"Teach Us to Pray"
We live and develop physically by
exercise. We are saved by faith, but we must work out our salvation by doing the
things God wills. The more we do for God, the more God will do through us. Faith
will increase by experience.
If you are a stranger to prayer you are a stranger to the greatest test
source of power known to human beings. If we cared for our physical life in the
same lackadaisical way that we care for,our spiritual, we would be as weak
physically as we are spiritually. You go week in and week out without prayer. I
want to be a giant for God. You don't even sing; you let the choir do it. You go
to prayer-meeting and offer no testimony.
You are a stranger to the great privilege that is offered to human beings.
Some of the greatest blessings that people enjoy come from prayer. In earnest
prayer you think as the Lord directs, and lose yourself in him.
Some people say: "It's no use to pray. The Lord knows everything, anyway."
That's true. He does. He is not limited, as I am limited. He knows everything
and has known it since before the world was. We
don't know everybody who is going to be converted at this revival, but that
doesn't relieve us of our duty. We don't know, and we must do the work he has
commanded us to do.
Others say: "But I don't get what I pray for." Well, there's a cause for
everything. Get at the cause and you'll be all right. If you are sick and send
for the doctor, he pays no attention to the disease, but looks at what produced
it. If you have a headache, don't rub your forehead. In Matthew it is written,
"Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be
opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7). If your prayers are not answered you are not right
with God. If you have no faith, if your motive is wrong, then your prayers will
be in vain. Many times when people pray they are selfish. They are not gripping
the word. I believe that when many a wife prays for the conversion of her
husband it isn't because she really desires the salvation of his soul, but
because she thinks if he were converted things would be easier for her
personally. Pray for your neighbors as well as your own family. The pastor of
one church does not pray for the congregation of another denomination. I'm not
saying anything against denominations. I believe in them. I believe they are of
God. Denominations represent different temperaments. A man with warm emotions
would not make a good Episcopalian, but he would make a crackerjack Methodist.
Oh, the curse of selfishness! The Church is dying for religion, for religion
pure and undefiled. Pure religion and undefiled is visiting the widow and the
fatherless (James 1:27) and doing the will of God without so much thought of
yourself. I tell you, a lot of people are going to be fooled the Day of
Isaiah says the hand of God is not shortened and his ear is not deaf (Isa.
59:1). No, his hand is not shortened so that it cannot save. He has provided
agencies by which we can be saved. If he had made no provision for your
salvation, then the trouble would be with God; but he has, so if you go to hell
the trouble will be with you.
In Ezekiel we read that men have taken idols into their hearts and put
stumbling-blocks before their faces (Ezek. 14:3). God is not going to hear you
if you place clothes, money, pride of relationship before him. You know there is
sin in your life. Many people know there is sin in their lives, yet ask God to
bless them. They ought first to get down on their knees and pray, "God be
merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13).
Some people are too contemptibly stingy for God to hear them. God won't hear
you if you stop your ears to the cries of the poor. You drag along here for
three weeks and raise a paltry sum that a circus would take out of town in two
hours. When they give things to the poor they rip off the buttons and the fine
braid. Some people pick out old clothes that the moths have made into sieves and
give them to the poor and think they are charitable. That isn't charity, no sir;
it's charity when you'll give something you'll miss. It's charity when you feel
it to give.
And when you stand praying, forgive if you have aught [anything] against
anyone. It's no use to pray if you have a mean, miserable disposition, if you
are grouchy, if you quarrel in your home or with your neighbors.
It's no use to pray for a blessing when you have a fuss on with your
neighbors. It doesn't do you any good. You go to a sewing society meeting to
make mosquito netting for the Eskimo and blankets for the Hottentots, and
instead you sit and chew the rag and rip some woman up the back. The spirit of
God flees from strife and discord.
People say: "She is a good woman, but a worldly Christian." What? Might as
well speak of a heavenly devil. Might as well expect a mummy to speak and bear
children as that kind to move the world God-ward. Prayer draws you nearer to
Learning of Christ
"Teach us to pray," implies that I want to be taught. It's a great privilege
to be taught by Jesus. A friend of mine was preaching out in Cedar Rapids, Iowa,
and had to go to a hospital in Chicago for an operation, and I was asked to go
and preach in his place. Alexander was leading the singing, and one night
Charles [Butler] called a little girl out of the audience to sing. She didn't
look over four or five years of age, though she might have been a little older.
I thought, "What's the use? Her little voice can never be heard over this
crowd." But Charlie stood her up in a chair by the pulpit and she threw back her
head and out rolled some of the sweetest music I have ever heard. It was
wonderful. I sat there and the tears streamed down my cheeks. That little girl
was the daughter of a Northwestern engineer and he took her to Chicago when her
mother was away. Some one took her to Patti. Patti took the little girl to one
of her suite of rooms and told her to stand there and sing. Then she went to the
other end of the suite and sat down on a divan and listened. The song moved her
to tears. She ran and hugged and kissed the little girl and sat her down on the
divan and said to her: "Now you sit here and I'll go over there and sing." She
took up her position where the child had stood, and she lifted her magnificent
voice and she sang "Home, Sweet Home" and "The Last Rose of Summer" sang them
for that little girl! And Patti used to get a thousand dollars for a song, too.
She always knew how many songs she was to sing, for she had a check before she
went on the platform. It was a great privilege the little daughter of that
Northwestern engineer had, but it's a greater privilege to learn from Jesus
Christ how to pray.
A friend of mine told me he went to hear Paganini, and the great violinist
broke one of the strings of his instrument, then another, then another, until he
had only one left, and on that one he played so wonderfully that his audience
burst into terrific applause. It was a privilege to hear that, but it's a
greater privilege to have Jesus teach you to pray.
Let us take a few examples from the life of Christ. In Mark we learn that he
rose up early in the morning and went out to a solitary place and prayed (Mark
1:35). He began every day with prayer. You never get up without dressing. You
never forget to wash your face and comb your hair. You always think of
breakfast. You feed your physical body. Why do you starve your spiritual body?
If nine-tenths of you were as weak physically as you are spiritually, you
When I was assistant secretary of the Y.M.C.A. at Chicago, John G. Paton came
home from the New Hebrides and was lecturing and collecting money. He was
raising money to buy a sea-going steam yacht, for his work took him from island
to island and he had to use a row-boat, and sometimes it was dangerous when the
weather was bad, so he wanted the yacht. We had him for a week, and it was my
privilege to go to lunch with him. We would go out to a restaurant at noon and
he would talk to us. Sometimes there would be as many as fifteen or twenty
preachers in the crowd, and now and then some of us were so interested in what
he told us of the work for Jesus in those far-away islands that we forgot to
eat. I remember that he said one day: "All that I am I owe to my Christian
father and mother. My father was one of the most prayerful men I ever knew.
Often in the daytime he would slip into his closet, and he would drop a
handkerchief outside the door, and when we children saw the white sentinel we
knew that father was talking with his God and would go quietly away. It is
largely because of the life and influence of that same saintly father that I am
preaching to the cannibals in the South Seas." It is an insult to God and a
disgrace to allow children to grow up without throwing Christian influences
around them. Seven-tenths of professing Christians have no family prayers and do
not read the Bible. It is no wonder boys and girls are going to hell. It is no
wonder the damnable ball-rooms are wrecking the virtue of our girls.
In the fourteenth chapter of Matthew it is told that when Jesus had sent the
multitudes away he went up into the mountain and was there alone with God. Jesus
Christ never forgot to thank God for answering his prayers. Jesus asked him to
help him feed the multitude, and he didn't neglect to thank him for it. Next
time you pray don't ask God for anything. Just try to think of all the things
you have to be thankful for, and tell him about them.
Pride Hinders Prayer
Pride keeps us from proper prayer. Being chesty and big-headed is responsible
for more failures than anything else in this world. It has spoiled many a
preacher, just as it has spoiled many an employee. Some fellows get a job and in
about two weeks they think they know more about the business than the boss does.
They think he is all wrong. It never occurs to them that it took some brains and
some knowledge to build that business up and keep it running till they got
Here's two things to guard against. Don't get chesty over success, or
discouraged over a seeming defeat.
"And when he prayed he said: 'Lazarus, come forth'; and he that was dead came
forth" (John 11:43). If we prayed right we would raise men from sin and bring
them forth into the light of righteousness.
"And as he prayed the fashion of his countenance was altered" (Luke 9:29).
Ladies, do you want to look pretty? If some of you women would spend less on
dope and cold cream and get down on your knees and pray, God would make you
prettier. Why, I can look into your faces and tell what sort of lives you live.
If you are devoting your time and thoughts to society, your countenances will
show it. If you pray, I can see that.
Every man who has helped to light up the dark places of the world has been a
praying man. I never preach a sermon until I've soaked it in prayer. Never. Then
I never forget to thank God for helping me when I preach. I don't care whether
you read your prayers out of a book or whether you just say them, so long as you
mean them. A man can read his prayers and go to heaven, or he may just say his
prayers and go to hell. We've got to face conditions. When I read I find that
all the saintly men who have done things from Pentecost until today, have known
how to pray. It was a master stroke of the devil when he got the church to give
up prayer. One of the biggest farces today is the average prayer-meeting.
Praying in Secret
Matthew says, "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when
thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father, which is in secret; and thy Father
which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." (Matt. 6:6)
Two men came to the Temple to pray (Luke 18:10) - the first was the Pharisee.
He was nice and smooth, and his attitude was nice and smooth. He prayed: "God, I
thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or
even as this publican [tax-collector]. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes
of all I possess," and he went out. I can imagine a lot of people sitting around
the church and saying: "That is my idea of religion; that is it. I am no
sensationalist; I don't want anything vulgar, no slang." Why don't you use a
little, bud, so that something will come your way? And it will come as straight
as two and two make four.
Services rendered in such opposite directions cannot meet with the same
results. If two men were on the top of a tall building and one should jump and
one come down the fire escape they couldn't expect to meet with the same degree
of safety. The Pharisee said, "Thank God, I am not as other men are," and the
publican said, "God be merciful to me, a sinner." The first man went to his
house the same as when he came out of it. "God be merciful to me, a sinner."
That man was justified. I am justified in my faith in Jesus Christ. I am no
longer a sinner. I am justified as though I had never sinned, by faith in the
Son of God. That man went down to his house justified.
Praying in Humility
How many people pray in a real sense? How many people pray in humility and
truth? Some men pray for humility when it is pride they want. Many a man gets
down on his knees and says: "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy
name: thy kingdom come - " (Matt. 6:9) That is not so; they don't want God's
kingdom to come. It is not so with half the people that pray. I say to you when
you pray in the church pew and say that, it don't count a snap of my finger if
you don't live it: You pray, "Thy kingdom come," and then you go out and do
something to prevent that kingdom from coming. No man can get down and pray "The
kingdom come," and have a beer wagon back up to his door and put beer in the ice
box. No man can get down on his knees and pray "Thy kingdom come," and look
through the bottom of a beer glass. God won't stand for it. If you wanted God's
will done you would do God's will, even if it took every drop of blood in your
body to do it.
"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." When you say this in your pew
on Sunday it means nothing unless you live it on Monday. You say "Thy kingdom
come," and then go out and do the very thing that will prevent God's kingdom
from coming. Your prayers or anything you do in the church on Sunday mean
nothing if you don't do the same thing in business on Monday. I don't care how
loud your wind-jamming in prayer-meeting may be if you go out and skin somebody
in a horse deal the next day.
The man who truly prays, "Thy kingdom come," cannot take his heart out of his
prayer when he is out of the church. The man who truly prays "Thy kingdom come,"
will not be shrinking his measures at the store; the load of coal he sends to
you won't be half slate. The man who truly prays "Thy kingdom come" won't cut
off his yardstick when he measures you a piece of calico. It will not take the
pure-food law to keep a man who truly prays "Thy kingdom come" from putting
chalk in the flour, sand in the sugar, brick dust in red pepper, ground peanut
shells in breakfast food.
The man who truly prays "Thy kingdom come" cannot pass a saloon and not ask
himself the question, "What can I do to get rid of that thing that is blighting
the lives of thousands of young men, that is wrecking homes, and that is
dragging men and women down to hell?" You cannot pray "Thy kingdom come," and
then rush to the polls and vote for the thing that is preventing that kingdom
from coming. You cannot pray "Thy kingdom come" and then go and do the things
that make the devil laugh. For the man who truly prays "Thy kingdom come" it
would be impossible to have one kind of religion on his knees and another when
he behind the counter; it would be impossible to have one kind of religion in
the pew and another in politics. When a man truly prays "Thy kingdom come" he
means it in everything or in nothing.
A lot of church members are praying wrong. You should pray first, "God be
merciful to me a sinner," and then "Thy kingdom come."
Saying a prayer is one thing: doing God's will is another. Both should be
synonymous. Angels are angels because they do God's will. When they refuse to do
God's will they become devils.
Many a man prays when he gets in a hole. Many a man prays when he is up
against it. Many a man prays in the time of trouble, but when he can stick his
thumbs in his armholes [i.e., swagger] and take a pair of scissors and cut his
coupons off [collect his interest], then it is "Good-bye, God; I'll see you
later." Many a man will make promises to God in his extremity, but forget them
in his prosperity. Many a man will make promises to God when the hearse is
backed up to the door to carry the baby out, but wilt soon forget the promises
made in the days of adversity. Many a man will make promises when lying on his
back, thinking he is going to die, and load up just the same when he is on his
Men of Prayer
Every man and every woman that God has used to halt this sin-cursed world and
set it going Godward has been a Christian of prayer. Martin Luther arose from
his bed and prayed all night, and when the break of day came he called his wife
and said to her, "It has come." History records that on that very day King
Charles granted religious toleration, a thing for which Luther had prayed.
John Knox, whom his queen feared more than any other man, was in such agony
of prayer that he ran out into the street and fell on his face and cried, "O
God, give me Scotland or I'll die." And God gave him Scotland and not only that,
he threw England in for good measure.
When Jonathan Edwards was about to preach his greatest sermon on "Sinners in
the Hands of an Angry God," he prayed for days; and when he stood before the
congregation and preached it, men caught at the seats in their terror, and some
fell to the floor; and the people cried out in their fear, "Mr. Edwards, tell us
how we can be saved!"
The critical period of American history was between 1784 and 1789. There was
no common coinage, no common defense. When the colonies sent men to a
constitutional convention, Benjamin Franklin, rising with the weight of his four
score years, asked that the convention open with prayer, and George Washington
there sealed the bargain with God. In that winter in Valley Forge, Washington
led his men in prayer and he got down on his knees to do it.
When the battle of Gettysburg was on, Lincoln, old Abe Lincoln, was on his
knees with God; yes, he was on his knees from five o'clock in the afternoon till
four o'clock in the morning, and Bishop Simpson was with him.
"And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, that will I do, that the
Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13). No man can ever be saved
without Jesus Christ. There's no way to God unless you come through Jesus
Christ. It's Jesus Christ or nothing.
"Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1)