A Lord’s Day morning invocation
OH! that the salvation of God were come out of Zion! Oh! that his arm were made bare, and that the strength of his righteousness were manifested! Our soul this day waiteth upon thee, O God! We anxiously pray for thy presence, and we confidently expect it. Unless we shall have some close personal dealings with thee, this Sabbath will be a wasted season to us. Unless thou shalt overshadow us with thy wings and put us into the hollow of thy hand, and even press us to the bosom of thy love, we shall retire from this sanctuary disappointed. Oh! that today God would speak to our souls through the Word read and preached.
Do thou, Lord, instruct and edify thy people, and may we also speak unto thee. May the voice of our praise and of our prayer come up acceptably before thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Oh! for real worship this day. Break down every hedge which separates us from our God. Oh! Spirit Divine, scatter every cloud that might conceal our Father from our eyes. May we forget, today, the world; may we triumph, today, over the flesh; may we, today, put care from us, and on the top of the mountain of communion may we worship alone with our Father and our Friend. Let nothing happen throughout this day to mar the quiet of our communion with Christ, but may we have a Sabbath-day’s refreshment, a portion of meat that shall last us through the six days of the week that are yet to come.
Stand by the preacher. Hide him behind his Master. Be with the hearers. May they all get some spiritual profit. May unconverted souls be renewed; may the converted be refreshed. May there be joy in heaven over repenting sinners, and joy on earth over prodigals restored. We ask thee to help us; we confess our need of thy help, and we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Three model prayers – A prayer meeting address
WHAT is the right way to pray? I will remind you of three Scriptural models.
The first is Jacob at the brook Jabbok.
He is in great trouble, and he does his best to meet it; but when he has done all that he can, he feels that it is little enough, and that it will not succeed unless God’s blessing rests upon his efforts. I do not know what sort of a place that ford or brook Jabbok was, but Jacob had sent over it his wives, and his children, and his servants, and his flocks and herds; ‘and Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.’
Now, I do not think that I could pray all night; I do not believe that, if my going to Heaven depended upon my praying all through the night, I should ever get there. I am not, at least under ordinary circumstances, able to fix my mind upon one subject for such a long time without a break; and, besides, I have such confidence in God that I have what I ask for, that, when I have prayed concerning any matter, I go about my business feeling certain that he has heard me. But, on a special occasion, in some great stress, when a man feels that he has not obtained the blessing for which he has asked, then he can keep on praying till he gets it. That is the time for an all-night prayer, and the suppliant may say, with the poet,
‘With thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.’
That night, Jacob felt that he must have the blessing he was seeking; he was determined to obtain it; and he was driven to such desperation of mind that he grasped the angel with all his might, and cried, ‘I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.’ You must have noticed, in reading of this incident, that it does not say that Jacob wrestled with the angel, but ‘there wrestled a man with him, (that is, an angel, or, probably, The Angel of the Covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the form of a man,) until the breaking of the day.’
There was something in Jacob that was too strong, so he had to be made weaker. He was much too clever, and cunning, and crafty, for the Lord to bless him as he was; and there are many of God’s children, nowadays, who are very much like him. They know too much, they feel themselves too strong, they have not enough of the true child spirit, they are not little enough and humble enough for God to bless them.
So Jacob, being so big in his own estimation, had to be taken down a great deal before he was fit to receive the blessing that God intended to give him.
Yet I must say that, whatever his faults were, he had this excellence, that he meant to have the blessing; so he gripped the angel, and the angel touched the hollow of his thigh, the sinew shrank, and the patriarch fell; but, in falling, he still clutched the angel, who struggled to depart, and said to him, ‘Though I cannot overcome thee, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.’ Then it was, when he felt his own weakness, when he could no longer stand, and wrestle, when the Jacob had gone out of him, he still, as with a dying grip, held on to the mysterious wrestler.
In like manner, there must be about prevailing prayer the resolve to have it answered. Are you quite sure that what you ask is according to the will of God? Do not pray till you are certain upon that point, and always say, in your supplications, ‘Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.’
But there are times when a praying man knows that what he is asking is according to God’s will, that the Holy Spirit is striving within him,—the groanings which cannot be uttered have proved that he is right, and he feels that he is pleading according to the mind of the Spirit. That is the way to pray.
We should have a great blessing resting upon every department of this church’s work if we had among us a number of Christian men and women, weak and feeble in themselves, and conscious of their own weakness,—with the sinew shrunken as Jacob’s was,—who nevertheless could, each one, say to the great Angel of the Covenant, ‘I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.’ That is a way of praying which I very heartily commend to you.
The next model that I commend to you is the prayer of Elijah upon the top of Carmel.
That is quite another sort of prayer from Jacob’s. There had been no rain for more than three years, but Elijah wanted rain that day, and the Lord moved him to pray for it. So we read, ‘He cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees.’ He was so certain that his prayer would be heard that he ‘said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea.’ If his servant had said, ‘I see a great cloud hanging over the West,’ he would not have been at all astonished. He knew it would come, so he said, ‘Go again; go again; go again seven times.’ Oh, what wonders such faith as that can work! That is another kind of prayer that prevails with God,—the expectant prayer.
Jacob’s was the prayer of the wrestling hand and foot, but Elijah’s was the prayer of the expectant eye. He knew that his prayer would be answered, so he kept on praying till it was. You do not see so much of the wrestling as in the case of Jacob, yet it was there all the while; but you do see the calm confidence that waits for the answer that must surely come. Elijah seems to say to the Lord, ‘I know that thou wilt bless me; I am sure of it, so I will stand upon my watchtower, and continue pleading until I see the blessing come.’ What a wonderful combination would be made if we could put Jacob and Elijah together! What a mighty man of prayer he would be who could be these two suppliants in one!
But, after all, the model prayer is the prayer of the Master himself.
It must have been a wonderful experience for those who were privileged to hear and see him when he was so mightily pleading with God. I do not suppose that he ever said, ‘I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.’ We do know that he said, ‘Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always.’ We do not read that he ever sent one of his disciples to look for an answer to his supplication.
He always felt such perfect confidence that he should have his requests granted that he did not need to send anyone to watch for the coming boon. He knew that his mind was according to the mind of God, and that he continually walked with God, so he was certain that, whatever he prayed, the Lord must and would hear him; yet he was just as earnest as any doubter can be; in fact, it is doubt that prevents a man from being earnest. He was as a child talking to its father in simple confidence that it must be heard.
When the disciples heard Jesus pray, we find that they said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ They were so struck with his prayers that they desired to imitate them. I gather that our Lord’s prayers were not so much notable for any one excellence alone, as for all excellences most marvellously combined. It is so in that prayer which he gave to his disciples as a model:
‘Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.’
It is a beautifully clear, limpid stream, which flows on without a break. There is in it no admixture of selfishness, and no apparent vehemence; yet an inward force that can be strongly quiet, because conscious of omnipotence.
Oh, that we could pray as Jesus did!
Brethren and sisters, imitate all those who succeed in prayer, but recollect that Jesus is the model in whom all excellences meet. In him we have the wondrous blending of all the prayers that make up the one prayer that must for ever be utterly unmatched.
Pray for his spirit of prayer. He seemed to be always praying; he lived in the atmosphere of prayer; he was ever communing with his Father. The habit of prayer is a blessed one, but the spirit of prayer is something still more blessed. To pray regularly, is well; to pray continually, is better; but neither to be anything, nor to do anything, except in a prayerful spirit, is best of all. That is the way to live, and the way to get great blessings.
I am sure that, when once we get out of the atmosphere of prayer, we get weak, we get hasty, we get irritated, we get short-tempered, we get self-sufficient; or we get to be crafty, like Jacob; or else fiery or despondent, like Elijah; but when we are in the spirit of prayer all the day long, it surrounds us, and saturates us. You know the peculiar effect that is produced upon you by our London fogs. There is a dreary sensation upon you, so that everything seems foggy, inside and out.
Well now, when you get into the light, and when you walk in the light,—and the spirit of prayer is the manifestation of light,—then everything is bright inside and outside. It seems, then, as if there is nothing that is dark, for all is light, and your heart is glad within you; or if it is not glad, it is supremely restful.
I do not know whether you have ever felt like this; but, sometimes, when I have been suffering extreme pain, and have also been so depressed in spirit that I have desponded almost to the verge of despair, I have cast myself upon the Lord in a sort of swooning away into his arms, and I have then experienced such unutterable happiness as I have never had at any other time. Feeling my Lord to be so completely my All-in-all, and myself to be less than nothing, I have entered into the spirit of Faber’s lines,—
‘And when it seems no chance nor change
From grief can set me free,
Hope finds its strength in helplessness,
And, patient, waits on thee.’
It is no good whining and saying, ‘I know that I do not pray as I ought.’ The thing for you to do is to rouse yourself up to pray as you ought. Pray when you can pray, and pray when you cannot pray; I think you know what I mean by that paradox. There is such a thing as praying prayer into yourself, by God’s grace; and, sometimes, when you have thought that you could not pray at all, you have said, afterwards, ‘I wish I felt more often as I did then.’ The worst state in which anyone can be is that of not feeling anything at all.
Someone said to me, the other day, that he felt as Cowper did when he wrote those lines,—
‘If aught is felt, ’tis only pain
To find I cannot feel.’
If that is your case, you are evidently feeling pain; and, perhaps, nobody feels more than the man who feels that he does not feel at all. Yet, surely, he who is sensible of his insensibility is not insensible. He who mourns his lack of life is not without life. He who groans because he says he cannot groan, is groaning all the while.
I have heard of a man, who was so absent-minded that he thought he had lost his horse even while he was riding on its back; and I remember my dear old grandfather saying to me, ‘Charles, I cannot find my spectacles anywhere.’ ‘No,’ I replied, ‘I should think you can’t, for you have got them on.’ He was looking through them, and so could not see them; and there is many a man, who has been wanting to find his evidences, and his very anxiety to find his evidences is, in itself, an evidence of the work of grace within his heart. If he had not that holy carefulness to be right, he would be far more wrong than he now is; indeed, that fear lest he should be wrong is a proof that he is right.
I seldom preach a sermon against hypocrisy without some dear child of God coming to me, and saying, ‘Ah, Mr Spurgeon! I know that you meant me; you did show me up dreadfully.’ ‘My dear creature,’ I reply, ‘are you afraid that you are not right with God? Then, take my word for it that you are not the person whose case I was describing. There never yet was a hypocrite who was afraid that he was not right; they know they are wrong.’ It is very much the same in this matter of prayer; many, who think they cannot pray at all, are really praying best of all. The Lord help all of us to be mighty in prayer, and send us gracious answers! Amen.
Charles H. Spurgeon, C.H. Spurgeon’s Forgotten Prayer Meeting Addresses