[This is taken from Russell H. Conwell's Praying for Money.]
Although it is difficult to divide the subject of prayer into clearly separate departments, yet, for the purpose of concentrating the thought of the reader, and with the idea of emphasizing the importance of the events selected, this chapter has been set apart for special discussion. The possible relation of the law of mental telepathy to this experience has already been suggested and need not be repeated here. But the recent general sympathy with the parents of a child which was stolen led many Christians to pray for the recovery of the precious little one. At the Temple in 1889 such a case was presented at the church services and an appeal made to the people to ask the Lord to influence the kidnapers to bring back the child. That led to the discussion of many previous cases where the parents believed that their lost child was returned to them in answer to prayer. In two cases each child was carefully deposited at the door of its parents. In both cases they had held special meetings of their neighbors to pray for the return of their child, and in one case they had appealed to the priest for his intercession. If the Lord used his direct power to bring the child home it must have been used through some event or some direct suggestion having an influence on the minds of the captors, because in the cases here mentioned there was no clew revealed which could lead to the abductors.
But an older case may illustrate what most probably did occur in other instances. In 1889 a child two years of age was stolen from the front yard of a home in Charlestown, Massachusetts (now a part of Boston). A large ransom was demanded which was far beyond the reach of the parents. After several weeks of excited search by all the police organizations of the nation the child was secretly returned, without ransom, and left cheerfully rapping on its parents' door. One of the robber gang who had conspired to steal children for ransoms, and who had laid the successful plan to capture that child, was arrested several days after the return of the child and confessed his share in the crime. His account of the influences and events which led to the restoration of the child was a most impressive and convincing illustration of the spiritual forces God may use in such cases.
The band of four robbers could not quiet the child when they carried him away, and they resorted to a gag which nearly killed the child. But the frightened little fellow screamed whenever the gag was taken from his mouth and would not eat or drink. The child was evidently near to death. Then one of the robbers carried the child to a woman who occupied a room over a saloon in Brooklyn, New York. The woman was able to pacify the child, and explained to acquaintances that the child was an orphan whose mother, a near relation, had just died. The woman knew that the child was being held for a ransom, of which she was promised a large share. But she did not know from what part of the country the child came. She was an irreligious, coarse, profane woman, and cared only for money and drink. But one day she sent a letter to the resort of the gang and told them that she had a clear presentiment that something dreadful would happen to them if they did not hurry up the business of returning the child. As they paid no attention to her warnings she wrote again, saying that she would keep the child but ten days longer. They then visited her or wrote to her to care for the child three weeks longer, as they were sure of the "swag" by that time.
In the following week one of the gang was caught by the foot in a falling window sash as he tried to leap to a fire escape and he was burned to death while he hung there. The hotel was in full blaze when he awoke and his only possible escape was by that window. Another one of the gang swallowed a broken glass button when hastily eating a piece of biscuit at a railroad restaurant. He was taken to a hospital or sanitarium in Montreal, where after long agony he died, and his body was buried in the public ground.
When the woman who held the child heard of that she took the child boldly to the house where the other three or four abductors met and flatly told them that all of them would come under a curse if they did not return that child to his parents. But they made a joke of their comrades' death, and gave her brandy until she wandered home drunk. The child was then placed in charge of a poor widow in Hoboken, who was told that the mother was dead and the father was at sea, but would soon return. They paid liberally in advance for the child's board, and none of the circumstances awakened the least suspicion in the widow's mind. One night she slept with the child's arm across her neck. She awoke with a dreadful feeling of being choked to death by a strong man who exclaimed, "That child is stolen, and you must appear before God at once to give an account." The details of her experiences are here quoted from the New York Herald.
The widow called it "a waking dream." She was so shocked by the experience that she would not keep the child and sent for the man who had brought the child and demanded that the child be at once taken away. She did not believe that her warning was a premonition of any crime nor that the child had been stolen, but she was in a state of strange terror and told the man who came for the child that she was too nervous to board so young a child.
It appears that when the robber returned to the usual rendezvous, after leaving the child at an orphan asylum and agreeing to pay for the board of "his child," he found another member of the party down with a sudden and dangerous fever. Then he, too, was struck with an impression of coming doom. It remained upon him night and day. He became so intoxicated that he was locked in the jail. In the depression of his recovery from the drink he determined to kill himself. Then the idea that he might escape from his horror by taking the child back to its home became so insistent that as soon as he was released he went after the child and took it back on the night train. He told the lisping child to rap on his father's door and "call for papa." Then he hastened away and did not return to his former gang.
This authentic incident may or may not prove that prayer was answered, as it is not known what prayers were offered for that child's recovery. But it does show how the Lord may work in other cases where prayers are openly made. The angels of God are sent to pronounce curses on the disobedient sometimes, and terrible plagues are sent on men by them. Hence, the Lord does use various curses to work out his will and it seems reasonable to believe that he does warn men and women by terrible mental impressions.
This theory is strongly confirmed by the testimonies found in this large correspondence. Lost children were restored after prayers were made for them in startlingly impressive manners. At Cape May a fisherman obeyed a wholly unexplainable impulse and put back to the marshes, feeling that he had "left something," but unable to remember what it was. There he heard the cry of the lost child, wading waist deep in the incoming tide. A merchant of Wilmington, Delaware, wrote that his child was taken by the grandparents when his wife died, and after the grandparents died the child was hidden by the relatives. The reason for the action was because of a difference of religious faith. He began one day a regular system of prayer for the recovery of his child. He went to a fishing camp in the woods of Maine in August and his child came into his log hut for a drink of water. She was with a party who camped near by in tents. Another stolen child was the little son of a doctor who prayed long and hard for the return of his little son. The sudden attack of chills felt by a passenger on a Hudson River boat at the pier caused the officers to call him on board from the wharf. The afflicted matron and his own child were in the same stateroom together.
One trustworthy officer of the church testified that his child had wandered away from the railroad station while he was asleep on the bench, and that he could not find her after an all-night search. He prayed at his family prayers, asking the Lord in sobs to protect and return his child. He said that an impression as strong as a voice insisted in his mind that he ought to search in some freight yards across the river. The yards were one mile from the station. He told his friends how he felt and insisted that he would go to the yards and search. There he found his starving child under an old fallen fence. He never could discover any satisfactory solution of the mystery of her presence in the railroad yards. She must have toddled the whole mile among vehicles in the night. He has firmly believed in guardian angels ever since that day.
There were numerous cases told of mental impressions made upon children away from home by the influence of a mother's prayer. To all of these incidents the skeptic will assert that, though there be millions of cases where men and women "happened to think" of the person praying at the moment the prayer was offered, it would not be conclusive proof that the thought was suggested by the prayer or in answer to it. But this suggestion presents other cases wherein it is far more difficult to disbelieve than it is to believe. The weight of evidence is almost overwhelmingly on the side of the Christian believer.
The belief that God will so adjust his providences as to bring to a person friends, weather, business, health, and domestic peace in answer to the prayer of some insistent friend is almost universal. General Garibaldi stated that he found that his belief in the efficacy of his mother's prayers in securing protection of his life when in danger was accepted by all his friends as a statement which at least might be realized. The common-sense view that where a theory cannot be subjected to proof either way it surely is wisest to believe in that view which has the strongest influence for good on the life and usefulness of the believer. What a man believeth, as well as what he thinketh, determines what he is. He who believes in the efficacy of his father's or mother's prayers lives a nobler life than the skeptic. The sincere trusting heart which believes that the Christ is the Son of God, and that man is under the oversight of a loving heavenly Father, is nearer the highest standard of human perfection than is the unstable and reckless man who claims that all things exist by chance.
The friend who sincerely prays for you is a friend who would sacrifice most for you in case of need. Two lovers, separated far and praying long for each other, is an exhibition of the truest, sweetest love. It is, also, the best test of God's disposition to heed the requests of his children. No prayer for another can be felt to be effective which is not inspired more or less by real love. The loving heart is a large part of a great previous character. He or she has an intercessory disposition—an intrinsic tendency toward doing good, and that, with a strong, clean mind, makes a true Christian. Such men are grateful to those who pray for them, and are impelled to pray for others. These are some of the reasons given by Christians why people ought always to pray.
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