For those who are strangers to closet prayer

Taken and adapted from, “The Privy Key to Heaven”
Written by Thomas Brooks

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Is it so that closet prayer or private prayer is such an indispensable duty, that Christ himself has laid upon all who are not willing to do so, to lie under the woeful brand of being hypocrites? Then this doctrine condemns five sorts of people.

(1.) First, It looks sourly and sadly upon all those who put off secret prayer, private prayer, until they are moved to it by the Spirit; for by this sad delusion many have been kept from secret prayer many weeks, many months; oh that I might not say, many years! Though it be a very at season to pray when the Spirit moves us to pray—yet it is not the only season to pray, Isaiah 62:1; Psalm 123:1-2; Galatians 4:6. He who makes piety his business, will pray as daily for daily grace as he does pray daily for daily bread: Luke 18:1, “And he spoke a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Romans 12:12, “Persistent in prayer.” The Greek is a metaphor taken from hunting dogs, which never give up the chase until they have got their prey. A Christian must not only pray—but hold on in prayer, until he has got the heavenly prize.

We are always needing; and therefore we had need be praying always.

The world is always alluring; and therefore we had need be always a-praying. Satan is always a-tempting; and therefore we had need be always a-praying. We are always a-sinning; and therefore we had need be always a-praying. We are in dangers always; and therefore we had need be praying always. We are dying always, 1 Corinthians 15:31; and therefore we had need be praying always. Man’s whole life is but a lingering death; man no sooner begins to live—but he begins to die. When one was asked why he prayed six times a day, he only gave this answer, “I must die, I must die, I must die.” Dying Christians had need be praying Christians, and those who are always a-dying had need be always a-praying. Certainly prayerless families are graceless families, and prayerless people are graceless people, Jeremiah 10:25. It were better ten thousand times that we had never been born into the world, than that we should go stillborn out of the world. But,

(2.) Secondly, This truth looks sourly and sadly upon those who pray not at all, neither in their families nor in their closets. Among all God’s children, there is not one possessed with a dumb devil. Prayerless people are forsaken of God, blinded by Satan, hardened in sin, and every breath they draw liable to all temporal, spiritual, and eternal judgments. Prayer is that part of natural worship due to God, which none will deny but stark atheists, Psalm 14:1.

It is observable that among the worst of men, Turks, and the worst of Turks, the Moors, it is usual with them to pray six times a day.

(1.) Before the daybreak they pray for day.

(2.) When it is day, they give thanks for day.

(3.) At noon, they thank God for half the day past.

(4.) After that, they pray for a good sunset.

(5.) And after that, they thank God for the day past.

And then, sixthly and lastly, they pray for a good night after their day.

Certainly these very Moors will one day rise in judgment against them who cast off prayer, who live in a total neglect of prayer, who allow so many suns and moons to rise and set upon their heads without any solemn calling upon God. I have read of a man who, being sick, and afraid of death, fell to his prayers; and, to move God to hear him, told him “that he was no common beggar, and that he had never troubled him with his prayers before; and if he would but hear him at that time, he would never trouble him again.” This world is full of such profane, blasphemous, atheistical wretches. But,

(3.) Thirdly, This truth looks very sourly and sadly upon such who are all for public prayer—but never regard private prayer; who are all for going up to the temple—but never care for going into their closets. This is most palpable hypocrisy, for a man to be very zealous for public prayer—but very cold and careless as to private prayer. He who pretends conscience in the one, and makes no conscience of the other, is a hypocrite indeed, Matthew 23:5, and Matthew 6:1-2,5. And the devil knows well enough how to make his markets of all such hypocrites that are all for the prayers of the church—but total Gallios as to private prayer, Acts 18:17. Such as perform all their private devotion in the church—but not in the chamber, do put too great a slight upon the authority of Christ, who says, “When you pray, enter into your chamber.” He does not say, “When you pray, go to the church,” but, “When you pray, go into your chamber.” But,

(4.) Fourthly, This truth looks sadly and sourly upon such who in their closets pray with a loud clamorous voice. A Christian should shut both the door of his closet and the door of his lips so close, that none should hear without what he says within. “Enter into your closet,” says Christ, “and when you have shut your door, pray.” But what need a man shut his closet door, if he may prays with a clamorous voice, if he makes such a noise as all in the street or all in the house may hear him? The hen, when she lays her eggs, gets into a hole, a corner; but then she makes such a noise with her cackling, that she tells all in the house where she is, and about what she is. Such Christians who in their closets do imitate the hen, do rather pray to be seen, heard, and observed by men, than out of any noble design to glorify God, or to pour out their souls before him who sees in secret.

Sometimes children, when they are vexed, or afraid of the rod, will run behind the door, or get into a dark hole, and there they will lie crying, and sighing, and sobbing, that all the house may know where they are. Oh it is a childish thing so to cry, and sigh, and sob in our closets, as to tell all in the house where we are, and about what work we are. Well! Christians, for an effectual redress of this evil, frequently and seriously consider of these five things.

[1.] First, That God sees in secret.

[2.] Secondly, That God has a quick ear, and is taken more with the voice of the heart, than he is with the clamor of the mouth. God can easily hear the most secret breathings of your soul. God is more curious in observing the messages delivered by the heart, than he is those who are only delivered by the mouth. He who prays aloud in private, seems to tell others, that God does not understand the secret desires, and thoughts, and workings of his people’s hearts.

[3.] Thirdly, It is not fit, it is not convenient nor expedient, that any should be acquainted with our secret prayers—but God and our own souls. Now it is as much our duty to look to what is expedient, as it is to look to what is lawful, 2 Corinthians 8:10; 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful unto me—but all things are not expedient.” So 1 Corinthians 10:23, “All things are lawful for me—but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me—but all things edify not.” Now it is so far from being expedient, that it is very high folly for men to lay open their secret infirmities unto others, that will rather deride them, than lift up a prayer for them.

[4.] Fourthly, Loud prayers may be a hindrance and disturbance to others, who may be busied near us.

[5.] Fifthly and lastly, Hannah prayed and yet spoke never a word. Her heart was full—but her voice was not heard, 1 Samuel 1:11. Moses prays and cries, and yet lets fall never a word: Exodus 14:15, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Why do you cry unto me?” Moses did not cry with any audible voice—but with inward sighs, and secret breathings, and wrestlings of soul; and these inward and secret cries, which made no noise, carried the day with God; for Moses is heard and answered, and his people are delivered. Oh the prevalence of those prayers which make no noise in the ears of others!

[6.] Sixth and lastly, This truth looks sourly and sadly upon those who do all they can to hinder and discourage others from this duty of duties, private prayer; and that either by deriding or vilifying of the duty, or else by denying of it to be a duty, or else by their daily neglect of this duty, or else by denying those who are under them, time and opportunity for the discharge of this duty. In Matthew 23:13, you have a woe pronounced against those who will neither go to heaven themselves, nor allow others to go, who are willing to enter into an everlasting rest. And so I say—Woe to those parents, and woe to those husbands, and woe to those masters and mistresses—who will neither pray in their closets themselves, nor allow their children, nor their wives, nor their servants, to pour out their souls before the Lord in a corner.

O sirs! how will you answer this to your consciences, when you shall lie upon a dying bed! And how will you answer it to the Judge of all the world, when you shall stand before a judgment seat? Certainly all their sins, and all their neglects, and all their spiritual losses, that might have been prevented by their secret prayers, by their closet communion with God—will one day be charged upon your account! And oh that you were all so wise as to lay these things so to heart, that you may never hinder any who are under your care or charge, from private prayer anymore

Luther’s faith in prayer

Quotation-Martin-Luther-faith-worry-god-Meetville-Quotes-198831

Just as a shoemaker makes a shoe, and a tailor a coat…

…the reformer once remarked, “so also ought the Christian to pray. The Christian’s trade is praying. And the prayer of the Church works great miracles. In our days it has raised from the dead three persons –viz., myself, having been frequently sick unto death; my wife Catherine, who likewise was dangerously ill; and Melanchthon, who was sick unto death at Weimar (1540). And though their rescue from sickness and other bodily dangers be but trifling miracles, nevertheless they must be exhibited for the sake of those whose faith is weak.’

When these words were spoken, a great drought was afflicting the country, and hence Luther lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed, ‘Lord God, Thou hast spoken through the mouth of Thy servant David, The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him; He also will hear their cry and will save them. Why wilt Thou not give us rain now, for which so long we have cried and prayed? Well then, if no rain.

Thou art able to give us something better, “a peaceable and quiet life, peace and harmony. Now we have prayed so much, prayed so often, and our prayers not being granted, dear Father, the wicked will say, Christ, Thy beloved Son, hath told a falsehood, saying, Verily, verily, I say unto you, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you.” Thus they will give both Thee and Thy Son the lie. I know that we sincerely cry to Thee, and with yearning. Why then dost Thou not hear us?’

This was in the year 1532, and in the course of that very night an abundant rain refreshed the face of nature.

Taken and adapted from, “Anecdotes of Luther and the Reformation”
Author Unknown

PRAYER IN TIMES OF APOSTASY

Written by the Rev. John C. Blackburn

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“The effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (James 5:16-18).

This text on prayer is chosen as appropriate to a day of prayer. It is evidently the intention of the Holy Spirit to teach more than one truth about prayer in this passage. But it shall be our purpose, today, to draw from it instruction as to what is our duty and encouragement in prayer in the present evil hour. The inspired writer sets before us Elijah, the well-known prophet of the Old Testament, “a righteous man,” whose prayers of imprecation and intercession are cited with approval as an illustration of the kind of prayer which “availeth much”—in an evil day. If we are to profit by the implicit truth of this text we will have to develop it in the light of its historical background.

The Times of Elijah

No historical era can be viewed as an age apart from the times that precede it. The evil days of Ahab were such as they were largely through predetermining causes. His reign was a sequence of a varied series of sins that reached an inevitable climax of wickedness in his reign.

To Solomon must be charged the policy that opened the door in Israel to alien evils. His “outlandish” wives influenced him into the adoption of an “inclusive policy” through which the worship of false gods was tolerated along with the worship of Jehovah. This liberal attitude brought from Jehovah the charge: “They have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of Ammon.”

Jeroboam the First inaugurated a policy of the boldest expediency. His program called for an alteration of the Mosaic constitution. He changed the spiritual leadership of his kingdom. “He made priests from among all the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.” “He ordained a feast for the children of Israel.” “He made houses of high places.” “All of which he had devised.” Moreover he reintroduced into Israel, as an amicable gesture to the neighboring kingdom of Egypt, the idolatrous worship of the golden calf—the Heliopolitan deity, Mnevis.

Through five regencies—Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri and Omri—the conventional, court-sponsored religion of the Northern Kingdom flowed with increasing corruption. Against each of these kings, without exception, can be found the condemning words of the sacred chronicler of Israel: “He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.”

But it is in the reign of Ahab, the son of Omri, the seventh king of Israel, that the departure from Jehovah’s law reaches a fullness of iniquity that insures judgment, for “there was none like unto Ahab which did sell himself to do that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.” It will be enlightening to examine the nature of the sins of that administration which provoked the righteous indignation of Elijah and brought forth the call for the rod of Jehovah’s displeasure upon His people and His land.

One sin of Ahab was sacrificing his own spiritual interests and that of his kingdom for lust. The law of Jehovah forbade matrimony with the heathen as an unholy alliance. Ahab showed his lack of principle and disregard of the commandments of the Lord by marrying Jezebel, a daughter of Ethbaal, high priest of Astarte, a cousin of Dido of Virgil’s Aeneid. This “lust match” quickly eventuated in the apotheosis of lust throughout the Northern Kingdom. The worship of Ashtoreth became court religion, the libidinous orgies of Tyre and Sidon were celebrated in Israel, and the morals of the populace degenerated and dissipated under the seductive influence of these lascivious rites.

Another sin of Ahab’s was his practice of tolerance in religion—a kind of broad-churchism, without a limit. The innovations and vanities of Jeroboam and his successors were accepted and practiced on the grounds of antiquity, tradition, and custom, while the ancient law of Sinai was made of none effect through local and temporal expediency. To please the Zidonians, Tyrians and Baal-serving apostates in his kingdom, he built a temple for Baal in his capital, Samaria. For the survivors of the old Canaanitish race, “he did very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites did.” Thus he conciliated all men with his liberal and inclusive policy, and affronted Jehovah with his contempt of His holy commandments.

The crowning sin of Ahab was his effort to silence godly protest and warning of judgment by Jehovah’s prophets, and his attempt to exterminate by martyrdom the witnesses for truth. The price of protest was high in those days. The little minority that refused to be broad “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; . . . they wandered in deserts, and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Such were the days of Elijah, days that try the souls of the righteous and force them to fervent prayer: Unscrupulous despots enthroned in power, the patrons of false religion; the masses subserviently acquiescent in the betrayal and abandonment of the true faith; truth spurned, trodden underfoot, and the righteous being persecuted from the face of the earth.

Elijah’s Imprecation

Jehovah will not leave Himself without witness. Abruptly, unannounced, there appears a prophet of Jehovah, Elijah the Tishbite, of the sojourners of Gilead, with the disturbing announcement to Ahab: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” And he disappears as mysteriously as he appears. There, in hiding at Chereth, “he prayed earnestly that it might not rain.”

Was it right so to pray—in a land where rain and life are synonymous—where drought means famine, starvation, death? Evidently Elijah, a righteous man, thought so, for he prayed earnestly to that end. Evidently Jehovah sanctioned it for it was answered in kind. Is it right so to pray? James, under the guidance of the Spirit, is citing this instance of Elijah’s imprecation, not only as an illustration of the prophet’s prevalence in prayer, but as an inspiration for New Testament saints so to pray. And thus the Reformed Church has taught, prayed, and sung in Psalm. We cannot deny the righteousness of such a prayer, under the New Covenant, without falling into the error of a dual morality, under the Old and the New Covenant. God’s honor may be thus vindicated, His purposes furthered. Israel’s spiritual and material interests could be thus promoted. The virulency of sin warranted such drastic measures and the obduracy of sin merited such severity.

But why did the prophet make this particular prayer for the stopping of the rain from heaven? Because it would prove to Israel that God’s hand was in this judgment, that “He sealest up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work.” Because such a judgment would be the fulfilling of the prophecies of the Law, of drought as punishment for apostasy. Because the withholding of rain would convert that which they worshiped as a symbol of Baal—the sun—-into an intolerable curse. Therefore Elijah, Jehovah’s lonely witness in his generation, “a main subject to like passions as we are,” with zeal for Jehovah’s sovereignty, with righteous indignation against wickedness, with a longing for the salvation of Israel, “prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.”

From the very day of the prophet’s prediction the drought began. As the fields began to wither, anxious eyes scanned the western sky for signs of rain. The summer passed and the harvest was shriveled and meagre. The early and the latter rain had failed. The sowing of the spring that followed sprouted only to die away for lack of moisture. The trees on the high ridges shed their seared leaves. The burned and blighted fruit of the orchards was prematurely dropped. There were no sheaves in the garner, no wine in the vat, no oil from the press. The third summer came upon a land parched and powdered. The fountains had ceased to flow. The deep wells were dry. The cisterns were empty. Gaunt famine stalked through the land taking its toll of scrawny-handed children, sunken-eyed women, and hollow-cheeked men. Overhead the sky was brazed to the incantations of the priests of Baal. Israel was perishing from off the face of their land.

And Elijah prayed on. Such is the perverseness of depraved human nature, such the hardness of the natural heart, such the obduracy of willful sinners, that they must be brought to the very gates of death before they can be turned about. God’s opportunity comes in extremity. At the moment of national ruin Jehovah’s spokesman stepped into the scene again. Out from his hiding at Chereth, out from his biding at Zerephath, came the prophet.

Elijah’s Intercession  

“And he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

“Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” was the astonished and indignant salutation of Ahab. “I have not troubled Israel; but thou and thy father’s house,” is Elijah’s resentful rejoinder. Out of the variance came a challenge to battle: “Send and gather to me all Israel unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred which eat at Jezebel’s table.” Forth rode the couriers with the royal summons. The issue was: live, or die.

Beautiful, suitable in location, was Carmel, a median ground between Jehovah’s land and Baal’s strand. Northward rose the forest-clad slopes of Lebanon. Westward lay the blue waters of the Great Sea, dotted with the purple-sailed argosies of a maritime people. Beneath the mountain and beside the sea nestled the teeming marts of Tyre and Sidon. This was Baal’s land. Eastward and southward stretched the plain of Jezreel, walled about with rolling mountains, Gilboa, Tabor, Ebal and Gerizim. On this plain, in the shadow of those mountains, the heroes of the faith had turned back the armies of the aliens, not by many but by few. This was Jehovah’s land.

From a vantage point of Carmel Elijah saw the assembling of Israel. From near and far, from mountain and plain, from village and town, o’er highway and byway, converged a motley multitude of pilgrims, gathering to the battle of the gods.

At the early hour of dawn, Elijah stands before the throng and opens the controversy. “How long ‘halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be God follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” It was an urge for decision, a call for division, on an ancient fundamental; “Jehovah thy God is a jealous God,” and, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Jehovah’s prophet was forcing an issue; he was fighting the most dangerous enemy of pure religion; half-heartedness, two-facedness, dual allegiance. “And the people answered him not a word.” Shameful silence! Some were convicted, some were abashed, some afraid, some defiant. None answered. Craven dumbness! How disgraceful is muteness when right and wrong join strife.

“Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of Jehovah; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it m pieces, and lay in on wood, and put no fire under and call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of Jehovah: and the god that answereth by fire let him be God.” The minority party stands face to face with the majority.. The odds are four hundred to one. No, four hundred to Two! Four hundred priests without God against a prophet and his God. And the ordeal is by fire. The advantage is Baal’s, for he is the fire-god, and the sun is his flame. Let not man, but Heaven decide.

Up from the purple hills of Bashan rose the auriflamme [oriflamme] of day. It filled the valleys ‘with a crimson flood, and drenched the plain of Magiddo into a prophetic Alceldama. Down bowed the votaries of Baal. Then rising up, they circled their altar with rhythmic dance. Higher and higher climbed the sun, faster and faster the priests did prance. Louder and louder rang their cries. Immovable and silent remained the skies. “Oh, Baal, hear us!” They leaped upon the altar. They cut themselves with knives. Leaping, sweating, bleeding, screaming, they fell exhausted. “There was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.” Their efforts were futile, their prayers unanswered, their heaven silent, their god was impotent! False!!

It came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice—blessed hour!—that Elijah said unto all the people, “Come near unto me.” Gracious invitation of a God of grace! And Elijah built an altar, of twelve stones in the name of Jehovah. He put the wood in order, placed the sacrifice, drenched the offering, altar, ground, with water. Then he came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.

Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”  Then the fire fell, hissing, crackling, blinding. It burned the burnt-offering, the wood, the stone, the dust, the water. Down fell the people on their faces. A mighty shout shook the mountain wall—Jehovah he is God! Jehovah he is God!! Jehovah acclaimed: sin must be judged. Red ran the brook Kishon with the blood of Baal’s priests that day.

Sin removed, the blessing comes.

While the king went up to eat and drink, the prophet went up to pray. Seven times he interceded before a cloud appeared. Faith’s ear had caught the sound of rain, now the eye of faith beholds the showers. “Haste!” said the prophet to the king, “that the rain stop thee not.” In the meanwhile the heavens were black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain—and the earth brought forth her fruit. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

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Sourced from “This Day in Presbyterian History” [excerpted from The Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, 71.6 (June 1937): 90-96, and a reprint from an earlier issue of The Presbyterian Guardian 4.3 (15 May 1937): 40-42. This article is a summary of an address delivered at the annual Day of Prayer at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1937, Not three months following the death of J. Gresham Machen.]

The Return of Prayer: Believing the Answers to Our Prayers

Taken and adapted from, “The Return of Prayers.”
Written by Thomas Goodwin, Puritan
Edited for thought and sense

images (1)It is a sign, that you think that the God you pray to, either has a heavy ear…

…or that he cannot hear; or his hand shortened, that he cannot save; or his heart straitened, and he is restrained, that he will not. And thus you rob him, and despoil him of one of his most royal titles, whereby he styles himself “a God that hears prayers,” Psalm 65:2; who is so regardful of them that, in the passage of 1 Kings,8:59, they are said to be “nigh the Lord day and night;” they are all before him, and he sets them in his view as we do letters of friends, which we place in some conspicuous place, that we may remember to answer them, or lay them out of sight, that we may be sure not to forget them.

So the petitions of God’s people pass not out of his sight till he sends an answer, which is called ” speaking” as in the text; God speaking as well in his works as in his word. But you, by your neglect herein, make an idol god of him, such as were the vanities of the heathen; as if he had “ears and heard not, eyes and saw not” your need. Such a god as Elijah mocked, ” You must speak aloud (says he), he may be in a journey.” Even such a god do you make the God of heaven and earth to be, while you put no more confidence in him, or make no more consideration of your prayers to him, than the heathen did of their sacrifices to their gods.

11540542765000980kVQVZD0kcPetitioners do not only put up their request, but they are used to waiting at great men’s doors, and inquiring, and listening as to what answer is to be given unto them, and it is part of an honour to a great men that we do so: and for the same end are we also to wait on God, as an acknowledgment of his greatness, and our distance from him, and dependence upon him; “As the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their masters, so do we (says David) on thee, till thou hast mercy on us,” Psalm 123:2.

And Psalm 130, after he had prayed, verse 2, he saith he “waited more than they that watch for the morning;” like those that, having some great business to do on the morrow, long for the daylight, and look often out to spy the day, so he for a glimmering and dawning of an answer. The same we have Psalm 5: 3, “In the morning will I direct my prayer to thee, and look,” that is, I will look for an answer.

The Return of Prayer: Observing the Answers to Our Prayers

Taken and adapted from, “The Return of Prayers.”
Written by Thomas Goodwin, Puritan
Edited for thought and sense

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images (1)“I will hear what God the LORD will speak:
for he will speak peace to his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.”

–Psalm 85:8

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God’s people are diligently to observe the answers to their prayers: And herein are the reasons of why.
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images (8)The observation is this: that when a man has put up prayers to God…

He is to rest assured, that God will in mercy answer his prayers; and he is to listen diligently, and observe how his prayers are answered. “I will hear what God will speak,” that is, how he will accomplish them; and withal, he confidently expresses an assurance, that “God will speak peace.” Thus does the church, “I will look to the Lord, I will wait; my God will hear me.” Mich. 7:7, 8.

The church is sure of gracious audience with him, “my God will hear me;” and she will wait till he answers her, and observe how he does it, “I will look to the Lord;” and verse 9, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, till he plead my cause.” So Habakkuk, having made a prayer against the tyranny of Nebuchadnezzar, in the first chapter, having ended it, he begins the second chapter thus, “I will stand upon my watch-tower, and see what he will answer me;” and in the end an answer comes, verse 2. And as he thus waited for a vision (for sometimes their prophecies were in answer to their prayers), so should we for an answer to ours.

Because otherwise you take an ordinance of God in your hearts (Prayer), which is to take God’s name (with whom in that ordinance you deal) in vain; for it is a sign you think your prayer not an effectual means to attain the end it is ordained for; and say secretly in your hearts, as they, “What profit have we, if we pray to him?” Job 21:15. For if we use any means, and expect not the end, it is a sign we think the means not adapted to accomplish that end; whereas, every faithful prayer is ordained of God to be a means to obtain what we desire and pray for, and is not put up in “vain, but shall have answer: “This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us,” 1 John, 5:14, 15.

images (1)It is true, God hears an enemy; but to hear with favour, is the hearing there meant; and thus God’s ears are said to be open to their prayers; and so it follows there, that “If he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desire of him.” As soon as we have prayed, we are said to have our petitions; that is, they are then granted, and we may be confident that they are assented unto by God, although, in regard of outward dispensation the command for accomplishment is not yet come forth; even as a petitioner is said to have his suit, when the word of the king is gone forth that it shall be done, though it passes not the seal, or be not signed until a good while after. And like as when a wicked man sins, as soon as the act is committed, so soon sentence from God goes forth against the sinner, but the execution overtakes him not (it may be) until a good while after.

So no prayer, in respect of an answer to it, is in vain; but where God has given a heart to speak, he has an ear to hear, and loves to return an answer.

The Return of Prayer

Taken and adapted from, “The Return of Prayers.”
Written by Thomas Goodwin, Puritan
Edited for thought and sense

10844269.
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“I will hear what God the LORD will speak:
for he will speak peace to his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.”

–Psalm 85:8

 

“THE CONNECTION OF THE WORDS”

This psalm was penned, in the name and for the comfort of the whole church of the Jews, both as a prophecy of -and a prayer for their return from the Babylonian captivity. It is also a prayer for the flowing in again, of that, ancient glory, peace, administration-of justice, liberty of God’s ordinance, plenty, and increase, which formerly they enjoyed but now suffered an ebb of seventy years continuance.

And first, he begins with prayer, from the first verse to this we have in hand, putting the Lord in mind of and urging him with his gracious dealings in former times unto his church: this is not the first time (says he) that the church has been in captivity, and that thou hast restored it (as out of Egypt, etc.) and therefore we hope that thou wilt do so again: “Thou hast been favorable unto thy land.”

His prayer being finished, the end having been spoken, he now stands and listens, as you do when you expect an echo, what echo he should have, what answer would be returned from heaven, whither his prayer had already come; “I will hear what the Lord will speak;” or, as some read it, “I hear what the Lord doth speak;” for sometimes there is a present echo, a speedy answer returned to a man’s heart, even before the prayer is half-finished, as unto Daniel, Dan. 9:20, 21.

And in brief, the answer to his prayer is this, “The Lord will speak peace unto his people;” this answer he finds written at the bottom of the petition, but with this clause of admonition for the time to come is added, “but let them not return again to folly;” a good use is to be made of so gracious an answer.

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Meet Thomas Goodwin, a pastor and theologian and part of your Christian heritage:  Thomas Goodwin (October 1600 –1680), known as ‘the Elder’, was an English Puritan theologian and preacher, and an important leader of religious Independents. He served as chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and was imposed by Parliament as President of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1650. Goodwin is seen to be in the ‘main stream of Puritan thought’.  He studied at Cambridge from August 1613, and was an undergraduate of Christ’s College, Cambridge, graduating with a B.A. in 1616.

In 1619 he removed to Catharine Hall, where in 1620 he was elected fellow. At this time he was influenced by John Rogers of Dedham. Goodwin rode 35 miles from Cambridge to Dedham to hear this Puritan preacher. In 1625 he was licensed a preacher of the university; and three years afterwards he became lecturer of Trinity Church, successor to John Preston, to the vicarage of which he was presented by the king in 1632. n 1643 he was chosen a member of the Westminster Assembly, and at once identified himself with the Independent party, generally referred to in contemporary documents as the “dissenting brethren” and was one of the authors of An Apologetical  Narration. He frequently preached by appointment before the Commons, and in January 1650 his talents and learning were rewarded by the House with the presidency of Magdalen College, Oxford, a post which he held until the Restoration of 1660. He was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell from 1656. He rose into high favor with the Protector, and was one of his intimate advisers, attending him on his death-bed. He was also a commissioner for the inventory of the Westminster Assembly, 1650, and for the approbation of preachers, 1653, and together with John Owen drew up an amended Westminster Confession in 1658. From 1660 until his death, he lived in London, and devoted himself exclusively to theological study and to the pastoral charge of the Fetter Lane Independent Church.

Meet John Rogers, a passionate pastor for Christ, as well as part of your Christian heritage:  John Rogers (c. 1570–1636), sometimes referred to as “Roaring” John Rogers, for his fiery preaching style, was a well-known English Puritan clergyman and preacher. His parents were John Rogers (died 1601), a shoemaker from Moulsham in Essex, and his wife, Mary (died 1579). Richard Rogers, his uncle, provided for his education at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he seems to have graduated in 1591/2. In 1592 he became vicar of Honingham, Norfolk, and in 1603 he succeeded Lawrence Fairclough, father of Samuel Fairclough, as vicar of Haverhill, Suffolk.

In 1605 he became lecturer, not vicar as some scholars believe, of Dedham, Essex, where for over thirty years he had the repute of being “one of the most awakening preachers of the age.” The vicars and lecturers are listed inside the church by the north door. On his lecture days his church overflowed. On one occasion, according to John Howe based on a report by Thomas Goodwin, Rogers rebuked the congregation for their woeful neglect of the Bible. His eloquence, some would say anointed preaching, moved many to tears and loud weeping. On market days he preached to hundreds of people from the tower by the muniment room above the north porch. This muniment room holds some early editions of his works. Cotton Mather reports a saying of Ralph Brownrig that Rogers would “do more good with his wild notes than we with our set music.” His lecture was suppressed from 1629 till 1631, on the ground of his nonconformity. His subsequent compliance was not strict. Giles Firmin, one of his converts, never saw him wear a surplice, and he only occasionally used the prayer-book, and then repeated portions of it from memory.

He died on 18 October 1636, and was buried in the churchyard at Dedham. There is a tombstone to his memory, and also a mural monument in the church on the north wall of the sanctuary. His funeral sermon was preached by John Knowles. His engraved portrait exhibits a worn face, and depicts him in nightcap, ruff, and full beard.

Character excerpts from Wikipedia

 

The Faith and Strength of Prayer…

Taken from, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, The Return of Prayers, p. 400
Written by Thomas Goodwin
Edited for thought and sense.

imagesRejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice… The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.         

                                                                                                        –Philippians 4:4-7, ESV

Men are mistaken in judging of the weakness of their prayers…

…They judge of the weakness of their prayers by their expressions, and gifts in performing them, or by the stirring and overflow of affections; whereas the strength and vigor of prayer should be estimated from the faith, the sincerity, the obedience, the desires expressed in it. As it is not the loudness of a preacher’s voice, but the weight and holiness of the matter, and spirit of the preacher, that move a wise and an intelligent hearer; so not gifts, but graces in prayers are they that move the Lord. The strength of prayer lies not in words, but in that which it is fitted to prevail with God. One prayer is not more strong than another, except in how it is so framed, it hath power with God more or less; as of Jacob it is said, ‘He had power with God,’ Hosea 12. 

Now prayers move God, not as an orator moves his hearers, but as a child moves his father.

Two words of a child humbled, and crying at his father’s feet, will prevail more than penned orations, Rom. 8: it is the meaning of the spirit that God looks unto, more than the expression; for the groans there are said to be unutterable. Hezekiah’s expressions were so rude and broken, that he says, Isa. 38:14, that he did but ‘chatter,’he being then sick, even as a crane;’ yet God heard them.