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Bible Commentary Index
Necessity of Prayer Index
II. PRAYER AND FAITH (Continued)
"The guests at a certain hotel were
being rendered uncomfortable by repeated strumming on a piano, done by a
little girl who possessed no knowledge of music. They complained to the
proprietor with a view to having the annoyance stopped. 'I am sorry you are
annoyed,' he said. 'But the girl is the child of one of my very best guests.
I can scarcely ask her not to touch the piano. But her father, who is away
for a day or so, will return tomorrow. You can then approach him, and have
the matter set right.' When the father returned, he found his daughter in
the reception-room and, as usual, thumping on the piano. He walked up behind
the child and, putting his arms over her shoulders, took her hands in his,
and produced some most beautiful music. Thus it may be with us, and thus it
will be, some coming day. Just now, we can produce little but clamour and
disharmony; but, one day, the Lord Jesus will take hold of our hands of
faith and prayer, and use them to bring forth the music of the skies." --
GENUINE, authentic faith must be definite and free of
doubt. Not simply general in character; not a mere belief in the being,
goodness and power of God, but a faith which believes that the things which
"he saith, shall come to pass." As the faith is specific, so the answer
likewise will be definite: "He shall have whatsoever he saith." Faith and
prayer select the things, and God commits Himself to do the very things
which faith and persevering prayer nominate, and petition Him to accomplish.
The American Revised Version renders the twenty-fourth
verse of the eleventh chapter of Mark, thus: "Therefore I say unto you, All
things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye receive them, and ye
shall have them." Perfect faith has always in its keeping what perfect
prayer asks for. How large and unqualified is the area of operation -- the
"All things whatsoever!" How definite and specific the promise -- "Ye shall
Our chief concern is with our faith, -- the problems of its
growth, and the activities of its vigorous maturity. A faith which grasps
and holds in its keeping the very things it asks for, without wavering,
doubt or fear -- that is the faith we need -- faith, such as is a pearl of
great price, in the process and practise of prayer.
The statement of our Lord about faith and prayer quoted
above is of supreme importance. Faith must be definite, specific; an
unqualified, unmistakable request for the things asked for. It is not to be
a vague, indefinite, shadowy thing; it must be something more than an
abstract belief in God's willingness and ability to do for us. It is to be a
definite, specific, asking for, and expecting the things for which we ask.
Note the reading of
"And shall not doubt in his heart,
but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he
shall have whatever he saith."
Just so far as the faith and the asking is definite, so
also will the answer be. The giving is not to be something other than the
things prayed for, but the actual things sought and named. "He shall have
whatsoever he saith." It is all imperative, "He shall have." The granting is
to be unlimited, both in quality and in quantity.
Faith and prayer select the subjects for petition, thereby
determining what God is to do. "He shall have whatsoever he saith." Christ
holds Himself ready to supply exactly, and fully, all the demands of faith
and prayer. If the order on God be made clear, specific and definite, God
will fill it, exactly in accordance with the presented terms.
Faith is not an abstract belief in the Word of God, nor a
mere mental credence, nor a simple assent of the understanding and will; nor
is it a passive acceptance of facts, however sacred or thorough. Faith is an
operation of God, a Divine illumination, a holy energy implanted by the Word
of God and the Spirit in the human soul -- a spiritual, Divine principle
which takes of the Supernatural and makes it a thing apprehendable by the
faculties of time and sense.
Faith deals with God, and is conscious of God. It deals
with the Lord Jesus Christ and sees in Him a Saviour; it deals with God's
Word, and lays hold of the truth; it deals with the Spirit of God, and is
energized and inspired by its holy fire. God is the great objective of
faith; for faith rests its whole weight on His Word. Faith is not an aimless
act of the soul, but a looking to God and a resting upon His promises. Just
as love and hope have always an objective so, also, has faith. Faith is not
believing just anything; it is believing God, resting in Him,
trusting His Word.
Faith gives birth to prayer, and grows stronger, strikes
deeper, rises higher, in the struggles and wrestlings of mighty petitioning.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the assurance and realization of
the inheritance of the saints. Faith, too, is humble and persevering. It can
wait and pray; it can stay on its knees, or lie in the dust. It is the one
great condition of prayer; the lack of it lies at the root of all poor
praying, feeble praying, little praying, unanswered praying.
The nature and meaning of faith is more demonstrable in
what it does, than it is by reason of any definition given it. Thus, if we
turn to the record of faith given us in that great honour roll, which
constitutes the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, we see something of the
wonderful results of faith. What a glorious list it is -- that of these men
and women of faith! What marvellous achievements are there recorded, and set
to the credit of faith! The inspired writer, exhausting his resources in
cataloguing the Old Testament saints, who were such notable examples of
wonderful faith, finally exclaims:
"And what shall I more say? For the
time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak, and of Samson, and of
Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets."
And then the writer of Hebrews goes on again, in a
wonderful strain, telling of the unrecorded exploits wrought through the
faith of the men of old, "of whom the world was not worthy." "All these," he
says, "obtained a good report through faith."
What an era of glorious achievements would dawn for the
Church and the world, if only there could be reproduced a race of saints of
like mighty faith, of like wonderful praying! It is not the intellectually
great that the Church needs; nor is it men of wealth that the times demand.
It is not people of great social influence that this day requires. Above
everybody and everything else, it is men of faith, men of mighty prayer, men
and women after the fashion of the saints and heroes enumerated in
Hebrews, who "obtained a good report through faith," that the Church and
the whole wide world of humanity needs.
Many men, of this day, obtain a good report because of
their money-giving, their great mental gifts and talents, but few there be
who obtain a "good report" because of their great faith in God, or because
of the wonderful things which are being wrought through their great praying.
Today, as much as at any time, we need men of great faith and men who are
great in prayer. These are the two cardinal virtues which make men great in
the eyes of God, the two things which create conditions of real spiritual
success in the life and work of the Church. It is our chief concern to see
that we maintain a faith of such quality and texture, as counts before God;
which grasps, and holds in its keeping, the things for which it asks,
without doubt and without fear.
Doubt and fear are the twin foes of faith. Sometimes, they
actually usurp the place of faith, and although we pray, it is a restless,
disquieted prayer that we offer, uneasy and often complaining. Peter failed
to walk on Gennesaret because he permitted the waves to break over him and
swamp the power of his faith. Taking his eyes from the Lord and regarding
the water all about him, he began to sink and had to cry for succour --
"Lord, save, or I perish!"
Doubts should never be cherished, nor fears harboured. Let
none cherish the delusion that he is a martyr to fear and doubt. It is no
credit to any man's mental capacity to cherish doubt of God, and no comfort
can possibly derive from such a thought. Our eyes should be taken off self,
removed from our own weakness and allowed to rest implicitly upon God's
strength. "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great
recompence of reward." A simple, confiding faith, living day by day, and
casting its burden on the Lord, each hour of the day, will dissipate fear,
drive away misgiving and deliver from doubt:
"Be careful for nothing, but in
everything, by supplication and prayer, with thanksgiving, let your requests
be made known unto God."
That is the Divine cure for all fear, anxiety, and undue
concern of soul, all of which are closely akin to doubt and unbelief. This
is the Divine prescription for securing the peace which passeth all
understanding, and keeps the heart and mind in quietness and peace.
All of us need to mark well and heed the caution given in
Hebrews: "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil
heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God."
We need, also, to guard against unbelief as we would
against an enemy. Faith needs to be cultivated. We need to keep on praying,
"Lord, increase our faith," for faith is susceptible of increase. Paul's
tribute to the Thessalonians was, that their faith grew exceedingly. Faith
is increased by exercise, by being put into use. It is nourished by sore
"That the trial of your faith, being
much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with
fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glow at the appearing of
Faith grows by reading and meditating upon the Word of
God. Most, and best of all, faith thrives in an atmosphere of prayer.
It would be well, if all of us were to stop, and inquire
personally of ourselves: "Have I faith in God? Have I real faith, --
faith which keeps me in perfect peace, about the things of earth and the
things of heaven?" This is the most important question a man can propound
and expect to be answered. And there is another question, closely akin to it
in significance and importance -- "Do I really pray to God so that He hears
me and answers my prayers? And do I truly pray unto God so that I get direct
from God the things I ask of Him?"
It was claimed for Augustus Caesar that he found Rome a
city of wood, and left it a city of marble. The pastor who succeeds in
changing his people from a prayerless to a prayerful people, has done a
greater work than did Augustus in changing a city from wood to marble. And
after all, this is the prime work of the preacher. Primarily, he is dealing
with prayerless people -- with people of whom it is said, "God is not in all
their thoughts." Such people he meets everywhere, and all the time. His main
business is to turn them from being forgetful of God, from being devoid of
faith, from being prayerless, so that they become people who habitually
pray, who believe in God, remember Him and do His will. The preacher is not
sent to merely induce men to join the Church, nor merely to get them to do
better. It is to get them to pray, to trust God, and to keep God ever before
their eyes, that they may not sin against Him.
The work of the ministry is to change unbelieving sinners
into praying and believing saints. The call goes forth by Divine authority,
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." We catch a
glimpse of the tremendous importance of faith and of the great value God has
set upon it, when we remember that He has made it the one indispensable
condition of being saved. "By grace are ye saved, through faith." Thus, when
we contemplate the great importance of prayer, we find faith standing
immediately by its side. By faith are we saved, and by faith we stay
saved. Prayer introduces us to a life of faith. Paul declared that the life
he lived, he lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved him and gave
Himself for him -- that he walked by faith and not by sight.
Prayer is absolutely dependent upon faith. Virtually, it
has no existence apart from it, and accomplishes nothing unless it be its
inseparable companion. Faith makes prayer effectual, and in a certain
important sense, must precede it.
"For he that cometh to God must
believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek
Before prayer ever starts toward God; before its petition
is preferred, before its requests are made known -- faith must have gone on
ahead; must have asserted its belief in the existence of God; must have
given its assent to the gracious truth that "God is a rewarder of those that
diligently seek His face." This is the primary step in praying. In this
regard, while faith does not bring the blessing, yet it puts prayer in a
position to ask for it, and leads to another step toward realization, by
aiding the petitioner to believe that God is able and willing to bless.
Faith starts prayer to work -- clears the way to the
mercy-seat. It gives assurance, first of all, that there is a mercy-seat,
and that there the High Priest awaits the pray-ers and the prayers. Faith
opens the way for prayer to approach God. But it does more. It accompanies
prayer at every step she takes. It is her inseparable companion and when
requests are made unto God, it is faith which turns the asking into
obtaining. And faith follows prayer, since the spiritual life into which a
believer is led by prayer, is a life of faith. The one prominent
characteristic of the experience into which believers are brought through
prayer, is not a life of works, but of faith.
Faith makes prayer strong, and gives it patience to wait
on God. Faith believes that God is a rewarder. No truth is more clearly
revealed in the Scriptures than this, while none is more encouraging. Even
the closet has its promised reward, "He that seeth in secret, shall reward
thee openly," while the most insignificant service rendered to a disciple in
the name of the Lord, surely receives its reward. And to this precious truth
faith gives its hearty assent.
Yet faith is narrowed down to one particular thing -- it
does not believe that God will reward everybody, nor that He is a rewarder
of all who pray, but that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek
Him. Faith rests its care on diligence in prayer, and gives assurance
and encouragement to diligent seekers after God, for it is they, alone, who
are richly rewarded when they pray.
We need constantly to be reminded that faith is the one
inseparable condition of successful praying. There are other considerations
entering into the exercise, but faith is the final, the one indispensable
condition of true praying. As it is written in a familiar, primary
declaration: "Without faith, it is impossible to please Him."
James puts this truth very plainly.
"If any of you lack wisdom," he
says, "let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth
not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.
For he that wavereth (or doubteth) is like a wave of the sea, driven with
the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any
thing of the Lord."
Doubting is always put under the ban, because it stands as
a foe to faith and hinders effectual praying. In the First Epistle to
Timothy Paul gives us an invaluable truth relative to the conditions of
successful praying, which he thus lays down: "I will therefore that men pray
everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting."
All questioning must be watched against and eschewed. Fear
and peradventure have no place in true praying. Faith must assert itself and
bid these foes to prayer depart.
Too much authority cannot be attributed to faith; but
prayer is the sceptre by which it signalizes its power. How much of
spiritual wisdom there is in the following advice written by an eminent old
"Would you be freed from the bondage
to corruption?" he asks. "Would you grow in grace in general and grow in
grace in particular? If you would, your way is plain. Ask of God more faith.
Beg of Him morning, and noon and night, while you walk by the way, while you
sit in the house, when you lie down and when you rise up; beg of Him simply
to impress Divine things more deeply on your heart, to give you more and
more of the substance of things hoped for and of the evidence of things not
Great incentives to pray are furnished in Holy Scriptures,
and our Lord closes His teaching about prayer, with the assurance and
promise of heaven. The presence of Jesus Christ in heaven, the preparation
for His saints which He is making there, and the assurance that He will come
again to receive them -- how all this helps the weariness of praying,
strengthens its conflicts, sweetens its arduous toil! These things are the
star of hope to prayer, the wiping away of its tears, the putting of the
odour of heaven into the bitterness of its cry. The spirit of a pilgrim
greatly facilitates praying. An earth-bound, earth-satisfied spirit cannot
pray. In such a heart, the flame of spiritual desire is either gone out or
smouldering in faintest glow. The wings of its faith are clipped, its eyes
are filmed, its tongue silenced. But they, who in unswerving faith and
unceasing prayer, wait continually upon the Lord, do renew their
strength, do mount up with wings as eagles, do run, and are
not weary, do walk, and not faint.
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Bible Commentary Index
Necessity of Prayer Index