THE possibilities of prayer are seen in its results in temporal matters. Prayer reaches to everything which
concerns man, whether it be his body, his mind or his soul. Prayer embraces the very smallest things of life.
Prayer takes in the wants of the body, food, raiment, business, finances, in fact everything which belongs to
this life, as well as those things which have to do with the eternal interests of the soul. Its achievements are
seen not only in the large things of earth, but more especially in what might be called the little things of life. It
brings to pass not only large things, speaking after the manner of men, but also the small things.
Temporal matters are of a lower order than the spiritual, but they concern us greatly. Our temporal interests
make up a great part of our lives. They are the main source of our cares and worries. They have much to do
with our religion. We have bodies, with their wants, their pains, their disabilities and their limitations. That
which concerns our bodies necessarily engages our minds. These are subjects of prayer, and prayer takes in all
of them, and large are the accomplishments of prayer in this realm of our king.
Our temporal matters have much to do with our health and happiness. They form our relations. They are tests
of honesty and belong to the sphere of justice and righteousness. Not to pray about temporal matters is to
leave God out of the largest sphere of our being. He who cannot pray in everything, as we are charged to do
by Paul in Philippians, fourth chapter, has never learned in any true sense the nature and worth of prayer. To
leave business and time out of prayer is to leave religion and eternity out of it. He who does not pray about
temporal matters cannot pray with confidence about spiritual matters. He who does not put God by prayer in
his struggling toil for daily bread will never put Him in his struggle for heaven. He who does not cover and
supply the wants of the body by prayer will never cover and supply the wants of his soul. Both body and soul
are dependent on God, and prayer is but the crying expression of that dependence.
The Syrophenician woman prayed for the health things. In fact the Old Testament is but the record of God in
dealing with His people through the Divine appointment of prayer. Abraham prayed that Sodom might be
saved from destruction. Abraham’s servant prayed and received God’s direction in choosing a wife for Isaac.
Hannah prayed, and Samuel was given unto her. Elijah prayed, and no rain came for three years. And he
prayed again, and the clouds gave rain. Hezekiah was saved from a mortal sickness by his praying. Jacob’s
praying saved him from Esau’s revenge. The Old Bible is the history of prayer for temporal blessings as well
as for spiritual blessings.
In the New Testament we have the same principles illustrated and enforced. Prayer in this section of God’s
Word covers the whole realm of good, both temporal and spiritual. Our Lord, in His universal prayer, the
prayer for humanity, in every clime, in every age and for every condition, puts in it the petition, “Give us this
day our daily bread.” This embraces all necessary earthly good.
In the Sermon on the Mount, a whole paragraph is taken up by our Lord about food and raiment, where He is
cautioned against undue care or anxiety for these things, and at the same time encouraging to a faith which
takes in and claims all these necessary bodily comforts and necessaries. And this teaching stands in close
connection with His teachings about prayer. Food and raiment are taught as subjects of prayer. Not for one
moment is it even hinted that they are things beneath the notice of a great God, nor too material and earthly
for such a spiritual exercise as prayer.
The Syrophenician woman prayed for the health of her daughter. Peter prayed for Dorcas to be brought back
to life. Paul prayed for the father of Publius on his way to Rome, when cast on the island by a shipwreck, and
God healed the man who was sick with a fever. He urged the Christians at Rome to strive with him together in
prayer that he might be delivered from bad men. When Peter was put in prison by Herod, the Church was
instant in prayer that Peter might be delivered from the prison, and God honoured the praying of these early
Christians. John prayed that Gaius might “prosper and be in health, even as his soul prospered.”
The Divine directory in James, fifth chapter, says: “Is any among you afflicted, let him pray. Is any sick
among you? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him.”
Paul, in writing to the Philippians, fourth chapter, says: “Be careful for nothing; but in everything, by prayer
and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” This provides for all kinds of
cares business cares, home cares, body cares, and soul cares. All are to be brought to God by prayer, and at
the mercy seat our minds and souls are to be disburdened of all that affects us or causes anxiety or uneasiness.
These words of Paul stand in close connection with what he says about temporal matters specially: “But now I
rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again: wherein ye were also
careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect to want, for I have learned in whatsoever state I
am, therewith to be content.”
And Paul closes his Epistle to these Christians with the words, which embrace all temporal needs as well as
“But my God shall supply all your need, according to his riches in glory, by Christ Jesus.”
Unbelief in the doctrine that prayer covers all things which have to do with the body and business affairs,
breeds undue anxiety about earth’s affairs, causes unnecessary worry, and creates very unhappy states of
mind. How much needless care would we save ourselves if we but believed in prayer as the means of relieving
those cares, and would learn the happy art of casting all our cares in prayer upon God, “who careth for us!”
Unbelief in God as one who is concerned about even the smallest affairs which affect our happiness and
comfort limits the Holy One of Israel, and makes our lives altogether devoid of real happiness and sweet
We have in the instance of the failure of the disciples to cast the devil out of the lunatic son, brought to them
by his father, while Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration, a suggestive lesson of the union of faith,
prayer and fasting, and the failure to reach the possibilities and obligations of an occasion. The disciples
ought to have cast the devil out of the boy. They had been sent out to do this very work, and had been
empowered by their Lord and Master to do it. And yet they signally failed. Christ reproved them with sharp
upbraidings for not doing it. They had been sent out on this very specific mission. This one thing was
specified by our Lord when He sent them out. Their failure brought shame and confession on them, and
discounted their Lord and Master and His cause. They brought Him into disrepute, and reflected very seriously
upon the cause which they represented. Their faith to cast out the devil had signally failed, simply because it
had not been nurtured by prayer and fasting. Failure to pray broke the ability of faith, and failure came
because they had not the energy of a strong authoritative faith.
The promise reads, and we cannot too often refer to it, for it is the very basis of our faith and the ground on
which we stand when we pray: “All things whatsoever ye ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” What
enumeration table can tabulate, itemize, and aggregate “all things whatsoever”? The possibilities of prayer and
faith go to the length of the endless chain, and cover the unmeasurable area.
In Hebrews, eleventh chapter, the sacred penman, wearied with trying to specify the examples of faith, and to
recite the wonderful exploits of faith, pauses a moment, and then cries out, giving us almost unheard-of
achievements of prayer and faith as exemplified by the saints of the olden times. Here is what he says:
“And what shall I say more? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, of Barak, of Samson, of
Jephtha, of David also; and-Samuel, and the prophets; who through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought
righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions; quenched the violence of fire, escaped
the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the
armies of the aliens; women received their dead raised to life again, and others were tortured, not
accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.”
What an illustrious record is this! What marvellous accomplishments, wrought not by armies, or by man’s
superhuman strength, nor by magic, but all accomplished simply by men and women noted alone for their
faith and prayer! Hand in hand with these records of faith’s illimitable range are the illustrious records of
prayer, for they are all one. Faith has never won a victory nor gained a crown where prayer was not the
weapon of the victory, and where prayer did not jewel the crown. If “all things are possible to him that
believeth,” then all things are possible to him that prayeth.
“Depend on him; thou canst not fail;
Make all thy wants and wishes known:
Fear not; his merits must prevail;
Ask but in faith, it shall be done.”
VII. PRAYER—ITS WIDE RANGE
“Nothing so pleases God in connection with our prayer as our praise... and nothing so
blesses the man who prays as the praise which he offers. I got a great blessing once in
China in this connection. I had received bad and sad news from home, and deep shadows
had covered my soul. I prayed, but the darkness did not vanish. I summoned myself to
endure, but the darkness only deepened. Just then I went to an inland station and saw on
the wall of the mission home these words: ‘Try Thanksgiving.’ I did, and in a moment
every shadow was gone, not to return. Yes, the Psalmist was right, ‘It is a good thing to
give thanks unto the Lord.’”
* Henry W. Frost
THE possibilities of prayer are gauged by faith in God’s ability to do. Faith is the one prime condition by
which God works. Faith is the one prime condition by which man prays. Faith draws on God to its full extent.
Faith gives character to prayer. A feeble faith has always brought forth feeble praying. Vigorous faith creates
vigorous praying. At the close of a parable, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men always
ought to pray, and not to faint,” in which He stressed the necessity of vigorous praying, Christ asks this
pointed question, “When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”
In the case of the lunatic child which the father brought first to the disciples, who could not cure him, and then
to the Lord Jesus Christ, the father cried out with all the pathos of a declining faith and of a great sorrow, “If
thou canst do anything for us, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said unto him, “If thou canst
believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” The healing turned on the faith in the ability of Christ to
heal the boy. The ability to do was in Christ essentially and eternally, but the doing of the thing turned on the
ability of the faith. Great faith enables Christ to do great things.
We need a quickening faith in God’s power. We have hedged God in till we have little faith in His power. We
have conditioned the exercise of His power till we have a little God, and a little faith in a little God.
The only condition which restrains God’s power, and which disables Him to act, is unfaith. He is not limited
in action nor restrained by the conditions which limit men.
The conditions of time, place, nearness, ability and all others which could possibly be named, upon which the
actions of men hinge, have no bearing on God. If men will look to God and cry to Him with true prayer, He
will hear and can deliver, no matter how dire soever may be the state, how remediless their conditions may be.
Strange how God has to school His people in His ability to do! He made a promise to Abraham and Sarah that
Isaac would be born. Abraham was then nearly one hundred years old, and Sarah was barren by natural
defect, and had passed into a barren, wombless age. She laughed at the thought of having a child as
preposterous. God asked, “Why did Sarah laugh? Is anything too hard for the Lord?” And God fulfilled His
promise to these old people to the letter.
Moses hesitated to undertake God’s purpose to liberate Israel from Egyptian bondage, because of his inability
to talk well. God checks him at once by an inquiry:
“And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast
spoken unto thy servant; but I am slow of speech and of a slow tongue. And the Lord said unto him,
Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I
the Lord? Now, therefore, go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.”
When God said He would feed the children of Israel a whole month with meat, Moses questioned His ability
to do it. The Lord said unto Moses, “Is the Lord’s hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my word
shall come to pass unto thee or not.”
Nothing is too hard for the Lord to do. As Paul declared, “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that
we can ask or think.” Prayer has to do with God, with His ability to do. The possibility of prayer is the
measure of God’s ability to do.
The “all things,” the “all things whatsoever,” and the “anything,” are all covered by the ability of God. The
urgent entreaty reads, “Ask whatsoever ye will,” because God is able to do anything and all things that my
desires may crave, and that He has promised. In God’s ability to do, He goes far beyond man’s ability to ask.
Human thoughts, human words, human imaginations, human desires and human needs, cannot in any way
measure God’s ability to do.
Prayer in its legitimate possibilities goes out on God Himself. Prayer goes out with faith not only in the
promise of God, but faith in God Himself, and in God’s ability to do. Prayer goes out not on the promise
merely, but “obtains promises,” and creates promises.
Elijah had the promise that God would send the rain, but no promise that He would send the fire. But by faith
and prayer he obtained the fire, as well as the rain, but the fire came first.
Daniel had no specific promise that God would make known to him the dream of the king, but he and his
associates joined in united prayer, and God revealed to Daniel the king’s dream and the interpretation, and
their lives were spared thereby.
Hezekiah had no promise that God would cure him of his desperate sickness which threatened his life. On the
contrary the word of the Lord came to him by the mouth of the prophet, that he should die. However, he
prayed against this decree of Almighty God, with faith, and he succeeded in obtaining a reversal of God’s
word and lived.
God makes it marvellous when He says by the mouth of His prophet: “Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of
Israel and his Maker: Ask me of things to come, concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands,
command ye me.” And in this strong promise in which He commits Himself into the hands of His praying
people, He appeals in it to His great creative power: “I have created the earth and made man upon it. I, even
my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their hosts have I commanded.”
The majesty and power of God in making man and man’s world, and constantly upholding all things, are ever
kept before us as the basis of our faith in God, and as an assurance and urgency to prayer. Then God calls us
away from what He Himself has done, and turns our minds to Himself personally. The infinite glory and
power of His Person are set before our contemplation: “Remember ye not the former things neither consider
the things of old?” He declares that He will do a “new thing,” that He does not have to repeat Himself, that all
He has done neither limits His doing nor the manner of His doing, and that if we have prayer and faith, He will
so answer our prayers and so work for us, that His former work shall not be remembered nor come into mind.
If men would pray as they ought to pray, the marvels of the past would be more than reproduced. The Gospel
would advance with a facility and power it has never known. Doors would be thrown open to the Gospel, and
the Word of God would have a conquering force rarely if ever known before.
If Christians prayed as Christians ought, with strong commanding faith, with earnestness and sincerity, men,
God-called men, God-empowered men everywhere, would be all burning to go and spread the Gospel
world-wide. The Word of the Lord would run and be glorified as never known heretofore. The
God-influenced men, the God-inspired men, the God-commissioned men, would go and kindle the flame of
sacred fire for Christ, salvation and heaven, everywhere in all nations, and soon all men would hear the glad
tidings of salvation and have an opportunity to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. Let us read
another one of those large illimitable statements in God’s Word, which are a direct challenge to prayer and
“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give
us all things?”
What a basis have we here for prayer and faith, illimitable, measureless in breadth, in depth and in height! The
promise to give us all things is backed up by the calling to our remembrance of the fact that God freely gave
His only Begotten Son for our redemption. His giving His Son is the assurance and guarantee that He will
freely give all things to him who believes and prays.
What confidence have we in this Divine statement for inspired asking! What holy boldness we have here for
the largest asking! No commonplace tameness should restrain our largest asking. Large, larger, and largest
asking magnifies grace and adds to God’s glory. Feeble asking impoverishes the asker, and restrains God’s
purposes for the greatest good and obscures His glory.
How enthroned, magnificent and royal the intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ at His Father’s right hand in
heaven! The benefits of His intercession flow to us through our intercessions. Our intercession ought to catch
by contagion, and by necessity the inspiration and largeness of Christ’s great work at His Father’s right hand.
His business and His life are to pray. Our business and our lives ought to be to pray, and to pray without
ceasing. Failure in our intercession affects the fruits His intercession. Lazy, heartless, feeble, and indifferent
praying by us mars and hinders the effects of Christ’s praying.
VIII. PRAYER—FACTS AND HISTORY
“The particular value of private prayer consists in being able to approach God with more
freedom, and unbosom ourselves more fully than in any other way. Between us and God
there are private and personal interests, sins to confess and wants to be supplied, which it
would be improper to disclose to the world. This duty is enforced by the example of good
men in all ages.”
* Amos Binney
THE possibilities of prayer are established by the facts and the history of prayer. Facts are stubborn things.
Facts are the true things. Theories may be but speculations. Opinions may be wholly at fault. But facts must
be deferred to. They cannot be ignored. What are the possibilities of prayer judged by the facts? What is the
history of prayer? What does it reveal to us? Prayer has a history, written in God’s Word and recorded in the
experiences and lives of God’s saints. History is truth teaching by example. We may miss the truth by
perverting the history, but the truth is in the facts of history.
“He spake with Abraham at the oak,
He called Elisha from the plough;
David he from the sheepfolds took,
Thy day, thine hour of grace, is now.”
God reveals the truth by the facts. God reveals Himself by the facts of religious history. God teaches us His
will by the facts and examples of Bible history. God’s facts, God’s Word and God’s history are all in perfect
harmony, and have much of God in them all. God has ruled the world by prayer; and God still rules the world
by the same divinely ordained means.
The possibilities of prayer cover not only individuals but reach to cities and nations. They take in classes and
peoples. The praying of Moses was the one thing which stood between the wrath of God against the Israelites
and His declared purpose to destroy them and the execution of that Divine purpose, and the Hebrew nation
still survived. Notwithstanding Sodom was not spared, because ten righteous men could not be found inside its
limits, yet the little city of Zoar was spared because Lot prayed for it as he fled from the storm of fire and
brimstone which burned up Sodom. Nineveh was saved because the king and its people repented of their evil
ways and gave themselves to prayer and fasting.
Paul in his remarkable prayer in Ephesians, chapter three, honours the illimitable possibilities of prayer and
glorifies the ability of God to answer prayer. Closing that memorable prayer, so far-reaching in its petitions,
and setting forth the very deepest religious experience, he declares that “God is able to do exceeding
abundantly above all that we can ask or think.” He makes prayer all-inclusive, comprehending all things, great
and small. Where is no time nor place which prayer does not cover and sanctify. All things in earth and in
heaven, everything for time and for eternity, all are embraced in prayer. Nothing is too great and nothing is too
small to be subject of prayer. Prayer reaches down to the least things of life and includes the greatest things
which concern us.
“If pain afflict or wrongs oppress,
If cares distract, or fears dismay;
If guilt deject, or sin distress,
In every case still watch and pray.”
One of the most important, far-reaching, peace-giving, necessary and practical prayer possibilities we have in
Paul’s words in Philippians, chapter four, dealing with prayer as a cure for undue care:
“Be careful for nothing; but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your
requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep
your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
“Cares” are the epidemic evil of mankind. They are universal in their reach. They belong to man in his fallen
condition. The predisposition to undue anxiety is the natural result of sin. Care comes in all shapes, at all
times, and from all sources. It comes to all of every age and station. There are the cares of the home circle,
from which there is no escape save in prayer. There are the cares of business, the cares of poverty, and the
cares of riches. Ours is an anxious world, and ours is an anxious race. The caution of Paul is well addressed,
“In nothing be anxious.” This is the Divine injunction, and that we might be able to live above anxiety and
freed from undue care, “In everything, by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known unto
God.” This is the divinely prescribed remedy for all anxious cares, for all worry, for all inward fretting.
The word, “careful,” means to be drawn in different directions, distraction, anxious, disturbed, annoyed in
spirit. Jesus had warned against this very thing in the Sermon on the Mount, where He had earnestly urged His
disciples, “Take no thought for the morrow,” in things concerning the needs of the body. He was
endeavouring to show them the true secret of a quiet mind, freed from anxiety and unnecessary care about
food and raiment. To-morrow’s evils were not to be considered. He was simply teaching the same lesson
found in Psalm 37: 3, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be
fed.” In cautioning against the fears of to-morrow’s prospective evils, and the material wants of the body, our
Lord was teaching the great lesson of an implicit and childlike confidence in God. “Commit thy way unto the
Lord: trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.”
“’Day by day,’ the promise reads,
Daily strength for daily needs
Cast foreboding fears away;
Take the manna of to-day.”
Paul’s direction is very specific, “Be careful for nothing.” Be careful for not one thing. Be careful for not
anything, for any condition, chance or happening. Be troubled about not anything which creates one
disturbing anxiety. Have a mind freed from all anxieties, all cares, all fretting, and all worries. Cares divide,
distract, bewilder, and destroy unity, forces and quietness of mind. Cares are fatal to weak piety and are
enfeebling to strong piety. What great need to guard against them and learn the one secret of their cure, even
What boundless possibilities there are in prayer to remedy the situation of mind of which Paul is speaking!
Prayer over everything can quiet every distraction, hush every anxiety, and lift every care from care-enslaved
lives and from care-bewildered hearts. The prayer specific is the perfect cure for all ills of this character which
belong to anxieties, cares and worries. Only prayer in everything can drive dull care away, relieve of
unnecessary heart burdens, and save from the besetting sin of worrying over things which we cannot help.
Only prayer can bring into the heart and mind the “peace which passeth all understanding,” and keep mind
and heart at ease, free from carking care.
Oh, the needless heart burdens borne by fretting Christians! How few know the real secret of a happy
Christian life, filled with perfect peace, hid from the storms and billows of a fretting careworn life! Prayer has
a possibility of saving us from “carefulness,” the bane of human lives. Paul in writing to the Corinthians says,
“I would have you without carefulness,” and this is the will of God. Prayer has the ability to do this very
thing. “Casting all your care on him, for he careth for you,” is the way Peter puts it, while the Psalmist says,
“Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” Oh, the blessedness of a heart at ease from all inward care, exempt
from undue anxiety, in the enjoyment of the peace of God which passeth all understanding!
Paul’s injunction which includes both God’s promise and His purpose, and which immediately precedes his
entreaty to be “careful for nothing,” reads on this wise:
“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be made known to all men.
The Lord is at hand.”
In a world filled with cares of every kind, where temptation is the rule, where there are so many things to try
us, how is it possible to rejoice always? We look at the naked, dry command, and we accept it and reverence it
as the Word of God, but no joy comes. How are we to let our moderation, our mildness, and our gentleness be
universally and always known? We resolve to be benign and gentle. We remember the nearness of the Lord,
but still we are hasty, quick, hard and salty. We listen to the Divine charge, “Be careful for nothing,” yet still
we are anxious, care-worn, care-eaten, and care-tossed. How can we fulfill the Divine word, so sweet and so
large in promise, so beautiful in the eye, and yet so far from being realized? How can we enter upon the rich
patrimony of being true, honest, just, pure, and possess lovely things? The recipe is infallible, the remedy is
universal, and the cure is unfailing. It is found in the words which we have so often herein referred to of Paul:
“Be careful for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your
requests be made known unto God.”
This joyous, care-free, peaceful experience bringing the believer into a joyousness, living simply by faith day
by day, is the will of God. Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul tells them: “Rejoice evermore; pray without
ceasing, and in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” So that not
only is it God’s will that we should find full deliverance from all care and undue anxiety, but He has ordained
prayer as the means by which we can reach that happy state of heart.
The Revised Version makes some changes in the passage of Paul, about which we have been speaking. The
reading there is” In nothing be anxious,” and “the peace of God shall guard your hearts and your minds.” And
Paul puts the antecedent in the air of prayer, which is “Rejoice in the Lord always.” That is, be always glad in
the Lord, and be happy with Him. And that you may thus be happy, “Be careful for nothing.” This rejoicing is
the doorway for prayer, and its pathway too. The sunshine and buoyancy of joy in the Lord are the strength
and boldness of prayer, the peans of its victory. “Moderation” makes the rainbow of prayer. The word means
mildness, fairness, gentleness, sweet reasonableness. The Revised Version changes it to “forbearance,” with
the margin reading “gentleness.” What rare ingredients and beautiful colourings! These are colourings and
ingredients which make a strong and beautiful character and a wide and positive reputation. A rejoicing, gentle
spirit, positive in reputation, is well fitted for prayer, rid of the distractions and unrest of care.
IX. PRAYER—FACTS AND HISTORY (Continued)
“The neglect of prayer is a grand hindrance to holiness. ‘We have not because we ask not.’
Oh, how meek and gentle, how lowly in heart, how full of love both to God and to man,
might you have been at this day, if you had only asked! If you had continued instant in
prayer! Ask, that you may thoroughly experience and perfectly practice the whole of that
religion which our Lord has so beautifully described in the Sermon on the Mount.”
* John Wesley
IT is to the closet Paul directs us to go. The unfailing remedy for all carking, distressing care is prayer. The
place where the Lord is at hand is the closet of prayer. There He is always found, and there He is at hand to
bless, to deliver and to help. The one place where the Lord’s presence and power will be more fully realized
than any other place is the closet of prayer.
Paul gives the various terms of prayer, supplication and giving of thanks as the complement of true praying.
The soul must be in all of these spiritual exercises. There must be no half-hearted praying, no abridging its
nature, and no abating its force, if we would be freed from this undue anxiety which causes friction and
internal distress, and if we would receive the rich fruit of that peace which passeth all understanding. He who
prays must be an earnest soul, all round in spiritual attributes.
“In everything, let your requests be made known unto God,” says Paul. Nothing is too great to be handled in
prayer, or to be sought in prayer. Nothing is too small to be weighed in the secret councils of the closet, and
nothing is too little for its final arbitrament. As care comes from every source, so prayer goes to every source.
As there are no small things in prayer, so there are no small things with God. He who counts the hairs of our
head, and who is not too lofty and high to notice the little sparrow which falls to the ground, is not too great
and high to note everything which concerns the happiness, the needs and the safety of His children. Prayer
brings God into what men are pleased to term the little affairs of life. The lives of people are made up of these
small matters, and yet how often do great consequences come from small beginnings?
“There is no sorrow, Lord, too light
To bring in prayer to Thee;
There is no anxious care too slight
To wake Thy sympathy.
“There is no secret sigh we breathe,
But meets Thine ear Divine,
And every cross grows light beneath
The shadow, Lord, of Thine.”
As everything by prayer is to be brought to the notice of Almighty God, so we are assured that whatever
affects us concerns Him. How comprehensive is this direction about prayer! “In everything by prayer.” There
is no distinction here between temporal and spiritual things. Such a distinction is against faith, wisdom and
reverence. God rules everything in nature and in grace. Man is affected for time and eternity by things secular
as well as by things spiritual. Man’s salvation hangs on his business as well as on his prayers. A man’s
business hangs on his prayers just as it hangs on his diligence.
The chief hindrances to piety, the wiliest and the deadliest temptations of the devil, are in business, and lie
alongside the things of time. The heaviest, the most confusing and the most stupefying cares lie beside secular
and worldly matters. So in everything which comes to us and which concerns us, in everything which we want
to come to us, and in everything which we do not want to come to us, prayer is to be made for all. Prayer
blesses all things, brings all things, relieves all things and prevents all things. Everything as well as every
place and every hour is to be ordered by prayer. Prayer has in it the possibility to affect everything which
affects us. Here are the vast possibilities of prayer.
How much is the bitter of life sweetened by prayer! How are the feeble made strong by prayer! Sickness flees
before the health of prayer. Doubts, misgivings, and trembling fears retire before prayer. Wisdom, knowledge,
holiness and heaven are at the command of prayer. Nothing is outside of prayer. It has the power to gain all
things in the provision of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul covers all departments and sweeps the entire field of
human concernment, conditions, and happenings by saying, “In everything by prayer.”
Supplications and thanksgiving are to be joined with prayer. It is not the dignity of worship, the gorgeousness
of ceremonials, the magnificence of its ritual, nor the plainness of its sacraments, which avail. It is not simply
the soul’s hallowed and lowly abasement before God, neither the speechless awe, which benefits in this prayer
service, but the intensity of supplication, the looking and the lifting of the soul in ardent plea to God for the
things desired and for which request is made.
The radiance and gratitude and utterance of thanksgiving must be there. This is not simply the poetry of
praise, but the deep-toned words and the prose of thanks. There must be hearty thanks, which remembers the
past, sees God in it, and voices that recognition in sincere thanksgiving. The hidden depths within must have
utterance. The lips must speak the music of the soul. A heart enthused of God, a heart illumined by His
presence, a life guided by His right hand, must have something to say for God in gratitude. Such is to
recognize God in the events of past life, to exalt God for His goodness, and to honour God who has honoured
“Make known your requests unto God.” The “requests” must be made known unto God. Silence is not prayer.
Prayer is asking God for something which we have not, which we desire, and which He has promised to give
in answer to prayer. Prayer is really verbal asking. Words are in prayer. Strong words and true words are
found in prayer. Desires in prayer are put in words. The praying one is a pleader. He urges his prayer by
arguments, promises, and needs.
Sometimes loud words are in prayer. The Psalmist said, “Evening, morning and at noon will I pray, and cry
aloud.” The praying one wants something which he has not got. He wants something which God has in His
possession, and which he can get by praying. He is beggared, bewildered, oppressed and confused. He is
before God in supplication, in prayer, and in thanksgiving. These are the attitudes, the incense, the
paraphernalia, and the fashion of this hour, the court attendance of his soul before God.
“Requests” mean to ask for one’s self. The man is in a strait. He needs something, and he needs it badly. Other
help has failed. It means a plea for something to be given which has not been done. The request is for the
Giver, -- not alone His gifts but Himself. The requests of the praying one are to be made known unto God.
The requests are to be brought to the knowledge of God. It is then that cares fly away, anxieties disappear,
worries depart, and the soul gets at ease. Then it is there steals into the heart “the peace of God that passeth all
“Peace! doubting heart, my God’s I am,
Who formed me man, forbids my fear;
The Lord hath called me by my name;
The Lord protects, forever near;
His blood for me did once atone,
And still He loves and guards His own.”
In James, chapter five, we have another marvellous description of prayer and its possibilities. It has to do with
sickness and health, sin and forgiveness, and rain and drouth. Here we have James’ directory for praying:
“Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you?
Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name
of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick; and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have
committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another,
that ye may be healed. The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man
subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not on the
earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and
the earth brought forth her fruit.”
Here is prayer for one’s own needs and intercessory prayer for others; prayer for physical needs and prayer for
spiritual needs; prayer for drouth and prayer for rain; prayer for temporal matters and prayer for spiritual
things. How vast the reach of prayer! How wonderful under these words its possibilities!
Here is the remedy for affliction and depression of every sort, and here we find the remedy for sickness and
for rain in the time of drouth. Here is the way to obtain forgiveness of sins. A stroke of prayer paralyzes the
energies of nature, stays its clouds, rain and dew, and blasts field and farm like the simoon. Prayer brings
clouds, and rain and fertility to the famished and wasted earth.
The general statement, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” is a statement of
prayer as an energetic force. Two words are used. One signifies power in exercise, operative power, while the
other is power as an endowment. Prayer is power and strength, a power and strength which influences God,
and is most salutary, widespread and marvellous in its gracious benefits to man. Prayer influences God. The
ability of God to do for man is the measure of the possibility of prayer.
“Thou art coming to a king,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such
None can ever ask too much.”
X. ANSWERED PRAYER
“In his ‘Soldier’s Pocket Book,’ Lord Wolseley says if a young officer wishes to get on, he
must volunteer for the most hazardous duties and take every possible chance of risking
his life. It was a spirit and courage like that which was shown in the service of God by a
good soldier of Jesus Christ named John McKenzie who died a few years ago. One
evening when he was a lad and eager for work in the Foreign Mission field he knelt
down at the foot of a tree in the Ladies’ Walk on the banks of the Lossie at Elgin and
offered up this prayer: ‘O Lord send me to the darkest spot on earth.’ And God heard him
and sent him to South Africa where he laboured many years first under the London
Missionary Society and then under the British Government as the first Resident Commissioner among the natives of Bechuanaland.”
* J. O. Struthers
IT is answered prayer which brings praying out of the realm of dry, dead things, and makes praying a thing of
life and power. It is the answer to prayer which brings things to pass, changes the natural trend of things, and
orders all things according to the will of God. It is the answer to prayer which takes praying out of the regions
of fanaticism, and saves it from being Eutopian, or from being merely fanciful. It is the answer to prayer
which makes praying a power for God and for man, and makes praying real and divine. Unanswered prayers
are training schools for unbelief, an imposition and a nuisance, an impertinence to God and to man.
Answers to prayer are the only surety that we have prayed aright. What marvellous power there is in prayer!
What untold miracles it works in this world! What untold benefits to men does it secure to those who pray!
Why is it that the average prayer by the million goes a begging for an answer?
The millions of unanswered prayers are not to be solved by the mystery of God’s will. We are not the sport of
His sovereign power. He is not playing at “make-believe” in His marvellous promises to answer prayer. The
whole explanation is found in our wrong praying. “We ask and receive not because we ask amiss.” If all
unanswered prayers were dumped into the ocean, they would come very near filling it. Child of God, can you
pray? Are your prayers answered? If not, why not? Answered prayer is the proof of your real praying.
The efficacy of prayer from a Bible standpoint lies solely in the answer to prayer. The benefit of prayer has
been well and popularly maximized by the saying, “It moves the arm which moves the universe.” To get
unquestioned answers to prayer is not only important as to the satisfying of our desires, but is the evidence of
our abiding in Christ. It becomes more important still. The mere act of praying is no test of our relation to
God. The act of praying may be a real dead performance. It may be the routine of habit. But to pray and
receive clear answers, not once or twice, but daily, this is the sure test, and is the gracious point of our vital
connection with Jesus Christ. Read our Lord’s words in this connection:
“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
To God and to man, the answer to prayer is the all-important part of our praying. The answer to prayer, direct
and unmistakable, is the evidence of God’s being. It proves that God lives, that there is a God, an intelligent
being, who is interested in His creatures, and who listens to them when they approach Him in prayer. There is
no proof so clear and demonstrative that God exists than prayer and its answer. This was Elijah’s plea: “Hear
me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God.”
The answer to prayer is the part of prayer which glorifies God. Unanswered prayers are dumb oracles which
leave the praying ones in darkness, doubt and bewilderment, and which carry no conviction to the unbeliever.
It is not the act or the attitude of praying which gives efficacy to prayer. It is not abject prostration of the body
before God, the vehement or quiet utterance to God, the exquisite beauty and poetry of the diction of our
prayers, which do the deed. It is not the marvellous array of argument and eloquence in praying which makes
prayer effectual. Not one or all of these are the things which glorify God. It is the answer which brings glory to
Elijah might have prayed on Carmel’s heights till this good day with all the fire and energy of his soul, and if
no answer had been given, no glory would have come to God. Peter might have shut himself up with Dorcas’
dead body till he himself died on his knees, and if no answer had come, no glory to God nor good to man
would have followed, but only doubt, blight and dismay. Answer to prayer is the convincing proof of our right
relations to God. Jesus said at the grave of Lazarus:
“Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. “And I knew that thou hearest me always, but because of
the people that stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”
The answer of His prayer was the proof of His mission from God, as the answer to Elijah’s prayer was made
to the woman whose son he raised to life. She said, “Now by this I know that thou art a man of God.” He is
highest in the favour of God who has the readiest access and the greatest number of answers to prayer from
Prayer ascends to God by an invariable law, even by more than law, by the will, the promise and the presence
of a personal God. The answer comes back to earth by all the promise, the truth, the power and the love of
Not to be concerned about the answer to prayer is not to pray. What a world of waste there is in praying. What
myriads of prayers have been offered for which no answer is returned, no answer longed for, and no answer is
expected! We have been nurturing a false faith and hiding the shame of our loss and inability to pray, by the
false, comforting plea that God does not answer directly or objectively, but indirectly and subjectively. We
have persuaded ourselves that by some kind of hocus pocus of which we are wholly unconscious in its process
and its results, we have been made better. Conscious that God has not answered us directly, we have solaced
ourselves with the delusive unction that God has in some impalpable way, and with unknown results, given us
something better. Or we have comforted and nurtured our spiritual sloth by saying that it is not God’s will to
give it to us. Faith teaches God’s praying ones that it is God’s will to answer prayer. God answers all prayers
and every prayer of His true children who truly pray.
“Prayer makes the darkened cloud withdraw, Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings every blessing from above.”
The emphasis in the Scriptures is always given to the answer to prayer. All things from God are given in
answer to prayer. God Himself, His presence, His gifts and His grace, one and all, are secured by prayer. The
medium by which God communicates with men is prayer. The most real thing in prayer, its very essential end,
is the answer it secures. The mere repetition of words in prayer, the counting of beads, the multiplying mere
words of prayer, as works of supererogation, as if there was virtue in the number of prayers to avail, is a vain
delusion, an empty thing, a useless service. Prayer looks directly to securing an answer. This is its design. It
has no other end in view.
Communion with God of course is in prayer. There is sweet fellowship there with our God through His Holy
Spirit. Enjoyment of God there is in praying, sweet, rich and strong. The graces of the Spirit in the inner soul
are nurtured by prayer, kept alive and promoted in their growth by this spiritual exercise. But not one nor all of
these benefits of prayer have in them the essential end of prayer. The divinely appointed channel through
which all good and all grace flows to our souls and bodies is prayer.
“Prayer is appointed to convey
The blessings God designs to give.”
Prayer is divinely ordained as the means by which all temporal and spiritual good are gained to us. Prayer is
not an end in itself. It is not something done to be rested in, something we have done, about which we are to
congratulate ourselves. It is a means to an end. It is something we do which brings us something in return,
without which the praying is valueless. Prayer always aims at securing an answer.
We are rich and strong, good and holy, beneficent and benignant, by answered prayer. It is not the mere
performance, the attitude, nor the words of prayer, which bring benefit to us, but it is the answer sent direct
from heaven. Conscious, real answers to prayer bring real good to us. This is not praying merely for self, or
simply for selfish ends. The selfish character cannot exist when the prayer conditions are fulfilled.
It is by these answered prayers that human nature is enriched. The answered prayer brings us into constant
and conscious communion with God, awakens and enlarges gratitude, and excites the melody and lofty
inspiration of praise. Answered prayer is the mark of God in our praying. It is the exchange with heaven, and
it establishes and realizes a relationship with the unseen. We give our prayers in exchange for the Divine
blessing. God accepts our prayers through the atoning blood and gives Himself, His presence and His grace in
All holy affections are affected by answered prayers. By the answers to prayer all holy principles are matured,
and faith, love and hope have their enrichment by answered prayer. The answer is found in all true praying.
The answer is in prayer strongly as an aim, a desire expressed, and its expectation and realization give
importunity and realization to prayer. It is the fact of the answer which makes the prayer, and which enters into
its very being. To seek no answer to prayer takes the desire, the aim, and the heart out of prayer. It makes
praying a dead, stockish thing, fit only for dumb idols. It is the answer which brings praying into Bible
regions, and makes it a desire realized, a pursuit, an interest, that clothes it with flesh and blood, and makes it
a prayer, throbbing with all the true life of prayer, affluent with all the paternal relations of giving and
receiving, of asking and answering.
God holds all good in His own hands. That good comes to us through our Lord Jesus Christ because of His all
atoning merits, by asking it in His name. The only and the sole command in which all the others of its class
belong, is “Ask, seek, knock.” And the one and sole promise is its counterpart, its necessary equivalent and
results: “It shall be given—ye shall find—it shall be opened unto you.”
God is so much involved in prayer and its hearing and answering, that all of His attributes and His whole
being are centered in that great fact. It distinguishes Him as peculiarly beneficent, wonderfully good, and
powerfully attractive in His nature. “O thou that hearest prayer! To thee shall all flesh come.”
“Faithful, O Lord, Thy mercies are
A rock that cannot move;
A thousand promises declare
Thy constancy of love.”
Not only does the Word of God stand surety for the answer to prayer, but all the attributes of God conspire to
the same end. God’s veracity is at stake in the engagements to answer prayer. His wisdom, His truthfulness
and His goodness are involved. God’s infinite and inflexible rectitude is pledged to the great end of answering
the prayers of those who call upon Him in time of need. Justice and mercy blend into oneness to secure the
answer to prayer. It is significant that the very justice of God comes into play and stands hard by God’s
faithfulness in the strong promise God makes of the pardon of sins and of cleansing from sin’s pollutions:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all
God’s kingly relation to man, with all of its authority, unites with the fatherly relation and with all of its
tenderness to secure the answer to prayer.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is most fully committed to the answer of prayer. “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name,
that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” How well assured the answer to prayer is, when
that answer is to glorify God the Father! And how eager Jesus Christ is to glorify His Father in heaven! So
eager is He to answer prayer which always and everywhere brings glory to the Father, that no prayer offered
in His name is denied or overlooked by Him. Says our Lord Jesus Christ again, giving fresh assurance to our
faith, “If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.” So says He once more, “Ask what ye will, and it shall
be done unto you.”
“Come, my soul, thy suit prepare,
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay.”
XI. ANSWERED PRAYER (Continued)
“Constrained at the darkest hour to confess humbly that without God’s help I was
helpless, I vowed a vow in the forest solitude that I would confess His aid before men. A
silence as a death was around me; it was midnight, I was weakened by illness, prostrated
with fatigue and worn with anxiety for my white and black companions, whose fate was a
mystery. In this physical and mental distress I besought God to give me back my people.
Nine hours later we were exulting with rapturous joy. In full view of all was the crimson
flag with the crescent and beneath its waving folds was the long-lost rear column.”
* Henry M. Stanley
GOD has committed Himself to us by His Word in our praying. The Word of God is the basis and the
inspiration and the heart of prayer. Jesus Christ stands as the illustration of God’s Word, its illimitable good in
promise as well as in realization. God takes nothing by halves. He gives nothing by halves. We can have the
whole of Him when He has the whole of us. His words of promise are so far-reaching, and so
all-comprehending, that they seem to have deadened our comprehension and have paralyzed our praying. This
appears when we consider those large words, when He almost exhausts human language in promises, as in
“whatever,” “anything,” and in the all-inclusive “whatsoever,” and “all things.” These oft-repeated promises,
so very great, seem to daze us, and instead of allowing them to move us to asking, testing, and receiving, we
turn away full of wonder, but empty handed and with empty hearts.
We quote another passage from our Lord’s teaching about prayer. By the most solemn verification, He
declares as follows:
“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing; Verily, Verily, I say unto you: Whatsoever ye shall ask the
Father in my name, he will give it to you. “Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and ye
shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
Twice in this passage He declares the answer, and pledging His Father, “He will give it to you,” and declaring
with impressive and most suggestive iteration, “Ask, and ye shall receive.” So strong and so often did Jesus
declare and repeat the answer as an inducement to pray, and as an inevitable result of prayer, the Apostles held
it as so fully and invincibly established, that prayer would be answered, they held it to be their main duty to
urge and command men to pray. So firmly were they established as to the truth of the law of prayer as laid
down by our Lord, that they were led to affirm that the answer to prayer was involved in and necessarily
bound up with all right praying. God the Father and Jesus Christ, His Son, are both strongly committed by all
the truth of their word and by the fidelity of their character, to answer prayer.
Not only do these and all the promises pledge Almighty God to answer prayer, but they assure us that the
answer will be specific, and that the very thing for which we pray will be given.
Our Lord’s invariable teaching was that we receive that for which we ask, and obtain that for which we seek,
and have that door opened at which we knock. This is according to our Heavenly Father’s direction to us, and
His giving to us for our asking. He will not disappoint us by not answering, neither will He deny us by giving
us some other thing for which we have not asked, or by letting us find some other thing for which we have not
sought, or by opening to us the wrong door, at which we were not knocking. If we ask bread, He will give us
bread. If we ask an egg, He will give us an egg. If we ask a fish, He will give us a fish. Not something like
bread, but bread itself will be given unto us. Not something like a fish, but a fish will be given. Not evil will be
given us in answer to prayer, but good.
Earthly parents, though evil in nature, give for the asking, and answer to the crying of their children. The
encouragement to prayer is transferred from our earthly father to our Heavenly Father, from the evil to the
good, to the supremely good; from the weak to the omnipotent, our Heavenly Father, centering in Himself all
the highest conceptions of Fatherhood, abler, readier, and much more than the best, and much more than the
ablest earthly father. “How much more,” who can tell? Much more than our earthly father, will He supply all
our needs, give us all good things, and enable us to meet every difficult duty and fulfill every law, though hard
to flesh and blood, but made easy under the full supply of our Father’s beneficent and exhaustless help.
Here we have in symbol and as initial, more than an intimation of the necessity, not only of perseverance in
prayer, but of the progressive stages of intentness and effort in the outlay of increasing spiritual force. Asking,
seeking, and knocking. Here is an ascending scale from the mere words of asking, to a settled attitude of
seeking, resulting in a determined, clamorous and vigorous direct effort of praying.
Just as God has commanded us to pray always, to pray everywhere, and to pray in everything, so He will
answer always, everywhere and in everything. God has plainly and with directness committed Himself to
answer prayer. If we fulfill the conditions of prayer, the answer is bound to come. The laws of nature are not
so invariable and so inexorable as the promised answer to pray. The ordinances of nature might fail, but the
ordinances of grace can never fail. There are no limitations, no adverse conditions, no weakness, no inability,
which can or will hinder the answer to prayer. God’s doing for us when we pray has no limitations, is not
hedged about, by provisos in Himself, or in the peculiar circumstances of any particular case. If we really
pray, God masters and defies all things and is above all conditions. God explicitly says, “Call unto me, and I
will answer.” There are no limitations, no hedges, no hindrances in the way of God fulfilling the promise. His
word is at stake. His word is involved. God solemnly engages to answer prayer. Man is to look for the
answer, be inspired by the expectation of the answer, and may with humble boldness demand the answer.
God, who cannot lie, is bound to answer. He has voluntarily placed Himself under obligation to answer the
prayer of him who truly prays.
“To God your every want
In instant prayer display;
Pray always; pray, and never faint;
Pray, without ceasing, pray.
“In fellowship, alone,
To God with faith draw near;
Approach His courts, beseech His throne,
With all the power of prayer.”
The prophets and the men of God of Old Testament times were unshaken in their faith in the absolute certainty
of God fulfilling His promises to them. They rested in security on the word of God, and had no doubt
whatever either as to the fidelity of God in answering prayer or of His willingness or ability. So that their
history is marked by repeated asking and receiving at the hands of God.
The same is true of the early Church. They received without question the doctrine their Lord and Master had
so often affirmed that the answer to prayer was sure. The certainty of the answer to prayer was as fixed as
God’s Word was true. The Holy Ghost dispensation was ushered in by the disciples carrying this faith into
practice. When Jesus told them to “Tarry at Jerusalem till they were endued with power from on high,” they
received it as a sure promise that if they obeyed the command, they would certainly receive the Divine power.
So in prayer for ten days they tarried in the upper room, and the promise was fulfilled. The answer came just
as Jesus said. So when Peter and John were arrested for healing the man who sat at the beautiful gate of the
temple, after being threatened by the rulers in Jerusalem, they were released. “And being let go, they went to
their own company,” they went to those with whom they were in affinity, those of like minds, and not to men
of the world. Still believing in prayer and its efficacy, they gave themselves to prayer, the prayer itself being
recorded in Acts, chapter four. They recited some things to the Lord, and “when they had prayed, the place
was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the
word of God with boldness.”
Here they were refilled for this special occasion with the Holy Ghost. The answer to prayer responded to their
faith and prayer. The fullness of the Spirit always brings boldness. The cure for fear in the face of threatenings
of the enemies of the Lord is being filled with the Spirit. This gives power to speak the word of the Lord with
boldness. This gives courage and drives away fear.
XII. ANSWERED PRAYER (Continued)
“A young man had been called to the foreign field. He had not been in the habit of
preaching, but he knew one thing, how to prevail with God; and going one day to a friend
he said: ‘I don’t see how God can use me on the field. I have no special talent.’ His friend
said: ‘My brother, God wants men on the field who can pray. There are too many
preachers now and too few prayers.’ He went. In his own room in the early dawn a voice
was heard weeping and pleading for souls. All through the day, the shut door and the
hush that prevailed made you feel like walking softly, for a soul was wrestling with God.
Yet to this home, hungry souls would flock, drawn by some irresistible power. Ah, the
mystery was unlocked. In the secret chamber lost souls were pleaded for and claimed. The
Holy Ghost knew just where they were and sent them along.”
* J. Hudson Taylor
WE put it to the front. We unfold it on a banner never to be lowered or folded, that God does hear and answer
prayer. God has always heard and answered prayer. God will forever hear and answer prayer. He is the same
yesterday, to-day and forever, ever blessed, ever to be adored. Amen. He changes not. As He has always
answered prayer, so will He ever continue to do so.
To answer prayer is God’s universal rule. It is His unchangeable and irrepealable law to answer prayer. It is
His invariable, specific and inviolate promise to answer prayer. The few denials to prayer in the Scriptures are
the exceptions to the general rule, suggestive and startling by their fewness, exception and emphasis.
The possibilities of prayer, then, lie in the great truth, illimitable in its broadness, fathomless in its depths,
exhaustless in its fullness, that God answers every prayer from every true soul who truly prays. God’s Word
does not say, “Call unto me, and you will thereby be trained into the happy art of knowing how to be denied.
Ask, and you will learn sweet patience by getting nothing.” Far from it. But it is definite, clear and positive:
“Ask, and it shall be given unto you.”
We have this case among many in the Old Testament:
“Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, O that thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast,
and that thy hand might be with me, and that thou wouldst keep me from evil, that it may not grieve
And God readily granted him the things which he had requested. Hannah, distressed in soul because she was
childless, and desiring a man child, repaired to the house of prayer, and prayed, and this is the record she
makes of the direct answer she received: “For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me the petition
which I asked of him.”
God’s promises and purposes go direct to the fact of giving for the asking. The answer to our prayers is the
motive constantly presented in the Scriptures to encourage us to pray and to quicken us in this spiritual
exercise. Take such strong, clear passages as these:
“Call unto me, and I will answer thee. He shall call unto me, and I will answer. Ask; and it shall be given
you. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
This is Jesus Christ’s law of prayer. He does not say, “Ask, and something shall be given you.” Nor does He
say, “Ask, and you will be trained into piety.” But it is that when you ask, the very thing asked for will be
given. Jesus does not say, “Knock, and some door will be opened.” But the very door at which you are
knocking will be opened. To make this doubly sure, Jesus Christ duplicates and reiterates the promise of the
answer: “For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall
Answered prayer is the spring of love, and is the direct encouragement to pray. “I love the Lord because he
hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call
upon him as long as I live.”
The certainty of the Father’s giving is assured by the Father’s relation, and by the ability and goodness of the
Father. Earthly parents, frail, infirm, and limited in goodness and ability, give when the child asks and seeks.
The parental heart responds most readily to the cry for bread. The hunger of the child touches and wins the
father’s heart. So God, our Heavenly Father, is as easily and strongly moved by our prayers as the earthly
parent. “If ye being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your father in
heaven give good gifts unto them that ask him?” “Much more,” just as much more does God’s goodness,
tenderness and ability exceed that of man’s.
Just as the asking is specific, so also is the answer specific. The child does not ask for one thing and get
another. He does not cry for bread, and get a stone. He does not ask for an egg, and receive a scorpion. He
does not ask for a fish, and get a serpent. Christ demands specific asking. He responds to specific praying by
To give the very thing prayed for, and not something else, is fundamental to Christ’s law of praying. No
prayer for the cure of blind eyes did He ever answer by curing deaf ears. The very thing prayed for is the very
thing which He gives. The exceptions to this are confirmatory of this great law of prayer. He who asks for
bread gets bread, and not a stone. If he asks for a fish, he receives a fish, and not a serpent. No cry is so
pleading and so powerful as the child’s cry for bread. The cravings of hunger, the appetite felt, and the need
realized, all create and propel the crying of the child. Our prayers must be as earnest, as needy, and as hungry
as the hungry child’s cry for bread. Simple, artless and direct and specific must be our praying, according to
Christ’s law of prayer and His teaching of God’s Fatherhood. The illustration and enforcement of the law of
prayer are found in the specific answers given to prayer. Gethsemane is the only seeming exception. The
prayer of Jesus Christ in that awful hour of darkness and hell was conditioned on these words, “If it be
possible, let this cup pass from me.” But beyond these utterances of our Lord was the soul and life prayer of
the willing, suffering Divine victim, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” The prayer was answered,
the angel came, strength was imparted, and the meek sufferer in silence drank the bitter cup.
Two cases of unanswered prayer are recorded in the Scriptures in addition to the Gethsemane prayer of our
Lord. The first was that of David for the life of his baby child, but for good reasons to Almighty God the
request was not granted. The second was that of Paul for the removal of the thorn in the flesh, which was
denied. But we are constrained to believe these must have been notable as exceptions to God’s rule, as
illustrated in the history of prophet, priest, apostle and saint, as recorded in the Divine Word. There must have
been unrevealed reasons which moved God to veer from His settled and fixed rule to answer prayer by giving
the specific thing prayed for.
Our Lord did not hold the Syrophenician woman in the school of unanswered prayer in order to test and
mature her faith, neither did He answer her prayer by healing or saving her husband. She asks for the healing
of her daughter, and Christ healed the daughter. She received the very thing for which she asked the Lord
Jesus Christ. It was in the school of answered prayer our Lord disciplined and perfected her faith, and it was by
giving her a specific answer to her prayer. Her prayer centered on her daughter. She prayed for the one thing,
the healing of her child. And the answer of our Lord centered likewise on the daughter.
We tread altogether too gingerly upon the great and precious promises of God, and too often we ignore them
wholly. The promise is the ground on which faith stands in asking of God. This is the one basis of prayer. We
limit God’s ability. We measure God’s ability and willingness to answer by prayer by the standard of men. We
limit the Holy One of Israel. How full of benefaction and remedy to suffering mankind are the promises as
given us by James in his Epistle, fifth chapter! How personal and mediate do they make God in prayer! They
are a direct challenge to our faith. They are encouraging to large expectations in all the requests we make of
God. Prayer affects God in a direct manner, and has its aim and end in affecting Him. Prayer takes hold of
God, and induces Him to do large things for us, whether personal or relative, temporal or spiritual, earthly or
The great gap between Bible promises to prayer and the income from praying is almost unspeakably great, so
much so that it is a prolific source of infidelity. It breeds unbelief in prayer as a great moral force, and begets
doubt really as to the efficacy of prayer. Christianity needs to-day, above all things else, men and women who
can in prayer put God to the test and who can prove His promises. When this happy day for the world begins,
it will be earth’s brightest day, and will be heaven’s dawning day on earth. These are the sort of men and
women needed in this modern day in the Church. It is not educated men who are needed for the times. It is
not more money that is required. It is not more machinery, more organization, more ecclesiastical laws, but it
is men and women who know how to pray, who can in prayer lay hold upon God and bring Him down to earth,
and move Him to take hold of earth’s affairs mightily and put life and power into the Church and into all of its
The Church and the world greatly need saints who can bridge this wide gap between the praying done and the
small number of answers received. Saints are needed whose faith is bold enough and sufficiently far-reaching
to put God to the test. The cry comes even now out of heaven to the people of the present-day Church, as it
sounded forth in the days of Malachi: “Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts.” God is waiting to be
put to the test by His people in prayer. He delights in being put to the test on His promises. It is His highest
pleasure to answer prayer, to prove the reliability of His promises. Nothing worthy of God nor of great value
to men will be accomplished till this is done.
Our Gospel belongs to the miraculous. It was projected on the miraculous plane. It cannot be maintained but
by the supernatural. Take the supernatural out of our holy religion, and its life and power are gone, and it
degenerates into a mere mode of morals. The miraculous is Divine power. Prayer has in it this same power.
Prayer brings this Divine power into the ranks of men and puts it to work. Prayer brings into the affairs of
earth a supernatural element. Our Gospel when truly presented is the power of God. Never was the Church
more in need of those who can and will test Almighty God. Never did the Church need more than now those
who can raise up everywhere memorials of God’s supernatural power, memorials of answers to prayer,
memorials of promises fulfilled. These would do more to silence the enemy of souls, the foe of God and the
adversary of the Church than any modern scheme or present-day plan for the success of the Gospel. Such
memorials reared by praying people would dumbfound God’s foes, strengthen weak saints, and would fill
strong saints with triumphant rapture. The most prolific source of infidelity, and that which traduces and
hinders praying, and that which obscures the being and glory of God most effectually, is unanswered prayer.
Better not to pray at all than to go through a dead form, which secures no answer, brings no glory to God, and
supplies no good to man. Nothing so indurates the heart and nothing so blinds us to the unseen and the eternal,
as this kind of prayerless praying.
XIII. PRAYER MIRACLES
“George Benfield, a driver on the Midland Railway, living at Derby, was standing on the
footplate oiling his engine, the train being stationary, when his foot slipped; he fell on the
space between the lines. He heard the express coming on, and had only time enough to lie
full length on the ‘six-foot’ when it rushed by, and he escaped unhurt. He returned to his
home in the middle of the night and as he was going upstairs he heard one of his
children, a girl about eight years old, crying and sobbing. ‘Oh, father,’ she said, ‘I thought
somebody came and told me that you were going to be killed, and I got out of bed and
prayed that God would not let you die.’ Was it only a dream, a coincidence? George
Benfield and others believed that he owed his life to that prayer.”
* Dean Hole
THE earthly career of our Lord Jesus Christ was no mere episode, a sort of interlude, in His eternal life. What
He was and what He did on earth was neither abnormal nor divergent, but characteristic. What He was and
what He did on earth is but the figure and the illustration of what He is and what He is doing in heaven. He is
“the same yesterday and to-day, and forever.” This statement is the Divine summary of the eternal unity and
changelessness of His character. His earthly life was made up largely of hearing and answering prayer. His
heavenly life is devoted to the same Divine business. Really the Old Testament is the record of God hearing
and answering prayer. The whole Bible deals largely with this all important subject.
Christ’s miracles are object lessons. They are living pictures. They talk to us. They have hands which take
hold of us. Many valuable lessons do these miracles teach us. In their diversity, they refresh us. They show us
the matchless power of Jesus Christ, and at the same time discover to us His marvellous compassion for
suffering humanity. These miracles disclose to us His ability to endlessly diversify His operations. God’s
method in working with man is not the same in all cases. He does not administer His grace in rigid ruts. There
is endless variety in His movements. There is marvellous diversity in His operations. He does not fashion His
creations in the same mould. Just so our Lord is not circumscribed in His working nor trammelled by models.
He works independently. He is His own architect. He furnishes His own patterns which have unlimited
When we consider our Lord’s miracles, we discover that quite a number were performed unconditionally. At
least there were no conditions accompanying them so far as the Divine record shows. At His own instance,
without being solicited to do so, in order to glorify God and to manifest His own glory and power, this class of
miracles was wrought. Many of His mighty works were performed at the moving of His compassion and at the
call of suffering and need, as well as at the call of His power. But a number of them were performed by Him
in answer to prayer. Some were wrought in answer to the personal prayers of those who were afflicted. Others
were performed in answer to the prayers of the friends of those who were afflicted. Those miracles wrought
in answer to prayer are very instructive in the uses of prayer.
In these conditional miracles, faith holds the primacy and prayer is faith’s vicegerent. We have an illustration
of the importance of faith as the condition on which the exercise of Christ’s power was based, or the channel
through which it flowed, in the incident of a visit He made to Nazareth with its results, or rather its lack of
results. Here is the record of the case:
“And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed
them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief.”
Those people at Nazareth may have prayed our Lord to raise their dead, or open the eyes of the blind, or heal
the lepers, but it was all in vain. The absence of faith, however much of performance may be seen, restrains
the exercise of God’s power, paralyzes the arm of Christ, and turns to death all signs of life. Unbelief is the one
thing which seriously hinders Almighty God in doing mighty works. Matthew’s record of this visit to Nazareth
says, “And he did not any mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Lack of faith ties the hands of
Almighty God in His working among the children of men. Prayer to Christ must always be based, backed and
impregnated with faith. The miracle of miracles in the earthly career of our Lord, the raising of Lazarus from
the dead, was remarkable for its prayer accompaniment. It was really a prayer issue, something after the issue
between the prophets of Baal and Elijah. It was not a prayer for help. It was one of thanksgiving and assured
confidence. Let us read it:
“And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I know that
thou hearest me always. But because of the people that stand by, I said it, that they may believe that
thou hast sent me.”
It was a prayer mainly for the benefit of those who were present, that they might know that God was with Him
because He had answered His prayers, and that faith in God might be radiated in their hearts.
Answered prayers are sometimes the most convincing and faith-creating forces. Unanswered prayers chill the
atmosphere and freeze the soil of faith. If Christians knew how to pray so as to have answers to their prayers,
evident, immediate, and demonstrative answers from God, faith would be more widely diffused, would
become more general, would be more profound, and would be a much more mighty force in the world.
What a valuable lesson of faith and intercessory prayer does the miracle of the healing of the centurion’s
servant bring to us! The simplicity and strength of the faith of this Roman officer are remarkable, for He
believed that it was not needful for our Lord to go directly to his house in order to have his request granted,
“But speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” And our Lord puts His mark upon this man’s faith
by saying, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” This man’s prayer was the
expression of his strong faith, and such faith brought the answer promptly.
The same invaluable lesson we get from the prayer miracle of the case of the Syrophenician woman who went
to our Lord in behalf of her stricken daughter, making her daughter’s case her own, by pleading, “Lord, help
me.” Here was importunity, holding on, pressing her case, refusing to let go or to be denied. A strong case it
was of intercessory prayer and its benefits. Our Lord seemingly held her off for a while but at last yielded,
and put His seal upon her strong faith: “O woman, great is thy faith! Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” What a
lesson on praying for others and its large benefits!
Individual cases could be named, where the afflicted persons interceded for themselves, illustrations of
wonderful things wrought by our Lord in answer to the cries of those who were afflicted. As we read the
Evangelists’ record, the pages fairly glisten with records of our Lord’s miracles wrought in answer to prayer,
showing the wonderful things accomplished by the use of this divinely appointed means of grace.
If we turn back to Old Testament times, we have no lack of instances of prayer miracles. The saints of those
days were well acquainted with the power of prayer to move God to do great things. Natural laws did not stand
in the way of Almighty God when He was appealed to by His praying ones. What a marvellous record is that
of Moses as those successive plagues were visited upon Egypt in the effort to make Pharaoh let the children of
Israel go that they might serve God! As one after another of these plagues came, Pharaoh would beseech
Moses, “Entreat the Lord your God that he may take away this death.” And as the plagues themselves were
miracles, prayer removed them as quickly as they were sent by Almighty God. The same hand which sent
these destructive agencies upon Egypt was moved by the prayers of His servant Moses to remove these same
plagues. And the removal of the plagues in answer to prayer was as remarkable a display of Divine power as
was the sending of the plagues in the first instance. The removal in answer to prayer would do as much to
show God’s being and His power as would the plagues themselves. They were miracles of prayer.
All down the line in Old Testament days we see these prayer miracles. God’s praying servants had not the
least doubt that prayer would work marvellous results and bring the supernatural into the affairs of earth.
Miracles and prayer went hand in hand. They were companions. The one was the cause, the other was the
effect. The one brought the other into existence. The miracle was the proof that God heard and answered
prayer. The miracle was the Divine demonstration that God, who was in heaven, interfered in earth’s affairs,
intervened to help men, and worked supernaturally if need be to accomplish His purposes in answer to prayer.
Passing to the days of the early Church, we find the same Divine record of prayer miracles. The sad news
came to Peter that Dorcas was dead and he was wanted at Joppa. Promptly he made his way to that place. Peter
put everybody out of the room, and then he kneeled down and prayed, and with faith said, “Tabitha, arise,”
and she opened her eyes and sat up. Knee work on the part of Peter did the work. Prayer brought things to
pass and saved Dorcas for further work on earth.
Paul was on that noted journey to Rome under guard, and had been shipwrecked on an island. The chief man
of the island was Publius, and his old father was critically ill of a bloody flux. Paul laid his hands on the old
man, and prayed for him, and God came to the rescue and healed the sick man. Prayer brought the thing
desired to pass. God interfered with the laws of nature, either suspending or setting them aside for a season,
and answered the prayer of this praying servant of His. And the answer to prayer among those heathen people
convinced them that a supernatural power was at work among them. In fact so true was this that they seemed
to think a supernatural being had come among them.
Peter was put in prison by Herod after he had killed James with the sword. The young Church was greatly
concerned, but they neither lost heart nor gave themselves over to needless fretting and worrying. They had
learned before this from whence their help came. They had been schooled in the lesson of prayer. God had
intervened before in the behalf of His servants and interfered when His cause was at stake. “Prayer was made
without ceasing of the Church unto God for him.” An angel on swift wings comes to the rescue, and in a
marvellous and supernatural way releases Peter and leaves the prison doors locked. Locks and prison doors
and an unfriendly king cannot stand in the way of Almighty God when His people cry in prayer unto Him.
Miracles if need be will be wrought in their behalf to fulfill His promises and to carry forward His plans. After
this order does the Word of God illustrate and enlarge and confirm the possibilities of prayer by what may be
termed “Prayer miracles.”
How quickly to our straits follow our enlargements! God wrought a wonderful work through Samson in
enabling him with a crude instrument, the jaw bone of an ass, to slay a thousand men, giving him a great
deliverance. Shortly afterward he was abnormally thirsty, and he was unable to obtain any water. It seemed as
if he would perish with thirst. God had saved him from the hands of the Philistines. Could he not as well save
him from thirst? So Samson cried unto the Lord, and “God clave a hollow place that was in the jaw, and there
came water thereout, and when he had drunk, his spirit came again and he revived.” God could bring water
out of the jaw bone just as well as He could give victory by it to Samson. God could change that which had
been death-dealing to His enemies and make it life-giving to His servant. God can and will work a miracle in
answer to prayer in order to deliver His friends, sooner than He will work one to destroy His enemies. He
does both, however, in answer to prayer.
All natural forces are under God’s control. He did not create the world and put it under law, and then retire
from it, to work out its own destiny, irrespective of the welfare of His intelligent creatures. Natural laws are
simply God’s laws, by which He governs and regulates all things in nature. Nature is nothing but God’s
servant. God is above nature, God is not the slave of nature. This being true, God can and will suspend the
working of nature’s laws, can hold them in abeyance by His almighty hand, can for the time being set them
aside, to fulfill His higher purposes in redemption. It is no violation of nature’s laws when, in answer to
prayer, He who is above nature makes nature His servant, and causes nature to tarry out His plans and
This is the explanation of that wonderful prayer miracle of Old Testament times, when Joshua, in the strength
and power of the Lord God, commanded the sun and moon to stand still in order to give time to complete the
victory over the enemies of Israel. Why should it be thought a thing incredible that the God of nature and of
grace should interfere with His own natural laws for a short season in answer to prayer, and for the good of
His cause? Is God tied hand and foot? Has He so circumscribed Himself that He cannot operate the law of
prayer? Is the law of nature superior to the law of prayer? Not by any means. He is the God of prayer as well
as the God of nature. Both prayer and nature have God as their Maker, their Ruler and their Executor. And
prayer is God’s servant, just as nature is His servant.
The prayer force in God’s government is as strong as any other force, and all natural and other forces must
give way before the force of prayer. Sun, moon and stars are under God’s control in answer to prayer. Rain,
sunshine and drouth obey His will. “Fire and hail, snow and vapour, stormy wind fulfilling his word.” Disease
and health are governed by Him. All, all things in heaven and earth, are absolutely under the control of Him
who made heaven and earth, and who governs all things according to His own will.
Prayer still works miracles among men and brings to pass great things. It is as true now as when James wrote
his Epistle, “The fervent, effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And when the records of eternity
are read out to an assembled world, then will it appear how much prayer has wrought in this world. Little is
now seen of the fruits of prayer compared to all that it has accomplished and is accomplishing. At the
judgment day, then will God disclose the things which were brought to pass in this world through the prayers
of the saints. Many occurrences which are now taken as a matter of course will then be seen to have
happened because of the Lord’s praying ones.
The work of George Muller in Bristol, England, was a miracle of the nineteenth century. It will take the
opening of the books at the great judgment day to disclose all he wrought through prayer. His orphanage, in
which hundreds of fatherless and motherless children were cared for, to sustain which this godly man never
asked any one for money with which to pay its running expenses, is a marvel of modern times. His practice
was always to ask God for just what was needed, and the answers which came to him read like a record of
apostolic times. He prayed for everything and trusted implicitly to God to supply all his needs. And it is a
matter of record that never did he and the orphans ever lack for any good thing.
Of a holy man who has done so much for Christ and suffering humanity, it was said at the grave about him:
“He prayed up the walls of an hospital, and the hearts of the nurses. He prayed mission stations into
being, and missionaries into faith. He prayed open the hearts of the rich, and gold from the most distant
Luther is quoted as once saying: “The Christian’s trade is praying.” Certainly, for a great reason, the preacher’s
trade should be praying. We fear greatly that many preachers know nothing of this trade of praying, and
hence they never succeed at this trade. A severe apprenticeship in the trade of praying must be served in order
to become a journeyman in it. Not only is it true that there are few journeymen at work at this praying trade,
but numbers have never even been apprentices at praying. No wonder so little is accomplished by them. God
and the supernatural are left out of their programmes.
Many do not understand this trade of praying because they have never learned it, and hence do not work at it.
Many miracles ought to be worked by our praying. Why not? Is the arm of the Lord shortened that He cannot
save? Is His ear heavy that He cannot hear? Has prayer lost its power because iniquity abounds and the love
of many has grown cold? Has God changed from what He once was? To all these queries we enter an
emphatic negative. God can as easily to-day work miracles by praying as He did in the days of old. “I am the
Lord; I change not.” “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
He who works miracles by praying will first of all work the chief miracle on himself. Oh, that we might fully
understand well the Christian’s trade of praying, and follow the trade day by day and thus make to ourselves
great spiritual wealth!
XIV. WONDERS OF GOD THROUGH PRAYER
“Wisdom and Revelation distinguished by Experience and Scripture. By Experience. Take
a weak understanding (but one exceeding holy), having little knowledge of God by way
of discursive wisdom and laying this thing to that, and so knowing God: such poor soul
is oftentimes hardly able to speak wisely and he will know more of God in one prayer
than a great scholar (though also very holy) hath known of Him in all his life; God often
deals thus with the weak who are very holy; for if such were shut up to knowing God by
way of a sanctified reason, large understandings would have infinite advantage of them
and they would grow little in grace and holiness; therefore God makes a supply by
breaking in upon their spirits by such irradiations as these.”
* Thos. Goodwin
IN the fearful contest in this world between God and the devil, between good and evil, and between heaven
and hell, prayer is the mighty force for overcoming Satan, giving dominion over sin, and defeating hell. Only
praying leaders are to be counted on in this dreadful conflict. Praying men alone are to be put to the front.
These are the only sort who are able to successfully contend with all the evil forces.
The “prayers of all saints” are a perpetual force against all the powers of darkness. These prayers are a mighty
energy in overcoming the world, the flesh and the devil and in shaping the destiny of God’s movements, to
overcome evil and get the victory over the devil and all his works. The character and energy of God’s
movements lie in prayer. Victory is to come at the end of praying.
The wonders of God’s power are to be kept alive, made real and present, and repeated only by prayer. God is
not now so evident in the world, so almighty in manifestation as of old, not because miracles have passed
away, nor because God has ceased to work, but because prayer has been shorn of its simplicity, its majesty,
and its power. God still lives, and miracles still live while God lives and acts, for miracles are God’s ways of
acting. Prayer is dwarfed, withered and petrified when faith in God is staggered by doubts of His ability, or
through the shrinking caused by fear. When faith has a telescopic, far-off vision of God, prayer works no
miracles, and brings no marvels of deliverance. But when God is seen by faith’s closest, fullest eye, prayer
makes a history of wonders.
Think about God. Make much of Him, till He broadens and fills the horizon of faith. Then prayer will come
into its marvellous inheritance of wonders. The marvels of prayer are seen when we remember that God’s
purposes are changed by prayer, God’s vengeance is stayed by prayer, and God’s penalty is remitted by prayer.
The whole range of God’s dealing with man is affected by prayer. Here is a force which must be increasingly
used, that of prayer, a force to which all the events of life ought to be subjected.
To “pray without ceasing,” to pray in everything, and to pray everywhere—these commands of continuity are
expressive of the sleepless energy of prayer, of the exhaustless possibilities of prayer, and of its exacting
necessity. Prayer can do all things. Prayer must do all things.
“Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer the sublimest strains that reach
The majesty on high.”
Prayer is asking God for something, and for something which He has promised. Prayer is using the divinely
appointed means for obtaining what we need and for accomplishing what God proposes to do on earth.
“Prayer is appointed to convey
The blessings God designs to give;
Long as they live should Christians pray,
They learn to pray when first they live.”
And prayer brings to us blessings which we need, and which only God can give, and which prayer can alone
convey to us.
In their broadest fullness, the possibilities of prayer are to be found in the very nature of prayer. This service
of prayer is not a mere rite, a ceremony through which we go, a sort of performance. Prayer is going to God
for something needed and desired. Prayer is simply asking God to do for us what He has promised us He will
do if we ask Him. The answer is a part of prayer, and is God’s part of it. God’s doing the thing asked for is as
much a part of the prayer as the asking of the thing is prayer. Asking is man’s part. Giving is God’s part. The
praying belongs to us. The answer belongs to God.
Man makes the plea and God makes the answer. The plea and the answer compose the prayer. God is more
ready, more willing and more anxious to give the answer than man is to give the asking. The possibilities of
prayer lie in the ability of man to ask large things and in the ability of God to give large things.
God’s only condition and limitation of prayer is found in the character of the one who prays. The measure of
our faith and praying is the measure of His giving. Like as our Lord said to the blind man, “According to your
faith be it unto you,” so it is the same in praying, “According to the measure of your asking, be it unto you.”
God measures the answer according to the prayer. He is limited by the law of prayer in the measure of the
answers He gives to prayer. As is the measure of prayer, so will be the answer.
If the person praying has the characteristics which warrant praying, then the possibilities are illimitable. They
are declared to be “all things whatsoever.” Here is no limitation in character or kind, in circumference or
condition. The man who prays can pray for anything and for everything, and God will give everything and
anything. If we limit God in the asking, He will be limited in the giving.
Looking ahead, God declares in His Word that the wonder of wonders will be so great in the last days that
everything animate and inanimate will be excited by His power:
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered nor come to
mind. But be ye glad and rejoice, forever, in that which I create; for behold I create Jerusalem a
rejoicing, and her people a joy.”
But these days of God’s mighty working, the days of His magnificent and wonder-creating power, will be days
of magnificent praying.
“And it shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking, I will
It has ever been so. God’s marvellous, miracle-working times have been times of marvellous, miracle-working
praying. The greatest thing in God’s worship by His own estimate is praying. Its chief service and its
distinguishing feature is prayer:
“Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt
offering and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon my altar, for my house shall be called a house of
prayer for all people.”
This was true under all the gorgeous rites and parade of ceremonies under the Jewish worship. Sacrifice,
offering and the atoning blood were all to be impregnated with prayer. The smoke of burnt offering and
perfumed incense which filled God’s house was to be but the flame of prayer, and all of God’s people were to
be anointed priests to minister at His altar of prayer. So all things were to be done with mighty prayer, because
mighty prayer was the fruitage and inspiration of mighty faith. But much more is it now true every way under
the more simple service of the Gospel.
The course of nature, the movements of the planets, and the clouds, have yielded to the influence of prayer,
and God has changed and checked the order of the sun and the seasons under the mighty energies of prayer. It
is only necessary to note the remarkable incident when Joshua, through this divine means of prayer, caused
the sun and the moon to stand still in order that a more complete victory could be given to the armies of Israel
in the contest with the armies of the Amorites.
If we believe God’s word, we are bound to believe that prayer affects God, and affects Him mightily; that
prayer avails, and that prayer avails mightily. There are wonders in prayer because there are wonders in God.
Prayer has no talismanic influence. It is no mere fetish. It has no so-called powers of magic. It is simply
making known our requests to God for things agreeable to His will in the name of Christ. It is just yielding
our requests to a Father, who knows all things, who has control of all things, and who is able to do all things.
Prayer is infinite ignorance trusting to the wisdom of God. Prayer is the voice of need crying out to Him who
is inexhaustible in resources. Prayer is helplessness reposing with childlike confidence on the word of its
Father in heaven. Prayer is but the verbal expression of the heart of perfect confidence in the infinite wisdom,
the power and the riches of Almighty God, who has placed at our command in prayer everything we need.
How all the gracious results of such gracious times are to come to the world through prayer, we are taught in
God’s Word. God’s heart seems to overflow with delight at the prospect of thus blessing His people. By the
mouth of the Prophet Joel, God thus speaks:
“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice; for the Lord will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the
field; for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig-tree and the vine
do yield their strength. Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he hath
given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain,
and the latter rain in the first month. And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow
with wine and oil. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the canker worm and the
caterpillar, and the palmer worm, my great army which I sent among you. And ye shall eat in plenty,
and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you; and
my people shall never be ashamed. And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the
Lord your God, and none else; and my people shall never be ashamed.”
What wonderful material things are these which God proposes to bestow upon His people! They are
marvellous temporal blessings He promises to bestow on them. They almost astonish the mind when they are
studied. But God does not restrict His large blessings to temporal things. Looking down the ages, He foresees
Pentecost, and makes these exceeding great and precious promises concerning the outpouring of the Holy
Spirit, these very words being quoted by Peter on that glad day of Pentecost:
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons shall
prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also upon the
servants and upon the handmaidens in those days will I pour out my Spirit. And I will show wonders in
the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness,
and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord shall come. And it shall come
to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in
Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.”
But these marvellous blessings will not be bestowed upon the people by sovereign power, nor be given
unconditionally. God’s people must do something precedent to such glorious results. Fasting and prayer must
play an important part as conditions of receiving such large blessings. By the mouth of the same prophet, God
“Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with
weeping, and with mourning; and rend your heart, and not your garments; and turn unto the Lord your
God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
Who knoweth if he will turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind him, even a meat offering, and a
drink offering, unto the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast, call a solemn
assembly. Gather the people; sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children; and
those that suck the breasts; let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare
thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them;
Wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? Then will the Lord be jealous for his
land, and pity his people. Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto his people, Behold I will send you
corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith; and I will no more make you a reproach
among the heathen.”
Prayer reaches even as far as does the presence of God go. It reaches everywhere because God is everywhere.
Let us read from Psalm 139:1:
“If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the
wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and
thy right hand shall hold me.”
This may be said as truly of prayer as it is said of the God of prayer. The mysteries of death have been
fathomed by prayer, and its victims have been brought back to life by the power of prayer, because God holds
dominion over death, and prayer reaches where God reigns. Elisha and Elijah both invaded the realms of death
by their prayers, and asserted and established the power of God as the power of prayer. Peter by prayer brings
back to life the saintly Dorcas to the early Church. Paul doubtless exercised the power of prayer as he fell
upon and embraced Eutychus who fell out of the window when Paul preached at night.
Our Lord several times explicitly declared the far-reaching possibilities and the illimitable nature of prayer as
covering “all things whatsoever.” The conditions of prayer are exalted into a personal union with Himself.
That successful praying glorified God was the condition upon which labourers of first quality and sufficient in
numbers were to be secured in order to press forward God’s work in the world. The giving of all good things
is conditioned upon asking for them. The giving of the Holy Spirit to God’s children is based upon the asking
of the children of God. God’s will on earth can only be secured by prayer. Daily bread is obtained and
sanctified by prayer. Reverence, forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from the evil one, and salvation from
temptation, are in the hands of prayer.
The first jewelled foundation Christ lays as the basic principle of His religion in the Sermon on the Mount
reads on this wise: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” As prayer follows
from the inner sense of need, and prayer is the utterance of a deep poverty-stricken spirit, so it is evident he
who is “poor in spirit” is where he can pray and where he does pray.
Prayer is a tremendous force in the world. Take this picture of prayer and its wonderful possibilities. God’s
cause is quiet and motionless on the earth. An angel, strong and impatient to be of service, waits round about
the throne of God in heaven, and in order to move things on earth and give impetus to the movements of
God’s cause in this world, he gathers all the prayers of all God’s saints in all ages, and puts them before God
just like Aaron used to cloud, flavour and sweeten himself with the delicious incense when he entered the
holy sanctuary, made awful by the immediate presence of God. The angel impregnates all the air with that
holy offering of prayers, and then takes its fiery body and casts it on the earth.
Note the remarkable result. “There were voices and thunderings and lightnings and an earthquake.” What
tremendous force is this which has thus convulsed the earth? The answer is that it is the “prayers of the
saints,” turned loose by the angel round about the throne, who has charge of those prayers. This mighty force
is prayer, like the power of earth’s mightiest dynamite.
Take another fact showing the wonders of prayer wrought by Almighty God in answer to the praying of His
true prophet. The nation of God’s people was fearfully apostate in head and heart and life. A man of God went
to the apostate king with the fearful message which meant so much to the land, “There shall not be rain nor
dew these years but according to my word.” Whence this mighty force which can stay the clouds, seal up the
rain, and hold back the dew? Who is this who speaks with such authority? Is there any force which can do
this on earth? Only one, and that force is prayer, wielded in the hands of a praying prophet of God. It is he
who has influence with God and over God in prayer, who thus dares to assume such authority over the forces
of nature. This man Elijah is skilled in the use of that tremendous force. “And Elijah prayed earnestly, and it
rained not on the earth for three years and six months.”
But this is not all the story. He who could by prayer lock up the clouds and seal up the rain, could also unlock.
the clouds and unseal the rain by the same mighty power of prayer. “And he prayed again, and the heaven
gave rain, and the earth gave forth her fruit.”
Mighty is the power of prayer. Wonderful are its fruits. Remarkable things are brought to pass by men of
prayer. Many are the wonders of prayer wrought by an Almighty hand. The evidences of prayer’s
accomplishments almost stagger us. They challenge our faith. They encourage our expectations when we
From a cursory compend like this, we get a bird’s-eye view of the large possibilities of prayer and the urgent
necessity of prayer. We see how God commits Himself into the hands of those who truly pray. Great are the
wonders of prayer because great is the God who hears and answers prayer. Great are these wonders because
great are the rich promises made by a great God to those who pray.
We have seen prayer’s far-reaching possibilities and its absolute, unquestioned necessity, and we have also
seen that the foregoing particulars and elaboration were requisite in order to bring the subject more clearly,
truly and strongly before our minds. The Church more than ever needs profound convictions of the vast
importance of prayer in prosecuting the work committed to it. More praying must be done and better praying
if the Church shall be able to perform the difficult, delicate and responsible task given to it by her Lord and
Master. Defeat awaits a non-praying Church. Success is sure to follow a Church given to much prayer. The
supernatural element in the Church, without which it must fail, comes only through praying. More time, in
this busy bustling age, must be given to prayer by a God-called Church. More thought must be given to prayer
in this thoughtless, silly age of superficial religion. More heart and soul must be in the praying that is done if
the Church would go forth in the strength of her Lord and perform the wonders which is her heritage by
“O Spirit of the Living God,
In all thy plenitude of grace,
Where’er the foot of man hath trod,
Descend on our apostate race.
“Give tongues of fire and hearts of love, To preach the reconciling word,
Give power and unction from above,
Where’er the joyful sound is heard.”
It might be in order to give an instance or two in the life of Rev. John Wesley, showing some remarkable
displays of spiritual power. Many times it is stated this noted man gathered his company together, and prayed
all night, or till the mighty power of God came upon them. It was at a Watch Night service, at Fetter Lane,
December 31, 1738, when Charles and John Wesley, with Whitfield, sat up till after midnight singing and
praying. This is the account:
“About three o’clock in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came
mightily upon us, so that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we
had recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of His Majesty, we broke out with
one voice, ‘We praise thee, O God! We acknowledge thee to be the Lord!’”
On another occasion, Mr. Wesley gives us this account:
“After midnight, about a hundred of us walked home together, singing, rejoicing and praising God.”
Often does this godly man make the record to this effect, “We continued in ministering the Word and in
prayer and praise till morning.”
One of his all-night wrestlings in prayer alone with God is said to have greatly affected a Catholic priest, who
was really awakened by the occurrence to a realization of his spiritual condition.
As often as God manifested His power in Scriptural times in working wonders through prayer, He has not left
Himself without witness in modern times. Prayer brings the Holy Spirit upon men to-day in answer to
importunate, continued prayer just as it did before Pentecost. The wonders of prayer have not ceased.
XV. PRAYER AND DIVINE PROVIDENCE
“Again a poor soul is tempted to doubt the being of a God; arguments by way of reason
and wisdom may convince him he may get a little light from them; but sometimes God
will come into his soul with an immediate beam and scatter all his doubts, more than a
thousand arguments can do; the way of wisdom thus of knowing there is a God, that
unties the knot; but the other cuts it in pieces presently; so it is in all temptations else a
man goes the way of wisdom and sanctified reason, and looks into his own heart and
there sees the work of grace and argues from all God’s dealings with him; yet all these
satisfy not a man: but God comes with a light in his spirit and all his bolts and shackles
are knocked off in a moment; here we see the way of Wisdom and the way of Revelation.”
* Thos. Goodwin
PRAYER and the Divine providence are closely related. They stand in close companionship. They cannot
possibly be separated. So closely connected are they that to deny one is to abolish the other. Prayer supposes
a providence, while providence is the result of and belongs to prayer. All answers to prayer are but the
intervention of the providence of God in the affairs of men. Providence has to do specially with praying
people. Prayer, providence and the Holy Spirit are a trinity, which cooperate with each other and are in perfect
harmony with one another. Prayer is but the request of man for God through the Holy Spirit to interfere in
behalf of him who prays.
What is termed providence is the Divine superintendence over earth and its affairs. It implies gracious
provisions which Almighty God makes for all His creatures, animate and inanimate, intelligent or otherwise.
Once admit that God is the Creator and Preserver of all men, and concede that He is wise and intelligent, and
logically we are driven to the conclusion that Almighty God has a direct superintendence of those whom He
has created and whom He preserves in being. In fact creation and preservation suppose a superintending
providence. What is called Divine providence is simply Almighty God governing the world for its best
interests, and overseeing everything for the good of mankind.
Men talk about a “general providence” as separate from a “special providence.” There is no general providence
but what is made up of special providences. A general supervision on the part of God supposes a special and
individual supervision of each person, yea, even every creature, animal and all alike.
God is everywhere, watching, superintending, overseeing, governing everything in the highest interest of
man, and carrying forward His plans and executing His purposes in creation and redemption. He is not an
absentee God. He did not make the world with all that is in it, and turn it over to so-called natural laws, and
then retire into the secret places of the universe having no regard for it or for the working of His laws. His
hand is on the throttle. The work is not beyond His control. Earth’s inhabitants and its affairs are not running
independent of Almighty God.
Any and all providences are special providences, and prayer and this sort of providences work hand in hand.
God’s hand is in everything. None are beyond Him nor beneath His notice. Not that God orders everything
which comes to pass. Man is still a free agent, but the wisdom of Almighty God comes out when we remember
that while man is free, and the devil is abroad in the land, God can superintend and overrule earth’s affairs for
the good of man and for His glory, and cause even the wrath of man to praise Him.
Nothing occurs by accident under the superintendence of an all-wise and perfectly just God. Nothing happens
by chance in God’s moral or natural government. God is a God of order, a God of law, but none the less a
superintendent in the interest of His intelligent and redeemed creatures. Nothing can take place without the
knowledge of God.
“His all surrounding sight surveys
Our rising and our rest;
Our public walks, our private ways,
The secrets of our breasts.”
Jesus Christ sets this matter at rest when He says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them
shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not,
therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
God cannot be ruled out of the world. The doctrine of prayer brings Him directly into the world, and moves
Him to a direct interference with all of this world’s affairs.
To rule Almighty God out of the providences of life is to strike a direct blow at prayer and its efficacy.
Nothing takes place in the world without God’s consent, yet not in a sense that He either approves everything
or is responsible for all things which happen. God is not the author of sin.
The question is sometimes asked, “Is God in everything?” as if there are some things which are outside of the
government of God, beyond His attention, with which He is not concerned. If God is not in everything, what
is the Christian doing praying according to Paul’s directions to the Philippians?
“Be careful for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your
requests be made known unto God.”
Are we to pray for some things and about things with which God has nothing to do? According to the doctrine
that God is not in everything, then we are outside the realm of God when “in everything we make our
requests unto God.”
Then what will we do with that large promise so comforting to all of God’s saints in all ages and in all climes,
a promise which belongs to prayer and which is embraced in a special providence: “And we know that all
things work together for good to them that love God”?
If God is not in everything, then what are the things we are to expect from the “all things” which “work
together for good to them that love God”? And if God is not in everything in His providence what are the
things which are to be left out of our praying? We can lay it down as a proposition, borne out by Scripture,
which has a sure foundation, that nothing ever comes into the life of God’s saints without His consent. God is
always there when it occurs. He is not far away. He whose eye is on the sparrow is also upon His saints. His
presence which fills immensity is always where His saints are. “Certainly I will be with thee,” is the word of
God to every child of His.
“The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him and delivereth them.” And nothing
can touch those who fear God only with the permission of the angel of the Lord. Nothing can break
through the encampment without the permission of the captain of the Lord’s hosts. Sorrows, afflictions,
want, trouble, or even death, cannot enter this Divine encampment without the consent of Almighty
God, and even then it is to be used by God in His plans for the good of His saints and for carrying out His
plans and purposes: for I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor
powers, nor things present, nor things to come, “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be
able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
These evil things, unpleasant and afflictive, may come with Divine permission, but God is on the spot, His
hand is in all of them, and He sees to it that they are woven into His plans. He causes them to be overruled for
the good of His people, and eternal good is brought out of them. These things, with hundreds of others, belong
to the disciplinary processes of Almighty God in administering His government for the children of men.
The providence of God reaches as far as the realm of prayer. It has to do with everything for which we pray.
Nothing is too small for the eye of God, nothing too insignificant for His notice and His care. God’s
providence has to do with even the stumbling of the feet of His saints:
“For he shall give his angels charge concerning thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee
up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.”
Read again our Lord’s words about the sparrow, for He says, “Five sparrows are sold for two farthings, and not
one of them is forgotten before God.” Paul asks the pointed question, “Doth God care for oxen?” His care
reaches to the smallest things and has to do with the most insignificant matters which concern men. He who
believes in the God of providence is prepared to see His hand in all things which come to him, and can pray
Not that the saint who trusts the God of providence, and who takes all things to God in prayer, can explain the
mysteries of Divine providence, but the praying ones recognize God in everything, see Him in all that comes
to them, and are ready to say as John said to Peter at the Sea of Galilee, “It is the Lord.”
Praying saints do not presume to interpret God’s dealings with them nor undertake to explain God’s
providences, but they have learned to trust God in the dark as well as in the light, to have faith in God even
when “cares like a wild deluge come, and storms of sorrow fall.”
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” Praying saints rest themselves upon the words of Jesus to Peter,
“What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.” None but the praying ones can see God’s
hands in the providences of life. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” shall see God here in
His providences, in His Word, in His Church. These are they who do not rule God out of earth’s affairs, and
who believe God interferes with matters of earth for them.
While God’s providence is over all men, yet His supervision and administration of His government are
peculiarly in the interest of His people.
Prayer brings God’s providence into action. Prayer puts God to work in overseeing and directing earth’s affairs
for the good of men. Prayer opens the way when it is shut up or straitened.
Providence deals more especially with temporalities. It is in this realm that the providence of God shines
brightest and is most apparent. It has to do with food and raiment, with business difficulties, with strangely
interposing and saving from danger, and with helping in emergencies at very opportune and critical times.
The feeding of the Israelites during the wilderness journey is a striking illustration of the providence of God
in taking care of the temporal wants of His people. His dealings with those people show how He provided for
them in that long pilgrimage.
“Day by day the manna fell,
O to learn this lesson well!
Still by constant mercy fed,
Give me, Lord, my daily bread.
“Day by day the promise reads,
Daily strength for daily needs;
Cast foreboding fears away,
Take the manna of to-day.”
Our Lord teaches this same lesson of a providence which clothes and feeds His people, in the Sermon on the
Mount, when He says, “Take no thought what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body, what
ye shall put on.” Then He directs attention to the fact that it is God’s providence which feeds the fowls of the
air, clothes the lilies of the field, and asks if God does all this for birds and flowers, will He not care for them?
All of this teaching leads up to the need of a childlike, implicit trust in an overruling providence, which looks
after the temporal wants of the children of men. And let it be noted specially that all this teaching stands
closely connected in the utterances of our Lord with what He says about prayer, thus closely connecting a
Divine oversight with prayer and its promises. We have an impressive lesson on Divine providence in the case
of Elijah when he was sent to the brook Cherith, where God actually employed the ravens to feed His
prophet. Here was an interposition so plain that God cannot be ruled out of life’s temporalities. Before God
will allow His servant to want bread, He moves the birds of the air to do His bidding and take care of His
Nor was this all. When the brook ran dry, God sent him to a poor widow, who had just enough meal and oil
for the urgent needs of the good woman and her son. Yet she divided with him her last morsel of bread. What
was the result? The providence of God interposed, and as long as the drouth lasted, the cruse of oil never
failed nor did the meal in the barrel give out.
The Old Testament sparkles with illustrations of the provisions of Almighty God for His people, and show
clearly God’s overruling providence. In fact the Old Testament is largely the account of a providence which
dealt with a peculiar people, anticipating their every temporal want, which ministered to them when in
emergencies, and which sanctified to them their troubles. It is worth while to read that old hymn of Newton’s,
which has in it so much of the providence of God:
“Though troubles assail, and dangers affright, Though friends should all fail, and foes all unite, Yet one
thing secures me, whatever betide, The promise assures us, the Lord will provide. The birds without
barns, or storehouse are fed, From them let us learn, to trust for our bread; His saints what is fitting, shall
ne’er be denied, So long as it’s written, the Lord will provide.”
In fact many of our old hymns are filled with sentiments in song about a Divine providence, which are worth
while to be read and sung even in this day.
God is in the most afflictive and sorrowing events of life. All such events are subjects of prayer, and this is so
for the reason that everything which comes into the life of the praying one is in the providence of God, and
takes place under His superintending hand. Some would rule God out of the sad and hard things of life. They
tell us that God has nothing to do with certain events which bring such grief to us. They say that God is not in
the death of children, that they die from natural causes, and that it is but the working of natural laws.
Let us ask what are nature’s laws but the laws of God, the laws by which God rules the world? And what is
nature anyway? And who made nature? How great the need to know that God is above nature, is in control of
nature, and is in nature? We need to know that nature or natural laws are but the servants of Almighty God
who made these laws, and that He is directly in them, and they are but the Divine servants to carry out God’s
gracious designs, and are made to execute His gracious purposes. The God of providence, the God to whom
the Christians pray, and the God who interposes in behalf of the children of men for their good, is above
nature, in perfect and absolute control of all that belongs to nature. And no law of nature can crush the life
out of even a child without God giving His consent, and without such a sad event occurring directly under His
all-seeing eye, and without His being immediately present.
David believed this doctrine when he fasted and prayed for the life of his child, for why pray and fast for a
baby to be spared, if God has nothing to do with its death should it die?
Moreover, “does care for oxen,” and have a direct oversight of the sparrows which fall to the ground, and yet
have nothing to do with the going out of this world of an immortal child? Still further, the death of a child, no
matter if it should come alone as some people claim by the operation of the laws of nature, let it be kept in
mind that it is a great affliction to the parents of the child. Where do these innocent parents come in under any
such doctrine? It becomes a great sorrow to mother and father. Are they not to recognize the hand of God in
the death of the child? And is there no providence or Divine oversight in the taking away of their child to
them? David recognized the facts clearly that God had to do with keeping his child in life; that prayer might
avail in saving his child from death, and that when the child died it was because God had ordered it. Prayer
and providence in all this affair worked in harmonious cooperation, and David thoroughly understood it. No
child ever dies without the direct permission of Almighty God, and such an event takes place in His
providence for wise and beneficent ends. God works it into His plans concerning the child himself and the
parents and all concerned. Moreover, it is a subject of prayer whether the child lives or dies.
“In each event of life how clear,
Thy ruling hand I see;
Each blessing to my soul most dear,
Because conferred by Thee.”
XVI. PRAYER AND DIVINE PROVIDENCE (Continued)
“A proper idea of prayer is the pouring out of the soul before God, with the hand of faith
placed on the head of the Sacrificial Offering, imploring mercy, and presenting itself a
free-will offering of itself unto God, giving up body, soul and spirit, to be guided and
governed as may seem good to His heavenly wisdom, desiring only perfectly to love Him,
and to serve Him with all its powers, at all times, while He has a being.”
* Adam Clarke
TWO kinds of providences are seen in God’s dealings with men, direct providences and permissive
providences. God orders some things, others He permits. But when He permits an afflictive dispensation to
come into the life of His saint, even though it originate in a wicked mind, and it be the act of a sinner, yet
before it strikes His saint and touches him, it becomes God’s providence to the saint. In other words, God
consents to some things in this world, without in the least being responsible for them, or in the least excusing
him who originates them, many of them very painful and afflictive, but such events or things always become
to the saint of God the providence of God to him. So that the saint can say in each and all of these sad and
distressing experiences, “It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.” Or with the Psalmist, he may say,
“I was dumb; I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it.”
This was the explanation of all of Job’s severe afflictions. They came to him in the providence of God, even
though they had their origin in the mind of Satan, who devised them and put them into execution. God gave
Satan permission to afflict Job, to take away his property, and to rob him of his children. But Job did not
attribute these things to blind chance, nor to accident, neither did he charge them to Satanic agency, but said,
“The Lord hath given, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” He took these things
as coming from his God, whom he feared and served and trusted.
And to the same effect are Job’s words to his wife when she left God out of the question, and wickedly told
her husband, “Curse God and die.” Job replied, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What!
Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”
It is no surprise under such a view of God’s dealings with Job that it should be recorded of this man of faith,
“In all this did not Job sin with his lips,” and in another place was it said, “In all this Job sinned not, nor
charged God foolishly.” In nothing concerning God and the events of life do men talk more foolishly and even
wickedly than in ignorantly making up their judgments on the providences of God in this world. O that we
had men after the type of Job, who though afflictions and privations are severe in the extreme, yet they see the
hand of God in providence and openly recognize God in it. The sequel to all these painful experiences are but
illustrations of that familiar text of Paul, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that
love God.” Job received back more in the end than was ever taken away from him. He emerged from under
these tremendous troubles with victory, and became till this day the exponent and example of great patience
and strong faith in God’s providences. “Ye have heard of the patience of Job,” rings down the line of Divine
revelation. God took hold of the evil acts of Satan, and worked them into His plans and brought great good
out of them. He made evil work out for good without in the least endorsing the evil or conniving at it.
We have the same gracious truth of Divine providence evidenced in the story of Joseph and his brethren, who
sold him wickedly into Egypt and forsook him and deceived their old father. All this had its origin in their evil
minds. And yet when it reached God’s plans and purposes, it became God’s providence both to Joseph and to
the future of Jacob’s descendants. Hear Joseph as he spoke to his brethren after he had discovered himself to
them down in Egypt, -- in which he traces all the painful events back to the mind of God and made them have
to do with fulfilling God’s purposes concerning Jacob and his posterity:
“Now therefore be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither; for God did send me
before you to preserve life. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity on the earth, and to
save your lives by a great deliverance. So that it was not you that sent me hither, but God.”
Cowper’s well-known hymn might well be read in this connection, one verse of which is sufficient just now:
“God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.”
The very same line of argument appears in the betrayal of our Lord by Judas. Of course it was the wicked act
of an evil man, but it never touched our Lord till the Father gave His consent, and God took the evil design of
Judas and worked it into His own plans for the redemption of the world. It did not excuse Judas in the least
that good came out of his wicked act, but it does magnify the wisdom and greatness of God in so overruling it
as that man’s redemption was secured. It is so always in God’s dealings with man. Things which come to us
from second causes are no surprise to God, nor are they beyond His control. His hand can take hold of them in
answer to prayer and lie can make afflictions, from whatever quarter they may come, “work for us a more
exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
The providence of God goes before His saints, opens the way, removes difficulties, solves problems and
brings deliverances when escape seems hopeless. God brought Israel out of Egypt by the hand of Moses, His
chosen leader of that people. They came to the Red Sea. But there were the waters in front, with no crossing
nor bridges. On one side were high mountains, and behind came the hosts of Pharaoh. Every avenue of escape
was closed. There seemed no hope. Despair almost reigned. But there was one way open which men
overlooked, and that was the upward way. A man of prayer, Moses, the man of faith in God, was on the
ground. This man of prayer, who recognized God in providence, with commanding force, spoke to the people
on this wise: “Fear ye not; stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”
With this he lifted up his rod, and according to Divine command, he stretched his hand over the sea. The
waters divided, and the command issued forth, “Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.” And
Israel went over the sea dry shod. God had opened a way, and what seemed an impossible emergency was
remarkably turned into a wonderful deliverance. Nor is this the only time that God has interposed in behalf of
His people when their way was shut up.
The whole history of the Jews is the story of God’s providence. The Old Testament cannot be accepted as true
without receiving the doctrine of a Divine, overruling providence. The Bible is preeminently a Divine
revelation. It reveals things. It discovers, uncovers, brings to light things concerning God, His character and
His manner of governing this world, and its inhabitants, not discoverable by human reason, by science or by
philosophy. The Bible is a book in which God reveals Himself to men. And this is particularly true when we
consider God’s care of His creatures and His oversight of the world, His superintendence of its affairs. And to
dispute the doctrine of providence is to discredit the entire revelation of God’s Word. Everywhere this Word
discovers God’s hand in man’s affairs.
The Old Testament especially, but also the New Testament, is the story of prayer and providence. It is the tale
of God’s dealings with men of prayer, men of faith in His direct interference in earth’s affairs, and with God’s
manner of superintending the world in the interest of His people and in carrying forward His work in His plans
and purposes in creation and redemption.
Praying men and God’s providence go together. This was thoroughly understood by the praying ones of the
Scripture. They prayed over everything because God had to do with everything. They took all things to God in
prayer because they believed in a Divine providence which had to do with all things. They believed in an ever
present God, who had not retired into the secret recesses of space, leaving His saints and His creatures to the
mercy of a tyrant, called nature, and its laws, blind, unyielding, with no regard for any one who stood in its
way. If that be the correct conception of God, why pray to Him? He is too far away to hear them when they
pray, and too unconcerned to trouble Himself about those on earth.
These men of prayer had an implicit faith in a God of special providence, who would gladly, promptly and
readily respond to their cries for help in times of need and in seasons of distress.
The so-called “laws of nature” did not trouble them in the least. God was above nature, in control of nature,
while nature was but the servant of Almighty God. Nature’s laws were but His own laws, since nature was but
the offspring of the Divine hand. Laws of nature might be suspended and no evil would result. Every
intelligent person is conversant every day when he sees man overruling and overcoming the law of
gravitation, and no one is surprised or raises his hand or voice in horror at the thought of nature’s laws being
violated. God is a God of law and order, and all His laws in nature, in providence and in grace work together
in perfect accord, with no clash nor disharmony.
God suspends or overcomes the laws of disease and rain often without or independent of prayer. But quite
often He does this in answer to prayer. Prayer for rain or for dry weather is not outside the moral government
of God, nor is it asking God to violate any law which He has made, but only asking Him to give rain in His
own way, according to His own laws. So also the prayer for the rebuking of disease is not a request at war with
law either natural or otherwise, but is a prayer in accordance with law, even the law of prayer, a law set in
operation by Almighty God as the so-called natural law which governs rain or which controls disease.
The believer in the law of prayer has strong ground on which to base his plea. And the believer in a Divine
providence, the companion of prayer, stands equally on strong granite foundations, from which he need not be
shaken. These twin doctrines stand fast and will abide forever.
“In every condition, in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth;
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea,
As thy days may demand shall thy strength ever be.”