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Notes from a Dwight L. Moody prayer meeting...
Dwight L. Moody: I want to speak to you about the two verses - twenty-third and twenty-fourth - of the 109th Psalm. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." "Search me" - not my neighbor, nor my brother, nor my sister, but "search me."
You who have been here during the week will have seen that I have been trying to instill into all the system of heart-searching; that every one will go down to the bottom of his own heart. Try to get all to say: "O, Lord, know my heart." If God searches us through, he will make quick work of Chicago. The great trouble is that people search themselves and do not ask God's aid. We want to ask God to come to us with His searching power, that our hearts may be bared.
What is it that keeps away from us this searching of our hearts? It is not the world, it is not the devil, for he has not the power. The only thing that keeps it from us is our own will, and the only thing that keeps the blessing of God back from Chicago is the people.
A great many of us wonder how it is that our prayers have done no good - how it is that they have gone no higher than our heads. The truth would be discovered if we examined, that we are not living in communion with God.
Some of us think we are in communion with God, but it is a false thought. A false hope is worse than no hope at all, because in it a man is at rest and happy, and they cannot do any work. If we get that heart-searching truly, we will know just where we stand. We must not look at what people think of us, but what we look like in God's sight. Therefore we must beware that we have only a false hope, and ask God to give us the true searching power. If we falsely believe that we have it, may God take it from us today, so that the work may be deep in Chicago. I have been praying all along that the work might be deeper here than anywhere else, but unless we get this searching power, we don't do much good.
I was out on my brother's farm a short time ago, and he was plowing. He could not go very deep, owing to the roots in the ground. So it is in Chicago - the roots have got to be taken out before our work can go on.
Let the prayer of David, "Teach me, O Lord, and know my heart," (Psa. 27:11, 139:23) sink deep into us. Let us pray that this hour may be a heart-searching time, and if our hope is a false one, let us be willing to give it up.
I have heard of a lady who would not attend our meetings when everything was pleasant. If I was ill with an incurable disease, and called a doctor in, and he was to say: "Well, you are all right, you will soon be around again," although he knew I should die in thirty days, I shouldn't like him. But there are a great many people whom this would suit. Those people do not like to come here and listen to us telling them that their souls are sick and diseased, and prescribing just what will cure them. It is better to know the truth, that unless we search those hearts of ours and take out the disease there is no hope for us. So let us pray, and let it be an honest prayer from us. "O God, search our hearts." And if, when you go home, you feel troubled, don't say, that you won't come back to the meetings, but ask God for more searching power, and then you will be ready to work.
A doctor comes to a man who has broken his arm. The doctor feels around at first and he says, "Does that hurt you?" touching the arm. The man answers, "No." The physician goes a little higher, and says, "Does that hurt you? " "No, it don't." But by and by he touches the broken part, and the man cries out, "Oh, that hurts me!" And so with God. He touches our broken spot, and we don't like it.
Now, I have been thinking that there is a passage in Christ's sermon on the Mount that might point out our hindrances in Chicago - (Matt. 5:23-4) "Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hast taught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." Now, I don't want you to think me personal, but I hope the Spirit of God may be present to-day to carry the truth to every one who has a quarrel going on.
I believe the difficulty with us is the trouble in the church, the strife, the dissension going on among the brethren. If you have come to the altar with a quarrel between you and your brother, leave there thy gift and go out and be reconciled to him. If you have any malice or hatred against any one, your prayers will go for nothing - they will go no higher than your head. I believe this is the reason there is so much work lost among us - that you have something against someone, or someone has something against you.
I knew of two brothers who had a quarrel - a regular Cain and Abel over again. The mother could not get them reconciled. She could not sleep. Her prayers went up night after night. One of the brothers saw how his mother felt, and was sorry for her. To please her he bought a very costly gift and took it to her. "I don't want any gift," she said. "I want you to be reconciled to your brother." If he had been reconciled first, and then I brought the gift to his mother, it would have been all right. So it is with God. You take your gifts to the altar and keep in your heart hatred toward your brother. God don't want your gift until you are reconciled.
Now think for a moment. Think of any one who believes you are a hypocrite, anyone who says you are black-hearted, and who does not believe in anything you say in the meetings. Go and seek him out and be reconciled to him. That is the Gospel of the New Testament. "Oh!" you say, "he will not believe me - he with whom I have a quarrel will not forgive me." Go and speak kindly to him, show him a forgiving spirit yourself, and be reconciled to God. Tell him that you want his forgiveness - that you do not want him to stumble in the way of his salvation over you. I do not think of anything that would lift Chicago more than the fact of everyone here taking this truth to their hearts. We would make quick work with it.
There is a passage in the 11th chapter of Mark (Mark 11:24), if I know it correctly. I hear it quoted very often in the prayers at the meetings: "Whatsoever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye shall receive them and ye shall have them." But they stop there and do not go on to the next verse, and they say: "God has not answered my prayer," when nothing comes from their supplication.
They should read the next verse for the reason: "When ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any, that your Father which is in heaven may forgive your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses." When they pray they want God to forgive them, but they are not willing to forgive others.
Suppose I was a minister, and I had trouble with a brother, and some pretty hard words arose from the quarrel. Well, I get up and go to a man and pray with him. I find he has a great deal of trouble, and I say to him: "Won't you just cast your troubles on the Lord?" He says: "Well, the fact is, I have had a quarrel with a man, and I feel bitter toward him." Then I say: "Go and forgive the man, and be reconciled toward him." But he asks me: "You had a quarrel with a man, did you go to him and forgive him?" So we cannot go to men and preach Christ if we have hard feelings ourselves for anybody. If there is any worker here to-day who has a quarrel with his brother let him go at once and seek a reconciliation.
Let us have a heart-searching here to-day. Let us ask God's and our own efforts, so that the [street]car of salvation will rush along in the city. I tried to reconcile two men who stood very high in the community, who had a quarrel, and in their churches the wheels of the salvation car were clogged.
I said to one of them: "Don't you know that God is not going to bless your church as long as this quarrel is going on? Now I would like you to go that other man and say, 'If you think I have done you an injustice, I want you to forgive me.'" "Well" said he, "I don't know that I can put it in that way. I fear that I am a little to blame, and I don't think he would receive me." The other man said the same thing, but I just reasoned with them and got them together, and they were soon down on their knees, asking God to bless the church. It was pride that kept these two men separate and hindered the work of their churches, and whenever that was reached and cut out everything went on smoothly.
There are a great many things that have to be rooted out in Chicago before the work goes on prosperously. If there is any secret sin clustering around our hearth, we must draw that sin out before our work will be blessed by fruit.
excerpted from Great Joy by Dwight L. Moody, New York, 1877
Dwight L. Moody / Billy Sunday
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