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The Primitive Prayer-Meeting

by Charles Grandison Finney

President of Oberlin College

"The Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College

Lecture XV !ovember ""# $%&'
Public (omain Te)t *eformatted by +atie ,te-art .

Te)t.//0cts $1$'1 "These all continued -ith one accord in 2rayer and su22lication." n the conte)t -e have an account of Christ3s last intervie- -ith his disci2les. They had assembled at his re4uest5 he met them# "s2o6e to them of the things 2ertaining to the 6ingdom of God5" commanded them not to de2art from 7erusalem# but to -ait for the 2romise of the Father# assuring them that they "should be ba2ti8ed -ith the 9oly Ghost not many days hence5" and then -as ta6en u2 from their sight. They returned to 7erusalem# -ent into an u22er room# and there "all continued -ith one accord in 2rayer and su22lication." These# in brief# are the circumstances of this -onderful 2rayer/ meeting. 2ro2ose to notice# I. The object of this prayer-meeting; II. Its characteristics; III. Its results. I. The object of this prayer-meeting. The s2ecial ob:ect of this meeting -as to 2ray for the out2ouring of the ,2irit u2on themselves and the -orld. t had been 2romised# even from 0braham# do-n the long line of holy seers# that in connection -ith the advent of Christ# the ,2irit should be given. Christ reminded his disci2les of this great 2romise and bade them tarry in 7erusalem and -ait for its fulfillment. 9e had given them their great commission# to go forth into all the -orld and 2reach the gos2el to every creature5 but he -ould have them 2lainly understand that they could do nothing -ithout his ,2irit# and therefore they must by all means -ait in 7erusalem till they had received this anointing of the Father. That they might the better understand this ba2tism he referred to 7ohn3s mission and -or6# saying//"7ohn truly ba2ti8ed -ith -ater5 but ye shall be ba2ti8ed -ith the 9oly Ghost# not many days hence." That ba2tism -as only a ty2e5 this -as to be the very thing symboli8ed. This meeting to 2ray for the descent of the ,2irit continued not less than ten days. From

the Passover at -hich Christ suffered# he met -ith them on various occasions during forty days5 then ascended to heaven. The feast of Pentecost -as# as its name im2orts# :ust fifty days after the Passover. The interval from the ascension to the Pentecost# ten days# -as the duration of this remar6able 2rayer/meeting5 for -e are told that -hen the day of Pentecost -as fully come# they -ere still "all -ith one accord in one 2lace." II. Its characteristics. $. Of the characteristics of this meeting# the first to be noticed is that the brethren and sisters -ere all 2resent. This is a 2rominent 2eculiarity# and deserves distinct and s2ecial notice. The sacred historian is careful to call attention to the fact. "Peter stood u2 among them# the number of the names together -ere about an hundred and t-enty." 0ll the eleven -ere there# "-ith the -omen and ;ary the mother of 7esus and -ith his brethren." !ot one could be s2ared. <hat# su22ose ye# Christ -ould have thought# if only t-o or three had come# and the rest had been too indifferent or too much engrossed in other business to be there= They did not allo- any other business to detain them. They honored God enough to meet on his s2ecial call and to stay till the ob:ect of the meeting -as accom2lished. ". They -ere all interested in the ob:ect. This is manifest in the fact that they all came and all remained together so long# and indeed until the ob:ect -as attained. !ot only -ere they all there# but all held on through those long sessions. This sho-s them really in earnest. >. They e)2ected the 2romised blessing. They 6ne- Christ had 2romised it# and they believed his 2romise. Of course their faith became a strong and definite e)2ectation. '. ?et again# they -ere united. Over and over again# -e are told they -ere all -ith one accord in one 2lace. @nited in the one desire to obtain this great blessing# and of one heart in regard to the motives -hich led them to 2ray# there -as the most entire unanimity# as if the -hole com2any had but one heart# and that -ere strong and true in its im2ulse and 2ur2oses. &. They -ere united in fraternal confidence. There is no hint of any loss or lac6 of confidence in each other. 9ence they could edify each other. Their communion of soul -as dee2 and 2recious. A. They 2ersevered. "These all continued -ith one accord in 2rayer and su22lication." They -ere instant in their 2rayer until the ob:ect -as gained. They could not thin6 of giving u2 and abandoning their effort before the blessing came. They said as 7acob in his -restlings# " -ill not let thee go# e)ce2t thou bless me." <hat could they do -ithout the ,2iritB Cesides# Christ had distinctly told them not to go until the blessing came. D. said that the brethren and sisters both -ere there. this -as contrary to the doctrine and 2ractice of the 7e-s then# and indeed is so to this day. They do not admit -omen to sit -ith themselves in their holy 2laces# in their seasons of -orshi2. They are allo-ed to occu2y only the galleries# from -hich they may loo6 do-n as s2ectators# not being e)2ected to :oin as associate -orshi22ers. n 2ublic acts of devotion they might have no 2art. !ot so under the gos2el. n Christ there must be no distinction bet-een bond and free# male and female. 0ll -ere to be one in him. 0ll their old 7e-ish 2re:udices -ere


discarded. This -as a most im2ortant fact in the constitution of the Christian church. @ntil Christ came# no such meeting of brethren and sisters on the same level had been 6no-n. The 2articularity -ith -hich this circumstance is recorded# sho-s that a ne- era had o2ened. !o 2artition -all is henceforth to thrust the female se) into the court of the -oman# or into the distant galleries5 all se)es are counted ali6e as brethren in Christ 7esus. %. Observe also that there is no sectarian s2irit or 2arty s2irit or 2arty strife among them. !o 2arty 2re:udice -as there5 all -ere true Christian brethren. The division of the Christian church into 2arties and sects# no- so great an evil# -as then un6no-n. ;en -ere not then stic6ling for little things# -ere not building u2 ne- denominations on a basis so un-orthy as a mere difference in forms or even in the forms of a form. The controversies of later days about ordinances had not yet begun to distract and rend the body of Christ. !or -as there then any strife for leadershi2. (iotre2hes and his sect had not then a22eared in the Christian church. ?ou may thin6 me censorious in having intimated that the ambition of leadershi2 ma6es sects. -ish there -as no truth in this intimation. Cut -ho does not 6no- it to be but too sadly trueB E. ;oreover# there -as no caviling against the truth# or against :udiciously 2ro2osed measures. ,us2icion had no room in their 6indred bosoms. They had no dis2osition to resist each other3s 2rayer5 there -ere none to -his2er// am not edified -ith this brother3s 2rayer# or by the 2rayer of that sister. 0ll -ith one accord# as -ell as all in one 2laceB this must have been a charming season//a meeting in -hich loving hearts blended in holy sym2athy. $F. t -as# finally# a dee2ly earnest meeting. !o a2athetic souls -ere there# lagging and hanging as dead -eights on the general heart of the assembly. 0ll seemed to ta6e as e4ually dee2 and -arm interest in the great su22lications they -ere convened to 2our out before their ascended Lord for the great blessing of the Christian dis2ensation. III. Results. n brief# these are soon told. Three thousand -ere converted under one short sermon. The 9oly Ghost fell on the disci2les -ith great 2o-er# and from them the blessing diffused itself on every hand to the thousands -ho believed. The little band found themselves launched forth u2on the greatest enter2rise ever underta6en by mortals5 and -ithal# dra-n into such relations of faith and sustaining strength to-ards God and their ascended ,avior as had never been reali8ed on earth before. The conversion of the -orld to 7esus had fairly begun and the mission of the ,2irit -as o2ened. REMARK . This is doubtless to be ta6en as a model 2rayer/meeting//substantially# in its s2irit and leading circumstances# -hat a 2rayer/meeting ought to be. <hy not= There is nothing here that should not be in all 2rayer/meetings for ob:ects of similar im2ortance. $. ?et -ho can fail to notice that most 2rayer/meetings are nearly the reverse of this# in


all their characteristic features= <hat do you see no- in 2rayer/meetings a22ointed to 2ray for the conversion of sinners= Only a little handful of Christians 2resent5 the rest of the church 2ouring contem2t on the very call for a meetingB t is easy to see that this must be regarded by Christ as a real insult. 0 meeting is called# yet but fe- have interest enough to attendB <hat -ould you thin6 if# a notice being given out for a meeting at our church to invite some distinguished 2ersonage to come and visit us//say LaFayette# or +ossuth# or some one to -hom the nation -ere under the very greatest obligations5 the call for a meeting is given out5 it a22ears in the daily 2a2ers5 but -hen the hour arrives# only a very fe- are 2resentB The 2eo2le do not comeB ,u22ose this distinguished stranger is informed ho- thin this meting is5 -ill he come= <ill he not deem the very call an insult= ,o -hen meetings are a22ointed to invite the Lord 7esus# and almost none attend# -ill he come= !ay# verily5 -hy should he come= There is no unanimity in the invitation. The understanding is they are not unanimous in inviting him to come. ?ou -ill say# 2erha2s# that you did not intend your absence to mean :ust that. ?ou did not mean to say that you did not -ant the ,avior to come. ?ou had your s2ecial reasons for being absent. ?ou had an e)cuse5 but do you thin6 such e)cuses -ould avail in the case of any distinguished 2ersonage= ,u22ose the meeting had been called to invite General <ashington5 but very fe- attend5 yet they send on to him their e)cuses for non/ attendance5 they tell him they -ere all very busy5 some had sic6ness n their family# and some -ere ta6ing care of various home concerns5 they really felt the highest res2ect for him# Gc.# Gc. <ould their a2ologies avail= <ould it not be regarded as a do-nright insult to as6 so great a man to come among us# and yet in a called meeting to invite him# have only a mere handful 2resent= !o- does not this a22ly in the case of 2rayer to God= ndeed it does. The 2rayer/meeting is s2ecially called for the 2ur2ose of inviting him to come among us. t is im2ortant to 6no- -ho -ant him to come5 ho- many they are5 and ho- much they desire his coming. The call of a meeting is the 2ro2er -ay to test and determine all these 2oints. f the result sho-s that but very fe- care enough about it to even a22ear at the meeting# -hat can be e)2ected but a failure in the great ob:ect of inducing him to ma6e us a visit= ,u22ose the meeting at the day of Pentecost and during those 2revious days had been very thin# -ould the blessing have descended= <ho can su22ose it -ould= <e may have a 2rayer/meeting and urge the very strongest reasons for the descent of God3s ,2irit5 but -hat avails it//if -e are only a small minority of those -ho are in the church= ". 9o- much -orse still is the case in our modern 2rayer/meeting if even those -ho do attend are manifestly not by any means earnest in 2rayerB 9o- often -e see this to be undoubtedly the case. They do not 2ress their 2lea for a visitation of mercy from on high. They do not struggle long and earnestly as those 2raying souls did in the first great 2rimitive 2rayer/meeting. These 2leas and 2rayers are as different from those as can -ell be imagined. Let no one -onder that these movements are so unavailingB >. Prayer is -ont to be offered no- -ith very little e)2ectation. ,o great a lac6 of e)2ectation denotes lac6 of faith in God# and therefore must fail to 2lease him.


'. Peo2le thin6 they cannot ta6e time for continuous 2rayer. To 6ee2 u2 a 2rayer/meeting a -hole -ee6# is 4uite too much to thin6 ofB They have by no means brought their vie-s u2 to the 2oint of 2raying till the blessing comes. They do not feel earnest enough# nor are they sufficiently 2ressed -ith a sense of -ant to ma6e this seem a small thing com2ared -ith the greatness of the blessing sought. They thin6 they do -ell if they 2ray a little at one meeting 2er -ee6# 6ee2 u2 one -ee6ly meeting# and s2end even that mostly in something else than 2rayer. <hat can be e)2ected from such efforts= &. Perha2s there is not unanimity enough# nor brotherly love enough to sustain even one -ee6ly 2rayer/meeting. This is the case in many churches and in many neighborhoods. s it so here in some 2ortion of this great church= A. Even -here general 2rayer/meetings can be 6e2t u2# and are so# yet neighborhood 2rayer/meetings fall through. 0lienations of feeling arise among brethren and sisters5 bic6erings# bad blood and bad -ords are there5 they lose confidence in each other# and cannot 2ray togetherB 9o- a-fulB 9o- different from the s2irit of the day of PentecostB There# all the assembled brethren and sisters -ere of one heart and one soulB The tears -ere scarcely dry on the chee6 of the 2enitent Peter5 Thomas had not recovered from the dee2 mortification# shame and grief of his unbelief# yet even these feelings did not stand in the -ay of the most entire union of heart and soul in 2rayer for the great 2romised blessing. D. ?et in ho- many churches you are astonished to find the 2rayer/meeting abandoned5 the hearts of brethren soured and alienated5 confidence almost gone# and -orse than all the rest# fe- left to mourn over this de2lorable state of Hion. ?ou may find# here and there# a brother or a sister mournfully as6ing# "<hat shall -e do for a 2rayer/meeting in our neighborhood= There is not brotherly love and confidence enough here to sustain one." ?ou -ould be astonished to 6no- ho- often this is the case. ,ometimes a family 2rayer/meeting dro2s to 2ieces in the same -ay. 0lienation in some form arises5 they lose confidence in each other3s 2rayers# and interest in each other3s -elfare5 and# of course# they cease to 2ray -ith and for each other. @nder such influences# Christians are not interested in each other3s 2rayers# and are not led on-ard and edified by mutual 2rayer. <here alienation e)ists# and mutual sym2athy is lac6ing# there can be no union of heart in 2rayer# and no s2iritual edification. ?ou have often noticed in a 2rayer/meeting that the brethren and sisters -ill be greatly 4uic6ened and edified by one brother3s 2rayer# and not at all by another3s. <hen one 2rays# it is most manifest that the hearts of all are moved5 there is a sighing# an u2lifting of heart# a general res2onse5 but -hen another leads# you see no such to6ens of general sym2athy. ?ou can tell -ho can lead the hearts of the brethren in real 2rayer. ?ou -ill al-ays notice that no one can do this unless they have confidence in him# and unless they feel the dee2 2ulsations of his heart moving u2on their o-n. ,ometimes this is seen in the family. The head of the family 2rays# but all have lost confidence in him# and are doing anything else and everything else but unite in his -ords of 2rayer. s it -onderful that such 2rayer avails nothing= ndeed# the very e)2ressions -hich such a man may use in 2rayer# -ill be inter2reted as only so much hy2ocrisyB 0las# the s2irit of 2rayer cannot be thereB The s2irit of dissent# and not the s2irit of union# is


there5 they do not 2ray together# and cannot5 they are not united in 2rayer5 a s2irit of alienation e)ists# une)2ressed# but dee25 2erha2s their -ill is u2 about something. Even husband and -ife do not 2ray together5 they are chafed in their feelings to-ard each other# and are indulging a state of mind -hich forbids a s2irit of mutual 2rayer. Often our 2rayer/meetings die out by reason of little bic6erings and heart/burnings. Crethren and sisters# -ill you not loo6 to this= Often# -hen 2eo2le stay a-ay from meetings for 2rayer# they assign other than the true and real reason. They do not say fran6ly# stay a-ay because cannot hear this or that brother 2ray. They 2rofess to be too busy//too much and too urgently occu2ied5 but really they do not assign even to themselves the true reason//the very thing -hich has 6e2t them bac6 from the meeting. 0t the Pentecost meeting# they neglected all other business. ?et they -ere 2oor in this -orld3s goods# and had# no doubt# business enough to do5 their -omen# also# had enough to do5 yet they -ere all there. Cut su22ose it had been the case that they felt their business to be too im2ortant to be dro22ed. ,u22ose they had said//"O# it cannot be necessary for us all to go5 -e are so full of business# and so 2ressed every -ay# and so fatigued -ithal5" do you believe that# ma6ing such e)cuses for neglect of 2rayer# they could have had the blessing= f they could not fulfill the condition# could they ho2e to receive the 2romise= f they -ould not meet the demand made by the condition# obviously the -ay -ould not be o2en for Christ to fulfill his 2romise. he could not grant them the blessing -ithout virtually giving a bounty to remissness and unfaithfulness. The fact is# brethren# our modern 2rayer/meetings are too cold and too constrained. Christians are not earnest in 2rayer. Their souls cannot become dee2ly burdened and earnestly agoni8ed in su22lication5 they do not thirst enough for s2iritual blessings# and have not the dee2 communion -ith God -hich is re4uisite for 2revailing 2rayer. ?ou 6no- -hat a burden is felt in a 2rayer/meeting -hen the heart is thoroughly bro6en5 -hen 2ride is abased# the soul humbled# and the entire energies are dra-n out in earnest su22lication. Cut there are fe- such meetings for 2rayer no-. There is a lac6 of sustaining unanimity. t is a la- of mind that union of heart sustains the interest and 2o-er of 2rayer. (id you never observe ho- you can sustain another in 2rayer# if you enter dee2ly into his sym2athies= ?ou u2hold his faith and his fervor. have often thought that the 2ractice common among the ;ethodists# is useful if not abused. The res2onses that truly come from the heart serve to 4uic6en and sustain genuine 2rayer. The res2onses introduced in the service of the Church of England are e)cellent# 2rovided only that the heart be in them. love to hear these sustaining res2onses and to 6no- that have the sym2athi8ing heart of those -ho 2rofess to be 2raying -ith me. Often our 2rayer/ meetings are cold and 2rofitless because there is no liberty and no free utterance. The s2irit of 2rayer is straitened# because the natural e)2ressions of dee2 feeling are re2ressed. ,aid an English Congregationalist# " do -ish our 2eo2le could learn of the ;ethodists ho- to have a 2rayer/meeting." 9e felt the need of an unconstrained utterance and of a free e)2ression of feeling. !o- -ould not sanction heartless noise and vociferation5 that is not 2rayer and cannot hel2 real 2rayer. There is a -ide difference

bet-een that and a meeting in -hich the heart had free sco2e# and the ,2irit of God is not straitened# but ranges -ith free sco2e and melting 2o-er. have seen 2rayer/meetings in -hich manifestly the -hole congregation -ent forth before God in mighty 2rayer. ,ome of you have seen such 2rayer. The hearts of the 2eo2le -ere moved as the trees of the forest before a mighty rushing -ind. <ords seem as if freightened -ith irre2ressible emotion. ?ou can see that God is there. Everyone feels it. 0n a-e of the 9oly Presence 2ervades each heart. 0nd yet they are not afraid# but are dra-n into s-eet confidence and most earnest 2leading. Literally they seem to 2our out their heats before him. This is true 2rayer# and meets the idea of social 2raying. t is a union of hearts before God3s mercy/ seat# the ,2irit coming do-n to ma6e intercession -ith their s2irit -ith groanings that cannot be uttered. Every 2rayer/meeting should bear this character# modified only according to the ty2e of those circumstances that call for 2rayer. !"# AR$ of easily misunderstood terms as defined by ;r. Finney himself.
Com2iled by +atie ,te-art

%omplacency& or Esteem1 "Com2lacency# as a state of -ill or heart# is only benevolence modified by the consideration or relation of right character in the ob:ect of it. God# 2ro2hets# a2ostles# martyrs# and saints# in all ages# are as virtuous in their self/denying and untiring labours to save the -ic6ed# as they are in their com2lacent love to the saints." Systematic Theology (LECTU E !II". 0lso# "a22robation of the character of its ob:ect. Com2lacency is due only to the good and holy." Lectures to #rofessing Christians (LECTU E $II". 'isintereste( )enevolence1 "Cy disinterested benevolence do not mean# that a 2erson -ho is disinterested feels no interest in his ob:ect of 2ursuit# but that he see6s the ha22iness of others for its o-n sa6e# and not for the sa6e of its reaction on himself# in 2romoting his o-n ha22iness. 9e chooses to do good because he re:oices in the ha22iness of others# and desires their ha22iness for its o-n sa6e. God is 2urely and disinterestedly benevolent. 9e does not ma6e 9is creatures ha22y for the sa6e of thereby 2romoting 9is o-n ha22iness# but because 9e loves their ha22iness and chooses it for its o-n sa6e. !ot that 9e does not feel ha22y in 2romoting the ha22iness of 9is creatures# but that 9e does not do it for the sa6e of 9is o-n gratification." Lectures to #rofessing Christians (LECTU E I". 'ivine overeignty1 "The sovereignty of God consists in the inde2endence of his -ill# in consulting his o-n intelligence and discretion# in the selection of his end# and the means of accom2lishing it. n other -ords# the sovereignty of God is nothing else than infinite benevolence directed by infinite 6no-ledge." Systematic Theology (LECTU E L$$!I". Election1 "That all of 0dam3s race# -ho are or ever -ill be saved# -ere from eternity chosen by God to eternal salvation# through the sanctification of their hearts by faith in Christ. n other -ords# they are chosen to salvation by means of sanctification. Their salvation is the end/ their sanctification is a means. Coth the end and the means are elected# a22ointed# chosen5 the means as really as the end# and for the sa6e of the end." Systematic Theology (LECTU E L$$I!". Entire anctification1 ",anctification may be entire in t-o senses1 I$.J n the sense of 2resent# full obedience# or entire consecration to God5 and# I".J n the sense of continued# D

abiding consecration or obedience to God. Entire sanctification# -hen the terms are used in this sense# consists in being established# confirmed# 2reserved# continued in a state of sanctification or of entire consecration to God." Systematic Theology (LECTU E L!III". Moral Agency1 ";oral agency is universally a condition of moral obligation. The attributes of moral agency are intellect# sensibility# and free -ill." Systematic Theology (LECTU E III". Moral 'epravity1 ";oral de2ravity is the de2ravity of free/-ill# not of the faculty itself# but of its free action. t consists in a violation of moral la-. (e2ravity of the -ill# as a faculty# is# or -ould be# 2hysical# and not moral de2ravity. t -ould be de2ravity of substance# and not of free# res2onsible choice. ;oral de2ravity is de2ravity of choice. t is a choice at variance -ith moral la-# moral right. t is synonymous -ith sin or sinfulness. t is moral de2ravity# because it consists in a violation of moral la-# and because it has moral character." Systematic Theology (LECTU E $$$!III". *uman Reason1 "the intuitive faculty or function of the intellect... it is the faculty that intuits moral relations and affirms moral obligation to act in conformity -ith 2erceived moral relations." Systematic Theology (LECTU E III". Retributive +ustice1 "*etributive :ustice consists in treating every sub:ect of government according to his character. t res2ects the intrinsic merit or demerit of each individual# and deals -ith him accordingly." Systematic Theology (LECTU E $$$I!". Total 'epravity1 ";oral de2ravity of the unregenerate is -ithout any mi)ture of moral goodness or virtue# that -hile they remain unregenerate# they never in any instance# nor in any degree# e)ercise true love to God and to man." Systematic Theology (LECTU E $$$!III". ,nbelief1 "the soul3s -ithholding confidence from truth and the God of truth. The heart3s re:ection of evidence# and refusal to be influenced by it. The -ill in the attitude of o22osition to truth 2erceived# or evidence 2resented." Systematic Theology (LECTU E L!". <hat ,aith the ,cri2ture=