As I said last week, Where are men with uncompromising power and authority in the pulpits today? Granted, there are some, and I so appreciate their ministry, but as a whole, the church is lacking. The one thing that all of the great men mentioned last week had is the one thing that many are lacking—authority and the power of the Holy Ghost. They were also men of extraordinary prayer, brokenness, and humility; filled and clothed with power from on high. The men who do the most for God are always men of prayer. “Preaching, in one sense, merely discharges the firearm that God has loaded in the silent place” (Calvin Miller).
Need more examples from the past? E.M. Bounds, who was born in 1835, began his three-hour prayer routine at 4am. To him, prayer was not a prelude; it was a priority. Edward Payson, who ministered during the Second Great Awakening, was said to have wore grooves into his hardwood floors as a result of prayer. It was said of John Hyde who left for the mission field in 1892 that he would stay on his face before God until the answer came. William Bramwell, a powerful Methodist circuit rider, often spent hours a day on his knees until his death in 1818. Adonia Judson attributed his success in Burma as a missionary to a life of prayer, as did J. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission. George Mueller who never asked for a dime, petitioned God for millions of dollars to fund his orphanages in the 1800s. It was not uncommon for the great Scottish preacher, John Welch, who died in 1622, to spend four to six hours in prayer. John Fletcher, one of the leaders of the Methodist movement, “stained the walls of his room with the breath of his prayers” until his death in 1785.
At this point, many will say, “Wait a minute. Who has that much time to pray; we’re all too busy.” You’re right, but let me be frank: If we’re too busy to cultivate a prayer life that places God first—we’re too busy. That bears repeating: If we’re too busy to cultivate a prayer life that places God first—we’re too busy. We should never allow our relationship with Him to suffer because we’re too busy. “We must spend much time on our knees before God if we are to continue in the power of the Holy Spirit” (R.A. Torrey).
If you truly want to build intimacy with God, you’ll have to remove lesser priorities from your life. Years ago, I realized that if I wanted to grow spiritually, some things would have to go, or, at the very least, be minimized; I needed to reprioritize my life. Instead of watching hours of television a day, I began to devote my time to activities that strengthened my relationship with the Lord. I cannot begin to tell you how much of a difference that made. Although far from perfect, I began to put first things first. As a result, I began to hunger for God’s Word and spiritual truth like never before. It’s impossible to develop a deep respect and desire for God if we repeatedly fill our mind with things that oppose Him.
The depth of your relationship with God is in direct proportion to the depth of your commitment to Him; great commitment, great relationship; poor commitment, poor relationship. Prayer matter; it equips, anoints, and empowers. It was said of Jesus, “No one ever spoke like this man.” He had great authority, and spent much time in prayer. Mark 1:22 adds, “And they were astonished at His doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.” And Luke 4:36 records, “For with authority and power He commanded the unclean spirits, and they come out.” God-given authority and prayer go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other.