Charles Spurgeon drew upon a vast reservoir of language and imagery in the Bible for all his prayers. Spurgeon’s assortment of scriptural quotations, images, and allusions in his pulpit prayers evidenced an understanding that the language of prayer must be infused with the language of Scripture.
Dinsdale Young, who heard Spurgeon preach and later compiled prayers of his, stated that as memorable as it was to hear Spurgeon preach, it was even more so to hear him pray. What he prayed was even more profound and beautiful than what he preached. Likewise, Charles Cook, who knew Spurgeon’s son Thomas and also published a selection of Spurgeon’s prayers, observed that “Spurgeon’s power did not lie wholly in his exceptional preaching gifts. He was a mighty man of prayer.” Little wonder, then, that the greatest impression on the American evangelist D.L. Moody upon his first visit to the Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1867 was not Spurgeon’s preaching – it was Spurgeon’s praying!
Spurgeon held a high view of prayer, evidenced not only by his teachings and exhortations on it but also by his practice. He preached numerous sermons on prayer, wrote multiple books about it, and gave advice to his pastoral students in lectures on it. He commended prayer to his congregants for personal and family practice and labored especially public prayer. He called public praying “the end of preaching,” even telling students, “If I may have my choice, I will sooner yield up the sermon than the prayer.” Young observed that for Spurgeon, “prayer was the instinct of his soul, and the atmosphere of his life.” In particular, Young recognized Spurgeon’s knowledge and reach of Scripture:
Mr. Spurgeon lived and moved and had his being in the Word of God. He knew its remoter reaches, its nooks and crannies. Its spirit had entered into his spirit; and when he prayed, the Spirit of God brought all manner of precious oracles to mind.
How were those “oracles,” “nooks and crannies,” and “remoter reaches” of the Word manifested in the pulpit prayers of Spurgeon? And how can we learn to do the same?
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Use Direct Scriptural Quotations in Your Prayers
One obvious way was in the use of direct scriptural quotations. Spurgeon quoted extensively from both testaments of the Bible in his prayers, especially from the Psalms and the Gospels. A favorite psalm of his to quote from was Psalm 67. He frequently included verses 3 and 5 from Psalm 67 in the closings of his prayers as he interceded for the salvation of the unconverted, envisioning more people being added to the company of believers and joining with them in praise to God alone who saves. One example can be found in the prayer, “The Love Without Measure or End,”
Lord, save men, gather out the company of the redeemed people; let those whom the Father gave to Christ be brought out from among the ruins of the fall to be His joy and crown. “Let the people praise You, O God, yea, let all the people praise You.” Let the ends of the earth fear Him who died to save them.
Note how in that intercession for the unsaved Spurgeon employed Ps 67:3, 5 as a doxological response to God’s saving act. We can likewise use Scripture quotations in praise to God for his anticipated acts of salvation or deliverance.
From the Gospels, Spurgeon repeatedly quoted from the Lord’s Prayer, specifically the first two lines of it, using those lines in the openings and closings of his prayers as well as in specific intercessions. One of the best examples of this is the prayer, “On Holy Ground.” Near the middle of that prayer, Spurgeon was again interceding for the lost and prayed this:
Oh! how we pray for this, the salvation of our fellow men, not so much for their sakes as for the sake of the glory of God and the rewarding of Christ for His pain. We do with all our hearts pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Lord, help us to do Your will. Take the crippled kingdom of our manhood and reign You over it.
Notice how Spurgeon weaved lines of the Lord’s Prayer into a prayer for the salvation of others, all the while upholding the glory of God himself as the overarching reason for that salvation! Similarly, we can appropriate God’s words to us in our words of prayer back to God and acknowledge his transcendence and pre-eminence as we do.