Beloved, there is one reason why we should pray, those of us who are engaged in the Lord’s work in any way, because it is prayer that will ensure success.
Two laborers in God’s harvest met each other once upon a time, and they sat down to compare notes. One was a man of sorrowful spirit, and the other joyous, for God had given him the desire of his heart. The sad brother said, “Friend, I cannot understand how it is that everything you do is sure to prosper: You scatter seed with both your hands very diligently, and it springs up, and so rapidly too, that the reaper treads upon the heels of the sower, and the sower himself again upon the heels of the next reaper. I have sown,” said he, “as you have done, and I think I can say I have been just as diligent; I think too the soil has been the same, for we have labored side by side in the same town. I hope the seed has been of the same quality, for I have found mine where you get yoursthe common granary. But alas, my seed, friend, mine never springs up. I sow it. It is as if I sowed upon the waves, I never see a harvest. Here and there a sickly blade of wheat I have discovered with great and diligent search, but I can see but little reward for all my labors.” They talked long together, for the brother who was successful was one of a tender heart, and therefore he sought to comfort this mourning brother. They compared notes, they looked through all the rules of husbandry, and they could not solve the mystery, why one was successful and the other labored in vain.
At last one said to the other, “I must retire.” “Wherefore?” said the other, “Why this is the time” said he “when I must go and steep my seed.” “Steep your seed?” said the other. “Yes, my brother, I always steep my seed before I sow it. I steep it till it begins to swell, and germinate, and I can almost see a green blade springing from it, and then you know it speedily grows after it is sown.” “Ah,” said the other, “but I understand not what you mean. How do you steep your seed, and in what mysterious mixture?” “Brother,” said he, “it is a composition made of one part of the tears of agony for the souls of men, and the other part of the tears of a holy agony which wrestles with God in prayer:this mixture if you drop your seed in it, hath a transcendent efficacy to make every grain full of life, so that it is not lost.” The other rose and went on his way, and forgot not what he had learned, but he began to steep his seed too; he spent less time in his study, more time in his closet; he was less abroad, more at home, less with man, and more with God. And he went abroad and scattered his seed, and he too, saw a harvest, and the Lord was glorified in them twain. Brethren, I do feel with regard to myself, and therefore, when I speak of others I speak not uncharitably, that the reason of the nonsuccess of the ministry in these years, (for compared with the days of Pentecost, I cannot call our success a success) lies in our want of prayer. If I were addressing students in the college, I think I should venture to say to them, set prayer first in your labors; let your subject be well prepared; think well of your discourse, but best of all, pray it over, study on your knees. And now in speaking to this assembly, containing Sabbath-school teachers, and others who in their way are laboring for Christ, let me beseech you whatever you do, go not about your work, except you have first entreated that the dew of heaven may drop on the seed you sow. Steep your seed and it shall spring up. We are demanding in our days more laborersit is a right prayer; we are seeking that the seed should be of the best sort, it is a right demand, but let us not forget another which is even more necessary than this, let us ask, let us plead with God, that the seed be steeped, that men may preach agonizing for souls. I like to preach with a burden on my heartthe burden of other men’s sins, the burden of other men’s hard-heartedness, the burden of their unbelief, the burden of their desperate estate, which must ere long end in perdition. There is no preaching, I am persuaded, like that: for then we preach as though
“We ne’er might preach again,
As dying men to dying men.”
And, oh, may each of you labor after the latter fashion in your own sphere, ever taking care to commit your work to God.
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