The Prayer of Faith
(the longer version)
This is one chapter of Patton's excellent book on remarkable answers to prayer. A shorter version of the chapter is also available on this web site. You can also download a pdf of the chapter.
A chapter is devoted to the Prayer of Faith, because the subject is of importance, and is often misunderstood. The misunderstanding, moreover, is not without evil effect. Error never is harmless. In this instance, it has served to perplex and distress some good people, and to delude others; while providing skeptics with a host of objections against the idea of all prayer. Those have been perplexed and distressed, who were wishing to pray acceptably, and were told that they were not exercising the required faith; while yet they were conscious of a readiness to credit God’s word. Having read the Bible carefully, on the subject, and studied the particular proof-texts to which they were pointed, they were not certain as to the extent of their meaning. They were then charged with not being willing to believe the Scripture, and thus with defeating their own prayers, in connection with objects which they greatly desired to secure; such as the conversion of individuals in whom they were specially interested, or the occurrence of a revival in certain churches. Urged by persons in whose supposed superior piety and spiritual discernment they had conﬁdence, they sought to increase their faith by a desperate will-work; but in vain. And so they remained in a state of bewilderment and discouragement; not knowing whether they were guilty of unbelief, or whether the Bible did not mean what it seemed to say.
The deluded class have also had an unpleasant experience. Persuaded that their theory of prevailing prayer was correct, they tried to reduce it to practice. In so doing, they had for a time seeming corroborations of their view, the facts coming out according to their desire and petition. This gradually emboldened them to enlarge their experiments, and to announce the result conﬁdently before hand. “When the case was plainly going against them, they endeavored to believe more ﬁrmly; insisting that their faith was being put to the test, and that, in the end, it would signally triumph. Quite possibly, also, they fell into criticism of those who doubted their assurances of a favorable result, and thus grieved truehearted brethren and sisters, and created coldness where there should have been warm sympathy. Finally, they were put to confusion by the disappointment of their hopes and the non-fulﬁllment of their predictions; which left them on the edge of a reaction into an actual and sad unbelief; and for a time paralyzed their spiritual inﬂuence.
A case was reported to the author, as having these characteristics. The “prayer of faith,” technically but improperly so called, was brought to bear on a lady seriously ill with organic disease, and whose recovery was pronounced impossible by the attendant physicians; and she was assured not simply that God could and might heal her, but that, in answer to the petitions of a circle of prayer, she was to be fully restored to health. This assurance was repeated to the last, and it was said (but this may have been untrue) that some even expected that she would be raised from the dead, to save the credit of their theory and predictions. But the result was sorrowful in all respects. The lady was kept in a dubious and distracted state of mind, between the contradictory declarations of the physicians and her intimate Christian friends, so that her last days were robbed of much of the peace which might have characterized them, and the gospel of Christ failed to secure the triumphant dying testimony of victory to which it was entitled. The effect upon the unconverted was also unhappy, as it led them to doubt the conﬁdent assertions of Christians as to the teaching of the Scriptures. Of course that circle of prayer fell into disrepute, and its leaders lost no small part of the inﬂuence which they had previously possessed. It was a clear case of being misled by an erroneous theory.
It will be noticed, furthermore, that when skeptics assail the doctrine of prayer, they invariably state it in the form of this obnoxious theory; knowing that unanswerable objections can be brought against it. They thus succeed in rendering the idea of prayer ridiculous to the minds of those who have not sufﬁcient knowledge of the Bible, to discriminate between the view presented by the inspired writers and this delusion.
This theory teaches, that we can receive, in answer to prayer, any gift which we really think to be desirable, if we believe, at the time of offering the prayer, that it will be granted. This is said to be “The Prayer of Faith,” which always prevails; and the cause of failure to receive any thing for which one prays is declared to be, a lack of the speciﬁc faith, that the exact thing petitioned for, will surely be given. As faith, to be reasonable, must rest upon evidence, we are referred to a pledge which God is said to have given to the effect named, in the texts of Scripture which, without naming any limitation, bid us ask, and assure us that we shall receive; to the texts which name faith as the necessary condition of prevailing prayer; to the words in Mark xi: 24: “What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them;” and to the language in James v: 15, “The prayer of faith shall save the sick.” God, it is argued, has thus placed himself at our disposal; so that whatever may be our felt want, a believing petition will secure its relief. But to this view many things may be objected.
1. It implies that God virtually abdicates his throne in our favor; for it represents him as pledging himself in advance to do whatever we ask him to do. That would be to make man ruler. God would even exceed the folly of Oriental monarchs, who, like Ahasuerus, were accustomed to assure their favorites, in a mood of generosity, that they would give them their request “even to the half of the kingdom”; or, like Herod, to “promise with an oath to give whatsoever they would ask.” It is impossible that God could intend to place the scepter in our hands, by assuring us that he would always conform his action to our petition. Such an unconditional pledge leaves no place for a divine plan. The Bible assures us, that God is operating upon a wise and minute plan, which is to be carried out for the general good and his own glory. But he must needs surrender such plan, if he is to hold himself bound to grant every petition which we present with faith - a faith, observe, not in his general wisdom, but in his readiness to give us such speciﬁc things as we may happen to think desirable.
The only possible reply to this objection would be, to claim that, in God’s all-comprehending plan, he has from the beginning arranged, that no prayer shall ever be offered in the faith of a speciﬁc answer, but such as he shall inspire, and shall be determined to hear. But such a claim cannot be sustained; facts are against it. There have been numerous cases in which, under the inﬂuence of this theory, Christians have selected an object for prayer, and assumed that it would certainly be granted, and then have been disappointed. But a modiﬁcation of this view has a great truth in it. Let us imagine a soul entirely consecrated to God, and habitually in union with him, which, not merely with reference to some selected object is full of prayer and of faith, but with reference to all objects; and it may be truly afﬁrmed, that God will so regulate its desires, that they will fasten only upon such speciﬁc blessings as he is about to bestow; and that concurrently he will excite a corresponding expectation in the mind. But the naked, unqualiﬁed theory, as before stated, begins at the human instead of the divine end of the series of acts, and puts man’s desire, petition and faith ﬁrst, and God’s operation second. This rules out a divine plan, and supposes that the one who prays can make no mistake in his judgment, can have no blindness in his desires.
2. This method would be badly adapted to our moral training, which is the end chieﬂy had in view in the introduction of prayer into the divine economy. It would breed presumption rather than faith, self conﬁdence rather than humility; and it would fail to develop the spirit of patience, submission, importunity, perseverance and labor. It would introduce into God’s family the very evils which are to be deplored in human families where parental indulgence is the only rule.
3. It would ruin us and those we love and for whom we offer petitions. We should be certain to ask for gifts (as all children do) which would not be for our own good, or for the beneﬁt of those for whom we might pray. Desire is ever blind. “We think we need a multitude of things, which we are better without. In times past we have asked for that which, afterwards, we were glad not to have received; and we have prayed to have events prevented, which we now see to have been for our good. God is too benevolent to put so dangerous a power into our hands.
4. The theory involves self-contradiction; for it would bind God to do opposite things, at the same time, if opposing prayers should chance to be offered by those who accept the supposed pledge. One man wishes dry weather, to-day, while another particularly desires to have it rain; and each could present an excellent reason for his prayer, so far as he himself is concerned. Christian people are attached to conﬂicting parties and interests in politics, in ecclesiastical matters, in business enterprises, in military struggles. Did any such invariable rule of answer to prayer exist, they would call upon God to do the most contradictory things, daily! Can it be that God has exposed himself to such embarrassment?
5. The theorists themselves either never venture to act upon their theory, or are unwilling witnesses of its failure. For plainly they do not secure a multitude of objects which they most desire to secure, and for which either they strangely do not pray, or else pray in vain. Their friends and relatives die; their enterprises fail; their troubles come and remain, as in the case of other men; and their spiritual undertakings are no broader, or more successful than those of Christians who pray on a different understanding of the conditions. The wonder is, if this absolute and speciﬁc faith is always rewarded, as they assert that it is, that they do not pray with the requisite faith for the conversion, of all around them; for the removal of the prevailing evils, which they observe and feel; and, in fact, for the salvation of the whole world. What could be more appropriate? Yet they have never succeeded in accomplishing such ends, and their efforts to come into the requisite state of mind, have brought about sad results. The following is an extract from a letter communicated to the author, when he was editor of The Advance, (see paper of March 26, 1868,) by the gentleman who had the original in his possession. It was written by “Father Nash,” as he was familiarly called, who had special power in prayer, and was eminently useful, in that way, in the great revivals of the State of New York, forty-ﬁve years ago. But he carried his idea of the “Prayer of Faith “ to an unscriptural extreme; which led him to a feeling of personal responsibility exaggerated and overwhelming, and by which his physical system was utterly broken down. The letter is dated, Verona, Oneida Co., N. Y., Nov. 7, 1831, and would occupy many pages, if given in full: the following extracts will show his theory:
“Since you were here I have been thinking of prayer-particularly of praying for the Holy Ghost, and its descent. It seems to me I have always limited God in this respect. … I have never felt, till since you left us, that I might rationally ask for the whole inﬂuence of the Spirit to come down; not only on individuals, but on a whole people, region, country and world. On Saturday I set myself to do this, and the devil was very angry with me, yesterday, for it. I am now convinced, it is my duty and privilege, and the duty of every other Christian, to pray for as much of the Holy Spirit as came down on the day of Pentecost, and a great deal more. I know not why we may not ask for the entire and utmost inﬂuence of the Spirit to come down, and, asking in faith, see the full answer. … I think I never did so freely ask the Holy Ghost for all mankind. My body is in pain, but I am happy in my God. * * * I have only just begun to understand what Jesus meant when he said, ‘All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.’ I suppose millions have gone to hell, because I had no more faith to pray for them, and I do not see why I do not deserve to be damned for this. … I suppose I have done the world much more hurt than good. … Thus, by my unbelief, I have robbed God, robbed heaven, beneﬁted hell, cheated sinners out of their souls, and cheated myself; so that my portion will be small in heaven; for it will be according to the service which I shall have done for God. I wonder he does not let me go to hell! Wretch that I am, I suppose, however, that I shall just escape, as Paul did, because I did it ignorantly, and in unbelief.”
Now this was making himself personally responsible for the salvation of the world; as if it depended on his offering “the prayer of faith,” as he understood that phrase. He could not endure the strain, and the next morning he added: “I have felt a little like praying that I might be overwhelmed with the Holy Ghost, die in the operation, and go to heaven thus; but God knows.” Need anyone be surprised to learn that, a few days after “Father Nash” had penned these words, he was found dead, upon his knees! He reasoned too logically from his mistaken premises. He believed that, as God had promised to grant anything which a Christian asked with speciﬁc faith, he was bound to secure by prayer the conversion of neighbors, countrymen, and mankind; and he therefore struggled, agonized, and snapped the cord of life, in a desperate attempt to work himself into a faith sufﬁcient to save the land and the world. Rev. Asa Mahan, D.D., who lived and labored, at the time, in that region, states, in a communication to The Advance of May 21, 1868, that several died from a similar cause, while many others suffered from a physical prostration and a moral and spiritual paralysis, from which they never recovered. Yet the ﬁrst effect of the preaching of this theory seemed remarkably good; for it had in it a partial truth.
6. Nor does the Bible lend support to this view. Some think that the Bible means a peculiar kind of prayer, by “the prayer of faith;” which differs from other acceptable prayer, in that it always secures its speciﬁc object by believing that it will receive the very thing desired; and that this can be offered only in certain cases, where special promises exist, or special indications are made of the divine will. But the words of James, “the prayer of faith shall save the sick,” do not imply any such peculiarity; but only that the prayer so offered, with a faith appropriate to the circumstances, would secure the desired result. He does not afﬁrm that we ought not always to offer “the prayer of faith,” whatever that may be. Plainly we should; for, as was proved in the last chapter, faith is made a condition of all acceptable prayer. No man has a right to expect any blessing from God, through prayer, without faith, any more than without reverence, or sense of want, or gratitude, or humility, or submission, or obedience. He must “lift up holy hands, without wrath or doubting.” All true prayer must be the prayer of faith.
But in interpreting Scripture, one must never forget that, usually, but a single topic is handled at a time, and the reader is expected to know, or to learn, what is elsewhere said. Because in one passage salvation is made to turn upon the fact of repentance, it must not be concluded that there is no other condition attached. Further inquiry shows that we must also believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. And so when we read a text which gives one condition of acceptable prayer, we must not think that this is to be taken alone, apart from the limitations and qualiﬁcations mentioned in other texts. Each must aid to deﬁne the others. Thus the familiarity of a ﬁlial spirit must be limited by reverence; and a spirit of importunity by a feeling of humility. A reliance on the name and merit of Christ must be accompanied by a full purpose of obedience; a faith that God will give, by a submission of the form and time to his superior wisdom.
Here is where a mistake is made by the theory under condemnation. It ﬁnds a passage which reads, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them,” and it fails to remember, that this presupposes that another condition, shaping the desire and the prayer, has already been complied with; to-wit, that we should ask only for the things which are according to the will of God. John says, “And this is the conﬁdence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us;” which certainly does not mean, that if we ask anything according to our own will, (provided only we ask believingly,) he will always hear us. But Jesus, assuming that we understand this, says, that, when we thus have an object of desire, which we have evidence is according to the divine will, then, if by a ﬁrm faith, we believe that we have it, we shall ﬁnd it to be indeed so. This leaves us to submit unknown matters to the yet unrevealed divine will; making our prayer with respect to them conditional. Thus did Jesus in his prayer in the garden; and received that which was best. Similar was the spirit which Paul exercised with respect to “’the thorn in the ﬂesh;” for the removal of which he thrice prayed speciﬁcally, without obtaining the desired object; yet found his faith honored and his prayer answered, by a spiritual equivalent, even special grace which enabled him to gain a victory over the trial.
What, then, is the Scriptural doctrine of the prayer of faith? Simply this, that when we pray, we must fully believe that God will be true to all that he has promised. This implies that we are ready to learn what his promises are, and to make them the basis of a sure expectation. Less than this would not harmonize with the texts which require faith as a condition of prevailing prayer, or with that general principle so clearly announced in Heb. xi: 6; “But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him.” That it may be seen to what divine assurances faith gives credence, when it engages in prayer, attention should be paid to four points.
1. The general pledge that Prayer shall be answered. As we have already seen, the Bible abounds in declarations that God answers prayer; as when the Psalmist says: “O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all ﬂesh come;” and when Jesus says, “Ask and it shall be given unto you.” This is, of course, subject to the natural and obvious limitation, that God will use his superior wisdom in deciding what to give and what to refuse, and also when and how to bestow his favors. Prayer does not set aside God’s sovereignty; which is simply his love directed by his wisdom. But then these general pledges are an assurance of real aid. They mean that in human experience prayer will be found to be an actual help; that it will not prove a mockery of human hope. Faith will accept these pledges at their full value, and will so rest upon them, as habitually to carry all wants to God in childlike petition, certain that he will do the very best for us that is possible, and taking the comfort of that fact. It will also have the spirit of expectation, and will watch for answers to its petition so relying on the fatherly character of God and his invitations to his children to make known their desires with the utmost freedom.
2. We must notice the reason for faith, found in the promises of the Bible on speciﬁc subjects. God does more than to give general assurance of a willingness to hear prayer, and to relieve human want. He makes mention of speciﬁc blessings, which he is ready to bestow. These more minute pledges are in various forms of promise, prophecy, covenant and command. A promise is a direct engagement; a covenant is a still more formal and solemn act, usually accompanied by a seal; a prophecy is a statement of divine purpose, intended for our encouragement in prayer and labor; and a command always implies a result which God is willing to aid us in securing. It is only necessary, then, to ascertain that the desired favor is covered by some promise, covenant, prophecy, or command, to have a perfect warrant for faith that, in answer to prayer, God will bestow that very thing. One could not ask for a better ground of assurance.
“How ﬁrm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!”
We are entitled to claim, at God’s hand, whatever he has been pleased graciously to promise. And so our prayers may and should have the characteristic of perfect faith, that they will be literally answered according to the blessing asked.
Are these speciﬁc pledges numerous? Do they cover the ground of our usual necessities? Will they impart an element of certainty to our prayers, in the emergencies which men are often called to face? An afﬁrmative reply to these questions is authorized by the language of Scripture. For we ﬁnd, in the Bible, promises to the righteous of protection, deliverance, food, raiment, wisdom, guidance, sustaining grace, reward for industry and beneﬁcence, and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit as a guaranty of peace, holiness and usefulness. The prayer of faith uses these divine assurances as a sufﬁcient ground of conviction that God will aid in the emergency to which any of these promises applies, according to the exigency of the case. The man feels that he can pray with an accompanying certainty of being heard. It is not now so much an occasion of submission, as of grateful expectation. God here has made known his will, in advance. The true submission to it is, to take him at his word, and joyfully to claim what he has authorized us to ask. Not to do so, is a distrust of him, as well as a robbery of our own souls. It is as though a poor man should neglect to present a benefactor’s check at the bank, fearing that it might not mean what it said on its face, or might for some cause not be paid. As such lack of conﬁdence is grievous to our heavenly Father, so a ﬁrm faith is his delight.
In interpreting the speciﬁc promises, we must guard against a merely imaginative, or a fortuitous interpretation of them; in which some indulge without warrant from the Bible itself. There are those who, not content with a legitimate inference from Scriptural promises, treat the Bible as a conjuring book, or an instrument of fortune-telling. They wish to be divinely guided; and so, after prayer, they open the sacred volume, determined to take the ﬁrst text which meets the eye, as an indication from God of what they are to do. Or they read the Bible devoutly, or engage in prayer, and meet with or suddenly think of a passage, the wording of which powerfully impresses their imagination as applicable to their case; especially if it harmonizes with their natural wishes. The difﬁculty is, that a rational faith has no ground on which to rest, in such a case; there being no assurance in Scripture that God will reveal his will in that way. And it often results in lamentable delusion; as when ignorant persons think they are converted and forgiven, because the words, “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” have ﬂashed into their minds, when they were in mental distress. It happens, sometimes, that a truly pious man, whose temperament is enthusiastic, being seriously out of health, is impressed in reading, or in thought, with some such words as those of the Psalmist: “I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord.” Perhaps he seizes upon this, as an assurance that he is to recover, and have the enlarged opportunities of usefulness which he earnestly desires. This may be but imagination, and this mistaken conﬁdence, though it imparts a joyous hope to the last months of his life, may also so far mislead him, in his plans and arrangements, as to prevent desirable things from being said and done, which would be said and done, were not the mind preoccupied with an expectation which is not to be realized. The effect upon others, also, is unfortunate, in that it persuades them that faith is but imagination.
It is not intended, by these remarks, to deny that the Holy Spirit often uses passages of Scripture unexpectedly seen, to lead the mind to needed spiritual results; nor yet to express doubt that God may be pleased to arrange in his providence that the eye, at times, shall meet appropriate texts, which ﬁll the soul with needed comfort. The instances in proof of such a divine guidance are too numerous and striking to allow of denial. The conversion of Augustine seems to have been thus ordered; for, at the acme of his internal struggle, on the point whether he could forever renounce the pleasures of sinful indulgence, for Christ’s sake, and when he was weeping alone, in agony of conﬂict, he heard a child in a neighboring house singing something in which occurred the words, “Take up and read.” And so he rushed to where there was a volume of Scripture, and, to give his own words: “I seized, opened, and in silence read that passage on which mine eyes ﬁrst fell -’ Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the ﬂesh to fulﬁll the lusts thereof.’ No farther would I read; nor needed I; for instantly, at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.” Here was appropriate instruction ﬁtted to every such soul. But where does the Bible convey a warrant for us to turn it by prayer into an accidental prophet, in a way not very unlike fortune-telling by cards. The case of a minister of strong self-will could be mentioned, who in this way deluded himself into the idea that he was being divinely guided in a course which came near to a shipwreck of his character and usefulness. Only the persistent contradiction of facts drove him ﬁnally to a rational and genuinely Scriptural conduct. And this consideration prepares us for the next support of faith.
3. -Another warrant for faith, in connection with prayer, may be found in the indications of divine providence. Jesus told the Pharisees, that if they had studied the signs of the times, as diligently as they had the signs of the weather, they would have understood the will of God. We might not be able to interpret these signs, were it not for the word of God, which pre-announces his purposes; but with the Bible in our hands, to assure us of the divine plans, we ought to be able to discern the evidence that they are in process of fulﬁllment in speciﬁc cases. When a friend has publicly stated, that he intends to build a house, and soon after we notice that sand, lime, brick and lumber being drawn to land which he owns, we are warranted in the inference, that he is now carrying out his intention, and will fulﬁll any promise which he may have made in connection with it. And so God’s people ﬁnd special ground for the exercise of faith as to the answer of their prayers, when they discern, in the events of the day, in the peculiar ordering of circumstances around them, evidence that God is preparing to accomplish a part of his work in the world in which they feel a special interest. For his will appears in his providence, as truly as in his Word; and they who make a study of divine providence (as all God’s people should do) become quick to discern its meaning, and to foretell coming events of a moral and spiritual character. The prayers of such saints are full of conﬁdence, and petition almost turns into anticipative thanksgiving.
4. There is still another warrant for a prayer of faith, found in the leadings of the Holy Spirit. That these are a reality, no devout Christian will be disposed to deny. The New Testament is ﬁlled with declarations on this point; and it was the chief theme of discourse of our Savior at the institution of the Lord’s Supper. As the promised Comforter was to be the universal spiritual helper of Christ’s followers, we are prepared to learn that his aid has a special relation to our supplications. We are therefore directed to “pray in the Spirit,” and are assured that “the Spirit also helpeth our inﬁrmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit; because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Rom. viii:26, 27. It will be seen from this statement, that the work of the Spirit pertains to the exact point requisite to faith; to-wit, an understanding of the proper objects of prayer, and of the actual will of God. The Spirit may then beget in the soul a strong faith, which shall be concurrent with the divine plans; a supposition which is in accord with the idea that prevailing prayers are inspired of God, as we read: “I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications.” Zech. xii: 10.
In consequence of this bestowment of the Holy Spirit, the soul of the Christian is prepared to pray with faith. First of all, the Spirit awakens right desires and directs them to the proper objects; so that prayer goes straight to its mark. When not thus inﬂuenced, our desires are blind, being occasioned by mere natural impulse; and consequently they often long for objects which God cannot wisely bestow. But by the Spirit our desires are chastened, elevated, puriﬁed, and thus brought into sympathy with the divine plans, as respects ourselves and others. We are prepared to pray with a spiritual intelligence and intuition, and to have a corresponding conﬁdence awakened that we shall be heard.
Moreover, the Spirit guides to a true interpretation of Scripture; so that we understand the promises, covenants, prophesies and commands, in their adaptation to our duties, temptations, trials and labors. When these are made clear to our apprehension, and we feel that in them we are come into contact with the heart of God, to learn the extent of his love, we exercise faith as the most natural of inward acts. What else does prayer signify, we say than the use of the means appointed to obtain precisely what we need, and what God has promised?
In a similar manner, the Spirit aids us to interpret the divine providence. He who is in spiritual sympathy with God’s aims, and is led to an understanding of his Word, has the key to the mystery of earthly events. He sees along the line of divine purposes, and thus with a longer and clearer vision than that of men of the world. During our late war, there were no citizens so persistently hopeful, so certain of success, even at the darkest periods, as those who saw in the struggle great moral issues; and who believed that the time had come for an answer to the prayers which had so long been offering for the overthrow of slavery. It is true also, that some Christians have a prevision of coming scenes of religious revival. Thy are “ﬁlled with the Spirit,” and can see indications which others do not notice. They have a consciousness that their peculiarly strong spiritual desires have been kindled by the Comforter, to be gratiﬁed and not to be disappointed. Thus in his “Lectures on Revivals,” Mr. Finney tells this anecdote: “There was a woman in the state of New Jersey, in a place where there had been a revival. She was very positive there was going to be another. She insisted upon it, that they had had the former rain, and were now going to have the latter rain. She wanted to have conference meetings appointed. But the minister and elders saw nothing to encourage it, and would do nothing. … She went forward, and got a carpenter to make seats for her; for she said she would have meetings in her own house-there was certainly going to be a revival. She had scarcely opened her doors for meetings, before the Spirit of God came down with great power.” The history of almost any church will furnish similar facts, and the same truth holds true as to individual conversions.
We come, then, to this conclusion; that there is no prayer acceptable to God, but the prayer of faith; and that this simply means, that all prayer must be offered in full conﬁdence that God will be true to his word. Perhaps the truth has been sufﬁciently expressed by Professor Thomas C. Uphara, D. D., in his “Life and Experience of Catharine Adorna,” of whom he makes these excellent remarks:
“She had faith in God’s character, faith in his goodness and wisdom, faith in his providential arrangements, faith in his promises. And this faith she exercised constantly and practically, during the heavy trials of the earlier part of her life, and amid the weighty duties, which characterized its later periods. If she wanted wisdom, for instance, all she had to do was, to exercise, in sincere dependence upon God for his direction, those rational powers which God had given her, fully believing that he would guide her to all those results which were proper, and which were most beneﬁcial. She did not regard it as necessary or desirable, that she should have full or absolute knowledge; but only that kind and degree of knowledge which God sees best. And in the same manner, if she desired to be delivered from the presence of any temporary evil, she laid the case before God; fully believing that God would grant all that relief which he saw to be beneﬁcial; and she accepted the result, whatever it might be, as the true answer to her prayer, and with entire submission and gratitude. True faith, as it seems to us, is always exercised with the limitation implied in these remarks. It believes that God will give us whatever we ask in accordance with his wisdom and will. It neither goes, nor desires to go farther.”
Behold the throne of grace!
The promise calls me near:
There Jesus shows a smiling face,
And waits to answer prayer.
That rich atoning blood,
Which sprinkled round I see,
Provides for those who come to God,
An all-prevailing plea.
My soul! ask what thou wilt;
Thou canst not be too bold:
Since his own blood for thee he spilt,
What else can he withhold?-John Newton
Taken from Prayer and its remarkable answers: being a statement of facts in the light … By William Weston Patton, (London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1885), pp.89-111.