THE POWER OF PRAYER.
"Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Philippians 4: 6.
I will read a few verses in the fourth chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, commencing at the fourth verse:
"Rejoice in the Lord always: and asrain I say rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
I want to call your attention to the 6th and 7th verses: "Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Now it may be that some wonder why it is that so many of these requests for prayer are coming in here daily—these written requests. And perhaps many wonder if there is any good in them. Now it seems to me to be perfectly Scriptural: "Let your requests be make known unto God." Pray for one another. We are told to pray for the household of faith. I pity the child of God who has got into that position that he does not want the prayers of God's people. These prayers bring a light among sorrowing Christians. I think if you should go through the city of Boston, you would find hardly a family but is passing through some great sorrow; some one of its number has been taken captive by sin; and I do not know what should touch our hearts more than these requests for prayer, abbreviated though they are. They come from hearts that are burdened, some that are crushed. I remember a man talking against these requests, wanting to know what good they did; and I was thinking of a prominent man in one of our cities. He had a boy in the army, an only son, he loved him better than life. But he was a conservative man, and when he came into the meeting and presented that boy for prayer, the people were amazed to think that a man of his high position should get up and present his boy for prayer. But God burdened his heart that morning to pray for his boy, as he never prayed before. When he came into the meeting and asked us to pray, there were a great many who lifted their hearts in prayer for the only boy, who was then in front of Richmond; and during the day, a dispateh came that at that very hour while we were praying for him he was mortally wounded and dying—an only son. What comfort that father h"as had since, that prayer went up for him at that hour. God undoubtedly burdened his heart to pray for him.
If God burdens your heart, don't be ashamed to pray yourself and ask your friends to pray for you. If you have a son or daughter that you are anxious about, go and make your requests known unto God; that is what he tells us here, "Let your requests be made known unto God." Don't be ashamed to present them for prayer; it shows our love for them. What better could we do for our children and our friends than to pray God to bless them; and any one that would get angry because we prayed for them must show they are under the power of the devil; they must have their hearts hardened, and be very blind. To me it is very encouraging, day after day, to see so many people coming out here to pray, and these requests coming in, not only from Boston, but from all New England. It shows that God is laying upon the hearts of his people this burden of prayer. And shall not we all pray that this blessed work, that has so gloriously commenced, shall deepen; and that there mav be hundreds and thousands of scoffers, and men that are making light of these requests and jeering at our prayers, may become convicted and converted? Our God is able to break the hardest hearts. Let us make our requests known unto God; and let us expect he will give us an answer. He is constantly answering prayer for the sons and daughters that have been presented here; and in other places, sons and daughters who have been presented for prayers have been saved. I have just heard from Chicago; one church took in 162 members while we were there, and the next communion they took in 500 members. God is answering prayer. My dear friends, let us keep on praying. God is able to save these people, and there is none but God who does answer prayer. Don't let infidelity come in and make us believe that God nas got a deaf ear and cannot answer: or that his arm is shortened ana he cannot deliver. Our God is a prayer-answering God. How many mothers have had their sons and daughters saved, not through some sermon, but by the mighty power of God converting them.
There is just one thought, in that passage I have read, which I think you are ready to hear. It was suggested to me by an Englishman some time ago, and I am anxious to call your attention to it. It occurs in the 6th verse: "Be careful for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." He says there are three things enjoined upon us in this passage. First, that we should be careful for nothing; second, that we should be prayerful for everything; and third, that we should be thankful for anything. Careful for nothing, prayerful for everything, thankful for anything. We should not be troubled about anything that may happen to us, but should always go to God in prayer for all our wants, and should be thankful 'or any answer we may get to our petitions.
A great many people get discouraged because they pray for temporal blessings; for what is not good for them. God does not answer such prayers; and they ought to thank him for it. Now the men who are taken up the most prominently in Scripture, perhaps the most eminent men who ever lived, don't get their prayers answered. It is no sign that God does not love us, because we don't get our prayers answered, as we want them answered. There is Moses, whom God takes up more than any man in the Old Testament. He prayed as no one else prays. He was a man of prayer, and we can hear him praying God to take him over the sea to the goodly land. But God did not answer his prayer—not because he did not love him, but because he had something else in store for him. We can imagine him talking to Moses as a mother to a child, who is asking for something she does not wish him to have. God says: "That will do, Moses! I hear you; I know you want to go over there pretty bad; but I am not going to let you go. It's no use." But God did for him that which was much greater than any answer to his prayer could have been. He did for him what he never did for any other man. He conferred upon him the greatest, the most sublime distinction he could give to any mortal. God buried him. He could not see the promised land, and as some one has beautifully expressed it, "God kissed his soul away." God did not answer his prayer. Yes, he did answer it, if that which happened later could be called an answer. He did answer it fifteen hundred years afterwards, when he appeared with Elias on the Mount of Transfiguration. It appeared that his prayer was not answered. But it was answered at last. So it was with Elijah. There he was praying under the juniper tree; he was praying that he might die. But God did not answer his prayer. But it was by the power of prayer that he was rendered fearless, when he was set before Ahab. Look at him calling down fire on Mount Carmel. All the prophets could not call the fire down; he prayed, and the fire came. He prayed under the juniper tree that he might die; but God did not answer his prayer. Why not? Because it would have been a disgrace to God—the man's dying then under the juniper tree. God loved him too well to answer his prayer. God does not answer our prayers, sometimes, because we ask for things that would be harmful to us. We would get a good many things we ask for, if God did not love us too well to answer our prayers.
A man was shaving himself once, and his little boy came up to him
and said, "Father, let me have the razor." And his father said, "Why, my boy, what do you want it for?" "Oh, I just want to whittle a little with it; I just want to play with it.'' The father said: "No, I cannot let you have it, my boy. You will cut yourself." "No, I won't! I want it^ it shines so!" The father said, "You cannot have it." Do you say the father did not love the boy? he loved him too well. Now there are a great many of God's people who are just like this little boy: They are praying for razors. God knows what we want better than we do, in temporal things. God loves us too well. There was Paul. He prayed and prayed earnestly that God would take the thorn out of bis flesh. But God said: "That will do, Paul; I cannot do it. The thorn must remain; it will give you more grace." Then Paul thanked God for the thorn. He wouldn't have it out if he could, because he got more grace by it. These things bring us closer to Christ. All prayers are not answered just as we want them answered. He loves us just the same, if we don't get them answered just as we want them answered. We may then rely upon it, God has got something better in store for us. We can pray for the conversion of friends, because God likes that, Let us go boldly, and call God to convert our friends; and God will hear and answer our prayers.