Prayer opens a whole planet to a man's activities. I can as really be touching hearts for God in far away India or China through prayer, as though I were there. Not in as many ways as though there, but as truly. Understand me, I think the highest possible privilege of service is in those far off lands. There the need is greatest, the darkness densest, and the pleading call most eloquently pathetic. And if one may go there—happy man!--if one be privileged to go to the honoured place of service he may then use all five outlets direct in the spot where he is.
Yet this is only one spot. But his relationship is as wide as his Master's and his sympathies should be. A man may be in Africa, but if his heart be in touch with Jesus it will be burning fora world. Prayer puts us into direct dynamic touch with a world.
A man may go aside to-day, and shut his door, and as really spend a half-hour in India—I am thinking of my words as I say them, it seems so much to say, and yet it is true—as really spend a half hour of his life in India for God as though he were there in person. Is that true? If it be true, surely you and I must get more half-hours for this secret service. Without any doubt he may turn his key and be for a bit of time as potentially in China by the power of prayer, as though there in actual bodily form. I say potentially present. Of course not consciously present. But in the power exerted upon men he may be truly present at the objective point of his prayer. He may give a new meaning to the printed page being read by some native down in Africa. He may give a new tongue of flame to the preacher or teacher. He may make it easier for men to accept the story of Jesus, and then to yield themselves to Jesus—yonder men swept and swayed by evil spirits, and by prejudices for generations—make it easier for them to accept the story, and, if need be, to cut with loved ones, and step out and up into a new life.
Some earnest heart enters an objection here, perhaps. You are thinking that if you were there you could influence men by your personal contact, by the living voice. So you could. And there must be the personal touch. Would that there were many times more going for that blessed personal touch. But this is the thing to mark keenly both for those who may go, and for those who must stay: no matter where you are you do more through your praying than through your personality. If you were in India you could add your personality to your prayer. That would be a great thing to do. But whether there or here, you must first win the victory, every step, every life, every foot of the way, in secret, in the spirit-realm, and then add the mighty touch of your personality in service. You can do more than pray, after you have prayed. But you can not do more than pray until you have prayed. And just there is where we have all seemed to make a slip at times, and many of us are yet making it—a bad slip. We think we can do more where we are through our service: then prayer to give power to service. No—with the blackest underscoring of emphasis, let it be said—NO. We can do no thing of real power until we have done the prayer thing.
Here is a man by my side. I can talk to him. I can bring my personality to bear upon him, that I may win him. But before I can influence his will a jot for God, I must first have won the victory in the secret place. Intercession is winning the victory over the chief, and service is taking the field after the chief is driven off. Such service is limited by the limitation of personality to one place. This spirit-telegraphy called prayer puts a man into direct dynamic touch with a planet.
There are some of our friends who think themselves of the practical sort who say, "the great thing is work: prayer is good, and right, but the great need is to be doing something practical." The truth is that when one understands about prayer, and puts prayer in its right place in his life, he finds a new motive power burning in his bones to be doing; and further he finds that it is the doing that grows out of praying that is mightiest in touching human hearts. And he finds further yet with a great joy that he may be doing something for an entire world. His service becomes as broad as his Master's thought.