I want to speak to you from verses 12 and 13 of Luke chapter 6 under the title 'Prayer's Perfect Pattern' - prayer's perfect pattern. "And it came to pass in those days, that he", the Lord Jesus Christ, "went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles".
Now the chief lesson of this message this morning, if you forget anything that I say, and you may well do, is: remember this, that the Lord Jesus Christ was perfect, and yet He prayed. He was and is the perfect Son of God, the impeccable, the One who could not sin, the Lord Jesus Christ. Though He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, He was Himself apart from sin, He had no internal sin nature like we have in Adam's fallen race. Yet, you will not find another greater example in a man of prayer other than the Lord Jesus. He was perfect, yet He prayed.
What we see in these two verses is first of all His motivation for praying. Gerhard Tersteengen, who wrote several hymns and poems, said these words: 'The love of Christ is my prayer book'. The love of Christ is my prayer book - it was his motivation to be an intercessor, and such was the Saviour's love for His Father that He loved to communicate with God. We see that here at the end of verse 12, He spent all night in prayer to God. Such was His love for His Father, that He loved to be in communion with Him. But secondly, His motivation was also His love for His people. He desired so much to be in intercession for His disciples, who would later become the apostles, and eventually for His church that He would buy with His own blood, that He was found continually interceding before God on behalf of them. In verse 13 we read that it was in those days that He prayed, the days of choosing the twelve disciples who would later be the foundation to His church.
Now here is the lesson folks today, and let us not miss it. The Lord Jesus, though perfect, prayed. The Lord Jesus is not only our unachievable Saviour, He is not only the one who is Lord of all, Jesus the name high over all in hell, or earth, or sky; but He is also our example that God has given to us. In fact, He Himself said in John 13:15: "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you". In 1 John 2:6, "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked". First Peter 2:21, "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps". During this week I've been advertising a great many tremendous books on the subject of prayer, and even some of them will incorporate within them testimonies and examples of great warriors of prayer - male and female - who knew what it was to lay hold upon God. But let us never forget that the greatest prayer book we have is the Bible, and the Bible tells us about the greatest Man of prayer, and that was and is our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now I want you to see prayer's perfect pattern today, how He practised private personal prayer to God for His people. Let me say right away that I don't want to discourage you, I don't want to make you feel so burdened by the requirements that I might pontificate from this pulpit today that you'll go away and say: 'I could never measure up to such a standard', and just decide it's not even worth trying. From beholding the Saviour this morning, I want you to be encouraged in some way, even though it may be small, to emulate your Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.
'If Jesus, the King of glory,
Commander of hosts on high,
Must petition for daily succour,
What about such a worm as I?
I rest at ease in the morning,
Before me a puzzling day,
I know not how I shall meet it,
But my Saviour rose to pray.
If we walk in the Master's footsteps,
And follow the path He trod,
We must find in the early morning
A quiet place with God.
We must pour out our heart before Him
And let Him into the life,
If we ever shall be the winner
Of victory over strife'.
Three lessons I want to leave with you from these two verses, verses 12 and 13. One: the time was most appropriate, the time the Lord Jesus chose to pray was a time most appropriate. Now you may or may not know that this is the only time in the whole of the New Testament that the Lord Jesus is said to have prayed all night through. Now there may well have been other occasions, and I believe there were, but nevertheless this is the only occasion [that is mentioned] - but there is one certainty, and it's this: whenever the Lord Jesus did pray, whether it was through the whole night or during the day or in the early morning hours, He chose the hour of silence in which to pray. In Mark 1:35 we read, "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed". If you're a reader of God's word, and I would encourage you to be so, start at the beginning and end at the end - go right through every book of the Old and New Testament - you will find that this praying in the quiet hour was the practice of the patriarchs, the priests, the prophets, the Psalmist and the apostles. You read the Psalms: "Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning, O God, Thou art my God, early will I seek Thee, my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in the dry and thirsty land where no water is". Proverbs 8: "I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me".
Friends, can you see what I'm trying to picture in your mind now? The time that the Lord Jesus prayed was the most appropriate time for prayer. Spurgeon penned this verse:
'On the lone mountain side,
Before the morning’s light,
The Man of sorrows wept and cried,
And rose refreshed with might.
Oh, hear us then, for we
Are very weak and frail,
We make the Saviour’s Name our plea,
And surely must prevail'.
Do you have an appropriate time to pray? Now let me tease this out a little bit further for you in three short points. The time was most appropriate, first of all, because it was when the crowd could not disturb Him - when the crowd could not disturb Him. If you look at verse 12 it says: 'It came to pass in those days, that he went out'. Now, what were 'those days'? That's the reason why I read the first 11 verses to you - because some of the Pharisees and religious hypocrites and scribes perceived that Christ had broken the Sabbath day, through the taking of the corn in the field and giving it to the disciples, and through this miracle of the man being restored with the withered hand. So He was facing persecution, yet the Lord Jesus Christ, facing persecution, didn't go into a nervous panic - He went to the place of prayer. In those days, when men's hands were all against Him, He prayed.
But in Mark chapter 3 we're enlightened a little bit about this incident, because the miracle that the Lord performed in the first verses is said to be the very miracle that caused the men of Tyre and Sidon to flock to Him, to listen to what His words were. So not only is this a time of persecution, but this is also a time of success where the Lord Jesus is receiving the praise of men who are crowding around about Him to see His great works and hear His great words. But that does not deter Him from prayer either. Persecution didn't discourage Him, and neither did the praise of men - but in season and out of season the Lord Jesus realised that whether He was being persecuted or praised by the crowd, He needed to get alone with God. This was the most appropriate time, because this was the time when the crowd could not disturb Him. Do you have a time when your family, your friends, your business colleagues cannot disturb you?
But another thought out of this most appropriate time is, it was a time when others were inactive and only He laboured. Other people were asleep. Now, it's amazing to me how early in the morning men, and women too, can rise for their business, or even rise for their pleasure. A couple of weeks ago I was up in Portrush taking those meetings, as you well know and were praying for me, and I was driving to one of the meetings quite early in the morning, and it was the Lord's day morning at that - and the golf courses were filled to capacity! A beautiful morning it was, the churches may have been empty, but the golf courses were full! Room for pleasure, room for business - but for Christ the crucified, not a place that He can enter in the heart for which He died. But let it never be said of the child of God that that is his problem - yet it is such a problem to many children of God to rise early in the morning to pray.
Forgive me for another personal illustration, but some of you will remember that two years ago, at the end of the week of prayer, I was rushed into hospital with an emergency appendicitis - and what an experience that was! But as I was being driven from my home to the out of hours clinic, I was astounded at half past two in the morning - I wasn't that far gone - to see a man in the middle of the night walking his greyhounds! Dedicated to the dogs, his heart was in it - yet Christians cannot rise to pray at this most appropriate time. William Bramwell, who was mightily used of God in England, had this conviction of rising early. It was said of him, I quote: 'If he was in any place where the people began their work at an earlier hour, he would rise earlier unless prevented by indisposition, as he could not bear the idea of anyone being occupied in worldly business before he had engaged in the service of his Heavenly Master'. Oh for a spirit like that, that while others are inactive, we as the people of God are calling upon His name at the most appropriate time, when we cannot be disturbed, and while others around us are in the stupor and sleep of sin.
Thirdly, it was a most appropriate time because it is the time when men forget their problems. The Lord Jesus Christ was not unaware of many problems that He had, not personal problems like we have of temptation and sin in that sense, but every man's hand was against Him. He is the man of sorrows, He was acquainted with grief, yet He was a man - and a great while before day He rose to that time of freshness. There's something about the morning that has the air of infancy about it, where there is the absence of rush and clutter of the business of the busy day, and in mind and heart the Saviour rose in the morning before the affairs of the day would grapple for His attention.
Now you will have found it true, if you rise in the morning to meet with God, your mind is fresher in that part of the day, it does not dwell upon the problems and potential events of the next hour. It was a time most appropriate, when the crowd could not disturb Him, when others were inactive and only He laboured, a time when men forget their problems.
Secondly, here is the lesson further that I want to bring to you - not only the time was most appropriate, but the place was well selected. The place where He prayed. Now don't misunderstand what I'm saying here today: you can pray at any time, and you can pray in any place, and we should seek to pray at all times and in all places. But the point that I want you to find here is that the place was especially well selected for this attitude of personal private prayer. We should pray everywhere - Sir Thomas Brown made a covenant with himself, he said he wanted 'to pray in all places where quietness invites, in any house, highway or street, and to know no street in this city that may not witness that I have not forgotten God my Saviour in it, and that no parish or town where I have been may not say the like'. We should pray everywhere, about everything, at all times - but yet there ought to be that sacred tryst, that appointment with God daily when we meet with Him in a special way.
This is what our Lord Jesus taught in Matthew 6:6, 'Thou, 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'. Now here's why it was a place well selected, first of all: none could intrude upon it. None could intrude upon it - in other words, it was a place that was free from vulgar interruptions. Do you have a place like that? Recently I have been convicted in my own soul about my quiet time with God, and waiting before the Lord, and He spoke to me in a number of verses. I just want to share them with you today - Ezekiel 3:24, Ezekiel says: 'Then the spirit entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house'. Ezekiel was told to go and shut himself within his house - I believe the inference is there, although he wasn't allowed to speak to the people prophetically, that he was to go and wait upon God when God would tell him to go forth, and what God would tell him to say.
A couple of days after that I read 1 Samuel 9:27 regarding the calling of Saul to be the first King of Israel, and it says that as Samuel approached him 'And as they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on before us, (and he passed on), but stand thou still a while, that I may show thee the word of God'. If I could paraphrase it, Samuel was saying: 'Look, you've got to let everybody around you, and the world that you have known up to know, go on their merry way, but you've got to stand still till I speak God's word to you'. Is there a time when you shut yourself in your house, and when you stand still to hear what the word of the Lord is? Because if there isn't, you will be deficient of God's power in your life and in your witness.
The Lord said first to Elijah: 'Go hide thyself', and then He said 'Go show thyself' - hide thyself, and then show thyself. If he had not hidden himself, he would have been unfit to show himself in public, because his private life with God was deficient. I ask you again: the Lord Jesus found a place where none could intrude, free from vulgar interruptions, and if He could find such a place with all the throngs, the teeming throngs of the lame and the lepers alike looking for His attention, can you not?
Then it was a place well selected, secondly, because none could observe Him. Not only could no one find Him, but no one could watch Him. If you like, this was a place free from pharisaic ostentation - hypocrisy. This was a place where He could not rehearse verbatim prayers to impress and tickle the ears of men. This was a place where no one would be impressed by His biblical knowledge. This was a place where only God and He was. You see, Jesus said the hypocrites are they who love to stand in the synagogues, and on the corners of streets, that they may be seen of men. 'Verily', Christ says, 'They have their reward'. Do you see Him? Going at this appropriate time, to this well selected place, when the crowd could not disturb Him, when all other people in the towns and villages were inactive, only He labours. There He is, where none can intrude. He's free from all vulgar interruptions, none can observe Him, and He's calling upon God. He is separated from the whole world and yet, as Matthew Henry says, 'We are never less alone than when we are thus alone'. He was with God. Are you with God at a most appropriate time in a well selected place?
What I want you to see thirdly, is that the occasion was notable. Now again, don't misunderstand me - we must pray on all occasions. I'm not advocating prayer only at notable occasions, but nevertheless there was a special occasion for the Lord Jesus' intercession here. The first is found in that phrase 'At that time', 'in those days'. First of all, this occasion was notable because it was after His enemies had enraged themselves against Him. Now notice, therefore, prayer for the Saviour was a place of refuge. It was a place of solace, it was a place that He could run to in His trials, in His testings. Who of us here does not, and has not experienced such testings? Enemies against us, temptations baying at the back of our heels - whatever it may be, an enemy of God, a messenger of Satan to buffet us, a thorn in the flesh, it could be any one of a thousand things - yet, isn't it wonderful that we have a friend in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear, what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Someone has said:
'Trials make the promise sweet,
Trials give new life to prayer,
Trials bring me to His feet,
Lay me low and keep me there'.
It was Rutherford, who was locked up in that jail in Scotland, who said: 'Oh what I owe to the furnace, the file, and the hammer of my Lord Jesus'. Are you under the furnace, the fire, the hammer of the Lord Jesus? Go to prayer - that's what He did! We go to Him in all seasons, when the sun shines, when the thunder clouds roar, we should be there in prayer - but notice the Saviour's practice. Prayer was the refuge and solace of His soul - is it ours?
Secondly, the occasion was notable because it was before the Lord Jesus commissioned the twelve apostles, before He chose the disciples - we see that from verse 13. 'When it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles'. In other words, prayer was the womb of His work - prayer was the womb of the Saviour's work. How much do you work in prayer? Pat Kitchen, last Sunday morning, was assuring us of the fact that prayer isn't preparation for the work, prayer is the work. Someone has calculated on one occasion that the difference between rising, say, for instance, between six and eight in the morning for the space of - for the sake of argument - 40 years; supposing that that man or woman goes to bed at the same time every night, is nearly equivalent to the addition of 10 years on a man's life! Rising at six instead of eight, adds 10 years to your life - 10 years of intercession, 10 years of work for God?
What I want you to note is not just that prayer itself was the work of the Saviour, but He prayed before He chose the twelve disciples. Is this not intended to be a perpetual lesson to the church of Jesus Christ in every succeeding age? We should be engaged always in prayer before we do the work of God! He was about to choose the men who would give birth to His church. The Acts of the Apostles says that these men would turn the world upside down, they would be His authorised exponents of doctrine and the future leaders of the church - some of them would even, inspired of God, write the Scriptures! Therefore, I believe it is correct in saying, that whilst the Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross and bought that church with His own blood, and rose again in resurrection power to eventually bestow the Holy Spirit upon us; we would also have to say that part of Christ's preparation in founding His church was in prayer - and it still is. For He, this very morning, is at the right hand of the Father, He ever lives to make intercession for those who are saved to the uttermost, having come unto God by Him. What a rebuke to our carelessness and the haphazardness of how we approach the work of Jesus Christ, when He prayed, perfect though He was, He prayed in such a way before He chose the twelve! Now, if He prayed like that, how ought we to pray?
Prayer, first of all, was the pre-requisite to His work. We find that the apostles followed His pattern and example, for in Acts 13:2-3 we read: 'As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away'. Do we engage in the work of God purely on the steam and fuel of our own wisdom? Or are we crying unto God, who giveth wisdom unto all men liberally, and upbraideth not? Or do we have not because we ask not?
Paul, when he wrote to Timothy, said: 'Lay hands on no man suddenly' - I think the inference there is, 'Don't be laying hands on anybody in the assembly to do a job for Christ, and not have prayed about it, not have sought God about it and found direction concerning it'. Prayer was the pre-requisite to the Saviour's work, but secondly and finally: prayer was His primary work. He left all, in fact on one occasion in Luke's gospel we read that He left the crowd, many there crying for needs and help, and He left them and He went to the place of power, because He knew that without the work of prayer all His other work would be useless! That's the Son of God we're talking about, in human flesh - but He said that He could do nothing of Himself. The church was founded upon the same principle, that prayer was their primary work - that is why in the Acts of the Apostles chapter 6, the apostle said that there needed to be deacons in the church so that they could give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word, and things ought not to have changed since then!
The occasion was notable, His enemies were engaged in opposition against Him, and He found refuge in solace and prayer - but that was before He did God's work, it was the womb of His work for the Lord. Have you seen Him this morning? Have you seen Him leaving the disciples in their slumber and sleep, ascending that dark, bleak mountain, falling on the rocky precipice on His knees, lifting His eyes to heaven and crying to His Father? He does it when it was most appropriate. He does it in a place that He'd well selected. He did it at a time that was most notable. Can I finish by quoting Spurgeon, when he said regarding this very moment: 'Those dark and silent hills were a fit oratory for the Son of God. Heaven and earth in midnight stillness heard the groans and sighs of the mysterious Being in whom both worlds were blended. The continuance of His pleadings is remarkable; the long watches were not too long; the cold wind did not chill His devotions; the grim darkness did not darken His faith, or loneliness check His importunity. We cannot watch with Him one hour, but He watched for us whole nights'.
Father, we need Thee, and the sad fact of the matter is: so much of our lives we get blinded to that truth. We think that we can live life in our own wisdom, and upon our own strength. Yet, our Father, there Thou art waiting behind the closed door of our closet to impart unto us more grace and more power, and more fruit than we could ever imagine. Lord, help us to see with great excitement what prayer can bring to a man or a woman upon their knees. Lord, if there is sin that we should confess, forgive us. Lord, if there's anything that we should set in order that is in disorder, give us the grace to do it. But Lord, we pray, as we come to Thee afresh: teach us to pray, give us a burden to pray, and let us have the faith to get answers to prayer. Not for our glory, for the betterment of Thy church, and those around us who are dying in their sin, and the Lord Jesus Christ's glory we pray, Amen.
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 recording titled "Prayer's Pefect Pattern" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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