THE FAMILY OF ADAM AND EVE
REMEMBER LOT’S WIFE
ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA
THE FAMILY OF REBEKAH
JOCHEBED AND AMRAM
PHILIP THE EVANGELIST’S FAMILY
I thought childhood, youth, marriage, bringing up children, old age and death was all the circle of life. I never knew that God had a plan for everyone’s life—a plan for which He created every human being.
I was a pastor’s daughter. My parents were godly people. I learnt the fear of God from them. Yet I did not know the Lord myself. It was after marriage that I knew the Lord. Although I had in all earnestness made decisions twice in the meetings of two renowned preachers, yet the regenerating light and flame of the Lord had not been kindled in me. My husband had been converted during his high school days, at the age of sixteen. Since then, he exercised himself in prayer, searching of the Scriptures and obedience, to know the Lord better. He served the Lord as well as he was able, during his high school and college days, and later as a teacher. Through the sermons he preached and his careful walk with God during his college years, many young people had come to the Lord. Among them was a young woman who met the Lord and consecrated her life to His service. Her name was Miss Jemayamma. She was being used mightily of God. Mission institutions would invite her to conduct meetings for school children. The girls used to be so convicted by her message that they would confess their sins and bring stolen things and heap them up in piles. Their lives were changed.
In 1929, when we had been married two years, the Canadian Baptist Mission, where I served as a teacher, invited this lady to hold meetings for the teachers of this school and for the Bible women. My husband threw open our home for her stay during these meetings. I was at first too busy with my teaching, taking care of my baby son and running the home, but on the persuasion of a colleague, I made time to attend a meeting. I had been considered a good Christian in my church and school. But when I attended that day’s meeting, it dawned on me that I did not really know the Lord. I was so stirred in my heart that I took to prayer until the Lord gave me a new heart.
Miss Jemayamma’s life was a great inspiration and challenge to me. She remained single to serve God. When I saw her spending hours in prayer and in communion with the Lord, I found I could not do that. My family and school responsibilities claimed so much of my time. I felt I had made a very great mistake in marrying. I thought I should have remained single like her to serve the Lord. This regret bothered me so much that I took it to the Lord. He spoke to me and said, “Build a home for me.” My mind came to rest in His words. I did not then understand the full implication of those words.
At this point in time, my eldest son was just a year old. I had three children after that. Together with my husband I tried to walk with the Lord. We made this the first goal of our life. As years went by, we wanted all four children to serve the Lord. We took it very seriously and made it a matter of earnest prayer. God gave us a promise saying He would save our children; “…I will save thy children” (Isaiah 49:25). We continued to pray for the fulfillment of this promise, and God saved our children—the eldest at the age of fifteen, the next at the age of thirteen, and the last two at the age of ten. The Lord gave us other promises also for the children. “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (Isaiah 54:13)
As time went by, Satan tried to take hold of each of my children by attacking them in many different ways, but we called on the Lord and according to His promise, He contended them that contended with us and delivered our children. The Lord gave another precious promise for our children from Isaiah 59:21—”As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.” The Lord did call all the four into His service. He gave them partners who were also keen on serving the Lord. Now all four of them, with their partners, are serving Him.
The Lord not only asked me to build a home for Him, He also enabled me to do so. Only now I understand the wisdom behind those words. I see the great significance of a family testimony. These days when families are breaking up so easily all over the world, a family testimony is proving to be a comfort and an inspiration to many. Several young couples are choosing this goal of building a home for Christ. Some are seeing success. I am happy to say that this precious victory is possible, and is God’s plan for every family.
I continue of course to watch and pray incessantly for a further extension of the promises God gave us, to encompass my grandchildren as well. “And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50)
‘Every wise woman buildeth her home; but the foolish plucketh it down with her own hands.’ Proverb 14:1
” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 9:10
‘Christ is the wisdom of God.’ 1 Corinthians 1:24
God is engaged in building the homes of those who belong to Christ. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1) ‘The pure in heart shall see God’ (Matthew 5:8). A woman who has Christ as the Lord of her heart will build her family by prayer and faith. She has to, however, first build herself into a holy temple of God where He may dwell. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
It is by no means an easy task to build a home acceptable to God where Christ can abide. To be able to do so is the foremost of all achievements on this earth. We have therefore three things to build during our lifetime:
1. Our lives in Christ,
2. A holy home to be the abode of Christ,
3. And the Kingdom of God on this earth.
The Family of Adam and Eve
God created Adam and Eve with a great purpose. He visited them constantly, unravelling His purpose as they could bear it. He instructed them as to what they should eat and what they should not. He told them that they were to have dominion over all the works of His hands. He was thus building their lives in Him. He was training them to enter into His great plans, but before their knowledge and training was complete, Eve hearkened to the voice of Satan. She was deceived by the serpent’s words. She communicated Satan’s advice to Adam.
Eve who was created to be a help meet for Adam, should have been sharing with him the words of God. But she carried to him the counsel of Satan! She ate the forbidden fruit and deliberately gave it to Adam persuading him to do the same. When God questioned them about their transgression, they should have humbly acknowledged their sin and asked for forgiveness. But they had not learnt to humble themselves. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. This was the first failure in their lives and it was a serious one. They had gone directly against the instructions of God.
Adam and Eve built their home after having disobeyed God. In process of time, they had two sons, Cain and Abel. These two were growing up. Cain was a tiller of the ground and Abel, a keeper of sheep. This family appeared to be doing well, but suddenly the collapse came. It was all in the matter of making an offering to God. Cain was moved by envy when he saw that God had respect unto his brother’s offering, while his own was rejected, and rose up against his own brother and slew him. Anger, envy and murder ravaged the first home. Cain the first-born who should have received the blessing of God, received a curse instead! It is the plan of God that the first-born should specially belong to Him, to build the Kingdom of God and be a blessing and example to the rest of the children. But Cain became a vagabond and a fugitive. The parents lost both sons at the same time. Death and sorrow entered the family. The home that Eve built was thus ruined. This was the second failure in their lives. Neither the parents nor the children could build the Kingdom of God. This family was not a blessing to anyone! It is an example of disobedience, to this day. This was the third failure in their lives.
Remember Lot’s Wife
We meet this family with two daughters engaged to be married. This home appeared to be prosperous in Sodom and Gomorrah. All seemed to be going well with them. They did not seem to lack anything. Instead of loving God with all their heart, Lot’s wife set her affection on the things of this world. She did not learn to obey the commandments of God. She did not train herself that way, neither did she teach her children to obey God. Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Lot and his wife sought sons-in-law among the young men of Sodom who had no fear of God. When the time of the visitation of the angels came they found this home totally unprepared. The angels brought the warning of God, “Flee, the judgment of God is imminent.” Obedience to the Word of God was quite new to Lot’s wife and her offspring. Lot had learnt a degree of obedience from Abraham, but he did not teach this obedience to his wife and children.
Lot sought out his sons-in-law to rescue them from the impending doom. They thought it was quite a joke. Lot had to give them up and to return to his house. He would at least try to rescue his wife and daughters. But the heart and life of the mother was bound up in the goods and possessions in her house in Sodom. The angels had to take hold of her and her daughters and pull them out to the city gate, for Abraham’s sake. God’s time of judgment was very close at hand. They breathed the warning, “Flee, and don’t look back.” But Lot’s wife had left her heart behind. Even angels could not separate her heart from the love of the world. She turned back for one last look, and perished. She was not a spiritual companion to Lot. She became a pillar of salt, and left her daughters motherless. Her home was ruined beyond repair!
Lot was not at that spiritual level where he could lift his wife, as Abraham did. He had not trained himself to do the perfect will of God. He was content to live in the permissive will of God. Asking God to adjust to his way was the manner of Lot. He could not help his own daughters spiritually. They became incestuous girls. Lot did not have the joy of a happy home with his daughters in his old age. Neither the parents nor the children built the Kingdom of God. The family of Lot was a failure altogether in all the three main duties of life.
Ananias and Sapphira
Here was a couple who had an opportunity to make their life a great success. They were given the privilege of seeing a group of disciples in live touch with God. These disciples had followed Jesus during His years of ministry on earth. They saw in Him the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. They had been taught of Him. They had learnt prayer. They had learnt the principle of oneness in prayer, and when they prayed as a group, they were of one mind and one soul. They so enjoyed the presence of God in their midst, that they continued ‘daily with one accord in prayer and supplication.’ Many signs and wonders were freely performed in their midst. They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread. Jesus had delivered them from the love of the world, so that no one considered their goods as their own. They sold their possessions and distributed to others as every man had need. They were filled with the Holy Ghost and spoke with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
This company of disciples appeared very attractive to Ananias and Sapphira. So they decided to join them. They thought it was a very easy matter. They had no foundation for a spiritual life. They had not yet brought unto God the basic offering of a broken and a contrite spirit. They had no deliverance from the love of the world. They tried to imitate the disciples in selling their property. No one asked it of them. In fact that was not the place to begin. They worked out a plan to deceive Peter by appearing to have won a great victory in giving, which in fact was far from the truth. They had faith in money, lies and deceit. They could have told Peter that they had sold their property and were able to offer only a part. But, alas, they wanted Peter to believe that what they had brought was the full price of the entire property. Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, immediately discerned the falsehood. Peter asked, “Is this all the money?” Ananias affirmed it was so! “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” said Peter. Ananias fell down dead! Three hours later, Sapphira came with the same story. She shared the same judgment as her husband. Thus this family was destroyed. Had they been humble and earnest to learn the faith of the disciples, God would have taught them step by step, and brought them into oneness with His people, but alas, they resorted to imitation and pretension. Tragically, with subtlety and deliberate deceit in their hearts, they could not build the Kingdom of God.
The Family of Rebekah
Rebekah was selected for Isaac through revelation. In answer to the prayers of Abraham and Sarah, God helped Eliezer, Abraham’s trusted servant to find Rebekah. By faith Rebekah undertook the long and hazardous journey to the land where Abraham and Isaac lived.
Being thus brought together by the clear guidance of God, this family was thus built according to the will of God. There was love between husband and wife, and it was a happy home for some time. Rebekah did not have children. Isaac prayed for her and the Lord heard his prayer and opened Rebekah’s womb. Through the blessing of God, Rebekah was expecting twins. She learnt from her husband how to pray to God. She feared some abnormality in her condition and went to enquire of the Lord as to what was going to happen. She received this answer from the Lord, ‘Two nations are in your womb. One people shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.’ Two sons, Esau and Jacob, were born according to the Word of the Lord.
The parents found the two boys to be naturally of two different temperaments. In his youth, Esau was not easy to be brought into the order and discipline of a spiritual home. He was a lover of sport, and mingled without restraint with the youth of the heathen around them. He determined to marry from among those people from whom Abraham had refused to take a bride for his son. Esau was so far away now from the way of faith that he married two wives, the daughters of Heth. The peace of the home was disturbed with the coming of the wives of Esau. They would not fit into Isaac’s home of faith. The daughters-in-law wearied the life their mother-in-law because they had no fear of God.
We do not know when exactly Rebekah backslid and lost her touch with God. As a mother she should have loved both sons equally, but she loved Jacob more. She did not have the faith to wait for the fulfilment of the Word God had spoken to her before the birth of her children. God had told her that the younger would be above the elder. But she trusted in her own deceitful methods to get the blessing for Jacob. She taught her son deceit and agreed to take the consequences on herself. But both mother and son shared the consequences! This was a grievous failure in her spiritual life. She did not maintain a close touch with God to the end of her days. The lesson of deceit which Jacob learnt from his mother stuck to him, and he practiced it for a long time in his life. Most of his sons inherited this deceit from Jacob.
After Jacob spoke lies to his father and impersonated Esau for the blessing, he incurred the bitter hatred of his brother. Nothing would pacify Esau. Jacob had to flee from home, to escape Esau’s sword! There was no joy in the home at this time. Instead of being a help to her husband in maintaining peace in the home, Rebekah was the cause of breaking it up! She was not a proper spiritual companion to him during this period of their lives. We do not know when Rebekah’s life ended, but we do know that Isaac lived on. He probably continued to pray for his sons. Twenty years later, God visited Jacob and passed on to him the blessing of Abraham. Subsequently the two brothers were reunited. They embraced each other in love. When Isaac finished his days earth, the two brothers came and buried their father.
Since Esau would not repent we cannot say that Isaac’s whole family built the Kingdom of God. Isaac and Jacob built the Kingdom of God and inherited the promises of God to Abraham.
“And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” Genesis 5:22,24
Enoch and Elijah were the only two men, the Bible records, who were translated to heaven without seeing death. Elijah walked close to God as a bachelor. Enoch did the same as a married man, with a wife and children. This is by no means a small achievement. Though Enoch’s wife is not mentioned in the Bible, she would have been there behind the scenes, making it possible for Enoch to maintain a close, uninterrupted walk with God in the married state. Their son Methuselah, whom they brought up, was blessed with the longest life recorded in the Bible, 969 years. Enoch’s faith was handed down to the third generation, even to his grandson Noah.
We do not have many details of Enoch’s life, but we do have Noah’s life clearly described. From Noah’s life we get an idea of the type of faith that Enoch should have had. True faith passes on to many generations. “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children” (Psalm 103:17).
“Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” Genesis 6:9
Noah lived at a time when all flesh had corrupted itself before God. The earth was filled with violence. God saw that judgment had to come. He needed a man to warn the people and provide them a way of escape. Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord. He had subjected himself to the discipline of obeying the Word of God. He was married, and had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. He had the responsibility of bringing up these three sons in the fear of the Lord. He looked to God, and God gave him grace for this. Boys normally have to go out of the house constantly and move with others. Thus so many influences come to bear upon them. The world around was so wicked at that time, that every influence outside Noah’s home was only evil. But Noah was bent on pleasing God. His wife was no hindrance to him. I believe she should have been a positive help because if one partner pulls the wrong way, it is difficult to gain all the children. Noah and his wife succeeded with all the three sons in drawing them into the righteous ways of the Lord. All three were one with them in fearing God and obeying Him.
There came a time when three daughters-in-law were needed who would fit into this family and into God’s great plan. Surely Noah and his wife were greatly exercised about this vital step in their sons’ lives and prayed much to God. He did provide three such maidens. To human reasoning it would have sounded impossible to find girls with the fear of God in that generation, but God did provide for Noah’s family.
Noah had the responsibility of building the Kingdom of God. God could speak to Noah and give him instructions as to how exactly he was to serve his generation. Noah was to build an ark that would rise above the waters when the flood of judgment covered the earth. God gave specific instructions as to the dimensions of the ark and Noah executed the instructions perfectly. It was not an easy job because the ark took 120 years to be completed! It was a warning to the people of that time of the wrath to come and an exhortation to repent and escape the coming judgment. All his work on the ark was a preaching to the people. Thus Noah preached faithfully for 120 years.
He put all his labour in this work of God, and during this long period, he kept his sons in oneness with him. The daughters-in-law were also trained to obey God. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet…prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Hebrews 11:7). Before the rain started, the ark was complete and ready for boarding. Thus Noah fulfilled God’s expectation perfectly, with respect to time as well. “In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark.” No other man or woman entered the ark to save themselves. They failed to heed the warning of Noah. From this we understand what a hard generation Noah preached to. But animals and birds obeyed! Noah peopled the ark with these creatures exactly as God had instructed him. God spoke to Noah and to his sons saying, ‘I will establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you.’ Thus Noah, with his whole family, built the Kingdom of God.
When God said to Abraham, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I shall show thee,” Abraham took Sarah, his wife, and departed as the Lord had spoken. Abraham obeyed God and Sarah obeyed Abraham. “Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord…” (1 Peter 3:6). The building of his family commenced with obedience to God.
It was no ordinary family Sarah had to build. God had said that through this family all the families of the earth would be blessed. To build such a home both parents needed to be growing in the Lord together, but in the beginning Sarah lagged behind Abraham in faith. We do not hear the Word of God coming to her as it did to Abraham.
Sarah had a problem to face in her life. She was barren. Since she herself did not receive promises from God, she could not overcome this problem by faith. She did not have the faith to expect the fulfilment of the promises that Abraham had received. She gave Abraham advice out of her own mind. “Take Hagar for a wife”, she said. This counsel was not of God. Sarah was in a hurry to see a baby in the home. But she was only inviting trouble into the family unawares. Hagar was a servant woman. She hailed from the heathen land of Egypt. She had an Egyptian mentality. As soon as she knew she was going to have a child she became proud and despised her mistress, Sarah. The peace within the family was disturbed. Sarah blamed Abraham for this situation, though it was really her own fault. Sarah had to suffer much unpleasantness with Hagar. Hagar brought forth a son with a wild ass’s spirit. The mother and son lived in Abraham’s home for thirteen long years. Sarah had to endure this trouble. Sarah did not remain long in this state of inadequate faith. In her trouble she grew in faith. When Abraham received a new name from the Lord, who said to him, ‘Your name shall be no more Abram but your name shall be Abraham’ (Genesis 17:5), she also obtained a new name, Sarah. Her home was not fit for the visitation of angels. She did her part along with Abraham to entertain them. The angels chose to dine under a tree and she stood behind Abraham in the tent door. She wanted to catch the words God would speak. She did catch those words. Those words referred to her: ‘I will certainly return unto you according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah your wife shall have a son’ (Gen. 18:10). “Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11)
According to God’s Word, Isaac was born. With the coming of Isaac, Ishmael could not give up the place of preeminence he had enjoyed until then. At this time Sarah gave counsel to Abraham to send away Hagar and her son. God said Sarah’s counsel was correct.
Sarah built a home where Isaac could grow to fulfil the purposes of God. She had now become a spiritual companion to Abraham. The parents were obedient to God and Isaac was brought up to obey his parents. In his youth he was willing to lay himself down on the altar of God to be offered up as a burnt offering unto the Lord, because God had asked this of his father. What a remarkable young man Abraham and Sarah brought up! As he lay on the altar he heard God speaking, accepting his offering and pronouncing the blessing also upon him.
Isaac learnt prayer from his parents. He learnt to go alone to pray in the days of his youth. At the age of forty, he looked to God to provide him a bride. On the eve of his wedding he was out alone “…to meditate in the field at the eventide…” (Genesis 24:63)
Sarah and Abraham were rich people with many servants and much cattle. But they did not set their affection on these things. When Abraham had to separate himself from Lot, he did not hasten to choose for himself the most well-watered lands. Abraham gave Lot the first choice. He seemed to feel that even a dry land could become fertile if God chose to bless it.
Abraham’s faith was a practical faith. He had trained three hundred and eighteen of his servants for battle. He had armour provided for them. When he received word that his nephew Lot was taken captive, he set out to rescue him. He employed good strategy and overnight overthrew a confederacy of four kings who had completely overpowered the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah together with three other kings. He brought back all the goods of Sodom, his nephew Lot and his goods, and the women also and the people. When the king of Sodom asked him to take the goods to himself, Abraham did not care for those treasures. He had a higher treasure—faith, and this he would preserve. “I have lift up my hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abraham rich” (Genesis 14:22-23). But Abraham had been taught of God to give his tithes to Him and this he hastened to do. Abraham was rich in the knowledge of God. Neither was Sarah attracted by material things. She did not pull Abraham towards the world. She grew in faith in spite of the big household she had to manage.
Abraham and Sarah passed on their freedom from the love of the world to their son, Isaac. When Isaac had to live his own life, his servants went and dug wells. Enemies would come along and claim those wells. Isaac would not strive for these possessions, but would move on and dig other wells.
Abraham’s household kept the way of the Lord. Abraham passed on his faith even to the steward of his house, Eliezer. Eliezer was a man of prayer. He had learnt how to receive guidance from God. Abraham saw that he could be entrusted with the great responsibility of finding a bride for Isaac according to the will of God. Eliezer made even the camels to kneel when he prayed to God (Genesis 24:11). The blessing of Abraham’s obedience to God was in the whole house. It was an obedient household. The parents grew in faith to the high standards of God’s expectation. All the three members of this family are mentioned among the heroes of faith in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews! Every member of this family played a part in building a testimony that faith is the Victory. Their testimony has helped to build the Kingdom of God in every age.
Jochebed and Amram
“And the name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi… and she bare unto Amram Aaron and Moses, and Miriam their sister.” Numbers 26:59
This was a family of Levites. They lived at a time of bitter bondage under Pharaoh’s rule. Under these oppressive circumstances, when the faith of the Israelites was breaking down on every side, Amram and Jochebed helped to preserve their faith. They had eyes of faith to see that God had a special purpose for Moses and he should not be given over to death. They exercised faith to preserve their baby son. Their eldest daughter Miriam was obedient to the parents, in faithfully watching over her baby brother Moses, as he lay in the basket of bulrushes, in the brink of the waters of the river Nile. Miriam pulled together with them in their efforts of faith. At the time of God’s deliverance of Israel from the land of Egypt, God needed leaders for the people. God chose three leaders from this family. He found all the three children had faith and could be used of Him.
This family produced Moses the servant of God whose early years showed remarkable faith. He grew up in Pharaoh’s palace in an atmosphere of ungodliness. He studied with the youth of the court and was well versed in all the arts of Egypt. But he preserved his faith. The sense of values which directed his choices indicate a very high level of faith. “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches, than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26). The vanities and pleasures of the palace meant nothing to him. His yearnings were for the people of God that they may be free and he cast his lot with them in their lowly despised state. He was a man of whom God testified that he was very meek above all the men that were upon the face of the earth. God also added that His servant Moses was faithful in all His house. He could therefore speak to him very clearly, mouth to mouth, and let him behold the similitude of the Lord. It is written of him that there was never a prophet in Israel like him whom the Lord knew face to face, and he demonstrated fearlessly the power and terror of the Lord to their captors in Egypt.
Aaron was given the part of being a partner with Moses during the struggle with Pharaoh in Egypt. He shared the travail of Moses for the deliverance of Israel from their bondage to Pharaoh. Later he was chosen to be the high priest in Israel. Priesthood was bestowed upon him and his sons for ever.
Miriam was a prophetess. She was a leader in song. She could compose songs of praise to God and lead the women in song and dance, to celebrate the victory of God.
This was no small achievement of Jochebed and Amram. They built a home in Egypt where three children could be brought up to be prophets unto God. “…and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam” (Micah 6:4). Through faith these parents built their home for God. All their three children signally built the Kingdom of God.
Hannah lived in a family of unusual circumstances. Her husband Elkanah had two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. Naturally Hannah was painfully conscious of this disparity and her disability. Peninnah made it a point to rub this into her. Hannah was often cast down and depressed. Her husband was a godly man who took the whole family to Shiloh regularly for the yearly sacrifice. After the sacrifice, every member of the family would be given a part of it. It was at such times that she felt her reproach most keenly, and Peninnah’s provocation was like driving a knife into her wound. At first Hannah was just a natural woman, who in times of distress would seek relief in tears. On those occasions when she felt low she would not eat. Her husband loved her and tried to comfort her as best as he could. “…am not I better to thee than ten sons?” he would say. But these words uttered in all sincerity were not adequate to alleviate the grief in her heart. But Hannah never gave up on God. She continued her yearly journey with the family to Shiloh to sacrifice unto the God of Israel.
During one such crisis in the temple, Hannah poured out her heart before God in prayer. She prayed till she got an answer from God. In her prayer her desire and God’s desire coincided. She wanted a son and God was looking for a boy whom he could train as a prophet to Israel in His temple. In her prayer her mind met the mind of God. If God gave her a son, she vowed to give him back to God. God gave her His answer through Eli, the priest. Hannah was at last comforted. God’s answer had made her glad. She did eat, and her countenance was no more sad. She worshipped with the family with a free heart and returned home. When the child Samuel was born, she continued to develop the gift of prayer she received before his birth. We do not know how much she prayed for him, but after he was weaned, when still of tender age, she took him and left him in the temple principally in the hands of God, and under the charge of Eli, the priest. A prayer of triumph poured out of her lips, and it is recorded for us in the Scriptures, to edify all generations. Hannah prayed in the Spirit. She had caught a clear glimpse of God. Her prayer showed a deep understanding of God and His ways. It is both a song and a sermon to all.
The temple was in a very sad, spiritual state at that time. The sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were leading the people into gross sin. Hannah left her son in that very temple in the Hands of God. In was an act of great faith, indeed. She would have continued creating a hedge of prayer around him, I believe. Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child, girded with a linen ephod. The child Samuel grew before the Lord, and was in favour both with God and men. God indeed took charge of this little one whom the mother entrusted into His hands entirely.
In those dark days when the visitations of God were very rare, and people did not hear the voice of God, God visited Samuel. He heard the voice of God calling him by name. God revealed to him the coming judgment on the house of Eli and prepared the little boy for that dreadful day, so that his faith would not be shaken. Samuel inherited the spirit of prayer from his mother. Even as a child his words were prophetic. All Israel knew from Dan to Beersheba that Samuel was established to be a prophet unto the Lord. The blessing of listening to God speaking, which he received as a child, he never lost to the end of his days. His relationship with God was very intimate. God would whisper instructions into his ears, and would often speak to him. He was used of God to anoint kings and to replace king Saul when he disobeyed God. He would relay to Saul the judgment of God over his life and actions. He grew to be a great intercessor whose prayer was a shield to all Israel. “So the Philistines were subdued…and the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel” (1 Sam. 7:13). He judged Israel all his life.
Hannah built her life in God and in effect she became a prophetess. She brought up her son to be available to God for His great purposes. Hannah’s life of prayer and her son Samuel’s faultless life before God are their great contributions to the Kingdom of God for all generations.
The New Testament commences with two very beautiful and ideal homes. Elisabeth and Zacharias were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of God blameless. They were a priest’s family and a praying couple.
Elisabeth was barren. They had long prayed for children and were waiting for an answer. The years rolled by, and they had long since passed the age of bearing children. All of a sudden, one day, an angel of the Lord met Zacharias in the temple as he was offering incense, the token of intercession for Israel. The angel brought him the astounding news that their prayers for a child had not gone in vain. They were indeed heard, and Elisabeth would have a son. They were to call his name John.
The prayers of those who diligently obey all the commandments of God can never go in vain. But now after the passage of so many years, Zacharias could hardly believe the message of the angel. His faith was not of that level as to believe this message at that time.
Elisabeth, however, seemed to have no difficulty in believing the message of the angel. When she had conceived and the child was in her womb, Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. Besides, her son, John, was filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb, according to the word of the angel. This was the plan of God which the angel Gabriel had revealed to Zacharias in the temple. Zacharias had further been told that the child should be kept away from wine and strong drink, for he was to be great in the sight of the Lord, and be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb. He would be an instrument of the Lord turning many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He would be the forerunner of the Messiah, preparing His path. His ministry would be in the spirit and power of Elijah, to make ready a people whom God had chosen to receive His Son.
The spiritual atmosphere in this family was very conducive to receive and strengthen Mary immediately after she had received the visitation of the angel. Elisabeth spoke many words in the Spirit as a salutation or warm greeting of welcome to Mary, as she stepped into her home. In reply to this, Mary uttered a prayer of prophetic praise to God. These words are recorded for us in Scripture and we read in them a great insight into God, His works, His ways, and His plan of salvation. Mary spent three months with this godly couple in this invigorating atmosphere of deep spiritual insights and prophetic foresight.
When John was born, the Spirit of God came upon Zacharias and he prophesied concerning Jesus and God’s visitation to Israel through Him. He saw that the promises of God to Abraham would be fulfilled in the son of Mary for whom John would prepare the way. He prophesied also of the type of ministry that John would be entrusted with. He would bring to many the knowledge of salvation by the preaching of repentance and the remission of sins. With a deep understanding of God’s plan and purpose they trained up their son. The child grew and waxed strong in spirit.
The parents, being old, would have soon departed this life, leaving John to stand on his own. John withdrew to the deserts to commune with God and to receive strength from Him for his ministry. He did not show himself to Israel until God’s time came. Like Elijah he found his sufficiency in God. He accustomed himself to the rough life in the wilderness. He subsisted on locusts and wild honey, which was all that was available there. As for his clothing it was the rough garment of camel’s skin. When the time came, he was ready to proclaim the message of God for those times. All Israel and Judah went all the way to the wilderness to hear him. It was a fiery message of exhortation to repent. He had a word for every class of people in society, showing them what repentance meant in practical terms. He did not fear or hesitate to condemn sin in the highest places, at the risk of his own life. Jesus said of him that of those born of women there was none greater than John the Baptist. He was a burning and shining light. John was a very humble man. When people were wondering if he were the Messiah, he gave them no such room for such a thought. He was not worthy to unloose the latchet of the Messiah’s shoes, he declared. He very modestly expressed his unworthiness to baptize Jesus when He came to him. He was the one who identified and pointed out Jesus to Israel as ‘the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.’ God had for him the path of a martyr. He died preparing the way of the Lord. What a man the home of Elisabeth and Zacharias produced!
Elisabeth and Zacharias built their lives in obedience to God and His commandments. All the three members of the family were filled with the Holy Spirit. They did not adopt any strenuous means of psychic stimulation or repetitive intonations or physical efforts in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Their effort consisted only in seeking to walk blamelessly before God in all His commandments. And the infilling of the Holy Spirit spontaneously followed. All three of them fitted into the glorious purposes of God and built the Kingdom of God.
God gave Mary a very clear revelation of His plan for her, after her betrothal to Joseph. An angel appeared to her and told her that she as a virgin would bear a son whose name would be ‘Jesus’. He would be great, and be called the Son of the Highest. God would give unto Him the throne of His father David. He would reign over the house of Jacob for ever and of His kingdom there would be no end. Mary needed to be strengthened to believe this incredible message. So the angel told her that her cousin Elisabeth who was barren had conceived a son in her old age. The angel concluded his message by saying, ‘For with God nothing is impossible’ (Luke 1:37).
Unless Mary had been accustomed to the experience of listening to God and obeying God, such a high plan could not have been revealed to her. She also would not have agreed to this plan of God which was certainly not something which was easy. I believe that with the Word of God came faith. Even while the angel was speaking her faith grew further and she was enabled to accept the will of God. When God speaks, faith is imparted to us.
After this stupendous revelation, she went to fellowship with her cousin, Elisabeth’s family, whom the angel had referred to. God provided for Mary, the support and strengthening of a family which was walking blamelessly before God and had recently received a similar visitation from heaven. The plan of God for Elisabeth’s son was so closely connected with the plan of God for her own Son. These two women had fellowship with God on a very high spiritual level. The Holy Spirit gave them a clear understanding of the purposes of God and this created a great oneness between them. Mary stayed three months in Elisabeth’s home and was strengthened in faith.
Meanwhile Joseph was also given a clear revelation through an angel of what had happened to Mary. It was God’s doing in fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah, that a virgin would conceive and bring forth a Son. This great prophecy and the expectation of Israel and the promise of God to Abraham was to be fulfilled in their humble home. The angel revealed the name of this divine Child—‘Jesus’. It was the same name the angel had given to Mary. Thus the revelation of Joseph and the revelation of God to Mary were correlated, confirming on another. The meaning of the name ‘Jesus’ was also explained to Joseph: ‘He would deliver His people from their sins.’ The angel further told Him what manner of Son He would be; the people would call Him ‘Immanuel’ because in Him they would see God with them. As individuals, both Mary and Joseph had built their life in God, even before their marriage. The guidance of God was very clear to them. Only those who have accustomed themselves to obeying God can receive such guidances. The revelation of the will of God for their lives will be exceeding clear. The wise men and the shepherds further confirmed the revelation of God concerning the Child. Mary preserved theses sayings in her heart, and pondered over them. This is an indication of Mary’s spiritual life. She could hold on to the Word of God in her heart and meditate on it.
The next revelation came through Simeon. He recognized the Child and prophesied concerning Him. There was a word for Mary too. The Child’s life would lead up to a sword piercing through her soul one day (Luke 2:35). Anna the prophetess also recognized the Messiah in Mary’s Baby.
Joseph was a man who walked close to God. He knew the Scriptures and so the angel was able to quote the Scripture to him. He was a man of faith who did not walk by sight but according to what God spoke to him. He readily believed the message of the angel, and accepted Mary, and protected her like a faithful guardian until the Child was born. When Baby Jesus was in danger of being slain by Herod, God told him in a dream the thoughts and plans of that brutal king. God told him also where he was to take the Child. There are many levels of obedience. Joseph was a man who would obey God immediately. He rose up by night and took the young Child, and departed into Egypt and was there until God spoke to him again to move. After some time in Egypt, God told him that the king who had sought the Child’s life was dead. Then he retraced his steps. Step by step this family walked in the will of God. In such a home, Jesus whose words and works and life were in God’s perfect will, grew up.
Mary stood close by Jesus when He was hanging on the cross of shame and terrible suffering, enduring the sword as it passed through her soul. Mary was also among those who waited in prayer in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Ghost. Thus both parents walked with God and talked with God. Their home led very wonderfully to the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.
“And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” Matthew 4:21-22
We do not know how many children grew up in this home but we do hear of two of them, James and John. These two young men were helping their father with their nets. Fishing was their family profession. Jesus called them and they left their nets and their father, and followed Him. Zebedee did not prevent them, but let them go, even though it meant working alone without the assistance of his two able sons.
Zebedee’s wife was one who worshipped Jesus. “Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him…” (Matthew 20:20). “And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James…and the mother of Zebedee’s children” (Matthew 27:55-56). She was later to be seen among the women who followed Jesus to His death. These women ventured as close as possible to the cross, and stood there beholding the Saviour till He died. It is no wonder that such a mother was willing to allow her two sons to follow Jesus forsaking every other thing. She had no worldly ambitions for her boys. The kingdom of God was very real to her. She was not merely satisfied in seeing her sons following Jesus. She wanted them to be faithful to the end and to be seen close to Jesus, in the Kingdom to come. “Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons…desiring a certain thing of him…Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom” (Matthew 20:20-21). She knew that Jesus had the power to give spiritual and heavenly blessings to her sons.
The prayers of mothers for spiritual blessings are always answered, provided they are untainted with worldly ambitions. Jesus admitted James and John into an intimate fellowship with Himself during His ministry on earth. On the mount of transfiguration along with Peter these brothers were there, beholding that profound and heavenly scene of Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-2). As they walked close to Jesus, they grew in faith, and when Jesus performed some of His specially mighty miracles like raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead, He judged their faith equal to the occasion. He took them into the chamber where the girl lay dead, and along with Peter and the parents of the girl they beheld the ‘resurrection’ of this twelve-year-old girl (Mark 5:37). Even in that dark hour in Gethsemane, Jesus took James and John to be within earshot of His prayer and to witness His travail of soul. He tried to teach them to watch with Him in a special way, during that crisis (Mark 14:33)
Zebedee’s wife had so brought up her children that they were ready to follow Jesus when His call came, leaving everything. They were also taught the Scriptures in their home. Thus we see them in Luke 9:54 citing the action of Elijah from 2 Kings 1:10. They believed and expected that great things would be done by God as in the times of Elijah.
Their mother had put into them her own spiritual desires. They were eager and ready to drink the cup that Jesus drank and be baptized with His baptism if that would bring their mother’s desire to pass. They asked for that cup and baptism, even though they did not fully know what it meant. The mother’s request was not within Jesus’ power to grant, for places in heaven were fixed by the Father. But approaching Jesus with this request to sit on eitherside of Him in Heaven triggered off this other desire in them which was in Jesus’ power to grant– to be fully identified with Him, even to drinking of His cup. Jesus did grant it to them. They laid down their lives as martyrs, when it came time to stand up for Jesus and to be counted. Zebedee and his wife brought up their sons to be humble. When Jesus rebuked James and John for their zeal to destroy men who did not receive Him, they received His rebuke without a word. He warned them that another spirit was operating in them. They took this stricture without a word, as those used to taking correction from Jesus. James and John were called ‘sons of thunder’ because of their fiery temper. But as they followed Jesus and learnt from Him, they were so transformed that James was the first disciple to lay down his life as a martyr for the Gospel, and John was called ‘the beloved disciple’ and he leaned on Jesus’ bosom while He was on earth. We see John at the cross when Jesus was dying. Jesus could so rely on John that He entrusted His precious mother to his care. From that hour John treated Mary as his own mother and took her into his own home (John 19:25-27). Thus Zebedee’s home was considered fit to receive Mary after the death Jesus. John took in the training that Jesus gave him so perfectly that he became an apostle of love and gave us a wonderful exposition of the love of God in his epistles. He grew on in spiritual stature to see the great vision which is recorded for us in the Book of Revelation.
Thus the Zebedees built their life in God. As a family they lived for God and for the extension of His Kingdom. Their sons are examples to young people for all time. This home fulfilled the high purposes of God.
Philip the Evangelist’s Family
“Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip…” Acts 6:3,5
Philip was among the seven men who were chosen to be in charge of the distribution to the necessities of widows in the early Church. In those days many sold their lands and houses, and brought the money and laid it down at the disciples’ feet for proper distribution. God said that the men chosen for this work should not only be of honest report, but be full of the Holy Ghost. Moreover it was required that they had to be full of the wisdom of God also, to distribute according to the need. Philip fully met these requirements and was chosen for this ministry.
Then we see Philip fulfilling yet another role. “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did…unclean spirits…came out of many…many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city…when they believed Philip preaching…the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8:5-8,12). Philip was used of God to preach the Gospel with power. The kingdom of God came right into the midst of them in Samaria as he preached Christ to them. The people with one accord gave heed to his word. They saw the Gospel in action, bringing deliverance and healing to many that were suffering. The whole city experienced the thrill of the joy of the Kingdom of God. Here we see Philip being used of God as a powerful evangelist.
Philip was not only used mightily in preaching to the multitudes, but was also used of God effectively in leading individuals to God. He walked so close to God that the angel of God could speak to him and give him clear instructions about the direction and road he was to take to meet a soul in need.
Acts 8:26 says, “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.” He was a man of quick obedience to the voice of God and he set off, forthwith even as the angel had bidden him. There he saw a chariot carrying a man of Ethiopia. He was a man of great authority under Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians. He was in charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem to worship. What was Philip now to do? He received his next instruction from God clearly, ‘Go and join the chariot.’ God can clearly guide only those who walk with Him, to souls who are in need and in whom He is already working. Philip fixed his attention on the Ethiopian’s spiritual need. He was not attracted at all by the position of power occupied by the Ethiopian minister or the treasures of Ethiopia. This man was reading the Scriptures at Isaiah, chapter 53. Philip began at the same Scripture and preached Jesus unto him. He led the man to Christ, baptized him and then Philip was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord.
“…and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy” (Acts 21:8-9). Here we meet Philip in his family. He had four daughters. All of them prophesied. Only those who are free from the love of the world can be trusted with the gift of prophecy (preaching the Word of God and directing it exactly to the need of the people). Bringing up four daughters who are free from the love of the world, is no small achievement. Philip’s wife is not mentioned here in the narrative, but I think it is very difficult to bring up four daughters like this without a mother’s example. Further, Philip was an evangelist and would have been away from the home quite a bit. Satan makes a special target of the children of those who preach the Gospel. But God also extends special grace to them. He says, “…I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children” (Isaiah 49:25). If parents have no greater joy or desire than to see their children live to love and serve God, they will find their desires fulfilled. God will afford special protection and special privileges to such parents to train their children. “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (Isaiah 54:13). When parents serve the Lord faithfully, walking in all the light He has given them, He will teach their children and will not allow them to go their own way.
God also makes covenants with such parents concerning their children. “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever” (Isaiah 59:21)
God undertakes to save and teach and put His Spirit on our children. Thus God builds the homes of those that build themselves in Him and build His Kingdom.
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 killeth, but the spirit giveth 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 Killeth
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 there 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 to 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 of other good people to give to his ministry its full quota of success, Paul is a preeminent example. He asks, he covets, he pleads in an impassioned way for the help of all God’s saints. He knew that in the spiritual realm, as elsewhere, in union there is strength; that the concentration and aggregation of faith, desire, and prayer increased the volume of spiritual force until it became overwhelming and irresistible in its power. Units of prayer combined, like drops of water, make an ocean which defies resistance. So Paul, with his clear and full apprehension of spiritual dynamics, determined to make his ministry as impressive, as eternal, as irresistible as the ocean, by gathering all the scattered units of prayer and precipitating them on his ministry. May not the solution of Paul’s preeminence in labors and results, and impress on the Church and the world, be found in this fact that he was able to center on himself and his ministry more of prayer than others? To his brethren at Rome he wrote: “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in prayers to God for me.” To the Ephesians he says: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” To the Colossians he emphasizes: “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: that I may make it manifest as I ought to speak.” To the Thessalonians he says sharply, strongly: “Brethren, pray for us.” Paul calls on the Corinthian Church to help him: “Ye also helping together by prayer for us.” This was to be part of their work. They were to lay to the helping hand of prayer. He in an additional and closing charge to the Thessalonian Church about the importance and necessity of their prayers says: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men.” He impresses the Philippians that all his trials and opposition can be made subservient to the spread of the gospel by the efficiency of their prayers for him. Philemon was to prepare a lodging for him, for through Philemon’s prayer Paul was to be his guest.
Paul’s attitude on this question illustrates his humility and his deep insight into the spiritual forces which project the gospel. More than this, it teaches a lesson for all times, that if Paul was so dependent on the prayers of God’s saints to give his ministry success, how much greater the necessity that the prayers of God’s saints be centered on the ministry of to-day!
Paul did not feel that this urgent plea for prayer was to lower his dignity, lessen his influence, or depreciate his piety. What if it did? Let dignity go, let influence be destroyed, let his reputation be marred — he must have their prayers. Called, commissioned, chief of the Apostles as he was, all his equipment was imperfect without the prayers of his people. He wrote letters everywhere, urging them to pray for him. Do you pray for your preacher? Do you pray for him in secret? Public prayers are of little worth unless they are founded on or followed up by private praying. The praying ones are to the preacher as Aaron and Hur were to Moses. They hold up his hands and decide the issue that is so fiercely raging around them.
The plea and purpose of the apostles were to put the Church to praying. They did not ignore the grace of cheerful giving. They were not ignorant of the place which religious activity and work occupied an the spiritual life; but not one nor all of these, in apostolic estimate or urgency, could at all compare in necessity and importance with prayer. The most sacred and urgent pleas were used, the most fervid exhortations, the most comprehensive and arousing words were uttered to enforce the all-important obligation and necessity of prayer.
“Put the saints everywhere to praying” is the burden of the apostolic effort and the keynote of apostolic success. Jesus Christ had striven to do this in the days of his personal ministry. As he was moved by infinite compassion at the ripened fields of earth perishing for lack of laborers and pausing in his own praying — he tries to awaken the stupid sensibilities of his disciples to the duty of prayer as he charges them, “Pray ye the Lord of the harvest that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.” “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray and not to faint.”
19 Deliberation Necessary to Largest Results from Prayer
This perpetual hurry of business and company ruins me in soul if not in body. More solitude and earlier hours! I suspect I have been allotting habitually too little time to religious exercises, as private devotion and religious meditation, Scripture-reading, etc. Hence I am lean and cold and hard. I had better allot two hours or an hour and a half daily. I have been keeping too late hours, and hence have had but a hurried half hour in a morning to myself. Surely the experience of all good men confirms the proposition that without a due measure of private devotions the soul will grow lean. But all may be done through prayer — almighty prayer, I am ready to say — and why not? For that it is almighty is only through the gracious ordination of the God of love and truth. O then, pray, pray, pray! — William Wilberforce
OUR devotions are not measured by the clock, but time is of their essence. The ability to wait and stay and press belongs essentially to our intercourse with God. Hurry, everywhere unseeming and damaging, is so to an alarming extent in the great business of communion with God. Short devotions are the bane of deep piety. Calmness, grasp, strength, are never the companions of hurry. Short devotions deplete spiritual vigor, arrest spiritual progress, sap spiritual foundations, blight the root and bloom of spiritual life. They are the prolific source of backsliding, the sure indication of a superficial piety; they deceive, blight, rot the seed, and impoverish the soil.
It is true that Bible prayers in word and print are short, but the praying men of the Bible were with God through many a sweet and holy wrestling hour. They won by few words but long waiting. The prayers Moses records may be short, but Moses prayed to God with fastings and mighty cryings forty days and nights.
The statement of Elijah’s praying may be condensed to a few brief paragraphs, but doubtless Elijah, who when “praying he prayed,” spent many hours of fiery struggle and lofty intercourse with God before he could, with assured boldness, say to Ahab, “There shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” The verbal brief of Paul’s prayers is short, but Paul “prayed night and day exceedingly.” The “Lord’s Prayer” is a divine epitome for infant lips, but the man Christ Jesus prayed many an all-night ere his work was done; and his all-night and long-sustained devotions gave to his work its finish and perfection, and to his character the fullness and glory of its divinity.
Spiritual work is taxing work, and men are loath to do it. Praying, true praying, costs an outlay of serious attention and of time, which flesh and blood do not relish. Few persons are made of such strong fiber that they will make a costly outlay when surface work will pass as well in the market. We can habituate ourselves to our beggarly praying until it looks well to us, at least it keeps up a decent form and quiets conscience — the deadliest of opiates! We can slight our praying, and not realize the peril till the foundations are gone. Hurried devotions make weak faith, feeble convictions, questionable piety. To be little with God is to be little for God. To cut short the praying makes the whole religious character short, scrimp, niggardly, and slovenly.
It takes good time for the full flow of God into the spirit. Short devotions cut the pipe of God’s full flow. It takes time in the secret places to get the full revelation of God. Little time and hurry mar the picture.
Henry Martyn laments that “want of private devotional reading and shortness of prayer through incessant sermon-making had produced much strangeness between God and his soul.” He judged that he had dedicated too much time to public ministrations and too little to private communion with God. He was much impressed to set apart times for fasting and to devote times for solemn prayer. Resulting from this he records: “Was assisted this morning to pray for two hours.” Said William Wilberforce, the peer of kings: “I must secure more time for private devotions. I have been living far too public for me. The shortening of private devotions starves the soul; it grows lean and faint. I have been keeping too late hours.” Of a failure in Parliament he says: “Let me record my grief and shame, and all, probably, from private devotions having been contracted, and so God let me stumble.” More solitude and earlier hours was his remedy.
More time and early hours for prayer would act like magic to revive and invigorate many a decayed spiritual life. More time and early hours for prayer would be manifest in holy living. A holy life would not be so rare or so difficult a thing if our devotions were not so short and hurried. A Christly temper in its sweet and passionless fragrance would not be so alien and hopeless a heritage if our closet stay were lengthened and intensified. We live shabbily because we pray meanly. Plenty of time to feast in our closets will bring marrow and fatness to our lives. Our ability to stay with God in our closet measures our ability to stay with God out of the closet. Hasty closet visits are deceptive, defaulting. We are not only deluded by them, but we are losers by them in many ways and in many rich legacies. Tarrying in the closet instructs and wins. We are taught by it, and the greatest victories are often the results of great waiting — waiting till words and plans are exhausted, and silent and patient waiting gains the crown. Jesus Christ asks with an affronted emphasis, “Shall not God avenge his own elect which cry day and night unto him?”
To pray is the greatest thing we can do: and to do it well there must be calmness, time, and deliberation; otherwise it is degraded into the littlest and meanest of things. True praying has the largest results for good; and poor praying, the least. We cannot do too much of real praying; we cannot do too little of the sham. We must learn anew the worth of prayer, enter anew the school of prayer. There is nothing which it takes more time to learn. And if we would learn the wondrous art, we must not give a fragment here and there — “A little talk with Jesus,” as the tiny saintlets sing — but we must demand and hold with iron grasp the best hours of the day for God and prayer, or there will be no praying worth the name.
This, however, is not a day of prayer. Few men there are who pray. Prayer is defamed by preacher and priest. In these days of hurry and bustle, of electricity and steam, men will not take time to pray. Preachers there are who “say prayers” as a part of their programme, on regular or state occasions; but who “stirs himself up to take hold upon God?” Who prays as Jacob prayed — till he is crowned as a prevailing, princely intercessor? Who prays as Elijah prayed — till all the locked-up forces of nature were unsealed and a famine-stricken land bloomed as the garden of God? Who prayed as Jesus Christ prayed as out upon the mountain he “continued all night in prayer to God?” The apostles “gave themselves to prayer” — the most difficult thing to get men or even the preachers to do. Laymen there are who will give their money — some of them in rich abundance — but they will not “give themselves” to prayer, without which their money is but a curse. There are plenty of preachers who will preach and deliver great and eloquent addresses on the need of revival and the spread of the kingdom of God, but not many there are who will do that without which all preaching and organizing are worse than vain — pray. It is out of date, almost a lost art, and the greatest benefactor this age could have is the man who will bring the preachers and the Church back to prayer.
20 A Praying Pulpit Begets a Praying Pew
I judge that my prayer is more than the devil himself; if it were otherwise, Luther would have fared differently long before this. Yet men will not see and acknowledge the great wonders or miracles God works in my behalf. If I should neglect prayer but a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith. — Martin Luther
ONLY glimpses of the great importance of prayer could the apostles get before Pentecost. But the Spirit coming and filling on Pentecost elevated prayer to its vital and all-commanding position in the gospel of Christ. The call now of prayer to every saint is the Spirit’s loudest and most exigent call. Sainthood’s piety is made, refined, perfected, by prayer. The gospel moves with slow and timid pace when the saints are not at their prayers early and late and long.
Where are the Christly leaders who can teach the modern saints how to pray and put them at it? Do we know we are raising up a prayerless set of saints? Where are the apostolic leaders who can put God’s people to praying? Let them come to the front and do the work, and it will be the greatest work which can be done. An increase of educational facilities and a great increase of money force will be the direst curse to religion if they are not sanctified by more and better praying than we are doing. More praying will not come as a matter of course. The campaign for the twentieth or thirtieth century fund will not help our praying but hinder if we are not careful. Nothing but a specific effort from a praying leadership will avail. The chief ones must lead in the apostolic effort to radicate the vital importance and fact of prayer in the heart and life of the Church. None but praying leaders can have praying followers. Praying apostles will beget praying saints. A praying pulpit will beget praying pews. We do greatly need some body who can set the saints to this business of praying. We are not a generation of praying saints. Non-praying saints are a beggarly gang of saints who have neither the ardor nor the beauty nor the power of saints. Who will restore this breach? The greatest will he be of reformers and apostles, who can set the Church to praying.
We put it as our most sober judgment that the great need of the Church in this and all ages is men of such commanding faith, of such unsullied holiness, of such marked spiritual vigor and consuming zeal, that their prayers, faith, lives, and ministry will be of such a radical and aggressive form as to work spiritual revolutions which will form eras in individual and Church life.
We do not mean men who get up sensational stirs by novel devices, nor those who attract by a pleasing entertainment; but men who can stir things, and work revolutions by the preaching of God’s Word and by the power of the Holy Ghost, revolutions which change the whole current of things.
Natural ability and educational advantages do not figure as factors in this matter; but capacity for faith, the ability to pray, the power of thorough consecration, the ability of self-littleness, an absolute losing of one’s self in God’s glory, and an ever-present and insatiable yearning and seeking after all the fullness of God — men who can set the Church ablaze for God; not in a noisy, showy way, but with an intense and quiet heat that melts and moves everything for God.
God can work wonders if he can get a suitable man. Men can work wonders if they can get God to lead them. The full endowment of the spirit that turned the world upside down would be eminently useful in these latter days. Men who can stir things mightily for God, whose spiritual revolutions change the whole aspect of things, are the universal need of the Church.
The Church has never been without these men; they adorn its history; they are the standing miracles of the divinity of the Church; their example and history are an unfailing inspiration and blessing. An increase in their number and power should be our prayer.
That which has been done in spiritual matters can be done again, and be better done. This was Christ’s view. He said “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” The past has not exhausted the possibilities nor the demands for doing great things for God. The Church that is dependent on its past history for its miracles of power and grace is a fallen Church.
God wants elect men — men out of whom self and the world have gone by a severe crucifixion, by a bankruptcy which has so totally ruined self and the world that there is neither hope nor desire of recovery; men who by this insolvency and crucifixion have turned toward God perfect hearts.
Let us pray ardently that God’s promise to prayer may be more than realized.
A basic practical guide-book for those who need enlightenment on this subject
By N. Daniel
Rewritten and Updated by Joshua Daniel
Table of Contents
It looks like many people want to remain ignorant of the existence of the powers of the underworld, and that these evil powers attack people in many different ways and trouble them. How many are totally unaware that these evil powers disrupt the peace and tranquillity of many families.
The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Fear not those who have power to kill only the body.” When the God of gods became a man and lived among men and ministered on this earth for a short period, he had to rebuke many unclean spirits and cast them out from people. These evil spirits tremble at the Name of this Living Saviour who laid down His life for our sins and rose again from the dead. It is He who is Christ, the true Saviour.
Yes, when apparently fine and sane individuals are possessed by evil spirits and begin to behave in an uncouth and uncontrollable way, they are brought to our revival meetings by their relatives for prayer. Some evil spirits suddenly possess and live inside human beings. Some of them reveal themselves at times that they are inside these people, but for the rest they lie low. There are other spirits who remain in hiding inside human beings so long, in such a way that no one knows it, till they meet a man of God, who is truly filled with God’s Holy Spirit. After meeting a true man of God, they begin to cry out, faint, fall down and foam. Once they come out of hiding, they manifest themselves quite freely. Even in their first encounter with a true servant of Jesus Christ, they are thrown into a state of confusion.
Most people who call themselves Christians do not know at all what to do with such problems, because they do not have any real relationship with the Saviour Jesus Christ. They are not His children. So they run to magicians and fortune-tellers seeking some quick remedy. They also spend a lot of money buying charms and amulets.
Soothsayers and magicians worship devils. People who go to such people seeking help add greatly to their miseries. Great spiritual darkness grips them and their progeny and a variety of oppressions seize their families. Jesus Christ Himself has said that it is not possible to cast out devils with the help of the devil. Sometimes these magicians appear to stop these troubles temporarily, using spirits with greater power to control spirits with less power. But very soon the outbreaks of fear, fits and other weird manifestations get completely out of hand. The enchantments of the magicians fail and those evil spirits come back to those that were possessed by them.
“Ye shall not eat anything with the blood; neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times… Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19: 26, 31. Please read Deuteronomy 18:10-14. Palmistry, fortune-telling, horoscopes, observing of times and days and the like are great abominations in the sight of the Living God. The devil’s terrible attacks will come on those that are involved in these things and other rites which are connected with idol worship.
My late father, Mr. N. Daniel, learned to live in close communion with God, even from his youth. God used him mightily to pray and deliver many men and women who had struggled hard but could not get any kind of help from hospitals, Hindu pilgrim centers, magicians, fortune-tellers or the various methods used by non-Christians to exorcise demon powers. People possessed by unclean spirits would tremble and fear at the very sight of my father, because my father lived in close communion with the Lord Jesus Christ who is the only Saviour of the world.
As my father was continually preaching or traveling doing God’s work, he did not have time to write in detail about the powers of darkness and incorporate it in a book. At the persuasion of Mr. Ken Taylor of Moody Press, he tape-recorded some of his experiences. Adding certain other material to this matter given by my dad, Moody Press published the book “Demon Experiences in Many Lands.”
We have been constantly urged by many to bring out a book on this subject. Naturally this little volume is meant to be a basic practical guide-book. It is for the ordinary man. It has no pretensions at all to intense research or any exhaustive tabulation of demonic manifestations. In fact I have been very averse to dwell on the works of the devil, for long years. But in the course of my labours in many lands, I am constantly having to deal with people suffering greatly from demonic oppression. Hence this book-chiefly for those who desperately need enlightenment on this subject.
Our prayer is that God should grant deliverance to all those who read this book prayerfully, repent of their sins and turned to the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Acts 2:21.
– Joshua Daniel
Devil Oppresses People at His Will Where There is No Christian Gospel
“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)
To a great extent people are possessed by the devil’s evil spirits in a pronounced manner in countries where idol worship and spirit worship take place. In this regard, down the centuries, China, India and countries of Asia, Africa, South America and the Caribbean have been hot-beds of unrestrained demon-worship and activity. Today however, with the spread of rank Satanism and even ritual killings, there is a great proliferation of demonic oppression world-wide.
Just as in the days of Jesus, such devil-possessed people come in great numbers to the revival meetings conducted by us. They come there and wail loudly, or they scream or weep terribly, for they fall down as in a trance. Sometimes they are found to be shaking their heads violently. At such times we rebuke these devils in the Name of Jesus Christ. Immediately these devils come out. But there is a pre-condition: the person who uses Christ’s Name to cast out devils should be strong in faith and have a pure heart and a clean conscience.
There are several kinds of devils. If they person has more than one devil, they will not come out quickly. Sometimes it may be a legion i.e., a large number of devils. I remember once I cast out forty devils out of a woman. When the relatives of the devil-possessed person, for some reason, hide the truth without telling all the relevant facts with respect to the case, the devils do not come out easily. It is quite usual for family members to decide amongst themselves that they should not disclose all the magical charms and devices which they had employed, all the places of pilgrimage they had visited and all the astrologers they had consulted, etc, etc. Often the close relatives only want a quick relief of the ‘dark paraphernalia’. At such times the demons know that they have a secure ‘toe-hold’ in the person and that family can stubbornly refuse to leave or in other ways disrupt the proceedings.
You might ask if these things happen to Christians also. Yes, it is possible for the devil to possess those who are mere nominal Christians quite easily (Today when ‘believism’ is the only Gospel which is chiefly preached, many parade around as true Christians, who have never in fact, truly repented and forsaken their sins. Such people are an easy target to devils.) The devils enter and possess nominal Christians mostly when they take part in idolatrous festivals, or when they go to Hindu temples, or places of pilgrimage, or when they buy and eat things offered to idols, or when they stay under trees which are worshipped by Buddhists or Hindus, or when they take part in sacrifices, oblations or incense which is offered to idols. Now these vile spirits enter people very easily when they practice witchcraft and fortune-telling, and when they go to the graves of some people. Having your palm read, wearing amulets and charms and a variety of other occult practices make people not only vulnerable to demon-invasion, but also to various forms of fearful demon-oppression. Sometimes demon-possession takes the shape of giving the subjects terrible attacks of epileptic fits. While we recognize the fact that medically epilepsy is a disease and there are natural causes for it, we are here talking of devil-induced fits can be very violent and be accompanied by frothing, gnashing of teeth and blood-curdling cries and frightful sounds, convulsions, contortions and physical prostrations.
There is another condition, where certain serious diseases are simulated by these demons. If people who suffer from such diseases are taken to doctors, they examine the patient and say, “We do not at all understand what disease you are suffering from, because there is no disease at all in your body, medically speaking.” They often think that the patient is feigning the sickness or that it is some strange psychic case. These evil spirits have authority even over ‘nominal Christians’ and I have had to deal with many cases of sicknesses which proved simply untreatable medically and completely baffled doctors. The Lord Jesus healed them.
Once a pastor in Madras came to me and said that his daughter had started getting attacks of severe convulsions suddenly and requested prayer on her behalf. I asked him if his daughter was getting the attack of fits from her childhood. He replied, “No, only recently she began getting the attacks.” Then I asked him, “Has your daughter ever been to Hindu temples?” Immediately the pastor replied, “My daughter has never gone to Hindu temples.” Then I asked that girl herself. She told me that she had daily gone to school entering and passing through a Hindu temple. When the father heard that he was surprised. Then, when I anointed her head with oil and rebuked the evil spirit in the Name of the Lord Jesus, she was delivered. After that she never had fits again. Many who suffered from fits have been healed in this manner.
A Christian official came to me and said that his little son had suddenly lost the capacity to talk and that he was getting attacks of epileptic fits. I asked him at once, “Do you have Hindu temples or trees which are worshipped by Hindus near your house?” Then he said, “Yes, my son has been playing under a tree where idols are kept and worshipped.” Immediately I rebuked the evil spirit in the Name of the Lord Jesus and the boy was perfectly healed at once.
Some, who go to live in houses in which evil spirits have been worshipped for many years, are afflicted by these spirits. They suffer from chest pain, stomach ache and fever and even some peculiar diseases, fears and oppressions. Then people of God who have true faith should go there and rebuke those evil spirits and command them to leave those premises. Unaccountable and sudden deaths also take place in such houses.
In houses where weird manifestations, strange afflictions, and nightly visitations with choking sensation occur, upon some investigation you will discover that idols had been installed there and worshipped regularly for years. Behind idols there are evil spirits. Sometimes there are places on the walls of houses with engravings or special ornamentation specifically for idolatrous worship. Such pictures or figures should be scraped out of the walls and that whole area or wall should be completely colour-washed, and a man of God should be invited there and made to pray in the Name of the Lord Jesus. People were permanently delivered from such suffering in all such houses where I went and prayed.
A Hindu graduate teacher went inside a temple and playfully took the ‘holy ash’ (Ash chiefly derived from cow dung which is used in Hindu temples. Before leaving, worshippers smear some of this ash on their foreheads or upper arms.) there and used it to brush his teeth. Immediately that man became insane. He was brought to me for prayer. I prayed in the Name of the Lord Jesus and he was healed right away. But a while after there was a resurgence of the trouble as he had not fully repented of his sins and totally yielded his life to the Lord Jesus, after being healed.
A woman broke an idol out of mere fleshly enthusiasm and being full of zeal for Christianity. Immediately an evil spirit possessed her. The woman was brought to me. The evil spirit began to speak (Ofttimes these evil spirits answer in a voice far different from that of the one possessed and sometimes also in a language which the person does not know.) and said, “She has broken my idol. That is why I have possessed her.” I cast out the devil at once. But that woman’s family did not seek to follow the Lord, being satisfied with their routine nominal Christianity. Moreover, as there were hidden and unconfessed sins in that family, I heard later that these evil spirits continued to trouble them occasionally.
Many years ago while my wife and I were spending some weeks in prayer, in a city which was known for its wickedness and immorality, an Anglo-Indian girl was brought to me. She was brought in a horse-cart or buggy. As soon as she saw me, she began to scream hysterically: “O, you are a man of God!” This girl had never seen me even once before, nor had I known her at all. She was possessed by the devil and was shouting at the top of her voice. She was very violent. She had not eaten or drunk for three days. There was no limit to her violence. I asked her to keep quiet and I rebuked the evil spirit to go out of her. Promptly the demon in her said, “Sir, give me a slap on my face. Then I will go away.” I said at once, “The Name of the Lord Jesus Christ itself is sufficient for you to leave.” I anointed her with oil on her head and rebuked the devil in Jesus’ Name. Immediately she screamed aloud and fell down as if dead. After sometime she got up perfectly healed. Now suddenly the weakness of the past three days’ starvation overcame her. She asked for water to drink. When she was given water, she drank to her heart’s content! It was a pathetic sight. But the Lord Jesus triumphed and she left a healed girl.
The devil has been oppressing and tormenting families and young people like this so much in many places. The only refuge for people who are attacked in this manner by the devil is Jesus Christ, who sacrificed His own life for the sins of all people and rose up on the third day victorious over death.
Do Not Be Ignorant of the Wiles of Satan
“And, behold, they cried out, saying, ‘What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?'” (Matt.8:29)
Devils do not easily like to go away from the world, because they like to enjoy sin, getting into people who love sin. But those who are in Christ have come out of darkness into the light of Jesus Christ. If they are steadfast in faith, obeying God’s word and believing the Blood of the sinless Saviour shed on the cross, they will enjoy great protection and safety. This kind of security is only to be found under the Blood of Christ.
That is why the Bible tells us that we should teach the Word of God to our children when we are sitting, standing, walking and lying down. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) When we fear God and obey His Word the children also are safe. Where there is the knowledge of Christ and where the Gospel is taught, there is no way devils can come there. Furthermore, wherever there is deep faith in the Word of God and on the Cross of Jesus; wherever the communion service is observed not as a formality but with true reverence and holiness, remembering the death of Jesus, the devils cannot operate there at all. The devil cannot possess a truly converted believer who walks with a clean conscience before God. ‘Mental Christians’ and those who deliberately harbour hypocrisy and disobedience to God’s word are very vulnerable to the devil’s onslaughts.
One who casts out devils should not bring devil-possessed persons into his house to cast them out, because there may be in that house children who are not strong enough in faith to resist the devils, or women who are weak and fearful. The devils which are driven out seek to enter any ‘weak’ person close-by.
You should not bring and keep a devil-possessed person in your house. Now, if that person dies in that condition, the devil that was in him, normally enters one who is weak in faith in that house. But we shall be protected if we are strong in faith, obeying God’s Word and believing the Cross of Christ. Devils have a vengeful nature. They like to torment even those that cast them out if they see an opening. If there is any presumptuous spirit or pride in them, they like to attack them or their family members. Once, because one of our team tried to cast out many terrible devils out of a person, darkness came into him and he himself was tormented. I had to travel three hundred miles to drive it out. Then he was restored to good health.
Casting out devils should not be attempted by all Christians. Power to cast out evil spirits is a gift from God. In another sense, it arises from a true walk with God, whereby you begin to exercise the power of faith. Those who are in the will of God are always a great power. Then again when there is no one present with this special gift, if converted people with ‘ordinary’ faith join together and fast and pray, the devils run away.
Women should never singly attempt to deal with devils. When there is a serious backwash, they will suffer much and long before they recover completely. Once people brought a staunch Hindu girl to us. Those that brought her told us that she was suffering from a heart disease and that no doctor could help her. We took that girl to our revival meetings. When I started preaching, that girl started moving her head back and forth vigorously. Immediately we knew that she was possessed with a devil. I took her out of the meeting, put my hand on her head and prayed in the Name of Jesus. That was a terrible devil and so it stubbornly resisted. I prayed three days. Finally, on the third day that devil left her completely. Immediately the heart disease, from which she was suffering left her and she became perfectly healthy.
Once a Christian teacher’s wife came to our revival meetings. One day when the Spirit of God descended upon the people, they all fell on their knees and were confessing their sins. But that Christian teacher’s wife stood up and started beating others with her fist. Some who were there, caught hold of her and brought her to me. She was possessed with a devil. As soon as she saw me the devil shouted, “Alas! Pastor! Will you drive me out? I have been living in her for nine years. So, please do not drive me out from her.” Just before I started from Madras for those meetings, God had given me Matthew 10:1 as a promise- “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” I asked one who was nearby to read that verse. After he had read it, in the Name of Jesus Christ, I commanded that devil to come out. When it came out, she fell on the ground. She was given some water to drink. As soon as the devil fled she became alright. Then she narrated the pathetic story of her nine years of suffering. She had been experiencing terrible agony and was dreadfully tormented by that horrible devil who had even tried to kill her often by pushing her into water and into fire.
We leave you to ponder and reflect what relief and joy come to families when mothers who are rendered unpredictable and dysfunctional, are thus delivered by the Lord Jesus and return to their homes whole. Such is the Saviour- He wipes away your tears.
Your Faith Should Be Strong When You Try to Cast Out Devils
“Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
Once when we were holding revival meetings in a place the communists there were opposing us saying “There is no God.” Just at the time when a group of young communists came to argue with us and silence us, some people brought to me a girl, who was possessed by devils for twelve years. All those communists were watching with wonder and curiosity as to what would happen. When I placed my hand on her head and asked the devils, which were in her, to come out, the devils shouted fiercely and defiantly, “We will never come out. We have been living in this girl for twelve years. So we won’t go out of her.” I rebuked them at once, “No, you must surely go out of her. It is not I who am giving you this command, but it is the Lord Jesus Christ. So you have no right at all to be in this girl.” Immediately the devils left her. That girl was perfectly healed. The communists who had watched all that happened were awe-struck and could not open their mouths. They realized that here was manifest an immensely greater power, which they could not see with their eyes, than what Communist ideology or materialist atheism could produce. After that, they never opposed us at all, but started coming to our meetings.
In that town the communist group which was ruining the young people saying, “There is no God at all” was shattered by the revival meetings we conducted. After that they could never propagate their communist teachings in those parts. The Hindu young man, who was leading them repented and got converted. Now he is preaching the gospel of Jesus.
Those who cast out devils should be very careful in the exercise of this special ministry. Just as the Holy Spirit knows all the secrets of man’s heart, the same way the devils also know well all things that are hidden in the hearts of people. Therefore one should not be engaged in the task of casting out devils with a sort of dubious heart-condition. In other words, your heart should be pure and your hands ‘clean’. There must be a lot of prayer. Once a lady, one of our women-workers was attacked when she tried to cast out nine devils out of a person at one stretch. Immediately she took ill and was in great pain. Hence I had to travel several hundred miles to pray for her in her house. Now that lady is in good health. God has renewed her in spirit and she is doing mighty things in God’s Name. (These things do not happen as isolated incidents. Wherever revival has taken place and our converted men and women have fanned out preaching, there are always groups of faithful people behind them, who fast and pray. As has already been mentioned, when women-workers over-extend themselves, it can be serious.) Lack of spiritual strength to cast out nine devils at one stretch was the cause for that lady to fall ill. Once again I must emphasize that there is a big backwash often and you are left weak and drained of spiritual ‘virtue’ (power) after engaging evil spirits in battle. At such a time the devils try hard to hit back. As a rule they first try to attack the very person who attempts to cast them out. When we cast the devils out they are terribly afraid because they know very well that they will be cast into the burning fire thereafter. Sometimes when I lay my hands on the head of devil possessed persons to pray, they wail saying, “Alas! I am burning. I am in hell.” How true is the Word of God- the Bible! Therefore, before going to cast out devils one should carefully watch in what state one’s own spiritual strength is.
It is easier to cast out a demon if it dwells singly in a person. But in most cases legions of many devils indwell a person. They do not easily come out of people and normally put up a tough fight. Once I had to cast out forty devils out of a girl. It took a long time. Before I went there, a lady who was working as a lecturer in a college tried to cast the devils out and she was at once attacked by those devils and so she was suffering a great deal. When I went there, I had to first pray for that lecturer and she was delivered. After that I played for that girl and the Lord delivered her also. Today, that girl is a bright and happy, saved girl.
Leading the Devil-possessed People to Christ
“Behold, thou art made whole. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (John 5:4)
After the devils are cast out, if the person concerned does not get converted confessing all his sins, it is dangerous indeed. The devils that left him will come back into him again. So those who are delivered from demon-possession should get right with God confessing their sins without hiding them. Otherwise, the devils will still have a hold and authority over them. That is why, as a principle, we do not immediately pray over devil-possessed people to cast out the devils in them. We cast out devils only after they hear the Gospel at least for three days (Many who are possessed by devils have lucid periods when they think and behave normally. It is only in an atmosphere charged by God’s power that they suddenly get provoked and disclose themselves and come out fighting, convulsing or screaming.) at our meetings. After they have understood a little what is meant by salvation and they begin to recognize their need, then they are ready for being prayed over.
Sometimes when the demon-possessed come to the meetings to hear the Gospel, the devils in them give them great drowsiness and sleep so that they will not be able to hear God’s word in the meetings. There is yet another startling manner in which Satan prevents his ‘captives’ from hearing God’s word. A strange, continuous sound in the ears jam the message till the end of the meeting. They complain that they could hear nothing of the address or message. We anoint and pray over such cases before the meeting starts. Then they are able to hear the Gospel.
When there is more than one devil in a person, and only one is cast out, that devil will come back into that person. So we should know whether there are more than one devil in that person or not, and cast out all of them. You should not send that person home till you have finished casting a whole lot out.
Generally, the devils are stubborn and rebellious. They will not easily talk. When the demon-possessed start answering the questions we ask, they suddenly feel as if their throats are being choked so that they are unable to speak any word. But in the Name of the Lord Jesus we command them to open their mouths and talk. I used to often ask those devils which manifest themselves, “Who is the Lord of heaven?” They answer promptly, “The Lord Jesus Christ!” Ofttimes non-Christians who are standing by see and hear this frightening and weird scene and are smitten in their hearts. These demons affirm strongly that there is heaven and hell and give details about both places. But the Lord as given us perfect authority and power over all unclean spirits and devils through the wonderful Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Devils believe God’s word. They tremble when we read God’s word to them, especially when we read Luke 10:18, 19. “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Devils always acknowledge that Jesus Christ alone is the Lord. Devils can never tell a lie regarding the Lord Jesus Christ. They tremble when we just mention Christ’s Name. While they firmly affirm that Jesus is the Lord of Creation, they are terrified at the sound of Jesus’ Name and plug their ears if possible.
A certain man in a place where I was preaching, was involved in witchcraft. His daughter was possessed with a devil. I was casting out that devil. There were three devils in that girl. At first I did not know it. I cast out one devil. After some time that devil came back into that girl. That girl’s younger sister was also in that house. She was also devil-possessed. I cast out the only devil that was in the younger sister. Before that devil went out, it revealed that there were three devils in her elder sister and also mentioned their names. Immediately I cast out those three devils from the older girl. Even then it was a bit hard to cast them out, because that girl’s parents had charms in their house and had written certain magical verses on their lintels and at least one of them had been reading those verses daily. So I sent for her husband and asked him to bring all those magical books, verses and charms from their house and had them all burnt immediately. As soon as they burnt all of them, all the devils ran away. Unless you find out from them if there are things like charms and tin foils or plaques with magical verses written on them in their houses and remove them, the devils will not go out, even if you struggle a lot. You will only face defeat.
Sometimes we have found the spirits of deceased parents possessing and tormenting their own children. Where there is ancestral worship there is great bondage and no freedom at all. It is like putting strong iron chains on a young person such that he or she cannot move. The chains of occult bondage go down from generation to generation. Offering children to idols or praying to ancestral spirits are old heathen customs which bring much misery, fear and bondage. Save for the fact that it is illegal to kill children in ‘ritual killings’, there would be any number of such killings even today in some countries. When Christ frees such people then great things come out of them. It is a very sad sight indeed when an evil spirit tormenting a young person, acknowledges that it is no other than the dead parent of the boy or girl, and then often departs weeping.
Once I went with some of our evangelists to a place to hold meetings. There was a young girl in that town. Some wicked men tried to get her to yield to their base desires by hook or crook. But she did not yield to their wicked desires. These wicked men were angry and decided to kill her. They sought the help of a magician to kill her. That magician along with another magician begin to play witchcraft on that girl to kill her. (It is common for people to pay magicians and practicers of witchcraft to cast spells on people and to even kill them, in certain parts of the world.) That girl started being plagued by devilish spirits. Immediately she went to a Christian there for prayer. When he prayed she got some relief. But the evil spirits set upon her by the continuous spells of the magicians, did not leave her at all. Again there was only great torment. At that time I went to that town to conduct meetings.
That girl came to our revival meetings. She was brought to us for prayer. When we prayed over her, she just fell down on the ground. She was struggling to breathe and was about to die. But we kept on rebuking and commanding the evil spirits to leave in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and to go out of her immediately. She was lying on the ground unconscious. In that state she kept on saying, ” Two men are sitting on water and are now playing witchcraft against me. They both keep on talking to each other that they should kill me today.” We told that girl, “You will not be harmed by those magicians because you are under the authority of the Holy Spirit and the Blood of Jesus Christ.” What we heard afterwards was that those evil spirits went back to those two magicians who had sent them and told them, “Alas, we cannot go to that place at all. We are afraid.” Those wicked men were completely non-plussed. They began to say, “There see to be a much greater and higher power than us. We have never seen such a situation at all. We are unable to do anything.”
Even after that those two magicians continued to play witchcraft till that evening. We also continued to pray in Jesus’ Name. Finally those two magicians stopped playing witchcraft saying, “Alas, we cannot kill this girl at all. There is another power much greater than ours.” That girl was delivered from the powers of the devil that day itself. Today she is a converted Christian girl. Her husband also got saved and became a Christian. Now both of them are shining as faithful witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ.
In countries where there is spirit-worship and an abundance of idolatrous practices, many people die all of a sudden. Medically speaking, no explanation can be given for those seizures and mysterious deaths. Even the parents and relatives of the dead cannot give any reason for such premature death of their dear ones. Unclean spirits which are being worshipped by many people as ‘family deities’ only desire greatly to kill those that worship them. Jesus Christ Himself has warned us saying, “The thief cometh not but for to steal and to kill and to destroy. ” Now such people, only when they remove all their idols and believe on the Saviour Jesus Christ with all their heart, can come under the protection of the blood of the Lord Jesus and be fully released from all fear and bondage.
In villages where there is a lot of idol worship, the cause for many natural calamities, diseases, and a high percentage of all infantile mortality (Women in such clean places say, “Just before I delivered my baby, a devil stood before me and said, ‘I am here to swallow your baby.'” Then the baby dies.) also and the like is the work of evil spirits.
Devils come upon animals also. Then the animals behave in a strange way. Cows, which have been yielding much milk, will stop yielding. Sometimes they suddenly take ill and die. In such situations, when we rebuked the evil spirits which were afflicting those cows, in the Name of Jesus, the unclean spirits left them and the cows started yielding milk again.
When there is true godly sorrow and you repent deeply of your sins, and come under the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ who died for your sins, such unclean spirits will have no power over you. When you have turned to Jesus with all your heart and His good and gracious Spirit fills you, then evil spirits cannot touch you. When there is true godly sorrow and you repent deeply of your sins, and come under the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ who died for your sins, such unclean spirits will have no power over you. When you have turned to Jesus with all your heart and His good and gracious Spirit fills you, then evil spirits cannot touch you.
Victory Only Through the Blood of Jesus
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord. I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:16,17)
This is the new covenant. It is not an ordinary covenant that can be merely drawn up on paper. It is the only covenant which will change your life totally. The high aim of God is that we should be like Him. For this purpose only He delivered up His only Son to be sacrificed for you and me. By giving this world His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, He has prepared our hearts to receive and experience this new covenant. Our sin “is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart.” Jeremiah 17:1. We can never clean if off. We and our parents have sinned. The spirit that is upon our parents is found in us also. That is why the Bible says that we have to repent of our sins and of our parents’ sin also.
Traditions held strongly by non-Christian religions such as consulting astrologers, holding fast to horoscopes, observing of days and propitious times, etc, are often found in even nominal Christian homes in certain parts of the world. Many Christian young people too follow such traditions in their daily life, even today, out of cowardice and fear of society. With scientific discoveries literally exploding around us, it is amazing that people cannot see the absurdity of these superstitions and are still so strongly enslaved by the powers of darkness which are behind these practices, which are an abomination to the Living and Holy God. Without forsaking such evil ways and keeping unconfessed sins in their hearts, they go to hear God’s word. Being in such a state, they cannot be benefitted in any way even if they hear God’s word all through their lives. They will know the truth only at the mental level. Truth cannot penetrate into their heart. Most Easterners accept any truth easily at the mental level, but their heart just continues in the same state. They will talk a great deal of philosophy, but they will not lead a holy life. Their philosophy and their practical daily living are poles apart. Certain very ‘wise’ people even try to act like Jesus Christ. But we cannot see Christ’s spirit in them. Gandhi tried to walk like Jesus Christ, but as he did not yield his whole life to Christ, he was not guided by the Spirit of God and so could not show the right kind of light to India or the world. There are many deceitful spirits in this world. They try to act like Christ in certain ways, drawing worldly people’s applause and even veneration. These imitators and patrons of Christ cannot change even a single person all through their lives. Without yielding to Christ’s spirit, even if you fast and pray for forty days, it will be to little purpose. When you truly repent and confess your sins, the Spirit of Christ will make you live above sin.
The great big ‘vacuum’ created by the mounting materialism of the West has made many a prey to the beguiling talk of obtuse ‘gurus’ and religion ‘talkers’ from the East. Shockingly, in droves several misguided and gullible people in Europe and America have been turning to occult practices and even idolatry, which are being discarded by more and more enlightened people in the East. This awful delusion and bondage to idolatry is really spine-chilling. How sad that a ‘dead’ Christianity is chiefly to blame for their ‘spiritual blindness’ and that the real Christ and His ‘Everlasting love’ was never presented to them!
In the days of Moses, Egypt was also full of idolatry like India, China and several other countries of the world. The Lord had to deliver the Israelites from that country. As the Israelites had stayed in Egypt for a long time, they learnt Egyptian customs and traditions and in a way their idol worship too. They started worshipping an idol within days when Moses left them and went up Mount Sinai. Egypt was full of evil spirits. Wherever there is idolatry, there are unclean spirits in abundance. You should never go to such places where spirits are worshipped, even out of curiosity or simply because you are in a tourist group and the guide takes you there. On the contrary, being strong in faith, you must take the Gospel to others.
Government servants occupy different kinds of houses when they go to various places on transfer. When they go and occupy houses full of unclean spirits, they often do not have the faith that can sprinkle the Blood of Jesus Christ and sanctify their new dwelling. How can such faith be found in the hearts of people who receive bribes and render false expense accounts etc? The outcome is that they and their families suffer very much through various ‘disturbances’ and even sicknesses.
You can be saved only by applying the blood of Jesus Christ over your heart by faith. After that you will be delivered from all your trust in Egypt, its traditions and its cruel rule and will start your march into a marvelous freedom and deliverance. Then you will see God dividing the Red Sea for your sake. But you must truly get out of Egypt. Some get out of Egypt, but they carry Egypt with them in their hearts.
Though many profess to have accepted Christ, they appear to be lovers of this world. They do not hate this world as Jesus does. Though the devil took Jesus to a high place and showed Him all the kingdoms of this earth and their glory, he could not make Jesus love or desire them. The devil could not overcome Jesus because He greatly loved heavenly things and was on earth only to do the Father’s will.
When these shallow Christians truly humble themselves in the presence of the Lord Jesus, they will be delivered from bondage to earthly things. Those that are not delivered from the love of the world can only be called the inhabitants of Egypt. Only the unclean spirits of Egypt will indwell them. If anyone tries to practice witchcraft against such people, one will surely succeed. But witchcraft will in no way affect those that have come out of Egypt. Reader, have you come out of Egypt and its traditions? Sermons regarding repentance are not preached in our Christian churches these days. Our present day churches only look like government establishments- just human organizations.
Moses did not go alone to Egypt. He went there with the omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent God. He went there with God’s power. He met Pharaoh and spoke the living words of the Living God. Though Pharaoh was a bit indifferent in the beginning, he later started trembling. When we truly meet God in our life and speak His words of life, the Pharaohs of this world will tremble. When the light of heaven came into Egypt, the powers of darkness were afraid. Suddenly, one day when the powers of darkness or demons of Egypt saw the Blood of the Lamb, they trembled and did not know what to do, and entered even the house of Pharaoh and killed his first-born son. When powers of darkness get dispossessed or driven out, they get exceedingly desperate and fall on the ones nearest them. They got mad when they saw the blood of the lamb which was symbolic of the Blood of Jesus Christ. In a way, they saw the Blood of Jesus Christ in the blood of the spotless lamb which was sprinkled on the doorposts and lintels of the house of the children of Israel.
The powers of darkness which are subject to the rule of the devil, who is called the god of this world, are instruments to lead people in the wrong way. These spirits lead people into idol worship and adultery. Some adulterous people will never forsake the sin of adultery. They will never understand God’s word even if they hear it any number of times. “They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them and they have not known the Lord.” Hosea 5:4.
The spirit of whoredom has been present in some Christian schools and hospitals. These people try to hide their sins. They never understand the word of the Lord. It is a pity that these Christian institutions which have been established to propagate the Gospel of the Lord, are in such a state. We do not see praying people in these institutions. This is the cause of defeat.
What a great deliverance the Israelites saw when they believed the message which Moses gave them concerning the Blood of the Lamb and acted upon it! The very next day the Egyptians came running to the Israelites, pleading, “Please leave our country at once.” Their deliverance was secured. Their long slavery in Egypt had ended.
When the Lord Jesus Christ died on the Cross as the sacrifice for our sins, the powers of darkness were utterly defeated. The devil and his demons saw a great defeat. It is in this marvelous way Jesus Christ brought salvation to you and me.
The Blood of Jesus Christ cleanses our hearts and sets free our consciences. Nothing else except the Blood of Christ can do this for us. The Blood of Jesus is very powerful- the devils tremble at the mention of it. When we believe Jesus, His blood cleanses us from all our sins and we receive a new heart. The Lord Jesus helps us then to get ourselves a clean conscience. Then only we can go to the Lord’s presence, cleansed of an evil conscience.
Dear reader, is your conscience clean? Have you forgiven all your enemies? The powers of darkness cannot attack you when you stand at the foot of the Cross. Sprinkle the Blood of Jesus on yourself and on your children. Then you will be saved and kept from the works of unclean sprits, diseases which arise from occult oppression and an Eternal separation from God which is Hell.
Dear parents, first come to the Cross of Jesus. Then bring your children there too. Then the Lord will keep His commandments in your heart, and write them on your mind. His words which are engraved upon your hearts will head you in the right way. When you abide in the will of God, the powers of the darkness of this world cannot touch you at all.
The dear Lord will help you to obey His word and implement these things which you have read in this little book, right away. It is hard to guess how many, you yourself will be enabled to bring out of the ‘power of darkness’ into ‘His marvelous light’. Colossians 1:13 and 1 Peter 2:9.
When you obey Him, you too can sing with triumph:
There is victory for ME,
There is victory for ME,
Through the Blood of Christ my SAVIOUR,
There is victory for ME.
For ME, yes ME, For ME, yes ME,
Through the Blood of Christ my SAVIOUR
THERE IS VICTORY.
Released to Set Free Others
“And when Jesus was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains” (Mark 5:2-3)
What a picture we have here of a tormented human being! Some magicians told me that they went to cemeteries and worshipped spirits to get the ability to gain control over evil spirits in order to use them to do their bidding. But finally they became very miserable people and they themselves began to be attacked by these dark spirits and to suffer great reverses and grievous sicknesses. Driven to dire distress, they came to us for prayer and the Lord Jesus delivered them.
Here was a man whose home was amidst the tombs. What kind of home is that? He dwelt among tombs, crying and cutting himself with stones night and day. His personality was in total turmoil. The Lord Jesus Christ went across the sea of Galilee to meet this one man. Sometimes people tell me, “These meetings have come just in time for me.” I remember a mother, who began to repent for her evil life, telling me, “I was trying to force my daughter to join the cineworld when your meetings came to my city.” It is simply incomprehensible, the kind of lifestyle which many of these filmstars have adopted. Imagine a mother wanting to throw her minor daughter into such a cesspool. Now we all know that under the convenient cover of art, these people sell their bodies for money. Don’t imagine that it is a marvelous thing to circulate through a hundred arms. God has one person for you. God has one wife for you. Are you ready to wait and ask for the right person or do you want to experiment with all manner of illicit sex? Today, television, many magazines and books are not just nudging but urging young people to experiment extensively with sex. They say, “The condom is your salvation. Let’s give it freely to people.” I don’t know whether you live in areas where in the morning you find condoms lying around. I know of some areas like that in London and mothers of little children complain bitterly of such happenings in the close vicinity of their homes.
My dear friends, when you become a person fully obsessed by unclean desires which tear you, then evil spirits can take hold of you. Unclean spirits want unclean persons for their dwelling. Knowing that men desperately need help in this area, when Jesus sent out His disciples, He gave them power to cast out all unclean spirits. Don’t tell me of your gleaming skyscrapered city. “This is a proud, enlightened city.” Let me tell you this. In some of the richest families of your city, in the families of wealthy industrialists and the apparently most successful people, there are demon-possessed children and others in a forlorn and even neglected condition. Don’t imagine that education will drive away these unclean spirits. Pour your honey and treacle over the garbled texture of these tortured lives, cover them with your silk and satin, yet the tears and the screams will pierce through in unmitigated pain and agony.
The Lord Jesus said, the devil comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. If somebody steals ten dollars or a hundred from us, we think we have lost so much and feel the loss. But what does Satan steal? He steals your joy and your peace. Look at our families. No peace! How many people today have strange afflictions! When I was speaking in one place, right in front of the platform a girl of thirteen years fell down and the seizure was so severe and the resultant contortions were so terrible that it was simply too painful for me to witness the scene. Her grandfather had been an idolatrous priest, and all kinds of ‘mantras’, chants and enchantment had been done in that family. My heart was broken at the sight of this tender girl’s suffering. Her father was a government official. I prayed for this girl and the evil spirit left the girl. There were no more ‘fits’ or attacks of the devil. The Lord Jesus healed her and she went on to complete her high school and college studies. We see this kind of thing in so many families. It makes me very sad. That is why the Lord Jesus Christ gives you power over these evil spirits. Not just the pain and the complete loss of peace, but think of the many precious years ‘stolen’ this way!
Moreover, you will find indwelling some people the very family deities which they are worshipping. These evil spirits, not satisfied with the gifts offered them, begin to attack them. When they bring these people to me, I sometimes asked those evil spirits, “Why did you come?” “I came to kill this young man and I want to kill his family too,” they reply. Then I say, “You have no power to kill this young man or his family. In Jesus’ Name you must leave and never come back.” Those spirits wail and mourn at this command and after one last convulsion depart. Then all is still and the patient rises as from a daze. How wonderful that the Lord Jesus sets free those very pawns of the devil whose very life appears to hang in the balance!
One businessman brought to me his wife, a nice looking tender woman. But she had been suffering for years from horrible seizures when she would be uncontrollable. So I said, “I am going to fast and pray. You bring your wife on this particular evening.” Then he brought his wife. Even as I was talking to her, the evil spirit manifested itself and broke into violent convulsions. Then I prayed for her. You know what the evil spirit said? “I will go away but when this woman goes home I will come back to her.” I asked her husband, “What is there in your house which gives the devil his strength?” He said, “There are idols in my house. We are a joint-family. My brothers worship those idols. I don’t worship them anymore. But that is where I live.” I said, “If you want your wife to be well, you will have to leave that place. Either the family quits its idolatry or you have to leave that place.” The Lord Jesus healed that woman completely.
We have a great Saviour. He loves each of us. It is the usual thing for people to ‘cover up’ their fears, their sinfulness and their moral depravity. By sweeping your sins under the rug you are not going to achieve anything. Where the spirit of uncleanness is, the devil has a strong foothold.
Now the man amidst the tombs cried with a loud voice. The presence of Jesus was a great torment to the unclean spirit. What did the Lord Jesus Christ say to this man? He said to that unclean spirit, “Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.” People can sit before the television four or five hours and in the places of evil amusements for many hours, but they can’t pray for five minutes. Why is that? It is because their evil hearts has a strong bent and affinity towards uncleanness. You are in your elements when there is uncleanness around you. But as soon as you are exposed to God’s word, you are uncomfortable! You see, these evil spirits in him were most uncomfortable in the presence of Jesus. But the Lord Jesus sets you free from such a heart. To run away from God’s presence and His word is a pronounced trait of the devil.
As soon as Jesus said, “Come out, evil spirit,” what did it say? “What have I to do with you, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God?” Then, the Lord Jesus said, “What is your name?” The spirit replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” When I prayed for one teacher, she actually rolled on the platform from corner to corner and the evil spirit in her began to say, “Don’t trouble me. Why do you care for this woman? She is just a worthless dry brand. I came to kill her.” I said, “Who are you? What is your name?” It said, “I am the much-regarded spirit that is in the temple on the hill-top. I am an ancient sage. “I said, “I don’t care, whoever you are, get out of this woman.” After much lingering and with great reluctance that stubborn spirit left and that woman was freed. But she was not ready to take her stand with Jesus. I don’t know all her history subsequently. But it is a very sad thing when one who is healed does not become a faithful disciple. When the Lord Jesus delivers you, He wants you to confess your sins, come clean and then live for His glory.
Some people come to tell me of their condition. Some of them even guess or suspect that the strange, sinister fear and distress which quite overwhelms them at time, must be due to demon possession. A man came out from a big hospital to our Sunday service, getting permission for a couple of hours. He had been admitted for heart trouble. After the meeting he came up to request prayer. Hardly had I spoken to him when the evil spirit cried out most ferociously. He fell down and four people had to hold him. When the evil spirit was cast out, he became totally normal, and he said ‘good night’ to me and went back to the hospital. He was healed completely and soon after left the hospital. He needed no treatment for what had appeared like a serious heart ailment. He has continued well and is now a father of several children.
Here is this man who said, ‘I am Legion: for we are many.’ But this evil spirit said, “Don’t send us out of this country.” What a sad thing! Some of these evil spirits attach themselves to certain forests, claim certain hills and temples as their sole domain and certain families as their age-old vassals and slaves. They even claim jurisdiction over some localities, tribes and even large geographic areas and cities. They say, “We have been here for so many centuries. We will not leave.” Only the Lord Jesus can deliver such large cities where a great number of men had died violent deaths since ancient times, due to gory battles and mass executions. Let us take Delhi for instance. From the time of those old emperors from Central Asia and warriors who successively invaded India, I can scarcely say how many people had been unjustly killed and indiscriminately slaughtered. Some of those evil and restless spirits are affecting and influencing leaders and people in key positions even to this day. These leaders begin with good desires, but then they suddenly come out with some bizarre regulation or law, which leads to riots and killing and numerous self-immolations.
My dear friends, of country after country, you can say, “How many sufferings in this country, how many tears and tragedies!” What is the use of your saying, “I am a Christian” and really what is the use of my saying, “I am a preacher” if we don’t drive away these evil spirits? In region after region there is killing, bloodshed and man robbing man- are we wild animals? Must we devour one another? Look at the injustices and the denial of basic human rights heaped on the poor. Political leaders, supposed administrators and civil service appointees are fleecing and flaying the people alive! I cannot understand the awful greed and cruelty behind such a mentality. The Bible says that those who receive Christ are made the sons of God. God wants us to be His sons and daughters- full of love, full of joy and full of power to release these willing ‘slaves’ of the devil.
The evil spirits told Jesus, “Don’t send us out of this country. Send us into the herd of swine over there.” Unclean spirits want to inhabit unclean animals and unclean people. Jesus gave them leave and of course when the evil spirits went into them, all the swine ran headlong into the sea. But what sorrow there was in that country over the loss of their pigs! Word went back to the owners, “Your swines are lost.” They did not say, “Hey, that man in the tombs is delivered. The police could not control him, no asylum could cure him and nobody could bind him with chains. But now he is free. Let us rejoice!” No, they did not rejoice about that. They mourned, “Oh, our pigs are drowned.” They came to Jesus and begged Him saying, “Please leave our country.”
In the East and in many developing countries, there are some people who say today: “We don’t want Christ in this country. He is an American God.” Do you know America? I have preached in America from my youth. Today America is ready to be destroyed because of her rejection of the Lord Jesus. They began with the Bible, but now many there have departed far from God. Their families are breaking and those who are rushing in there from all quarters of the globe, often get so steeped in materialism that they are of little use and no Heavenly use whatever! Do not imagine that America and Christ are synonymous. No, my friend, Jesus is the God of sinners, He is the God who came to drive out the devils from as many as will seek Him. Nobody can cure us of our native deceit, our false balances, the lying tongue and the innate pride in us. Nobody can save us from our wicked hearts. Because Jesus died on the Cross and became the propitiation for our sins, there is hope for you and me and there is hope for every sinner in this world. Whether you may be in a high position in Government or nobody in the land, Jesus loves you.
What did the people see? They saw this man seated at the Feet of Jesus. What an astonishing sight! He was saying to Jesus, “I want to be with you.” The same man who a little while ago had cried, “What have I to do with you?” is speaking like this now. Look at the diametrically opposite change in his attitudes and longings. Seated at the Feet of Jesus, his heart’s desire now was to be with Him. When people do not long for prayer and the study of God’s word, the Bible, and the company of those who walk with God with a clean conscience, there is something seriously wrong with them. The dramatic change visible in this tortured and tormented man, just takes place in everyone as soon as the spiritual darkness is dispelled from them.
There are those who claim that their family traditions or even ‘caste’ or class keeps them from the Lord Jesus. Some long to be free from these shackles and in the mean time suffer silently in fear and cowardice, while the years slip by. Dare you lose this salvation of your soul through the fear of your community or companions!
Now here is your opportunity to enjoy and declare the great freedom with which Christ sets us free. I cannot imagine anyone denying that man from Gadarenes a hearing, while he declared Christ and spoke of his release. You can be sure that when you truly taste Jesus, there is a ring of truth and reality about everything you say and do. Dear reader, throw away your blinkers, cast away all fetters! There has never been a time like this to declare Jesus and His love.
Yes, the Lord Jesus told this man, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how great things the Lord has done for you, and has had compassion on you.” He became the missionary to those parts. Jesus Himself did not preach there, but this man who was once demon-possessed went back and preached there. Listen friends, there is hope for us. You and I simply become true witnesses for Jesus when he touches us. Yes, the Lord Jesus told this man, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how great things the Lord has done for you, and has had compassion on you.” He became the missionary to those parts. Jesus Himself did not preach there, but this man who was once demon-possessed went back and preached there. Listen friends, there is hope for us. You and I simply become true witnesses for Jesus when he touches us.
“Touch Everyone of My Readers, Lord. I pray You in Jesus’ Name.” Amen.
Jesus is a created of earth and on the earth because Jesus is word.