MESSAGES ON PRAYER
Comprising Pungent and Penetrating Sermons on a Subject Perennially Vital to Every Christian
B. H. CARROLL, D.D., LL.D.
For Thirty Years Pastor of First Baptist Church, Waco, Texas Founder and First President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Fort Worth, Texas
J. W. CROWDER, A.B., D.D.
J. B. CRANFILL, M.D., LL.D.
To HARRISON CARROLL of Los ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
youngest son of B. H. Carroll, and one of the dearest and most affectionate o f all my friends, and in the hope that as he journeys on in life he will assimi late more and more to the mental and spiritual stature of his immortal father, this book is most lovingly dedicated by -THE EDITOR.
Prayer is the life line of Christianity. It is the alpha and omega of the Christian's earthly life. Christian activity, devotion, and achievement are all measured by the Christian's prayer life. The whole scheme of redemption is keyed to prayer. Jesus said: "Ask, and it shall be given you; knock, and it shall be opened unto you," and his invitation to wandering, burdened humanity was, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Prayer is the simplest form of speech That infant lipscan try;
Prayer the divinest strains that reach The Majesty on high.
From the agonies of the cross when he was dying, Jesus uttered this heartbreaking prayer: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." None of us can ever forget the transfiguration scene, a description of which would bankrupt any vocabulary. We will not forget that from that sublime occasion these pungent and penetrating words emerged: "As he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered." The last words of dying Stephen yet reverberate through our wandering, sinning world: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!"
Prayer is the Christian's vital breath, The Christian's native air,
His watchword at the gates of death; He enters heaven with prayer.
In view of all these spiritual altitudes and immortalities, the reader will not wonder that my heart sings with inexpressible joy as I send out far afield this thirtieth volume of B. H. Carroll's great books I have been privileged to edit, publish, and cause to be published. It will soon be fifty-six years since I published "The Agnostic," his great sermon against a quality of skepticism which was at the time oversweeping Waco and the surrounding country. Since that time there have appeared Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible, a thirteen-volume set, and sermon books as follows: Sermons, Baptists and Their Doctrines, Evangelistic Sermons, The River of Life, Inspiration of the Bible, Jesus the Christ, The Day of the Lord, Revival Messages, The Holy Spirit, Ambitious Dreams of Youth, The Faith That Saves, Christ and His Church, The Providence o f God, and Christ's Marching Orders.
As I have often said, in writing introductory words for these Carroll books, each one that appears seems to me the best one. The present volume is in this respect not unlike the others. One of the weakest links in the chain of Christian activities is found in our failure to sense the privileges and immortalities of prayer.
In her book, The Fighting Angel, Pearl Buck tells of her father, Dr. Absalom Sydenstricker, who was a Presbyterian missionary in China. When Pearl Buck was a child, she noted each morning, when her father would come in to breakfast, three red streaks on his forehead, but she was too timid to ask him what caused these streaks. When she grew older, she became sufficiently courageous to ask her father about these red streaks on his forehead. He then told her that before coming to breakfast each morning he spent an hour on his knees in prayer and the red streaks were the prints of his fingers on his forehead.
When my brother, Dr. T. E. Cranfill, now deceased, was practicing medicine in Waco, Texas, he was called to attend a dying Salvation Army captain. His recital of the last moments of this Christian worker was deeply impressive. This Salvation Army captain died with a light on his face never seen on land or sea. After his passing, my brother lingered to assist in laying him out. All the surroundings were indicative of the earthly poverty of this Christian man. My brother told me that when he saw this dead captain's knees, there were great callouses on both of them because of the fact that he had spent so much time in prayer.
In the present volume there are many great sermons, but perhaps the one that will to some be most impressive is the first one in the book with the title, "Accessibility of God Through Christ." That sermon has no counterpart in any sermonic literature that has come to my attention. The others are all noteworthy and inspiring. I commend to the reader all the sermons in this book, not only for reading but also for study.
It is proper to say that these sermons were compiled by Professor J. W. Crowder, A.B., D.D., of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, who was a long-time student of Dr. Carroll and who succeeded him in the chair of English Bible in the seminary. Professor Crowder has done great service in this enterprise, in which he and I have joined hands through the long years.
Loving acknowledgment is also registered here of the help on this and other Carroll books of my precious daughter, Miss Mabel Cranfill. On account of a long-time eye trouble, my reading ability has been greatly circumscribed. It is thus that my dear daughter has read to me every word in this book, and together we have served lovingly and gratefully in the preparation of this volume. It is not every scholar who can render the quality of service my daughter has rendered me. She not only has the journalistic gift, but also has had experience as my associate in other literary enterprises. She is a superb judge of literary values, is a good proofreader, and a delightful fellow worker, and I am therefore here acclaiming her and gratefully recording her invaluable help on this task.
I hope that each friend who reads this book will do another worthy deed by buying a copy of it to give to someone else who needs the help it brings. The book will help all of us who read it and it will help us more if we will aid in its wide circulation in our respective fields of service.
J. B. CRANFILL