This sermon is number 4 in a series of 4
A Short Series On Prayer - Part 4
"Time For Prayer"
by David Legge | Copyright © 1999 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now if you have your Bible with you this morning, we're turning to Mark's gospel and chapter 14. You'll remember that we're going through a series, leading up to our week of prayer in the assembly here, on the subject of prayer. We began a few weeks ago with the subject of "The Lord and Prayer", then we had "Answers and Prayer", last Lord's day morning we thought of "Fasting and Prayer" and this morning we're going to meditate upon the subject of "Time For Prayer"...time for prayer. We begin reading at Mark's gospel, at chapter 14 and verse 32:
"And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: [the Lord Jesus Christ] saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy), neither wist they what to answer him. And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand."
Keep your finger in that passage of Scripture and let's, for a moment, come before the Lord and ask His help this morning, as we come to what He says to us: Lord God, the Holy Ghost, in this accepted hour as on the day of Pentecost, descend in all Thy power. We meet with one accord, in our appointed place and want the promise of the Lord, the Spirit of all grace. In Jesus name. Amen.
Time for prayer. "The Lord and Prayer", "Answers and Prayer", last week "Fasting and Prayer"; but I want us to think especially this morning of "Time for Prayer". The passage of Scripture that we read today is a very famous one. It is one that we read together on Wednesday evening, where Gordon brought to us such a vivid picture of the Lord Jesus Christ there, the burden of sin that He saw of the world, and how He would bear it to Calvary. There are two people that are seen within this passage of Scripture. There are two types of people in the garden of Gethsemane; one is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is so vivid as we see Him. And the word of God seems to indicate that He was near to dying at the great burden of sin that He would bear, the hell that was ours that we should bear, that He was facing at Calvary. That is the first person we see, but the second type of person that is so vividly portrayed for us in this passage is: people. Peter, James and John, like ourselves: sinners. We read that as the Lord Jesus Christ went alone to pray, as He went to look into the very face of our sins that He would have to bear, as He was near unto death, He asked His disciples to go and watch and pray for Him at that time. You remember they went, and the three of them were watching and praying -- but what happened? It says that they fell asleep, and the Lord Jesus Christ came to them again and said, 'Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready or willing, but the flesh is weak'. It says He went away again a second time and prayed the same words -- He came back again and they were sleeping. He went away a third time, He came back the third time and again they had fallen into temptation, they had let the flesh get the victory. He said, 'Sleep on, for the hour is come'.
There are a few words that I want us to meditate on this morning, with regards to this great subject of 'time for prayer'. It's found in verse 37: "And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter [into] temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak." The Lord Jesus came to His disciples, and remember that they, in their time and in this present moment in history, did not have the Holy Spirit in the way that the church of Jesus Christ has it today. He was not their Comforter at that time, He was not the power that He is to us in our present dispensation. But He came to Simon Peter and He looked him straight in the eyes, eyes that were burdened with sleep and tiredness, and He said these piercing words -- as I believe He says to the church of Jesus Christ today -- 'Could you not watch one hour? Even one hour? Could you not spend at least one hour with Me in prayer? Praying for Me, praying to our God, watching -- just one hour, Simon? Can you not do it?' He went on to give the reason why Simon couldn't do it. Because although Simon, maybe in the depths of his soul, and in his very spirit he was desirous to come and to spend maybe hours and nights and weeks in prayer, Jesus Christ the Son of God said to him, 'Yes, you might want that within your spirit, but your flesh is so, so weak'.
Is that your experience this morning? Is it your experience believer, that you as you have listened to these messages, as the word of God has spoken to you, you've sat and there has been a desire, a want, that has welled up within your being, that has asked 'Oh, that I could pray like that, oh that I could follow these great men of God within the word of God and within church history -- that I could emulate their example, but I can't! I'm so weak, I get so tired, I haven't the strength. I can hardly spend 5, 10 minutes before my God, yet the Lord Jesus Christ came to Simon Peter and said 'One hour, just even one hour, could you not do even this?''. I read recently about a man called Mr Payson (sp?), and it says of him that he actually wore grooves into his floorboards because he was so often on his knees in prayer, spending time in and for prayer. The history books tell us of James, and many of you know it, that he was nicknamed 'old camel knees' because his knees were calloused because he prayed so often, so frequently and so long. The Marquis DeRenty, on one occasion went up to his room, and he was in the habit of praying in half-an-hour spells, and he told his servant to come and to disturb him after half-an-hour. But he was so engrossed in prayer, that when she came up to him and she looked through the keyhole to see what he was doing, if he was ready to be disturbed -- he had such a godly look upon his face as he almost gazed into the very face of God, and she didn't disturb him - and she let three half-hours go by. And when she came at an hour-and-a-half and knocked upon the door, he opened the door and he said, 'How quickly half-an-hour goes when you're before the face of God in prayer!' Bishop Andrews -- it is said of him that he spent the greater part of five hours day-by-day before the face of God in devotions and in prayer. Luther said there were some days in his life that were too busy that he couldn't spend only but three hours in prayer.
I would recommend to you all a book that has done great things in my Christian life, it's entitled 'Power Through Prayer' by E.M. Bounds. But he, in one of the chapters of the book, talks about Dr. Adoniram Judson, who was a missionary to Burma, and it says of him -- and I'll just read it out to you, 'Dr. Judson's success in prayer is attributable to the fact that he gave much time to prayer.' He himself, Dr. Judson says this, 'Arrange thy affairs, if possible, so that thou canst leisurely devote two or three hours every day, not merely to devotional exercises, but to the very act of secret prayer and communion with God. Endeavour seven times a day to withdraw from business and company and lift up thy soul to God in private retirement. Begin the day by rising after midnight and devoting some time amid the silence and darkness of the night to this secret work. Let the hour of opening dawn find thee at the same work. Let the hours of 9, 12, 3, 6 and 9 at night witness the same. Be resolute in this cause, make all practical sacrifices to maintain it, consider that thy time is short and thy business and company must not be allowed to rob thee of thy God'. Bounds says of these words, 'Dr. Judson impressed an empire for Christ'. You might say this morning, 'This is too great! To ask of us in our generation, our busy life, to spend so much time -- even one hour -- before God in prayer'. But witness this man Judson: he shook an empire for God, he changed a continent for Him, he was successful - one of the few men who mightily impressed the world for Christ. Many men were greater in their gifts, but they made no impression. Many men were greater orators, they were more learned, but this man made footsteps for God because he kept the iron red hot in prayer. He helped, with God's skill, to fashion it in enduring power. E.M. Bounds says, 'No man can do a great and enduring work for God, who is not a man of prayer. No man can be a man of prayer who does not give much time to it'.
We read about them in the word of God do we not - we have thought about them in days gone by - about Daniel, who three times a day (and he was locked up for it) - three times a day he called upon God. David said, 'Evening and morning and afternoon will I cry aloud and He will hear my voice'. Listen to the Lord's words, for I believe they're our words - they are for us, in a generation of apathy, in a generation of unconcern and little, if not absolute prayerlessness. Listen, it is His voice - the Saviour's voice to you - 'Couldest not thou watch one hour?' Can you imagine what would happen if just ten people in our little assembly here, ten people agreed with one another, but more importantly covenanted with God almighty, that they would not pass through a sunset or a sun-rising unless they had spent one hour with God in prayer? Can you imagine what could happen? Not what could happen, but what would happen! In answer to prayer, the effectual, fervent prayer of those who unite together and agree on a matter and come before God in such praying. Ecclesiastes 3 and verse 1 says, 'To everything there is a season'. There is [an] appointed season for many things, a time to every purpose under heaven - and you know the list that he goes through, a time to die, a time to live, so many times and so many things for time. But there is a time for this and a time for that and within the life of an assembly and a personal Christian there is time for many things, even time to preach - but now, I believe, is the time to pray. But how? How? For the spirit is willing - I want to pray, I want to do these great exploits for God because I know my God in prayer. I want all these things, my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak!
There are three things that I want to leave with you this morning. I don't know whether this is my last message on prayer in this series or not, I don't know that yet, but these three things have burned upon my soul this week - to leave with you as motivations to pray, and how you can pray. The first thing is this: redeem the time. The second thing is: deny yourself. And the third thing is: buffet your body. The first thing - let's look at it - it's found in Ephesians 5 and verse 16, Ephesians chapter 5 and verse 16 and you read these words, verse 14 says 'Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil'. Redeeming the time. What does 'redeem' mean? Well, we all know what that means, don't we? To buy something back - and what Paul is saying here in Ephesians is 'Buy up the time'. Buy up the time! You hear many people talking about saving time, but you know you can't save time. You can't save it, you can't conserve it because time passes no matter what you do. But what you can do is, you can spend it or you can squander it. How do you spend your time? How do you invest your time?
The word of God says, and we know from medical [research], that people will live - average - 70 years, the three-score and ten. And if you live 70 years, we're told that 20 years of your 70 will be spent sleeping, 20 will be spent working, 6 years eating, 7 years playing, 5 years dressing (and that might be a wee bit more for the ladies), 1 year on the telephone, 2-and-a-half years smoking, 2-and-a-half years lying in bed, 3 years waiting on someone, 5 months tying your shoes and 2-and-a-half years at everything else, including going to church. Think of it! But how much time do we spend before God? 'Couldest not thou - one hour?' In one year there are 8,760 hours in the year, and without going into the moral or theological aspect of tithing, if you just take a tenth as an example, a tenth of that time would be 876 hours a year in prayer - to tithe your time. What about [if] you take a day? Well, it's almost the same - 24 hours and if you were to give God a tenth, and remember that we, I believe, as the children and the people of God of the New Testament, are to give as much as we can give - a tenth of 24 hours is 2-and-a-half hours a day before God. I know that this may be a burden that is too heavy to take or even think about, but brethren this morning, we are not just stewards of our money, we're not just stewards of the gifts that God has given us, but we are stewards of time. Do we redeem it? Look for a few moments, because it would be amiss of us to mention this great subject without looking and pondering the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This astounded me this week as I thought about it - that the Lord Jesus Christ was approximately 33 years of age when He died - half, almost, of the three-score and ten. He spent three years of ministry, He didn't begin 'till He was almost 30 years of age. But in that 3 years approximately, that He spent serving God, preaching the word, healing, teaching, doing mighty works - how He spent His time! Look what He got done in those three short years, how He spent them! Isaiah chapter 40 says this, 'They that wait upon the Lord'. You must redeem the time, even if it means waiting for God.
The second thing I want you to notice is this: you are to deny yourself. Deny yourself, Mark chapter 8, Mark chapter 8 and verse 34, 'And when [the Lord Jesus Christ] had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me'. Deny yourself - what does that mean? It's alright talking about it, but practically speaking - almost into the 21st century - for you and I as believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, when we hear His first words to His disciples 'Deny yourself', what does it mean? It means simply this, I believe, that there are some things in our lives, everyday things, mundane things that we like - some of which we don't like, but they are legitimate things, they are not sinful, the word of God does not convey them, some of them may at times even be necessary - but we may need to sacrifice them. Do you get what I'm saying? We thought about it last week, we took the subject of food - and how when it comes to biblical fasting, that at times in our lives when we are faced with crises, or when we want to get near to God, or for some unknown reason that we are praying perhaps for a loved one, we think that there is something so important that we need to hold God so tightly that we have to forget about food. We sacrifice something that is necessary, something that is legitimate, for a greater purpose and need. Do we do that for prayer? My friends, how long do we spend in front of the television? How long do we spend at the table? How long do we spend - and these things are not wrong - in our recreation, in shaping our body, in shaping our mind, in shaping our appearance - how long do we spend? But how long do we spend shaping our soul? Do we deny ourselves?
There's three scriptures that I want us just to quickly look at that speak of that, one of them is 1 Corinthians 6 and verse 12, and this is a great fundamental law of the Christian life - 1 Corinthians 6 and verse 12 and Paul says, 'All things are lawful unto me - because of the grace I have in Christ, because I am set free from the law of sin and death - all things are lawful unto me, but not all things are expedient, or helpful'. Not all things are helpful for me. We turn to Mark, that we were at, Mark chapter 8 and verse 35, you know the verse well, where He says again carrying on from talking about denying yourself, He says 'For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it'. For those saints, and I know that there are some here this morning, who give up some of the legitimate things in their life - that there is nothing wrong with, but they sacrifice them to serve and to get before God in a way that is not possible unless we sacrifice - oh, there's a special blessing. There's a special reward in the glory, I believe, for them - for God's unknown who will be at the front line to get the prizes, to get the rewards wherewith to worship their Saviour because they denied themselves. Second Timothy, where Paul says to him, in chapter 2 and verses 3 and 4 'Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier'. The soldier that puts his armour on and chooses not to please his own soul, to please his own flesh, to please his own life, and perhaps at times to please his own family - his kith and kin - for that man who pleases his God, who denies himself, who takes up his cross for his body to be crucified, for his body to bleed and to die and to have that miraculous resurrection in the full life of the Holy Spirit - for that child of God, oh there is a blessing for pleasing Him. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus that you redeem the time, but also that you deny yourself. That's how you will get time to pray.
But thirdly: buffet your body. We find this in 1 Corinthians chapter 9, if you wish to turn to it - 1 Corinthians chapter 9 and verse 24 - and I'm reading this passage of scripture from the American Standard Version, and it translates it in such a beautiful way - verse 23: 'I do all things for the gospel's sake', says Paul, 'that I may be a joint partaker thereof. Know ye not that they that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Even so run, that ye may attain. And every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run: as not uncertainly. So fight I: not as beating the air. But I buffet my body and bring it into bondage, lest, by any means after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected'. -- The word is: 'disqualified'. Athletes - and he uses this illustration that he uses so often - of the athlete who is training, weight-training, aerobic-training, running, jogging, so many things that he is doing for the day where the race will take place, so that when he runs that race, and when he calls upon his muscles, and when he calls upon his lungs within his body, and his heart, and his pulse and his feet -- when he calls upon them to perform, they will answer.
Watchman Nee says this about the soul, 'The soul is the organ of man's freewill. The organ in which the spirit and body are completely merged.' - now listen to this - 'If man's soul wills to obey God, it will allow the spirit to rule over it'. As ordered by God - God will dictate what you do, because your spirit is ruling in your life. But on the other hand: 'The soul, if it chooses, also can suppress the spirit and take some other delight as its Lord'. My friends this morning, the body is not sinful - that's not what I'm saying, that is not what Paul's saying - because the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, but what Paul is saying [is] that the body needs to be exercised, not physically, it needs to be disciplined, not physically - but spiritually. What does an athlete undergo? He undergoes strict training, he is not allowed to go into excesses or liberties of eating, or clothing, or smoking, or drinking, or sleeping - he must be as verse 27 says, 'Temperate in all things'. For if he indulges, the time will come when he is in that race and he calls upon the muscles that he needs, or he calls upon the breath that he needs, and he finds - because he has been filling his lungs with smoke - that he can't find it! His body is to be yielded to him. My friends this morning, listen! If you don't listen to anything I say today, listen to this! 'I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, for it's what's expected of you'. Does God have our body? We could dwell so much on the spirit and the soul - but does God have our body? To serve God there's an extra demand upon the body, and Paul says it's this: that you buffet the body. The Greek word 'buffet' simply means this - a strong blow, a punch - it's not a light pat, it's not a slap, but the word literally means 'to make below the eye black and blue'.
What did the Lord Jesus say? 'The spirit truly is willing but the flesh is weak'. You know this morning, if He had said, 'The spirit is weak and unwilling and the flesh is unwilling' it wouldn't have made any difference. Because unless the body is yielded to God, it doesn't matter what the spirit feels - the whole man must be God's. Do you buffet your body? What do I mean? Simply this: that your flesh, your body does not dictate to your spirit whether you get off your knees, or whether you go to sleep rather than talk to Him, or whether you lie on in your bed in the morning before you go to work, and forget about God because you're tired, because you're not strong enough, because you don't feel like it. But if you buffet your body, what you do is you put your body underneath your spirit - and when God breathes upon your spirit it doesn't matter what your body thinks. Who controls you? Does your body control your spirit or does your spirit control your body? Look at the Lord: a man came to Jesus by night and said unto Him - who was he? Nicodemas - he came in the middle of the night! And the Lord Jesus - because of the need - He sacrificed His sleep to point that soul to Himself. We read that He spent nights in prayer, He denied Himself sleep for the necessary need - the pre-ultimate thing that was necessary at that moment of time. If we turn to Mark and chapter 3 and verses 20 to 21, we find there that the crowd were coming in so close to Him that they couldn't even eat their meal. And of course the Lord Jesus Christ, who was so compassionate, who was so loving to the need of the people, who could see their need - what did He do? He sacrificed His meal for them - and what did the disciples say? 'He's beside Himself! He's doing too much! He's sacrificing too much. If He just took a moment out and just took that meal and then went to them...', but because the need was greater at that moment, He followed the need.
I'm finished this morning, but I want to conclude by just simply saying this: that we today need to redeem the time, we need to deny ourselves, we need to buffet the body and as Colossians 3:23 says, 'And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men'. And what does that say? 'Whatsoever ye do - do it!' Do it! We can preach about it, we can talk about, we can listen to tapes and watch videos, and listen to conference speakers about prayer, and write poems about it, and sing hymns about it - but there comes a time when we do it! Will we do it? Will we spend nights in prayer? Will we get answers to prayer by claiming the promises of God in His word? Will we fast and pray? Will we spend time in prayer? My friends, I don't want to preach these messages and get a pat on the back, I want to see you in the prayer meeting. I want you to come with me and say, 'David I'm uniting in prayer with you all. We're going to claim this blessing, we're going to bring God down with our prayers'. That's what I want. There's a story that's told of Fletcher of Madley (sp?) and he was a great teacher of theology in the 18th century, he used to lecture young theological students. He was a friend of John Wesley. He lectured many times on the great subjects of prayer and fasting, the fullness of the Spirit, how to have the power and blessing of God in your life. And often, in fact every time he touched on a sacred subject as this, he would say these words: 'That is the theory, now will those who want the practice come along to my room'. And again and again they closed those books and shut the door behind them in his room and they spent hours practising the theory of prayer. Let me say, in closing, we have spent hours on Lord's Day mornings on the theory of prayer, on the theory of fasting, on the theory of promises, on the theory of time and I am asking you today: come with me, and let us practice.
Our dear Father, we ask Thee this morning, for we indeed acknowledge and confess to Thee that our spirit is willing, but oh our flesh is so weak. And we pray that as in the beginning the breath of God was breathed into the nostrils of Adam, the very breath of God would be breathed into our flesh again - and that we would serve Thee not with our words, not with our thoughts, but with our lives. For Christ's sake. 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 fourth tape in his short series on Prayer, titled "Time For Prayer" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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