Power Through Prayer
Tendencies to Be Avoided
Let us often look at Brainerd in the woods of America pouring out
his very soul before God for the perishing heathen without whose salvation
nothing could make him happy. Prayer -- secret fervent believing prayer -- lies
at the root of all personal godliness. A competent knowledge of the language
where a missionary lives, a mild and winning temper, a heart given up to God in
closet religion -- these, these are the attainments which, more than all
knowledge, or all other gifts, will fit us to become the instruments of God in
the great work of human redemption. -- Carrey's Brotherhood,
THERE are two extreme tendencies in the ministry. The one is to shut itself out
from intercourse with the people. The monk, the hermit were illustrations of
this; they shut themselves out from men to be more with God. They failed, of
course. Our being with God is of use only as we expend its priceless benefits
on men. This age, neither with preacher nor with people, is much intent on God.
Our hankering is not that way. We shut ourselves to our study, we become
students, bookworms, Bible worms, sermon makers, noted for literature, thought,
and sermons; but the people and God, where are they? Out of heart, out of mind.
Preachers who are great thinkers, great students must be the greatest of
prayers, or else they will be the greatest of backsliders, heartless
professionals, rationalistic, less than the least of preachers in God's
The other tendency is to thoroughly popularize the ministry. He is no longer
God's man, but a man of affairs, of the people. He prays not, because his
mission is to the people. If he can move the people, create an interest, a
sensation in favor of religion, an interest in Church work -- he is satisfied.
His personal relation to God is no factor in his work. Prayer has little or no
place in his plans. The disaster and ruin of such a ministry cannot be computed
by earthly arithmetic. What the preacher is in prayer to God, for himself, for
his people, so is his power for real good to men, so is his true fruitfulness,
his true fidelity to God, to man, for time, for eternity.
It is impossible for the preacher to keep his spirit in harmony with the divine
nature of his high calling without much prayer. That the preacher by dint of
duty and laborious fidelity to the work and routine of the ministry can keep
himself in trim and fitness is a serious mistake. Even sermon-making, incessant
and taxing as an art, as a duty, as a work, or as a pleasure, will engross and
harden, will estrange the heart, by neglect of prayer, from God. The scientist
loses God in nature. The preacher may lose God in his sermon.
Prayer freshens the heart of the preacher, keeps it in tune with God and in
sympathy with the people, lifts his ministry out of the chilly air of a
profession, fructifies routine and moves every wheel with the facility and
power of a divine unction.
Mr. Spurgeon says: "Of course the preacher is above all others distinguished as
a man of prayer. He prays as an ordinary Christian, else he were a hypocrite.
He prays more than ordinary Christians, else he were disqualified for the
office he has undertaken. If you as ministers are not very prayerful, you are
to be pitied. If you become lax in sacred devotion, not only will you need to
be pitied but your people also, and the day cometh in which you shall be
ashamed and confounded. All our libraries and studies are mere emptiness
compared with our closets. Our seasons of fasting and prayer at the Tabernacle
have been high days indeed; never has heaven's gate stood wider; never have our
hearts been nearer the central Glory."
The praying which makes a prayerful ministry is not a little praying put in as
we put flavor to give it a pleasant smack, but the praying must be in the body,
and form the blood and bones. Prayer is no petty duty, put into a corner; no
piecemeal performance made out of the fragments of time which have been
snatched from business and other engagements of life; but it means that the
best of our time, the heart of our time and strength must be given. It does not
mean the closet absorbed in the study or swallowed up in the activities of
ministerial duties; but it means the closet first, the study and activities
second, both study and activities freshened and made efficient by the closet.
Prayer that affects one's ministry must give tone to one's life. The praying
which gives color and bent to character is no pleasant, hurried pastime. It
must enter as strongly into the heart and life as Christ's "strong crying and
tears" did; must draw out the soul into an agony of desire as Paul's did; must
be an inwrought fire and force like the "effectual, fervent prayer" of James;
must be of that quality which, when put into the golden censer and incensed
before God, works mighty spiritual throes and revolutions.
Prayer is not a little habit pinned on to us while we were tied to our mother's
apron strings; neither is it a little decent quarter of a minute's grace said
over an hour's dinner, but it is a most serious work of our most serious years.
It engages more of time and appetite than our longest dinings or richest
feasts. The prayer that makes much of our preaching must be made much of. The
character of our praying will determine the character of our preaching. Light
praying will make light preaching. Prayer makes preaching strong, gives it
unction, and makes it stick. In every ministry weighty for good, prayer has
always been a serious business.
The preacher must be preeminently a man of prayer. His heart must graduate in
the school of prayer. In the school of prayer only can the heart learn to
preach. No learning can make up for the failure to pray. No earnestness, no
diligence, no study, no gifts will supply its lack.
Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater
still. He will never talk well and with real success to men for God who has not
learned well how to talk to God for men. More than this, prayerless words in
the pulpit and out of it are deadening words.