Some pieces of writing are both powerful and funny. I submit the below as an excellent example of this. Spurgeon, writing in the 1800s, here bemoans the soul-crushingly long prayers of a good and Godly man he knows. Is it good to pray? YES! Is it good to pray long and persevere in prayer? YES! Is it good to prevail in prayer – going past tiredness and hopelessness; knocking on the door of Heaven until God answers? YES! Is it good to pray out loud for so long that everybody loses focus and begins to get drowsy? NO!! Pray long in your prayer area, pray long as you drive. Pray long in your living room at night when all are in bed. Be very careful about praying overly long out loud when you are in a prayer meeting. The corporate prayer gathering is NOT your time to shine! The corporate prayer meeting is the time for ALL of God’s people to cry out to Him together – NOT to listen to you pray out loud on and on. But, don’t take my word for it – listen to Brother Spurgeon:
In some places where there are good, praying people, the prayer-meetings are badly attended, because certain long-winded brethren spoil them. I know a church which is endowed with an excellent deacon, a real godly man, but he will pray without ceasing at every meeting, and I fear he will pray the prayer-meeting down to nothing unless he is soon taken home. The other night, when he had talked for full twenty minutes, he intimated, both to Heaven and earth, that all he had said was merely a preface, a drawing near as he called it, and that he was then going to begin. None of his friends were pleased to receive that information, for they had begun to cherish the hope that he would soon have done. They were all too sadly aware that now he would pray for “our own beloved country,” “from the Queen upon the throne to the peasant in the cottage,” then for Australia and all the Colonies, and then for China and India, starting off afresh with kindly expressions for the young and for the old, for the sick, for sailors, and for the Jews. As a rule, nothing was really asked for by this most estimable brother, but he uttered several pious remarks on all these subjects, and many more.
It is a great pity when highly-esteemed brethren fall into the notion that they must deliver themselves of long harangues; the better the men, the worse the evil, for then we are forced to tolerate them. I am sorry when a good man gets the idea that praying means telling out his experience, or giving his theological opinions. I am told that our Salvation Army friends strike up a tune whenever a friend becomes long and prosy, and I have great sympathy with the practice. It removes the responsibility of stopping the man from the minister to the people, and by dividing the action among many it operates like a round robin for the screening of any one. When prayer is an earnest asking, it may occasionally be lengthened to advantage; but the less of mere holy gossip, the better. If prayer-meetings degenerate into gospel gossip, we cannot wonder if no blessing comes. In such cases, the word is true, “Ye have not, because ye ask not.”
In case you missed it there, Spurgeon was (in a polite manner) saying that the prayer meeting at Deacon Rambles-In-Prayer’s church was going to die, if Deacon Rambles didn’t die first. Ouch – that’s harsh. Don’t let this discourage you from prayer – Heaven forbid! Let this encourage you TO PRAY – and to pray in such a way that many others also have room to pray out loud.
Source: Charles Spurgeon, Only a Prayer Meeting: Forty Addresses at Metropolitan Tabernacle and Other Prayer-Meetings
Complete Prayer Series Links:
Charles Spurgeon on Prayer, Part 1: You Have Not Because You Ask Not
Charles Spurgeon on Prayer, Part 2: The Danger of Long-Winded Praying
Charles Spurgeon on Prayer, Part 3: Revive The Prayer Gathering in Your Church!
Charles Spurgeon on Prayer, Part 4: The King and His Child
Charles Spurgeon on Prayer, Part 5: There is a Future For Us, If We Pray
Prayer Series, Part 6: We Have Not, Because We Ask Not…For Ourselves?!