Review: Only a Prayer Meeting

Charles Spurgeon, Christian Heritage, 2010, 254 pages, 4 of 5 stars

What happened to the prayer meeting? First we changed the name to “mid-week service.” Now it’s gone altogether.

It is common these day for churches to abandon the Sunday PM gathering. The prayer meeting is even less popular. Surgeon grabs us by the lapels and urges the reader never to abandon this sacred task. “I would have you vow that the prayer meeting shall never be given up while you live” (137).

This book is a series of studies on prayer meetings and prayer meeting addresses. Most people would yawn and close the book at this point, but Spurgeon is so full of verve, insight, color and illustration, the pages turn quickly.

He argues it is not only a prayer meeting. Only is a “wicked” word. “It is only the engine, but that is everything” (79). Churches do not flourish because they scarcely have prayer meetings. It is a second-rate affair to them. It is only a prayer meeting. But the prayer meeting must be maintained at all costs.

He tells the story of a poor old woman who refused to accept her church’s decision to abandon the prayer meeting. She attended alone the next day. When someone in jest asked how many were there, she said “four.” “I heard you were there all alone,” they said. “I was the only one visible, but the Father was there, and the Son was there, and the Holy Spirit was there, and we were agreed in prayer.” The church was ashamed and before long there was a revived prayer meeting and a prosperous church.

As in most of Spurgeon’s writings, the sermons on prayer are low on exegesis and high on  metaphor, wit, and well-turned phrases (e.g. “Some trumpets are so stuffed with self that God cannot blow through them”).

This book helped shape our own church’s emphasis and structure in prayer meetings. Chapter two is plug and play. While the whole book is gold, that chapter’s practical counsel on how prayer meetings should run was very influential.

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