Power Through Prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                      Edward M. Bounds, Edward M. (1835-1913)

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                          www.ccel.org
                                                         Public Domain


 

                        Table of Contents

 

1 Men of Prayer Needed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

2 Our Sufficiency Is of God. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

3 The Letter Kills. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

4 Tendencies to Be Avoided. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14

5 Prayer, the Great Essential. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

6 A Praying Ministry Successful. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

7 Much Time Should Be Given to Prayer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   22

8 Examples of Praying Men. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  25

9 Begin the Day with Prayer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  28

10 Prayer and Devotion United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  30

11 An Example of Devotion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

12 Heart Preparation Necessary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36

13 Grace from the Heart Rather than the Head. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   39

14 Unction a Necessity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  41

15 Unction, the Mark of True Gospel Preaching. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

16 Much Prayer the Price of Unction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46

17 Prayer Marks Spiritual Leadership. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  49

18 Preachers Need the Prayers of the People. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52

19 Deliberation Necessary to Largest Results from Prayer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  55

20 A Praying Pulpit Begets a Praying Pew. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   58

 


 

         POWER THROUGH PRAYER

 

                                EDWARD M. BOUNDS

 

   Power through Prayer has been called "one of the truly great

   masterpieces on the theme of prayer." The term classic can

   appropriately be applied to this outstanding book.

 

   In twenty provocative and inspiring chapters, each prefaced with

   quotations from spiritual giants, Edward M. Bounds stresses the

   imperative of vital prayer in the life of a pastor. He says, ". . .

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

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

   project God's cause in this world."

 

   Recreation to a minister must be as whetting is with the mower--that

   is, to be used only so far as is necessary for his work. May a

   physician in plague-time take any more relaxation or recreation than is

   necessary for his life, when so many are expecting his help in a case

   of life and death? Will you stand by and see sinners gasping under the

   pangs of death, and say: "God doth not require me to make myself a

   drudge to save them?" Is this the voice of ministerial or Christian

   compassion or rather of sensual laziness and diabolical

   cruelty.--Richard Baxter

 

   Misemployment of time is injurious to the mind. In illness I have

   looked back with self-reproach on days spent in my study; I was wading

   through history and poetry and monthly journals, but I was in my study!

   Another man's trifling is notorious to all observers, but what am I

   doing? Nothing, perhaps, that has reference to the spiritual good of my

   congregation. Be much in retirement and prayer. Study the honor and

   glory of your Master.--Richard Cecil


 

1 Men of Prayer Needed

 

   Study universal holiness of life. Your whole usefulness depends on

   this, for your sermons last but an hour or two; your life preaches all

   the week. If Satan can only make a covetous minister a lover of praise,

   of pleasure, of good eating, he has ruined your ministry. Give yourself

   to prayer, and get your texts, your thoughts, your words from God.

   Luther spent his best three hours in prayer.--Robert Murray McCheyne

 

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

   methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the Church and secure

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

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

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

   than of anything else. Men are God's method. The Church is looking for

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

   from God whose name was John." The dispensation that heralded and

   prepared the way for Christ was bound up in that man John. "Unto us a

   child is born, unto us a son is given." The world's salvation comes out

   of that cradled Son. When Paul appeals to the personal character of the

   men who rooted the gospel in the world, he solves the mystery of their

   success. The glory and efficiency of the gospel is staked on the men

   who proclaim it. When God declares that "the eyes of the Lord run to

   and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the

   behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him," he declares the

   necessity of men and his dependence on them as a channel through which

   to exert his power upon the world. This vital, urgent truth is one that

   this age of machinery is apt to forget. The forgetting of it is as

   baneful on the work of God as would be the striking of the sun from his

   sphere. Darkness, confusion, and death would ensue.

 

   What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new

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

   can use--men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not

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

   but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men--men of prayer.

 

   An eminent historian has said that the accidents of personal character

   have more to do with the revolutions of nations than either philosophic

   historians or democratic politicians will allow. This truth has its

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

   of the followers of Christ--Christianize the world, transfigure nations

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

 

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

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

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

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

   unhindered, unwasted flow.

 

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

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

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

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

   tinctured, impregnated by what the preacher is. The treasure is in

   earthen vessels, and the taste of the vessel impregnates and may

   discolor. The man, the whole man, lies behind the sermon. Preaching is

   not the performance of an hour. It is the outflow of a life. It takes

   twenty years to make a sermon, because it takes twenty years to make

   the man. The true sermon is a thing of life. The sermon grows because

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

   sermon is holy because the man is holy. The sermon is full of the

   divine unction because the man is full of the divine unction.

 

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

   eccentricities or diverted it by selfish appropriation, but the gospel

   was put into the heart and lifeblood of the man Paul, as a personal

   trust to be executed by his Pauline traits, to be set aflame and

   empowered by the fiery energy of his fiery soul. Paul's sermons--what

   were they? Where are they? Skeletons, scattered fragments, afloat on

   the sea of inspiration! But the man Paul, greater than his sermons,

   lives forever, in full form, feature and stature, with his molding hand

   on the Church. The preaching is but a voice. The voice in silence dies,

   the text is forgotten, the sermon fades from memory; the preacher

   lives.

 

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

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

   the spiritual character of the preacher. Under the Jewish dispensation

   the high priest had inscribed in jeweled letters on a golden frontlet:

   "Holiness to the Lord." So every preacher in Christ's ministry must be

   molded into and mastered by this same holy motto. It is a crying shame

   for the Christian ministry to fall lower in holiness of character and

   holiness of aim than the Jewish priesthood. Jonathan Edwards said: "I

   went on with my eager pursuit after more holiness and conformity to

   Christ. The heaven I desired was a heaven of holiness." The gospel of

   Christ does not move by popular waves. It has no self-propagating

   power. It moves as the men who have charge of it move. The preacher

   must impersonate the gospel. Its divine, most distinctive features must

   be embodied in him. The constraining power of love must be in the

   preacher as a projecting, eccentric, an all-commanding, self-oblivious

   force. The energy of self-denial must be his being, his heart and blood

   and bones. He must go forth as a man among men, clothed with humility,

   abiding in meekness, wise as a serpent, harmless as a dove; the bonds

   of a servant with the spirit of a king, a king in high, royal, in

   dependent bearing, with the simplicity and sweetness of a child. The

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

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

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

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

   timid time servers, place seekers, if they be men pleasers or men

   fearers, if their faith has a weak hold on God or his Word, if their

   denial be broken by any phase of self or the world, they cannot take

   hold of the Church nor the world for God.

 

   The preacher's sharpest and strongest preaching should be to himself.

   His most difficult, delicate, laborious, and thorough work must be with

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

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

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

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

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

   holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for

   God--men always preaching by holy sermons in the pulpit, by holy lives

   out of it. These can mold a generation for God.

 

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

   solid mold, preachers after the heavenly type--heroic, stalwart,

   soldierly, saintly. Preaching with them meant self-denying,

   self-crucifying, serious, toilsome, martyr business. They applied

   themselves to it in a way that told on their generation, and formed in

   its womb a generation yet unborn for God. The preaching man is to be

   the praying man. Prayer is the preacher's mightiest weapon. An almighty

   force in itself, it gives life and force to all.

 

   The real sermon is made in the closet. The man--God's man--is made in

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

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

   spirit, his weightiest and sweetest messages were got when alone with

   God. Prayer makes the man; prayer makes the preacher; prayer makes the

   pastor.

 

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

   against the dependent humility of prayer. Prayer is with the pulpit too

   often only official--a performance for the routine of service. Prayer

   is not to the modern pulpit the mighty force it was in Paul's life or

   Paul's ministry. Every preacher who does not make prayer a mighty

   factor in his own life and ministry is weak as a factor in God's work

   and is powerless to project God's cause in this world.


 

2 Our Sufficiency Is of God

 

   But above all he excelled in prayer. The inwardness and weight of his

   spirit, the reverence and solemnity of his address and behavior, and

   the fewness and fullness of his words have often struck even strangers

   with admiration as they used to reach others with consolation. The most

   awful, living, reverend frame I ever felt or beheld, I must say, was

   his prayer. And truly it was a testimony. He knew and lived nearer to

   the Lord than other men, for they that know him most will see most

   reason to approach him with reverence and fear.--William Penn of George

   Fox

 

   THE sweetest graces by a slight perversion may bear the bitterest

   fruit. The sun gives life, but sunstrokes are death. Preaching is to

   give life; it may kill. The preacher holds the keys; he may lock as

   well as unlock. Preaching is God's great institution for the planting

   and maturing of spiritual life. When properly executed, its benefits

   are untold; when wrongly executed, no evil can exceed its damaging

   results. It is an easy matter to destroy the flock if the shepherd be

   unwary or the pasture be destroyed, easy to capture the citadel if the

   watchmen be asleep or the food and water be poisoned. Invested with

   such gracious prerogatives, exposed to so great evils, involving so

   many grave responsibilities, it would be a parody on the shrewdness of

   the devil and a libel on his character and reputation if he did not

   bring his master influences to adulterate the preacher and the

   preaching. In face of all this, the exclamatory interrogatory of Paul,

   "Who is sufficient for these things?" is never out of order.

 

   Paul says: "Our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able

   ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit:

   for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life." The true ministry

   is God-touched, God-enabled, and God-made. The Spirit of God is on the

   preacher in anointing power, the fruit of the Spirit is in his heart,

   the Spirit of God has vitalized the man and the word; his preaching

   gives life, gives life as the spring gives life; gives life as the

   resurrection gives life; gives ardent life as the summer gives ardent

   life; gives fruitful life as the autumn gives fruitful life. The

   life-giving preacher is a man of God, whose heart is ever athirst for

   God, whose soul is ever following hard after God, whose eye is single

   to God, and in whom by the power of God's Spirit the flesh and the

   world have been crucified and his ministry is like the generous flood

   of a life-giving river.

 

   The preaching that kills is non-spiritual preaching. The ability of the

   preaching is not from God. Lower sources than God have given to it

   energy and stimulant. The Spirit is not evident in the preacher nor his

   preaching. Many kinds of forces may be projected and stimulated by

   preaching that kills, but they are not spiritual forces. They may

   resemble spiritual forces, but are only the shadow, the counterfeit;

   life they may seem to have, but the life is magnetized. The preaching

   that kills is the letter; shapely and orderly it may be, but it is the

   letter still, the dry, husky letter, the empty, bald shell. The letter

   may have the germ of life in it, but it has no breath of spring to

   evoke it; winter seeds they are, as hard as the winter's soil, as icy

   as the winter's air, no thawing nor germinating by them. This

   letter-preaching has the truth. But even divine truth has no

   life-giving energy alone; it must be energized by the Spirit, with all

   God's forces at its back. Truth unquickened by God's Spirit deadens as

   much as, or more than, error. It may be the truth without admixture;

   but without the Spirit its shade and touch are deadly, its truth error,

   its light darkness. The letter-preaching is unctionless, neither

   mellowed nor oiled by the Spirit. There may be tears, but tears cannot

   run God's machinery; tears may be but summer's breath on a snow-covered

   iceberg, nothing but surface slush. Feelings and earnestness there may

   be, but it is the emotion of the actor and the earnestness of the

   attorney. The preacher may feel from the kindling of his own sparks, be

   eloquent over his own exegesis, earnest in delivering the product of

   his own brain; the professor may usurp the place and imitate the fire

   of the apostle; brains and nerves may serve the place and feign the

   work of God's Spirit, and by these forces the letter may glow and

   sparkle like an illumined text, but the glow and sparkle will be as

   barren of life as the field sown with pearls. The death-dealing element

   lies back of the words, back of the sermon, back of the occasion, back

   of the manner, back of the action. The great hindrance is in the

   preacher himself. He has not in himself the mighty life-creating

   forces. There may be no discount on his orthodoxy, honesty, cleanness,

   or earnestness; but somehow the man, the inner man, in its secret

   places has never broken down and surrendered to God, his inner life is

   not a great highway for the transmission of God's message, God's power.

   Somehow self and not God rules in the holy of holiest. Somewhere, all

   unconscious to himself, some spiritual nonconductor has touched his

   inner being, and the divine current has been arrested. His inner being

   has never felt its thorough spiritual bankruptcy, its utter

   powerlessness; he has never learned to cry out with an ineffable cry of

   self-despair and self-helplessness till God's power and God's fire

   comes in and fills, purifies, empowers. Self-esteem, self-ability in

   some pernicious shape has defamed and violated the temple which should

   be held sacred for God. Life-giving preaching costs the preacher

   much--death to self, crucifixion to the world, the travail of his own

   soul. Crucified preaching only can give life. Crucified preaching can

   come only from a crucified man.


 

3 The Letter Kills

 

   During this affliction I was brought to examine my life in relation to

   eternity closer than I had done when in the enjoyment of health. In

   this examination relative to the discharge of my duties toward my

   fellow creatures as a man, a Christian minister, and an officer of the

   Church, I stood approved by my own conscience; but in relation to my

   Redeemer and Saviour the result was different. My returns of gratitude

   and loving obedience bear no proportion to my obligations for

   redeeming, preserving, and supporting me through the vicissitudes of

   life from infancy to old age. The coldness of my love to Him who first

   loved me and has done so much for me overwhelmed and confused me; and

   to complete my unworthy character, I had not only neglected to improve

   the grace given to the extent of my duty and privilege, but for want of

   improvement had, while abounding in perplexing care and labor, declined

   from first zeal and love. I was confounded, humbled myself, implored

   mercy, and renewed my covenant to strive and devote myself unreservedly

   to the Lord.--Bishop McKendree

 

   THE preaching that kills may be, and often is, orthodox--dogmatically,

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

   is the clean, clear-cut teaching of God's Word, the trophies won by

   truth in its conflict with error, the levees which faith has raised

   against the desolating floods of honest or reckless misbelief or

   unbelief; but orthodoxy, clear and hard as crystal, suspicious and

   militant, may be but the letter well-shaped, well-named, and

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

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

   pray.

 

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

   be scholarly and critical in taste, may have every minutia of the

   derivation and grammar of the letter, may be able to trim the letter

   into its perfect pattern, and illume it as Plato and Cicero may be

   illumined, may study it as a lawyer studies his text-books to form his

   brief or to defend his case, and yet be like a frost, a killing frost.

   Letter-preaching may be eloquent, enameled with poetry and rhetoric,

   sprinkled with prayer spiced with sensation, illumined by genius and

   yet these be but the massive or chaste, costly mountings, the rare and

   beautiful flowers which coffin the corpse. The preaching which kills

   may be without scholarship, unmarked by any freshness of thought or

   feeling, clothed in tasteless generalities or vapid specialties, with

   style irregular, slovenly, savoring neither of closet nor of study,

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

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

 

   This letter-preaching deals with the surface and shadow of things, and

   not the things themselves. It does not penetrate the inner part. It has

   no deep insight into, no strong grasp of, the hidden life of God's

   Word. It is true to the outside, but the outside is the hull which must

   be broken and penetrated for the kernel. The letter may be dressed so

   as to attract and be fashionable, but the attraction is not toward God

   nor is the fashion for heaven. The failure is in the preacher. God has

   not made him. He has never been in the hands of God like clay in the

   hands of the potter. He has been busy about the sermon, its thought and

   finish, its drawing and impressive forces; but the deep things of God

   have never been sought, studied, fathomed, experienced by him. He has

   never stood before "the throne high and lifted up," never heard the

   seraphim song, never seen the vision nor felt the rush of that awful

   holiness, and cried out in utter abandon and despair under the sense of

   weakness and guilt, and had his life renewed, his heart touched,

   purged, inflamed by the live coal from God's altar. His ministry may

   draw people to him, to the Church, to the form and ceremony; but no

   true drawings to God, no sweet, holy, divine communion induced. The

   Church has been frescoed but not edified, pleased but not sanctified.

   Life is suppressed; a chill is on the summer air; the soil is baked.

   The city of our God becomes the city of the dead; the Church a

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

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

   holiness; peopled hell, not heaven.

 

   Preaching which kills is prayerless preaching. Without prayer the

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

   prayer is feeble in life-giving forces. The preacher who has retired

   prayer as a conspicuous and largely prevailing element in his own

   character has shorn his preaching of its distinctive life-giving power.

   Professional praying there is and will be, but professional praying

   helps the preaching to its deadly work. Professional praying chills and

   kills both preaching and praying. Much of the lax devotion and lazy,

   irreverent attitudes in congregational praying are attributable to

   professional praying in the pulpit. Long, discursive, dry, and inane

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

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

   prayers they are. Every vestige of devotion has perished under their

   breath. The deader they are the longer they grow. A plea for short

   praying, live praying, real heart praying, praying by the Holy

   Spirit--direct, specific, ardent, simple, unctuous in the pulpit--is in

   order. A school to teach preachers how to pray, as God counts praying,

   would be more beneficial to true piety, true worship, and true

   preaching than all theological schools.

 

   Stop! Pause! Consider! Where are we? What are we doing? Preaching to

   kill? Praying to kill? Praying to God! the great God, the Maker of all

   worlds, the Judge of all men! What reverence! what simplicity! what

   sincerity! what truth in the inward parts is demanded! How real we must

   be! How hearty! Prayer to God the noblest exercise, the loftiest effort

   of man, the most real thing! Shall we not discard forever accursed

   preaching that kills and prayer that kills, and do the real thing, the

   mightiest thing--prayerful praying, life-creating preaching, bring the

   mightiest force to bear on heaven and earth and draw on God's

   exhaustless and open treasure for the need and beggary of man?


 

4 Tendencies to Be Avoided

 

   Let us often look at Brainerd in the woods of America pouring out his

   very soul before God for the perishing heathen without whose salvation

   nothing could make him happy. Prayer--secret fervent believing

   prayer--lies at the root of all personal godliness. A competent

   knowledge of the language where a missionary lives, a mild and winning

   temper, a heart given up to God in closet religion--these, these are

   the attainments which, more than all knowledge, or all other gifts,

   will fit us to become the instruments of God in the great work of human

   redemption.--Carrey's Brotherhood, Serampore

 

   THERE are two extreme tendencies in the ministry. The one is to shut

   itself out from intercourse with the people. The monk, the hermit were

   illustrations of this; they shut themselves out from men to be more

   with God. They failed, of course. Our being with God is of use only as

   we expend its priceless benefits on men. This age, neither with

   preacher nor with people, is much intent on God. Our hankering is not

   that way. We shut ourselves to our study, we become students,

   bookworms, Bible worms, sermon makers, noted for literature, thought,

   and sermons; but the people and God, where are they? Out of heart, out

   of mind. Preachers who are great thinkers, great students must be the

   greatest of prayers, or else they will be the greatest of backsliders,

   heartless professionals, rationalistic, less than the least of

   preachers in God's estimate.

 

   The other tendency is to thoroughly popularize the ministry. He is no

   longer God's man, but a man of affairs, of the people. He prays not,

   because his mission is to the people. If he can move the people, create

   an interest, a sensation in favor of religion, an interest in Church

   work--he is satisfied. His personal relation to God is no factor in his

   work. Prayer has little or no place in his plans. The disaster and ruin

   of such a ministry cannot be computed by earthly arithmetic. What the

   preacher is in prayer to God, for himself, for his people, so is his

   power for real good to men, so is his true fruitfulness, his true

   fidelity to God, to man, for time, for eternity.

 

   It is impossible for the preacher to keep his spirit in harmony with

   the divine nature of his high calling without much prayer. That the

   preacher by dint of duty and laborious fidelity to the work and routine

   of the ministry can keep himself in trim and fitness is a serious

   mistake. Even sermon-making, incessant and taxing as an art, as a duty,

   as a work, or as a pleasure, will engross and harden, will estrange the

   heart, by neglect of prayer, from God. The scientist loses God in

   nature. The preacher may lose God in his sermon.

 

   Prayer freshens the heart of the preacher, keeps it in tune with God

   and in sympathy with the people, lifts his ministry out of the chilly

   air of a profession, fructifies routine and moves every wheel with the

   facility and power of a divine unction.

 

   Mr. Spurgeon says: "Of course the preacher is above all others

   distinguished as a man of prayer. He prays as an ordinary Christian,

   else he were a hypocrite. He prays more than ordinary Christians, else

   he were disqualified for the office he has undertaken. If you as

   ministers are not very prayerful, you are to be pitied. If you become

   lax in sacred devotion, not only will you need to be pitied but your

   people also, and the day cometh in which you shall be ashamed and

   confounded. All our libraries and studies are mere emptiness compared

   with our closets. Our seasons of fasting and prayer at the Tabernacle

   have been high days indeed; never has heaven's gate stood wider; never

   have our hearts been nearer the central Glory."

 

   The praying which makes a prayerful ministry is not a little praying

   put in as we put flavor to give it a pleasant smack, but the praying

   must be in the body, and form the blood and bones. Prayer is no petty

   duty, put into a corner; no piecemeal performance made out of the

   fragments of time which have been snatched from business and other

   engagements of life; but it means that the best of our time, the heart

   of our time and strength must be given. It does not mean the closet

   absorbed in the study or swallowed up in the activities of ministerial

   duties; but it means the closet first, the study and activities second,

   both study and activities freshened and made efficient by the closet.

   Prayer that affects one's ministry must give tone to one's life. The

   praying which gives color and bent to character is no pleasant, hurried

   pastime. It must enter as strongly into the heart and life as Christ's

   "strong crying and tears" did; must draw out the soul into an agony of

   desire as Paul's did; must be an inwrought fire and force like the

   "effectual, fervent prayer" of James; must be of that quality which,

   when put into the golden censer and incensed before God, works mighty

   spiritual throes and revolutions.

 

   Prayer is not a little habit pinned on to us while we were tied to our

   mother's apron strings; neither is it a little decent quarter of a

   minute's grace said over an hour's dinner, but it is a most serious

   work of our most serious years. It engages more of time and appetite

   than our longest dinings or richest feasts. The prayer that makes much

   of our preaching must be made much of. The character of our praying

   will determine the character of our preaching. Light praying will make

   light preaching. Prayer makes preaching strong, gives it unction, and

   makes it stick. In every ministry weighty for good, prayer has always

   been a serious business.

 

   The preacher must be preeminently a man of prayer. His heart must

   graduate in the school of prayer. In the school of prayer only can the

   heart learn to preach. No learning can make up for the failure to pray.

   No earnestness, no diligence, no study, no gifts will supply its lack.

 

   Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is

   greater still. He will never talk well and with real success to men for

   God who has not learned well how to talk to God for men. More than

   this, prayerless words in the pulpit and out of it are deadening words.


 

5 Prayer, the Great Essential

 

   You know the value of prayer: it is precious beyond all price. Never,

   never neglect it--Sir Thomas Buxton

 

   Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, the third thing necessary

   to a minister. Pray, then, my dear brother: pray, pray, pray--Edward

   Payson

 

   PRAYER, in the preacher's life, in the preacher's study, in the

   preacher's pulpit, must be a conspicuous and an all-impregnating force

   and an all-coloring ingredient. It must play no secondary part, be no

   mere coating. To him it is given to be with his Lord "all night in

   prayer." The preacher, to train himself in self-denying prayer, is

   charged to look to his Master, who, "rising up a great while before

   day, went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed."

   The preacher's study ought to be a closet, a Bethel, an altar, a

   vision, and a ladder, that every thought might ascend heavenward ere it

   went manward; that every part of the sermon might be scented by the air

   of heaven and made serious, because God was in the study.

 

   As the engine never moves until the fire is kindled, so preaching, with

   all its machinery, perfection, and polish, is at a dead standstill, as

   far as spiritual results are concerned, till prayer has kindled and

   created the steam. The texture, fineness, and strength of the sermon is

   as so much rubbish unless the mighty impulse of prayer is in it,

   through it, and behind it. The preacher must, by prayer, put God in the

   sermon. The preacher must, by prayer, move God toward the people before

   he can move the people to God by his words. The preacher must have had

   audience and ready access to God before he can have access to the

   people. An open way to God for the preacher is the surest pledge of an

   open way to the people.

 

   It is necessary to iterate and reiterate that prayer, as a mere habit,

   as a performance gone through by routine or in a professional way, is a

   dead and rotten thing. Such praying has no connection with the praying

   for which we plead. We are stressing true praying, which engages and

   sets on fire every high element of the preacher's being--prayer which

   is born of vital oneness with Christ and the fullness of the Holy

   Ghost, which springs from the deep, overflowing fountains of tender

   compassion, deathless solicitude for man's eternal good; a consuming

   zeal for the glory of God; a thorough conviction of the preacher's

   difficult and delicate work and of the imperative need of God's

   mightiest help. Praying grounded on these solemn and profound

   convictions is the only true praying. Preaching backed by such praying

   is the only preaching which sows the seeds of eternal life in human

   hearts and builds men up for heaven.

 

   It is true that there may be popular preaching, pleasant preaching,

   taking preaching, preaching of much intellectual, literary, and brainy

   force, with its measure and form of good, with little or no praying;

   but the preaching which secures God's end in preaching must be born of

   prayer from text to exordium, delivered with the energy and spirit of

   prayer, followed and made to germinate, and kept in vital force in the

   hearts of the hearers by the preacher's prayers, long after the

   occasion has past.

 

   We may excuse the spiritual poverty of our preaching in many ways, but

   the true secret will be found in the lack of urgent prayer for God's

   presence in the power of the Holy Spirit. There are preachers

   innumerable who can deliver masterful sermons after their order; but

   the effects are short-lived and do not enter as a factor at all into

   the regions of the spirit where the fearful war between God and Satan,

   heaven and hell, is being waged because they are not made powerfully

   militant and spiritually victorious by prayer.

 

   The preachers who gain mighty results for God are the men who have

   prevailed in their pleadings with God ere venturing to plead with men.

   The preachers who are the mightiest in their closets with God are the

   mightiest in their pulpits with men.

 

   Preachers are human folks, and are exposed to and often caught by the

   strong driftings of human currents. Praying is spiritual work; and

   human nature does not like taxing, spiritual work. Human nature wants

   to sail to heaven under a favoring breeze, a full, smooth sea. Prayer

   is humbling work. It abases intellect and pride, crucifies vainglory,

   and signs our spiritual bankruptcy, and all these are hard for flesh

   and blood to bear. It is easier not to pray than to bear them. So we

   come to one of the crying evils of these times, maybe of all

   times--little or no praying. Of these two evils, perhaps little praying

   is worse than no praying. Little praying is a kind of make-believe, a

   salvo for the conscience, a farce and a delusion.

 

   The little estimate we put on prayer is evident from the little time we

   give to it. The time given to prayer by the average preacher scarcely

   counts in the sum of the daily aggregate. Not infrequently the

   preacher's only praying is by his bedside in his nightdress, ready for

   bed and soon in it, with, perchance the addition of a few hasty

   snatches of prayer ere he is dressed in the morning. How feeble, vain,

   and little is such praying compared with the time and energy devoted to

   praying by holy men in and out of the Bible! How poor and mean our

   petty, childish praying is beside the habits of the true men of God in

   all ages! To men who think praying their main business and devote time

   to it according to this high estimate of its importance does God commit

   the keys of his kingdom, and by them does he work his spiritual wonders

   in this world. Great praying is the sign and seal of God's great

   leaders and the earnest of the conquering forces with which God will

   crown their labors.

 

   The preacher is commissioned to pray as well as to preach. His mission

   is incomplete if he does not do both well. The preacher may speak with

   all the eloquence of men and of angels; but unless he can pray with a

   faith which draws all heaven to his aid, his preaching will be "as

   sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal" for permanent God-honoring,

   soul-saving uses.


 

6 A Praying Ministry Successful

 

   The principal cause of my leanness and unfruitfulness is owing to an

   unaccountable backwardness to pray. I can write or read or converse or

   hear with a ready heart; but prayer is more spiritual and inward than

   any of these, and the more spiritual any duty is the more my carnal

   heart is apt to start from it. Prayer and patience and faith are never

   disappointed. I have long since learned that if ever I was to be a

   minister faith and prayer must make me one. When I can find my heart in

   frame and liberty for prayer, everything else is comparatively

   easy.--Richard Newton

 

   IT may be put down as a spiritual axiom that in every truly successful

   ministry prayer is an evident and controlling force--evident and

   controlling in the life of the preacher, evident and controlling in the

   deep spirituality of his work. A ministry may be a very thoughtful

   ministry without prayer; the preacher may secure fame and popularity

   without prayer; the whole machinery of the preacher's life and work may

   be run without the oil of prayer or with scarcely enough to grease one

   cog; but no ministry can be a spiritual one, securing holiness in the

   preacher and in his people, without prayer being made an evident and

   controlling force.

 

   The preacher that prays indeed puts God into the work. God does not

   come into the preacher's work as a matter of course or on general

   principles, but he comes by prayer and special urgency. That God will

   be found of us in the day that we seek him with the whole heart is as

   true of the preacher as of the penitent. A prayerful ministry is the

   only ministry that brings the preacher into sympathy with the people.

   Prayer as essentially unites to the human as it does to the divine. A

   prayerful ministry is the only ministry qualified for the high offices

   and responsibilities of the preacher. Colleges, learning, books,

   theology, preaching cannot make a preacher, but praying does. The

   apostles' commission to preach was a blank till filled up by the

   Pentecost which praying brought. A prayerful minister has passed beyond

   the regions of the popular, beyond the man of mere affairs, of

   secularities, of pulpit attractiveness; passed beyond the

   ecclesiastical organizer or general into a sublimer and mightier

   region, the region of the spiritual. Holiness is the product of his

   work; transfigured hearts and lives emblazon the reality of his work,

   its trueness and substantial nature. God is with him. His ministry is

   not projected on worldly or surface principles. He is deeply stored

   with and deeply schooled in the things of God. His long, deep

   communings with God about his people and the agony of his wrestling

   spirit have crowned him as a prince in the things of God. The iciness

   of the mere professional has long since melted under the intensity of

   his praying.

 

   The superficial results of many a ministry, the deadness of others, are

   to be found in the lack of praying. No ministry can succeed without

   much praying, and this praying must be fundamental, ever-abiding,

   ever-increasing. The text, the sermon, should be the result of prayer.

   The study should be bathed in prayer, all its duties so impregnated

   with prayer, its whole spirit the spirit of prayer. "I am sorry that I

   have prayed so little," was the deathbed regret of one of God's chosen

   ones, a sad and remorseful regret for a preacher. "I want a life of

   greater, deeper, truer prayer," said the late Archbishop Tait. So may

   we all say, and this may we all secure.

 

   God's true preachers have been distinguished by one great feature: they

   were men of prayer. Differing often in many things, they have always

   had a common center. They may have started from different points, and

   traveled by different roads, but they converged to one point: they were

   one in prayer. God to them was the center of attraction, and prayer was

   the path that led to God. These men prayed not occasionally, not a

   little at regular or at odd times; but they so prayed that their

   prayers entered into and shaped their characters; they so prayed as to

   affect their own lives and the lives of others; they so prayed as to

   make the history of the Church and influence the current of the times.

   They spent much time in prayer, not because they marked the shadow on

   the dial or the hands on the clock, but because it was to them so

   momentous and engaging a business that they could scarcely give over.

 

   Prayer was to them what it was to Paul, a striving with earnest effort

   of soul; what it was to Jacob, a wrestling and prevailing; what it was

   to Christ, "strong crying and tears." They "prayed always with all

   prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all

   perseverance." "The effectual, fervent prayer" has been the mightiest

   weapon of God's mightiest soldiers. The statement in regard to

   Elijah--that he "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"--comprehends all prophets and preachers who have moved their

   generation for God, and shows the instrument by which they worked their

   wonders.

7 Much Time Should Be Given to Prayer

 

   The great masters and teachers in Christian doctrine have always found

   in prayer their highest source of illumination. Not to go beyond the

   limits of the English Church, it is recorded of Bishop Andrews that he

   spent five hours daily on his knees. The greatest practical resolves

   that have enriched and beautified human life in Christian times have

   been arrived at in prayer.--Canon Liddon

 

   WHILE many private prayers, in the nature of things, must be short;

   while public prayers, as a rule, ought to be short and condensed; while

   there is ample room for and value put on ejaculatory prayer--yet in our

   private communions with God time is a feature essential to its value.

   Much time spent with God is the secret of all successful praying.

   Prayer which is felt as a mighty force is the mediate or immediate

   product of much time spent with God. Our short prayers owe their point

   and efficiency to the long ones that have preceded them. The short

   prevailing prayer cannot be prayed by one who has not prevailed with

   God in a mightier struggle of long continuance. Jacob's victory of

   faith could not have been gained without that all-night wrestling.

   God's acquaintance is not made by pop calls. God does not bestow his

   gifts on the casual or hasty comers and goers. Much with God alone is

   the secret of knowing him and of influence with him. He yields to the

   persistency of a faith that knows him. He bestows his richest gifts

   upon those who declare their desire for and appreciation of those gifts

   by the constancy as well as earnestness of their importunity. Christ,

   who in this as well as other things is our Example, spent many whole

   nights in prayer. His custom was to pray much. He had his habitual

   place to pray. Many long seasons of praying make up his history and

   character. Paul prayed day and night. It took time from very important

   interests for Daniel to pray three times a day. David's morning, noon,

   and night praying were doubtless on many occasions very protracted.

   While we have no specific account of the time these Bible saints spent

   in prayer, yet the indications are that they consumed much time in

   prayer, and on some occasions long seasons of praying was their custom.

 

   We would not have any think that the value of their prayers is to be

   measured by the clock, but our purpose is to impress on our minds the

   necessity of being much alone with God; and that if this feature has

   not been produced by our faith, then our faith is of a feeble and

   surface type.

 

   The men who have most fully illustrated Christ in their character, and

   have most powerfully affected the world for him, have been men who

   spent so much time with God as to make it a notable feature of their

   lives. Charles Simeon devoted the hours from four till eight in the

   morning to God. Mr. Wesley spent two hours daily in prayer. He began at

   four in the morning. Of him, one who knew him well wrote: "He thought

   prayer to be more his business than anything else, and I have seen him

   come out of his closet with a serenity of face next to shining." John

   Fletcher stained the walls of his room by the breath of his prayers.

   Sometimes he would pray all night; always, frequently, and with great

   earnestness. His whole life was a life of prayer. "I would not rise

   from my seat," he said, "without lifting my heart to God." His greeting

   to a friend was always: "Do I meet you praying?" Luther said: "If I

   fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the

   victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on

   without spending three hours daily in prayer." He had a motto: "He that

   has prayed well has studied well."

 

   Archbishop Leighton was so much alone with God that he seemed to be in

   a perpetual meditation. "Prayer and praise were his business and his

   pleasure," says his biographer. Bishop Ken was so much with God that

   his soul was said to be God-enamored. He was with God before the clock

   struck three every morning. Bishop Asbury said: "I propose to rise at

   four o'clock as often as I can and spend two hours in prayer and

   meditation." Samuel Rutherford, the fragrance of whose piety is still

   rich, rose at three in the morning to meet God in prayer. Joseph

   Alleine arose at four o'clock for his business of praying till eight.

   If he heard other tradesmen plying their business before he was up, he

   would exclaim: "O how this shames me! Doth not my Master deserve more

   than theirs?" He who has learned this trade well draws at will, on

   sight, and with acceptance of heaven's unfailing bank.

 

   One of the holiest and among the most gifted of Scotch preachers says:

   "I ought to spend the best hours in communion with God. It is my

   noblest and most fruitful employment, and is not to be thrust into a

   corner. The morning hours, from six to eight, are the most

   uninterrupted and should be thus employed. After tea is my best hour,

   and that should be solemnly dedicated to God. I ought not to give up

   the good old habit of prayer before going to bed; but guard must be

   kept against sleep. When I awake in the night, I ought to rise and

   pray. A little time after breakfast might be given to intercession."

   This was the praying plan of Robert McCheyne. The memorable Methodist

   band in their praying shame us. "From four to five in the morning,

   private prayer; from five to six in the evening, private prayer."

 

   John Welch, the holy and wonderful Scotch preacher, thought the day ill

   spent if he did not spend eight or ten hours in prayer. He kept a plaid

   that he might wrap himself when he arose to pray at night. His wife

   would complain when she found him lying on the ground weeping. He would

   reply: "O woman, I have the souls of three thousand to answer for, and

   I know not how it is with many of them!"


 

8 Examples of Praying Men

 

   The act of praying is the very highest energy of which the human mind

   is capable; praying, that is, with the total concentration of the

   faculties. The great mass of worldly men and of learned men are

   absolutely incapable of prayer.--Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

   BISHOP WILSON says: "In H. Martyn's journal the spirit of prayer, the

   time he devoted to the duty, and his fervor in it are the first things

   which strike me."

 

   Payson wore the hard-wood boards into grooves where his knees pressed

   so often and so long. His biographer says: "His continuing instant in

   prayer, be his circumstances what they might, is the most noticeable

   fact in his history, and points out the duty of all who would rival his

   eminency. To his ardent and persevering prayers must no doubt be

   ascribed in a great measure his distinguished and almost uninterrupted

   success."

 

   The Marquis DeRenty, to whom Christ was most precious, ordered his

   servant to call him from his devotions at the end of half an hour. The

   servant at the time saw his face through an aperture. It was marked

   with such holiness that he hated to arouse him. His lips were moving,

   but he was perfectly silent. He waited until three half hours had

   passed; then he called to him, when he arose from his knees, saying

   that the half hour was so short when he was communing with Christ.

 

   Brainerd said: "I love to be alone in my cottage, where I can spend

   much time in prayer."

 

   William Bramwell is famous in Methodist annals for personal holiness

   and for his wonderful success in preaching and for the marvelous

   answers to his prayers. For hours at a time he would pray. He almost

   lived on his knees. He went over his circuits like a flame of fire. The

   fire was kindled by the time he spent in prayer. He often spent as much

   as four hours in a single season of prayer in retirement.

 

   Bishop Andrewes spent the greatest part of five hours every day in

   prayer and devotion.

 

   Sir Henry Havelock always spent the first two hours of each day alone

   with God. If the encampment was struck at 6 A.M., he would rise at

   four.

 

   Earl Cairns rose daily at six o'clock to secure an hour and a half for

   the study of the Bible and for prayer, before conducting family worship

   at a quarter to eight.

 

   Dr. Judson's success in prayer is attributable to the fact that he gave

   much time to prayer. He says on this point: "Arrange thy affairs, if

   possible, so that thou canst leisurely devote two or three hours every

   day not merely to devotional exercises but to the very act of secret

   prayer and communion with God. Endeavor seven times a day to withdraw

   from business and company and lift up thy soul to God in private

   retirement. Begin the day by rising after midnight and devoting some

   time amid the silence and darkness of the night to this sacred work.

   Let the hour of opening dawn find thee at the same work. Let the hours

   of nine, twelve, three, six, and nine at night witness the same. Be

   resolute in his cause. Make all practicable sacrifices to maintain it.

   Consider that thy time is short, and that business and company must not

   be allowed to rob thee of thy God." Impossible, say we, fanatical

   directions! Dr. Judson impressed an empire for Christ and laid the

   foundations of God's kingdom with imperishable granite in the heart of

   Burmah. He was successful, one of the few men who mightily impressed

   the world for Christ. Many men of greater gifts and genius and learning

   than he have made no such impression; their religious work is like

   footsteps in the sands, but he has engraven his work on the adamant.

   The secret of its profundity and endurance is found in the fact that he

   gave time to prayer. He kept the iron red-hot with prayer, and God's

   skill fashioned it with enduring power. No man can do a great and

   enduring work for God who is not a man of prayer, and no man can be a

   man of prayer who does not give much time to praying.

 

   Is it true that prayer is simply the compliance with habit, dull and

   mechanical? A petty performance into which we are trained till

   tameness, shortness, superficiality are its chief elements? "Is it true

   that prayer is, as is assumed, little else than the half-passive play

   of sentiment which flows languidly on through the minutes or hours of

   easy reverie?" Canon Liddon continues: "Let those who have really

   prayed give the answer. They sometimes describe prayer with the

   patriarch Jacob as a wrestling together with an Unseen Power which may

   last, not unfrequently in an earnest life, late into the night hours,

   or even to the break of day. Sometimes they refer to common

   intercession with St. Paul as a concerted struggle. They have, when

   praying, their eyes fixed on the Great Intercessor in Gethsemane, upon

   the drops of blood which fall to the ground in that agony of

   resignation and sacrifice. Importunity is of the essence of successful

   prayer. Importunity means not dreaminess but sustained work. It is

   through prayer especially that the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence

   and the violent take it by force. It was a saying of the late Bishop

   Hamilton that "No man is likely to do much good in prayer who does not

   begin by looking upon it in the light of a work to be prepared for and

   persevered in with all the earnestness which we bring to bear upon

   subjects which are in our opinion at once most interesting and most

   necessary."


 

9 Begin the Day with Prayer

 

   I ought to pray before seeing any one. Often when I sleep long, or meet

   with others early, it is eleven or twelve o'clock before I begin secret

   prayer. This is a wretched system. It is unscriptural. Christ arose

   before day and went into a solitary place. David says: "Early will I

   seek thee"; "Thou shalt early hear my voice." Family prayer loses much

   of its power and sweetness, and I can do no good to those who come to

   seek from me. The conscience feels guilty, the soul unfed, the lamp not

   trimmed. Then when in secret prayer the soul is often out of tune, I

   feel it is far better to begin with God--to see his face first, to get

   my soul near him before it is near another.--Robert Murray McCheyne

 

   THE men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on

   their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity

   and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor

   headway seeking him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our

   thoughts and efforts in the morning, he will be in the last place the

   remainder of the day.

 

   Behind this early rising and early praying is the ardent desire which

   presses us into this pursuit after God. Morning listlessness is the

   index to a listless heart. The heart which is behindhand in seeking God

   in the morning has lost its relish for God. David's heart was ardent

   after God. He hungered and thirsted after God, and so he sought God

   early, before daylight. The bed and sleep could not chain his soul in

   its eagerness after God. Christ longed for communion with God; and so,

   rising a great while before day, he would go out into the mountain to

   pray. The disciples, when fully awake and ashamed of their indulgence,

   would know where to find him. We might go through the list of men who

   have mightily impressed the world for God, and we would find them early

   after God.

 

   A desire for God which cannot break the chains of sleep is a weak thing

   and will do but little good for God after it has indulged itself fully.

   The desire for God that keeps so far behind the devil and the world at

   the beginning of the day will never catch up.

 

   It is not simply the getting up that puts men to the front and makes

   them captain generals in God's hosts, but it is the ardent desire which

   stirs and breaks all self-indulgent chains. But the getting up gives

   vent, increase, and strength to the desire. If they had lain in bed and

   indulged themselves, the desire would have been quenched. The desire

   aroused them and put them on the stretch for God, and this heeding and

   acting on the call gave their faith its grasp on God and gave to their

   hearts the sweetest and fullest revelation of God, and this strength of

   faith and fullness of revelation made them saints by eminence, and the

   halo of their sainthood has come down to us, and we have entered on the

   enjoyment of their conquests. But we take our fill in enjoyment, and

   not in productions. We build their tombs and write their epitaphs, but

   are careful not to follow their examples.

 

   We need a generation of preachers who seek God and seek him early, who

   give the freshness and dew of effort to God, and secure in return the

   freshness and fullness of his power that he may be as the dew to them,

   full of gladness and strength, through all the heat and labor of the

   day. Our laziness after God is our crying sin. The children of this

   world are far wiser than we. They are at it early and late. We do not

   seek God with ardor and diligence. No man gets God who does not follow

   hard after him, and no soul follows hard after God who is not after him

   in early morn.


 

10 Prayer and Devotion United

 

   There is a manifest want of spiritual influence on the ministry of the

   present day. I feel it in my own case and I see it in that of others. I

   am afraid there is too much of a low, managing, contriving, maneuvering

   temper of mind among us. We are laying ourselves out more than is

   expedient to meet one man's taste and another man's prejudices. The

   ministry is a grand and holy affair, and it should find in us a simple

   habit of spirit and a holy but humble indifference to all consequences.

   The leading defect in Christian ministers is want of a devotional

   habit.--Richard Cecil

 

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

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

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

   labors to make all its movements subserve his ends. Religion must do

   its best work, present its most attractive and perfect models. By every

   means, modern sainthood must be inspired by the loftiest ideals and by

   the largest possibilities through the Spirit. Paul lived on his knees,

   that the Ephesian Church might measure the heights, breadths, and

   depths of an unmeasurable saintliness, and "be filled with all the

   fullness of God." Epaphras laid himself out with the exhaustive toil

   and strenuous conflict of fervent prayer, that the Colossian Church

   might "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." Everywhere,

   everything in apostolic times was on the stretch that the people of God

   might each and "all come in the unity of the faith, and of the

   knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of

   the stature of the fullness of Christ." No premium was given to dwarfs;

   no encouragement to an old babyhood. The babies were to grow; the old,

   instead of feebleness and infirmities, were to bear fruit in old age,

   and be fat and flourishing. The divinest thing in religion is holy men

   and holy women.

 

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

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

   desire for more faith, more prayer, more zeal, more consecration--this

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

   the incarnation of this God-inflamed devotedness. God's advance has

   been stayed, his cause crippled: his name dishonored for their lack.

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

   most learned and refined), position, dignity, place, honored names,

   high ecclesiastics cannot move this chariot of our God. It is a fiery

   one, and fiery forces only can move it. The genius of a Milton fails.

   The imperial strength of a Leo fails. Brainerd's spirit can move it.

   Brainerd's spirit was on fire for God, on fire for souls. Nothing

   earthly, worldly, selfish came in to abate in the least the intensity

   of this all-impelling and all-consuming force and flame.

 

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

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

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

   real prayer without devotion, no devotion without prayer. The preacher

   must be surrendered to God in the holiest devotion. He is not a

   professional man, his ministry is not a profession; it is a divine

   institution, a divine devotion. He is devoted to God. His aim,

   aspirations, ambition are for God and to God, and to such prayer is as

   essential as food is to life.

 

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

   preacher's relations to God are the insignia and credentials of his

   ministry. These must be clear, conclusive, unmistakable. No common,

   surface type of piety must be his. If he does not excel in grace, he

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

   conduct, he does not preach at all. If his piety be light, his

   preaching may be as soft and as sweet as music, as gifted as Apollo,

   yet its weight will be a feather's weight, visionary, fleeting as the

   morning cloud or the early dew. Devotion to God--there is no substitute

   for this in the preacher's character and conduct. Devotion to a Church,

   to opinions, to an organization, to orthodoxy--these are paltry,

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

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

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

   Christ, the advance of his cause, must be all in all. The preacher must

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

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

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

   success. The perpetual aim, the only ambition, the preacher can cherish

   is to have God with him.

 

   Never did the cause of God need perfect illustrations of the

   possibilities of prayer more than in this age. No age, no person, will

   be ensamples of the gospel power except the ages or persons of deep and

   earnest prayer. A prayerless age will have but scant models of divine

   power. Prayerless hearts will never rise to these Alpine heights. The

   age may be a better age than the past, but there is an infinite

   distance between the betterment of an age by the force of an advancing

   civilization and its betterment by the increase of holiness and

   Christlikeness by the energy of prayer. The Jews were much better when

   Christ came than in the ages before. It was the golden age of their

   Pharisaic religion. Their golden religious age crucified Christ. Never

   more praying, never less praying; never more sacrifices, never less

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

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

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

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

   saints.

 

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

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

   praying; the more of praying, the more of true saints.


 

11 An Example of Devotion

 

   I urge upon you communion with Christ a growing communion. There are

   curtains to be drawn aside in Christ that we never saw, and new

   foldings of love in him. I despair that I shall ever win to the far end

   of that love, there are so many plies in it. Therefore dig deep, and

   sweat and labor and take pains for him, and set by as much time in the

   day for him as you can. We will be won in the labor.--Samuel Rutherford

 

   God has now, and has had, many of these devoted, prayerful

   preachers--men in whose lives prayer has been a mighty, controlling,

   conspicuous force. The world has felt their power, God has felt and

   honored their power, God's cause has moved mightily and swiftly by

   their prayers, holiness has shone out in their characters with a divine

   effulgence.

 

   God found one of the men he was looking for in David Brainerd, whose

   work and name have gone into history. He was no ordinary man, but was

   capable of shining in any company, the peer of the wise and gifted

   ones, eminently suited to fill the most attractive pulpits and to labor

   among the most refined and the cultured, who were so anxious to secure

   him for their pastor. President Edwards bears testimony that he was "a

   young man of distingushed talents, had extraordinary knowledge of men

   and things, had rare conversational powers, excelled in his knowledge

   of theology, and was truly, for one so young, an extraordinary divine,

   and especially in all matters relating to experimental religion. I

   never knew his equal of his age and standing for clear and accurate

   notions of the nature and essence of true religion. His manner in

   prayer was almost inimitable, such as I have very rarely known equaled.

   His learning was very considerable, and he had extraordinary gifts for

   the pulpit."

 

   No sublimer story has been recorded in earthly annals than that of

   David Brainerd; no miracle attests with diviner force the truth of

   Christianity than the life and work of such a man. Alone in the savage

   wilds of America, struggling day and night with a mortal disease,

   unschooled in the care of souls, having access to the Indians for a

   large portion of time only through the bungling medium of a pagan

   interpreter, with the Word of God in his heart and in his hand, his

   soul fired with the divine flame, a place and time to pour out his soul

   to God in prayer, he fully established the worship of God and secured

   all its gracious results. The Indians were changed with a great change

   from the lowest besotments of an ignorant and debased heathenism to

   pure, devout, intelligent Christians; all vice reformed, the external

   duties of Christianity at once embraced and acted on; family prayer set

   up; the Sabbath instituted and religiously observed; the internal

   graces of religion exhibited with growing sweetness and strength. The

   solution of these results is found in David Brainerd himself, not in

   the conditions or accidents but in the man Brainerd. He was God's man,

   for God first and last and all the time. God could flow unhindered

   through him. The omnipotence of grace was neither arrested nor

   straightened by the conditions of his heart; the whole channel was

   broadened and cleaned out for God's fullest and most powerful passage,

   so that God with all his mighty forces could come down on the hopeless,

   savage wilderness, and transform it into his blooming and fruitful

   garden; for nothing is too hard for God to do if he can get the right

   kind of a man to do it with.

 

   Brainerd lived the life of holiness and prayer. His diary is full and

   monotonous with the record of his seasons of fasting, meditation, and

   retirement. The time he spent in private prayer amounted to many hours

   daily. "When I return home," he said, "and give myself to meditation,

   prayer, and fasting, my soul longs for mortification, self-denial,

   humility, and divorcement from all things of the world." "I have

   nothing to do," he said, "with earth but only to labor in it honestly

   for God. I do not desire to live one minute for anything which earth

   can afford." After this high order did he pray: "Feeling somewhat of

   the sweetness of communion with God and the constraining force of his

   love, and how admirably it captivates the soul and makes all the

   desires and affections to center in God, I set apart this day for

   secret fasting and prayer, to entreat God to direct and bless me with

   regard to the great work which I have in view of preaching the gospel,

   and that the Lord would return to me and show me the light of his

   countenance. I had little life and power in the forenoon. Near the

   middle of the afternoon God enabled me to wrestle ardently in

   intercession for my absent friends, but just at night the Lord visited

   me marvelously in prayer. I think my soul was never in such agony

   before. I felt no restraint, for the treasures of divine grace were

   opened to me. I wrestled for absent friends, for the ingathering of

   souls, for multitudes of poor souls, and for many that I thought were

   the children of God, personally, in many distant places. I was in such

   agony from sun half an hour high till near dark that I was all over wet

   with sweat, but yet it seemed to me I had done nothing. O, my dear

   Saviour did sweat blood for poor souls! I longed for more compassion

   toward them. I felt still in a sweet frame, under a sense of divine

   love and grace, and went to bed in such a frame, with my heart set on

   God." It was prayer which gave to his life and ministry their marvelous

   power.

 

   The men of mighty prayer are men of spiritual might. Prayers never die.

   Brainerd's whole life was a life of prayer. By day and by night he

   prayed. Before preaching and after preaching he prayed. Riding through

   the interminable solitudes of the forests he prayed. On his bed of

   straw he prayed. Retiring to the dense and lonely forests, he prayed.

   Hour by hour, day after day, early morn and late at night, he was

   praying and fasting, pouring out his soul, interceding, communing with

   God. He was with God mightily in prayer, and God was with him mightily,

   and by it he being dead yet speaketh and worketh, and will speak and

   work till the end comes, and among the glorious ones of that glorious

   day he will be with the first.

 

   Jonathan Edwards says of him: "His life shows the right way to success

   in the works of the ministry. He sought it as the soldier seeks victory

   in a siege or battle; or as a man that runs a race for a great prize.

   Animated with love to Christ and souls, how did he labor? Always

   fervently. Not only in word and doctrine, in public and in private, but

   in prayers by day and night, wrestling with God in secret and

   travailing in birth with unutterable groans and agonies, until Christ

   was formed in the hearts of the people to whom he was sent. Like a true

   son of Jacob, he persevered in wrestling through all the darkness of

   the night, until the breaking of the day!"


 

12 Heart Preparation Necessary

 

   For nothing reaches the heart but what is from the heart or pierces the

   conscience but what comes from a living conscience.--William Penn

 

   In the morning was more engaged in preparing the head than the heart.

   This has been frequently my error, and I have always felt the evil of

   it especially in prayer. Reform it then, O Lord! Enlarge my heart and I

   shall preach.--Robert Murray McCheyne

 

   A sermon that has more head infused into it than heart will not borne

   home with efficacy to the hearers.--Richard Cecil

 

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

   utter the truth in its fullness and freedom. The preacher is to be

   prayed for, the preacher is made by prayer. The preacher's mouth is to

   be prayed for; his mouth is to be opened and filled by prayer. A holy

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

   praying, by much praying. The Church and the world, God and heaven, owe

   much to Paul's mouth; Paul's mouth owed its power to prayer.

 

   How manifold, illimitable, valuable, and helpful prayer is to the

   preacher in so many ways, at so many points, in every way! One great

   value is, it helps his heart.

 

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

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

   into the preacher's heart.

 

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

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

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

   the good shepherd with the good shepherd's heart who will bless the

   sheep and answer the full measure of the shepherd's place.

 

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

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

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

   sermon.

 

   Volumes have been written laying down the mechanics and taste of

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

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

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

   mechanical and intellectual product. We have thereby cultivated a

   vicious taste among the people and raised the clamor for talent instead

   of grace, eloquence instead of piety, rhetoric instead of revelation,

   reputation and brilliancy instead of holiness. By it we have lost the

   true idea of preaching, lost preaching power, lost pungent conviction

   for sin, lost the rich experience and elevated Christian character,

   lost the authority over consciences and lives which always results from

   genuine preaching.

 

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

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

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

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

   knowledge but lack of holiness is our sad and telling defect--not that

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

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

   preaching. Words pregnant with divine truth find in our hearts

   nonconductors; arrested, they fall shorn and powerless.

 

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

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

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

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

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

   self-denial, tenderness, which imperatively demands separation from

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

   heartless, perfunctory, preach the gospel which demands the shepherd to

   give his life for the sheep? Can the covetous man, who counts salary

   and money, preach the gospel till he has gleaned his heart and can say

   in the spirit of Christ and Paul in the words of Wesley: "I count it

   dung and dross; I trample it under my feet; I (yet not I, but the grace

   of God in me) esteem it just as the mire of the streets, I desire it

   not, I seek it not?" God's revelation does not need the light of human

   genius, the polish and strength of human culture, the brilliancy of

   human thought, the force of human brains to adorn or enforce it; but it

   does demand the simplicity, the docility, humility, and faith of a

   child's heart.

 

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

   divine and spiritual forces which made Paul peerless among the

   apostles. It was this which gave Wesley his power and radicated his

   labors in the history of humanity. This gave to Loyola the strength to

   arrest the retreating forces of Catholicism.

 

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

   who has prayed well has studied well." We do not say that men are not

   to think and use their intellects; but he will use his intellect best

   who cultivates his heart most. We do not say that preachers should not

   be students; but we do say that their great study should be the Bible,

   and he studies the Bible best who has kept his heart with diligence. We

   do not say that the preacher should not know men, but he will be the

   greater adept in human nature who has fathomed the depths and

   intricacies of his own heart. We do say that while the channel of

   preaching is the mind, its fountain is the heart; you may broaden and

   deepen the channel, but if you do not look well to the purity and depth

   of the fountain, you will have a dry or polluted channel. We do say

   that almost any man of common intelligence has sense enough to preach

   the gospel, but very few have grace enough to do so. We do say that he

   who has struggled with his own heart and conquered it; who has taught

   it humility, faith, love, truth, mercy, sympathy, courage; who can pour

   the rich treasures of the heart thus trained, through a manly

   intellect, all surcharged with the power of the gospel on the

   consciences of his hearers--such a one will be the truest, most

   successful preacher in the esteem of his Lord.


 

13 Grace from the Heart Rather than the Head

 

   Study not to be a fine preacher. Jerichos are blown down with rams'

   horns. Look simply unto Jesus for preaching food; and what is wanted

   will be given, and what is given will be blessed, whether it be a

   barley grain or a wheaten loaf, a crust or a crumb. Your mouth will be

   a flowing stream or a fountain sealed, according as your heart is.

   Avoid all controversy in preaching, talking, or writing; preach nothing

   down but the devil, and nothing up but Jesus Christ.--Berridge

 

   THE heart is the Saviour of the world. Heads do not save. Genius,

   brains, brilliancy, strength, natural gifts do not save. The gospel

   flows through hearts. All the mightiest forces are heart forces. All

   the sweetest and loveliest graces are heart graces. Great hearts make

   great characters; great hearts make divine characters. God is love.

   There is nothing greater than love, nothing greater than God. Hearts

   make heaven; heaven is love. There is nothing higher, nothing sweeter,

   than heaven. It is the heart and not the head which makes God's great

   preachers. The heart counts much every way in religion. The heart must

   speak from the pulpit. The heart must hear in the pew. In fact, we

   serve God with our hearts. Head homage does not pass current in heaven.

 

   We believe that one of the serious and most popular errors of the

   modern pulpit is the putting of more thought than prayer, of more head

   than of heart in its sermons. Big hearts make big preachers; good

   hearts make good preachers. A theological school to enlarge and

   cultivate the heart is the golden desideratum of the gospel. The pastor

   binds his people to him and rules his people by his heart. They may

   admire his gifts, they may be proud of his ability, they may be

   affected for the time by his sermons; but the stronghold of his power

   is his heart. His scepter is love. The throne of his power is his

   heart.

 

   The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. Heads never make

   martyrs. It is the heart which surrenders the life to love and

   fidelity. It takes great courage to be a faithful pastor, but the heart

   alone can supply this courage. Gifts and genius may be brave, but it is

   the gifts and genius of the heart and not of the head.

 

   It is easier to fill the head than it is to prepare the heart. It is

   easier to make a brain sermon than a heart sermon. It was heart that

   drew the Son of God from heaven. It is heart that will draw men to

   heaven. Men of heart is what the world needs to sympathize with its

   woe, to kiss away its sorrows, to compassionate its misery, and to

   alleviate its pain. Christ was eminently the man of sorrows, because he

   was preeminently the man of heart.

 

   "Give me thy heart," is God's requisition of men. "Give me thy heart!

   is man's demand of man.

 

   A professional ministry is a heartless ministry. When salary plays a

   great part in the ministry, the heart plays little part. We may make

   preaching our business, and not put our hearts in the business. He who

   puts self to the front in his preaching puts heart to the rear. He who

   does not sow with his heart in his study will never reap a harvest for

   God. The closet is the heart's study. We will learn more about how to

   preach and what to preach there than we can learn in our libraries.

   "Jesus wept" is the shortest and biggest verse in the Bible. It is he

   who goes forth weeping (not preaching great sermons), bearing precious

   seed, who shall come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

 

   Praying gives sense, brings wisdom, broadens and strengthens the mind.

   The closet is a perfect school-teacher and schoolhouse for the

   preacher. Thought is not only brightened and clarified in prayer, but

   thought is born in prayer. We can learn more in an hour praying, when

   praying indeed, than from many hours in the study. Books are in the

   closet which can be found and read nowhere else. Revelations are made

   in the closet which are made nowhere else.


 

14 Unction a Necessity

 

   One bright benison which private prayer brings down upon the ministry

   is an indescribable and inimitable something--an unction from the Holy

   One . . . . If the anointing which we bear come not from the Lord of

   hosts, we are deceivers, since only in prayer can we obtain it. Let us

   continue instant constant fervent in supplication. Let your fleece lie

   on the thrashing floor of supplication till it is wet with the dew of

   heaven.--Charles Haddon Spurgeon

 

   ALEXANDER KNOX, a Christian philosopher of the days of Wesley, not an

   adherent but a strong personal friend of Wesley, and with much

   spiritual sympathy with the Wesleyan movement, writes: "It is strange

   and lamentable, but I verily believe the fact to be that except among

   Methodists and Methodistical clergyman, there is not much interesting

   preaching in England. The clergy, too generally have absolutely lost

   the art. There is, I conceive, in the great laws of the moral world a

   kind of secret understanding like the affinities in chemistry, between

   rightly promulgated religious truth and the deepest feelings of the

   human mind. Where the one is duly exhibited, the other will respond.

   Did not our hearts burn within us?--but to this devout feeling is

   indispensable in the speaker. Now, I am obliged to state from my own

   observation that this onction, as the French not unfitly term it, is

   beyond all comparison more likely to be found in England in a Methodist

   conventicle than in a parish Church. This, and this alone, seems really

   to be that which fills the Methodist houses and thins the Churches. I

   am, I verily think, no enthusiast; I am a most sincere and cordial

   churchman, a humble disciple of the School of Hale and Boyle, of Burnet

   and Leighton. Now I must aver that when I was in this country, two

   years ago, I did not hear a single preacher who taught me like my own

   great masters but such as are deemed Methodistical. And I now despair

   of getting an atom of heart instruction from any other quarter. The

   Methodist preachers (however I may not always approve of all their

   expressions) do most assuredly diffuse this true religion and

   undefiled. I felt real pleasure last Sunday. I can bear witness that

   the preacher did at once speak the words of truth and soberness. There

   was no eloquence--the honest man never dreamed of such a thing'but

   there was far better: a cordial communication of vitalized truth. I say

   vitalized because what he declared to others it was impossible not to

   feel he lived on himself."

 

   This unction is the art of preaching. The preacher who never had this

   unction never had the art of preaching. The preacher who has lost this

   unction has lost the art of preaching. Whatever other arts he may have

   and retain the art of sermon-making, the art of eloquence, the art of

   great, clear thinking, the art of pleasing an audience he has lost the

   divine art of preaching. This unction makes God's truth powerful and

   interesting, draws and attracts, edifies, convicts, saves.

 

   This unction vitalizes God's revealed truth, makes it living and

   life-giving. Even God's truth spoken without this unction is light,

   dead, and deadening. Though abounding in truth, though weighty with

   thought, though sparkling with rhetoric, though pointed by logic,

   though powerful by earnestness, without this divine unction it issues

   in death and not in life. Mr. Spurgeon says: "I wonder how long we

   might beat our brains before we could plainly put into word what is

   meant by preaching with unction. Yet he who preaches knows its

   presence, and he who hears soon detects its absence. Samaria, in

   famine, typifies a discourse without it. Jerusalem, with her feast of

   fat things, full of marrow, may represent a sermon enriched with it.

   Every one knows what the freshness of the morning is when orient pearls

   abound on every blade of grass, but who can describe it, much less

   produce it of itself? Such is the mystery of spiritual anointing. We

   know, but we cannot tell to others what it is. It is as easy as it is

   foolish, to counterfeit it. Unction is a thing which you cannot

   manufacture, and its counterfeits are worse than worthless. Yet it is,

   in itself, priceless, and beyond measure needful if you would edify

   believers and bring sinners to Christ."


 

15 Unction, the Mark of True Gospel Preaching

 

   Speak for eternity. Above all things, cultivate your own spirit. A word

   spoken by you when your conscience is clear and your heart full of

   God's Spirit is worth ten thousand words spoken in unbelief and sin.

   Remember that God, and not man, must have the glory. If the veil of the

   world's machinery were lifted off, how much we would find is done in

   answer to the prayers of God's children.--Robert Murray McCheyne

 

   UNCTION is that indefinable, indescribable something which an old,

   renowned Scotch preacher describes thus: "There is sometimes somewhat

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

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

   a sweet violence it pierceth into the heart and affections and comes

   immediately from the Word; but if there be any way to obtain such a

   thing, it is by the heavenly disposition of the speaker."

 

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

   "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing

   even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and

   marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." It

   is this unction which gives the words of the preacher such point,

   sharpness, and power, and which creates such friction and stir in many

   a dead congregation. The same truths have been told in the strictness

   of the letter, smooth as human oil could make them; but no signs of

   life, not a pulse throb; all as peaceful as the grave and as dead. The

   same preacher in the meanwhile receives a baptism of this unction, the

   divine inflatus is on him, the letter of the Word has been embellished

   and fired by this mysterious power, and the throbbings of life

   begin--life which receives or life which resists. The unction pervades

   and convicts the conscience and breaks the heart.

 

   This divine unction is the feature which separates and distinguishes

   true gospel preaching from all other methods of presenting the truth,

   and which creates a wide spiritual chasm between the preacher who has

   it and the one who has it not. It backs and impregns revealed truth

   with all the energy of God. Unction is simply putting God in his own

   word and on his own preachers. By mighty and great prayerfulness and by

   continual prayerfulness, it is all potential and personal to the

   preacher; it inspires and clarifies his intellect, gives insight and

   grasp and projecting power; it gives to the preacher heart power, which

   is greater than head power; and tenderness, purity, force flow from the

   heart by it. Enlargement, freedom, fullness of thought, directness and

   simplicity of utterance are the fruits of this unction.

 

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

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

   there may be a vast deal of earnestness without the least mixture of

   unction.

 

   Earnestness and unction look alike from some points of view.

   Earnestness may be readily and without detection substituted or

   mistaken for unction. It requires a spiritual eye and a spiritual taste

   to discriminate.

 

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

   at a thing with good will, pursues it with perseverance, and urges it

   with ardor; puts force in it. But all these forces do not rise higher

   than the mere human. The man is in it--the whole man, with all that he

   has of will and heart, of brain and genius, of planning and working and

   talking. He has set himself to some purpose which has mastered him, and

   he pursues to master it. There may be none of God in it. There may be

   little of God in it, because there is so much of the man in it. He may

   present pleas in advocacy of his earnest purpose which please or touch

   and move or overwhelm with conviction of their importance; and in all

   this earnestness may move along earthly ways, being propelled by human

   forces only, its altar made by earthly hands and its fire kindled by

   earthly flames. It is said of a rather famous preacher of gifts, whose

   construction of Scripture was to his fancy or purpose, that he "grew

   very eloquent over his own exegesis." So men grow exceeding earnest

   over their own plans or movements. Earnestness may be selfishness

   simulated.

 

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

   preaching. It is that which distinguishes and separates preaching from

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

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

   those who need to he refreshed. It is well described as:

 

 

   "a two-edged sword

 

   Of heavenly temper keen,

 

   And double were the wounds it made

 

 

   Wherever it glanced between.

 

   'Twas death to silt; 'twas life

 

 

   To all who mourned for sin.

 

   It kindled and it silenced strife,

 

 

   Made war and peace within."

 

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

   It is heaven's distillation in answer to prayer. It is the sweetest

   exhalation of the Holy Spirit. It impregnates, suffuses, softens,

   percolates, cuts, and soothes. It carries the Word like dynamite, like

   salt, like sugar; makes the Word a soother, an arranger, a revealer, a

   searcher; makes the hearer a culprit or a saint, makes him weep like a

   child and live like a giant; opens his heart and his purse as gently,

   yet as strongly as the spring opens the leaves. This unction is not the

   gift of genius. It is not found in the halls of learning. No eloquence

   can woo it. No industry can win it. No prelatical hands can confer it.

   It is the gift of God--the signet set to his own messengers. It is

   heaven's knighthood given to the chosen true and brave ones who have

   sought this anointed honor through many an hour of tearful, wrestling

   prayer.

 

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

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

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

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

   breaches and restore the Church to her old ways of purity and power.

   Nothing but this holy unction can do this.


 

16 Much Prayer the Price of Unction

 

   All the minister's efforts will be vanity or worse than vanity if he

   have not unction. Unction must come down from heaven and spread a savor

   and feeling and relish over his ministry; and among the other means of

   qualifying himself for his office, the Bible must hold the first place,

   and the last also must be given to the Word of God and prayer.--Richard

   Cecil

 

   IN the Christian system unction is the anointing of the Holy Ghost,

   separating unto God's work and qualifying for it. This unction is the

   one divine enablement by which the preacher accomplishes the peculiar

   and saving ends of preaching. Without this unction there are no true

   spiritual results accomplished; the results and forces in preaching do

   not rise above the results of unsanctified speech. Without unction the

   former is as potent as the pulpit.

 

   This divine unction on the preacher generates through the Word of God

   the spiritual results that flow from the gospel; and without this

   unction, these results are not secured. Many pleasant impressions may

   be made, but these all fall far below the ends of gospel preaching.

   This unction may be simulated. There are many things that look like it,

   there are many results that resemble its effects; but they are foreign

   to its results and to its nature. The fervor or softness excited by a

   pathetic or emotional sermon may look like the movements of the divine

   unction, but they have no pungent, perpetrating heart-breaking force.

   No heart-healing balm is there in these surface, sympathetic, emotional

   movements; they are not radical, neither sin-searching nor sin-curing.

 

   This divine unction is the one distinguishing feature that separates

   true gospel preaching from all other methods of presenting truth. It

   backs and interpenetrates the revealed truth with all the force of God.

   It illumines the Word and broadens and enrichens the intellect and

   empowers it to grasp and apprehend the Word. It qualifies the

   preacher's heart, and brings it to that condition of tenderness, of

   purity, of force and light that are necessary to secure the highest

   results. This unction gives to the preacher liberty and enlargement of

   thought and soul--a freedom, fullness, and directness of utterance that

   can be secured by no other process.

 

   Without this unction on the preacher the gospel has no more power to

   propagate itself than any other system of truth. This is the seal of

   its divinity. Unction in the preacher puts God in the gospel. Without

   the unction, God is absent, and the gospel is left to the low and

   unsatisfactory forces that the ingenuity, interest, or talents of men

   can devise to enforce and project its doctrines.

 

   It is in this element that the pulpit oftener fails than in any other

   element. Just at this all-important point it lapses. Learning it may

   have, brilliancy and eloquence may delight and charm, sensation or less

   offensive methods may bring the populace in crowds, mental power may

   impress and enforce truth with all its resources; but without this

   unction, each and all these will be but as the fretful assault of the

   waters on a Gibraltar. Spray and foam may cover and spangle; but the

   rocks are there still, unimpressed and unimpressible. The human heart

   can no more be swept of its hardness and sin by these human forces than

   these rocks can be swept away by the ocean's ceaseless flow.

 

   This unction is the consecration force, and its presence the continuous

   test of that consecration. It is this divine anointing on the preacher

   that secures his consecration to God and his work. Other forces and

   motives may call him to the work, but this only is consecration. A

   separation to God's work by the power of the Holy Spirit is the only

   consecration recognized by God as legitimate.

 

   The unction, the divine unction, this heavenly anointing, is what the

   pulpit needs and must have. This divine and heavenly oil put on it by

   the imposition of God's hand must soften and lubricate the whole

   man--heart, head, spirit--until it separates him with a mighty

   separation from all earthly, secular, worldly, selfish motives and

   aims, separating him to everything that is pure and Godlike.

 

   It is the presence of this unction on the preacher that creates the

   stir and friction in many a congregation. The same truths have been

   told in the strictness of the letter, but no ruffle has been seen, no

   pain or pulsation felt. All is quiet as a graveyard. Another preacher

   comes, and this mysterious influence is on him; the letter of the Word

   has been fired by the Spirit, the throes of a mighty movement are felt,

   it is the unction that pervades and stirs the conscience and breaks the

   heart. Unctionless preaching makes everything hard, dry, acrid, dead.

 

   This unction is not a memory or an era of the past only; it is a

   present, realized, conscious fact. It belongs to the experience of the

   man as well as to his preaching. It is that which transforms him into

   the image of his divine Master, as well as that by which he declares

   the truths of Christ with power. It is so much the power in the

   ministry as to make all else seem feeble and vain without it, and by

   its presence to atone for the absence of all other and feebler forces.

 

   This unction is not an inalienable gift. It is a conditional gift, and

   its presence is perpetuated and increased by the same process by which

   it was at first secured; by unceasing prayer to God, by impassioned

   desires after God, by estimating it, by seeking it with tireless ardor,

   by deeming all else loss and failure without it.

 

   How and whence comes this unction? Direct from God in answer to prayer.

   Praying hearts only are the hearts filled with this holy oil; praying

   lips only are anointed with this divine unction.

 

   Prayer, much prayer, is the price of preaching unction; prayer, much

   prayer, is the one, sole condition of keeping this unction. Without

   unceasing prayer the unction never comes to the preacher. Without

   perseverance in prayer, the unction, like the manna overkept, breeds

   worms.


 

17 Prayer Marks Spiritual Leadership

 

   Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire

   nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or

   laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom

   of heaven on earth. God does nothing but in answer to prayer.--John

   Wesley

 

   THE apostles knew the necessity and worth of prayer to their ministry.

   They knew that their high commission as apostles, instead of relieving

   them from the necessity of prayer, committed them to it by a more

   urgent need; so that they were exceedingly jealous else some other

   important work should exhaust their time and prevent their praying as

   they ought; so they appointed laymen to look after the delicate and

   engrossing duties of ministering to the poor, that they (the apostles)

   might, unhindered, "give themselves continually to prayer and to the

   ministry of the word." Prayer is put first, and their relation to

   prayer is put most strongly--"give themselves to it," making a business

   of it, surrendering themselves to praying, putting fervor, urgency,

   perseverance, and time in it.

 

   How holy, apostolic men devoted themselves to this divine work of

   prayer! "Night and day praying exceedingly," says Paul. "We will give

   ourselves continually to prayer" is the consensus of apostolic

   devotement. How these New Testament preachers laid themselves out in

   prayer for God's people! How they put God in full force into their

   Churches by their praying! These holy apostles did not vainly fancy

   that they had met their high and solemn duties by delivering faithfully

   God's word, but their preaching was made to stick and tell by the ardor

   and insistence of their praying. Apostolic praying was as taxing,

   toilsome, and imperative as apostolic preaching. They prayed mightily

   day and night to bring their people to the highest regions of faith and

   holiness. They prayed mightier still to hold them to this high

   spiritual altitude. The preacher who has never learned in the school of

   Christ the high and divine art of intercession for his people will

   never learn the art of preaching, though homiletics be poured into him

   by the ton, and though he be the most gifted genius in sermon-making

   and sermon-delivery.

 

   The prayers of apostolic, saintly leaders do much in making saints of

   those who are not apostles. If the Church leaders in after years had

   been as particular and fervent in praying for their people as the

   apostles were, the sad, dark times of worldliness and apostasy had not

   marred the history and eclipsed the glory and arrested the advance of

   the Church. Apostolic praying makes apostolic saints and keeps

   apostolic times of purity and power in the Church.

 

   What loftiness of soul, what purity and elevation of motive, what

   unselfishness, what self-sacrifice, what exhaustive toil, what ardor of

   spirit, what divine tact are requisite to be an intercessor for men!

 

   The preacher is to lay himself out in prayer for his people; not that

   they might be saved, simply, but that they be mightily saved. The

   apostles laid themselves out in prayer that their saints might be

   perfect; not that they should have a little relish for the things of

   God, but that they "might be filled with all the fullness of God." Paul

   did not rely on his apostolic preaching to secure this end, but "for

   this cause he bowed his knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

   Paul's praying carried Paul's converts farther along the highway of

   sainthood than Paul's preaching did. Epaphras did as much or more by

   prayer for the Colossian saints than by his preaching. He labored

   fervently always in prayer for them that "they might stand perfect and

   complete in all the will of God."

 

   Preachers are preeminently God's leaders. They are primarily

   responsible for the condition of the Church. They shape its character,

   give tone and direction to its life.

 

   Much every way depends on these leaders. They shape the times and the

   institutions. The Church is divine, the treasure it incases is

   heavenly, but it bears the imprint of the human. The treasure is in

   earthen vessels, and it smacks of the vessel. The Church of God makes,

   or is made by, its leaders. Whether it makes them or is made by them,

   it will be what its leaders are; spiritual if they are so, secular if

   they are, conglomerate if its leaders are. Israel's kings gave

   character to Israel's piety. A Church rarely revolts against or rises

   above the religion of its leaders. Strongly spiritual leaders; men of

   holy might, at the lead, are tokens of God's favor; disaster and

   weakness follow the wake of feeble or worldly leaders. Israel had

   fallen low when God gave children to be their princes and babes to rule

   over them. No happy state is predicted by the prophets when children

   oppress God's Israel and women rule over them. Times of spiritual

   leadership are times of great spiritual prosperity to the Church.

 

   Prayer is one of the eminent characteristics of strong spiritual

   leadership. Men of mighty prayer are men of might and mold things.

   Their power with God has the conquering tread.

 

   How can a man preach who does not get his message fresh from God in the

   closet? How can he preach without having his faith quickened, his

   vision cleared, and his heart warmed by his closeting with God? Alas,

   for the pulpit lips which are untouched by this closet flame. Dry and

   unctionless they will ever be, and truths divine will never come with

   power from such lips. As far as the real interests of religion are

   concerned, a pulpit without a closet will always be a barren thing.

 

   A preacher may preach in an official, entertaining, or learned way

   without prayer, but between this kind of preaching and sowing God's

   precious seed with holy hands and prayerful, weeping hearts there is an

   immeasurable distance.

 

   A prayerless ministry is the undertaker for all God's truth and for

   God's Church. He may have the most costly casket and the most beautiful

   flowers, but it is a funeral, notwithstanding the charmful array. A

   prayerless Christian will never learn God's truth; a prayerless

   ministry will never be able to teach God's truth. Ages of millennial

   glory have been lost by a prayerless Church. The coming of our Lord has

   been postponed indefinitely by a prayerless Church. Hell has enlarged

   herself and filled her dire caves in the presence of the dead service

   of a prayerless Church.

 

   The best, the greatest offering is an offering of prayer. If the

   preachers of the twentieth century will learn well the lesson of

   prayer, and use fully the power of prayer, the millennium will come to

   its noon ere the century closes. "Pray without ceasing" is the trumpet

   call to the preachers of the twentieth century. If the twentieth

   century will get their texts, their thoughts, their words, their

   sermons in their closets, the next century will find a new heaven and a

   new earth. The old sin-stained and sin-eclipsed heaven and earth will

   pass away under the power of a praying ministry.


 

18 Preachers Need the Prayers of the People

 

   If some Christians that have been complaining of their ministers had

   said and acted less before men and had applied themselves with all

   their might to cry to God for their ministers--had, as it were, risen

   and stormed heaven with their humble, fervent and incessant prayers for

   them--they would have been much more in the way of success.--Jonathan

   Edwards

 

   SOMEHOW the practice of praying in particular for the preacher has

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

   practice arraigned as a disparagement of the ministry, being a public

   declaration by those who do it of the inefficiency of the ministry. It

   offends the pride of learning and self-sufficiency, perhaps, and these

   ought to be offended and rebuked in a ministry that is so derelict as

   to allow them to exist.

 

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

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

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

   the preacher to pray. It is an absolute necessity that the preacher be

   prayed for. These two propositions are wedded into a union which ought

   never to know any divorce: the preacher must pray; the preacher must be

   prayed for. It will take all the praying he can do, and all the praying

   he can get done, to meet the fearful responsibilities and gain the

   largest, truest success in his great work. The true preacher, next to

   the cultivation of the spirit and fact of prayer in himself, in their

   intensest form, covets with a great covetousness the prayers of God's

   people.

 

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

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

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

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

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

   Preaching never edifies a prayerless soul. Christ knows nothing of

   prayerless Christians. The gospel cannot be projected by a prayerless

   preacher. Gifts, talents, education, eloquence, God's call, cannot

   abate the demand of prayer, but only intensify the necessity for the

   preacher to pray and to be prayed for. The more the preacher's eyes are

   opened to the nature, responsibility, and difficulties in his work, the

   more will he see, and if he be a true preacher the more will he feel,

   the necessity of prayer; not only the increasing demand to pray

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

 

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

   dint of personal force, by brain power, by culture, by personal grace,

   by God's apostolic commission, God's extraordinary call, that man was

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

   eminent example. That the true apostolic preacher must have the prayers