“Let your thoughts be psalms, your prayers incense, and your breath praise.” (CHS)
Prayer and Life
He who lives without prayer, he who lives with little prayer, he who seldom reads the Word, and he who seldom looks up to heaven for a fresh influence from on high—he will be the man whose heart will become dry and barren. However, he who falls in secret on his God, who spends much time in holy retirement, who delights to meditate on the words of the Most High, and whose soul is given up to Christ—such a man must have an overflowing heart. As his heart is, such will his life be.
There are heights in experimental knowledge of the things of God which the eagle’s eye of acumen and philosophic thought hath never seen: God alone can bear us there; but the chariot in which he takes us up, and the fiery steeds with which that chariot is dragged, are prevailing prayers. Prevailing prayer is victorious over the God of mercy, “By his strength he had power with God: yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us.” Prevailing prayer takes the Christian to Carmel, and enables him to cover heaven with clouds of blessing, and earth with floods of mercy. Prevailing prayer bears the Christian aloft to Pisgah, and shows him the inheritance reserved; it elevates us to Tabor and transfigures us, till in the likeness of his Lord, as he is, so are we also in this world. If you would reach to something higher than ordinary groveling experience, look to the Rock that is higher than you, and gaze with the eye of faith through the window of importunate (troublesome urgency – overly persistent in request or demand) prayer. When you open the window on your side, it will not be bolted on the other.
Prayer: The Whole of Christian Experience
If any one should ask me for an abstract of the Christian religion, I should say it is in that one word prayer. If I should be asked, “What will take in the whole of Christian experience?” I should answer, “prayer.” A man must have been convinced of sin before he could pray; he must have had some hope that there was mercy for him before he could pray. All the Christian virtues are locked up in the word prayer. In troubling times our best communion with God will be carried on by supplication. Tell Him your case, search out His promise, and then plead it with holy boldness. This is the best, the surest, and the speediest way of relief.
Prayer that Cuts “Diamonds”
If we had the blessings without asking for them, we should think them common things, but prayer makes the common pebbles of God’s temporal bounties more precious than diamonds. Spiritualprayer cuts the diamond and makes it glisten more. When you are wrestling like Jacob with the angel and are nearly thrown down, ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen your arm. Consider how the Holy Spirit is the chariot-wheel of prayer. Prayer may be the chariot, the desire may draw it forth, but the Spirit is the very wheel whereby it moves.
Prayer and Perishing
Prayer is the certain forerunner of salvation. Sinner, you cannot pray and perish; prayer and perishing are two things that never go together. I ask you not what your prayer is. It may be a groan, it may be a tear, but if it is a prayer from the inmost heart, you will be saved. Yet, if from your heart you have learned to pray—
Prayer is the breath of God in man,
Returning whence it came.
—you cannot perish with God’s breath in you. “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).
Jesus Pleads for Us
“I have prayed for thee” — Luke 22:32
How encouraging is the thought of the Redeemer’s never-ceasing intercession for us. When we pray, he pleads for us; and when we are not praying, he is advocating our cause, and by his supplications shielding us from unseen dangers. Notice the word of comfort addressed to Peter—“Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat; but”—what? “But go and pray for yourself.” That would be good advice, but it is not so written. Neither does he say, “But I will keep you watchful, and so you shall be preserved.” That were a great blessing. No, it is, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” We little know what we owe to our Saviour’s prayers. When we reach the hill-tops of heaven, and look back upon all the way whereby the Lord our God hath led us, how we shall praise him who, before the eternal throne, undid the mischief which Satan was doing upon earth. How shall we thank him because he never held his peace, but day and night pointed to the wounds upon his hands, and carried our names upon his breastplate! Even before Satan had begun to tempt, Jesus had forestalled him and entered a plea in heaven. Mercy outruns malice. Mark, he does not say, “Satan hath desired to have you.” He checks Satan even in his very desire, and nips it in the bud. He does not say, “But I have desired to pray for you.” No, but “I have prayed for you: I have done it already; I have gone to court and entered a counterplea even before an accusation is made.” O Jesus, what a comfort it is that thou hast pleaded our cause against our unseen enemies; countermined their mines, and unmasked their ambushes. Here is a matter for joy, gratitude, hope, and confidence.
Pleading For Others
As an encouragement to offer intercessory prayer cheerfully, remember that such prayer is the sweetest God ever hears, for the prayer of Christ is of this character. His intercession must be the most acceptable of all supplications, and the more like our prayer is to Christ’s, the sweeter it will be. Thus, while petitions for ourselves will be accepted, our pleadings for others, having in them more of the fruits of the Spirit—more love, more faith, more brotherly kindness—will be, through the precious merits of Jesus, the sweetest offering that we can offer to God, the very fat of our sacrifice. Remember, again, that intercessory prayer is exceedingly prevalent. What wonders it has wrought!
Remarkable answers to prayer very much quicken the prayerfulness of other godly persons.
Prayer is especially the duty of those to whom the Lord has specially revealed himself as their defense.
Prayer Promoting God’s Glory
“Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (see notes Mt 6:9 6:10).
Let not your prayers be all concerning your own sins, your own wants, your own imperfections, and your own trials, but let them climb the starry ladder and get up to Christ Himself. Then, as you draw nigh to the blood-sprinkled mercy seat, offer this prayer continually, “Lord, extend the kingdom of Your dear Son.” Such a petition, fervently presented, will elevate the spirit of all your devotions. Mind that you prove the sincerity of your prayer by laboring to promote the Lord’s glory.
Our best prayers when we are in the best place are for our glorious King, and for the enjoyment of his Father’s smile.
“The prayer of the upright is his delight.”
THIS is as good as a promise, for it declares a present fact which will be the same throughout all ages. God takes great pleasure in the prayers of upright men; He even calls them His delight. Our first concern is to be upright. Neither bending this way nor that, continue upright: not crooked with policy, nor prostrate by yielding to evil, be you upright in strict integrity and straightforwardness. If we begin to shuffle and shift, we shall be left to shift for ourselves. If we try crooked ways, we shall find that we cannot pray; and if we pretend to do so, we shall find our prayers shut out of heaven. Are we acting in a straight line and thus following out the Lord’s revealed will? Then let us pray much and pray in faith. If our prayer is God’s delight, let us not stint (be frugal or miserly towards) Him in that which gives Him pleasure. He does not consider the grammar of it, nor the metaphysics of it, nor the rhetoric of it; in all these, men might despise it. He, as a Father, takes pleasure in the lispings of His own babes, the stammerings of His new-born sons and daughters. Should we not delight in prayer since the Lord delights in it? Let us make errands to the throne. The Lord finds us enough reasons for prayer, and we ought to thank Him that it is so.
Replace Care with All Prayer
“Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension,
shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (see notes Phil 4:6; 4:7)
NO care, but all prayer. No anxiety, but much joyful communion with God. Carry your desires to the Lord of your life, the guardian of your soul. Go to Him with two portions of prayer and one of fragrant praise. Do not pray doubtfully, but thankfully. Consider that you have your petitions, and therefore thank God for His grace. He is giving you grace; give Him thanks. Hide nothing. Allow no want to lie rankling in your bosom; “make known your requests.” Run not to man. Go only to your God, the Father of Jesus, who loves you in Him. This shall bring you God’s own peace. You shall not be able to understand the peace which you shall enjoy. It will enfold you in its infinite embrace. Heart and mind through Christ Jesus shall be steeped in a sea of rest. Come life or death, poverty, pain, slander, you shall dwell in Jesus above every ruffling wind or darkening cloud. Will you not obey this dear command?
Yes, Lord, I do believe thee; but, I beseech thee help mine unbelief.
Jehovah Receives Our Prayers
“The Lord hath heard my supplication;
the Lord will receive my prayer.”—Psalm 6:9
THE experience here recorded is mine. I can set to my seal that God is true. In very wonderful ways He has answered the prayers of His servant many and many a time. Yes, and He is hearing my present supplication, and He is not turning away His ear from me. Blessed be His holy name! What then? Why, for certain the promise which lies sleeping in the Psalmist’s believing confidence is also mine. Let me grasp it by the hand of faith: “The Lord will receive my prayer.” He will accept it, think of it, and grant it in the way and time which His loving wisdom judges to be best. I bring my poor prayer in my hand to the great King, and He gives me audience and graciously receives my petition. My enemies will not listen to me, but my Lord will. They ridicule my tearful prayers, but my Lord does not; He receives my prayer into His ear and His heart. What a reception this is for a poor sinner! We receive Jesus, and then the Lord receives us and our prayers for His Son’s sake. Blessed be that dear name which franks (put an official mark on a letter indicating the right of free delivery) our prayers so that they freely pass even within the golden gates. Lord, teach me to pray, since thou hearest my prayers.
When our prayers are lowly by reason of our humility, or feeble by reason of our sickness, or without wing by reason of our despondency, the Lord will bow down to them. Faith, when she has the loftiest name of God on her tongue, and calls him Jehovah, yet dares to ask from him the most tender and condescending acts of love. Great as he is he loves his children to be bold with him.
Just Call Upon Him
“Call unto me, and I will answer thee,
and shew thee great and mighty things,which thou knowest not.”—Jer 33:3
GOD encourages us to pray. They tell us that prayer is a pious exercise which has no influence except upon the mind engaged in it. We know better. Our experience gives the lie a thousand times over to this infidel assertion. Here Jehovah, the living God, distinctly promises to answer the prayer of His servant. Let us call upon Him again and admit no doubt upon the question of His hearing us and answering us. He that made the ear, shall He not hear? He that gave parents a love to their children, will He not listen to the cries of His own sons and daughters?
God will answer His pleading people in their anguish. He has wonders in store for them. What they have never seen, heard of, or dreamed of, He will do for them. He will invent new blessings if needful. He will ransack sea and land to feed them: He will send every angel out of heaven to succor them, if their distress requires it. He will astound us with His grace and make us feel that it was never before done in this fashion. All He asks of us is that we will call upon Him. He cannot ask less of us. Let us cheerfully render Him our prayers at once.
The Necessity of Prayer
“Continue in prayer.” (see note Colossians 4:2)
It is interesting to remark how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;” and just as we are about to close the volume, the “Amen” of an earnest supplication meets our ear. Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob—there a Daniel who prayed three times a day—and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elias; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in his Word, he intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If he has said much about prayer, it is because he knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Dost thou want nothing? Then, I fear thou dost not know thy poverty. Hast thou no mercy to ask of God? Then, may the Lord’s mercy show thee thy misery! A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian. If thou be a child of God, thou wilt seek thy Father’s face, and live in thy Father’s love.
Pray that this year thou mayst be holy, humble, zealous, and patient; have closer communion with Christ, and enter oftener into the banqueting-house of his love. Pray that thou mayst be an example and a blessing unto others, and that thou mayst live more to the glory of thy Master. The motto for this year must be, “Continue in prayer.”
Sinking Times Are Praying Times
Beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me — Mt 14:30
Sinking times are praying times with the Lord’s servants. Peter neglected prayer at starting upon his venturous journey, but when he began to sink his danger made him a suppliant, and his cry though late was not too late. In our hours of bodily pain and mental anguish, we find ourselves as naturally driven to prayer as the wreck is driven upon the shore by the waves. The fox flies to its hole for protection; the bird flies to the wood for shelter; and even so the tried believer hastens to the mercy seat for safety. Heaven’s great harbor of refuge is All–prayer; thousands of weather-beaten vessels have found a haven there, and the moment a storm comes on, it is wise for us to make for it with all sail. Short prayers are long enough. There were but three words in the petitionwhich Peter gasped out, but they were sufficient for his purpose. Not length but strength is desirable. A sense of need is a mighty teacher of brevity. If our prayers had less of the tail feathers of pride and more wing they would be all the better. Verbiage is to devotion as chaff to the wheat. Precious things lie in small compass, and all that is real prayer in many a long address might have been uttered in a petition as short as that of Peter. Our extremities are the Lord’s opportunities. Immediately a keen sense of danger forces an anxious cry from us the ear of Jesus hears, and with him ear and heart go together, and the hand does not long linger. At the last moment we appeal to our Master, but his swift hand makes up for our delays by instant and effectual action. Are we nearly engulfed by the boisterous waters of affliction? Let us then lift up our souls unto our Saviour, and we may rest assured that he will not suffer us to perish. When we can do nothing Jesus can do all things; let us enlist his powerful aid upon our side, and all will be well.
Be Immersed in Prayer
“But I give myself unto prayer.”— Ps 109:4
Lying tongues were busy against the reputation of David, but he did not defend himself; he moved the case into a higher court, and pleaded before the great King himself. Prayer is the safest method of replying to words of hatred. The Psalmist prayed in no cold-hearted manner, he gave himself to the exercise—threw his whole soul and heart into it—straining every sinew and muscle, as Jacob did when wrestling with the angel. Thus, and thus only, shall any of us speed at the throne of grace. As a shadow has no power because there is no substance in it, even so that supplication, in which a man’s proper self is not thoroughly present in agonizing earnestness and vehement desire, is utterly ineffectual, for it lacks that which would give it force. “Fervent prayer,” says an old divine, “like a cannon planted at the gates of heaven, makes them fly open.” The common fault with the most of us is our readiness to yield to distractions. Our thoughts go roving hither and thither, and we make little progress towards our desired end. Like quicksilver our mind will not hold together, but rolls off this way and that. How great an evil this is! It injures us, and what is worse, it insults our God. What should we think of a petitioner, if, while having an audience with a prince, he should be playing with a feather or catching a fly? Continuance and perseverance are intended in the expression of our text. David did not cry once, and then relapse into silence; his holy clamor was continued till it brought down the blessing. Prayer must not be our chance work, but our daily business, our habit and vocation. As artists give themselves to their models, and poets to their classical pursuits, so must we addict ourselves to prayer. We must be immersed in prayeras in our element, and so pray without ceasing. Lord, teach us so to pray that we may be more and more prevalent in supplication.
(see note Ephesians 6:18)
What multitudes of prayers we have put up from the first moment when we learned to pray. Our first prayer was a prayer for ourselves; we asked that God would have mercy upon us, and blot out our sin. He heard us. But when he had blotted out our sins like a cloud, then we had more prayers for ourselves. We have had to pray for sanctifying grace, for constraining and restraining grace; we have been led to crave for a fresh assurance of faith, for the comfortable application of the promise, for deliverance in the hour of temptation, for help in the time of duty, and for succour in the day of trial. We have been compelled to go to God for our souls, as constant beggars asking for everything. Bear witness, children of God, you have never been able to get anything for your souls elsewhere. All the bread your soul has eaten has come down from heaven, and all the water of which it has drank has flowed from the living rock—Christ Jesus the Lord. Your soul has never grown rich in itself; it has always been a pensioner upon the daily bounty of God; and hence your prayers have ascended to heaven for a range of spiritual mercies all but infinite. Your wants were innumerable, and therefore the supplies have been infinitely great, and your prayers have been as varied as the mercies have been countless. Then have you not cause to say, “I love the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplication”? For as your prayers have been many, so also have been God’s answers to them. He has heard you in the day of trouble, has strengthened you, and helped you, even when you dishonored him by trembling and doubting at the mercy-seat. Remember this, and let it fill your heart with gratitude to God, who has thus graciously heard your poor weak prayers. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
“Pray one for another.” — James 5:16
As an encouragement cheerfully to offer intercessory prayer, remember that such prayer is the sweetest God ever hears, for the prayer of Christ is of this character. In all the incense which our Great High Priest now puts into the golden censer, there is not a single grain for himself. His intercession must be the most acceptable of all supplications—and the more like our prayer is to Christ’s, the sweeter it will be; thus while petitions for ourselves will be accepted, our pleadings for others, having in them more of the fruits of the Spirit, more love, more faith, more brotherly kindness, will be, through the precious merits of Jesus, the sweetest oblation that we can offer to God, the very fat of our sacrifice. Remember, again, that intercessory prayer is exceedingly prevalent. What wonders it has wrought! The Word of God teems with its marvellous deeds. Believer, thou hast a mighty engine in thy hand, use it well, use it constantly, use it with faith, and thou shalt surely be a benefactor to thy brethren. When thou hast the King’s ear, speak to him for the suffering members of his body. When thou art favoured to draw very near to his throne, and the King saith to thee, “Ask, and I will give thee what thou wilt,” let thy petitions be, not for thyself alone, but for the many who need his aid. If thou hast grace at all, and art not an intercessor, that grace must be small as a grain of mustard seed. Thou hast just enough grace to float thy soul clear from the quicksand, but thou hast no deep floods of grace, or else thou wouldst carry in thy joyous bark a weighty cargo of the wants of others, and thou wouldst bring back from thy Lord, for them, rich blessings which but for thee they might not have obtained:—
“Oh, let my hands forget their skill,
My tongue be silent, cold, and still,
This bounding heart forget to beat,
If I forget the mercy-seat!”
Prayer: The Forerunner of Mercy
“Thus saith the Lord God;
I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” — Ezekiel 36:37
Prayer is the forerunner of mercy. Turn to sacred history, and you will find that scarcely ever did a great mercy come to this world unheralded by supplication. You have found this true in your own personal experience. God has given you many an unsolicited favour, but still great prayer has always been the prelude of great mercy with you. When you first found peace through the blood of the cross, you had been praying much, and earnestly interceding with God that he would remove your doubts, and deliver you from your distresses. Your assurance was the result of prayer. When at any time you have had high and rapturous joys, you have been obliged to look upon them as answers to your prayers. When you have had great deliverances out of sore troubles, and mighty helps in great dangers, you have been able to say, “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Prayer is always the preface to blessing. It goes before the blessing as the blessing’s shadow. When the sunlight of God’s mercies rises upon our necessities, it casts the shadow of prayer far down upon the plain. Or, to use another illustration, when God piles up a hill of mercies, he himself shines behind them, and he casts on our spirits the shadow of prayer, so that we may rest certain, if we are much in prayer, our pleadings are the shadows of mercy. Prayeris thus connected with the blessing to show us the value of it. If we had the blessings without asking for them, we should think them common things; but prayer makes our mercies more precious than diamonds. The things we ask for are precious, but we do not realize their preciousness until we have sought for them earnestly.
“Prayer makes the darken’d cloud withdraw;
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;
Gives exercise to faith and love;
Brings every blessing from above.”
The Tool of Prayer and the Treasure of the Bible
If, for your own and others’ profiting, you desire to be “filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” remember that prayer is your best means of study: like Daniel, you shall understand the dream, and the interpretation thereof, when you have sought unto God; and like John you shall see the seven seals of precious truth unloosed, after you have wept much. Stones are not broken, except by an earnest use of the hammer; and the stone-breaker must go down on his knees. Use the hammer of diligence, and let the knee of prayer be exercised, and there is not a stony doctrine in revelation which is useful for you to understand, which will not fly into shivers under the exercise of prayer and faith. You may force your way through anything with the leverage of prayer. Thoughts and reasonings are like the steel wedges which give a hold upon truth; but prayer is the lever, the prise (tool for producing leverage) which forces open the iron chest of sacred mystery, that we may get the treasure hidden within.
Our Savior’s Model of Prevailing Prayer
“And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed.” — Mt 26:39
There are several instructive features in our Saviour’s prayer in his hour of trial.
It was lonely prayer. He withdrew even from his three favored disciples. Believer, be much in solitary prayer, especially in times of trial. Family prayer, social prayer, prayer in the Church, will not suffice, these are very precious, but the best beaten spice will smoke in your censer in your private devotions, where no ear hears but God’s.
It was humble prayer. Luke says he knelt, but another evangelist says he “fell on his face.” Where, then, must be thy place, thou humble servant of the great Master? What dust and ashes should cover thy head! Humility gives us good foot-hold in prayer. There is no hope of prevalence with God unless we abase ourselves that he may exalt us in due time.
It was filial prayer. “Abba, Father.” You will find it a stronghold in the day of trial to plead your adoption. You have no rights as a subject, you have forfeited them by your treason; but nothing can forfeit a child’s right to a father’s protection. Be not afraid to say, “My Father, hear my cry.”
Observe that it was persevering prayer. He prayed three times. Cease not until you prevail. Be as the importunate (troublesome urgency – overly persistent in request or demand) widow, whose continual coming earned what her first supplication could not win. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.
Lastly, it was the prayer of resignation. “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Yield, and God yields. Let it be as God wills, and God will determine for the best. Be thou content to leave thy prayer in his hands, who knows when to give, and how to give, and what to give, and what to withhold.
So pleading, earnestly, importunately, yet with humility and resignation,
thou shalt surely prevail.
Prayer that Tarries
“I called him, but he gave me no answer.” — Song of Solomon 5:6
Prayer sometimes tarrieth, like a petitioner at the gate, until the King cometh forth to fill her bosom with the blessings which she seeketh. The Lord, when he hath given great faith, has been known to try it by long delayings. He has suffered his servants’ voices to echo in their ears as from a brazen sky. They have knocked at the golden gate, but it has remained immovable, as though it were rusted upon its hinges. Like Jeremiah, they have cried, “Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through.” Thus have true saints continued long in patient waiting without reply, not because their prayers were not vehement, nor because they were unaccepted, but because it so pleased him who is a Sovereign, and who gives according to his own pleasure. If it pleases him to bid our patience exercise itself, shall he not do as he wills with his own! Beggars must not be choosers either as to time, place, or form. But we must be careful not to take delays in prayer for denials: God’s long-dated bills will be punctually honored; we must not suffer Satan to shake our confidence in the God of truth by pointing to our unanswered prayers. Unansweredpetitions are not unheard. God keeps a file for our prayers—they are not blown away by the wind, they are treasured in the King’s archives. This is a registry in the court of heaven wherein everyprayer is recorded. Tried believer, thy Lord hath a tear-bottle in which the costly drops of sacred grief are put away, and a book in which thy holy groanings are numbered. By-and-by, thy suit shall prevail. Canst thou not be content to wait a little? Will not thy Lord’s time be better than thy time? By-and-by he will comfortably appear, to thy soul’s joy, and make thee put away the sackcloth and ashes of long waiting, and put on the scarlet and fine linen of full fruition.
Prayers for Sorrows and Sins
“Look upon mine affliction and my pain;
and forgive all my sins.” — Psalm 25:18
It is well for us when prayers about our sorrows are linked with pleas concerning our sins—when, being under God’s hand, we are not wholly taken up with our pain, but remember our offences against God. It is well, also, to take both sorrow and sin to the same place.
The Character of Our Prayers
“Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer.” — Psalm 66:20
In looking back upon the character of our prayers, if we do it honestly, we shall be filled with wonder that God has ever answered them. There may be some who think their prayers worthy of acceptance—as the Pharisee did; but the true Christian, in a more enlightened retrospect, weeps over his prayers, and if he could retrace his steps he would desire to pray more earnestly. Remember, Christian, how cold thy prayers have been. When in thy closet thou shouldst have wrestled as Jacob did; but instead thereof, thy petitions have been faint and few—far removed from that humble, believing, persevering faith, which cries, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me.” Yet, wonderful to say, God has heard these cold prayers of thine, and not only heard, but answered them. Reflect also, how infrequent have been thy prayers, unless thou hast been in trouble, and then thou hast gone often to the mercy-seat: but when deliverance has come, where has been thy constant supplication? Yet, notwithstanding thou hast ceased to pray as once thou didst, God has not ceased to bless. When thou hast neglected the mercy-seat, God has not deserted it, but the bright light of the Shekinah has always been visible between the wings of the cherubim. Oh! it is marvellous that the Lord should regard those intermittent spasms of importunity which come and go with our necessities. What a God is he thus to hear the prayers of those who come to him when they have pressing wants, but neglect him when they have received a mercy; who approach him when they are forced to come, but who almost forget to address him when mercies are plentiful and sorrows are few. Let his gracious kindness in hearing such prayers touch our hearts, so that we may henceforth be found “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.”
How is Your Prayer Altar?
“The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.” — Leviticus 6:13
Keep the altar of private prayer burning. This is the very life of all piety. The sanctuary and family altars borrow their fires here, therefore let this burn well. Secret devotion is the very essence, evidence, and barometer, of vital and experimental religion. Burn here the fat of your sacrifices. Let your closet seasons be, if possible, regular, frequent, and undisturbed. Effectual prayer availeth much. Have you nothing to pray for? Let us suggest the Church, the ministry, your own soul, your children, your relations, your neighbours, your country, and the cause of God and truth throughout the world. Let us examine ourselves on this important matter. Do we engage with lukewarmness in private devotion? Is the fire of devotion burning dimly in our hearts? Do the chariot wheels drag heavily? If so, let us be alarmed at this sign of decay. Let us go with weeping, and ask for the Spirit of grace and of supplications. Let us set apart special seasons for extraordinary prayer. For if this fire should be smothered beneath the ashes of a worldly conformity, it will dim the fire on the family altar, and lessen our influence both in the Church and in the world.
The Path of Prayer is Open
Many are “the paths of the Lord” which “drop fatness,” but an especial one is the path of prayer. No believer, who is much in the closet, will have need to cry, “My leanness, my leanness; woe unto me.” Starving souls live at a distance from the mercy-seat, and become like the parched fields in times of drought. Prevalence with God in wrestling prayer is sure to make the believer strong—if not happy. The nearest place to the gate of heaven is the throne of the heavenly grace.
Much alone, and you will have much assurance;
little alone with Jesus, your religion will be shallow,
polluted with many doubts and fears,
and not sparkling with the joy of the Lord.
Since the soul-enriching path of prayer is open to the very weakest saint; since no high attainments are required; since you are not bidden to come because you are an advanced saint, but freely invited if you be a saint at all; see to it, dear reader, that you are often in the way of private devotion. Be much on your knees, for so Elijah drew the rain upon famished Israel’s fields.
“Praying in the Holy Ghost.” — Jude 20
Mark the grand characteristic of true prayer—“In the Holy Ghost.” The seed of acceptable devotion must come from heaven’s storehouse. Only the prayer which comes from God can go to God. We must shoot the Lord’s arrows back to him. That desire which he writes upon our heart will move his heart and bring down a blessing, but the desires of the flesh have no power with him.
Praying in the Holy Ghost is praying in fervency. Cold prayers ask the Lord not to hear them. Those who do not plead with fervency, plead not at all. As well speak of lukewarm fire as of lukewarmprayer—it is essential that it be red hot.
It is praying perseveringly. The true suppliant gathers force as he proceeds, and grows more fervent when God delays to answer. The longer the gate is closed, the more vehemently does he use the knocker, and the longer the angel lingers the more resolved is he that he will never let him go without the blessing. Beautiful in God’s sight is tearful, agonizing, unconquerable importunity.
It means praying humbly, for the Holy Spirit never puffs us up with pride. It is his office to convince of sin, and so to bow us down in contrition and brokenness of spirit. We shall never sing Gloria in excelsis except we pray to God De profundis: out of the depths must we cry, or we shall never behold glory in the highest.
It is loving prayer. Prayer should be perfumed with love, saturated with love—love to our fellow saints, and love to Christ.
Moreover, it must be a prayer full of faith. A man prevails only as he believes. The Holy Spirit is the author of faith, and strengthens it, so that we pray believing God’s promise. O that this blessed combination of excellent graces, priceless and sweet as the spices of the merchant, might be fragrant within us because the Holy Ghost is in our hearts! Most blessed Comforter, exert thy mighty power within us, helping our infirmities in prayer.
The Power of Prayer
“Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.” — Lamentations 3:41
The act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness, which is a very salutary lesson for such proud beings as we are. If God gave us favours without constraining us to pray for them we should never know how poor we are, but a true prayer is an inventory of wants, a catalogue of necessities, a revelation of hidden poverty. While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness. The most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty in self and constantly depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and hence the use of prayer, because, while it adores God, it lays the creature where it should be, in the very dust.
Prayer is in itself, apart from the answer which it brings, a great benefit to the Christian. As the runner gains strength for the race by daily exercise, so for the great race of life we acquire energy by the hallowed labour of prayer.
Prayer plumes the wings of God’s young eaglets, that they may learn to mount above the clouds.
Prayer girds the loins of God’s warriors, and sends them forth to combat with their sinews braced and their muscles firm. An earnest pleader cometh out of his closet, even as the sun ariseth from the chambers of the east, rejoicing like a strong man to run his race.
Prayer is that uplifted hand of Moses which routs the Amalekites more than the sword of Joshua; it is the arrow shot from the chamber of the prophet foreboding defeat to the Syrians.
Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God.
We know not what prayer cannot do!
We thank thee, great God, for the mercy-seat, a choice proof of thy marvellous lovingkindness. Help us to use it aright throughout this day!
Our Every Ready Weapon of All Prayer
“Their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven.” — 2 Chronicles 30:27
Prayer is the never-failing resort of the Christian in any case, in every plight. When you cannot use your sword you may take to the weapon of all–prayer. Your powder may be damp, your bow-string may be relaxed, but the weapon of all-prayer need never be out of order. Leviathan laughs at the javelin, but he trembles at prayer. Sword and spear need furbishing, but prayer never rusts, and when we think it most blunt it cuts the best. Prayer is an open door which none can shut. Devils may surround you on all sides, but the way upward is always open, and as long as that road is unobstructed, you will not fall into the enemy’s hand. We can never be taken by blockade, escalade, mine, or storm, so long as heavenly succors can come down to us by Jacob’s ladder to relieve us in the time of our necessities. Prayer is never out of season: in summer and in winter its merchandise is precious. Prayer gains audience with heaven in the dead of night, in the midst of business, in the heat of noonday, in the shades of evening. In every condition, whether of poverty, or sickness, or obscurity, or slander, or doubt, your covenant God will welcome your prayer and answer it from his holy place. Nor is prayer ever futile. True prayer is evermore true power. You may not always get what you ask, but you shall always have your real wants supplied. When God does not answer his children according to the letter, he does so according to the spirit. If thou askest for coarse meal, wilt thou be angered because he gives thee the finest flour? If thou seekest bodily health, shouldst thou complain if instead thereof he makes thy sickness turn to the healing of spiritual maladies? Is it not better to have the cross sanctified than removed? This evening, my soul, forget not to offer thy petition and request, for the Lord is ready to grant thee thy desires.
Prayer and the Promises of God
God’s promises are the peculiar treasure of believers. The substance of faith’s heritage lies in them. All the promises of our covenant God are ours to have and to hold as our personal possession. By faith we receive and embrace them, and they constitute our true riches. We have certain most precious things which we can freely enjoy at this present time, but the capital of our wealth, the bulk of our estate lies in the promise of our God. That which we have in hand is only the earnest penny of the immeasurable wage of grace which is to be paid to us in due time… Nor must I forget to remind you that the promise is part of the economy of our spiritual condition here below because it excites prayer. What is prayer but the promise pleaded? A promise is, so to speak, the raw material of prayer. Prayer irrigates the fields of life with the waters which are stored up in the reservoirs of promise. The promise is the power of prayer. We go to God, and we say to Him, “Do as thou hast said. Oh Lord, here is thy word; we ask thee to fulfill it.” Thus the promise is the bow by which we shoot the arrows of supplication. I like in my time of trouble to find a promise which exactly fits my need and then to put my finger on it and say, “Lord, this is thy word. I ask you to prove that it is so, by carrying it out in my case. I believe that this is thine own writing and I praythat you make it good to my faith.” I believe in plenary inspiration, and I humbly look to the Lord for a plenary fulfillment of every sentence that he has put on record. I delight to hold the Lord to the very words that he has used and to expect him to do as he has said because he has said it. It is a great thing to be driven to prayer by necessity. It is a better thing to be drawn to it by the expectation which the promise arouses. Should we pray at all if God did not find us an occasion for praying and then encourage us with gracious promises of an answer? As it is, in the order of providence we are tried, and then we try the promises. We are brought to spiritual hunger, and then we are fed on the Word which proceeds out of the mouth of God.
Prayer and the Promises of God
The precious promises of our great God are expressly intended to be taken to Him and exchanged for the blessings which they guarantee. Prayer takes the promise to the Bank of Faith and obtains the golden blessing. Mind how you pray. Make real business of it. Let it never be a dead formality. Some people pray a long time but do not get what they are supposed to ask for because they do not plead the promise in a truthful, business–like way. If you were to go into a bank and stand an hour talking to the clerk and then come out again without your cash, what would be the good of it? If I go to a bank, I pass my check across the counter, take up my money, and go about my business. That is the best way of praying. Ask for what you want, because the Lord has promised it. Believe that you have the blessing, and go forth to your work in full assurance of it. Go from your knees singing because the promise is fulfilled. Thus will your prayer be answered. It is not the length of your prayer, but the strength of your prayer which wins with God. The strength of prayer lies in your faith in the promise which you have pleaded before the Lord.
Specificity in Prayer
King David knew what the Lord had engaged to give him, and he referred to it specially in his prayer as “this good thing” (2 Sa 7:28). We greatly need to be more definite in our supplications than we usually are. We pray for everything in such a way that we practically pray for nothing. It is good to know what we want. Hence our Lord said to the blind man, “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?” (Mark 10:51). He wished him to be aware of his own needs and to be filled with earnest desires concerning those needs. These are valuable ingredients in the composition of prayer.
The Holy Spirit, Your Great Teacher
When we have no commentator or minister, we still have the Holy Spirit. Let me tell you a little secret: Whenever you cannot understand a text, open your Bible, bend your knee, and pray over that text. If it does not split into atoms and open itself, try again. If prayer does not explain it, it is one of the things God did not intend you to know, and you may be content to be ignorant of it. Prayer is the key that opens the cabinets of mystery. Prayer and faith are sacred picklocks that can open secrets and obtain great treasures. There is no college for holy education like that of the blessed Spirit, for He is an ever-present tutor. We only have to bend the knee, and He is at our side, the great expositor of truth.
Prayer and Understanding Scripture
Dear friends, whenever you want to understand a text of Scripture, try to read the original. Consult anybody who has studied what the original means, but remember that the quickest way into a text is praying in the Holy Ghost. Pray the chapter over. I do not hesitate to say that if a chapter is read upon one’s knees, looking up at every word to Him that gave it, the meaning will come to you with infinitely more light than by any other method of studying it.
“When he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John,
whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying”—Acts 12:12.
“…On all occasions “many were gathered together praying.” While praying the Spirit of God came down upon them; while praying the Spirit often separated this man and that for special work; whilepraying their hearts grew warm with inward fire; while praying their tongues were unloosed, and they went forth to speak to the people; and while praying the Lord opened to them the treasures of his grace. By prayer they were protected, and by prayer they grew; and if our churches are to live and grow they must be watered from the self-same source. “Let us pray,” is one of the most needful watchwords which I can suggest to Christian men and women, for if we will but pray, prayer will fill up the pools in the valley of Baca, yea, and open to us all the channels of that river of God which is full of water, the streams whereof make glad the city of our God.
Prayer and Praise
Come, believer, when you pray, you are but a man, but when you praise, you are as an angel. When you ask favor, you are but a beggar, but when you stand up to extol, you become next of kin to cherubim and seraphim… If I were to put to you the question, “Do you pray?” the answer would very quickly given by every Christian, “Of course I do.” Suppose I then added, “And do you pray every day?” the prompt reply would be, “Yes, many times in the day. I could not live without prayer.” This is no more than I would expect. However, let me change the inquiry and ask, “Do you bless God every day? Is praise as certain and constant a practice with you as prayer?” I am not sure that the answer would be quite so certain, so generous, or so prompt. You would have to stop a little while before you gave the reply. I fear in some cases, when the reply did come, it would be, “I am afraid I have been negligent in praise.” Well, dear friend, have you not been wrong? Should we omit praise any more than we omit prayer? Should not praise come daily and as many times in the day as prayer does? It strikes me that to fail in praise is as unjustifiable as to fail in prayer. I will leave it with your own heart and conscience, when you have answered the question, to see to it in the future that far more of the sweet frankincense of praise is mingled with your daily offering ofprayer. Praise is certainly not at all so common in family prayer as other forms of worship. We cannot all of us praise God in the family by joining in song, because we are not all able to carry a tune, but it would be well if we could. I agree with Matthew Henry when he says, “They that pray in the family do well; they that pray and read the Scriptures do better; but they that pray, and read, and sing do best of all.” There is a completeness in that kind of family worship which is much to be desired.
Prayer heard should always suggest praise. It were well if we were more demonstrative in our holy rejoicings. We rob God by suppressing grateful emotions.
“And my prayer unto the God of my life” (Ps 42:9). Prayer is yoked with praise. The living God is the God of our life; from him we derive it, with him in prayer and praise we spend it, to him we devote it, in him we shall perfect it. To be assured that our sighs and songs will both have free access to our glorious Lord is to have reasons for hope in the most deplorable condition.
Prayer and the Place of Meditation
Do we not miss very much of the sweetness and efficacy of prayer by lack of careful meditation before it and of hopeful expectation after it? We too often rush into the presence of God without forethought or humility. We should be careful to keep the stream of meditation always running, for this is the water to drive the mill of prayer. Prayer without preparation is hawking with a blind falcon. Prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit, but he works by means. The Holy Spirit is the author of prayer, but he employs the thoughts of a fervent soul as the gold with which to fashion the vessel. Let not our prayers and praises be the flashes of a hot and hasty brain, but the steady burning of a well-kindled fire. Furthermore, we forget to watch for the result of our prayers. We sow the seed and are too ideal to seek a harvest. Let holy preparation link hands with patient expectation, and we shall have far larger answers to our prayers.
Prayer for Preservation from All Sin
We should never think our prayers complete until we ask for preservation from all sin, and all enemies.
A Little Prayer Book
“Be gracious to me, O Lord. Behold my affliction from those who hate me,
Thou who dost lift me up from the gates of death.” — Ps 9:13
Just as Luther used to call some texts little Bibles, so we may call this sentence a little prayer–book; for it has in it the soul and marrow of prayer. The ladder looks short, but it reaches from earth to heaven.
Prayer Our Weapon of War
Prayers are the believer’s weapons of war. When the battle is too hard for us, we call in our great ally, Who, as it were, lies in ambush until faith gives the signal by crying out, Arise, O Lord.
Pray or Fear?
When prayer engages God on our side, and when faith secures the fulfillment of the promise, what cause can there be for flight, however cruel and mighty our enemies?
Prayer for our Foes
Our Lord spoke evil of no one, but breathed a prayer for his foes; we must be like him, or we shall never be with him.
Proper Repetition in Prayer
“Hear a just cause, O Lord, give heed to my cry.
Give ear to my prayer, which is not from deceitful lips.” — Ps 17:1
Some repetitions are not vain. The reduplication here used is neither superstition nor tautology, but is like the repeated blow of a hammer hitting the same nail on the head to fix it the more effectually.
The Port of All Prayer is Always Open
Satan knows how to blockade our coasts with the iron warships of sorrow, but, blessed be God, the port of all prayer is still open, and grace can run the blockade bearing messages from earth to heaven, and blessings in return from heaven to earth…. Prayer is that postern (private entrance) gate which is left open even when the city is straitly besieged by the enemy…It is never an ill time topray; no distress should prevent us from using the divine remedy of supplication…the operation of prayer with God is immediate and personal. We may cry with confident and familiar importunity, while our Father himself listens.
Mountain Moving Prayer
“Then the earth shook and quaked and the foundations of the mountains were trembling
And were shaken, because He was angry.” — Ps 18:7
Observe how the most solid and immovable things feel the force of supplication. Prayer has shaken houses, opened prison doors, and made stout hearts to quail. Prayer rings the alarm bell, and the Master of the house arises to the rescue, shaking all things beneath his tread….See how prayer moves earth and heaven, and raises storms to overthrow in a moment the foes of God’s Israel. Things were bad for David before he prayed, but they were much worse for his foes so soon as the petition had gone up to heaven. A trustful heart, by enlisting the divine aid, turns the tables on its enemies. If I must have an enemy let him not be a man of prayer, or he will get the better of me by calling his God into the quarrel.
Prayers of the Wicked
“They cried for help, but there was none to save,
Even to the Lord, but He did not answer them.” — Ps 18:41
Prayer is so notable a weapon that even the wicked will take to it in their fits of desperation. Bad men have appealed to God against God’s own servants, but all in vain; the kingdom of heaven is not divided, and God never succors his foes at the expense of his friends. There are prayers to God which are no better than blasphemy, which bring no comfortable reply, but rather provoke the Lord to greater wrath.
Prayer and Presumptuous Sins
“Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins.
Let them not rule over me.” — Ps 19:13
This earnest and humble prayer teaches us that saints may fall into the worst of sins unless restrained by grace, and that therefore they must watch and pray lest they enter into temptation. There is a natural proneness to sin in the best of people, and they must be held back as a horse is held back by the bit or they will run into it. Presumptuous sins are particularly dangerous. All sins are great sins, but yet some sins are greater than others. Every sin has in it the very venom of rebellion; but there are some sins which have in them a greater development of the essential mischief of rebellion, and which wear upon their faces more of the brazen pride which defies the Most High. It is wrong to suppose that because all sins will condemn us, that therefore one sin is not greater than another. The presumptuous sins of our text are the chief and worst of all sins.
Prayer and Meditation
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” — Ps 19:14
A sweet prayer, and so spiritual that it is almost as commonly used in Christian worship as the apostolic benediction. Words are mockery if the heart does not meditate; but both together are useless unless accepted; and even if accepted by man, it is all vanity if not acceptable in the sight of God. We must in prayer view Jehovah as our strength enabling, and our Redeemer saving, or we shall not pray aright, and it is well to feel our personal interest so as to use the word my, or our prayers will be hindered. Blessed Redeemer, give us now to meditate acceptably upon thy most sweet love and tenderness.
Prayer and New Birth
Prayer is the autograph of the Holy Spirit upon the renewed heart.
Nothing can make a true believer cease praying; it is a part of his nature, and pray he must.
Saints are first called of God, and then they call upon God; such calls as theirs always obtain answers. Not without prayer will the blessing come to the most favored, but by means of prayer they will receive all good things.
The Soul and Prayer
“To Thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul” —Ps 25:1
See how the holy soul flies to its God like a dove to its cote. When the stormwinds are out, the Lord’s vessels put about and make for their well-remembered harbor of refuge. What a mercy that the Lord will condescend to hear our cries in time of trouble, although we may have almost forgotten him in our hours of fancied prosperity. It is but mockery to lift up the hands and the eyes unless we also bring our souls into our devotions. True prayer may be described as the soul rising from earth to have fellowship with heaven; it is taking a journey upon Jacob’s ladder, leaving our cares and fears at the foot, and meeting with a covenant God at the top. Very often the soul cannot rise, she has lost her wings, and is heavy and earth-bound; more like a burrowing mole than a soaring eagle. At such dull seasons we must not give over prayer, but must, by God’s assistance, exert all our powers to lift up our hearts. But what a lift it has sometimes proved! With all our tugging and straining we have been utterly defeated, until our Saviour’s love has displayed its omnipotent attractions, and then our hearts have gone up like flames of fire… As long as the anchor of faith holds there is no fear in the worst tempest; if that should fail us there would be no hope left. We must see to it that our faith is sound and strong, for otherwise prayer cannot prevail with God. Woe to the warrior who throws away his shield; what defense can be found for him who finds no defense in his God?
Prayer and Answers
We may expect answers to prayer, and should not be easy without them any more than we should be if we had written a letter to a friend upon important business, and had received no reply.
Genuine suppliants are not satisfied with the results of prayer itself in calming the mind and subduing the will—they must go further and obtain actual replies from heaven, at once if possible; they dread even a little of God’s silence. When God seems to close his ear, we must not therefore close our mouths, but rather cry with more earnestness; for when our note grows shrill with eagerness and grief, he will not long deny us a hearing. What a dreadful case should we be in if the Lord should become forever silent to our prayers! This thought suggested itself to David (“Do not be deaf to me” Ps 28:1), and he turned it into a plea, thus teaching us to argue and reason with God in our prayers. Deprived of God who answers prayer, we should be in a more pitiable plight than the dead in the grave, and should soon sink to the same level as the lost in hell. We must have answers to prayer: ours is an urgent case of dire necessity; surely the Lord will speak peace to our agitated minds, for he never can find it in his heart to permit his own elect to perish….We cannot be put off with a refusal when we are in the spirit of prayer; we labor and agonize until a hearing is granted….Answered prayers should be acknowledged. We should live daily in the heavenly atmosphere of thankful love.
Prayer heard should always suggest praise. It were well if we were more demonstrative in our holy rejoicings. We rob God by suppressing grateful emotions.
“Unanswered” prayer: For our prayer to appear to be unheard is no new trial. Jesus felt it before us. He still held fast on God, and cried still, “My God,” but his faith did not render him lessimportunate. (troublesome urgency – overly persistent in request or demand) Our Lord continued to pray even though no comfortable answer came, and in this he set us an example of obedience to the words, “men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” No daylight is too glaring and no midnight too dark to pray in; no delay or apparent denial, however grievous, should tempt us to forbear from importunate pleading.
Pharisees may rest in their prayers; true believers are eager for an answer to them.
God’s memorial is that he hears prayer, and his glory is that he answers it in a manner fitted to inspire awe in the hearts of his people.
Our experience confirms us in the belief that Jehovah the living God really does aid those who call upon him, and therefore we pray because we really find it to be a practical and effectual means of obtaining help from God in the hour of need. There can be no reason for praying if there be no expectation of the Lord’s answering.
Prayer is never lost: if it bless not those for whom intercession is made, it will bless the intercessors. Clouds do not always descend in showers upon the same spot from which the vapors ascended, but they come down somewhere; and so do supplications in some place or other yield their showers of mercy.
When answers come upon the heels of our prayers they are all the more encouraging.
Answered prayers bring God very near to us
Prayer may be answered in anger and denied in love. That God gives a man his desire is no proof that he is the object of divine favor; everything depends upon what that desire is.
Answered prayers are silken bonds which bind poor hearts to God. When someone’s prayers are answered, love is the natural result.
When prayer is heard in our feebleness, and answered in the strength and greatness of God, we are strengthened in the habit of prayer, and confirmed in the resolve to make ceaseless intercession.
Prayer and Praise
Praise as well as prayer was presented to the Father by our Lord Jesus, and we are not truly his followers unless our resolve be, “I will bless the Lord.”
The pendulum of spirituality swings from prayer to praise. Spiritual life is prayer and praise. The voice of prayer soon awakens praise.
From prayer to praise is never a long or difficult journey. Be sure that he who prays for holiness will one day praise for happiness.
In our most importunate (troublesome urgency – overly persistent in request or demand) intercessions, we must find breathing time to bless the Lord: praise is never a hindrance to prayer, but rather a lively refreshment therein.
Prayer is yoked with praise. The living God is the God of our life; from him we derive it, with him in prayer and praise we spend it, to him we devote it, in him we shall perfect it. To be assured that our sighs and songs will both have free access to our glorious Lord is to have reasons for hope in the most deplorable condition.
It is well when praise and prayer go together. Since the Lord’s answers so frequently follow close at the heels of our petitions, and even overtake them, it becomes us to let our grateful praises keep pace with our humble prayers.
If anything can make a man pray and praise, it is the knowledge that the Lord is his God.
Let us bless God before we pray, and while we pray, and when we have done praying, for he always deserves it of us. If we cannot understand him, we will not distrust him. When his ways are beyond our judgment we will not be so foolish as to judge; yet we shall do so if we consider his dealings to be unkind or unfaithful. He is, he must be, he shall be forever our blessed God.
Now prayer follows upon praise, and derives strength of faith and holy boldness therefrom. It is frequently best to begin worship with a hymn, and then to bring forth our vials full of odors after the harps have commenced their sweeter sounds.
“Praise ye the Lord” (Ps 113:1) or Hallelujah, praise to Jah, Jehovah. Praise is an essential offering at all the solemn feasts of the people of God. Prayer is the myrrh, and praise is the frankincense, and both of these must be presented unto the Lord. How can we pray for mercy for the future if we do not bless God for his love in the past? The Lord hath wrought all good things for us; let us therefore adore him. All other praise is to be excluded; the entire devotion of the soul must be poured out unto Jehovah only.
Prayer Our Resource
Prayer is the unfailing resource of God’s people. If they are driven to their wits’ end, they may still go to the mercy-seat. When an earthquake makes our mountain tremble, the throne of grace still stands firm, and we may come to it. Let us never forget to pray, and let us never doubt the success of prayer. Prayer will succeed where all else fails.
The Grounds of Prayer
“O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!
For Thou art the God of my strength” — Ps 43:1-2
“For” (explains the) argument, which is the very sinew of prayer. If we reasoned more with the Lord we should have more victories in supplication. All my strength belongs to thee. I will not, therefore, use it on my own behalf against my personal foes; I seek help from thee; I leave the task of combating my foes entirely in thy hands.
The Word of the Lord arouses prayer
Our prayers are according to the mind of God when they are according to the Word of God.
It is instructive to find meditation so constantly connected with fervent prayer: it is the fuel which sustains the flame. How rare an article is it in these days.
Those can pray best who make most sure of their personal interest in God, and those who have the fullest assurance that the Lord is their God should be the foremost to plead for the rest of the faithful.
“Thou art my King, O God. Command victories for Jacob.” (Ps 44:4) This verse contains a personal declaration and an intercessory prayer; those can pray best who make most sure of their personal interest in God, and those who have the fullest assurance that the Lord is their God should be the foremost to plead for the rest of the faithful.
It is but mockery to lift up the hands and the eyes unless we also bring our souls into our devotions. True prayer may be described as the soul rising from earth to have fellowship with heaven; it is taking a journey upon Jacob’s ladder, leaving our cares and fears at the foot, and meeting with a covenant God at the top. Very often the soul cannot rise, she has lost her wings, and is heavy and earth-bound; more like a burrowing mole than a soaring eagle. At such dull seasons we must not give over prayer, but must, by God’s assistance, exert all our powers to lift up our hearts. But what a lift it has sometimes proved! With all our tugging and straining we have been utterly defeated, until our Saviour’s love has displayed its omnipotent attractions, and then our hearts have gone up like flames of fire.
It is the mark of a thoughtful prayer that the titles which are applied to God are appropriate, and are, as it were, congruous to the matter, and fitted to add force to the argument. Will Jehovah endure to see his people oppressed? Will the God of hosts permit his enemies to exult over his servant? Will the faithful God of a chosen people leave his chosen to perish? The name of God is, even in a literal sense, a fortress and high tower for all his people.
“For my expectation is from him” (Ps 62:5) We expect from God because we believe in him. Expectation is the child of prayer and faith, and is owned of the Lord as an acceptable grace. We should desire nothing but what it would be right for God to give, then our expectation would be all from God; and concerning truly good things we should not look to second causes, but to the Lord alone, and so again our expectation would be all from him.
Promised preservation should be the subject of perpetual prayer; and we may pray believingly, for those who have God for their keeper will be safe from all the perils of the way.
With God’s faithfulness and righteousness upon our side we are guarded on the right hand and on the left. These are active attributes, and fully equal to the answering of any prayer which it would be right to answer. Requests which do not appeal to either of these attributes it would not be for the glory of God to hear, for they must contain desires for things unpromised, and unrighteous.
“O my God, make haste for my help” (Ps 71:12) To call God ours, as having entered into covenant with us, is a mighty plea in prayer, and a great stay to our faith. The cry of make haste has occurred many times in this portion of the Psalms, and it was evoked by the sore pressure of affliction.
“Let us kneel before the Lord our maker.” (Ps 95:6) Posture is not everything—prayer is heard when knees cannot bend—but it is seemly that an adoring heart should show its awe by prostrating the body, and bending the knee.
Longing is the soul of praying, and when the soul longs till it breaks, it cannot be long before the blessing will be granted.
There are many whose formal prayers and false professions will never bring them into communion with the Lord. To pray in truth, we must have a true heart, and the truth in our heart; and then we must be humble, for pride is a falsehood; and be earnest, or else prayer is a lie. A God of truth cannot be nigh to the spirit of hypocrisy; neither can he be far from a sincere spirit, since it is his work, and he forsakes not the work of his own hands.
Prayers which come out of distress generally come out of the heart, and therefore they go to the heart of God. Prayer may be bitter in the offering, but it will be sweet in the answering.
So many a one offers what he calls prayer when he is in good case and thinks well of himself, but in very deed the only real cry to God is that which is forced out of him by a sense of utter helplessness and misery. We pray best when we are fallen on our faces in painful helplessness.
Prayer: Trial, Suffering and Affliction
Under trial it is not easy to behave ourselves aright; a candle is not easily kept alight when many envious mouths are puffing at it. In evil times prayer is particularly needful, and the wise resort to it at once. If we would be preserved, we must cry to the Preserver, and enlist divine support upon our side.
No net of trouble can so hold us that the Lord cannot free us. Our afflictions may be numerous and complicated, but prayer can set us free from them all, for the Lord will show himself strong on our behalf.
Prayer stands us in good stead in every evil day.
Silence to man and prayer to God are the best cures for the evil of slander.
The weapon of all-prayer is one which the believer may always carry with him, and use in every time of need.
Let us always resort to prayer in our despondent times, for it is the surest and shortest way out of the depths. In that prayer let us plead nothing but the Word of God; for there is no plea like a promise, no argument like a word from our covenant God.
Suffering enlarges the heart by creating the power to sympathize. If we pray eagerly for ourselves, we shall not long be able to forget our fellow-sufferers. We ought to be grateful for occasional griefs if they preserve us from chronic hardheartedness; for of all afflictions, an unkind heart is the worst. Prayer when it is of the Holy Spirit’s teaching is never selfish; the believer would have everyone in a similar state to partake of divine mercy with him.
Prayer is as effectual on a sick-bed as in the wilderness or in prison; it may be tried in all places and circumstances with certain result.
Prayer is good in a storm. We may pray staggering and reeling, and when we are at our wit’s end. God will hear us amid the thunder and answer us.
“My knees are weak through fasting and my flesh faileth of fatness” (Ps 109:22) He was wasted to a skeleton, and as his body was emaciated, so was his soul bereft of comfort: he was pining away, and all the while his enemies saw it and laughed at his distress. How pathetically he states his case; this is one of the truest forms of prayer, the setting forth of our sorrow before the Lord. Weak knees are strong with God, and failing flesh has great power in leading.
“Help me, O Lord my God” (Ps 109:26) . Laying hold of Jehovah by the appropriating word my, he implores his aid both to help him to bear his heavy load and to enable him to rise superior to it. He has described his own weakness, and the strength and fury of his foes, and by these two arguments he urges his appeal with double force. This is a very rich, short, and suitable prayer for believers in any situation of peril, difficulty, or sorrow.
“O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.” (Ps 116:4) This form of petition is short, comprehensive, to the point, humble, and earnest. Real trouble produces real prayer. Here we have no multiplicity of words, and no fine arrangement of sentences; everything is simple and natural; there is not a redundant syllable, and yet there is not one lacking.
Prayer: Silent and Audible
There are two sorts of prayer—those expressed in words, and the unuttered longings which abide as silent meditations. Words are not the essence but the garments of prayer. Moses at the Red Sea cried to God, though he said nothing. Yet the use of language may prevent distraction of mind, assist the powers of the soul, and excite devotion. David uses both modes of prayer, and craves for the one a hearing, and for the other a consideration: if I have asked what is right, give it to me; if I have omitted to ask what I most needed, fill up the vacancy in my prayer; consider it as presented through my all-glorious Mediator, then regard it in thy wisdom, judge my sincerity and the true state of my needs, and answer me in due time for thy mercies’ sake! There may beprevailing intercession where there are no words, and words where there is no true supplication. Let us cultivate the spirit of prayer which is even better than the habit of prayer. We should begin to pray before we kneel down, and we should not cease when we rise up.
The voice may be profitably used even in private prayer; for though it is unnecessary, it is often helpful, and aids in preventing distractions.
A silent prayer may have a louder voice than the cries of those priests who sought to awaken Baal with their shouts.
People find it very helpful to use their voices in prayer; it is difficult long to maintain the intensity of devotion unless we hear ourselves speak
Vocal prayer helps the supplicant, and we keep our minds more fully awake when we can use our tongues as well as our hearts.
“Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer.” (Ps 64:1) It often helps devotion if we are able to use the voice and speak audibly; but even mental prayer has a voice with God which he will hear. We do not read that Moses had spoken with his lips at the Red Sea, and yet the Lord said to him, “Why criest thou unto me?” Prayers which are unheard on earth may be among the best heard in heaven. It is our duty to note how constantly David turns to prayer; it is his battleaxe and weapon of war; he uses it under every pressure, whether of inward sin or outward wrath, foreign invasion or domestic rebellion. We shall act wisely if we make prayer to God our first and best trusted resource in every hour of need.
“I Love the Lord, because He hears my voice and my supplications.” (Ps 116:1) The psalmist had used his voice in prayer, and the habit of doing so is exceedingly helpful to devotion. If we canpray aloud without being overheard it is well to do so. Sometimes, however, when the psalmist had lifted up his voice, his utterance had been so broken and painful that he scarcely dared to call itprayer; words failed him, he could only produce a groaning sound, but the Lord heard his moaning voice.
When our prayer is very feeble, so that we ourselves can scarcely hear it, and question whether we do pray or not, yet God bows a listening ear, and regards our supplications.
Prayer is sometimes presented without words by the very motions of our bodies: bended knees and lifted hands are the tokens of earnest, expectant prayer. Certainly work, or the lifting up of the hands in labor, is prayer if it be done in dependence upon God and for his glory; there may be a hand-prayer as well as a heart-prayer. Holy hope, the lifting up of hands that hang down, is also a kind of worship. The psalmist would have his humble cries and prayers to be as much regarded of the Lord as the appointed morning and evening sacrifices of the holy places. After all, the spiritual is in the Lord’s esteem higher than the ceremonial.
The Language of Prayer
One poet has said prayer is “the simplest form of speech that infant lips can try,”
and yet it is one of the “sublimest strains that reach the majesty on high.”
Prayer — When?
“Early will I seek thee.” (Ps 63:1) Possession breeds desire. Full assurance is no hindrance to diligence, but is the mainspring of it. He is up at cockcrowing to meet his God. Communion with God is so sweet that the chill of the morning is forgotten, and the luxury of the couch is despised. The psalmist consecrates the morning to prayer and devout fellowship. The best people have beenearly on their knees.
Pause a little while before you pray, that you may not offer the sacrifice of fools. Get a distinct idea of your need, and then you can pray with more fluency of fervency.
Spurgeon testifies “I had need to beware of lean prayers, lean praises, lean duties, and lean experiences, for these will eat up the fat of my comfort and peace. If I neglect prayer for ever so short a time, I lose all the spirituality to which I had attained; if I draw no fresh supplies from heaven, the old corn in my granary is soon consumed by the famine which rages in my soul.”
Prayer must not be our random work but our daily business, our habit, and our vocation. As artists give themselves to their models, and poets to their classical pursuits, so must we surrender ourselves to prayer. We must be immersed in prayer as in our element and so “pray without ceasing” (see note 1Thessalonians 5:17). Lord, teach us to pray that we may be more prevalent insupplication. The common fault with the most of us is our readiness to yield to distractions. Our thoughts go roving hither and thither, and we make little progress towards our desired end. Like quicksilver, our minds will not hold together but roll off this way and that. How great an evil this is! It injures us, and, what is worse, it insults our God.
Prayer and Sin
“If I regard wickedness in my heart,
The Lord will not hear” —Ps 66:18
Can I desire him to connive at my sin, and accept me while I willfully cling to any evil way? Nothing hinders prayer like iniquity harbored in the heart; as with Cain, so with us, sin lies at the door and blocks the passage. If you refuse to hear God’s commands, he will surely refuse to hear your prayers. An imperfect petition God will hear for Christ’s sake, but not one which is willfully miswritten by a traitor’s hand. For God to accept our devotions, while we are delighting in sin, would be to make himself the God of hypocrites, which is a fitter name for Satan than for the Holy One of Israel….Love of sin is a killing sign, but those prayers which evidently live and prevail with God most clearly arise from a heart which is free from dalliance with evil. See to it that your inmost soul is rid of all alliance with iniquity, all toleration of secret lust or hidden wrong.
Secret sins, like private conspirators, must be hunted out, or they may do deadly mischief; it is well to be much in prayer concerning them. If we had eyes like those of God, we should think very differently of ourselves.
Transgression destroys peace of mind, obscures fellowship with Jesus, hinders prayer, brings darkness over the soul; therefore be not the serf and bondman of sin.
If you want power in prayer, you must have purity in life. If our faith is to grow exceedingly, we must maintain constant intercourse with God.
Prayer and Motivation
Prayer is the outcome of that sense of need which arises from the new life. A man would not pray to God if he did not feel that he had an urgent need for blessings which only the Lord can bestow.
Those are the only true prayers where the heart’s desire is first, and the lip’s request follows after. Jesus prayed vocally as well as mentally; speech is a great assistance to thought. The requests of the Saviour (are) not withheld. He was and still is a prevailing Pleader. He is ready to ask for us at the mercy-seat. Have we not at this hour some desire to send up to his Father by him?
A fully assured possession of God does not set aside prayer, but rather urges us to it.
It is well when our supplications are such that we find pleasure in looking back upon them. He that is cheered by the memory of his prayers will pray again. He did not go round about to men, but ran straight forward to Jehovah.
All true fruit is the fruit of the Spirit. Every true prayer must be “praying in the Holy Ghost” (Jude 20). He helps our infirmities in prayer.
“I cried with my whole heart” (Ps 119:145) His prayer was a sincere, plaintive, painful, natural utterance, as of a creature in pain. We cannot tell whether at all times he used his voice when he thus cried; but we are informed of something which is of much greater consequence, he cried with his heart. Heart-cries are the essence of prayer. He mentions the unity of his heart: his whole soul pleaded with God, his entire affections, his united desires all went out towards the living God. It is well when we can say as much as this of our prayers: it is to be feared that many never cried to God with their whole heart in all their lives. There may be no beauty of elocution about such prayers, no length of expression, no depth of doctrine, nor accuracy of diction; but if the whole heart be in them they will find their way to the heart of God.
“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait (hope) for Thy words.” (Ps 119:147) Hope is a very powerful means of strengthening us in prayer. Who would pray if he had no hope that God would hear him? Who would not pray when he has a good hope of a blessed issue to his entreaties? His hoped was fixed upon God’s Word, and this is a sure anchorage, because God is true, and in no case has he ever run back from his promise, or altered the thing that has gone forth from his mouth. He who is diligent in prayer will never be destitute of hope. Observe that as the early bird gets the worm, so the early prayer is soon refreshed with hope.
People of God look upon prayer as a reality, and they are not content without having an audience with God; moreover, they have such confidence in the Lord’s condescending grace that they hope he will even attend to that poor broken prayer which can only be described as a cry…Gracious people may not only be low, but very low; and this should not be a reason for their doubting the efficacy of their prayers, but rather a plea with the Lord why they should have special attention.
Praying men pray better as they proceed. Note that we do not show our trouble before the Lord that he may see it, but that we may see him. It is for our relief, and not for his information that we make plain statements concerning our woes: it does us much good to set out our sorrow in order, for much of it vanishes in the process, like a ghost which will not abide the light of day; and the rest loses much of its terror, because the veil of mystery is removed by a clear and deliberate stating of the trying facts. Pour out your thoughts and you will see what they are; show your trouble and the extent of it will be known to you: let all be done before the Lord, for in comparison with his great majesty of love the trouble will seem to be as nothing.
Prayer and Faith
Faith finds pleas in the worst circumstances; she uses even the fallen stones of her desolate palaces, and assails with them the gates of heaven, casting them forth with the great engine ofprayer.
The confidence of faith makes us bold in prayer, but it never teaches us to live without prayer, or justifies us in being other than humble beggars at mercy’s gate.
Observe that ancient saints cried and trusted, and that in times of trouble we must do the same; and the invariable result was that they were not ashamed of their hope, for deliverance came in due time; this same happy portion will be ours. The prayer of faith can do the deed when nothing else can. Let us wonder when we see Jesus using the same pleas as ourselves, and immersed in grief far deeper than our own….Godly men of old prayed in faith, nothing wavering, and spoke of the answer to their prayers as a certainty.
If our faith is to grow exceedingly, we must maintain constant intercourse with God.
Faith grows by the exercise of prayer.
Lord, if thou wilt make us mighty with thee in prayer, we shall also be kept faithful before thee in the service which thou hast laid upon us.
It must be a prayer full of faith. A man prevails only as he believes. The Holy Spirit is the author of faith, and strengthens it, so that we pray believing God’s promise.
The precious promises of our great God are expressly intended to be taken to Him and exchanged for the blessings which they guarantee. Prayer takes the promise to the Bank of Faith and obtains the golden blessing….The strength of prayer lies in your faith in the promise which you have pleaded before the Lord.
It is easy work to pray when we are grounded, as to our desires, upon God’s own promise. How can He that gave the word refuse to keep it? Immutable veracity cannot demean itself by a lie, and eternal faithfulness cannot degrade itself by neglect. God must bless His Son; His covenant binds Him to it. That which the Spirit prompts us to ask of God for Jesus and His kingdom is that which God decrees to give Him. Whenever you are praying for the kingdom of Christ, let your eyes behold the dawning of the blessed day, which draws near, when the Crucified will receive His coronation in the place where men rejected Him.
Prayer and Blessing
Prayer is the rustling of the wings of the angels that are on their way bringing us the blessings of heaven. Have you heard prayer in your heart? You will see the angel in your house. When the chariots that bring us blessings do rumble, their wheels do sound with prayer. We hear the prayer in our own spirits, and that prayer becomes the token of the coming blessings. Even as the cloud foreshadows rain, so prayer foreshadows the blessing; even as the green blade is the beginning of the harvest, so prayer is the prophecy of the blessing that is about to come.
Have we petitioned for success in the Lord’s work? How joyful is the prosperity which comes flying upon the wings of prayer! It is always best to get blessings into our house in the legitimate way, by the door of prayer; then they are blessings indeed, and not temptations. Even when prayer speeds not, the blessings grow all the richer for the delay; the child Jesus was all the more lovely in the eyes of Mary when she found him after having sought him sorrowing. That which we win by prayer we should dedicate to God, as Hannah dedicated Samuel. The gift came from heaven, let it go to heaven. Prayer brought it, gratitude sang over it, let devotion consecrate it. Here will be a special occasion for saying, “Of thine own have I given unto thee.” Reader, is prayer your element or your weariness? Which?