Andrew Alexander Bonar Learned the Value of Prayer

Dan Graves, MSL

Andrew Alexander Bonar Learned the Value of Prayer

I have learned by experience that it is not much labor but much prayer that is the only means to success," said Andrew Bonar. A leader of the revival in Scotland known as the Kilsyth Revival, Andrew knew about success; his secret was that he lived in prayer. "I have been endeavoring to keep up prayer...every hour of the day, stopping my occupation, whatever it is, to pray a little. I seek to keep my soul within the shadow of the throne of grace and Him that sits thereon."

To a friend he wrote, "...rather neglect friends than not pray, rather fast, and lose breakfast, dinner, supper and sleep too -- than not pray."

Andrew was born in Edinburgh on this day, August 29, 1810. His father died when he was just seven. One of his older brothers helped his mother feed the many mouths left without a father. As a boy Andrew did well in school, becoming one of the best Latin students of his day. He was modest about his accomplishments, however. For example, when he won a gold medal, he said nothing about it until his mother asked which student had won it. With a high sense of what it meant to become a minister, he waited two years until he was sure that he was "in Christ" before he began divinity studies. He had tried to become pure enough to enter Christ's kingdom, until at last he realized that he never could but that Christ had met God's expectations in his behalf.

After studying theology at the great university in his home town, Andrew became a minister, first at Collace and then in Glasgow. Like his older brother, Horatius (the hymn writer) he joined the Free Church when it formed in 1843.

Among Andrew's close friends were some of the most notable preachers of the day, including the pure and zealous Robert Murray McCheyne, with whom he traveled to Palestine to see how the Jews fared there. When McCheyne died shortly afterward, Andrew said, "There was no friend whom I loved like him." He penned McCheyne's biography.

Other losses followed: an infant son and his wife. Two years later he recorded in his diary how he nearly broke down in the pulpit remembering his beloved Isabella.

Examples of Andrew's preaching show that it was simple and practical. For example, reminding his listeners that Christ sang a hymn just before he left for Gethsemane, where he would be betrayed, Andrew said, "His last note was a cheerful note, though He knew what was in the future. Much more should ours be so. Let us try unselfishly, like Jesus, to keep our friends from sorrow as long as we can. In the face of difficulties, sing to the Lord. If you have a dread of what is coming, sing, instead of brooding over it."

Andrew wrote several books on Bible topics. From time to time readers sent him letters telling how they were converted through his works. Among his interesting titles was Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms. He wrote of it, "May the Lord use it to lead many to see their full provision in Christ!" When Andrew died in 1892, he was the last of his siblings to go. He had gathered his children around his bed and read the Bible and prayed with them.


  1. "Andrew A. Bonar."
  2. "Bonar, Andrew Alexander." Encyclopedia Americana. Chicago: Americana Corp., 1956.
  3. Boreham, Frank W. "Andrew Bonar's Text" in A Handful of Stars. New York: Abingdon Press, 1922.
  4. "Singing before Suffering." sermon-sing.html.
  5. Smithers, David. "Andrew A. Bonar; prayer makes history."

Last updated July, 2007

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