Praying Through


While traveling this summer, I had the opportunity to read again the biographies of three legendary Alliance figures: Mabel Francis of Japan, William Christie of China and Tibet and E. D. “Daddy” Whiteside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I was struck by the impact these amazingly productive people had on their world. Upon her retirement at the age of 83, Mabel Francis received the highest civilian award that can be conferred by the Japanese government—the first person to receive the award while still living! William Christie opened large portions of Western China and the Kingdom of Tibet to the gospel. E. D. Whiteside changed his city and mentored scores of young men and women into leadership roles in the early days of the C&MA. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men and women found their way to Christ because of these three people. It would be hard to over estimate the power of their lives.

When the C&MA Board of Managers closed the Japan field because of the economic pressures of the Great Depression, Mabel Francis was told to pack her bags and come home. Mabel took the matter to prayer, and when she had “prayed through” she had a clear word from God. She respectfully resigned from the C&MA, trusted God for all of her needs and stayed on in Japan! A few years later, when both the American and the Japanese governments offered her safe passage home at the outset of World War II, she “prayed it through” again and once again stayed in Japan, even though she knew it would mean internment for the duration of the war. At the end of the conflict, Mabel was there to welcome the C&MA back to her beloved adopted country. Her ability to take great risks was entirely dependent on having a “clear Word from God.”

William Christie was in some respects the “Indiana Jones” of early Alliance missions in China and Tibet. His hair-raising exploits for the gospel read like a dime store novel—except that all of them really happened. Arriving in China with a group of young men who were ready to believe God for “everything,” Christie and his companions set themselves to earnest prayer, expecting God to “give” them the Chinese language without study. William soon discerned that God’s will lay in a different direction, and he began to study the language in a more conventional way. He soon mastered not only the language of China but that of Tibet as well!

During the Boxer Rebellion, which claimed many missionary lives; in the infamous White Wolf Raid, which occurred some years later; and at several other points, William was called upon to make decisions concerning the fate of many colleagues. Time and again he “prayed through” and knew exactly what God wanted him to do. His legendary wisdom was born out of a certainty that he had discovered the will of God.

“Daddy” Whiteside was known far and wide as the “Praying Man of Pittsburgh.” Once, when neighbors opposed a plan to expand his home so it could serve as a meeting place for a new church, he “prayed through” until he clearly heard the voice of God. “Stop praying and go downstairs.” “Walk out of the house.” “Turn left.” “Keep walking.” “Turn here.” Soon he was standing in front of a brand new hall that was available for a rental price less than he could have imagined!

One of the core values of The Christian and Missionary Alliance is: “Achieving God’s purposes involves taking faith-filled risks. This always involves change.” Without a doubt, the history of redemption is full of examples of men and women who took great risks for God and were rewarded with tremendous spiritual victories. Almost without exception, these were preceded by long hours of fervent prayer. The old saints used to call that “praying through,” a discipline that is rarely practiced in churches today.

Our prayers more often than not could be categorized as “monologues“—one-way diatribes in which we pour out our hearts and tell God everything we want Him to do for us and give to us. Occasionally, when we have extra time, we add a brief period of worship and come away the richer for it. Rarely do we persevere in prayer long enough to listen for His voice speaking to our hearts. That requires time and a level of intimacy with God that many of us have yet to acquire. But if we are willing to sacrifice our comfort, exchange some precious sleep for a quiet vigil before His face and truly desire to listen, then we can have what we desire. Our God is still a God who speaks.

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