CHAPTER 9: ANSWERS TO PRAYER
MERE human nature would choose a more startling title to this chapter. Remarkable answers -- wonderful answers -- amazing answers. But we must allow God to teach us that it is as natural to Him to answer prayer as it is for us to ask. How He delights to hear our petitions, and how He loves to answer them! When we hear of some wealthy person giving a treat to poverty-stricken people, or wiping out some crushing deficit in a missionary society, we exclaim, "How nice to be able to do a thing like that!" Well, if it is true that God loves us -- and we know it is true -- do you not think it gives Him great joy to give us what we ask? We should like, therefore, to recount one or two answers to prayer out of very many which have come to our notice, so that we may have greater boldness in coming to the Throne of Grace. God saves men for whom we pray. Try it.
In talking over this question with a man of prayer a few days ago, he suddenly asked me, "Do you know St. M-'s Church, L-?"
"Quite well -- have been there several times."
"Let me tell you what happened when I lived there. We had a prayer-meeting each Sunday before the 8 o'clock communion service. As we rose from our knees one Sunday a sidesman said, 'Vicar, I wish you would pray for my boy. He is twenty-two years old now, and has not been to church for years.' 'We can spare five minutes now,' replied the vicar. They knelt down again and offered up earnest supplication on behalf of that man. Although nothing was said to him about this, that youth came to church that same evening. Something in the sermon convicted him of sin. He came into the vestry broken-hearted, and accepted Jesus Christ as, his Savior."
On Monday morning my friend, who was working as a Church Army captain in the parish, was present at the weekly meeting of the staff. He said to the vicar, "That conversion last night is a challenge to prayer -- a challenge from God. Shall we accept it?" "What do you mean?" asked the vicar. "Well," said he, "shall we single out the worst man in the parish and pray for him?" By unanimous consent they fixed upon K- as the worst man they knew. So they "agreed" in prayer for his conversion. At the end of that week, as they were conducting a Saturday night prayer-meeting in the mission hall, and whilst his very name was on their lips, the door swung open and in staggered K-, much the worse for liquor. He had never been in that mission hall before. Without thinking of removing his cap he sank on a chair near the door and buried his face in his hands. The prayer-meeting suddenly became an enquiry-room. Even as he was -- in drink -- he sought the Lord Who was seeking him. Nor did he ever go back. Today he is one of the finest dockyard missioners in the land.
Oh, why do we not pray for our unconverted friends? They may not listen to us when we plead with them, but they cannot hold out if we pray for them. Let two or three agree in prayer over the salvation of the worst, and then see what God will do! Tell God and then trust God. God works in a wonderful way, as well as in a "mysterious" way, His wonders to perform.
Dan Crawford told us recently that when returning to his mission field after a furlough, it was necessary to make all possible haste. But a deep stream, which had to be crossed, was in flood, and no boats were available, or usable, for that matter. So he and his party camped and prayed. An infidel might well have laughed aloud. How could God get them across that river! But, as they prayed, a tall tree which had battled with that river for scores of years began to totter and fall. It fell clear across the stream! As Mr. Crawford says, "The Royal Engineers of heaven had laid a pontoon bridge for God's servants."
Many young people will be reading these prayer-stories. May we remind them that God still hears the voice of the lad -- yes, and the lass? (Gen. xxi. 17.) For them may we be allowed to add the following story, with the earnest desire that prayer may be their heritage, their very life; and that answered prayer may be their daily experience.
Some little time ago, a Chinese boy of twelve years old, named Ma-Na-Si, a boarder in the mission school at Chefoo, went home for the holidays. He is the son of a native pastor.
Whilst standing on the doorstep of his father's house he espied a horseman galloping towards him. The man -- a heathen -- was in a great state of perturbation. He eagerly enquired for the "Jesus-man" -- the pastor. The boy told him that his father was away from home. The poor man was much distressed, and hurriedly explained the cause of his visit. He had been sent from a heathen village some miles away to fetch the "holy man" to cast a devil out of the daughter-in-law of a heathen friend. He poured out his sad story of this young woman, torn by devils, raving and reviling, pulling out her hair, clawing her face, tearing her clothes, smashing up furniture, and dashing away dishes of food. He told of her spirit of sacrilege, and outrageous impiety, and brazen blasphemy and how these outbursts were followed by foaming at the mouth, and great exhaustion, both physical and mental "But my father is not at home," the boy kept reiterating. At length the frenzied man seemed to understand. Suddenly he fell on his knees, and, stretching out his hands in desperation, cried, "You, too, are a Jesus-man; will you come ?"
Think of it -- a boy of twelve! Yes, but even a lad, when fully yielded to his Savior, is not fearful of being used by that Savior. There was but one moment of surprise, and a moment of hesitation, and then the laddie put himself wholly at his Master's disposal. Like little Samuel of old he was willing to obey God in all things. He accepted the earnest entreaty as a call from God. The heathen stranger sprang into the saddle, and, swinging the Christian boy up behind him, he galloped away.
Ma-Na-Si began to think over things. He had accepted an invitation to cast out a devil in the name of Christ Jesus. But was he worthy to be used of God in this way? Was his heart pure and his faith strong? As they galloped along he carefully searched his own heart for sin to be confessed and repented of. Then he prayed for guidance what to say and how to act, and tried to recall Bible instances of demoniacal possession and how they were dealt with. Then he simply and humbly cast himself upon the God of power and of mercy, asking His help for the glory of the Lord Jesus. On arrival at the house they found that some of the members of the family were by main force holding down the tortured woman upon the bed. Although she had not been told that a messenger had gone for the native pastor, yet as soon as she heard footsteps in the court outside she cried, "All of you get out of my way quickly, so that I can escape. I must flee! A 'Jesus-man' is coming. I cannot endure him. His name is Ma-Na-Si."
Ma-Na-Si entered the room, and after a ceremonial bow knelt down and began to pray. Then he sang a Christian hymn to the praise of the Lord Jesus. Then, in the name of the Risen Lord, glorified and omnipotent, he commanded the demon to come out of the woman. At once she was calm, though prostrate with weakness. From that day she was perfectly whole. She was amazed when they told her that she had uttered the name of the Christian boy, for she had never heard of it or read of it before, for the whole of that village was heathen. But that day was veritably a "beginning of days" to those people, for from it the Word of the Lord had free course and was glorified.
Beloved reader, I do not know how this little narrative affects you. It is one that moves me to the very depths of my being. It seems to me that most of us know so little of the power of God -- so little of His overwhelming, irresistible love. Oh, what love is His! Now, every time we pray, that wonderful love envelops us in a special way.
If we really loved our blessed Savior, should we not oftener seek communion with Him in prayer? Fellow Christian, is it because we pray so little that we criticise so much? Oh, let us remember that we, like our dear Savior, are not sent into the world to condemn, to judge, the world, "but that the world should be saved through Him" (John iii. 17).
Will any thoughtless word of criticism of anyone move anyone nearer to Christ? Will it even help the utterer of that fault-finding to be more like the Master? Oh, let us lay aside the spirit of criticism, of blaming, of fault-finding, of disparaging others or their work. Would not St. Paul say to us all, "And such were some of you, but ye are washed"? (II Cor. vi. 11.)
Do you see what we are aiming at? All the evil dispositions and failings we detect in others are due to the devil. It is the evil one in the heart who causes those words and deeds which we are so ready to condemn and to exaggerate. Demon-possession is not unknown in England, but it takes a different form, perhaps. Our very friends and acquaintances, so kindly and lovable, are often tied and bound by some besetting sin -- "whom Satan hath bound, lo, these many years."
We may plead with them in vain. We may warn them in vain. Courtesy and charity -- and our own failings and shortcomings -- forbid us standing over them like Ma-Na-Si and exercising the evil spirit! But have we tried prayer -- prayer always backed up by love which cannot be "provoked"? (I Cor. xiii. 5.)
God answers prayer from old and young, when there is a clean heart, a holy life, and a simple faith. God answers prayer. We are but frail and faulty servants at the best. Sincere as we may be, we shall sometimes ask amiss. But God is faithful that promised, and He will guard us from all harm and supply every need.
Can I have the things I pray for?
God knows best;
He is wiser than His children.
I can rest.
"Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, we have boldness toward God; and whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight" (I John iii. 21.)