The following is part 5 from a blog series based on R.A. Torrey’s classicThe Power of Prayer. R.A. Torrey (1856-1928) was an American evangelist, professor, pastor, and author. He is one of the three editors of The Fundamentals, an early 20th century defense of orthodox Protestant beliefs. Find more from R.A. Torrey at the BLB.
Ye have not, because ye ask not (James 4:2 KJV).
There is nothing else in which the church and the ministry of today or, to be more explicit, you and I have departed more notably and more lamentably from apostolic precedent than in this matter of prayer. We do not live in a praying age. A very considerable proportion of the membership of our evangelical churches today do not believe even theoretically in prayer. Many of them now believe in prayer as having a beneficial “reflex influence,” that is, as benefitting the person who prays, a sort of lifting yourself up by your spiritual bootstraps. But as for prayer bringing anything to pass that would not have come to pass if we had not prayed, they do not believe in it, and many of them frankly say so, and even some of our “modern ministers” say so. I believe it is still the vast majority in our evangelical churches-even they do not make the use of this mighty instrument that God has put into our hands that one would naturally expect. As I said, we do not live in a praying age. We live in an age of hustle and bustle, of man’s efforts and man’s determination, of man’s confidence in himself and in his own power to achieve things, an age of human organization and human machinery, human push and human scheming, and human achievement, which in the things of God means no real achievement at all.
I think it would be perfectly safe to say that the church of Christ was never in all its history so fully, so skillfully and so thoroughly and so perfectly organized as it is today. Our machinery is wonderful; it is just perfect, but, alas, it is machinery without power; and when things do not go right, instead of going to the real source of our failure, our neglect to depend on God and look to God for power, we look around to see if there is not some new organization we can get up, some new wheel that we can add to our machinery. We have altogether too many wheels already. What we need is not so much some new organization, some new wheel, but “the Spirit of the living creature in the wheels” we already possess.
I believe that the devil stands and looks at the church today and laughs in his sleeve as he sees how its members depend on their own scheming and powers of organization and skillfully devised machinery. “Ha, ha,” he laughs, “you may have your Boy Scouts, your costly church edifices, your multi-thousand-dollar church organs, your brilliant university-bred preachers, your high-priced choirs, your gifted sopranos and altos and tenors and bases, your wonderful quartets, your immense men’s Bible classes, yes, and your Bible conferences, and your Bible institutes, and your special evangelistic services, all you please of them; it does not in the feast trouble me, if you will only leave out of them the power of the Lord God Almighty sought and obtained by the earnest, persistent, believing prayer that will not take no for an answer.” But when the devil sees a man or woman who really believes in prayer, who knows how to pray, and who really does pray, and, above all, when he sees a whole church on its face before God in prayer, “he trembles” as much as he ever did, for he knows that his day in that church or community is at an end.
Prayer has as much power today, when men and women are themselves on praying ground and meeting the conditions of prevailing prayer, as it ever has had. God has not changed, and His ear is just as quick to hear the voice of real prayer and His hand is just as long and strong to save as they ever were. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save: neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But our iniquities may “have separated between us and our God, and “our sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1,2). Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God’s infinite grace and power. All that God is, and all that God has, are at the disposal of player. But we must use the key. Prayer can do anything that God can do, and as God can do anything, prayer is omnipotent. No one can stand against the one who knows how to pray and who meets all the conditions of prevailing prayer and who really prays. “The Lord God Omnipotent” works from him and works through him.