Power Through Prayer
Much Prayer the Price of Unction
All the minister's efforts will be vanity or worse than vanity if
he have not unction. Unction must come down from heaven and spread a savor and
feeling and relish over his ministry; and among the other means of qualifying
himself for his office, the Bible must hold the first place, and the last also
must be given to the Word of God and prayer. -- Richard Cecil
IN the Christian system unction is the anointing of the Holy Ghost, separating
unto God's work and qualifying for it. This unction is the one divine
enablement by which the preacher accomplishes the peculiar and saving ends of
preaching. Without this unction there are no true spiritual results
accomplished; the results and forces in preaching do not rise above the results
of unsanctified speech. Without unction the former is as potent as the
This divine unction on the preacher generates through the Word of God the
spiritual results that flow from the gospel; and without this unction, these
results are not secured. Many pleasant impressions may be made, but these all
fall far below the ends of gospel preaching. This unction may be simulated.
There are many things that look like it, there are many results that resemble
its effects; but they are foreign to its results and to its nature. The fervor
or softness excited by a pathetic or emotional sermon may look like the
movements of the divine unction, but they have no pungent, perpetrating
heart-breaking force. No heart-healing balm is there in these surface,
sympathetic, emotional movements; they are not radical, neither sin-searching
This divine unction is the one distinguishing feature that separates true
gospel preaching from all other methods of presenting truth. It backs and
interpenetrates the revealed truth with all the force of God. It illumines the
Word and broadens and enrichens the intellect and empowers it to grasp and
apprehend the Word. It qualifies the preacher's heart, and brings it to that
condition of tenderness, of purity, of force and light that are necessary to
secure the highest results. This unction gives to the preacher liberty and
enlargement of thought and soul -- a freedom, fullness, and directness of
utterance that can be secured by no other process.
Without this unction on the preacher the gospel has no more power to propagate
itself than any other system of truth. This is the seal of its divinity.
Unction in the preacher puts God in the gospel. Without the unction, God is
absent, and the gospel is left to the low and unsatisfactory forces that the
ingenuity, interest, or talents of men can devise to enforce and project its
It is in this element that the pulpit oftener fails than in any other element.
Just at this all-important point it lapses. Learning it may have, brilliancy
and eloquence may delight and charm, sensation or less offensive methods may
bring the populace in crowds, mental power may impress and enforce truth with
all its resources; but without this unction, each and all these will be but as
the fretful assault of the waters on a Gibraltar. Spray and foam may cover and
spangle; but the rocks are there still, unimpressed and unimpressible. The
human heart can no more be swept of its hardness and sin by these human forces
than these rocks can be swept away by the ocean's ceaseless flow.
This unction is the consecration force, and its presence the continuous test of
that consecration. It is this divine anointing on the preacher that secures his
consecration to God and his work. Other forces and motives may call him to the
work, but this only is consecration. A separation to God's work by the power of
the Holy Spirit is the only consecration recognized by God as legitimate.
The unction, the divine unction, this heavenly anointing, is what the pulpit
needs and must have. This divine and heavenly oil put on it by the imposition
of God's hand must soften and lubricate the whole man -- heart, head, spirit --
until it separates him with a mighty separation from all earthly, secular,
worldly, selfish motives and aims, separating him to everything that is pure
It is the presence of this unction on the preacher that creates the stir and
friction in many a congregation. The same truths have been told in the
strictness of the letter, but no ruffle has been seen, no pain or pulsation
felt. All is quiet as a graveyard. Another preacher comes, and this mysterious
influence is on him; the letter of the Word has been fired by the Spirit, the
throes of a mighty movement are felt, it is the unction that pervades and stirs
the conscience and breaks the heart. Unctionless preaching makes everything
hard, dry, acrid, dead.
This unction is not a memory or an era of the past only; it is a present,
realized, conscious fact. It belongs to the experience of the man as well as to
his preaching. It is that which transforms him into the image of his divine
Master, as well as that by which he declares the truths of Christ with power.
It is so much the power in the ministry as to make all else seem feeble and
vain without it, and by its presence to atone for the absence of all other and
This unction is not an inalienable gift. It is a conditional gift, and its
presence is perpetuated and increased by the same process by which it was at
first secured; by unceasing prayer to God, by impassioned desires after God, by
estimating it, by seeking it with tireless ardor, by deeming all else loss and
failure without it.
How and whence comes this unction? Direct from God in answer to prayer. Praying
hearts only are the hearts filled with this holy oil; praying lips only are
anointed with this divine unction.
Prayer, much prayer, is the price of preaching unction; prayer, much prayer, is
the one, sole condition of keeping this unction. Without unceasing prayer the
unction never comes to the preacher. Without perseverance in prayer, the
unction, like the manna overkept, breeds worms.