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It must never be forgotten that almighty God rules this world. He is not an absenteeGod. His hand is always on the controls of human affairs. He is present everywhere in the concerns of time. "His eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men" (Ps. 11:4). He rules the world just as He rules the church -- through prayer. This lesson needs to be taught and taught again to men and women. Then this lesson will affect the consciences of those whose eyes have no vision for eternal things, whose ears are deaf toward God. In dealing with mankind, nothing is more important to God than prayer. Prayer is likewise of great importance to people. Failure to pray is failure in all of life. It is failure of duty, service, and spiritual progress. It is only by prayer that God can help people. He who does not pray, therefore, robs himself of God's help and places God where He cannot help people. We must pray to God if love for God is to exist. Faith and hope and patience and all the strong, beautiful, vital forces of piety are withered and dead in a prayerless life. An individual believer's life, his personal salvation, and his personal Christian graces have their being, bloom, and fruit in prayer. All this and much more can be said about how prayer is necessary to the life and piety of the individual. But prayer has a larger sphere, a loftier inspiration, a higher duty. Prayer concerns God, whose purposes and plans are conditioned on prayer. His will and His glory are bound up in praying. The days of God's splendor and renown have always been the great days of prayer. God's great movements in this world have been conditioned on, continued by, and fashioned by prayer. God has put Himself in these great movements just as men and women have prayed. Present, prevailing, conspicuous, and overcoming prayer has al-ways brought God's presence. The real and obvious test of a genuine work of God is the prevalence of the spirit of prayer. God's mightiest forces fill and permeate a movement when prayer's mightiest forces are there. God's movement to bring Israel from Egyptian bondage had its inception in prayer. (See Exodus 2:23-25; 3:9.) Thus, it was early in history when God made prayer one of the granite forces upon which His world movements would be based. Hannah's petition for a son (1 Sam. 1:11) began a great prayer movement for God in Israel. Praying women, like Hannah, whose prayers can give men like Samuel to the cause of God, do more for the church and the world than all the politicians on earth. People born of prayer are the saviors of the state, and people saturated with prayer give life and impetus to the church. Under God they are saviors and helpers of both church and state. We must believe that the divine record about prayer and God is given in order that we might be constantly reminded of Him. And we are ever refreshed by the knowledge that God holds His church and that God's purpose will be fulfilled. His plans concerning the church will most assuredly and inevitably be carried out. That record of God has been given without doubt; therefore, we may be deeply impressed that the prayers of God's saints are a great factor, a supreme factor, in carrying forward God's work with ease and in time. When the church is in the condition of prayer, God's cause always flourishes, and His kingdom on earth always triumphs. When the church fails to pray, God's cause decays, and evil of every kind prevails. In other words, God works through the prayers of His people, and when they fail Him at this point, decline and deadness follow. It is according to the divine plan that spiritual prosperity comes through the prayer channel. Praying saints are God's agents for carrying on His saving and providential work on earth. If His agents fail Him, neglecting to pray, then His work fails. Praying agents of the Most High are always forerunners of spiritual prosperity. In all ages, those who have led the church of God have had a full and rich ministry of prayer. In the Bible, the rulers of the church had preeminence in prayer. They may have been eminent in culture, intellect, and all human abilities, or they may have been lowly in physical attainments and natural gifts. Yet, in each case prayer was the all-powerful force in the leadership of the church. This was so because God was with them in what they did, for prayer al-ways carries us back to God. It recognizes God and brings God into the world to work and to save and to bless. The most effective agents in spreading the knowledge of God, in performing His work on the earth, and in standing as a barrier against the billows of evil, have been praying church leaders. God depends on them, employs them, and blesses them. Prayer cannot be retired as a secondary force in this world. To do so is to retire God from moving in our lives. It is to make God secondary. The prayer ministry is an all-engaging force; it must be all-engaging to be a force at all. Prayer is the sense of a need for God and the call for God's help to supply that need. How we estimate and place prayer is how we estimate and place God. To give prayer a secondary place is to make God secondary in life's affairs. To substitute other forces for prayer excludes God and materializes the whole movement. Prayer is absolutely necessary if we want to carry on God's work properly. God has intended it to be so. The Twelve in the early church knew the importance of prayer. In fact, when they heard the complaint that certain widows had been neglected in the daily distribution, they did not handle it all by themselves. (See Acts 6:12.) The Twelve called all the disciples together and told them to select seven men, "full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom" (Acts 6:3), whom they would appoint over that benevolent work. They added this important statement: "But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4). They surely realized that the success of the Word and the progress of the church were dependent in a preeminent sense on their giving themselves to prayer. God could effectively work through them in proportion to how much they gave themselves to prayer. The apostles were as dependent on prayer as everyone else. Sacred work, or church activities, may make us so busy that they hinder praying; and when this is the case, evil always results. It is better to let the work go by default than to let the praying go by neglect. Whatever affects the intensity of our praying affects the value of our work. "Too busy to pray" is not only the keynote to backsliding, but it mars even the work that is done. Nothing is done well without prayer for the simple reason that it leaves God out of the work. It is so easy to be seduced by the good to the neglect of the best, until both the good and the best perish. How easily believers, even leaders of the church, are led by the deceptive wiles of Satan to cut short their praying in the interests of the work! How easy it is to neglect prayer or abbreviate our praying simply by the excuse that we have church work on our hands. When he can keep us too busy to stop and pray, Satan has effectively disarmed us. "We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4). The Revised Version states, "We will continue stedfastly in prayer." The implication of the word "continue" is to be strong, steadfast, to be devoted to, to keep at it with constant care, to make a business out of it. We find the same word in Colossians 4:2, which reads, "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving." We also find it in Romans 12:12, which is translated, "Continuing instant in prayer." The apostles were under the law of prayer. This law recognizes God as God and depends on Him to do what He would not do without prayer. They were under the necessity of prayer, just as all believers are, in every age and in every place. They had to be devoted to prayer in order to make their ministry of the Word effective. The business of preaching is worth very little unless it is in direct partnership with the business of praying. Apostolic preaching cannot be carried on unless there is apostolic praying. Alas, this plain truth has been easily forgotten by those who minister in holy things! Without in any way passing a criticism on the ministry, I feel it is high time that somebody declared to ministers that effective preaching cannot take place without effective praying. The preaching that is most successful comes from a ministry that prays much. Perhaps one might go so far as to say that such a ministry is the only kind that is successful. God can mightily use the preacher who prays. He is God's chosen messenger for good, and the Holy Spirit delights to honor him. A praying preacher is God's effective agent in saving sinners and in edifying saints. In Acts 6:1-8 we have the record of how, long ago, the apostles felt that they were losing -- indeed, had lost -- apostolic power because they were involved in certain duties that prevented them from praying more. So they called everything to a halt. They had discovered, to their regret, that they were too deficient in praying. Doubtless, they had kept up the form of praying, but it was seriously lacking in intensity and in the amount of time given to it. Their minds were too preoccupied with the finances of the church. Likewise, even in the church today, we find both laymen and ministers so busily engaged in "serving" that they are glaringly deficient in praying. In fact, in present-day church affairs, people are considered religious if they give largely of their money to the church; and people are chosen for official positions, not because they are people of prayer, but because they have the ability to run church finances and to get money for the church. Now, when these apostles looked into this matter, they determined to put aside these hindrances resulting from church finances, and they resolved to give themselves to prayer. Not that these finances were to be ignored or set aside, but ordinary laymen, "full of faith and of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 6:5), could work with the finances. These men were to be truly religious men who could easily at-tend to these financial matters without it affecting their piety or their praying in the least. They would thus have something to do in the church, and at the same time they could take the burden off of the apostles. In turn, the apostles would be able to pray more. Praying more, they themselves would be blessed in soul, and they would be more effective in the work to which they had been called. The apostles realized, too, as they had not realized before, that they were being so pressured by attention to material things, things right in themselves, that they could not pray fully. They could not give to prayer that strength, zeal, and time that its nature and importance demand. Likewise, we will discover, under close scrutiny of ourselves sometimes, that legitimate and commendable things may so engross our attention that prayer is omitted, or at least very little time is given to it. How easy to slip away from the prayer closet! Even the apostles had to guard themselves at that point. How closely we need to watch ourselves at the same place! Things legitimate and right may become wrong when they take the place of prayer. Things right in themselves may become wrong things when they are allowed to fasten themselves excessively upon our hearts. It is not only the sinful things that hurt prayer. It is not only questionable things that are to be guarded against, but it is also things which are right in their places but which are allowed to sidetrack prayer and shut the door of the prayer closet, often with the self-comforting plea that "we are too busy to pray." Possibly, busyness has had as much to do with the breaking down of family prayer in this age as any other cause. Busyness has caused family religion to decay, and busyness is one cause of the decline of the prayer meeting. Men and women are too busy with legitimate things to give themselves to prayer. Other things are given the right-of-way. Prayer is set aside. Business comes first. And this does not always mean that prayer is second, but oftentimes prayer is left out entirely. The apostles tackled this problem, and they determined that not even church business would affect their praying habits. Prayer had to come first; then they would be God's real agents in His world, in deed and truth. God could work effectively through them because they prayed and thereby put themselves directly in line with His plans and purposes. And His plan and purpose is to work through people who pray. When the complaint about the daily distribution came to the apostles' ears, they discovered that their work had not been accomplishing fully the divine ends of peace, gratitude, and unity. On the contrary, discontent, complaining, and division were the result of their work, which had far too little prayer in it. So, they promptly restored prayer to its rightful prominence. Praying men and women are a necessity in carrying out God's plan for saving sinners. God has made it so. God established prayer as a divine ordinance, and therefore we are to pray. The fact that God has so often employed men and women of prayer to accomplish His plans clearly proves we are to pray. It is unnecessary to name all the in-stances in which God used the prayers of righteous men and women to carry out His gracious designs. Time and space are too limited for the list. However, I will name one or two cases. In the case of the golden calf, God purposed to destroy the Israelites because of their great sin of idolatry. (See Deuteronomy 9:12-21.) While Moses was receiving the law at God's hands, Aaron was swept away by the strong, popular tide of unbelief and sin. The very being of Israel was imperiled. All seemed lost except Moses and prayer, and prayer became more effective and wonder-working on be-half of Israel than Aaron's magic rod. God determined to destroy Israel and Aaron, for His anger grew hot. It was a fearful and critical hour. But prayer was the levee that held back heaven's desolating fury. God's hand was held fast by the prayers of Moses, the mighty intercessor. Moses was set on delivering Israel. He prayed for forty days and forty nights; it was a long and exhaustive struggle. Not for one moment did he relax his hold on God. Not for one moment did he leave his place at the feet of God, even for food. Not for one moment did he moderate his demand or ease his cry. Israel's existence was in the balance. The wrath of almighty God had to be stayed. Israel had to be saved at all cost. And Israel was saved. Moses would not let God alone. And so, today, we can look back and give the credit for the present race of the Jews to the praying of Moses centuries ago. Persevering prayer always wins; God yields to persistence and fidelity. He has no heart to say no to praying such as Moses did. God's purpose to destroy Israel was actually changed by the praying of this man of God. This illustrates how much just one praying person is worth in this world, and how much depends on him. Daniel, in Babylon, refused to obey the decree of the king. (See Daniel 6:1-23.) The king had decreed that no one could ask any petition of any god or man for thirty days. But Daniel shut his eyes to the decree that would shut him off from his prayer room; he refused to allow fear of consequences to deter him from calling on God. So, he "kneeled upon his knees three times a day" (Dan. 6:10) and prayed as he had done before, putting in God's hands all the consequences of disobeying the king. There was nothing impersonal about Daniel's praying. It always had an objective, and it was an appeal to a great God who could do all things. Daniel did not pamper himself or look for a feeling to urge him to pray. In the face of the dreadful decree that could hurl him from his high position into the lion's den, "he kneeled upon his knees three times a day... and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime" (Dan. 6:10). The gracious result was that prayer laid its hands upon an almighty arm, which intervened in that den of vicious lions. God closed their mouths and preserved His servant Daniel, who had been true to Him and who had called on Him for protection. Daniel's praying was an essential factor in defeating the king's decree and in defeating the wicked, envious rulers who had tried to trap him. They wanted to destroy him and remove him from his powerful position in the kingdom, but Daniel's prayers prevailed!