Prayer and Preaching

by Pat Hardeman
via The Preceptor, Vol. 1, No. 9, July, 1952.

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16), and "with great power gave the Apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:33). How mighty are the combined forces God has let loose in the spiritual world! Try to comprehend the power of prayer, or the power of preaching. Yet how weak is the latter sometimes because fervent prayers have not been offered in its behalf. Reflect for a few moments on the power of prayer, then the power of preaching, then what prayerful preaching can accomplish.

The Power of Prayer

Since God declares, "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much," man's wisdom cannot say how much. Only the revelation God has made would contain the wisdom to say how much. Consider what prayer hath wrought in olden times. When the men left Abraham in Genesis 18:15, he "yet stood before the Lord," and interceded in behalf of a wicked city where dear ones lived. Herein is a marvelous thing, not only that the Sovereign Maker of this vast universe can be approached by mortal man, but also that the Scripture expressly declares God "communed" with Abraham (Genesis 18:33). He who "commanded the morning," and "caused the dayspring to know his place" (Job 38:12), now is mindful of man, His wrath was ready to fall on Sodom and Gomorrah, "and the cities about them in like manner" (Jude 7), but He quickly agrees to the pleas of a creature in His image. The power of man availing with God is seen in the fact God suspended the destiny of the exceedingly great cities on the words of Abraham, actually agreeing to conditions for which Abraham pled.

The tremendous power of prayer to change the course of human history and avail with Him who directs that course is also seen in the days of Moses. As Moses related it in Deuteronomy 9:13-29, "the Lord spake unto me saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Let Me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they." Imagine if you can how different the course of history would have been if God had carried out this intention. To have had a nation from the man, Moses, and to have lost the Jews forever from sight. It is beyond imagination to know what might have been. Yet notice what saved the Jews. Moses, who was, according to physical measurements, a mere speck of protoplasm sitting on a cog of a giganic cosmic machine, tells us, "Thus I fell down before the Lord forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the Lord had said He would destroy you. I prayed therefore unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, destroy not Thy people and Thine inheritance, which Thou has redeemed through Thy greatness...Yet they are Thy people and Thine inheritance, which Thou broughtest out by Thy mighty power and by Thy stretched out arm." And the Lord hearkened unto Moses, spared the nation, and held them in the hollow of His hand, and fought their battles for them till the seed came to whom the promise had been made. The power of Moses' prayer!

Another indication of the power of prayer is seen in Joshua 10, the record of the battle of the Amorite kings with the Lord's people. Joshua and his men were called into battle and needed time to complete the destruction of the Lord's enemies. "Then spake Joshua to the Lord," and the Lord of this universe took hold of the astonomical gear that governs the motions of the vast bodies that adorn the spacious firmament, and stayed all their movements till the inioquitous hosts were discomfited. The record is plain in its testimony to the power of prayer: "And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel." Who can say what prayer can avail! A confirmatory incident occurred in the life of Hezekiah. As Isaiah 38 and II Kings 20 record it, Hezekiah was sick unto death, but pled with the Lord for lengthened days. God again adjusted this cosmic machine to the needs of His creature; the key to it is in the words, "I have seen thy tears." Just think, the tears of a man can influence the entire universe!

Examples could be multiplied with profit, but we simply observe here that the power of prayer is not limited to the days when God performed such miracles as these we have studied. But, says someone, if God does not intervene miraculously in the natural order today, how can we pray for things that involve natural laws and the entire universe? The answer to this profound inquiry lies, to me, in God's present relation to the natural order. He is not afar off, but is nigh, because "in Him we live and move and have our being." He makes, yes, makes, the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends, yes, sends, the rain on the just and the unjust. He clothes, not clothed, but clothes the grass of the field, and watches the sparrow that falls. He giveth, not gave, but giveth, to all life and breath and all things. These being true, since God controls the entire natural universe which is some six billions of light years (how far light can travel in six billion years at the rate of 186,000 miles a second) across, then He can and will control the natural order to answer the prayers of His children according to His own good will and in His own time and way. We can pray for the sick, and should, and should expect God to answer or prayers according to His Will, for there are billions of combinations of circumstances which men never regard as miraculous, yet which God can and will bring to bear to answer our prayers. There is power in prayer!

The Power in Preaching

All who preach long to preach with power. Since God designed preaching "to save them that believe," we earnestly desire ours to achieve God's purpose. This can be doen only if we observe the New Testament pattern of perfect preaching. Yet how great is the temptation to omit parts of the perfect pattern. Perhaps we follow the love of the pattern to an extent without following its firmness. Perhaps we have all the latter and practically none of the former. Or perhaps we omit the greatest power which New Testament preachers seemed to use, the power of prayer in our lives as preachers of the faith. Preaching transforms life, so does prayer. Preaching saves souls, so does prayer for the child of God. There is power in preaching the Gospel, because the Gospel is God's power to save. There is also power "in prayer, in believing prayer, when the Savior's name to the throne we bear." Oh that these two mighty forces will be combined to a greater degree than they have in many instances so that preaching will evidence a prayerful life and prayer will give power to our preaching, more power than we have let it give. Note the grand combination of these in New Testament days.

Prayerful Preaching

When the Apostles were put in prison, the church lifted up their voice with one accord, and prayed, "And now, Lord behold their threatenings, and grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy Word." Little wonder that "the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the Word of God with boldness." Fervent praying led to bold preaching. When some of the bold statements
are made by us today, they evidence anything but the kind of praying which the early church did. Brother rises up against brother with motives impugned, character assualted and name slandered at the slightest provocation. Preaching even to brethren can be bold yet prayerful, strong yet loving, uncompromising, yet forbearing, confident yet "in the spirit of meekness." The prayers that were made "without ceasing of the church unto God for" Peter when he was imprisoned can still work wonders even though miracles are not performed, for God still has the "reins and the hearts" of this universe. May our prayers be fervent, our lives righteous, our preaching powerful and all together we can by God's help "avail much" in this wicked world.