Sermons on Great Prayers of the Bible
C H Spurgeon, Hendrickson Publishers (2015)
It seems almost unbelievable now, with so many of our churches facing dwindling congregations and a sermon that you might have spent a few days sweating over and preparing being finally delivered to less than thirty, that Spurgeon routinely preached to 6,000 in London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle ( a stone’s throw from Elephant and Castle tube station). It beggars belief that he also did this in an age before microphones and any amplification systems. The fact that books like these, comprising a selection of his best sermons, are still being published is testimony to the quality, power and message of those original sermons.
In this volume we have thirteen of Spurgeon’s sermons that are all based on great prayers that have been prayed at different times throughout the Bible, ranging from Moses on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus) to John in exile on Patmos (Revelation). The others include the Psalms, Judges, 1 Chronicles, Nehemiah, Isaiah, Daniel and all four Gospels. My own particular favourite is that which focuses on the ‘preparatory prayers of Christ’ in which Spurgeon examines the many occasions when Jesus resorted to prayer. Spurgeon makes the obvious point that Jesus ‘was a man of much prayer’ and compares his skills as a preacher with those of prayer, concluding that ‘he appears to have been even mightier in prayer.’
It is in this sermon, also, that Spurgeon alludes to the length of his address: ‘I must hasten on, lest time should fail us before I have finished.’ By my reckoning each of these sermons must have lasted at least an hour. If you try reading one out loud and account for natural pauses and so on it is difficult to get it under the hour and make it sensible. One has got to admire the levels of concentration and stamina of the Victorian congregations. Nowadays the usual advice is not to make your sermon much longer than about fifteen minutes!
The success of Spurgeon as a preacher was not down to any secret formula. His principles were quite simple. First and foremost he preached the gospel and the good news – his message was always firmly grounded in Scripture and in the Lord Jesus Christ. But he preached it in a simple, straightforward way that everyone could understand and, crucially, he made it relevant and meaningful to their everyday lives.
Preachers today would do well to follow the same guidelines. Meanwhile Spurgeon’s sermons (this is only a small selection of his vast output) still serve as a source of inspiration and are timeless in their appeal.
Reviewed by Ray Taylor