What Do We Need?
James Smith, 1856
"Our gospel came to you not simply with words — but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction." 1 Thessalonians 1:5
"We have," said one, "the gospel regularly preached, the prayer meetings are continued, the church is in peace — but very few souls are converted to God! What does our church need?" It needs the presence and power of the Holy Spirit; for unless the Holy Spirit works — your minister may preach, your church may meet — but no real good will be done! God's work is carried on, not by might nor by power — but by the Spirit of the Lord Almighty. It is the Spirit who must . . .
open the heart,
quicken the soul, and
sanctify the person!
And if the Spirit works — then the feeblest ministry is efficient, and the smallest church prospers!
All the success that followed the preaching of a Peter, or the labors of a Paul — was from the Holy Spirit; therefore Paul says, "God gave the increase." But then the church felt her need of the Spirit; she realized her dependence on that divine Agent; she prayed with faith, fervor, and importunity for the blessing; and God answered her prayers, and filled his servants with the Holy Spirit and with power.
But now we merely talk of the Spirit — rather than feel our need! We boast of our instruments — rather than realize our dependence on the Almighty Agent! Hence our prayers are rather characterized by dullness, unbelief, and indifference — than fervor, faith, and perseverance. Few are filled and empowered with the Spirit — and therefore it is, that there is so little sympathy with God, such a lack of concern for the conversion of souls, and that our prayer meetings are so lifeless! Our brethren do not pray, as if they came intensely interested in the work of God, as if their business was to agonize with God for sinners, as if their thoughts were exercised about the conversion of sinners. They do not seem to understand what the prophet means by, "Give Him no rest!" (Isaiah 62:7.) They do not appear to believe the promise, "Open your mouth wide — and I will fill it!" They do not expect God to be as good as his Word, when he says, "Ask — and you shall receive." There is a lack of power, pathos, directness, and earnestness in our prayers; especially there is a lack of faith.
What is to be done? Determine in God's strength to begin at once to pray for a revival — begin yourself, and try to get others to join you. Continue daily. The Spirit of the Lord is not straitened; the promises as much belong to us — as to the church in apostolic times. God is still on the throne of grace — he loves prayer, he demands prayer, he honors prayer, he rewards prayer. (Matthew 6:6) Read Luke 11:1-13, and Luke 18:1-8 as often as you can, before you go upon you knees, and never, never give over, "until the Spirit is poured upon you from on high." God is willing. God is waiting. He says, "Prove me."
It is deep feeling, ardent desire, earnest longing, holy importunity, on our part — which is lacking. Jesus says, "Whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name — I will do it. Ask what you will — and it shall be done unto you."