Matthew 6:26 says “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” But how often do we rely on that promise? Daniel Whittle shares a story from a son who saw God work in his family growing up.
“My father, a minister of the gospel, was prostrated by sickness. A large family of little ones was dependent upon him for support. Funds ran low. One evening my mother remarked that she had broken the last dollar. My father lay awake most of the night, praying to his God for help in this emergency. That same night a man in a parish not many miles distant was much impressed by a dream. He dreamed that a minister who preached in his church not long before, was sick and in want. He knew neither his name nor his place of residence. He arose at the first dawn of day, and going to his own pastor inquired the name and address of the stranger who had recently preached for them. These obtained, he mounted his horse, and knocked at our door just as my mother drew up the window-shades. She answered the knock, when, without a word, a stranger placed an envelope in her hand and immediately rode away. The envelope contained a ten-dollar bill, which we all believed was the Lord’s answer to our father’s prayer. Afterwards these facts were disclosed by the pastor to him whom the Lord chose to disperse his bounty.”
Today we worry about how to make an appointment when our flight is cancelled. In the 1800s they had the same worry – if a train was cancelled!Here’s a fascinating account from the pre-GPS era! From Daniel Whittle:
A man was preaching Sundays at a little country church, about 70 miles by rail from the institution where he attended. He went Saturday, returning on Monday.
One Saturday the train ran off the track. All day long they worked at the wreck. At last, finding it too late to make connection with the other railroad, he took the down train back to the institution.
What should be done? A promise to preach forty miles across the country had been made. There was also an appointment six miles beyond for an afternoon service.
It was now night. To ride by horse across the country was the only way open, or stay at home. Two disappointed congregations the result in the latter case. But the roads were heavy from recent rains.
‘Twill be so late that none can direct. Friends said, ‘Stay; you can’t go forty miles across, to you, an unknown country.’
But the man felt it duty to go. Hiring a horse noted for endurance, at nine o’clock at night — dark, threatening — he set out. As he headed the horse in the direction of the village — for he could find none who could tell him the exact road — he prayed: ‘O God, starting out to preach thy word to-morrow, direct the way — guide this horse.’
The night wore on; as cross-roads came, dropping the lines over the dashboard, the same prayer was offered. When the horse chose a road, the driver urged him on.
As day began to break, emerging from some wood in an unfrequented road, they entered the village they sought.
The sermon that morning was from the text, ‘Son, go work to-day in my vineyard.’ The largest congregation of the Summer had gathered.
It will not do to say that the horse knew the road. Returning in broad daylight the next day, though directed and directed again, we lost the way and went seven miles out of our course.
A scientist might laugh at this way of driving, or at asking God to guide in such trivial matters. But we shall still believe that God led the horse and blessed us in our attempt to serve him.
Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
Daniel Whittle has many accounts of answers to prayer – and today’s highlights the danger of recreation. Yes recreation can be good, but far too many people put temporal pleasure above securing eternal pleasure. However we will see that a mother’s prayers can change nature!
The late aged and venerable Rev. Dr. Cleaveland of Boston, relates the following incident:
In a revival of religion in the church of which he was pastor, he was visited one morning by a member of his church, a widow, whose only son was a sailor.
With a voice trembling with emotion, she said, “Dr. Cleaveland, I have called to entreat you to join me in praying that the wind may change.”
He looked at her in silent amazement.
“Yes,” she exclaimed, earnestly, “my son has gone on board his vessel; they sail to-night unless the wind changes.”
“Well, madam,” replied the doctor, “I will pray that your son may be converted on this voyage; but to pray that God would alter the laws of his universe on his account, I fear is presumptuous.”
“Doctor,” she replied, “my heart tells me differently. God’s Spirit is here. Souls are being converted here. You have a meeting this evening, and if the wind would change, John would stay and go to it ; and I believe if he went he would be converted. Now, if you cannot join me, I must pray alone, for he must stay.”
“I will pray for his conversion,” said the doctor.
On his way to the meeting he glanced at the weather-vane, and to his surprise the wind had changed, and it was blowing landward. On entering his crowded vestry, he soon observed John, sitting upon the front seat.
The young man seemed to drink in every word, rose to be prayed for, and attended the inquiry meeting.
When he sailed from port the mother’s prayers had been answered; he went a Christian.
The pastor had learned a lesson he never forgot. The Lord had said, “O woman, great is thy faith, be it unto thee, even as thou wilt.”
Daniel Whittle shares with us the account of a colporteur – someone employed by a religious society in the 1800s to spread the Word door-to-door by selling religious books. Only this colporteur forgot the “why” for his work!
A colporteur in the Wabash valley became quite discouraged and was almost ready to give up his work, on account of the smallness of his sales. On every side, his ears were filled with complaints of ‘hard times’ – the wheat crop had partially failed two years in succession, the California emigration, and railroad and plank-road speculations had almost drained the country of money. Frequently he would be told, that if he could come after harvest they would buy his books, but that it was impossible to do so then.
His sales were daily decreasing, and he became more and more disheartened, until one night, after a laborious day’s effort, he found that he had only sold twenty-five cents’ worth! He felt that he could not go on in this way any longer. He was wasting his strength and time, and the money of the Society.
On examination of the state of his heart, he found that it had, gradually and almost unconsciously, grown cold and departed far from Christ. He felt that he had not prayed as he ought to have done, especially he had neglected each morning, and on his approach to each dwelling, to pray that then and there God would guide him, and own and bless his efforts to sell books. He saw that probably here was at least a part of the cause why his sales had become so small.
Early the next morning, before any of the family were up, he arose and retired to the adjoining woods, where he had a long and precious season of communion with God. There he anew dedicated himself and his all to the service of Christ. There, as under the eye of the Master, he reviewed the time he had labored as a colporteur, and prayed for forgiveness for the past and grace for the future. There he told the Saviour all about his work, and asked him to go with him that day, preparing the way and enabling him to succeed in the work on which he had entered.
The result was what might have been expected. He went forth a new man; his heart was interested more deeply in the truths which he was circulating – they were more precious than ever to his own soul, and he could recommend his books, as he failed to do when his heart was cold and prayerless.
That first day he sold more books than during the whole week before. In one instance, he sold several dollars’ worth in a family where, as he was afterwards told by pious men in the neighborhood, the father was most bitterly opposed to everything connected with true religion. God had prepared that man’s heart, so that he was ready to purchase quite a library for his family.
And in many families that met him that day with the usual salutation, ‘no money,’ he succeeded in disposing of more than one volume by sale.
As he went from family to family, lifting up his heart in prayer to God for success in the particular object of his visit, God heard his prayers and owned his efforts. And so, he assured me, it had been since; whenever he had been prayerful – prayerful for this particular object – and then had diligently and faithfully done his best, he had invariably succeeded in doing even more than he expected.
Daniel Whittle shares many great answers to prayer in his book, but he also shared a prayer not answered:
Many years ago, a man then recently married, settled in my native town. It was then quite new, destitute of religious privileges, and given to all manner of wickedness. There was no Sabbath, and no sanctuary. The man was pious. The thought of bringing up a family in such a place distressed him. He wished to remove; and he used to retire daily to a little grove, and pray that God would send someone to buy his farm. This prayer was not answered. Better things were in store.
A neighbor was taken sick. He visited and conversed with him. In the midst of the conversation, one sitting by interrupted him and said, ‘Sir, if what you say is true, I am lost.’ This gave new interest to the occasion. Prayer was offered, the Spirit was found out, and many were converted. A prayer-meeting was started; other revivals followed; in due time a church was organized, a house of worship built, and a pastor settled, mainly through the instrumentality of that one man; and he trained up his family there, and lived to see most of them members of the church of Christ. Do not despair, God will either answer your exact prayer, or do something better for you; He knows what is for your best good.
Daniel Whittle lived just before Prohibition took effect. Prohibition was a movement led my many Christian leaders to fight back against the negative effect of alcohol on the home and the community. Several societies (such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union) urged people to sign a pledge to abstain from alcohol (similar to churches that have “purity rings” today). But did those pledges work?
In a rural district, in the North of England, lived a shoemaker who had signed the temperance pledge often, but never had strength to keep it. After a while, he was able to keep it, and reformed entirely. A friend was curious to learn how he had been able, at last, to win the victory, and went to see him.
“Well, William, how are you?”
“Oh, pretty well. I had only eighteen pence and an old hen when I signed, and a few old scores; but now I have about ten pounds in the bank, and my wife and I have lived through the summer without getting into debt. But as I am only thirty weeks old yet (so he styled himself), I cannot be so strong yet, my friend.”
“How is it you never signed before?”
“I did sign; but I keep it different now to what I did before, friend.”
“How is this?”
“Why, I gae doon on my knees and pray.”
Here was the real strength of prayer. His own resolves were of no value; but when he called on God to help, then came new strength, and he was kept by restraining grace. The bitter experience of those who pledge and pledge over and over again, and never gain the victory, at last must come to either of two ends – their utter destruction, or else to call on God in prayer, to help them keep the pledge manfully, and make them stedfast in their resolutions.
Daniel Whittle shares another answer to prayer – for even a mere nickel!
A lady of superior culture and refinement, fell from opulence to extreme poverty, within four years. No less ready when at the bottom of fortune’s ladder, than at the top, to do good as she had opportunity, she paid another poor woman’s way to a neighboring State, where employment awaited her, and did it literally with her last dollar-and-a-half!
Supposing herself the possessor of a ten cent note, over and above the twelve shillings, she went with her somewhat feeble protege over Jersey city ferry, and saw her safely in the cars. Starting back, she was dismayed to find no ten cents in her pocket-book, and, all too late, remembered having paid it for a quart of milk that morning; the sole breakfast of herself and daughter.
Night was approaching – what to do she did not know. She had a plain, worn, old gold ring on her finger; she took it off, offered it to the ferry-master, who would not take it, though she told him she found her money gone and would redeem it next day. She went back in the ladies’ room and told it to the Lord, beseeching his assistance. Just then, a girl passing, jostled against her and knocked down her parasol. She picked it up, happened to turn it upside down, and out rolled a five-cent nickel! The Lord, then hears prayers for even five cents to provide for the comfort and need of those whom He loves.
Yesterday we sang at church the song, The Banner of the Cross. The chorus reminds us:
Marching on, marching on, For Christ count ev’rything but loss! And to crown Him King, toil and sing ‘Neath the banner of the cross!
The Banner of the Cross
The military allusions and cadence of the song is no accident, it was written by Major Daniel Whittle, of Civil War fame.Here’s another testimony of answered prayer from his book:
A man who had led a very wicked life, was converted and hopefully saved. Previous to this time, a debt of $18.75 had not given him the slightest thought. After receiving a new heart, he distinctly heard God’s command, “Pay what thou owest;” so called on his creditor, and urged him to send to his house and get a bureau, table and looking-glass (mirror) which he desired him to sell and pay himself the sum due him; but, not wishing to deprive his debtor of such necessary articles, refused, saying he would wait till he could pay. The 18th of November was set, and, as the day approached, the prospect was no brighter; and when the night of the 17th came around, he spent it in prayer that God would deliver him, and rose from his knees at daybreak, with the full assurance that “He knoweth how to deliver.”
On passing down a street the next morning, on his way to business, a man who kept a large store was standing in the door-way, and called to him to stop a minute. Wondering what could be the nature of the call, he retraced his steps, to hear this astonishing news:
“For three days I have been impressed with the idea that I must give you $18.75, and for three days have been trying to ascertain why I must give you this amount, for I do not owe any man a penny. I cannot get rid of the thought, and if you value my peace of mind, I beg you take the money!”
Seeing, instantly, the hand of God in it, he told the story to the astonished storekeeper, then left to pay his debt with the money so strangely given. His creditor, surprised to see him so promptly on time, questioned him as to the manner of obtaining it, thinking, perhaps, he had made a great sacrifice to do so. On being told just how it was given him, said,
“I won’t take it; keep it. If God is as near to people as that, I don’t want it; it seems as if it had come directly from his Almighty hand.”
The result was the conversion of both the storekeeper and creditor, to whom the incident came as the undoubted evidence of God’s presence among them.
We’ve been sharing answers to prayer from The Wonders of Prayer: A Record of Well Authenticated and Wonderful Answers by Daniel Whittle (author of the gospel song, Showers of Blessings).
A clergyman writes us these incidents:
“I knew a poor family whose son George, four or five years old, was accustomed to pray. They lived five or six miles from neighbors, and at times, were quite destitute. One day, as little George observed his mother weeping over their destitution, he said, “Why, mother, don’t cry any; we shall not starve; God will send us something to eat, I know He will. I’ve just been praying, and asked Him to.” The little fellow just as much believed God would send them food, as if he had asked a reliable neighbor and obtained his promise to supply their wants. In a day or two after this, some friends living at a distance and knowing they were poor, took them the welcome surprise of a wagon-load of substantial material for food and other comforts. The little boy grew up to be a Christian minister, and about a year ago, on inquiry, his uncle told me he had been at the head of an institution of learning in the South-west.”
Give us this day our daily bread
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
We continue reading about answers to prayer as recorded by Daniel Whittle in his book, The Wonders of Prayer: A Record of Well Authenticated and Wonderful Answers.
A clergyman of distinction gives this instance of the worthlessness of all attempts to flee from the Power of the Spirit.
“I looked out of my window one morning, while it was yet dark, and saw a lady standing at my gate, leaning against a post, and evidently weeping bitterly. I knew her. She was a member of the church, and was an earnest, consistent Christian. She was married to one of the most bitter Universalists [a person who believed everyone was going to heaven regardless of faith] I ever knew. I stepped down the steps to her, and asked, ‘What is the matter?’ She replied, ‘Oh, my poor husband! I had so hoped and prayed that he might be converted in this revival! and now he has rode away, and says that he will not come back till this religious flurry is over. What shall I do to bear up under this?’
“I said, ‘It is near the time for prayer. We will go and lay his case before the Lord, and make special request that God will bring him back again under the power of the Spirit. The Lord can bring him home, and I believe He will do it. We must pray for him.’
“She dried her tears in a moment, and seemed to seize hold of this ‘strong hope,’ as we walked to the place of prayer. We found the room crowded. It fell to my lot to lead the meeting.
“At the opening, I stated the case of this Universalist husband, who had undertaken to run away from the influence of the Spirit, by fleeing into the country. I said that we must all pray that the Holy Spirit may follow him, overtake him, and bring him back again, show him his sins, and lead him to Jesus.
“The meeting took up the case with great earnestness, and I could not but feel that prayer would in some way be answered.
“But can you imagine our surprise when, at our evening prayer meeting, this same Universalist came in?
“After standing a few minutes, till the opportunity offered, he said:
“I went away on horseback this morning, and told my wife I was going into the country to stay til this flurry was over. I rode right over the hills, back from the river, into the country, till I had got eighteen miles away. There, on the top of a hill, I was stopped as Paul was, and just as suddenly, and made to feel what a horrible sinner I am. I am one of the worst sinners that ever lived. I have lost my Universalism, and I know that I must be born again, or I can never see the kingdom of Heaven. Oh, pray for me that I may be converted; nothing else will do for me.’
“He took his seat amid the tears and sobs of the whole assembly. The hour was full of prayer for that man’s conversion.
“This strong and intelligent man, once one of the bitterest Universalits I ever knew, is now an elder in a Presbyterian church, and one of the most joyous, happy, energetic men of God you will meet in many a day. He believes he was ‘converted on the spot in that prayer meeting.'”