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PREACHER AND PRAYER

By

Edward McKendree (E. M.) Bounds

Introduction:

In this and page 2 on prayer we are providing some excerpts from 2 of Mr. Bounds’ books. We know that there are many good books on prayer but Mr. Bounds seems to be the best. We encourage you to buy his works, these excerpts come from the Ages Software system  electronic edition and we place them here for education and edification.
 

CHAPTER 1

We are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods,

new plans, new organizations to advance the Church and secure

enlargement and efficiency for the gospel. This trend of the day has a

tendency to lose sight of the man or sink the man in the plan or

organization. God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than

of anything else. Men are God’s method. The Church is looking for better

methods; God is looking for better men. “There was a man sent from God

whose name was John.” The dispensation that heralded and prepared the

way for Christ was bound up in that man John. “Unto us a child is born,

unto us a son is given.” The world’s salvation comes out of that cradled

Son. When Paul appeals to the personal character of the men who rooted

the gospel in the world, he solves the mystery of their success. The glory

and efficiency of the gospel is staked on the men who proclaim it.

When God declares that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the

whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is

perfect toward him,” he declares the necessity of men and his dependence

on them as a channel through which to exert his power upon the world.

This vital, urgent truth is one that this age of machinery is apt to forget.

The forgetting of it is as baneful on the work of God as would be the

striking of the sun from his sphere. Darkness, confusion, and death would

ensue.

What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new

organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost

can use — men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does

not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on

machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men — men of

prayer.

An eminent historian has said that the accidents of personal character have

more to do with the revolutions of nations than either philosophic

historians or democratic politicians will allow. This truth has its

application in full to the gospel of Christ, the character and conduct of the

followers of Christ — Christianize the world, transfigure nations and

individuals. Of the preachers of the gospel it is eminently true.

The character as well as the fortunes of the gospel is committed to the

preacher. He makes or mars the message from God to man. The preacher is

the golden pipe through which the divine oil flows. The pipe must not

only be golden, but open and flawless, that the oil may have a full,

unhindered, unwasted flow.

The man makes the preacher. God must make the man. The messenger is,

if possible, more than the message. The preacher is more than the sermon.

The preacher makes the sermon. As the life-giving milk from the mother’s

bosom is but the mother’s life, so all the preacher says is tinctured,

impregnated by what the preacher is. The treasure is in earthen vessels,

and the taste of the vessel impregnates and may discolor. The man, the

whole man, lies behind the sermon. Preaching is not the performance of an

hour. It is the outflow of a life. It takes twenty years to make a sermon,

because it takes twenty years to make the man. The true sermon is a thing

of life. The sermon grows because the man grows. The sermon is forceful

because the man is forceful. The Sermon is holy because the man is holy.

The sermon is full of the divine unction because the man is full of the

divine unction.

Paul termed it “My gospel;” not that he had degraded it by his personal

eccentricities or diverted it by selfish appropriation, but the gospel was

put into the heart and lifeblood of the man Paul, as a personal trust to be

executed by his Pauline traits, to be set aflame and empowered by the

fiery energy of his fiery soul. Paul’s sermons — what were they? Where

are they? Skeletons, scattered fragments, afloat on the sea of inspiration!

But the man Paul, greater than his sermons, lives forever, in full form,

feature and stature, with his molding hand on the Church. The preaching is

but a voice. The voice in silence dies, the text is forgotten, the sermon

fades from memory; the preacher lives.

The sermon cannot rise in its life-giving forces above the man. Dead men

give out dead sermons, and dead sermons kill. Everything depends on the

spiritual character of the preacher. Under the Jewish dispensation the high

priest had inscribed in jeweled letters on a golden frontlet: “Holiness to the

Lord.” So every preacher in Christ’s ministry must be molded into and

mastered by this same holy motto. It is a crying shame for the Christian

ministry to fall lower in holiness of character and holiness of aim than the

Jewish priesthood. Jonathan Edwards said: “I went on with my eager

pursuit after more holiness and conformity to Christ. The heaven I desired

was a heaven of holiness.” The gospel of Christ does not move by popular

waves. It has no self-propagating power. It moves as the men who have

charge of it move. The preacher must impersonate the gospel. Its divine,

most distinctive features must be embodied in him.

The constraining power of love must be in the preacher as a projecting, eccentric,

an all commanding, self-oblivious force. The energy of self-denial must be his

being, his heart and blood and bones. He must go forth as a man among

men, clothed with humility, abiding in meekness, wise as a serpent,

harmless as a dove; the bonds of a servant with the spirit of a king, a king

in high, royal, independent bearing, with the simplicity and sweetness of a

child. The preacher must throw himself, with all the abandon of a perfect,

self-emptying faith and a self-consuming zeal, into his work for the

salvation of men. Hearty, heroic, compassionate, fearless martyrs must the

men be who take hold of and shape a generation for God. If they be timid

timeservers, place seekers, if they be men pleasers or men fearers, if their

faith has a weak hold on God or his Word, if their denial he broken by any

phase of self or the world, they cannot take hold of the Church nor the

world for God.

The preacher’s sharpest and strongest preaching should be

to himself. His most difficult, delicate, laborious, and thorough work must

he with himself. The training of the twelve was the great, difficult, and

enduring work of Christ. Preachers are not sermon makers, but men

makers and saint makers, and he only is well-trained for this business who

has made himself a man and a saint. It is not great talents nor great learning

nor great preachers that God needs, but men great in holiness, great in

faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God — men always preaching

by holy sermons in the pulpit, by holy lives out of it. These can mold a

generation for God.

After this order, the early Christians were formed. Men they were of solid

mold, preachers after the heavenly type — heroic, stalwart, soldierly,

saintly. Preaching with them meant self-denying, self-crucifying, serious,

toilsome, martyr business. They applied themselves to it in a way that

told on their generation, and formed in its womb a generation yet unborn

for God. The preaching man is to be the praying man. Prayer is the

preacher’s mightiest weapon. An almighty force in itself, it gives life and

force to all.

The real sermon is made in the closet. The man — God’s man — is made

in the closet. His life and his profoundest convictions were born in his

secret communion with God. The burdened and tearful agony of his spirit,

his weightiest and sweetest messages were got when alone with God.

Prayer makes the man; prayer makes the preacher; prayer makes the

pastor.

The pulpit of this day is weak in praying. The pride of learning is against

the dependent humility of prayer. Prayer is with the pulpit too often only

official — a performance for the routine of service. Prayer is not to the

modern pulpit the mighty force it was in Paul’s life or Paul’s ministry.

Every preacher who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life

and ministry is weak as a factor in God’s work and is powerless to project

God’s cause in this world.

The preaching that kills may be, and often is, orthodox — dogmatically,

inviolably orthodox. We love orthodoxy. It is good. It is the best. It is the

clean, clear-cut teaching of God’s Word, the trophies won by truth in its

conflict with error, the levees which faith has raised against the desolating

floods of honest or reckless misbelief or unbelief; but orthodoxy, clear and

hard as crystal, suspicious and militant, may be but the letter well-shaped,

well-named, and well-learned, the letter which kills. Nothing is so dead as a

dead orthodoxy, too dead to speculate, too dead to think, to study, or to

pray.
 

CHAPTER 3

The preaching that kills may have insight and grasp of principles, may be

scholarly and critical in taste, may have every minutiae of the derivation

and grammar of the letter, may be able to trim the letter into its perfect

pattern, and illume it as Plato and Cicero may be illumined, may study it

as a lawyer studies his text-books to form his brief or to defend his case,

and yet be like a frost, a killing frost. Letter preaching may be eloquent,

enameled with poetry and rhetoric, sprinkled with prayer, spiced with

sensation, illumined by genius, and yet these be but the massive or chaste,

costly mountings, the rare and beautiful flowers which coffin the corpse.

The preaching which kills may he without scholarship, unmarked by any

freshness of thought or feeling, clothed in tasteless generalities or vapid

specialties, with style irregular, slovenly, savoring neither of closet nor of

study, graced neither by thought, expression, or prayer. Under such

preaching how wide and utter the desolation! how profound the spiritual

death!

This letter-preaching deals with the surface and shadow of things, and not

the things themselves. It does not penetrate the inner part. It has no deep

insight into, no strong grasp of, the hidden life of God’s Word. It is true to

the outside, but the outside is the hull which must be broken and

penetrated for the kernel. The letter may be dressed so as to attract and be

fashionable, but the attraction is not toward God nor is the fashion for

heaven. The failure is in the preacher. God has not made him. He has never

been in the hands of God like clay in the hands of the potter.

He has been busy about the sermon, its thought and finish, its drawing and impressive

forces; but the deep things of God have never been sought, studied,

fathomed, experienced by him. He has never stood before “the throne high

and lifted up,” never heard the seraphim song, never seen the vision nor

felt the rush of that awful holiness, and cried out in utter abandon and

despair under the sense of weakness and guilt, and had his life renewed, his

heart touched, purged, inflamed by the live coal from God’s altar.

His ministry may draw people to him, to the Church, to the form and

ceremony; but no true drawings to God, no sweet, holy, divine

communion induced. The Church has been frescoed but not edified,

pleased but not sanctified. Life is suppressed; a chill is on the summer air;

the soil is baked. The city of our God becomes the city of the dead; the

Church a graveyard, not an embattled army. Praise and prayer are stifled;

worship is dead. The preacher and the preaching have helped sin, not

holiness; peopled hell, not heaven.

Preaching which kills is prayerless preaching. Without prayer the preacher

creates death, and not life. The preacher who is feeble in prayer is feeble in

life-giving forces. The preacher who has retired prayer as a conspicuous

and largely prevailing element in his own character has shorn his preaching

of its distinctive life-giving power. Professional praying there is and will

be, but professional praying helps the preaching to its deadly work.

Professional praying chills and kills both preaching and praying. Much of

the lax devotion and lazy, irreverent attitudes in congregational praying are

attributable to professional praying in the pulpit. Long, discursive, dry,

and inane are the prayers in many pulpits. Without unction or heart, they

fall like a killing frost on all the graces of worship. Death-dealing prayers

they are. Every vestige of devotion has perished under their breath. The

deader they are the longer they grow. A plea for short praying, live

praying, real heart praying, praying by the Holy Spirit — direct, specific,

ardent, simple, unctuous in the pulpit — is in order. A school to teach

preachers how to pray, as God counts praying, would be more beneficial

to true piety, true worship, and true preaching than all theological schools.

Stop! Pause! Consider! Where are we? Preaching to kill? Praying to God!

the great God, the Maker of all worlds, the Judge of all men! What

reverence! what simplicity! what sincerity! what truth in the inward parts

is demanded! How real we must be! How hearty! Prayer to God the

noblest exercise, the loftiest effort of man, the most real thing! Shall we

not discard forever accursed preaching that kills and prayer that kills, and

do the real thing, the mightiest thing — prayerful praying, life-creating

preaching, bring the mightiest force to bear on heaven and earth and draw

on God’s exhaustless and open treasure for the need and beggary of man?
 

CHAPTER 10

Never was there greater need for saintly men and women; more imperative

still is the call for saintly, God-devoted preachers. The world moves with

gigantic strides. Satan has his hold and rule on the world, and labors to

make all its movements subserve his ends. Religion must do its best work,

present its most attractive and perfect models. By every means, modern

sainthood must he inspired by the loftiest ideals and by the largest

possibilities through the Spirit. Paul lived on his knees, that the Ephesian

Church might measure the heights, breadths, and depths of an

unmeasurable saintliness, and “be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Epaphras laid himself out with the exhaustive toil and strenuous conflict

of fervent prayer, that the Colossian Church might “stand perfect and

complete in all the will of God.” Everywhere, everything in apostolic

times was on the stretch that the people of God might each and “all come

in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a

perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” No

premium was given to dwarfs; no encouragement to an old babyhood. The

babies were to grow; the old, instead of feebleness and infirmities, were to

bear fruit in old age, and be fat and flourishing. The divinest thing in

religion is holy men and holy women.

No amount of money, genius, or culture can move things for God.

Holiness energizing the soul, the whole man aflame with love, with desire

for more faith, more prayer, more zeal, more consecration — this is the

secret of power. These we need and must have, and men must be the

incarnation of this God-inflamed devotedness. God’s advance has been

stayed, his cause crippled, his name dishonored for their lack. Genius

(though the loftiest and most gifted), education (though the most learned

and refined), position, dignity, place, honored names, high ecclesiastics

cannot move this chariot of our God. It is a fiery one, and fiery forces only

can move it. The genius of a Milton fails. The imperial strength of a Leo

fails. Brainerd’s spirit can move it. Brainerd’s spirit was on fire for God,

on fire for souls. Nothing earthly, worldly, selfish came in to abate in the

least the intensity of this all-impelling and all-consuming force and flame.

Prayer is the creator as well as the channel of devotion. The spirit of

devotion is the spirit of prayer. Prayer and devotion are united as soul and

body are united, as life and the heart are united. There is no real prayer

without devotion, no devotion without prayer. The preacher must be

surrendered to God in the holiest devotion. He is not a professional man,

his ministry is not a profession; it is a divine institution, a divine devotion.

He is devoted to God. His aim, aspirations, ambition are for God and to

God, and to such prayer is as essential as food is to life.

The preacher, above everything else, must be devoted to God. The

preacher’s relations to God are the insignia and credentials of his ministry.

These must be clear, conclusive, unmistakable. No common, surface type

of piety must be his. If he does not excel in grace, he does not excel at all.

If he does not preach by life, character, conduct, he does not preach at all.

If his piety be light, his preaching may be as soft and as sweet as music, as

gifted as Apollo, yet its weight will be a feather’s weight, visionary,

fleeting as the morning cloud or the early dew. Devotion to God — there is

no substitute for this in the preacher’s character and conduct. Devotion to

a Church, to opinions, to an organization to orthodoxy — these are paltry,

misleading, and vain when they become the source of inspiration, the

animus of a call. God must be the mainspring of the preacher’s effort, the

fountain and crown of all his toil. The name and honor of Jesus Christ, the

advance of his cause, must be all in all. The preacher must have no

inspiration but the name of Jesus Christ, no ambition but to have him

glorified, no toil but for him. Then prayer will be a source of his

illuminations, the means of perpetual advance, the gauge of his success.

The perpetual aim, the only ambition, the preacher can cherish is to have

God with him.

Never did the cause of God need perfect illustrations of the possibilities of

prayer more than in this age. No age, no person, will be ensamples of the

gospel power except the ages or persons of deep and earnest prayer. A

prayerless age will have but scant models of divine power.

 Prayerless hearts will never rise to these Alpine heights. The age may be a better age

than the past, but there is an infinite distance between the betterment of an

age by the force of an advancing civilization and its betterment by the

increase of holiness and Christlikeness by the energy of prayer. The Jews

were much better when Christ came than in the ages before. It was the

golden age of their Pharisaic religion. Their golden religious age crucified

Christ. Never more praying, never less praying; never more sacrifices,

never less sacrifice; never less idolatry, never more idolatry; never more of

temple worship, never less of God worship; never more of lip service,

never less of heart service (God worshipped by lips whose hearts and

hands crucified God’s Son!); never more of churchgoers, never less of

saints.

It is prayer-force which makes saints. Holy characters are formed by the

power of real praying. The more of true saints, the more of praying; the

more of praying, the more of true saints.
 

CHAPTER 12

Prayer, with its manifold and many-sided forces, helps the mouth to utter

the truth in its fullness and freedom. The preacher is to be prayed for, the

preacher is made by prayer. The preacher’s mouth is to be prayed for; his

mouth is to be opened and filled by prayer. A holy mouth is made by

praying, by much praying; a brave mouth is made by praying, by much

praying. The Church and the world, God and heaven, owe much to Paul’s

mouth; Paul’s mouth owed its power to prayer. How manifold, illimitable,

valuable, and helpful prayer is to the preacher in so many ways, at so

many points, in every way! One great value is, it helps his heart.

Praying makes the preacher a heart preacher. Prayer puts the preacher’s

heart into the preacher’s sermon; prayer puts the preacher’s sermon into

the preacher’s heart.

The heart makes the preacher. Men of great hearts are great preachers.

Men of bad hearts may do a measure of good, but this is rare. The hireling

and the stranger may help the sheep at some points, but it is the good

shepherd with the good shepherd’s heart who will bless the sheep and

answer the full measure of the shepherd’s place.

We have emphasized sermon-preparation until we have lost sight of the

important thing to be prepared — the heart. A prepared heart is much

better than a prepared sermon. A prepared heart will make a prepared

sermon.

Volumes have been written laying down the mechanics and taste of

sermon-making, until we have become possessed with the idea that this

scaffolding is the building. The young preacher has been taught to lay out

all his strength on the form, taste, and beauty of his sermon as a

mechanical and intellectual product. We have thereby cultivated a vicious

taste among the people and raised the clamor for talent instead of grace,

eloquence instead of piety, rhetoric instead of revelation, reputation and

brilliancy instead of holiness. By it we have lost the true idea of preaching,

lost preaching power, lost pungent conviction for sin, lost the rich

experience and elevated Christian character, lost the authority over

consciences and lives which always results from genuine preaching.

It would not do to say that preachers study too much. Some of them do

not study at all; others do not study enough. Numbers do not study the

right way to show themselves workmen approved of God. But our great

lack is not in head culture, but in heart culture; not lack of knowledge but

lack of holiness is our sad and telling defect — not that we know too

much, but that we do not meditate on God and his word and watch and

fast and pray enough. The heart is the great hindrance to our preaching.

Words pregnant with divine truth find in our hearts nonconductors;

arrested, they fall shorn and powerless.

Can ambition, that lusts after praise and place, preach the gospel of Him

who made himself of no reputation and took on Him the form of a

servant? Can the proud, the vain, the egotistical preach the gospel of him

who was meek and lowly? Can the bad-tempered, passionate, selfish,

hard, worldly man preach the system which teems with long-suffering,

self-denial, tenderness, which imperatively demands separation from

enmity and crucifixion to the world? Can the hireling official, heartless,

perfunctory, preach the gospel which demands the shepherd to give his

life for the sheep? Can the covetous man, who counts salary and money,

preach the gospel till he has gleaned his heart and can say in the spirit of

Christ and Paul in the words of Wesley:

 “I count it dung and dross; I

trample it under my feet; I (yet not I, but the grace of God in me) esteem it

just as the mire of the streets, I desire it not, I seek it not?”

 God’s revelation does not need the light of human genius, the polish

and strength of human culture , the brilliancy of human thought, the force

of human brains to adorn or enforce it; but it does demand the simplicity, the

docility, humility, and faith of a child’s heart.

It was this surrender and subordination of intellect and genius to the divine

and spiritual forces which made Paul peerless among the apostles. It was

this which gave Wesley his power and radicated his labors in the history

of humanity. This gave to Loyola the strength to arrest the retreating

forces of Catholicism.

Our great need is heart-preparation. Luther held it as an axiom: “He who

has prayed well has studied well.” We do not say that men are not to think

and use their intellects; but he will use his intellect best who cultivates his

heart most. We do not say that preachers should not be students; but we

do say that their great study should be the Bible, and he studies the Bible

best who has kept his heart with diligence. We do not say that the

preacher should not know men, but he will be the greater adept in human

nature who has fathomed the depths and intricacies of his own heart.

We do say that while the channel of preaching is the mind, its fountain is the

heart; you may broaden and deepen the channel, but if you do not look

well to the purity and depth of the fountain, you will have a dry or

polluted channel. We do say that almost any man of common intelligence

has sense enough to preach the gospel, but very few have grace enough to

do so. We do say that he who has struggled with his own heart and

conquered it; who has taught it humility, faith, love, truth, mercy,

sympathy, courage; who can pour the rich treasures of the heart thus

trained, through a manly intellect, all surcharged with the power of the

gospel on the consciences of his hearers — such a one will be the truest,

most successful preacher in the esteem of his Lord.
 

CHAPTER 15

Unction is that indefinable, indescribable something which an old,

renowned Scotch preacher describes thus: “There is sometimes somewhat

in preaching that cannot be ascribed either to matter or expression, and

cannot be described what it is, or from whence it cometh, but with a sweet

violence it pierceth into the heart and affections and comes immediately

from the Lord; but if there be any way to obtain such a thing, it is by the

heavenly disposition of the speaker.”

We call it unction. It is this unction which makes the word of God “quick

and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the

dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a

discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It is this unction which

gives the words of the preacher such point, sharpness, and power, and

which creates such friction and stir in many a dead congregation. The same

truths have been told in the strictness of the letter, smooth as human oil

could make them: but no signs of life, not a pulse throb; all as peaceful as

the grave and as dead. The same preacher in the meanwhile receives a

baptism of this unction, the divine afflatus is on him, the letter of the

Word has been embellished and fired by this mysterious power, and the

throbbings of life begin — life which receives or life which resists. The

unction pervades and convicts the conscience and breaks the heart.

This divine unction is the feature which separates and distinguishes true

gospel preaching from all other methods of presenting the truth, and which

creates a wide spiritual chasm between the preacher who has it and the one

who has it not. It backs and impregnates revealed truth with all the energy

of God. Unction is simply putting God in his own word and on his own

preacher. By mighty and great prayerfulness and by continual

prayerfulness, it is all potential and personal to the preacher; it inspires

and clarifies his intellect, gives insight and grasp and projecting power; it

gives to the preacher heart power, which is greater than head power; and

tenderness, purity, force flow from the heart by it. Enlargement, freedom,

fullness of thought, directness and simplicity of utterance are the fruits of

this unction.

Often earnestness is mistaken for this unction. He who has the divine

unction will be earnest in the very spiritual nature of things, but there may

be a vast deal of earnestness without the least mixture of unction.

Earnestness and unction look alike from some points of view. Earnestness

may be readily and without detection substituted or mistaken for unction.

It requires a spiritual eye and a spiritual taste to discriminate.

Earnestness may be sincere, serious, ardent, and persevering. It goes at a

thing with good will, pursues it with perseverance, and urges it with ardor;

puts force in it. But all these forces do not rise higher than the mere

human. The man is in it — the whole man, with all that he has of will and

heart, of brain and genius, of planning and working and talking.

He has set himself to some purpose which has mastered him, and he pursues to

master it. There may be none of God in it. There may be little of God in it,

because there is so much of the man in it. He may present pleas in

advocacy of his earnest purpose which please or touch and move or

overwhelm with conviction of their importance; and in all this earnestness

may move along earthly ways, being propelled by human forces only, its

altar made by earthly hands and its fire kindled by earthly flames.

It is said of a rather famous preacher of gifts, whose construction of Scripture

was to his fancy or purpose, that he “grew very eloquent over his own

exegesis.” So men grow exceeding earnest over their own plans or

movements. Earnestness may be selfishness simulated.

What of unction? It is the indefinable in preaching which makes it

preaching. It is that which distinguishes and separates preaching from all

mere human addresses. It is the divine in preaching. It makes the preaching

sharp to those who need sharpness. It distills as the dew to those who

need to be refreshed. It is well described as:

“a two-edged sword

Of heavenly temper keen,

And double were the wounds it made

Where’er it glanced between.

‘Twas death to sin; ‘twas life

To all who mourned for sin.

It kindled and it silenced strife,

Made war and peace within.”

This unction comes to the preacher not in the study but in the closet. It is

heaven’s distillation in answer to prayer. It is the sweetest exhalation of

the Holy Spirit. It impregnates, suffuses, softens, percolates, cuts, and

soothes. It carries the Word like dynamite, like salt, like sugar; makes the

Word a soother, an arraigner, a revealer, a searcher; makes the hearer a

culprit or a saint, makes him weep like a child and live like a giant; opens

his heart and his purse as gently, yet as strongly as the spring opens the

leaves. This unction is not the gift of genius. It is not found in the halls of

learning. No eloquence can woo it. No industry can win it. No prelatical

hands can confer it. It is the gift of God — the signet set to his own

messengers. It is heaven’s knighthood given to the chosen true and brave

ones who have sought this anointed honor through many an hour of

tearful, wrestling prayer.

Earnestness is good and impressive; genius is gifted and great. Thought

kindles and inspires, but it takes a diviner endowment, a more powerful

energy than earnestness or genius or thought to break the chains of sin, to

win estranged and depraved hearts to God, to repair the breaches and

restore the Church to her old ways of purity and power. Nothing but this

holy unction can do this.
 

CHAPTER 18

Somehow the practice of praying in particular for the preacher has fallen

into disuse or become discounted. Occasionally have we heard the practice

arraigned as a disparagement of the ministry, being a public declaration by

those who do it of the inefficiency of the ministry. It offends the pride of

learning and self-sufficiency, perhaps, and these ought to be offended and

rebuked in a ministry that is so derelict to allow them to exist.

Prayer, to the preacher, is not simply the duty of his profession, a

privilege, but it is a necessity. Air is not more necessary to the lungs than

prayer is to the preacher. It is absolutely necessary for the preacher to

pray. It is an absolute necessity that the preacher be prayed for. These

two propositions are wedded into a union which ought never to know any

divorce: the preacher must pray; the preacher must be prayed for. It will

take all the praying he can do, and all the praying he can get done, to meet

the fearful responsibilities and gain the largest, truest success in his great

work. The true preacher, next to the cultivation of the spirit and fact of

prayer in himself, in their intensest form, covets with a great covetousness

the prayers of God’s people.

The holier a man is, the more does he estimate prayer; the clearer does he

see that God gives himself to the praying ones, and that the measure of

God’s revelation to the soul is the measure of the soul’s longing,

importunate prayer for God. Salvation never finds its way to a prayerless

heart. The Holy Spirit never abides in a prayerless spirit. Preaching never

edifies a prayerless soul. Christ knows nothing of prayerless Christians.

The gospel cannot be projected by a prayerless preacher. Gifts, talents,

education, eloquence, God’s call, cannot abate the demand of prayer, but

only intensify the necessity for the preacher to pray and to be prayed for.

The more the preacher’s eyes are opened to the nature, responsibility, and

difficulties in his work, the more will he see, and if he be a true preacher

the more will he feel, the necessity of prayer; not only the Increasing

demand to pray himself, but to call on others to help him by their prayers.

Paul is an illustration of this. If any man could project the gospel by dint

of personal force, by brain power, by culture, by personal grace, by God’s

apostolic commission, God’s extraordinary call, that man was Paul. That

the preacher must be a man given to prayer, Paul is an eminent example.

That the true apostolic preacher must have the prayers of other good

people to give to his ministry its full quota of success, Paul is a

preeminent example. He asks, he covets, he pleads in an impassioned way

for the help of all God’s saints. He knew that in the spiritual realm, as

elsewhere, in union there is strength; that the concentration and aggregation

of faith, desire, and prayer increased the volume of spiritual force until it

became overwhelming and irresistible in its power. Units of prayer

combined, like drops of water, make an ocean which defies resistance.

So Paul, with his clear and full apprehension of spiritual dynamics,

determined to make his ministry as impressive, as eternal, as irresistible as

the ocean, by gathering all the scattered units of prayer and precipitating

them on his ministry. May not the solution of Paul’s preeminence in

labors and results, and impress on the Church and the world, be found in

this fact that he was able to center on himself and his ministry more of

prayer than others? To his brethren at Rome he wrote:

 “Now I beseech

you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the

Spirit, that ye strive together with me in prayers to God for me.”

To the Ephesians he says: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in

the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication

for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may

open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” To

the Colossians he emphasizes: “Withal praying also for us, that God

would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ,

for which I am also in bonds: that I may make it manifest as I ought to

speak.” To the Thessalonians he says sharply, strongly:

 “Brethren, pray for us.”

Paul calls on the Corinthian Church to help him:

 “Ye also helping together by prayer for us.”

This was to be part of their work. They were

to lay to the helping hand of prayer. He in an additional and closing charge

to the Thessalonian Church about the importance and necessity of their

prayers says: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord

may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: and that we

may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men.” He impresses the

Philippians that all his trials and opposition can be made subservient to

the spread of the gospel by the efficiency of their prayers for him.

Philemon was to prepare a lodging for him, for through Philemon’s prayer

Paul was to be his guest.

Paul’s attitude on this question illustrates his humility and his deep insight

into the spiritual forces which project the gospel. More than this, it

teaches a lesson for all times, that if Paul was so dependent on the prayers

of God’s saints to give his ministry success, how much greater the

necessity that the prayers of God’s saints be centered on the ministry of

today!

Paul did not feel that this urgent plea for prayer was to lower his dignity,

lessen his influence, or depreciate his piety. What if it did? Let dignity go,

let influence be destroyed, let his reputation be marred — he must have

their prayers. Called, commissioned, chief of the Apostles as he was, all

his equipment was imperfect without the prayers of his people. He wrote

letters everywhere, urging them to pray for him. Do you pray for your

preacher? Do you pray for him in secret? Public prayers are of little worth

unless they are founded on or followed up by private praying. The

praying ones are to the preacher as Aaron and Hur were to Moses. They

hold up his hands and decide the issue that is so fiercely raging around

them.

The plea and purpose of the apostles were to put the Church to praying.

They did not ignore the grace of cheerful giving. They were not ignorant of

the place which religious activity and work occupied in the spiritual life;

but not one nor all of these, in apostolic estimate or urgency, could at all

compare in necessity and importance with prayer. The most sacred and

urgent pleas were used, the most fervid exhortations, the most

comprehensive and arousing words were uttered to enforce the all important

obligation and necessity of prayer.

“Put the saints everywhere to praying” is the burden of the apostolic

effort and the keynote of apostolic success. Jesus Christ had striven to do

this in the days of his personal ministry. As he was moved by infinite

compassion at the ripened fields of earth perishing for lack of laborers —

and pausing in his own praying — he tries to awaken the stupid

sensibilities of his disciples to the duty of prayer as he charges them,

“Pray ye the Lord of the harvest that he will send forth laborers into his

harvest.” “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought

always to pray and not to faint.”
 

CHAPTER 20

Only glimpses of the great importance of prayer could the apostles get

before Pentecost. But the Spirit coming and filling on Pentecost elevated

prayer to its vital and all-commanding position in the gospel of Christ.

The call now of prayer to every saint is the Spirit’s loudest and most

exigent call. Sainthood’s piety is made, refined, perfected, by prayer. The

gospel moves with slow and timid pace when the saints are not at their

prayers early and late and long.

Where are the Christly leaders who can teach the modern saints how to

pray and put them at it? Do we know we are raising up a prayerless set of

saints? Where are the apostolic leaders who can put God’s people to

praying? Let them come to the front and do the work, and it will be the

greatest work which can be done. An increase of educational facilities and a

great increase of money force will be the direst curse to religion if they are

not sanctified by more and better praying than we are doing. More praying

will not come as a matter of course. The campaign for the twentieth or

thirtieth century fund will not help our praying but hinder if we are not

careful, Nothing but a specific effort from a praying leadership will avail.

The chief ones must lead in the apostolic effort to radicate the vital

importance and fact of prayer in the heart and life of the Church. None but

praying leaders can have praying followers. Praying apostles will beget

praying saints. A praying pulpit will beget praying pews. We do greatly

need somebody who can set the saints to this business of praying. We are

not a generation of praying saints. Nonpraying saints are a beggarly gang

of saints who have neither the ardor nor the beauty nor the power of

saints. Who will restore this breach? The greatest will he be of reformers

and apostles, who can set the Church to praying.

We put it as our most sober judgment that the great need of the Church in

this and all ages is men of such commanding faith, of such unsullied

holiness, of such marked spiritual vigor and consuming zeal, that their

prayers, faith, lives, and ministry will be of such a radical and aggressive

form as to work spiritual revolutions which will form eras in individual

and Church life.

We do not mean men who get up sensational stirs by novel devices, nor

those who attract by a pleasing entertainment; but men who can stir

things, and work revolutions by the preaching of God’s Word and by the

power of the Holy Ghost, revolutions which change the whole current of

things.

Natural ability and educational advantages do not figure as factors in this

matter; but capacity for faith, the ability to pray, the power of thorough

consecration, the ability of self-littleness, an absolute losing of one’s self

in God’s glory, and an ever-present and insatiable yearning and seeking

after all the fullness of God — men who can set the Church ablaze for

God; not in a noisy, showy way, but with an intense and quiet heat that

melts and moves everything for God.

God can work wonders if he can get a suitable man. Men can work

wonders if they can get God to lead them. The full endowment of the

spirit that turned the world upside down would be eminently useful in

these latter days. Men who can stir things mightily for God, whose

spiritual revolutions change the whole aspect of things, are the universal

need of the Church.

The Church has never been without these men; they adorn its history;

they are the standing miracles of the divinity of the Church; their example

and history are an unfailing inspiration and blessing. An increase in their

number and power should be our prayer.

That which has been done in spiritual matters can be done again, and be

better done. This was Christ’s view. He said: “Verily, verily, I say unto

you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall be do also; and

greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” The

past has not exhausted the possibilities nor the demands for doing great

things for God. The Church that is dependent on its past history for its

miracles of power and grace is a fallen Church.

God wants elect men — men out of whom self and the world have gone by

a severe crucifixion, by a bankruptcy which has so totally ruined self and

the world that there is neither hope nor desire of recovery; men who by

this insolvency and crucifixion have turned toward God perfect hearts. Let

us pray ardently that God’s promise to prayer may be more than realized.