William Nicholson, 1862
"He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him. He shall see His face with joy, for He restores to man His righteousness." Job 33:26
Prayer is an important duty, and absolutely necessary. There can be no saving religion without prayer. It distinguishes a Christian from the time of his spiritual birth, when angels say, "Behold, he prays," to the time of his dissolution, when he himself prays, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" Prayer is the Christian's spiritual breath. Without it, he cannot live in peace; without it, he cannot die in triumph.
Prayer Is the Christian's vital breath,
The Christian's native air.
His watchword at the gate of death;
He enters Heaven by prayer.
1. The Nature of Prayer.
Prayer is the presentation of our needs to God, and fervent petitions for his gracious regard, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. Prayer is necessary. It will appear so, if we consider man as a convinced sinner — and as a Christian pilgrim journeying to Heaven.
(1.) As a convinced sinner. Conviction of sin is alarming; it begets inquiry; it leads to prayer. Luke 18:13; Acts 2:37; 16:27, etc. God employs various means to convince of sin. The word — the Spirit — providential visitations, etc. In the context we read that God sometimes rouses to sensibility by visions of the night, verse 14, 15; also by personal affliction, verse 19. Then the sinner feels himself burdened with sin, guilt, and condemnation, and is anxious for pardon, etc.
(2.) As a Christian pilgrim journeying to Heaven. He is exposed to enemies, and subjected to trials. He has arduous duties to perform, and to maintain Christian consistency of character. He is journeying to Heaven, but is opposed, discouraged, etc. He is ignorant, weak, etc.
2. Prayer must be penitential. See Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15. Holy grief is one of the constant residents found in a believer's heart. Sin and its awful effects are sufficient to make anyone mourn.
3. Prayer must be humble and sincere. Humility flows from penitence, Job 42:2, 5, 6; 40:4. Witness the humility of the Publican and the Prodigal.
In approaching God the believer is humbled when he compares . . .
his nothingness with God's immensity;
his baseness with God's glory;
his folly with Gods wisdom; and
his deformity with God's purity!
Hence the true penitent is sincere. His prayer is the prayer of the heart. See 1 Samuel 1:13. The prayers of the formalist and the wicked are heartless prayers, the heart has no place in them, and they have no place in the heart. The prayers of the righteous are 'heart prayers' — they are first put into the heart by God, and they rise from the heart to God.
4. Prayer must be believing. Matthew 21:22; John 14:13, 14. There must be faith in God's love, in God's power, in God's promises, in God's willingness, and in God's veracity.
Faith may be considered the wings by which prayer alone can ascend to Heaven. Without these wings, prayer can never ascend higher than the lips. These wings are swifter than the eagle's. As soon as prayers are thus furnished, they mount to Heaven, enter the court of the great King, and return laden with celestial treasure.
In prayer, faith rests on the mediation of Christ.
5. Prayer must be fervent and importunate. James 5:16. It is not the energy and warmth of the flesh — but the inwrought prayer, expressed in simple desires, regulated by the love of God.
Fervent prayer engrosses the affections, the will, and the desires. Without fervor, prayers are specimens of spiritual death; they are like bodies without life. To pray is to groan, to sigh, to cry, to wrestle, and to give God no rest until he bless us.
The magnitude of the blessings required call for fervency.
II. Prayer Will Insure the Divine Regard.
1. Prayer shall be answered. "He will delight in him." God is the hearer and answerer of prayer. "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers."
He knows all the extent of our misery.
He has a tender sympathy in our welfare.
He has boundless resources to supply our need.
And infinite wisdom in distributing his favors.
That he answers prayer is:
(1.) Proved from the testimony of his own word. Matthew 7:7, etc.
(2.) It is attested by the experience of his people. The Scriptures abound with examples.
By prayer Jacob prevailed against Esau.
By prayer Moses averted plagues from Egypt, saved Israel from Divine judgments, and obtained for them the continuance of Divine mercy.
When Israel was oppressed by the Philistines, Samuel prayed, and those invaders were dispersed.
Elijah prayed and was answered. James 5:17.
Hezekiah, near to death, prayed, and fifteen years were added to his life.
Sennacherib invaded his kingdom, he prayed, and in one night, an angel from the Lord destroyed 185,000 of that mighty army.
Daniel and his companions, threatened with destruction, because none could interpret the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, prayed, and the dream and the explanation were discovered to him.
Jonah, amid the swelling of the sea, prayed, and was delivered.
On the day of Pentecost, the apostles prayed, and the place where they met was shaken, etc. Acts 1:14; 2:1, etc.
Peter was imprisoned by Herod, prayer opened the gntes of the prison.
Paul and Silas were imprisoned at Philippi, shut in the inner prison, and fast in the stocks. They prayed, and an earthquake shook the prison to its foundations, and all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosened.
2. In the context, the great blessings of salvation are promised — they may be obtained by believing prayer. Do you ask for redemption? See verse 24. Do you ask for a renewal of heart and life? See verse 25, meaning, He shall be born a new creature, and become an adopted child.
He shall be reconciled to God, and this shall give him peace and joy: "He shall see his face with joy," or exultation, Romans 5:1, 2, etc. That face, a sinner unpardoned cannot look upon; there is a frown upon it — but now it wears a smile.
He shall be made righteous. "He will restore unto man His righteousness."
Righteous in state before God — freely justified from all condemnation by faith in the finished work of the Savior, and accounted innocent before God, and treated by him as such.
Inherently righteous, being born again, etc.
Practically righteous, having his fruit unto holiness, etc.
1. Prayer is the mark of all real Christians. They pray. They "see his face, and are made righteous."
2. We perceive one great source of spiritual bliss. It is prayer. "It is good for me to draw near to God." Luther spent three hours every day in prayer; he said that prayer was the best book in his study.
The throne of grace is . . .
our dispensary, where every healing medicine is prepared,
our treasury, where all our riches and resources are found.
Hence, Christians, you are never so happy as when you unburden your soul to God, and throw all your heart into all you utter. You understand at once what Melancthon meant when he said of Luther, "I have overheard him in secret prayer, and he spoke as if God had been in the closet with him." O pray for this devotional spirit!
3. Behold the condescension of God in allowing sinners to address him!
How honorable is such an exercise!
Well might Chrysostom say, "A monarch vested in gorgeous habiliments is far less illustrious than a kneeling suppliant ennobled and adorned by communion with God. Consider how august a privilege it is when angels are present, when Cherubim and Seraphim encircle with their blaze the throne, that a mortal may approach with unrestrained confidence and converse with Heaven's dread Sovereign. Oh! what honor was ever conferred like this? When a Christian stretches forth his hand to pray and invokes his God — in that moment he leaves behind him all terrestrial pursuits, and traverses on the wings of intellect the realms of light; he contemplates celestial objects only, and knows not of the present state of things during the period of his prayer, if that prayer be breathed with fervency.
4. Prayerless sinners, if you pray not, you are lost, and will be lost forever!