2000-03-20 - Prayer
Originally Published 1996-05-13
Luke 18:1 "Men ought always to pray"
1 Timothy 2:8 "I will that men pray everywhere"
I would like to offer you a question. It is only three words,--"Do you pray?"
This question is one that only you can answer. You may have family prayers
and your family knows of these prayers, but this is not the prayer I ask
about. I ask whether you pray in private, this is a matter that only you
and God can answer. I would ask that you attend to this question over the
next two days. You can not throw aside my question by saying that you say
your prayers. It is one thing to say prayers and quite another to pray.
I ask whether you pray because prayer is absolutely needful for your salvation.
I would say that no man or woman can expect to be saved who does not pray.
I hold salvation by the grace of God alone through faith in Christ as strongly
as anyone I know. However, I would not hesitate to stand at the death bed
of the greatest sinner that ever lived and say, "Believe now on the Lord
Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." But that someone can have salvation
without asking for it, I cannot find in the Bible. He who will not say, "Lord
Jesus, give it to me" cannot be saved. I can find that no one will be saved
by his prayers, but I cannot find that without prayers anyone will be saved.
If you wish to be a friend of Christ, you must pray. We must pray on earth,
or we shall never praise in Heaven. We must go through the school of prayer
or we will never be fit for the holiday of praise. My friends to be prayerless
is to be without God, without Christ, without grace, without hope, and without
Heaven. It is to be on the road to hell. Now you may not wonder that I pose
the question, Do You Pray?
I ask whether you pray because a habit of prayer is one of the surest marks
of a true Christian. All children of God are alike in this: From the moment
there is spiritual life given to them, they pray! The first born sign of
an infant is breathing, the first born sign of a Christian is praying. It
is the first act of faith. Theologians have called it the reflexive act to that
act of God in planting grace in the heart. It is the first act of grace.
Here is a challenge. Find me the life of a saint, from Genesis to Revelation,
who was not a man or woman of prayer. It is a characteristic of the Godly
that "they call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ", and it is said of
the wicked that, "they call not upon the Lord". Think of the lives of
eminent Christians, Arminians, Calvinists, Episcopalians, you name it, they
have one thing in common if we call them eminent, they prayed. One may write
books, make fine speeches, and do good works and yet be a Judas Iscariot.
But one seldom goes to a prayer closet, pours out his soul before God in
secret, unless there is grace in the heart. When Ananias was sent to Damascus
by Christ to Paul, Christ gave only one reason why he should go, "Behold,
he prayeth" (Acts 9:11) Do you wish to find out whether you are a true
Christian? My question is of great importance, "Do YOU pray?"
Finally for today, I ask whether you pray because there is no duty in religion
so neglected as private prayer. There are more persons attending public worship
today than probably ever before. I would put to you that I believe the majority
of professing Christians do not pray at all. This may startle and shock many
of you. I wonder if prayer is that duty that we all talk about, because it
is fashionable, and yet few of us practice. Here is why, it is a transaction
between God and us, no other eyes see this take place and for this reason
there is every temptation to pass it over. I believe that there are many
who never pray at all. They eat. They drink. They sleep. They rise and go
to work. They return home. They breathe God's air, see God's sun, walk on
God's earth, enjoy God's mercies. They have dying bodies. They have judgment
and eternity squarely before them. But they never speak to God. They live
like beasts, and perish. How dreadful this must seem! But if the secrets
of many were know … how common. Prayer is not natural. The multitude walk
in the broad way and we cannot forget this. It is not a fashionable thing
to pray. Think of the lives that some live. Can we really say that people
are praying night and day against sin when we see them plunging into it?
Can people be praying against worldliness when they are entirely absorbed
and taken up with earthly pursuits? Praying and sinning will never live together
in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke prayer. I cannot
see your heart. I do not know your private history in these things. But what
I see in the Bible and the world is the importance of the question, Do You
Soli Deo Gloria,