Bear up the hands that hang down, by faith and prayer; support the tottering knees. Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of. grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.——John Wesley
We must remember that the goal of prayer is the ear of God. Unless that is gained the prayer has utterly failed. The utterings of it may have kindled devotional feeling in our minds, the hearing of it may have comforted and strengthened the hearts of those with whom we have prayed, but if the prayer has not gained the heart of God, it has failed in its essential purpose.
A mere formalist can
always pray so as to please himself. What has he to do but to open his book
and read the prescribed words, or bow his knee and repeat such phrases as
suggest themselves to his memory or his fancy? Like the Tartarian Praying
Machine, give but the wind and the wheel, and the business is full arranged.
So much knee-bending and talking, and the prayer is done. The formalist’s
prayers are always good, or, rather, always bad, alike. But the living child
of God never offers a prayer which pleases himself; his standard is above
his attainments; he wonders that God listens to him, and though he knows he
will be heard for Christ’s sake, yet he accounts it a wonderful instance of
condescending mercy that such poor prayers as his should ever reach the ears
of the Lord God of Sabaoth.——C. H. Spurgeon
It may be said with
emphasis that no lazy saint prays. Can there be a lazy saint? Can there be a
prayerless saint? Does not slack praying cut short sainthood’s crown and
kingdom? Can there be a cowardly soldier? Can there be a saintly hypocrite?
Can there be virtuous vice? It is only when these possibilities are brought
into being that we then can find a prayerless saint.
To go through the
motion of praying is a dull business, though not a hard one. To say prayers
in a decent, delicate way is not heavy work. But to pray really, to pray
till hell feels the ponderous stroke, to pray till the iron gates of
difficulty are opened, till the mountains of obstacles are removed, till the
mists are exhaled and the clouds are lifted, and the sunshine of a cloudless
day brightens——this is hard work, but it is God’s work and man’s best labor.
Never was the toil of hand, head and heart less spent in vain than when
praying. It is hard to wait and press and pray, and hear no voice, but stay
till God answers. The joy of answered prayer is the joy of a travailing
mother when a man child is born in to the world, the joy of a slave whose
chains have been burst asunder and to whom new life and liberty have just
A bird’s-eye view of
what has been accomplished by prayer shows what we lost when the
dispensation of real prayer was substituted by Pharisaical pretense and
sham; it shows, too, how imperative is the need for holy men and women who
will give themselves to earnest, Christlike praying.
It is not an easy thing to pray. Back of the praying there must lie all the conditions of prayer. These conditions are possible, but they are not to be seized on in a moment by the prayerless. Present they always may be to the faithful and holy, but cannot exist in nor be met by a frivolous, negligent, laggard spirit. Prayer does not stand alone. It is not an isolated performance. Prayer stands in closet connection with all the duties of an ardent piety. It is the issuance of a character which is made up of the elements of a vigorous and commanding faith. Prayer honors God, acknowledges His being, exalts His power, adores His providence, secures His aid. A sneering half-rationalism cries out against devotion, that it does nothing but pray. But to pray well is to do all things well. If it be true that devotion does nothing but pray, then it does nothing at all. To do nothing but pray fails to do the praying, for the antecedent, coincident, and subsequent conditions of prayer are but the sum of all the energized forces of a practical, working piety. Consider God's promise to answer the requests of His children-
Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. (Psalm 81:10)
What an encouragement to pray! Our human notions would lead us to ask small things because we deserve so little; but our Lord wants us to request great blessings. Prayer should be as simple a matter as the opening of the mouth; it should be a natural, unconstrained utterance. When a man is earnest he opens his mouth wide, and our text urges us to be fervent in our supplications.
Yet it also means that we may make bold with God and ask many and large blessings at His hands, Read the whole verse, and see the argument: "I am Jehovah, thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." Because the Lord has given us so much He invites us to ask for more, yes, and to expect more.
See how the little birds in their nests seem to be all mouth when the mother comes to feed them. Let it be the same with us. Let us take in grace at every door. Let us drink it in as a sponge sucks up the water in which it lies. God is ready to fill us if we are only ready to be filled. Let our needs make us open our mouths; let our faintness cause us to open our mouths and pant; yea, let our alarm make us open our mouths with a child's cry. The opened mouth shall be filled by the Lord Himself. So be it unto us, O Lord, this day——C. H. Spurgeon
The possibilities of
prayer run parallel with the promises of God. Prayer opens an outlet for the
promises, removes the hindrances in the way of their execution, puts them
into working order, and secures their gracious ends. More than this, prayer
like faith, obtains promises, enlarges their operation, and adds to the
measure of their results. God’s promises were to Abraham and to his seed,
but many a barren womb, and many a minor obstacle stood in the way of the
fulfillment of these promises; but prayer removed them all, made a highway
for the promises, added to the facility and speediness of their realization,
and by prayer the promise shone bright and perfect in its execution.
The possibilities of
prayer are found in its allying itself with the purposes of God, for God’s
purposes and man’s praying are the combination of all potent and omnipotent
forces. More than this, the possibilities of prayer are seen in the fact
that it changes the purposes of God. It is in the very nature of prayer to
plead and give directions. Prayer is not a negation. It is a positive force.
It never rebels against the will of God, never comes into conflict with that
will, but that it does seek to change God’s purpose is evident. Christ said,
“The cup which My Father hath given Me shall I not drink it?” and yet He had
prayed that very night, “If it be possible let this cup pass from Me.” Paul
sought to change the purposes of God about the thorn in his flesh. God’s
purposes were fixed to destroy Israel, and the prayer of Moses changed the
purposes of God and saved Israel. In the time of the Judges Israel were
apostate and greatly oppressed. They repented and cried unto God and He
said: “Ye have forsaken Me and served other gods, wherefore I will deliver
you no more:” but they humbled themselves, put away their strange gods, and
God’s “soul was grieved for the misery of Israel,” and He sent them
deliverance by Jephthah.
God sent Isaiah to say
to Hezekiah, “Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.”
and Hezekiah prayed, and God sent Isaiah back to say, “I have heard thy
prayer, I have seen thy tears; behold I will add unto thy days fifteen
years.” “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” was God’s message
by Jonah. But Nineveh cried mightily to God, and “God repented of the evil
that He had said He would do unto them; and He did it not.”
The possibilities of prayer are seen from the diverse’ conditions it reaches and the diverse’ ends it secures. Elijah prayed over a dead child, and it came to life; Elisha did the same thing; Christ prayed at Lazarus’s grave, and Lazarus came forth. Peter kneeled down and prayed beside dead Dorcas, and she opened her eyes and sat up, and Peter presented her alive to the distressed company. Paul prayed for Publius, and healed him. Jacob’s praying changed Esau’s murderous hate into the kisses of the tenderest brotherly embrace. God gave to Rebecca Jacob and Esau because Isaac prayed for her. Joseph was the child of Rachel’s prayers. Hannah’s praying gave Samuel to Israel. John the Baptist was given to Elizabeth, barren and past age as she was, in answer to the prayer of Zacharias. Elisha’s praying brought famine or harvest to Israel; as he prayed so it was.
Ezra’s praying carried
the Spirit of God in heartbreaking conviction to the entire city of
Jerusalem, and brought them in tears of repentance back to God. Isaiah’s
praying carried the shadow of the sun back ten degrees on the dial of Ahaz.
opened to him the vision of prophecy, helped him to administer the affairs
of a mighty kingdom, and sent an angel to shut the lions’ mouths. The angel
was sent to Cornelius, and the Gospel opened through him to the Gentile
world, because his “prayers and alms had come up as a memorial before God.”
“And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon,
and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and
of the prophets;” of Paul and Peter, and John and the Apostles, and the holy
company of saints, reformers, and martyrs, who, through praying, “subdued
kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of
lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of
weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the
armies of the aliens.”
Prayer puts God in the matter with commanding force: “Ask of Me things to come concerning My sons,” says God, “and concerning the work of My hands command ye Me.” We are charged in God’s Word “always to pray,” “in everything by prayer,” “continuing instant in prayer,” to “pray everywhere,” “praying always.” The promise is as illimitable as the command is comprehensive. “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive,” “whatever ye shall ask,” “if ye shall ask anything.” “Ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you.” “Whatsoever ye ask the Father He will give it to you.” If there is anything not involved in “All things whatsoever,” or not found in the phrase “Ask anything,” then these things may be left out of prayer. Language could not cover a wider range, nor involve more fully all minutia.
These statements are but samples of the all-comprehending
possibilities of prayer under the promises of God to those who meet the
conditions of right praying.
Beyond these the
effects of prayer reach and secure good from regions which cannot be
traversed by language or thought. Paul exhausted language and thought in
praying, but conscious of necessities not covered and realms of good not
reached he covers these impenetrable and undiscovered regions by this
general plea, “unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all
that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” The
promise is, “Call upon Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and
mighty things, which thou knowest not. " Jeremiah 33:3
James declares that
“the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” How much
he could not tell, but illustrates it by the power of Old Testament praying
to stir up New Testament saints to imitate by the fervor and influence of
their praying the holy men of old, and duplicate and surpass the power of
their praying. Elijah, he says, was a man subject to like passions as we
are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on
the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again,
and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
In the Revelation of
John the whole lower order of God’s creation and His providential
government, the Church and the angelic world, are in the attitude of waiting
on the efficiency of the prayers of the saintly ones on earth to carry on
the various interests of earth and heaven. The angel takes the fire kindled
by prayer and casts it earthward, “and there were voices, and thunderings,
and lightnings, and an earthquake.” Prayer is the force which creates all
these alarms, stirs, and throes. “Ask of Me,” says God to His Son, and to
the Church of His Son, “and I shall give Thee the nations for Thine
inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thine possessions.”
The men who have done
mighty things for God have always been mighty in prayer, have well
understood the possibilities of prayer, and made most of the possibilities.
The Son of God, the first of all and the mightiest of all, has shown us the
all-potent and far-reaching possibilities of prayer. Paul was might for God
because he knew how to use, and how to get others to use, the mighty
spiritual forces of prayer.
The seraphim, burning,
sleepless, adoring, is the figure of prayer. It is resistless in its ardor,
devoted and tireless. There are hindrances to prayer that nothing but pure,
intense flame can surmount. There are toils and outlays and endurance which
nothing but the strongest, most ardent flame can abide. Prayer may be
low-tongued, but it cannot be cold-tongued. Its words may be few, but they
must be on fire. Its feelings may not be impetuous, but they must be white
with heat. It is the effectual, fervent prayer that influences God.
God’s house is the house of prayer; God’s work is the work of prayer. It is
the zeal for God’s house and the zeal for God’s work that makes God’s house
glorious and His work abide.
prayer-chambers of saints are closed or are entered casually or coldly, then
Church rulers are secular, fleshly, materialized; spiritual character sinks
to a low level, and the ministry becomes restrained and enfeebled.
When prayer falls, the world prevails. When prayer fails the Church loses
its Divine characteristics, its Divine power; the Church is swallowed up by
a proud ecclesiasticism, and the world scoffs at its obvious impotence.