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A Healthy Exercise

There is a new kind of philosophy nowadays which teaches that it is a very healthy exercise to pray, because it teaches us submission. God doesn’t change in His plans for us; we won’t get anything more by asking, but then just ask, it is healthy exercise! A mother in New York has lost track of her boy. She is wandering around the streets seeking for him. You know that the boy is dead, but still you tell her to keep on seeking—it is healthy exercise. What downright mockery it is for any one to talk such stuff as that!

Suppose that in the dead of winter, when the thermometer is down at zero, a man who has been stuck for twenty-four hours in a drift manages to get to my house at midnight, and rings the bell. I go to the window, and say: “Who is there?” “Mr. … I have been in a snowbank twenty-four hours, and I am dying. Won’t you help him?” “Well,” I say, “I have a fixed rule never to open my door until morning, but you just keep on knocking; it will do you good; it is a healthy exercise.”

That is a fair illustration of the way some people would have us look at prayer. Christ said, “Ask, and ye shall receive.”

During the war a man came to me at Nashville, a great, big six-footer, and he was shaking all over and crying like a baby. I thought he must have delirium tremens. He pulled out an old, soiled letter and said: “Chaplain, read that, will you?”

It was a letter from his sister, saying that every night as the sun went down she fell on her knees and prayed God to save her brother. The soldier said: “Chaplain, I have been in a number of battles, and have been before the cannon’s mouth without trembling a bit; but the moment I read that letter I began to shake. I suppose that I am the meanest wretch in the whole Cumberland Army.” I took a copy of the letter and went to another division of the army, thirty miles away. The next day I got up before the men and read it, and told how that man had been saved in answer to the prayers of his sister six hundred miles away. When I closed, a fine-looking man got up and said:

“That letter reminds me of the last letter I got from my mother. She said, ‘My boy, when you get this letter, won’t you go off behind a tree and pray to your mother’s God that you may be converted? Now, my son, won’t you become a Christian?’” He said he put the letter in his pocket, and expected to pay no more attention to it, as he thought he would get a good many more letters from her; but a few days later a dispatch came saying that his mother was dead. Then he took her advice, and went off behind a tree and cried to his mother’s God; the prayer was answered, and he said: “This is the first time I have ever confessed Jesus Christ.”

There were two men, one who had a sister pleading six hundred miles away, and the other whose mother had brought him on his knees and into the Kingdom of God. My dear friends, never stop praying; do not be discouraged. God wants us to “pray without ceasing.”

Moody’s Anecdotes, pp. 54-56

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