Regarding Short Prayers

All of us church-going people have endured long prayers at one point or another! Someone once told me that poor prayers shouldn’t be long, and good prayers needn’t be long. The idea of long prayers was condemned by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8).

Shortly after the Dallas Theological Seminary was begun in 1924, they found themselves in financial straits. Facing bankruptcy, the creditors threatened to close the school. On the morning of the foreclosure, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, President of the seminary, assembled the founders of DTS into his office, and there they fervently asked God to deliver the school from its financial distress.

One of the men in attendance that morning was Dr. Harry Ironside. Known for his short and pithy prayers, Dr. Ironside petitioned God with this petition: “Lord, we know you own the cattle on a thousand hills. Please sell some of them, and send us the money. Amen.” Shortly thereafter a man entered the business office. “I just sold two carloads of cattle and have spent the whole morning trying to make a business deal go through,” he said. “It’s just not working out, and I feel the Lord is compelling me to give this money to the seminary instead. I don’t know if you need it or not, but here’s the check.” He then left just as abruptly as he had come.

The secretary who had received the visitor took the check to Dr. Chafer’s office and knocked gently on his door because she knew they were praying about the school’s “financial crisis. When Dr. Chafer opened the door she told him, “I think you should see this, sir.” Dr. Chafer held up the check and couldn’t believe his eyes. Ironically, it was for the exact amount the seminary needed. “Harry,” Dr. Chafer exclaimed, “God sold the cattle!”

—Paul W. Brubaker
January/February 2011