Personal confession time: sometimes reading Charles Finney makes me extremely uncomfortable. He seems to have a knack for pointing out my weaknesses. Perhaps this is because some weaknesses are more widespread than others and focusing on them brings conviction to a large audience. Whatever the reason, when he writes about prayer vs. simply bringing truth into people’s lives, I see myself far too much. Here’s what Finney says in his Revival Lectures:
Some have zealously used truth to convert men, and laid very little stress on prayer. They have preached, and talked, and distributed tracts [today we would say “have made many Facebook postings”] with great zeal, and then wondered that they had so little success. And the reason was that they forgot to use the other branch of the means, effectual prayer. They overlooked the fact that truth, by itself, will never produce the effect, without the Spirit of God, and that the Spirit is given in answer to prayer.
Sometimes it happens that those who are the most engaged in employing truth are not the most engaged in prayer. This is always unhappy. For unless they have the spirit of prayer (or unless someone else has), the truth, by itself, will do nothing but harden men in impenitence. Probably in the Day of Judgment it will be found that nothing is ever done by the truth, used ever so zealously, unless there is a spirit of prayer somewhere in connection with the presentation of truth.
Those are powerful words, and I believe them to be from the heart of God. In my life, I’ve had seasons of deep prayer and I’ve had times of relative prayerlessness. As a professor seeking to teach truth, I am one of those Finney talks about—the temptation is strong to depend on the truth alone without invoking God’s direct intervention in the hearts and minds of the hearers of truth. I need to always be reminded that He’s given me this ministry as a trust; for it to be carried out as effectively as possible, I must draw nearer to Him. Teaching should never be done with dependence on man’s cleverness or with a haughty view of oneself and the “exalted” education one has received. Humility and reliance on the working of His Spirit is essential.