Are we shaking the world with our prayers? To ask the question is to answer it. Of course we can talk of lack of time, and God knows we are busy. But when we are so busy as to have no time for real prayer, then we are more busy than we ought to be.
Over in India the people worship a god whose name they spell "H-a-r-i," but they pronounce it "hurry." One wonders whether we worship at the shrine of the same god, which results, of course, in strained lives, short tempers, and sadder still, being robbed of the secret of power that accrues to the life of the man who has, under God, conquered prayerlessness.
We have a tremendous task to perform, and our approach must be practical and realistic. But is it not valid realism to con fess our utter helplessness, humanly speaking, to grip adequately the increasing evangelistic opportunities and accomplish the objectives of the gospel commission? These confessions will lead every one of us to dis cover new avenues of power through prayer.
A haunting thought is tucked away in the heart of Jude, verse 12. It speaks of "clouds . . . without water." A cloud is a promise of rain, and the parched hearts of people everywhere are eagerly searching for the fulfillment of that promise. But are we "clouds . . . without water"? A little introspective thinking might help. What man of us has not walked away from his pulpit assignment at some time or other keenly aware that what he said left the people strangely unmoved? Have we ever closed a Week of Prayer, a camp meeting, or some special series of meetings, only to discover that someone seated before our ministry gave way to some growing sin, some fester ing problem, which broke out into open rebellion soon after our departure? All at once we are rudely awakened to the realization that our preaching did not save that man from the tragedy that budded shortly after our attempt to help. It certainly makes a man humble and takes all professionalism out of him when he realizes his ministry lacks the penetrating, saving power of God actually to rescue and transform his most needy hearers.
How many of us have been asked to join in an anointing service and found our minds doubting our preparation and strangely embarrassed at our lack of power? Have we ever feared at such a moment that our prayers would be ineffective and perhaps even block the Spirit of power, which was so desperately desired for the sake of the one who was ill? Such experiences make one wonder whether God occasionally permits us to face these disturbing "blocks" in order to help us realize our continuous need of fellowship with Him. But since self would rather be thought badly of than not be thought of at all, we excuse our failure as a human weakness. Yes, we hope to re pair the breach sometime, especially before we are ever again called to stand between the living and the dead. But dare we put it off? The power for any particular day or sermon does not depend entirely upon the prayer in the minister's room before entering the pulpit, or the last-minute petition before emergency service, but upon the force of the accumulated prayers in the life.
Then again, how often have we wrestled with men in their struggle with sin, realizing that we were engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy? At such times we have discovered a strange, haunting fear creep over us that we were helplessly witnessing a birth with no power to be born. Dare we talk casually to a man without coming to grips with his real inner problems? Have we rather superficially prayed for him instead of teaching him to pray his way through, because we sensed our own inner barrenness?
Please don't misunderstand me! We all pray, we preach about prayer, but do we know the experience and the joy of real prayer? Do we know how to spend even one- half hour with God in earnest, yearning, growing fellowship? Do we know how to reach out after God and permit Him to lay hold of the springs of our lives? Does our intercourse with the Lord grow deeper and more inspired until fellowship becomes so real that every sermon, every committee meeting, every anointing service, every pastoral contact will not be a hurried, last- minute, frantic reaching for power from on high, but rather a spiritual encounter with the forces of darkness by a deep prayer life secure in God? What priceless blessings of added power we might each realize if at the beginning of this new year we discovered where we stand as to our problem of prayerlessness!
I read these words from the Lord:
"Under the showers of the latter rain, the inventions of man, the human machinery, will at times be swept away, the boundary of man's authority will be as broken reeds, and the Holy Spirit will speak through the living, human agent with convincing power. No one will then watch to see if the sentences are well rounded off, if the grammar is fault less. The living water will flow in God's own channels." General Conference Bulletin, 1895, p. 183.
"The promises of God now repeated as if the soul had never tasted of His love, will then glow upon the altar of the heart, and fall in burning words from the lips of the messenger of God. They will then plead with souls with an earnestness that cannot be repulsed. Then the windows of heaven will be opened for the showers of the latter rain." Review and Herald, Feb. 25, 1890.
Is not this the experience every true ministerial heart longs for?
Lord Rosebury, in describing the spirit- filled ministry of Thomas Chalmers, said:
"Oratory must have been one main secret of his amazing power. Energy was another. The tender ness of sympathy was another. But through all the splendors of his speech, through all his activities of administration, through all his powerful and voluminous writing, there flamed the glory of a living soul, a supreme unquenchable fervent soul. That was the real secret of his power that drew all hearts willingly and unwillingly to him."
Polished personalities; the divine force of abounding energy; keen, creative minds; expert planners and planning yes, God has given these talents in abundance to His people, but what would happen if at the base of it all could be this living, unquenchable, fervent spirit that comes from a continuous, living fellowship with God? What can we do about it, brethren?
At the opening of this new and important year, let every one of us cry out: "Lord, forgive; I confess with shame my sin of prayerlessness. I claim here and now the divine power that can give me permanent release. Grant me the courage of discipline and then the joys of the victory of a growing prayer life in our Saviour's name."