As we come to the end of another great week of prayer, I have been challenged again by these old words from E M Bounds on prayer. You may have already come across these stories, but don't allow their familiarity to rob you of the provocation that they provide. I will let Bounds speak in his own words.
'The men who have most fully illustrated Christ in their character, and have most powerfully affected the world for Him, have been men who spent so much time with God as to make it a notable feature of their lives. Charles Simeon devoted the hours from four until eight in the morning to God. Mr Wesley spent two hours daily in prayer. He began at four in the morning. Of him, one who knew him well wrote, 'He thought prayer to be more his business than anything else, and I have seen him come out of his (prayer) closet with a serenity of face next to shining.'
Luther said:'If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.'
Archbishop Leighton was so much alone with God that he seemed to be in a perpetual meditation. 'Prayer and praise were his business and his pleasure.' said his biographer. He was with God before the clock struck three every morning.
Bishop Asbury said, 'I propose to rise at four as often as I can and spend two hours in prayer and meditation'. Joseph Alleine arose at four o clock for his business of praying until eight. If he heard other tradesmen plying their business before he was up, he would exclaim, 'O how this shames me! Does not my master deserve more than theirs?'
John Welch, the holy and wonderful Scottish preacher thought the day ill spent if he did not spend eight or ten hours a day in prayer. He kept a plaid that he might wrap himself up when he arose to pray at night. His wife would complain when she found him lying on the ground weeping. He would reply, 'O Woman, I have the souls of three thousand to answer for, and I know not how it is with many of them!'
Bounds wrote these words over one hundred years ago to another generation, but he speaks with prophetic insight to our day when he concludes: 'This however, is not a day of prayer. Few men there are who pray......in these days of hurry and bustle, of electricity and steam, men will not take time to pray.'
The days of steam seem slow in comparison to the acceleration of the pace of life in our generation. Our hurry and bustle continue unabated. Will we be those who heed Bounds call to prayer? Can we afford not to?