"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16

"In the day when I cried, You answered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul."—Psalm 138:3

What a mystery of power there is in fervent, believing prayer! That the cry of a feeble mortal should enter into the ears of the Lord God Almighty—that the infinite God should be moved by the entreaties of sinful man—the armies of heaven, perhaps, set in motion—the wheels of providence seemingly made to alter their course—the uplifted sword of judgment stayed in its descent—the powers of evil held back and restrained—and all because some poor suppliant bends the knee before the throne of grace, and pours forth in the extremity of his feebleness and necessity an urgent supplication and prayer to God!

It is not for us to unfold the laws of the spiritual world, or to demonstrate why and how it is, that the communications of heavenly influence and favor are in any degree suspended on the frequency and fervency of our supplications. But by the infallible testimony of heaven, we are authorized to affirm that; though inexplicable by our feeble understandings, there is a mighty efficacy in the prayer of faith, and that, as in the days of patriarchs, prophets, and righteous men, who, as princes, had power with God, so, through all ages, prayer must continue to avail as much, and be still, as ever, one of the sure and sufficient means of transmitting to the faithful the blessings of the Savior's purchase. "The Lord is ever near unto those who are of a broken heart, and saves such as be of a contrite spirit." "In the day when they cry He will answer, and strengthen them with strength in their soul." "He shall deliver the needy when he cries; the poor also, and him that has no helper," for this is God's promise, "He shall call upon me, and I will answer him—I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him."

And, could we read the pages of the past, we would find that that promise has never yet failed—has never once been violated. We would find that prayer—earnest and importunate prayer—has accomplished the most wonderful results. It has divided seas—rolled up flowing rivers, and brought streams of water from the flinty rock. It has quenched the flames of fire—restrained the fury of lions—and healed the poisonous bite of serpents. It has marshaled the stars of heaven against the ungodly—arrested the progress of advancing day—burst open the gates of iron—summoned the dead from their tombs—conquered the legions of darkness, and brought angels from their starry thrones. It has bridled and chained the raging passions of men—routed and destroyed vast armies of the proud and rebellious. It has delivered one man from the depths of the mighty sea, and carried another in a chariot of fire to the mansions of glory.

Christian! go to the Word of God, and there learn the power and efficacy of prayer. Jacob wrestles and prays—the angel of the Lord is conquered, and the patriarch obtains his request. Moses cries to God—the waters of the sea are divided. Again he supplicates—and Amalek is defeated. Joshua prays—Achan is discovered. Hannah prays—Samuel is born. David prays—he is rescued from a thousand perils. The wilderness, and the rocks, and the outcasts' cave, as well as the kingly throne of Jerusalem, were witnesses that David was a man of prayer. But pass on to other names. Asa prays—a victory is gained. Jehoshaphat prays—God turns aside the fury of his adversaries. Isaiah and Hezekiah pray—a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians are that very night destroyed by the angel of the Lord. Daniel prays—the dream is revealed. He prays—the lions are restrained. He prays—the "seventy weeks" are revealed. Nehemiah prays—the king's heart is in a moment softened. Elijah prays—for three years the windows of heaven are shut up. He prays—rain descends once more upon the earth. Elisha prays—Jordan is divided, he prays—a child's life is restored. The Church prays ardently—Peter is delivered by an angel. Paul and Silas pray and sing praises unto God—the prison doors are opened and every man's chains are loosed.

And these are but a few of the countless instances in which prayer has prevailed with God. From age to age there have assembled around His footstool, multitudes of poor and needy, and wretched, and guilty suppliants; and streams of mercy have been welling forth from the fountain of grace—to refresh—to strengthen—to invigorate, and to purify. The orphan's cry has passed the distance between humanity and Deity, and God has promised to be his Father. The widow's prayer—albeit it was unintelligible with bitter sobs—has been understood by God, and He has comforted her when on her knees with the gracious assurance—"I will be a husband to the widow." The despairing cry of the downtrodden and oppressed has—like the swift arrow that cleaves the air—borne upon its wing, the burden of complaint, and suffering, and wrong—and the cruel oppressor has been crushed by an unseen but almighty power.

Yes, the weak have been strengthened—the downcast encouraged—the helpless relieved—the sorrowful comforted—the poor enriched—and often has answered prayer laid out a feast of plenty in the evening, when the morning's light broke only on poverty and need.

And better still, the prayer of faith has drawn down the warming beams of the Sun of righteousness—the refreshing showers of the Spirit of grace, beneath whose genial influences all the spiritual graces which God's own hand had planted, expanded in their fullest bloom, and diffused all around the sweetest fragrance. Prayer, with outstretched arms, has brought from the inexhaustible reservoir above, those rich supplies of the oil of divine grace, fed by which, the Christian lamp of faith has burned with a steady and increasing brightness, until, having guided the believer through the journey of life—cheered by its gladdening ray the gloom of the chamber of death—and even darted a bright gleam of heavenly light, deep down into the dark valley through which he had to pass to the city of his God—it was there absorbed in the blaze of light that burned around the celestial throne.

Christian! you have all the encouragement you could possibly desire, to attract you to a throne of grace; and, amid the varied experiences of life, there is not a grief which may not be assuaged—not a danger which may not be averted—not an anxiety which may not be lessened—not a pang which may not be alleviated—not a need which may not be supplied, out of the inexhaustible fountain of grace, to which you are invited, and where you are ever welcome. "O fear the Lord, you his saints; for there is no lack to those who fear him." "He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings shall you trust; his truth shall be your shield and shield." "The Lord shall preserve you from all evil, he shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in, from this time forth, and even for evermore."

That blessed Savior through whom you are encouraged to draw near, has pledged Himself to intercede in your behalf, and to obtain an answer to your prayers. Oh, trust Him with your whole heart, for "He is faithful who has promised." The love He has already manifested and proved—yes, sealed with His precious blood, is a pledge that He will still be your friend and intercessor with the Father—that He will continue to exhibit that love, in every cross you have to bear—in every cup of sorrow you have to drink—in every treasure you are called to relinquish—in every lonely and dreary path of duty or of trial, by which you are journeying onwards to your heavenly home. He "knows your soul in adversities," and will be "your Savior in the time of trouble."

His grace is yours to strengthen and sustain you—His Spirit is yours to guide, enlighten, and comfort you—His intercession is yours to secure for you all needed blessing—His promises are yours to cling to in your saddest and darkest hours—His power is yours to defend you from injury, to secure you against defeat—His heart is yours into which you may pour all your sorrows, and feel sure of true sympathy—His home is yours to be your everlasting abode, that where He is, there you may be also. Will not this suffice?

Listen! Are you struggling against sinful desires and habits?—He has promised to make His "grace sufficient for you." Are you cast down because you feel the law in your members warring against the law in your mind?—He has assured you that "the good work which has been begun in you shall be carried on to perfection." Are You troubled and disturbed by the vicissitudes, changes, and sorrows of life?—He tells you that if you truly love Him, He will make "all things work together for your good." And the heaviest calamities—the sorest ills which may happen, shall only seem like passing clouds, casting their dark mantle over the surface of the lake, while they have no power to disturb the deep and settled tranquillity of its waters. "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."

Oh, blessed assurance! What child of God has not felt the need of his Savior's support, and his Savior's sympathy?—when the language of the soul was, "Vain is the help of man;"—amid doubts, and fears, and sorrows—amid trial, and sickness, and distress. The best that man can then do, is to stanch the wound, he cannot heal it—the best, to make the tear flow less bitterly, he cannot dry it up—the best, to speak the word of comfort, he cannot carry it home to the heart. So far as permanent good goes, who has not felt the truth which Job taught his friends?—"Miserable comforters are you all."

But oh! how different, when the soul in its extremity casts itself at the throne of grace, and the earnest, importunate supplication ascends to the Hearer and Answerer of prayer! Then does comfort flow in upon the harassed spirit—then does peace—a "peace which passes understanding," pervade the believer's heart—then does faith rise with fresh vigor, and the language of the soul is that of the psalmist—"O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." "I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live." "In the day when I cried you answered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul."

Reader! if you would know how every desire—every petition—every prayer is met by a divine promise, study your Bible carefully; and instead of brooding over your cares and troubles, your sorrows and perplexities, take them at once to the mercy-seat, and you will find comfort—relief—deliverance—hope. A few examples will suffice to show what we mean by this "searching" of the Word of God. We shall first quote the supplication—the prayer of the longing soul—and then place beside it the gracious promise and encouragement of our heavenly Father.

Prayer.—"Strengthen, O God, that which you have wrought for us."
—"He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."

Prayer.—"O satisfy us early with your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days."
—"My people shall be satisfied with my goodness, says the Lord."

Prayer.—"Strengthen you me according unto your word."
—"I will strengthen you."

Prayer.—"Help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on you."
—"The Lord shall help them and deliver them, because they trust in him."

Prayer.—"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."
—A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you."

Prayer.—"Save your people, and bless your inheritance."
—"Thus says the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will save my people."

Prayer.—"O keep my soul and deliver me."
—"I the Lord do keep it; lest any, hurt it, I will keep it night and day."

Prayer.—"Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path."
—"I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go. I will guide you with my eye."

Prayer.—"Incline your ear unto me; in the day when I call, answer me speedily."
—He shall call upon me, and I will answer him—I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him."

Prayer.—"Make me to go in the path of your commandments, for therein do I delight."
—"I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes."

Prayer.—"My eyes are unto you, O God the Lord; in you is my trust; leave not my soul destitute."
—"He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer."

Prayer.—"Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths."
—"He will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths."

Father of mercies and God of all grace, from whom comes down every good and perfect gift, we bless and praise You for all Your benefits. We thank You that You have not only provided for us all things needful to sustain us in the present life, but that You are pleased also to feed us with that spiritual food, whereby our souls may be nourished unto life eternal.

Merciful Father, who has given Your own Son to be the propitiation for our sins, grant us, for His sake, Your mercy to forgive us, and Your grace to help us according to our need. Pardon all the defects of our love to You, and all the excesses of our love to earthly things.

We confess, O God, that we have been prone to trust in the creature more than in the Creator. We have leaned upon broken reeds and hewed out empty cisterns. We have turned for help and support to an arm of flesh. We have looked for guidance to the counsels of earthly wisdom, and instead of acknowledging You in all our ways, we have often walked in the sight of our own eyes and after the imagination of our own hearts.

Pardon, O God, for the sake of Your beloved Son, whatever lack of confidence we have shown towards You; and lead us henceforth by the teaching of Your Holy Spirit to trust in You with all our hearts. Increase our faith in the promises of Your Word, and in the day when we cry unto You—answer us and strengthen us with strength in our souls. Dispose us entirely and cheerfully to cast upon You all our cares, humbly to commit to Your keeping all our concerns, and earnestly to seek the aid of Your strength and the guidance of Your wisdom in all our undertakings. Let Your Holy Spirit dwell in our hearts, to witness with our spirits that we are Your children, to sanctify us wholly, to fit us for Your service, and to prepare us for inheriting Your glorious kingdom.

Suffer us no more to live unto ourselves, according to the desires of a corrupt and sinful nature; but may He who died for us also live in us, and raise us to that better life, which is holy, blessed, and unchangeable forever. Grant, we beseech You, that, ever mindful of our high calling, we may pursue our pilgrimage on earth, with spirits looking upwards to You, as becomes those who are heirs of everlasting life.

Graciously hear us, O Father, and have mercy on us, for the sake of Your beloved Son, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

Full of weakness and of sin,
We look to You for life;
Lord, Your gracious work begin,
And calm the inward strife!

Though our hearts are prone to stray,
O be our constant Friend;
Though we know not how to pray,
Your saving mercy send!

Let Your Spirit, gracious Lord,
Our souls with love inspire,
Strength and confidence afford,
And breathe celestial fire!

Teach us first to feel our need,
Then all that need supply;
When we hunger, deign to feed,
And hear us when we cry!

When we cleave to earthly things,
Send Your reviving grace;
Raise our souls, and give them wings,
To reach Your holy place.
—William Bathurst


God of my life, to You I call,
Afflicted at Your feet I fall;
When the great water-floods prevail,
Leave not my trembling heart to fail.

Friend of the friendless and the faint,
Where should I lodge my deep complaint?
Where, but with You, whose open door
Invites the helpless and the poor?

Did ever mourner plead with Thee,
And You refuse that mourner's plea?
And still the word does fixed remain,
That none shall seek Your face in vain.

Poor though I am, despised, forgot,
Yet God, my God, forgets me not;
And he is safe, and must succeed,
For whom the Savior lives to plead.

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