Touching The Hidden Keys
Touching the Hidden Keys.
One of the most remarkable illustrations in recent times of the power of
prayer, may be found in the experience of Mr. Moody. It explains his
unparalleled career of world-wide soul winning. One marvels that more has
not been said of it. Its stimulus to faith is great. I suppose the man
most concerned did not speak of it much because of his fine modesty. The
last year of his life he referred to it more frequently as though impelled
The last time I heard Mr. Moody was in his own church in Chicago. It was,
I think, in the fall of the last year of his life. One morning in the old
church made famous by his early work, in a quiet conversational way he
told the story. It was back in the early seventies, when Chicago had been
laid in ashes. "This building was not yet up far enough to do much in," he
said; "so I thought I would slip across the water, and learn what I could
from preachers there, so as to do better work here. I had gone over to
London, and was running around after men there." Then he told of going
one evening to hear Mr. Spurgeon in the Metropolitan Tabernacle; and
understanding that he was to speak a second time that evening to dedicate
a chapel, Mr. Moody had slipped out of the building and had run along the
street after Mr. Spurgeon's carriage a mile or so, so as to hear him the
second time. Then he smiled, and said quietly, "I was running around after
men like that."
He had not been speaking anywhere, he said, but listening to others. One
day, Saturday, at noon, he had gone into the meeting in Exeter Hall on the
Strand; felt impelled to speak a little when the meeting was thrown open,
and did so. At the close among others who greeted him, one man, a
minister, asked him to come and preach for him the next day morning and
night, and he said he would. Mr. Moody said, "I went to the morning
service and found a large church full of people. And when the time came I
began to speak to them. But it seemed the hardest talking ever I did.
There was no response in their faces. They seemed as though carved out of
stone or ice. And I was having a hard time: and wished I wasn't there; and
wished I hadn't promised to speak again at night. But I had promised, and
so I went.
"At night it was the same thing: house full, people outwardly respectful,
but no interest, no response. And I was having a hard time again. When
about half-way through my talk there came a change. It seemed as though
the windows of heaven had opened and a bit of breath blew down. The
atmosphere of the building seemed to change. The people's faces changed.
It impressed me so that when I finished speaking I gave the invitation for
those who wanted to be Christians to rise. I thought there might be a few.
And to my immense surprise the people got up in groups, pew-fulls. I
turned to the minister and said, 'What does this mean?' He said, 'I don't
know, I'm sure.' Well," Mr. Moody said, "they misunderstood me. I'll
explain what I meant." So he announced an after-meeting in the room below,
explaining who were invited: only those who wanted to be Christians; and
putting pretty clearly what he understood that to mean, and dismissed the
They went to the lower room. And the people came crowding, jamming in
below, filling all available space, seats, aisles and standing room. Mr.
Moody talked again a few minutes, and then asked those who would be
Christians to rise. This time he knew he had made his meaning clear. They
got up in clumps, in groups, by fifties! Mr. Moody said, "I turned and
said to the minister, 'What _does_ this mean?' He said, 'I'm sure I don't
know.'" Then the minister said to Mr. Moody, "What'll I do with these
people? I don't know what to do with them; this is something new." And he
said, "Well. I'd announce a meeting for to-morrow night, and Tuesday
night, and see what comes of it; I'm going across the channel to Dublin."
And he went, but he had barely stepped off the boat when a cablegram was
handed him from the minister saying, "Come back at once. Church packed."
So he went back, and stayed ten days. And the result of that ten days, as
I recall Mr. Moody's words, was that four hundred were added to that
church, and that every church near by felt the impulse of those ten days.
Then Mr. Moody dropped his head, as though thinking back, and said: "I had
no plans beyond this church. I supposed my life work was here. But the
result with me was that I was given a roving commission and have been
working under it ever since."
Now what was the explanation of that marvellous Sunday and days following?
It was not Mr. Moody's doing, though he was a leader whom God could and
did mightily use. It was not the minister's doing; for he was as greatly
surprised as the leader. There was some secret hidden beneath the surface
of those ten days. With his usual keenness Mr. Moody set himself to ferret
By and by this incident came to him. A member of the church, a woman, had
been taken sick some time before. Then she grew worse. Then the physician
told her that she would not recover. That is, she would not die at once,
so far as he could judge, but she would be shut in her home for years.
And she lay there trying to think what that meant: to be shut in for
years. And she thought of her life, and said, "How little I've done for
God: practically nothing: and now what can I do shut in here on my back."
And she said, "I can pray."
May I put this word in here as a parenthesis in the story--that God
oftentimes allows us to be shut in--He does not shut us in--He does not
need to--simply take His hand off partly--there is enough disobedience to
His law of our bodies all the time to shut us aside--no trouble on that
side of the problem--_with pain to Himself_, against His own first will
for us, He allows us to be shut in, because only so _can_ He get our
attention from other things to what He wants done; get us to see things,
and think things His way. I am compelled to think it is so.
She said, "I _will_ pray." And she was led to pray for her church. Her
sister, also a member of the church, lived with her, and was her link with
the outer world. Sundays, after church service, the sick woman would ask,
"Any special interest in church to-day?" "No," was the constant reply.
Wednesday nights, after prayer-meetings, "Any special interest in the
service to-night? there must have been." "No; nothing new; same old
deacons made the same old prayers."
But one Sunday noon the sister came in from service and asked, "Who do you
think preached to-day?" "I don't know, who?" "Why, a stranger from
America, a man called Moody, I think was the name." And the sick woman's
face turned a bit whiter, and her eye looked half scared, and her lip
trembled a bit, and she quietly said: "I know what that means. There's
something coming to the old church. Don't bring me any dinner. I must
spend this afternoon in prayer." And so she did. And that night in the
service that startling change came.
Then to Mr. Moody himself, as he sought her out in her sick room, she told
how nearly two years before there came into her hands a copy of a paper
published in Chicago called the _Watchman_ that contained a talk by Mr.
Moody in one of the Chicago meetings, Farwell Hall meetings, I think. All
she knew was that talk that made her heart burn, and there was the name
M-o-o-d-y. And she was led to pray that God would send that man into their
church in London. As simple a prayer as that.
And the months went by, and a year, and over; still she prayed. Nobody
knew of it but herself and God. No change seemed to come. Still she
prayed. And of course her prayer wrought its purpose. Every
Spirit-suggested prayer does. And that is the touchstone of true prayer.
And the Spirit of God moved that man of God over to the seaboard, and
across the water and into London, and into their church. Then a bit of
special siege-prayer, a sort of last charge up the steep hill, and that
night the victory came.
Do you not believe--I believe without a doubt, that some day when the
night is gone and the morning light comes up, and we know as we are known,
that we shall find that the largest single factor, in that ten days' work,
and in the changing of tens of thousands of lives under Moody's leadership
is that woman in her praying. Not the only factor, mind you. Moody a man
of rare leadership, and consecration, and hundreds of faithful ministers
and others rallying to his support. But behind and beneath Moody and the
others, and to be reckoned with as first this woman's praying.
Yet I do not know her name. I know Mr. Moody's name. I could name scores
of faithful men associated with him in his campaigns, but the name of this
one in whom humanly is the secret of it all I do not know. Ah! It is a
secret service. We do not know who the great ones are. They tell me she is
living yet in the north end of London, and still praying. Shall we pray!
Shall we not pray! If something else must slip out, something important,
shall we not see to it that intercession has first place!
Making God's Purpose Our Prayer.
With that thought in mind let me this evening suggest a bit of how to
pray. As simple a subject as that: how to pray: the how of method.
The first thing in prayer is to find God's purpose, the trend, the swing
of it; the second thing to make that purpose our prayer. We want to find
out what God is thinking, and then to claim that that shall be done. God
is seated up yonder on the throne. Jesus Christ is sitting by His side
glorified. Everywhere in the universe God's will is being done except in
this corner, called the earth, and its atmosphere, and that bit of the
heavens above it where Satan's headquarters are.
It has been done down here by one person--Jesus. He came here to this
prodigal planet and did God's will perfectly. He went away. And He has
sought and seeks to have men down upon the earth so fully in touch with
Himself that He may do in them and through them just what He will. That He
may reproduce Himself in these men, and have God's will done again down on
the earth. Now prayer is this: finding out God's purpose for our lives,
and for the earth and insisting that that shall be done here. The great
thing then is to find out and insist upon God's will. And the "how" of
method in prayer is concerned with that.
Many a time I have met with a group of persons for prayer. Various special
matters for prayer are brought up. Here is this man, needing prayer, and
this particular matter, and this one, and this. Then we kneel and pray.
And I have many a time thought--not critically in a bad sense--as I have
listened to their prayers, as though this is the prayer I must
offer:--"Blessed Holy Spirit, Thou knowest this man, and what the lacking
thing is in him. There is trouble there. Thou knowest this sick woman, and
what the difficulty is there. This problem, and what the hindrance is in
it. Blessed Spirit, pray in me the prayer Thou art praying for this man,
and this thing, and this one. The prayer Thou art praying, I pray that, in
Jesus' name. Thy will be done here under these circumstances."
Sometimes I feel clear as to the particular prayer to offer, but many a
time I am puzzled to know. I put this fact with this, but I may not know
_all_ the facts. I know this man who evidently needs praying for, a
Christian man perhaps, his mental characteristics, his conceptions of
things, the kind of a will he has, but there may be some fact in there
that I do not know, that seriously affects the whole difficulty. And I am
compelled to fall back on this: I don't know how to pray as I ought. But
the Spirit within me will make intercession for this man as I allow Him to
have free swing in me as the medium of His prayer. And He who is listening
above as He hears His will for this man being repeated down on the
battle-field will recognize His own purpose, of course. And so that thing
will be working out because of Jesus' victory over the evil one.
But I may become so sensitive to the Spirit's thoughts and presence, that
I shall know more keenly and quickly what to pray for. In so far as I do
I become a more skillful partner of His on the earth in getting God's will
The Trysting Place.
There are six suggestions here on how to pray. First--we need _time_ for
prayer, unhurried time, daily time, time enough to forget about how much
time it is. I do not mean now: rising in the morning at the very last
moment, and dressing, it may be hurriedly, and then kneeling a few moments
so as to feel easier in mind: not that. I do not mean the last thing at
night when you are jaded and fagged, and almost between the sheets, and
then remember and look up a verse and kneel a few moments: not that. That
is good so far as it goes. I am not criticising that. Better sweeten and
sandwich the day with all of that sort you can get in. But just now I mean
this: _taking time_ when the mind is fresh and keen, and the spirit
sensitive, to thoughtfully pray. We haven't time. Life is so crowded. It
must be taken from something else, something important, but still less
important than this.
Sacrifice is the continual law of life. The important thing must be
sacrificed to the more important. One needs to cultivate a mature
judgment, or his strength will be frizzled away in the less important
details, and the greater thing go undone, or be done poorly with the
fag-ends of strength. If we would become skilled intercessors, and know
how to pray simply enough, we must take quiet time daily to get off alone.
The second suggestion: we need a _place_ for prayer. Oh! you can pray
anywhere, on the street, in the store, travelling, measuring dry goods,
hands in dishwater,--where not. But you are not likely to unless you have
been off in some quiet place shut in alone with God. The Master said:
"Enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door": that door is
important. It shuts out, and it shuts in. "Pray to thy Father who is in
secret." God is here in this shut-in spot. One must get alone to find out
that he never is alone. The more alone we are as far as men are concerned
the least alone we are so far a; God is concerned.
The quiet place and time are needful to train the ears for keen hearing. A
mother will hear the faintest cry of her babe just awaking. It is
up-stairs perhaps; the tiniest bit of a sound comes; nobody else hears;
but quick as a flash the mother's hands are held quiet, the head alert,
then she is off. Her ears are trained beyond anybody's else; love's
training. We need trained ears. A quiet place shuts out the outer sounds,
and gives the inner ear a chance to learn other sounds.
A man was standing in a telephone booth trying to talk, but could not make
out the message. He kept saying, "I can't hear, I can't hear." The other
man by and by said sharply, "If you'll shut that door you can hear." _His_
door was shut and he could hear not only the man's voice but the street
and store noises too. Some folks have gotten their hearing badly confused
because their doors have not been shut enough. Man's voice and God's voice
get mixed in their ears. They cannot tell between them. The bother is
partly with the door. If you'll shut that door you can hear.
The third suggestion needs much emphasis to-day: _give the Book of God its
place in prayer._ Prayer is not talking to God--simply. It is listening
first, then talking. Prayer needs three organs of the head, an ear, a
tongue and an eye. First an ear to hear what God says, then a tongue to
speak, then an eye to look out for the result. Bible study is the
listening side of prayer. The purpose of God comes in through the ear,
passes through the heart taking on the tinge of your personality, and goes
out at the tongue as prayer. It is pathetic what a time God has getting a
hearing down here. He is ever speaking but even where there may be some
inclination to hear the sounds of earth are choking in our ears the sound
of His voice. God speaks in His Word. The most we know of God comes to us
here. This Book is God in print. It was inspired, and it _is_ inspired.
God Himself speaks in this Book. That puts it in a list by itself, quite
apart from all others. Studying it keenly, intelligently, reverently will
reveal God's great will. What He says will utterly change what you will
Our Prayer Teacher.
The fourth suggestion is this: _Let the Spirit teach you how to pray_. The
more you pray the more you will find yourself saying to yourself, "I don't
know how to pray." Well God understands that. Paul knew that out of his
own experience before he wrote it down. And God has a plan to cover our
need there. There is One who is a master intercessor. He understands
praying perfectly. He is the Spirit of prayer. God has sent Him down to
live inside you and me, partly for this, to teach us the fine art of
prayer. The suggestion is this: let Him teach you.
When you go alone in the quiet time and place with the Book quietly pray:
"blessed Prayer-Spirit, Master-Spirit, teach me how to pray," and He will.
Do not be nervous, or agitated, wondering if you will understand. Study to
be quiet; mind quiet, body quiet. Be still and listen. Remember Luther's
version of David's words, "Be silent to God, and let Him mould thee."
You will find your praying changing. You will talk more simply, like a man
transacting business or a child asking, though of course with a reverence
and a deepness of feeling not in those things. You will quit asking for
some things. Some of the old forms of prayer will drop from your lips
likely enough. You will use fewer words, maybe, but they will be spoken
with a quiet absolute faith that this thing you are asking is being worked
This thing of _letting the Spirit teach_ must come first in one's praying,
and remain to the last, and continue all along as the leading dominant
factor. He is a Spirit of prayer peculiarly. The highest law of the
Christian life is obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit. There needs
to be a cultivated judgment in reading His leading, and not mistaking our
haphazard thoughts as His voice. He should be allowed to teach us how to
pray and more, to dominate our praying. The whole range and intensity of
the spirit conflict is under His eye. He is God's General on the field of
action. There come crises in the battle when the turn of the tide wavers.
He knows when a bit of special praying is needed to turn the tide and
bring victory. So there needs to be special seasons of persistent prayer,
a continuing until victory is assured. Obey His promptings. Sometimes
there comes an impulse to pray, or to ask another to pray. And we think,
"Why, I have just been praying," _or_, "he does pray about this anyway. It
is not necessary to pray again. I do not just like to suggest it." Better
obey the impulse quietly, with fewest words of explanation to the other
one concerned, or no words beyond simply the request.
Let Him, this wondrous Holy Spirit teach you how to pray. It will take
time. You may be a bit set in your way, but if you will just yield and
patiently wait, He will teach what to pray, suggest definite things, and
often the very language of prayer.
You will notice that the chief purpose of these four suggestions is to
learn God's will. The quiet place, the quiet time, the Book, the
Spirit--this is the schoolroom as Andrew Murray would finely put it. Here
we learn His will. Learning that makes one eager to have it done, and
breathes anew the longing prayer that it may be done.
There is a fine word much used in the Psalms, and in Isaiah for this sort
of thing--_waiting_. Over and over again that is the word used for that
contact with God which reveals to us His will, and imparts to us anew His
desires. It is a word full of richest and deepest meaning. Waiting is not
an occasional nor a hurried thing. It means _steadfastness_, that is
holding on; _patience_, that is holding back; _expectancy_, that is
holding the face up to see; _obedience_, that is holding one's self in
readiness to go or do; it means _listening_, that is holding quiet and
still so as to hear.
The Power of a Name.
The fifth suggestion has already been referred to, but should be repeated
here. Prayer must be _in Jesus' name_. The relationship of prayer is
through Jesus. And the prayer itself must be offered in His name, because
the whole strength of the case lies in Jesus. I recall distinctly a
certain section of this country where I was for awhile, and very rarely
did I hear Jesus' name used in prayer. I heard men, that I knew must be
good men, praying in church, in prayer-meeting and elsewhere with no
mention of Jesus. Let us distinctly bear in mind that we have no standing
with God except through Jesus.
If the keenest lawyer of London, who knew more of American law, and of
Illinois statute and of Chicago ordinance--suppose such a case--were to
come here, could he plead a case in your court-house? you know he could
not. He would have no legal standing here. Now you and I have no standing
at yonder bar. We are disbarred through sin. Only as we come through one
who has recognized standing there can we come.
But turn that fact around. As we do come in Jesus' name, it is the same as
though Jesus prayed. It is the same as though--let me be saying it very
softly so it may seem very reverent--as though Jesus put His arm in yours
and took you up to the Father, and said, "Father, here is a friend of
mine; we're on good terms. Please give him anything he asks, for My sake."
And the Father would quickly bend over and graciously say, "What'll you
have? You may have anything you ask when My Son asks for it." That is the
practical effect of asking in Jesus' name.
But I am very, very clear of this, and I keep swinging back to it that in
the ultimate analysis the force of using Jesus' name is that He is the
victor over the traitor prince. Prayer is repeating the Victor's name into
the ears of Satan and insisting upon his retreat. As one prays
persistently in Jesus' name, the evil one must go. Reluctantly, angrily,
he must loosen his clutches, and go back.
The Birthplace of Faith.
The sixth suggestion is a familiar one, and yet one much misunderstood.
Prayer must be _in faith_. But please note that faith here is not
believing that God _can_, but that He _will_. It is kneeling and making
the prayer, and then saying, "Father, I thank Thee for this; that it will
be so, I thank Thee." Then rising and going about your duties, saying,
"that thing is settled." Going again and again, and repeating the prayer
with the thanks, and then saying as you go off, "that matter is assured."
Not going repeatedly to persuade God. But because prayer is the deciding
factor in a spirit conflict and each prayer is like a fresh blow between
the eyes of the enemy, a fresh broadside from your fleet upon the fort.
"Well," some one will say, "now you are getting that keyed up rather high.
Can we all have faith like that? Can a man _make_ himself believe?" There
should be no unnatural mechanical insisting that you do believe. Some
earnest people make a mistake there. And we will not all have faith like
that. That is quite true, and I can easily tell you why. The faith that
believes that God _will_ do what you ask is not born in a hurry; it is not
born in the dust of the street, and the noise of the crowd. But I can tell
where that faith will have a birthplace and keep growing stronger: in
every heart that takes quiet time off habitually with God, and listens to
His voice in His word. Into that heart will come a simple strong faith
that the thing it is led to ask shall be accomplished.
That faith has four simple characteristics. It is _intelligent_. It finds
out what God's will is. Faith is never contrary to reason. Sometimes it is
a bit higher up; the reasoning process has not yet reached up to it.
Second, it is _obedient_. It fits its life into God's will. There is apt
to be a stiff rub here all the time. Then it is _expectant_. It looks out
for the result. It bows down upon the earth, but sends a man to keep an
eye on the sea. And then it is _persistent_. It hangs on. It says, "Go
again seven times; seventy times seven." It reasons that having learned
God's will, and knowing that He does not change, the delay must be caused
by the third person, the enemy, and that stubborn persistence in the
Victor's name routs him, and leaves a clear field.
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