Monday, 14 November 2011

Meeting with God in prayer

Some time ago, I noticed that a friend was interested in the prayer life of Alexander Moody Stuart, a minister of the Free Church of Scotland in Edinburgh during the second half of the nineteenth century. I was aware that several people had commented on his prayer life; for example, David McIntyre in his book The Hidden Life of Prayer quotes Moody Stuart’s three rules for prayer: (1) Pray until you pray; (2) Pray until you are conscious of being heard; (3) Pray until you receive an answer. I assume that he affirmed these rules because he had experienced them. So I decided to have a closer look at what we know of his prayer life since answered prayer is part of normal Christian living.

One feature of his prayer life was his delight to meet with others to pray. During his ministry on an island in the north of England he met weekly with a Christian ploughman for prayer. He records what happened on one occasion.

The ploughman ‘was in the prime of youthful manhood; his fine countenance stamped with the double impression of meditation and intelligence, yet blooming with the glow of ruddy health, the fruit of constant outdoor labour. One summer evening, the moment the hour allotted to prayer was ended, he went home without uttering a word. He appeared unwell, his face had sunk, the bright hue of his cheek was pallid; he looked as a strong man ready to faint, but bearing up against some physical distress that all but overmastered him. Partly from his haste, and partly from his obvious aversion to speak, we parted without exchanging words.

‘The second day following, I hailed him at some distance in the fields to inquire for his health. “You seemed unwell when we parted the night before last; were you sick?” “Oh, no.” “Were you in distress of mind?” “No.” “What then?” Slowly and reluctantly he replied: “When we were on our knees I was so filled with a sense of the love of God, that the joy was too much for me; it was all that I was able to bear, and it was with a struggle that I did not sink under it.”

‘The fact itself was obvious, although to me it had not excited the least suspicion of the cause. The joy of this Divine love had remained with him all the night, and, though less intensely, throughout the next day and the night following. For myself, it was singularly refreshing to witness the presence and power of the Holy Ghost manifested in a manner so remarkable; and not under any moving address, but while two of us were quietly engaged in reading the word of God and in prayer. It was a gracious out-flowing of the love of the Lord Jesus making His servant “sick of love”.’

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