Sermon 1039. 'Pray Without Ceasing'
Delivered on Lord's Day Morning, March 10th, 1872, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
'Pray without ceasing.''1 Thessalonians 5:17.
THE POSITION OF OUR TEXT is very suggestive. Observe what it follows. It comes immediately after the precept, 'Rejoice evermore;'as if that command had somewhat staggered the reader, and made him ask 'How can I always rejoice?' and, therefore, the apostleappended as answer, 'Always pray.' The more praying the more rejoicing. Prayer gives a channel to the pent-up sorrows of thesoul, they flow away, and in their stead streams of sacred delight pour into the heart. At thesame time the more rejoicing the more praying; when the heart is in a quiet condition, and full of joy in the Lord, thenalso will it be sure to draw nigh unto the Lord in worship. Holy joy and prayer act and react upon each other.
Observe, however, what immediately follows the text: 'In everything give thanks.' When joy and prayer are married their firstborn child is gratitude. When we joy in God for what we have, and believingly pray to him for more, then our souls thank himboth in the enjoyment of what we have, and in the prospect of what is yet to come. Those three texts are three companion pictures,representing the life of a true Christian, the central sketch is the connecting link betweenthose on either side. These three precepts are an ornament of grace to every believer's neck, wear them every one of you,for glory and for beauty; 'Rejoice evermore;' 'Pray without ceasing;' 'in everything give thanks.'
But we cannot spare any time for the consideration of the context, but must advance to the precept in hand. Our text thoughexceedingly short is marvellously full, and we will discuss it under the following heads. We shall ask and answer four questions.What do these words imply? Secondly, What do they actually mean? Thirdly, How shall we obey them? And, fourthly, Why should WE especially obey them?
I. WHAT DO THESE WORDS IMPLY? 'Pray without ceasing.' Do they not imply that the use of the voice is not an essential element in prayer? It would be most unseemly even if it were possible for us to continue unceasingly to pray aloud. There would of course beno opportunity for preaching and hearing, for the exchange of friendly intercourse, for business, or for any other of theduties of life; while the din of so many voices would remind our neighbors rather of theworship of Baal than that of Zion. It was never the design of the Lord Jesus that our throats, lungs, and tongues shouldbe for ever at work. Since we are to pray without ceasing, and yet could not pray with the voice without ceasing, it is clearthat audible language is not essential to prayer. We may speak a thousand words which seem to be prayer, and yet never pray;on the other hand, we may cry into God's ear most effectually, and yet never say a word. In the book of Exodus God isrepresented as saying to Moses, 'Why criest thou unto me?' And yet it is not recorded that Moses had uttered so much asa single syllable at that time. It is true that the use of the voice often helps prayer. I find, personally, that I can praybest when alone if I can hear my own voice; at the same time it is not essential, it does not enter at all into the acceptability,reality, or prevalence of prayer. Silence is as fit a garment for devotion as any that language can fashion.
It is equally clear that the posture of prayer is of no great importance, for if it were necessary that we should pray on our knees we could not pray without ceasing, the posture would become painfuland injurious. To what end has our Creator given us feet, if he desires us never to stand upon them? If he had meant us tobe on our knees without ceasing, he would have fashioned the body differently, and would not have endowed us with such unnecessarylength of limb.It is well to pray on one's knees; it is a most fitting posture; it is one which expresses humility, and when humilityis truly felt, kneeling is a natural and beautiful token of it, but, at the same time, good men have prayed flat upon theirfaces, have prayed sitting, have prayed standing, have prayed in any posture, and the posture does not enter into the essenceof prayer. Consent not to be placed in bondage by those to whom the bended knee is reckoned of more importance than the contriteheart.
It is clear, too, from the text, that the place is not essential to prayer, for if there were only certain holy places where prayer was acceptable, and we had to pray without ceasing, our churchesought to be extremely large, that we might always live in them, and they would have to comprise all the arrangements necessaryfor human habitations. If it be true that there is some sanctity this side of a brick-wall more than there is on the otherside of it, if it betrue that the fresh air blows away grace, and that for the highest acceptance we need groined arches, pillars, aisle,chancel, and transept, then farewell, ye green lanes, and fair gardens, and lovely woods, for henceforth we must, withoutceasing, dwell where your fragrance and freshness can never reach us. But this is ridiculous; wherefore I gather that thefrequenting of some one particular place has little or nothing to do with prayer; and such a conclusion is consistent withthe saying ofPaul upon Mars' Hill, 'God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwellethnot in temples made with hands.'
'Pray without ceasing.' That precept at one stroke overthrows the idea of particular times wherein prayer is more acceptable or more proper than at others. If I am to pray without ceasing, then every second mustbe suitable for prayer, and there is not one unholy moment in the hour, nor one unaccepted hour in the day, nor one unhallowedday in the year. The Lord has not appointed a certain week for prayer, but all weeks should be weeks of prayer: neither hashe saidthat one hour of the day is more acceptable than another. All time is equally legitimate for supplication, equally holy,equally accepted with God, or else we should not have been told to pray without ceasing. It is good to have your times ofprayer; it is good to set apart seasons for special supplication'we have no doubt of that; but we must never allow this togender the superstition that there is a certain holy hour for prayer in the morning, a specially acceptable hour for prayerin theevening, and a sacred time for prayer at certain seasons of the year. Wherever we seek the Lord with true hearts he isfound of us; whenever we cry unto him he heareth us. Every place is hallowed ground to a hallowed heart, and every day isa holy day to a holy man. From January to December the calendar has not one date in which prayer is forbidden. All the daysare red-letter days, whether Sabbaths or week days they are all accepted times for prayer. Clear, then, is it from the text,that thevoice, the posture, the place, the time'none of them enter into the essence of prayer, or else, in this case, we shouldbe commanded to perform an impossibility, which we are quite certain is not after the manner of the Lord our God.
There is one other thing implied in the text, namely, that a Christian has no right to go into any place where he could not continue to pray. Pray without ceasing? Then I am never to be in a place where I could not pray without ceasing. Hence, many worldly amusementswithout being particularized may he judged and condemned at once. Certain people believe in ready-made prayers, cut and driedfor all occasions, and, at the same time, they believe persons to beregenerated in baptism though their lives are any thing but Christian; ought they not to provide prayers for all circumstancesin which these, the dear regenerated but graceless sons and daughters of their church, are found? As, for instance, a piouscollect for a young prince or nobleman, who is about to go to a shooting-match, that he may be forgiven for his cruelty towardsthose poor pigeons who are only badly wounded and made to linger in misery, as also a prayer for a religious andregenerated gentleman who is going to a horserace, and a collect for young persons who have received the grace of confirmation,upon their going to the theater to attend a very questionable play. Could not such special collects be made to order? Yourevolt at the idea. Well, then, have nothing to do with that which you cannot ask God's blessing upon, have nothing to dowith it, for if God cannot bless it, you may depend upon it the devil has cursed it. Anything that is right for you to doyoumay consecrate with prayer, and let this be a sure gauge and test to you, if you feel that it would be an insult to themajesty of heaven for you to ask the Lord's blessing upon what is proposed to you, then stand clear of the unholy thing. IfGod doth not approve, neither must you have fellowship therewith.
These matters are clearly implied in the precept, 'Pray without ceasing.'
II. But now, WHAT DOES THIS ACTUALLY MEAN? If it does not mean we are to be always on our knees, nor always saying prayersnor always in church or in meeting and does not mean that we are to consider any day as unfit for praying what then? The wordsmean, first, a privilege; secondly, a precept''Pray without ceasing.' Our Lord Jesus Christ in these words assures you that you may pray without ceasing. There is no timewhen we may not pray. You have herepermission given to come to the mercy-seat when you will, for the veil of the Most Holy place is rent in twain from thetop to the bottom, and our access to the mercy-seat is undisputed and indisputable. Kings hold their levees upon certain appointeddays, and then their courtiers are admitted; but the King of Kings holds a constant levee. The monarch whose palace was inShushan would have none approach him unless he sent for them, but the King of kings has called for all his people, and theymay come at all times. They were slain who went in unto the king Ahasuerus, unless he stretched out his scepter to them;but our King never withdraws his scepter, it is always stretched out, and whosoever desires to come to him may come now, andcome at any time. Among the Persians there were some few of the nobility who had the peculiar and special right of an audiencewith the king at any time they chose. Now, that which was the peculiar right of a very few and of the very great is theprivilege of every child of God. He may come in unto the King at all times. The dead of night is not too late for God;the breaking of the morning, when the first grey light is seen, is not too early for the Most High; at midday he is not toobusy; and when the evening gathers he is not weary with his children's prayers. 'Pray without ceasing,' is, if I read it aright,a most sweet and precious permit to the believer to pour out his heart at all times before the Lord. I hear its still smallvoice saying, 'Come to the mercy seat, O my child, whenever thou wilt; come to the treasury of grace whenever thou desirest'
'The happy gates of gospel grace
Stand open night and day.'
The doors of the temple of divine love shall not be shut. Nothing, can set a barrier between a praying soul and its God. Theroad of angels and of prayers is ever open. Let us but send out the dove of prayer and we may be certain that she will returnunto us with an olive branch of peace in her mouth. Evermore the Lord hath regard unto the pleadings of his servants, andwaiteth to be gracious unto them.
Still, however, it is a precept, 'Pray without ceasing.' And what does it mean? It means a great truth which I cannot very well convey to you in a few words,and, therefore, must try and bring out under four or five points.
It means, first, never abandon prayer. Never for any cause or reason cease to pray. Imagine not that you must pray until you are saved, and may then leave off.For those whose sins are pardoned prayer is quite as needful as for those mourning under a sense of sin. 'Pray without ceasing,'for in order that you may persevere in grace you must persevere in prayer. Should you become experienced in grace and enrichedwith much spiritual knowledge, you must not dream ofrestraining prayer because of your gifts and graces. 'Pray without ceasing,' or else your flower will fade and your spiritualfruit will never ripen. Continue in prayer until the-last moment of your life.
'Long as they live must Christians pray,
For only while they pray they live.'
As we breathe without ceasing, so must we pray without ceasing. As there is no attainment in life, of health, or of strength,or of muscular vigor which can place a man beyond the necessity of breathing, so no condition of spiritual growth or advancein grace will allow a man to dispense with prayer.
'Let us pray! our life is praying;
Prayer with time alone may cease:
Then in heaven, God's will obeying,
Life is praise and perfect peace.'
Never give up praying, not even though Satan should suggest to you that it is in vain for you to cry unto God. Pray in histeeth; 'pray without ceasing.' If for awhile the heavens are as brass and your prayer only echoes in thunder above your head,pray on; if month after month your prayer appears to have miscarried, and no reply has been vouchsafed to you, yet still continueto draw nigh unto the Lord. Do not abandon the mercy-seat for any reason whatever. If it be a goodthing that you have been asking for, and you are sure it is according to the divine will, if the vision tarry wait forit, pray, weep, entreat, wrestle, agonise till you get that which you are praying for. If your heart be cold in prayer, donot restrain prayer until your heart warms, but pray your soul unto heat by the help of the everblessed Spirit who helpethour infirmities. If the iron be hot then hammer it, and if it be cold hammer it till you heat it. Never cease prayer for anysort ofreason or argument. If the philosopher should tell you that every event is fixed, and, therefore, prayer cannot possiblychange anything, and, consequently, must be folly; still, if you cannot answer him and are somewhat puzzled, go on with yoursupplications notwithstanding all. No difficult problem concerning digestion would prevent your eating, for the result justifiesthe practice, and so no quibble should make us cease prayer, for the assured success of it commends it to us. You know whatyour God has told you, and if you cannot reply to every difficulty which man can suggest, resolve to be obedient to thedivine will, and still 'Pray without ceasing.' Never, never, never renounce the habit of prayer, or your confidence in itspower.
A second meaning is this. Never suspend the regular offering of prayer. You will, if you are a watchful Christian, have your times of daily devotion, fixed not by superstition, but for your convenienceand remembrance; just as David, three times a day, and as another saint, seven times a day, sought the Lord: now be sure tokeep up this daily prayer without intermission. This advice will not comprehend the whole range of the text, I am not pretendingthat it does; Iam only mentioning it now as supplementary to other thoughts. 'Pray without ceasing;' that is, never give up the morningprayer, nor the evening prayer, nor the prayer at midday if such has grown to be your habit. If you change hours and times,as you may, yet keep up the practice of regularly recurring retirement, meditation, and prayer. You may be said to continuein prayer if your habitual devotions be maintained. It would be quite correct for me to say that I know a man who has beenalwaysbegging ever since I have been in London. I do not think that I ever passed the spot where he stands without seeing himthere. He is a blind person, and stands near a church. As long as my recollection serves me he has been begging without ceasing;of course he has not begged when he has been asleep, he has not begged when he has gone home to his meals, nor did you understandme to have asserted anything so absurd when I said he had begged without ceasing for years. And so, if at those timeswhen it is proper for you to separate yourself from your ordinary labors, you continue perseveringly begging at mercy'sthrone, it may be with comparative correctness said of you that you pray without ceasing. Through all hours are alike to me,I find it profitable to meet with God at set periods, for these seem to me to be like the winding up of the clock. The clockis to go all day, but there is a time for winding it up; and the little special season that we set apart and hedge round aboutfor communion with our God, seems to wind us up for the rest of the day. Therefore, if you would pray without ceasing,continue in the offering of the morning and the evening sacrifice, and let it be perpetually an ordinance with you, that yourtimes of prayer are not broken in upon.
That, however, is only a help, for I must add, thirdly, between these times of devotion, labor to be much in ejaculatory prayer. While your hands are busy with the world, let your hearts still talk with God; not in twenty sentences at a time, for suchan interval might be inconsistent with your calling, but in broken sentences and interjections. It is always wrong to presentone duty to God stained with the blood of another, and that we should do if we spoiled studyor labor by running away to pray at all hours; but we may, without this, let short sentences go up to heaven, ay, andwe may shoot upwards cries, and single words, such as an 'Ah,' an 'Oh,' an 'O that;' or, without words we may pray in theupward glancing of the eye or the sigh of the heart. He who prays without ceasing uses many little darts and hand-grenadesof godly desire, which he casts forth at every available interval. Sometimes he will blow the furnace of his desires to agreat heat inregular prayer, and as a consequence at other times, the sparks will continue to rise up to heaven in the form of briefwords, and looks, and desires.
Fourthly, if we would pray without ceasing, we must be always in the spirit of prayer. Our heart, renewed by the Holy Ghost, must be like the magnetized needle, which always has an inclination towards the pole.It does not always point to that pole, you can turn it aside if you will; in an iron ship it exhibits serious deflections,under all circumstances it is not exactly true; but if you put your finger to that needle and force it round to the east,you have onlyto take away the pressure, and immediately it returns to its beloved pole again. So let your heart be magnetized withprayer, so that if the finger of duty turns it away from the immediate act of prayer, there may still be the longing desirefor prayer in your soul, and the moment you can do so, your heart reverts to its beloved work. As perfume lies in flowerseven when they do not shed their fragrance upon the gale, so let prayer lie in your hearts.
But, perhaps, the last meaning that I shall give has the most of the truth of the text in it, namely this: Let all your actions be consistent with your prayers, and be in fact a continuation of your prayers. If I am to pray without ceasing, it cannot mean that I am always to be in the act of direct devotion; for the human mind,as at present constituted, needs variety of occupation, and it could not without producing madness or imbecility continuealways in theexercise of one function. We must, therefore, change the modus or the manner of operation if we are ceaselessly to continue in prayer. We must pursue our prayers, but do it in anothermanner. Take an instance. This morning I prayed to God to arouse his people to prayerfulness; very well; as I came to thishouse my soul continued to ejaculate, 'O Lord, awaken thy children to prayerfulness.': Now, while I am preaching to you anddriving at the same point, am I not praying? Is not my sermonthe continuation of my prayer, for I am desiring and aiming at the same thing? Is it not a continuing to pray when weuse the best means towards the obtaining of that which we pray for? Do you not see my point? He who prays for his fellow creatures,and then seeks their good, is praying still. In this sense there is truth in that old distich.
'He prayeth best that loveth best
Both man, and bird, and beast.'
Loving is praying. If I seek in prayer the good of my fellow creature, and then go and try to promote it, I am practicallypraying for his good in my actions. If I seek, as I should do, God's glory above everything, then if all my actions are meantto tend to God's glory, I am continuing to pray, though I may not be praying with my thoughts or with my lips. Oh, that ourwhole life might be a prayer. It can be. There can be a praying without ceasing before the Lord, thoughthere be many pausings in what the most of men would call prayer. Pray then without ceasing, my brother. Let thy wholelife be praying. If thou changest the method, yet change not the pursuit; but continue still to worship, still to adore. ThisI think to be the meaning of our text,'never altogether abandon prayer; do not suspend the regular offering of prayer; bemuch in earnest ejaculations, be always in the spirit of prayer, and let the whole of your life be consistent with your prayer,and become a part of it.
III. HOW CAN WE OBEY THESE WORDS? First, let us labor as much as we can to prevent all sinful interruptions. 'Pray without ceasing.' Then if it be impossible to be in the act of prayer always, at least let us be asmuch as possible in that act; and let us prevent those interruptions which I mentioned in the early part of my discourse,the interruptions occasioned by our own sin. Let us endeavor to keep clear, as far as we can, of anything and everything inourselves, or round about us, that would prevent our abounding in supplication. And let us also keep clear of interruptionsfrom the sins of others. Do others forbid us to pray? Let us not be afraid of their wrath. Remember Daniel, who while he wasunder the penalty of being cast into a den of lions, yet opened his window towards Jerusalem, and prayed seven times a dayas he had done aforetime. Under no threats: and for no bribes, let us ever cease to pray. In private let us always pray, andifduty calls us to do so where others observe us, let us so much fear the eye of God that we shall not dare to fear theeye of man.
Let us next avoid all unnecessary interruptions of every sort to our prayer. If we know that any matter, from which we can escape, has a tendency to disturbthe spirit of prayer within us, let us avoid it earnestly. Let us try, as much as possible, not to be put off the scent inprayer. Satan's object will be to distract the mind, to throw it off the rails, to divert its aim, but let us resolve beforeGod, we will not turn aside from following hard after him. SirThomas Abney had for many years practiced family prayer regularly; he was elected Lord Mayor of London, and on the nightof his election he must be present at a banquet, but when the time came for him to call his family together in prayer, havingno wish either to be a Pharisee or to give up his practice, he excused himself to the guests in this way,'he said he had animportant engagement with a very dear friend, and they must excuse him for a few minutes. It was most true, his dearest friendwas the Lord Jesus, and family prayer was an important engagement; and so he withdrew for awhile to the family altar,and in that respect prayed without ceasing. We sometimes allow good things to interrupt our prayer, and thus make them evil.Mrs. Rowe observes in one of her letters, that if the twelve apostles were preaching in the town were she lived and she couldnever hear them again, if it were her time for private devotion, she would not be bribed out of her closet by the hope ofhearingthem. I am not sure but what she might have taken another time for her private devotions, and so have enjoyed both privileges,but at the same time, supposing she must; have lost the prayer and have only got the preaching in exchange, I agree with her,it would have been exchanging gold for silver. She would be more profited in praying than she would be in hearing, for prayingis the end of preachings. Preaching is but the wheat-stalk, but praying is the golden grain itself, and he hath thebest who gets it.
Sometimes we think we are too busy to pray. That also is a great mistake, for praying is a saving of time. You remember Luther'sremark, 'I have so much to do to-day that I shall never get through it with less than three hours' prayer.' He had not beenaccustomed to take so much time for pray on ordinary days, but since that was a busy day, he must needs have more communionwith his God. But, perhaps, our occupations begin early, and we therefore say, 'How can I get alonewith God in prayer?' It is said of Sir Henry Havelock that every morning when the march began at six, he always rose atfour, that he might not miss his time for the reading of the Scripture and communion with his God. If we have no time we mustmake time, for if God has given us time for secondary duties, he must have given us time for primary ones, and to draw nearto him is a primary duty, and we must let nothing set it on one side. There is no real need to sacrifice any duty, we havetimeenough for all if we are not idle; and, indeed, the one will help the other instead of clashing with it. When Edward Paysonwas a student at College, he found he had so much to do to attend his classes and prepare for examinations, that he couldnot spend as much time as be should in private prayer; but, at last, waking up to the feeling that he was going back in divinethings through his habits, he took due time for devotion and he asserts in his diary that he did more in his studies in asingle week after he had spent time with God in prayer, than he had accomplished in twelve months before. God can multiplyour ability to make use of time. If we give the Lord his due, we shall have enough for all necessary purposes. In this matterseek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Your other engagements willrun smoothly if you do not forget your engagement with God.
We must, dear friends, in order to pray without ceasing, strive against indolence in prayer. I believe that no man loves prayer until the Holy Spirit has taught him the sweetness and value of it. If youhave ever prayed without ceasing you will pray without ceasing. The men who do not love to pray must be strangers to its secretjoy. When prayer is a mechanical act, and there is no soul in it, it is a slavery and a weariness; but when it is really livingprayer, andwhen the man prays because he is a Christian and cannot help praying, when he prays along the street, prays in his business,prays in the house, prays in the field, when his whole soul is full of prayer, then he cannot have too much of it. He willnot be backward in prayer who meets Jesus in it, but he who knows not the Well-beloved will count it a drudgery.
Let us avoid, above all things, lethargy and indifference in prayer. Oh, it is a dreadful thing that ever we should insult the majesty of heaven by words from which our heart has gone. I must,my spirit, I must school thee to this, that thou must have communion with God, and if in thy prayer thou dost not talk withGod, thou shalt keep on praying till thou dost. Come not away from the mercy-seat till thou hast prayed.
Beloved brother, say unto thy soul, thus''here have I come to the throne of grace to worship God and seek his blessing, andI am not going away till I have done this; I will not rise from my knees, because I have spent my customary minutes, but herewill I pray till I find the blessing.' Satan will often leave off tempting when he finds you thus resolute in prayer. Brethren,we need waking up. Routine grows upon us. We get into the mill-horse way'round, and round, andround the mill. From this may God save us. It is deadly. A man may pray twenty years with regularity, as far as the timegoes, and the form goes, and never have prayed a single grain of prayer in the whole period. One real groan fetched from theheart is worth a million litanies, one living breath from a gracious soul is worth ten thousand collects. May we be kept awakeby God's grace, praying without ceasing.
And we must take care, dear brethren, again, if we would perform this duty, that we fight against anything like despair of being heard. If we have not been heard after six times we must, as Elijah, go again seven times; if our Peter is in prison,and the church has prayed God to liberate him, and he still is in fetters bound in the inner prison, let us pray on, for oneof these days Peter will knock at the gate. Be importunate, heaven's gate does not open to everyrunaway knock. Knock, and knock, and knock again; and add to thy knocking and to thy asking seeking, and be not satisfiedtill thou gettest a real answer.
Never cease from prayer through presumption; guard against that. Feel, O Christian, that you always need to pray. Say not, 'I am rich and increased in goods, and haveneed of nothing.' Thou art by nature still naked, and poor, and miserable; therefore, persevere in prayer, and buy of theLord fine gold, and clean raiment, that thou mayst be rich, and fitly clothed.
Thus I have tried to set before you, beloved, how by resisting presumption and despair, indolence and lethargy, and tryingto put aside all sinful and other interruptions, we may pray without ceasing.
IV. Now, very briefly, in the last place, WHY SHOULD WE OBEY THIS PRECEPT? Of course we should obey it because it is of divineauthority; but, moreover, we should attend to it because the Lord always deserves to be worshipped. Prayer is a method of worship; continue, therefore, always to render to your Creator, your Preserver, your Redeemer, yourFather, the homage of your prayers. With such a King let us not be slack in homage. Let us pay him the revenue of praisecontinually. Evermore may we magnify and bless his name. His enemies curse him; let us bless him without ceasing. Moreover,brethren, the spirit of love within us surely prompts us to draw near to God without ceasing. Christ is our husband. Is thebride true to her marriage vows if she cares not for her beloved's company? God is our Father. What sort of a child is thatwhich does not desire to climb its father's knee and receive a smile from its father's face? If you and I can live day afterday and week after week without anything like communion with God, how dwelleth the love of God in us? 'Pray without ceasing,'because the Lord never ceases to love you, never ceases to bless you, and never ceases to regard you as his child.
'Pray without ceasing,' for you want a blessing on all the work you are doing. Is it common work? 'Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.' Isit business? It is vain to rise up early and sit up late, and eat the bread of carefulness, for without God you cannot; prosper.You are taught to say, 'Give us this day our daily bread,''an inspired prayer for secular things. Oh, consecrate your secularsby prayer. And, if you are engaged inGod's service, what work is there in which you can hope for success without his blessing? To teach the young, to preachthe gospel, to distribute tracts, to instruct the ignorant, do not all these want his blessing? What are they if that favorbe denied? Pray, therefore, as long as you work.
You are always in danger of being tempted; there is no position in life in which you may not be assaulted by the enemy. 'Pray without ceasing,' therefore. A man whois going along a dark road where he knows that there are enemies, if he must be alone and has a sword with him, he carriesit drawn in his hand, to let the robbers know that he is ready for them. So Christian, pray without ceasing; carry your swordin your hand, wave that mighty weapon of all-prayer ofwhich Bunyan speaks. Never sheathe it; it will cut through coats of mail. You need fear no foe if you can but pray. Asyou are tempted without ceasing, so pray without ceasing.
You need always to pray, for you always want something. In no condition are you so rich as not to need something from your God. It is not possible for you to say, 'Ihave all things,' or, if you can, you have them only in Christ, and from Christ you must continue to seek them. As you arealways in need, so beg always at mercy's gate. Moreover, blessings are always waiting for you. Angels are ready with favorsthat you know not of, and you have but to ask and have.Oh, could you see what might be had for the asking you would not be so slack. The priceless benisons of heaven which lieon one side as yet, oh, did you but perceive that they are only waiting for you to pray, you would not hesitate a moment.The man who knows that his farming is profitable, and that his land brings forth abundantly, will be glad to sow a broaderstretch of land another year; and he who knows that God answers prayer, and is ready still to answer it, will open his mouthyetwider that God may fill it.
Continue to pray, brethren, for even if you should not want prayer yourself there are others who do'there are the dying, the sick, the poor, the ignorant, the backsliding, the blaspheming, the heathen at home, and the heathenabroad. 'Pray without ceasing,' for the enemy works incessantly, and as yet the kingdom has not come unto Zion. You shallnever be able to say, 'I left off praying, for I had nothing to pray for.' This side heaven objects for prayer are asmultitudinous as the stars of the sky.
And, now, I said I would say a word as to why WE ought to pray especially, and that shall close the sermon. Beloved friends,this church ought to pray without ceasing. We have been in years past notable for prayer. If ever a church has prayed it hasbeen this church. I might find many faults with some who hinder prayer, but yet I must say in God's sight I know and feelthat there has been living prayer in this church for many years, and hence it is we have had many yearsof peace and prosperity. We have lacked nothing because we have not lacked prayer. I do not doubt we might have had muchmore if we had prayed more; still prayer has been very mighty here. Now, brethren, suppose you had no pastor, suppose thepreacher was gone from you, and that the black cloth upon this pulpit was not for a deceased elder of the church but for thepreacher himself, you would pray, would you not? Will you not pray for me then while I live? If you would pray for anotherto come,will you not pray for me while I am here? I desire to discharge my office before you in God's sight with all earnestness,but I cannot without your prayers, and as being gone from you, you would lift up many sighs, and you would with prayers askfor a successor, pray for me while I am yet with you. Beloved, you have prayed very earnestly for the pastor when he has beensick, your prayers have been his consolation and his restoration; will you not pray for him now that he is able to preachthegospel, that his health may be sanctified to God's service, and the ministry of the truth may be mighty in the winningof souls. I ask it of you, I think I might claim it of you. I do beseech you, brethren, pray for us.
Suppose again, dear brethren, there were no conversions in our midst, would not you pray? And since there are a great manyconversions, should that be a reason for leaving off? Shall we worship God the less because he gives us moor? Instead of oneprayer which would go up were there no conversions, there should be ten now that he continues to work salvation among us.
Suppose we were divided, and had many schisms, and jealousies, and bickerings, would not the faithful ones pray in bitternessof spirit? Will you not pray since there are no divisions, and much Christian love? Surely, I say again, you will not treatGod the worse because he treats you the better. That were foolish indeed.
Suppose we were surrounded to-day with hosts of persecutors, and that error everywhere crept into our midst and did us damage,would you not pray, you who love the Lord? And now that we live in days of peace, and error, though it prowls around, is keptout of our fold, will you not commune with the Lord all the more? I will say yet a third time, shall we pray the less becauseGod gives the more? Oh no, but the better he is to us the more let us adore and magnify his name.
Just now we need to pray, for some are growing cold, and turning to their old sins. We need to pray, for we are doing muchfor Christ. Every agency is in full work. We want a great blessing upon great efforts. We have had such results from prayer as might make a man's ears to tingle who should hear of them for the firsttime: our history as a church has not been second even to apostolic history itself: we have seen God's arm made bare in theeyes of all thepeople, and to the ends of the earth the testimony of this pulpit has gone forth, and thousands have found the Savior,'allin answer to many prayers. Pray, then, without ceasing. O church in the Tabernacle, hold fast that thou hast, that no mantake thy crown. Oh, continue to be a praying church that we together; when we shall stand before the judgement-seat of Christ,pastor and people, may not be accused of being prayerless, nor of being slack in the work of the Lord. I earnestly hope allthis will tend to make to-morrow's day of prayer more earnest and intense; but yet more do I pray that at all times allof us may be fervent, frequent, instant, and constant in prayer; praying in the Holy Ghost, in the name of Jesus.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON'1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 5.