The Believer at Prayer
Chapter 2 The Challenge of Prayer
Let me gather up in a sentence or two the path of our previous reflection. We saw that in prayer we were able to meet in living fellowship with God. That was its greatest encouragement, that was the highest experience that can be known by any human being. There we have the secret of holiness and of power, lifting us up to those places where our soul desires to be. And what He is doing in Heaven, we must do on earth. In Heaven prayer is supreme; and so in my life it must be even so! The supreme activity of the Saviour's risen life is that " He ever liveth to make intercession for us." Hence, if that life of His is in me, then there must be in my character an activity corresponding with His. But how can I make it so? I see the difficulties of time; but I know that Jesus has given up eternity to it. Therefore let your prayer be, Oh God, since I have received the risen life of Jesus Christ, and that risen life of Jesus in Heaven is given up to prayer, show me how my life in Christ may find a corresponding manifestation. I want to deal with the challenge of prayer.
I want us to see what Scripture says what prayer can do. It will be for you as an individual to ask yourself whether you are concerned about the things that prayer can do. Then you should carefully determine, while waiting patiently and without hurry before God, if you are doing those things, not by God's method of prayer, but by your own method, plan, and energy. In this mighty issue today, when God wants his people to be on their knees the challenge comes to us, are you willing to be a man or woman of prayer?
The world is in satanic chaos; but God is omnipotent. The believer alone, (mark this, do not miss it) though despised by the world, can make the power of God active in human life. It is beyond the power of human flesh to do it. But the child of God can do it and he by prayer only. But it is only as we look at it like that that we begin to realise something of the poverty of one's spiritual life. Now let us see what prayer can do as it is set forth in the New Testament. Listen to our Lord. " Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest that He will thrust forth labourers into His harvest." Not more labourers. There is not a single labourer in the harvest-field except he be sent of God. There are plenty of spectators. But God is speaking about labourers Will you, believe that intercession is not a way of getting labourers? That is a cheap and easy way of looking at it. Intercession is the only way of getting labourers. Every such labourer has been the subject of prayer; he is a sent apostle of God.
There are plenty of busy people in the harvest-field. But God is not talking about busy people; He is talking about labourers; about soul-winners; and soul-winners are born upon the knees of intercessors. It is not God's poverty, it is our prayerlessness. The world is in sore need of someone to lead God's people into revival. The challenge to you and me is this: Will you pray? Blessing can come by no other method than by the prayers of God's people. We are to pray without ceasing. St. Paul tells us in his Epistle to the Ephesians, that we are to put on the whole armour of God; that we are to fight against principalities and powers, for we fight not against flesh and blood. It is the task of the Church of God to pull down the strongholds to remove mountains.
God, first of all, opens a man's eyes to see the essential details of the situation in which he lives. We must go to God believingly, knowing that God is going to pull down that stronghold of the evil one. There is not a single stronghold that cannot be broken down by prayer alone. It is possible. Our Lord has said, " Greater things than these shall ye do because I go unto my Father. Every child of God has been promised victory over Satan. The child of God gets victory over sin by identification with Christ in death at Calvary; but he gets the victory over Satan by prayer. It is prayer that binds the strong man. Pray to Christ in the heavenly places that He will bind the strong man. Nothing but prayer can touch the powers of darkness. "For Satan trembles when he sees, the true believer on his knees." That is more than poetry for that is a reality. It is prayer that gives us victory over that evil power that is throttling the church and paralysing the hearts of men.
Every child of God can gain the victory over the evil one by prayer. Prayer for the utterance of the Word is essential for the preacher; for no preacher can get utterance of the Word except by prayer. His own spirit must be free before God, before he addresses others. Otherwise he becomes but an echoing voice, a sounding brass, tinkling symbol, carrying no conviction to the people who listen. He must be a man of prayer, lest the birds of the air come and snatch away the good seed, and it be lost. If truth is to get through to men, truth not in the coldness of the refrigerator, but in the vitality and warmth of the love of God, if truth is to get through to men, and to do its mighty work, it can only be by prayer. Nothing else will do it. And then we are to pray for every situation in life."Pray, lest ye enter into temptation." Notice our Lord's words " enter into temptation." Do you go off to business in the morning without spending time with God. You may think that you are a very strong Christian, but without prayer it is impossible to go through any day without entering into temptation. We all need to pray daily; "Oh, God, I am going out into the world to-day, a world that is beset with subtle snares. I know not what temptations may come to me. Oh, God, my prayer goes up to Thee. Save me lest I enter into temptation. Save me, lest I find my heart and mind and will in correspondence with the temptations of the enemy." Oh, do not embark upon the duties of the day without putting yourself into God's hands. Otherwise you will inevitably put yourself into Satan's hands
Then what about times of sorrow and disaster? What is the usual practice of the Christian? Is it not often to be absorbed in the trial? But that is not the supreme need. The supreme need in such an hour is to get to God in prayer, and not to leave the throne of grace until you are absolutely at peace with God, even in those circumstances. And then we are told to " pray for them that despitefully use you." We think of all the personal issues that come up in life; life throbs with them. What does God say to us in our contacts with other people. He says that we are to pray for them. You have been wounded to the heart by somebody; Then go to God, and say,"Oh, God, I thank Thee for another one for my prayer list." If you do not do that, Satan will get hold of you. He will paralyse, as far as fruitfulness is concerned, everything you are doing in life. You go on with your work, but you are conscious of the fact that you have lost the power. You see, you have a grudge, you bear illwill, and that can only be rooted out by prayer. Nothing else will do it.
Start to pray for the man who has injured you and commence like this, " Oh, God, what a sinner I have been." There must be a humble confession of sin on your part because you will need to get restored to God's favour first. Then you will learn to pray for the other man. When you might have entered into temptation YOU sought to bring blessing to him. God wanted an intercessor; one who could bear him up before the throne of God for that is one of the biggest things in life. Again I say, God wants men and women who can pray like that. I have only just touched upon what prayer can do. I have tried to put it in a practical way, in a way that might come home to everyone of us in a simple fashion. You may have to say to God, " Oh, God, I have no money that I can give to Thee. I have no ability. My life is beset with things that prevent me from doing anything really great. I have not had the education or the upbringing, that some have had. I am not living in an environment that makes things easy for me to be true to Thee." Will you pray ? What are you saying to God now? Forgive me for being so personal. But I want you to know what God can do, and will do; and He does it every time through the believer's prayer.
You may have to say, I have never seen prayer to be such a necessity as now. I have never seen before that in some mysterious way that was the principle of the divine activity, God working through the prayers of His people. You have been a Christian for so many years yet you know so little about it. You may be like a child sitting down to a piano for the first time; the fingers are so stiff. Ask God to teach you. You may be unable to pray effectively because you have never prayed persistently and regularly. Your prayers have been so formal. " Oh, God, bless father and mother; bless all the missionaries in the mission field." No, God wants something stronger that that from Christians who are growing. He wants Christians who are going to give themselves up to Him, and who are going to pray through for revival.
Jacob held on to God until God blessed him, even though it meant for him deformity. But until that blessing came Jacob would not let Him go. The blessing of God will come, the life of God will be ours, because we have prevailed in prayer. God longs for intercessors. Will you begin to intercede? Will you say to Him, " Lord teach me to pray; help me to serve Thy ends. Lord, make me an intercessor." If that prayer is on your lips, and in your heart, God is going to bring a marvellous blessing to you, and to the Church you attend, and to the neighbourhood in which you live. All that He wants of you is your prayers; if He gets your prayers He will get all. We have seen the light. We have been offering God something else, but from this hour He will show us that what we are offering Him is unacceptable, because we have not offered Him our prayers. Seek His face. " Blessed Jesus, Thou art at this very moment praying in Heaven. Teach me to pray."
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