God Shapes The World By Prayer
By E. M. Bounds
Prayer, in one phase of its operation, is a disinfectant and a preventive. It purifies the air; it destroys the contagion of evil. Prayer is no fitful, short-lived thing. It is no voice crying unheard and unheeded in the silence. It is a voice which goes into God’s ear, and it lives as long as God’s ear is open to holy pleas, as long as God’s heart is alive to holy things.
God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers are deathless. The lips that uttered them may be closed in death, the heart that felt them may have ceased to beat, but the prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them and prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.
That man is the most immortal who has done the most and the best praying. They are God’s heroes, God’s saints, God’s servants, God’s vicegerents. A man can pray better because of the prayers of the past. A man can live holier because of the prayers of the past.
The Best Heritage to Leave
The man of many and acceptable prayers has done the truest and greatest service to the incoming generation. The prayers of God’s saints strengthen the unborn generation against the desolating waves of sin and evil. Woe to the generation of sons who find their censers empty of the rich incense of prayer; whose fathers have been too busy or too unbelieving to pray, and perils inexpressible and consequences untold are their unhappy heritage. Fortunate are they whose fathers and mothers have left them a wealthy patrimony of prayer.
Effect of Prayer in Heaven
The prayers of God’s saints are the capital stock in heaven by which Christ carries on His great work upon earth. The great throes and mighty convulsions on earth are the results of these prayers. Earth is changed, revolutionized, angels move on more powerful, more rapid wing, and God’s policy is shaped as the prayers are more numerous, more efficient.
It is true that the mightiest successes that come to God’s cause are created and carried on by prayer. God’s day of power; the angelic days of activity and power are when God’s church comes into its mightiest inheritance of mightiest faith and mightiest prayer.
God’s conquering days are when the saints have given themselves to mightiest prayer. When God’s house on earth is a house of prayer, then God’s house in heaven is busy and all-potent in its plans and movements, then His earthly armies are clothed with the triumphs and spoils of victory and His enemies defeated on every hand.
God conditions the very life and prosperity of His cause on prayer. The condition was put in the very existence of God’s cause in this world. "Ask of Me" is the one condition God puts in the very advance and triumph of His cause. Men are to pray – to pray for the advance of God’s cause. Prayer puts God in full force in the world.
To a prayerful man God is present in realized force; to a prayerful church God is present in glorious power. The Second Psalm is the divine description of the establishment of God’s cause through Jesus Christ. All inferior dispensations have merged in the enthronement of Jesus Christ. God declares the enthronement of His Son. The nations are incensed with bitter hatred against His cause. God is described as laughing at their enfeebled hate.
"He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. ...Yet have I set My king upon My holy hill of Zion." The decree has passed immutable and eternal:
"I will declare the decree: The Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel" (Psa. 2:4-9).
"Ask of Me" is the condition – a praying people willing and obedient. Under this universal and simple promise, men and women of old laid themselves out for God. They prayed and God answered their prayers, and the cause of God was kept alive in the world by the flame of their praying.
The Secret of Success
Prayer became a settled and only condition to move His Son’s kingdom. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7).
The strongest one in Christ’s kingdom is he who is the best knocker. The secret of success in Christ’s kingdom is the ability to pray. The one who can wield the power of prayer is the strong one, the holy one in Christ’s kingdom. The most important lesson we can learn is how to pray.
Prayer is the keynote of the most sanctified life, of the holiest ministry. He does the most for God who is the highest skilled in prayer. Jesus Christ exercised His ministry after this order.
Robert Hall has said, "The prayer of faith is the only power in the universe to which the Great Jehovah yields. Prayer is the sovereign remedy."
More time for prayer, more relish and preparation to meet God, to commune with God through Christ – this has in it the whole of the matter. Our manner and matter of praying ill become us. The attitude and relationship of God and the Son are the eternal relationship of Father and Son, of asking and giving – the Son always asking, the Father always giving.
And Jesus is to be always praying through His people. We must prepare ourselves to pray; to be like Christ, to pray like Christ.
Man’s access in prayer to God opens everything, and makes his impoverishment his wealth. All things are his through prayer. The wealth and the glory – all things are Christ’s. As the light grows brighter and prophets take in the nature of the restoration, the divine record seems to be enlarged.
...Why then does sin so long reign? Why are the oath-bound covenant promises so long in coming to their gracious end? Sin reigns, Satan reigns, sighing marks the lives of many; all tears are fresh and full.
We Have Not Prayed
Why is all this so? We have not prayed to bring the evil to an end; we have not prayed as we must pray. We have not met the conditions of prayer.
"Ask of Me." Ask of God. We have not rested on prayer. We have not made prayer the sole condition. There has been violation of the primary condition of prayer. We have not prayed aright. We have not prayed at all. God is willing to give, but we are slow to ask. The Son, through His saints, is ever praying and God the Father is ever answering.
"Ask of Me." In the invitation is conveyed the assurance of answer; the shout of victory is there and may be heard by the listening ear. The Father holds the authority and power in His hands. How easy is the condition, and yet how long are we in fulfilling the conditions. Nations are in bondage. The uttermost parts of the earth are still unpossessed. The earth groans; the world is still in bondage. Satan and evil hold sway.
The Father holds Himself in the attitude of Giver. "Ask of Me," and that petition to God the Father empowers all agencies, inspires all movements. The Gospel is divinely inspired. Back of all its inspirations is prayer. "Ask of Me" lies back of all movements. Standing as the endowment of the enthroned Christ is the oath-bound covenant of the Father: "Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession."
Ever are the prayers of holy men streaming up to God as fragrant as the richest incense. And God in many ways is speaking to us, declaring His wealth and our impoverishment. "I am the Maker of all things; the wealth and glory are Mine…."
We can do all things by God’s aid, and can have the whole of His aid by asking. The Gospel, in its success and power, depends on our ability to pray. The dispensations of God depend on man’s ability to pray. We can have all that God has. ...This is no figment of the imagination, no idle dream, no vain fancy. The life of the church is the highest life. Its office is to pray. Its prayer life is the highest life, the most fragrant, the most conspicuous.
But We Emphasize Other Things
When we calmly reflect upon the fact that the progress of our Lord’s kingdom is dependent upon prayer, it is sad to think that we give so little time to the holy exercise. Everything depends upon prayer, and yet we neglect it not only to our own spiritual hurt but also to the delay and injury of our Lord’s cause upon earth.
The forces of good and evil are contending for the world. If we would, we could add to the conquering power of the army of righteousness, and yet our lips are sealed, our hands hang listlessly by our side, and we jeopardize the very cause in which we profess to be deeply interested by holding back from the prayer chamber.
Prayer is the one prime, eternal condition by which the Father is pledged to put the Son in possession of the world. Christ prays through His people. Had there been importunate, universal and continuous prayer by God’s people, long ere this the earth had been possessed for Christ. The delay is not to be accounted for by the deep-rooted obstacles, but by the lack of the right asking.
We do more of everything else than of praying. As poor as our giving is, our contributions of money exceed our offerings of prayer. Perhaps in the average congregation fifty aid in paying, where one saintly, ardent soul shuts itself up with God and wrestles for the deliverance of the heathen world. Official praying on set or state occasions counts for nothing in this estimate. We emphasize other things more than we do the necessity of prayer.
The World Needs More True Praying
We are saying prayers after an orderly way, but we have not the world in the grasp of our faith. We are not praying after the order that moves God and brings all divine influences to help us. The world needs more true praying to save it from the reign and ruin of Satan!
We do not pray as Elijah prayed. John Foster puts the whole matter to a practical point. "When the church of God," he says, "is aroused to its obligation and duties and right faith to claim what Christ has promised – ‘all things whatsoever’ (Matt. 21:22) – a revolution will take place."
But not all praying is praying. The driving power, the conquering force in God’s cause is God Himself. "Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not" (Jer. 33:3) – is God’s challenge to prayer. Prayer puts God in full force into God’s work.
...Faith is only omnipotent when on its knees, and its outstretched hands take hold of God. Then it draws to the utmost of God’s capacity. Only a praying faith can get God’s "all things whatsoever."
Wonderful lessons are the importunate widow, the Syrophenician woman, and the friend at midnight, of what dauntless prayer can do in mastering or defying conditions, in changing defeat into victory and triumphing in the regions of despair. Oneness with Christ, the peak of spiritual attainment, is glorious in all things; most glorious in that we can then "Ask what [we] will and it shall be done unto [us]" (John 15:7). Prayer in Jesus’ name puts the crowning crown on God, because it glorifies Him through the Son and pledges the Son to give to men "whatsoever" and "anything" they shall ask.
In the New Testament the marvelous prayer of the Old Testament is put to the front that it may provoke and stimulate our praying, and it is preceded with a declaration, the dynamic energy of which we can scarcely translate. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit" (Jas. 5:16-18).
The smallness of our results, the cause of all leanness, is solved by the Apostle James – "Ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts [pleasures]" (Jas. 4:2-3).
This is the whole truth in a nutshell.
– From Purpose In Prayer by E. M. Bounds.