In his immortal allegory, "Pilgrim's Progress," John Bunyan has listed no fewer than seven separate types of Christian ministers. They are: Evangelist, Interpreter, Greatheart; and then the four shepherds on the Delectable Mountains—Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere. Three of these ministerial characteristics seem to emphasize the student half of the preacher's life: Knowledge, Interpreter, Evangelist; and the other four stress the prayer side of his ministry: Watchful, Experience, Greatheart, and Sincere. All, however, are summed up in one graphic picture shown to Christian as he is about to start on his journey to Zion, a picture, he is told, of "the only man whom the Lord of the place bath authorized to be his guide to the celestial city." And here it is:
"Christian saw the picture of a very grave person hang up against the wall, and this was the fashion of it: he had eyes lifted up to heaven; the best of books was in his hand; the law of truth was written upon his lips; the world was behind his back; he stood as if he pleaded with men; and a crown of gold did hang over his head."
May God grant that every minister and Bible worker and laborer in any branch of the Lord's sacred cause may be just like that. Notice the seven distinct elements herein portrayed of the Christian worker and his ministry: (1) Gravity.—He was a "very grave person." (2) Prayerfulness.—His eyes were lifted up to heaven. (3) Studiousness.—The best of books, the Bible, was in his hands. (4) Orthodoxy.—Soundness in the faith. The law of truth was upon his lips. (5) Consecration.—The world was behind his back. (6) Passion for Souls.—He was pleading with men in an effort to save them. (7) Respect for the Recompense or the Reward.—A crown of gold hung over his head. My topic emphasizes the second and third of these spiritual qualifications, the importance of which is readily seen.
The Preacher in Prayer
He ever had "his eyes lifted up to heaven." The Lord Jesus, when training His twelve disciples for their ministry, repeatedly taught them how to pray, but almost never how to preach. "Pray ye therefore" was His command when He revealed to them the plenteousness of the harvest and the fewness of the laborers. And the apostle Paul has named, as the last and most effective weapon of aggressive warfare in our conquests for God, one which he calls "all prayer" (Eph. 6:18), or we might designate it as the spear of the Spirit. He has already spoken of the Word of God as "the sword of the Spirit." In battle, the Roman soldier, whose entire equipment is here used as an illustration of the Christian's armor, wielded both spear and sword. First he hurled his spear as he rushed forward to meet the foe, and then, as he reached him, he finished him off with his short but deadly two-edged sword. This is a strikingly fitting illustration, by the way, of how a Christian warrior may win a soul for Christ: first, by throwing forward a prayer, the spear of the Spirit, and then coming in close contact with his man by using the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
The Lord's faithful ministers have ever been men of fervent, unwearied prayer. John Wesley spent two hours daily in prayer. Luther said, "If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day." At another time he said, "I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer." His motto was, "He that has prayed well has studied well." Joseph Alleine (referred to in "The Great Controversy," page 252) rose at four o'clock every morning and continued in private devotion until eight. John Welch, a devout and Spirit-filled minister of the Scotch Presbyterian Church, used to rise many times in the night to plead for his flock. And he often spent seven or eight hours a day in a Gethsemanelike intercession for his church and for lost souls.
Judged by this criterion, are we "men of prayer"? May God help us to pray, to pray always, and not to faint. Prayer is by far the most important of all our Christian duties. Says the Spirit of prophecy:
"Prayer is heaven's ordained means of success in the conflict with sin, and the develop. ment of Christian character."—"Acts of the Apostles," p. 564.
"Every morning take time to begin your work with prayer. Do not think this wasted time. It is time that will live through eternal ages. By this means success and spiritual victory will be brought in."—"Testimonies," Vol. VII, p. 194.
"Pray three times a day, and like Jacob, be importunate."—Vol.17 , p. 161,.
"Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power. No other means of grace can be substituted, and the health of the soul be preserved. . . . God's messengers must tarry long with Him, if they would have success in their work."—"Gospel Workers," pp. 254, 255.
For the daily baptism of the Spirit, every worker should offer his petition to God. . . . Especially should they [Christian workers] pray that God will baptize His chosen ambassadors in mission fields with a rich measure of His Spirit."—"Acts of the Apostles," pp. 50, 51.
In the Review and Herald a few years back I found this impressive quotation: "Satan dreads nothing but prayer. He laughs at our toils, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray."
Speaking of Christ, the servant of the Lord says:
"From hours spent with God He came forth morning by morning to bring the light of heaven to men. Daily He received a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit. In the early hours of the new day the Lord awakened Him from His slumbers, and His soul and His lips were anointed with grace that He might impart to others."—"Christ's Object Lessons," p. 139.
"Heaven has no substitute for prayer." If we fail to use this means of grace and spiritual power, we will suffer loss, and the loss will he eternal. Jesus is our example in prayer as in all other matters. Let us all covenant with God that we will make fuller use of "all prayer" in the future.
* Presented at Pacific Union Institute.