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Rev Theodore Cuyler Of New York

All of God's mighty men and women have been mighty in prayer. When
Martin Luther was in the mid-valley of his conflict with the man of sin
he used to say that he could not get on without three hours a day in
prayer. Charles G. Finney's grip on God gave him a tremendous grip on
sinners' hearts. The greatest preacher of our times--Spurgeon--had
pre-eminently the "gift of the knees;" the last prayer I ever heard him
utter (at his own family worship) was one of the most wonderful that I
ever listened to; it revealed the hiding of his power. Abraham Lincoln
once said: "I have been driven many times to my knees by the
overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go; my own wisdom and
that of all around me seemed insufficient for the day."

But what is prayer? Has every prayer power with God? Let us endeavour to
get some clear ideas on that point. Some people seem to regard prayer as
the rehearsal of a set form of solemn words, learned largely from the
Bible or a liturgy; and when uttered they are only from the throat
outward. Genuine prayer is a believing soul's direct converse with
God. Phillips Brooks has condensed it into four words--a "true wish sent
Godward." By it, adoration, thanksgiving, confession of sin, and
petition for mercies and gifts ascend to the throne, and by means of it
infinite blessings are brought down from heaven. The pull of our prayer
may not move the everlasting throne, but--like the pull on a line from
the bow of a boat--it may draw us into closer fellowship with God, and
fuller harmony with His wise and holy will.

1. This is the first characteristic of the prayer that has power:
"Delight thyself in the Lord and He shall give thee the desires of thy
heart." A great many prayers are born of selfishness and are too much
like dictation or command. None of God's promises are unconditional; and
we have no such assets to our credit that we have a right to draw our
cheques and demand that God shall pay them. The indispensable quality of
all right asking is a right spirit toward our heavenly Father. When a
soul feels such an entire submissiveness towards God that it delights in
seeing Him reign, and His glory advanced, it may fearlessly pour out its
desires; for then the desires of God and the desires of that sincere
submissive soul will agree. God loves to give to them who love to let
Him have His way; they find their happiness in the chime of their own
desires with the will of God.

James and John once came to Jesus and made to Him the amazing request
that He would place one of them on His right hand and the other on His
left hand when He set up His imperial government at Jerusalem! As long
as these self-seeking disciples sought only their own glory, Christ
could not give them the askings of their ambitious hearts. By-and-by,
when their hearts had been renewed by the Holy Spirit, and they had
become so consecrated to Christ that they were in complete chime with
Him, they were not afraid to pour out their deepest desires. James
declares that, if we do not "ask amiss," God will "give liberally."
John declares that "whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we
keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His
sight." Just as soon as those two Christians found their supreme
happiness in Christ and His cause they received the desires of their

2. The second trait of prevailing prayer is that it aims at a mark, and
knows what it is after. When we enter a store or shop we ask the
salesman to hand us the particular article we want. There is an
enormous amount of pointless, prayerless praying done in our devotional
meetings; it begins with nothing and ends nowhere. The model prayers
mentioned in the Bible were short and right to the mark. "God be
merciful to me a sinner!" "Lord, save me!" cries sinking Peter. "Come
down, ere my child die!" exclaims the heart-stricken nobleman. Old
Rowland Hill used to say, "I like short, ejaculatory prayer; it reaches
heaven before the devil can get a shot at it."

3. In the next place, the prayer that has power with God must be a
prepaid prayer. If we expect a letter to reach its destination we put
a stamp on it; otherwise it goes to the Dead-letter Office. There is
what may be called a Dead-prayer Office, and thousands of well-worded
petitions get buried up there. All of God's promises have their
conditions; we must comply with those conditions, or we cannot expect
the blessings coupled with the promises. No farmer is such an idiot as
to look for a crop of wheat unless he has ploughed and sowed his fields.
In prayer, we must first be sure that we are doing our part if we
expect God to do His part. There is a legitimate sense in which every
Christian should do his utmost for the answering of his own prayers.
When a certain venerable minister was called on to pray in a missionary
convention he first fumbled in his pocket, and when he had tossed the
coin into the plate he said, "I cannot pray until I have given
something." He prepaid his prayer. For the Churches in these days to
pray, "Thy kingdom come," and then spend more money on jewellery and
cigars than in the enterprise of Foreign Missions, looks almost like a
solemn farce. God has no blessings for stingy pockets. When I hear
requests for prayer for the conversion of a son or daughter, I say to
myself, How much is that parent doing to win that child for Christ? The
godly wife who makes her daily life attractive to her husband has a
right to ask God for the conversion of that husband; she is co-operating
with the Holy Spirit, and prepaying her heart's request. God never
defaults; but He requires that we prove our faith by our works, and that
we never ask for a blessing that we are not ready to labour for, and to
make any sacrifice to secure the blessing which our souls desire.

4. Another essential of the prayer that has power with God is that it be
the prayer of faith, and be offered in the name of Jesus Christ.
"Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may
be glorified in the Son." The chief "wrestling" that we are to do is not
with any reluctance on God's part; it is with the obstacles which sin
and unbelief put in our pathway. What God orders we must submit to
uncomplainingly; but we must never submit to what God can better. Never
submit to be blocked in any pious purpose or holy undertaking if, with
God's help, you can roll the blocks out of your pathway. The faith that
works while it prays commonly conquers; for such faith creates such a
condition of things that our heavenly Father can wisely hear and help
us. Oh, what a magnificent epic the triumphs of striving, toiling,
victorious faith make! The firmament of Bible story blazes with answers
to prayer, from the days when Elijah unlocked the heavens on to the days
when the petitions in the house of John Mark unlocked the dungeon, and
brought liberated Peter into their presence. The whole field of
providential history is covered with answered prayers as thickly as
bright-eyed daisies cover our Western prairies. Find thy happiness in
pleasing God, and sooner or later He will surely grant thee the desires
of thy heart.

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