A Man of Fervent Prayer

Robert Murray M’Cheyne


“A man of Fervent Prayer”


Robert Murray M'Cheyne
It is not how long you live, but how you live that counts.” Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a living example of this often neglected truth. At twenty-three years old he was ordained and inducted into the church of St. Peters at Dundee. At thirty years old he finished his course, dying in the spring of 1843.


Like John the Baptist and the Savior Himself, M’Cheyne ushered in Christ’s kingdom in just a few short years. It was during his brief public ministry that Scotland experienced one of its greatest revivals. From 1839-1842 much of Scotland was turned upside down through the Spirit-filled labors of W. C. Burns and Robert Murray M’Cheyne.

For every time M’Cheyne directed men to look at their sins he pointed them ten times to look on Jesus. This was the key to his tender and passionate preaching. To him Christ was not just one of many theological concepts in a message, Christ Jesus was the message! M’Cheyne’s power in the pulpit was the result of his intimate knowledge of Jesus. He could boldly say, “I am better acquainted with Jesus Christ than I am with any man in the world.”

Often as he preached the entire congregation was brought to tears. M’Cheyne’s diary and letters describe for us some of these precious meetings. He wrote, “It was like a pent-up flood breaking forth; tears were streaming from the eyes of many, and some fell on the ground groaning and weeping and crying for mercy.” At other times men and women were so overcome with grief and conviction that they literally had to be carried out of the church – “In some areas whole congregations were frequently moved as one man, and the voice of the minister was drowned out by the cries of anxious souls.”

M’Cheyne’s voice, eyes and gestures spoke of the tenderness of Christ. It was not Robert Murray M’Cheyne the people saw, it was Jesus. M’Cheyne declared, “A man cannot be a faithful minister, until he preaches Christ for Christ’s sake – until he gives up striving to attract people to himself and seeks only to attract them to Christ.”

Perhaps more powerful than M’Cheyne’s preaching was his praying. To him the prayer closet was a refuge of fellowship, holiness and intercession. M’Cheyne’s diary and letters are replete with examples of his prayerful life. He wrote, “I rose early to seek God, and found Him whom my soul loveth. Who would not rise early to meet such company?” “King Jesus is a Good Master. I have had some sweet seasons of communion with the unseen God which I would not give up for thousands worth of gold and silver.”

Only a few months before his death M’Cheyne drew up some considerations concerning “Reformation in Secret Prayer”. “I ought”, said M’Cheyne, “to spend the best hours of the day in communion with God. It is my noblest and most fruitful employment.” It is said that Robert Murray M’Cheyne had a special place in his church where he would pour over the names on the church role and weep with groans of intercession. Though only a young man, M’Cheyne possessed that rarest of jewels; a TRUE shepherd’s heart. M’Cheyne fervently labored among the people of Dundee, as if he somehow knew he would soon die.

He was a man motivated by eternity. He wrote, “As I was walking in the fields, the thought came over me with almost overwhelming power, that every one of my flock must soon be in heaven or hell. Oh how I wished that I had a tongue like thunder, that I might make all hear; or that I had a frame like iron, that I might visit every one and say, ‘Escape for thy life! Ah sinner! You little know how I fear that you will lay the blame of your damnation at my door.'”

To love Jesus is to love holiness. Many professing Christians shrink from the message of purity and thus draw back from the Savior they claim to love. Robert Murray M’Cheyne understood the necessity of a holy life. He wrote, “Study holiness of life. Your whole usefulness depends on this, for your sermons last but an hour or two; your life preaches all the week. If Satan can only make a covetous minister, a lover of praise, and pleasure, he has ruined your ministry.

A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God. A word spoken by you when your conscience is clear, and your heart is full of God’s Spirit is worth ten thousand words spoken in unbelief and sin.” Lying upon his deathbed with a raging fever, M’Cheyne lifted his hands in prayer, he exclaimed, “This parish Lord, this people, this whole place.” Robert Murray M’Cheyne ended his life like he lived it, full of fervent prayer.

This article used by permission.

Randy Munter
Editor and Webmaster


Page created and maintained by David Haslam. Last updated 2002-11-02

In this page I have begun to collect some of the more famous and pointed quotations from the writings of Robert Murray M’Cheyne.  They are not arranged in any particular order.  Perhaps at some future occasion I will be more systematic and locate all the various source references.  I hope that this page will be an ogoing work, not one which can ever claim to be complete.  I will be grateful to receive by email suggestions for further M’Cheyne quotes to be included.

  • “A man is what he is on his knees before God, and nothing more.”

  • “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ.”

  • “The Christian is a person who makes it easy for others to believe in God.”

  • “Study universal holiness of life. Your whole usefulness depends on this, for your sermons last but an hour or two; your life preaches all the week. If Satan can only make a covetous minister a lover of praise, of pleasure, of good eating, he has ruined your ministry. Give yourself to prayer, and get your texts, your thoughts, your words from God. Luther spent his best three hours in prayer.”

  • “I ought to pray before seeing any one. Often when I sleep long, or meet with others early, it is eleven or twelve o’clock before I begin secret prayer. This is a wretched system. It is unscriptural. Christ arose before day and went into a solitary place. David says: ‘Early will I seek thee’; ‘Thou shalt early hear my voice.’ Family prayer loses much of its power and sweetness, and I can do no good to those who come to seek from me. The conscience feels guilty, the soul unfed, the lamp not trimmed. Then when in secret prayer the soul is often out of tune, I feel it is far better to begin with God—to see his face first, to get my soul near him before it is near another.”

  • “Rose early to seek God and found Him whom my soul loveth. Who would not rise early to meet such company?”  [Journal: 23 February1834]

  • “Most of God’s people are contented to be saved from the hell that is without; they are not so anxious to be saved from the hell that is within.”

  • “It is a sure mark of grace to desire more.”

  • “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”

  • “No one ever came to Christ because they knew themselves to be of the elect. It is quite true that God has of his mere good pleasure elected some to everlasting life, but they never knew it until they came to Christ. Christ nowhere invites the elect to come to Him. The question for you is not, Am I one of the elect? But, Am I one of the human race?”

  • “Depend upon it, it is God’s Word, not our comment upon God’s Word, that saves souls.”

  • “Get your texts from God—your thoughts, your words, from God. In great measure, according to the purity and perfection’s of the instrument, will be success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.  A word spoken by you when your conscience is clear, and your heart full of God’s Spirit, is worth ten thousands words spoken in unbelief and sin.”

  • “Live near to God, and all things will appear little to you in comparison with eternal realities.”

  • “A great part of my time is spent in getting my heart in tune for prayer. It is the link that connects earth with heaven.”

  • “Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.”

  • “Just so take Christ away, and the whole arch of truth becomes a heap of rubbish. The very same truths may be there; but they are all fallen without coherence, without order, without end.”

  • “Oh how sweet to work for God all day, and then lie down at night beneath His smile.”

  • “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.”

  • “Unfathomable oceans of grace are in Christ for you. Dive and dive again, you will never come to the bottom of these depths. How many millions of dazzling pearls and gems are at this moment hid in the deep recesses of he ocean caves.”

  • “Take heed to thyself. Your own soul is your first and greatest care. You know a sound body alone can work with power; much more a healthy soul. Keep a clear conscience through the blood of the Lamb. Keep up close communion with God. Study likeness to Him in all things. Read the Bible for your own growth first, then for your people. Expound much; it is through the truth that souls are to be sanctified, not through essays upon the truth. Be easy of access, apt to teach, and the Lord teach you and bless you in all you do and say. You will not find many companions. Be the more with God. My dear people are anxiously waiting for you. The prayerful are praying for you. Be of good courage; there remaineth much of the land to be possessed. Be not dismayed, for Christ shall be with thee to deliver thee. Study Isa vi, and Jer i, and the sending of Moses, and Ps li 12, 13, and John xv 26, 27 and the connection in Luke 1. 15,16. . . . . ”    [letter dated March 22, 1839, to Rev W.C. Burns]

  • “A man who loves you the most is the man who tells you the most truth about yourself.”

  • “Our soul should be a mirror of Christ; we should reflect every feature: for every grace in Christ there should be a counterpart in us.” [Letter: 26 February 1840]

  • “Every wise workman takes his tools away from the work from time to time that they may be ground and sharpened; so does the only-wise Jehovah take his ministers oftentimes away into darkness and loneliness and trouble, that he may sharpen and prepare them for harder work in his service.”

  • “You will be incomplete Christians if you do not look for the coming again of the Lord Jesus”

  • ” ‘If I knew I were one of God’s elect, I would come to Christ; but I fear I am not.’  To you I answer: nobody ever came to Christ because he knew himself to be one of the elect. It is quite true that God has of His mere good pleasure elected some to everlasting life, but they never knew it until they believed in Christ. Christ nowhere commands the elect to come to him. He commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel. The question for you is not, ‘Am I one of the elect?’ but ‘Am I a sinner?’ Christ came to save sinners.”

  • “I know well that when Christ is nearest, Satan also is busiest.”

  • “One gem from that ocean is worth all the pebbles from earthly streams.”    [speaking of the Scriptures]

  • “Joy is increased by spreading it to others.”

  • “It is not the tempest, nor the earthquake, nor the fire, but the still small voice of the Spirit that carries on the glorious work of saving souls.”

  • “You will never find Jesus so precious as when the world is one vast howling wilderness. Then he is like a rose blooming in the midst of the desolation, a rock rising above the storm.”  [Letter: 9 March 1843]

  • “I am tempted to think that I am now an established Christian,—that I have overcome this or that lust so long,—that I have got into the habit of the opposite grace,—so that there is no fear; I may venture very near the temptation—nearer than other men. This is a lie of Satan. One might as well speak of gunpowder getting by habit of resisting fire, so as not to catch spark. As long as powder is wet, it resists the spark; but when it becomes dry, it is ready to explode at the first touch. As long as the Spirit dwells in my heart, He deadens me to sin, so that, if lawfully called through temptation, I may reckon upon God carrying me through. But when the Spirit leaves me, I am like dry gunpowder. Oh for a sense of this!”

  • “Even in the wildest storms the sky is not all dark; and so in the darkest dealings of God with His children, there are always some bright tokens for good.” [Letter: 6 February 1839]

  • “O for true unfeigned humility,” cried M’Cheyne. “I do not know half of my pride.” So M’Cheyne commented of one particular Sunday—”a day of much danger from flattery and pride.”

  • “Set NOT your hearts on the flowers of this world. They shall fade and die. Prize the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley. He changes not! Live nearer to Christ than to any person on this earth; so that when they are taken, you may have Him to love and lean upon.”

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