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Spurgeon and the Power of Prayer
by Larry J. Michael, PhD.
Last July I posted an interview with Baptist pastor Larry J. Michael about his new book, "Spurgeon on Leadership". Larry has kindly given me permission to post an article he has written, based on the book, on Spurgeon and prayer.
Everyone believes in prayer. Or so, that’s what we are told. The practice of prayer is advocated by people of faith everywhere. There are courses on prayer, conferences on prayer, concerts of prayer, even colloquiums on prayer. Christian leaders regularly pontificate about its necessity from the pulpit and classroom. But, if the reports are correct, there are not nearly as many practitioners as there are proponents of this great source of spiritual power. And leaders, if not careful, can be the worse culprits in not practicing what they preach, when it comes to prayer. The tyranny of other urgent demands upon their time can rob leaders of the infinitely valuable time they spend in personal prayer with God.
Well-known church growth author/leader Peter Wagner writes, “The more deeply I dig beneath the surface of church growth principles, the more thoroughly convinced I become that the real battle is a spiritual battle and that our principle weapon is prayer.” An effective leader must have a deep prayer life. Spurgeon wrote of the power of prayer:
All hell is vanquished when the believer bows his knee in importunate supplication. Beloved brethren, let us pray. We cannot all argue, but we can all pray; we cannot all be leaders, but we can all be pleaders; we cannot all be mighty in rhetoric, but we can all be prevalent in prayer. I would sooner see you eloquent with God than with men. Prayer links us with the Eternal, the Omnipotent, the Infinite, and hence it is our chief resort. . . . Be sure that you are with God, and then you may be sure that God is with you.
Seminary Dean Thom Rainer gives statistical evidence regarding the power of prayer: “A study of churches that were previously plateaued or declining but now experiencing growth revealed a fascinating statistic. The report concluded that 71% of these churches reported an increased emphasis on prayer over the past several years as compared to only 40% of churches which continue on the plateau.” Such prayer does not happen without the leadership of the pastor. A Christian leader must continue to grow and lead in the discipline of prayer.
The Model of Devotion and Prayer
At the tea-table, the conversation was bright, witty, and always interesting; and after the meal was over, an adjournment was made to the study for family worship, and it was at these seasons that my beloved’s prayers were remarkable for their tender childlikeness, their spiritual pathos, and their intense devotion. He seemed to come as near to God as a little child to a loving father, and we were often moved to tears as he talked thus face to face with his Lord.
Spurgeon told pastors how one should set the example: “He prays as a husband and as a father; he strives to make his family devotions a model for his flock.” Many leaders today have gotten away from family devotions at home, but that quality time with family around God’s Word is essential for the one who seeks to lead his family in spiritual matters.
The Therapy of Prayer
And now, beloved Pastor, we leave you, with many prayers, in the hands of your Father and our Father. May He have you in His safe keeping, preserve you from lowness and depression of spirits, cheer you with the light of His countenance, strengthen and sustain you by His gracious Spirit, and, in His own good time, bring you again to your beloved Tabernacle “in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” This is our fervent prayer.
In 1871, Spurgeon had a long and painful illness that kept him out of his pulpit for twelve Sundays. He wrote many times to the congregation at the Tabernacle, seeking their prayers:
Dear Friends, The furnace still blows around me. Since I last preached to you, I have been brought very low. My flesh has been tortured with pain, and my spirit has been prostrate with depression. . . . You do pray for me, I know; but I entreat you not to cease your supplications. I am as a potter’s vessel when it is utterly broken, useless, and laid aside. Nights of watching, and days of weeping have been mine, but I hope the cloud is passing. . . . In this relative trial, a very keen one, I again ask your prayers. The Lord be with you evermore! Amen. So prays, Your suffering Pastor, C.H.S.
Exhorting the Church to Prayer
My Beloved Friends, As soon as the church had resolved to meet for special prayer for me, I began rapidly to recover. . . . We may truthfully say of the Wednesday meeting for prayer, that the Lord fulfilled this Word: “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” For all this great goodness, I pray you to unite with me in sincere and intense gratitude to the Lord our God.
The occasion was one of many that the pastor blessed the Lord for the healing power of prayer. Before long, Spurgeon was back in the pulpit, and used his suffering as a means of ministering to others through his proclamation.
Spurgeon set a great example for leaders in the practice of prayer. He didn’t just talk about it – he did it! God’s will for our lives as leaders includes the discipline of personal prayer. As we pray, so goes our leadership, and thus hinges our effectiveness in the work of God’s Kingdom.
Copyright © 2003 Larry J. Michael. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
January 5th, 2004