A Praying Church in the Past

Metropolitan Tabernacle

In my experience, fundamental Baptist churches today are typically not praying churches. A mid-week prayer meeting in which the people actually pray is rare. Special prayer meetings before the services and before Bible conferences and “revivals” is exceedingly rare. And if a church does have real prayer meetings, they are poorly attended. Metropolitan Tabernacle of London, England, during Charles Spurgeon’s pastorate (1854-1882) is an example of a praying church. Thousands were saved with changed lives as evidence. The preaching was powerful and the church was very aggressive in evangelism (e.g., street preaching, aggressive tract distribution, 27 Sunday Schools and Ragged Schools ministering to over 8,000 children with 612 teachers). But Spurgeon attributed the life-changing power largely to prayer. “Spurgeon regarded the prayer meeting as ‘the most important meeting of the week.’ He often said that it was not surprising if churches did not prosper, when they regarded the prayer meeting as of so little value that one evening in the week was made to suffice for a feeble combination of service and prayer meeting. A.T. Pierson, who ministered at Tabernacle during Spurgeon’s last illness, said, ‘This Metropolitan Tabernacle is a house of prayer most emphatically. Prayer is almost ceaselessly going up. When one meeting is not in progress, another is. There are prayer meetings before preaching, and others after preaching. No marvel that Mr. Spurgeon’s preaching has been so blessed. He himself attributes it mainly to the prevailing prayers of his people’” (Wonders of Grace: Original testimonies of converts during Spurgeon’s early years, p. 14). Spurgeon warned about the prayerlessness that characterized many of the Baptist churches of his day and he attributed the “Downgrade” in doctrine in the Baptist Union to the weak spiritual condition of the churches. He wrote, “Are churches in a right condition when they have only one meeting for prayer in a week, and that a mere skeleton? Churches which have prayer-meetings several times on the Lord’s-day, and very frequently during the week, yet feel their need of more prayer; but what can be said of those who very seldom practice united supplication? Are there few conversions? Do the congregations dwindle? Who wonders that this is the case when the spirit of prayer has departed?” (The Sword and the Trowel, Aug. 1887).

(Friday Church News Notes, June 12, 2020, www.wayoflife.org fbns@wayoflife.org, 866-295-4143)