For many years Isabella Alden wrote a regular column for Sabbath School Monthly magazine. Titled “Primary Department,” the column provided complete children’s Sunday school lessons for each week of the month. Isabella also contributed stories to the magazine, and sometimes released one of her new novels in serial form, publishing a chapter in successive issues.
In one issue of the magazine, Isabella gave an account of a ladies’ prayer-meeting she attended that had such an impact on her, she wanted to share the experience with other Sunday school teachers:
The subject was, “What can I do for Jesus?” It was to be answered first by Bible verses. How wonderfully pertinent they were!
“Walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing,” said one.
“Increase in the knowledge of God,” said another.
“Be strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power,” said a third.
Then one summed up, as it were, the whole question in that marvel of condensation, “Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
“It all resolves itself into this,” one lady said; “if we have our own hearts right, then, whatever we do, or say, or think, may be to the glory of God. What we want, more than anything else, is to put on Christ in his fullness, so that his will shall be ours, and so that, in any event, we can rest in him. Then he will accept all work, and all waiting, as done for him.”
“Isn’t it a great help,” a dear, earnest, loving woman said, “to think that all our little, everyday work may be done in such a spirit, that it shall be to his glory? That just glorifies the meanest thing that we may have to do, and sweetens the heaviest toil.”
“Doesn’t it make less of the toil?” A lady asked, quickly, and her face shown with the reflected light of Him from whom she had learned her message.
“How?” another asked, puzzled at the expression, not being able to take in its fullness.
“Why, if whatever we do, even the eating and drinking, is to be done to the glory of God, will it not make us careful that we glorify Him by not expending unnecessary time or strength in this work, but keeping ever before us the great aim—His glory. It will lessen the work, depend upon it. You cannot do that which is simply unnecessary, and worse than unnecessary, being often unhelpful, if you have this end in view.”
There were those present to whom these words came as a revelation. They drew new meaning from the familiar text. One’s thoughts could not help going rapidly over other things than the eating and drinking. What about dressing? Did this new idea take less ruffles and puffs and flounces? Could they, also, be managed for the glory of God? So long as one held the thought, it seemed to grow and expand. The rich crumbs still fell around us.
“It is just this spirit, I think,” said a sweet-faced sister, “that makes it possible to live the life that we are directed. ‘Pray without ceasing,’ I have heard one say. How is that possible, when life is crowded full of hard and incessant work? But I see how it is possible; if the work is done with that grand end in view, what is more natural than to look constantly to Him for help to carry it out, to turn our thoughts to Jesus in every trial, or annoyance, or perplexity? I think it rests one as nothing else will. Isn’t it possible, don’t you think, even in the midst of perplexing business cares that try heart and brain, to have this spirit of prayer?”
There came instant answer to the query. A bright-faced lady, who had hitherto listened with eyes, and heart, and glowing face, said quickly:
“I am not sure how it would be in mental work. But I know one can run the sewing machine and pray earnestly and eagerly at the same time; I’ve done it often.”
Thus the talk went on, each adding her crumb, or her rich slice, according as the Spirit had given her a precious thought. The name of it was a prayer-meeting—a female prayer-meeting at that; but the utter absence of all the stiffness and horrible decorum that usually characterize such gatherings made one forget that it was called by so dignified a name. It was just a little social talk about our hopes, and plans, and prospects, and privileges—as we might have met together and talked about our journey to Europe, and our preparations for the journey, if we were expecting to go. At intervals there came in sweet, short, tender, helpful prayers, and a verse of a hymn sung now and then.
When the hour was gone we felt a sense of wonder that so much could be crowded into one hour of time, and that an hour could be made to pass so quickly; and we went out from that parlor feeling a new and closer link added to the chain that bound our Christian hearts together. We had taken a step forward.
“Why,” I said to myself, as I came down the street, “why could there not be teachers’ prayer-meetings somewhat after this type, where they could meet to gather up the treasure crumbs from the coming lesson, and to pray for each other’s classes? I mean to tell the teachers of the Sabbath School Monthly about our dear little meeting; and so teachers, I have told you.”
“A word to the wise,” etc.