A Letter on Prayer
Dear Brother or Sister—You are not indifferent to the interests of Christ. The matter before me is a united crying to God. I venture to bring it before you.
One cannot but be struck with the wide disproportion of numbers between the gatherings of the Lord's Day morning and those for prayer.
From Acts 2:42 we learn that in the early days of the church the attendance on “breaking of bread and in prayers” was the same, and the words “with one accord” expressed the practice of those days.
It behoves us, then, to inquire why it would have to be written now, as regards gatherings for prayer, not “with one accord,” but “ from twelve to twenty percent were together.” All will admit that one in five is a small proportion indeed to show the desire to wait on God in prayer; and again I would say, let us ask ourselves why.
If you, dear brother or sister, are seldom or ever at the meeting for prayer, let me ask you to ponder the reason.
As I have said, I cannot suppose you are indifferent to the interests of Christ, whether in the assemblies, affecting your own circle or the world at large.
Is it that you have let go the truth that you are a joint of supply in the body (Eph. 4:16), and are needful for the fulfilment of its activities?
There must be distinct loss to all when you are not present.
I can easily imagine your saying, “I never thought of it in that light.”
Sisters in particular may not have realized this truth, because unable to express themselves audibly in the meeting; but each sister is also a joint of supply in the body. Besides the fact that she can swell the volume of united intercession, and add her “Amen” to the petitions of others, her own desires for Christ's glory known to the Holy Ghost, are sure to find expression through other lips, and thus the scope of the supplications, or, as it may be, thanksgivings, is enlarged by that sister's presence.
How great must be the loss to any brother or sister who absent themselves from the gathering for prayer!
Nor should any excuse themselves lightly. The attendance on the ministry of a gifted brother is often in marked contrast to the gathering for the exercise of the highest Christian privilege next to worship.
It is a wonderful thing that we—nothing in ourselves, and once far from God—should have the high privilege of drawing nigh to God as holy priests, to bring before Him, in the added relationship of His children, and in the incense of the name of Jesus, the petitions which the Holy Ghost frames in our hearts and minds from day to day, as He brings before our souls the interests of Christ and the claims of God, both in respect of His saints and the objects of His long-suffering grace in the world.
With regard to the meetings for prayer themselves, I might be permitted to mention what may help to increase and sustain general interest.
It need hardly be remarked that exercise of soul is needful to earnest and effectual prayer. It is those things that burden us from day to day, as to the good of saints or the needs of sinners in relation to the glory of God through Christ, which find expression when unitedly we bow before God.
But in order that we may agree as touching that which we shall ask, it is often most helpful to mention special things before we bend the knee together.
Indeed, this is the first thing I would mention as helpful, i.e. DEFINITENESS OF PETITION, and next, BREVITY OF PRAYER.
“Friend, lend me three loaves,” was both definite and brief (Luke 9:5).
The prayer, or manner of prayer, which the Lord taught the disciples was a model of definiteness and briefness.
Long, roundabout prayers are wearisome, and have a deadening effect on the meeting.
Even a brother praying in the power of the Spirit had better pray twice or oftener, than for a long time at once.
While posture is a minor thing, it undoubtedly counts.
Kneeling is always the posture indicated in the New Testament, exampled by the Lord Jesus Himself. The Jewish posture was, apparently, standing. Let us ponder this matter, and act as we believe the Lord would wish us to.
It has often been said that the gathering for prayer is the pulse of the assembly—the measure of its desire and power.
Once again, then, “let us lift up the hands which hang down.” Let us bestir ourselves afresh to wait upon God unitedly—sisters as well as brothers—and He has said that they that wait on Him shall renew their strength, mount up with wings as eagles, run and not be weary, and walk and not faint. Moreover, it is written, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
Let gravity (but not formality), simplicity, which always accompanies reality, lowliness of spirit, definiteness, largeness of petition and expectation, with watchfulness, characterize our gatherings for prayer. Nor let us forget thanksgiving for answers vouchsafed.
Let it be said of the assembly you are identified with, and of mine, as was written of those in Acts 1:14, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.” Then who shall measure the resulting glory to God, and blessing to men?