“You can’t patch up your prayer life when you get to the judgment seat”
“You can delegate many things, but prayer is not one of them.”
“Yesterdays praying will not suffice for today.”
~E. M. Bounds
“This period we are in now is a dressing room for eternity, that is all it is.”
“In everything by prayer.”
I intend to write to you on the subject of the significance of a life of prayer. This word can be taken as one of three things: an encouragement, a challenge, or an offense. It has little significance to me, for “if you have the smile of God what does it matter if you have the frown of men (Ravenhill).”I write to you in obedience to God. If you take it as a challenge, you can potentially lift the quality of your life above what it is now, as you rapidly move in time to that great day of accountability. If you take it as an encouragement, than most likely you are living for and in the means of prayer, affecting your circle of influence and empowering your pursuit of Christ’s kingdom in an honest and fruitful way. If you take this word as an offense, it will profit you nothing but merely add to your hardness of heart storing up for yourself more to give an account for on that great day of judgment. As I stated, all is well with me, for my heart is not to write for the profit of any other than he who desires to reach the heart of God and stand before Him unashamed and confident in the day of reckoning.
The sorrowful truth that such a spiritual employment is largely neglected has negative effects upon more than just our personal standing with God. It dampens what could have otherwise thrived in fire before the Lord. As intercessory prayer remains that which it has always been, we have been tremendously privileged to the ear of God having been justified, encouraged and empowered by His grace to live an obedient life.
The obedient life alone has access to God’s ear (Psalm34:17; Prov. 15:8; James 4:2, 3). Scripture in no uncertain terms, vastly teaches us the power, significance and details of a prayer life that God acknowledges. “All our libraries and studies are mere emptiness compared with our prayer closets”(E.M. Bounds).
King David overflowed with prayer in the Psalms he penned throughout his earthly life, seeing not only its privilege but also its importance by praying morning, noon and night (Psalm 55:17). He saw the connection between the enlightenment of the word of God and intimate pleading for the same (Psalm 119; 18, 19). The apostle Paul was moved by the same spirit encouraging us to pray “in everything” (Phil. 4:6). This would entail all our dealings in life, family, money, ministry, study and the like. This great privilege and importance wasn’t something to be active infrequent but rather “at all times”(1 Thess. 5:17). “All times” encompasses the positive, negative and mundane. Jesus encouraged us to not only pray, but to endure with persistence not giving up or “fainting” (Luke 18:1). Christ emphasized the importance of prayer by ignoring the potential of its absence in our life. He simply said, “When you pray” (Matt. 6:6). Christ also coupled enduring temptation with prayer (Luke 22:39-46). Scripture reveals to us the aid in our sufferings is prayer (James 5:13).
Our aid in worthy living is prayer (2 Thess 1:11). Our aid in wisdom is prayer (James 1:5). Oh how our lives would be of such a higher quality if we lived in persistent, fervent prayer when trying situations occur instead of aimlessly roaming about! What greater impact would our counsel, words and life have upon those weak hearted Christians who surround us, if our hearts overflowed with burdened persistent prayer for them instead of hidden gossip, jesting and squandering of time! Let us not take lightly that he who prays effectually has first lived effectually. In the words of E.M. Bounds, “He who prays must obey.”For the wonder of the availability of God’s ear to His people can be blocked by our living! (1 Peter 3:7; Psalm 66:18; 1 John 3:22). The effective prayer of the righteous man can effect much (James 5:16)! The availability of God’s ear is as glorious of a privilege, power and grace as it is a responsibility in our way of living and use of time.
Christ revealed that prayer for another can keep one “from the evil one.” Prayer can ignite a disciples life to be “separated by the word” (John 17:11, 15, 17, 21). This reveals that merely hearing or reading the word may need the service of divine assistance in prayer to effect such a sanctification of a disciple. As well as the great ability to “keep” one “in His name”, prayer can effect unity amongst disciples (John 17:11, 15, 17, 21).
Christ having complete understanding of God’s sovereignty continually imposed upon Himself isolation for the purpose of prayer (Mark 1:35). Do you recall how Christ spent a night in prayer before choosing His twelve disciples (Luke 6:12)? The disciples at Christ’s side were interested in learning, not how to teach or heal, but how to pray (Luke 11:2).
Once the potential of true prayer is understood a man can never return, in right heartedness, to a prayerless life. Samuel connected prayerlessness with sin (1 Samuel 12:23). God Himself is seen in scripture searching for a man to pray (Isa. 59:16). Where is the man who will stir himself to get a hold of God in prayer (Isa. 64:7)? “Oh, for determined men and women, who will rise early and really burn out for God” (Hodge). True prayer is not a light matter. Nor is it an exercise for the slothful. Christ Himself offered up prayers with loud crying and tears (Heb. 5:7). He burned in agony and fervency in Gethsemane (Luke 22:14). Christ taught us that prayer isn’t a weak hearted matter, nor an exercise for lazy knees. For the key to its effectiveness is importunity (Luke 11:5-13). Hezekiah’s prayers moved God to add fifteen years upon his life (Isa. 38:1-5). God hears. God listens, to the righteous (James 5:16; Psalm 66:18). He who has the ear of God and sincerely applies himself to such a divine employment has access to a fruitful ministry. The writer of Hebrews asked for prayer (Heb. 13:18). Paul asked for such a divine assistance to be added to his ministry (2 Thess. 3:1). Paul knew the power of true prayer could turn events in the spreading of the word of God (Phil. 1:19).
He saw the aid to his ministry was none other than true prayer (2 Cor. 1:11). Prayer can open doors for uttering the word of God (Col.4:3-4). What a responsibility that will, without question, be one of many things we give an account for before the Judgment seat!
The recorded lesson from the apostolic Church was that dedication of one’s self should be given to the word of God but equally to prayer (Acts 6:4). Just as Elijah in the Old testament prayed for eyes to be opened to see, Paul prayed for the enlightening of the eyes of our heart that we may see (2 Kings 6:17;Ephesians 1:19). Ignore not the radiant evidence of a praying life. It may well open and enlighten a man’s heart to see what he couldn’t by study alone. The hope revealed in the scriptures is the anchor of our soul (Heb. 6:19). It must be the center of our life if we are to live a life pleasing to the Lord (Heb. 11:6; 10:39). At times and in many cases, we, dull of hearing, slow of heart people need the grace of prayer to quicken us with grace to walk out that which is currently in our mouths (Col. 1:9-11;Eph1:16-19;3:14-20). The great protection to prayerless praying (a disease rampant amongst the unstudied) is first of all, the honest, humble and correct study of the scriptures. For nothing else is a lamp unto our feet as we tread down the dark path of a deceptive world and religion (Psalm 119:105). Paul prayed according to God’s working (Eph 1:19; 3:20). Christ eclipsed His will with God’s (Matt. 26:39).
“Prayerless praying, how popular! Yet, useless”(E.M. Bounds). The Pharisees prayed to be heard, seen and recognized with many words and a prideful disposition for the good they have done (Marr. 6:5; Luke 18:10-14). Leonard Ravenhill said, “the secret of prayer is praying in secret (Matt. 6:6).” As the culmination of man’s day draws to a close, the sobriety of our secret place will be our secret to preparation (1 Peter 4:7). We must soberly strive in prayer and allow the Spirit of God to move us in intercession and personal longing for Him so as to sweeten the bitter areas of our lives and the lives of those that God has given us, knowing, at times only the Spirit will know the will of God (Rom. 15:30-31;8;8:26).
A burden is a revelation of a tremendous spiritual need, able to be satisfied by God alone, having no avenue where by it can be expressed, save, groanings which cannot be uttered, explained or understood. “Prayers that cannot be uttered are often prayersthat cannot be refused (Spurgeon).” Leonard Ravenhill challenges, “No man is greater than his prayer life…let me live with a man a while and share his prayer life and then I will tell you how tall I think he is or how majestic I think he is in God…You may impress others but you can’t impress God. You can show off on the platform, singing, preaching and doing your stuff, but not in prayer…Praying men stop sinning and sinning men stop praying. A man first collapses in the prayer closet…Can he share His sorrow with you? Can you remember the last time you couldn’t go to bed because men were dying without Christ?
When was the last time you pushed the plate away and said, “No, I need more time with God?” God looks for a man, not a seraphim, not a cherubim, not a half man and half deity. God looks for men, not money, not methods, not machinery, not movements…Men! We need to say, “Lord I’m concerned, I am speeding up to judgment, look at my ministry, look at the secrets of my life, look at my fruitlessness, look at my dry eyes, look at my poor spirit that has no ache in it, look at me!” The great day of accountability alone will reveal all that could have been effected through a selfless management of your time to invest in prayer. Beware to stand not ashamed. You cannot return to live the way you should have. Dr. Michael L. Brown urged us, “Are you spending your time, energy and efforts on things that are just going to burn?”I tell you after a diligent study of God’s word you will find this common thread, that an obedient life lived in humble intercession avails greatly in the eyes of God. A.W. Tozer at the end of his life said this challenging statement, “I don’t think that I will be ashamed of the things that I have done in my life, but rather what I could have done.” Samuel Chadwick at the end of his life said this sobering statement, “I have spent two thirds of my life in bible study and one third of my life in prayer. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would spend two thirds of my life in prayer and one third of my life in bible study.” The word of God should never be neglected or despised (thought little of), for without its direction, one will more often than not, spend his time amiss.
They together constitute the whole of God’s assistance toward us.
Let us sincerely ask ourselves, in the light of Him who sees through the outward actions and into the motives and intents, (Rev. 2:23; Hebrews 4:12.) What does it matter if we boldly dance in the assembly, pray with eloquence and volume, shamelessly raise our hands amongst others or even speak the depths of the scriptures if we are bankrupt before God in the quiet place. “The true test of a man’s soul is when he is alone” (Jeremy Taylor). Have you come to the face of others from the face of God (figuratively)? To truly know God is to truly share, in our small degree, His feelings, revealed to us in His word, experienced by us in prayer. To share not God’s burden is to share not in His heart and He who is most dear to God is he who lays his head upon His breast (John 13:23, 25).
“Nothing will so test and stimulate the Christian life as the honest attempt to pray for others”(Andrew Murray). “The men who have done mighty things for God have always been mighty in prayer, have well understood the possibilities of prayer, and have made the most of these opportunities… Men who know how to pray are the greatest boon God can give the earth-they are the richest gift earth can offer heaven.”(E.M. Bounds).
A disciple who will give himself to the divine preparation and work of constant receiving God’s word and obeying God’s word, soaked in personal and intercessory prayer, will be more confident at the judgment. Knowing that he not only fed his spirit with the truth of God’s word but he opened his spirit to share God’s heart. A disciple who will give himself to the divine work of pure ministry of the word and prayer for others will effect greatly the course and pattern of living of these to whom he ministers (Col. 4:12). Of what greater significance can prayer be than that ministry which makes effective all else? The reward for a correct, sincere and fervent life of prayer will, more so than all others, be most significant in that great day. “There is no alternative to prayer and obedience” (Ravenhill).
“For it is a great honor to speak to men on behalf of God, but an even greater honor to speak to God on behalf of men” (E.M. Bounds). Let us not know the guilt of a life that chose to avoid the power, importance, privilege and responsibility of the availability of God’s ear.
Let us not forget that even He who was the Word made flesh lived a life of fervent Prayer. Let us plead for divine assistance for ourselves and others as we pursue the offered Kingdom through conformity to the image of God’s Son through nothing other than interaction with His Spirit!
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
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