So, you want to pray?

John Ironside, an American ardent soul-winner, spent his short life preaching on the streets, in the parks, in halls and theaters, wherever he could.  But at age 27, he contracted typhoid and quickly died, leaving his wife Sophia with two small boys and no income. 

One of the boys, Harry watched his mother closely.  On one occasion, he recalled company coming for supper.  Sophia’s cupboard was nearly bare, but she scraped together a meal with the little that remained.  After the visitors left, she found under one of their plates a ten-dollar bill – a vast sum in those days.  With eyes full of tears, she offered thanks to God. 

Some time later, the cupboard was again empty.  Sophia gathered her two sons to the table for breakfast, but their plates were empty, and there was only water to drink.  “We will give thanks, boys,” she said.  Closing her eyes, she prayed, “Father, Thou hast promised in Thy Word, ‘Your bread shall be given you, and your water shall be sure.’  We have the water, and we thank Thee for it.  And now, we trust Thee for the bread, or for that which will take its place.” 

Just as she finished praying, the doorbell rang, and the boys ran to the door to find a man there.  “Mrs. Ironside,” he said, “I feel very bad.  We have been owing you for months for that dress you made for my wife.  We’ve had no money to pay you.  But just now we’re harvesting our potatoes, and we wondered if you would take a bushel or two on account of the old bill.” 

“Indeed, I’ll be glad to,” replied Sophia.  And in few minutes, the potatoes were sizzling in the frying pan, and the boys had answered prayer for breakfast. “Prayer is the gymnasium of the soul,” says Samuel M. Zwemer.  George Buttrick forwards: “Prayer is not a substitute for work, thinking, watching, suffering, or giving; prayer is a support for all other efforts.” 

William A. Ward believes that God is never more than a prayer away from us.   He explains: “We address and stamp a letter and send it on its way, confident that it will reach its destination, but we doubtfully wonder if our prayers will be heard by an ever-present God… If laser beams can cut through mountains, why should we doubt the power of prayer?  Wonderful things can happen to us when we live expectantly, believe confidently, and pray affirmatively.  The pulse of prayer is praise.  The heart of prayer is gratitude.  The voice of prayer is obedience.  The arm of prayer is service.” 

“Prayer is more than verbally filling in some requisition blank,” Billy Graham states.  “It’s fellowship with God!  It’s communion with the Lord through praising Him, rehearsing His promises, and then sharing our needs.” 

When we depend on man, we get what man can do.  But when we depend on prayer, we get what God can do.  Somewhere in Africa, a missionary and his helpers were forced to camp on a hill .  They carried money and were fearful of an attack.  After prayer, they went to sleep. 

Months later, a brigand chief was brought to the mission hospital.  He asked the missionary if he had soldiers to guard him that special night.  “We intended to rob you,” he said, “but we were afraid of the 26 soldiers.” 

When the missionary returned to his country, he shared the story during a church service.  As he recalled the incident, one man jumped to his feet and interrupted the missionary and asked if he could tell him the exact date it happened. The missionary did. 

Upon hearing this, the man told the missionary: “On that very night in Africa, it was morning here and I was preparing to go play golf.  But I felt something unusual – the urge to pray for you.  In fact, the urging of the Lord was so strong, I called men in this church to meet with me here in the sanctuary to pray for you.” 

Then, facing the congregation, the man asked: “Would all of those men who met with me on that day stand up?” 

The men who had met together to pray that day stood up.  The missionary wasn’t concerned with who they were, he was too busy counting how many men who stood up. Yes, you’re right – there were 26! 

In praying, we must not forget that our prayers are to be answered.  Some are answered just as we wish; some are answered in a way different from what we wish – in a better way!  Some are answered by a change in us; some by a change in others.  Some are answered by the giving of a greater strength to bear trials, and some by the lifting of the trials.  Some at once; some in years to come; and some await eternity. 

Yes, God always answers prayers – in his own mysterious ways.  Dr. Robert Schuller reminds us in his thought-provoking piece:  “When the idea is not right, God says, ‘No.’  No – when the idea is not the best.  No – when the idea is absolutely wrong.  No – when though it may help you, it could create problems for someone else. 

“When the time is not right, God says, ‘Slow.’  What a catastrophe it would if God answered every prayer at the snap of your fingers.  Do you know what would happen?  God would become your servant, not your master.  Suddenly, God would be working for you instead of you working for God.  Remember: God’s delays are not God’s denials.  God’s timing is perfect.  Patience is what we need in prayer. “When you are right, God says, ‘Grow.’  The selfish person has to grow in unselfishness.  The cautious person must grow courage.  The timid person must grow in confidence.  The dominating person must grow in sensitivity.  The critical person must grow in tolerance.  The negative person must grow in positive attitudes.  The pleasure-seeking person must grow in compassion for suffering people. “When everything is all right, God says, ‘Go.’  Then miracles happen: A hopeless alcoholic is set free.  A drug addict finds release.  A doubter becomes as a child in his belief.  Diseased tissue responds to treatment, and healing begins.  The door to your dream suddenly swings open and there stand God saying, ‘Go!’” 

“The prayer power,” says J. Hudson Taylor, “has never been tried to its full capacity… If we want to see mighty wonders of divine power and grace wrought in the place of weakness, failure and disappointment, let us answer God’s standing challenge, ‘Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and might things which thou knowest not!’” 

Remember, “more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of,” wrote Alfred Lord Tennyson. — ###

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