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Good Words 1860
The Power of Prayer


The accompanying facts were related last summer by a friend in Holland, who knows them. There is nothing very striking or profound in them. They belong, perhaps, to the unnoticed commonplace of life—to such sides of it as any one may see, and any one may overlook. Yet, in their simple, natural truth, they have their lesson—real, homely teaching, after their own fashion. When the power of prayer is brought out in connexion with the power of revival, it is necessary to separate between a combination which is temporary and one which is essential. The power of prayer is as old as the gift of faith. Transient circumstances may give it a special prominence; but it is independent of them. Where there is a revival there will be an effectual, fervent prayer; but effectual, fervent prayer is by no means limited to revival. It exists, and displays its forces, and wins its victories in the world of the unseen, although no public stir should flaunt it before the wonder of men;—it exists in quiet hearts, and in calm and gentle days, and when the Spirit is not rushing with the sweep of the tempest, but breathing, like a wind that goes whispering round the flowers. We naturally turn for it to crises of spiritual manifestation: it is well for us to be reminded that it may characterise the ordinary times of any spiritual life. These prayers, also, are not about strictly religious matters. They are all borrowed from the petition—"Give us this day our daily bread." They concern the body and bodily deliverance, bodily necessities and bodily straits; for there is no limit to the kingdom over which the power of prayer rules save the limit of human life and thought. They are frank and truthful, touching upon direct and palpable wants, and, without any consciousness of impropriety, bringing God into the very centre of these wants. It is a very real, it may be a very common thing for people in great poverty to find they have no food. It is very true, and it may be very common, that God hears their prayer, and supplies them. It is very true also that the answer is sent in a common way and through very ordinary means. But that life is not common life which hangs so closely by the skirts of God, in which He is so visibly present doing according to His will; it has its marvel and rare preciousness though it should manifest itself as here only with regard to the last turf or the children's supper. For our life is not all spiritual, nor concerning the private divine communion of the soul; but, "whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Be careful for nothing ; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." And it is a blessed light that these, and similar narratives, throw upon the dark homes of the poor, shewing that there may be, though unknown to us, thousands of desolate, lonely rooms that can bear witness to the victory of faith and the power of prayer in the plain struggle of every day, and teaching us, whether rich or poor, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee."

A poor widow, who believed God, lived at U——. God had supported her, with her six children, for many years, and had never put her trust to shame. Last spring her faith was greatly tried; her provisions were entirely exhausted, her fuel reduced to two turf. Her situation was very dark and seemed hopeless. She went once more to a quiet corner in her garret, where she kept her Bible ; she took refuge with the Lord, poured out her wants before Him, besought Him to have mercy that very day. " Ah, dear Lord," she said, in her simple way, "my precious Father, we have no food, and now we have nothing more to burn." The words had scarcely expired on her lips when she heard a man call loudly for her from below, and ask her where he might put 500 turf. They had been sent by the distributors of a fund for poor widows, of which she had never heard. " According to thy faith be it unto thee."

There is a widow in A------whose sole support, after her husband's death, was an only daughter. This daughter soon died. Her last thought for herself was, "My soul longs for Jesus." Her last thought for her mother was, "Dearest mother, I have trusted you to the Lord, who will care for you." Eleven years have passed, and she has never wanted. She has taken her sister and niece into her house, and still God supplies her; yet she has seldom more than her daily bread. Her faith has been strengthened; she has no uneasiness; she says it is the Lord who provides. A------ often visits her; and as often as he has asked if she is in need, she has replied, "No, I want nothing; there is enough for to-day both for me, and those who are with me." "O woman, great is thy faith!" L------and his wife sat together one Saturday afternoon, weary and wretched. They were miserably poor; but no one knew it. Everything had gone against them; and a shop which had hitherto brought in a little was now so empty that, to hide their necessity, they closed it. It was a sad, bleak prospect into the next week as they sat there, silent, looking into each other's haggard faces. She had fasted so long that the pain forced her to speak—the dull, irritated complaint of hunger. The husband had no money to buy her bread. He left the room with a heavy sorrow, and begged of the Lord to look in mercy upon them, and to give them food. As he prayed, he thought he heard a voice that said to him, "The Lord will deliver thee;" and he began to sing a psalm with a joyful heart. Meanwhile a girl had knocked at the door. She wished to buy a trifle that cost a shilling; it was the last article in the shop, and the money was paid. The woman hurried to her husband; he was praising God. She was astonished; and he told her why he sang and was glad. Then she related what had happened. "And now," she said, "we have already enough for to-day, and even for to-morrow." So they rejoiced together, and spent the evening in thankfulness.

There was a true believer who lived in U------. He was a widower, left with five children; and he was very poor. He had spent two days without food, and he could bear it for himself; but the children hungered, and cried for bread, and he had none to give them. He prayed to God many times, and no answer came. However, he continued, and he told his children to be patient, and wait on God, and said, "l am sure you will not go to bed without food." But they were starving, and replied, "Father, you have often told us the same thing, and we have received nothing yet." And still he answered, ''I have prayed to God, and, as I knelt, He promised to feed us before night; and His promises are faithful." And the children were hushed, and thought of the wonderful Helper, and how He would come to them. They had no fire, but they drew together in the corner; and the father looked at them, and tears started down his cheeks ; yet he knew God would not fail. Many feet passed by the door; but there was no loitering step, and none that stopped. Presently there were fewer; for the evening was falling, and it grew still without; and they could hear the clock strike the long hours. Seven and eight it tolled, and people seemed to have gone to rest; and the children thought the angels must have gone to rest too. Scarcely had the clock struck nine—and they listened how clear each stroke fell through the noiseless air—when there was a knock at the door, and a woman brought in a dish with potatoes, and told them they would find something more than that. They found money among the potatoes, and one of the children went out to buy wood and salt. As it passed through the street a servant came up, and said: "Have you brothers and sisters at home?"—"Oh, yes," he made answer; "we are five."—"Then you can take this with you," handing a large parcel to the child. And when he returned, the parcel was opened and it was found to be a large ham. And they never knew who the woman was, nor who was the servant. But the children said they were the angels, and ate their supper with exceeding gladness and faith, thinking that God himself was feeding them, and that He in heaven had heard their father praying in the corner.


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