Daniel Whittle’s accounts of prayer are helpful – because too often we hear a sermon illustration that seems too far-fetched. Perhaps we check it on Snopes and find that the story is unsubstantiated. This account is one in which Daniel Whittle was personally involved.
One of the most beautiful incidents ever known relating to the faith of children, and the reward of their trust, is contained in the following circumstance, personally known to the editor of this book, who was a participant in the facts.
The only child of a young married couple, living in this city, their pride, their hope and joy, and the darling of the whole family, was seized with severe sickness, grew rapidly worse. The grandfather, who was a skilled physician, was constantly present, ministering in every way, by every means, but nothing was of any avail. No medicine could cure, and the child seemed ready to die. No one could think of relief or knew where to find it.
The grandfather, at last, proposed to lay the case before God, and ask the prayers of His people in the child’s behalf. The mother was only too glad to ask other prayers with her own, to bring relief. The father, who had hitherto never seriously thought of religion, was in intense anxiety and despair. Here was his first, his only child about to be taken away from him, and then came the thought, is it possible his family life was not to be blessed; his child was in distress, no human effort was available.
At last, he too joined in the prayer of his wife and father, and bowing before the Great Unknown, unseen God, he poured out his heart in prayer, saying, “Lord, if thou wilt spare my child, wilt give him life, and thus show to me thy power and will to save, I will never doubt again, and will give thee my heart”
A request for prayer was written and sent to the pastor, Dr. William Adams, of the Madison Square Church. It arrived after church service had begun; the sexton was unwilling to carry it to the pulpit, as it was against the rule, but when told he must, as a life was in great danger, he consented, and delivered it to the pastor.
The messenger waited breathlessly, and when in silence the doctor specifically mentioned the case before him, and asked the Lord to heal and spare the little one, and comfort the hearts of all, and make it a witness of his love and power, the messenger accidentally looked at the clock, and it marked just quarter to eleven, A.M.
When prayer was finished he returned home. Arriving at home, he was astonished to find the child better, its whole condition had changed, the medicine had taken hold, and the doctor now said everything was so hopeful the child would surely recover, and it did. But mark the unparalleled singularity of the scene.
The father asked the messenger the time when the prayer was offered. He replied, “At a quarter to eleven.” The father in astonishment said, “At that very moment the disease changed, and the doctor said he was better.”
The father, who had thus been proving the Lord with this test of prayer and its identity of time in his answer, was so overwhelmingly convinced of the real power of prayer, and thereby of the real existence of God, and that a Christian life was one of facts as well as beliefs, now finding that the Lord had indeed kept His own promise, he, too, kept his promise and gave his heart to the Lord, and became henceforth, a professing Christian.
But there were more wonderful things yet to happen–a period of five years passed. Other children were added to the family, and one day, the youngest, a sweet, beautiful girl, was taken suddenly ill with convulsions. The sickness for days tasked the strength of the mother, and the skill of the doctor, but no care, ingenuity, or knowledge could overcome the disease or subdue the pain.
The little girl’s fits were severe and distressing, and there were but short intervals between, just time to come out of one and with a gasp, pass into another still more terrible. In its occasional moments of reason, it would look piteously as if mutely appealing, and then the next convulsion would take it and seem to leave it just at death’s door.
All attendants were worn with care, the doctor fairly lived in the house and forsook all his other business. The clergyman came and comforted the anxious hearts with words of sympathy and prayer; but her little brother Merrill, (whose own life we have just related,) tender-hearted, a mere child, scarce seven years of age, who had known of the Lord, and who believed that He was everywhere and could do everything, was intensely grieved at “Mamie’s” distress, and came at last to his mother and asked if he could go and “make a prayer to God for Sissy.”
The mother said, “Go.”
The little boy went back into his room, and kneeling humbly by the side of his bed, as he did at his night and morning prayers, uttered this request:
“O God, please to bless little sister, she is very sick. Please stop her fits so she won’t have any more. For Jesus’ sake, amen.”
He came back, told his mamma what he said, and added: “Mamma, I don’t think she will have any more.”
Now mark how the Lord honored this simple faith of the little child. From that very moment the fits left her. They never returned; and the child soon entirely recovered.
Notice the full beauty and instruction of these two incidents: Little Merrill’s life was saved in answer to prayer; was the means of his father’s salvation, and when he in turn had grown to an age when he could learn of God, his own prayer was the means of saving his own sister’s life.
Notice, too, that all earthly available means were used to save each child, but to no effect. Physicians and parents considered the case hopeless, and then committed it to the decision of God.
Notice, too, that when little Merrill was so sick, that the mother and doctor both prayed, yet it was not until his father had also prayed that the answer came. God meant to honor the faith of the first two, but was waiting for the prayer of the third ere he granted the request. That child’s sickness was one of the purposes of God.
Notice in the second case, that while father, mother, doctor, the clergyman, and others of the house were all trusting in prayer, yet the Lord was waiting for the prayer of the little brother, ere he sent the blessing of relief. Such an incident draws its own conclusion.
- Never cease in prayer for anything which is to God’s honor and glory.
- Use all the possible means to help God.
- Where human means are of no avail, commit it to God and wait in humble resignation.
- Ask others to pray, too, for the same object, that when the answer comes, God may be glorified before the sight of others as well as your own.
When so many are waiting to see if God will honor his promises, depend upon it, God will be found faithful to all his word.