Daniel Whittle shares that the life of faith and the necessity of uncompromising hold on the promise’s, expecting their fulfillment, is admirably explained in the illustration of Noah’s prayer. One day Mr. Moody was much discouraged, and it was as dark a Sabbath as ever he had, and a friend suggested to him to study the life of Noah.
“I got out my Bible, and the thought came over me, ‘Here is a man who labored and talked a hundred years, and didn’t succeed; didn’t get a convert notwithstanding all his efforts, all his prayers, but he didn’t get discouraged.’
“But he took God at his word; he worked right on; he prayed right on; and he waited God’s time. And, my friends, from that time, I have never been discouraged. Whenever I think of him, it lifts me up out of the darkness into the light. Don’t get discouraged.”
The lesson of Noah’s life is briefly this: He never converted a soul outside of his own family. That was the work God gave him to do, and he prayed and waited and worked, and never gave up, and he was saved and all his family with him.
So every Christian must recognize that his field is not far off, but right around him, in his house, among his friends, working, praying, waiting, but never getting discouraged. The Lord will never fail those who “abide in Him.”
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned.
Daniel Whittle shares another account from D.L. Moody:
At one of the prayer-meetings at the Brooklyn tabernacle, Mr. Moody closed by narrating an instance of persevering prayer by a Christian wife for an infidel husband. She resolved to pray for him at noon for eighteen months, and at the expiration of that time, her knocking not having been responded to, she exclaimed, “Lord, I will pray for him, every day, and at all hours, as long as life lasts.”
That day the Lord heard her knock, and gave her the desire of her heart, in the conversion of her husband. When the Lord saw her faith would not give up, he sent the answer immediately.
I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
Daniel Whittle notes that Mr. Moody’s domestic life had always been a happy one, but in the early days of his marriage, he was very poor, and his faith was often put to the severest tests.
One day, on leaving home in his missionary work and labors of love, he remarked to his wife, “I have no money, and the house is without supplies. It looks dark; is it possible that the Lord has had enough of me in this mission work, and is going to send me back again to sell boots and shoes.” But he prayed. In a day or two, a Stranger sent him two checks of $50 each–one for himself, and one for his school.
On another occasion his wife informed him that they had no flour for the day’s use, and asked him to order some on his way. Having no money in his possession, he was perplexed how to proceed to raise the required amount; but meeting a person in whose spiritual welfare he was concerned, he forgot all about such sublunary considerations as money and flour, and went heart and soul into the Lord’s work before him.
On his return home at night, he felt somewhat nervous about his reception on account of his not having sent the flour, but to his joyful surprise, he found that on his arrival the table was spread with a bountiful repast.
It seems that a friend of his was powerfully impressed that morning, and without seeing the family or knowing anything about their need, had packed up a barrel of flour and sent it.
Others of his friends, who were interested in his work, and felt confidence in his work, unknown to him, selected a new house, and furnished it throughout with every facility for convenience and comfort, and when all was completed invited him and his family to it, and made him a present of the loan of his house, and all its contents.
Thus the Great Helper remembered him and answered his daily prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Daniel Whittle shares the account of D.L. Moody, who on his return from England, while conducting a prayer-meeting in Northfield, Mass., gave this illustration of the power of prayer to subdue the most unlikely cases of sin and unbelief:
“There is not a heart so hard that God cannot touch it. While in Edinburgh, a man was pointed out to me by a friend who said, ‘Moody, that man is chairman of the Edinburgh infidel club.’ So I went and sat down beside him, and said, ‘Well, my friend, I am glad to see you at this meeting. Are you not concerned about your welfare?’ He said that he did not believe in a hereafter. I said, ‘Well, you just get down on your knees and let me pray for you.’
“‘I don’t believe in prayer.’
“I tried unsuccessfully to get the man down on his knees, and finally knelt down beside him and prayed for him. Well, he made a good deal of sport over it, and I met him again many times in Edinburgh after that. A year ago last month, while in the north of Scotland, I met the man again. Placing my hand on his shoulder, I asked, ‘Hasn’t God answered the prayer?’
“He replied, ‘There is no God. I am just the same as I always have been. If you believe in a God, and in answer to prayer, do as I told you. Try your hand on me.’
“‘Well,’ I said, ‘God’s time will come; there are a great many praying for you; and I have faith to believe you are going to be blessed.’
“Six months ago I was in Liverpool; and there I got a letter from the leading barrister of Edinburgh, telling me that my friend, the infidel, had come to Christ, and that of his club of thirty men seventeen had followed his example.
“How it happened he could not say, but whereas he was once blind, now he could see. God has answered the prayer. ‘I didn’t know how it was to be answered,’ said Mr. Moody, ‘but I believed it would be and it was done. What we want to do is to come boldly to God.'”
Now let us come to the part I want to dwell upon: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” This is the only part of the prayer that Christ explained.
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Notice that when you go into the door of God’s kingdom, you go in through the door of forgiveness. I never knew of a man getting a blessing in his own soul, if he was not willing to forgive others, If we are unwilling to forgive others, God cannot forgive us, I do not know how language could be more plain than it is in these words of our Lord. I firmly believe a great many prayers are not answered because we are not willing to forgive some one. Let your mind go back over the past, and through the circle of your acquaintance; are there any against whom you are cherishing hard feelings? Is there any root of bitterness springing up against some one who has perhaps injured you? It may be that for months or years you have been nursing this unforgiving spirit;how can you ask God to forgive you? If I am not willing to forgive those who may have committed some single offence against me, what a mean, contemptible thing it would be for me to ask God to forgive the ten thousand sins of which I have been guilty!
But Christ goes still further. He says: “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” It may be that you are saying: “I do not know that I have anything against any one.” Has any one anything against you? Is there some one who thinks you have done them wrong? Perhaps you have not; but it may be they think you have. I will tell you what I would do before I go to sleep to-night; I would go and see them, and have the question settled. You will find that you will be greatly blessed in the very act.
Supposing you are in the right and they are in the wrong; you may win your brother or sister. May God root out of all our hearts this unforgiving spirit.
A gentleman came to me some time ago, and wanted me to talk to his wife about her soul . That woman seemed as anxious as any person I ever met, and I thought it would not take long to lead her into the light; but it seemed that the longer I talked with her, the more her darkness increased . I went to see her again the next day, and found her in still greater darkness of Boul . I thought there must be something in the way that I had not discovered, and I asked her to repeat with me this disciples’ prayer. I thought if she could say this prayer from the heart, the Lord would meet her in peace. I began to repeat it sentence after sentence, and she repeated it after me until I came to this petition: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” There she stopped . I repeated it the second time, and waited for her to say it after me; she said she could not do it. “What is the trouble?” She replied, “There is one woman I never will forgive.” “Oh,” I said, “I have got at your difficulty; it is no use my going on to pray, for your prayers will not go higher than my head. God says He will not forgive you unless you forgive others. If you do not forgive this woman, God will never forgive you. That is the decree of heaven.” She said, “Do you mean to say that I cannot be forgiven until I have forgiven her?” “No, I do not say it; the Lord says it, and that is far better authority.” Said she, “Then I will never be forgiven.” I left the house without having made any impression on her. A few years after, I heard that this woman was in an asylum for the insane. I believe this spirit of unforgiveness drove her mad.
If there is some one who has aught against you, go at once, and be reconciled. If you have aught against any one, write to them a letter, telling them that you forgive them, and so have this thing off your conscience. I remember being in the inquiry-room some years ago; I was in one corner of the room, talking to a young lady. There seemed to be something in the way, but I could not find out what it was. At last I said, “Is there not some one you do not forgive?” She looked up at me, and said, “What made you ask that? Has anyone told you about me?” “No,” I said; “but I thought perhaps that might be the case, as you have not received forgiveness yourself.” “Well,” she said, pointing to another corner of the room, where there was a young lady sitting, “I have had trouble with that young lady; we have not spoken to each other for along time.” “Oh,” I said, “it is all plain to me now; you cannot be forgiven until you are willing to forgive her.” It was a great struggle. But then you know, the greater the cross the greater the blessing. It is human to err, but it is Christ-like to forgive and be forgiven. At last this young lady said: ‘I will go and forgive her.” Strange to say, the same conflict was going on in the mind of the lady in the other part of the room. They both came to their right mind about the same time. They met each other in the middle of the floor. The one tried to say that she forgave the other, but they could not finish; so they rushed into each other’s arms. Then the four of us— the two seekers and the two workers—got down on our knees together, and we had a grand meeting. These two went away rejoicing.
There is a great deal more said in the Bible about praise than prayer; yet how few praise-meetings there are!
David, in his Psalms, always mixes praise with prayer. Solomon prevailed much with God in prayer at the dedication of the temple; but it was the voice of praise which brought down the glory that filled the house; for we read: “And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place (for all the priests that were present were sanctified, and did not then wait by course; also the Levites, which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals, and psalteries, and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them a hundred and twenty priests, sounding with trumpets); it came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets, and cymbals, and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, ‘For He is good; for His mercy endureth forever;’ that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.”
We read, too, of Jehosaphat, that he gained the victory over the hosts of Ammon and Moab through praise, which was excited by faith and thankfulness to God.
“And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper;’ and when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for His mercy endureth for ever,’ And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, which which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.”
It is said that in a time of great despondency among the first settlers in New England, it was proposed in one of their public assemblies to proclaim a fast. An old farmer arose; spoke of their provoking heaven with their complaints, reviewed their measures, showed that they had much to be thankful for, and moved that instead of appointing a day of fasting, they should appoint a day of thanksgiving. This was done; and the custom has been continued ever since.
However great our difficulties, or deep even our sorrows, there is room for thankfulness. Thomas Adams has said: “Lay up in the ark of thy memory not only the pot of manna, the bread of life; but even Aaron’s rod, the very scourge of correction, wherewith thou hast been bettered. Blessed be the Lord, not only giving, but taking away, saith Job. God who sees there is no walking upon roses to heaven, puts His children into the way of discipline; and by the fire of correction eats out the rust of corruption. God sends trouble, then bids us call upon Him; promiseth our deliverance; and lastly, the all He requires of us is to glorify Him. ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.”
A third element of successful prayer is RESTITUTION. If I have at any time taken what does not belong to me, and am not willing to make restitution, my prayers will not go very far toward heaven. It is a singular thing, but I have never touched on this subject in my addresses, without hearing of immediate results. A man once told me that I would not need to dwell on this point at a meeting I was about to address, as probably there would be no one present that would need to make restitution. But I think if the Spirit of God searches our hearts, we shall most of us find a good many things have to be done that we never thought of before.
After Zaccheus met with Christ, things looked altogether different. I venture to say that the idea of making restitution never entered into his mind before. He thought, probably, that morning that he was a perfectly honest man. But when the Lord came and spoke to him, he saw himself in an altogether different light. Notice how short his speech was. The only thing put on record that he said was this: “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” A short speech; but how the words have come ringing down through the ages!
By making that remark he confessed his sin—that he had been dishonest. Besides that, he showed that he knew the requirements of the law of Moses. If a man / had taken what did net belong to him, he was not only I to return it, but to multiply it by four. I think that men in this dispensation ought to be fully as honest as men under the Law. I am getting so tired and sick of your mere sentimentalism, that does not straighten out a man’s life. We may sing our hymns and psalms, and offer prayers, but they will be an abomination to God, unless we are willing to be thoroughly straightforward in our daily life. Nothing will give Christianity such a hold upon the world as to have God’s believing people begin to act in this way. Zaccheus had probably more influence in Jericho after he made restitution than any other man in it.
Finney, in his lectures to professing Christians, says: “One reason for the requirement, ‘Be not conformed to this world,’ is the immense, salutary, and instantaneous influence it would have, if everybody would do business on the principles of the Gospel. Turn the tables over, and let Christians do business one year on Gospel principles. It would shake the world! It would ring louder than thunder. Let the ungodly see professing Christians considering the good of the person they are trading with—seeking not their own wealth, but every man another’s wealth—living above the world—setting no value on the world any further than it would be the means of glorifying God; what do you think would be the effect? It would cover the world with confusion of face, and overwhelm them with conviction of sin.”
Finney makes one grand mark of genuine repentance to be restitution. “The thief has not repented who keeps the money he stole. He may have conviction, but no repentance. If he had repentance, he would go and give back the money. If you have cheated any one, and do not restore what you have taken unjustly; or if you have injured any one, and do not set about to undo the wrong you have done, as far as in you lies, you have not truly repented.”
Another element in true prayer is Confession. I do not want Christian friends to think that I am talking to the unsaved. I think we, as Christians, have a good many sins to confess.
If you go back to the Scripture records, you will find that the men who lived nearest to God, and had most power with Him, were those who confessed their sins and failures. Daniel, as we have seen, confessed his sins and those of his people. Yet there is nothing recorded against Daniel. He was one of the best men then on the face of the earth, yet was his confession of sin one of the deepest and most humble on record. Brooks, referring to Daniel’s confession, says: “In these words you have seven circumstances that Daniel uses in confessing of his and the people’s sins; and all to heighten and aggravate them.
First, ‘We have sinned;’
secondly, ‘We have committed iniquity;’
thirdly, ‘We have done wickedly;’
fourthly, ‘We have rebelled against thee;’
fiftly, ‘We have departed from Thy precepts;’
sixthly, ‘We have not hearkened unto Thy servants;’
seventhly, ‘Nor our princes, nor all the people of the land.’
These seven aggravations which Daniel reckons up in his confession are worthy our most serious consideration.”
Job was no doubt a holy man, a mighty prince, yet he had to fall in the dust and confess his sins. So you will find it all through the Scriptures. When Isaiah saw the purity and holiness of God, he beheld himself in his true light, and he exclaimed, “Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips!
I firmly believe that the Church of God will have to confess her own sins, before there can be any great work of grace. There must be a deeper work among God’s believing people. I sometimes think it is about time to give up preaching to the ungodly, and preach to those who profess to be Christians. If we had a higher standard of life in the Church of God, there would be thousands more flocking into the Kingdom. So it was in the past; when God’s believing children turned away from their sins and their idols, the fear of God fell upon the people round about. Take up the history of Israel, and you will find that when they put away their strange gods, God visited the nation, and there came a mighty work of grace.
What we want in these days is a true and deep revival in the Church of God. I have little sympathy with the idea that God is going to reach the masses by a cold and formal church. The judgment of God must begin with us. You notice that when Daniel got that wonderful answer to prayer recorded in the ninth chapter, he was confessing his sin. That is one of the best chapters on prayer in the whole Bible.
We read: “While I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin, and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; yea, while I was speaking in my prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.”
So also when Job was confessing his sin, God turned his captivity and heard his prayer. God will hear our prayer and turn our captivity when we take our true place before Him, and confess and forsake our transgressions. It was when Isaiah cried out before the Lord, “I am undone,” that the blessing came; the live coal was taken from the altar and put upon his lips; and he went out to write one of the most wonderful books the world has ever seen. What a blessing it has been to the church!
Let me refer you to a passage in the prophecies of Daniel. He was one of the men who knew how to pray; his prayer brought the blessing of heaven upon himself and upon his people. He says: “I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes; and I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love Him, and to them that keep His commandments!”
The thought I want to call special attention to is conveyed in the words, “O Lord, the great and dreadful God!” Daniel took his right place before God—in the dust; he put God in His right place. It was when Abraham was on his face, prostrate before God, that God spoke to him. Holiness belongs to God; sinfulness belongs to us.
Brooks, that grand old Puritan writer, says: “A person of real holiness is much affected and taken up in the admiration of the holiness of God. Unholy persons may be somewhat affected and taken with the other excellences of God; it is only holy souls that are taken and affected with His holiness. The more holy any are, the more deeply are they affected by this. To the holy angels, the holiness of God is the sparkling diamond in the ring of glory. But unholy persons are affected and taken with anything rather than with this. Nothing strikes the sinner into such a damp as a discourse on the holiness of God; it is as the handwriting on the wall; nothing makes the head and heart of a sinner to ache like a sermon upon the Holy One; nothing galls and gripes, nothing stings and terrifies unsanctified ones, like a lively setting forth of the holiness of God. But to holy souls there are no discourses that do more suit and satisfy them, that do more delight and content them, that do more please and profit them, than those that do most fully and powerfully discover God to be glorious in holiness.” So, in coming before God, we must adore and reverence His name.
The same thing is brought out in Isaiah: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim; each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.”
When we see the holiness of God, we shall adore and magnify Him. Moses had to learn the same lesson. God told him to take his shoes from off his feet, for the place whereon he stood was holy ground. When we hear men trying to make out that they are holy, and speaking about their holiness, they make light of the holiness of God. It is His holiness that we need to think and speak about; when we do that, we shall be prostrate in the dust . You remember, also, how it was with Peter. When Christ made Himself known to him, he said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man,
Those who have left the deepest impression on this sin-cursed earth have been men and women of prayer. You will find that prayer has been the mighty power that has moved not only God, but man.
Abraham was a man of prayer, and angels came down from heaven to converse with him. Jacob’s prayer was answered in the wonderful interview at Peniel, that resulted in his having such a mighty blessing, and in softening the heart of his brother Esau; the child Samuel was given in answer to Hannah’s prayer; Elijah’s prayer closed up the heavens for three years and six months, and he prayed again and the heavens gave rain.
The Apostle James tells us that the prophet Elijah was a man “subject to like passions as we are.” I am thankful that those men and women who were so mighty in prayer were just like ourselves. We are apt to think that those prophets and mighty men and women of old time were different from what we are. To be sure they lived in a much darker age, but they were of like passions with ourselves.
We read that on another occasion Elijah brought down fire on Mount Oarmel. The prophets of Baal cried long and loud, but no answer came. The God of Elijah heard and answered his prayer. Let us remember that the God of Elijah still lives. The prophet was translated and went up to heaven, but his God still lives, and we have the same access to Him that Elijah had. We have the same warrant to go to God and ask the fire from heaven to come down and consume our lusts and passions—to burn up our dross, and let Christ shine through us.
Elisha prayed, and life came back to a dead child. Many of our children are dead in trespasses and sins. Let us do as Elisha did; let us entreat God to raise them up in answer to our prayers.
Manasseh, the king, was a wicked man, and had done everything he could against the God of his father; yet in Babylon, when he cried to God, his cry was heard, and he was taken out of prison and put on the throne at Jerusalem. Surely if God gave heed to the prayer of wicked Manasseh, He will hear ours in the time of our distress. Is not this a time of distress with a great number of our fellow-men? Are there not many among us whose hearts are burdened? As we go to the throne of grace, let us remember that GOD ANSWERS PRAYER.