As it is our desire and purpose for this book to stimulate and inspire its readers to redouble their energy and efforts to forward the gospel and win the victory in this last great conflict, we feel it would hardly be complete without a chapter on prayer.
Prevailing prayer implies and embodies all works, as the seed embodies the trunk, root, branches, flowers and fruitage of the tree.
The history of piety is the history of prayer. All piety and successful Christian work begins, continues and ends with prayer. From the offering of Abel’s acceptable sacrifice down to the present moment, all blessings of grace have been bestowed in answer to the triple intercessions of the Son of God, the Holy Spirit and believing souls.
The angel said to Jacob (Gen. 32:28), “As a prince hast thou power with God and with men and hast prevailed.” If, by the effort of prayer, we may prevail, both with God and with men, is there anything else we can do in life which, in importance and power, is equal to prayer? On the day of Pentecost the preacher and the whole church being full of faith, the Holy Ghost, and power, in answer to the prayer of faith, one sermon resulted in the conversion of three thousand souls. To-day three thousand sermons without this power in answer to prayer, would not save one sinner. The more of churches and sermons we have without prayer that brings an enduement of power, the worse are we off. They are a savor of death unto death, and as some one has said: “If there was a religion to-day that had the doctrine and all the ordinances of the New Testament, and yet, without the baptism of the Holy Ghost, it would not be Christianity.”
Because of the interests pending, and the power God has placed at the disposal of him who prays, the most interesting sight in this world is a man in the act of prayer. The angels of God look with wonder, and the Lord of angels bends from His lofty throne and exclaims, “Behold, he prayeth!”
God has revealed the necessity of prayer and its almost unlimited power. “Ask and it shall be given you.” “If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.” Prayer is intimately associated with man’s salvation, and without it we cannot be saved.
How much in Christian experience and Christian labor, depends on prayer! Without prayer for the power of the Holy Ghost to attend the truth preached, the Word will be a dead letter. “The letter killeth but the Spirit giveth life.” No wonder there are so many dead formal churches. It is the unction that makes the preacher.
How did Fletcher and Finney get this unction? By praying without ceasing, by pleading, wrestling, and prevailing at a throne of grace. All great soul winners have conquered on their knees. Without prevailing prayer the meetings become as cold as death, and the churches will dwindle and become extinct. What is wanting in so many instances, is the power of the Holy Ghost to move and act in answer to the effectual, fervent prayer of the saints of God.
The Spirit of God is the great agent, who is the source of all vitality and power in every service. His life and power are given in answer to the prayer of faith, and never otherwise. How did the early church get such great power? What could they have done without it? What did they do with it? What can we do without it? A writer says of the sainted Bramwell: “I attribute the greater portion of his success in the ministry to his diligence and prayer.”
As we advance we see in prayer the great means for obtaining strength and wisdom for our work in the Lord’s service. As we understand this subject, we will see more and more that intercessory prayer is the most important and the most real work the Christian has to do. “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land that I should not destroy it, but I found none. herefore I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath; their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God.” (Ezek. 22:30, 31.) What a responsible position we occupy! To stand in the gap in intercessory prayer for the salvation of souls, to keep off the wrath of God is the need of the hour.
Prevailing prayer leads us into a holy and intimate nearness to God. It is the only way to God, the only medium of communion with Him. Prevailing with God is the secret of prevailing with men, and must precede it. On what we transact with God at a throne of grace depends what we may accomplish with men. We may pray, sing and preach until we drop in our graves, but until we prevail all will go for nothing. It is one thing to pray, and another thing to prevail in prayer.
Esau was conquered while Jacob wrestled until the break of day. The lions’ mouths were closed while Daniel was on his knees. Elijah prayed, “And it rained not for the space of three years and six months.” He prayed again, “and it came to pass, in the meanwhile, that the heavens were black with clouds, and wind, and there was a great rain.” When the Israelites had made them a golden calf and worshipped it, God determined to destroy them, and said to Moses. “I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people: Now, therefore, let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the Lord, his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people? * * * * Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. * * * * And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” But for the prayer of Moses, God would have annihilated the whole nation instead of cutting off but a few thousand of the idolaters. Strange as it may seem, yet the life of a nation depended on the prayer of faith offered by Moses.
“Oh, wonderful power of faithful prayer!
What tongue can tell the almighty grace?
God’s hands are bound or open are,
As Moses or Elijah prays!
Let Moses in the Spirit groan;
And God cries out, ‘Let me alone.’ ”
When Haman sought revenge on all the Jews in all the realms of Ahasuerus, because of the insult tendered him by Moredecai the Jew, and when it was decreed by the king that all the Jews should be put to death, Mordecai informed queen Esther of the bloody plot; and the queen bade Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me; and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise, and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”
When the Jews had thus, for three days and nights, fasted and prayed, God answered and delivered them, and destroyed their enemy. He who prays in faith enlists almighty God, all the armies of heaven and every law of the universe, in the interest of his cause.
Strange as it may seem, nevertheless, the eternal salvation of the lost depends on God’s people at a throne of grace. It is in answer to prevailing prayer that power is given to move the lost to accept Christ. Peter was released from prison while the church at Jerusalem were on their knees. It was the power of the Holy Ghost, given in answer to the prayer of faith, that made the truth in Peter’s sermon, on the day of Pentecost, effectual in the conviction and conversion of three thousand souls. Without this power in answer to prayer, the multitude would have remained unmoved, except that probably they would have become so enraged that Peter would have lost his life. The prayer of faith brought a power that enchained the rabble and subdued the otherwise invincible.
It was the power of God that came while Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God, that made the earth quake and sinners tremble, and that opened the prison door and wicked hearts as well. The power that did these things centuries ago, can do the same to-day. This power is given to us in answer to the prayer of faith.
The Syro-Phoenician woman, whose daughter was a demoniac, cried out of her maternal heart: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David, * * * * Lord help me!” To which Christ responded, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. The all important thing for that mother to do was to believe—prevail.
The all important thing for us to do in these days, is to believe—to have great faith in God, and this comes of great praying.
The death warrant of “Bloody Mary” was signed in heaven, while John Knox was on his knees, saying: “Give me Scotland or I die.” When that wicked ruler said: “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than I fear all the armies of Europe,” she paid the finest tribute to the power of prayer to be found on the pages of history. The Emperor of Germany resolved to proclaim religious toleration throughout his realm, while Martin Luther and some of his helpers were on their knees: when Luther exclaimed: “Deliverance has come! Deliverance has come!”
Without the quickening and convicting operations of the Holy Ghost, the sinner will not, cannot come to God. These operations of the Holy Ghost are conditioned on the faith of the children of God. As the saints prevail with God for the convicting power of the Holy Ghost upon sinners, the responsibility for the salvation of sinners is transferred from the Christians to sinners themselves. Only where Christians have done their utmost, is the responsibility entirely transferred to sinners. Then how great, how charming the responsibility of Christians! Then how important this subject of prayer in this time of the last great conflict!
As priests, we must go into the holy of holies of God’s presence by the way of prayer, and receive “all the fullness of God” ourselves, and answer for the salvation of others, and then return to the people with a blessing for them. Christ spent a whole night on the mountain in prayer, that the next day He might return “in the power of the Spirit,” with great blessings for the people.
How marvelous the power the church may wield at the throne of grace to move the “Lord of the harvest to send forth more laborers into His vineyard,” to carry “this gospel of the kingdom in all the world for a witness” in this generation! The gathering of the harvest depends on prayer. How solemn the thought! How almost overwhelming the sense of responsibility that thrills the soul of him who understands the power of prayer, and is in sympathy with a lost race in its paramount peril, and with Him who “gave His life a ransom for all,” as he lifts his eyes and sees “the fields already white unto the harvest!”
No subject equals in importance this subject. By prayer we receive of God’s life and take on His character. We become like those with whom we have continuous and loving fellowship.
“We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” We now behold Him in the gospel glass face to face, and are “changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” “As He (Jesus) prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistering.” And the fashion of our countenances will be changed as we draw near to God in prayer.
Then pray for Jesus’ sake! Pray for the salvation of the lost! Pray for your own present good and eternal glory! Pray now, while we are in this last great conflict, for by prayer only will the victory be won and the conflict ended, and Jesus reign supreme. Pray! Pray!! Pray!!!
“Prevailing Prayer” is a chapter from AJ Tomlinson’s book, “The Last Great Conflict.” You may purchase this book, part of the Church of God Heritage Series by clicking here.