Spiritual Sailing Part 8: Answers to Prayer

Psalm 139:9,10; Psalm 61:2
      If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me…From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed.

 JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): Many a prayer hath been heard, and miraculously answered upon the sea. There men have been convinced, and fully satisfied, that it is not in vain to cry to the Lord. So evident and clear have been the appearances of God at the cry of the poor distressed creatures, that they have sensibly and thankfully acknowledged Him according to His name: The hope of the ends of the earth, and the confidence of them that are afar off upon the sea, Psalm 65:5. Who is there among you, that has not either heard of, or himself been an example, and an instance of this truth?

 HUDSON TAYLOR (1832-1905): This happened notably on [my first voyage to China in 1854] when we were some thirty miles off [New Guinea]. During the Sunday morning service, which was held on deck, I could not fail to see that the Captain looked troubled and frequently went over to the side of the ship―a four-knot current was carrying us towards some sunken reefs, and we were already so near that it seemed improbably that we should get through the afternoon in safety. After dinner, the long boat was put out and all hands endeavoured, without success, to turn the ship’s head from the shore.
       After standing together on the deck for some time in silence, the Captain said to me: “Well, we have done everything that can be done. We can only await the result.” “No,” I replied, “there is one thing we have not done yet. Four of us on board are Christians. Let us each retire to his own cabin, and in agreed prayer ask the Lord to give us immediately a breeze. He can as easily send it now as at sunset.”
       The Captain complied [and] I went and spoke to the other two men, and after prayer with the carpenter, we all four retired to wait upon God. I had a good but very brief season in prayer, and then felt so satisfied that our request was granted that I could not continue asking, and very soon went up again on deck.
       The first officer, a godless man, was in charge. I asked him to let down the corners of the mainsail, which had been drawn up in order to lessen the useless flapping of the sail against the rigging. “What would be the good of that?” he answered roughly. I told him we had been asking a wind from God; that it was coming immediately; and we were so near the reef by this time that there was not a minute to lose. With an oath and a look of contempt, he said he would rather see a wind than hear of it.
       But while he was speaking I watched his eye, following it up to the royal, and there, sure enough, the corner of the topmost sail was beginning to tremble in the breeze. “Don’t you see the wind is coming? Look at the royal,” I exclaimed. “No, it’s only a cat’s paw [a mere puff of wind],” he said. “Cat’s paw or not,” I cried, “pray let down the mainsail and give us the benefit!” This he was not slow to do [and] the heavy tread of the men on deck brought up the Captain from his cabin to see what was the matter. The breeze had indeed come! In a few minutes, we were ploughing our way at six or seven knots through the water.

 WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Sometimes we have a speedy return of prayers―“In the day when I cried,” saith David, “thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul,” Psalm 138:3.

 C. H. SPURGEON: What an encouragement to pray!

 HUDSON TAYLOR: Thus God encouraged me ere landing on China’s shores to bring every variety of need to Him in prayer, and to expect that He would honour the name of the Lord Jesus and give the help each emergency required.

 JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): Seamen cannot create the wind, but they can hoist their sails to welcome it; neither can we create the breath of the Spirit, but are we to miss it when it comes through failure to keep our sails unfurled?

 C. H. SPURGEON: The sailor knows that he can neither stop the tempest nor raise it. What then? Does he sit still? By no means. He has all kinds of sails of different cuts and forms to enable him to use every ounce of wind that comes; and he knows how to reef or furl them in case the tempest becomes too strong for his barque. Though he cannot control the movement of the wind, he can use what it pleases God to send…Let me close by stirring you up to use the holy art of prayer as a means of obtaining the blessing.


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