THE question in the caption has often come to me. And I dare say it has come often to many other preachers, as well as to Christians generally. For there is a problem of prayerlessness in the lives of all of us.
Much could be said in the way of an answer, but I believe it can be summed up in these few words: What I do most of the time does not require prayer.
I used to work in an emergency capacity for a certain great railroad company. When the wrecker called, it was a tense moment. With all speed we would board the wreck train and proceed to the place where perhaps many cars had rolled down high embankments and piled into wreckage. I watched as the men would go down with the long steel ropes to tie them to the cars which were derailed.
Much planning and talking would be necessary, and much calculation was involved. But not a signal would come to the man operating the great crane until they had tied the ropes and were ready to lift these wrecked cars back to the road. Then they would signal in a way which meant, "Turn on the power." The power of the great engine above would surge through the ropes to haul the wreckage up again to the rails.
Two things were noticeable in this exciting work: First, human mechanism, human planning, human contacts, — all these were necessary. But unless they tied on to the wreckage, all planning, thought, and time were wasted. But these men went direct to the task and did grapple the wrecked cars. Second, when this was all done, they stood as helpless as babes. Their whole dependence from then on was the great engine above. They must signal for power from above.
I find myself .doing much planning, much thinking, much calculating, much trying to create something to interest my people and raise their spiritual temperature. I am constantly wondering why we do not accomplish more. Then, I find that I am not praying much, and that my people are not praying much. Yet we are all, in a way, busy. I believe the answer is that while we are busy, we are not tying on to humanity's wreckage. We are talking about our great engine, measuring ropes, and counting workers; we are looking at blueprints, measuring distances, and writing treatises to tell each other about the best way to salvage wreckage. But we are not definitely grappling on to the souls of men and trying to raise them up to God. If we were personal and definite in this work, we would have to cry out to the Power above to draw them up.
This planning and measuring and tabulating and appraising can all be done without prayer. It is when we are engaged tat the business of trying to lift a wreck out of the mire of sin that we have to call on God to help. It is then the conceit of self-sufficiency dies within us.
IF I AM NOT TRYING TO DO MORE THAN I CAN DO IN MY OWN STRENGTH, I DO NOT NEED TO PRAY. BUT I CANNOT LIFT THIS LOST SOUL OUT OF SIN, HENCE I AM DRIVEN TO CALL ON GOD OR ELSE TO TURN LIBERAL AND CEASE EVEN TRYING TO BRING THE LOST TO GOD.
I believe a prayer meeting was originally a meeting for soul-winners engaged in the definite business of witnessing to the lost. In this business they became so involved in the problem, so burdened for those whom they sought to lift, that they felt a deep need for fellowship and prayer about their common burden. They came together to talk about their prospects, and to have united prayer in their behalf. This would solve the preacher's, prayer-meeting program if he could get his people to doing personal witnessing.
It is a settled matter that I will never really call for power unless I feel I need it. I will never feel that I need it unless I am trying to do something which my human strength fails to accomplish. The task the Lord grave us is not a human task; it is supernatural. So long as we engage only in the methods and merely human elements of this task, we do not feel the need to pray nor rely upon God. But if we shall go out to become "God-in-the-flesh," and attempt the to-us impossibility of saving the lost, relying on God to make the "impossible" come to pass, He will honor our faith and bring it to pass.
The spiritual life of a church or church members depends on whether or not they are engaged in spiritual quests. Churches were never meant to be run on a human plane nor for a primarily human purpose. They were meant to be run on a spiritual plane and for a spiritual purpose. A good Lions Club will be as effective as the humanized, social-gospeling church.
Prayer is at the base of this spiritual program. Prayer is the signal to God that we have tied on to some wrecked human soul, and that we implore His help to regenerate the soul. In the degree that a church is engaged in that business it will need to pray. And this personal involvement in the lives and destiny of lost sinners is the only thing that will awaken us to our need of supernatural power.
For this is the purpose of God, and His power is available to us for His purposes, not ours!
===========[Western Recorder, June 29, 1939. The Western Recorder is the Kentucky Baptist State paper. - ]
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