HOW TO PRAY
by R. A. Torrey
"Ye shall ask what ye will, and it will be done unto you":
The world-renowned classic which has already shown millions that
God's answers come to those who know how to ask.
WHO CAN HELP?
����������� Most of us know we OUGHT to pray, but many seem uncertain as
����������� to HOW, WHEN, and WHERE to pray.� This book is the classic
����������� Christian answer to these vital questions.
����������� Believing that many prayers are not answered because they
����������� are not intelligently offered, Dr. Torrey examines the
����������� MOODS, the METHODS and the MEANINGS of prayer.� He considers
����������� all the problems and questioning of the sincere seeker, and
����������� in answer to them offers an outline for effective praying
����������� that is as positive as it is beautiful and inspirational.
����������� The gentle art of prayer, within these pages, is put within
����������� the reach of the least of us.� To read it is a mountain-top
����������� experience of communion with a loving, ANSWERING God.
"YOU HAVE NOT BECAUSE YOU ASK NOT"...
����������� ...and Dr. Torrey goes on to give reasons why men should
����������� pray -- and what prayer can do:
����������� "Prayer is God's appointed way for obtaining things, and the
����������� great secret of all lack in our experience, in our life and
����������� in our work is neglect of prayer."
����������� "All the mighty men of God outside the Bible have been men
����������� of prayer.� They have differed from one another in many
����������� things, but in this they have been alike."
����������� "Prayer, in every care and anxiety and need of life, with
����������� thanksgiving, is the means God has appointed for out
����������� obtaining freedom from all anxiety, and the peace of God
����������� which passeth all understanding."
Men should pray -- as Christ Himself prayed -- and this little
masterpiece of inspiration and faith tells you why, how; it is a
faithful guide to the richest fulfillment of the Christian life.
HOW TO PRAY
R. A. TORREY
[Entered into electronic media on a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100
(notebook) computer by Clyde C. Price, Jr. firstname.lastname@example.org .
from a print-media edition published by
SPIRE BOOKS, FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY, OLD TAPPAN, NEW JERSEY
How to Pray, A Spire Book, published by Pyramid Publications for
Fleming H. Revell Company, Fifth printing March, 1975
printed in the United States of America, from the 1900 edition.
SPIRE BOOKS are published by Fleming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan,
New Jersey 07675, USA.
Editorial assistance by Harry Whitehead of Mableton, GA, SysOp of
REVELATION BBS -ACNet-� 770-944-8059.
Reformatted for Project Gutenberg June 1996.]
I.����� The Importance of Prayer
II.���� Praying unto God
III.��� Obeying and Praying
IV.���� Praying in the Name of Christ and According to the Will of
V.����� Praying in the Spirit
VI.���� Always Praying and Not Fainting
VII.��� Abiding in Christ
VIII.�� Praying with Thanksgiving
IX.���� Hindrances to Prayer
X.����� When to Pray
XI.���� The Need of Prayer Before and During Revivals
THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER
����������� In the 6th chapter of Ephesians in the 18th verse we read
words which put the tremendous importance of prayer with startling
and overwhelming force:
����������� "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the
Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and
supplication for all saints."
����������� When we stop to weigh the meaning of these words, then note
the connection in which they are found, the intelligent child of God
is driven to say,
����������� "I must pray, pray, pray. I must put all my energy and all
my heart into prayer.� Whatever else I do, I must pray."
����������� The Revised Version is, if possible, stronger than the
����������� "With all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in
the spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and
supplication for all the saints."
����������� Note the ALLS: "with ALL prayer,"� "at ALL seasons,"� "in
ALL perseverance,"� "for ALL the saints."� Note the piling up of
strong words, "prayer,"� "supplication,"� "perseverance."� Note once
more the strong expression, "watching thereunto," more literally,
"being sleepless thereunto." �Paul realized the natural slothfulness
of man, and especially his natural slothfulness in prayer.� How
seldom we pray things through!� How often the church and the
individual get right up to the verge of a great blessing in prayer
and just then let go, get drowsy, quit.� I wish that these words
"being sleepless unto prayer" might burn into our hearts.� I wish
the whole verse might burn into our hearts.
����������� But why is this constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming
prayer so needful?
���� 1. First of all, BECAUSE THERE IS A DEVIL.
He is cunning, he is mighty, he never rests, he is ever plotting the
downfall of the child of God; and if the child of God relaxes in
prayer, the devil will succeed in ensnaring him.
����������� This is the thought of the context.� The 12th verse reads:
"For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the
principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this
darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly
places." (R.V.)� Then comes the 13th verse:� "Wherefore take up the
whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil
day, and, having done all, to stand." (R.V.)� Next follows a
description of the different parts of the Christian's armor, which
we are to put on if we are to stand against the devil and his mighty
wiles.� Then Paul brings all to a climax in the 18th verse, telling
us that to all else we must add prayer -- constant, persistent,
untiring, sleepless prayer in the Holy Spirit, or all else will go
����������� 2. A second reason for this constant, persistent, sleepless,
overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IS GOD'S APPOINTED WAY FOR
OBTAINING THINGS, AND THE GREAT SECRET OF ALL LACK IN OUR
EXPERIENCE, IN OUR LIFE AND IN OUR WORK IS NEGLECT OF PRAYER.
����������� James brings this out very forcibly in the 4th chapter and
2nd verse of his epistle:� "Ye have not because ye ask not."� These
words contain the secret of the poverty and powerlessness of the
average Christian -- neglect of prayer.
����������� "Why is it," many a Christian is asking, "I make so little
progress in my Christian life?"
����������� "Neglect of prayer," God answers. "You have not because you
����������� "Why is it," many a minister is asking, "I see so little
fruit from my labors?"
����������� Again God answers, "Neglect of prayer.� You have not because
you ask not."
����������� "Why is it," many a Sunday-School teacher is asking, "that I
see so few converted in my Sunday-School class?"
����������� Still God answers, "Neglect of prayer.� You have not because
you ask not."
����������� "Why is it," both ministers and churches are asking, "that
the church of Christ makes so little headway against unbelief and
error and sin and worldliness?"
����������� Once more we hear God answering, "Neglect of prayer.� You
have not because you ask not."
����������� 3. The third reason for this constant, persistent,
sleepless, overcoming prayer is that THOSE MEN WHOM GOD SET FORTH AS
A PATTERN OF WHAT HE EXPECTED CHRISTIANS TO BE -- THE APOSTLES --
REGARDED PRAYER AS THE MOST IMPORTANT BUSINESS OF THEIR LIVES.
����������� When the multiplying responsibilities of the early church
crowded in upon them, they "called the multitude of the disciples
unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the Word
of God, and serve tables.� Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among
you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom,
whom we may appoint over this business.� But WE WILL GIVE OURSELVES
CONTINUALLY TO PRAYER and to the ministry of the Word."� It is
evident from what Paul wrote to the churches and to individuals
about praying for them, that very much of his time and strength and
thought was given to prayer.� (Rom. 1:9, R.V.; Eph. 1:15,16;� Col.
1:9, R.V.;� 1_Thess. 3:10;� 2_Tim. 1:3, R.V.)
����������� All the mighty men of God outside the Bible have been men of
prayer.� They have differed from one another in many things, but in
this they have been alike.
����������� 4. But there is a still weightier reason for this constant,
persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer.� It is, PRAYER OCCUPIED A
VERY PROMINENT PLACE AND PLAYED A VERY IMPORTANT PART IN THE EARTHLY
LIFE OF OUR LORD.
����������� Turn, for example, to Mark 1:35.� We read, "And in the
morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and
departed into a solitary place, and there prayed."� The preceding
day had been a very busy and exciting one, but Jesus shortened the
hours of needed sleep that He might arise early and give Himself to
more sorely needed prayer.
����������� Turn again to Luke 6:12, where we read, "And it came to pass
in those days that He went out into a mountain to pray, and
continued all night in prayer to God."� Our Savior found it
necessary on occasion to take a whole night for prayer.
����������� The words "pray" and "prayer" are used at least twenty-five
times in connection with our Lord in the brief record of His life in
the four Gospels, and His praying is mentioned in places where the
words are not used.� Evidently prayer took much of the time and
strength of Jesus, and a man or woman who does not spend much time
in prayer, cannot properly be called a follower of Jesus Christ.
����������� 5. There is another reason for constant, persistent,
sleepless, overcoming prayer that seems if possible even more
forcible than this, namely, PRAYING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF
THE PRESENT MINISTRY OF OUR RISEN LORD.
����������� Christ's ministry did not close with His death.� His atoning
work was finished then, but when He rose and ascended to the right
hand of the Father, He entered upon other work for us just as
important in its place as His atoning work.� It cannot be divorced
from His atoning work; it rests upon that as its basis, but it is
necessary to our complete salvation.
����������� What that great present work is, by which He carries our
salvation on to completeness, we read in Heb. 7:25, "Wherefore He is
able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him,
seeing HE EVER LIVETH TO MAKE INTERCESSION FOR THEM."� This verse
tells us that Jesus is able to save us unto the uttermost, not
merely FROM� the uttermost, but UNTO the uttermost, unto entire
completeness, absolute perfection, because He not merely died, but
because He also "ever liveth."� The verse also tells us for what
purpose He now lives, "TO MAKE INTERCESSION FOR US," to pray.
Praying is the principal thing He is doing in these days.� It is by
His prayers that He is saving us.
����������� The same thought is found in Paul's remarkable, triumphant challenge
in Rom. 8:34 -- "Who is he that shall condemn?� It is Christ Jesus
that died, yea rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the
right hand of God, WHO ALSO MAKETH INTERCESSION FOR US." (R.V.)
����������� If we then are to have fellowship with Jesus Christ in His
present work, we must spend much time in prayer; we must give
ourselves to earnest, constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming
prayer.� I know of nothing that has so impressed me with a sense of
the importance of praying at all seasons, being much and constantly
in prayer, as the thought that that is the principal occupation at
present of my risen Lord.� I want to have fellowship with Him, and
to that end I have asked the Father that whatever else He may make
me, to make me at all events an intercessor, to make me a man who
knows how to pray, and who spends much time in prayer.
����������� This ministry of intercession is a glorious and a mighty
ministry, and we can all have part in it.� The man or the woman who
is shut away from the public meeting by sickness can have part in
it; the busy mother; the woman who has to take in washing for a
living can have part -- she can mingle prayers for the saints, and
for her pastor, and for the unsaved, and for foreign missionaries,
with the soap and water as she bends over the washtub, and not do
the washing any more poorly on that account; the hard driven man of
business can have part in it, praying as he hurries from duty to
duty.� But of course we must, if we would maintain this spirit of
constant prayer, take time -- and take plenty of it -- when we shall
shut ourselves up in the secret place alone with God for nothing but
����������� 6. The sixth reason for constant, persistent, sleepless,
overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IS THE MEANS THAT GOD HAS APPOINTED
FOR OUR RECEIVING MERCY, AND OBTAINING GRACE TO HELP IN TIME OF
����������� Heb. 4:16 is one of the simplest and sweetest verses in the
Bible, -- "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,
that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
These words make it very plain that God has appointed a way by which
we shall seek and obtain mercy and grace.� That way is prayer; bold,
confident, outspoken approach to the throne of grace, the most holy
place of God's presence, where our sympathizing High Priest, Jesus
Christ, has entered in our behalf. (Verses 14, 15.)
����������� Mercy is what we need, grace is what we must have, or all
our life and effort will end in complete failure.� Prayer is the way
to get them.� There is infinite grace at our disposal, and we make
it ours experimentally by prayer.� Oh, if we only realized the
fullness of God's grace, that is ours for the asking, its height and
depth and length and breadth, I am sure that we would spend more
time in prayer.� The measure of our appropriation of grace is
determined by the measure of our prayers.
����������� Who is there that does not feel that he needs more grace?
Then ask for it.� Be constant and persistent in your asking.� Be
importunate and untiring in your asking.� God delights to have us
"shameless" beggars in this direction; for it shows our faith in
Him, and He is mightily pleased with faith.� Because of our
"shamelessness" He will rise and give us as much as we need (Luke
11:8).� What little streams of mercy and grace most of us know, when
we might know rivers overflowing their banks!
����������� 7. The next reason for constant, persistent, sleepless,
overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST IS THE
WAY JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF HAS APPOINTED FOR HIS DISCIPLES TO OBTAIN
FULLNESS OF JOY.
����������� He states this simply and beautifully in John 16:24,
"Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name; ask, and ye shall
receive, that your joy may be fulfilled."� "Made full" is the way
the Revised Version reads.� Who is there that does not wish his joy
filled full?� Well, the way to have it filled full is by praying in
the name of Jesus.� We all know people whose joy is filled full,
indeed, it is just running over, is shining from their eyes,
bubbling out of their very lips, and running off their finger tips
when they shake hands with you.� Coming in contact with them is like
coming in contact with an electrical machine charged with gladness.
Now people of that sort are always people that spend much time in
����������� Why is it that prayer in the name of Christ brings such
fullness of joy?� In part, because we get what we ask.� But that is
not the only reason, nor the greatest.� It makes God real.� When we
ask something definite of God, and He gives it, how real God
becomes!� He is right there!� It is blessed to have a God who is
real, and not merely an idea.� I remember how once I was taken
suddenly and seriously sick all alone in my study.� I dropped upon
my knees and cried to God for help.� Instantly all pain left me -- I
was perfectly well.� It seemed as if God stood right there, and had
put out His hand and touched me.� The joy of the healing was not so
great as the joy of meeting God.
����������� There is no greater joy on earth or in heaven, than
communion with God, and prayer in the name of Jesus brings us into
communion with Him.� The Psalmist was surely not speaking only of
future blessedness, but also of present blessedness when he said,
"In Thy presence is fullness of joy." (Ps. 16.11.)� O the
unutterable joy of those moments when in our prayers we really press
into the presence of God!
����������� Does some one say. "I have never known any such joy as that
����������� Do you take enough leisure for prayer to actually get into
God's presence?� Do you really give yourself up to prayer in the
time which you do take?
����������� 8. The eighth reason for constant, persistent, sleepless,
overcoming prayer is that PRAYER, IN EVERY CARE AND ANXIETY AND NEED
OF LIFE, WITH THANKSGIVING, IS THE MEANS THAT GOD HAS APPOINTED FOR
OBTAINING FREEDOM FROM ALL ANXIETY, AND THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH
PASSETH ALL UNDERSTANDING.
����������� "Be careful for nothing," says Paul, "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." (Phil. 4:6,7.)� To many this seems at the first glance, the
picture of a life that is beautiful, but beyond the reach of
ordinary mortals; not so at all.� The verse tells us how the life is
attainable by every child of God:� "Be careful for nothing," or as the
Revised Version reads, "In nothing be anxious."� The remainder of the
verse tells us how, and it is very simple:� "But in everything by
prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made
known unto God."� What could be plainer or more simple than that?
Just keep in constant touch with God, and when any trouble or
vexation, great or small, comes up, speak to Him about it, never
forgetting to return thanks for what He has already done.� What will
the result be?� "The peace of God which passeth all understanding
shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." (R.V.)
����������� That is glorious, and as simple as it is glorious!� Thank
God, many are trying it.� Don't you know any one who is always
serene?� Perhaps he is a very stormy man by his natural make-up, but
troubles and conflicts and reverses and bereavements may sweep
around him, and the peace of God which passeth all understanding
guards his heart and his thoughts in Christ Jesus.
����������� We all know such persons.� How do they manage it?
����������� Just by prayer, that is all.� Those persons who know the
deep peace of God, the unfathomable peace that passeth all
understanding, are always men and women of much prayer.
����������� Some of us let the hurry of our lives crowd prayer out, and
what a waste of time and energy and nerve force there is by the
constant worry!� One night of prayer will save us from many nights
of insomnia.� Time spent in prayer is not wasted, but time invested
at big interest.
����������� 9. The ninth reason for constant, persistent, sleepless,
overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IS THE METHOD THAT GOD HIMSELF
HAS APPOINTED FOR OUR OBTAINING THE HOLY SPIRIT.
����������� Upon this point the Bible is very plain.� Jesus says, "If
ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your
children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy
Spirit to them that ask Him?" (Luke 11:13.)� Men are telling us
in these days, very good men too, "You must not pray for the Holy
Spirit," but what are they going to do with the plain statement
of Jesus Christ, "How much more will your heavenly Father give
the Holy Spirit TO THEM THAT ASK HIM?"
����������� Some years ago when an address on the baptism with the
Holy Spirit was announced, a brother came to me before the
address and said with much feeling,
����������� "Be sure and tell them not to pray for the Holy Spirit."
����������� "I will surely not tell them that, for Jesus says, 'How
much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them
that ask Him'."
����������� "Oh, yes," he replied, "but that was before Pentecost."
����������� "How about Acts 4:31? was that before Pentecost, or
����������� "After, of course."
����������� "Read it."
����������� "'And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where
they were assembled together; and they were all FILLED WITH THE
HOLY GHOST, and they spake the Word of God with boldness.'"
����������� "How about Acts 8:15? was that before Pentecost or
����������� "Please read."
����������� "'Who, when they were come down PRAYED for them, that
they might receive the Holy Ghost.'"
����������� He made no answer.� What could he answer?� It is plain as
day in the Word of God that before Pentecost and after, the first
baptism and the subsequent fillings with the Holy Spirit were
received in answer to definite prayer.� Experience also teaches
����������� Doubtless many have received the Holy Spirit the moment
of their surrender to God before there was time to pray, but how
many there are who know that their first definite baptism with
the Holy Spirit came while they were on their knees or faces
before God, alone or in company with others, and who again and
again since that have been filled with the Holy Spirit in the
place of prayer!
����������� I know this as definitely as I know that my thirst has
been quenched while I was drinking water.� Early one morning in
the Chicago Avenue Church prayer room, where several hundred
people had been assembled a number of hours in prayer, the Holy
Spirit fell so manifestly, and the whole place was so filled with
His presence, that no one could speak or pray, but sobs of joy
filled the place.� Men went out of that room to different parts
of the country, taking trains that very morning, and reports soon
came back of the out-pouring of God's Holy Spirit in answer to
prayer.� Others went out into the city with the blessing of God
upon them.� This is only one instance among many that might be
cited from personal experience.
����������� If we would only spend more time in prayer, there would
be more fullness of the Spirit's power in our work.� Many and
many a man who once worked unmistakably in the power of the Holy
Spirit is now filling the air with empty shoutings, and beating
it with his meaningless gesticulations, because he has let prayer
be crowded out.� we must spend much time on our knees before God,
if we are to continue in the power of the Holy Spirit.
����������� 10. The tenth reason for constant, persistent, sleepless,
overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IS THE MEANS THAT CHRIST HAS
APPOINTED WHEREBY OUR HEARTS SHALL NOT BECOME OVERCHARGED WITH
SURFEITING AND DRUNKENNESS AND CARES OF THIS LIFE, AND SO THE DAY
OF CHRIST'S RETURN COME UPON US SUDDENLY AS A SNARE.
����������� One of the most interesting and solemn passages upon
prayer in the Bible is along this line. (Luke 21:34-36)� "Take
heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged
with surfeiting and drunkenness and cares of this life, and so
that day come upon you unawares.� For as a snare shall it come on
all them that dwell in the face of the whole earth.� Watch ye
therefore, and PRAY ALWAYS, that ye may be accounted worthy to
escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand
before the Son of man."� According to this passage there is only
one way in which we can be prepared for the coming of the Lord
when He appears, that is, through much prayer.
����������� The coming again of Jesus Christ is a subject that is
awakening much interest and much discussion in our day; but it is
one thing to be interested in the Lord's return, and to talk
about it, and quite another thing to be prepared for it.� We live
in an atmosphere that has a constant tendency to unfit us for
Christ's coming.� The world tends to draw us down by its
gratifications and by its cares.� There is only one way by which
we can rise triumphant above these things--by constant watching
unto prayer, that is, by sleeplessness unto prayer.� "Watch" in
this passage is the same strong word used in Eph. 6:18, and
"always" the same strong phrase "in every season."� The man who
spends little time in prayer, who is not steadfast and constant
in prayer, will not be ready for the Lord when He comes.� But we
may be ready. How? Pray! Pray! Pray!
����������� 11. There is one more reason for constant, persistent,
sleepless, overcoming prayer, and it is a mighty one: BECAUSE OF
WHAT PRAYER ACCOMPLISHES.� Much has really been said upon that
already, but there is much also that should be added.
����������� (1) Prayer promotes our spiritual growth as almost
nothing else, indeed as nothing else but Bible study; and true
prayer and true Bible study go hand in hand.
����������� It is through prayer that my sin is brought to light, my
most hidden sin.� As I kneel before God and pray, "Search me, O
God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if
there be any wicked way in me," (Ps.139:23,24), God shoots the
penetrating rays of His light into the innermost recesses of my
heart, and the sins I never suspected are brought to view.� In
answer to prayer, God washes me from mine iniquity and cleanses
me from my sin (Ps. 51:2).� In answer to prayer my eyes are
opened to behold wondrous things out of God's Word (Ps. 119:18).
In answer to prayer I get wisdom to know God's way (Jas. 1:5) and
strength to walk in it.� As I meet God in prayer and gaze into
His face, I am changed into His own image from glory to glory (
2_Cor. 3:18).� Each day of true prayer life finds me liker to my
����������� John Welch, son-in-law to John Knox, was one of the most
faithful men of prayer this world ever saw.� He counted that day
ill-spent in which seven or eight hours were not used alone with
God in prayer and the study of His Word.� An old man speaking of
him after his death said, "He was a type of Christ."
����������� How came he to be so like his Master?
����������� His prayer life explains the mystery.
����������� (2) Prayer brings power into our work.
����������� If we wish power for any work to which God calls us, be
it preaching, teaching, personal work, or the rearing of our
children, we can get it by earnest prayer.
����������� A woman with a little boy who was perfectly incorrigible,
once came to me in desperation and said:
����������� "What shall I do with him?"
����������� I asked, "Have you ever tried prayer?"
����������� She said that she had prayed for him, she thought.� I
asked if she had made his conversion and his character a matter
of definite, expectant prayer.� She replied that she had not been
definite in the matter.� She began that day, and at once there
was a marked change in the child, and he grew up into Christian
����������� How many a Sunday-school teacher has taught for months
and years, and seen no real fruit from his labors, and then has
learned the secret of intercession, and by earnest pleading with
God, has seen his scholars brought one by one to Christ!� How
many a poor preacher has become a mighty man of God by casting
away his confidence in his own ability and gifts, and giving
himself up to God to wait upon Him for the power that comes from
on high!� John Livingstone spent a night, with some others
likeminded, in prayer to God and religious conversation, and when
he preached next day in the Kirk of Shotts five hundred people
were converted, or dated some definite uplift in their life to
that occasion.� Prayer and power are inseparable.
����������� (3) Prayer avails for the conversion of others.
����������� There are few converted in this world unless in
connection with some one's prayers.� I formerly thought that no
human being had anything to do with my own conversion, for I was
not converted in church or Sunday-school, or in personal
conversation with any one.� I was awakened in the middle of the
night and converted.� As far as I can remember I had not the
slightest thought of being converted, or of anything of that
character, when I went to bed and fell asleep; but I was awakened
in the middle of the night and converted probably inside of five
minutes.� A few minutes before I was about as near eternal
perdition as one gets.� I had one foot over the brink and was
trying to get the other one over.� I say I thought no human being
had anything to do with it, but I had forgotten my mother's
prayers, and I afterward learned that one of my college
classmates had chosen me as one to pray for until I was saved.
����������� Prayer often avails where everything else fails.� How
utterly all of Monica's efforts and entreaties failed with her
son, but her prayers prevailed with God, and the dissolute youth
became St. Augustine, the mighty man of God.� By prayer the
bitterest enemies of the Gospel have become its most valiant
defenders, the greatest scoundrels the truest sons of God, and
the vilest women the purest saints.� Oh, the power of prayer to
reach down, down, down, where hope itself seems vain, and lift
men and women up, up, up into fellowship with and likeness to
God.� It is simply wonderful!� How little we appreciate this
����������� (4) Prayer brings blessings to the church.
����������� The history of the church has always been a history of
grave difficulties to overcome.� The devil hates the church and
seeks in every way to block its progress; now by false doctrine,
again by division, again by inward corruption of life.� But by
prayer, a clear way can be made through everything.� Prayer will
root out heresy, allay misunderstanding, sweep away jealousies
and animosities, obliterate immoralities, and bring in the full
tide of God's reviving grace.� History abundantly proves this.
In the hour of darkest portent, when the case of the church,
local or universal, has seemed beyond hope, believing men and
believing women have met together and cried to God and the answer
����������� It was so in the days of Knox, it was so in the days of
Wesley and Whitfield, it was so in the days of Edwards and
Brainerd, it was so in the days of Finney, it was so in the days
of the great revival of 1857 in this country and of 1859 in
Ireland, and it will be so again in your day and mine.� Satan has
marshalled his forces.� Christian science with its false Christ--
a woman--lifts high its head.� Others making great pretensions of
apostolic methods, but covering the rankest dishonesty and
hypocrisy with these pretensions, speak with loud assurance.
Christians equally loyal to the great fundamental truths of the
Gospel are glowering at one another with a devil-sent suspicion.
The world, the flesh and the devil are holding high carnival.� It
is now a dark day, BUT--now "it is time for Thee, Lord, to work;
for they have made void Thy law." (Ps. 199:126).� And He is
getting ready to work, and now He is listening for the voice of
prayer.� Will He hear it?� Will He hear it from you?� Will He
hear it from the church as a body?� I believe He will.
PRAYING UNTO GOD
����������� We have seen something of the tremendous importance and the
resistless power of prayer, and now we come directly to the question-
-how to pray with power.
������� 1. In the 12th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we have
the record of a prayer that prevailed with God, and brought to pass
great results.� In the 5th verse of this chapter, the manner and
method of this prayer is described in few words:
����� ��"Prayer was made without ceasing of the church UNTO GOD for
������� The first thing to notice in this verse is the brief
expression "unto God."� The prayer that has power is the prayer that
is offered unto God.
������� But some will say, "Is not all prayer unto God?"
������� No.� Very much of so-called prayer, both public and private,
is not unto God.� In order that a prayer should be really unto God,
there must be a definite and conscious approach to God when we pray;
we must have a definite and vivid realization that God is bending
over us and listening as we pray.� In very much of our prayer there
is really but little thought of God.� Our mind is taken up with the
thought of what we need, and is not occupied with the thought of the
mighty and loving Father of whom we are seeking it.� Oftentimes it is
the case that we are occupied neither with the need nor with the One
to whom we are praying, but our mind is wandering here and there
throughout the world.� There is no power in that sort of prayer.� But
when we really come into God's presence, really meet Him face to face
in the place of prayer, really seek the things that we desire FROM
HIM, then there is power.
������� If, then, we would pray aright, the first thing that we
should do is to see to it that we really get an audience with God,
that we really get into His very presence.� Before a word of petition
is offered, we should have the definite and vivid consciousness that
we are talking to God, and should believe that He is listening to our
petition and is going to grant the thing that we ask of Him.� This is
only possible by the Holy Spirit's power, so we should look to the
Holy Spirit to really lead us into the presence of God, and should
not be hasty in words until He has actually brought us there.
������� One night a very active Christian man dropped into a little
prayer-meeting that I was leading.� Before we knelt to pray, I said
something like the above, telling all the friends to be sure before
they prayed, and while they were praying, that they really were in
God's presence, that they had the thought of Him definitely in mind,
and to be more taken up with Him than with their petition.� A few
days after I met this same gentleman, and he said that this simple
thought was entirely new to him, that it had made prayer an entirely
new experience to him.
������� If then we would pray aright, these two little words must
sink deep into our hearts, "UNTO GOD."
������� 2. The second secret of effective praying is found in the
same verse, in the words "WITHOUT CEASING."
������� In the Revised Version, "without ceasing" is rendered
"earnestly."� Neither rendering gives the full force of the Greek.
The word means literally "stretched-out-ed-ly."� It is a pictorial
word, and wonderfully expressive.� It represents the soul on a
stretch of earnest and intense desire.� "Intensely" would perhaps
come as near translating it as any English word.� It is the word used
of our Lord in Luke 22:44 where it is said, "He prayed more
earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling
down to the ground."
������� We read in Heb. 5:7 that "in the days of His flesh"� Christ
"offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears."
In Rom. 15:30, Paul beseeches the saints in Rome to STRIVE together
with him in their prayers.� The word translated "strive" means
primarily to contend as in athletic games or in a fight.� In other
words, the prayer that prevails with God is the prayer into which we
put our whole soul, stretching out toward God in intense and
agonizing desire.� Much of our modern prayer has no power in it
because there is no heart in it.� We rush into God's presence, run
through a string of petitions, jump up and go out.� If someone should
ask us an hour afterward for what we prayed, oftentimes we could not
tell.� If we put so little heart into our prayers, we cannot expect
God to put much heart into answering them.
������� We hear much in our day of the rest of faith, but there is
such a thing as the fight of faith in prayer as well as in effort.
Those who would have us think that they have attained to some sublime
height of faith and trust because they never know any agony of
conflict or of prayer, have surely gotten beyond their Lord, and
beyond the mightiest victors for God, both in effort and prayer, that
the ages of Christian history have known.� When we learn to come to
God with an intensity of desire that wrings the soul, then shall we
know a power in prayer that most of us do not know now.
������� But how shall we attain to this earnestness in prayer?
������� Not by trying to work ourselves up into it.� The true method
is explained in Rom. 8:26, "And in like manner the Spirit also
helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but
the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which
cannot be uttered." (R.V.)� The earnestness that we work up in the
energy of the flesh is a repulsive thing.� The earnestness wrought in
us by the power of the Holy Spirit is pleasing to God.� Here again,
if we would pray aright, we must look to the Spirit of God to teach
us to pray.
������� It is in this connection that fasting comes.� In Dan. 9:3 we
read that Daniel set his face "unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer
and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes."� There
are those who think that fasting belongs to the old dispensation; but
when we look at Acts 14:23, and Acts 13:2,3, we find that it was
practised by the earnest men of the apostolic day.
������� If we would pray with power, we should pray with fasting.
This of course does not mean that we should fast every time we pray;
but there are times of emergency or special crisis in work or in our
individual lives, when men of downright earnestness will withdraw
themselves even from the gratification of natural appetites that
would be perfectly proper under other circumstances, that they may
give themselves up wholly to prayer.� There is a peculiar power in
such prayer.� Every great crisis in life and work should be met in
that way.� There is nothing pleasing to God in our giving up in a
purely Pharisaic and legal way things which are pleasant, but there
is power in that downright earnestness and determination to obtain in
prayer the things of which we sorely feel our need, that leads us to
put away everything, even the things in themselves most right and
necessary, that we may set our faces to find God, and obtain
blessings from Him.
������� 3. A third secret of right praying is also found in this same
verse, Acts 12:5.� It appears in the three words "OF THE CHURCH."
����������� There is power in UNITED PRAYER.� Of course there is power in
the prayer of an individual, but there is vastly increased power in
united prayer.� God delights in the unity of His people, and seeks to
emphasize it in every way, and so He pronounces a special blessing
upon united prayer.� We read in Matt. 18:19, "If two of you shall
agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be
done for them of My Father which is in heaven."� This unity, however,
must be real.� The passage just quoted does not say that if two shall
agree in asking, but if two shall agree AS TOUCHING anything they
shall ask.� Two persons might agree to ask for the same thing, and
yet there be no real agreement as touching the thing they asked.� One
might ask it because he really desired it, the other might ask it
simply to please his friend.� But where there is real agreement,
where the Spirit of God brings two believers into perfect harmony as
concerning that which they may ask of God, where the Spirit lays the
same burden on two hearts; in all such prayer there is absolutely
OBEYING AND PRAYING
������� 1. One of the most significant verses in the Bible on
prayer is 1_John 3:22.� John says, "And whatsoever we ask, we
receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those
things that are pleasing in His sight."
������� What an astounding statement!� John says in so many
words, that everything he asked for he got.� How many of us can
say this: "Whatsoever I ask I receive"?� But John explains why
this was so, "Because we keep His commandments, and do those
things that are pleasing in His sight."� In other words, the one
who expects God to do as he asks Him, must on his part DO
WHATEVER GOD BIDS HIM.� If we give a listening ear to all God's
commands to us, He will give a listening ear to all our petitions
to Him.� If, on the other hand, we turn a deaf ear to His
precepts, He will be likely to turn a deaf ear to our prayers.
Here we find the secret of much unanswered prayer.� We are not
listening to God's Word, and therefore He is not listening to our
������� I was once speaking to a woman who had been a professed
Christian, but had given it all up.� I asked her why she was not
a Christian still.� She replied, because she did not believe the
Bible.� I asked her why she did not believe the Bible.
������� "Because I have tried its promises and found them
������� "Which promises?"
������� "The promises about prayer."
������� "Which promises about prayer?"
������� "Does it not say in the Bible, 'Whatsoever ye ask
believing ye shall receive'?"
������� "It says something nearly like that."
������� "Well, I asked fully expecting to get and did not
receive, so the promise failed."
������� "Was the promise made to you?"
������� "Why, certainly, it is made to all Christians, is it
�� �����"No, God carefully defines who the 'ye's' are, whose
believing prayers He agrees to answer."
������� I then turned her to 1_John 3:22, and read the
description of those whose prayers had power with God.
������� "Now," I said, "were you keeping His commandments and
doing those things which are pleasing in His sight?"
������� She frankly confessed that she was not, and soon came to
see that the real difficulty was not with God's promises, but
with herself.� That is the difficulty with many an unanswered
prayer to-day: the one who offers it is not obedient.
������� If we would have power in prayer, we must be earnest
students of His Word to find out what His will regarding us is,
and then having found it, do it.� One unconfessed act of
disobedience on our part will shut the ear of God against many
������� 2. But this verse goes beyond the mere keeping of God's
commandments.� John tells us that we must DO THOSE THINGS THAT
ARE PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT.
������� There are many things which it would be pleasing to God
for us to do which He has not specifically commanded us.� A true
child is not content with merely doing those things which his
father specifically commands him to do.� He studies to know his
father's will, and if he thinks that there is any thing that he
can do that would please his father, he does it gladly, though
his father has never given him any specific order to do it.� So
it is with the true child of God.� He does not ask merely whether
certain things are commanded or certain things forbidden.� He
studies to know his Father's will in all things.
������� There are many Christians to-day who are doing things
that are not pleasing to God, and leaving undone things which
would be pleasing to God.� When you speak to them about these
things they will confront you at once with the question, "Is
there any command in the Bible not to do this thing?"� And if you
cannot show them some verse in which the matter in question is
plainly forbidden, they think they are under no obligation
whatever to give it up; but a true child of God does not demand a
specific command.� If we make it our study to find out and to do
the things which are pleasing to God, He will make His study to
do the things which are pleasing to us.� Here again we find the
explanation of much unanswered prayer:� We are not making it the
study of our lives to know what would please our Father, and so
our prayers are not answered.
������� Take as an illustration of questions that are constantly
coming up, the matter of theater going, dancing and the use of
tobacco.� Many who are indulging in these things will ask you
triumphantly if you speak against them, "Does the Bible say,
'Thou shalt not go to the theater'?"� "Does the Bible say,'Thou
shalt not dance'?"� "Does the Bible say,'Thou shalt not smoke'?"
That is not the question.� The question is, Is our heavenly
Father well pleased when He sees one of His children in the
theater, at the dance, or smoking?� That is a question for each
to decide for himself, prayerfully, seeking light from the Holy
Spirit.� "Where is the harm in these things?"� many ask.� It is
aside from our purpose to go into the general question, but
beyond a doubt there is this great harm in many a case; they rob
our prayers of power.
������� 3. Psalm 145:18 throws a great deal of light on the
question of how to pray:� "The Lord is nigh unto all them that
call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth."
������� That little expression "in truth" is worthy of study.� If
you will take your concordance and go through the Bible, you will
find that this expression means "in reality,"� "in sincerity."
The prayer that God answers is the prayer that is real, the
prayer that asks for something that is sincerely desired.
������� Much prayer is insincere.� People ask for things which
they do not wish.� Many a woman is praying for the conversion of
her husband, who does not really wish her husband to be
converted.� She thinks that she does, but if she knew what would
be involved in the conversion of her husband, how it would
necessitate an entire revolution in his manner of doing business,
and how consequently it would reduce their income and make
necessary an entire change in their method of living, the real
prayer of her heart would be, if she were to be sincere with God:
������� "O God, do not convert my husband."
������� She does not wish his conversion at so great cost.
������� Many a church is praying for a revival that does not
really desire a revival.� They think they do, for to their minds
a revival means an increase of membership, an increase of income,
an increase of reputation among the churches, but if they knew
what a real revival meant, what a searching of hearts on the part
of professed Christians would be involved, what a radical
transformation of individual, domestic and social life would be
brought about, and many other things that would come to pass if
the Spirit of God was poured out in reality and power; if all
this were known, the real cry of the church would be:
������� "O God, keep us from having a revival."
������� Many a minister is praying for the baptism with the Holy
Spirit who does not really desire it.� He things he does, for the
baptism with the Spirit means to him new joy, new power in
preaching the Word, a wider reputation among men, a larger
prominence in the church of Christ.� But if he understood what a
baptism with the Holy Spirit really involved, how for example it
would necessarily bring him into antagonism with the world, and
with unspiritual Christians, how it would cause his name to be
"cast out as evil," how it might necessitate his leaving a good
comfortable living and going down to work in the slums,� or even
in some foreign land; if he understood all this, his prayer quite
likely would be--if he were to express the real wish of his
������� "O God, save me from being baptized with the Holy Ghost."
������� But when we do come to the place where we really desire
the conversion of friends at any cost, really desire the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit whatever it may involve, really
desire the baptism with the Holy Ghost come what may, where we
desire anything "in truth" and then call upon God for it "in
truth," God is going to hear.
PRAYING IN THE NAME OF CHRIST AND ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD
����������� 1. It was a wonderful word about prayer that Jesus spoke to
His disciples on the night before His crucifixion, "Whatsoever ye
shall ask IN MY NAME, that will I do, that the Father may be
glorified in the Son.� If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do
������� Prayer in the name of Christ has power with God.� God is well
pleased with His Son Jesus Christ.� He hears Him always, and He also
hears always the prayer that is really in His name.� There is a
fragrance in the name of Christ that makes acceptable to God every
prayer that bears it.
������� But what is it to pray in the name of Christ?
������� Many explanations have been attempted that to ordinary minds
do not explain.� But there is nothing mystical or mysterious about
this expression.� If one will go through the Bible and examine all
the passages in which the expression "in My name" or "in His name" or
synonymous expressions are used, he will find that it means just
about what it does in modern usage.� If I go to a bank and hand in a
check with my name signed to it, I ask of that bank IN MY OWN NAME.
If I have money deposited in that bank, the check will be cashed; if
not, it will not be.� If, however, I go to a bank with somebody
else's name signed to the check, I am asking IN HIS NAME, and it does
not matter whether I have money in that bank or any other, if the
person whose name is signed to the check has money there, the check
will be cashed.
������� If, for example, I should go to the First National Bank of
Chicago, and present a check which I had signed for $50.00, the
paying teller would say to me:
������� "Why, Mr. Torrey, we cannot cash that.� You have no money in
������� But if I should go to the First National Bank with a check
for $5,000.00 made payable to me, and signed by one of the large
depositors in that bank, they would not ask whether I had money in
that bank or in any bank, but would honor the check at once.
������� So it is when I go to the bank of heaven, when I go to God in
prayer.� I have nothing deposited there, I have absolutely no credit
there, and if I go in my own name I will get absolutely nothing; but
Jesus Christ has unlimited credit in heaven, and He has granted to me
the privilege of going to the bank with His name on my checks, and
when I thus go, my prayers will be honored to any extent.
������� To pray then in the name of Christ is to pray on the ground,
not of my credit, but His; to renounce the thought that I have any
claims on God whatever, and approach Him on the ground of God's
claims.� Praying in the name of Christ is not merely adding the
phrase "I ask these things in Jesus' name" to my prayer.� I may put
that phrase in my prayer and really be resting in my own merit all
the time.� But when I really do approach God, not on the ground of my
merit, but on the ground of Christ's merit, not on the ground of my
goodness, but on the ground of the atoning blood (Heb. 10:19), God
will hear me.� Very much of our modern prayer is vain because men
approach God imagining that they have some claim upon God whereby He
is under obligations to answer their prayers.
������� Years ago when Mr. Moody was young in Christian work, he
visited a town in Illinois.� A judge in the town was an infidel.
This judge's wife besought Mr. Moody to call upon her husband, but
Mr. Moody replied:
������� "I cannot talk with your husband.� I am only an uneducated
young Christian, and your husband is a book infidel."
������� But the wife would not take no for an answer, so Mr. Moody
made the call.� The clerks in the outer office tittered as the young
salesman from Chicago went in to talk with the scholarly judge.
������� The conversation was short.� Mr. Moody said:
������� "Judge, I can't talk with you. You are a book infidel, and I
have no learning, but I simply want to say if you are ever converted,
I want you to let me know."
������� The judge replied: "Yes, young man, if I am ever converted I
will let you know.� Yes, I will let you know."
������� The conversation ended.� The clerks tittered still louder
when the zealous young Christian left the office, but the judge was
converted within a year.� Mr. Moody visiting the town again asked the
judge to explain how it came about.� The judge said:
������� "One night, when my wife was at prayer meeting, I began to
grow very uneasy and miserable.� I did not know what was the matter
with me, but finally retired before my wife come home.� I could not
sleep all that night.� I got up early, told my wife that I would eat
no breakfast, and went down to the office.� I told the clerks they
could take a holiday, and shut myself up in the inner office.� I kept
growing more and more miserable, and finally I got down and asked God
to forgive my sins, but I would not say `for Jesus' sake,' for I was
a Unitarian and I did not believe in the atonement.� I kept praying
'God forgive my sins'; but no answer came.� At last in desperation I
cried, 'O God, for Christ's sake forgive my sins,' and found peace at
����������� The judge had no access to God until he came in the name of
Christ, but when he thus came, he was heard and answered at once.
������� 2. Great light is thrown upon the subject "How to Pray" by
1_John 5:14,15: "And this is the boldness which we have toward Him,
that if we ask anything ACCORDING TO HIS WILL, He heareth us; and if
we know that He heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have
the petitions which we have asked of Him." (R.V.)
������� This passage teaches us plainly that if we are to pray
aright, we must pray according to God's will, then will we beyond a
peradventure get the thing we ask of Him.
������� But can we know the will of God?� Can we know that any
specific prayer is according to His will?
������� We most surely can.
������� (1) First by the Word. God has revealed His will in His Word.
� When anything is definitely promised in the Word of God, we know
that it is His will to give that thing.� If then when I pray, I can
find some definite promise of God's Word and lay that promise before
God, I know that He hears me, and if I know that He hears me, I know
that I have the petition that I have asked of Him.� For example, when
I pray for wisdom I know that it is the will of God to give me
wisdom, for He says so in James 1:5: "If any of you lack wisdom, let
him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not;
and it shall be given him."� So when I ask for wisdom I know that the
prayer is heard, and that wisdom will be given me.� In like manner
when I pray for the Holy Spirit I know from Luke 11:13 that it is
God's will, that my prayer is heard, and that I have the petition
that I have asked of Him: "If ye then, being evil, know how to give
good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly
Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?"
������� Some years ago a minister came to me at the close of an
address on prayer at a Y.M.C.A. Bible school, and said,
������� "You have produced upon those young men the impression that
they can ask for definite things and get the very things that they
����������� I replied that I did not know whether that was the impression
that I produced or not, but that was certainly the impression that I
desired to produce.
������� "But," he replied, "that is not right.� We cannot be sure,
for we don't know God's will."
������� I turned him at once to James 1:5, read it and said to him,
"Is it not God's will to give us wisdom, and if you ask for wisdom do
you not know that you are going to get it?"
������� "Ah!" he said, "we don't know what wisdom is."
����������� I said, "No, if we did, we would not need to ask; but
whatever wisdom may be, don't you know that you will get it?"
������� Certainly it is our privilege to know.� When we have a
specific promise in the Word of God, if we doubt that it is God's
will, or if we doubt that God will do the thing that we ask, we make
God a liar.
������� Here is one of the greatest secrets of prevailing prayer: To
study the Word to find what God's will is as revealed there in the
promises, and then simply take these promises and spread them out
before God in prayer with the absolutely unwavering expectation that
He will do what He has promised in His Word.
������� (2) But there is still another way in which we may know the
will of God, that is, by the teaching of His Holy Spirit.� There are
many things that we need from God which are not covered by any
specific promise, but we are not left in ignorance of the will of God
even then.� In Rom. 8:26,27 we are told, "And in like manner the
Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we
ought; but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with
groanings which cannot be uttered; and He that searcheth the hearts
knoweth what is the mind of the spirit, because He maketh
intercession for the saints ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD." (R.V.)
Here we are distinctly told that the Spirit of God prays in us, draws
out our prayer, in the line of God's will.� When we are thus led out
by the Holy Spirit in any direction, to pray for any given object, we
may do it in all confidence that it is God's will, and that we are to
get the very thing we ask of Him, even though there is no specific
promise to cover the case.� Often God by His Spirit lays upon us a
heavy burden of prayer for some given individual.� We cannot rest, we
pray for him with groanings which cannot be uttered.� Perhaps the man
is entirely beyond our reach, but God hears the prayer, and in many a
case it is not long before we hear of his definite conversion.
������� The passage 1_John 5:14,15 is one of the most abused passages
in the Bible: "This is THE CONFIDENCE that we have in Him, that, if
we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us; and if we know
that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the
petitions that we desired of Him."� The Holy Spirit beyond a doubt
put it into the Bible to encourage our faith.� It begins with "This
is THE CONFIDENCE that we have in Him," and closes with "WE KNOW that
we have the petitions that we desired of Him;" but one of the most
frequent usages of this passage, which was so manifestly given to
beget confidence, is to introduce an element of uncertainty into our
prayers.� Oftentimes when one waxes confident in prayer, some
cautious brother will come and say:
������� "Now, don't be too confident.� If it is God's will He will do
it.� You should put in, `If it be Thy will.'"