Life on the Highest Plane
Vol. 3: The Believer's Response to the Holy Spirit's Inworking

Chapter Thirty
The Believer's Part in Remaining Spirit-filled — Prayer

The Christian life centers in a relationship. It is a divine-human fellowship which has its inward spring in the oneness of life between Christ and the Christian. There are two essential expressions to this heaven-born, earth-bent relationship: communion and cooperation.

 

AN INNER ROOM — RECIPROCAL COMMUNION

Matthew 6:6, "But 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."

Matthew 14:23, R.V., "He went up into the mountain apart to pray: and when even was come, he was there alone."

Mark 6:46-47, R.V., "And after he had taken leave of them, he departed into the mountain to pray. And when even was come, the boat was in the midst of the sea, and he was alone on the land."

The man who lives habitually on the highest plane will have an inner room and he who remains Spirit-filled will spend some time each day behind a shut door. He who truly follows the example of the God-man will often be alone with his heavenly Father. The spiritual man will be a man of prayer. Communion with the Lord Jesus will be the atmosphere in which he lives, the very air he breathes.

"He went up into the mountain apart to pray." His inner room was a mountainside. There He sought His Father's presence away from every person, out of sight and sound of the things of this world. What took the incarnate Son apart to pray? Two things constrained Him to the solitary place of communion: His love and His need of the Father.

Can we begin to comprehend the longing of the Son on earth for the Father in heaven? He and the Father were one and it was a unity, first of all, in love. Throughout all eternity He had been in the bosom of the Father. He had lived in His ultimate, immediate presence. Oh! it was the hunger and thirst of love that drew the God-man apart even from the friends whose companionship He so prized, apart from the work that He so loved, apart to that inner room in God's out of doors.

Alone with His Father on the mountain slope He could pour out His soul, He could lay bare His heart, He could unburden His spirit. There His desires, His longings, His heartaches, His disappointments, could be expressed! And in that inner room on the mountainside the Father always met Him. He was sure of a listening ear and a sympathetic heart. He always left the place of prayer refreshed. The inner room is the place of reciprocal communion.

Do you have an inner room? A shut door? A place to be alone with your Lord? It may be a real "closet" in your own home or it may be only a place in a streetcar or at a desk or on a mountainside or in a sickroom but it will be a place where the world is shut out and in spirit you are shut in alone with your Lord. It will be a place where heaven and earth meet and the intimate, immediate presence of the Lord of glory will be realized.

Our desire to be alone with the Lover-Christ and our delight in the companionship of our Beloved will reveal the place He really holds in our affections. To have chosen Him as the Lover of one's soul; to have been joined to Him as one spirit; to share His life in its fullness, and then not to hunger and thirst for the privacy of the inner room where His presence may be realized and enjoyed apart from all intrusion of the outer world, is unthinkable. Communion with Christ is the imperative sequence of union with Him because alone with the Lord Jesus behind the closed door one may be both the man that he really is and the man that he longs to be. There he is in the presence of the One who knows what is in him and unto whose eyes "all things are naked and open," yet He is the faithful and merciful High Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and who is able to succor us who are tempted because He Himself suffered being tempted. So there alone with the God-man he may frankly and fully confess his sin, his failure, his defeat; and there in the intimate companionship of the victorious, triumphant Lord he may become more than conqueror. In the inner room, the sufferings and sorrows, the trials and tribulations, may be shared with the One who will understand and sympathize. There in the inner room in fellowship with his Lord, new aspirations for higher and holier things will be begotten; there the ambition to "press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" will be quickened; there the determination to live habitually on the highest plane will be strengthened. And from that inner room one will emerge with a shining face even as Moses came from the mount of God. The Christian will always find the inner room the place of reciprocal communion.

Another thing drew the incarnate Son apart to pray. It was His need. Yes, we dare say it — the Son of Man had no other way of replenishing His spiritual supplies save in prayer. In His earthly life He was utterly dependent upon His Father for wisdom, strength, power and guidance. Of Himself He said nothing, He did nothing, He went nowhere. The source of divine supplies for Him was in heaven and the method of their transmission from heaven to earth was prayer. The Son of Man in His representative capacity was limited to this medium of receiving supplies for His day's life and work. His own need drew Him into communion with His Father in heaven.

"Because as he is, so are we in this world." So the Christian has no way of replenishing his ever diminishing spiritual supplies save in prayer. God gives His manna by the day. He would keep us utterly distrustful of self and wholly dependent upon Him — beneficiaries of His exhaustless bounty which can be obtained only as it is sought and claimed in prayer. The source of supplies is in heaven, the realm of need is on earth, the line of communication is prayer. Communion with Christ because of need is a necessary sequence of union with Christ.

Reciprocal communion between Christ and the Christian is an absolute necessity of a Spirit-filled life. Through prayer the Christian is enabled to breathe the exhilarating air of the heavenlies while surrounded by the enervating atmosphere of the world. Through prayer he is able to live in the uplifting, purifying presence of his Saviour while in constant contact with the deteriorating, defiling power of sin. Through prayer the new creation breathes in the very life of God which sustains the new life and maintains it upon the highest plane.

"Lord, what a change within us one short hour
   Spent in Thy presence will prevail to make —
   What heavy burdens from our bosom take,
What parched grounds revive, as with a shower!
   We kneel, and all around us seems to lower:
   We rise, and all, the distant and the near,
   Stands forth in sunny outline, brave and clear.
We kneel how weak; we rise how full of power!
Why, therefore, should we do ourselves this wrong
   Or others — that we are not always strong,
   That we are ever overborne with care,
   That we should ever weak or heartless be,
   Anxious or troubled, when with us is prayer,
And joy and strength and courage are with Thee?"
                                                  R.C. TRENCH

 

AN UPPER ROOM — RESPONSIVE COOPERATION

Luke 6:12-13, "And it came to pass in those days, that he 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."

Oh! what a momentous night that was in the world's history! What a stupendous decision confronted the Lord Jesus! A choice was to be made on the following day of those who would become linked with the God-man in the carrying out of that eternal purpose which God purposed in Christ for the salvation of mankind. Humanly speaking everything in the earthward side of God's wondrous plan of redemption hung upon that choice.

"He went out into a mountain to pray and continued all night in prayer to God." For Himself? No, this time that mountaintop was not an inner room where He looked in upon Himself and His needs and then up to God for their satisfaction and supply, but it was an upper room where He looked out upon the world and its need and then up to God for the fulfillment of His purpose.

That night prayer was intercession. Throughout its hours the Son waited to receive the revelation of His Father's will and then responded through intercession to bring that will to pass in the lives of men. That night through intercession Jesus Christ linked heaven with earth; He brought God in touch with man. Through intercession the choice of those twelve men, who were to become the very seed of the Church, was made and they were set apart individually as apostles. Oh! what a night's work was that! Perhaps you and I are thousands of miles in space from that "upper room on that Palestinian slope, and we are separated nineteen centuries in time from that night of intercession, yet the blessing that flowed from those hours will enrich our lives through time and through eternity.

To the God-man prayer was work; in fact, intercession was the most important work that He did. Greater in power than His preaching, His teaching or His healing was His praying. He commenced, continued and consummated everything in prayer. In the upper room He laid hold upon the supernatural forces of the unseen and brought them to bear upon the world in which men lived. Intercession was the most potential means of responsive cooperation with His Father in accomplishing the task He was sent to do.

Acts 1:13-14, "And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son ofAlpheus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren."

Acts 2:1, 4, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost."

Acts 2:41, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls."

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"An upper room," "these all in prayer and supplication," "filled with the Holy Spirit," "added unto them about three thousand souls." A place of prayer, corporate intercession, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and three thousand souls saved through one sermon. Is there any reason why such a miracle of grace should not be wrought in the twentieth century as well as in the first?

I would speak a word to pastors. Has your church "an upper room" where men and women gather not to talk or to be talked to but to pray? Where, with all quarrels, divisions, jealousies put away, they with one accord wait upon God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit not only upon themselves but upon the Body of Christ the world over? Is the power of your preaching on Sunday generated in the prayer meeting on Wednesday? Does every activity of the church reap fruitage that will abide through time and stand the test by fire in eternity (1 Corinthians 3:13) because it is begotten in prayer?

I know the prayer meeting is considered old-fashioned and that it is now either obsolete or so decrepit through lack of virility as to be almost valueless in many churches. Just this week I heard a pastor in a large city full of churches say that he thought that church was perhaps the only one in the city which would observe the "World's Week of Prayer." But I know too, that the Church is losing its power; it is finding it difficult to even hold its own and in some places is resorting to all sorts of entertainments in an attempt to compete wiith the attractions of the world. Do you desire to see a manifestation of first-century power in your church? If so, are you willing to return to first-century methods which will mean the revival of corporate intercession in your church?

I would speak a word to fellow missionaries. "Has your mission station 'an upper room' where doctors come from the hospital, teachers from the school, evangelists from the field, wives from the home, administrators from the desk to lay before the Lord of heaven and earth the difficulties, problems and needs of the whole parish committed to you?

"What is the outstanding purpose of your life as a missionary? Is it to heal the sick? To teach school? To keep accounts or to keep a home? To preach the Gospel merely? No one of these things is an end in itself but each one a means to an end. What then is the purpose of your life and mine as missionaries? Jesus Christ tells us, 'Ye did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you that ye should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide: that whatsoever ye should ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.' Jesus Christ said very little to His disciples about work but He said much about fruit-bearing. Upon that He put tremendous emphasis, even to making true discipleship depend upon it. In fact He said that only through much fruit-bearing can we glorify the Father. But work and fruit-bearing are by no means synonymous. Some of our work is the energy of the flesh, the working off of a surplus nervous energy or the dissipation of a limited supply of it. But what is fruit-bearing? We shall know very clearly when someday we stand alone before Him with whom we have to do and render our account. Will it be the number of patients treated or pupils taught or meetings led or hours spent in interviews? No, God keeps but one kind of statistics. He only writes names in the book of life. It is not the output of our work but the fruitage of that output that counts with Him. A short time ago a missionary said to me, 'I have never worked so hard as I have this year and have never seen so few results. It is because I have prayed so little!' Oh! if we could but come to believe today that it is the bearing of eternal fruit and not the burning of nervous energy that God wants, we should see that intercession may, no must, have its God-appointed place in our lives" (Intercession and Evangelism, a pamphlet by the author).

I would speak a word to parents. Has your home "an upper room"? Will your boy or girl carry out into life as his most priceless possession the prayers offered at the family altar? I know it is out of date. But I know too that juvenile crime is on the increase; that immorality is stalking through the land, robbing thousands upon thousands of boys and girls of the bloom of purity and leaving its black stain upon their souls; that there exists today a junior society for the aggressive promotion of atheism. Everywhere I see and hear that parents have lost both the confidence of and control over their children. I wonder what "an upper room" with a family altar might do in your home! A few days ago a friend whose life is deeply spiritual said that of all the formative influences in her Christian life the family prayers held daily in her home were the greatest. Four times in the book of Acts it is recorded that a whole household was converted and baptized at one time. Will your family circle be unbroken in heaven? "Ye have not because ye ask not."

I would speak a word to each individual Christian. Have you "an upper room" in your life? Oh! I know you have "an inner room" where you pray for yourself and your family and your interests. But do you have "an upper room" where you intercede for others? Where you bear upon your heart the need of the whole world and remember in prayer all the Kingdom interests? A few weeks ago I met a radiant Christian. She had leisure from herself. She enjoyed living. She had not much money and had never gone far from her home city yet she was a citizen of the world through prayer. Her face fairly beamed as she said, "No one will ever know how much she can get out of a dollar until she has used it to buy twenty five-cent stamps!" For what use? On her heart were forty-four missionaries in different countries to whom she wrote and for whom she prayed. Her own life was immeasurably enlarged and enriched through intercession for these friends, most of whom she had never seen.

If you work in an office, a store or a factory, or teach in a school, could you not tithe your noon hour and give ten minutes to God for intercession? If you live at home and are able to control better your own time could you not set aside a longer time as a freewill offering for prayer? If you have a kindred spirit among your friends could you not meet together once a week for intercession? "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?"

If you need help in the establishment of your "upper room" you would find it in such books as Andrew Murray's Helps to Intercession or Hugh McKay's Prayer Cycle for World-wide Missionary Work. But perhaps you would gain the greatest help from just following the instructions of the Bible on intercessory prayer and then make out your own list of objects for intercession.

James 5:16, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

This is a command and a call to pray for our friends and for fellow members of the Body of Christ. Our knowledge of another's need is a call to prayer. I cannot tell you what tremendous encouragement and strength came to me this last year to learn from three Christian workers, all extremely busy men with many others on their prayer list whom they knew far better than they knew me, that they prayed daily for me.

"The weary ones had rest, the sad had joy,
   That day, and wondered 'how,'
A ploughman singing at his work had prayed,
   'Lord, help them now.'

"Away in foreign lands they wondered how
   Their simple word had power.
At home, the Christians two or three had met
   To pray an hour.

"Yes, we are always wond'ring, wond'ring 'how';
   Because we do not see
Some one, unknown perhaps, and far away,
   On bended knee."

2 Thessalonians 3:1, "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you."<>

Romans 15:30, "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me."

Here is a call to prayer for the minister and for his preaching of the Word of God. Paul conceived the work of a church to be a sacred partnership between pastor and people through preaching and prayer. Is it possible that the paucity of results from the preaching of God's Word is largely due to the prayerlessness that accompanies it? Do you criticize your preacher? I wonder what would happen if that criticism were converted into prayer? When Mr. Spurgeon was asked for the secret of the power manifested in his ministry, he replied, "My people pray for me." "For the Lord Jesus Christ's sake and for the love of the Spirit," will you strive together with your pastor in your prayers to God for him?

Ephesians 6:18, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints."

The life of many Christians is confined within its own denominational borders; often even narrowed down to the activities and interests of "my church." We repeat the creed "I believe in the communion of saints" but we practice it but little. Nothing would be so conducive to the dissipation of denominational jealousy, rivalry and overlapping of work and to the real unity of God's people of all tongues and tribes as "prayer and supplication in the Spirit for all saints." Will you begin today to pray for one of God's saints of another nationality in some distant country, in another state or province of your own country, in some city or town of your own state, in another church within your own city, in some family within your own church?

1 Timothy 2: 1-2, "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."

What a program for worldwide prayer God lays out for His Church in these words! What a call to His people to exercise their Christian priesthood! What a challenge to cooperate with Him in strengthening and sustaining those who are in authority in their endeavors to bring nations out of their existing confusion! Oh! what a change in condition might be wrought in China today if the prayers of all God's people everywhere were focused in believing intercession upon that nation! Andrew Murray says of 1 Timothy 2:2, "What a faith in the power of prayer! A few feeble and despised Christians are to influence the mighty Roman emperors, and help in securing peace and quietness. Let us believe that prayer is a power that is taken up by God in His rule of the world. When God's people unite in this they may count upon their prayer effecting in the unseen world more than they know."

Matthew 9:37-38, "Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that be will send forth labourers into his harvest."

If in Christ's time the harvest was plenteous, the laborers few and the need for prayer imperative, it is even more true today. More than nineteen centuries since He gave the commission to preach the Gospel to every creature, and there are still hundreds of millions who have never heard the Gospel! Still unoccupied fields, untouched classes, unreached tribes! How can we account for this except that God's people have failed to pray for laborers to enter into these harvest fields?

There are certain mission agencies that are making a serious attempt to secure and send missionaries to the unoccupied fields. There are national home missionary societies in various mission fields which are attempting the evangelization of their own people. Will you not endeavor to acquaint yourselves with the work of such movements and then give yourselves in intercession for their needs? "Will you not inquire into the need for laborers in the foreign and home missionary societies of your own denomination and then pray Spirit-taught, Spirit-filled, Spirit-anointed men and women out into these various fields?

Have we not clearly seen that union with Christ necessitates a life of prayer in this twofold aspect: reciprocal communion and responsive cooperation? In the "inner room" we meet Him, there He becomes our satisfaction and our sufficiency. And we go from it to our "upper room" to exercise our mediatorial, priestly ministry in bringing Him to be the Saviour and Satisfier of other men.

 

THE PREREQUISITprerequisite is purity of heart. Only the Christian with a clean heart can pray the effectual prayer. Spurgeon has said, "The goal of prayer is the ear of God." If one cannot even get a hearing, he certainly cannot hope for an answer. Iniquity puts a closed door between the man who prays and the God who listens. Sin in the saint stops the ear of God so that He cannot hear.

Isaiah 59:1-2, "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear."

If a man is to pray right he must be right. God judges the prayer not by the petition upon the lips but by the purity of the life. Only the pure in heart can offer prayer to God with the assurance of its acceptability and answer.

2 Timothy 2:22, R.V., "But flee youthful lusts, and follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart."

Hebrews 10:22, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."

The man who prays the effectual prayer must be right in his relationship both to God and to man. He must approach the throne with a conscience void of offense toward God and man (Acts 24:16). If in this life there are sympathy for sin and apathy toward God, if there are indulgence of self and indifference toward God, if there are allegiance to Satan and disloyalty to God, then his prayer is not heard.

Psalm 66:18, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."

If one would pray the effectual prayer he must be righteous in his relationship with his fellowmen. No pretense of piety will suffice to conceal the presence of dishonesty, greed, jealousy, resentment, unforgiveness or hatred toward others. It has sometimes happened that a truly Spirit-filled man or woman has been shorn of all power in prayer and in preaching because of dishonesty in the handling of funds or because of some unrighteous action in relation to his co-workers.

James 5:16, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

Mark 11:25, "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."

A second prerequisite for prevailing prayer is detachment of spirit. True prayer is a spiritual exercise and its field of action is the heavenlies. It deals with the supernatural forces of the unseen world. To pray effectually one must be detached in spirit from the things of time and sense.

But such a thing seems well-nigh impossible in a world where the material, the tangible and the fleshly protrude themselves before one's eyes, press themselves into one's ears, and project themselves into one's life in such a way as almost to submerge and smother the aspiration for higher and holier things. Besides, almost everything in modern life tends to rob one of the solitude which is so essential at times if one is to keep a keen realization of the presence of God. The apartment house instead of the old-fashioned home puts a whole community into one's front yard; the automobile makes the man in a distant city one's next-door neighbor; and the telephone and the radio enable the whole world to enter one's home day and night at will. To be alone is almost a unique experience; to be wholly detached in spirit, even when alone, is far from an easy matter.

But the man who has power with God in prayer must be alone sometimes. Attachment to God and to things eternal and spiritual demands deliberate detachment from the things of earth and sense. The Son of Man deliberately withdrew from the sights and sounds of the life that surged about Him that He might find the solitude of spirit that prepared Him for prayer.

Luke 5:15-16, "But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed."

Scripture in its teaching on fasting offers the spiritual man a suggestion regarding a method by which he may secure the detachment of spirit needful for effectual prayer. Fasting connotes two things both of which are essential to vital spirituality: self-denial and discipline.

There are things in the life of every Christian which are perfectly legitimate but which may have a dulling, deadening influence upon the spirit. There are other things which are right in themselves but which often are used in excess and so crowd out more important things. To keep the spirit alert, untrammeled, usable, it must be disciplined through denial. Is not this the essence of fasting? Food is a legitimate thing, even a necessity, yet may not the spirit often have been hindered in the performance of its tasks through the sluggishness of the body caused by overeating? Friends are a legitimate part of one's life. They are a necessity in a normal, balanced life, yet may not many of us have been robbed of power because we have spent more time with them than with the divine Friend? Our recreation and our reading are essential to the health of body and mind yet may we not have become impoverished spiritually because of ill-proportioned time given them?

Did not Jesus Christ intimate that the disciples were impotent to cast the foul spirit out of the epileptic because they were unwilling to forego a meal or to deny themselves the companionship of family and friends?

Mark 9:29, "And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting."

The football player, the mountain climber and the soldier in action know the meaning of self-denial and self-discipline. But very few Christians take seriously enough the race into which they have entered or the warfare in which they are engaged. Too few are willing for the sacrificial living which victory over the enemy demands. "It is love of our lives that weakens our spirits, and makes us unfit for the fight." God needs prayer-warriors today who have within them the spirit of the apostle Paul who cared more for the victorious completion of his life's ministry than for life itself.

Acts 20:24, "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God."

A third prerequisite for prevailing prayer is definiteness of aim. Much prayer is very desultory, often forgotten as soon as offered and calls forth no watchful waiting for an answer. We aim at nothing and get what we aim at. There has been no definite petition and so there is no definite answer.

But God invites us to come to him with clear-cut petitions and teaches us to focus our prayer on particular needs. "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" was Christ's word to blind Bartimaeus by the roadside as again and again he cried out his prayer, "Thou Son of David, have mercy on me." "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" Definitely came the answer, "Lord, that I might receive my sight. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way." God honors a definite prayer with a definite answer. "Every prayer should be with the mind, a definite desire; with the heart, a longed-for need; with the will, a claimed petition; with faith, an accepted gift; and with thanksgiving, that praises for the answer that is assured. This cleanses the petition list from all generalizing in prayer and gives reality to praying and to receiving."

John 14:13-14, "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it."

The book of the Acts gives repeated instances of definite answers to definite petitions. But one will be cited. Peter and John had been called into question by the Sanhedrin for the miracle performed on the man born lame and had been threatened and charged to speak no more nor teach in the name of Jesus. They immediately engaged with their fellow Christians in prayer. The prayer was not long nor was it full of generalities. It focused on their one outstanding need.

Acts 4:29, 31, "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness."

A fourth prerequisite of prevailing prayer is intensity of desire. God has given us a very gracious promise in Psalm 37:4, "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." Do we take in fully the magnitude of the responsibility of this promise? How much and what do we desire? "Ye have not because ye ask not," for "If ye ask — I will do." God frankly says that His doing is limited by our asking: it is dependent upon our desire.

But even when we do ask we often do not want the thing asked for sufficiently to persevere until it comes. Prevailing prayer calls us to persistent perseverance and patient waiting in intense desire until the answer comes.

Romans 12:12, "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer."

Colossians 4:2, "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving."

Scripture gives us some very wonderful instances of this intensity of desire in prayer. The children of Israel had fallen into gross idolatry while Moses was upon the mountain with God. Their sin weighed heavily upon his heart. He alone stood as mediator between them and the righteous judgment of God. Witness the sacrificial vicariousness of his intercessory prayer.

Exodus 32:31-32, "And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made themselves gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin —; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou host written."

The same intensity of desire is in the prayer of the apostle Paul for his kinsmen according to the flesh. His heart's desire was their salvation and he wanted it so much that he could even wish himself outside the fold of Christ if they could be within.

Romans 10:1, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved."

Romans 9:2-3, "That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."

Such intense desire did David Brainerd have for the salvation of the ignorant, savage Indian tribes to whom he carried the Gospel. He said, "I wrestled for the ingathering of souls, for multitudes of poor souls, personally, in many places. I was in such an agony from sun half an hour high until dark that I was wet all over with sweat." Dr. Jowett rightly said, "True intercession is a sacrifice, a bleeding sacrifice, a perpetuation of Calvary, a filling up of the suffering of Christ. Unquestionably if our intercession blesses it must bleed." How much do we really care for the salvation of the unsaved members of our family? for the unsaved friends in our social circle? for the unsaved millions in the mission fields? How intensely do we desire to see a genuine revival in the Church? Is our desire keen enough to call us to sacrificial, mediatorial intercession and to keep us continuing in it until the answer comes?

A fifth prerequisite in prevailing prayer is the daring of faith. God makes staggering promises to the man of prayer. He says "Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him" (1 John 3:22). "If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it" (John 14:14). "Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John 15:7).

As we face such stupendous statements as these we are compelled to ask, "Does God really mean what He says? If He does, is He really able to fulfill such promises? If He is, what does it require of us?"

God really means that if you and I fulfill the conditions He so clearly states in connection with the promises which He has made that He will fulfill the promise. The God of truth cannot lie.

Titus 1:2, "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began."

God is most assuredly able to fulfill every promise which He has made. Listen to the testimony of those who had put God's faithfulness to the test and had proved both His faithfulness and His power. "God is faithful" (1 Corinthians 10:13) and "God is able" (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Joshua 23:14, "And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof."

1 Kings 8:56, "Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant."

Then what do such promises require of us? They require the daring of faith. God calls us to take every promise at its face value. He asks us not to drag His promises down to the plane of our unbelief but to lift our faith up to the plane of His promises.

Romans 4:20-21, "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform."

God challenges us to put Him to the test. He dares us to command the Himalaya, that rears up between Himself and us or between Himself and the one for whom we pray, to be removed and to be cast into the sea and He makes the daring of faith the only condition for the achievement of such a miracle.

Mark 11:23, R.V., "Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou taken up and cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he saith cometh to pass; he shall have it."

Will you enter today, my friend, into a new prayer-partnership with your Lord? The power is His: the faith is yours. Through the daring of faith will you link yourself with the omnipotence of power and bring down from heaven above not only into your own life but into the life of the whole Body of Christ "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think"?

Ephesians 3:20, "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us."

We have considered the prerequisites for prevailing prayer on the man-ward side. We have been at the foot of the ladder, which connects earth with heaven, looking up. May we now go to the top of the ladder and look down. From the viewpoint of the throne of grace what are the conditions of prevailing prayer? Scripture reveals three qualifying phrases accompanying God's gracious promises.

To be heard and answered prayer must be according to God's will. Does this statement need be argued or expounded? Is it not a self-evident fact that God could not grant any petition that is not in accordance with His will? We have learned in the earlier chapters of this book that it is God's purpose that man should think, love and will within the circle of God's will. This, assuredly, means that he must pray within that sphere if his prayer reaches the ear of God. There is a limit then to what we may ask of God and the God-man stated the condition very clearly in the thrice-repeated prayer in Gethsemane, "Not my will but thine be done." Only he who has willed to do the will of God will be able to pray aright.

But there is another side to this. St. Augustine has stated it in these words, "0 Lord, grant that I may do Thy will as if it were my will, so that Thou mayest do my will as if it were Thy will." It is possible for Christ and the Christian to live in such abiding oneness that God does the will of His child which is expressed in his prayer.

John 15:7, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."

And we may be so assured of the answer that we can praise Him before we may have received in actual experience the thing prayed for.

1 John 5:14-15, "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us; and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."

"When we do what He bids, He does what we ask! Listen to God and God will listen to you. Thus our Lord gives us 'power of attorney' over His Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, if only we fulfill the condition of abiding in Him" (An Unknown Christian, The Kneeling Christian, p. 79).

To be heard and answered prayer must be in the name of Christ. No sinner, not even a saved one, has ever made any deposit in the bank of heaven consequently he has no right to open an account in his own name. The spiritual riches which are there for him were placed there through the death, resurrection, ascension and exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ. The account was opened for him when he put his faith in this Saviour and at that moment Christ placed in his hands blank checks signed with His own name and not one of them has ever been refused at the bank of heaven. Six times in that last conversation with His disciples on earth the Lord Jesus told them that when He went back to the Father He would open an account for each one of them and urged them to make liberal use of His credit in their Father's bank. He taught them that the Father hears but one voice, that only the man in Christ can reach the Father's ear with his petitions.

John 14:13-14, "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it."

John 15:16, "Whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."

John 16:23-24, 26, "And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:"

But do not let anyone be deceived into thinking that those are magic words which can be added, as an appendage, to any kind of a prayer. It is only the prayer that will bring honor and glory to His name that can be truly asked in His name. A wrong prayer cannot be made right by the addition of some mystic phrase. It is possible for one to pray in the name of Christ for the salvation of some member of the family in order only that there may be greater harmony in the home. Or a preacher may pray for large additions to his church not for the glory of Christ's name but for his own. There must be identification with Christ in His interests and purposes if there is to be a rightful use of His name in prayer. Only the prayer that is wholly according to God's will can be legitimately asked in the name of Christ.

To be heard and answered, prayer must be in the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit alone knows what are the mind and will of God; He only understands what prayer will be to the honor and glory of Christ. So only the man who is in the Spirit's sphere and under the Spirit's control will pray aright.

Jude 20, "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost."

Romans 8:26-27, R.V., "And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God."

In these two passages of Scripture we see that the divine condition of prevailing prayer becomes at the same time the divine provision for it. We do not know how to pray as we ought but the Holy Spirit does know. Indwelling and infilling us He reveals to us our need, suggests the objects of prayer, sifts and tests our motives, purifies our desires, stiffens our faith and stimulates our hope and expectation of an answer.

Do you honestly wish to live your life habitually on the highest plane? Then you must become a man or woman of prayer, an intercessor after God's heart. Are you willing to let the Holy Spirit deal with you in regard to the actual condition of your prayer life as it now is? Will you through the power of His divine enabling determine what it shall be?

Has my prayer life been powerless
   because of some besetting sin?

Has my prayer life been hindered
   by haste, irregularity, indefiniteness,
   insufficient preparation, unbelief,
   neglect of Bible study?

Has my prayer life been fruitless?
   Have I had such power with God that I
   have had power with people? Have I
   had definite answers to prayer
   week by week?

Has my prayer life been restricted
   merely to short, stated seasons of prayer
   or have I come to know what it is to
   "pray without ceasing"?

Has my prayer life been limited to
   prayer for myself? My family? My work?
   My church? My mission? Or have I taken
   the world into my heart and into my prayers?

Has my prayer life been starved?
   Or have I devoted time to the study of
   God's Word about prayer? Do I know His
   precepts and promises?

Has my prayer life been joyless?
   Do I love to pray? Or is prayer more
   of a duty than a delight?

Has my prayer life been growing?
   Do I daily know more of the meaning
   and power of prayer?

Has my prayer life been sacrificial?
   Has it cost me anything in time, strength,
   vitality, love?

   "Lord, teach us to pray."

 

Chapter Thirty-One

 

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