Charles Spurgeon, that well-known British minister of the 1800s, was called the “prince of preachers.” Not only did he speak and write eloquently, he packed a great deal of meaning into few words. Large crowds flocked to hear him speak—some historians estimate the total to approach 10,000,000 people. Add to that sum the vast number of readers, impacted by Spurgeon’s writings since his death, and it’s clear his powerful influence has had far-reaching results.
Here’s an example of his God-given genius, the topic being prayer:
Short prayers are long enough. There were but three words in the petition which Peter gasped out [“Lord, save me,” found in Matthew 14:30], but they were sufficient for his purpose. Not length but strength is desirable. A sense of need is a mighty teacher of brevity. If our prayers had less of the tail feathers of pride and more wing they would be all the better. Verbiage is to devotion as chaff to the wheat (from “Sinking Times are Praying Times”).
Note the italicized phrase in the middle of that paragraph. It is not the length of our prayers that matters; it is the strength. That statement begs the question: What does strong prayer look like? Even from Dr. Spurgoen’s brief text (Matthew 14:30), we can find three components of strong prayer.
One, a strong prayer is one of urgency and energy. Peter was no doubt very serious and passionate as he pleaded with Jesus save him. Now I may not be drowning, but such passion in prayer does seem appropriate. Why should I expect God to pay attention to ho-hum prayers? Conclusion #1 becomes clear: Consider the seriousness of my requests and pray fervently.
Second, Peter’s first word is, “Lord.” He didn’t use his master’s name, Jesus. He called him, “Lord,” instinctively focusing his attention on God the Son, in whom he had placed all his faith. I also must be mindful to whom I pray: my all-powerful, all-wise, triune God. Just as Peter placed his trust in Christ, so must I. Conclusion #2: My prayers need to be characterized by reverence for and confidence in the Lord of the universe.
Third, Peter had no time to string together lovely, impressive words. All he spoke of was his need. Conclusion #3: Simple, heartfelt, humble prayers are best.
These are the elements of praying with strength: passion, simplicity, and faith.
Help me, Lord, to embrace them.