“When I am praying the most eloquently, I am getting the least accomplished in my prayer life. But when I stop getting eloquent and give God less theology and shut up and just gaze upward and wait for God to speak to my heart, He speaks with such power that I have to grab a pencil and a notebook and take notes on what God is saying to my heart,” so said A. W. Tozer, whom some have called the most insightful and influential Christian writer of the 20th Century.
Warren W. Wiersbe said, “A. W. Tozer had the gift of taking a spiritual truth and holding it up to the light so that, like a diamond, every facet was seen and admired. He was not lost in homiletical swamps; the wind of the Spirit blew and dead bones came to life. His essays are like fine cameos whose value is not determined by their size.”
From Dr. Ravi Zacharias, “Tozer’s was a unique voice in his time, but the potency of his writings is timeless. Reading his books has always left me yearning for a closer walk with God.”
And I, a simple story teller, have also been profoundly affected by Tozer’s writings. Over the years as I read Tozer’s books, like Ravi, I was always left yearning for a closer walk with God. So you can imagine ten years after Tozer’s death how excited I was, as a young college student, to find buried in a dusty old box in the audio-video room at Canadian Bible College some reel-to-reel audio recordings made of him preaching in Canada twenty years before!! Till that time, I had never heard his voice outside of a book, so I was anxious to be able to actually listen to a live sermon from this renowned man of God.
In the same room, I found a bulky old reel-to-reel tape recorder! With that find, I had all I needed, so I wasted no time—borrowing them, I rushed back to my apartment where my wife watched curiously as I hauled in the dirty box and old recorder. Setting everything up on the kitchen table and plugged into the old device with headphones, I hit PLAY. The service had an opening hymn, a prayer, then ruffling and thumping noises of Tozer placing his BibIe and notes on the podium, and he began to preach—I was stunned!!
Being the world-class writer that he was, and for all the powerful impact he’d had on Christians and Christian leaders for decades, I was expecting an oratorical eloquence like stars singing in the celestial universe. Instead . . . he sounded like an old farmer! With His slow draw and simple speech—well, he even sounded unshaven! My mind’s eye could see him removing his toothpick from his mouth in order to speak! But it WAS, in fact, Tozer; I had the right guy.
After recovering from my shock of expectation, I listened as he droned on, but it didn’t take long for me to be captivated. His was a humble delivery of Biblical truth, allegory, and he had a funny sense of humor, saying things you least expected. You’d laugh, but get the deeper meaning he wanted you to understand—the meaning for your head, but more importantly, the meaning for your heart.
Years later, after reading many biographies and autobiographies of great Christian men and women of the past, I often wondered what it was that made them so influential and helpful to believers. Looking back, I would boil it all down to their prayer lives. Out of their prayer lives and private times of worshiping their heavenly Father came the faith, courage, direction, and commitment to trust God, no matter what God had put on their hearts to say or do.
One Sunday at church, I was speaking with Martha Permar, a woman I had known all my life; in fact, she even used to occasionally babysit me as a child. Well, as a side note, I noticed she never seemed to age like other women; I mean, she didn’t have a single gray hair on her head—it was always jet black. She was clearly getting older, so I mentioned this to my wife one time; she just stopped, stared at me a little in disbelief, and in a very matter-of-fact way, flatly said, “She dyes her hair.”
Anyway, when I was talking with Martha, I mentioned something about recently reading a Tozer book, and Martha casually says, “When I was a young woman living in Chicago, I used to babysit Tozer’s daughter.” I just about fell over! I started pelting her with questions about Tozer and his family. She found this rather amusing and started talking. Of all the things she told me, one little thing stood out above the rest and brought me back to my old question and conclusion that prayer—time alone with God—is what makes a Christian a great Christian and a truly humble follower and servant of Jesus.
Martha said, “I had been babysitting their daughter, off and on for quite some time, and every time I’d walk by the Tozers’ bedroom, I noticed this old rug beside their bed with two large holes in it. Well, not complete holes….yet….just two spots on the rug that were so thread-bare you could see the floor through them! Eventually, my curiosity got the best of me and one day I asked Mrs. Tozer about the ratty rug.”
She said simply, “That’s where Rev. Tozer kneels to pray at night.”
There it was, prayer again!
Tozer prayed on his knees so much he wore out the rug!!
If this great man of God could wear out a rug praying, it gives me pause to take a hard look at my own prayer life and time alone with God.
Here in the vernacular of his day is one of Tozer’s prayers, giving us insight into his heart and his rug hole-making.
“O God, be Thou exalted over my possessions. Nothing of earth’s treasures shall seem dear unto me if only Thou art glorified in my life.
Be Thou exalted over my friendships. I am determined that Thou shalt be above all, though I must stand deserted and alone in the midst of the earth.
Be Thou exalted above my comforts. Though it mean the loss of bodily comforts and the carrying of heavy crosses, I shall keep my vow made this day before Thee.
Be Thou exalted over my reputation. Make me ambitious to please Thee even if as a result I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream.
Rise, O Lord, into Thy proper place of honor, above my ambitions, above my likes and dislikes, above my family, my health and even my life itself. Let me decrease that Thou mayest increase; let me sink that Thou mayest rise above. Ride forth upon me as Thou didst ride into Jerusalem mounted upon the humble little beast, a colt, the foal of an ass, and let me hear the children cry to Thee, ‘Hosanna in the highest.’”
Copyright © 2014 by William D. (Nick) Nichols
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