Chapter 11 – Answered Prayers

In the fifteenth chapter of John and the seventh verse, we find who have their prayers answered –“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you.” Now in the fourth chapter of James, in the third verse, we find some spoken of whose prayers were not answered: “You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss.” There are a great many prayers not answered because there is not the right motive; we have not complied with the Word of God; we ask amiss. It is a good thing that our prayers are not answered when we ask amiss.

If our prayers are not answered, it may be that we have prayed without the right motive; or that we have not prayed according to the Scriptures. So let us not be discouraged, or give up praying, although our prayers are not answered in the way we want them.

A man once went to George Muller and said he wanted him to pray for a certain thing. The man stated that he had asked God a great many times to grant him his request, but He had not seen fit to do it. Mr. Muller took out his notebook, and showed the man the name of a person for whom, he said, he had prayed for twenty-four years. The prayer, Mr. Muller added, was not answered yet; but the Lord had given him assurance that the person was going to be converted, and his faith rested there.

We sometimes find that our prayers are answered right away while we are praying; at other times the answer is delayed. But especially when men pray for mercy, how quickly the answer comes! Look at Paul, when he cried, “O Lord, what will You have me to do?” The answer came at once. Then the publican who went up to the temple to pray — he got an immediate answer. The thief on the cross prayed, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” and the answer came immediately — then and there. There are many cases of a similar kind in the Bible, but there are also others who prayed long and often. The Lord delights in hearing His children make their requests known unto Him — telling their troubles all out to Him; and then we should wait for His time. We do not know when that is. There was a mother in Connecticut who had a son in the army, and it almost broke her heart when he left, because he was not a Christian. Day after day she lifted up her voice in prayer for her boy. She afterward learned that he had been taken to the hospital, and there died. but she could not find out anything about how he had died. Years passed, and one day a friend came to see some member of the family on business. There was a picture of the soldier boy upon the wall. He looked at it, and said, “Did you know that young man?” The mother said, “That young man was my son. He died in the late war.” The man replied, “I knew him very well; he was in my company.” The mother then asked, “Do you know anything about his end?” The man said, “I was in the hospital, and he died a most peaceful death, triumphant in the faith.” The mother had given up hope of ever hearing of her boy; but before she went hence she had the satisfaction of knowing that her prayers had prevailed with God.

I think we shall find a great many of our prayers that we thought unanswered answered when we get to heaven. If it is the true prayer of faith, God will not disappoint us. Let us not doubt God. On one occasion, at a meeting I attended, a gentleman pointed out an individual and said, “Do you see that man over there? That is one of the leaders of an infidel club.” I sat down beside him, when the infidel said, “I am not a Christian. You have been humbugging these people long enough, and making some of these old women believe that you get answers to prayer. Try it on me.” I prayed, and when I got up, the infidel said with a good deal of sarcasm, “I am not converted; God has not answered your prayer!” I said, “But you may be converted yet.” Some time afterwards I received a letter from a friend, stating that he had been converted and was at work in the meetings.

Jeremiah prayed, and said: “Ah, Lord God! Behold You have made the heaven and the earth by Your great power and stretched out Arm, and there is nothing too hard for You.” Nothing is too hard for God; that is a good thing to take for a motto. I believe this is a time of great blessing in the world, and we may expect great things. While the blessing is falling all around, let us arise and share in it. God has said, “Call unto Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you know not.” Now let us call on the Lord; and let us pray that it may be done for Christ’s sake — not our own.

At a Christian convention a number of years ago, a leading man got up and spoke — his subject being “For Christ’s Sake” — and he threw new light upon that passage. I had never seen it in that way before. When the war broke out the gentleman’s only son had enlisted, and he never saw a company of soldiers but his heart went right out after them. They started a Soldiers’ Home in the city where that gentleman lived, and he gladly went on the committee, and acted as President. Some time afterward he said to his wife, “I have given so much time to these soldiers that I have neglected my business,” and he went down to his office with the fixed determination that he would not be disturbed by any soldiers that day. The door opened soon after, and he saw a soldier entering. He never minded him, but kept on writing; and the poor fellow stood for some time. At last the soldier put down an old soiled piece of paper on which there was writing. The gentleman observed that it was the handwriting of his son, and he seized the letter at once and read it. It was something to this effect: “Dear father, this young man belongs to my company. He has lost his health in defense of his country, and he is on his way home to his mother to die. Treat him kindly for Charlie’s sake.” The gentleman at once dropped his work and took the soldier to his house, where he was kindly cared for until he was able to be sent home to his mother; then he took him to the station, and sent him home with a “God bless you, for Charlie’s sake!”

Let our prayers, then, be for Christ’s sake. If we want our sons and daughters converted, let us pray that it be done for Christ’s sake. If that is the motive, our prayers will be answered. If God gave up Christ for the world, what will He not give us? If He gave Christ to the murderers and blasphemers, and the rebels of a world lying in wickedness and sin, what would He not give to those who go to Him for Christ’s sake? Let our prayer be that God may advance His work, not for our glory — not for our sake — but for the sake of His beloved Son whom He has sent.

So let us remember that when we pray we ought to expect an answer. Let us be looking for it. I remember at the close of a meeting in one of our Southern cities near the close of the war, a man came up to me weeping and trembling. I thought something I had said had aroused him, and I began to question him as to what it was. I found, however, that he could not tell a word of what I had said. “My friend,” said I, “what is the trouble?” He put his hand into his pocket, and brought out a letter, all soiled, as if his tears had fallen on it. “I got that letter,” he said, “from my sister last night. She tells me that every night she goes on her knees and prays to God for me. I think I am the worst man in all the Army of the Cumberland. I have been perfectly wretched today.” That sister was six hundred miles away, but she had brought her brother to his knees in answer to her earnest, believing prayer. It was a hard case, but God heard and answered the prayer of this Godly sister, so that the man was as clay in the hands of the potter. He was soon brought into the Kingdom of God — all through his sister’s prayers.

I went off some thirty miles to another place, where I told this story. A young man, a lieutenant in the army, sprang to his feet and said, “That reminds me of the last letter I got from my mother. She told me that every night as the sun went down she prayed for me. She begged of me, when I got her letter, to go away alone, and yield myself to God. I put the letter in my pocket, thinking there would be plenty of time.” He went on to say that the next news that came from home was that his mother was gone. He went out into the woods alone, and cried to his mother’s God to have mercy upon him. As he stood in the meeting with his face shining, that lieutenant said: “My mother’s prayers are answered; and my only regret is that she did not live to know it; but I will meet her by-and-by.” So, though we may not live to see the answer to our prayers, if we cry mightily to God, the answer will come.

In Scotland, a good many years ago, there lived a man with his wife and three children — two girls and a boy. He was in the habit of getting drunk, and thus losing his situation. At last, he said he would take Johnnie, and go off to America, where he would be away from his old associates, and where he could commence life over again. He took the little fellow, seven years old, and went away. Soon after he arrived in America, he went into a saloon and got drunk. He got separated from his boy in the streets, and he has never been seen by his friends since. The little fellow was placed in an institution, and afterward apprenticed in Massachusetts. After he had been there some time he became discontented, and went off to sea; finally, he came to Chicago to work on the lakes. He had been a roving spirit, had gone over sea and land, and now he was in Chicago. When the vessel came into port, one time, he was invited to a Gospel meeting. The joyful sound of the Gospel reached him, and he became a Christian.

After he had been a Christian a little while, he became very anxious to find his mother. He wrote to different places in Scotland, but could not find out where she was. One day he read in the Psalms — “No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” He closed his Bible, got down on his knees, and said: “O God, I have been trying to walk uprightly for months past; help me to find my mother.” It came into his mind to write back to the place in Massachusetts from which he had run away years before. It turned out that a letter from Scotland had been waiting for him there for seven years. He wrote at once to the place in Scotland, and found that his mother was still living; the answer came back immediately. I would like you to have seen him when he got that letter. He brought it to me; and the tears flowed so that he could scarcely read it. His sister had written on behalf of the mother; she had been so overcome by the tidings of her long lost boy that she could not write.

The sister said that all the nineteen years he had been away, his mother had prayed to God day and night that he might be saved, and that she might live to know what had become of him, and see him — once more. Now, said the sister, she was so overjoyed, not only that he was alive, but that he had become a Christian. It was not long before the mother and sisters came out to Chicago to meet him.

I mention this incident to show how God answers prayer. This mother cried to God for nineteen long years. It must have seemed to her sometimes as though God did not mean to give her the desire of her heart; but she kept praying, and at last the answer came. The following personal testimony was publicly given at one of our meetings lately held in London, and may serve to help and encourage readers of these pages.


“I want you to understand, my friends, that what I state is not what I did, but what God did. God only could have done it! I had given it up as a bad job long before. But it is of God’s great mercy that I am standing here tonight, to tell you that Christ is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God through Him.

“The reading of those ‘requests’ (for the salvation of inebriates) touched me very deeply indeed. They seemed to be an echo of many a request for prayer which has been made for me. And, from my knowledge of society generally, and of human nature, I know that in a very great number of families there is need of some such request.

“Therefore if what I may tell you will cheer any Christian heart, encourage any Godly father and mother to go on praying for their sons, or assist any man or woman who has felt himself or herself beyond the reach of hope, I shall thank God for it.

“I had very good opportunities. My parents loved the Lord Jesus, and did their best to train me up in the right path; and for some time I thought myself that I should be a Christian. But I got away from Christ, and turned further and further away from God and all good influences.

“It was at a public school where I first learned to drink. Many a time at seventeen I drank to excess, but I had an amount of self-respect that kept me from going thoroughly to the bad until I was about twenty-three; but from then until I was twenty-six, I went steadily down hill. At Cambridge I went on further and further in drinking, until I lost all self-respect, and voluntarily chose the worst of companions. “I strayed further and further from God, until my friends, those who were Christians and those who were not, considered, and told me that there was very little hope for me. I had been pleaded with by all sorts of people, but I ‘hated reproof.’ I hated everything that savored of religion, and I sneered at every bit of good advice, or any kind word offered me in that way.

“My father and mother both died without seeing me brought to the Lord. They prayed for me all the time they lived, and at the very last my mother asked me if I would not follow her to be with her in heaven. To quiet and soothe her, I said I would. But I did not mean it; and I thought, when she had passed away, that she knew now my real feelings. After her death I went from bad to worse, and plunged deeper and deeper into vice. Drink got a stronger hold of me, and I went lower and lower down. I was never ‘in the gutter,’ in the acceptation in which that term is generally understood; but I was as low in my soul as any man who lives in one of the common lodging houses.

“I went from Cambridge first to a town in the north, where I was articled to a solicitor; and then to London. While I was in the north, Messrs. Moody and Sankey came to the town I lived in; and an aunt of mine who was still praying for me after my mother’s death, came and said to me, ‘I have a favor to ask of you.’ She had been very kind to me, and I knew what she wanted. She said, ‘It is to go and hear Messrs. Moody and Sankey.’ ‘Very good,’ I said; ‘it is a bargain. I will go and hear the men; but you are never to ask me again. You will promise that?’ ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I do.’ I went, and kept, as I thought, most religiously my share of the bargain.

“I waited until the sermon was over, and I saw Mr. Moody coming down from the pulpit. Earnest prayer had been offered for me, and there had been an understanding between my aunt and him that the sermon should apply to me, and that he would come and speak to me immediately afterward. We met Mr. Moody in the aisle, and I thought that I had done a very clever thing when I walked round my aunt, before Mr. Moody could address me, and out of the building.

“I wandered further from God after that; and I do not think that I bent my knees in prayer for between two and three years. I went to London, and things grew worse and worse. At times I tried to pull up. I made any number of resolutions. I promised myself and my friends not to touch the drink. I kept my resolutions for some days, and, on one occasion, for six months; but the temptation came with stronger force than ever, and swept me further and further from the pathway of virtue. When in London I neglected my business and everything I ought to have done, and sank deeper into sin.

“One of my boon companions said to me, ‘If you don’t pull up, you will kill yourself.’ ‘How is that?’ I asked. ‘You are killing yourself, for you can’t drink so much as you used to.” Well,’ I replied, ‘I can’t help it, then.’ I got to such a state that I did not think there was any possible help for me.

“The recital of these things pains me; and as I relate them, God forbid that I should feel anything but shame. I am telling you these things because we have a Savior; and if the Lord Jesus Christ saved even me, He is able also to save you.

“Affairs went on in this manner until, at last, I lost all control over myself.

“I had been drinking and playing billiards one day, and in the evening I returned to my lodgings. I thought that I would sit there awhile, and then go out again, as usual. Before going out, I began to think, and the thought struck me, ‘How will all this end?’ ‘Oh,’ I thought to myself, ‘what is the use of that? I know how it will end — in my eternal destruction, body and soul!’ I felt I was killing myself — my body; and I knew too well what would be the result to my soul. I thought it impossible for me to be saved. But the thought came to me very strongly, ‘Is there any way of escape?’ ‘No,’ I said; ‘I have made any number of resolutions. I have done all I could to keep clear of drink, but I can’t. It is impossible.’ “Just at that moment the words came into my mind, from God’s own Word — words that I had not remembered since I was a boy: ‘With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.’ And then I saw, in a flash, that what I had just admitted, as I had done hundreds of times before, to be an impossibility, was the one thing that God had pledged Himself to do, if I would go to Him. All the difficulties came up in my way — my companions, my surroundings of all sorts, and my temptations; but I just looked up and thought, ‘It is possible with God.’

“I went down on my knees there and then, in my room, and began to ask God to do the impossible. As soon as I prayed to Him, with very stammering utterance — I had not prayed for nearly three years — I thought, ‘Now then, God will help me.’ I took hold of His truth, I don’t know how. It was nine days before I knew how, and before I had any assurance, or peace and rest, to my soul. I got up, there and then, with the hope that God would save me. I took it to be the truth, and I ultimately proved it; for which I praise God.

“I thought the best thing I could do would be to go and get somebody to talk to me about my soul, and tell me how to be saved; for I was a perfect heathen, though I had been brought up so well. I went out and hunted about London; and it shows how little I knew of religious people and places of worship, that I could not find a Wesleyan chapel. My mother and father were Wesleyans, and I thought I would find a place belonging to their denomination; but I could not. I searched an hour and a half; and that night I was in the most utter, abject misery of body and soul any man can think of or conceive.

“I came home to my lodgings and went upstairs, and thought to myself, ‘I will not go to bed until I am saved.’ But I was so ill from drinking — I had not had my usual amount of food in the evening; and the reaction was so tremendous, that I felt I must go to bed (although I dared not), or I should be in a very serious condition in the morning.

“I knew how I should be in the morning, thinking, ‘what a fool I was last night!’ when I would wake up moderately fresh, and go off to drink again, as I had often done. But again I thought, ‘God can do the impossible. He will do that which I cannot do myself.’ And I prayed to the Lord to let me wake up in much the same condition as that in which I went to bed, feeling the weight of my sins and my misery. Then I went to sleep. The first thing in the morning, as soon as I remembered where I was, I thought, ‘Has the conviction left me?’ No; I was more miserable than before, and — it seemed strange, though it was natural — I got up, and thanked the Lord because He had kept me anxious about my soul.

“Have you ever felt like that? Perhaps after some meeting or conversation with some Christian, or reading the Word of God, you have gone to your room miserable and ‘almost persuaded.’ I went on for eight or nine days seeking the Lord. On the Saturday morning I had to go and tell the clerks. That was hard. I did it with the tears running down my cheeks. A man does not like to cry before other men. Anyway, I told them I wanted to become, and meant to become, a Christian. The Lord helped me with that promise, ‘With God all things are possible.’

“A skeptic dropped his head, and said nothing. Another fellow, with whom I played billiards, said, ‘I wish I had the pluck to say so myself!’ My words were received in a different way from what I thought they would be. But the very man who had told me that I was killing myself with drink, spent an hour and a half trying to get me to drink, saying, that I ‘had the blues, and was out of sorts; and that a glass of brandy or whisky would do me good.’ He tried to get me to drink; and I turned upon him at last, and said, ‘You remember what you said to me; I am trying to get away from drink, and not to touch it again.’ When I think of that I am reminded of the words of God Himself: ‘The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.’

“And now the Lord drew me on until the little thread became a cable, by which my soul could swing. He drew me nearer; until I found that He was my Savior. Truly He is ‘able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.’

“I must not forget to tell you that I went down before God in my misery, my helplessness, and my sin, and owned to Him that it was impossible that I should be saved; that it was impossible for me to keep clear of drink; but from that night to this moment, I have never had the slightest desire for drink.

“It was a hard struggle indeed to give up smoking. But God in His great wisdom, knew that I must have come to grief if I had to fight single-handed against the overwhelming desire I had for drink; and He took that desire, too, clean away. From that day to this the Lord has kept me away from drink, and made me hate it most bitterly. I simply said that I had not any strength; nor have I now; but it is the Lord Jesus who ‘is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him.’

“If there is any one hearing me who has given up all hope, come to the Savior! That is His name, for ‘He shall save His people from their sins.’ Wherever I have gone, since then, I have found Him to be my Savior. God forbid that I should glory! It would be glorying in my shame. It is to my shame that I speak thus of myself; but oh, the Savior is able to save, and He will save!

“Christian friends, continue to pray. You may go to heaven before your sons are brought home. My parents did; and my sisters prayed for me for years and years. But now I can help others on their way to Zion. Praise the Lord for all His mercy to me!

“Remember, ‘with God all things are possible.’ And then you may say like St. Paul, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.'”