Charles Finney (1792-1875) is a man worth knowing. Trained as a lawyer, but experiencing the Lord Jesus in a powerful way, he went on to become a revivalist of few equals, working in the Eastern part of the US and England mainly. People who read his Lectures on Revival-given extemporaneously on a weekly basis in 1834-were deeply moved with his idea that revivals were NOT merely the sovereign work of God, but if the "means" were used, revival could be brought at any time to any place.
Jonathan Goforth read the lectures, along with Finney's autobiography, began using the "means," and became the premiere revivalist in China. James Fraser followed the same course and obtained similar same results.
Finney was a careful student of the Bible and actually believed that what the Bible said was true. He was just as convinced that the Bible's conditions were to be followed CAREFULLY AND TO THE NTH DEGREE! In our day, we tend to claim the promises, but we are not as careful about following the stated conditions-sadly to our shame and loss.
Notice what Finney said:
"I answer, what is here taught as to prayer must be taken in connection with what is taught elsewhere. For example, what is here said of asking must be taken in connection with what is said of praying in faith—with what is said by James of asking and not receiving because men ask amiss, that they may consume it upon their lusts. If any of you were to frame a will or a promissory note, binding yourself or your administrators to pay over certain moneys, on certain speciﬁed conditions, you would not think it necessary to state the conditions more than once. Having stated them distinctly once, you would go on to state in detail the promise; but you would not expect any body to separate the promise from the condition, and then claim the promise without having fulﬁlled the condition, and even perhaps accuse you of falsehood because you did not fulﬁl the promise when the conditions had not been met.
Now, the fact is that we ﬁnd, scattered throughout the Bible, various revealed conditions of prayer. Whoever would pray acceptably must surely fulﬁl not merely a part, but all of these conditions. Yet in practice, the church, to a great extent, have overlooked, or at least has failed to meet these conditions. For example, they often pray for the Holy Spirit for selﬁsh reasons. This is fearfully common. The real motives are selﬁsh. Yet they come before God and urge their request often and long,—perhaps with great importunity; yet they are selﬁsh in their very prayers, and God cannot hear. They are not in their inmost souls ready to do or to suffer all God’s holy will. God calls some of his children through long seasons of extremest suffering, obviously as a means of purifying their hearts; yet many pray for pure hearts and for the Spirit to purify their hearts, who would rebel at once if God should answer their prayers by means of such a course of providence. Or, God may see it necessary to crucify your love of reputation, and for this end may subject you to a course of trial which will blow your reputation to the winds of heaven. Are you ready to hail the blessings of a subdued, unselﬁsh heart, even though it be given by means of such discipline?
Often your motive in asking for the Spirit is merely personal comfort and consolation—as if you would live all your spiritual life on sweet-meats. Others ask for it really as a matter of self-gloriﬁcation. They would like to have their names emblazoned in the papers. It would be so gratifying to be held up as a miracle of grace—as a most remarkable Christian. Alas, how many in various forms of it, are only offering selﬁsh prayers! Even a minister might pray for the Holy Spirit from only sinister motives. He might wish to have it said that he is very spiritual, or a man of great spiritual power in his preaching or his praying; or he might wish to avoid that hard study to which a man who has not the Spirit must submit, since the Spirit does not teach him, nor give him unction. He might almost wish to be inspired, so easy would this gift make his preaching and his study. He might suppose that he really longed to be ﬁlled with the Spirit, while really he is only asking amiss, to consume it on some unhallowed desire. A student may pray for the Spirit to help him study, and yet only his ambition or his indolence may have inspired that prayer. Let it never be forgotten, we must sympathize with God’s reasons for our having the Spirit, as we would hope to pray acceptably. There is nothing mysterious about this matter. The great end of all God’s spiritual administrations towards us in providence or grace is to divest us of selﬁshness, and to bring our hearts into harmony with his in the spirit of real love." Charles Finney
Perhaps we should take Finney seriously and follow the Bible MORE carefully!
More From Charles Finney
Prevailing Prayer (1847 Series) Part A
Prevailing Prayer (1847 Series) Part B
Prevailing Prayer (1847 Series) Part C
Prayer of Faith
Prevailing Prayer Recollections
Conditions to Prevailing Prayer and the Holy Spirit
Why So Few Revivals
How to Overcome Sin
Preaching So As To Convert Nobody
"On Confession and Being Cleansed From Sin"
Other Articles relating to Charles Finney:
Rosalind Goforth: Goforth Discovers Finney