“Mr. Taylor opened the meeting by giving out a hymn, and seating himself at the harmonium led the singing. His appearance did not impress me. He was slightly built, and spoke in a gentle voice. Like most young men, I suppose I associated power with noise, and looked for great physical presence in a leader. But when he said, ‘Let us pray’, and proceeded to lead the meeting in prayer, my ideas underwent a change. I had never heard anyone pray like that. There was a simplicity, a tenderness, a boldness, a power that hushed and subdued one, and made it clear that God had admitted him into the inner circle of His friendship. He spoke with God face to face, as a man talketh with his friend. Such praying was evidently the outcome of long tarrying in the secret place, and was as a dew from the Lord. I have heard many men pray in public since then, but the prayers of Mr. Taylor and the prayers of Mr. Spurgeon stand all by themselves. The meeting lasted from four to six o’clock, but seemed one of the shortest prayer meetings I had ever attended.” (“Biography of James Hudson Taylor” by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor [Hodder and Stoughton/OMF, 1985] pg. 326-7)
This is an account of a young man’s first impression of Hudson Taylor on joining their weekly prayer meeting for the work in China. Even beside the fact that this combined two of my favorite people (Hudson Taylor and Charles Spurgeon) this account jumped off the page. Let the description of his prayer sink in. Simplicity. Tenderness. Boldness. Power. As though he had been admitted to the inner circle of God’s friendship. Speaking face to face as with a friend.
It seems the young man understood the secret of such a prayer life when it says that it was the “outcome of long tarrying in the secret place.” He mentions Spurgeon’s prayers making a similar mark and I know that this was not an isolated impression. Another contemporary friend of both of these men was George Mueller and the same thing was said of him. Having read biographies of each of these men and others like them, I can see that this is undeniably a pattern. Those who take the time for “long tarrying in the secret place” have about them simplicity, tenderness, boldness and power. They are as those who have been admitted into the inner circle of God’s friendship and speak with him face to face as a friend.
As you would be hard pressed to find three men who enjoyed more closeness with God, you would also be to find three men who were harder pressed. At this point, Taylor was overseeing 50 buildings, 100 workers (plus around another 70 family members) at stations that were an average of 100 miles apart in China. He had lost three children to illness as well as his wife Maria. The couple who superintended the home front of the mission had to retire and the woman who had taken on the care of his children was dying. Spurgeon’s schedule was taxing to say the least. He could preach up to 10 times in a week, answered hundreds of letters, taught in a college for pastors, administered an orphanage and met with dozens of individuals for pastoral care. He suffered from fits of dark depression as well as gout which could keep him in bed in excruciating pain for weeks at a time. George Mueller built orphanages and cared for around 10,000 orphans in his lifetime. He never made a single appeal for money but trusted in a prayer hearing God to bring what was needed as it was needed. He never went into any debt despite building a number of homes for the orphans at a cost of around £100,000 (in the 1800’s!).
I would love to pretend that I don’t have the time to pray and gather close to God. But I just can’t. The truth is that I enjoy the company of myself and my chosen trivialities more than the company of the living God. I would rather paw through the muddy sand in a broken cistern than drink full and deep from the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13). Now, I have read appeals like this before and accounts in biographies of those who were close to God. I have felt a stir in my soul to leave the crumbs and eat the bread of life but I usually do what you are most likely to do. So instead of making a flimsy resolution to ‘do better’ that you are not going to keep, just do it now. Tarry right now for as long as you can in the secret place with your God. Or do you not have the time?