Prayer: The Christian's Weapon
Notes of an address given by Pastor Alan Redpath at the Church House, Westminster, during the World Evangelical Alliance Week of Prayer, 1950.
I am sure that there is an increasing recognition on the part of the church as a whole that evangelism must take a predominant part in her life. There are widely different meanings, of course, which are given to that word evangelism, but, nevertheless, I see signs everywhere that the church is rising to the recognition of the fact that she must witness to Christ. And, furthermore, she is rising increasingly to a recognition of the fact that the task of witness has never been intended to be restricted to the clergy and ministers of the church, but rather is the privilege and responsibility of every born-again child of God. Indeed, the New Testament seems to me to make it abundantly clear that the Lord Jesus Christ places His child squarely between Himself and the soul without Him. That is to say, He holds His church responsible for proclaiming Him to every creature, for making His name known among those who know Him not. I believe that when the Lord turned to a few of His disciples and said, “When the Holy Spirit is come to you He will convict the world of sin,” He was saying something then that He is saying still to the church today, that when the Spirit of God is come upon us, His people, “He will convict the world of sin,” and the greatest of all sins, “of sin, because they believe not on Me.”
I find today that people are quite interested in the Gospel—but that is all. Men are admitting their own bankruptcy to bring about a new world order about which they have thought and hoped for so long; they recognize that, somehow, the situation is out of human control. And yet, in spite of that fact, and in spite of the readiness to assent when the Gospel is proclaimed to them in a language that they can understand, there seems to me to be a desperate lack of any real conviction of spiritual need on the part of men and women generally.
I believe that in this modern generation we are faced with a situation which is crying out for Gospel preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit. In so many cases we, as Christian people, have not recognized this fact, that witness to Christ is inseparably connected with communion with Christ and prayer to God in His name. We are living in days when the church is in great danger of substituting busyness, rush, activity, crowded meetings, even evangelistic missions, for men and women on their knees in travail before God. I recall that the apostle Paul said: “Little children, I travail in birth till Christ be formed in you.” I am sure we have got to realize more than ever the direct connection between real prevailing prayer and the direct witness to the Lord Jesus.
It seems to me that prayer has a threefold effect upon our testimony. First of all, prayer drives back the devil. We think of the men and women around us. What charming people many of them are—I come into contact with them every day of my life, some of them far easier to get on with than many of those who profess and call themselves Christians. Many of these delightful people, though clean-living, moral and respectable, do not give a thought to the claims of God upon their lives. How we long that they might realize the truth of their redemption through the blood of Christ! And why don’t they? Simply because the god of this world has blinded their minds. What is the good of talking to men about Christ unless the windows of their minds are open to Him, unless the veil has been drawn from their eyes and they are able to say in the words of one of old: “Whereas I was blind, now I can see.” What is the position today? We can talk to people and bear our witness to Christ, and yet they can make us feel absolutely stupid as we realize how ineffective we are. But what a difference it makes when we begin to talk to Christ about them! For, you see, prayer drives back the enemy. I believe that God has placed in the hands of the Christian church this tremendous weapon; and when a Christian comes to God in the name of Jesus Christ, and, through the merits of His blood, pleads before Him on behalf of one for whom he is really spiritually concerned, at that moment heavenly forces are released which drive back satanic powers, and the one prayed for is at last free to think for himself about God. When we start dashing about at our meetings, good as they may be, and planning our evangelistic gatherings, I suggest to you that in nine out of ten the church of Christ in this land is putting the cart before the horse. The first essential is that there should be prayer, that there may be lives into which the seed of God’s Word may fall. The first essential is that there should be men and women from whom the grip of Satan has been removed, and who are free to think for themselves. What an amazing difference when you are able to deal with men and women like that!
I want to emphasize that it is only when the child of God is on his knees before God that the victory will be won, and the church will advance only in proportion to the time which she really gives to secret, prevailing prayer. It is prayer which releases the channel along which the Spirit of God can flow through our lives into the lives of others. It is prayerlessness which blocks the channel. The church which does not pray, the Christian who does not really discipline his life to pray, no matter how hard he may work and witness for God, are utterly ineffective. For the whole of the New Testament rings out with the reality of the truth that it is not what I do for Him that matters but what I am for Him.
That leads me to say this, that prayer draws men to Christ. We think of one day in the life of our Lord (Mark 1). He had had a busy time. He had been preaching in the synagogue, He has been visitng the home of Simon Peter, and healing his mother-in-law who was sick. And at eventide those who were needing His help gathered round His feet, and He healed them all. We read that early in the morning, a great while before day, He rose and departed into a solitary place apart for prayer. When He came down His disciples said to Him, “All men seek for Thee.” I often think they must themselves have felt very humiliated—they, obviously, were not good enough. The world can always distinguish between the busy Christian worker and the man who really prays; and it is the one who really prays that the world will seek after because it is conscious of the presence of Jesus in that life. It is prayer which draws men to Christ. How often you have tried to talk to others about the Lord, you have tried to witness for Him, yet is has all proved futile. May we learn afresh that the first essential in our Christian witness is to pray.
The last thought I want to leave with you as I seek to point out to you the vital relationship between prayer and testimony is this, that prayer delivers the man who prays from himself—and, perhaps, this is the most important thing of all. Think of the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as He sweated great drops of blood and as He shed tears for us and prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless, not My will, but Thine, be done.” He was delivered from all things else; there was a complete abandonment to God and His purposes for the world. I think what the church and what the individual Christian need today is a tender heart, a heart that is real in its devotion to the Lord, a heart that is tender in its love to others. God forgive us! Some of us are terribly orthodox and fundamental. We pride ourselves on being so sound. But not a spark of love for our fellow men seems to shine out from our lives. Why? Because it is just head knowledge. There are so-called Christians who have never truly been to Calvary and known what it is to have their hearts broken before Him. It is when people see that we really loves and care of them, and are prepared to go to all lengths that we might lead them to Christ, that they will begin to “take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus.”
When you pray, ask that it may mean that the devil will be driven back in many a life, not only in this great city but all over the world, for in God’s sight there is no such thing as distance. I pray that men may be drawn to Christ because of our prayers; that we, as Christians, may be delivered from ourselves and may know what it is to live day by day at the Cross. Sometimes I hear Christian people pray for power, for the experience of Pentecost. May I suggest to you that God in heaven looks down on us and asks for Calvary, then Pentecost will inevitably follow. May the Lord grant it, for His name’s sake.