Our Pressing Need is a Baptism of Divine Power
"They continued with one accord in prayer and supplication."
Key Thought: "The secret of the success of the Apostles lay, not in what they did and said, but in the presence of Christ in them and with them. They saw with the eyes of Christ, felt with His heart, and worked with His energies. They were nothing, Christ was everything. Christ was living, breathing, and triumphing in their personal lives. Their entire nature being replete with His light, and their souls kindled with the fires of His love, they moved in the midst of men as embodiments of supernatural power."
Our Pressing Need: A Baptism of Divine Power
We are told that the disciples "continued with one accord in prayer and supplication." Let us look at that wonderful prayer meeting for a moment. The disciples, though scattered by the crucifixion, were all present. Peter was there, but a wiser and a stronger man. Incredulous Thomas was there, but with his faith firmly established. Mary, the mother of Jesus was there, praying for the first time in the name of her glorified Son. They were all with one accord. This is a term of music. Theirs was not a meeting of bodies only, but a concert of souls—souls musical with one sentiment, one purpose, one desire. They continued with one accord. There was a spirit of perseverance as well as union in their prayers. They were commanded to tarry until endued with power, and they simply obeyed. But they did not tarry in idleness; they "continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" And they did this in faith— implicit faith in their living Lord and in the word of His promise. They knew that He would not disappoint them. The world would have knocked in vain at the door of the Church during these ten days of prayer. As yet they were not fit to face the world. Conscious of their utter helplessness, and feeling their absolute dependence upon God for power, they were compelled to tarry in prayer. But they knew that they were not tarrying in vain; for He had said: "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you." They used the name of Jesus, and put their supplications into His golden censer; their prayers ascended to the throne of the Father, authorized and accredited by the name of the only-begotten Son ; and Pentecost crowned their devotion.
This is what the Apostles did, and this is what we must do. Prayer is the indispensable condition.
"There in the heavens is the residue of the Spirit;
prayer taps the reservoir,
and the outlet widens as we pray."
But our prayers must be earnest, united, believing, and importunate. They must spring from a profound sense of a great want, and an unwavering assurance of the availableness and adequacy of the Holy Ghost to meet it. We must pray much with our converts for this unspeakable gift, believing that our Father, who gave the Spirit to Jesus without measure, will do for us exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think. But especially must we spend much time alone with God. Spiritual work involves the expenditure of spiritual power; and the soul can be replenished only by dwelling in the secret place of the Most High. "Nothing but waiting at the throne," says some one; "nothing but keeping the heart under the eyes of the Lamb, to be again and again penetrated by His Spirit, can put the soul into the condition in which it is a meet instrument to impart the light and power of God to other men." The man who takes his affairs on his own shoulders, works ordinarily like an atheist, and begins to pray only when he is in extremity, is necessarily weak, and doomed to failure. He will be left to himself, and God will allow him to be smitten by his own weapons. But that man wields a mighty power who has learnt the secret of instantly and directly going to God, and of holding face-to-face communion with Him. The enemies of Luther were wont to say that he could obtain anything from God. And Mary Queen of Scots was accustomed to say that she feared the prayers of John Knox more than she did the fleets and armies of Elizabeth.
What think you, brethren, would be the result in China, if we, as a body of missionaries, were to resolve to make proof of the last possible efficacy of prayer on behalf of ourselves, our converts, and the heathen around us? "I have intimated my fear," says John Foster, "that it is visionary to expect an unusual success in the human administration of religion unless there were unusual omens. Now, an emphatic spirit of prayer would be such an omen. If the whole, or greater number, of the disciples of Christianity were, with an earnest unfailing resolution of each, to combine that Heaven should not withhold one single influence which the very utmost effort of conspiring and persevering supplication could obtain, it would be a sign of the revolution of the world being at hand."
Brethren, why should we not have such an omen in this conference? But to obtain such an omen—to pray for such a blessing in such a spirit of resolve—the consecration of ourselves to God must be absolute. We cannot, we dare not, ask for the Spirit's highest gifts while conscious of the existence and influence of secret ambitions and half-consecrated purposes in our hearts and lives. We must be emptied of self, if we would be filled with God. Self-will must perish, and the soul become perfectly pliable in the hands of the Spirit, ere we can, as a prince, have power with God and with men, and prevail. We must be willing to be nothing, however painful the humbling may be.
Oh! to be nothing, nothing,
Only to lie at His feet;
A broken and emptied vessel
For the Master s use made meet.
Brethren, we do well to leave our respective stations for a season, and meet here for the purpose of conferring on matters of importance connected with our work. China is open now as it never was before; the churches under our charge are multiplying and increasing; and it is a pressing question how this immense field may be more fully occupied, and this growing work more effectually compassed. Moreover, methods of operation have been tried for a long period, and we want to obtain full and reliable information in respect to their intrinsic and comparative value. But I do feel in my inmost soul that our pressing need is a baptism of Divine power. I want to return from this conference, not only stimulated in mind and enriched with a store of valuable information, but filled with the Holy Ghost. China is dead— terribly dead. Our plans and organizations can do very little for this great people. They want life. Christ came to give life; and He is not the “I was” but the “I am.” "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
The secret of the success of the Apostles lay, not in what they did and said, but in the presence of Christ in them and with them. They saw with the eyes of Christ, felt with His heart, and worked with His energies. They were nothing, Christ was everything. Christ was living, breathing, and triumphing in their personal lives. Their entire nature being replete with His light, and their souls kindled with the fires of His love, they moved in the midst of men as embodiments of supernatural power. They spake with the demonstration of the Spirit; when they came into contact with men, a mysterious energy went out of them; and, under their vitalizing touch, dead souls started into life. The Spirit had taken hold of the highest faculties of their nature, and was working with them according to His own will.
Brethren, this is what we must be, if this mighty Empire is to be moved through us. But, to be this, the throne of grace must be our refuge—the secret place of the Most High must be our daily and hourly habitation. We must take time to become intimately acquainted with God; we must take time to become filled with His power; we must take time to be holy. May God help us during the days of this conference to wait upon Him in earnest persevering prayer! Let us put our desires into one heart-felt petition for a baptism of the Holy Ghost, and not cease to present it until we have prevailed. So Elijah prayed; he threw himself on the ground, resolved not to rise again till his request was granted. So Jacob wrestled with the angel. So Daniel set his face unto the Lord his God. So the disciples continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.—From "Records of the Shanghai Missionary Conference”