Sermon 719. Praying In The Holy Spirit
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, NOVEMBER 4, 1866,
BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Praying in the Holy Spirit." Jude 1:20.
THESE words occur in a passage where the Apostle is indicating the contrast between the ungodly and the godly. The ungodlyare mocking, speaking great swelling words and walking after their ungodly lusts, while the righteous are building themselvesup in their most holy faith, and keepingthemselves in the love of God. The ungodly are showing the venom of their hearts by mourning and complaining, while therighteous are manifesting the new principle within them by "praying in the Holy Spirit." The ungodly man bears wormwood inhis mouth, while the Christian's lipsdrop with the virgin honey of devotion. As the spider is said to find poison in the very flowers from which the bees suckhoney, so do the wicked abuse to sin the same mercies which the godly use to the glory of God.
As far as light is removed from darkness, and life from death, so far does a Believer differ from the ungodly. Let us keepthis contrast very vivid. While the wicked grow yet more wicked, let us become more holy, more prayerful, and more devout,saying with good old Joshua, "Let others do as theywill, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Observe that the text comes in a certain order in the context.The righteous are described, first of all, as building themselves up in their most holy faith. Faith is the first Divine Grace,the root of piety, the foundationof holiness, the dawn of godliness-to this must the first care be given.
But we must not tarry at the first principles. Onward is our course! What, then, follows at the heels of faith? What is faith'sfirst-born child? When the vine of faith becomes vigorous and produces fruit unto holiness, which is the first ripe cluster?Is it not prayer-"praying in the HolySpirit"? That man has no faith who has no prayer, and the man who abounds in faith will soon abound in supplication. Faiththe mother, and prayer the child, are seldom apart from one another. Faith carries Prayer in her arms, and Prayer draws lifefrom the breast of Faith.Edification in faith leads to fervency in supplication. Elijah first manifests his faith before the priests of Baal, andthen retires to wrestle with God upon Carmel.
Study our text carefully and see what follows after "praying in the Holy Spirit." "Keep yourselves in the love of God." Nextto prayer comes an abiding sense of the love of God to us and the flowing up of our love towards God. Prayer builds an altarand lays the sacrifice and the wood in order, andthen Love, like the priest, brings holy fire from Heaven and sets the offering in a blaze! Faith is, as we have said, theroot of Grace. Prayer is the lily's stalk, and love is the spotless flower. Faith sees the Savior, prayer follows Him intothe house, but love breaks thealabaster box of precious ointment and pours it on His head.
There is, however, a step beyond even the hallowed enjoyments of love! There remains a topstone to complete the edifice-itis believing expectantly-"looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." Far-seeing Hope climbs the staircasewhich Faith has built, and bowingupon the knees of Prayer looks through the window which Love has opened, and sees the Lord Jesus Christ coming in His gloryand endowing all His people with the eternal life which is to be their portion. See, then, the value of prayer as indicatingthe possession of faith, and asforeshadowing and supporting the strength and growth of love.
Coming directly to the text, we remark that the Apostle speaks of prayer, but he mentions only one kind of praying. Viewedfrom a certain point, prayers are of many sorts. I suppose that no two genuine prayers from different men could be preciselyalike. Master artists do not often multiply thesame painting-they prefer to give expression to fresh ideas as often as they grasp the pencil. And so the Master Artist,the Holy Spirit, who is the Author of prayer, does not often produce two prayers that shall be precisely the same upon thetablets of His people's hearts.
Prayers may be divided into several different orders. There is deprecatory prayer in which we deprecate the wrath of God,and entreat Him to turn away His fierce anger, to withdraw His rod, to sheath His sword. Deprecatory prayers are to be offeredin all times when calamity is to be feared, andwhen sin has provoked the Lord to jealousy. Then there are supplicatory prayers in which we supplicate blessings and imploremercies from the liberal hand of God, and entreat our heavenly Father to supply our needs out of His riches in glory by ChristJesus. There are prayers whichare personal in which the supplicant pleads mainly concerning himself. And there are pleadings which are intercessory, inwhich, like Abraham, the petitioner intercedes for Sodom, or entreats that Ishmael might live before God.
These prayers for others are to be multiplied as much as prayers for ourselves, lest we make the Mercy Seat to become a placefor the exhibition of spiritual selfishness. The prayer may be public or private, vocal or mental, protracted or ejaculatory.Prayer may be salted with confession, orperfumed with thanksgiving. It may be sung to music, or wept out with groans. As many as are the flowers of summer, so manyare the varieties of prayer! But while prayers are of these various orders, there is one respect in which they are all oneif they are acceptable withGod-they must be, every one of them, "in the Holy Spirit."
That prayer which is not in the Holy Spirit is in the flesh. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and we are told thatthey which are in the flesh cannot please God. All that comes of our corrupt nature is defiled and marred, and cannot be acceptablewith the most holy God. If the heavens arenot pure in His sight, how shall those prayers which are born of the earth be acceptable with Him? The seed of acceptabledevotion must come from Heaven's storehouse. Only the prayer which comes from God can go to God! The dove will only bear aletter to the cote from which it came,and so will prayer go back to Heaven if it came from Heaven. We must shoot the Lord's arrows back to Him.
That desire which He writes upon our heart will move His heart and bring down a blessing, but the desires of the flesh haveno power with Him. Desirous to press this great Truth of God upon the minds of my Brothers and Sisters this morning, I shalluse the few words of the text in five ways.
I. First we shall use the text as A CRUCIBLE to try our prayers in. I beseech you, examine yourselves with rigorous care!Use the text as a refining pot, a furnace, a touchstone or a crucible by which to discern whether your prayers have been trueor not! This is the test-have they been invery deed-"praying in the Holy Spirit"? Brothers and Sisters, we need not judge those who pray unintelligible prayers, prayersin a foreign tongue, prayers which they do not understand. We know without a moment's discussion of the question that theprayer which is notunderstood cannot be a prayer in the Spirit, for even the man's own spirit does not enter into it-how then can the Spiritof God be there?
The mysterious words or Latin jargon of the priests cannot come up before God with acceptance! Let us, therefore, keep ourjudgment for ourselves. There may be those present who have been in the habit of using from their infancy a form of prayer.You perhaps would not dare to go out to your day'sbusiness without having repeated that form at the bedside. You would be afraid to fall asleep at night without going throughthe words which you have set yourselves to repeat. My dear Friends, may I put the question to you-will you try to answer ithonestly? Have you prayed inthe Holy Spirit? Has the Holy Spirit had anything to do with that form? Has He really made you to feel it in your heart?Is it not possible that you have mocked God with a solemn sound upon a thoughtless tongue? Is it not probable that from therandom manner in which one comes torepeat a well-known form that there may be no heart whatever in it-and not an atom of sincerity?
Does not God abhor the sacrifice where the heart is not found? It would be a melancholy thing if we had increased our sinsby our prayers! It would be a very unhappy fact if it should turn out that when we have bowed the knee in what we thoughtto be the service of God, we were actually insultingthe God of Heaven by uttering words which could not but be disgusting to Him because our hearts did not go with our lips!Let us rest assured that if for seventy years we have punctually performed our devotions by the use of the book, or of theform which we have learned, we may,the whole seventy years, never once have prayed at all! And the whole of that period we may have been living in God's esteeman ungodly, prayerless life because we have never worshipped God, who is a Spirit, in spirit and in truth, and have neverprayed in the Holy Spirit! Judgeyourselves, Brothers and Sisters, that you be not judged!
But are there not others of us who never did use a written prayer? Who from our earliest childhood have eschewed and evenabhorred forms of prayer, who nevertheless have good reason to try our prayer just as much as others? We have given forthextemporaneous utterances, and those extemporaneousutterances necessarily required some little exercise of the mind, some little attention-but still we may have been heartlessin them. I suppose we are well aware that we can get into such a habit of extemporaneous prayer that it is really very littleor no better than if werepeated what we had learned. There may be such a fluency acquired by practice that one's speech may ripple on for fiveor ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, and yet the heart may be wandering in vanity or stagnant in indifference! The bodymay be on its knees, but the soul onits wings far away from the Mercy Seat.
Let us examine how far our public prayers have been in the Holy Spirit. The preacher standing here begs God to search himin that matter. If he has merely discharged the business of public prayer because it is his official duty to conduct the devotionsof the congregation, he has much to accountfor before God-to lead the devotions of this vast throng without seeking the aid of the Holy Spirit is no light sin! Andwhat shall be said of the prayers at Prayer Meetings? Are not many of them mere words? It were better if our friends wouldnot speak at all rather thanspeak in the flesh!
I am sure that the only prayer in which the devout hearer can unite, and which is acceptable with God, is that which reallyis a heart prayer-a soul prayer, in fact-a prayer which the Holy Spirit moves us to pray. All else is beating the air andoccupying time in vain. My Brethren, Ithank God that there are so many of you in connection with this Church who are gifted in prayer, and I wish that every memberof every Christian Church could pray in public. You should all try to do so, and none of you should give it up unless it becomesan absolute impossibility.But oh, my Brethren who pray in public, may it not be sometimes with you as with others of us-the exercise of gift and notthe outflow of Divine Grace? And if so, ask the Lord to forgive you of such praying and enable you to wait upon Him in thepower of the Holy Spirit.
We may not forget to scrutinize our more private prayers, our supplications at the family altar, and above all, our prayersin that little room which we have dedicated to communion with God. O Brothers and Sisters, we might well be sick of our prayersif we did but see what poor things they are!There are times when it is a sweet and blessed thing to lay hold of the horns of the altar and to feel that the blood whichsprinkles the altar has sprinkled you-that you have spoken to God and prevailed! Oh it is a blessed thing to grasp the Angelof the Covenant, and towrestle with Him even hour after hour, saying, "I will not let You go except You bless me"! But I fear these are not constantthings. We may say of them that they are angels' visits, few and far between.
Come, my Brethren, put your prayers into this crucible of "praying in the Holy Spirit." You will cast in much metal, but therewill come out little of fine gold. Come and lay your prayers upon this threshing floor, and thresh them with this text, "prayingin the Holy Spirit." And oh, how much ofstraw and of chaff will there be, and how little of the well-winnowed grain! Come and look through this window at the fieldsof our devotions, overgrown with nettles, and briars, and thistles-a wilderness of merely outward performances! And how smallthat little spot, enclosedby Grace, which God the Holy Spirit Himself has cleared, and dug, and planted-from which the fruit of prayer has been broughtforth unto perfection!
May our heavenly Father teach us to be humble in His Presence as we reflect how little even of our best things will standthe test of His searching eyes, and may those of us who are His saints come to Him afresh, and ask Him to fill us with HisSpirit, and to accept us in His Son!
II. We shall next use the text as A CORDIAL. It is a very delightful reflection to the Christian mind that God observes Hispeople and does not sit as an indifferent spectator of their conflicts and difficulties. For instance, He closely observesus in our prayers. He knows that prayer, while itshould be the easiest thing in the world, is not so. He knows that we erring ones find it not always easy to approach Himin the true spirit of supplication and He observes this with condescending compassion. That is a precious verse for thosehearts which are very weak and broken,"He knows our frame: He remembers that we are dust." And that other, "Like as a father pities his children, so the Lordpities them that fear Him."
He takes notice of our frailties and of our failures in the work of supplication. He sees His child fall as it tries to walkand marks the tears with which it bemoans its weakness. "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are openunto their cry." A sweeter thought remains in thetext, namely, that having considered these failures of ours, which are many of them sinful, our Lord is not angry with uson account of them. And instead of being turned to wrath, He is moved to pity for us and love towards us. Instead of saying,"If you cannot pray, you shall nothave. If you have not
Grace enough even to ask aright, I will shut the gates of mercy against you." No, He devises means by which to bring the lameand the banished into His Presence! He teaches the ignorant how to pray and strengthens the weak with His own strength!
Herein He also does wonders, for the means whereby He helps our infirmity are exceedingly to be marveled at. That help isnot to be found in a book or in the dictation of certain words in certain consecrated places, but in the condescending assistanceof God Himself, for who is He that is spoken ofin the text but God? The Holy Spirit, the third Person of the adorable Trinity, helps our infirmities, making intercessionfor us with groans that cannot be uttered! It is a mark of wondrous condescension that God should not only answer our prayerswhen they are made, but shouldmake our prayers for us! That the King should say to the petitioner, "Bring your case before me and I will grant your desire,"is kindness. But for him to say, "I will be your secretary. I will write out your petition for you. I will put it into properwords and use fitting phrasesso that your petition shall be framed acceptably"-this is goodness at its utmost stretch!
And this is precisely what the Holy Spirit does for us poor, ignorant, wavering, weak sons of men. I am to understand fromthe expression, "praying in the Holy Spirit," that the Holy Spirit is actually willing to help me to pray-that He will tellme how to pray! And that when I get to a pointwhere I am at a pause and cannot express my desires, He will appear in my extremity and make intercession in me with groanswhich cannot be uttered. Jesus in His agony was strengthened by an angel-you are to be succored by God Himself! Aaron andHur held up the hands of Moses,but the Holy Spirit Himself helps your infirmities!
My beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the thought needs no garnishing of oratorical expressions! Take it as a wedge ofgold of Ophir and value it. It is priceless, beyond all price. God Himself, the Holy Spirit, condescends to assist you whenyou are on your knees, and if you cannot put twowords together in common speech to men, yet He will help you to speak with God! Ah, and if at the Mercy Seat you fail inwords, you shall not fail in reality, for your heart shall conquer. God needs not words. He never reads our petitions accordingto the outward utterance, butaccording to the inward groaning. He notices the longing, the desiring, the sighing, the crying.
Remember that the outward of prayer is but the shell-the inward of prayer is its true kernel and essence. If prayer is waftedto Heaven in the song of the multitude, with the swell of glorious music, it is not one whit more acceptable to God than whenit is wailed forth in the bitter cry ofanguish from a desolate spirit. That cry so discordant to human ears is music to the ears of God-
"To Him there's music in a sigh, And beauty in a tear." Notice this, then, and be comforted. III. The text may further serve as A CHART to direct us in the way of prayer. Here I shall need to speak at greater length.Praying how? By the book? Without a book? In public? In private? By the way? In the house? On your knees? Standing? Sitting?Kneeling? Nothing is said about these! Posture, place, and time are all left open. There is no rubric except one-"in the HolySpirit."
That is indispensable. That granted, nothing else matters one whit. If it is praying in the Holy Spirit, all else may be asyou will. What does praying in the Holy Spirit mean? The word may be translated, "by the Holy Spirit," or, "through the HolySpirit," as well as, "in the Holy Spirit." And thephrase means, first, praying in the Holy Spirit's power. The carnal mind knows nothing about this. I might as well expressmyself in high Dutch as in English upon this point to an unregenerate man. But regenerate men who are born of the Spirit andlive in the Spirit world arecognizant of communications between their spirits and the Holy Spirit who is now resident in the midst of the Church ofGod.
We know that the Divine Spirit, without the use of sounds, speaks in our hearts. We know that without an utterance which theears can hear He can make our soul know His Presence and understand His meaning. He casts the spiritual shadow of His influenceover us, coloring our thoughts and feelingsaccording to His own design and will. It is a great spiritual fact which the Christian knows for certain that the Holy Spirit,the Divine Spirit, has frequent dealings with spiritual minds and imparts to them His power. Our new-born spirit has a certaindegree of power in it, butthe power is never fully manifested or drawn out except when the Spirit of God quickens our spirit and excites it to activity.
Our spirit prays, but it is because it is overshadowed and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. I cannot just now explainmyself, but I mean this, that if I, as a man, could go to the Throne of Grace and only pray as my fleshy nature would pray,that prayer would be unacceptable. But when I goto the Mercy Seat and my new nature prays as the Holy Spirit enables me to pray, then my prayer will succeed with God. IfI do before God at the throne what flesh and blood can do and no more, I have done nothing-for that which is of the fleshstill mounts no higher thanflesh.
But if, in coming before the Throne of the heavenly Grace, God's eternal Spirit speaks to my soul and lifts it out of thedead level of fallen humanity. And if He brings it up to be filled with Divine force-if that Spirit is in me a well of waterspringing up unto everlasting life, if Ireceive that Divine light and power of the Holy Spirit-and if in His power I fervently draw near to God, my prayer mustbe prevalent with God! This power may be possessed by every Christian. May God grant it to all of His people now, that theymay all pray in the Spirit!
That, I think, is one meaning of the text-praying in the power of the Spirit. No doubt the principal sense of the text ispraying in the Spirit as to matter. We do not know always what to pray for, and, Brothers and Sisters, if we were to refrainfrom prayer for a few minutes till we didknow, it would be a good and wise rule. The habit into which we have fallen, in extemporaneous praying, of always prayingdirectly what we are asking-without an instant's pause in which to think of what we are going to ask-is very prejudicial tothe spirit of prayer. Iwould like, when I am alone, to take a few minutes to consider what I am going to ask of God, for otherwise it seems tome to be like seeking an interview with one of the officers of State to ask for something which might occur to us at the moment.
How would you like to have an audience with Lord Derby, and then consider all of a sudden what it was you had come for? Surelycommon sense would say, Tarry awhile till you have your case mapped out in your own mind, and then when you clearly know yourselfwhat it is you want, you will be able toask for what you need. Should we not wait upon God in prayer, asking Him to reveal to us what those matters are concerningwhich we should plead with Him? Beware of hit-or-miss prayers! Never make hap-hazard work of supplication. Come to the Throneof Grace intelligentlyunderstanding what it is that you require.
It is well with us in prayer when the Holy Spirit guides the mind. Are not all spiritual men conscious of this, that theyfeel themselves shut up as to certain matters, and only free in another direction? Then let them obey the Holy Spirit andpray as He directs, for He knows what should be ourpetition. Well, then what? My dear Brothers and Sisters, pray for that which God the Spirit moves you to pray for, and bevery sensitive of the Holy Spirit's influence. I like a metaphor used by Thomas Shillitoe in his Life, when he says he wishedhis own mind to be like a cork uponthe water, conscious of every motion of the Spirit of God. It were well to be so sensitive of the Spirit of God that Hisfaintest breath should cause a ripple upon the sea of our soul and make it move as the Spirit would have it.
We have reached a high state of sanctification when God the Spirit and our own inward spirit are perfectly in accord. Maywe be led into that unspeakably blessed state! We do not pray aright if we think what it is we want and we wish for, and thenask for it in selfish willfulness. We pray arightwhen we consent to that which is the mind of the Spirit, and speak as He moves us to speak. We shall be surely enrichedwith good things when we wait for the very matter of our supplications to have it all from Him. Lord, teach us to pray! Putthe thoughts into our minds, thedesires into our hearts, and the very words into our lips, if it is Your will, so that all our prayers may be praying inthe Spirit and not in the flesh.
The main part of praying in the Spirit must lie not merely in the Spirit's power, or in the Spirit's teaching us the matter,but in the Spirit's assisting us in the manner. Observe, Brothers and Sisters, the many ways there are of praying which areobnoxious to God-observe them and avoidthem! There is but one manner of praying which the Lord accepts. You know what it is. I will briefly describe its attributes.He that comes to God must remember that He is "a Spirit, and that they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth,for the Father seeks such toworship Him." The very first essential of prayer is to pray in truth, and we do not pray in truth unless the Spirit of Godleads our vain minds into the sincerity and reality of devotion.
To pray in truth is this-it is not to use the empty expression of prayer, but to mean what we say. It is for the heart toagonize with God and heave with strong desires. And where will you obtain such a manner of prayer except in the spiritualman, when moved by the Holy Spirit? The carnalman, if he is foolish enough, can intone a prayer. The carnal man can "read the office," and "do duty" as well as anybodyelse who can read a book, but he is not praying! No prayer can come from him. Only the spiritual man can sigh and long, andcry in his inmost heart, and in thechamber of his soul before God-but he will not do it except as the Spirit of Truth leads him in sincerity into the secretof heart prayer.
Praying in the Holy Spirit is praying in fervency. Cold prayers, my Brothers and Sisters, ask the Lord not to hear them! Thosewho do not plead with fervency, plead not at all. As well speak of lukewarm fire as of lukewarm prayer! It is essential thatit be red hot. Real prayer is burnt as with hotiron into a man's soul, and then comes forth from the man's soul like coals of juniper which have a most vehement heat.Such prayers none but the Holy Spirit can give. I have heard from this spot prayers which I never can forget, nor will youever forget them either.
Last January and February there were times when certain of our Brethren were helped to pray with such power that we were boweddown in humiliation, and afterwards borne up as on the wings of eagles in the power of supplication! There is a way of prayingwith power in which a man seems to get holdof the posts of Heaven's gate, as Samson grasped the pillars of the temple, and appears as though he would pull all downupon himself sooner than miss the blessing. It is a brave thing for the heart to vow, "I will not let You go except You blessme." That is praying in the HolySpirit. May we be tutored in the art of offering effectual fervent prayer!
Next to that, it is essential in prayer that we should pray perseveringly. Any man can run fast at a spurt, but to keep itup mile after mile-there is the battle! And so, certain hot spirits can pray very fervently every now and then, but to continuein prayer-who shall do this exceptthe Spirit of God sustains him? Mortal spirits flag and tire. The course of mere fleshly devotion is as the course of asnail which melts as it crawls. Carnal minds go onward and their devotion grows small by degrees and miserably less, as theycry out, "What a weariness it is!" Butwhen the Holy Spirit fills a man and leads him into prayer, he gathers force as he proceeds-and grows more fervent evenwhen God delays to answer! The longer the gate is closed the more vehemently does he use the knocker till he thunders in hisprayer! And the longer the Angellingers, the more resolved is he that if he grasps Him with a death grip he will never let Him go without the blessing.
Beautiful in God's sight is tearful and yet unconquerable importunity. Jesus delights to be laid hold of by one who says,"I cannot take No for an answer, this blessing I must have, for You have promised it and You have taught me to ask for it,and I will not believe that You can belie yourself."Surely we must have the Holy Spirit to help us thus to pray. Praying in the Spirit we shall be sure to pray in a holy frameof mind. Brothers and Sisters, do you ever get distracted in your minds? "Ah," you say, "I wonder when I am not." I will ventureto say that you have come intothis house burdened, and yet on the road you were saying, "This is a blessed Sunday, I feel I have God's Presence."
Then some silly gossip met you on the steps and told you an idle tale which distracted you. You may even get quietly seatedhere, and then the recollection of a child at home, or the remembrance of what somebody said about six weeks ago will perplexyour mind so that you cannot pray. But when theHoly Spirit comes, He takes a scourge of small cords and drives these buyers and sellers out of the temple and leaves itclear for God. And then you can come with a holy, devout frame of mind, fixed and settled in your great object of approachto God. This is to approach Him in theSpirit. Oh for more of this blessed, undisturbed devotion!
I could not, however, finish the description of praying in the Spirit if I did not say that it means praying humbly, for theHoly Spirit never puffs us up with pride. He is the Spirit that convicts of sin and so bows us down in contrition and brokennessof spirit. We must pray before God like thehumble publican, or we shall never go forth justified as he was. We shall never sing Gloria in Excelsis except we pray toGod De Profundis-out of the depths must we cry, or we shall never see the glory in the highest! True prayer must be lovingprayer if it is praying in theHoly Spirit. Prayer should be perfumed with love, saturated with love-love to our fellow saints, and love to Christ. Moreover,it must be a prayer full of faith. The effectual fervent prayer of a man prevails only as he believes in God, and the HolySpirit is the Author offaith in us, and nurtures and strengthens it so that we pray believing God's promises.
Oh that this blessed combination of excellent Graces, priceless and sweet as the spices of the merchant, might be fragrantwithin us because the Holy Spirit's power is shed abroad in our hearts! Time fails me, therefore I must dispense with a fulldescription of what praying in the Holy Spirit is,but I hope you will possess it and so understand it.
IV. Fourthly, I shall use the text as A CHERUB to proclaim our success in prayer. Praying in the Spirit-blessed words! Thenwith such prayer it is an absolute certainty that I must succeed with God in prayer. If my prayer were my own prayer, I mightnot be so sure of it. But if the prayerwhich I utter is God's own prayer written on my soul, God is always One with Himself-and what He writes on the heart isonly written there because it is written in His purposes.
It is said by an old Divine that prayer is the shadow of Omnipotence. Our will, when God the Holy Spirit influences it, isthe indicator of God's will. When God's people pray, it is because the blessing is coming and their prayers are the shadowof the coming blessing! Rest assured of this,Brothers and Sisters, God never did belie Himself! He never contradicted in one place what He said in another. You and Imay contradict ourselves, not only through untruthfulness, but even through infirmity.
We may not be able to stand up to our word, and we may forget what we said-and so in another place may say something thatcontradicts it-but God is neither infirm as to memory, nor yet changeable as to will. What He promised yesterday He fulfilstoday. What He said in one place, Hedeclares in another. Then if God said in my heart, "Pray for So-and-So," it is because He has said it in the book of Hisdecrees. The Spirit of God's writing in the heart always tallies with the writing of destiny in the book of God's eternalpurpose. Rest assured that you cannotbut succeed when you have laid your soul like a sheet of paper before the Lord and asked Him to write upon it! Then it isno more your own prayer, merely, but the Spirit making intercession in you according to the will of God.
At such time you need not say, "I hope God will answer the prayer." He will do it-He is pledged to do it. It is a kind ofinfidelity to say, "I do not know whether the Lord is true to His promise or not, but I hope He is." He is true! Let God betrue and every man a liar. Oh, if more of youtried Him as some of us have been compelled to do, you would have to hold up your hands in astonishment, and say, "Truly,whatever else is not a fact, it is a fact that God, who sits in the highest heavens, listens to the cries of His people, andgives them according to the desireof their hearts." If the Spirit teaches you to pray, it is as certain as two times two make four that God will give youwhat you are seeking for.
V. Then I will use the text in conclusion as A CHARIOT in which to convey our own souls onward in the delightful exerciseof prayer. The exercise allotted to us today and tomorrow is that of praying in the Spirit. Brothers and Sisters, it is delightfulto some of us to believe that the Spirit ofGod is the Author of the great wave of prayer now breaking over the Churches to which we belong. It was not of our devisingor planning, but it was the motion of God's Holy Spirit upon a few Brethren who desired to spend a day in solemn prayer andfound such blessing in it that theycould not but tell others of it!
That, then, others spontaneously moved, and without a word of opposition or difference of opinion all said, "Amen. Let usalso meet together for prayer." The spirit of brotherly kindness, unanimity, and love was given to our denomination, and thena spirit of earnest desire to bring down a blessingfrom God. We have known the time when it was not so. We have known the time when a day of fasting and prayer, if not despised,at any rate would not have been appreciated as it will be now. We are of one heart in this matter and I know from communicationswith many Christian menthat many of God's people already feel as if they were peculiarly in prayer-as if it were no effort now to pray, but asif it were their very breath now to breathe out longing desires for the revival of saints and the ingathering of sinners.
Brothers and Sisters of this Church, you have had God's Presence. For many years you have been favored with much of "prayingin the Holy Spirit," and seen with your own eyes the great things God has done in answer to supplication. Will one of youdraw back now? Will there be one man today ortomorrow who will not be earnest in prayer? Will one man, or even one child in union with this Church, be lukewarm in prayer?I would say, Sin not against the Lord by abstaining from going up to the Mercy Seat with your Brothers and Sisters. Offendnot the Lord so that He depriveyou of the blessing because you deprive yourself of joining in the exercise.
My dear Friends, it was when they were all met together with one accord in one place that suddenly they heard the sound asof a rushing, mighty wind. We cannot be all in one place, but, at any rate, let us be all with one accord. What? Do you sayyou have nothing to pray for? What? No childrenunconverted, no friends unsaved, no neighbors who are still in darkness? What? Live in London and not pray for sinners?Where do you live? Is it in some vast wilderness, amidst "some boundless contiguity of shade," where rumor of sin and of ignorancehas never reached your ear? No,you are living in the midst of millions of ungodly millions! Millions that despise the God who made them! Millions thatdespise the Gospel of Christ!
Millions, not thousands! Hear that word and see if you can tell its meaning! Millions who are living without God and withouthope, and are going down to Hell! We have, throughout the realm, too, dangerous mischiefs spreading. Need I continually remindyou of them? Infidelity wearing the miter, andPopery usurping the place of Protestantism! You are assailed by the wolf and the lion, the serpent and the bear! All formsof mischief are coming forth to attack the
Church. Not pray? If you pray not, shall I say, May you smart for your negligence? No I dare not in the slightest shade speakas though I imprecated a woe upon you, but the woe will come upon you, depend upon it! If I say it not, yet will God say itat this present hour. "Curse you Meroz, said theLord, because they came not up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty."
We are not asking you to contribute of your wealth in this case. If we did, the Lord Jesus has a right to it, and you shouldfreely give it. Neither are we asking you all this day to preach. If we did, some of you might be excused for lack of ability.But we claim your prayers, and must not bedenied! Not able to pray? Then are you graceless, Christless, hopeless, lost, and I will not ask you to join with us! ButI ask you first to go to God for yourselves. And if you are a Christian you can pray. Poverty does not make you poor in prayer.Lack of education need not hinderyou upon your knees. Lack of position and rank in society will be no encumbrance to you when you deal with God who hearsthe poor man when he cries and answers him with a largess of Divine Grace!
Brothers and Sisters, if you love Christ, if you ever felt His love shed abroad in your heart. If you have been washed inHis blood. If you have been saved from wrath through Him. If you are new creatures in Him. If you hope to see His face withacceptance at the last, I might put it to you as ademand! But I press it upon you as a brotherly entreaty-join with us in praying in the Holy Spirit! Shall one start back?Take heed, then, if you refuse to unite with your Brethren in prayer, lest when you choose to cry you should find yourselfstraitened and shut up inprison! Beware, lest by refusing to pray now, that the Spirit of God has come, you afterwards feel yourself deprived ofthe comfortable Presence of the Holy Spirit and find the sweetness of devotion to have departed from you.
The Lord send a blessing. He must send it-our hearts will break if He does not! We feel that it is coming. We have graspedthe promise. We have pleaded with Jehovah! We have pleaded the blood of Jesus! We are pleading it now! We mean to continuein such pleading till the blessing comes, andwe may rely upon it that the heavenly shower will soon descend! He has not said to the seed of Jacob, "Seek you My facein vain." Brothers and Sisters, be hopeful, and let us unanimously join in praying in the Holy Spirit!
May the Lord bless you, dear Friends, in this respect for Jesus' sake.