Believers Added To The Lord Multitudes Both Of Men And Women (Acts 5: 14)
THE MINISTER CANNOT DO IT ALONE!
What then is the secret? When others share the burden, mighty acts of God are wrought. That it takes a church burdened in one accord for God's work to make great advances, is clear from the Book of Acts. The minister cannot do it alone. Excellent buildings and equipment, and even talent, are not the secret of the advancement of the movement of God's Spirit. Let the Book of Acts, when the church was in the compulsion of her early power, speak. "They were all with one accord in Solomon's porch ... by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought." (Acts 5: 12). "They lifted up their voice to God with one accord; and when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together." (Acts 4: 24, 31.) "And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus." (33).
When the church was mighty in unity of prayer, the deeds of the apostles were mighty. The apostles did not carry the load alone. As the entire church prevailed in prayer, mighty deeds by the ministers were the result. This we read in Acts 12 :5, where, as the church was engaged in prayer, earnestly, without ceasing, unto God for imprisoned Peter, all the chains fell off, and all the doors were opened. A secret for today.
At the early Old Azusa Street mission in Los Angeles in 1906, why was the alter opened at ten in the morning daily for prayer, using empty nail kegs, and planks stretched over them to form prayer benches? They were burdened with an inexpressible anguish that the Spirit would fall, and their intercessions shook not only the house where they assembled, but the world. Brother Seymour did not accomplish this mighty work alone, as pastor. In fact, to begin with, he did not himself have the baptism. But he presented the scripture, and together they went down, abasing themselves before the Lord until heaven indeed came down. Why wait now until the last thing at night to open the altar? When people are too tired?
In Charles G. Finney's mighty ministry, he is quick to call attention to the mighty power exercised by those who were burdened to pray. He says: "I proposed that we should observe a closet concert of prayer for the revival of God's work; that we should pray at sunrise, at noon, and at sunset, and continue this for one week, when we should come together, and see what farther was to be done. No other means were used for the revival of God's work. But the Spirit of prayer was immediately poured out wonderfully upon the young converts. Some of them would lose all their strength, and be unable to rise to their feet, or even stand upon their knees in their closets. Some would lie prostrate on the floor and pray with unutterable groanings for the outpouring of the Spirit of God. Some of the older Christians were jealous of it, resisting this movement among the young converts, but the converts held out well, becoming sound, thoroughly efficient Christians."
One of Mr. Finney's mightiest helpers in prayer was Elder Abel Clarey, who, he relates, "was converted in the same revival I was. Licensed to preach; but his spirit of prayer was such, he was so burdened with the souls of men, that he was not able to preach much, his whole time and strength being given to prayer. The burden of his soul was so great that he was unable to stand, but would writhe and groan in agony. I was well acquainted with him, and knew something of the wonderful spirit of prayer that was upon him. He was a very silent man as almost all are who have that powerful spirit of prayer. One said of him, 'He is at my house. I have not seen him at any of our meetings.' 'No,' I replied, 'He cannot go to meetings. He prays nearly all the time, day and night, in an agony of mind.' Said he, 'He prays prostrate on the floor, groaning.' T replied,' (says Chas. G. Finney) T understand it. Please keep still. It will come out all right. He will surely prevail.'"
Mr. Finney continues. "I knew at the time a considerable number of men who were exercised the same way. This Mr. Clarey, with many others among the men, and a large number of women, partook of the same spirit, and spend a great part of their time in prayer. Father
Nash. (Rev. Daniel Nash), who, in several of my fields of labor, came to me and aided me, was another of those men who had such a powerful spirit of prevailing prayer. Clarey did not leave Rochester until after I did, never appearing in public, but gave himself wholly to prayer. The Word took effect, and many were converted. Wherever I went, the Word took immediate effect. It seemed only necessary to present the law of God and the claims of Christ, and they would be converted by the scores." (Multitudes moved? Our hearts must be moved first). No wonder. Both Father Nash and Mr. Clarey would be on the floor below, sometimes on their faces before God, as Mr. Finney preached under an unction of the Spirit, one floor above.
Meditating upon our oft inadequacy, I continued perusing Mr. Finney's autobiography, and found these statements:
"I have spoken of Mr. Clarey as the praying man who was at Rochester. In Auburn I observed in the congregation the solemn face of Mr. Clarey, borne down with an agony of prayer. I was very glad to see him there, knowing the great gift of God that was upon him, the spirit of prayer. On one occasion, while eating together in a home, Mr. Clarey had been asked to give the blessing. This he was unable to finsh. He had to leave the table and go. He lay groaning upon the bed, the Spirit making intercession for him, and in him, with groanings that could not be uttered. I understood that this was the voice of God. I saw that the spirit of prayer was upon him, and I felt his influence upon myself, and took it for granted that the work would move on powerfully. It did so. The work in Rochester had prepared the way in Auburn, and now also in Buffalo." Saturday night meetings for intercession are secrets of power.
Finney also gave himself to prayer, the more so as he felt the opposing spirits of darkness. "I had a kind of awful feeling, I recollect, as I passed around the village on Saturday. The very atmosphere seemed to me to be poison; and a kind of terror took possession of me." Then, "I gave myself to prayer on Saturday, and finally urged my petition till this answer came: "Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace; for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee. For I have much people in this city." I spent Saturday very much in prayer. Sabbath morning I arose and left my lodgings in the hotel; and in order to get alone where I could let out my voice as well as my heart, I went up into the woods at some distance from the village, and continued for a considerable time in prayer. However, I did not get relief, and went up a second time; but the load upon my mind increased and I did not find relief. I went up a third time, and then the answer came. I found that it was time for meeting, and went immediately to the school house. I found it packed to its utmost capacity ... I preached and poured out my soul and my tears together. Indeed I let loose my whole heart upon them. Everybody knew that what I said was true and they quailed under it. They did not appear offended, but the people wept about as much as I did myself. I think there were scarcely any dry eyes in the house." It is when we grip God that multitudes are added!
At the next meeting: "Everybody was out at the meeting, and the Lord let me loose upon them in a wonderful manner. It seemed to myself that I could rain hail and love upon them at the same time. I felt Ike rebuking them with all my heart, yet with a compassion that they could not mistake."
Yes, both Mr. Finney and the people gave themselves up to prayer. Let me quote again (his autobiography): "I am not quite sure that I have laid as much stress as I intended upon the manifest agency of the Holy Spirit, in those revivals. I have said more than once that the spirit of prayer that prevailed in those revivals was a very marked feature of them. It was common for young converts to be greatly exercised in prayer; and in some instances, so much so, that they were constrained to pray whole nights, and until their bodily strength was quite exhausted, for the conversion of souls around them. There was a great pressure of the Holy Spirit upon the minds of Christians, and they seemed to bear about with them the burden of immortal souls. They manifested the greatest solemnity of mind, and the greatest watchfulness in all their words and actions. It was very common to find Christians, wherever they met in any place, instead of engaging in conversation, to fall on their knees in prayer.
"Not only were prayer meetings greatly multiplied and fully attended, not only was there great solemnity in those meetings; but there was a mighty spirit of secret prayer. Christians prayed a great deal, many spending many hours in prayer."
It was Father Nash who used to precede Mr. Finney to the city by a week, asking at the hotel for a room at the very end of a hall, and that daily a pitcher of water and loaf be left outside his door, but that otherwise he must not be disturbed. Sounds would be heard coming from that very isolated room, and those who knew how the Spirit worked would understand his burden. Does not this remind us of the blessed Son of God (Hebrews 5:7), "who in the days of his flesh offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, and was heard?" It reminds us also of the mighty secrets in Psalm 18: 6-9: "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: He heard my voice . . . and my cry came before him . . . then the earth shook and trembled, the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken . . . He bowed the heavens also, and came down!" That is the secret. These cries caused Him to come down. Do we, in one accord, exercise this secret today? May we do so!