It is a striking fact that the men who have been mightiest in prayer have known God well. They have seemed peculiarly sensitive to Him, and to be overawed with the sense of His love and His greatness. There are three of the Old Testament characters who are particularly mentioned as being mighty in prayer. Jeremiah tells that when God spoke to him about the deep perversity of that nation He exclaimed, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me My heart could not be towards this people." When James wants an illustration of a man of prayer for the scattered Jews, he speaks of Elijah, and of one particular crisis in his life, the praying on Carmel’s tip-top. These three men are Israel’s great men in the great crises of its history. Moses was the maker and moulder of the nation. Samuel was the patient teacher who introduced a new order of things in the national life. Elijah was the rugged leader when the national worship of Jehovah was about to be officially overthrown. These three men, the maker, the teacher, the emergency leader are singled out in the record as peculiarly men of prayer.
Now regarding these men it is most interesting to observe what listeners they were to God’s voice. Their ears were trained early and trained long, until great acuteness and sensitiveness to God’s voice was the result. Special pains seem to have been taken with the first man, the nation’s greatest giant, and history’s greatest jurist. There were two distinct stages in the training of his ears. First there were the forty years of solitude in the desert sands, alone with the sheep, and the stars, and—God. His ears were being trained by silence. The bustle and confusion of Egypt’s busy life were being taken out of his ears. How silent are God’s voices. How few men are strong enough to be able to endure silence. For in silence God is speaking to the inner ear.
“Let us then labour
for an inward stillness—
An inward stillness and an inward healing;
That perfect silence where the lips and heart
Are still, and we no longer entertain
Our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions,
But God alone speaks in us, and we wait
In singleness of heart, that we may know
His will, and in the silence of our spirits,
That we may do His will, and do that only."
A gentleman was asked by an artist friend of some note to come to his home, and see a painting just finished. He went at the time appointed, was shown by the attendant into a room which was quite dark, and left there. He was much surprised, but quietly waited developments. After perhaps fifteen minutes his friend came into the room with a cordial greeting, and took him up to the studio to see the painting, which was greatly admired. Before he left the artist said laughingly, “I suppose you thought it queer to be left in that dark room so long.” “Yes,” the visitor said. “I did.” “Well,” his friend replied, “I knew that if you came into my studio with the glare of the street in your eyes you could not appreciate the fine colouring of the picture. So I left you in the dark room till the glare had worn out of your eyes.”