When I was a little boy," said a very noted man, "my mother used to bid me kneel beside her, and placed her hand upon my head while she prayed. Before I was old enough to know her worth, she died, and I was left to my own guidance. Like others, I was inclined to evil passions, but often felt myself checked, and, as it were, drawn back, by a soft hand upon my head. When a young man, I travelled in foreign lands and was exposed to many temptations, but when I would have yielded, that same hand was upon my head and I was saved. I seemed to feel its pressure as in the days of my happy childhood, and sometimes there came with it a solemn voice saying, 'Do not this great wickedness, my son, and sin against God.'" In a diary of a Christian mother was inscribed this record: "This morning I rose very early to pray for my children, especially that my sons may be ministers and missionaries of Jesus Christ." Her life corresponded with her piety, and her influence upon her children was blessed. Her prayers on their behalf were abundantly answered. Her eight children were all trained up for God. Five of her sons became ministers and missionaries of Jesus Christ, and the others are well-known in the Christian Church. It is recorded in the life of Mrs. Winslow that she determined with God's blessing that every one of her family should appear with her at God's right hand. She wrestled long in prayer; but not in vain, for she had the joy of seeing each of them brought to a knowledge of the Saviour. No doubt such prayers as those to which we have called attention, when answered so abundantly, are most encouraging and should prove an inspiration to Christian parents to continue in prayer for their unsaved children. We must admit that the example of Hannah is by far the wisest and most successful, inasmuch as she prevailed with God on behalf of her son even in advance of his birth. That is, she had given him to the service of the Lord so that the very threshold of his life should be devoted to God in advance of the threefold enemy. Because of this, Samuel not only had a good start but an early start. Youth in any phase is considered a period when mind and heart are most open to impression and are most receptive. But youth in Samuel's case was associated with the highest privileges, namely, the prayers and influence of a pious mother, and supplemented by the grace, power, and promise of a covenant-keeping God. Besides, his being called to minister before the Lord would afford a good opportunity for the growth and development of the germs of holy thoughts, inasmuch as his mind would be occupied with thoughts of holy things. What a comfort to know that God does not withhold His saving grace from children until they are of mature years, but rather He includes them in His love even from their earliest moments. But it may be asked, Why was Samuel chosen from among all the other thousands of boys who were in Israel? In reply to which we would say that while we do not lose sight of God's sovereignty and His Covenant of grace, we must take into account what we have already called attention to, namely, a pious mother's prayers and her godly training. Therefore we are not surprised that it is recorded that "the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men" (I Sam. ii. 26). Moreover, as we read in I Sam. iii. 19: "And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord." This implied that he not only grew in stature and in physical strength, but he also grew in divine grace and wisdom. Therefore he soon became equipped fully for his service for God and the state. But especially was there given to him a full measure of the spirit of grace and supplication, so that, like Hannah, his mother, he soon became mighty in the ministry of prayer. "Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon the name of the Lord, and He answered them" (Ps. xcix. 6). Though Samuel was a prophet, yet he was mighty as a Priest. Because of this he was able to bring down great blessing upon God's people, Israel. At the time Samuel was called to take charge of the prophetic office, Israel had got into a very corrupt condition. A kind of spiritual death had settled down upon the nation. It was several hundred years after the death of Moses when Samuel was called to take the place of Eli. The priesthood had become demoralised; the people were given up to idolatry; what little religion remained was nothing more than a mere form; the spirit and power of it was gone and the glory of the Lord had departed. Under circumstances such as these, Samuel, by the aid of divine grace, set out to revolutionise things so that once more the Name of the Lord and spiritual worship might become a felt power in the land. But men and women had become so engrossed with material things, and so dead to the spiritual, that it required nothing short of the breath of the Almighty to arouse them. Samuel, however, did not fail to charge the House of Israel with having departed from the worship of the living God; and such was the wisdom and power given to him to grapple with these wrongdoings that the children of Israel were soon made willing to acknowledge that they had sinned against the Lord. Indeed, so great was Samuel's success, through God, on this occasion that the whole city was changed by a genuine revival. "The children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth and served the Lord only." And Samuel said, "Gather all the children of Israel to Mizpah and I will pray for you unto the Lord," and it is recorded: "When the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the children of Israel said unto Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that He will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt-offering wholly unto the Lord: and Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel; and the Lord heard him. And as Samuel was offering up the burnt - offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel" (I Sam. vii. 4-10). But it must be ever remembered that the Israelites did not get the victory over their enemies until after they had a revival among themselves. It is a great mistake to think that revivals only take place among the ungodly; for revival in the outer circles depends greatly upon the spiritual temperature of the inner circles of the Church. The revival under the ministry of Samuel was principally in answer to his fervent prayers. He agonised with God in secret before he exhorted in public. Notwithstanding the personal wrong that had been done to him he poured out his soul to God on their behalf, and his prayer was abundantly answered. It is, however, a matter of the highest importance that we recognise the fact that Samuel's prayers were associated with sacrifice. Had he not taken the lamb and offered it "for a burnt-offering wholly unto the Lord," he would not have complied with the conditions which are necessary to make prayer a success. All prayers, in order to be effectual, must gather their inspiration not simply from the needs of the Church and miseries of a sinful world, but also from the great atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Unless our petitions are based upon the merits of His sacrifice it will be in vain that we attempt to approach the Mercy-Seat. And it was not until Samuel had offered up the lamb for a sacrifice that the Lord "thundered with a great thunder." Nor was this the only time that the elements were controlled in answer to Samuel's prayers, as may be seen in I Sam. xii. 18. But the greatest blessing associated with his prayers was that they brought, as it were, a fresh vision of God before the minds of the children of Israel and therefore promoted a great moral and spiritual revival which had the effect of elevating their character and religious standard as a nation, and caused them to magnify the name of the Lord and exalt His name before their enemies. And it was said, "The hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel." Moreover, when Israel put away their strange gods and turned to the Lord with all their hearts, it brought manifold more power and inspiration into the prayers and intercessions of Samuel; seeing that this act of entire spiritual surrender and absolute devotion brought the whole army of Israel into fellowship with Samuel in his loyalty to the service of God. While it is true that one man who knows how to pray and make intercession in the Spirit has far more power with God than a whole host of half-hearted ones, it is nevertheless a glorious fact that the prayers of a sanctified host, when of one heart and soul, become irresistible. Paul the Apostle, and, indeed, all who have been great prayer leaders, have proved more or less the reality of this. And because this was so on this occasion, the Philistines came against a great army of spiritual intercessors, such as were unconquerable; because in recognition of their obedience and fervency in prayer, the Lord Himself fought for them. But the most remarkable thing associated with the restoration and transformation of the children of Israel referred to in the foregoing pages is the fact that they are all to be traced to a godly self-sacrificing mother, to whom, in answer to her fervent prayers, was given a praying son. It is said that the nine children of Rev. and Mrs. Scudder of India have given their lives to missionary service in that land - seven sons and two daughters. The only explanation is that given by Mr. Scudder: "The children were literally prayed into the Kingdom by their mother." She was accustomed to spend the birthday of each child in prayer for that child. Many years ago there was a mother in Somerville, N.J., whose son, a young man, had begun to lead a dissolute life. One evening she begged him not to spend that evening away from her, but he declared that he would. He said, "Mother, I am not going to be tied to your apron-string; I am going to go." The mother replied, "Please try and remember every moment to-night, that until you come back, I am going to be on my knees asking God to save you." The son, with a rude gesture and muttered oath, rushed from her presence, and spent the night in a shameful carousal. It was four o'clock in the morning when he got home. He had managed to keep his mother out of his mind during his revelry. As he got to the house he saw a light shining through the shutters. Looking in, he saw his mother on her knees and heard her pray,"God save my wandering boy." Going to his room, he threw himself on his bed, but could not sleep. After a while he arose, then knelt down, and it seemed to him that Christ's power proceeded from a room where his wrestling mother was pleading with God, and it led him to cry out, "God be merciful to me a sinner." That very morning he was saved. The news of his salvation soon spread in the neighbourhood, and in three weeks from that time more than two hundred young people had been converted. This young man was the father of Dr. T. De Witt Talmage.
Foreword by the Rev. H. TYDEMAN CHILVERS, Spurgeon's Tabernacle, London
Introduction by the Rev. SETH JOSHUA, Neath, South Wales
Chapter 1. The Power of Intensified Prayer
Chapter 2. Abraham's Prayer on Behalf of Sodom
Chapter 3. Jacob Had Power Over the Angel and Prevailed
Chapter 4. Moses' Successful Prayer-Life
Chapter 5. Hannah's Intensified Prayer
Chapter 6. The Effectual Fervent Prayers of Elijah
Chapter 7. Daniel's Successful Prayer-Life
Chapter 8. A Mother's Prayer and Her Daughter's Salvation and Healing
Chapter 9. Our Lord's Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane
Chapter 10. The Upper-Room Prayer-Meeting or The Promise Fulfilled and Applied
Chapter 11. Apostolic Prayer-Life in Full Operation
Chapter 12. Prayer Answered by a Miracle
Chapter 13. "One of You"
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