Where? (I Tim. 2:8).
What? (Matt. 9:38).
When? (I Thess. 5:17).
Who? (Heb. 11:6).
Why? (Matt. 18:20).
How? (Jude 1:20).
We are approaching a lesson of utmost significance. Prayer carries with it, to many minds, much of mystery. Some seem to think that a real prayer life lies beyond the average saint. Some imagine that only the older believers can have real unction in approaching the throne of grace.
It is our purpose to make this message simple and easily understood. It is true that prayer carries us into the presence of the Most Holy God, and that as we approach the throne we need to go with bared head, and contrite heart saying, "Hallowed be Thy name." It is also true that all who are children have a right to the Father's face and that they need not hesitate to use their privileges.
God's heart is open to His own. Access is ours. The veil into the Holiest of all is rent. Therefore let us draw nigh, that we may find mercy and grace to help in our time of need.
In Heavenly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid,
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?
Wherever He may guide me,
No want shall turn me back;
My Shepherd is beside me,
And nothing can I lack.
His wisdom ever waketh,
His sight is never dim,
He knows the way He taketh,
And I will walk with Him.
Green pastures are before me,
Which yet I have not seen;
Bright skies will soon be o'er me,
Where darkest clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure,
My path to life is free,
My Saviour has my treasure,
And He will walk with me.
"I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath or doubting" (I Tim. 2:8).
Certainly the obedient and Spirit-filled believer should never be found in a place where he could not have liberty in prayer and full approach unto God.
1. The place to pray is anywhere, everywhere. It is not necessary to confine our approach to God to the sanctuary, set apart for worship. On land or sea, on crowded street or sequestered dale, the child of God may find access to the Father.
There is only one place where a believer cannot pray and that is in the place of disobedience, the place where God is left out.
The obedient and Spirit-filled saint can pray anywhere. Satan may imprison him, and shut him in away from his loved ones and away from his fellow saints, but he cannot shut him away from God.
2. The closet is a place for prayer. "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matt. 6:6).
We said above that the believer could not be shut in, away from God; we wish to say now, that the believer, in prayer, needs to be shut in with God.
There is a danger in public prayer. In public we are tempted to pray to the ears of men. The public prayer may easily be used as an opportunity to speak unto men to edification and instruction. Thus, prayer becomes more preaching to men, than communing- with God.
There is power in private prayer. When we are in the closet with God, when the door is shut and the people are all shut out, we are much more likely to open up our hearts acceptably to Him Who alone hears our voice. The closet prayer will have its power felt in public blessing. God will reward us openly.
3. The house top is a place for prayer. Acts 10:9: "On the morrow as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city. Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour."
Peter perhaps, found no closet handy, but he found the top of His dwelling a fit place to meet His God. Above him was the clear sky that opened toward the holy place of the Lord's abiding.
There must have been many precious hours spent there by the Apostle. He had been on Olivet's crest as His Lord had ascended up on High, he had seen the cloud receive Him out of sight and he delighted to lift his face upward and to commune with His Master and His God.
4. The mountain top is a place for prayer. It was there that the Lord often resorted to meet His Father. Many wonderful happenings occurred on the mountain tops, described in the Holy Scriptures, but none of them was more blessed than the prayer scene where Christ prayed and where He was transfigured.
Matthew 17:1, 2: "And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light."
One other mountain prayer scene stands forth with exceeding value. It is described in Matthew 14:22-36. Christ had sent the multitudes away; the disciples had been sent across the Sea of Galilee; the Lord had, Himself, gone up "into a mountain apart to pray."
While the boat was in the midst of the sea, tossed of the waves, Christ was alone in prayer, and they were, beyond doubt, the object of His care. So also, as we are in the midst of many sorrows and cares, our Lord is on the mountain top, at God's right hand, praying for us.
5. God's house is a place for prayer. It was Christ Who said:
Mark 11:17: "Is it not written, My House shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves."
Certainly we have many suggestions that the House of God is a place for prayer. It is where two or three are gathered together that Christ promises to be present to bless.
While we place emphasis upon the secret prayer life, we must not fail to continue the prayer in the public place. There are many blessings dependent upon the united prayers of the children of God.
"Pray without ceasing" (I Thess. 5:17).
The time to pray is any time, all the time.
The only time a believer cannot pray is when his sins have separated between him and God.
However the Bible has something to say about special times for prayer. Let us gather up these suggestions.
1. In the morning. "In the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee" (Ps. 5:3). In the morning hour the mind is fresh for prayer. In the morning the one who prays stands on the threshold of the needs and opportunities of a new day. It is well to spend a while with God before one seeks to meet the demands of active toil. In the home and on the street, in the line of business, or of pleasure there are sure to arise difficulties and temptations which require Divine help. It is not possible for any man to walk apart from God, and at the same time to walk acceptably—the morning prayer is a most needed preparation.
2. Three times a day. "Evening and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice" (Ps. 55:17).
It is not enough to pray in the morning hour and then to forget the Lord for the rest of the day.
No man should allow business to crowd out his time for fellowship with God. Who ever had more cares than David? Yet, David prayed three times a day. Who ever had a busier or more responsible position than Daniel? Yet, Daniel prayed three times a day.
It was of Daniel we read: "And his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God."
The fireman does not put in coal in the morning for the whole day's trip, but he puts in coal from time to time, as it is needed.
We need to get alone with God at least three times a day and seek His face. How differently we would live if we spent more time in prayer.
3. At night. He "continued all night in prayer to God" (Luke 6:12). Of Christ it was written: "I cry in the night season and am not silent." The Lord loved the quietness of the night. He was too much concerned with His task, and too deeply happy in the fellowship of His Father to become sleepy.
Paul and Silas could pray at night. David sought the Lord as he lay upon his bed.
4. Always. "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1). No circumstance can arise which should be allowed to put an end to prayer. No night can be so dark, no cloud hang so low; no storm can be so fierce, that Jesus Christ will not hear and heed the cry of His own. If the unjust judge heard the cry of the widow, and avenged her, because she came continually and wearied him, how much more shall our God of love and tender compassion hear and avenge His own elect who cry unto Him day and night.
5. Instantly. "Continuing instant in prayer" (Rom. 12:12).
We should always live in such close relationship with God that at any moment of particular trial or distress we can instantly pray with acceptance and with power.
We should always live in such close touch with God, that at every opportunity for prayer we can buy it up—redeem it for God.
We should never use prayer as merely a convenience, to be used in a moment of great and sudden sorrow. Why should we quickly throw ourselves down at the feet of the One we have long neglected? Should we not the rather continue instant in prayer—in every moment, whether in joy or in sorrow, in peace or in dire need, then any special crisis coming upon us, will find us fully prepared to have prompt access to God.
5. Unceasingly. "Pray without ceasing" (I Thess. 5:17). At first thought, this seems an impossibility. However, the message for us is this: God wants us to live without breaking connections.
The string of cars may be connected to the engine when the cars are in repose, the same as when they are running. We should always carry the sense of His presence. We should know the blessedness of an unbroken communion. We should live with no clouds to separate us from our Lord. We should keep ourselves in the love of God, praying in the Holy Spirit.
"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20).
There are some blessed reasons for pressing on to victory in our prayer life. We will mention four of these.
1. Prayer will give us fellowship with Christ. This is expressed in—"There am I in the midst of them." Here is the first blessing in prayer. A real companionship with Christ, and a real companionship with the Father may be ours. Blessed privilege! "Let us draw near," is the precious call of prayer. "We have access unto the Father" is the assurance of the prayer life.
2. Prayer will transform us into Christ's image. "As He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered" (Luke 9:29).
Of course, the work of the Holy Spirit is to transform us into the image of Christ, from glory unto glory; but the prayer life is where the Spirit can most quickly perfect this transformation.
3. Prayer is the place of revelation. (1) A new revelation of Christ Himself. Peter, James, and John beheld the Lord's transfiguration, for they went with Christ into the mountain to pray. They said: "It is good for us to be here." It is always good for us to be with the Lord in prayer. We there behold new revelations of His person and of His grace.
(2) A new revelation of God's purposes. When we are in prayer, God designs to give us manifestations of His purposes. Abraham communed with God and God said: "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" (Gen. 18:17). No, God did not hide His purpose from Abraham, because He knew Abraham. Thus it was that Abraham, by special revelation, had a new basis for prayer, and pled in Lot's behalf.
4. Prayer brings power. How precious the words: "When they had prayed, the place was shaken" (Acts 4:31). Prayer does things. The Bible emphasizes "Whatsoever ye ask * * I will do." Bless God for the wonderful results of prayer! Who is there that cannot tell of wonderful answers to prayers, and of the wonderful blessings in soul-winning that have followed continued and faithful praying?
Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech (see Gen. 20:17).
When Moses prayed unto the Lord, the fire was quenched (see Num. 11:2).
Elijah prayed and the Shunammite's son lived (see II Kings 4:33-37).
Isaiah prayed and the Lord cut off the mighty men of Assyria (see II Chron. 32:20, 21).
Peter prayed and Dorcas lived (see Acts 9:40).
Paul and Silas prayed and the jail was opened and the jailer saved (see Acts 16:25).
"Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest" (Matt. 9:37,38).
There are so many avenues for prayer, that it would take books to consider them all.
Every mother finds need for prayer in the many intricate problems that arise in the home life. When there is friction between husband and wife, as there is so frequently today, judging by the divorce records, there is need for prayer. When business prospers and when business fails there is need for prayer. The many wolves now going about in sheep's clothing, present a strong call for prayer. Every step in the church's march, demands prayer. The missionary, the pastor, the individual member are all themes for prayer.
The best we can do is to consider a few "prayer specials" set forth in the Word.
The above are some of the many commanded prayers and the things for which saints did pray. Surely with these before us, we should not find it at all difficult to fill in a large prayer life, if we really want to pray.
"What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer!
"Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
"Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?—
Precious Saviour, still our refuge,—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer,
In His arms He'll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there."
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).
Our key verse gives some very definite information as to who can acceptably approach God in prayer. What does it say? "He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."
We are often asked if the unbeliever can pray. Certainly not. He may go through a form of prayer, but he cannot get a hearing with God. A poor lost sinner may pray "God be merciful to me a sinner," but as he prays that prayer he must sense his own sin, and possess a God-given faith in Christ. He is heard and saved only as he believes in saving grace.
A sinner, therefore, can truly pray, only as he comes with his sins to the Cross and seeks salvation, believing that God both is, and is the rewarder of his search.
For our part we think it quite out of place to even use the commonly-called Lord's prayer in any public assembly where the unsaved are asked to join in and to say "Our Father."
Let the unsaved know that there is no approach to God save through Jesus Christ, and that they who have rejected the Son have not the Father and c�