- General Prayer - "all prayer"
- a. Praise
- b. Confession
- c. Waiting
- d. Scripture
- e. Intercession
- f. Singing
- g. Listening
- Specific Prayer - "and supplication"
Ephesians and chapter 6 again, Ephesians 6 - and just in case it is your first time here, and you're breaking into the thirty-third study in the book of Ephesians, then why did you leave this late to come? Now we're on number 33! I can't re-cap that whole book for you tonight I'm afraid! Let me just say that we are the study on the armour of God, and this is our sixth study in the armour of God. We've been looking at the six pieces of the armour that most of us are well acquainted with within chapter 6. We are looking, and have been looking last week, and we will be looking this week, and in the weeks that lie ahead when I return, we'll be looking at this seventh piece of the armour which is entitled: 'All-Prayer'. We're doing our best not to rush over this verse 18, that depicts All-Prayer, because there are many important facets of this weapon in God's armour that we must not neglect, or look over, or ignore.
So, last week we were looking at the first part of verse 18 which said: 'Praying always'. This week we're going to look at the second part: 'With all prayer'. Let us read - it's important, and I hope that as we read these verses together that you're beginning to memorise them, because I know that they're getting into my head as we read over them week after week. So we'll read from verse 10 again: "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", the methods, "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", or heavenly, "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. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do" - and we'll leave it there.
Let's just take a moment to bow in prayer again, it's important that we ask the Lord's protection as we look at such a portion of Scripture. Father, we have been instructed that the devil is our enemy and is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. So we pray that You will shut his mouth tonight, Lord that You will bind him and put him out of this place, and that Jesus the Lord Christ may reign in our gathering tonight - that He might have the pre-eminence, and that through Him we would know the victory ground tonight, to His glory. Amen.
The holy war, and the armour is such an important thing within that holy war. We've looked at constant prayer, and now we look at All-Prayer - and indeed that's how Bunyan depicted it within Pilgrim's Progress, this piece of armour, the seventh, the perfect piece of armour. The piece of armour - perhaps we could say - that is the most important piece of armour that we cannot do without. We know that it is not the armour that makes the warrior, it cannot be. It cannot be the weapons that win the fight, there must be something more - and it must be, as we looked at last week, the courage and the strength that is within that warrior, yes adorned with that great armour, but he must have courage and he must have energy. Verse 10 tells us that that energy, that strength, and that courage is not our own, but it is of the Lord. To stand in the strength of the Lord!
We know that if that strength is to be imputed into our lives, and if we are to come into the good of it within the battle that we may be in day by day, it has to be adorned by prayer. We know - and if you don't know this, I would question whether you're in the battle - that we need help within the battle. I needed help today in the battle, I need help every day in the battle. It is so important, as we've been learning, that the soldier on the bloody battlefield never ever loses contact with High Command and with the Captain of our salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian must have this divine energy, this force of courage and strength for the battle that he faces day by day. It must be a constant communication - it is not something that we can leave off at any time, for when we do so we give the enemy a foothold. We ought not for one moment to be ignorant of his devices.
But varied prayer, that we are looking at this evening, flows out of constant prayer that we looked at last Monday night. For if we are praying continually and if our prayer is, as we thought, a way of life and a constant communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, if we are living lives of constant, continual prayer we will face various situations. In those situations we will need various types of prayer. That is why God has given us those types of prayer, and when we constantly face differing deadly situations in the battle, we can - praise the Lord - take hold upon these parts of the armour of God, and fight the battle of faith with All-Prayer. It's wonderful, isn't it, to know that there is a type of prayer for every situation. All that life can throw at us, there is nothing that is immune from the prayer that God gives us to use. In the battle, if we are skilled in the art of All-Prayer, and all the types of prayer that God has given to us, we will constantly, day by day, have the victory over the enemy.
Now that is so important as we come to this study this evening. I want to be as practical as I possibly can as we come to this second phrase in verse 18, and to do so I'll be quoting from many writers and Christians of bygone days to show you this varied prayer that many of them used, and we find it within the word of God. Look at verse 18: 'Praying always with all prayer and supplication' - now that's what I want us to look at tonight - 'All prayer and supplication'. Two types of prayer: all prayer and supplication. I believe that Paul is differentiating [between] - as you see on your sheet from the first point and the second point - first of all general prayer, which is all prayer, and secondly specific, definite, direct prayer, which is described as supplication.
Now let's look at the first: all prayer, which is general prayer. You could say, as one man has put it, that this is all sorts of prayer at all sorts of times in all sorts of ways. Varied prayer, all sorts, at all times, in all ways. Now if you think about it for a moment, and you have a brainstorm about the different types of prayer that you can have, you will right away think that you can have public prayer - as we've had this evening, as we will have on Thursday evening. You can have private prayer also, in your home and - as the Bible calls it - the closet, where you shut yourself away with God and it is just you and God and no-one else - the hardest place that we can pray. We find also that there is deliberate prayer, and there is spontaneous prayer. We have our prayer time, I hope, at home, or prayer times. A time we specifically set aside for God, to have communion with God, or as the old Christians called it: 'the trysting place' with God. We have agreed, we have covenanted with Him to meet at a certain time in a certain place day by day.
That is deliberate prayer, but there is also spontaneous prayer. The old divines called them 'spiritual ejaculations', or 'spiritual arrows' of prayer. When we are in need, day by day, when we face a need - that we can just, from our hearts or audibly, cry unto God a prayer, a little prayer from our hearts or from our lips. Day by day, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, these types of spontaneous or emergency prayers can ascend to God. We read of supplication that we will be looking at this evening, bringing definite specific needs to God on a long-term basis. We also read of intercession, where we covenant with God for a space of time to bring before Him others in great need, and we are determined - like Jacob of old - not to let go of God until He blesses us, an intercession with Him. We read of confession, where we confess our sins - if we are believers walking on to know God, we will know prayers of humiliation when our sins are brought before us, and when we lie low, surrendered and submitted to Almighty God. We find praise and thanksgiving.
We find different factors in prayer: there's family prayer - and this is something that has fallen away in recent days, the family altar, where father or mother brings together the whole family around the word of God, and around the throne of grace, and seeks God. There's all types of prayer: silent, audible, prayer around a meal, prayer in the assembly, arranged prayer, formal prayer, informal prayer - you see all the types of prayer, and it's all incorporated in that one statement: 'all prayer'. It's general, it's all encompassing, it's the panorama of all types of prayer that we can come to God with - and as we think of that this evening: if we are only praying and asking God for things, we lose out tremendously, for we're not using this weapon of All-Prayer.
This word 'prayer' in verse 18, it represents our approach to God in general. It encompasses the first seven points on your sheet, look down at it. All prayer: praise, confession, waiting on God, scripture praying, intercession, singing, and listening to God. Then the second part of this statement is 'and supplication', and that's your second point. Some translations put it 'requests', a special form of prayer called 'supplication' whereby we bring specific needs before God, and we hope and we cry to get specific answers from Him. Now let me say this: this is wonderful, it is all incorporated within this phrase 'all prayer and supplication'. Verse 18, there's so much in it, that's why I want to spend these weeks really digging deep into this verse to get out what God has put in it.
We need this, it's not an option, it's not for the holy men of old, we need all prayer, we need constant prayer, we need supplication, and we need these seven things written down on your sheet. You need them! If you're going to fight in the victory, if you're going to win with the Lord Jesus Christ, if you're going to stand when the smoke and the blood of battle and the smell is gone, that you're still standing after all the standing that you have been doing - if you want to do that, you need all prayer. Every avenue is to be thoroughly explored by the child of God, every item of prayer, and kind of prayer, and shade of prayer, is to be used on every occasion in every opportunity that faces us. Bishop Hanley Mole (sp?), the Greek scholar, put it like this: 'All prayer simply means this: using every variety of worshipping approach to God' - every variety.
So let us look at 'all prayer', this general prayer that we find within this verse. The first definition of it is: praise - that's what I have put down anyway, and I've left out thanksgiving along the way, so what I have done is put praise and thanksgiving together because they're quite similar. Now if you analyse, and we haven't time to do it this evening, but if you look at the Lord's prayer - or it would be better put 'the disciple's prayer' - the prayer that the Lord Jesus Christ gave us as an example, as a skeleton, for our daily prayer life with Him. If you look at it you find He said: 'After this manner therefore pray ye, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name' - He began by praise. Now this is very important: we must never ever miss this avenue in prayer - praise, adoration, and worship. The Westminster Divines put it right when they asked the question: 'What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to obey, enjoy God and glorify Him forever'. We enjoy God and we obey God, when we worship God. It is our chief end, it is the chief purpose for which we have been created: to bring worship, adoration, and praise to the God who is our Creator, and now, in the Lord Jesus Christ, the God who is our Redeemer. This is the God who has said: 'Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me'.
Do we praise God in our prayers? I've mentioned in weeks gone by a monk called Brother Lawrence, who tried to live his life as a continual praise and worship to God. He says this on the subject of praising God: 'The end we ought to propose to ourselves, the end of our life, ought to [be to] become in this life the most perfect worshippers of God we can possibly be, as we hope to be through all eternity'. What is the chief end that we have? The best purpose that you can have, and goal in your life, is to be a worshipper of God - to worship God in spirit and in truth, to be satisfied in God, to enjoy God as you adore Him and praise His holy name. For let's face it: that is what our occupation will be in eternity, for the millions of years - if we can even say that - of the eternal sphere, we will worship God.
The word 'adoration' is derived from an ancient expression which means 'to kiss the hand'. You know what it is when you come into the presence of a lady, a dignitary, and her hand is kissed - it's a sign, yes, of affection, but more than that it's a capturing of dignity, that you are actually revering that person. It's a sign of deep respect and submission to them. I think that is a beautiful definition of adoration and praise - what is it? It is kissing the hand of the Almighty, a deep respect, submission and subjection, and worship of God. The word 'praise' has an old French meaning - its origin meant this: 'to prize' - to prize! Isn't that what we do when we praise our God? When we adore Him, and we worship Him, we prize Him. He is precious to us, He means everything to us, and that draws from our bosom, our soul and spirit, a worship and adoration to Him who alone is worthy to be praised.
Now, we're going to find as we go through these different facets of prayer, and as we have already done within the armour of God, that this is unselfish. The flesh cannot live the spiritual life. We cannot live it with ourselves on the throne of our lives, we cannot live selfish Christian lives, it is a contradiction in terms. As we look at prayer, and specifically praise and thanksgiving, we find that it is of all the elements of prayer the unselfish part. It is the part where you forget yourself, you concentrate on Him and you worship Him! Now that's difficult. 'Praise produces', as one man said, 'forgetfulness of self, and forgetfulness of self is health'. It's hard to do, but we must get to that place where we lay aside our ego, we lay aside all thought of sin and self, and we just come purely into the presence of God to praise God, to thank God, and to worship God. When we do that we will find that this is an indispensable part of the armour of God - All-Prayer.
Now if you activate this in your life - praise and thanksgiving to God - you will find that it is a great weapon against the evil one. Now let's pursue this for a moment, look at 2 Chronicles chapter 5 and we'll see an example of that here in the Old Testament. We have here the dedication of the temple by Solomon, and it was a great event of worship. In verse 13 of 2 Chronicles 5 we read this: 'It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God'.
Praise and thanksgiving bring God into the presence of His people. D.L. Moody, the evangelist, as he was preaching on that passage that we've just read, said this: 'Solomon prevailed much with God in prayer at the dedication of the temple, but it was the voice of praise which brought down the glory that filled house' - that's what brought God's glory down! When men, and indeed with their instruments, praised God and thanked Him, the glory of the Lord filled the place! Praise is a great weapon against the enemy. Satan hates the prayer of praise. There's a little quip you often see: 'Prayer changes things' - well we could say: 'Praise changes things also'. We could say that praising God sends Satan running away. One man put it: 'Satan is allergic to praise, where there is massive triumphant praise Satan is paralysed, bound and banished'! Do you want to get rid of the devil? Praise God! Praise Him with your whole heart, with your soul and spirit, and mind and body! Praise Him as a whole person and the devil will flee! For God inhabits the praises of His people!
We've seen already that prayer is the weapon whereby we bring God onto the battlefield. Literally, isn't it, it's how we bring God into our life situation. One of the greatest ways of doing that, through prayer, is through praise. When God comes among His people all else is pushed out. It's said of the Israelites that there was the shout of a king among them. The shout of the king, sadly, has died down. As one man put it: 'Mr Hallelujah and Mrs Amen have all died' - they've all gone! But if we read the book of Psalms we read of great praise of God, prayers full of praise and thanks all pointing to their great God - and the miracle of the Psalms is this: most of them are coming from a position of answered prayer. Many a Psalm David, or another Psalmist, begins by trailing out all his sorrows before God, all his enemies, his sicknesses, his weaknesses, his sins - but then, just like a beautiful piece of music, that lower note comes to a change, and then there is a great crescendo as God comes in and answers. Then you find, in the second half of many of the Psalms, David's tune of despair and depression is changed to great praise in his God, for God is the God who answers prayer.
I have twinned thanksgiving with praise. Thanksgiving is quite similar. Many say that thanksgiving is gratitude, and that's true in a sense, but not so accurate in that gratitude is something that wells up within us at times involuntarily. It can stay within us, we find gratitude within us and many would not know - but thanksgiving is gratitude expressed. Thanksgiving is that gratitude voluntarily expressed, outwardly and orally, to the God whom we are thanking. It is giving out something to God, something positive, something active.
We have gratitude and thanksgiving when we meditate and contemplate the great things that God has done for us. Let me say: if you're not with the people of God, around the word of God, around the throne of grace of God, you will find trouble thanking God. For you must meditate upon the word of God, you must be in the presence of God with the people of God, and there, many a time, and mostly around the Lord's table, where we get an awful, great, terrible gratitude for what the Lord has done - for we are presented with the blood of the Lamb! If you're not there it'll be hard to be grateful for it, for I'm there many a day and I'm not grateful for it. We must come and meditate, and think, and contemplate, what the Lord has done for us. Psalm 126:3: 'The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad' - isn't that what it's about? The poet said:
'I love to think on mercies past,
And future good implore,
And all my cares and sorrows cast
On Him whom I adore'.
Do you praise Him? Do you thank Him? For if you praise Him and thank Him, do you know what will happen? You will grow to love Him more and more, for love is the child of thanksgiving. Love flows out of gratitude. In Psalm 6 we read this: 'I love the Lord' - why? 'Because He hath heard the voice of my weeping, and my supplication'. If you're not praying you love the Lord little - you need to see your prayers answered at times, and then you get gratitude for the Lord's answered prayer. It wells up within you, and out of your mouth and soul and spirit comes thanksgiving! Throughout the Psalms that's what we find: thanksgiving to answered prayer - so much so that we get so excited about prayer that we pray more and more to see more answered prayer. The more we see prayer answered, the more we have gratitude, and the more we thank God, and the more we love Christ!
Psalm 116 puts it into words: 'Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live'. Oh, it's lovely, isn't it? You know that was the basis for Paul's exhortation in Romans 12 and verse 1: 'I beseech you therefore', I implore you, 'by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God'. What did he implore them by? 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God' - it ought to be the mercies of God, the grace of God, the goodness of God to us! It ought to be from a heart filled with gratitude and thanksgiving to God that we lay our lives on the altar for Him out of love! It constrains us to give ourselves to Him. So prayer and thanksgiving, praise and consecration, all must go together.
Imagine if we constantly helped someone and they never ever thanked us. We wouldn't help them too much, sure we wouldn't? They're not grateful, no gratitude. Remember the ten lepers? The Lord asked: 'Where are the other nine?'. My friends, we must learn this lesson as we come into the presence of God, this is what will increase our faith. If you want your faith increased: thank Him! Count your blessings and it will surprise you, and it will encourage you, and enthuse you to go to God and ask more! Praise Him for who He is, ponder Him in thanksgiving, in love, and wonder, and praise, worship Him. You know the Lord said that Himself upon the earth: 'They that worship me, God seeks these type of worshippers who worship in spirit and in truth'. Old Tozer entitled a book: 'Whatever Happened To Worship?' - sometimes you'd wonder today, in my own life I wonder. I come straight into the presence of God and I've got the shopping list ready to go down, but do we worship Him?
Time is moving on - the second point we find is: confession. Let me say, this isn't an exhaustive list, there are maybe other things that you put within them. But then there is confession, and to put it bluntly: confession is simply an admission of sin. It is spiritually putting your hands up and saying: 'I'm guilty'. Andrew Murray said this: 'God cannot hear the prayers on our lips often, because the desires of our heart after the world cry out to Him much more strongly and loudly than our desires for Him'. Is God hearing your desire after the world more than your spiritual desire to follow after Him? You see, this is where Satan gains the victory in this spiritual battle so often, when he can throw - remember he is the great thrower, the accuser, throwing dirt at us - but if there is sin in our life, often the dirt, the mud sticks. This is where confession comes in.
First John 1 and verse 9, isn't it wonderful? There's many a time I've been on my knees, and I have felt the load of guilt of filthy sin - because I'm a filthy sinner - and my eyes have come to this: 'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous...If we confess our sins', admit, hands up, 'he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'. That Greek word 'confess' means this: 'to agree with God'. It's not coming to get your sins forgiven again, your sins have been forgiven when you came to Christ - past, present, future. The blood of Jesus Christ goes on cleansing us, but if we live with unconfessed sin it will hinder our fellowship and our power with God. It is a heart-felt recognition of what we are and what we have done.
The Psalmist - and we must be warned - in 66 verse 18 says: 'If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me'. Now I believe that He has laid down, the Holy Spirit there, the law of confession. It means that if my prayer life never rises above my personal life, there is sin in it. Do you know what I'm saying? I'm saying what Isaiah said in 59:2: 'Your iniquities can separate between you and your God, and your sins can hide his face from you, that he will not hear'. It is possible, the Bible teaches, that at times our prayers are not effective because our life is holding them, our life is binding them, crippling our prayers! Husbands and wives note this, 1 Peter 3:7: 'Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them', wives, 'according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered'! There are so many things that can hinder our prayers, small things and great things - but even if we're not on right terms with our husband or with our wife, or with our children, or we've fallen out with someone, or are holding a grudge, our prayers can be hindered!
Och, we can't bring everybody to be friends with us - and if we'd be doing that we'd be disobeying the Lord, for He said: 'Woe to you when all men think well of you'. But you know, what we can do is we can make it alright on our side. We can come to God - and this is painful - we can come to God and admit that we are wrong when we are wrong. It's the surgeon of the Holy Spirit, coming in as we confess, and He lances the boil of our sin to allow the infection to drain away that we might be healed from the inside. The man was right when he said: 'Before you pray for a change of circumstances, you should pray for a change in character'. Yes, prayer changes things, but you know what prayer changes most of all? You - for it brings us into line with who God is.
Thirdly: we praise, we confess, and we wait - waiting on God. Madame Guyon, who wrote many books on waiting on God, sought God in her early life. On one occasion she approached a devout monk - again, before the Reformation, before you burn me at the stake or anything like that! - and she explained her desire to know God and to grow closer to God. She admitted: 'I've grown shamefully weak before God'. After hearing her story the monk declared to her, listen: 'Your efforts have been unsuccessful because you have sought without, outside, only what you can find within. Accustom yourself to seek God in your heart and you will not fail to find Him'. For her that was the introduction to waiting on God, and when you look at all the great saints of God in the past, within the word and within church history, you find that all of them set aside time to wait silently in the presence of God.
People ask me: 'What is waiting on God?'. Well, first of all, let me say that it's scriptural. We find it in Psalm 52:9: 'I wait on thy name'. Psalm 62:1: 'My soul waiteth upon God'. Psalm 130: 'My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning' - and we all know: 'They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength', but what is waiting on God? Is it just sitting, like waiting on a bus? Do you know what it is? It is a silent surrender of the soul to God. It's not day-dreaming, looking out of a window, or drifting in your mind, but it is sitting silently loving God and allowing God to love you. If you don't know anything of this you are missing out.
Let me try and define it a little bit more. An elderly woman was asked the same question: 'What is it to wait on God?', and she was also asked: 'How do you spend your day?'. She said this: 'Well, I always begin my day with a good season of prayer. In fact, I pray until I cannot pray any more, and then I take my Bible and read until I can't read any more. After that I take my hymnbook from my shelf and sing until I can't sing any more, and then I just sit quietly and let God love me'. That's what this is, do you know it? Having your mind, by the Spirit of God, elevated to Him. Being wholly taken up with God, silently worshipping God. This isn't praying to get things, this is far beyond that! This is coming to the point of prayer where you're not looking to get answers, but you're looking to get God! That's what it's all about: to meditate upon Him, to think on Him, and to sit silently without mouthing, or talking, or preaching through your prayer - to just sit with God. It's like the little boy who went into his Daddy's office and bumped his head and fell over and made a noise, and he walked over to his Daddy's office gazing tenderly through his loving eyes and said: 'Daddy, I'll sit still all the time, if you will only let me be here with you'. That's what it is: sitting silently in God's presence, so that He'll just be with you.
I can't explain it - that silent, intimate love exchange between us and our Father that we are sharing in, that was the silent love exchange between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through all eternity - and we are in Christ, and Christ is in God, and we can enter into that fellowship. But friends, if you are not waiting on God, you will know nothing of it. If you rush into God's presence and open up a prayer book, and go down all the lists, and do your reading of two chapters a day and all the rest, and then go to work and forget all about it - that is not this life of communion with God we're talking about. We're talking about what Andrew Bonar wrote in his diary when he said this: 'Some have the beauty of the Rose of Sharon, and there are others who have the fragrance too. I spent two hours today in prayer, seeking that I might have the fragrance'. Do you have the fragrance? Are you even like Him? - but, oh, to have the fragrance, to be seen to be with the Lord, to come down from the mount of meeting like Moses with our faces shining - that men and women, and boys and girls, and all that come into contact with us, can see that we have been with Jesus. Oh, it takes patience, it doesn't come to a busy life, a life that is laden down with service, that is just carnal, of the flesh - but it will take patience till our hearts are tuned to prayer, till we know that we are heard with God, and till we receive the answer. It'll take practice.
Fourthly, scripture. I feel we're not going to get through all of this tonight, but I don't want to rush over anything. You know, the Bible is our prayer book. The Bible is the book of prayer that we have, and it is the only place that we are taught to pray, and it is the time, when we pray to God, that the word of God will become part of us. You know that, don't you? That when you hear message like this tonight, or on a Sunday, or you read a spiritual book or something like that, or listen to a tape, that will not change your life unless you actually put that into your life by prayer. For you recognise before God, confess your need, and ask Him for the grace, through the Spirit, to do what He has told you to do. That's quite simple, it's spiritual basics, Romans 10 and verse 17, listen: 'Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God'. Now, reading books on prayer is good - do it! But reading books on prayer will only stir you to pray, hearing messages on prayer may stir you, but the word of God gives us faith - for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word.
If we get into the word of God we will get faith to pray to God. George Mueller, that great man of faith, opened the Bible every day, and would never pray to God unless his Bible was open. He said that the secret of receiving answers to prayer lay in how the Christian applied the word of God in prayer. Spurgeon said: 'Every promise of Scripture is a writing of God which may be pleaded before God with the reasonable request: 'Do as Thou hast said'. The Creator will not cheat the creature who depends upon His truth, and far more the heavenly Father will not break His word to His own child. Wasn't it Spurgeon who wrote that book: 'The Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith'? To write the cheques from the promises of God's word, and to cash them in in heaven's bank, and God says He will supply - He will supply! There's a guarantee on that cheque, on that note, that God will give us what He has promised. We must use prayer in Scripture. Take a Psalm, that's what I often do, a Psalm during the morning, and go through verse by verse and just praise God through it.
Then fifthly: intercession. To put it bluntly, intercession is praying on behalf of others. It means to intercede, to mediate, to come in between. It's more than that, it's earnestly appealing for another. It's a good occupation, because it's our Lord's present occupation. It was His occupation in that great high prayer that we find in the book of John 17, where He prayed for His own. It is always Christ's occupation, and it ought to be ours, to intercede for others. We were all prayed for at some time, weren't we? Indeed, prayer was a part of bringing us to Christ - God saved us, but prayer was part of the mechanism that brought us to saving faith. All of us cannot preach, all of us cannot be missionaries or evangelists, but all of us can pray and intercede for others. As E.M. Bounds said: 'This is the soul of a man stirred to plead with God for men'. He said, didn't he: 'It's a good thing to talk to men about God, but it's a better thing to talk to God about men'. That's the key of freedom, it's the key of freeing others from bondage of sin - and if you want someone saved, my friend, and you're not praying, you may forget about it! Get on your knees! Pray, claim the promises of God.
Remember what God said to Abimelech about Abraham? 'He', Abraham, 'is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live'. A.J. Gordon said about this praying and interceding in the battle: 'We have authority to take from the enemy everything he is holding back' - isn't that wonderful? We are on the victory ground, he's not! We have authority in prayer, and through the Lord Jesus Christ and His blood, to claim back what is His. He says: 'The chief way of taking is by prayer'. Four times in his epistles Paul says: 'making mention of you in prayer' - now that's making mention, not just saying: 'Lord, bless all the churches'. Making mention of them as, indeed, he made mention within his epistles.
In the battle, intercession will bring victory to your life. You know, sometimes we're selfish, and I think this way: 'You know, I've so much to pray about me. I've so many problems and things to be done, and sometimes I never get time to pray for anybody else' - that's wrong! Do you know why? Because Job, you think of the situations that Job found himself in, health-wise, spiritually, and even his friends and his wife turning against him - but in Job 42 verse 10 it says this: 'The Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before' - when he prayed for others.
Sixthly, singing. This is a strange one, perhaps you think - but singing is a gift from God. As Luther said: 'The gift of language with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the word of God through music'. Now here's the question: do you praise the Lord in singing? Do you? 'Oh, we did it tonight' - I'm not talking about tonight, I'm talking about at home. Do you praise the Lord in song at home? The Psalmist said in 100: 'Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing'. Remember Mary Slessor, that missionary to China? Do you know what she said? 'I sing the doxology, and I dismiss the devil'. Huh! That's the battle! Sing the doxology and dismiss the devil! Amy Carmichael, a missionary too, concerning song said: 'I believe truly that Satan cannot endure it, and so slips out of the room more or less when there is true song. Prayer rises more easily, more spontaneously, after one has let those wings, words and music carry one out of oneself into the upper air'. Do you sing in the presence of the Lord? In this book in chapter 5 and verse 19 we are told to admonish one another, and indeed praise, in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We find in 2 Chronicles chapter 20, King Jehoshaphat faced with all his enemies prayed to God, and brought the people together in prayer and fasting as the nation of Judah. They went to the front line of the battle and they found that the enemy was defeated - why? Verse 22: 'And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon'. It works, you know - Paul and Silas sang praises to God in jail, and there was an earthquake.
Finally, and with this we will finish: listening. We're all good at talking, aren't we? And I'm the best one! We all love to be heard, but the Lord gave us two ears - didn't He? - and one mouth. You know, this is part of prayer - Ecclesiastes 5:2: 'Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few'. Sometimes our prayers can be all one-way traffic, can't they? It's a speech, it's not a conversation, it's not a dialogue! But God, through Paul to Timothy, said: 'Study to be silent'. Can I ask you to do something? See the next time you pray - and I hope it'll be tonight - don't make it too noisy for God to speak, but be like Elijah and in the stillness, without uttering a word, listen for the still small voice of God, the voice of God in your spirit. The price will be silence and self, and maybe time to sit there for a while - but if F.W. Faber, the great poet, said this, listen as we close:
'Whenever the sounds of the world die out in the soul,
Then we hear the whisperings of God.
He is always whispering to us, only we don't always hear because of the noise, hurried distractions, which life causes as it rushes on. Do we praise Him? Do we confess our sin? Do we thank Him, and wait upon Him, and take the word of God to Him and claim it, and intercede for others? Do we sing and praise Him? And do we be still and know that He is God? The next time I see you we'll look at 'Specific Prayer', and the rest that the Lord has for 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-third tape in his Ephesians series, titled "The Holy War Part 6: Varied Prayer" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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