RSS

Preacher And Prayer

28 Jun

THE NECESSITY OF PRAYER

by E. M. Bounds

Introduction:

This is page 2 of a 2 page compilation of Mr. Bounds’ work. On this page we are placing excerpts from the book titled above and do so for your edification and education. We encourage you to purchase his books and these excerpts come from the Ages Software system electronic edition

1 PRAYER AND FAITH

IN any study of the principles, and procedure of prayer, of its activities

and enterprises, first place, must, of necessity, be given to faith. It is the

initial quality in the heart of any man who essays to talk to the Unseen.

He must, out of sheer helplessness, stretch forth hands of faith. He must

believe, where he cannot prove. In the ultimate issue, prayer is simply

faith, claiming its natural yet marvelous prerogatives — faith taking

possession of its illimitable inheritance. True godliness is just as true,

steady, and persevering in the realm of faith as it is in the province of

prayer. Moreover: when faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live.

Faith does the impossible because it brings God to undertake for us, and

nothing is impossible with God. How great — without qualification or

limitation — is the power of faith! If doubt be banished from the heart,

and unbelief made stranger there, what we ask of God shall surely come to

pass, and a believer hath vouchsafed to him “whatsoever he saith.”

Prayer projects faith on God, and God on the world. Only God can move

mountains, but faith and prayer move God. In His cursing of the fig-tree

our Lord demonstrated His power. Following that, He proceeded to

declare, that large powers were committed to faith and prayer, not in order

to kill but to make alive, not to blast but to bless.

At this point in our study, we turn to a saying of our Lord, which there is

need to emphasize, since it is the very keystone of the arch of faith and

prayer.

“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire when ye

pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

We should ponder well that statement — “Believe that ye receive them,

and ye shall have them.” Here is described a faith which realizes, which

appropriates, which takes. Such faith is a consciousness of the Divine, an

experienced communion, a realized certainty.

Is faith growing or declining as the years go by? Does faith stand strong

and four square, these days, as iniquity abounds and the love of many

grows cold? Does faith maintain its hold, as religion tends to become a

mere formality and worldliness increasingly prevails? The enquiry of our

Lord, may, with great appropriateness, be ours. “When the Son of Man

cometh,” He asks, “shall He find faith on the earth?” We believe that He

will, and it is ours, in this our day, to see to it that the lamp of faith is

trimmed and burning, lest He come who shall come, and that right early.

Faith is the foundation of Christian character and the security of the soul.

When Jesus was looking forward to Peter’s denial, and cautioning him

against it, He said unto His disciple:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, to sift you

as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fall not.”

Our Lord was declaring a central truth; it was Peter’s faith He was seeking

to guard; for well He knew that when faith is broken down, the

foundations of spiritual life give way, and the entire structure of religious

experience falls. It was Peter’s faith which needed guarding. Hence

Christ’s solicitude for the welfare of His disciple’s soul and His

determination to fortify Peter’s faith by His own all-prevailing prayer.

In his Second Epistle, Peter has this idea in mind when speaking of growth

in grace as a measure of safety in the Christian life, and as implying

fruitfulness.

“And besides this,” he declares, “giving diligence, add to your faith

virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and

to temperance patience; and to patience godliness.”

Of this additioning process, faith was the starting-point — the basis of the

other graces of the Spirit. Faith was the foundation on which other things

were to be built. Peter does not enjoin his readers to add to works or gifts

or virtues but to faith. Much depends on starting right in this business of

growing in grace. There is a Divine order, of which Peter was aware; and so

he goes on to declare that we are to give diligence to making our calling and

election sure, which election is rendered certain adding to faith which, in

turn, is done by constant, earnest praying. Thus faith is kept alive by

prayer, and every step taken, in this adding of grace to grace, is

accompanied by prayer.

The faith which creates powerful praying is the faith which centers itself

on a powerful Person. Faith in Christ’s ability to do and to do greatly, is

the faith which prays greatly. Thus the leper lay hold upon the power of

Christ. “Lord, if Thou wilt,” he cried, “Thou canst make me clean.” In this

instance, we are shown how faith centered in Christ’s ability to do, and

how it secured the healing power.

It was concerning this very point, that Jesus questioned the blind men

who came to Him for healing:

“Believe ye that I am able to do this?” He asks. “They said unto

Him, Yea, Lord. Then touched He their eyes, saying, According to

your faith be it unto you.”

It was to inspire faith in His ability to do that Jesus left behind Him, that

last, great statement, which, in the final analysis, is a ringing challenge to

faith. “All power,” He declared, “is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.”

9

Again: faith is obedient; it goes when commanded, as did the nobleman,

who came to Jesus, in the day of His flesh, and whose son was grievously

sick.

Moreover: such faith acts. Like the man who was born blind, it goes to

wash in the pool of Siloam when told to wash. Like Peter on Gennesaret it

casts the net where Jesus commands, instantly, without question or doubt.

Such faith takes away the stone from the grave of Lazarus promptly. A

praying faith keeps the commandments of God and does those things

which are well pleasing in His sight. It asks, “Lord, what wilt Thou have

me to do?” and answers quickly, “Speak, Lord, Thy servant heareth.”

Obedience helps faith, and faith, in turn, helps obedience. To do God’s

will is essential to true faith, and faith is necessary to implicit obedience.

Yet faith is called upon, and that right often to wait in patience before

God, and is prepared for God’s seeming delays in answering prayer.

Faith does not grow disheartened because prayer is not immediately honored; it

takes God at His Word, and lets Him take what time He chooses in

fulfilling His purposes, and in carrying on His work. There is bound to be

much delay and long days of waiting for true faith, but faith accepts the

conditions — knows there will be delays in answering prayer, and regards

such delays as times of testing, in the which, it is privileged to show its

mettle, and the stern stuff of which it is made.

The case of Lazarus was an instance of where there was delay, where the

faith of two good women was sorely tried: Lazarus was critically ill, and

his sisters sent for Jesus. But, without any known reason, our Lord

delayed His going to the relief of His sick friend. The plea was urgent and

touching — “Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick,” — but the

Master is not moved by it, and the women’s earnest request seemed to fall

on deaf ears. What a trial to faith! Furthermore: our Lord’s tardiness

appeared to bring about hopeless disaster. While Jesus tarried, Lazarus

died.

But the delay of Jesus was exercised in the interests of a greater good.

Finally, He makes His way to the home in Bethany.

“Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am

glad for your sakes, that I was not there, to the intent ye may

believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.”

Fear not, O tempted and tried believer, Jesus will come, if patience be

exercised, and faith hold fast. His delay will serve to make His coming the

more richly blessed. Pray on. Wait on. Thou canst not fail. If Christ delay,

wait for Him. In His own good time, He will come, and will not tarry.

Delay is often the test and the strength of faith. How much patience is

required when these times of testing come! Yet faith gathers strength by

waiting and praying. Patience has its perfect work in the school of delay.

In some instances, delay is of the very essence of the prayer. God has to

do many things, antecedent to giving the final answer — things which are

essential to the lasting good of him who is requesting favor at His hands.

Jacob prayed, with point and ardor, to be delivered from Esau. But before

that prayer could be answered, there was much to be done with, and for

Jacob. He must be changed, as well as Esau. Jacob had to be made into a

new man, before Esau could be. Jacob had to be converted to God, before

Esau could be converted to Jacob.

Among the large and luminous utterances of Jesus concerning prayer, none

is more arresting than this:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the

works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall

he do; because I go unto My Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask

in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the

Son. If ye shall ask anything in My Name, I will do it.”

How wonderful are these statements of what God will do in answer to

prayer! Of how great importance these ringing words, prefaced, as they

are, with the most solemn verity! Faith in Christ is the basis of all

working, and of all praying. All wonderful works depend on wonderful

praying, and all praying is done in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amazing

lesson, of wondrous simplicity, is this praying in the name of the Lord

Jesus! All other conditions are depreciated, everything else is renounced,

save Jesus only. The name of Christ — the Person of our Lord and Savior

Jesus Christ — must be supremely sovereign, in the hour and article of

prayer.

If Jesus dwell at the fountain of my life; if the currents of His life have

displaced and superseded all self-currents; if implicit obedience to Him be

the inspiration and force of every movement of my life, then He can safely

commit the praying to my will, and pledge Himself, by an obligation as

profound as His own nature, that whatsoever is asked shall be granted.

Nothing can be clearer, more distinct, more unlimited both in application

and extent, than the exhortation and urgency of Christ, “Have faith in

God.”

Faith covers temporal as well as spiritual needs. Faith dispels all undue

anxiety and needless care about what shall be eaten, what shall he drunk,

what shall be worn. Faith lives in the present, and regards the day as being

sufficient unto the evil thereof. It lives day by day, and dispels all fears for

the morrow. Faith brings great ease of mind and perfect peace of heart.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on

Thee: because he trusted in Thee.”

When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are, in a measure,

shutting tomorrow out of our prayer. We do not live in tomorrow but in

today. We do not seek tomorrow’s grace or tomorrow’s bread. They

thrive best, and get most out of life, who live in the living present. They

pray best who pray for today’s needs, not for tomorrow’s, which may

render our prayers unnecessary and redundant by not existing at all!

True prayers are born of present trials and present needs. Bread, for

today, is bread enough. Bread given for today is the strongest sort of

pledge that there will be bread tomorrow. Victory today, is the assurance

of victory tomorrow. Our prayers need to be focused upon the present,

We must trust God today, and leave the morrow entirely with Him. The

present is ours; the future belongs to God. Prayer is the task and duty of

each recurring day — daily prayer for daily needs.

As every day demands its bread, so every day demands its prayer. No

amount of praying, done today, will suffice for tomorrow’s praying. On

the other hand, no praying for tomorrow is of any great value to us today.

Today’s manna is what we need; tomorrow God will see that our needs

are supplied. This is the faith which God seeks to inspire. So leave

tomorrow, with its cares, its needs, its troubles, in God’s hands. There is

no storing tomorrow’s grace or tomorrow’s praying; neither is there any

laying-up of today’s grace, to meet tomorrow’s necessities. We cannot

have tomorrow’s grace, we cannot eat tomorrow’s bread, we cannot do

tomorrow’s praying. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof;” and,

most assuredly, if we possess faith, sufficient also, will be the good.

3 PRAYER AND TRUST

PRAYER does not stand alone. It is not an isolated duty and independent

principle. It lives in association with other Christian duties, is wedded to

other principles, is a partner with other graces. But to faith, prayer is

indissolubly joined. Faith gives it color and tone, shapes its character, and

secures its results.

Trust is faith become absolute, ratified, consummated. There is, when all is

said and done, a sort of venture in faith and its exercise. But trust is firm

belief, it is faith in full flower. Trust is a conscious act, a fact of which we

are sensible. According to the Scriptural concept it is the eye of the

new-born soul, and the ear of the renewed soul. It is the feeling of the soul,

the spiritual eye, the ear, the taste, the feeling — these one and all have to

do with trust. How luminous, how distinct, how conscious, how

powerful, and more than all, how Scriptural is such a trust! How different

from many forms of modern belief, so feeble, dry, and cold! These new

phases of belief bring no consciousness of their presence, no “Joy

unspeakable and full of glory” results from their exercise. They are, for the

most part, adventures in the peradventures of the soul. There is no safe,

sure trust in anything. The whole transaction takes place in the realm of

Maybe and Perhaps.

Trust like life, is feeling, though much more than feeling. An unfelt life is a

contradiction; an unfelt trust is a misnomer, a delusion, a contradiction.

Trust is the most felt of all attributes. It is all feeling, and it works only by

love. An unfelt love is as impossible as an unfelt trust. The trust of which

we are now speaking is a conviction. An unfelt conviction? How absurd!

Trust sees God doing things here and now. Yea, more. It rises to a lofty

eminence, and looking into the invisible and the eternal, realizes that God

has done things, and regards them as being already done. Trust brings

eternity into the annals and happenings of time, transmutes the substance

of hope into the reality of fruition, and changes promise into present

possession. We know when we trust just as we know when we see, just as

we are conscious of our sense of touch. Trust sees, receives, holds. Trust

is its own witness.

Yet, quite often, faith is too weak to obtain God’s greatest good,

immediately; so it has to wait in loving, strong, prayerful, pressing

obedience, until it grows in strength, and is able to bring down the eternal,

into the realms of experience and time.

To this point, trust masses all its forces. Here it holds. And in the struggle,

trust’s grasp becomes mightier, and grasps, for itself, all that God has done

for it in His eternal wisdom and plenitude of grace.

In the matter of waiting in prayer, mightiest prayer, faith rises to its

highest plane and becomes indeed the gift of God. It becomes the blessed

disposition and expression of the soul which is secured by a constant

intercourse with, and unwearied application to God.

Jesus Christ clearly taught that faith was the condition on which prayer

was answered. When our Lord had cursed the fig-tree, the disciples were

much surprised that its withering had actually taken place, and their

remarks indicated their in credulity. It was then that Jesus said to them,

“Have faith in God.”

“For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this

mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea, and shall

not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he

saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith.

Therefore, I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye

pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

Trust grows nowhere so readily and richly as in the prayer- chamber. Its

unfolding and development are rapid and wholesome when they are

regularly and well kept. When these engagements are hearty and full and

free, trust flourishes exceedingly. The eye and presence of God give

vigorous life to trust, just as the eye and the presence of the sun make fruit

and flower to grow, and all things glad and bright with fuller life.

“Have faith in God,” “Trust in the Lord” form the keynote and foundation

of prayer. Primarily, it is not trust in the Word of God, but rather trust in

the Person of God. For trust in the Person of God must precede trust in

the Word of God. “Ye believe in God, believe also in Me,” is the demand

our Lord makes on the personal trust of His disciples. The person of Jesus

Christ must be central, to the eye of trust. This great truth Jesus sought to

impress upon Martha, when her brother lay dead, in the home at Bethany.

Martha asserted her belief in the fact of the resurrection of her brother:

“Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the

resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus lifts her trust clear above the mere fact of the resurrection, to His

own Person, by saying:

“I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me, though

he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth

in Me, shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto Him,

Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God,

which should come into the world.”

Trust, in an historical fact or in a mere record may be a very passive thing,

but trust in a person vitalizes the quality, fructifies it, informs it with love.

The trust which informs prayer centers in a Person.

Trust goes even further than this. The trust which inspires our prayer

must be not only trust in the Person of God, and of Christ, but in their

ability and willingness to grant the thing prayed for. It is not only, “Trust,

ye, in the Lord,” but, also, “for in the Lord Jehovah, is everlasting

strength.”

The trust which our Lord taught as a condition of effectual prayer, is not

of the head but of the heart. It is trust which “doubteth not in his heart.”

Such trust has the Divine assurance that it shall be honored with large and

satisfying answers. The strong promise of our Lord brings faith down to

the present, and counts on a present answer.

Do we believe, without a doubt? When we pray, do we believe, not that

we shall receive the things for which we ask on a future day, but that we

receive them, then and there? Such is the teaching of this inspiring

Scripture. How we need to pray, “Lord, increase our faith,” until doubt be

gone, and implicit trust claims the promised blessings, as its very own.

This is no easy condition. It is reached only after many a failure, after

much praying, after many waitings, after much trial of faith. May our faith

so increase until we realize and receive all the fullness there is in that Name

which guarantees to do so much.

Our Lord puts trust as the very foundation of praying. The background of

prayer is trust. The whole issuance of Christ’s ministry and work was

dependent on implicit trust in His Father. The center of trust is God.

Mountains of difficulties, and all other hindrances to prayer are moved out

of the way by trust and his virile henchman, faith. When trust is perfect

and without doubt, prayer is simply the outstretched hand, ready to

receive. Trust perfected, is prayer perfected. Trust looks to receive the

thing asked for — and gets it. Trust is not a belief that God can bless, that

He will bless, but that He does bless, here and now. Trust always operates

in the present tense. Hope looks toward the future. Trust looks to the

present. Hope expects. Trust possesses. Trust receives what prayer

acquires. So that what prayer needs, at all times, is abiding and abundant

trust.

Their lamentable lack of trust and resultant failure of the disciples to do

what they were sent out to do, is seen in the case of the lunatic son, who

was brought by his father to nine of them while their Master was on the

Mount of Transfiguration. A boy, sadly afflicted, was brought to these

men to be cured of his malady. They had been commissioned to do this

very kind of work. This was a part of their mission. They attempted to

cast out the devil from the boy, but had signally failed. The devil was too

much for them. They were humiliated at their failure, and filled with

shame, while their enemies were in triumph. Amid the confusion incident

to failure Jesus draws near. He is informed of the circumstances, and told

of the conditions connected therewith. Here is the succeeding account:

“Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse

generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer

you? Bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil, and he

departed out of him and the child was cured from that very hour.

And when He was come into the house, His disciples asked Him

privately, Why could not we cast him out? And He said unto

them, This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and

fasting.”

Wherein lay the difficulty with these men? They had been lax in

cultivating their faith by prayer and, as a consequence, their trust utterly

failed. They trusted not God, nor Christ, nor the authenticity of His

mission, or their own. So has it been many a time since, in many a crisis in

the Church of God. Failure has resulted from a lack of trust, or from a

weakness of faith, and this, in turn, from a lack of prayerfulness. Many a

failure in revival efforts has been traceable to the same cause. Faith had not

been nurtured and made powerful by prayer. Neglect of the inner chamber

is the solution of most spiritual failure. And this is as true of our personal

struggles with the devil as was the case when we went forth to attempt to

cast out devils. To be much on our knees in private communion with God

is the only surety that we shall have Him with us either in our personal

struggles, or in our efforts to convert sinners.

Everywhere, in the approaches of the people to Him, our Lord put trust in

Him, and the divinity of His mission, in the forefront. He gave no

definition of trust, and He furnishes no theological discussion of, or

analysis of it; for He knew that men would see what faith was by what

faith did; and from its free exercise trust grew up, spontaneously, in His

presence. It was the product of His work, His power and His Person.

These furnished and created an atmosphere most favorable for its exercise

and development. Trust is altogether too splendidly simple for verbal

definition; too hearty and spontaneous for theological terminology. The

very simplicity of trust is that which staggers many people. They look

away for some great thing to come to pass, while all the time “the word is

nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart.”

When the saddening news of his daughter’s death was brought to Jairus

our Lord interposed: “Be not afraid,” He said calmly, “only believe.” To

the woman with the issue of blood, who stood tremblingly before Him, He

said:

“Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be

whole of thy plague.”

As the two blind men followed Him, pressing their way into the house, He

said:

“According to your faith be it unto you

And their eyes were opened.”

When the paralytic was let down through the roof of the house, where

Jesus was teaching, and placed before Him by four of his friends, it is

recorded after this fashion:

“And Jesus seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy: Son,

be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”

When Jesus dismissed the centurion whose servant was seriously ill, and

who had come to Jesus with the prayer that He speak the healing word,

without even going to his house, He did it in the manner following:

“And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast

believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the

selfsame hour.”

When the poor leper fell at the feet of Jesus and cried out for relief, “Lord,

if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean,” Jesus immediately granted his

request, and the man glorified Him with a loud voice. Then Jesus said unto

him, “Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.”

The Syrophenician woman came to Jesus with the case of her afflicted

daughter, making the case her own, with the prayer, “Lord, help me,”

making a fearful and heroic struggle. Jesus honors her faith and prayer,

saying:

“O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.

And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”

After the disciples had utterly failed to cast the devil out of the epileptic

boy, the father of the stricken lad came to Jesus with the plaintive and

almost despairing cry, “If Thou canst do anything, have compassion on us

and help us.” But Jesus replied, “If thou canst believe, all things are

possible to him that believeth.”

Blind Bartimaeus sitting by the wayside, hears our Lord as He passes by,

and cries out pitifully and almost despairingly, “Jesus, Thou son of David,

have mercy on me.” The keen ears of our Lord immediately catch the

sound of prayer, and He says to the beggar:

“Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he

received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.”

To the weeping, penitent woman, washing His feet with her tears and

wiping them with the hair of her head, Jesus speaks cheering,

soul-comforting words: “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”

One day Jesus healed ten lepers at one time, in answer to their united

prayer, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” and He told them to go and

show themselves to the priests. “And it came to pass as they went, they

were cleansed.”

6 PRAYER AND IMPORTUNITY

OUR Lord Jesus declared that “men ought always to pray and not to

faint,” and the parable in which His words occur, was taught with the

intention of saving men from faint-heartedness and weakness in prayer.

Our Lord was seeking to teach that laxity must be guarded against, and

persistence fostered and encouraged. There can be no two opinions

regarding the importance of the exercise of this indispensable quality in our

praying.

Importunate prayer is a mighty movement of the soul toward God. It is a

stirring of the deepest forces of the soul, toward the throne of heavenly

grace. It is the ability to hold on, press on, and wait. Restless desire,

restful patience, and strength of grasp are all embraced in it. It is not an

incident, or a performance, but a passion of soul. It is not a want,

half-needed, but a sheer necessity.

The wrestling quality in importunate prayers does not spring from

physical vehemence or fleshly energy. It is not an impulse of energy, not a

mere earnestness of soul; it is an inwrought force, a faculty implanted and

aroused by the Holy Spirit. Virtually, it is the intercession of the Spirit of

God, in us; it is, moreover, “the effectual, fervent prayer, which availeth

much.” The Divine Spirit informing every element within us, with the

energy of His own striving, is the essence of the importunity which urges

our praying at the mercy-seat, to continue until the fire falls and the

blessing descends. This wrestling in prayer may not be boisterous nor

vehement, but quiet, tenacious and urgent. Silent, it may be, when there are

no visible outlets for its mighty forces.

Nothing distinguishes the children of God so clearly and strongly as

prayer. It is the one infallible mark and test of being a Christian. Christian

people are prayerful, the worldly- minded, prayerless. Christians call on

God; worldlings ignore God, and call not on His Name. But even the

Christian had need to cultivate continual prayer. Prayer must be habitual,

but much more than a habit. It is duty, yet one which rises far above, and

goes beyond the ordinary implications of the term. It is the expression of a

relation to God, a yearning for Divine communion. It is the outward and

upward flow of the inward life toward its original fountain. It is an

assertion of the soul’s paternity, a claiming of the sonship, which links

man to the Eternal.

Prayer has everything to do with molding the soul into the image of God,

and has everything to do with enhancing and enlarging the measure of

Divine grace. It has everything to do with bringing the soul into complete

communion with God. It has everything to do with enriching, broadening

and maturing the soul’s experience of God. That man cannot possibly be

called a Christian, who does not pray. By no possible pretext can he claim

any right to the term, nor its implied significance. If he do not pray, he is a

sinner, pure and simple, for prayer is the only way in which the soul of

man can enter into fellowship and communion with the Source of all

Christlike spirit and energy. Hence, if he pray not, he is not of the

household of faith.

In this study however, we turn our thought to one phase of prayer — that

of importunity; the pressing of our desires upon God with urgency and

perseverance; the praying with that tenacity and tension which neither

relaxes nor ceases until its plea is heard, and its cause is won.

He who has clear views of God, and Scriptural conceptions of the Divine

character; who appreciates his privilege of approach unto God; who

understands his inward need of all that God has for him — that man will

be solicitous, outspoken and importunate. In Holy Writ, the duty of

prayer, itself, is advocated in terms which are only barely stronger than

those in which the necessity for its importunity is set forth. The praying

which influences God is declared to be that of the fervent, effectual

outpouring of a righteous man. That is to say, it is prayer on fire, having

no feeble, flickering flame, no momentary flash, but shining with a

vigorous and steady glow.

The repeated intercessions of Abraham for the salvation of Sodom and

Gomorrah present an early example of the necessity for, and benefit

deriving from importunate praying. Jacob, wrestling all night with the

angel, gives significant emphasis to the power of a dogged perseverance in

praying, and shows how, in things spiritual, importunity succeeds, just as

effectively as it does in matters relating to time and sense.

As we have noted, elsewhere, Moses prayed forty days and forty nights,

seeking to stay the wrath of God against Israel, and his example and

success are a stimulus to present-day faith in its darkest hour. Elijah

repeated and urged his prayer seven times ere the raincloud appeared

above the horizon, heralding the success of his prayer and the victory of

his faith. On one occasion Daniel though faint and weak, pressed his case

three weeks, ere the answer and the blessing came.

Many nights during His earthly life did the blessed Savior spend in prayer.

In Gethsemane He presented the same petition, three times, with

unabated, urgent, yet submissive importunity, which involved every

element of His soul, and issued in tears and bloody sweat. His life crises

were distinctly marked, his life victories all won, in hours of importunate

prayer. And the servant is not greater than his Lord.

The Parable of the Importunate Widow is a classic of insistent prayer. We

shall do well to refresh our remembrance of it, at this point in our study:

“And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought

always to pray, and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a

judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man; and there was a

widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of

my adversary. And he would not for a while; but afterward he said

within himself, Though I fear not God nor regard man; yet because

this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual

coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust

judge saith. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry

day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you

He will avenge them speedily.”

This parable stresses the central truth of importunate prayer. The widow

presses her case till the unjust judge yields. If this parable does not teach

the necessity for importunity, it has neither point nor instruction in it.

Take this one thought away, and you have nothing left worth recording.

Beyond all cavil, Christ intended it to stand as an evidence of the need that

exists, for insistent prayer.

We have the same teaching emphasized in the incident of the

Syrophenician woman, who came to Jesus on behalf of her daughter. Here,

importunity is demonstrated, not as a stark impertinence, but as with the

persuasive habiliments of humility, sincerity, and fervency. We are given a

glimpse of a woman’s clinging faith, a woman’s bitter grief, and a woman’s

spiritual insight. The Master went over into that Sidonian country in order

that this truth might be mirrored for all time — there is no plea so

efficacious as importunate prayer, and none to which God surrenders

Himself so fully and so freely.

The importunity of this distressed mother, won her the victory, and

materialized her request. Yet instead of being an offense to the Savior, it

drew from Him a word of wonder, and glad surprise. “O woman, great is

thy faith! Be it unto thee, even as thou wilt.”

He prays not at all, who does not press his plea. Cold prayers have no

claim on heaven, and no hearing in the courts above. Fire is the life of

prayer, and heaven is reached by flaming importunity rising in an

ascending scale.

Reverting to the case of the importunate widow, we see that her

widowhood, her friendlessness, and her weakness counted for nothing

with the unjust judge. Importunity was everything. “Because this widow

troubleth me,” he said, “I will avenge her speedily, lest she weary me.”

Solely because the widow imposed upon the time and attention of the

unjust judge, her case was won.

God waits patiently as, day and night, His elect cry unto Him. He is

moved by their requests a thousand times more than was this unjust judge.

A limit is set to His tarrying, by the importunate praying of His people,

and the answer richly given. God finds faith in His praying child — the

faith which stays and cries — and He honors it by permitting its further

exercise, to the end that it is strengthened and enriched. Then He rewards

it by granting the burden of its plea, in plenitude and finality.

The case of the Syrophenician woman previously referred to is a notable

instance of successful importunity, one which is eminently encouraging to

all who would pray successfully. It was a remarkable instance of

insistence and perseverance to ultimate victory, in the face of almost

insuperable obstacles and hindrances. But the woman surmounted them all

by heroic faith and persistent spirit that were as remarkable as they were

successful. Jesus had gone over into her country, “and would have no man

know it.” But she breaks through His purpose, violates His privacy,

attracts His attention, and pours out to Him a poignant appeal of need and

faith. Her heart was in her prayer.

At first, Jesus appears to pay no attention to her agony, and ignores her

cry for relief. He gives her neither eye, nor ear, nor word. Silence, deep and

chilling, greets her impassioned cry. But she is not turned aside, nor

disheartened. She holds on. The disciples, offended at her unseemly

clamor, intercede for her, but are silenced by the Lord’s declaring that the

woman is entirely outside the scope of His mission and His ministry.

But neither the failure of the disciples to gain her a hearing nor the

knowledge — despairing in its very nature — that she is barred from the

benefits of His mission, daunt her, and serve only to lend intensity and

increased boldness to her approach to Christ. She came closer, cutting her

prayer in twain, and falling at His feet, worshipping Him, and making her

daughter’s case her own cries, with pointed brevity — “Lord, help me!”

This last cry won her case; her daughter was healed in the self-same hour.

Hopeful, urgent, and unwearied, she stays near the Master, insisting and

praying until the answer is given. What a study in importunity, in

earnestness, in persistence, promoted and propelled under conditions

which would have disheartened any but an heroic, a constant soul.

In these parables of importunate praying, our Lord sets forth, for our

information and encouragement, the serious difficulties which stand in the

way of prayer. At the same time He teaches that importunity conquers all

untoward circumstances and gets to itself a victory over a whole host of

hindrances. He teaches, moreover, that an answer to prayer is conditional

upon the amount of faith that goes to the petition. To test this, He delays

the answer. The superficial pray-er subsides into silence, when the answer

is delayed. But the man of prayer hangs on, and on. The Lord recognizes

and honors his faith, and gives him a rich and abundant answer to his

faith-evidencing, importunate prayer.

12 PRAYER AND THE WORD OF GOD

GOD’S Word is a record of prayer — of praying men and their

achievements, of the Divine warrant of prayer and of the encouragement

given to those who pray. No one can read the instances, commands,

examples, multiform statements which concern themselves with prayer,

without realizing that the cause of God, and the success of His work in

this world is committed to prayer; that praying men have been God’s

vicegerents on earth; that prayerless men have never been used of Him.

A reverence for God’s holy Name is closely related to a high regard for His

Word. This hallowing of God’s Name; the ability to do His will on earth,

as it is done in heaven; the establishment and glory of God’s kingdom, are

as much involved in prayer, as when Jesus taught men the Universal

Prayer. That “men ought always to pray and not to faint,” is as

fundamental to God’s cause, today, as when Jesus Christ enshrined that

great truth in the immortal settings of the Parable of the Importunate

Widow.

As God’s house is called “the house of prayer,” because prayer is the

most important of its holy offices; so by the same token, the Bible may be

called the Book of Prayer. Prayer is the great theme and content of its

message to mankind.

God’s Word is the basis, as it is the directory of the prayer of faith. “Let

the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom,” says St. Paul,

“teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual

songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

As this word of Christ dwelling in us richly is transmuted and assimilated,

it issues in praying. Faith is constructed of the Word and the Spirit, and

faith is the body and substance of prayer.

In many of its aspects, prayer is dependent upon the Word of God. Jesus

says:

“If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what

ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”

The Word of God is the fulcrum upon which the lever of prayer is placed,

and by which things are mightily moved. God has committed Himself, His

purpose and His promise to prayer. His Word becomes the basis, the

inspiration of our praying, and there are circumstances under which, by

importunate prayer, we may obtain an addition, or an enlargement of His

promises. It is said of the old saints that they, “through faith obtained

promises.” There would seem to be in prayer the capacity for going even

beyond the Word, of getting even beyond His promise, into the very

presence of God, Himself.

Jacob wrestled, not so much with a promise, as with the Promiser. We

must take hold of the Promiser, lest the promise prove nugatory. Prayer

may well be defined as that force which vitalizes and energizes the Word

of God, by taking hold of God, Himself. By taking hold of the Promiser,

prayer reissues, and makes personal the promise. “There is none that

stirreth up himself to take hold of Me,” is God’s sad lament. “Let him

take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me,” is God’s

recipe for prayer.

By Scriptural warrant, prayer may be divided into the petition of faith and

that of submission. The prayer of faith is based on the written Word, for

“faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” It receives its

answer, inevitably — the very thing for which it prays.

The prayer of submission is without a definite word of promise, so to

speak, but takes hold of God with a lowly and contrite spirit, and asks and

pleads with Him, for that which the soul desires. Abraham had no definite

promise that God would spare Sodom. Moses had no definite promise

that God would spare Israel; on the contrary, there was the declaration of

His wrath, and of His purpose to destroy. But the devoted leader gained

his plea with God, when he interceded for the Israelites with incessant

prayers and many tears. Daniel had no definite promise that God would

reveal to him the meaning of the king’s dream, but he prayed specifically,

and God answered definitely.

The Word of God is made effectual and operative, by the process and

practice of prayer. The Word of the Lord came to Elijah, “Go show

thyself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.” Elijah showed himself

to Ahab; but the answer to his prayer did not come, until he had pressed

his fiery prayer upon the Lord seven times.

Paul had the definite promise from Christ, that he “would be delivered

from the people and the Gentiles,” but we find him exhorting the Romans

in the urgent and solemn manner concerning this very matter:

“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,

and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in

your prayers to God for me; that I may be delivered from them

that do not believe in Judaea, and that my service which I have for

Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints.”

The Word of God is a great help in prayer. If it be lodged and written in

our hearts, it will form an outflowing current of prayer, full and

irresistible. Promises, stored in the heart, are to be the fuel from which

prayer receives life and warmth, just as the coal, stored in the earth,

ministers to our comfort on stormy days and wintry nights. The Word of

God is the food, by which prayer is nourished and made strong. Prayer,

like man, cannot live by bread alone, “but by every word which

proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.”

Unless the vital forces of prayer are supplied by God’s Word, prayer,

though earnest, even vociferous, in its urgency, is, in reality, flabby, and

vapid, and void. The absence of vital force in praying, can be traced to the

absence of a constant supply of God’s Word, to repair the waste, and

renew the life. He who would learn to pray well, must first study God’s

Word, and store it in his memory and thought.

When we consult God’s Word, we find that no duty is more binding, more

exacting, than that of prayer. On the other hand, we discover that no

privilege is more exalted, no habit more richly owned of God. No promises

are more radiant, more abounding, more explicit, more often reiterated,

than those which are attached to prayer. “All things, whatsoever” are

received by prayer, because “all things whatsoever” are promised. There is

no limit to the provisions, included in the promises to prayer, and no

exclusion from its promises. “Every one that asketh, receiveth.” The word

of our Lord is to this all-embracing effect: “If ye shall ask anything in My

Name, I will do it.”

Here are some of the comprehensive, and exhaustive statements of the

Word of God about prayer, the things to be taken in by prayer, the strong

promise made in answer to prayer:

“Pray without ceasing;” “continue in prayer;” “continuing instant

in prayer;” “in everything by prayer, let your request be made

known unto God;” “pray always, pray and not faint;” “men

should pray everywhere;” “praying always, with all prayer and

supplication.”

What clear and strong statements are those which are put in the Divine

record, to furnish us with a sure basis of faith, and to urge, constrain and

encourage us to pray! How wide the range of prayer, as given us, in the

Divine Revelation! How these Scriptures incite us to seek the God of

prayer, with all our wants, with all our burdens!

In addition to these statements left on record for our encouragement, the

sacred pages teem with facts, examples, incidents, and observations,

stressing the importance and the absolute necessity of prayer, and putting

emphasis on its all- prevailing power.

The utmost reach and full benefit of the rich promises of the Word of God,

should humbly be received by us, and put to the test. The world will never

receive the full benefits of the Gospel until this be done. Neither Christian

experience nor Christian living will be what they ought to be till these

Divine promises have been fully tested by those who pray. By prayer, we

bring these promises of God’s holy will into the realm of the actual and

the real. Prayer is the philosopher’s stone which transmutes them into

gold.

If it be asked, what is to be done in order to render God’s promises real,

the answer is, that we must pray, until the words of the promise are

clothed upon with the rich raiment of fulfillment.

God’s promises are altogether too large to be mastered by desultory

praying. When we examine ourselves, all too often, we discover that our

praying does not rise to the demands of the situation; is so limited that it

is little more than a mere oasis amid the waste and desert of the world’s

sin. Who of us, in our praying, measures up to this promise of our Lord:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the

works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall

he do, because I go to My Father.”

How comprehensive, how far reaching, how all-embracing! How much is

here, for the glory of God, how much for the good of man! How much for

the manifestation of Christ’s enthroned power, how much for the reward

of abundant faith! And how great and gracious are the results which can be

made to accrue from the exercise of commensurate, believing prayer!

Look, for a moment, at another of God’s great promises, and discover how

we may be undergirded by the Word as we pray, and on what firm ground

we may stand on which to make our petitions to our God:

“If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what

ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”

In these comprehensive words, God turns Himself over to the will of His

people. When Christ becomes our all-in-all, prayer lays God’s treasures at

our feet. Primitive Christianity had an easy and practical solution of the

situation, and got all which God had to give. That simple and terse

solution is recorded in John’s First Epistle:

“Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His

commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in His

sight.”

Prayer, coupled with loving obedience, is the way to put God to the test,

and to make prayer answer all ends and all things. Prayer, joined to the

Word of God, hallows and makes sacred all God’s gifts. Prayer is not

simply to get things from God, but to make those things holy, which

already have been received from Him. It is not merely to get a blessing, but

also to be able to give a blessing. Prayer makes common things holy and

secular things, sacred. It receives things from God with thanksgiving and

hallows them with thankful hearts, and devoted service.

In the First Epistle to Timothy, Paul gives us these words:

“For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it

be received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified by the word of

God and prayer.”

That is a statement which gives a negative to mere asceticism. God’s good

gifts are to be holy, not only by God’s creative power, but, also, because

they are made holy to us by prayer. We receive them, appropriate them

and sanctify them by prayer.

Doing God’s will, and having His Word abiding in us, is an imperative of

effectual praying. But, it may be asked, how are we to know what God’s

will is? The answer is, by studying His Word, by hiding it in our hearts,

and by letting the Word dwell in us richly. “The entrance of Thy word,

giveth light.”

To know God’s will in prayer, we must be filled with God’s Spirit, who

maketh intercession for the saints, and in the saints, according to the will

of God. To be filled with God’s Spirit, to be filled with God’s Word, is to

know God’s will. It is to be put in such a frame of mind, to be found in

such a state of heart, as will enable us to read and interpret aright the

purposes of the Infinite. Such filling of the heart, with the Word and the

Spirit, gives us an insight into the will of the Father, and enables us to

rightly discern His will, and puts within us, a disposition of mind and

heart to make it the guide and compass of our lives.

Epaphras prayed that the Colossians might stand “perfect and complete in

all the will of God.” This is proof positive that, not only may we know

the will of God, but that we may know all the will of God. And not only

may we know all the will of God, but we may do all the will of God. We

may, moreover, do all the will of God, not occasionally, or by a mere

impulse, but with a settled habit of conduct. Still further, it shows us that

we may not only do the will of God externally, but from the heart, doing it

cheerfully, without reluctance, or secret disinclination, or any drawing or

holding back from the intimate presence of the Lord.

14 PRAYER AND THE HOUSE OF GOD

PRAYER stands related to places, times, occasions and circumstances. It

has to do with God and with everything which is related to God, and it has

an intimate and special relationship to His house. A church is a sacred

place, set apart from all unhallowed and secular uses, for the worship of

God. As worship is prayer, the house of God is a place set apart for

worship. It is no common place; it is where God dwells, where He meets

with His people, and He delights in the worship of His saints.

Prayer is always in place in the house of God. When prayer is a stranger

there, then it ceases to be God’s house at all. Our Lord put peculiar

emphasis upon what the Church was when He cast out the buyers and

sellers in the Temple, repeating the words from Isaiah, “It is written, My

house shall be called the house of prayer.” He makes prayer preeminent,

that which stands out above all else in the house of God. They, who

sidetrack prayer or seek to minify it, and give it a secondary place, pervert

the Church of God, and make it something less and other than it is

ordained to be.

Prayer is perfectly at home in the house of God. It is no stranger, no mere

guest; it belongs there. It has a peculiar affinity for the place, and has,

moreover, a Divine right there, being set, therein, by Divine appointment

and approval.

The inner chamber is a sacred place for personal worship. The house of

God is a holy place for united worship. The prayer-closet is for individual

prayer. The house of God is for mutual prayer, concerted prayer, united

prayer. Yet even in the house of God, there is the element of private

worship, since God’s people are to worship Him and pray to Him,

personally, even in public worship. The Church is for the united prayer of

kindred, yet individual believers.

The life, power and glory of the Church is prayer. The life of its members

is dependent on prayer and the presence of God is secured and retained by

prayer. The very place is made sacred by its ministry. Without it, the

Church is lifeless and powerless. Without it, even the building, itself, is

nothing, more or other, than any other structure. Prayer converts even the

bricks, and mortar, and lumber, into a sanctuary, a holy of holies, where

the Shekinah dwells. It separates it, in spirit and in purpose from all other

edifices. Prayer gives a peculiar sacredness to the building, sanctifies it,

sets it apart for God, conserves it from all common and mundane affairs.

With prayer, though the house of God might be supposed to lack

everything else, it becomes a Divine sanctuary. So the Tabernacle, moving

about from place to place, became the holy of holies, because prayer was

there. Without prayer the building may be costly, perfect in all its

appointments, beautiful for situation and attractive to the eye, but it

comes down to the human, with nothing Divine in it, and is on a level with

all other buildings.

Without prayer, a church is like a body without spirit; it is a dead,

inanimate thing. A church with prayer in it, has God in it. When prayer is

set aside, God is outlawed. When prayer becomes an unfamiliar exercise,

then God Himself is a stranger there.

As God’s house is a house of prayer, the Divine intention is that people

should leave their homes and go to meet Him in His own house. The

building is set apart for prayer especially, and as God has made special

promise to meet His people there, it is their duty to go there, and for that

specific end. Prayer should be the chief attraction for all spiritually minded

church-goers. While it is conceded that the preaching of the Word has an

important place in the house of God, yet prayer is its predominating,

distinguishing feature. Not that all other places are sinful, or evil, in

themselves or in their uses. But they are secular and human, having no

special conception of God in them. The Church is, essentially, religious

and Divine. The work belonging to other places is done without special

reference to God. He is not specifically recognized, nor called upon. In the

Church, however, God is acknowledged, and nothing is done without Him.

Prayer is the one distinguishing mark of the house of God. As prayer

distinguishes Christian from unchristian people, so prayer distinguishes

God’s house from all other houses. It is a place where faithful believers

meet with their Lord.

As God’s house is, preeminently, a house of prayer, prayer should enter

into and underlie everything that is undertaken there. Prayer be longs to

every sort of work appertaining to the Church of God. As God’s house is

a house where the business of praying is carried on, so is it a place where

the business of making praying people out of prayerless people is done.

The house of God is a Divine workshop, and there the work of prayer

goes on. Or the house of God is a Divine schoolhouse, in which the lesson

of prayer is taught; where men and women learn to pray, and where they

are graduated, in the school of prayer.

Any church calling itself the house of God, and failing to magnify prayer;

which does not put prayer in the forefront of its activities; which does not

teach the great lesson of prayer, should change its teaching to conform to

the Divine pattern or change the name of its building to something other

than a house of prayer.

On an earlier page, we made reference to the finding of the Book of the

Law of the Lord given to Moses. How long that book had been there, we

do not know. But when tidings of its discovery were carried to Josiah, he

rent his clothes and was greatly disturbed. He lamented the neglect of

God’s Word and saw, as a natural result, the iniquity which abounded

throughout the land.

And then, Josiah thought of God, and commanded Hilkiah, the priest, to

go and make inquiry of the Lord. Such neglect of the Word of the Law was

too serious a matter to be treated lightly, and God must be inquired of, and

repentance shown, by himself, and the nation:

“Go inquire of the Lord for me, and for them that are left in Israel

and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found; for

great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out upon us, because

our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do after all that

is written in this book.”

But that was not all. Josiah was bent on promoting a revival of religion in

his kingdom, so we find him gathering all the elders of Jerusalem and Judah

together, for that purpose. When they had come together, the king went

into the house of the Lord, and himself read in all the words of the Book of

the Covenant that was found in the house of the Lord.

With this righteous king, God’s Word was of great importance. He

esteemed it at its proper worth, and counted a knowledge of it to be of

such grave importance, as to demand his consulting God in prayer about it,

and to warrant the gathering together of the notables of his kingdom, so

that they, together with himself, should be instructed out of God’s Book

concerning God’s Law.

When Ezra, returned from Babylon, was seeking the reconstruction of his

nation, the people, themselves, were alive to the situation, and, on one

occasion, the priests, Levites and people assembled themselves together as

one man before the water gate.

“And they spake unto Ezra the scribe, to bring the book of the law

of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the

priest brought the law before the congregation, both of men and

women, and all that could hear with understanding. And he read

therein before the street that was before the water gate from the

morning until midday; and the ears of all the people were attentive

unto the book of the law.”

This was Bible-reading Day in Judah — a real revival of Scripture-study.

The leaders read the law before the people, whose ears were keen to hear

what God had to say to them out of the Book of the Law. But it was not

only a Bible-reading day. It was a time when real preaching was done, as

the following passage indicates:

“So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly and gave the

sense, and caused them to understand the reading.”

Here then is the Scriptural definition of preaching. No better definition can

be given. To read the Word of God distinctly — to read it so that the

people could hear and understand the words read; not to mumble out the

words, nor read it in an undertone or with indistinctness, but boldly and

clearly — that was the method followed in Jerusalem, on this auspicious

day. Moreover: the sense of the words was made clear in the meeting held

before the water gate; the people were treated to a high type of expository

preaching. That was true preaching — preaching of a sort which is sorely

needed, today, in order that God’s Word may have due effect on the hearts

of the people. This meeting in Jerusalem surely contains a lesson which all

present-day preachers should learn and heed.

No one having any knowledge of the existing facts, will deny the

comparative lack of expository preaching in the pulpit effort of today.

And none, we should, at least, imagine, will do other than lament the lack.

Topical preaching, polemical preaching, historical preaching, and other

forms of sermonic output have, one supposes, their rightful and

opportune uses. But expository preaching — the prayerful expounding of

the Word of God is preaching that is preaching — pulpit effort par

excellence.

For its successful accomplishment, however, a preacher needs must be a

man of prayer. For every hour spent in his study-chair, he will have to

spend two upon his knees. For every hour he devotes to wrestling with an

obscure passage of Holy Writ, he must have two in the which to be found

wrestling with God. Prayer and preaching: preaching and prayer! They

cannot be separated. The ancient cry was: “To your tents, O Israel! “The

modern cry should be: “To your knees, O preachers, to your knees!”

Advertisements
 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: