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9. Introducing subjects of controversy into prayer will defeat a prayer meeting. Nothing of a controversial nature should be introduced into prayer, unless it is the object of the meeting to settle that thing.
10. Great pains should be taken, both by the leader and others, to watch narrowly the leadings of the Spirit of God. Let them not quench the Spirit for the sake of praying according to the regular custom. Avoid everything calculated to divert attention away from the object. All affectation of feeling should be particularly guarded against. If there is an affectation of feeling, most commonly others see and feel that it is affectation, not reality. At any rate, the Spirit of God knows it, and will be grieved. On the other hand, all resistance to the Spirit will equally destroy the meeting.
11. If individuals refuse to pray when they are called upon, it injures a prayer meeting. There are some people who always pretend they have no gift. Women sometimes refuse to take their turn in prayer, and pretend they have not ability to pray. But if any one else should say so, they would be offended! Suppose they should learn that any other person had made such a remark as this: "Do not ask her to pray, she cannot pray, she has not talent enough": would they like it? So with a man who pretends he has no gift; let any one else report that "he has not talent enough to make a decent prayer," and see if he will like it. The pretense is not sincere; it is all a sham.
Some say they cannot pray in their families; they have no gift. But a person could not offend one of them more than to say: "He cannot pray a decent prayer before his own family." The retort would be: "Why, So-and-so talks as if he thought nobody else had any gifts but himself."
People are not apt to have such a low opinion of themselves. I have often seen the curse of God follow such professors. They have no excuse. God will take none. The man has got a tongue to talk to his neighbors, and he can talk to God if he has any heart for it. You will see their children unconverted: their son has a curse; their daughter - tongue cannot tell.
God says He will pour out His fury on the families that call not on His name. I could mention a host of facts to show that God MARKS with His disapproval and curse those who refuse to pray when they ought.
13. Heartless confessions injure a meeting. People confess their sins but do not forsake them. Every week they will make the same confession. Why, they have no intention to forsake their sins! It shows plainly that they do not mean to reform. All their religion consists in these confessions. Instead of getting a blessing from God thereby they will get only a curse.
14. Injury is also done when Christians spend all the time in praying for themselves. They should have done this in their own homes. When they come to a prayer meeting, they should be prepared to offer effectual intercessions for others. If Christians pray at home as they ought, they will feel like praying for sinners. If, however, their private prayers are exclusively for themselves, they will not get the spirit of prayer. I have known men shut themselves up for days to pray for themselves, and never get any life, because their prayers were all selfish. But if such people will just forget themselves, and throw their hearts abroad, and pray for others, it will wake up such a feeling, that they will be able to pour forth their hearts in prayer. And then they can go to work for souls. I knew an individual in a revival, who shut himself up seventeen days, and prayed as if he would have God come to his terms; but it would not do, and therefore he went out to work, and immediately he had the Spirit of God in his soul.
15. Prayer meetings are often defeated by the want of appropriate remarks. The things are not said which are calculated to lead them to pray.
Perhaps the leader has not prepared himself; or perhaps he has not the requisite talents to lead the Church out in prayer, or he does not lead their minds to dwell on the appropriate topics of prayer.
16. It is a hindrance, when individuals who are justly obnoxious are forward in speaking and praying. Such persons are sometimes very much set upon taking part. They say it is their duty to get up and testify for God on all occasions. They will say, they know they are not able to edify the Church, but nobody else can do their duty, and they wish to testify.
17. When persons take part whose illiteracy is so pronounced as to cause disgust among people of taste and intelligence, attention is diverted. I do not mean to imply that it is necessary that a person should have a liberal education, in order to lead in prayer. All persons of common education, especially if they are in the habit of praying, can lead in prayer, if they have the spirit of prayer. But there are some persons who use expressions so absurd and illiterate as to disgust every intelligent mind. The feeling of disgust is an involuntary thing, and when a disgusting object is before the mind, the feeling is irresistible. Piety will not keep a person from feeling it. The only way is to take away the object. Such persons may feel grieved at not being called upon to take part, but it is better that they should be kindly told the reason, than that the prayer meeting should be regularly injured, and rendered ridiculous.
18. A want of union in prayer mars the meeting; that is, when one leads, but the others do not follow, for they are thinking of something else. Their hearts do not unite, do not say: "Amen." It is as bad as if one person should make a petition and another remonstrate against it. It is as though one asks God to do a thing, and the others ask Him not to do it, or to do something else.
1. A badly conducted prayer meeting often does more hurt than good. In many Churches, the general manner of conducting prayer meetings is such that Christians have not the least idea of the design or the power of such meetings. It is such as tends to keep down rather than to promote pious feeling and the spirit of prayer.
2. A prayer meeting is an index to the state of religion in a Church. 33 If the prayer meeting is neglected, or the spirit of prayer is not manifested, you know of course that religion is in a low condition. Let me go into the prayer meeting, and I can always see the state of religion which prevails in the Church.
3. Every minister ought to know that if the prayer meetings are neglected, all his labors are in vain. unless he can get Christians to attend the prayer meetings, all else that he can do will not improve the state of religion.
4. A great responsibility rests on him who leads a prayer meeting. If the meeting be not what it ought to be, if it does not elevate the state of religion, he should go seriously to work and see what is the matter, and get the spirit of prayer, and prepare himself to make such remarks as are calculated to do good and set things right. A leader has no business to lead prayer meetings, if he is not prepared, both in head and heart, to do this.
5. Prayer meetings are the most difficult meetings to sustain - as, indeed, they ought to be. They are so spiritual that unless the leader be peculiarly prepared, both in heart and mind, they will dwindle. It is in vain for the leader to complain that members of the Church do not attend. In nine cases out of ten it is the leader's fault that they do not attend. If he felt as he ought, they would find the meeting so interesting that they would attend as a matter of course. If he is so cold, and dull, and lacking in spirituality, as to freeze everything, no wonder people do not come to the meeting.
6. Prayer meetings are most important meetings for the Church. It is highly important for Christians to sustain the prayer meetings, in order to
7. Prayer meetings should be so numerous in the Church, and be so arranged, as to exercise the gifts of every member - man or woman. Every one should have the opportunity to pray, and to express the feelings of his heart. The sectional prayer meetings are designed to do this. And if they are too large to allow of it, let them be divided, so as to bring the entire mass into the work, to exercise all gifts, and diffuse union, confidence, and brotherly love, through the whole.
8. It is important that unrepentant sinners should attend prayer meetings. If none come of their own accord, go out and invite them. Christians ought to take great pains to induce their unrepentant friends and neighbors to come to prayer meetings. They can pray better for unrepentant sinners when they have them right before their eyes. I have known women's prayer meetings exclude sinners from the meetings. And the reason was, they were so proud that they were ashamed to pray before sinners. What a spirit! Such prayers will do no good. They insult God. You have not done enough, by any means, when you have gone to the prayer meeting yourself. You cannot pray if you have invited no sinner to go. If all the members have neglected their duty so, and have gone to the prayer meeting, and taken no sinners along with them, no subjects of prayer - what have they come for?
9. The great object of all the means of grace is to aim directly at the conversion of sinners. You should pray that they may be converted there.
Do not pray that they may be merely awakened and convicted, but that they may be converted on the spot. No one should either pray or make any remarks, as if he expected a single sinner would go away without giving his heart to God. You should all make the impression on his mind, that NOW he must submit. And if you do this, while you are yet speaking God will hear.
If Christians made it manifest that they had really set their hearts on the conversion of sinners, and were bent upon it, and prayed as they ought, there would rarely be a prayer meeting held without souls being converted; and sometimes every sinner in the room. That is the very time, if ever, that sinners should be converted in answer to those prayers. I do not doubt but that you may have sinners converted in every sectional prayer meeting, if you do your duty. Take them there, take your families, your friends, or your neighbors there with that design; give them the proper instruction, if they need instruction, and pray for them as you ought, and you will save their souls. Rely upon it, if you do your duty, in a right manner, God will not keep back His blessing, but the work will be done.