Leonard Ravenhill: The Secret of a Powerful Prayer Life

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There’s nothing more transfiguring than prayer. People often ask, “Why do you insist on prayer so much?” The answer is very simple—because Jesus did. You could change the title of the Gospel according to St. Luke to the Gospel of Prayer. It’s the prayer life of Jesus. The other evangelists say that Jesus was in the Jordan and the Spirit descended on Him as a dove—Luke says it was while He was praying that the Spirit descended on Him. The other evangelists say that Jesus chose 12 disciples—Luke says it was after He spent a night in prayer that He chose 12 disciples. The other evangelists say that Jesus died on a cross—Luke says that even when He was dying Jesus was praying for those who persecuted Him. The other evangelists say Jesus went on a mount and He was transfigured—Luke says it was while He was praying that He was transfigured. There’s nothing more transfiguring than prayer.

The Scriptures say that the disciples went to bed, but Jesus went to pray—as was His custom. It was His custom to pray. Now Jesus was the Son of God—He was definitely anointed for His ministry. If Jesus needed all that time in prayer, don’t you and I need time in prayer? If Jesus needed it in every crisis, don’t you and I need it in every crisis?

The story goes that a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village saw an old man sitting by a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one of the visitors asked, “Were any great men born in this village?” Without looking up the old man replied, “No, only babies.” The greatest men were once babies. The greatest saints were once toddlers in the things of the Spirit.

C.H. Spurgeon was converted at the age of 16 and began preaching in London at the age of 19. When he was 27, they built him a tabernacle seating 6,000, which he packed twice on Sundays—that’s 12,000—and once on Thursday nights. How? He waited on God. He got alone with God. He studied…and he prayed.

Desperate Prayer

God makes all His best people in loneliness. Do you know what the secret of praying is? Praying in secret. “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door…” (Matt. 6:6). You can’t show off when the door’s shut and nobody’s there. You can’t display your gifts. You can impress others, but you can’t impress God.

I Samuel 1:1-15 gives an account of the yearly trip Elkanah and his wife, Hannah, made to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord. During this time, Hannah had been distressed that she was not able to bear a son for her husband. This passage of Scripture gives quite a descriptive account of her time in prayer concerning the barrenness of her womb. It says that Hannah wept. More than this, she wept until she was sore. She poured out her soul before the Lord. Her heart was grieving; she was bitter of soul, provoked and of a sorrowful spirit.

Now that’s a pretty good list of afflictions—sorrow, hardship and everything else that came upon this woman. But the key to the whole situation is that she was a praying woman. In verse 20 it says that she reaped her reward. “And it came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I have asked him of the Lord.'”

Now I say very often—and people don’t like it—that God doesn’t answer prayer. He answers desperate prayer! Your prayer life denotes how much you depend on your own ability, and how much you really believe in your heart when you sing, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling….” The more self-confidence you have, the less you pray. The less self-confidence you have, the more you have to pray.

What does the Scripture say? It says that God takes the lowly, the things that are not. Paul says in I Corinthians 1:28 that God takes the things that are not to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no flesh should glory in His presence. We need a bunch of “are nots” today.

The Language of the Poor

Prayer is the language of the poor. Over and over again David, the King of Israel, says, “Incline Thine ear, O Lord, and answer me; for I am afflicted and needy” (Psalm 86:1). And do you remember that one of the greatest psalms he wrote says, “This poor man cried and the Lord heard him…” (Psalm 34:6).

The apostle Paul overwhelms me with his spirituality, his pedigree, his colossal intellect. Yet he says that he’s very conscious that when he’s weak, he is strong. He was always trying to prove to himself and to others that he was a nobody.

True prayer is a two-way communication. I speak to God and God speaks to me. I don’t know how the Spirit makes communication—or why God needs me to pray—but that’s how God works.

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