By Rosalind Goforth
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I am convinced that God has intended prayer to be as simple and natural, and as constant a part of our spiritual life, as the [interaction] between a child and his parent in the home. And as a large part of that [interaction] between child and parent is simply asking and receiving, just so is it with us and our Heavenly Parent.
Perhaps, however, the most blessed element in this asking and getting from God lies in the strengthening of faith which comes when a definite request has been granted. What’s more helpful and inspiring than a ringing testimony of what God has done?
As I have recalled the past in writing these incidents, one of the most precious memories is that of an evening when a number of friends had gathered in our home. The conversation turned on answered prayer. For more than two hours we vied with one another in recounting personal incidents of God’s wonderful work, and the inspiration of that evening still abides.
A Christian minister once said to me: “Is it possible that the great God of the universe, the Maker and Ruler of mankind, could or would, as you would make out, take interest in such a trifle as the trimming of a hat! To me it is preposterous!”
Yet did not our Lord Jesus Christ say: “The very hairs of your head are all numbered”; and “not one sparrow is forgotten before God”; and again, “Your heavenly Father knoweth what ye have need of before ye ask him”?
It is true that “There is nothing too great for God's power,” and it is just as true that “There is nothing too small for His love!”
If we believe God's Word we must believe, as Dan Crawford has tersely and beautifully expressed it, that “The God of the infinite is the God of the infinitesimal.” Yes, he
“Who clears the grounding berg
And guides the grinding floe,
He hears the cry of the little kit fox
And the lemming of the snow!”
No more wonderful testimony, perhaps, has ever been given of God’s willingness to help in every emergency of life than that which Mary Slessor gave, when asked to tell what prayer had meant to her. “My life,” she wrote, “is one long daily, hourly record of answered prayer. For physical health, for mental overstrain, for guidance given marvellously, for errors and dangers averted, for enmity to the Gospel subdued, for food provided at the exact hour needed, for everything that goes to make up life and my poor service. I can testify, with a full and often wonder-stricken awe, that I believe God answers prayer. I know God answers prayer!”
I have been asked the question: “Has God always given you just what you have asked for?”
Oh, no! For Him to have done so would have been great unkindness. For instance: when I was a young woman I prayed for three years that God would grant me a certain petition. Sometimes I pleaded for this as for life itself, so intensely did I want it. Then God showed me very clearly that I was praying against His will. I resigned my will to His in the matter, and a few months later God gave what was infinitely better. I have often praised Him for denying my prayer; for had He granted it I could never have come to China.
Then, too, we must remember that many of our prayers, though always heard, are not granted because of some sin harboured in the life, or because of unbelief, or of failure to meet some other Bible-recorded condition governing prevailing prayer.
The following incidents of answered prayer are by no means a complete record [referencing the book this is excerpted from]. How could they be, when no record of prayer has been kept all these fifty years? Had there been, I doubt not that volumes could have been written to the glory of God’s grace and power in answering prayer. But even from what is recorded here I, too, can say from a full heart, I know God answers prayer.
“He answered prayer: so sweetly that I stand
Amid the blessing of his wondrous hand
And marvel at the miracle I see,
The favours that his love hath wrought for me.
Pray on for the impossible, and dare
Upon thy banner this brave motto bear,
‘My Father answers prayer.’”
In October 1887, my husband was appointed by the Canadian Presbyterian Church to open a new field, in the northern section of the Province of Honan, China. We left Canada the following January, reaching China in March 1888. Not till then did we realize the tremendous difficulties of the task before us.
Dr. Hudson Taylor, of the China Inland Mission, writing to us at this time, said: “We understand North Honan is to be your field; we, as a mission, have tried for ten years to enter that province from the south, and have only just succeeded. It is one of the most anti-foreign provinces in China. … Brother, if you would enter that province, you must go forward on your knees.”
These words gave the key-note to our early pioneer years. Would that a faithful record had been kept of God’s faithfulness in answering prayer! Our strength as a mission and as individuals, during those years so fraught with dangers and difficulties, lay in the fact that we did realize the hopelessness of our task apart from divine aid.
The following incident occurred while we were still outside Honan, studying the language at a sister mission. It illustrates the importance of prayer from the home base for those on the field.
My husband was finding great difficulty in acquiring the language; he studied faithfully many hours daily, but made painfully slow progress. He and his colleague went regularly together to the street chapel, to practise preaching in Chinese to the people; but, though Mr. Goforth had come to China almost a year before the other missionary, the people would ask the latter to speak instead of Mr. Goforth, saying they understood him better.
One day, just before starting as usual for the chapel, my husband said: “If the Lord does not give me very special help in this language I fear I shall be a failure as a missionary.”
Some hours later he returned, his face beaming with joy. He told me that he realized most unusual help when his turn came to speak; sentences came to his mind as never before; and not only had he made himself understood, but some had appeared much moved, coming up afterward to have further conversation with him. So delighted and encouraged was he with this experience that he made a careful note of it in his diary.
Some two months and a half later a letter came from a student in Knox College, saying that on a certain evening a number of students had met specially to pray for Mr. Goforth. The power of prayer was such, and the presence of God so manifestly felt, that they decided to write and ask Mr. Goforth if any special help had come to him at that time. Looking in his diary, he found that the time of their meeting corresponded with that time of special help in the language.
“I cannot tell why there should come to me
A thought of someone miles and years away,
In swift insistence on the memory,
Unless there is a need that I should pray.
We are too busy to spare thought
For days together of some friends away;
Perhaps God does it for us—and we ought
To read his signal as a sign to pray.
Perhaps just then my friend has fiercer fight,
A more appalling weakness, a decay
Of courage, darkness, some lost sense of right;
And so, in case he needs my prayers—I pray.”
Abridged from “How I Know God Answers Prayer—The Personal Testimony of One Life-Time” by Rosalind Goforth, missionary to China (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1921). Read more at Project Gutenberg:
Published on Anchor May 2013. Read by Tina Miles.