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In the Day of Thy Power: 11. Wielding The Weapon

By Arthur Wallis

      "After this manner therefore pray ye." (Matt. 6:9).

      Paul, that outstanding soldier of Christ, has said that "the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds." (2 Cor. 10:4). Although many will acknowledge that one of the greatest of these weapons is "all prayer", comparatively few seem to be able to use it with real effect against the hosts of darkness. In addition to the vital principles just considered, there are other important features set forth in Scripture emphasizing the manner in which the weapon should be wielded for success.

      Firstly, prevailing prayer necessitates that in our petitions we should be - Definite

      Much ineffectiveness in prayer is caused by the vagueness of the request. If water is allowed to flow at random over a wide area it will dissipate its energy and produce only a marsh. If confined to a riverbed its power may be harnessed to turn a mill or generate electric power.

      There is, of course, a place for general praying, but the kind of praying that prevails is that which has been focused by the Spirit of God on a definite objective.

      There is a place and time in military strategy for general harassing tactics, but when the moment arrives for attack and advance, success depends on the concentration of force at the strategic points. If the vital objectives are seized, victory is assured.

      When Bartimaeus cried out to Jesus to have mercy on him, the Saviour asked him, "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" (Mark 10:51). Was it not obvious to the Saviour what he wanted? Of course, but the Lord was encouraging him to be definite in his petition, to change "have mercy upon me" to "Lord, that I may receive my sight." We often ask God to bless this or that; He might well answer, "What wilt thou? What exactly do you want Me to do for you?" Be specific, be definite in prayer. Let the prayer objectives be clearly defined.

      If we want revival, let us plead the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit. Let us pray for the church to be quickened in love and life and power. Let us pray for believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Let us pray that conviction may seize the godless, and that there may be a great turning to God. Let us pray that the Lord alone may be exalted in that day.

      Charles Finney recorded the following: "Some ladies had come over to New York, and were much struck with the progress of the revival movement there, particularly with some instances of remarkable conversions that had occurred in the case of individuals after special prayer made by Christians. They asked me a good many questions, and, among other things, wanted to know if I really thought it of any use for them to pray for a revival in their place. I related some facts to encourage them, and told them to go home and agree, together with other ladies of their acquaintance, to observe a closet concert of prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

      They went home, and engaged some half dozen of them for that purpose, at sunrise, at midday, and at sunset. Three times a day they prayed for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on their place. Now, mark, they had a definite object in their prayer. They had no minister, but when the Sabbath came round the people assembled to hear a sermon read, and the conviction that the Holy Spirit was there that day was irresistible. At the close of the service no fewer than seventy individuals, who had been awakened, came together to be instructed by the deacons in regard to what they should do about the salvation of their souls, and a great revival followed."

      Being definite in prayer not only concentrates spiritual pressure upon the vital objectives, but also serves to quicken faith in the heart of the suppliant. For Bartimaeus to say before that crowd, "Lord, that I may receive my sight," not only required faith, but served to quicken faith that the Lord would do it. It is so with us. If we are definite in our prayer, God will be equally definite in His answering. "Jabez called on the God of Israel . . . and God granted him that which he requested." (1 Chron. 4: 10).

      Secondly, our praying should be -


      This is a characteristic of faith in action - it is daring. The possibilities of daring prayer are not limited by the personality, imagination, or courage of the one who prays, but solely by what is revealed to that one of the power of God, the promises of God, the will of God. When the Spirit of Truth illuminates the histories and promises of Scripture, what scope there is for daring prayer. A quickened faith must truly exclaim, "With God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26).

      But the question that needs to be faced is this: is our praying in its very nature an acknowledgment of the omnipotence of our God and of His willingness to bless super- abundantly? Someone has well written, "we feel instinctively that our praying is mistaken when it has ceased to be daring - whenever it has all tamed down to a decorous and decent asking for the very minimum of God's expenditure of power, and when our requests impose upon Him no requirement of action which is beyond our natural level of thought."

      We can imagine the feelings of someone with exceptional power and ability, who is compelled to stand by inactive and watch another struggle in weakness and incompetence to fulfil some task that he could willingly do for him in an instant. It must be torture indeed to possess extraordinary powers and not be given the opportunity to exercise them. How often do we keep the Almighty standing by in silent inactivity, with all the power of the universe in His hands, yearning to intervene, to demonstrate His power and reveal His glory; while we toy with spiritual things, earthbound in our thinking, working, and praying! Well might the Lord say of us, "Oh that My people would hearken unto Me. . . I should soon subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against their adversaries" (Ps. 81:13), and again, "I will go and return to My place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek My face." (Hos. 5:15). On the other hand, a daring faith does not stagger at the promises of God; a daring faith can open the windows of heaven for revival; a daring faith delights the heart of God.

      The Lord emphasized this same truth when he spoke in Luke 11:5 of the man who knocked up his friend at midnight with the request, "Friend, lend me three loaves." Although he was refused at first, he eventually obtained all that he needed. How? "Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity [shamelessness - Darby] he will arise and give him as many as he needeth." The rendering "importunity" greatly limits the meaning; the word is shamelessness or impudence, and conveys the idea of the daring element in prayer.

      He was daring because of the hour when he made request. It was midnight. This midnight hour which finds the church of Christ slumbering, and the world in spiritual darkness and need, is but a challenge to daring prayer. Are we bold enough to accept the challenge? He was daring because of the measure of his asking.

      The Eastern loaves were large and substantial. Could he not have made do with half a loaf till morning came and he could buy more? No, he was daring enough to ask for three, and by his boldness he obtained as many as he wanted. He was daring because he persevered until he obtained. He was met with a rebuff, "Trouble me not"; a shut door, "the door is now shut"; a hindrance, "my children are with me in bed;" a definite refusal, "I cannot rise and give thee": but he persevered until the rebuff was withdrawn, the door opened, the hindrance removed, the refusal reversed. The Lord was careful to point out that it was not because of his friendship with the other, but because of his daring that he prevailed. "Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace."(Heb. 4:16).

      Thou art coming to a King,
      Large petitions with thee bring;
      For His grace and power are such
      None can ever ask too much.
       - J. NEWTON.

      Thirdly, our praying should be -


      Peter was miraculously released from prison through such praying by the church. "Peter therefore was kept in the prison: but prayer was made earnestly of the church unto God for him."(Acts 12:5). The word "earnestly" is derived from the verb "to stretch out," and suggests that they were drawn out in prayer to their utmost capacity. As an athlete straining for the tape, they were praying at full stretch. The apostle whose deliverance was effected by this kind of praying uses the word in the only other reference in the New Testament, "love one another from the heart fervently" (1 Pet. 1:22; cf. Acts 26:7; 1 Pet. 4:8; Luke 22:44).

      Perhaps the only English word that adequately conveys the meaning of the original is "intensively". A comparative form of the word is used to describe the praying of the Saviour in the garden, "And being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly [or more intensively]: and His sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground." (Luke 22:44). This supreme example of intensive praying shows that it is related to soul agony, and those who enter this realm of prayer with their Lord must expect to know something of the fellowship of His sufferings.

      "As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children." (Isa. 66:8). This might be a true description of the birth of many a revival. Movements of the Spirit are born out of soul travail, and no record shows this more clearly than the diaries of David Brainerd. E. M.

      Bounds says of him, "His whole life was one of burning prayer to God for the American Indians. By day and by night he prayed. Before preaching and after preaching he prayed. On his bed of straw he prayed. Retiring to the dense and lonely forests he fasted and prayed. Hour by hour, day after day, early morn and late at night, he was praying and fasting, pouring out his soul, interceding, communing with God. He was with God mightily in prayer, and God was with him mightily, and by it he being dead yet speaketh."

      Let us glance at a few entries in his diary three years before the visitation of the Spirit upon his labours, and see how this young warrior of only twenty four years wielded the weapon of all prayer.

      His entry for Monday, April 19, 1742, reads as follows: "I set apart this day for fasting and prayer to prepare me for the ministry, to give me divine aid and direction, and in His own way to 'send me into His harvest'. In the forenoon, I felt the power of intercession for precious immortal souls; for the advancement of the kingdom of my dear Lord and Saviour in the world; and withal, a most sweet resignation, and even consolation and joy in the thoughts of suffering hardships, distresses, and even death itself, in the promotion of it: and had special enlargement in pleading for the conversion of the poor heathen. In the afternoon God was with me of a truth. Oh, it was a blessed company indeed! God enabled me so to agonize in prayer that I was quite wet with sweat, though in the shade and the wind cool. My soul was drawn out very much for the world; for multitudes of souls. I think I had more enlargement for sinners, than for the children of God; though I felt as if I could spend my life in cries for both."

      Then on Monday, June 14, the same year, he wrote "I set apart this day for secret fasting and prayer, to entreat God to direct and bless me with regard to the great work I have in view, of preaching the gospel. Just at night the Lord visited me marvellously in prayer: I think my soul never was in such an agony before. I felt no restraint; for the treasures of divine grace were opened to me. I wrestled for absent friends, for the ingathering of souls, and for the children of God in many distant places. I was in such an agony, from sun half an hour high, till near dark, that I was all over wet with sweat; but yet it seemed to me that I had wasted away the day, and had done nothing. Oh, my dear Jesus did sweat blood for poor souls! I longed for more compassion towards them."

      If there are those who read such accounts of intensive praying only to reflect with a sigh, "It is too high, I cannot attain unto it," let them recall that "Elijah was a man of like passions with us," that he was overtaken by fear, despondence, and self pity, and yet "he prayed fervently" (Jas. 5:17) and prevailed with God.

      Intensive praying, however, cannot be worked up; it is a burden that God places upon prepared hearts. When through the Spirit we are possessed with such a consuming desire for revival that we feel we must either pray it down or perish in the attempt, we may be confident that God is going to send it. When the cry of the church is, "Give me children or I die," then revival is nigh, even at the doors.

      It is said that when Dr. Charles Goodell was sent to a run down Methodist Church in New York city, his people said to him, "We hardly expect a revival here any more. We had them in years gone by, but times have changed." When Sunday came and he went into his pulpit and looked into the faces of his people, he said, "My brethren, they tell me you do not expect a revival here. I am telling you this morning that there will be a revival here, or there will be a funeral in the parsonage." The revival came, and a church dead and discouraged was quickened into life. Such an inflexible determination, inspired by the Spirit, is the underlying factor behind that intensive praying that prevails with God. It is this same determination that provides the next characteristic.

      Fourthly, prevailing prayer must be -


      We are exhorted to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). This means praying on in spite of delays and discouragements, and through weakness and fatigue, until prayer is answered.

      Importunate praying serves to build up spiritual pressure on the enemy until his defences crumble and the victory is won. Isaiah declared, "For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her righteousness go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth"; and again, "I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that are the Lord's remembrancers, take ye no rest, and give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (Isa. 62:1, 6). Here, then, is an inspired picture of importunate prayer in action.

      If our spiritual battle is one of successive advance and retreat, it may very often be due to lack of persistence in prayer. It was the uplifted hands of Moses on the hilltop that swayed the battle waged by Joshua in the valley (Exod. 17:8 13). The hand stretched out in conflict is immediately influenced by the hand stretched up in intercession. "When Moses held up his hand, . . . Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed." (verse 11).

      Charles Finney always said that when he lost the spirit of prayer he ceased to preach with power. "But Moses' hands were heavy" (verse 12); this is a sad yet fitting description of much of our praying. But before the day was done, Moses, supported by his companions, became importunate, "and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua prostrated [margin] Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword." May God give us the steadfast hands of importunate prayer.

      Spiritual stamina in intercession is so rare, and the temptation to faint by the way is so great, that the Lord "spake a parable unto them to the end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1-8). The lesson of the parable is this: the widow, who was pleading in court for justice against her adversary, could not move the unrighteous judge by appeals to the law, though it catered for her protection as a widow, because the judge "feared not God". He was not moved by appeals to human sympathy or the thought of his reputation, for "he regarded not man". Where all factors and arguments failed, one consideration weighed so with the judge as to cause him to do her justice of her adversary - the fact that "she came oft unto him". Said he, "Because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest she wear me out by her continual coming." Because of the insistence of her pleading, and for no other reason, the judge changed his attitude, and the widow won her case.

      "And shall not God" - Who, unlike the judge, is infinitely righteous, and ever ready to regard man in his weakness - "avenge His elect" - who stand in a special relationship to Himself - "which cry to Him day and night" - in importunate prayer - "and He is longsuffering over them?" - that patience may have its perfect work in them also - "I say unto you, that He will avenge them speedily." Here, then, is the moral: if a judge without pity or compunction could be moved by the importunate pleadings of a helpless widow, how much more shall God, righteous, merciful, longsuffering, be moved by the importunate pleadings of His elect.

      In the little booklet Vibrations, Lilias Trotter of Algiers recounts the following, which should encourage every child of God to persevere in prayer: "One of the pillars that support the gallery of our old Arab house had fallen down into the court and lay shattered on the pavement, carrying with it a block of masonry and a shower of bricks. Down below, alongside of us, a native baker had installed himself six or seven years ago. For hours every night two men had swung on the huge see-saw which in some mysterious way kneads their bread, and every blow backwards and forwards had vibrated through our house, and now at last the result was seen in the shattering of masonry that had looked as if it would last as long as the world.

      There is a vibrating power going on down in the darkness and dust of this world that can make itself visible in startling results in the upper air and sunlight of the invisible world, 'mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.' Each prayer beat down here vibrates up to the very throne of God, and does its work through that throne on the principalities and powers around us, just as each of the repeated throbs from below told on the structure of our house, though it was only the last one that produced the visible effect. We can never tell which prayer will liberate the answer, but we can tell that each one will do its work."

      As we may be called to pray on, week after week and month after month, for revival, let us be assured that each petition will play its part until the cumulative effect of our praying shall be manifested in the sudden demonstration of God's power. Let us therefore, like the early church, "continue steadfastly in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving" (Col. 4:2). Yes, with importunate praying there must be watching.

      Fifthly then, prevailing prayer must be -


      There are two important words in the Greek of the New Testament meaning to watch. Both are used with the thought of precautionary watching, such as the watching of the sentry (Eph. 6:18; Acts 20:31). Both are also used with the thought of anticipatory watching, looking out for some expected event to take place, as watchmen for the morning, or servants for their returning lord (Mark 13:33; Matt. 24:42). Both these aspects apply in the realm of prayer.

      There must be precautionary watching because there are innumerable perils to be faced by the warrior who wields the weapon of all prayer. There must also be anticipatory watching, for faith is continually expecting the fulfilment of its petition.

      The need for precautionary watching must be plain when we remember that "our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). The prayer warrior faces an enemy with immense spiritual resources and centuries of experience in spiritual conflict. He is engaged in a battle to the death, and no quarter can be asked or given. When the Devil cannot carry the position by a frontal assault, he will use a flank attack or employ fifth column tactics. Where he cannot intimidate us as a roaring lion, he will come as an angel of light to beguile us. What a need there is for vigilance!

      Firstly, we must take precaution by watching unto prayer; that is, with a view to prayer.

      "Praying at all seasons. . . and watching unto this very thing" (Eph. 6:18 Darby; cf.1 Pet. 4:7).

      In other words our approach to prayer requires constant vigilance. The Devil will do his utmost to keep us off our knees. He is a master in the use of decoys and distractions. When the time comes for prayer, how many pressing duties suddenly clamor for attention! Is not this the activity of Satan? "We are not ignorant of his devices," we say; but are we not? Or is it that we succumb in spite of our knowledge? Even such a man of prayer as Andrew Bonar knew such continual attacks of Satan. "With me," he wrote in 1856, "every time of prayer, or almost every time, begins with a conflict." We are never likely to obey the exhortation to be "praying at all seasons", unless we are also "watching unto this very thing".

      Secondly, we must take precaution, not only by watching unto prayer, but by watching in prayer. "Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation." On the night of His betrayal the Saviour said, to His apostles, "I will no more speak much with you, for the prince of the world cometh: and he hath nothing in Me; but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do" (John 14:30). The days of His flesh were drawing to a close, and the last momentous conflict with Satan was at hand. As the Saviour entered the garden of Gethsemane He took with Him that favoured trio, Peter, James, and John, that they might share His cup of sorrow, and watch with Him in that last great conflict.

      As our Saviour penetrated the dark recesses of that garden in company with the three, it was as though all the forces of hell were let loose upon Him. The fact that "He began to be greatly amazed and sore troubled" suggests that even the Saviour Himself had not anticipated the unutterable horror of that hour. We can only estimate the intolerable pressure of evil upon His spirit by His own words, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death: abide ye here, and watch with Me" (Matt. 26:38).

      In the hour of His deepest woe He sought the fellowship of these three disciples. It is doubtful whether we could find anywhere in Scripture a more striking contrast than the picture that is now presented to us. On the one hand we see the Son of God prostrate on the ground, agonizing for a world's redemption, the sod beneath Him wet with His sweat and tears; on the other hand we see the men who had pledged their allegiance to Him, had promised to go with Him to prison and to death, all unaware of the conflict and peril of the hour, in the oblivion of sleep. Tenderly He rebukes them, surprise and sorrow mingling with His words, "What, could ye not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation"(Matt. 26:40).

      He who enters with his Lord the Gethsemane of prayer conflict may expect to find himself "in the forefront of the hottest battle", and must not be surprised if he is a constant target of the Adversary. His only safety lies in ceaseless vigilance. Any who set themselves, like Nehemiah, to pray and work for revival may find, as that man did, that they have stirred a hornet's nest of satanic opposition. Such counter attacks can only be met as Nehemiah met them. "We made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night" (Neh. 4:9).

      A military commander's decision to launch an attack is based largely upon military intelligence, the disposition and strength of the enemy, his morale, his movements and plans.

      Such information has been gleaned by thousands of watching eyes. Similarly, if we would wage war with the weapon of all prayer, we must watch for the movements of the enemy; otherwise we shall be launching a blind offensive, which may give the enemy who is ever ready to counterattack, the opening for which he has been waiting.

      Principalities and powers,
      Mustering their unseen array,
      Wait for thy unguarded hours:
      Watch and pray.

      Watch, as if on that alone
      Hung the issue of the day;
      Pray, that help may be sent down:
      Watch and pray.
       - C. ELLIOTT.

      Then the need for anticipatory watching, which looks for the expected answer, is suggested by the exhortation, "Continue steadfastly in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving"(Col. 4:2). One wonders whether there is any faith in the praying that is never followed by expectant watching. "We should watch daily," wrote Richard Sibbes, "continue instant in prayer; strengthen our supplications with arguments from God's word and promises; and mark how our prayers speed. When we shoot an arrow we look to its fall; when we send a ship to sea we look for its return; and when we sow we look for an harvest. . . It is atheism to pray and not to wait in hope. A sincere Christian will pray, wait, strengthen his heart with the promises, and never leave praying and looking up till God gives him a gracious answer."

      When God had answered by fire on Mount Carmel and the prophets of Baal had been slain, Elijah said to Ahab, "Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.

      So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he bowed himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a cloud out of the sea, as small as a man's hand" (1 Kings 18:41).

      While Elijah persevered in prayer his servant persevered in watching for the answer. We might think that "a cloud. . . as small as a man's hand" was an insignificant token - the first sign of answered prayer is often like that - but to the watching eye of faith it was the harbinger of "a great rain".

      We say we are praying for the rain of revival, but are we watching for the cloud? Are we ready to act in faith when it appears? As Colossians 4:2 suggests, watching in this way should ever be accompanied by thanksgiving.

      This suggests our sixth feature. Prevailing prayer should be -


      "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving" (Phil. 4:6). In view of the Lord's abounding mercy towards His children, it is indeed becoming that they should "enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise" (Ps. 100:4), but this is by no means all. That the Lord has said, "Whoso offereth the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifieth Me" (Ps. 50:23) should be sufficient to move us all to do it, but we are concerned here with thanksgiving in its bearing upon prevailing in prayer.

      A praising and thankful spirit has a remarkable ability to quicken the faith of the suppliant, and to release spiritual power for the effecting of that for which we pray. This was so in the case of Abraham who "waxed strong through faith, giving glory to God" (Rom. 4:20). Again, in the visions of Patmos, John tells us of those who overcame the dragon "because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony" (Rev. 12:11). The praising "lips which make confession to His Name" (Heb. 13:15) are a vital part of the word of testimony by which we overcome.

      At the dedication of the temple by Solomon, the climax of the impressive ceremony was reached "when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; . . . then the house was filled with a cloud. . . so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God" (2 Chron. 5:13).

      It has been characteristic of the recent movement in the Hebrides, that on many occasions when the congregation united in a psalm of praise, the power of God came down, and "many were the slain of the Lord". When Jehoshaphat went out in battle against Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, "he appointed them that should sing unto the Lord, and praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and say, Give thanks unto the Lord; for His mercy endureth for ever. And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set Tiers in wait against the children of Ammon. . . and they were smitten" (2Chron. 20:21). It is certainly true that they who have "the high praises of God in their mouth" have also "a two-edged sword in their hand" (Ps. 149:6). It was thanksgiving as well as prayer that shut the lions' mouths for Daniel. Scripture records that "he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God" (Dan. 6:l0).

      By precept and by practice Paul taught the churches that prayer and thanksgiving are two that God hath joined together, and no man ought to put asunder. He exhorts us to "pray without ceasing", and then, as though in the same breath, he adds, "in everything give thanks" (1 Thess. 5:17). At the commencement of almost every epistle he writes in words like these: "We give thanks to God. . . praying always for you" (Col. 1:3).

      When, at Philippi, he and Silas were arrested by the authorities for no other crime than delivering a captive of Satan, they had their garments rent off them, and their backs lacerated by many stripes of the rod. They were cast into the inner prison, and their feet made fast in the stocks. They were indeed "in the wars", but they were "the wars of the Lord", and these veteran warriors knew how to fight in them. Not by murmurings and recriminations, but by a spirit of prayer and praise they would conquer; and so the midnight hour found them "praying and singing hymns unto God", the other prisoners their silent, wondering audience (Acts 16:25).

      The mighty earthquake that opened every prison door and loosed every man's bands, the attempted suicide of the jailer, his subsequent conversion with his whole house, and the eventual release of the apostles complete the wonderful story. How irresistible is the gospel war chariot when drawn by the steeds of prayer and praise.

      Finally, the seventh feature must be noted. To prevail in prayer we must be -


      That perseverance and vigilance are vital to prevailing prayer has already been stressed, but these qualities demand yet another which is basic to the whole ministry of intercession - patience. In prayer the self-discipline involved in patient waiting is one of the means by which God fits us to receive the answer, and this is especially true in revival. God will very likely keep us waiting much longer than we would have chosen or could have expected. The waiting period, whether short or long, is a time of indispensable preparation for the outpouring that God has purposed.

      The greater the blessing God intends, the longer the time, in all probability, that we shall have to wait, because the preparation needs co be correspondingly deeper. Therefore, discouraged prayer warrior, "let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing" (Jas. 1:4) when at length God's hour shall strike.

      Let us not think, as we plead for revival, that we have to move God to share our concern and burden about the matter. We feel as we do because God has stirred us to share but a fraction of His concern. Our longing is but a feeble, pale reflection of His own. Our exercise of patience should draw us into deeper fellowship with "the God of patience", who has manifested such longsuffering towards the sons of men. How long has He waited for us before we began to wait for Him? Let us also remember that for nigh on two thousand years the Son has been at the Father's right hand engaged in this very ministry of praying and waiting - "till His enemies be made the footstool of His feet" (Heb. 10:13). "The Lord direct [our] hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of Christ" (2 Thess. 3:5).

      It has already been shown that the rains of Palestine, especially the former and the latter, are typical of the outpouring of the Spirit; and that these rains could only be expected at their appointed seasons, and so they had to wait for them, and they did so with eager anticipation.

      Job alludes to this in describing how men waited for his counsel: "They waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain" (Job 29:23). "Are there any among the vanities of the heathen that can cause rain?" asked the prophet, "or can the heavens give showers? Are not Thou He, O Lord our God? Therefore we will wait upon Thee; for Thou hast made all these things" (Jer. 14:22).

      Just as the first outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost revealed the essential features of every subsequent outpouring, so the preparation for that outpouring constitutes a pattern for those that follow. The apostles were charged by Christ to "wait for the promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4). They did so by continuing steadfastly in prayer until the day of Pentecost was fully come. All this shows us that waiting in prayer is not an incidental but an essential in the work of preparation. We cannot have revival when we like. We can have it if we fulfil the conditions, but one of these is that we continue patiently in prayer until God's time comes.

      Even God has to wait for the moment He has Himself ordained. "The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it, until it receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient" (Jas. 5:7).

      If by the grace of God we are enabled to continue patiently in prayer for God's intervention, is it possible that we could be disappointed at last? Promises innumerable spring from the sacred page to deny such a thought. "Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall exalt thee" (Ps. 37:34). "None that wait on Thee shall be ashamed" (Ps. 25:3; cf. Isa. 49:23). "The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him" (Lam. 3:25). "Though [the vision] tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not delay" (Hab. 2:3). "For ye have need of patience, that, having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise" (Heb.

      10:36). The experience of every patient and expectant soul is a testimony to "a God. . . which worketh for him that waiteth for Him" (Isa. 64:4).

      Few, if any, in modern times have demonstrated so forcibly the value of patient waiting upon God as George Muller. Referring to his daily prayer for the conversion of certain individuals, in some cases for many years, he wrote: "Still the answer is not yet granted concerning those persons, while in the meantime many thousands of my prayers have been answered, and also souls converted, for whom I had been praying. I lay particular stress upon this for the benefit of those who may suppose that I need only to ask of God, and receive at once. . . Patience and faith may be exercised for many years, even as mine are exercised, in the matter to which I have referred; and yet am I daily continuing in prayer, and expecting the answer, and so surely expecting the answer, that I have often thanked God that He will surely give it, though now for nineteen years faith and patience have thus been exercised."

      Similarly, David Brainerd's diary not only reveals, as we have seen, the intensity of his praying, but how it pleased God to test his patience to the utmost. During his labours among the American Indians, he had often been uplifted by hopeful signs of a work of God among them, only to be disappointed when the effects seemed to fade away, so that he wrote on August 2nd, 1745, "My rising hopes, respecting the conversion of the Indians, have been so often dashed, that my spirit is as it were broken, and courage wasted, and I hardly dare hope." But though endurance was stretched to the full Brainerd continued to cling to God. The following day he records "a surprising concern" among the people as he preached. This increased daily, and in less than a week the Spirit of God was mightily poured out, and the revival had begun.

      His reflections on this, in the conclusion of Part I of his journal, are deeply significant: "It is remarkable that God began this work among the Indians at a time when I had the least hope of seeing a work of grace propagated amongst them. I was ready to look upon myself as a burden, and began to entertain serious thoughts of giving up my mission. I do not know that my hopes respecting the conversion of the Indians were ever reduced to so low an ebb. And yet this was the very season that God saw fittest to begin this glorious work! And thus He ordained strength out of weakness, by making bare His almighty arm at a time when all hopes and human probabilities most evidently appeared to fail. - Whence I learn, that it is good to follow the path of duty, though in the midst of darkness and discouragement."

      Be strengthened then, discouraged Christian, to "wait on God continually" (Hos. 12: 6). In response to patient persevering prayer God will surely, in His own good time, open to you the windows of heaven.

      O living Stream - O gracious Rain,
      None wait for Thee, and wait in vain
       - (TERSTEEGEN 1769).

      The doorway of prevailing prayer lies open if we will but enter in. Abraham, Hannah and Samuel, Daniel and Nehemiah, Moses and Elijah, Paul and Epaphras, and countless others whose names are known only to God, were men and women of like passions with us, but they prayed and prevailed. They became what they were by grace, in spite of what they were by nature, even as we read of Jacob: "In the womb he took his brother by the heel; and in his manhood he had power with God" (Hos. 12:3). Their prayers ascended as incense to the throne. Through intercession they opened to a dying world the treasuries of grace. Who follows in their train?

Back to Arthur Wallis index.

See Also:
   Foreword by Duncan Campbell
   1. What Is Revival?
   2. A Sign Spoken Against
   3. The Latter Rain Of Promise
   4. This Is The Purpose
   5. Distinctive Features
   6. Distinctive Features
   7. The Prepared Heart
   8. The Praying Heart
   9. Lifting Up Holy Hands
   10. The Dynamics Of Prayer
   11. Wielding The Weapon
   12. Preparing The Way
   13. Paying The Price
   14. The Sound Of Marching
   15. The Solemn Alternative


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