The Kneeling Christian
man fully to understand God and all His dealings with us is an utter
impossibility. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge
of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!"
(Rom. xi. 33.) True, but we need not make difficulties where none exists. If
God has all power and all knowledge, surely prayer has no difficulties, though
occasionally there may be perplexities. We cannot discover God's method, but
we know something of His manner of answering prayer.
But at the very outset may we remind ourselves
how little we know about ordinary things? Mr. Edison, whose knowledge is
pretty profound, wrote in August, 1921, "We don't know the millionth part of
one per cent about anything. We don't know what water is. We don't know what
light is. We don't know what gravitation is. We don't know what enables us to
keep on our feet to stand up. We don't know what electricity is. We don't
know what heat is. We don't know anything about magnetism. We have a lot of
hypotheses, but that is all." But we do not allow our ignorance about all
these things to deprive us of their use! We do not know much about prayer, but
surely this need not prevent us from praying! We do know what our Lord has
taught us about prayer. And we do know that He has sent the Holy Spirit to
teach us all things (John xiv. 26). How, then, does God answer prayer? One
way is just this: --
He reveals His mind to those who pray. His Holy
Spirit puts fresh ideas into the minds of praying people. We are quite aware
that the devil and his angels are busy enough putting bad thoughts into our
minds. Surely, then, God and His holy angels can give us good thoughts? Even
poor, weak, sinful men and women can put good thoughts into the minds of
others. That is what we try to do in writing! We do not stop to think what a
wonderful thing it is that a few peculiar-shaped black marks on this white
paper can uplift and inspire, or depress and cast down, or even convict of sin!
But, to an untutored savage, it is a stupendous miracle. Moreover, you and I
can often read people's thoughts or wishes from an expression on the face or a
glance of the eye. Even thought transference between man and man is a
commonplace today. And God can in many ways convey His thoughts to us. A
remarkable instance of this was related by a speaker last year at Northfield.
Three or four years ago, he met an old whaling captain who told him this
"A good many years ago, I was sailing in the
desolate seas off Cape Horn, hunting whales. One day we were beating directly
south in the face of a hard wind. We had been tacking this way and that all
the morning, and were making very little headway. About 11 o'clock, as I stood
at the wheel, the idea suddenly came into my mind, 'Why batter the ship against
these waves? There are probably as many whales to the north as to the south.
Suppose we run with the wind instead of against it? In response to that sudden
idea I changed the course of the ship, and began to sail north instead of
south. One hour later, at noon, the look-out at the masthead shouted 'Boats
ahead!' Presently we overtook four lifeboats, in which were fourteen sailors,
the only survivors of the crew of a ship which had burned to the water's edge
ten days before. Those men had been adrift in their boats ever since, praying
God frantically for rescue; and we arrived just in time to save them. They
could not have survived another day."
Then the old whaler added, "I don't know whether
you believe in religion or not, but I happen to be a Christian. I have begun
every day of my life with prayer that God would use me to help someone else,
and I am convinced that God, that day, put the idea into my mind to change the
course of my ship. That idea was the means of saving fourteen lives."
God has many things to say to us. He has many
thoughts to put into our minds. We are apt to be so busy doing His work that
we do not stop to listen to His Word. Prayer gives God the opportunity of
speaking to us and revealing His will to us. May our attitude often be:
"Speak, Lord, Thy servant heareth."
God answers other prayers by putting new thoughts
into the minds of those we pray for. At a series of services dealing with the
Victorious Life, the writer one afternoon urged the congregation to "makeup"
their quarrels if they really desired a holy life. One lady went straight
home, and after very earnest prayer wrote to her sister, with whom, owing to
some disagreement, she had had nothing to do for twenty years! Her sister was
living thirty miles away. The very next morning the writer of that note
received a letter from that very sister asking forgiveness and seeking
reconciliation. The two letters had crossed in the post. While the one sister
was praying to God for the other, God was speaking to that other sister,
putting into her mind the desire for reconciliation.
You may say, Why did not God put that desire
there before? It may be that He foresaw that it would be useless for the
distant sister to write asking forgiveness until the other sister was also
willing to forgive. The fact remains that, when we pray for others, somehow or
other it opens the way for God to influence those we pray for. God needs our
prayers, or He would not beg us to pray.
A little time back, at the end of a weekly
prayer-meeting, a godly woman begged those present to pray for her husband, who
would never go near a place of worship. The leader suggested that they should
continue in prayer then and there. Most earnest prayers were offered up. Now,
the husband was devoted to his wife, and frequently came to meet her. He did
so that night, and arrived at the hall while the prayer-meeting was still in
progress. God put it into his mind to open the door and wait inside -- a thing
he had never done before. As he sat on a chair near the door, leaning his head
upon his hand, he overheard those earnest petitions. During the homeward walk
he said, "Wife, who was the man they were praying for tonight?" "Oh," she
replied, "it is the husband of one of our workers." "Well, I am quite sure he
will be saved," said he; "God must answer prayers like that." A little later
in the evening he again asked, "Who was the man they were praying for?" She
replied in similar terms as before. On retiring to rest he could not sleep.
He was under deep conviction of sin. Awaking his wife, he begged her to pray
How clearly this shows us that when we pray, God
can work! God could have prompted that man to enter that prayer-meeting any
week. But had he done so it is a question whether any good at all would have
come from it. When once those earnest, heartfelt petitions were being offered
up on his behalf God saw that they would have a mighty influence upon that poor
It is when we pray that God can help us in our
work and strengthen our resolves. For we can answer many of our own prayers.
One bitter winter a prosperous farmer was praying that God would keep a
neighbor from starving. When the family prayers were over, his little boy
said, "Father, I don't think I should have troubled God about that. Why not?"
he asked. "Because it would be easy enough for you to see that they don't
starve!" There is not the slightest doubt that if we pray for others we shall
also try to help them.
A young convert asked his vicar to give him some
Christian work. "Have you a chum?" "Yes," replied the boy. "Is he a
Christian?" "No, he is as careless as I was." "Then go and ask him to accept
Christ as his Savior." "Oh, no!" said the lad, "I could never do that. Give
me anything but that." "Well," said the vicar, "promise me two things: that
you will not speak to him about his soul, and that you will pray to God twice
daily for his conversion." "Why, yes, I'll gladly do that," answered the boy.
Before a fortnight was up he rushed round to the vicarage. "Will you let me
off my promise? I must speak to my chum!" he cried. When he began to pray God
could give him strength to witness. Communion with God is essential before we
can have real communion with our fellow-man. My belief is that men so seldom
speak to others about their spiritual condition because they pray so little for
The writer has never forgotten how his faith in
prayer was confirmed when, as a lad of thirteen, he earnestly asked God to
enable him on a certain day to secure twenty new subscribers for missions
overseas. Exactly twenty new names were secured before night closed in. The
consciousness that God would grant that prayer was an incentive to eager
effort, and gave an unwonted courage in approaching others.
A cleric in England suggested to his people that
they should each day pray for the worst man or woman and then go to them and
tell them about Jesus. Only six agreed to do so. On arrival home he began to
pray. Then he said, "I must not leave this to my people. I must take it up
myself. I don't know the bad people. I'll have to go out and enquire."
Approaching a rough-looking man at a street corner, he asked, "Are you the
worst man in this district?" "No, I'm not." "Would you mind telling me who
is?" "I don't mind. You'll find him at No. 7, down that street."
He knocked at No. 7 and entered. "I'm looking
for the worst man in my parish. They tell me it might be you?" "Whoever told
you that? Fetch him here, and I'll show him who's the worst man! No, there
are lots worse than me." "Well, who is the worst man you know?" "Everybody
knows him. He lives at the end house in that court. He's the worst man." So
down the court he went and knocked at the door. A surly voice cried, "Come
There were a man and his wife. "I hope you'll
excuse me, but I'm the minister of the chapel along the round. I'm looking for
the worst man in my district, because I have something to tell him. Are you
the worst man?" The man turned to his wife and said, "Lass, tell him what I
said to you five minutes ago." "No, tell him yourself." "What were you
saying?" enquired the visitor. "Well, I've been drinking for twelve weeks.
I've had the D.T's and have pawned all in the house worth pawning. And I said
to my wife a few minutes ago, 'Lass, this thing has to stop, and if it doesn't,
I'll stop it myself -- I'll go and drown myself.' Then you knocked at the door!
Yes, sir, I'm the very worst man. What have you got to say to me?" "I'm here
to tell you that Jesus Christ is the greatest Savior, and that He can make out
of the worst man one of the best. He did it for me, and He will do it for
you." "D'you think He can do it even for me?" "I'm sure He can. Kneel down
and ask Him."
Not only was the poor drunkard saved from his
sins, but he is today a radiant Christian man, bringing other drunken people to
the Lord Jesus Christ.
Surely none of us finds it difficult to believe
that God can, in answer to prayer, heal the body, send rain or fair weather,
dispel fogs, or avert calamities?
We have to do with a God whose knowledge is
infinite. He can put it into the mind of a doctor to prescribe a certain
medicine, or diet, or method of cure. All the doctor's skill is from God. "He
knoweth our frame" -- for He made it. He knows it far better than the
cleverest doctor or surgeon. He made, and He can restore. We believe that God
desires us to use medical skill, but we also believe that God, by His wonderful
knowledge, can heal, and sometimes does heal, without human co-operation. And
God must be allowed to work in His own way. We are so apt to tie God down to
the way we approve of. God's aim is to glorify His name in answering our
prayers. Sometimes He sees that our desire is right, but our petition wrong.
St. Paul thought he could bring more glory to God if only the thorn in the
flesh could be removed. God knew that he would be a better man and do better
work with the thorn than without it. So God said No-No-No to his prayer, and
then explained why!
So it was with Monica, who prayed so many years
for the conversion of Augustine, her licentious son. When he was determined to
leave home and cross the seas to Rome she prayed earnestly, even passionately,
that God would keep him by her side, and under her influence. She went down to
a little chapel on the seashore to spend the night in prayer close by where the
ship lay at anchor. But, when morning came, she found that the ship had sailed
even while she prayed! Her petition was refused, but her real desire was
granted. For it was in Rome that Augustine met the sainted Ambrose, who led
him to Christ. How comforting it is to know that God knows what is best!
But we should never think it unreasonable that
God should make some things dependent upon our prayers. Some people say that
if God really loves us He would give us what is best for us whether we ask Him
or not. Dr. Fosdick has so beautifully pointed out that God has left man many
things to do for himself. He promises seedtime and harvest. Yet man must
prepare the soil, sow, and till, and reap in order to allow God to do His
share. God provides us with food and drink. But He leaves us to take, and
eat, and drink. There are some things God cannot, or at least will not, do
without our help. God cannot do some things unless we think. He never
emblazons His truth upon the sky. The laws of science have always been there.
But we must think, and experiment, and think again if we would use those laws
for our own good and God's glory.
God cannot do some things unless we work. He
stores the hills with marble, but He has never built a cathedral. He fills the
mountains with iron ore, but He never makes a needle or a locomotive. He
leaves that to us. We must work.
If, then, God has left many things dependent upon
man's thinking and working, why should He not leave some things dependent upon
man's praying? He has done so. "Ask and ye shall receive." And there are
some things God will not give us unless we ask. Prayer is one of the three
ways in which man can co-operate with God; and the greatest of these is
Men of power are without exception men of prayer.
God bestows His Holy Spirit in His fullness only on men of prayer. And it is
through the operation of the Spirit that answers to prayer come. Every
believer has the Spirit of Christ dwelling in him. For "if any have not the
Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." But a man of prevailing prayer must be
filled with the Spirit of God.
A lady missionary wrote recently that it used to
be said of Praying Hyde that he never spoke to an unconverted man but that he
was soundly converted. But if he ever did fail at first to touch a heart for
God, he went back to his room and wrestled in prayer till he was shown what it
was in himself that had hindered his being used by God. Yes, when we are
filled with the Spirit of God, we cannot help influencing others God-ward.
But, to have power with men, we must have power with God.
The momentous question for you and me is not,
however, "How does God answer prayer?" The question is, "Do I really pray?"
What a marvelous power God places at our disposal! Do we for a moment think
that anything displeasing to God is worth our while holding on to?
Fellow-Christian, trust Christ wholly, and you will find Him wholly true.
Let us give God the chance of putting His mind
into us, and we shall never doubt the power of prayer again.