Dear radio friends,
Today I would like to speak to you on the truth of prayer: personal, regular prayer. In preparing for this message today, there were two things that struck me about prayer. The first was the richness of the Bible on the truth of prayer. Great amounts of the Bible are devoted to prayer. How much of God’s Word speaks to us about it! Consider the Psalms, which are really all prayers of the children of God. Consider the examples in the Bible about prayer: Jacob as he wrestles with God at Peniel, Daniel in the lion’s den, the kings of Judah (Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Asa) who bring prayers to God, the prophets (Elijah, Nehemiah), the epistles of the apostles Paul and Peter, which repeatedly make reference to prayer (pray without ceasing, says Paul; in all things being instant in prayer). Then, consider the life of Jesus Christ Himself – how He would pray all night and how His disciples noted that He was preeminently a man of prayer.
Do you, as His child, say, “Lord, teach me to pray”? Here is the answer: Take up the book, the holy Scriptures, and read the Book! That will teach you how to pray. You will not find the secret to your prayer-life in a trendy book, in the latest fad on prayer. But you will find the truth of prayer, and instruction for prayer in the Scriptures. The Scriptures will teach you.
Why is so much of the Bible devoted to prayer? Because prayer is an essential means of grace. It is indispensable for the children of God. It is the way whereby God strengthens us in our spiritual walk. Until the Lord Jesus returns at the end of the world, there will be no substitute for personal prayer. You must, therefore, allow nothing to take its place. If you can live without your own personal prayer, you must question whether you have the grace of God at all. If your religion can live without God, then you had better question whether or not your religion is made of God. It is through prayer that we live with God.
The second thing that struck me as I considered the truth of prayer was how much I am ashamed before God over my own prayer-life, and how much pride overcomes us. Pride, you see, is not always manifested in a swagger, a better-than-thou attitude. No, pride dwells in the person who outwardly might appear to be most humble. Do you pray? Prayerlessness is a manifestation of pride. Prayerlessness is swagger before God. To be without prayer means that you and I would say, “We can make it on our own.” To live without prayer is to live as if we are independent. If you and I really believe that we are dependent upon God, shall we not live a life of prayer?
There is one passage in the Bible that I would like to look at for a few moments today. It is Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.” In that verse we have the truth that prayer, now in the sense of personal, regular prayer, is to be the habitual activity of every child of God. Boys and girls (and I hope you are listening), junior high students, high school students, college students, single, married, moms and dads, old and young, elder, minister – whoever you are, God speaks, God says something to you. And God makes it plain. You are to pray personally. Pour out your heart before Him.
Now that is something I cannot do for you and you cannot do for me. God says, “You, you personally, as a regular habit of your life, each day, you come to Me and you pour out your heart before Me.” The words are plain. They are uncomplicated words. They are perfectly clear.
He goes on to say, “Trust in him at all times.” The word “trust” means “to lean upon” God. The picture is of one who is about to topple over, one who needs to rest upon a cane. Or that his weight is too heavy and he is about to fall over and he needs something to strengthen him. Trust in God. Trust in God is to rely upon God by faith as He places burdens upon us, and as we live in this present world.
In prayer, then, we are to take that burden that the Lord has given to us, that He places upon us according to His own good pleasure, and we are to cast that burden upon the Lord, believing that He will sustain us. Trust is the act of faith whereby we look to God, believing His goodness and His power and His promises, and we place all of our cares upon Him. And we, in turn, experience that we are lifted above our doubts and discouragements.
Trust in Him at all times. Bring your needs to Him at all times. Yes, when you are in adversity, when your finances are stretched out beyond where they can go and you cannot see how you are going to make it. Trust in Him when you are a widow and you are lonely; when you are a young person fighting fears that no one else, you believe, ever had; when you think, as a young person, that no one likes you and you do not know what you are supposed to do. Trust in him at all times, all times – not only in adversity, but also in prosperity, especially prosperity, when things are going well, when you say, “Well, really, we don’t have anything to complain about.” Oh, you had better trust in God especially then, lest you be deceived and seduced by this world. Pour out your heart before Him.
I said that those words are very plain. It does not say there, “Read words before God.” It does not say, “Repeat memorized, unconscious prayers before God.” It does not say, “Come to God like a parrot and say a few words.” But it says, “Pour out your heart.” What does that mean? The figure is like a glass of water. Turn the glass upside-down. Spill out what is in your heart. All of it. Before God. Things you cannot tell your wife, things you cannot tell another human being. Empty it before God in prayer.
You see, the Lord knows us. You had better believe that! And He knows that, by nature, we keep all of those things inside and we turn them over and we make of our hearts a miry pool of mud. We sink down into that mud in self-pity. And the more we keep it in, the more worse it gets. We become bitter or filled with suspicion, or we are resentful or angry or hopeless or despairing. You keep it all in? You keep it all in yourself? You think you are a strong person – you can keep it all in? Then your experience will be wretchedness and your heart will shrivel right up. No, God says, “Pour it out.” Pour out to Him your sins. Confess your sins to God. Do not keep it down in there. Do not try to put the lid over it with your excuses. Do not stir up your sins by keeping them down in your heart. Confess your sins to God.
Pour out your grief before God. Do not keep it down there. Do not keep it bottled in your heart. Sob it all out. Tell God your fears. Confess to Him your fears and your anger and your resentments and your worries. God has commanded you: Pour out your heart before Me.
You say to me, “But wait a minute. You say, commanded me to do that? How can a spiritual activity like prayer be commanded? Doesn’t God want us to feel like it first?”
Well, let me repeat it, then. God has commanded you to pour it out to Him. Nowhere in the Bible will you find that prayer is to wait until your feelings are there. If the feelings are there, praise God. But if they are not, it is not left up to you and to me to decide if we are going to go to God. God says, “Come to Me.” Tell Him all that is upon your heart. Perhaps your heart is empty. You say it is dull and sluggish. Pour that out to Him. Sometimes you say, Lord, I have nothing to pour out. Pour that out to Him – your sin of being so empty.
Secondly, God commands us because we need assurance. Under the load of our sins and trials we are tempted to fall down in despair and to say, “But God won’t hear me. Why would He want to have anything to do with the likes of me?” There is no doubt left here. Yes, God commands you: Pray.
Do you? Do you? I did not ask, “Do you know that you should pray?” I did not ask that. I did not ask, “Do you consent that it would be a good thing for you to do?” I did not say, “Do you agree that prayer is a good, regular practice?” I did not ask that. I said, “Do you pray?”
What do I mean? I mean, as a regular course of your life, daily, habitually, do you have your own personal prayer life? That is what I am asking.
You say, “Normal, habitual, personal prayer-life – exactly what is that?”
Let me explain that then. We have normal, predictable activities in our lives. Sleeping – you go to sleep at a certain time generally. Eating – a certain hour when you eat. Working – you have to be a work at a certain hour. School, entertainments. You have a schedule in your life. Is prayer a daily, personal habit in your life so that prayer arises in your life not simply by occasions, under crisis. But do you have a purposeful, patterned, predictable prayer-life? You have a habit of eating. Maybe you get up at 5:30 in the morning. You shave, you take a shower. At 7:15 the wife expects you at the breakfast table. You catch the Metro at 8:05. And you come to work. At 8:45 the boss finds you and you are behind your desk – you are in the office.
Young people: You have a regular schedule of life. You take your shower at your time. Nobody else had better be in the shower when it’s your time, right? You have a schedule. You know what a schedule is like. Do you, as a young person, habitually pray? Do you?
Prayer is the means of God to give us grace and strength. We read in Psalm 5:3, “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Regular, habitual prayer.
Now we realize that prayer is a spiritual activity. Prayer must not be simply going through the motions. But we must also realize that this prayer is not a matter of flowery words. Yes, we do seek to find acceptable words according to Scripture. We search out acceptable words before God. And we want to find the right words to bring before God because we come before our great God and King. You see, prayer is not learning merely a language and coming with mere outward, vain repetitions of words, but prayer is engaging God with all your heart. “With my whole heart have I sought thee” (Ps. 119:10). “Unite my heart to fear thy name” (Ps. 86:11). Pour out your heart. Come before God. Bring your petitions. Engage God in prayer.
Prayer is not then, as I am saying, the mere mouthing of words. It is the heart of the child of God engaging God in loving fellowship. The deepest part of your being, pour out your heart before Him. God is not influenced by mere outward words, flowery words. God is not satisfied merely with volume or the amount of words. But He says, “Seek Me with your heart.” That means that you may perhaps stammer. It is a struggle. You may stumble, perhaps, in your language. Pray. Pray to God. Come to Him.
I would say that it is a very good idea also in our private prayers to learn to pray out loud. It will keep your mind from wandering. It is also a good idea that if you pray before you go to sleep you do not pray in bed. Get out of the bed. Kneel, as is the old custom, by your bed lest you fall asleep on a soft pillow.
God compels us to pray. We must seek God. We must come before God with all of our hearts.
The assurance? Well, God is a refuge for us. God is a hiding place for us. He is a defense. He is the place where we are safe, where the dangers cannot overtake us, where we shall be in His safety. God is a refuge for us. For the unbelieving and for the wicked He is no refuge. He is a terror to them. But for the child of God, redeemed in the blood of Jesus Christ, made righteous in the work of Jesus Christ, for that child of God, God is a defense. That is why we may pray to Him. We pray to Him because in prayer we partake of that refuge that is ours through Jesus Christ in God. We bring our prayers to God because through Jesus Christ we have been made the children of God.
I would like to close today with just one question of application. Answer honestly, as you must answer in the day of judgment. We know that there is no fooling God in the day of judgment.
Do you have the habit of personal prayer?
I did not ask if your personal prayer-life is perfect. I did not ask if there are not times that it is interrupted due to the activities and the problems of your life. I asked, Do you have the habit of personal prayer? Do you pray in secret, boys and girls, mom and dad, teenager? I am not asking others. I am asking you. Do you?
You say, “Well, I don’t know.” Let me help you, then.
You have the regular habit of getting up and dressing. You have regular habits of hygiene. There are certain things that you do every day. Do you pray every day? Yes or no. I did not ask, “Do you intend to? Do you want to?” I asked, “Do you?”
I suppose I have one more question, then. If the answer is “No,” why? If you are not praying each day, why not? Without prayer, child of God? You are without prayer? Without prayer at all – it is dammed up in your heart? It becomes too heavy? If you do not pray, you are sinning and you must repent now. How can we go on without prayer?
We can do, in our lives, without more entertainment. We can do without more money. We can do without the latest deal on the telephone, the cheapest billing rates. We can do without those things. We can do with less telephone, too. But we cannot do without prayer.
There are generations that have lived before us and have died before us without all the entertainments we have, without the TV, without all the money we have, without all the conveniences we have. They have lived without those things. But there is no generation that has lived before us which has lived and died godly who have lived without prayer. You cannot live spiritually without prayer.
Whoever you are: father of the household, mother, son, child going to school, widow, adult – whether you are fallen into sin and your conscience afflicts you, whether you are weary and distraught and lonely and over burdened, hear God’s Word. Trust in Him at all times, ye people. Pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge for us.
And God promises that the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, make us diligent to seek Thy face in prayer. Give to us that as a regular, daily, habitual thing we come apart from this world and enter into the secret place of prayer. Work it by the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.