Tonight we're looking at Nehemiah chapter 9, I want you to turn with me to it. We looked at Nehemiah chapter 8 last night, and each night we're ministering really to the saints of God, for revival is for them - and yet we're seeking each night to bring the good news, a gospel challenge, for those who perhaps don't know the Saviour as yet.
So Nehemiah chapter 9, we'll not be reading the whole of the chapter - it's a very long chapter, not that there's anything wrong with reading whole chapters when they're long, we saw that last night: the people had to stand for a very long time and listen while Ezra read the law of God to the people! But we want to cut it down a little tonight, verses 1 through to 21 first of all of chapter 9:
"Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day", that's three hours, "and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God", another three hours. "Then stood up upon the stairs, of the Levites, Jeshua, and Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, and cried with a loud voice unto the LORD their God. Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee. Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham; And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous: And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea; And shewedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh, and on all his servants, and on all the people of his land: for thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them. So didst thou get thee a name, as it is this day. And thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors thou threwest into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters. Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go. Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant: And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them. But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not. Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations; Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go. Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst. Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not".
Then just down to verse 32: "Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God", not the teddy bear god that some people worship these days, but "the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day. Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly: Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them. For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked works. Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it: And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress. And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it".
Let us pray: Father, we thank You for Your holy word. We thank You that it is infallible and ineffable, inspired by God Himself. We thank you that it sets forth the Living Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, and in His name - we invoke His name tonight - that the power of the Holy Spirit might be poured upon us, and His glory would be manifest in the salvation of lost souls, and the reviving and refreshing of Your own believing people. Oh God help us, we need Your help. Come into our midst we pray, for Christ's sake, Amen.
Last night we looked at chapter 8, and we saw that this revival in Nehemiah's day - if it could be called that - and indeed every revival that we have seen in the history of the church of Jesus Christ and in the nation of Israel, there was central to it the preaching fearlessly and faithfully of God's holy word. Last night we saw, secondary to that, there always came a very immediate response of obedience to what God was saying through His word and through His servants. Those two things have always been central to revival, but if we were to add a third thing it would be what we have read tonight in chapter 9: prayer is an essential ingredient that God often uses when He is preparing His people to revive them. He sets them a-praying.
Now what we read tonight - we didn't even read it all...it might have seemed long enough to some of you! - but it's the longest prayer in the Bible. It's the longest prayer in the Bible, and it's got to do with revival. Now can I say to you tonight, just in case you're not saved: long prayers will do you no good. You've got to understand this: we're looking at the subject of prayer, and I'm sure there is not a soul gathered here under this roof that's never prayed - we have all prayed. Even the atheist, when he gets his back against the wall, cries out: 'Oh God!'. Now he mightn't be praying, but there's something deep within his heart that he denies religiously, that cries out for something outside of himself for help. The tragedy is this, my friend: there are people right throughout this dear land of ours and world, who pray longer prayers than I have ever prayed, and God doesn't hear a word of it! There's no value in long praying if you're not saved. Are you saved?
You see, God has taught us that He can make the heavens brass so that our prayers reach the ceiling but no more. He can make the earth stone, concrete, so that it yields for us no fruit - and indeed it is metaphorical of our lives, we don't have any fruitfulness or satisfaction in our lives or indeed from our prayers, because He has declared in His word that our iniquities - that's sin, now - have separated between us and our God, and our sins have hid His face from us. Now do you understand that? If you're still in your sin, that means if you're not saved, and you've never been cleansed in the precious blood of Christ that He shed for sin - with sin on Himself, bearing the guilt and the curse, and the burden and the wrath for sin - if you've never been cleansed in His precious blood by simple faith, God does not guarantee to hear your prayers. Now I'm not saying He never hears them, sometimes He does - but He doesn't guarantee that He will hear them.
'If I regard iniquity in my heart', the Psalmist said, 'the Lord will not hear me'. You forget about long prayers, you need to worry about the shortest prayer - one of the shortest prayers in this book. It was when Peter was sinking, and he saw the Saviour, and he cried: 'Lord, save me!'. Have you ever prayed that prayer? You need to pray it tonight. You might not hear anything in the rest of the message that I preach, and it mightn't seem too relevant to you because I'll be addressing believers many a time, but you need to hear that tonight: you need to cry out to God! You're sinking deep in sin, sinking to rise no more, and the Master of the sea is ready to hear your imploring cry: 'Save me, or I die!'. I'll tell you: if you cry out tonight, He'll save you, for He has promised to save you. The tragedy is, in Luke's gospel chapter 16 there was a man who lived his whole life and he was a religious man - now that means he prayed many a prayer - yet it wasn't until he was in the bowels of hell, and lifted up his eyes being in torment, that he prayed and asked for help...but it was too late. You make sure it's not too late for you, my friend. Make sure you don't learn to pray the repentant sinner's prayer in hell, for it will be no use.
This is the longest prayer in the Bible, and it's got to do with revival - isn't that interesting? Does that not tell us something about God's heart? You see: 'If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land'. Prayer has always been central to revival. Prayer was intrinsic among the Moravian community in Herrnhut in Saxony, when the Spirit of God came powerfully through them in August 1727. The adults among them covenanted to cover each of 24 hours in prayer, and by the end of a month even the children were holding their own prayer meetings - spending many hours themselves, young people, praying, singing, weeping!
The same pattern was found in our own land in the 1800s when James McQuilkin was converted in 1856 in Ballymena by the witness of an English lady. Later he went on to lead three of his close friends to the Saviour, and the four of them agreed to meet every week in prayer and Bible study. They chose an old schoolhouse near Kells, and during the winter of 1857 and 1858 each of them gathered with a Bible under one arm, and an armful of peat under the other, they warmed themselves around the fire and around the word of God. They met every Friday evening, and the fire of God fell upon them and warmed their souls. Two more folk joined them, including an old man named Marshall - but it wasn't until New Year's Day 1858 till they saw their first convert, only one man. But by the end of that year the group had grown to 50, and they prayed for - this is what James McQuilkin said, I believe - 'for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon ourselves, and upon the surrounding country; this was the one great object and burden of our prayers. We held right to the one thing, and did not run off to anything else'. That prayer group was ridiculed for praying in this way, but he said: 'We kept on praying until the power came', and it did come. By the close of the following year 100,000 souls were converted to Christ in our wee land. As the revival spread, so did prayer. In the Connor district alone there were 100 weekly prayer meetings commenced, and prayer meetings were everywhere - from graveyards to gravel pits - and Ballymena's Wellington Street Presbyterian Church could be, it was said, 'Crowded in all its parts by a prayer meeting, this even on a Saturday, the weekly market day, when at normal times a dozen persons could scarcely have been convened for such a purpose'.
The Bible testifies, and our Christian heritage testifies, that if we are to know true revival, God's people on fire again and people in the community saved as an outflowing of that, personally and corporately we need to have a true revival in prayer. So I'm asking you tonight, point blank: how's your prayer life? How is your prayer life? J. Oswald Saunders in his book 'Spiritual Leadership' quotes Dean C. J. Vaughn, to rattle the skeleton that hangs in many of our closets as Christians, I'm quoting him: 'If I wish to humble anyone, I should question him about his prayers. I know nothing to compare with this topic for its sorrowful self-confessions'. Of course it was Murray M'Cheyne who said: 'A man is what he is on his knees, and no more'. The truth of that question: 'How is your prayer life?', it humbles all of us - preacher included, pastors, elders, deacons, members, evangelists, missionaries, theological professors, authors. Saunders goes on: 'Most of us are plagued with a subtle aversion to praying. We do not naturally delight in drawing near to God. We pay lip service to the delight, and potency, and value of prayer. We assert that it is an indispensable adjunct of mature spiritual life. We know that it is constantly enjoined and exemplified in the scriptures - but in spite of all, too often we fail to pray. 'When I go to prayer', confessed an eminent Christian, 'I find my heart so loathe to go to God, and when it is with Him, so loath to stay''.
Someone once described praying to me as like ducking your head underneath the surface of the water and holding your breath. You try to do it for as long as you can, and then you burst up to take a mouthful of air - is that what prayer is like to most of us? I fear it is. We can make all the excuses we like, but fail to admit that we have a real problem - and its prayerlessness. We might want revival, we might want to see people saved, but prayerlessness is a great obstacle. The great question is not: 'Do we want revival?', but 'Are we willing to pay the price for revival?'.
Here we see in this longest prayer four principles that were implemented in Nehemiah's day, and God is just the same today. He's just as eager, I believe, to pour out His abundant blessings - but we must come to Him humbly and broken and ask. Let's see these four principles - the first is repentance, repentance. The walls in Nehemiah's day had now been built, you remember I told you last night they had been destroyed by the enemy - the walls have been reconstructed. In chapter 8 we saw that now the people of God were being re-instructed, and the law had been expounded and read, the feast of the tabernacles had been restored - and it was being observed, we saw, for the first time since the days of Joshua, chapter 8:16.
After a few days interval, after they were told to feast, not weep but feast, suddenly the feasting give place to fasting, and the joy became humiliation. Are we surprised at that, that feasting should give way to fasting, that joy should give way to humiliation? Well, we shouldn't be, because that's what the Christian life is meant to be: it's meant to be a balance of both feasting and fasting, they go together. We're meant to constantly be repeating this cycle of communion and fellowship in joy with God, and yet this denial of self and humiliation, and brokenness and repentance, and taking up the cross - they go together! The tragedy is, and this is one of the problems and obstacles to revival, many a believer thinks that confession and repentance is something that was done at conversion and is never repeated again! What nonsense! Our Lord Jesus said: every day we're meant to get beneath the cross.
Now, my friend, you need to be saved tonight if you're not converted, you need to repent - and you've got to understand what repentance is. It's not trying to clean up your life, it's not trying to get rid of your habits - you can't do that! You haven't the power to do that! It means changing your mind about your sin, realising it's against God and it grieves Him, and it's damning your soul - and turning your mind and your heart to Christ, and by faith alone being saved! Have you ever done that? You're lost if you've never done it. But believer, when was the last time you did it? We ought to be, I suppose, converted every day - not that we're lost every day, once saved always saved, but we need to have this conversion experience, don't we? A humble and contrite heart God delights in, He does not despise.
Did we not look at this on the Lord's Day? Do you remember the verse that I brought to you, very definitely from the Lord: 'Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him' - we've to reach high to God, but we only get it by bowing low. God dwells in the heights with the one who will bend himself, the 'contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones'. If we refuse to humble ourselves before God, it will not be long until we are hardhearted, cold and indifferent to the things of God. Prayer will suffer in our lives, if not be completely non-existent.
These people had got hard hearts - believer, is your heart hard through prayerlessness? I tell you: sometimes our hearts are so hard that we don't even feel how hard they are, we're oblivious to it. God can come graciously and warm our hearts, and thank God that He has done it with me time after time again, for I needed it. My friend, you need it tonight, you need to get on the dust and on the dirt, and realise that God will never plant a seed of His life upon soil that is hard and unbroken in spirit. You've got to break up that fallow ground, you've got to come before the Lord: 'They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy'. This is a misnomer to people, it's a contradiction in terms. We saw it on Sunday: how can brokenness bring you blessing and happiness? It's the opposite that is the truth: that if you don't have brokenness you'll be miserable! It is tears and brokenness that brings joy to your heart!
Many a believer has relegated brokenness to their immature Christian past, in the past, at one time - and they have to say tonight: 'Where is the blessedness I knew, when first I saw the Lord? Where is the soul-refreshing view of Jesus and His word?'. If we want revival, one principle of revival is brokenness of heart: 'Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you'. Listen my friend tonight, saved or unsaved, one thing is for sure: it's time to seek the Lord! Time is short for you, you don't know the day or the hour that He will call your soul from you. Your life is a vapour, here for a moment and gone, and the Lord is coming very soon - another reason for getting right with God as quickly as possible.
Repentance is found here, and that's what we need to do if we want to get back to the path of prayer. The second thing that's found is reflection. What a prayer of confession and praise this is: note the constant repetition. In verse 6, if you look at it, through to 15 the word 'and' is found I don't know how many times - maybe some of you will count it for me, but don't do it now! There are many times, and really what the pray-er is doing is, he's reflecting on God's goodness - and he just goes on and on: 'and...and...and...and...and', because of the bountiful manifold goodness and mercy of God. But then there's a problem, verse 16, this conjunctive word 'but', but...all of God's goodness 'But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments'. You see, the goodness of God is meant to lead us to repentance.
Whether you're not saved or are saved, there's a danger that your heart can be stubborn, proud and unyielding to what you know is right and God's will for your life - whether it's being saved, or whether it's being broken. You need to be careful, Proverbs 29:1 says: He that hardeneth his neck, he can be cut off, he can be destroyed, cut down suddenly. You might think this doesn't happen, but it is happening all the time. My dear friend, take the warning. Then next in verses 26 to 32, he goes on to say what God did for them regardless of their rebellion - and that's what God's grace is! You can be sticking your fist in the face of Almighty God - and this is the wonderful thing about Him! The BBC are afraid to talk about Mohammed and the Muslims, why? Because they'll get a letter bomb, or maybe worst of all their heads cut off - but they can throw all the blasphemy and vile sacrilegious nonsense at the Lord Jesus Christ, why? Because He's merciful, He's gracious, He's long-suffering, He's slow to anger. He hung on a cross, bled and died for them, and so He gets it in the teeth all the time.
Even in their rebellion here, God is merciful - that's the story of grace. It's toward us all, in our indifference, in our coldness, hardness of heart toward God - but you know, believer, can I just say something? In this context, in the Old Testament, God was outside the people. He didn't come and dwell in their bodies as the Temple of the Holy Spirit, He dwelt in the Temple and the Tabernacle that they had around them - but isn't it sobering, and it should be devastating to us, to think that we, if we're saved, are the Tabernacles of the Holy Ghost and He dwells inside us? Yet we can still be hard, we can still be indifferent. Do we ever take time to reflect upon the goodness of God, reflection that will actually affect us and melt our hearts?
'Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word'.
This is a problem we have today - and I have it like the rest of you. We have all the mod cons that were invented, supposedly, to give us more time - and we get so many mod cons that we've no time to do anything else but operate them and pay for them. Very few of us find time to be before God. Verse 3 says they took hours in the word of God, three hours, then they took three hours in prayer and worship - three hours searching their hearts! Three hours worshipping God! One man has said: 'The word was first, and then prayer', and there is a danger that if you have the word of God and you neglect prayer, like many today, you'll become heady and knowledgeable and doctrinal, and likely to quarrel about this point and the other point, and occupied with theoretical Christianity to the hurt of your soul, and even to the irritation of other brethren and sisters in Christ. There is a danger the other way: if you've got prayer and neglect God's word, you can become introspective and mystical, and sometimes fanatical. But they had this balance, and you find that revivals that had the longest lasting results had this balance - the word of God and prayer!
Is it in your life? I'll tell you: if it is, it will take time. It will take time for the spirit of prayer to get hold upon your heart. Nehemiah, before he even started building the walls of Jerusalem, spent four months in uninterrupted thought, reflection upon what God wanted to do in his life. Before he set a brick upon a brick! When the opposition came from the enemies of God, he thought it over first before he acted. It's all teaching us that we must give time, take time - and boy, what an exercise it would be for we believers to set aside one day away from the normal daily tasks and show the Lord, just for one day, that fellowship with Him is more important than anything else in the world is. That would be fasting, in a sense, and maybe we could set aside, if we could, our dinner as well, or maybe another meal - and cry unto God, and show Him: 'I want You more than my steak and kidney pie! I want You more than my television programme! I want You more than the news! I want You more than the shops!'. Is that the message God gets from us? Do we take time to reflect on God's goodness, and go back over the story of our life, and the milestones in the past? This is a principle of revival: counting God's blessings, seeing God's goodness, taking time to reflect on Him.
'O the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend'
How long has it been since you spent even an hour in the word of God and prayer? Oh, we needn't talk about revival if there's no repentance, or reflection in our prayer life. But something else here: recognition, verses 33 and 38. They looked into the face of God, and they had to say to this terrible God: 'Thou hast done right', verse 33, 'but we have done wickedly'. What they were saying, to put it in our vernacular, was: 'Yes Lord, You're right, and I'm wrong'. Unsaved person: can you bring yourself to that problem, that great dilemma that human beings have? To say: 'I'm not going to go my way any more, but I'm going to go Your way. Lord, You're right and I'm wrong!'. Conversion happens when we stop arguing with God, and revival happens in the life of the believer when we drop all controversy that we have between us and our Lord. Have you ever got to that place, believer, since you were saved? That place of surrender?
Dr Alan Redpath said he was often asked the question by people: 'What is the unpardonable sin?', and he said, 'I've only one answer: the sin you won't confess'. You can go through 20 years of life, perhaps, covering it up, refusing to recognize it - what is it? Am I touching on something - I haven't even mentioned the word, the particular sin, the issue - but there is something in your life, believer, and you know fine well, and God is giving you now what it is, and it's the very thing that you won't let go of! For revival a price must be paid: open sin in the assembly has to be confessed openly. Sin against another has to be confessed to that person. Sin against God, and all of those things aforementioned are sins against God, but they have to be confessed to Him. We need, as believers, every day, and perhaps periodically from time to time to more excess, do a spiritual MOT, an inventory of our lives where we're at - it's the price of revival, and it doesn't make you morbidly introspective, or it shouldn't, it should lead to action that we see in chapter 10 and verse 29. Look at it: 'They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God's law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes'.
This business of repentance, reflection, recognition, it led to action! They didn't sit in the doldrums, they repented, they got on with God. My friend, that can happen for you tonight. I have a firm belief now, I have a firm belief that any and every believer can know personal revival this very night - I believe it. For I don't think personal revival is anything different than the normal Christian life that the New Testament sets forth. The problem is: we have got a subnormal Christian existence.
Finally - repentance, reflection, recognition, and restoration. Obedience touched every part of their lives. It touched their home life, their social life, their church life, their congregation life. Repentance is not simply an emotional upheaval, it leads to action! Verse 30 of chapter 10, they covenanted 'that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons'. It affected their domestic lives, their families were restored; they got their family altar together, where they worshipped God and read the word and prayed to the Lord - it had been broken down! Oh, that is in desperate need of repair in all our homes, isn't it? We all get so busy that we shut out our family time before God. We need to bring back that discipline to the home life. Husbands need to pray with their wives, wives with their husbands. We need to pray with our children.
Family life was affected, but social life was affected. In chapter 9 in verse 2 we see this: they separated themselves as the seed of Israel 'from all strangers', who were pagans worshipping other gods, 'and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers'. Their social life was affected, the friends that they were hanging around with. Now we are to befriend unsaved people and try to win them for Christ, but sometimes unsaved people can drag us down into the mire. John Wesley, before he was saved - now think about this - before he was saved, when he was a student at Oxford University, said he would only have friends who would help him to heaven - and he wasn't even saved! Your friends are taking you to hell, and you'll be in hell on your own - they'll not be able to bail you out. Are your friends helping you to heaven?
It affected their social life, it affected their congregational life in verse 39 of chapter 10. We read at the end, the people got together and they sang and prayed, and they said 'We will not forsake the house of our God'. The emphasis was on faithfulness, and they gathered together all their gifts and they gave it to the Lord - giving their firstfruits, all that they had. They couldn't enrich God - you can't be saved or revived by giving something, or paying into the church, or doing charitable works - but this was what was happening here: they had failed to do this in the past, they were restoring the things that were broken down. Are you forsaking the assembling of yourself together with the Lord's people? I know you're here tonight, and it's great to see you, but it could be that your habit is not to be with God's people? People say to me: 'Going to meetings doesn't make you spiritual', that's right - but staying away doesn't make you spiritual, that's for sure!
We suffer spiritual leanness when we're not with the congregation of God's people. This revival affected the congregation, this prayer before us tonight reached four directions we have spoken of. It caused them to look up in adoration and praise to God. It caused them to look back with thanksgiving to what God had done in their past in blessing. It caused them to look at the problems, and look into themselves, and cry unto God to look ahead for Him to move. They repented, they reflected, they recognized and they restored. They brought out the book - we saw it last night - and here in chapter 9 they are putting prayer back in the right place. Hovie Lister wrote a song many years ago, and it asks you the question:
'How long has it been
Since you talked with the Lord,
And told Him your heart's hidden secrets.
How long since you prayed?
How long since you stayed on your knees
Till the light shone through?
How long has it been
Since your mind felt at ease
How long since your heart knew no burden?
Can you call Him your friend?
How long has it been
Since you knew that He cared for you?
How long has it been
Since you knelt by your bed
And prayed to the Lord up in heaven?
How long since you knew
That He would answer you,
And would keep you the long night through?
How long has it been
Since you woke with the dawn,
And felt that the day's worth the living?
Can you call Him your friend?
How long has it been
Since you knew that He cared for you?'.
Dr J. Wilber Chapman was once preaching in Hereford, England. For days there was a signal absence of the presence of God and conviction of sin in the meetings, however Chapman said that when John Hyde, the missionary from India, visited the district all of a sudden God came to town as well. God and Hyde walked together, hand-in-hand. As a result, when Chapman made an appeal on the first night after Hyde was in the town, as a result 50 men came to Christ. Chapman begged Hyde to come, 'Pray for me', he said. Into a room the two men went after one meeting, Hyde turned the key in the door and turned his face up to God, and then turned the fountains of his great heart open. Chapman adds, I quote: 'I felt the hot tears running down my face. I knew I was with God. With upturned face, down which tears were streaming, John Hyde said these words: 'Oh God'. Then for five minutes at least, he was still, and then when he knew he was talking with God his arm went around my shoulder', Chapman said, 'and there came up from the depths of his heart such petitions for men as I had never before heard. I arose from my knees to know what real prayer was'.
Let us pray: Oh Lord, in this moment we are conscious that there are created souls in this gathering that were made to worship, praise, and magnify the Living God - and they have never prayed: 'Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner'. They are living a life You never intended for them, and it's going to take them to hell - and then they will pray, but You will not hear. There are believers here and, Lord, they - oh, they maybe said their prayers today - but it's been a long time since they really prayed. God, we must confess, I confess that so often I engage in vain repetition as the heathen do - oh God, give us hearts that are broken, repentant, cause us to reflect upon Your goodness until we are almost translated to greater heights of ecstasy in Your presence as we think of the great God we have, the blessings that we are blessed with in heavenly places in Christ. Lord, may we recognize what is lacking in our lives, and restore the things that need to be put right. Lord, You are here, may Your presence not be wasted on any of us. For Jesus' sake we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Lifeboat Mission in Moy, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth recording in his 'The Revival We Need' series, entitled "A Revival In Prayer" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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