Sermon 404. Intercessory Prayer
Delivered on Sunday Morning, August the 11th, 1861 by the
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends."-Job 42:10.
THE LORD turned the captivity of Job." So, then, our longest sorrows have a close, and there is a bottom to the profoundestdepths of our misery. Our winters shall not frown for ever; summer shall soon smile. The tide shall not eternally ebb out;the floods retrace their march. The night shall not hang its darkness for ever over our souls; the sun shall yet arise withhealing beneath his wings,-"The Lord turned again the captivity of Job." Our sorrows shall have an endwhen God has gotten his end in them. The ends in the case of Job were these, that Satan might be defeated, foiled withhis own weapons, blasted in his hopes when he had everything his own way. God, at Satan's challenge, had stretched forth hishand and touched Job in his bone and in his flesh, and yet the tempter could not prevail against him, but received his rebuffin those conquering words, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." When Satan is defeated, then shall the battle cease.TheLord aimed also at the trial of Job's faith. Many weights were hung upon this palm tree, but it still grew uprightly.The fire had been fierce enough, the gold was undiminished, and only the dross was consumed. Another purpose the Lord hadwas his own glory. And God was glorified abundantly. Job had glorified God on his dunghill; now let him magnify his Lord againupon his royal seat in the gate. God had gotten unto himself eternal renown through that grace by which he supported his poorafflicted servant under the heaviest troubles which ever fell to the lot of man. God had another end, and that also wasserved. Job had been sanctified by his afflictions. His spirit had been mellowed. That small degree of tartness towards others,which may have been in Job's temper had been at last removed, and any self-justification which once had lurked within, wasfairly driven out. Now God's gracious designs are answered, he removed the rod from his servant's back, and takes the meltedsilver from the midst of the glowing coals. God doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men for nought,and he shows this by the fact that he never afflicts them longer than there is a need for it, and never suffers them to beone moment longer in the furnace than is absolutely requisite to serve the purposes of his wisdom and of his love. "The Lordturned again the captivity of Job." Beloved brother in Christ, thou hast had a long captivity in affliction. God hath soldthee intothe hand of thine adversaries, and thou hast wept by the waters of Babylon, hanging thy harp upon the willows. Despairnot! He that turned the captivity of Job can turn thine as the streams in the south. He shall make again thy vineyard to blossom,and thy field to yield her fruit. Thou shalt again come forth with those that make merry, and once more shall the song ofgladness be on thy lip. Let not Despair rivet his cruel fetters about thy soul. Hope yet, for there is hope. Trust thou still,for there is ground of confidence. He shall bring thee up again rejoicing from the land of thy captivity, and thou shaltsay of him, "He hath turned my mourning into dancing."
The circumstance which attended Job's restoration is that to which I invite your particular attention. "The Lord turned againthe captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends." Intercessory prayer was the omen of his returning greatness. It wasthe bow in the cloud, the dove bearing the olive branch, the voice of the turtle announcing the coming summer. When his soulbegan to expand itself in holy and loving prayer for his erring brethren, then the heart of God showeditself to him by returning to him his prosperity without, and cheering his soul within. Brethren, it is not fetching alaborious compass, when from such a text as this I address you upon the subject of prayer for others. Let us learn today toimitate the example of Job, and pray for our friends, and peradventure if we have been in trouble, our captivity shall beturned.
Four things I would speak of this morning, and yet but one thing; I would speak upon intercessory prayer thus-first, by way of commending the exercise; secondly, by way of encouraging you to enlist in it; thirdly, by way of suggestion, as to the persons for whom you should especially pray; and fourthly, by way of exhortation to all believers to undertake and persevere in the exercise of intercession for others.
I. First, then, BY WAY OF COMMENDING THE EXERCISE, let me remind you that intercessory prayer has been practiced by all the best of God's saints. We may not find instances of it appended to every saint's name, but beyond a doubt, there has never been a man eminent forpiety personally, who has not always been pre-eminent in his anxious desires for the good of others, and in his prayers forthat end. Take Abraham, the father of the faithful. How earnestly did heplead for his son Ishmael! "O that Ishmael might live before thee!" With what importunity did he approach the Lord onthe plains of Mamre, when he wrestled with him again and again for Sodom; how frequently did he reduce the number, as though,to use the expression of the Puritan, "He were bidding and beating down the price at the market." "Peradventure there be fifty;peradventure there lack five of the fifty; peradventure there be twenty found there; peradventure there be ten righteous foundthere: wilt thou not spare the city for the sake of ten?" Well did he wrestle, and if we may sometimes be tempted to wishhe had not paused when he did, yet we must commend him for continuing so long to plead for that doomed and depraved city.Remember Moses, the most royal of men, whether crowned or uncrowned; how often did he intercede! How frequently do you meetwith such a record as this-"Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before God!" Remember that cry of his on the top of the mount,when it was to his own personal disadvantage to intercede, and yet when God had said, "Let me alone, I will make of theea great nation," yet how he continued, how he thrust himself in the way of the axe of justice, and cried, "Spare them, Lord,and if not," (and here he reached the very climax of agonizing earnestness) "blot my name out of the Book of Life." Neverwas there a mightier prophet than Moses, and never one more intensely earnest in intercessory prayer. Or pass on, if you will,tothe days of Samuel. Remember his words, "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord, in ceasing to pray for you." Orbethink you of Solomon, and of his earnest intercession at the opening of the temple, when, with outstretched hands he prayedfor the assembled people; or if you want another royal example, turn to Hezekiah with Sennacherib's letter spread out beforethe Lord, when he prayed not only for himself, but for God's people of Israel in those times of straits. Think ye, too, ofElias, who for Israel's sake would bring down the rain that the land perish not; as for himself, miracles gave him hisbread and his water, it was for others that he prayed, and said to his servant, "Go again seven times." Forget not Jeremy,whose tears were prayers-prayers coming too intensely from his heart to find expression in any utterance of the lip. He wepthimself away, his life was one long shower, each drop a prayer, and the whole deluge a flood of intercession. And if you wouldhave an example taken from the times of Christ and his apostles, remember how Peter prays on the top of the house, andStephen amidst the falling stones. Or think you, if you will, of Paul, of whom even more than of others it could be said,that he never ceased to remember the saints in his prayers, "making mention of you daily in my prayers," stopping in the verymidst of the epistle and saying, "For which cause I bow my knee unto the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." As forthe cloudof holy witnesses in our own time, I will hazard the assertion that there is not a single child of God who does not pleadwith God for his children, for his family, for the church at large, and for the poor ungodly perishing world. I deny his saintshipif he does not pray for others.
But further, while we might commend this duty by quoting innumerable examples from the lives of eminent saints, it is enoughfor the disciple of Christ if we say that Christ in His holy gospel has made it your duty and your privilege to intercede for others. When he taught us to pray, he said, "Our Father," and the expressions which follow are not in thesingular but in the plural-"Give us this day our daily bread." "Forgive us our debts";"Lead us not into temptation"; evidently intending to set forth that none of us are to pray for ourselves alone, that while we mayhave sometimes prayers so bitter that they must be personal like the Saviour's own-"Father, if it be possible, let this cuppass from me"; yet, as a rule, our prayers should be public prayers, though offered in private; and even in secret we shouldnot forget the church of the living God. By the mouth of Paul how frequently does the Holy Ghost exhort us topray for ministers! "Brethren," says Paul, "pray for us"; and then after exhorting them to offer prayers and supplicationsfor all classes and conditions of men, he adds, "And for us also that we may have boldness to speak as we ought to speak."While James, who is ever a practical apostle, bids us pray for one another; in that same verse, where he says, "Confess yoursins the one to the other," he says, "and pray one for another," and adds the privilege "that ye may be healed," as if thehealing would not only come to the sick person for whom we pray, but to us who offer the prayer; we, too, receiving somespecial blessing when our hearts are enlarged for the people of the living God.
But, brethren, I shall not stay to quote the texts in which the duty of praying for others is definitely laid down. Permitme to remind you of the high example of your Master; he is your pattern; follow ye his leadership. Was there even one who interceded as he did? Remember that golden prayer ofhis, where he cried for his own people, "Father, keep them, keep them from the evil!" Oh what a prayer was that! He seemsto have thought of all their wants, of all theirneeds, of all their weaknesses, and in one long stream of intercession, he pours out his heart before his Father's throne.Bethink you how, even in the agonies of his crucifixion, he did not forget that he was still an intercessor for man. "Father,forgive them, for they know not what they do." Oh, remember, brethren, it is your Saviour's example to you today, for therebefore the throne, with outstretched hands, he prays not for himself, for he has attained his glory; not for himself, forherests from his labours, and has received his everlasting recompense; but for you, for the purchase of his blood, for asmany as are called by his grace, yea, and for those who shall believe on him through our word-
"For all that come to God by him,
Salvation he demands;
Points to the wounds upon his heart,
And spreads his bleeding hands."
Come, brethren, with such an example as this, we are verily guilty if we forget to plead for others.
But I will go a little further. If in the Bible there were no example of intercessory supplication, if Christ had not leftit upon record that it was his will that we should pray for others, and even if we did not know that it was Christ's practiceto intercede, yet the very spirit of our holy religion would constrain us to plead for others. Dost thou go up into thy closet, and in the face and presence of God think of nonebut thyself? Surely the love of Christcannot be in thee, for the spirit of Christ is not selfish. No man liveth unto himself when once he has the love of Christin him. I know there are some whose piety is comfortably tethered within the limits of their own selfish interests. It isenough for them if they hear the Word, if they be saved, if they get to heaven. Ah, miserable spirit, thou shalt not get there! It would need another heaven for thee, for the heaven of Christis the heaven of the unselfish, thetemple of the large-hearted, the bliss of living spirits, the heaven of those who, like Christ, are willing to becomepoor that others may be rich. I cannot believe-it were a libel upon the cross of Christ, it were a scandal upon the doctrinewhich he taught-if I could ever believe that the man whose prayers are selfish has anything of the spirit of Christ withinhim. Brethren, I commend intercessory prayer, because it opens man's soul, gives a healthy play to his sympathies, constrainshimto feel that he is not everybody, and that this wide world and this great universe were not after all made that he mightbe its petty lord, that everything might bend to his will, and all creatures crouch at his feet. It does him good, I say,to make him know that the cross was not uplifted alone for him, for its far-reaching arms were meant to drop with benedictionsupon millions of the human race. Thou lean and hungry worshipper of self, this is an exercise which would make another manofthee, a man more like the Son of Man, and less like Nabal the churl. But again; I commend the blessed privilege of intercession,because of its sweet brotherly nature. You and I may be naturally hard, and harsh, and unlovely of spirit, but praying muchfor others will remind us we have, indeed, a relationship to the saints, that their interests are ours, that we are jointlyconcerned with them in all the privileges of grace. I do not know anything which, through the grace of God, may be abetter means of uniting us the one to the other than constant prayer for each other. You cannot harbour enmity in yoursoul against your brother after you have learned to pray for him. If he hath done you ill, when you have taken that ill tothe mercy seat, and prayed over it, you must forgive. Surely you could not be such a hypocrite as to invoke blessings on hishead before God and then come forth to curse him in your own soul. When there have been complaints brought by brother againstbrother, it is generally the best way to say, "Let us pray before we enter into the matter." Wherever there is a caseto be decided by the pastor, he ought always to say to the brethren who contend, "Let us pray first," and it will often happenthat through prayer the differences will soon be forgotten. They will become so slight, so trivial, that when the brethrenrise from their knees they will say, "They are gone; we cannot contend now after having been one in heart before the throneofGod." I have heard of a man who had made complaints against his minister, and his minister wisely said to him, "Well,don't talk to me in the street; come to my house, and let us hear it all." He went, and the minister said, "My brother, Ihope that what you have to say to me may be greatly blessed to me; no doubt I have my imperfections as well as any other man,and I hope I shall never be above being told of them, but in order that what you have to say to me may be blessed to me letus kneeldown and pray together." So our quarrelsome friend prayed first and the minister prayed next, both briefly. When theyrose from their knees, he said, "Now, my brother, I think we are both in a good state of mind; tell me what it is that youhave to find fault with." The man blushed, and stammered, and stuttered, and said, he did not think there was anything atall, except in himself. "I have forgotten to pray for you, sir," said he, "and of course I cannot expect that God will feedmy soulthrough you when I neglect to mention you at the throne of grace." Ah, well, brethren, if you will exercise yourselvesmuch in supplication for your brethren you will forgive their tempers, you will overlook their rashness, you will not thinkof their harsh words; but knowing that you also may be tempted, and are men of like passions with them, you will cover theirfaults, and bear with their infirmities.
Shall I need to say more in commendation of intercessory prayer except it be this, that it seems to me that when God givesany man much grace, it must be with the design that he may use it for the rest of the family. I would compare you who havenear communion with God to courtiers in the king's palace. What do courtiers do? Do they not avail themselves of their influenceat court to take the petitions of their friends, and present them where they can be heard? This iswhat we call patronage-a thing with which many find fault when it is used for political ends, but there is a kind of heavenlypatronage which you ought to use right diligently. I ask you to use it on my behalf. When it is well with you, then thinkof me. I pray you use it on the behalf of the poor, the sick, the afflicted, the tempted, the tried, the desponding, the despairing;when thou hast the King's ear, speak to him for us. When thou art permitted to come very near to his throne, and hesaith to thee, "Ask, and I will give thee what thou wilt"; when thy faith is strong, thine eye clear, thine access near,thine interest sure, and the love of God sweetly shed abroad in thy heart-then take the petitions of thy poor brethren whostand outside at the gate and say, "My Lord, I have a poor brother, a poor child of thine, who has desired me to ask of theethis favour. Grant it unto me; it shall be a favour shown unto myself; grant it unto him, for he is one of thine. Do it forJesus' sake!" Nay, to come to an end in this matter of commendation, it is utterly impossible that you should have a largemeasure of grace, unless it prompts you to use your influence for others. Soul, if thou hast grace at all, and art not a mightyintercessor, that grace must be but as a grain of mustard-seed-a shrivelled, uncomely, puny thing. Thou hast just enough graceto float thy soul clear from the quicksand, but thou hast no deep floods of grace, or else thou wouldst carry in thyjoyous bark a rich cargo of the wants of others up to the throne of God, and thou wouldst bring back for them rich blessingswhich but for thee they might not have obtained. If thou be like an angel with thy foot upon the golden ladder which reachesto heaven, if thou art ascending and descending, know that thou wilt ascend with others' prayers and descend with others'blessings, for it is impossible for a full-grown saint to live or to pray for himself alone. Thus much on commendation.
II. We turn to our second point, and endeavour to say something BY WAY OF ENCOURAGEMENT, that you may cheerfully offer intercessorysupplications.
First, remember that intercessory prayer is the sweetest prayer God ever hears. Do not question it, for the prayer of Christis of this character. In all the incense which now our Great High Priest puts into the censer, there is not a single grainthat is for himself. His work is done; his reward obtained. Now you do not doubt but that Christ's prayer is the most acceptableof all supplications. Very well, my brethren, the more like your prayer is to Christ's, the moresweet it will be; and while petitions for yourself will be accepted, yet your pleadings for others, having in them moreof the fruits of the Spirit, more love, perhaps more faith, certainly more brotherly kindness, they will be as the sweetestoblation that you can offer to God, the very fat of thy sacrifice. Remember, again, that intercessory prayer is exceedinglyprevalent. What wonders it has wrought! Intercessory prayer has stayed plagues. It removed the darkness which rested overEgypt; itdrove away the frogs which leaped upon the land; it scattered the lice and locusts which plagued the inhabitants of Zoar;it removed the murrain, and the thunder, and the lightning; it stayed all the ravages which God's avenging hand did upon Pharaohand his people. Intercessory prayer has healed diseases; -we know it did in the early church. We have evidence of it in oldMosaic times. When Miriam was smitten with leprosy, Moses prayed, and the leprosy was removed. It has restored witheredlimbs. When the king's arm was withered, he said to the prophet, "Pray for me," and his arm was restored as it was before.Intercessory prayer has raised the dead, for Elias stretched himself upon the child seven times, and the child sneezed, andthe child's soul returned. As to how many souls intercessory prayer has instrumentally saved, recording angel, thou cansttell! Eternity, thou shalt reveal! There is nothing which intercessory prayer cannot do. Oh! believer, you have a mighty engineinyour hand, use it well, use it constantly, use it now with faith, and thou shalt surely prevail. But perhaps you havea doubt about interceding for some one who has fallen far into sin. Brethren, did ye ever hear of men who have been thoughtto be dead while yet alive? Have ye never heard by the farmer's fire some old-fashioned story of one who was washed and laidout, and wrapped up in his shroud to be put into his coffin, and yet he was but in a trance and not dead? And have ye notheard oldlegends of men and women who have been buried alive? I cannot vouch for the accuracy of those tales, but I can tell youthat spiritually there has been many a man given up for dead that was still within reach of grace. There has been many a soulthat has been put into the winding sheet even by Christian people, given up to damnation even by the ministers of Christ,consigned to perdition even by their own kinsfolk. But yet into perdition they did not come, but God found them, and tookthem outof the horrible pit and out of the miry clay, and set their living feet upon his living rock. Oh! give up nobody; stillpray, lay none out for spiritually dead until they are lain out for dead naturally. But perhaps you say, "I cannot pray forothers, for I am so weak, so powerless." You will get strength, my brethren, by the exertion. But besides, the prevalenceof prayer does not depend upon the strength of the man who prays, but upon the power of the argument he uses. Now, brethren,if yousow seed you may be very feeble, but it is not your hand that puts the seed into the ground which produces the harvest,-itis the vitality in the seed. And so in the prayer of faith. When you can plead a promise and drop that prayer into the groundwith hope, your weakness shall not make it miscarry; it shall still prevail with God and bring down blessings from on high.Job! thou comest from thy dunghill to intercede, and so may I come from my couch of weakness;-thou comest from thy povertyand thy desertion to intercede for others, and so may we. Elias was a man of like passions-sweet word!-of like passions,like infirmities, like tendencies to sin, but he prevailed, and so shalt thou; only do thou see to it that thou be not negligentin these exercises, but that thou pray much for others even as Job prayed for his friends.
Now that the air is very hot, and the atmosphere heavy and becalmed, our friends find it difficult to listen, more difficulteven than the speaker finds it to preach. Now, that I may have your attention yet once again-and a change of posture may doyou all good-will you stand up and put the text into use by offering an intercessory prayer and then I will go on again. Itshall be this one:
"Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send thy victorious word abroad,
And bring the strangers home!"
(The congregation here rose, and sung the verse.)
III. The third head is A SUGGESTION AS TO THE PERSONS FOR WHOM WE SHOULD MORE PARTICULARLY PRAY. It shall be but a suggestion,and I will then turn to my last point. In the case of Job, he prayed for his offending friends. They had spoken exceedingly harshly of him. They had misconstrued all his previous life, and though there had neverbeen a part of his character which deserved censure-for the Lord witnessed concerning him, that he was a perfect and an uprightman-yet they accused him of hypocrisy, and supposed that all he did was for the sake of gain. Now, perhaps, there is nogreater offence which can be given to an upright and a holy man, than to his face, to suspect his motives, and to accuse himof self-seeking. And yet, shaking off everything, as the sun forgets the darkness that has hidden its glory, and scattersit by its own beams, Job comes to the mercy seat, and pleads. He is accepted himself, and he begs that his friends may beacceptedtoo. Carry your offending ones to the throne of God; it shall be a blessed method of proving the trueness of your forgiveness.Do not do that, however, in a threatening way. I remember having to deal faithfully with a hypocrite, who told me, by wayof threatening, he should pray for me. It was a horrid threat, for who would wish to have his name associated with a prayerwhich would be an abomination to the Lord. Do not do it in that sense, as though like a supercilious hypocrite, you wouldmakeyour prayer itself a stalking horse for your vain glory; but do it when you are alone before God, and in secret; not thatyou may gratify your revenge by telling the story out again, for that were abominable indeed; but that you may remove fromyour erring brother any sin which may have stained his garments, by asking the Lord to forgive him.
Again: be sure you take there your controverting friends. These brethren had been arguing with Job, and the controversy dragged its weary length along. Brethren, it is betterto pray than it is to controvert. Sometimes you think it would be a good thing to have a public discussion upon a doctrine.It would be a better thing to have prayer over it. You say, "Let two good men, on different sides, meet and fight the matterout." I say, "No! let the two good men meetand pray the matter out." He that will not submit his doctrine to the test of the mercy seat, I should suspect is wrong.I can say that I am not afraid to offer prayer that my brethren who do not see "Believers' baptism" may be made to see it.If they think it is wrong, I wish that they would pray to God to set us right; but I have never heard them do that; I havenever heard them pray to the Lord to convince us of the truth of infant sprinkling-I wish they would, if they believe it tobescriptural, and I am perfectly willing to put it to the old test, the God that answereth by fire, let him be God, andwhichever shall prevail, when prayer shall be the ultimate arbiter, let that stand. Carry your dear friends who are wrongin practice, not to the discussion-room, or to the debating-club, but carry them before God, and let this be your cry, "Oh!Thou that teachest us to our profit, teach me if I be wrong, and teach my friend wherein he errs, and make him right."
This is the thing we ought also to do with haughty friends. Eliphaz and Bildad were very high and haughty-Oh! how they looked down upon poor Job! They thought he was a verygreat sinner, a very desperate hypocrite; they stayed with him, but doubtless they thought it very great condescension. Now,you sometimes hear complaints made by Christians about other people being proud. It will not make them humble for you to grumbleabout that. What if there be a Mrs.So-and-so who wears a very rustling dress, and never takes any notice of you because you cannot rustle too! What if therebe a brother who can afford to wear creaking boots, and will not notice you in the street because you happen to be poor! Tellyour Father about it; that is the best way. Why, you would not be angry, I suppose, with a man for having the gout, or a torpidliver, or a cataract in the eye; you would pity him. Why be angry with your brother because of his being proud? It is adisease, a very bad disease, that scarlet fever of pride; go and pray the Lord to cure him; your anger will not do it;it may puff him up and make him worse than ever he was before, but it will not set him right. Pray him down, brother, prayhim down; have duel with him, and have the choice of weapons yourself, and let that be the weapon of all-prayer; and if hebe proud, I know this, if you prevail with God, God will soon take the pride out of his own child and make him humble as heshouldbe. But particularly let me ask you to pray most for those who are disabled from praying for themselves. Job's three friends could not pray for themselves, because the Lord said he would not accept them if theydid. He said he was angry with them, but as for Job, said he, "Him will I accept." Do not let me shock your feelings whenI say there are some, even of God's people, who are not able to pray acceptably at certain seasons. When a man has just beencommitting sin, repentance is hisfirst work, not prayer; he must first set matters right between God and his own soul before he may go and intercede forothers. And there are many poor Christians that cannot pray; doubt has come in, sin has taken away their confidence, and theyare standing outside the gate with their petitions; they dare not enter within the veil. There are many tried believers, too,that are so desponding that they cannot pray with faith, and therefore they cannot prevail. Now, my dear brethren, if youcanpray, take their sins into court with you, and when you have had your own hearing, then say, "But, my Lord, inasmuch asthou hast honoured me, and made me to eat of thy bread, and drink from thy cup, hear me for thy poor people who are just nowdenied the light of thy countenance." Besides, there are millions of poor sinners who are dead in sin and they cannot pray,pray for them; it is a blessed thing-that vicarious repentance and vicarious faith; which a saint may exert towards asinner. "Lord, that sinner does not feel; help me to feel for him because he will not feel; Lord, that sinner will notbelieve in Christ, he does not think that Christ can save him, but I know he can, and I will pray believingly for that sinner,and I will repent for him, and though my repentance and my faith will not avail him without his personal repentance and faith,yet it may come to pass that through me he may be brought to repentance and led to prayer."
IV. Now, lest I should weary you, let me come to the closing part of my discourse. And, O God, lend us thy strength now, thatthis duty may come forcibly home to our conscience, and we may at once engage in this exercise! Brethren, I have to EXHORTYOU TO PRAY FOR OTHERS. Before I do it, I will ask you a personal question. Do you always pray for others? Guilty or not guilty,here? Do you think you have taken the case of your children, your church, your neighbourhood, andthe ungodly world before God as you ought to have done? If you have, I have not. For I stand here a chief culprit before the Master to make confession of the sin; and while I shall exhort youto practice what is undoubtedly a noble privilege, I shall be most of all exhorting myself.
I begin thus, by saying, Brethren, how can you and I repay the debt we owe to the Church unless we pray for others? How wasit that you were converted? It was because somebody else prayed for you. I, in tracing back my own conversion, cannot failto impute it, through God's Spirit, to the prayers of my mother. I believe that the Lord heard her earnest cries when I knewnot that her soul was exercised about me. There are many of you that were prayed for when you were asleepin your cradles as unconscious infants. Your mothers' liquid prayers fell hot upon your infant brows, and gave you whatwas a true christening while you were still but little ones. There are husbands here who owe their conversion to their wives' prayers; brotherswho must acknowledge that it was a sister's pleading; children who must confess that their sabbath-school teachers were wontto pray for them. Now, if by others' prayers you and I were brought to Christ, how can we repay thisChristian kindness, but by pleading for others? He who has not a man to pray for him may write himself down a hopelesscharacter. During one of the revivals in America, a young man was going to see the minister, but he did not, because the ministerhad avoided him with considerable coldness. A remark was made to the minister upon what he had done, and he said, "Well, Idid not want to see him; I knew he had only come to mock and scoff; what should I see him for; you do not know him as wellas Ido, or else you would have done the same." A day or two after there was a public meeting, where the preaching of the Wordwas to be carried on in the hope that the revival might be continued. A young man who had been lately converted through theprayers of another young man was riding to the worship on his horse, and as he was riding along he was overtaken by our youngfriend whom the minister thought so godless. He said to him, "Where are you going today, William?" "Well, I am going to themeeting, and I hear that you have been converted." "I thank God I have been brought to a knowledge of the truth," he answered."Oh!" said the other, "I shall never be; I wish I might." His friend was surprised to hear him whom the minister thought tobe so hard say that, and he said, "But why cannot you be converted?" "Why?" said the other, "you know you were converted throughthe prayers of Mr. K-." "Yes, so I was." "Ah," said the other, "there is nobody to pray for me; they have all givenme up long ago." "Why," said his friend, "it is very singular, but Mr. K-, who prayed for me, has been praying for youtoo; we were together last night, and I heard him." The other threw himself back in his saddle, and seemed as if he wouldfall from his horse with surprise. "Is that true?" said he. "Yes, it is." "Then blessed be God, there is hope for me now,and if he has prayed for me, that gives me a reason why I should now pray believingly for myself." And he did so, and thatmeetingwitnessed him confessing his faith in Christ. Now, let no man of your acquaintance say that there is nobody to pray forhim; but as you had somebody to plead for you, let poor souls of your acquaintance find in you a person to plead for them.
Then, again, permit me to say, how are you to prove your love to Christ or to his church if you refuse to pray for men? "Weknow that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." If we do not love the brethren, we are stilldead. I will aver no man loves the brethren who does not pray for them. What! It is the very least thing you can do, and ifyou do not perform the least, you certainly will fail in the greater. You do not love the brethren unlessyou pray for them, and then it follows you are dead in trespasses and sins. Let me ask you again how is it that you hopeto get your own prayers answered if you never plead for others? Will not the Lord say, "Selfish wretch, thou art always knockingat my door, but it is always to cry for thine own welfare and never for another's; inasmuch as thou hast never asked for ablessing for one of the least of these my brethren, neither will I give a blessing to thee. Thou lovest not the saints, thoulovest not thy fellow men, how canst thou love me whom thou hast not seen, and how shall I love thee and give thee theblessing which thou askest at my hands?" Brethren, again I say I would earnestly exhort you to intercede for others, for howcan you be Christians if you do not? Christians are priests, but how priests if they offer no sacrifice? Christians are lights,but how lights unless they shine for others? Christians are sent into the world, even as Christ was sent into the world, buthow sent unless they are sent to pray? Christians are meant not only to be blessed themselves, but in them shall all thenations of the earth be blessed, but how if you refuse to pray? Give up your profession, cast down, I pray you, the ephodof a priest if you will not burn the incense, renounce your Christianity if you will not carry it out, make not a mock andsport of solemn things. And you must do so if you still refuse selfishly to give to your friends a part and a lot in yoursupplications before the throne. O brethren, let us unite with one heart and with one soul to plead with God for thisneighbourhood! Let us carry "London" written on our breasts just as the high priest of old carried the names of the tribes.Mothers, bear your children before God! Fathers, carry your sons and your daughters! Men and brethren, let us take a wickedworld and the dark places thereof which are full of the habitations of cruelty! Let us cry aloud and keep no silence, andgive to theLord no rest till he establish and make his Church a praise in the earth. Wake, ye watchmen upon Zion's walls, and renewyour shouts! Wake, ye favourites of heaven, and renew your prayers! The cloud hangs above you, it is yours to draw down itssacred floods in genial showers by earnest prayers. God hath put high up in the mountains of his promise springs of love,it is yours to bring them down by the divine channel of your intense supplications. Do it, I pray you, lest inasmuch as youhaveshut your bowels of compassion and have refused to plead with God for the conversion of others, he should say in his wrath,"These are not my children. They have not my spirit. They are not partakers of my love, neither shall they enter into my rest."Why, there are some of you that have not prayed for others for months, I am afraid, except it be at a prayer meeting. Youknow what your night prayers are. It is, "Lord, take care of my family." You know how some farmers pray. "Lord, send fairweather in this part of the country. Lord, preserve the precious fruits of the field all round this neighbourhood. Nevermind about their being spoilt anywhere else, for that will send the markets up." And so there are some who make themselvesspecial objects of supplication; and what care they for the perishing crowd. This is the drift of some men's wishes, "Lord,bless the Church, but don't send another minister into our neighbourhood lest he should take our congregations from us. Lord,sendlabourers into the vineyard, but do not send them into our corner lest they should take any of our glory from us." Thatis the kind of supplication. Let us have done with such. Let us be Christians; let us have expanded souls and minds that canfeel for others. Let us weep with them that weep, and rejoice with them that rejoice; and as a Church and as private persons,we shall find the Lord will turn our captivity when we pray for our friends. God help us to plead for others! And as for youthat have never prayed for yourselves, God help you to believe in the Lord Jesus! Amen.