It’s hard not to be both encouraged and challenged by reading about Spurgeon. Michael Reeves introduction to his life gives a great flavour of the man, and the importance of prayer is an aspect that struck me. In particular, Spurgeon said that he would rather “yield up the sermon than the prayer”! Quite a statement from a man known for his preaching. This is the excerpt it is from.
In Michael Reeves book on Spurgeon Pages 143-144
“One expects theologians and pastors to say that prayer is important. Talk is cheap. Yet Spurgeon’s high regard for prayer would prove itself in his life and ministry. He would often get especially passionate when pleading with his people to pray: “Oh, for God’s sake, for his name and glory’s sake, if you would honour the Father, if you would let Jesus see of the travail of his soul, wrestle together with us in your prayers for the divine working.” Every week, it was the Monday night main prayer meeting that under- pinned the life of the church, and normally over a thousand would attend.
At church meetings, and especially on Sundays, Spurgeon was remarkably cautious in whom he allowed to lead in public prayer. For, he said, “it is my solemn conviction that the prayer is one of the most weighty, useful, and honourable parts of the service, and that it ought to be even more considered than the sermon. There must be no putting up of anybodies and nobodies to pray, and then the selection of the abler man to preach.” Indeed, he went on, “if I may have my choice, I will sooner yield up the sermon than the prayer.”
Spurgeon prized prayer so because he did not view it merely as one Christian activity among others. Prayer is communion with God, which is the very nature of eternal life. It is faith in action. It is a taste on earth of the everlasting life of praise Christians will enjoy before the throne of heaven. As such, prayer is an activity the unbeliever will never truly enter into. It is, then, a sure token of regeneration and adoption, evidence that a heart has been reconciled to God and turned to feel dependence on God, love for God, and peace with God. Prayer is the breathing that evidences the new life in Christ. “The habit of private prayer, and the constant practice of heart- fellowship with the Most High, are the surest indicators of the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart.”
“To be clear, while true prayer is not the mere utterance of words, nor is it the mere feeling of desires. More than either, “it is the advance of the desires to God, the spiritual approach of our nature towards the Lord our God.” It is the approach of the believer by the Spirit of God to the throne of God. Yet, because prayer is not a vocal performance, it cannot be a privilege reserved for the articulate; it is the birthright of every child of God. “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.”
All that being the case, prayer must not only be the living breath of the new life: it must also be the breath of any faithful ministry. Because of what prayer is, no amount of talent or education-wonderful gifts though they may be to the church-can substitute for it. “All our libraries and studies are mere emptiness compared with our closets. We grow, we wax mighty, we prevail in private prayer.” Talents and education are good, but they do not in and of themselves contain the spiritual life that prayer has. And this is why Spurgeon was so cautious in whom he allowed to lead in public prayer. His concern was not primarily that they might not be articulate but that they might not be sufficiently holy. An able but spiritually emaciated man will betray his state in his prayers more quickly than in his preaching. And if he is strong in talent but weak in prayer, over time his congregation will be nurtured in the lie that style matters more than spiritual substance.””