6th chapter of Ephesians in the 18th verse we read words which put the
tremendous importance of prayer with startling and overwhelming force:
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and
watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all
When we stop to weigh the meaning of these words, then note the
connection in which they are found, the intelligent child of God is
driven to say,
“I must pray, pray, pray. I must put all my energy and all my heart
into prayer. Whatever else I do, I must pray.”
The Revised Version is, if possible, stronger than the Authorized:
“With all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the
spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication
for all the saints.”
Note the ALLS: “with ALL prayer,” “at ALL seasons,” “in ALL
perseverance,” “for ALL the saints.” Note the piling up of strong
words, “prayer,” “supplication,” “perseverance.” Note once more the
strong expression, “watching thereunto,” more literally, “being
sleepless thereunto.” Paul realized the natural slothfulness of man,
and especially his natural slothfulness in prayer. How seldom we pray
things through! How often the church and the individual get right up
to the verge of a great blessing in prayer and just then let go, get
drowsy, quit. I wish that these words
“being sleepless unto prayer” might burn into our hearts. I wish
the whole verse might burn into our hearts.
But why is this constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer
First of all, BECAUSE THERE IS A DEVIL. He is cunning, he is
mighty, he never rests, he is ever plotting the downfall of the child
of God; and if the child of God relaxes in prayer, the devil will
succeed in ensnaring him.
This is the thought of the context. The 12th verse reads:
“For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the
principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this
darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly
places.” (R.V.) Then comes the 13th verse: “Wherefore take up the
whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day,
and, having done all, to stand.” (R.V.) Next follows a description of
the different parts of the Christian’s armor, which
4we are to put on if we
are to stand against the devil and his mighty wiles. Then Paul brings
all to a climax in the 18th verse, telling us that to all else we must
add prayer—constant, persistent, untiring, sleepless prayer in the
Holy Spirit, or all else will go for nothing.
A second reason for this constant, persistent, sleepless,
overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IS GOD’S APPOINTED WAY FOR OBTAINING
THINGS, AND THE GREAT SECRET OF ALL LACK IN OUR EXPERIENCE, IN OUR
LIFE AND IN OUR WORK IS NEGLECT OF PRAYER.
James brings this out very forcibly in the 4th chapter and
2nd verse of his epistle: “Ye have not because ye ask not.” These
words contain the secret of the poverty and powerlessness of the
average Christian—neglect of prayer.
“Why is it,” many a Christian is asking, “I make so little progress
in my Christian life?”
“Neglect of prayer,” God answers. “You have not because you ask
“Why is it,” many a minister is asking, “I see so little fruit from
Again God answers, “Neglect of prayer. You have not because you ask
“Why is it,” many a Sunday-School teacher is asking, “that I see so
few converted in my Sunday-School class?”
Still God answers, “Neglect of prayer. You have not because you ask
“Why is it,” both ministers and churches are asking, “that the
church of Christ makes so little headway against unbelief and error
and sin and worldliness?”
Once more we hear God answering, “Neglect of prayer. You have not
because you ask not.”
The third reason for this constant, persistent, sleepless,
overcoming prayer is that THOSE MEN WHOM GOD SET FORTH AS A PATTERN OF
WHAT HE EXPECTED CHRISTIANS TO BE—THE APOSTLES—REGARDED PRAYER AS THE
MOST IMPORTANT BUSINESS OF THEIR LIVES.
When the multiplying responsibilities of the early church crowded
in upon them, they “called the multitude of the disciples unto them,
and said, It is not reason that we should leave the Word of God, and
serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of
honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint
over this business. But WE WILL GIVE OURSELVES CONTINUALLY TO PRAYER
and to the ministry of the Word.” It is evident from what Paul wrote
to the churches and to individuals about praying for them, that very
much of his time and strength and thought was given to prayer. (Rom.
1:9, R.V.; Eph. 1:15,16; Col. 1:9, R.V.; 1 Thess. 3:10; 2 Tim. 1:3,
All the mighty men of
God outside the Bible have been men of prayer. They have differed from
one another in many things, but in this they have been alike.
But there is a still
weightier reason for this constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming
prayer. It is, PRAYER OCCUPIED A VERY PROMINENT PLACE AND PLAYED A
VERY IMPORTANT PART IN THE EARTHLY LIFE OF OUR LORD.
Turn, for example, to
Mark 1:35. We read, “And in the morning, rising up a great while
before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there
prayed.” The preceding day had been a very busy and exciting one, but
Jesus shortened the hours of needed sleep that He might arise early
and give Himself to more sorely needed prayer.
Turn again to Luke
6:12, where we read, “And it came to pass in those days that He went
out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to
God.” Our Savior found it necessary on occasion to take a whole night
The words “pray” and
“prayer” are used at least twenty-five times in connection with our
Lord in the brief record of His life in the four Gospels, and His
praying is mentioned in places where the words are not used. Evidently
prayer took much of the time and strength of Jesus, and a man or woman
who does not spend much time in prayer, cannot properly be called a
follower of Jesus Christ.
There is another
reason for constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer that
seems if possible even more forcible than this, namely, PRAYING IS THE
MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE PRESENT MINISTRY OF OUR RISEN LORD.
Christ’s ministry did
not close with His death. His atoning work was finished then, but when
He rose and ascended to the right hand of the Father, He entered upon
other work for us just as important in its place as His atoning work.
It cannot be divorced from His atoning work; it rests upon that as its
basis, but it is necessary to our complete salvation.
What that great
present work is, by which He carries our salvation on to completeness,
we read in Heb. 7:25, “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the
uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing HE EVER LIVETH TO MAKE
INTERCESSION FOR THEM.” This verse tells us that Jesus is able to save
us unto the uttermost, not merely FROM the uttermost, but UNTO the
uttermost, unto entire completeness, absolute perfection, because He
not merely died, but because He also “ever liveth.” The verse also
tells us for what purpose He now lives, “TO MAKE INTERCESSION FOR US,”
to pray. Praying is the principal thing He is doing in these days. It
is by His prayers that He is saving us.
The same thought is
found in Paul’s remarkable, triumphant challenge in Rom. 8:34—“Who is
he that shall condemn? It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, that
was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, WHO ALSO
MAKETH INTERCESSION FOR US.” (R.V.)
If we then are to
have fellowship with Jesus Christ in His present work, we must spend
much time in prayer; we must give ourselves to earnest, constant,
persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer. I know of nothing that has
so impressed me with a sense of the importance of praying at all
seasons, being much and constantly in prayer, as the thought that that
is the principal occupation at present of my risen Lord. I want to
have fellowship with Him, and to that end I have asked the Father that
whatever else He may make me, to make me at all events an intercessor,
to make me a man who knows how to pray, and who spends much time in
This ministry of
intercession is a glorious and a mighty ministry, and we can all have
part in it. The man or the woman who is shut away from the public
meeting by sickness can have part in it; the busy mother; the woman
who has to take in washing for a living can have part—she can mingle
prayers for the saints, and for her pastor, and for the unsaved, and
for foreign missionaries, with the soap and water as she bends over
the washtub, and not do the washing any more poorly on that account;
the hard driven man of business can have part in it, praying as he
hurries from duty to duty. But of course we must, if we would maintain
this spirit of constant prayer, take time—and take plenty of it—when
we shall shut ourselves up in the secret place alone with God for
nothing but prayer.
The sixth reason for
constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IS
THE MEANS THAT GOD HAS APPOINTED FOR OUR RECEIVING MERCY, AND
OBTAINING GRACE TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED.
Heb. 4:16 is one of
the simplest and sweetest verses in the Bible,—“Let us therefore come
boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find
grace to help in time of need.” These words make it very plain that
God has appointed a way by which we shall seek and obtain mercy and
grace. That way is prayer; bold, confident, outspoken approach to the
throne of grace, the most holy place of God’s presence, where our
sympathizing High Priest, Jesus Christ, has entered in our behalf.
(Verses 14, 15.)
Mercy is what we
need, grace is what we must have, or all our life and effort will end
in complete failure. Prayer is the way to get them. There is infinite
grace at our disposal, and we make it ours experimentally by prayer.
Oh, if we only realized the fullness of God’s grace, that is ours for
the asking, its height and depth and length and breadth, I am sure
that we would spend more time in prayer. The measure of our
appropriation of grace is determined by the measure of our prayers.
Who is there that
does not feel that he needs more grace? Then ask for it. Be constant
and persistent in your asking. Be importunate and untiring in your
asking. God delights to have us “shameless” beggars in this direction;
for it shows our faith in Him, and He is mightily pleased with faith.
Because of our “shamelessness” He will rise and give us as much as we
need (Luke 11:8). What little streams of mercy and grace most of us
know, when we might know rivers overflowing their banks!
The next reason for
constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IN
THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST IS THE WAY JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF HAS APPOINTED
FOR HIS DISCIPLES TO OBTAIN FULLNESS OF JOY.
He states this simply
and beautifully in John 16:24,
“Hitherto have ye
asked nothing in My name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may
be fulfilled.” “Made full” is the way the Revised Version reads. Who
is there that does not wish his joy filled full? Well, the way to have
it filled full is by praying in the name of Jesus. We all know people
whose joy is filled full, indeed, it is just running over, is shining
from their eyes, bubbling out of their very lips, and running off
their finger tips when they shake hands with you. Coming in contact
with them is like coming in contact with an electrical machine charged
with gladness. Now people of that sort are always people that spend
much time in prayer.
Why is it that prayer
in the name of Christ brings such fullness of joy? In part, because we
get what we ask. But that is not the only reason, nor the greatest. It
makes God real. When we ask something definite of God, and He gives
it, how real God becomes! He is right there! It is blessed to have a
God who is real, and not merely an idea. I remember how once I was
taken suddenly and seriously sick all alone in my study. I dropped
upon my knees and cried to God for help. Instantly all pain left me—I
was perfectly well. It seemed as if God stood right there, and had put
out His hand and touched me. The joy of the healing was not so great
as the joy of meeting God.
There is no greater
joy on earth or in heaven, than communion with God, and prayer in the
name of Jesus brings us into communion with Him. The Psalmist was
surely not speaking only of future blessedness, but also of present
blessedness when he said,
“In Thy presence is
fullness of joy.” (Ps. 16.11.) O the unutterable joy of those moments
when in our prayers we really press into the presence of God!
Does some one say. “I
have never known any such joy as that in prayer”?
Do you take enough
leisure for prayer to actually get into God’s presence? Do you really
give yourself up to prayer in the time which you do take?
The eighth reason for
constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer is that PRAYER, IN
EVERY CARE AND ANXIETY AND NEED OF LIFE, WITH THANKSGIVING, IS THE
MEANS THAT GOD HAS APPOINTED FOR OBTAINING FREEDOM FROM ALL ANXIETY,
AND THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSETH ALL UNDERSTANDING.
“Be careful for
nothing,” says Paul, “but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God, and the
peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts
and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6,7.) To many this seems at
the first glance, the picture of a life that is beautiful, but beyond
the reach of 8ordinary
mortals; not so at all. The verse tells us how the life is attainable
by every child of God: “Be careful for nothing,” or as the Revised
Version reads, “In nothing be anxious.” The remainder of the verse
tells us how, and it is very simple: “But in everything by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto
God.” What could be plainer or more simple than that? Just keep in
constant touch with God, and when any trouble or vexation, great or
small, comes up, speak to Him about it, never forgetting to return
thanks for what He has already done. What will the result be? “The
peace of God which passeth all understanding shall guard your hearts
and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” (R.V.)
That is glorious, and
as simple as it is glorious! Thank God, many are trying it. Don’t you
know any one who is always serene? Perhaps he is a very stormy man by
his natural make-up, but troubles and conflicts and reverses and
bereavements may sweep around him, and the peace of God which passeth
all understanding guards his heart and his thoughts in Christ Jesus.
We all know such
persons. How do they manage it?
Just by prayer, that
is all. Those persons who know the deep peace of God, the unfathomable
peace that passeth all understanding, are always men and women of much
Some of us let the
hurry of our lives crowd prayer out, and what a waste of time and
energy and nerve force there is by the constant worry! One night of
prayer will save us from many nights of insomnia. Time spent in prayer
is not wasted, but time invested at big interest.
The ninth reason for
constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IS
THE METHOD THAT GOD HIMSELF HAS APPOINTED FOR OUR OBTAINING THE HOLY
Upon this point the
Bible is very plain. Jesus says, “If ye then, being evil, know how to
give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly
Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” (Luke 11:13.) Men
are telling us in these days, very good men too, “You must not pray
for the Holy Spirit,” but what are they going to do with the plain
statement of Jesus Christ, “How much more will your heavenly Father
give the Holy Spirit TO THEM THAT ASK HIM?”
Some years ago when
an address on the baptism with the Holy Spirit was announced, a
brother came to me before the address and said with much feeling,
“Be sure and tell
them not to pray for the Holy Spirit.”
“I will surely not
tell them that, for Jesus says, ‘How much more shall your heavenly
Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him’.”
“Oh, yes,” he
replied, “but that was before Pentecost.”
“How about Acts 4:31?
was that before Pentecost, or after?”
“After, of course.”
”‘And when they had
prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and
they were all FILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST, and they spake the Word of
God with boldness.’”
“How about Acts 8:15?
was that before Pentecost or after?”
”‘Who, when they were
come down PRAYED for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost.’”
He made no answer.
What could he answer? It is plain as day in the Word of God that
before Pentecost and after, the first baptism and the subsequent
fillings with the Holy Spirit were received in answer to definite
prayer. Experience also teaches this.
Doubtless many have
received the Holy Spirit the moment of their surrender to God before
there was time to pray, but how many there are who know that their
first definite baptism with the Holy Spirit came while they were on
their knees or faces before God, alone or in company with others, and
who again and again since that have been filled with the Holy Spirit
in the place of prayer!
I know this as
definitely as I know that my thirst has been quenched while I was
drinking water. Early one morning in the Chicago Avenue Church prayer
room, where several hundred people had been assembled a number of
hours in prayer, the Holy Spirit fell so manifestly, and the whole
place was so filled with His presence, that no one could speak or
pray, but sobs of joy filled the place. Men went out of that room to
different parts of the country, taking trains that very morning, and
reports soon came back of the out-pouring of God’s Holy Spirit in
answer to prayer. Others went out into the city with the blessing of
God upon them. This is only one instance among many that might be
cited from personal experience.
If we would only
spend more time in prayer, there would be more fullness of the
Spirit’s power in our work. Many and many a man who once worked
unmistakably in the power of the Holy Spirit is now filling the air
with empty shoutings, and beating it with his meaningless
gesticulations, because he has let prayer be crowded out. we must
spend much time on our knees before God, if we are to continue in the
power of the Holy Spirit.
The tenth reason for
constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer is that PRAYER IS
THE MEANS THAT CHRIST HAS APPOINTED WHEREBY OUR HEARTS SHALL NOT
BECOME OVERCHARGED WITH SURFEITING AND DRUNKENNESS AND CARES OF THIS
LIFE, AND SO THE DAY OF CHRIST’S RETURN COME UPON US SUDDENLY AS A
One of the most
interesting and solemn passages upon prayer in the Bible is along this
line. (Luke 21:34-36) “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your
hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and cares of
this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare
shall it come on all them that dwell in the face of the whole earth.
Watch ye therefore, and PRAY ALWAYS, that ye may be accounted worthy
to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand
before the Son of man.” According to this passage there is only one
way in which we can be prepared for the coming of the Lord when He
appears, that is, through much prayer.
The coming again of
Jesus Christ is a subject that is awakening much interest and much
discussion in our day; but it is one thing to be interested in the
Lord’s return, and to talk about it, and quite another thing to be
prepared for it. We live in an atmosphere that has a constant tendency
to unfit us for Christ’s coming. The world tends to draw us down by
its gratifications and by its cares. There is only one way by which we
can rise triumphant above these things—by constant watching unto
prayer, that is, by sleeplessness unto prayer. “Watch” in this passage
is the same strong word used in Eph. 6:18, and
“always” the same
strong phrase “in every season.” The man who spends little time in
prayer, who is not steadfast and constant in prayer, will not be ready
for the Lord when He comes. But we may be ready. How? Pray! Pray!
There is one more
reason for constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer, and it
is a mighty one: BECAUSE OF WHAT PRAYER ACCOMPLISHES. Much has really
been said upon that already, but there is much also that should be
(1) Prayer promotes
our spiritual growth as almost nothing else, indeed as nothing else
but Bible study; and true prayer and true Bible study go hand in hand.
It is through prayer
that my sin is brought to light, my most hidden sin. As I kneel before
God and pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know
my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me,”
(Ps.139:23,24), God shoots the penetrating rays of His light into the
innermost recesses of my heart, and the sins I never suspected are
brought to view. In answer to prayer, God washes me from mine iniquity
and cleanses me from my sin (Ps. 51:2). In answer to prayer my eyes
are opened to behold wondrous things out of God’s Word (Ps. 119:18).
In answer to prayer I get wisdom to know God’s way (Jas. 1:5) and
strength to walk in it. As I meet God in prayer and gaze into His
face, I am changed into His own image from glory to glory ( 2 Cor.
3:18). Each day of true prayer life finds me liker to my glorious
son-in-law to John Knox, was one of the most faithful men of prayer
this world ever saw. He counted that day ill-spent in which seven or
eight hours were not used alone with God in prayer and the study of
His Word. An old man speaking of him after his death said, “He was a
type of Christ.”
How came he to be so
like his Master?
His prayer life
explains the mystery.
(2) Prayer brings
power into our work.
If we wish power for
any work to which God calls us, be it preaching, teaching, personal
work, or the rearing of our children, we can get it by earnest prayer.
A woman with a little
boy who was perfectly incorrigible, once came to me in desperation and
“What shall I do with
I asked, “Have you
ever tried prayer?”
She said that she had
prayed for him, she thought. I asked if she had made his conversion
and his character a matter of definite, expectant prayer. She replied
that she had not been definite in the matter. She began that day, and
at once there was a marked change in the child, and he grew up into
How many a
Sunday-school teacher has taught for months and years, and seen no
real fruit from his labors, and then has learned the secret of
intercession, and by earnest pleading with God, has seen his scholars
brought one by one to Christ! How many a poor preacher has become a
mighty man of God by casting away his confidence in his own ability
and gifts, and giving himself up to God to wait upon Him for the power
that comes from on high! John Livingstone spent a night, with some
others likeminded, in prayer to God and religious conversation, and
when he preached next day in the Kirk of Shotts five hundred people
were converted, or dated some definite uplift in their life to that
occasion. Prayer and power are inseparable.
(3) Prayer avails for
the conversion of others.
There are few
converted in this world unless in connection with some one’s prayers.
I formerly thought that no human being had anything to do with my own
conversion, for I was not converted in church or Sunday-school, or in
personal conversation with any one. I was awakened in the middle of
the night and converted. As far as I can remember I had not the
slightest thought of being converted, or of anything of that
character, when I went to bed and fell asleep; but I was awakened in
the middle of the night and converted probably inside of five minutes.
A few minutes before I was about as near eternal perdition as one
gets. I had one foot over the brink and was trying to get the other
one over. I say I thought no human being had anything to do with it,
but I had forgotten my mother’s prayers, and I afterward learned that
one of my college classmates had chosen me as one to pray for until I
Prayer often avails
where everything else fails. How utterly all of Monica’s efforts and
entreaties failed with her son, but her prayers prevailed with God,
and the dissolute youth became St. Augustine, the mighty man of God.
By prayer the bitterest enemies of the Gospel have become its most
valiant defenders, the greatest scoundrels the truest sons of God, and
the vilest women the purest saints. Oh, the power of prayer to
12reach down, down, down,
where hope itself seems vain, and lift men and women up, up, up into
fellowship with and likeness to God. It is simply wonderful! How
little we appreciate this marvelous weapon!
(4) Prayer brings
blessings to the church.
The history of the
church has always been a history of grave difficulties to overcome.
The devil hates the church and seeks in every way to block its
progress; now by false doctrine, again by division, again by inward
corruption of life. But by prayer, a clear way can be made through
everything. Prayer will root out heresy, allay misunderstanding, sweep
away jealousies and animosities, obliterate immoralities, and bring in
the full tide of God’s reviving grace. History abundantly proves this.
In the hour of darkest portent, when the case of the church, local or
universal, has seemed beyond hope, believing men and believing women
have met together and cried to God and the answer has come.
It was so in the days
of Knox, it was so in the days of Wesley and Whitfield, it was so in
the days of Edwards and Brainerd, it was so in the days of Finney, it
was so in the days of the great revival of 1857 in this country and of
1859 in Ireland, and it will be so again in your day and mine. Satan
has marshaled his forces. Christian science with its false Christ—a
woman—lifts high its head. Others making great pretensions of
apostolic methods, but covering the rankest dishonesty and hypocrisy
with these pretensions, speak with loud assurance. Christians equally
loyal to the great fundamental truths of the Gospel are glowering at
one another with a devil-sent suspicion. The world, the flesh and the
devil are holding high carnival. It is now a dark day, BUT—now “it is
time for Thee, Lord, to work; for they have made void Thy law.” (Ps.
199:126). And He is getting ready to work, and now He is listening for
the voice of prayer. Will He hear it? Will He hear it from you? Will
He hear it from the church as a body? I believe He will.
End of Chapter One
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