Spurgeon and the Power of Prayer

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Image: portion of illuminated manuscript page from "The Book of Kells."Image: of Charles Haddon Spurgeon from the Metroplitan Tabernacle; London, England.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

 By Author: Larry Michael  

 Personal Prayer With God 

Everyone believes in prayer. Or so, that's what we are told. The practice of prayer is advocated by people of faith everywhere. There are courses on prayer, conferences on prayer, concerts of prayer, even colloquiums on prayer. Christian leaders regularly pontificate about its necessity from the pulpit and classroom. But, if the reports are correct, there are not nearly as many practitioners as there are proponents of this great source of spiritual power. And leaders, if not careful, can be the worse culprits in not practicing what they preach, when it comes to prayer. The tyranny of other urgent demands upon their time can rob leaders of the infinitely valuable time they spend in personal prayer with God.

Prayer Empowered

A leader must be prayer empowered to be effective. The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. C. H. Spurgeon believed greatly in the need for prayer: He urged pastors to: 

"Make the most of prayer. . . . Prayer is the master-weapon. We should be wise if we used it more, and did so with a more specific purpose."

Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry

Spurgeon was said never to have prayed more than five minutes at a time, but he never went more than five minutes without praying. He often mentioned that the secret of his success was prayer, and he cited the many church members who prayed regularly in the basement during the services and on other significant occasions.  Well-known church growth author/leader Peter Wagner writes, 

"The more deeply I dig beneath the surface of church growth principles, the more thoroughly convinced I become that the real battle is a spiritual battle and that our principle weapon is prayer."

An effective leader must have a deep prayer life.  Spurgeon wrote of the power of prayer:

"All hell is vanquished when the believer bows his knee in importunate supplication. Beloved brethren, let us pray. We cannot all argue, but we can all pray; we cannot all be leaders, but we can all be pleaders; we cannot all be mighty in rhetoric, but we can all be prevalent in prayer. I would sooner see you eloquent with God than with men. Prayer links us with the Eternal, the Omnipotent, the Infinite, and hence it is our chief resort. . . Be sure that you are with God, and then you may be sure that God is with you."

Seminary Dean Thom Rainer gives statistical evidence regarding the power of prayer: 

"A study of churches that were previously plateaued or declining but now experiencing growth revealed a fascinating statistic. The report concluded that 71% of these churches reported an increased emphasis on prayer over the past several years as compared to only 40% of churches which continue on the plateau." 

(Thom Rainer, Eating the Elephant. Nashville: Broadman, 1994, P. 23). 

Such prayer does not happen without the leadership of the pastor. A Christian leader must continue to grow and lead in the discipline of prayer. The Christian leader should set the example of devotion and prayer in the home. A close friend of Spurgeon commented on his prayer life, 

"His public prayers were an inspiration, but his prayers with the family were to me more wonderful still. Mr. Spurgeon, when bowed before God in family prayer, appeared a grander man even than when holding thousands spellbound by his oratory."

 Mrs. Spurgeon remembered, "At the tea-table, the conversation was bright, witty, and always interesting; and after the meal was over, an adjournment was made to the study for family worship, and it was at these seasons that my beloved's prayers were remarkable for their tender childlikeness, their spiritual pathos, and their intense devotion. He seemed to come as near to God as a little child to a loving father, and we were often moved to tears as he talked thus face to face with his Lord." 

Spurgeon told pastors how one should set the example: "He prays as a husband and as a father; he strives to make his family devotions a model for his flock."
 
                                                                                                                      Many leaders today have gotten away from family devotions at home, but that quality time with family around God's Word is essential for the one who seeks to lead his family in spiritual matters.

The Therapy of Prayer
                                                                                                          Spurgeon was a great believer in the power of prayer, especially during the many times of illness in his life. He often praised God and thanked the people in his church for their prevailing prayers, which he believed helped ease his suffering and brought restoration to him. On one occasion, he received a letter, signed by the deacons and elders, that concluded thus:

"And now, beloved Pastor, we leave you, with many prayers, in the hands of your Father and our Father. May He have you in His safe keeping, preserve you from lowness and depression of spirits, cheer you with the light of His countenance, strengthen and sustain you by His gracious Spirit, and, in His own good time, bring you again to your beloved Tabernacle in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. This is our fervent prayer."

In 1871, Spurgeon had a long and painful illness that kept him
out of his pulpit for twelve Sundays. He wrote many times to the congregation at the Tabernacle, seeking their prayers: 

"Dear Friends, The furnace still blows around me. Since I last preached to you, I have been brought very low. My flesh has been tortured
with pain, and my spirit has been prostrate with depression. . . . You do pray for me, I know; but I entreat you not to cease your supplications. I am as a potter's vessel when it is utterly broken, useless, and laid aside. Nights of watching, and days of weeping have been mine, but I hope the cloud is passing. . . . In this relative trial, a very keen one, I again ask your prayers. The Lord be with you evermore! Amen. So prays, Your suffering Pastor,
C.H.S."

Exhorting the Church to Prayer
                                                                                                                      At one point in a lengthy illness, Spurgeon reproved the church for not gathering for special prayer for his recovery:

"Perhaps, if the church met for prayer, I should be speedily restored. I know thousands do pray, but should not the church do so as a church?" 

The Pastor's suggestion that the church should meet for prayer was immediately set in motion, and the result was thus chronicled in the next letter:

"My Beloved Friends, As soon as the church had resolved to meet for special prayer for me, I began rapidly to recover. . . . We may truthfully say of the Wednesday meeting for prayer, that the Lord fulfilled this Word: 'Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.' For all this great goodness, I pray you to unite with me in sincere and intense gratitude to the Lord our God."

The occasion was one of many that the pastor blessed the Lord for the healing power of prayer. Before long, Spurgeon was back in the pulpit, and used his suffering as a means of ministering to others through his proclamation.
                                                                                                                    Spurgeon set a great example for leaders in the practice of prayer. He didn't just talk about it - he did it! God's will for our lives as leaders includes the discipline of personal prayer. As we pray, so goes our leadership, and thus hinges our effectiveness in the work of God's Kingdom.
 
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Dr. Larry Michael is senior pastor at First Baptist Sweetwater near Orlando, Florida. He has previously served as an adjunct professor at Beeson Divinity School (Samford University) in Birmingham, Alabama.  This article is an adaptation by the author of writings from the book, Spurgeon on Leadership, Kregel Publications, released in November 2003. We are grateful to the author for permission to use this feature.
Copyright 2003 Larry J. Michael. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
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Related Pages:

"Book Review: Spurgeon on Leadership" by Larry J. Michael

"Spurgeon's Humor" by Larry J. Michael

Charles Spurgeon Pages

Prayer Tips: Charles Spurgeon

Book Review: Spiritual Warfare in a Believer's Life by Charles Spurgeon    ___________________________________________________

Except where otherwise noted: Copyright 2003 S.G.P. All rights reserved

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Photo: of Dr. Larry J. Michael. Dr. Larry J. Michael 

 Dr. Larry Michael is senior pastor at First Baptist Sweetwater near Orlando, Florida.  He has previously served as adjunct professor at Beeson Divinity School (Samford University) in Birmingham, Alabama.

Image: Front Cover of the Book, "Spurgeon On Leadership" by Larry J. Michael.

Spurgeon On Leadership

By Larry J. Michael ______________

Spurgeon On Leadership

2003 by Larry J. Michael

 Published by Kregel Publications, a Division of Kregel, Inc. ______________

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