The following is part 6 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).
What, specifically, will prayer do? We have been dealing in generalities; let us come down to the definite and specific. The Word of God very plainly answers the question.
In the first place, prayer will promote our personal piety, our individual holiness, our individual growth into the likeness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as almost nothing else, as nothing else but the study of the Word of God. These two things, prayer and study of the Word of God, always go hand-in-hand, for there is no true prayer without study of the Word of God, and there is no true study of the Word of God without prayer.
Other things being equal, your growth and mine into the likeness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be in exact proportion to the time and to the heart we put into prayer. Please note exactly what I say: “Your growth and mine into the likeness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be in exact proportion to the time and to the heart we put into prayer.” I put it in that way because there are many who put a great deal of time but so little heart into their praying that they do very little praying in the long time they spend at it.
On the other hand, there are others who, perhaps, may not put so much time into praying but put so much heart into praying that they accomplish vastly more by their praying in a short time than the others accomplish by praying in a long time. God Himself has told us in Jeremiah 29: 13: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
We are told in Ephesians 1:3, that God “hash blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in -Christ.” That is to say, Jesus Christ by His atoning death and by His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father has obtained for every believer in Jesus Christ every possible spiritual blessing. There is no spiritual blessing that any believer enjoys that may not be yours. It belongs to you now; Christ purchased it by His atoning death and God has provided it in Him. It is there for you; but it is your part to claim it, to put out your hand and take it. God’s appointed way for claiming blessings by putting out your hand and appropriating to yourself the blessings that are procured for you by the atoning death of Jesus Christ is by prayer. Prayer is the hand that takes to ourselves the blessings that God has already provided in His Son.
Go through your Bible and you will find it definitely stated that every conceivable spiritual blessing is obtained by prayer. For example, it is in answer to prayer, as we learn from Psalm 139:23, 24, that God searches us and knows our hearts, tries us and knows our thoughts, brings to light the sin that there is in us and delivers us from it. It is in answer to prayer, as we learn from Psalm 19:12,13, that we are cleansed from secret faults and that God keeps us back from presumptuous sins. It is in answer to prayer, as we learn from the 14th verse of the same Psalm, that the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart are made acceptable in God’s sight. It is in answer to prayer, as we learn from Psalm 25:4,5, that God shows us His ways, teaches us His path, and guides us in His truth. It is in answer to prayer, as we learn from the prayer our Lord Himself taught us, that we are kept from temptation and delivered from the power of the wicked one (Matthew 6:13). It is in answer to prayer, as we learn from Luke 11:13, that God gives us His Holy Spirit. And so we might go on through the whole catalog of spiritual blessings and find that every one is obtained by asking for it. Indeed, our Lord Himself has said in Matthew 7:11: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him.”
One of the most instructive and suggestive passages in the entire Bible as showing the mighty power of prayer to transform us into the likeness of our Lord Jesus Himself, is found in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass [The English Revision reads better, “reflecting as a mirror”] the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” The thought is that the Lord is the sun, you and I are mirrors, and just as a mischievous boy on a bright sunshiny day will catch the rays of the sun in a piece of broken looking-glass and reflect them into your eyes and mine with almost blinding power, so we, as mirrors, when we commune with God, catch the rays of His moral glory and reflect them out on the world “from glory to glory.” That is, each time we commune with Him we catch something new of His glory and reflect it out on the world.
I’m sure you remember the story of Moses, how he went up into the mount and tarried about forty days with God, gazing on that ineffable glory, and caught so much of the glory in his own face that when he came down from the mount, though he himself did not know it, his face so shone that he had to draw a veil over it to hide the blinding glory of it from his fellow Israelites.
Even so we, going up into the mount of prayer, away from the world, alone with God, catch the rays of His glory, so that when we come down to other people, it is not so much our faces that shine (though I do believe that sometimes even our faces shine), but our characters, with the glory that we have been beholding. We then reflect out on the world the moral glory of God from “glory to glory,” each new time of communion with Him catching something new of His glory to reflect out on the world. Oh, here is the secret of becoming much like God by remaining long alone with God. If you won’t stay long with Him, you won’t be much like Him.
One of the most remarkable men in Scotland’s history was John Welch, son-in-law of John Knox, the great Scotch reformer; he is as well-known as his famous father-in-law, but in some respects a far more remarkable man than John Knox himself. Most people have the idea that it was John Knox who prayed, “Give me Scotland or I die.” It was not, it was John Welch, his son-in-law. John Welch put it on record before he died that he counted that day ill-spent that he did not put seven or eight hours into secret prayer. When John Welch came to die, an old Scotchman who had known him from his boyhood said of him, “John Welch was a type of Christ.” Of course, that was an inaccurate use of language, but what the old Scotchman meant was, that Jesus Christ had stamped the impress of His character on John Welch. When had Jesus Christ done it? In those seven or eight hours of daily communion with Himself. I do not suppose that God has called many of us, if any of us, to put seven or eight hours a day into prayer, but I am confident God has called most of us, if not every one of us, to put more time into prayer than we now do. That is one of the great secrets of holiness, indeed, the only way in which we can become really holy and continue holy.
Some years ago we often sang a hymn, “Take Time to Be Holy.” I wish we sang it more in these days. It takes time to be holy, one cannot be holy in a hurry, and much of the time that it takes to be holy must go into secret prayer. Some people express surprise that professing Christians today are so little like their Lord, but when I stop to think how little time the average Christian today puts into secret prayer the thing that astonished me is, not that we are so little like the Lord, but that we are as much like the Lord as we are, when we take so little time for secret prayer.