But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
In no age of the Church has it been more necessary than it is in this to exalt the ministry of the Church, to secure its freedom from secular cares, and to culture its spiritual life and efficiency. Thousands of Christian clergy long to be able to say the words of our text, and hopelessly repeat after Dr. Chalmers, "I am bustled out of my spirituality." We may help to a better understanding of the work of the ministry if we consider -
I. ITS PRIVATE AND PREPARATORY FEATURES. "Give ourselves continually to prayer." The term "prayer," as here used, is a comprehensive one, and includes all that belongs to private piety and soul-culture, the nourishing of the Christian vitality, and enriching of the personal spiritual stores of thought, feeling, and truth. Ministers know, by a constant experience, how immediately their pleasure and their power in their work depend on their personal spiritual conditions. The soul must be full of God that is to speak well for God; and Christian congregations should take it upon them, as a burden of duty, to free their pastors from care, both in his family and in the temporal matters of the Church, so that he may "give himself unto prayer." Prayer may here be taken to include:
1. Self-culture - the full mastery of a man's own disposition and habits.
2. Mental culture - a sufficient training of the intellectual powers to ensure full and wise teaching of the people.
3. Scripture-culture - adequate acquaintance with the actual contents of God's revealed Word, and quickness of spiritual insight into its deeper meanings, suggestions, and mysteries.
4. Soul-culture - that kind of sympathetic, persuasive force which seems to bring God near to man, in us, and man near to God, through us; the kind of power that only comes to us through "prayer and fasting." These things are the absolute essentials of true and successful ministerial work today. The men of prayer are the men of power.
II. ITS PUBLIC AND OFFICIAL FEATURES. "The ministry of the Word," or the service of the revealed Word. This may be set in two forms.
1. The ministry of the Scriptures; not merely in their contents, but in their applications, their examples, warnings, counsels, comfortings, etc. "Our ministers are the teachers of a Book, and each has more than a lifetime full of labor if he sets his heart upon declaring the whole revealed counsel of God."
2. The ministry of the Christ, as the very essence of the Scriptures. In this bringing out the special redemptive features of the Divine relation, and claiming personal surrender to, personal obedience to, and personal homage to, the risen, glorified, and reigning Lord. "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." It may be further pressed that:
(1) The Word, or message of salvation, needs a human ministry; "by the foolishness of preaching God would save them that believe."
(2) That it also needs the entire devotion of men's time and talents and influence. If apostles needed to step aside from common cares to keep their efficiency for spiritual work, much more do the modern clergy in this busy and anxious age. It should seriously be considered how far the modern ministry has become weakened, especially in spiritual power and prophet-like energy, by becoming crowded with worldly cares, so that private soul-culture is neglected and prayer-preparations are crowded out. Only from the "secret place of the Most High" can Christian teachers come forth in power. "While they are musing the fire burns;" and then they can "speak with their tongues." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.