By Rosalind Goforth (1864 – 1942)
Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.
How far from this conception of prayer is the too general thought of God’s plan and purpose in providing a way of access to Himself! How hard prayer has been made by man-made rules! Oh, that we could catch a glimpse of the wonders, the power, and the easiness – yes, the absolute necessity of this God-planned provision, that it might have free course in our lives! Let us, dear fellow-climbers, learn to use God’s wireless. The following is the most beautiful illustration of the simplicity of God’s plan for the prayer life I have ever come across.
[Mr. Goforth and I] were having a brief rest at Larges, Scotland, when a visitor told us the story, which I took down at the time: Near her lived a poor woman with a large family. Her husband was a laborer. They lived in a tiny house consisting of a “butt and ben” [two-roomed cottage]. Unable to leave her family, the poor woman took in washing. A vivid picture was given of the woman, day by day at the tub or ironing board, with children and chickens about her. Then came the remarkable part of the story. The spiritual life of this woman was so deep and true that her influence for good was felt in a remarkable way throughout the whole region. Even the minister would often tether his horse by her door when passing and take a seat by her, as she went on with her work, for the inspiration and help she was to him.
One day he said, “My good friend, you always seem so near the Lord. How is it possible when you can never get alone with Him for quiet prayer?”
The woman, with a look of surprise, laid down her iron, seated herself, and said: “A, Meenister, that’s whar ye mak’ the mistake. Whan I wint tae shut a’ oot I jist sit me doon in ma chair, an’ throw ma apron owr ma heed, an’ I’m in ma tabernacle alone wi’ me Lord in a moment.”
How beautiful, how wonderful to think that the secret of the overflowing spiritual power apprehended by that poor, hard-working, uneducated Scottish woman was the same that empowered and upheld the French mystic saint, Madame Guyon, who wrote:
To me remain no place nor time,
My country is in every clime;
I can be calm and free from care
On any shore, since God is there.
Repeatedly people who have read my little book of testimonies to God’s faithfulness in hearing and answering the cry of a mother when in need of help (How I Know God Answers Prayer), have asked me the question: “Has God continued to answer?” The best answer to this, I believe, will be to give a few stories in which the facts speak for themselves.
Financial Help in Time of Need
One winter, when in Toronto, Canada, with the children (Mr. Goforth was in China), I was finding it very hard to make ends meet. About the middle of December, one of my sons came to me and said, “Mother, just look at this, my best suit. The pants are above the ankles, and look at my sleeves – inches above my wrists! I have just been made secretary of the ______ Club of the university. How can I face these men, many of them important leaders? I’m the worst dressed man in the university.”
As I looked at the dear boy, I realized something of his humiliation at being forced to go about in such a suit, not only long outgrown but badly worn. I said, “My boy, there is no doubt it is a case of need. Let us stand on your father’s great promise, ‘My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 4:19). I have not the money. But I believe God will give the money for a suit if we trust Him.”
He started off to the university saying, “I wish I had your faith.”
That day I went down to look for a suit, though I had no money to buy it. I found a beautiful, blue serge suit, but the price was fifty dollars. The words came, “According to His riches,” and I said in my heart, “God is able to do this also.” I returned home, of course without the suit, but sure that the money would come and I would be able to buy it.
The following day a letter came from a woman in far Wisconsin, USA, whom I had met many years before at a convention. The letter enclosed a check for fifty dollars and read: “I am greatly interested in what you tell me of your children, particularly ______ [naming the boy needing the suit]. Please buy something for him with the enclosed fifty dollars!” How my heart thrilled at this evidence of the Lord’s compassionate understanding! And my boy got his suit!
The following occurred some months after the incident just related. I had been six weeks in the Toronto General Hospital, during which time all mail had been brought to me by the children from home. One evening, a few days before I was to leave the hospital, my daughter came to me in evident distress. She said, “Mother, I hope you have plenty of money, for the bills have been mounting up terribly.” When she left I went over my accounts and found I had only twenty dollars to carry us over two weeks till the monthly check from the Board came. Several moments of intense worrying caused such faintness I became afraid. Putting the accounts away, I just committed all into the Lord’s hands and fell asleep.
The following morning a letter lay on my breakfast tray. I expressed surprise to the nurse, and she said, “This letter came to the office last night as you were going to sleep, so we kept it till this morning.” I found the letter to be from a close friend of my husband, Mr. R. H. It enclosed a check for one hundred dollars and read, “Please accept the enclosed as a personal gift. It may help a little in view of the near return of your husband.” Truly at this moment the sense of the Lord’s presence was very real. In acknowledging the gift, I wrote in part, “You have been just God’s open channel; the gift is direct through you from my heavenly Father.”
His Ways Are Higher Than Our Ways
We were stationed temporarily at Weihuifu, China, in the southern part of the Honan Field. When holding a women’s study class at a distant outstation, I stayed in the home of Dr. Fan, the chief elder of the church there.
Just as the class was closing, Mrs. Fan asked me to visit a very sick boy, who had been sent home from the Weihuifu Mission Boys’ School far gone with tuberculosis of the lungs. It was late afternoon when we reached the boy’s home. We found the lad on a stool outside the door. My heart sank as I watched how he almost doubled up with every effort to get a breath. Foam fell from his mouth, and his face had an ashen, deathly look. His mother and others gathered around as I prayed. But it seemed hypocrisy for me to pray that he might be healed, for I simply had not the faith for such a miracle. So I prayed for the mother and finally ended by praying that the boy might be given dying grace!
Then, as we started back across the fields, these words kept ringing in my ears, “Call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him” (Jas. 5:14). Over and over again these words came, till on reaching the Fans’ home I determined just to obey, though I could not work up any faith that the boy would live. I would blindly obey.
But when I told Dr. Fan what I wanted to do, he at first refused to join me, saying, “Why, the boy is dying!” But I persisted, and he gave way as I said, “Dr. Fan, I honestly have not the faith to believe for the boy’s healing, but if I return home without at least obeying what seems like God’s voice, I will be utterly miserable and conscience-stricken.”
The boy was brought. Elders and friends gathered about, and the boy was placed in the midst. We all knelt on the earthen floor. The elders prayed. Then I closed, praying much as I had before. The boy was taken home, and the following morning I left for Changte.
A year later, when attending presbytery at Weihuifu, I met Mrs. Fan and inquired, “Did that boy die?” (Oh, the sadness of no faith!)
The reply came, “Why, no, the lad is quite well and helping his father!”
Two years passed, and I was again at Weihuifu helping Miss M with special meetings for women. One day, as we sat at dinner and I was telling her this story, a knock came on the door, and in walked a tall, strong, fine-looking young man, the photographer who had taken several pictures for us the previous day. He handed Miss M the photos with a few words; then, turning to me, he said (of course in Chinese), “I see you do not know me, Mrs. Goforth.”
I replied, “No, I have no remembrance of having seen you before.”
At this he smiled and, coming forward, gave me a bow, saying, “I am the boy you prayed for almost three years ago. I have never forgotten you.”
Words could never describe my feelings at this moment. Glad, yes, but oh, so sad and humbled! Then came a glimpse of God’s infinite love and patience in using such a faithless channel to work His miracle. Truly as the heavens are high above the earth so are His ways higher than our ways! (Isa. 55:8-9).
– Excerpted from Climbing written by Rosalind Goforth.
In the above article, Mrs. Goforth referenced her book, How I Know God Answers Prayer. Herald of His Coming has a supply of her book (retitled God Answers Prayer) in magazine format. If you are interested in reading more of her experiences of God’s faithfulness to hear and answer prayer, you may write and request a copy of #190 God Answers Prayer.