GOD HEARD HIM
The prayer of the righteous availeth much. God heareth him in Heaven, his dwelling place; God answers him without hesitation. It would seem impossible for any reasonable being to study carefully the life of Mr. Spurgeon as a prayerful Christian and not come to the deliberate conclusion that God does hear and directly answer prayer. We have referred to it before in speaking of the wonderful cures which followed his prayers; but here again, we are obliged to enter into the realm of the miraculous and hear and tell of wonderful things for which no natural law gives an adequate explanation.
Hard, solid, undeniable facts remain still facts, and command the respect and faith of sensible men though they may be often partially hidden by the surging waves of theory which dash and break around them.
"God cannot answer prayer" says the unbeliever, and yet here are these facts established beyond any opportunity of reasonable contradiction.
"The Lord will not change his natural laws to accommodate any single human being," has often been asserted by the theologians who claim to believe in the teachings of Scripture. They strongly assert that the day is past when God will perform miracles at the request of any of his children; yet here was a Godly man whose character was above reproach, whose sincerity is unquestioned and who moved among a cloud of witnesses, whose petitions to God were in hundreds of mysterious ways directly answered.
The serious investigator will find his life experience a very fascinating field of research and the humble believer in Jesus of Nazareth will find encouragement in the exercise of faith and in the command to pray. A study of his methods and the record of its results must be of great practical use to every Christian man and woman who would imitate his character or who desires the same return for their petitions. His prayer for himself was answered many thousand times from the day when he first asked God for the forgiveness of his sins to the last day when he asked that the sustaining support of the everlasting arms might be underneath him.
He was continually testifying of the wonderful goodness of God in granting to him the things for which he asked. That he petitioned for many things which he did not receive is also certain and while it complicates the problem somewhat it does not overthrow the testimony in cases where God did send to him the needed blessing.
He had a most charming habit of going to God in prayer in the midst of any perplexity and asking the Lord to give him a calmness of spirit. He often testified that after such a petition his anxieties seemed to pass away. He laid them all upon the Lord and he could enter upon his work encouraged and in a most peaceful disposition. Sometimes when worry came to him as it comes to nearly every human being he would bethink himself to his Great Helper and turn aside to seek a quiet opportunity to ask the Lord to relieve him of his anxiety.
He testified in 1889 that never in his life had he worried about anything beyond the time when he could secure the opportunity to turn aside to prayer. When he was in most fearful pain and suffering with those rheumatic twinges which drew him into positive contortion he could turn away in sincere prayer and become so lost in worship as to feel no longer conscious of torture. He found that he could receive such inspiration from the mysterious spirit of God as enabled him to pass many happy hours while afflicted by one of the most terrible diseases which ever comes to a person with sensitive nerves.
At the Mildmay Conference in 1890 Mr. Spurgeon said: "After a period of continued pain, with little sleep, I sat up, as best I could, one morning in my bed in an agony of pain, and I cried to the Lord for deliverance. I believed fully that he could deliver me then and there, and I pleaded my son-ship and his Fatherhood. I went to the length of pleading that he was my Father, and I said, if it were my child that suffered so, I would not let them suffer any longer if I could help him. Thou canst help me and by thy Fatherly love I plead with thee to give me rest. I felt that I could add, Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. But I did the first thing first. I pleaded with my Father, and went first where Christ went first, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. I shall never forget my success in my appeal. In real earnest I believed God to be my Father, threw myself upon him, and within a few moments I dropped back upon the pillow, the pain subsided, and very soon I slept most peacefully."
Often amid the bustle of many duties and cares, through a day of severely hard work, he would hurry to the chapel to lead the evening meeting. He naturally entered the building with his heart beating fast, his body very weary and his brain greatly disturbed in the conflict of thoughts, and the anxieties to do his duty in so many disconnected relations of life. He could then kneel in prayer for a moment alone and place himself in such harmony with the Eternal Peace or receive such unction from on High as would make it possible for him to begin the meeting as fresh in body and as calm in spirit as though he had been resting upon his couch through the day.
All this may in a measure be accounted for by the unbeliever upon the principal that it was the effect of his own mind upon his body and that such a power is unquestionably given to any one whether he prays or not. Mr. Spurgeon stoutly asserted that such was not the case with him at other times and persons not in the habit of prayer do not find themselves exercising this great privilege.
"The Peace of God which passeth all understanding" really comes only to them who make known their request unto God by supplication with thanksgiving. But whatever may be thought of the reflex mental influence in Mr. Spurgeons case it is certain that no human argument can reason away the facts which we are now about to state.
He prayed that God would keep him safe on his journeys and many a time during his history he came into the presence of great danger, amidst most serious accidents and yet escaped without great injury; and often went free wholly, because he had such confidence in God that lost not his presence of mind. But in other cases nothing on his part could, humanly speaking, have prevented his death had there not been a combination of providential circumstances for his protection which were beyond human control.
We have spoken already of his preservation in accordance with his prayer, through the colera and other contagious diseases, and of the wonderful way in which he was guided step by step from the rustic condition of an "Essex bumpkin," to the position of a cultivated scholar, and the most revered character perhaps in England.
The experience of Mr. and Mrs. Spurgeon as invalids is often quoted as a proof that his prayers were not answered, and these facts have led many to fear that the other cases where his prayers seem to be answered, were simply mysterious coincidences. We do not hope to explain why one prayer was answered and another was rejected, except by saying that the will of God was otherwise for the good of those who prayed. But we can only present the incidents which illustrate the power of prayer in his case and leave them to the meditation of Christian readers.
There were several different occasions on which Mr. Spurgeon was so anxious for a definite result in the service of God that he spent the entire night in prayer. In three such cases he has told us he received the answer in full to his petition. In the establishment of the Orphanage, he prayed that the Lord would influence some person having the means to come forward and supply any necessities of the case. The prayer was answered without any personal interference of his own and without the person who was most influenced in the case knowing that he had spent the night in prayer.
In three other instances in connection with the same work when their money had given out and so far as he could see the Orphans would be justify within twenty-four hours in suffering need of food, there by himself or with his deacons he prayed and the answer came in each case from altogether unforseen and unexpected quarters.
Mr. Spurgeon had been praying one night that the Lord would send gifts with which to supply the necessities of the Orphanage and a stranger in London was at the same time walking its foggy streets. He had never seen Mr. Spurgeon nor read any of his sermons, but he had heard his name mentioned. The impression upon that strangers mind that same night was so great as to cause him to visit Mr. Spurgeon and make him a gift toward his church work. He had found it impossible to break away from the fascinating call. He rang Mr. Spurgeons door-bell and insisted upon seeing Mr. Spurgeon and giving him a large sum of money. He refused at that time even to leave his name with Mr. Spurgeon, simply saying that he "lived many miles away." Afterward he sent another princely gift saying that the pleasure he had received from the other donation had made it one of the best investments of his life.
When the great Tabernacle was begun Mr. Spurgeon prayed as we have already seen, that no workman might be injured during its construction. The prayer was so distinctly answered there that in the construction of a large business house near Ludgate Circus he was especially requested by the owners to come and offer the same prayer in connection with their enterprise. There were many old buildings to be pulled down and some very large ones to be constructed, yet in this case, as in the former no persons were injured and the buildings were completed, to use the owners expression, "with songs of grateful joy."
These cases where his prayer was offered in one place and answered by some mysterious impression being made upon minds in another place with whom there was no natural means of communication were multiplied into the thousands. The history of all the great revivals at the Tabernacle presented numerous illustrations of this fact. Mr. Spurgeon, prayed and while he was praying or immediately thereafter, some person at a distance, felt it his duty to serve God in just the way, or by giving just the amount for which Mr. Spurgeon had asked.
He did not tempt the Lord by asking foolish things or by requesting God to do anything which was not for the furtherance of his divine kingdom in the earth. Even the prayers he offered up for himself were always confined to the thought that if he was himself favored of God he would only be a more useful instrument in the Lords hands.
It would take many volumes to contain the most condensed record of the instances where the prayers were so directly replied to as to startle those who witnessed them and to fill those who believed in prayer with most enthusiastic thanksgiving.
By far the most mysterious incidents connected with his prayerful influence with the Almighty are shown in the conversion of individuals during the many years of his successful ministry. His prayers for the reformation and conversion of those who were not Christians who attended his service were so continually and manifestly answered and were a matter of such public observation and discussion that it is unnecessary to follow them. They belong to the common experience of spiritual churches in other places and those who have worked in evangelistic or actual church enterprises will recognize at once the power which was exercised by him as he prayed for the descent of the Holy Spirit. But we come to more remarkable things when we find that Mr. Spurgeons prayers for the conversion of people living at a distance who had never heard of him and knew nothing whatever of his meetings or church, were directly answered at the very time in places far distant.
A remarkable case was mentioned in 1887 when Mr. Spurgeon at the request of friends made a special prayer in public for the conversion of a son and husband who were absent in Australia. The friends who mentioned the matter to Mr. Spurgeon were new acquaintances to him, had but a few days before moved into London. They had never by word or by letter mentioned Mr. Spurgeon or his work to their friend in Australia. He declares now that he has never read anything of Mr. Spurgeon and does not remember that he had ever heard his name mentioned, although it was barely possible that he might have seen the name in some of the newspapers. But on the very day and at the very hour when Mr. Spurgeon engaged in a most fervent prayer, this man was at work upon a building in Melbourne. He stopped while carrying a timber from one portion of the building to another and said he was unable to go further, so quickly and deeply was he impressed with a sense of his responsibility to God and of his lost condition of soul. He had not attended church during his stay in Australia, and was not a regular attendant at any church or chapel before he justify England. The tears came to his eyes, his hands trembled, and he felt that he was forsaken of God because he had led such an unrighteous life. He was in no sense a criminal or immoral man, but this religious impression was so deep upon him that he went to the lowest story of the building, notified the superintendent that he must go to his boarding house. He went there and fell upon his knees and prayed for Gods forgiveness and there received, as he afterwards testified, the "Light of Grace which reconciled him with his God." That same night before going to bed, he wrote home to his people in London, telling them how he had, without the advice or guidance of any human being, been led to seek the Christ.
In another case, a mother came to Mr. Spurgeon in January 1872 and stated to him that her son had enlisted in the French Army, and that she was very much afraid that in such surroundings he would be influenced by the bad company and be altogether lost to Christian principles and perhaps to his family.
Mr. Spurgeon promised to pray for him but the mother would not let him go unless he would kneel right then and there and pray with her for her sons welfare. She has since stated that it was at half past four in the afternoon that the prayer was offered; and he afterwards said that at precisely that hour he was standing in the camp and that a strange impression ran through his body filling him with a sense of dismay and terror as though in the presence of actual death. The Army was not engaged in any conflict and there was no apparent evidence of any near engagement. His emotions were so great that his face turned pale, which called the attention of his comrades, who commented with excitement upon his fainting condition. He went to his tent and there alone called upon God for forgiveness and help. By the very next mail which justify the camp, he wrote to his mother stating the circumstance and asking her to pray for him and at the same time strangely suggesting that he wished she would write to Mr. Spurgeon and ask him to pray for him.
There is related still another case. In September, 1878, Mr. Spurgeon attended the prayer-meeting at 12 oclock which was held by a number of business men every day. One of the business men personally unacquainted with Mr. Spurgeon arose in that meeting and stated that it was his belief if Mr. Spurgeon would pray for the conversion of a brother then in Edinburgh, Scotland, that it might be accomplished that very day. Mr. Spurgeon impulsively arose and said, "I accept that challenge, let us call on God." That afternoon the brother in Edinburgh was greatly disturbed in mind throughout all the business hours which remained of the day, and went home to his family saying to them, he felt as though he had led and wasted his life, and that he knew not what to do to reform, he was going to write at once to Mr. Spurgeon, in London. He had no acquaintance with Mr. Spurgeon except such as came through the newspapers and yet he wrote to him a long and urgent appeal that he would show him the way of salvation.
At still another time one of the sons of a deacon of the New Park Street Church, whose life had been a cause for worry to his parents because of his inclination to unbelief and wildness, had purchased a ticket to come to America intending to leave England without permitting his parents to know his purpose. The deacon knew nothing whatever of his sons intentions, but he went to Mr. Spurgeon and requested him to go into one of the ante-rooms of the church that they might there unite together in prayer for his son. Mr. Spurgeon being in haste at first refused and hurriedly started off on another errand but he had not gone far before he abruptly turned directly about and calling after the deacon went into the ante-room to pray. There both of them offered up their petitions with great earnestness for the salvation of the soul of the son. The son was at that time on the wharf in Liverpool looking at the steamer which he intended to take for America. He said afterwards in his testimony in the Metropolitan Tabernacle as related to us that a chill seized his heart and affected his whole body, that his mind become greatly excited and a sense of the sin he was committing in running away from home and leaving such affectionate parents made him to loathe himself and he wished he might die. He could not arouse sufficient courage to step aboard the steamer and it sailed away without him. He walked up and down the streets and after going to his hotel paced the room in positive misery. The temptation to take his own life was so strong that he went out of the hotel to a gunsmiths with a view of purchasing a pistol with which to shoot himself The gunsmiths shop was closed and he returned to his room and paced to and fro until the thought that he ought to pray came to him so impulsively that he knelt by his bedside and prayed. He poured out his soul in prayer and remained in that posture of prayer until the daylight came. During the next day he was still very unhappy but he was able to surrender himself entirely to the influence of Gods spirit and with a happiness he was unable afterwards to describe, he returned his ticket to the steamer office and with the money they repaid him purchased his ticket back to London and to his surprised parents.
In 1887 Mr. Spurgeon visited Yorkshire at the dedication of a small chapel and there met with a gentleman of culture and means, who was not a Christian but who was attracted to the chapel by the fact that Mr. Spurgeon was to be there. Mr. Spurgeon, as was his frequent custom, asked the gentleman if he was a Christian, to which he replied distinctly, "No." Mr. Spurgeon then asked him if he did not wish to be one, to which he replied emphatically, "No." Then Mr. Spurgeon said, "God will ask you that question and I shall pray to Him tonight that He do it at once." That night Mr. Spurgeon was late at a railway station when this man came to his mind. He then, while walking upon the platform offered up repeated prayers that God would call that gentleman to himself, and use him for great Christian good. Near the same hour, if not precisely at the same time, that gentleman was in animated conversation with some friends at an inn, he had been joking concerning the chapel dedication and seemed to regard it as a subject of great sport that he should have been found in a place of worship. He had described to his friends the absurd appearance of one of his acquaintances who saw him come in and take a seat in the chapel. He broke off the conversation in the middle of a sentence and with every appearance of great embarrassment arose and asked to be excused, hurrying at once to his home; and there, that night read the Bible earnestly and prayed for himself sincerely, and would not retire to rest until he felt the evident presence of God in answer to his prayer. He himself gave a history of the affair and said he never could account in any way for the very sudden turn in all his sentiments and thoughts. He, however, believed that it was a stroke of providence instantly set upon him in answer to Mr. Spurgeons prayer.
Another instance was related in a Sunday-school gathering at Cambridge in 1884 wherein it was stated that Mr. Spurgeon had been requested by a father to pray for the conversion of his little girl, then about twelve years of age. Mr. Spurgeon made a note of the request upon a newspaper he had in his hand at the time but laid the paper aside and forgot about the request for several weeks. One day the paper was taken out from the library by a servant and providentially laid upon the window sill where Mr. Spurgeon found it while he was waiting for a friend to call. He there found the memorandum he had made and turned away to his library and knelt by his own chair and prayed for the conversion of the child. He felt so sincerely that his prayer was to be answered that he continued in prayer much longer than usual and was aroused from it by a ring at the door. Supposing, of course, that it was a friend he had invited, he went directly to the door himself and what was his surprise to be met directly by the young girl for whom he had been praying and whose very first request was "Mr. Spurgeon, I have come to ask you to tell me how to be a Christian". She has since stated that she was passing the house at the time, with no previous thought of any serious nature concerning her Christian experience, but that she found it utterly impossible to pass the gate without turning in. The impulse was so great upon her to ring the door bell that she had actually pulled it before she had made up her mind what to say to Mr. Spurgeon. She has since been one of the loveliest and most effective of the Sunday-school teachers in the Tabernacle.
Mr. Spurgeons own son was converted in the same way, in direct answer to his prayers when away from home. A stranger felt it to be his duty to show the young man the way of righteousness and that impression to speak for Christ came to him with singular distinctness at the very hour when Mr. Spurgeon was praying the Lord that his son might be redeemed.
At a prayer meeting held in the Tabernacle a few years since which has always been remembered by the participants as one of unusual solemnity, Mr. Spurgeon requested members of the church to pray especially for the conversion of some distant friend. There were several hundred people present at the time and many of them acted upon Mr. Spurgeons suggestion and during a season of silent prayer asked directly for the salvation of definite persons of their personal acquaintance who could not at the time have known that they were being remembered in prayer. Four weeks later at a church meeting one of the Christians stated how his prayer had been most wonderfully answered that night and heartily thanked Mr. Spurgeon for having joined with him in such a request. That statement introduced the whole question again and it is said that over fifty different persons testified that night that their prayers had been directly answered. In some cases while they were praying the friends for whom they petitioned the Lord had surrendered themselves to Christs service, and in no less than ten cases the converted persons were there present that night in the meeting.
For over twenty-five years these singular answers to prayers had been an almost daily experience in the work of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Men know it, they see it, and yet it passes without the study or without the notice which would attach to almost any other incident thus repeating itself through such a series of years. The hopelessness of finding any explanation of it in natures laws may have prevented the examination of the topic and the very frequency of the experiences there and in other places may serve to take it out of the list of the miraculous.
Mr. Spurgeon often stated that the day of miracles was passed and seems to have regarded these incidents as commonplace. But there such facts stand, testified to by many thousand of credible people, and their results having a present and everlasting effect upon the history of England itself Prayers were offered by Mr. Spurgeon, supported by the petitions of his people, and drunkards reformed, thieves ceased to steal, the vile forsook their vices, the dishonest turned to righteousness, the ungodly called upon the Lord, scoffers believed in Jesus Christ, the useless became useful, and injurious became helpful, society was cleaner, streets were safer, the laws were better administered, homes were sweeter and happier, the nation more prosperous and commerce itself becomes more stable. What a factor this has been in the life of England.
Mr. Needham in his book also gives an instance of a remarkable answer to Mr. Spurgeons prayer. "On another occasion Dr. Brock and Mr. Spurgeon were dining together at the mansion of a beloved friend in Regents Park when the Orphanage building was in progress, and money was wanted which was not in hand. Mr. Spurgeon suffering from feeble health, still expressed his strong faith in God that the money would come to hand in due time. Just as the dinner was ended, the servant entered the room with a telegram from his private secretary announcing that an unknown donor had sent $5,000 for the Orphanage. Dr. Brock immediately arose and poured forth his utterances of gratitude in the most joyful manner, and they all united in prayer on their knees to magnify the Lord.
What a blessing to London and to the world it was to have such a saintly, praying man live and teach there for forty-seven years. He furnished an avenue of communication between earth and heaven, between the material and the spiritual, through which has flowed the vigorous influences which have blessed the world beyond estimation and made heaven itself the brighter. O, Thou mighty Ruler of the universe, send to this world many more such earnest men of prayer!
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