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Rev Hugh Price Hughes

You ask me to give my experience of answers to prayer. I have never had
any doubt that Dean Milman was right when he said that personal religion
becomes impossible if prayer is not answered. Neither have I ever been
able to appreciate the so-called scientific objection to prayer, as we
have ample experience in the activity of our own will to illustrate the
fact that invariable laws may be so manipulated and utilised as to
produce results totally different from those which would have taken
place if some free will had not intervened to use them.

We must assume that God, who is the Author of all natural laws, can with
infinite ease manipulate them so as to produce any desired result,
without in the least degree altering their character or interfering with
the universal reign of Law.

However, what you want is not theory but actual experience. I will not
refer, therefore, to the stupendous proofs that God does answer prayer,
presented by Mr. Mueller of Bristol in his immense orphanages, or to
similar unmistakable results in the various philanthropic institutions
of Dr. Cullis of Boston. I will go at once to my own personal
experiences, and mention one or two facts that have come under my own
observation. There are a great many, but I will simply give a few
typical cases.

A good many years ago I was conducting a special mission in the
neighbourhood of Chelsea. It is my custom on these occasions to invite
members of the congregation to send me in writing special requests for
the conversion of unsaved relatives or friends. On the Tuesday night,
among many other requests for prayer, was one from a daughter for the
conversion of her father. It was presented in due course with the rest,
but no one at that moment knew the special circumstances of the case,
except the writer. On the following Friday I received another request
from the same woman; but now it was a request for praise, describing the
circumstances under which the prayer had been answered, and I read the
wonderful story to the congregation.

It appeared that this girl's father was an avowed infidel who had not
been to any place of worship for many years, and he disliked the subject
of religion so intensely that he ultimately forbade his Christian
daughter in London to write to him, as she was continually bringing in
references to Christ. On the particular Tuesday evening in question,
that infidel father was on his way to a theatre in some provincial town,
more than a hundred miles from London. As he was walking to the
theatre, there was a sudden shower of rain which drove him for shelter
into the vestibule of a chapel where a week-night service was being
held. The preacher in the pulpit was a Boanerges, whose loud voice
penetrated into the lobby, and there was something in what he said that
attracted the attention of the infidel and induced him to enter the
chapel. He became more and more interested as the sermon proceeded, and
before its close he was deeply convinced of sin, and in true penitence
sought mercy from Jesus Christ. I need scarcely say to any one who knows
anything of the love of God, that this prayer was speedily answered, and
he went home rejoicing in divine forgiveness. The next day he wrote to
his daughter in London telling her that he had set out on the previous
evening intending to visit the theatre, but had actually found his way
into a chapel, where his sins had been forgiven and his heart changed.
He wrote at once to tell her the good news, and he assured her that he
would now be only too glad to hear from her as often as she could write
to him. These facts were communicated through me to the congregation,
and we all gave thanks to God.

Of course it may be said that the conversion of this man, who had not
been into a place of worship for more than a dozen years, was a mere
accident, and that its coming at the very time we were praying for him
was a mere coincidence. But we need not quarrel about words. All we need
to establish is, that such delightful accidents and such blessed
coincidences are continually occurring in the experience of all real
Christians. I may add generally, that it is our custom to present
written requests for prayer and written requests for praise at the
devotional meetings of the West London Mission every Friday night. This
has now gone on without interruption for more than nine years, and I
scarcely remember a prayer-meeting at which we have not had some request
for praise on account of prayer answered.

It may be argued, however, that all such cases are purely subjective,
and that they take place in the mysterious darkness and silence of the
human heart Let my next illustration, then, be of a much more tangible
character. Let it refer to pounds, shillings, and pence.

Not long ago the West London Mission was greatly in want of money, as
has generally been its experience since it began. It would seem as
though God could not trust us with any margin. Perhaps if we had a
considerable balance in the bank we should put our trust in that,
instead of realising every moment our absolute dependence on God. Like
the Children of Israel in the Wilderness, we have had supplies of manna
just sufficient for immediate need. Always in want, always tempted to be
anxious, it has always happened at the last moment, when the case seemed
absolutely desperate, that help has been forthcoming, sometimes from the
most unexpected quarter. But a short time ago the situation appeared to
be unusually alarming, and I invited my principal colleague to meet me
near midnight--the only time when we could secure freedom from
interruption and rest from our own incessant work.

We spent some time, in the quietness of that late hour, imploring God to
send us one thousand pounds for His work by a particular day. In the
course of the meeting one of our number burst forth into rapturous
expressions of gratitude, as he was irresistibly convinced that our
prayer was heard and would be answered. I confess I did not share his
absolute confidence, and the absolute confidence of my wife and some
others. I believed with trembling. I am afraid I could say nothing more
than "Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief." The appointed day came. I
went to the meeting at which the sum total would be announced. It
appeared that in a very short time and in very extraordinary ways nine
hundred and ninety pounds had been sent to the West London Mission. I
confess that, as a theologian I was perplexed. We had asked for a
thousand pounds--there was a deficiency of ten. I could not understand
it. I went home, trying to explain the discrepancy. As I entered my
house and was engaged in taking off my hat and coat, I noticed a letter
on the table in the hall. I remembered that it had been lying there when
I went out, but I was in a great hurry and did not stop to open it. I
took it up, opened it, and discovered that it contained a cheque for ten
pounds for the West London Mission, bringing up the amount needed for
that day to the exact sum which we had named in our midnight
prayer-meeting. Of course this also may be described as a mere
coincidence, but all we want is coincidences of this sort. The name is
nothing, the fact is everything, and there have been many such facts.

Let me give one other in reference to money, as this kind of
illustration will perhaps, more than any other, impress those who are
disposed to be cynical and to scoff. I was engaged in an effort to build
Sunday schools in the south of London. A benevolent friend promised a
hundred pounds if I could get nine hundred pounds more, within a week. I
did my utmost, and by desperate efforts, with the assistance of friends,
did get eight hundred pounds, but not one penny more. We reached
Saturday, and the terms of all the promises were that unless we
obtained a thousand pounds that week we could not proceed with the
building scheme, and the entire enterprise might have been postponed for
years, and, indeed, never accomplished on the large scale we desired. On
the Saturday morning one of my principal church officers called, and
said he had come upon an extraordinary business: that a Christian woman
in that neighbourhood whom I did not know, of whom I had never heard,
who had no connection whatever with my church, had that morning been
lying awake in bed, and an extraordinary impression had come in to her
that she was at once to give me one hundred pounds! She naturally
resisted so extraordinary an impression as a caprice or a delusion. But
it refused to leave her; it became stronger and stronger, until at last
she was deeply convinced that it was the will of God. What made it more
extraordinary was the fact that she had never before had, and would, in
all probability, never again have one hundred pounds at her disposal
for any such purpose. But that morning she sent me the money through my
friend, who produced it in the form of crisp Bank of England notes. From
that day to this I have no idea whatever who she was, as she wished to
conceal her name from me. Whether she is alive or in heaven I cannot
say; but what I do know is that this extraordinary answer to our prayers
secured the rest of the money, and led to the erection of one of the
finest schools in London, in which there are more than a thousand
scholars to-day.

Let me give one other illustration in a different sphere. God has
answered our prayers again and again by saving those in whom we are
interested, and by sending us money. He has also answered prayer for
suitable agents to do His work.

Twelve months ago I was sitting in my study at a very late hour; the
rest of the household had gone to bed. I was particularly conscious at
that time that I greatly needed a lay agent, who could help me in work
among the thousands of young men from business houses who throng St.
James's Hall. Several of our staff who could render efficient service in
that direction were fully occupied in other parts of the Mission. I
prayed very earnestly to God, in my loneliness and helplessness; and
whilst I was praying, an assurance was given me that God had heard my
prayer. By the first post on the next morning I received a letter from a
man whom I had never met, requesting an interview. I saw him. It turned
out that he was a staff officer in the Salvation Army, and formerly a
Methodist; and that for two years he had been longing for a sphere of
work among young men. He had been himself in a Manchester business
house, and he was extremely anxious for work among young fellows in the
great business establishments. For various reasons a development of work
in that direction, although it commanded the sympathy of the heads of
the Salvation Army, could not be undertaken just then; and while he was
praying upon the subject, it seemed to him as though a definite voice
said, "Offer yourself to Mr. Hugh Price Hughes." In obedience to that
voice he came, and he is with us now. He has already gathered round him
a large number of young men; and at our last Public Reception of new
members I received into the mission church forty-two young men of this
class, who had been brought to Christ, or to active association with His
Church, through the agency of the man whom God so promptly sent me in
the hour of my need.

Nothing that I have said will in the least degree surprise earnest
Christians and Christian ministers. Such experiences as these are the
commonplace of real and active Christianity.

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