The Conquering Power Of Prayer
By Ruth Paxson
The task before God in this world of His is a gigantic one. God has committed Himself to the saving of men. God uses men to save men. He said of Paul: "He is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). Our Lord Himself would lead us to believe that Satan had cunningly imitated His methods and also used men to carry out his evil purposes. "But He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou are a stumbling-block unto Me" (Matt. 16:23, ASV).
The devil ruins men through men. It is convincingly evident from Scripture and from human experience that every person’s life is a battlefield on which a fierce warfare is waging. The devilish machine guns of sin, vice, greed, covetousness, pride, worldliness, jealousy, selfishness, doubt, and unbelief are aimed at human souls for their destruction. Which side shall be victorious?
Surely if God’s men win, it will have to be through the releasing by some means of His supernatural power. Is there a way to do it? Is there any force that can be linked up with the omnipotent power of God that will enable His men in the trenches to press the enemy back and throw the victory on His side? Thank God there is! It is the mighty, conquering power of prayer. Prayer is God’s plan: His supernatural omnipotent power, released and set to work through prayer. Intercession makes the man or woman of God invincible.
Prayer is work. Of all tasks committed to the Christian, the most fundamental, essential, imperative, effectual, and glorious, is intercession. Prayer is communion and fellowship with our Heavenly Father. I would not take one jot or tittle from our reverent thought of prayer as such. But one cannot study the life of our Lord, or of Paul, or any other of the mighty ones of God, without being convinced that prayer is work, and that intercession was the mightiest and most effectual working force in the lives of men of God.
Listen to the weather-beaten warrior Paul (Weymouth translation): "Night and day, with intense earnestness, we pray" for you (1 Thes. 3:10). "For I would have you know in how severe a struggle I am engaged on behalf of you" (Col. 2:1). "I entreat you…to help me by wrestling in prayer to God on my behalf" (Rom. 15:30). Can’t you see the sweat on Paul’s brow and feel his almost utter exhaustion as he finished praying for those Thessalonian and Colossian Christians?
To Paul prayer was no soft, effeminate job – it was no spiritual anaesthetic lulling him into a pious, peaceful sleep because of the soothing subjective influence upon his own spirit. Paul was every inch a soldier. He knew he was in a fierce fight and that his enemy was far more than his match, on purely human grounds. His only hope for victory for himself, for others, and for the Master in whose cause he fought, was through an alliance in prayer with the Omnipotent God.
Appropriate His Enabling Power
Intercession is the most fundamental work in God’s plan for the extension of Christ’s kingdom on earth. Why fundamental? Because Jesus said, "Apart from Me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). We are utterly impotent apart from Christ, and the only access to and appropriation of His enabling, achieving power is through prayer. If, then, we are to be able to accomplish anything in God’s kingdom, we must pray.
Intercession is the most imperative form of work in the kingdom of God today. This is because the world is facing a crisis of terrible and ominous proportions.
Can any nation produce the man wise enough to solve the problems confronting us? Can money buy peace? Nor will a federation of United Nations knit together in love the hearts of unregenerate men. Even the most scientific and efficient plans for the utilization of human forces seem painfully inadequate and insufficient, as we face the gigantic task before the church of Jesus Christ. A cry goes up from all earnest hearts in every part of the world today: "Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor. 2:16). The answer comes back from heaven, your "sufficiency is of God" (2 Cor. 3:5), for He "is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20). But His power is released only through prayer.
Intercession is the most effectual form of service one can perform. It is the most fruit bearing. Our Lord commits Himself to action in response to intercession. "If ye shall ask…I will do" (John 14:14). The intercession of the weakest child of God starts the dynamo of God. Your intercession sets God to work. Christ said so, and it is so. This should fill us with joy. But He said more than that. Please ponder the meaning of the two-lettered word "if." Does our Lord not as clearly say God’s doing is dependent upon your asking? "If ye shall ask…I will do." This should solemnize us. We may not understand how or why, but it is nevertheless true that God has conditioned His doing upon our praying.
Intercession is the most glorious task committed to men. Other forms of Christian service link us closely with men. Intercession alone shuts us up intimately with God. At no time is the human so merged into the divine as in intercession. The closet is God’s audience room. There one meets God face to face and there performs the most glorious of tasks in the most glorious of places in the presence of the most glorious Person.
If intercession is work, it will be reckoned with in our day’s schedule. If it is the greatest working force within our power to wield, it will naturally be given the first and chief place in the day’s schedule. Every other form of work will be subordinate to it, both as regards to the priority and the amount of time given to it. We will resolutely determine to give intercession its God-appointed place in our lives and keep to this resolution.
If intercession is work, it will require preparation for it. There must be careful and deliberate planning in advance, that there may be no waste, but the highest use of every human faculty of brain, heart, and will. "None can pray their best – few can pray with any fullness of effect – who have not received some careful training in the practice of prayer."
We have been altogether too sentimental and shiftless and slovenly in our habits of prayer. God says we do not know how to pray as we ought. We are ignorant and must be taught by the Spirit. The secret and art of prayer can only be learned from the teaching of the Master Himself.
If intercession is work, it will require vigilant oversight. In perhaps no other form of work is it so easy to become slipshod, lazy, untruthful, indifferent, lackadaisical, as in intercession. For trivial, unnecessary things, for slight ailments, for mere pleasures, for sheer laziness, for pressure of other duties only apparently important, we cut out the hour of intercession altogether, or postpone it to a more convenient season that never comes.
If intercession is work, it demands our life’s best and freshest energy. We read of our Lord that He "offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears" (Heb. 5:7). Can you see Him coming in the morning from those nights of prayer on the mount? Have you listened to Him in Gethsemane, or heard Him from the cross? Can you believe such intercession did not cost Him life itself? Intercession costs vitality. Unquestionably, if our intercession blesses, it must bleed. Does yours? Yet, this does not involve the wasting of energy, neither does it mean strain nor anxiety. The paradox lies in this – that the expenditure of energy in prayer literally means the renewal of strength through prayer: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" (Isa. 40:31).
Prepare yourself for service through devoting your daily Bible study for one month or longer to the study of prayer. Practice immediately and constantly whatever lessons the Lord teaches you on prayer. Promote intercession in every way you possibly can.
– Ruth Paxson (1876-1949) served the Lord in China. She is remembered also as a conference speaker and an author of several books on the Christian’s life in Christ.