Wider Usefulness Through Prayer
By David MacIntyre
Prayer is the avowal of our creature-dependence. For the believer also it is the acknowledgment that he is not his own, but is, by reason of the great atonement, the “purchased possession” of the Son of God. Pius IV, hearing of Calvin’s death, exclaimed: “Ah, the strength of that proud heretic lay in this, that riches and honor were nothing to him.” David Livingstone, in the heart of darkest Africa, writes in his Journal, “My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All, I again dedicate my whole self to Thee.” Bengel spoke in the name of all the children of faith when he said, “All I am, and have, both in principle and practice, is to be summed up in this one expression – ‘The Lord’s property.’ My belonging totally to Christ as my Savior is all my salvation and all my desire. I have no other glory than this, and I want no other.” Afterwards, when death drew near, the following words were pronounced over him, “Lord Jesus, to Thee I live, to Thee I suffer, to Thee I die. Thine I am in death and in life; save and bless me, O Savior, for ever and ever. Amen.” At the words “Thine I am,” he laid his right hand upon his heart, in token of his full and hearty assent. And so he fell asleep in Jesus.
Such is the normal attitude of the redeemed soul, an attitude which prayer acknowledges and confirms.
Further, in prayer we present ourselves to God, holding our motives in His clear light, and estimating them after the counsel of His will. Thus our thoughts and feelings arrange themselves into classes (as in a process of polishing or smoothing); those that rise towards the honor of God taking precedence of those that drift downward towards the gratification of self. And so the great decisions of life are prepared. In prayer, Jacob became Israel; in prayer, Daniel saw Christ’s day, and was glad; in prayer, Saul of Tarsus received his commission to go “far hence” among the Gentiles; in prayer, the Son of Man accomplished His obedience, and embraced His Cross.
In his autobiography, George Müller gives a striking testimony: “I never remember, in all my Christian course, a period now (in March, 1895) of sixty-nine years and four months, that I ever sincerely and patiently sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of the Word of God, but I have been always directed rightly. But if honesty of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait before God for instruction, or if I preferred the counsel of my fellow men to the declarations of the Word of the Living God, I made great mistakes.”
As we present ourselves before the Lord in prayer, we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit. When we yield to His inward working, His power commands our being. Our plans, if we have formed them at the dictation of nature, are laid aside, and the purpose of God in relation to our lives is accepted. As we are Spirit-born, let us be Spirit-controlled: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
Power Through Prayer
Through the acceptance of the will of God for us, we are led out into a richer influence and a wider usefulness. We can effect little for one another by ordinary human means, but much may be done by prayer. Prayer brings the Divine omnipotence into the occasions of life. We ask, and receive; and our joy is full.
By prayer a handful of “unlearned and ignorant men,” hard-handed from the oar and the rudder, the mattock and the pruning hook, “turned the world upside down,” and spread the name of Christ beyond the limits of the Roman power. By prayer, the tent-maker of Tarsus won the dissolute Corinthians to purity and faith, laid the enduring foundations of Western Christianity, and raised the name of Jesus high in the very palace of Nero.
The prayers of Luther and his colleagues sent the great truths of the Gospel flying across Europe as on the wings of angels.
Before the great revival in Gallneukirchen broke out, Martin Boos spent hours and days, and often nights, in lonely agonies of intercession. Afterwards, when he preached, his words were as flame, and the hearts of the people as grass.
George Whitefield frequently spent whole nights in meditation and prayer, and often rose from his bed in the night to intercede for perishing souls. He says: “Whole days and weeks have I spent prostrate on the ground in silent or vocal prayer.”
The biographer of Payson observes that “prayer was preeminently the business of his life,” and he himself used to strongly assert that he pitied that Christian who could not enter into the meaning of the words, “groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26). It is related of him that he “wore the hardwood boards into grooves where his knees pressed so often and so long.”
In a word, every gracious work, which has been accomplished within the kingdom of God, has been begun, fostered, and consummated by prayer.
“What is the secret of this revival?” said one in 1905 to Evan Roberts. “There is no secret,” was the reply, “It is only…‘ask, and receive.’”
– Adapted from the booklet The Hidden Life of Prayer provided by Chapel Library.