Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Worship Wednesdays: How to Pray, Week 2

autographed portrait of R.A. Torrey

How to Pray, by R.A. Torrey
Chapter 1:  The Importance of Prayer, continued
Freedom from Anxiety
Prayer with thanksgiving, in every care and anxiety and need of life, is the means that God has appointed for our obtaining freedom from all anxiety and the peace of God which passes all understanding.
“Be careful for nothing,” says Paul, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understand, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phillippians 4:6-7)  To many, this initially seems like the picture of a life that is beautiful but beyond the reach of ordinary mortals.  This is not so at all.  The verse tells us how this life of peace is attainable by every child of God:  “Be careful for nothing,” or as the Revised Standard Version reads, “Have no anxiety about anything.”  The remainder of the verse tells us how to do this.  It is very simple:  “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  What could be plainer or more simple than that?  Just keep in constant touch with God.  When trouble or vexation, great or small, occur, speak to Him about it, never forgetting to return thanks for what He has already done.  What will the result be?  “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, will keep your hears and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (R.S.V.)  
That is glorious, and it is as simple as it is glorious!  Thank God, many are trying it.  Don’t you know anyone who is always serene?  Perhaps he is a very stormy man by nature.  Troubles and conflicts and opposition and sorrow may sweep around him, and the peace of god which passes all understanding will guard his heart and his thoughts in Christ Jesus. 
We all know such persons.  How do they do it?  Just by prayer, that is all.  Those persons who know the deep peace of God, the unfathomable peace which passes all understanding, are always men and women of much prayer.
Some of us let the hurry of our lives crowd prayer out and what a waste of time and energy and emotion there is in this constant worry!  One night of prayer will save us from many nights of insomnia.  Time spent in prayer is not wasted, but time invested at big interest.
Vehicle for the Holy Spirit
Prayer is the method that God Himself has appointed for our obtaining the Holy Spirit.  
The  Bible is very plain on this point.  Jesus says, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?”  (Luke 11:13).
I know this as definitely as I know that my thirst is quenched when I drink water.  Early one morning in Chicago Avenue Church’s prayer room, where several hundred people had been assembled a number of hours in prayer, the Holy Spirit fell so manifestly that no one could speak or pray.  The whole room was filled with His presence so that sobs of joy filled the place.  Men left that room and went to different parts of the country, taking trains that very morning, and the effects of the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit in answer to prayer were soon reported.  Others went out into the city with the blessing of God upon them.  This is only one instance among many that might be cited from personal experience.  
If we would only spend more time in prayer, there would be more fullness of the Spirit’s power in our work.  Many men who once worked unmistakably in the power of the Holy Spirit now fill the air with empty shouting, beat it with meaningless gestures, because they have neglected prayer.  We must spend much time on our knees before God if we are to continue in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Be Ready for His Return
Prayer is the means that Christ has appointed so that our hearts will not be overcome with indulgence and drunkenness and the cares of this life, For the day of Christ’s return will come upon us suddenly as a snare.
One of the most interested and solemn passages on prayer in the Bible is along this line (Luke 21:34 - 36).  “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.  For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.  Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  According to this passage, there is only one way in which we can be prepared for the coming of the Lord when He appears:  through much prayer.
The second coming of Jesus Christ is a subject that is awakening much interest and discussion in our day.  It is one thing to be interested in the Lord’s return, and to talk about it, but it is quite another thing to be prepared for it.  We live in an atmosphere that has a constant tendency to make us unsuitable for Christ’s coming.  The world tends to draw us down by its gratifications and cares.  There is only one way by which we can triumphantly rise above these things - by constant watching in prayer, that is, by sleeplessness in prayer.  Watch in this passage is the same strong word used in Ephesians 6:18, and always is the same strong phrase as pray at all times.  The man who spends little time in prayer, who is not steadfast and constant in prayer, will not be ready for the Lord when He comes.  But, we may be ready.  How?  Pray!  Pray!  Pray!  
We Need to Pray
Because of what prayer accomplishes.
Much has been said about that already, but there is also much that should be added.
Prayer promotes our spiritual growth as almost nothing else, indeed, as nothing else except Bible study.  True prayer and true Bible Study go hand in hand.
It is through prayer that my sin is brought to light, my most hidden sin.  As I kneel before God and pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart.  Try me, and know my thoughts:  and see if there be any wicked way in me.”  (Psalm 139:23-24), God shoots the penetrating rays of His light into the innermost recesses of my heart.  The sins that I never suspected to be present are brought to light.  In answer to prayer, God washes me from my iniquity and cleanses me from my sin (Psalm 51:2).  In answer to prayer, my eyes are opened to behold wondrous things out of God’s word.  (Psalm 119:8).  In answer to prayer, I receive wisdom to know God’s way (James 1:5) and strength to walk in it.  As I meet God in prayer and gaze into His face, I am changed into His image from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18)  Each day of true prayer life finds me more like my glorious Lord.
John Welch, the son-in-law of John Knox, was one of the most faithful men of prayer this world has ever seen.  He counted any day in which seven or eight hours were not devoted solely to God in prayer and the study of His Word as wasted time.  An old man speaking of him after his death said, “He was a type of Christ.”  How did he become so like his Master?  His prayer life explains the mystery.
Prayer also brings power into our work.  If we wish power for any work to which God calls us, be it in preaching, teaching, personal work, or the raising of our children, we can receive it by earnest prayer.
A woman, with a little boy who was perfectly incorrigible, once came to me in desperation and said:  “What shall I do with him?
I asked, “Have you ever tried prayer?”
She said that she had prayed for him, she thought.  I asked if she had made his conversion and character a matter of definite, expectant prayer.  She replied that she had not been definite in the matter.  She began that day, and at once there was a marked change in the child.   As a result, he grew up into Christian manhood.
How many Sunday school teachers have taught for months and years and seen no real fruit from their labors?  Then they learn the secret of intercession, and by earnest pleading with God, see their students, one by one, brought to Christ!  How many poor teachers have become mighty men of God by casting away their confidence in their own ability and gifts and giving themselves up to God to wait upon Him for the power that comes from on high!  Evangelist John Livingstone spent a night, along with some believers, in prayer to God.  When he preached the next day, five hundred people were either converted or marked some definite uplift in their spiritual life.  Prayer and power are inseparable.  
Prayer avails for the conversion of others.  There are few converted in this world in any other way than in connection with someone’s prayers.  I previously thought that no human being had anything to do with my own conversion, for I was not converted in church or Sunday school or in a personal conversation with anyone.  I was awakened in the middle of the night and converted.  As far as I can remember, I did not the slightest thought of being converted, or of anything of that character when I went to bed and fell asleep.  But, I was awakened in the middle of the night and converted probably within five minutes.  A few minutes before, I was about as near eternal damnation as one gets.  I had one foot over the brink and was trying to get the other one over.  As I said, I thought no human being had anything to do with it, but I had forgotten my mother’s prayers.  Later I learned that one of my college classmates had decided to pray for me until I was saved.
prayer often avails where everything else fails.  How utterly all of Monica’s efforts and entreaties failed with her son!  But, her prayers prevailed with God, and the immoral youth became St. Augustine, the mighty man of God.  By prayer, the bitterest enemies of the gospel have become its most valiant defenders, the most wicked the truest sons of God, and the most contemptible women the purest of saints.  Oh, the power of prayer to reach down, where hope itself seems vain, and lift men and women up into fellowship with and likeness to God!  It is simply wonderful!  How little we appreciate this marvelous weapon!  
Prayer brings blessings to the Church. 
The history of the Church has always been full of grave difficulties to overcome.  The devil hates the Church and seeks in every way to block its progress; by false doctrine, by division, and by inward corruption of life.  But, by prayer, a clear way can be made through everything.  Prayer will root out heresy, smooth out misunderstanding, sweep away jealousies and animosities, obliterate immoralities, and bring in the full tide of God’s reviving grace.  history abundantly proves this.  In the darkest hour, when the state of the Church has seemed beyond hope, believing men and women have met together and cried to God and the answer has come.
It was so in the days of Knox.  It was so in the days of Wesley and Whitefield.  It was so in the days of Edwards and Brainerd.  It was so in the days of Finney.  It was so in the days of the great revival of 1857 in this country and of 1859 in Ireland.  And, it will be so again in your day and mine!  Satan has organized his forces.  Some people, claiming great apostolic methods, are merely covering for the rankest dishonesty and hypocrisy with their loud and false assurance.  Christians equally loyal to the great fundamental truths of the gospel are scowling at one another with a devil-sent suspicion.  The world, the flesh, and the devil are holding a merry carnival.  It is now a dark day, but now “it is time for Thee, Lord, to work:  for they have made void Thy law.”  (Psalm 119:126).  He is getting ready to work, and now He is listening for the voice of prayer.  Will He hear it?  Will He hear it from you?  Will He hear it from the Church as a body?  I believe He will.

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