Weapon of Prayer: God's Need of People Who Pray
By E. M. Bounds
-- We proceed now to declare that it demands prayer-leadership to
hold the Church to Gods aims, and to fit it for Gods uses. Prayer-leadership
preserves the spirituality of the Church, just as prayerless leaders make for
unspiritual conditions. The Church is not spiritual simply by the mere fact
of its existence, nor by its vocation. It is not held to its sacred vocation
by generation, nor by succession. Like the new birth, It is not of blood,
neither of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
The Church is
not spiritual simply because it is concerned and deals in spiritual values.
It may hold its confirmations by the thousand, it may multiply its baptisms, and
administer its sacraments innumerable times, and yet be as far from fulfilling
its true mission as human conditions can make it.
This present worlds general
attitude retires prayer to insignificance and obscurity. By it, salvation
and eternal life are put in the background. It cannot be too often affirmed,
therefore, that the prime need of the Church is not men of money nor men of brains,
but men of prayer. Leaders in the realm of religious activity are to be
judged by their praying habits, and not by their money or social position.
Those who must be placed in the forefront of the Churchs business, must be, first
of all, men who know how to pray.
God does not conduct His work, solely,
with men of education or of wealth or of business capacity. Neither can
He carry on His work through men of large intellects or of great culture, nor
yet through men of great social eminence and influence. All these can be
made to count provided they are not regarded as being primary. These men,
by the simple fact of these qualities and conditions, cannot lead in Gods work
nor control His cause. Men of prayer, before anything else, are indispensable
to the furtherance of the kingdom of God on earth. No other sort will fit
in the scheme or do the deed. Men, great and influential in other things,
but small in prayer, cannot do the work Almighty God has set out for His Church
to do in this, His world.
Men who represent God and who stand here in His
stead, men who are to build up His kingdom in this world, must be in an eminent
sense men of prayer. Whatever else they may have, whatever else they may
lack, they must be men of prayer. Having everything else and lacking prayer,
they must fail. Having prayer and lacking all else, they can succeed.
Prayer must be the most conspicuous and the most potent factor in the character
and conduct of men who undertake divine commission. Gods business requires
men who are versed in the business of praying.
It must be kept in mind that
the praying to which the disciples of Christ is called by Scriptural authority
and enforcement, is a valorous calling, for manly men. The men God wants
and upon whom He depends, must work at prayer just as they work at their worldly
calling. They must follow this business of praying through, just as they
do their secular pursuits. Diligence, perseverance. heartiness, and courage,
must all be in it if it is to succeed.
Everything secured by Gospel promise,
defined by Gospel measure, and represented by Gospel treasure are to be found
in prayer. All heights are scaled by it, all doors are opened to it, all
victories are gained through it, and all grace distills on it. Heaven has
all its good and all its help for men who pray.
How marked and strong is
the injunction of Christ which sends men from the parade of public giving and
praying to the privacy of their closets, where with shut doors, and in encircling
silence they are alone in prayer with God!
In all ages, those who have carried
out the divine will on the earth, have been men of prayer. The days of prayer
are Gods halcyon days. His heart, His oath, and His glory are committed
to one issuance -- that every knee should how to Him. The day of the Lord, in
a preeminent sense, will be a day of universal prayer.
Gods cause does
not suffer through lack of divine ability, but by reason of the lack of prayer
ability in man. Gods action is just as much bound up in prayer at this
time, as it was when He said to Abimelech, Abraham shall pray for thee, and thou
shalt live. So also it was when God said to Jobs friends, My servant
Job shall pray for you, for him will I accept.
Gods great plan for the
redemption of mankind is as much bound up to prayer for its prosperity and success
as when the decree creating the movement was issued from the Father, bearing on
its frontage the imperative, universal and eternal condition, Ask of me, and
I will give thee the heathen for thy inheritance and the uttermost part of the
earth for thy possession.
In many places an alarming state of things has
come to pass, in that the many who are enrolled in our churches are not praying
men and women. Many of those occupying prominent positions in church life
are not praying men. It is greatly to feared that much of the work of the
Church is being done by those who are perfect strangers to the closet. Small
wonder that the work does not succeed.
While it may be true that many in
the Church say prayers, it is equally true that their praying is of the stereotyped
order. Their prayers may be charged with sentiment, but they are tame, timid,
and without fire or force. Even this sort of praying is done by a few straggling
men to be found at prayer-meetings. Those whose names are to be found bulking
large in our great Church assemblies are not men noted for their praying habits.
Yet the entire fabric of the work in which they are engaged has, perforce, to
depend on the adequacy of prayer. This fact is similar to the crisis which
would be created were a country to have to admit in the face of an invading foe
that it cannot fight and have no knowledge of the weapons whereby war is to be
In all Gods plans for human redemption, He proposes that men pray.
The men are to pray in every place, in the church, in the closet, in the home,
on sacred days and on secular days. All things and everything are dependent
on the measure of mens praying.
Prayer is the genius and mainspring of
life. We pray as we live; we live as we pray. Life will never be finer
than the quality of the closet. The mercury of life will rise only by the
warmth of the closet. Persistent non-praying eventually will depress life
To measure and weigh the conditions of prayer, is readily to
discover why men do not pray in larger numbers. The conditions are so perfect,
so blessed, that it is a rare character who can meet them. A heart all love,
a heart that holds even its enemies in loving contemplation and prayerful concern,
a heart from which all bitterness, revenge and envy are purged -- how rare!
Yet this is the only condition of mind and heart in which a man can expect to
command the efficacy of prayer.
There are certain conditions laid down for
authentic praying. Men are to pray, lifting up holy hands; hands here
being the symbol of life. Hands unsoiled by stains of evil doing are the
emblem of a life unsoiled by sin. Thus are men to come into the presence
of God, thus are they to approach the throne of the Highest, where they can obtain
mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Here, then, is one reason
why men do not pray. They are too worldly in heart and too secular in life
to enter the closet; and even though they enter there, they cannot offer the fervent,
effectual prayer of the righteous man, which availeth much.
are the symbols of supplication. Outstretched hands stand for an appeal
for help. It is the silent yet eloquent attitude of a helpless soul standing
before God, appealing for mercy and grace. Hands, too, are symbols of
activity, power and conduct. Hands outstretched to God in prayer must be
holy hands, unstained hands. The word holy here means undefiled, unspotted,
untainted, and religiously observing every obligation. How far remote is
all this from the character of the sin-loving, worldly-minded, fleshly disposed
men, soiled by fleshly lusts, spotted by worldly indulgence, unholy in heart and
conduct! He who seeks equity must do equity, is the maxim of earthly courts.
So he who seeks Gods good gifts must practice Gods good deeds. This is
the maxim of heavenly courts.
Prayer is sensitive, and always affected by
the character and conduct of him who prays. Water cannot rise above its
own level, and a spotless prayer cannot flow from a spotted heart. Straight
praying is never born of crooked conduct. The men, what men are, behind
their praying, that gives character to their supplication. The craven heart
cannot do brave praying. Soiled men cannot make clean, pure supplication.
is neither words, nor thoughts nor ideas, nor feelings, which shape praying, but
character and conduct. Men must walk in upright fashion in order to be able
to pray well. Bad character and unrighteous living break down praying until
it becomes a mere shibboleth. Praying takes its tone and vigour from the
life of the man or the woman exercising it. When character and conduct are
at a low ebb, praying can but barely live, much less thrive.
The man of
prayer, whether layman or preacher, is Gods right-hand man. In the realm
of spiritual affairs, he creates conditions, inaugurates movements, brings things
By the fact and condition of their creation and redemption, all
men are under obligation to pray. Every man can pray, and every man should
pray. But when it comes to the affairs of the Kingdom, let it be said, at
once, that a prayerless man in the Church of God is like a paralysed organ of
the physical body. He is out of place in the communion of saints, out of
harmony with God, and out of accord with His purposes for mankind. A prayerless
man handicaps the vigour and life of the whole system like a demoralized soldier
is a menace to the force of which he forms part, in the day of battle. The
absence of prayer lessens all the life-forces of the soul, cripples faith, sets
aside holy living, shuts out heaven. Between praying saints and non-praying
men, in Holy Scripture, the line is sharply drawn. Of Fletcher of Madeley
-- one of the praying saints -- it is written that He was far more abundant in
his public labours than the greater part of his companions in the holy ministry.
Yet these bore but little proportion to those internal exercises of prayer and
supplication to which he was wholly given up in private, which were almost uninterruptedly
maintained from hour to hour. He lived in the spirit of prayer, and whatever
employment in which he was engaged, this spirit of prayer was constantly manifested
through them all.
Without this he neither formed any design, nor entered
upon any duty. Without this he neither read nor conversed. Without
this, he neither visited nor received a visitor. There have been seasons
of supplications in which he appeared to be carried out far beyond the ordinary
limits of devotion, when, like his Lord upon the Mount of Transfiguration, while
he continued to pour out his mighty prayer, the fashion of his countenance has
been changed, and his face has appeared as the face of an angel.
up more men of praying like John Fletcher! How we do need, in this our day,
men through whom God can work!
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