Andrew Murray was South Africa’s most eloquent 19th-century evangelist and
author of about 250 books and pamphlets. Throughout his career he pastored
many Reformed churches and conducted crusades in many countries. He was a
preacher of holiness and stressed the Holy Spirit and prayer for the nurture
of Christians and the empowering of the church. His sermons and other
writings have been consistently recognized, and their usefulness and impact
have continued to the present day, even in the outdated English of the
author’s own day.
Why then should expositions already so successful and of such stature and
proven usefulness require adaptation, revision, rewrite or even editing?
The answer is obvious. To increase its usefulness to today’s reader, the
language in which it was originally written needs updating.
Though his sermons have served other generations well, just as they came
from the pen of the author in the nineteenth century, they still could be
lost to present and future generations, simply because, to them, the
language is neither readily nor fully understandable.
My goal, however, has not been to reduce the original writing to the
vernacular of our day. It is designed primarily for you who desire to read
and study comfortably and at ease in the language of our time. Only
obviously archaic terminology and passages obscured by expressions not
totally familiar in our day have been revised. However, neither Murray’s
meaning nor intent have been tampered with.
All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL
VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of
Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The Power of United Prayer
“I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for,
it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three
come together in my name, there am I with them.”
One of the first lessons of our Lord in His teaching on prayer was: Not to
be seen of men. Enter your closet; be alone with the Father. When He has
taught us that the meaning of prayer is personal, individual contact with
God, He comes with a second lesson: You not only need secret, solitary
prayer, but also public, united prayer. And He gives us a very special
promise for the united prayer of two or three who agree in what they ask.
As a tree has its roots hidden in the ground and its stem growing up into
the sunlight, so prayer needs equally for its full development the hidden
secrecy in which the soul meets God alone, and the public fellowship with
those who find in the name of Jesus their common meeting place.
The reason why this must be so is plain. The bond that unites a man to his
fellow men is no less real and close than that which unites him to God; he
is one with them. Grace not only renews our relation to God but also to
man. We not only learn to say “My Father,” but “Our Father.” Nothing
would be more unnatural than that the children of a family should always
meet their father separately, but never in the united expression of their
desires or their love. Believers are not only members of one family, but
even of one body. Just as each member of the body depends on the other,
and the full action of the spirit dwelling in the body depends on the union
and cooperation of all, so Christians cannot reach the full blessing God is
ready to bestow through His Spirit unless they seek and receive it in
fellowship with each other. It is in the union and fellowship of believers
that the Spirit can manifest His full power. It was to the hundred and
twenty continuing in one place together, and praying with one accord, that
the Spirit came from the throne of the glorified Lord.
The marks of true united prayer are given to us in these words of our Lord:
1. Agreement as to the thing asked.
The first is “agreement” as to the thing asked. There must not only be
generally the consent to agree with anything another may ask, there must be
some special thing, some matter of distinct united desire; the agreement
must be, as all prayer must be, in spirit and in truth. In such agreement
it will become very clear to us what exactly we are asking, whether we may
confidently ask according to God’s will, and whether we are ready to
believe that we have received what we ask.
2. Coming together in the Name of Jesus.
The second mark is the coming together in the Name of Jesus. Our Lord
teaches us that the Name must be the center of union to which believers
gather, the bond of union that makes them one, just as a home contains and
unites all who are in it. “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the
righteous run to it and are safe.” That Name is such a reality to those
who understand and believe it, that to meet within it is to have Himself
present. The love and unity of His disciples have infinite attraction for
Jesus: “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
It is the living presence of Jesus, in the fellowship of His loving praying
disciples, that gives united prayer its power.
3. The sure answer.
The third mark, is the sure answer: “It will be done for you by my Father.”
A prayer meeting for maintaining religious fellowship, or seeking our own
edification, may have its use; this was not the Savior’s view in its
design. He meant it as a means of securing special answer to prayer. A
prayer meeting without recognized answer to prayer ought to be an
exception. When any of us have distinct desires in regard to which we feel
too weak to exercise the needful faith, we ought to seek strength in the
help of others. In the unity of faith and of love and of the Spirit the
power of the Name and the Presence of Jesus acts more freely and the answer
comes more surely. The mark that there has been true united prayer is the
fruit, the answer, the receiving of the thing we have asked: “I tell you,
it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”
What an unspeakable privilege of united prayer this is, and what a power it
might be. If the believing husband and wife knew that they were joined
together in the Name of Jesus to experience His presence and power in
united prayer (1 Peter); if friends believed what mighty help two or three
praying in concert could give each other; if in every prayer meeting the
coming together in the Name, the faith in the Presence, and the expectation
of the answer, stood in the foreground; if in every church united effectual
prayer were regarded as one of the chief purposes for which they are banded
together, the highest exercise of their power as a church; if in the Church
Universal the coming of the kingdom, the coming of the King Himself, first
in the mighty outpouring of His Holy Spirit, then in His own glorious
person, were really a matter of unceasing united crying to God–Oh, who can
say what blessing might come to, and through, those who thus agreed to
prove God in the fulfillment of His promise.
In the Apostle Paul we see very distinctly what a reality his faith in the
power of united prayer was. To the Romans he writes (15:30): “I urge you,
brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join
me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” He expects in answer to
prayer to be delivered from his enemies, and to be prospered in his work.
To the Corinthians (2 Cor 1:10-11), “He has delivered us from such a deadly
peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will
continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers,” their prayer is to
have a real share in his deliverance. To the Ephesians he writes: “Pray in
the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Pray
also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I
will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.” His power and
success in his ministry depends on their prayers. With the Philippians
(1:19) he expects that his trials will turn to his salvation and the
progress of the gospel “through your prayers and the help given by the
Spirit of Jesus Christ.” To the Colossians (4:3) he adds to the injunction
to continue steadfast in prayer, “Pray for us, too, that God may open a
door for our message.” And to the Thessalonians (2 Thess 3:1-2) he writes:
“Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread
rapidly and be honored, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil
men.” It is everywhere evident that Paul felt himself the member of a body
and that he counted on the prayers of these churches to gain for him what
otherwise might not be given. The prayers of the Church were to him as
real a factor in the work of the kingdom as the power of God.
Who can say what power a church could develop and exercise if it gave
itself to the work of prayer day and night for God’s power on His servants
and His word, and for the glorifying of God in the salvation of souls?
Most churches think their members are gathered into one simply to take care
of and build up each other. They do not know that God rules the world by
the prayers of His saints, that prayer is the power by which Satan is
conquered, that by prayer the Church on earth has as its disposal the
powers of the heavenly world. They do not remember that Jesus has, by His
promise, consecrated every assembly in His Name to be a gate of heaven,
where His Presence is to be felt, and His Power experienced in the Father
fulfilling their desires.
We cannot sufficiently thank God for the blessed week of united prayer with
which Christendom in our days opens every year. As proof of our unity and
our faith in the power of united prayer, as a training school for the
enlargement of our hearts to take in all the needs of the Church Universal,
as a help to united persevering prayer, it is of unspeakable value. But
very specially as a stimulus to continued union in prayer in the smaller
circles its blessing has been great. And it will become even greater, as
God’s people recognize what it is, all to meet as one in the Name of Jesus,
to have His Presence in the midst of a body all united in the Holy Spirit,
and boldly to claim the promise that it shall be done of the Father what
they agree to ask.
Transcribed by Tony Capoccia of
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