Wrestlers With God
William Bramwell writes in one of his letters, ‘Almost every night there has been a shaking among the people, and I have seen nearly twenty set at liberty.’ Then he adds these heart-searching words: ‘I believe I should have seen many more, but I cannot yet find one pleading man. There are many good people, but I have found no wrestlers with God.’
O my Lord, that is what we want! In these days of organization, of societies, leagues, committees, multiplied and diversified, soul-saving and ecclesiastical machinery, together with world-wide opportunity, above all things else we want ‘wrestlers with God ‘ — men and women who know how to pray and who do pray. Not men and women who say prayers, but who pour out their hearts to Him, who call Him to remembrance and keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth’ (Isa. lxii. 6, 7).
Some weeks ago I went to a corps for the Sunday morning meeting, just the one meeting. Not many people knew I was coming. No special preparation was made; snow was on the ground, and less than one hundred people were present. But a wrestler with God was there, and oh, how he prayed! My heart melts within me yet as I think of it. He pleaded with God, he poured out his heart before Him. In his manner and words he was wondrously familiar with God, but it was that sweet familiarity that comes from utter self-abasement and deepest humility, and which enables its possessor to come with unabashed faith right face to face with God and ask great things of Him, because asking only for His honour and the glory of His Son. That morning twenty-four people were at the Penitent-form seeking the Lord!
Several years ago I wrote an article on the prayers of soul-winners. It fell into the hands of two young officers, one of whom is now in India, and they began to pray, and one of them it was reported, prayed all Saturday night. The next day they went to a hard corps, where it had almost been impossible to get anyone to make a start for Heaven, and that day they saw sixty-two people seeking God.
The same article was read by a Captain in a certain corps. She became interested and read it to her soldiers, urging them to greater diligence in prayer. The spirit of prayer fell on the soldiers, and some of them used to ask the Captain for the key and spend half the night in the hall wrestling with God until His power fell on the people, and scores of sinners were converted, and the largest corps in that State was built up, and the whole city was stirred.
The other day, a staff officer in charge of a band of boys told me that a short time before, he went with his boys into a town, and after two hours’ wrestling with God, he got the assurance of a revival. In eighteen days they saw one hundred and fifty people seeking salvation, and fifty more seeking the blessing of a clean heart.
More than all else the Lord wants these wrestling, pleading men.
Indeed, there are many good men, but few wrestlers with God. There are many who are interested in the cause of Christ, and who are pleased to see it prosper in their corps, their church, their city, their country. But there are but few who bear the burden of the world upon their souls day and night, who make His cause in every clime their very own, and who, like Eli, would die if the ark of God were taken; who feel it an awful shame and a consuming sorrow, if victory is not continually won in His name.
This spirit of prayer is fed on the Word of God. He who neglects diligent, daily study of and meditation in the Word of God will soon neglect secret prayer, while he who feeds upon it will be constantly pouring out his heart in prayer and praise, and in this as in all things, regular practice will cultivate, increase and perfect the spirit of prayer.
Again, this spirit of prayer will only thrive where faith is active. Lazy, slow faith, quenches prayer.
Prayer must be followed by watchfulness and dead-in-earnest, patient work, else it will soon grow sickly and die.
Light and foolish talking and jesting, pride, over-sensitiveness that leads to suspicion, jealousy, envy, selfish ambition even in Christian work, indulgence of appetite, love of the applause of men and desire for the honour that man can give, an uncharitable spirit, criticism and the like, will surely quench the spirit of prayer.
Jesus says, ‘Men ought always to pray, and not to faint’ (Luke xviii. 1), while Paul says, ‘Pray without ceasing’ (i Thess. v.17).