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Tender Words from a Prison Cell
There is, perhaps, no Epistle that so beautifully displays the inner life-throbs of Paul, as does the Epistle to the Philippians.
In this Epistle, Paul's life, like a rose in full bloom, is sending forth its fragrance.
We must think of Paul mid the discomforts and the curtailments of the Roman prison. It is from there that he writes. However, he never complains. He did miss the fellowship of those whom he had loved, and with whom he had labored. Yet, he was willing, in every way, to suffer his bonds if it would add power and blessing to the testimony of the Gospel for which he labored.
As our eyes run through the Epistle we see that Paul had a great yearning to be once more on the road preaching Christ, and he particularly longed to visit Philippi.
In his Letter he did not dwell upon the bitter experiences he had known in the Philippian jail. The one burden of his message seemed to be a call to the saints to joy and rejoice. So far as he was concerned he was full of joy.
In the fourth chapter Paul is coming to several climactic statements. These statements have to do, First, in his concern for others; and, Secondly, in his thought of himself. We wish to note some things in which he breathed out his personal desires and yearnings in his own behalf.
1. Paul rejoiced at their care of him (Phlippians 4:10 ).
There had been a long time since they had been able to help supply his needs, but now, at last, their care of him had flourished again. How deeply Paul appreciated this "grace" we know. It is in Phlippians 4:18, that he said, "I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God."
The Apostle did not write to them, because he desired a gift, but he did write because he felt they had done well in communicating unto him in his affliction.
Let us learn this lesson. He who ministers to us in spiritual things, should be made a partaker of our temporal things.
The Apostle, moreover, impressed upon the Philippians that their gifts to him, were well-pleasing to God. The Lord once said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, My brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
The Apostle Paul added a third thing: He promised that God would reward them for their kindness, and service in his behalf. He said, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory, by Christ Jesus."
2. Paul knew both how to abound and to be abased (Phlippians 1:12 ).
The gifts from the saints at Philippi were a matter of great joy, but Paul's spirit was happy, whether in want or in plenty. He said, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." Thus, whether he was full, or whether he was hungry; whether he abounded, or whether he suffered need; in either event, he was satisfied. Herein is a great lesson.
Too many of us have joy only when the weather is fair, and the winds are balmy. A little rain, or, a few hours of darkness, steal away our song. This is not as it should be. Habakkuk wrote, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
Our Lord sang, as the nightingale sings, in the darkest hour of His night; even at His breaking of bread, and pouring forth of the cup. Even so, let us sing all the time.
"I feel like singing all the time,
My tears are wiped away,
For Jesus is a Friend of mine,
I'll praise Him every day.
While I'm singing, singing, all the time."
I. PAUL AND HIS BRETHREN (Phlippians 4:1 )
There are five things which Paul called the saints of Philippi, in this one short verse.
1. He called them, "My brethren." There was no superior bearing in Paul's life. He felt that One was the master of saints, and that all they were brethren. Paul seemed to get right down among the believers. He lived as they lived; sharing with them, in all things.
We had a letter from our son, while he was in Japan. He said, "A Japanese Christian is entertaining me in his home in the suburbs of Yokohama." Then, he added, "I am living as they live; eating the same food, sitting on the same mats, and sleeping as they sleep."
The preacher or the Christian who assumes superior airs, and walks on stilts is unlike his Lord; and, unlike his Lord's servant, Paul.
2. He called them, "Dearly Beloved." One reason the Apostle could speak to the saints, reproving them for their sin, and urging them on in their work for Christ, was because he loved them so. No man can effectively preach to anyone, unless he loves them, and loves them dearly. Mark this, also, the Christian life is not foreign to those tender manifestations of love. We believe, that the Spirit-filled believer becomes more and more filled with love, and with all of the compassions which are found in Christ Jesus.
3. He called them his "longed for." The Apostle Paul yearned after the saints. He was homesick for them. He desired to see them again. We remember receiving a letter from South America, from a man with whom we had labored years ago. He said: "I have 'saudades' for you." This word "saudades" carries with it the tenderest of solicitations, and the deepest of yearning. We know of no word in the English that approaches it. Paul evidently had "saudades" for the saints.
4. He called them, "My joy." It was to the Thessalonians that Paul wrote that they were his joy, and crown of rejoicing at the presence of the Lord. The supreme joy of Christ, will be His saints who have been redeemed by His Blood. When He sees them the travail of His soul, He will be satisfied.
5. He called them, his "crown." What is the supreme reward of saints? Will it not be those whom they have won for Christ? What more fitting crown could there be than this crown?
"Oh it would every toil repay,
If just one soul would gladly say,
To Jesus, up in Heaven some day,
Dear Lord, he taught my lips to pray."
II. PAUL'S THREEFOLD ADMONITION IN THE LORD (Phlippians 4:2-4 )
1. Paul said, "Stand fast in the Lord." This is the closing statement of Phlippians 4:1 .
The Apostle yearned that the saints should be steadfast in the work of the Lord; steadfast against the wiles of the devil. He knew, however, the hopelessness of any fidelity outside of "in the Lord." "He that thinketh he standeth, let him take heed lest he fall."
When Peter said, "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I"; he was boasting in the flesh. He stood fast, only a moment and then he fell. He followed afar, and finally he said, "I know not the Man."
2. Paul said, "Rejoice in the Lord." He knew very well that we could not always rejoice in our environments, in our persecutions, and the like. He knew, however, that in spite of such things we could rejoice in the Lord.
The Lord Jesus, before He went away, said, "That My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." The only joy that abides, is His joy. If we are to "always rejoice," we must rejoice in the Lord, because the fruit of the Spirit is joy.
3. Paul said, "Be of the same mind in the Lord." There was a divergence of opinion between Euodias and Syntyche. They were good women, beyond doubt; and, their names were in the Book of Life. However, they did not love one another as they should. They failed in teamwork.
The Apostle realized how useless it was to lecture them on "The duty of unity," or, to remonstrate with them, against their spirit of schism and division. He merely told them to be of the same mind in the Lord.
The spokes of the wheel become closer to each other as they approach the hub. So, do we find ourselves of one heart, and of one mind, as we come into fellowship with the Lord Jesus.
We remember a Southern pastor-evangelist who received a letter from his home church stating that it was rent asunder with division. We asked him, "What are you going to do?" He replied, "I am going home and start a revival in my own church." He knew that spiritual life, and a closer walk with God, would unite his flock.
"Blest be the tie that binds,
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above."
III. PAUL'S THREEFOLD CALL (Phlippians 4:5-6 )
1. "Let your moderation be known unto all men." The word "moderation" is translated in one version, "gentleness." In another translation, it is spoken of as "sweetness." The word stands for all of those marks of consideration, and of loving thought, which saints should manifest one toward another. The most beautiful sight, and, withal, the greatest testimony among believers, is the spirit of unity and of brotherly love which pervades the Spirit-filled life.
The Holy Spirit, through Paul, is calling upon the saints to manifest this "moderation" before all men. We need to let our lives and our lips express, the Holy Gospel we possess. We need to give a daily demonstration, by word and deed, of those tender marks of the Christian life, which will give glory to God in the sight of the people.
Wherever there is strife there is every evil work.
2. "Be careful for nothing." The word "careful" carries with it the thought of worry and of fret. The Lord is saying to us, "In nothing be anxious." The Children of Israel, wandering in the wilderness, were given to complainings and to murmurings. It was for this cause that they could not enter into their Canaan.
Wherever there is anxiety, and carefulness, there is a lack of perfect trust. We worry because our faith is weak; and because we are afraid to leave it all with God.
3. "In everything by prayer." Here is the secret of victory. It is prayer and supplication that solves our problems. Instead of fretting over "what we shall eat, or drink"; and, over, "wherewithal shall we be clothed"; we need to pray, and make our requests known unto God.
The Lord knows our needs and He also knows the difficulties of our task. What time we trust, we will not be afraid. What time we pray with thanksgiving", we will not be filled with care.
Paul wrote to the Philippians giving this admonition. It was right that he should do so, for, in Philippi he had practiced what he was now preaching. He had suffered persecution in the jail at Philippi; and as he suffered, he prayed and made supplications, with thanksgiving unto God. We even read that Saul and Silas praised while they prayed, and sang hymns. Let us do likewise.
"Just where you are in the conflict,
There is your place.
Just where you think you are useless
Hide not your face.
God placed you there for a purpose,
Whate'er it be,
Think, He has chosen you for it,
IV. THE GREAT INSPIRATION (Phlippians 4:5 , l.c.)
The words before us are brief, but full of meaning. Our expression reads, "The Lord is at hand." This was the basis for all the things which the Holy Spirit is now saying through Paul. Let us see if we can understand the meaning of these striking words.
1. The words suggest an ever-present Christ. The Holy Spirit seems to be saying, "Stand fast in the Lord"; "Be of the same mind in the Lord"; "Rejoice in the Lord"; "Let your moderation be known"; "Be careful for nothing"; because "the Lord is at hand"; that is, "He is near"; "He is watching over you"; "He is observing where you are, and what you are doing." The same thought is contained in this statement of Scripture, "Thou God seest me."
The Lord is at hand, not in a critical sense, but in a compassionate sense. He is watching over us, to aid us. He seems to be saying, "I will hold thee by the right hand"; "Fear not, I will help thee."
2. The words suggest an imminent coming of Christ. The Apostle seems again to be saying, "The Lord is at hand," that is, the Lord's Coming is at hand. The early Church lived, looking for that Blessed Hope and the glorious appearing of our great God, and Saviour Jesus Christ. When Christ went away, with upturned faces, they watched Him disappear. The two shining ones who came down, did not admonish them against "looking"; they merely warned them against gazing sadly, because their Lord was leaving them. Mark the words: "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven."
From that hour the saints looked for Christ's Return. They went away from the Mount of Olives, to preach and to pray, to suffer and to sing, under the inspiration of Christ's Second Coming.
What is it lightens all our way?
The harbinger of coming day.
It is the Blessed Hope.
Then go, send forth the blest refrain
That Christ is coming back again,
Proclaim the Blessed Hope!
Let all who mourn, let all who fear
Lift up their heads, the Coming's near:
Oh, blessed is the Hope.
V. GOD'S GARRISONING OF THE HEART AND THE MIND (Phlippians 4:7 )
1. We have the promise of peace. This peace is not a peace from God merely; it is the "peace of God." Christ said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you."
Oh, what peace now abides in my soul,
Oh, what rest doth my spirit control!
The "peace of God," is, however, a conditioned peace. It is given to those who follow the injunctions set forth by the preceding verses. When we "stand fast in the Lord"; and, are of "the same mind in the Lord"; and, "Rejoice in the Lord": when we are without carefulness, and with prayer and supplications, we make our requests known unto God, then the peace of God will be ours.
2. We have the promise of peace as a garrison of our hearts and minds. Where is there an army equal to this God-given guard? Nothing that would disturb, or break the quiet of our spirits, can enter the cloisters of the heart and mind which is garrisoned by peace.
Oh, what peace is mine, in the world below,
Oh, what rest of soul. Divine;
For the Lord is near, wheresoe'er I go,
And His joy doth ever shine.
If there is one, today, whose life is filled with sorrow and with sighing; if there is one who dwells in darkened pathways, lone and drear; let me urge him to
Cease thy fear, thy pathway drear;
Christ is standing at thy door to give thee cheer;
He will garrison thy life,
Take away thy tears and strife;
And His peace will keep thy heart, for He is near.
VI. FINALLY, BRETHREN (Phlippians 4:8 )
We close the sermon for today with one of those great expressions, which occur seven times in Paul's Epistles. Here it is "Finally, brethren."
The "finally," for us, is perhaps the best of the seven. It runs, "Finally, brethren, * * think on these things." What are the things that should hold our thoughts?
1. We should think on the things that are true. Why be for ever living in the maze of the false? Why wander in the regions of uncertainties? Why delve into the density of doubts set forth by unprincipled and disordered minds?
Jesus said, "I am the Truth"; why not think on Him? God's Word is forever settled in Heaven; His Word is Truth; why not walk in the Truth?
2. We should think on the things which are honest. Let us beware that we spend not our time weighing the things dishonest, and dishonorable. If we continually wade in the murk and mire of the mud-puddle, we cannot but carry away suggestions and marks of its filth.
"Don't look for the faults, as you go through life;
And, even when you find them
It is better by far to look at a star,
Than the spots in the sun, abiding."
3. We should think on the things which are pure and lovely. We become like those with whom we associate. If we allow our minds to be thinking on the unclean, and the unholy, we will soon become impure. As are the thoughts of the man, so is the man himself. Cultivate meditations on the high and holy; think on God, and life, and light, and love.
4. We should think on the things which are of good report. Do not be talehearers, nor talebearers. Some people are given to magnifying the sins of their compatriots and of minimizing their good qualities.
Why pursue so fatal a course? He who is given to maligning, will find that he is flinging a boomerang.
Think on the things of good report; the things which lift up; the things which bless.
Our verse concludes "If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
"If there be some weaker one,
Give me strength to help him on;
If a blinder soul there be,
Let me guide him nearer Thee.
Clothe with life my weak intent,
Let me be the thing God meant.
Give me thoughts without alloy.
Thoughts that lift and fill with joy,
Until the thoughts both sweet and good,
Are my natural habitude."
The spirit of prayer must ever be the spirit of the believer. He who knows the place and power of prayer knows the victory of the Christian life. He who, in prayer, grasps the hand of God, is grasping the power that rules the world. There is a verse in which we are commanded thus: "Take hold of my power, saith the Lord."
We take hold of God's power in the air to run our sailing boats; we take hold of God's power in steam to run our railroad trains; we take hold of His power in electricity to light our homes; we take hold of His power in the waterfall to run our mills. Why should we not take hold of His power in spiritual realms to accomplish the victorious Christian life?
As we open the fourth chapter of Philippians we find the Apostle Paul admonishing the saints at Philippi to stand fast in the Lord. Afterward he tells them to rejoice in the Lord. Then he reminds them that the Lord is at hand. After these words he gives one of the strongest pleas to be found in the Bible for prayer. He says, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." In these terse statements we find first, the prayer of supplication, and then the prayer of thanksgiving or praise. We should be ever careful in our lives to pray with thanksgiving, with the same earnestness that we pray in supplication. Prayer is not merely an avenue through which we can get things out of God, it is a means through which we can convey our praises unto God. It is all right to make our requests known unto God, but it is perhaps far better to make our praises known.
1. In our Scripture prayer is given as the antidote to care. We are told to be careful, or anxious, for nothing, but in everything by prayer, etc. In other words, God seems to be saying, "Cast all your care upon Me, for I care for you." God is telling us not to be anxious under any condition, because God is able to meet whatever exigency may come into our life.
Sometimes difficulties seem to pile up mountain-high, but prayer removes mountains. Sometimes our obstacles seem to be like a stone wall, blocking our progress. However, David said, "By my God have I leaped over a wall."
2. In our Scripture prayer is given as applicable in everything. We read, "In every thing by prayer." This means, of course, the big things, also, the little things. Our God is a God who delights in dealing with the minutia of life. He has told us that the very hairs of our head are numbered. He has said that not a sparrow falls without the knowledge of our Heavenly Father. We need to bring our little things to God, because sometimes they hold a very important place in life. It is the little spark that gives the automobile its power. Some may have despised the day of small things, but he who knows God will want to guard through prayer the small things of life as well as the larger things.
3. Our Scripture gives us the result of prayer. It reads, "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ." Let us observe that Phlippians 4:6 opens with anxiety and care. Phlippians 4:7 opens with peace. We came to God with a burden; we left, and the burden was gone. When we know how to pray we know how to cast our burden upon the Lord. When we know how to pray we have discovered the pathway of peace. The peace which prayer gives is not shortlived and soon flown. It is the peace of God.
Mark you, it is not a peace from God, nor is it a peace with God, but it is the peace of God. If you can imagine the poise of the Almighty, and the quiet confidence which marks Him in His stately steppings, you could imagine something of the result of prayer. When we pray the peace of God which comes to us is described as passing all understanding. We cannot explain why, yet we know 'tis true, that where the moment before, there was trouble and worry, there is now perfect peace. This peace of God will keep our hearts and minds. Our Scripture suggests that the believer's heart and mind will be garrisoned through prayer by the peace of God, in such a way that care and anxiety cannot enter. What wonderful soldiers God has given to guard, or garrison, those who are in Christ Jesus.
I. WHERE SHALL WE PRAY? (1 Timothy 2:8 )
"I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." It is wonderful to us to know that God has given us something that works everywhere, under every condition, in every locality.
1. The geographical scope of prayer. We may pray anywhere because we may pray everywhere. Prayer is just as effective when it ascends from the lips of a regenerated heathen as it is when it ascends from the lips of those in the homeland. Prayer works wherever it is employed.
2. The localized scope of prayer. Prayer may be localized to the closet, or the housetop, or the mountain crest. There are some people perhaps who think they can pray only in the house of God, but this is not true, for Christ said, "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and * * shut thy door." We remember that Peter was praying on the housetop when Cornelius came to him. If we can pray anywhere we can pray working in the factory, walking on the busy street, or driving the automobile along the highway.
The reason the Christ emphasizes the closet as a place of prayer, and the reason that He sought the mountain side for Himself for prayer, is because in the quiet of such places prayer can be more centered and undisturbed. However, there are times when it is necessary to pray wherever we are. Peter prayed effectively in a storm at sea, as he almost sank beneath the waves. He cried, "Lord, save me!" Paul prayed in a reeling and rocking ship, as he was swept on by a Mediterranean Euroclydon. Thus, we still teach that we may pray everywhere and anywhere.
3. While prayer should be everywhere, yet there are conditions in our key verse, under which prayer should be offered. It says that men should pray everywhere, "lifting up holy hands without wrath or doubting." If we expect God to answer prayer we must be clean in our hands, that is, in our service. We must be without wrath, that is, we must have a righteous spirit. We also must be without doubting, that is, we must exercise faith. The power of prayer is lost when these do not exist. Men may pray everywhere, but they cannot pray acceptably anywhere if their hands are full of evil, and their minds full of doubt.
II. WHEN SHALL WE PRAY? (1 Thessalonians 5:17 )
We have just heard that we may pray everywhere and anywhere. Now we leave geographical boundaries, and we begin to deal in the realm of time. Are there only special times of the day in. which we may pray? Are there only special crises in life in which we can turn our faces Godward? Let us see.
1. We may pray in the morning. In Psalms 5:3 we read, "My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up." The beauty of morning devotions perhaps centers in the freshness of the mind at that hour. We are not coming to God weary and worn. Sleep has invigorated our being.
Another beauty of morning prayer is the fact that then we face the needs of the day, of service. Opportunity is knocking at the door. Obligations are awaiting fulfillment; difficulties are apt to be met; plans are about to be carried out. In all of these things we need Divine help. There are certain flowers which lift their faces to the sun. That is what we should do; we should be sunflowers, or better still, morning-glories. As soon as we awake we should turn our faces to God for help during the day.
2. We may pray thrice a day. David said, "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud." It is wonderful to pray in the morning, but at noon there is time to relax; we halt in the day's travail to eat our noon meal in order to strengthen the body. Why not spend a few moments in strengthening the soul?
3. We may pray at night. In Luke 6:12 we read how the Lord Jesus prayed the whole night through. Night stands for darkness, and certainly when the life is dark, and we cannot see, we need to pray.
4. We may pray always. In Luke 18:1 we read that men ought always to pray and not to faint. When we cease praying, we faint.
5. We may pray without ceasing. This was brought out in our text. The words do not mean that we should be always upon our knees, but that we should stand at all times in conscious contact with our Lord.
III. WHY SHOULD WE PRAY? (Matthew 18:20 )
Our text suggests one of the marvelous privileges of prayer. It is the privilege of fellowship. When we pray Christ is in the midst. Somehow, or other, He draws near our souls to bless. He manifests Himself unto us.
Some one said once that he saw no sense in praying to some one a million, billion miles off. However, when we pray, God is not in the Heavens; He is on the earth. He is not only on the earth, but He is in our room, in our closet, on our housetop, on our mountain side. He is just where we are, as we lift up our voices to Him.
Ellen L. Goreh expresses it beautifully: "In the secret of His presence how my soul delights to hide."
1. Prayer transforms us. If anyone should ask us why we should pray, we would not answer in order that we may get something. We would answer: in order that we may be something.
It was while Jesus prayed that His countenance was altered, and He was transfigured. It is while we pray that we are changed into His image. We become more or less like those with whom we fellowship. We cannot go into a place of unholy amusement without being affected thereby. Neither can we go into the presence of our Lord without being affected thereby, and will bear the image of the Saviour in our face.
2. Prayer reveals to us. In Genesis 18:17 we read about Abraham, the man who walked with God, and who was the friend of God. God said, "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" Abraham drew near to God and prayed. It is in prayer that God will tell us what He wants us to be, where He wants us to go, and what He wants us to do.
3. Prayer empowers us. In Acts 4:31 we read that when they had prayed, the place was shaken. If you will follow the story of the Apostles in this Book you will find that prayer held a very vital place in the lives of the early saints. Prayer was the connection link between those who gave witness for the Lord and the great dynamo of Heaven. Let no one imagine therefore that prayer is a useless waste of breath.
IV. FOR WHAT SHOULD WE PRAY? (Matthew 9:37-38 )
In answer to this question we find ourselves in as large a realm as we faced when we spoke of where and when we should pray. We said we could pray everywhere and at any time. Now we say we can pray for any and everything which our life demands.
1. We may pray for wisdom. In James we are told that if any man lack wisdom he is to ask of God. Wisdom is the power to do a thing right, to work with skill. Some people do plenty, but they make a mess of it. Wisdom is not so much the accumulation of knowledge, as it is the right use of knowledge. Wisdom is not knowing a thing, but doing a thing properly. It comes down from the Father of Lights. This being true, it is right for us to pray for wisdom.
2. We may pray for health. John, the beloved disciple, prayed for his dear friend, Gaius, that he might prosper and be in health even as his soul prospered. The Bible plainly tells us that those who are sick should call for the elders of the Church to anoint them with oil in the Name of the Lord. The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.
3. We should pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This is the admonition of the Holy Ghost as recorded in Psalms 122:6 . Jerusalem is primarily the city which we all know is the seat of the Jews' earthly estate. Jerusalem here, however, stands not only for the city, but also for the Jews who inhabit the city, and all Israel at large. This should be one objective in prayer.
4. We should pray for reapers. Our key text gives Christ's command to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into the harvest. As we read this message, missionary opportunity lies wide open before us. There are hands outstretched pleading for help. We want to give, we want to go, and we want to let others go. There is something else included in our duty toward the dying heathen; we must pray in their behalf.
V. WHO SHOULD PRAY? (Hebrews 11:6 )
When we consider prayer as the greatest privilege given to man, we wonder who it is that can enjoy this privilege. If prayer means power and plenty, and the presence of God manifested among us, we want to know who can pray.
Our text tells us that he who cometh to God must believe that God is, and that He is the Rewarder of them who diligently seek Him. We do not hesitate to say that believers alone may pray. Others may carry out a form of prayer just like they have a form of godliness, but they know nothing of the benefactions of prayer.
1. The righteous may pray. In Proverbs 15:29 we are told that, "The Lord is far from the wicked: but He heareth the prayer of the righteous." It is only the unsaved who are shut off from the privilege of prayer. If we expect our prayer to grip the throne of God we must be clean and separated and holy before God. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."
2. The lowly may pray. When we approach the throne of God we must come with bowed heads and bended knees. If we come to Him with a proud spirit God will not, and cannot hear us. It is the meek whom He hears. It is the lowly for whom the Lord has respect (Psalms 138:6 ).
3. Sons may pray. It is because we are sons that God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba, Father." When we pray as sons we pray unto God as Father. It is this that brings unto us, through the Spirit, a ready and a free access unto God. No one may call God "Father" except he is son. No one is a son except he is born of the Father. Thus we see that the unsaved are necessarily excluded from the privileges of sonship prayers. Sons may pray in the full experience of liberty, and yet even sons should come without arrogancy. We need, as sons, to feel at home with the Father, but we should have nothing of arrogancy or undue familiarity in our approach. We need to say, "Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name."
VI. HOW SHOULD WE PRAY? (Judges 1:20 )
We now come to a very interesting phase in our study. Our text tells us that we should pray in the Holy Ghost. It is true that we know not how to pray as we ought, but the Holy Spirit, Himself, makes groanings within us. He not only aids our prayers, but He indites our prayers. He joins with us in our prayers. What a wonderful help to prayer is the Holy Ghost!
1. We should pray with assurance. The Word of God says in Hebrews: "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith." He that doubteth is like a wave of the sea driven of the wind and tossed. Let not that man think that he shall receive anything from the Lord. If we come into the presence of the Lord we must come believing, or else we cast shame upon Him. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." God holds the measuring line in His hand ready to mark off the prayers or requests, therefore He says it will be unto us according to our faith.
2. We should pray in Christ's Name. This we see in John 14:14, and in John 16:24 . "If ye shall ask any thing in My Name, I will do it." And again, "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My Name: ask, and ye shall receive." If we want to know how to pray we must know that there is nothing in ourselves that gives us the right of access unto the Father. We must approach by virtue of the Blood of Christ, not only so, but we must pray under the sanction of Jesus Christ, under His approval and endorsement. We must have His Name penned to our prayers. We must not merely plead His Name and His power, but He must be willing to vouchsafe to our prayers the stamp of His Name. It is not our writing out a check upon the bank of Heaven, and signing Christ's Name to it; it is that our checks must have His signature before they are valid in the courts of Glory.
VII. TO WHOM SHALL WE PRAY? (Ephesians 3:14 )
There is a great deal of discussion these days as to whom we should address our prayers. There are many who say, "Dear Jesus," and they seem to center all their prayers to the Son. We would not say that it is wicked so to do. However, we should remember that God has given us in very definite language three outstanding statements as to whom to address.
1. We should pray to the Father. Paul said, "For this cause I Bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." The prayer which our Lord gave His disciples began, "Our Father which art in Heaven."
There is a danger in these days of our eliminating God, the Father, from our whole religious concept. This is what we might term a "Jesus age." Men seem to forget that the whole plan of redemption was the plan of the Father. They seem to be ignorant of the fact that it was God the Father who was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. It was God who so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son. It was God who commended His love toward us in that Christ died for us. Worship should always recognize the Father.
In the Book of the Revelation the four living ones and the four and twenty elders are described as giving honor unto the Father, but not to the Father apart from the Son, for in their second great worshipful outburst they cry, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain."
2. We should pray through the Son. Our Lord said, "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me." There are certain organizations who purposefully leave out the Name of the Lord Jesus when they go through the form of prayer. When this is done all possibility of reaching the Father is lost. Every prayer we pray to God may not have appended to it "for Jesus' sake" or "in the Name of Jesus," but every prayer must, at least, have the unwritten or unstated acceptance of the fact that prayer is efficacious and possible only through the Son. God could reach man only by way of the Cross; man can reach God only by that same way.
3. We should pray by the Spirit. In Ephesians 2:18 we read: "For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." The word, "Spirit" refers to Jew and Gentile. The statement that we have access by one Spirit, does not mean through one Spirit, in the same sense that we have access through or by virtue of the Calvary work of our Lord Jesus Christ. We might put it this way: We pray to the Father through the mediation of Jesus Christ, by the enabling of the Holy Ghost. Therefore when we pray, it is just as vital to recognize the unctionizing Spirit, and His part in our prayers, as it is to recognize the high priestly work of the Son, who by virtue of His Cross makes our prayers acceptable.
"Prayer, delayed answer not denial. Amid the turmoil and excitement and hurry of this busy world we need to learn the lesson of patient waiting on God, who is never in haste. An incident recorded by Dr. Wayland Hoyt illustrates this thought. 'They have preserved in Bedford, England, the door of the jail which was locked upon John Bunyan. I looked at it long and earnestly. I thought of the many prayers which Bunyan must have pleaded behind it that that jail door might swing open for him. Yet for twelve years the bolts of that door stood undrawn. But the delay was how affluently fruitful. Dreams were going on behind that door, and the world needed them. When "The Pilgrim's Progress" of which Bunyan dreamed had taken shape and tangibility, Bunyan's Lord, who had never for an instant forgotten him while the slow years passed, swung that jail door wide. Let us give God time. Let us trust His wisdom. Sometimes quick answer would be worst answer. Let us learn Adam Slowman's so needed lesson for our impatient hearts, that "delays are not denials."' "
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Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Philippians 4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter