The Power of Prayer
In my heart tonight I feel that the greatest period in the history of The Moody Church lies ahead and not behind it. In the years to come you are going to be larger and greater than ever before You are going to see more conversions and God is going to make The Moody Church a lighthouse and an honor in all the world, even such as it has never been before, and I believe the message of my text will have something to do with bringing this about.
James 4:2, “Ye have not because ye ask not.” I do not need to say a word. The text in itself is a sermon. “Ye have not because ye ask not.” These words contain the explanation of the poverty and powerlessness of the average Christian, the average preacher, and the average church.
Why is it that many a Christian is saying, “I am not making headway in my Christian life. Why do not I grow more rapidly in the life of my Saviour Jesus Christ?” God answers in the words of the text, “Ye have not because ye ask not.”
Neglect of Prayer
Why is it that many ministers are asking, “Why do I see so little fruit from my labors, so little fruit from my preaching?” Again God answers in the words of the text—the neglect of prayer. Ye have not because he ask not.
Why is it that churches are asking why the Church of God is making such small headway against the devil and all his forces? Again God answers—neglect of prayer. Ye have not because ye ask not.
In the days of the Apostles, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, we find a story of constant victory in the Church. We find a story of perpetual progress. We read: “The Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.” Many of them had never heard the Word preached before and a number were saved, about five thousand.
Believers were added to the Lord; multitudes, both men and women. In every chapter of this Book you will find that same note of Victory. How different that record from the story of our churches today. Now if we have a revival once a year, and have fifty or one hundred accessions, we think we are doing pretty well, but in that early church they had conversions every day. Thank God we have had times like that in this Church. I do not believe there was a single day in any of the eight years while I was active Pastor that some one was not converted in or about The Moody Church, but that is not the history of the average church today. Why not like the early days of the apostles? Some one will say because of opposition. But there was opposition in those days and beyond what it is today, but the Church of Jesus Christ went right on surmounting every obstacle. They went right ahead over-coming everything.
Steadfast in Prayer
Acts 2:42, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers.” These all continued steadfastly in prayer. That is an Apostolic Church—a praying church, and every member praying. In Acts 6:4 you will get the rest of your answer. We will give ourselves, says Peter, to prayer and the ministry of the Word. The apostolic ministry had a praying ministry and a praying church. There is nothing in which the ministers and the churches of today ought to be more engaged than prayer.
We do not live in a praying age. Quite a large part of the membership of the churches of Christ do not believe in prayer. They think it does a lot of good by its reflex influence. Of those who really do believe in prayer, how small a portion of them theoretically believe in prayer. How few of them make that use of prayer that God might expect. I believe it would be perfectly safe to say there has never been a period in the history of the world such as today. We have altogether too many organizations. When things do not go right, instead of going to the source of the difficulty and going down on our faces before God, we look around to see if we cannot get some new organization.
I believe the devil stands in the Church today and looks around and says, “You may have your Y.M.C.A., you may have your Y.W.C.A., your W.C.T.U., the Y.P.S.C.E., and the B.Y.P.U. and Epworth Leagues, and your fine singers and your great choirs, and your special evangelistic services all you want, if you only leave out of them the power of God obtained by the earnest, believing, persistent prayer that will not take ‘No’ for an answer.” When the devil sees a man who meets the conditions of prevailing prayer, and when he sees the whole Church on its face before God in prayer, he trembles just as much as he ever did, for he knows his work in that community is done.
We have the same God in heaven; the same living Holy Ghost. Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouse of God’s infinite grace and power. All that God has and all that God is, is at our disposal in prayer.
In December, 1901, I traveled around the world, and saw one hundred and two thousand persons making definite decision for Jesus Christ in the months that immediately followed. Not the preaching of R.A. Torrey, nor the singing of Chas. M. Alexander, but the praying of the people in the Chicago Avenue Church—now The Moody Church.
I returned to America and met Dr. Dixon at Northfield, and he said, “Torrey, we were very much surprised at what happened in Australia and other places, but,” he said, “when I went out to Chicago and spent one month with your Church, then I knew the explanation of it—a praying church.”
Power of Prayer
There is just as much power in prayer today as there was in the older days. It was not the pastor. It was the praying people. And why, in those old days, did we never come together without being conscious of the presence of the Holy Ghost, and seeing men and women becoming convicted of sin? We never had a church social without conversions. Why was it? It was PRAYER. Ye have not because ye ask not. I would rather have a church with a poor old stick of a preacher and a praying church back of him, than a preacher like the angel Gabriel and a membership that has forgotten to pray.
Any Church can make its ministry what it ought to be. Do you know what the first sermon I preached was about, after accepting the pastorate of The Moody Church? I came to Chicago to become Superintendent of what was then called the Chicago Evangelization Society, and at my suggestion and my request, and the request of Mr. Moody, we invited Mr. MacGregor of Scotland to become pastor of the Chicago Avenue Church .The Church asked me to preach while waiting for Mr. MacGregor. A brother one day came to me and said, “I am praying that MacGregor won’t come.” They felt God was working without MacGregor. The people then asked me to be pastor. Mr. Moody said, “You take that church,” and added, “I will give you all the help you want. You just take that Church,” and I consented.
Do you know what my first sermon was about? It was on the Power of Prayer. Some of you who are now on the Executive Committee were then children. As I drew that sermon to a close I said: “How glad your new pastor would be if he knew that some of you were up late Saturday night, and that you got up early Sunday morning and prayed for the new pastor.” You took me at my word and you prayed for the new pastor, and from the very first day the power of God fell.
Let me speak of two things that prayer can do. Prayer will bring a blessing to the individual life. There is nothing else in all this world that will promote our growth in life as will prayer, except the study of the Word of God. There is no true study of the Word of God without prayer, and there is no true prayer without the study of the Word. Your growth and my growth in the likeness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, will be in exact proportion to the time and heart we put into prayer. There are a great many people who put lots of time in prayer, but they put so little heart into it.
Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. It does not say God will bless us. God has provided for every one of his children every possible spiritual blessing. It is there for him through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, and there if you will appropriate it. God’s way of appropriation is prayer.
A most remarkable passage on the power of prayer is 2 Corinthians 3:18. “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.” We reflect as a mirror the glory of the Lord. When you and I go up to the mount of prayer and stay there alone with God, we catch the rays of his glory, not so much in our face as in our character, and reflect them out upon the world.
Some people express surprise that the average Christian is so little like Jesus Christ. When I stop to think how little time the average Christian spends in secret communion with God in definite prayer, the thing that surprises me is not that we are so little like the Lord, but that we are as much like the Lord as we are.
We used to sing a hymn, “Take Time to be Holy.” It takes time to be holy. You cannot be holy in a hurry, and most of the time it takes to be holy must be spent in prayer. Payer will bring power in our work. Oh, so many people say, “I am trying to serve God in my poor, weak way.” Quit! You have no business to serve God in your poor, weak way. Your business is to serve God in a strong, mighty triumphant way. You say, “I do not have the natural ability.” Then get supernatural ability.
Do you want power to bring your own children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? You can do it. God commands us in Ephesians 6:4 to nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord. You can do it. If your child is not saved it is your fault. That may seem a harsh thing to some of you, but it is God’s truth. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Do you want power to do it? Ask for it. Do you want power to lead your Sunday school children to Christ? Ask for it.
Praying for Others
James 5:16, “The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working.” We can do more for the salvation of people by praying for them than we can in any other way. I do not mean by that if there is somebody on your heart that you are just simply to ask God to save them. To do that only would show that you were a lazy Christian. Sometimes you want to do that when you are not willing to go and speak to them, and consequently make prayer an excuse for laziness. There is no power in that kind of prayer. If you are willing that God should use you in answering your own prayer, then you can accomplish more by praying for your friends than in any other way.
We have the example of Simon Peter. The Lord tried to save him by His teaching, but Peter was full of self-confidence, and he did not listen. Luke 22:31-32. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat, but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren.”
Satan got his way. The Lord Jesus Christ let him get Simon. How the devil batted him back and forth against the edges of his sieve. All the time Satan was sifting, Jesus Christ was praying. All the devil succeeded in doing was to sift some of the chaff out of Simon. After this sifting Peter was purer wheat than he ever was before.
Prayer can leap down to the deepest depths of sin and lift men up until they are fit for a place beside the Christ on the throne.
Matthew 9:38, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth laborers into His harvest.” The way to get a preacher is to ask God for a preacher, and when you get him, pray for him and make him a man of God. Pray for the one you have until he becomes a better one.
Praying for Revival
The history of the Church has been largely a history of revivals, and humanly speaking it is the revival spirit that has kept the Church of Jesus Christ alive. Every real revival has been a product of prayer. I wish we could do away with revivals gotten up by means of machinery, and have the revival that comes down from God in answer to prayer.
What we need today in The Moody Church and throughout all Chicago, and throughout all the world, is an outpouring of the mighty convicting, converting, regenerating power of the Holy Ghost, and that just comes on way—by PRAYER.
“The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working.” Prayer can make any minister a man of power. Any Church that is willing to pay the price can have a mighty preacher. The price is not a big salary. The price is much prayer. Any minister can be made a man of power if the Church will pay the price. Pray for your preacher!
Prayer will bring blessing to the Church. It will do more to rid out heresy than all the heresy trials that ever were held. Prayer will do more to bring a revival than all the organizations that ever were devised.
Prayer a Working Force
Prayer is a working force. Prayer is something that accomplishes things. Prayer is something that brings things to pass. “Ye have not because ye ask not.” Prayer can promote our personal piety, our individual growth in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
After all, praying is the greatest thing anybody can do. Real prayer takes as much out of a man as anything else. People sometimes contrast prayer with work. We have some people who say they are praying Christians, but not working Christians. Praying is working. It is the greatest work you can do, and it takes as much out of you as any other kind of work, if you pray as you ought.
Let us pray!