Alfred Place Baptist Church

5:16-18 A Righteous Man’s Praying

James 5:16-18 The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”

I suppose there are always two dangers in speaking about prayer. The first is that some men make it so demanding a spiritual exercise that it becomes intimidating. You can picture the scene of some ascetic speaking with intensity of feeling about wrestling with God. His eyes look into the distance, and his closing prayer is full of strangled emotion and semi-sobs. His hearers are sinking lower and lower into their seats as this Everest of praying reaches to the clouds and disappears from view. That’s a mountain they have never climbed, his hearers think, nor ever will. You have probably been in prayer meetings where the leader has strayed too far into that frame and the meeting has been killed.

The second danger is the reverse. The speaker is so laid back and cool, assuring us that prayer is a breeze, that we can pray anywhere and for everything – finding a place to park the car is the usual illustration – and the whole spirit is one of relaxed chumminess. Terry Johnson of Savannah speaks of his deliverance from that kind of praying which a summer pastorate provided. He had been converted in Southern California and in the spring of 1978 became an intern in a church in Edinburgh. He knew the essentials of small-group discipleship and scripture choruses and felt prepared for any prayer meetings. As he arrived at the church the minister was taken sick and he had to step in on the Sunday and preach. Before the service fifteen people met together to pray. Terry says, “When it looked like all who were coming were present, they rose up, turned and faced their chairs, knelt down on their knees, and began to pray. Though this was a working-class congregation, and though none of those present were college educated and even a few were functionally illiterate, I soon realised that I was in over my head. Something was seriously amiss. I had never heard such prayers. They were full of God, full of Scripture, full of passion, full of reverence, and full of humility. My prayers, by comparison, had always been of the ‘just really’ variety – trite, self-centred, too casual, and too familiar. The spiritual maturity of their prayers exposed my spiritual poverty. The God that they knew was almost a different God.”

Terry was taught about prayer in the best way, in hearing true prayer. Not all praying is acceptable to God or to the church. “You judge people’s prayers?” someone says, aghast. Yes. God does, and so must we. There was a kind of praying of which the Lord said, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen” (Isaiah 1:15). The Lord Jesus heard a Pharisee praying in the temple and Christ said that “he prayed about himself” (Luke 18:10). Prayer reflects the pray-er. James is opening up the subject of true prayer and he does so by telling us something about the praying man himself, and then about his prayers. We are going to look at it like that, and in a way that neither intimidates us nor cheapens prayer.

1 The Man of Prayer.

We begin with God. We must do that. We are speaking of prayer, and what is wrong with most praying is an inadequate view of God. Hence there can never be deep, reverent, joyful, awesome praying where God is thought to have his hands tied, or is imagined to be a lonely servant waiting for us to beckon him to come and listen to our requests. “Behold your God!” cries the prophet Isaiah to a people who had forgotten him. Prayer, worship, discipleship and holy living all shrink where Almighty God is ignored. So real prayer is found where the Bible is loved, preached and obeyed. Sit under the best ministries you can if you want to grow in prayer.

Then we come to man. Why, where strong biblical theology and preaching is found, is our own praying so feeble? Look at America with its splendid seminaries and its orthodox confessional denominations, but its woeful prayer meetings. I would guess the reason is that American Christians have too much confidence in methods, programmes and organisations to advance the church, and are enjoying too much of that numerical and financial success that comes from human engineering. “Why do we need prayer when we can get all this by methodology?” But we don’t need to look beyond the confines of our own congregation to confess the feebleness of our praying.

Edward McKendree Bounds was born in northeastern Missouri on August 15, 1835, served as a confederate chaplain in the civil war and experienced something of the mighty work of God in the ranks of that army. He became a minister and retired at 60 to spend the last nineteen years of his life praying and writing about prayer. He arose at 4 a.m. each day. He completed eight books but only two were published during his lifetime, his most famous, “Power through Prayer” was one of those, published in 1907. If you have that little book you have the essence of his message. Its pathos compensates for some of its imbalance. Bounds’ great insistence is upon the place of man in prayer. He famously wrote these words, “The trend of the day has a tendency to lose sight of man or sink the man in the plan or organisation. God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than of anything else. Men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. ‘There was a man sent from God whose name was John’…What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organisations, or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men – men of prayer”

(“The Complete Works of E.M.Bounds on Prayer,” Baker, 1990, p.447).

God does not solely conduct his work through men of money, influence, personality, eloquence, creativity and learning. No! Not through those. He certainly does not carry on his work solely through drab, poor, unread, tongue-tied, painfully withdrawn introverts. No! No through those either. But he will use all those kinds of men provided they are not under the lordship of those attainments or trapped by such hindrances. He uses men who draw near to God, who know him and know how to pray to him. Whatever else they may have, whatever else they may lack, they must be men of prayer. Having everything else and lacking prayer they must fail. Having all those weaknesses and having prayer they can yet be a David Brainerd.

James tells us two things about the man of prayer:-

i] He is a righteous man (v.16). How would we understand a righteous man? Let me suggest a number of ways:-

Firstly, he is a right living man. He is not a perfectly blameless man – James goes on to remind us of Elijah and we know there was a time when that prophet’s imperfections were revealed. But he lived as a just and straight man. Surely we would all acknowledge that bad living makes bad praying. The stream of praying cannot rise higher than the fountain of living. We cannot talk to God strongly if we have not lived for God strongly. We cannot beseech God if we have not been beseeching men. We cannot ask God to forgive us our sins if we do not forgive those who sin against us. Our conduct gives value to our praying, and our misconduct destroys the fabric of our devotion until it is as threadbare as a cobweb.

Paul tells Timothy that he wants “men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing” (I Tim.2:8). What our age has done is to emphasise the physical – the lifting up of the hands. What the apostle emphasised was the holiness of the hands – that is, they are a part of lives which are “without anger or disputing.” Let holy men be like Moses in arm-lifted intercession on the mountain seeing the people of God under attack and praying hour after hour for them until they prevailed. We cannot divorce praying from righteous conduct. The apostle John says, “we receive from God anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him” (I John 3:21&22). Beautiful theology is marred by ugly living. Our praying suffers as much as our credibility in the pulpit suffers when we live inconsistent lives. Preach by your life or do not preach at all. Pray by your life or do not pray at all, for praying that does not result in pure conduct is a delusion. There is a choice before us to quit praying or to quit unrighteousness. Of course men can eloquently read out the most beautiful prayers of Cranmer while living the most debauched lives. Cold dead praying can exist with bad conduct, but cold dead praying is no praying in God’s sight. Our praying is effectual only as it comes from a righteous life.

Secondly, a righteous man has reverence in his dealings with God. There is a searching protestation about a lack of reverence which God makes to those who claimed to be his people during the time of Malachi. “‘A son honours his father, and a servant honours his master. If I am a father, where is the honour due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name … I am a great king’, says the Lord Almighty, ‘and my name is to be feared among the nations'” Mal. 1:6 & 14). Nothing changes. Think of the disorder, and noise, and puerile attempts at entertainment, and universal irreverence of so many churches up and down the land. You expect it in the world, but it is found where it should be arrested and denounced.

The irony is that there is so much fear of man in those places. They dare not cross the leader of the drama team, or the singing group, or the choir-mistress, or the young people’s committee, or the deacons, full of fear of man, lest we do not come up next Sunday with what our irreverent people expect. How we study our prayers in the light of the sinners who are hearing our petitions: mortal men more important than the eternal and ever blessed God! Were it not that he with whom we have to do is far more long suffering and than we ever imagine we might hear that voice that spoke the universe into being cutting short our prayers and songs and dancing and drama and messages with a sentence – “Ah, graceless people. Who has asked for all this from you?”

The righteous man reverences the living God. Not just on the Lord’s Day but in his home too. Are there family prayers? Are they continued when the surly and the rebels come to the house to eat? Can you go from family fun to family praying as naturally as the laughter of love becomes the mutual intercession of two hearts made one. At the end of the last century, as the downgrade began to loosen Christians from their moorings in the Bible, a Highlands servant went to work for a Scottish family in London. At the end of the meal he would bring the Bibles and psalm books to the table for family devotions. One evening they were having a large dinner-party, and after the last plates were moved away he carried the Bibles to the table – much to his master’s displeasure. As soon as the guests left he was told, “Do you know, sir, that in good society there are never family prayers after a party like we’ve had tonight?” The stupid man had just come from a devout manor in Ross-shire and did not know that family worship was a fast-dying-out ceremony in the homes of the West End of London.

Family worship is never pushed into a corner by some mechanical ritual without a thought, a feeling, an idea, or anything interesting for the young who attend. It should not be accompanied by a serenade of loud coughings and gripings and undisguised yawning. Would you cough in the Queen’s face? Would you yawn in the face of the President? Where reverence for God is in table prayers we will see our children converted in family worship. So, secondly, a righteous man is a reverent man.

Thirdly, a righteous man is a straight man as he deals with God. That is, he is perfectly frank before the Almighty. There are times when our words outrun our feelings, but we are speaking to the Lord. The psalmist says, “I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?'” (Ps.42:9) He did not say, “Now I know you cannot forget me because my name from the palms of your hands eternity will not erase.” That is true, and saying that is worthy, but he poured out his deep feelings as his enemies had really got under his skin, and he thought of the terrible things they had done to him and those he loved. Or there was a time when Jeremiah cried out, “O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed” (Jer. 20:7). That’s a fearful accusation to make of him who is changeless truth. But that is how Jeremiah actually felt and he took it to God and poured out his frustration in the Lord’s presence. How would you want one of your children to act? In sulky silence, ignoring you hour after hour, for some days, or rather with tears of resentment pour out her heart to you? Any parent would choose the latter, because then you can show your love and weep with them and explain as best you can.

There is someone reading this who has a complaint against God. There has been a build-up of resentment for years because of unanswered prayer. If you spoke you would say, “Why have you dealt with me in this way?” I am saying that a righteous man is not someone who never feels like that, but someone who brings to God all that is in his heart. God invites you: “‘Present your case,’ says the Lord. ‘Set forth your arguments,’ says Jacob’s King” (Isa.41:21). Take your trouble before him and roll it all out at his feet. Charge him with your grief. Then listen to what he has to say. He will gently clear himself from the charges of unkindness that you have brought against him. In his light you will see light. That is something between you and God. A righteous man will not parade before others his bitterness. Don’t defame him. “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have betrayed your children” (Psa. 73:15). This Old Testament Christian was concerned that speaking about his resentments against God would have offended other believers. You see that beautifully exemplified in a diary item of John Livingstone of Ancrum, where he records one day, “Finding myself, as I thought, surely deserted, and somewhat hardly dealt with in my particular state, I made a promise to God not to tell it to any but himself, lest I should seem to complain or foster misbelief in myself or others.” That is a righteous man.

ii] He is only a man. You see here what James tells us about Elijah, in verse 17, “Elijah was a man just like us.” Literally the phrase is, “Elijah, man was he.” A mere man, like us, was Elijah. Not an angel, nor a superman, because then his example would be of little value to us. He had the same created dignity all men and women have who are made in the image of God. He had the same natural depravity that all the fallen children of Adam have. He has the same redemptive privilege to find forgiveness through the blood of the sacrifice that all God’s children know. He wrestled with remaining sin. He knew battles with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. He met the same temptations, and showed the same weaknesses that all the human race possess. He experienced hunger, feared death, and became so despondent with self-pity that he wanted to die.He was a man of like passions to our own.

Earl Kelly says, “We make the mistake of making supermen out of men who are greatly used of God. The people of Lystra in Lycaonia tried to proclaim Paul and Barnabas gods when they healed a man who had been crippled since birth. The two missionaries replied, ‘We also are men of like passions with you’ (Acts 14:15). The word they used to describe their humanity is the exact word which James uses to describe the nature of Elijah. The word only appears at these two places in the New Testament, and each time it is translated ‘like passions'” in the King James Version, and “only men, human like you” in the NIV.

In other words we look at great men in the history of the church – Luther, Bunyan, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones and we tend to put them into a different category from ourselves, especially the further back into history we go. We think they were hyper-Christians, and they did not have to struggle with the petty troubles we meet. But James is telling us that we must banish such thinking from our mind, even Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, the one who represents them all when with Moses (who represents the law) they appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration and conversed with Jesus. On this earth Elijah was a man, human like us.

It means two things, firstly, that the righteous man finds prayer the most difficult thing in all the world to do. There were not infrequent times when even Elijah began to pray and he discovered his mind to be filled with unseemly, self-pitying, worrying, tempting thoughts. How do I know? Because everyone is attacked like that. We are told the Lord Jesus was tempted in this area of prayer just as in every other part of his life. How do we cope?

A] Repeat to yourself the great definition of God which the Shorter Catechism gives, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” In other words, fill your mind with God. “My God is omniscient. My God is omnipotent. My God is full of glorious perfections. My God is a God of majesty, purity, and glory. He will not look at the least appearance of evil.” Elijah in heaven now does not have one vain thought because he is so greatly affected with the greatness of God.

B] Go on with your praying. Don’t let those thoughts stop you. Say to yourself, “I will pray yet, and hear still, and go on mediating, and carry on meeting with fellow Christians.” So many will tell you that it was as they carried on at such times that Satan left them and they enjoyed a time of real close communion with God.

C] Those horrible thoughts that hum around you like bees around a hive cannot hurt you at all if they are not cherished. As long as you resist them they are not sins. They will not be laid to your account. Tell the Lord, “I have this world of vain delusions weakening my faith and crowding in on me, and I hate them. They are a burden to me.” They may vex you but they cannot make you one degree less of a Christian, or do to you any lasting damage at all.

D] This sense of sadness and frustration and your attempts to resist these thoughts are the great marks that you are a true Christian. The world gets such thoughts and it thinks that this is natural. There is no escape from them, and it makes jokes about them and even feeds them. Only the Christian knows that they are from the pit.

E] Labour to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “Be filled with the Spirit.” The fuller the vessel is with wine, the less room there is for water. Lay up in your hearts many thoughts of God, and then you will be less troubled with vain thoughts. “A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good things” (Matt. 12:35).

F] Keep up holy affections. Read your hymnbook in your time of devotions. Remember you have a Father who is in heaven and he loves you as the greatest Father in all the universe would love his only child. And the Father loves you like that – with the same love as he loves his only-begotten Son. Say to yourself, “When I awake, I am still with you” (Ps.139:18). You cannot forget your mother? Well, a Christian cannot forget his heavenly Father.

G] Try to shed some of your other worries – business, exams, family, health, church. There are others who can take on those responsibilities – there really are. Believe it or not you are not indispensable. It is a sin to worry. God has promised he is going to take care of you. He takes care of those starlings. He will certainly take care of you.

So, because we are mere men a consequence is that we find prayer a battle. And the other consequence is this, that confession of sin will be a theme of the praying of righteous men.

It is the first mark of regeneration: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” When the Holy Spirit enters a life he prepares a broken and a contrite heart. As we walk in the light we are conscious as never before of the hatefulness of sin, and we confess to God our sins. In this age when the word ‘explicit’ has such horrid overtones we yet must insist that our confession of sin must be explicit. Of course it is in the secret place, between ourselves and a Father of measureless mercy, and yet a God who is concerned about particulars. Under the old covenant Aaron the high priest laid both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confessed over him “all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins” (Lev. 16:21). When Achan acknowledged his wrongdoing he said, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel; and thus and thus have I done” (Josh. 7:20). The great promise of the New Testament is no less definite, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). It is not enough to say in a General Confession, “we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.” The hypocrite will say the same. The child of God will point with his finger to this running sore and say, “I have done this evil in thy sight” (Psalm 51:4).

There is something magnificent about the action of looking back at the end of the day and having this regret and that sadness and then saying, “Forgive me Lord, for Jesus’ sake” and in that moment, if grace abounds much more than our sin, and if all our iniquities, past, present and future, have been laid on the Lamb of God who takes them all away, we are forgiven. We have made too much of the need for agonising and grovelling before the Lord. John needed to assure the first century believers, “just confess your sins to him. He is a faithful and just God to forgive you.” Humble acknowledgement is what the Lord needs. You really cannot believe it. It is far too dangerous, you think. There needs to be some contribution which you make before forgiveness is sealed, some abstinence, some tears, some regimen of a hair-shirt and early rising, some extra contribution to the church’s coffers, and then your hard-earned forgiveness will be obtained. Then forgiveness is not of grace, and was not bought by Christ alone.

Becky Pippert recalls meeting a zealous young couple involved in leading the youth group in their church and how much she admired them. Then some years went by and their paths crossed again. The glow had gone, and there was a plaintive note about their lives. She talked to the girl who finally opened up: “I cant believe God can forgive me. I have done something awful. We slept together and I got pregnant. Where would be our standing in the church, and how could we continue to lead the young people’s work if I were expecting a baby? I had an abortion. I killed my own child. How can God forgive me?” Becky paused for a moment. “Have you ever thought that that was not the first person you killed,” she said. The girl looked startled. “It was your sins that nailed the Son of God to the cross. If God has forgiven you for killing his own Son, will he not forgive you for killing yours?”

My sins, my sins, my Saviour, how sad on Thee they fall;
While through Thy gentle patience I ten-fold feel them all.
I know they are forgiven; but still their pain to me
Is all the grief and anguish they laid, my Lord, on Thee.

The reason we are pardoned is pure vertical sovereign mercy. The grounds of it reaching a sinner like you is the work Christ did when he bore all our guilt and shame and blame for every single one of our sins in his body on the cross. So we can come confidently to a faithful just God and say, “I’m so sorry again Lord” and in that moment we know his forgiveness. And the one who understand what Calvary means will never take advantage of it to abound in sin.

Mere men and women must confess their sins. There is a right and wrong way of doing that. As John Owen says, “Think of the guilt of sin, that you may be humbled. Think of the power of sin, that you may seek strength against it. Do not think of the matter of sin, lest you become more and more entangled in it.” How wise God is just once in a while to remind us of some of our failings – our ‘black feet’ as Thomas Boston referred to them. How quickly spiritual encouragements turn to pride. God will use every means needed to keep us in a dependent submissive frame. How many have gone to God in prayer conscious how dead and blind they felt? Because of this thousands more go to God than those who have gone with a raging conviction of the terrors of the law.

Those who are conscious they are mere men wi ll take their regrets to God – the hours misspent, the occasions lost, the foolish words uttered, the precious gifts squandered, the cowardice, lust and greed. “Infinite upon infinite! Infinite upon infinite!” cried Jonathan Edwards – who was a man just like us.

2. The Man in Prayer.

James tells us three things about his praying:

i] It is earnest. “Elijah prayed earnestly that it would not rain” (v.17). There was a single-mindedness about his praying. “Lord, close the heavens. Withhold the rain” he cried earnestly. How we are encouraged to be in earnest by our Lord. He tells the story of the man who at midnight goes to a friend’s house and loudly knocks on the door asking him for three loaves of bread because someone has turned up to stay the night with him and they have run out of food. Alexander Whyte has the most vivid sermon on these words, as he urges: “Attend to Jesus as he teaches his disciples to pray. See the man at midnight. Imitate that man…Hear his loud cry, and cry it after him. He needed three loaves. What is your need? Name it. Name it out. Let your own ears hear it…Never mind the lateness of the hour.

“The words, “Because of his importunity” do not do justice to our Lord’s style – to call it style. What our Lord said was far more to the purpose than ‘importuity,’ excellent as that is. What he said was ‘shamelessness.’ This was what our Lord really said: ‘I say unto you’ he said, ‘though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his shamelessness he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.’ ‘Think shame!’ the man cried out who was in bed, with his door shut. ‘Think shame!’ the disturbed neighbours cried out. ‘Think shame!’ the late passers-by said. ‘Hold your peace,’ they said, ‘and let honest men’s doors alone at this time of night.’

“‘Never mind,’ says our Lord at the other hand. ‘Never you mind them: they have bread enough at home: and easy for them to cry shame to a starving man. Never you mind, knock you on. I have been in your place myself, till they said that I was beside myself. Knock you on: and I will stand beside you till I see the door open. He must rise if you go on knocking. Give him no rest. Well done! Knock again!’ Yes – shamelessness! ‘What a shameless wretch I am!’ you will say about yourself, ‘to ask such things, to have to ask such things at my age: to knock so loud after the way I have neglected prayer, and neglected and forgotten the Hearer of prayer. Yes. The life you have lived. The way you have spent your days and nights…Knock, man! Knock for the love of God! Knock as they knock to get into heaven after the door is shut! Knock as they knock to get out of hell!” (Lord Teach Us to Pray, “The Man Who Knocked at Midnight,” p.177).

ii] Secondly, his praying is powerful: “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful” (v.16). We are sensitive when we speak of prayer as power, as though it were something mechanical. Prayer is adoration, rapture, meditation, thanksgiving, consecration and worship. But here James speaks of it as strength, possessing a potency waiting to be released. You look at this elderly woman, and she is on her knees in prayer, and the plain scene seems quaint, and as barren a sight as the wilderness of Saudi Arabia, but hidden beneath there are oceans of wealth. So it is with prayer. There are resources being tapped and huge potency being released through the prayers of that old women.

Let me define it like this, prayer taps the power to live the Christian life at every stage and condition of life. Let me use this illustration. The 17th century preacher John Donne has written a “Book of Devotions” which describes the onset of a fever, its progress and his final recovery. At each stage of this encounter with death he records a threefold devotion to God. There are twenty-three stages. The first when he starts to feel sick: the third when he goes to bed: the fourth when he sends for the doctor: the sixth when the doctor is afraid: the eighth when King James hears that Donne is ill and sends his own physician: the fifteenth when he cannot sleep by night or day: the sixteenth when he hears bells ringing for another man’s funeral: the nineteenth when the doctors tell him that he is recovering: the twenty-third when they warn him of the danger of a relapse. At every stage he is given grace to turn his condition to prayer. God’s power keeps each one of us at every providence. Before we call on him he answers us:

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless;
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”

iii] Thirdly, his praying is effective: “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (v.16). Surely it is effective. Elijah prayed that that it would not rain, and you know from the weather charts what a change of climate requires. The God he spoke to is in charge of all the high and low pressure areas. Droughts and downpours do not come because of global warming or seasonal variation, but ultimately because of the Lord God of Elijah. When he prayed again it rained. “Fire and hail, snow and vapour, stormy wind fulfilling his word.” Prayer is effective.

“By prayer a handful of ‘unlearned and ignorant men,’ hard-handed from the oar and the rudder, the mattock and the pruning-hook, ‘turned the world upside down,’ and spread the name of Christ beyond the limits of Roman power. By prayer the tent-maker of Tarsus won the dissolute Corinthians to purity and faith. Bengel said the church of God in Corinth was a blessed and astounding paradox. Paul laid the foundations of Western Christianity, and raised the name of Jesus high in the very palace of Nero.

“The prayers of Luther and his fellow-reformers sent the great truths of the Gospel flying across Europe ‘as on the wings of angels.’ The moorland and the mountains of Scotland are to this hour witnesses that ‘a fair meeting’ between a covenanting Christ and a covenanted land were drawn on by the prayers of Welsh and Cargill, Guthrie and Blackadder, Peden and Cameron.

“Before the great revival in Gallneukirchen broke out, Martin Boos spent hours and days, and often nights, in lonely agonies of intercession. Afterwards, when he preached, his words were as flame, and the hearts of the people as grass.

“A sermon preached in Clynog, Gwynnedd, by Robert Roberts, was the cause of a widespread awakening in Wales. It is said that a hundred persons were savingly impressed by its delivery. Some days later a friend of the preacher, John Williams Dolwyddelen, said, “Tell me Robert, where did you get that wonderful sermon?’ ‘Come here, John,’ said Roberts, as he led him to a small room, and continued, ‘It was here I found that sermon you speak of – on the floor here, all night long, turning backward and forward, with my face sometimes on the earth.’ Ah, it is always so. Those who have turned many to righteousness have laboured early and late with the weapon called ‘All-prayer.'” (The Hidden Life of Prayer, D.M.M’Intyre, p.93).

Encourage me to speak to you often about prayer, neither in an intimidating way, nor in a folksy chatty way. Read the psalmists and see how they prayed. Buy the best books on prayer – there is a section on them in the Book Shop. Send presents of the best books about prayer. That would soon repay you.

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Lord, teach us to pray.

Now, let it work!

Geoffrey Thomas 14th March 1999