‘What things soever ye desire when ye pray believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them’ (Mark 11:24)
By the words ‘believe that ye receive them’: we understand, expect God to give them to you. But it is at this point that so many of God’s people fail oftenest in their prayer lives. There are three chief things to be attended to in prayer.
First, make sure that you are asking for something that is in accordance with God’s Word: see 1 John 5:14. But right here, the devil will foil you unless you are upon your guard. He will come as an angel of light and preach a sermon to you on God’s holy will. O yes, the devil is quite capable even of that!
It is our privilege and duty to know what God’s will is! ‘Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is’ (Eph. 5:17). It is the revealed will of God which is in view in these passages, for with His ‘secret’ will, we have nothing to do; that is none of our business.
God’s revealed will is made known in His Word. Fix this in your mind; never allow Satan inject a thought (Eph. 4:27) to shake you thereon, that everything God has commanded you to do, every precept and exhortation addressed to you, is ‘God’s will’ for you, and is to be turned into prayer for enabling grace. It is God’s will that you should be ‘sanctified’ (1 Thess. 4:2), that you should ‘rejoice’ (Phil. 4:4), that you should ‘make your calling and election sure’ (2 Peter 1:10), that you should ‘grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord’ (2 Peter 3:18).
Second, having made sure that what you are praying for is according to God’s revealed will, then plead His promises, such as Matt. 7:7, Phil. 4:19, etc. Plead them in the name of Christ, asking God to give you the ‘desires of thine heart’ (Psalm 37:4) for Christ’s sake, that He may be honoured in and by a Godly walk from you, and that His people may be helped and encouraged by your example. Those are pleas which God cannot deny.
Third, and this is what we would earnestly and lovingly press upon the Christian reader: EXPECT God to do what you have asked. Unless there is an expectancy, faith is not fully in exercise. It is this expecting from Him which honours and pleases God, and which always draws down from Him answers of peace.
There may be some difficulty, problem, trial, looming ahead of you, which assumes the proportions of a mountain. Never mind that: do not let it depress, discourage, or dismay you. Praise God it stands written in the eternal Word of Truth, ‘Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith and doubt not…ye shall say unto this mountain be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; It shall be done'(Matt. 21:21).
Notice carefully, it is not ‘If thou doubt not and have faith, ‘but if ye have faith’ and then (while you are awaiting God’s answer) ‘doubt not’, but continue the fulfillment of His promise. When you first get down on your knees, beg God in the name of Christ and for His own glory’s sake, to work in you by His Spirit that expectancy of faith which will not take ‘NO’ from Him; which reverently, but confidently says, ‘I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me’ (Gen. 32:26). That is what honours God, that is what pleases Him, that is what obtains answers from Him.
‘A friend at court!’ No doubt that expression is more or less familiar to the older readers, but it has almost dropped out of use in this generation. It denoted that one had a friend possessing influence with another in authority, and using it on my behalf. How unspeakably blessed to know that the Christian has a friend at court, the Court of Heaven; ‘A friend that sticketh closer than a brother.’ He has the ear of God, for on earth He declared ‘Thou hearest me always’ (John 11:42).
Then, make use of Him, and ask Him to present them to His Father and your Father, accompanied by His own all-prevailing merits; and, if they are for God’s glory and thy (real) good, be fully assured that they shall be granted. Thus will Christ be honoured and your faith strengthened.
Prayer; Filling our souls with Heaven by David MacIntyre, Puritan Pastor; author of The Hidden Life of Prayer
Prayer is the most sublime energy of which the spirit of man is capable.
It is in one aspect glory and blessedness; in another, it is toil and travail, battle and agony. Uplifted hands grow tremulous long before the field is won; straining sinews and panting breath proclaim the exhaustion of the ‘heavenly footman.’ The weight that falls upon an aching heart fills the brow with anguish, even when the midnight air is chill.
Prayer is the uplift of the earth-bound soul into the heaven, the entrance of the purified spirit into the holiest; the rending of the luminous veil that shuts in, as behind curtains, the glory of God. It is the vision of things unseen; the recognition of the mind of the Spirit; the effort to frame words which man may not utter.
A man that truly prays one prayer,’ says Bunyan, ‘shall after that never be able to express with his mouth or pen the unutterable desires, sense, affection, and longing that went to God in that prayer.’
The saints of the Jewish Church had a princely energy in intercession: ‘Battering the gates of heaven with storms of prayer,’ they took the kingdom of heaven by violence. The first Christians proved in the wilderness, in the dungeon, in the arena, and at the stake the truth of their Master’s words, ‘He shall have whatsoever he saith.’ Their souls ascended to God in supplication as the flame of the altar mounts heavenward. The Talmudists affirm that in the divine life four things call for fortitude; of these, prayer is one.
One who met Tersteegen at Kronenberg remarked, ‘It seemed to me as if he had gone straight into heaven, and had lost himself in God; but often when he had done praying he was as white as the wall.’
David Brainerd notes that on one occasion, when he found his soul ‘exceedingly enlarged’ in supplication, he was ‘in such anguish, and pleaded with so much earnestness and importunity,’ that when he rose from his knees he felt ‘extremely weak and overcome.’ ‘I could scarcely walk straight,’ he goes on to say, ‘my joints were loosed, the sweat ran down my face and body, and nature seemed as if it would dissolve.’ A living writer has reminded us of John Foster, who used to spend long nights in his chapel, absorbed in spiritual exercises, pacing to and fro in the disquietude of his spirit, until his restless feet had worn a little track in the aisle.
One might easily multiply examples, but there is no need to go beyond Scripture to find either precept or example to impress us with the arduousness of that prayer which prevails. Should not the supplication of the Psalmist, ‘Quicken Thou me, according to Thy word…quicken me in Thy righteousness…quicken me after Thy loving-kindness…quicken me according to Thy judgments…quicken me, O Lord, for Thy name’s sake;’ and the complaint of the Evangelical Prophet, ‘There is none that calleth upon Thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee,’ find an echo in our experience?
Do we know what it is to ‘labour,’ to ‘wrestle,’ to ‘agonize’ in prayer?
Another explanation of the arduousness of prayer lies in the fact that we are spiritually hindered: there is ‘the noise of archers in the places of drawing water.’
St. Paul assures us that we shall have to maintain our prayer energy ‘against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’ Dr. Andrew Bonar used to say that, as the King of Syria commanded his captains to fight neither with small nor great, but only with the King of Israel, so the prince of the power of the air seems to bend all the force of his attack against the spirit of prayer. If he should prove victorious there, he has won the day.
Sometimes we are conscious of a satanic impulse directed immediately against the life of prayer in our souls; sometimes we are led into ‘dry’ and wilderness-experiences, and the face of God grows dark above us; sometimes, when we strive most earnestly to bring every thought and imagination under obedience to Christ, we seem to be given over to disorder and unrest; sometimes the inbred slothfulness of our nature lends itself to the evil one as an instrument by which he may turn our minds back from the exercise of prayer.
Because of all these things, therefore, we must be diligent and resolved, watching as a sentry who remembers that the lives of men are lying at the hazard of his wakefulness, resourcefulness, and courage.
‘And what I say unto you,’ said the Lord to His disciples, ‘I say unto all, Watch! ‘
There are times when even the soldiers of Christ become heedless of their trust, and no longer guard with vigilance the gift of prayer. Should anyone who reads these pages be conscious of loss of power in intercession, lack of joy in communion, hardness and impenitence in confession, ‘Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.’
‘Oh, stars of heaven that fade and flame, Oh, whispering waves below! Was earth, or heaven. or I the same, A year, a year ago!
‘The stars have kept their home on high, The waves their wonted flow; The love is lost that once was I, A year, a year ago.’
The only remedy for this sluggish mood is that we should ‘rekindle our love,’ as Polycarp wrote to the Church in Ephesus, ‘in the blood of God.’ Let us ask for a fresh gift of the Holy Spirit to quicken our sluggish hearts, a new disclosure of the charity of God.
The Spirit will help our infirmities, and the very compassion of the Son of God will fall upon us, clothing us with zeal as with a garment, stirring our affections into a most vehement flame, and filling our souls with heaven.
‘Men ought always to pray, and ‘-although faintness of spirit attends on prayer like a shadow-‘not faint.’
The soil in which the prayer of faith takes root is a life of unbroken communion with God, a life in which the windows of the soul are always open towards the City of Rest. We do not know the true potency of prayer until our hearts are so steadfastly inclined to God that our thoughts turn to Him, as by a Divine instinct, whenever they are set free from the consideration of earthly things.
‘The vision of God,’ says Bishop Westcott, ‘makes life a continuous prayer.’ And in that vision, all fleeting things resolve themselves and appear in relation to things unseen.
In a broad use of the term, prayer is the sum of all the service that we render to God, so that all fulfillment of duty is, in one sense, the performance of Divine service, and the familiar saying, ‘Work is worship,’ is justified.
‘I am prayer,’ said a Psalmist (Psa. cix. 4). ‘In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving,’ said an Apostle.
In the Old Testament that life which is steeped in prayer is often described as a walk with God. Enoch walked in assurance, Abraham in perfectness, Elijah in fidelity, the sons of Levi in peace and equity. Or it is spoken of as a dwelling with God, even as Joshua departed not from the Tabernacle; or as certain craftsmen of the olden time abode with a king for his work.
Again, it is defined as the ascent of the soul into the Sacred Presence; as the planets, ‘with open face beholding,’ climb into the light of the sun’s countenance, or as a flower, lit with beauty and dipped in fragrance, reaches upwards towards the light.
At other times, prayer is said to be the gathering up of all the faculties in an ardor of reverence, and love, and praise. As one clear strain may succeed in reducing to harmony a number of mutually-discordant voices, so the reigning impulses of the spiritual nature unite the heart to fear the name of the Lord.
Source: David MacIntyre, The Hidden Life of Prayer
In July 17, 1887 Augustus Strong and John D. Rockefeller visited Charles Spurgeon at his home in London.
After two hours, the leading Baptist theologian and the wealthy U.S. tycoon uncovered the secret of Spurgeon’s ministry: “He seemed to be a man of prayer” (Crerar Douglas, Autobiography of Augustus Hopkins Strong, 300).
Spurgeon’s prayers made you feel “the throbbing of that mighty heart” (C. H. Spurgeon’s Prayers, vii).
Spurgeon once said, “Prayer has become as essential to me as the heaving of my lungs, and the beating of my pulse” (MTP 49:476).
Prayer was the underbelly of Spurgeon’s ministry.
“Let me know the day when you give up praying for me,” he said, “for then I must give up preaching” (Autobiography 2:335).
Spurgeon teaches us how to pray. Here are nine ways to pray like Charles Spurgeon.
1. Grapple with God.
“It is on our knees that we overcome” (MTP 7:94).
“Unanswered petitions are not unheard” (MTP 13:74).
“That which is gained speedily by a single prayer is sometimes only a second rate blessing; but that which is gained after many a desperate tug, and many an awful struggle, is a full weighted and precious blessing. . . . The blessing which costs us the most prayer will be worth the most” (MTP 17:612).
2. Ask boldly! You are the beloved.
“Our God not only hears prayer but also loves to hear it” (Morning and Evening, November 3, AM, italics in the original).
“Do not let us go to God as though we were strangers, or as though he were unwilling to give—we are greatly beloved” (MTP 13:82).
“It would be of no use to knock at a wall, but you may wisely knock at a door, for it is arranged for opening” (MTP 29:306).
“God keeps a file for our prayers—they are not blown away by the wind, they are treasured in the King’s archives” (Morning and Evening, March 29, PM).
3. Hold God to his promises.
“He can reverse nature, but he cannot reverse his own nature, and he must do this before he forebear to hear and answer prayer” (MTP 7:93).
“A true prayer is the echo of the eternal purpose” (MTP 48:487).
“The Spirit of God leads us to desire exactly what God has decreed” (MTP 48:487).
“The best praying man is the man most believingly familiar with the promises of God. After all, prayer which is not based on a promise has no true foundation” (MTP 34:21).
4. Pray fervently when you don’t feel it.
“If you do not pray except when you feel like praying, you will not pray much, nor pray when you most need it. My brethren, when you do not feel like praying, you ought to pray all the more, and go to the Lord to help you to pray” (MTP 35:583).
“We must get rid of the icicles that hang about our lips. We must ask the Lord to thaw the ice-caves of our soul and to make our hearts like a furnace of fire heated seven times hotter” (MTP 13:79).
“We cannot commune with God, who is a consuming fire, if there is no fire in our prayers. . . . Prayers which are filled with doubt, are requests for refusal” (MTP 28:547).
5. Pray privately.
“The less prayer is observed on earth, the more it is observed in heaven” (MTP 30:136).
“You are no Christian if you do not pray. A prayerless soul is a Christless soul” (MTP 48:483).
6. Pray patiently.
“When prayer is long in the answering it will be all the sweeter in the receiving, like fruit which is well ripened by hanging longer on the tree” (MTP 20:306).
“Prayer does move the arm that moves the world” (MTP 41:524).
“The act of prayer is blessed, the habit of prayer is more blessed, but the spirit of prayer is the most blessed of all” (MTP 29:532).
7. Measure prayer by weight, not length.
“Short prayers are long enough. . . . Not length but strength is desirable” (Morning and Evening, January 14, AM).
“Some brethren pray by the yard; but true prayer is measured by weight, and not by length. A single groan before God may have more fulness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length” (MTP 34:16).
8. Groan your way to God.
“The essence of prayer lies in the heart drawing near to God: and it can do that without words” (MTP 24:214).
“It may suit a teacher of English composition to criticize your sentences, but God thinks much more of your desires than of the words in which they are expressed. It may be natural for a scholar to consider the accuracy of your terms, but God specially marks the earnestness of your soul” (MTP 48:483).
“I would sooner see you eloquent with God than with men” (An All-Round Ministry, 314).
“A sigh, a sob, is the most you can get out. . . . The inward moanings of a broken heart are music in the ears of the Infinite Jehovah, and he accepteth the sincere prayers of his people” (MTP 60:512).
“Our poor prayers are blotted, and blurred, and stained with sin, but our great High Priest sprinkles them with his own most precious blood, and so purifies them, and then, with his own dear hand, he lays them before the mercy-seat, and for his sake they are sure to be accepted” (MTP 48:487-88).
9. Pray always.
“Souls abiding in Jesus open the day with prayer; prayer surrounds them as an atmosphere all day long; at night they fall asleep praying. I have known them even [to] dream a prayer” (MTP 34:15).
“Prayer is now as much a necessity of our spiritual life as breath is of our natural life” (MTP 34:15).
“These are dark days, but you can bring on a spiritual summertime if you know how to pray” (MTP 48:491).
“Continue, then, in prayer. Never let your fire go out” (MTP 7:92).
A Prayerful Plea from Spurgeon “My dear friends, wait upon God much in prayer, and you have the promise that he will do greater things for you than you know of” (Spurgeon’s Prayers, 30).