- PRAYER - A Way Of Life
- PRAYER - A Constant Communion
- PRAYERLESSNESS - A Cause Of Defeat
We're turning to Ephesians and chapter 6. If you're warm, I'm feeling quite warm - I think the temperature has gone up slightly in last 24 hours, so if you're warm just take your jacket off, or make yourself comfortable in some way so that you can concentrate. We don't want anybody falling asleep in the meeting! [Get comfortable] so that we can hear the word of God. This is our fifth study in the armour of God that we've been going through in Ephesians chapter 6. It is our thirty-second study in the book of Ephesians itself, and we're beginning, as it were, another little series around verse 18 of chapter 6. We've been looking at the many items of the armour of God that we find here, that God gives us as His children to fight the battle of faith.
We're going to read the verses to begin with, from verse 10, the whole of the armour of God. Verse 10 of chapter 6: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God'. Here is our verse, and we'll be spending perhaps three or four weeks on this verse: "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints".
Now I want simply this evening, just to deal with those first few words in verse 18: 'Praying always'. I've entitled this study: 'Constant Prayer' - praying always. Now, we're dealing tonight with the seventh piece of armour within the armour of God - and you might have thought last week as we looked at the sixth piece, the sword of the Spirit, that we were finished looking at the armour of God. But that, I believe, is not the case - for in this passage prayer is given as the energy that enables the Christian soldier to wear the armour of God, and effectively to wield those weapons that he has been given, specifically the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. Therefore as we come to verse 18 in the context of all these verses, we see that prayer is the necessity of every soldier in the battle of the Lord Jesus Christ. It's necessary for a soldier to be in constant communication with his great Captain and Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have learnt in weeks gone by that this battle is the Lord's, it is not our battle, but the battle belongs to the Lord. That is why we stand in the confidence, and stand in the victory that we have in the Lord - it's not in our own strength that we fight against the enemy. So, with that as a backdrop we realise that if we are clothed with the armour of God, given by God to fight and to take on the enemy, it's important that we always keep in communication with our Captain, with the High Command. This is the way, Paul says, that we stand in the strength of the Lord, this is the way that we equip ourselves in the power of His might. Now some scholars link verse 18 with verse 19 and verse 20, and they don't believe that there is a link in the sense that this is part of the armour of God, they believe that the armour of God finishes in verse 17 at the end. They believe that verse 18, 19 and 20 are a section on their own - but I don't believe that. I believe that we're dealing with this evening, in verse 18, the seventh piece of the armour of God Almighty.
We are told: 'Watching', look at verse 18, 'Watching thereunto with all perseverance' - there is the call to battle, the call to be alert, and I believe that's in keeping with the theme of this chapter of the warrior of God, and the armour of God. The other pieces of equipment are important, but once they are adorned by the soldier of God, prayer is the energy with which to walk onto the battlefield. Prayer is the equipment by which the soldier breathes, prayer is the life flowing through his veins, enabling him to fight for God and for Christ. Without prayer, even the greatest Christian that you could ever, or do ever, know is absolutely ineffective and helpless within this holy war without prayer. Now please let me emphasise that: for we go into the battle, and we are to be going into the battle not in our own strength, but if we go into the battle with the girdle, the belt of truth, with the breastplate of righteousness, with our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel, with the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, we are useless! Can I repeat that? We are useless without prayer!
There's no use getting a statue of Montgomery, and putting him onto the battlefields of Europe, and dressing him up in all the armour that you can, and giving him all the medals along his breast that he won - he will do nothing in the battle because there's no blood running through his veins, there's no breath in his lungs, there's no life in him! You might as well push a statue onto a battlefield as go in with all the armour of God upon you, as a child of God, and be without prayer. Now this is so important, this is the climax of our studies. Prayer is the energy of the soldier, do you know why? Because it brings God onto the battlefield, it brings God into your situation, your life conflict, the spiritual warfare and battlefield that we are all engaged in, prayer is the mechanism to let God enter into the midst of it!
You remember in the Old Testament when Amalek attacked Israel, as the children of God were being attacked and all the army were on the battlefield - it was Moses, the man of God, who went up onto the mountaintop to pray. While Joshua used the sword on the ground, there was Moses up on the mountain - Joshua fighting, Moses praying. That is what I want you to get into your mind: that there is this dual-purpose of fighting, but if you don't pray as you're in the battle it's absolutely useless, because prayer is the power behind the victory. Now, prayer is obviously a very topical subject within the Christian church, it's very important. So much talk can go on about prayer, that we don't really define what it is, and that's why I'm taking a few weeks over verse 18 - for I believe that there are different aspects of prayer found in this verse, and if we skim over them we'll lose the whole point of it.
It's not just any kind of prayer that will do for this battle, there is a specific type of prayer found within verse 18. Let me say this before I go on any further: there are very few things that the enemy dreads more than this weapon of prayer, and because of that he would do all in his power to let you understand the first, the second, the third, right to the sixth piece of armour, if you could just forget about the seventh! I believe that is what he has done in our world, and within the church of Jesus Christ - he gets people to forget about prayer. Now you will note that prayer is the seventh piece of armour within this series of adornments for the soldier of God, and you will also know - I'm sure - that seven, within the scripture, is the number of perfection. I believe that is not without significance in our context here, that Paul is saying - the Holy Spirit through him - that this is the perfect, this is the ending, this is the icing, the crown on the head of the armour of God: you need prayer! Without prayer you're useless.
Bunyan called this weapon, and part of the armour, 'All-Prayer'. He says in his great work Pilgrim's Progress: 'So Christian was forced to put up his sword and betake himself to another weapon' - when all had failed he called upon All-Prayer - 'So he cried in my hearing, Oh Lord, I beseech Thee, deliver my soul', All-Prayer! What are we saying? We're saying that prayer is the supreme weapon to be used by the soldier in God's army. Prayer is the weapon that God has given to us that we might wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against these principalities and powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. But if we make the mistake, as half the religious world does today, of thinking that we are just talking this evening about saying our prayers, you may forget about it! What I'm talking about this evening is a lot more than 'saying prayers', we're talking about a weapon of God, we're talking about a prayer, a type of prayer that prevails with God and prevails with men.
Now my question at the outset and at the introduction of our study is this: do your prayers prevail? I believe it was Montgomery, I think it was, Bishop Montgomery who was the grandfather of Montgomery that I've just mentioned, the great commander, who wrote that hymn, great hymn of prayer. One of the verses says: 'I often say my prayers, but do I ever pray?' - a very valid question. Do our prayers prevail with God? I sense, maybe I'm wrong, that some might say: 'Oh, here he goes again. Prayer again, we've heard it before. He gets it into some of his messages, and even when he's not doing a series on it he fits it in! He's talking about it again, about praying!'. Can I say this: that as long as I have breath in my body, and as long as I can preach or talk in any sense, I will preach upon prayer! And I'll not stop, no matter what anybody does or says! Do you know why? Because I am following my Lord Jesus Christ, and that's more important than pleasing men, or tickling ears.
He strove - if you read the Gospels - quite clearly you'll see that He strove to put the saints to prayer in His days of ministry, that was one of His purposes: to get His disciples onto their knees, seeking their heavenly Father! Our Lord Jesus Christ was moved by the laziness of His own disciples not to go into the harvest fields and to pluck, as brands from the burning, the ripened fruit of the harvest - and such lack of labours, such lack of prayers with His own people - He was wont to say: 'Pray ye therefore!'. That's the Lord - pray the Lord of harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest field. You see it was our Lord that said, it's recorded of Him that: 'He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint'.
I believe that the Gospel moves like a snail when the saints are not at prayer early, when the saints are not at prayer late, and when the saints are not at prayer long - and as long as I have the grace of God, and the ability, and the faithfulness given to me by His mercy, I will do all that I can to put the saints of God to prayer! We must have prayer, for it is the energy of God's battle, and if we don't have it we don't have the energy, and we will lose! To that end, let us look at what this prayer, praying always, really is. I've defined it in three ways. First of all: it is a way of life, prayer is a way of life. Secondly: prayer is a constant communion. Thirdly: prayerlessness, the antithesis of this always praying, is the cause of defeat, I believe, within the church.
Now, if you look at verse 18: 'Praying always', literally in the Greek it could be translated like this: 'Praying on all occasions'. Not just in the thick of battle, this is not just a weapon that can be used in the bloody, smoky mass of a warrior's battlefield, but this is a piece of weaponry that can be used in preparation for the battle. It is a thing to be worn so that we are ready to fight. Now, of course, it is critical in the hour of need, and in the hour when the enemy attacks, but this weapon itself must be used before you get into the heat of the war. In verse 13 we see this: 'Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand' - that's the future, isn't it? Take it now that you will be able to stand, so you're being prepared by all prayer for this great battle.
I'm sure that you've already gathered, but I want to really tease this out, that this prayer by necessity and definition in this word 'always praying' is not a sporadic thing. It's not out of the blue, but it's habitual. It's not an isolated act, literally it means 'in every season of life, always praying'. It implies opportunity - in other words, every opportunity you get to pray, you ought to pray! Now we've seen that Colossians is almost a mirror image to parts of this book of Ephesians, and Paul again in Colossians 4:2 reflects this truth, listen: 'Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving'. Again the words are used, Luke 21:36: 'Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man' - watch ye therefore, and pray always!
Now what does this mean? Well, it means first of all that it's not just in emergencies. Isn't it true that sometimes the only word that the Lord hears from us, as His children, is 'Help'? When we need Him - now we need Him all the time, but when we are conscious of our need because of some calamity that has come upon us. You know that praying around the flag pole in America is banned, but I've been told that in a certain American school there's a sign on the wall, and it says this: 'In case of an earthquake the ban against prayer will be temporarily discontinued'. Isn't that the way we view prayer? We use it in an emergency when we need it! But that's not what Paul is talking about, the idea here is that it's a continual thing, a habitual thing, not reserved for special occasions, but - as our first point says - a way of life.
Ivor Powell says of this, let me say that I'll be quoting a great deal of writers tonight, because they say it in a better way than I can say it - and I want to encourage you to go away and read them on prayer. Ivor Powell says: 'Periods of anxious prayer are only known when a doctor suggests a visit to the hospital. When trouble looms on the horizon, or when people are about to lose something they eagerly desire to retain, then they besiege the throne of grace asking for divine intervention! Afterward they go on a vacation, blissfully forgetting that their heavenly Father would dearly love to see a little more of the people whose voices are heard only when the need becomes frightening' - he's right, isn't he? The truth of the matter is, when things are going well there is little use of prayer for many of us. But that is not what Paul's truth that he has had revealed to him is, his truth is: when the sun is shining, when the storm clouds are gathering, prayer is the constant practice of the believer's life - if he calls himself a Christian, and one of Christ's-ones, he is as he said to the Thessalonians: '[to] pray without ceasing'.
Now, let's face it, we're in the battle every day - if you're conscious of it, and if you're not just giving in to every temptation that comes along, you're in the battle everyday. If you're like a corpse every day in the battle, you're not going to get too far. You need that energy, that breath, that vein pulsing through your body, to face the enemy. So that necessitates that it must be a habitual, daily practice ingrained in your life - not something only when we face trouble. Arthur T. Pearson wrote a biography on that great Christian George Mueller. One day Arthur Pearson was sitting with him, talking to him about the great provision that God had brought for Mueller by his faith and his prayer. As they were talking together about God their provider, Mueller was writing a letter and Pearson noticed that he was having difficulty within the nib of his pen, it didn't seem to be working right. Right in the middle of their conversation together, Mueller bowed his head in prayer and prayed to God for a few moments. Then he began writing again, and Pearson asked: 'What were you praying about?' - and Mueller said: 'Well, perhaps you didn't notice I was having trouble with this pen point, and I haven't got another pen point, and this is an important letter, so I was asking the Lord to help me so that I could write it clearly'. 'Dear me', said Pearson, 'a man who trusts God for millions of pounds also prays about a scratchy pen point'.
That's what Paul's talking about here: a way of life. Not just praying about the big things, but praying about all things at all times - when things are going well, when things are not going well, we need strength for the battle. We can't think that we can just rush into the throne room of God when we're in trouble, push into His presence by some quiet time that's relegated in some part of our week - or even some part of our day, let me say! But in the midst of God's battle the soldier has a constant, every moment, need to fall on his knees, knee-deep in prayer - he fights on his knees! You may not have heard of Edward Payson, but he said this: 'Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, and the third thing necessary to ministry. Pray, therefore, my dear brother, pray, pray, pray!'. And the biographer of Payson said this: 'Prayer was pre-eminently the business of his life'. That's what I'm talking about, and that's why those who have followed him called him 'Praying Payson of Portland'.
Let me tell you a story about him. When they were preparing his coffin, they were taking his clothes worn off him, and they found that his knees were calloused, like James the great apostle of prayer. They went into his bedroom and they noticed at the side of his bed - he had no carpet, none of the luxuries that we have - but at the side of his bed there were two grooves in the floorboards, six inches long. You know how they got there - a way of life, a way of living, to be in constant intercession, so much so that your life ploughs into creation by the very fact that you're crying to God right with every breath that you have. Now I want to say this: no man is greater than his prayer life. Listen: no man is greater than his prayer life, and that cuts us down to size, doesn't it? I don't care how well you preach, it doesn't matter how many books a man has written or a man has read, it doesn't matter how well he is in dispensational prophetic teaching, doesn't matter. All God wants to know is how much his heart follows after Him.
Now my friends, this is serious stuff, this is a life of prayer, this is learning it young - and I hope the young people learn this young, that they're never ever going to impress God by anything that they are, or anything that they have, but like Enoch if they would walk with God they would please God! Oh, that we would learn it as an assembly, that in the book of Acts they all continued - all of them - with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren. Acts 2:42: 'They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers'. You see, the reason why I labour this subject so much is because the Lord Jesus, as I've already said, was a man of prayer. He was a teacher of prayer. E.M. Bounds says this, listen: 'The Lord essentially was the teacher of prayer, it covered the whole of His life. He was the suppliant of all suppliants, He was the intercessor of all intercessors. On earth He knew no higher law, no holier business, no diviner life, than to plead to God for men. On earth He lived and prayed and died for men. In heaven He knows no more higher royal estate, no higher theme, than to intercede for men. His life, His death, and His exaltation, all plead for men. Is there any higher work for the disciple to do than that his Lord did? Is there any loftier employment?' - no there isn't!
Can you see Him going into the wilderness? Can you see Him climbing up the mountain to pray? Can you see Him kneeling in the garden? Can you see Him withdrawing from the crowd that press upon Him for attention? He must, He must needs pray. As the poet put it like this:
'How oft He sought the mountain top, and knelt upon its crest,
To pray and lay His weary head upon His Father's breast.
Before He called the twelve to Him, He prayed all night alone,
And when the day began to dawn, He chose them for His own.
They saw Him lift up holy hands, and raise His tear-stained eyes,
Again they saw Him on His knees, and with new strength arise.
The awe of His appealing words grew greater day by day,
Until they humbly said to Him: Lord, teach us how to pray!'.
S. D. Gordon, who has written many books on prayer, said this of our Lord: 'The Lord Jesus is still praying. Thirty years of living, three years of serving, one tremendous act of dying, 2000 years of prayer - what an emphasis on prayer!'. When men's lives are full of prayer in the quiet place, they don't need to waffle in the prayer meeting. When men are praying long at home, do you know all they need as they walk along their way? A little arrow to God and they have power with God, because their life is saturated with Him in presence of prayer - a life of prayer! What am I talking about? I'm talking about you and God! I'm talking about prayer, you and your wife, you and your family, you and your meal, you and your decisions - in all your ways acknowledging Him! Och, I know the cry comes: 'I'm too busy'. Do you know what the tragedy is today? We are too busy! We are fatally too busy when we have no time for this great occupation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now I want to bring a note of caution, because I don't want to create the impression to you this evening that long praying is always good praying, because it's not always good praying. But let me say this: if you're praying well you'll be spending a lot of time over it. We don't want to get the stage where we are measuring our prayer life by the quantity of time that we have God, looking at the clock: 'I've got by 10 minutes, or 20 minutes, or half an hour' - that's not the reason why I'm talking about always praying. But what I want to emphasise and impress upon your mind from the word of God is this: much time is needed with God in prayer! Much time! The great Spurgeon, I'm led to believe, said - and I've said this before - that he couldn't, at times, pray any more than 20 minutes long, but he said that 20 minutes never ever went by that he didn't pray to God. That is living by prayer, that's a life of prayer with God.
It's not a hasty decision that you run like a comer and a goer into the presence of God, but what I'm talking about is Jacob's victory - if Jacob hadn't wrestled with God all night he wouldn't have got the blessing! Don't dilute it! Don't doctor and mechanic the word of God! He had to wrestle with God! We have to wrestle too. I'm talking about what Daniel did, three times a day he set his face toward God to seek Him. I'm talking about the apostle Paul, he prayed day and night. David: 'Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice'! How do we measure up?
It's a way of life, but secondly: it is a constant communion. People look at this verse and they say: 'Well, what did he mean? You know, is this possible? Always praying?'. Well there's a dual answer to that: yes and no. No, it's not possible to carry on a running dialogue with God every moment of the day, that isn't possible for anyone to do throughout all of our business. We can't be continually saying our prayers in a sense, but that assumes that praying is a running dialogue with God. As far as I can understand from the word of God it's not, it's not just talking out loud to God, it's not just consciously talking to Him through your mind, that's not what prayer is within the word of God. There are various types of prayer, and some of them include those types of things, but more than that: prayer is an attitude of dependence, conscious dependence on God. It may not be a continual dialogue in your mind or out of your mouth, but it is conscious nevertheless. You are aware that you are in the presence of God, and it is possible - Yes! It is possible! - to know that all of the time.
We're not talking about much speaking, that the Lord talked about in Matthew 6, but we're talking about a constant communion with the Lord Jesus - in other words, as one man said: 'Keeping the receiver off the hook'. We should never have to say when we're coming into prayer: 'Lord, we come into Thy presence' - now I know it's a matter of form that we say that, but in a sense we should always as a child of God be in the presence of God. Let me say in relation to the armour of God: if that is our disposition, none of the devil's attacks will find us off our guard. That is Paul's point: if you continue in prayer as a way of life, if you continue always praying as a constant communion with God, he will never get a foothold!
Now, what does this mean, this constant communion? Thomas Kelly, in his book 'Testament of Devotion', says this: 'There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one level at once. On one level we can be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of our external affairs - but deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, in song and in worship, and a gentle receptiveness to the divine breathings of God'. Oh, this is wonderful. This was the vision of the medieval monk that I keep mentioning to you, Brother Lawrence. Do you know what he said? 'The time of business does not differ with me from one time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in a great tranquillity as if I were on my knees'.
John Fletcher, whose whole life was a life of prayer, it is said of him that he wouldn't rise from his seat without rising his heart to God. Robert Murray McCheyne said: 'I ought to spend the best hours in communion with God, it is my noblest and most fruitful employment and is not to be thrust into a corner. The morning hours from 6 to 8 are most uninterrupted and should be thus employed. After tea is my best hour, and that should be solemnly dedicated to God. I ought not to give up the good old habit of prayer before going to bed, but guard must be kept against sleep. When I awake in the night I ought to rise and pray. A little time after breakfast might be given to intercession' - what a man! What a life of prayer! This was the man who also said: 'What a man is on his knees, he is, and no more'!
Now please don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that you go away and make the mistake that many men, including myself, have made, and try to imitate these great men of God - because you'll not do it. You will fail. Imitating Mueller, imitating Murray McCheyne - but what I do want you to do is get the vision that they had, get the desire to be men and women of prayer like they were. If you come to God with such a holy, righteous desire spawned by His Spirit in your soul, and ask Him: 'Lord, teach me to pray like these men prayed' - He'll lead you! Start off small now, don't be trying to do great things too fast, but come to God - but whatever you do, start somewhere! Don't do what most do and give a wink and a nod, and a casual approach to prayer that, in the eyes of God, means nothing in heaven.
John Wesley had this experience of a constant communion with God, let me quote him: 'His heart', his biographer said this, 'Wesley's heart is ever lifted up to God, at all times, and in all places, in all this he is never hindered, much less interrupted, by any person or by anything. In retirement or in company, in leisure or in business, in conversation his heart is ever with the Lord. Whether he lie down or rise up God is in all of his thoughts. He walks with God continually, having the loving eye of his mind still fixed upon Him, and everywhere seeing Him that is invisible'. Now we asked this question: praying always, is it possible as a way of life? Yes! Praying always, is it possible as a constant communion with God, that is conscious in mind and heart? Yes! Oh, it's possible! It's possible for the housewife and the full-time mother, the businessman, the student - it's possible. As Watchman Nee said, this is the normal Christian life.
But thirdly, here's the antithesis of it: prayerlessness - not praying always, and that is the cause of defeat. Richard Sibbes said this: 'When we go to God by prayer, the devil knows we go to fetch strength against him, and therefore he opposeth us all that he can'. He knows the armour of God as well as you, he can read you know! In fact he can quote the word of God, and he knows that you will get power to fight him in prayer, always praying - and he will do all in his power to stop you praying! Now how's he doing it? It's right that:
'The devil trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees'.
And the devil, the enemy, is watching always for a breaking of contact between headquarters and the soldier on the battlefield - and he wants to take advantage of every interruption in communication. That means, to impress it upon you again, that we must be constantly in prayer, because we are constantly in danger! It is my fear that in the age in which we live, neither with preacher nor with people is much intent on God. Leonard Ravenhill, in his book 'Why Revival Tarries' which I have recommended so many times - it's in the bookstall - he says this: 'We have many organisers, but few agonisers; many players and payers, but few pray-ers; many singers, but few clingers; lots of pastors, but few wrestlers; many fears, but few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, and few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters' - and I've added one of my own: a few less preachers on prophecy, and a few more prophets of prayer! We need to be in the battle now!
Bounds said: 'One of the crying evils of these times, maybe of all times, is little or no praying. Of these two evils, perhaps little praying is worse than no praying. Little praying', he says, 'is a kind of make-believe, a salve for the conscience, a farce and a delusion. The little estimate we put on prayer is evident from the little time we give to it'. Do we pray for a few moments before we run to the bus, or drive to the office, and think that that is prayer? That is not prayer, certainly not the prayer that Paul's talking about here - 'always praying'. There is a danger that the church can get occupied by peripheral things, by its mechanisms, by its organisations, even by its preaching - the Pastor can get so engrossed, losing himself in the sermon [so much] that he loses God in the sermon. There is this great danger, and we must beware that we do not let anything orientate us but God! As one man quipped it: 'When the church paid the place was taken, but in the book of Acts when they prayed the ground was shaken'.
My friends tonight, as we close in this last seven or so minutes let me say this: Sodom's sin in the Old Testament was not the sin of sodomy, homosexuality, but we read in Ezekiel that their sin, 'their iniquity', I quote, '[was] fullness of bread and abundance of idleness' - well-off and lazy. In the book of the Revelation the Lord Jesus Christ Himself says to the church at Ephesus: 'Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent' - what a terrible thing! The hymnwriter put it like this, I believe he was thinking of the same thing, and many of us could bring this from our hearts as a song to God:
'What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still,
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill'.
Myers, the poet, put it like this, listen:
'O stars of heaven that fade and flame,
O whispering waves below,
Was earth, or heaven, or I, the same
A year, a year ago?
The stars have kept their home on high,
The waves their wanted flow,
But the love is lost that once was I
A year, a year ago!'
How is our prayer life? How is our love for God which is our prayer book, day by day in the daily life of the assembly, and the daily pilgrimage of the child of God that is in this place at this moment? How is it? Can you remember the day when you were a fire of prayer? Like Lord Baron could you say:
'I now have ashes where once I had fire,
The soul in my body is dead.
The thing I once loved I now merely admire,
My heart is as grey as my head'.
Our God is a consuming fire, and that is what we need - on the altar, the fire of God to fall on the kneel-altar of our hearts. We need to get to the place of prayer again, and if we were half as spiritual as we think we are there would be great things happening for God - but we need to get on our face before God and seek Him, always praying! You see, the danger of the Laodicean church is that they say: 'I have need of nothing' - and the result is we have not because we ask not. I know that there's a great need for people to get comfort today, and I hope through the ministry of the word of God that there is comfort. There are a lot who are sad, and there are a lot who are sorrowing and they have great need in this day - but let me say this: it is not behoven of a child or a preacher of God's gospel to watch a friend's house burning down and let him sleep in his lethargy and his laziness, and let him be damned! We must awake, we must stir ourselves up again, we must be like old John Welsh, the Scotsman who kept a shawl at the side of his bed to wrap himself in when he arose to pray at night. On one occasion his wife complained when she found him lying on the floor weeping and crying, and he would reply: 'Oh woman, I have the souls of 3000 to answer for, and I know not how it is with many of them!'. Oh that God would give us that spirit, for that is His Holy Spirit.
Our prayer must be constant prayer. Constant prayer as a way of life, constant prayer as a consistent communion with God Almighty, and we must beware of prayerlessness for that is the cause of defeat. F.B. Meyer said: 'With the perpetual use of the weapon of All-Prayer, there is no enemy born of hell that shall be able to withstand us'.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the thirty-second tape in his Ephesians series, titled "The Holy War Part 5: Constant Prayer" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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