We have come now to one of the deepest of the foundation stones in the structure of prayer. It might be stated in this fashion: To prevail in prayer and to be mighty with God in the fulfillment of His promises, we
must be right with others. Here is where prayer founders; here is where the great short circuit is found through which the prayers of the Church run aground and lose efficacy.
Jesus our Lord with His customary incisiveness flashes the matter upon the consciences of His followers in this fashion: “When ye stand praying, forgive.” He had just said: “What things soever ye desire when ye pray believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” But He goes on to say however, it is not as simple as that. Look well to your relations with your fellows. Have you quarreled with anyone? Go seek your brother and be reconciled. Has someone wronged you? Then you must forgive. Then comes the
terrible judgment which might well cause us to tremble: “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
It is indeed strange that in books on prayer this matter, in the main, is passed over. Perhaps it is because it is painful. Yet we dare not close our eyes to this aspect of our theme, that is, if we would really learn to
pray and release for suffering, despairing, mankind the untold riches which God in His great mercy is so eager to bestow. The world’s greatest need is for great intercessors that the power and goodness of Almighty God might be brought to bear upon benighted souls as when a great river invades a parched desert land. But great intercessors such as Jacob and Moses and Isaiah and Paul and George Muller and Praying Hyde of India must pay a great price. Nothing costs like prayer. It demands among other things right relations. It costs forgiveness like that wrought on Calvary. I must forgive my brother if I would approach Him who bore all my sins in His body on the Tree that I might be forgiven. In the face of God’s
forgiveness so freely offered to all men however great their crimes and offenses as regards His love and law, through the Crucified One who was made sin (yea, a curse) that men might be freed from the curse of sin, all petty human bitterness and all unwillingness to forgive become infinite incongruities. Nothing will so get you out of step with God, and so at cross-purposes, as a lack of forgiveness. Though it may hurt like the
pulling of all your teeth, you must forgive, or give up the hope of becoming an effective intercessor.
The subject is seen in a little different form in a passage in I Peter which we fail to give its real importance. The scope is simply immeasurable. Peter says that our prayers will be hindered if we fail to give honor “unto the weaker vessel, heirs together of the grace of life”; that is to say, the wife. In other words, how you treat your wife will bear tremendously on your prayer life. If there is wanting the Christian consideration that should mark the way of a Christian husband, it will cut a central nerve in the life of prayer. I live in a land, as a missionary, where wives suffer. It is only in Christian lands where they are given the consideration and the place they merit in God’s economy. I was speaking to a group of pastors at a Bible retreat about realized greatly their prayers would be hindered if they failed to be as considerate of their wives as they should be. They were shocked to learn that the efficacy of their prayers could be impaired by so trivial (in their eyes) a matter. That evening the good wives got together for a little “take-off” on their husbands and sang a song for me, thanking me for the service I had rendered them. You should have seen the looks on the faces of those pastors.
But let us look at the matter in its most significant bearing on prayer. I am praying, let us presume, as I should be praying for revival in the Church. The greatest thing that can possibly take place in this old world
with its disease and pain, sin and death, is genuine revival. For real revival means an invasion of the life of heaven as when the ocean sweeps in and bathes the stinking pools of the shores. Pentecost was the life of
heaven released upon earth for the healing of its stinking wounds inflicted by sin. But let us presume I pray from a sectarian basis. I am animated by a denominational zeal. I want revival but I want it in my way
and for my church. I pray hard and long, but revival does not come. The water of the River of Life clear as crystal which proceeds from the throne and from the Lamb, does not invade my church. It is as dead as ever. Why is my agonized cry not heard? Ah, I am praying with a wrong spirit and from a wrong premise. I must be purged from selfish motives. I must first go to Calvary and die before a resurrection and a Pentecost can be effected. The outpourings of the Spirit in the days of Paul were not simply because of earnest prayers, but the prayers of one who could say: “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, and yet not I, but Christ liveth in me….”
Missionary labors have taken me to many lands and associated me with almost all the types that make up God’s great family today. There is a general conviction that the greatest need is from life from heaven,
revival, the sort of thing that inflamed hearts and revolutionized lives on Pentecost. Here and there we find life such as that which characterized the Church after Pentecost. False fire, too, of a spurious kind is not
wanting, Oh, the longings for genuine revival. And what earnest prayers that God would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might melt at His presence, as we read in Isaiah – but the revival does not come. And when one searches into the cause, one is driven to the conclusion that it lies ourselves. Oh, our divisions, our ill will toward groups of a different ecclesiastical genuflection, our denominational
pride, our unwillingness to recognize and aim at the unity of the body with Christ as Head, our zeal for our own particular group with its distinguishing tradition and emphasis, our narrow bigotry, our passionate
labors whose end, we say, is Christ but at whose roots there lies the uncrucified flesh. Romans six would is applied, take care of it all and remove the hindrances as when a prairie fire sweeps the land clear of every vile growth. “Knowing that our old man was crucified together – with Christ.” Fail to enter into the experience of Romans six and you raise the greatest hindrance to the efficacy of prayer that can be found in the entire brood of obstacles.
I can only pray for revival as I stand on universal ground. I must by faith stand on the oneness of the body of Christ. I must say amen to the prayers of all the saints. I must in spirit embrace all God’s children regardless of color. I must be delighted over the growth of some other denomination slightly different from my own – just so souls are brought in true faith to Christ. I must be willing to die, knowing that we who live are always committed unto death for Jesus sake that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh (II Cor. 4:10). My pride and disdain for a brother in the faith whose color makes him obnoxious, will as certainly and effectively close the door of heaven against my prayers as open sin of a
We could almost wish that the Saviour had never said: “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee…go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother.” But He said it. It knocks out about one half of the efficacy and worth of the prayers of Christians. If the Church were to really act upon this principle, her prayers could revolutionize the life of nations.
Praying Hyde of India whose ministry of prayer ushered in a new day, a day of glory and power for the Church of India, tells how on a certain occasion he was giving himself to prayer for certain Indian pastors. He says that he began by saying: “Lord you know how cold and hard, pastor so and so is,” when he felt the hand of God sealing his lips. He felt reproved. He began again, but this time it was to thank the Lord for some virtue he was not long in finding his brother had. And so he continued with each one on the list. The result was, as he discovered later, that the Lord poured out a mighty blessing upon each one of these pastors. Ah, the Lord knows our secret thoughts as we read in Psalm 139:4: “For there is not a word in my
tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.” Indeed, the power of prayer is conditioned upon right relations. The Lord’s Prayer (which never was His, but is ours) has no “I” or “me” in it. It is universal ground. As we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we embrace all men everywhere, of all colors and conditions and climes. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive.” Oh, may it be even so with all who bear the name of Christ.
(The above material was taken from Prayer’s Deeper Secrets.)
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