Continue in Prayer
James Smith, 1856
"Continue in prayer!" Colossians 4:2
The Christian prays as naturally as he breathes; for prayer is the breath of the regenerated soul. Prayer is the effect of divine teaching, and the proof of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart. If forbidden to pray — the Christian would be wretched; if not assisted in prayer — he is downcast and feeble.
The Christian must pray — and yet he often feels it difficult to pray. He is tempted to omit it, to hurry it over, and to undervalue it. Satan hates prayer, and tries in every possible way to discourage us in it. But the sinner must pray — or perish; and the believer must pray — or be wretched. But we do not pray as we ought — with faith, fervor, and importunity; nor so much as we ought! For from press of business, carnality of mind, and the discouragements we meet with — we too often neglect to pray.
Hence the apostle exhorts, "Continue in prayer," not only
begin to pray — but continue praying. Keep on, let nothing
silence you; but persevere in prayer. These words are especially
applicable to three classes.
First, Discouraged Laborers.
Friend, are you at work for God? Do you preach Christ's gospel — or teach young children, and try to lead them to Jesus — or distribute Bibles and gospel tracts — or speak, in your poor way, as opportunity offers — in hope that God will bless a word from you? And are you discouraged, because no fruit appears, or because you see very little good result from your labors? You began in prayer — did you not? Your object has been the honor of your dear Savior, and the good of immortal souls — has it not? Then yield not to discouragement; but "continue in prayer."
You may have a late spring — but there will be a
good harvest. You cannot labor for God in vain. Every suggestion that
you may, comes from Satan — and you are to resist him. Pray — that you may
pray more. That is, in prayer — seek the grace of prayer, and God
will hear, the clouds will gather, the rain will fall, the seed will grow,
and a glorious harvest will reward your toil. Therefore, my poor discouraged
brother, my poor disheartened sister. Up and at it anew. "Continue in
prayer" and God will never disappoint you.
Secondly, Tried Believers.Some Christians are very much tried. One trial seems to tread on the heels of another, like the messengers of Job. Nay, they seem at times to come in pairs, or two or three abreast. Tried in the soul, tried in the family, tried in the world, and, perhaps, tried in the church too. This is grievous. Prayer has ascended to Heaven. It has been repeated again and again. But no answer has been sent. The trial continues. Strength seems to fail. Hope reels to and fro. Faith staggers. The tried one is tempted to give up.
But no, no, my poor tried friend, never for one moment entertain the thought of giving up; but "continue in prayer." God has promised to hear, answer, and deliver you — only he has not told you when. Do you not remember that he did not come to his disciples on the lake, until the fourth watch of the night? You are in a hurry; but God sees no need to hurry. You are not out of his thoughts. He has registered your prayer, and if you could see his book — you would read the register, and perhaps, see written in the margin, "To be answered when faith has been well tried, patience has been sufficiently exercised, and sincerity thoroughly proved." Or, "To be answered just as the sun goes down today." Yield not, then, to temptation, slacken not your hand — but wrestle as Jacob did, all night, unto the breaking of the day.
"The promise may be long delayed,
But it never comes too late!"
Thirdly, The Persecuted Christian.Persecution is not what it was once — but many are persecuted still.
Many, many an honest laborer is persecuted by his cruel
many a poor tradesman is persecuted by his rich neighbor;
many a godly servant is persecuted by her proud and imperious mistress;
many a consistent wife is persecuted by her ignorant and carnal husband;
many a Christian child is persecuted by its foolish and worldly parents;
many a Christian subject is persecuted by Popish magistrates, under unjust laws.
My poor persecuted brother, you find it hard work to
suffer for Christ at times; however willing the spirit may be — the flesh is
weak. Satan strangely harasses you, misrepresents your God, and perplexes
your soul. But hold on; if you suffer with Jesus now — you shall
reign with him by and bye. If you suffer for Christ, happy are you; for
the spirit of glory and of God will rest upon you. "Continue in prayer," and
more grace will be given you. Grace that will enable you to glory in your
tribulations. Grace that will enable you to take joyfully the confiscation
of your goods. Grace that will make you more than a conqueror. And
deliverance will come in the rear of grace. He who supports you now,
will emancipate you soon — sooner, perhaps, than you anticipate. "Continue
in prayer!" Prayer will . . .
soothe your troubled spirit,
relieve your burdened mind,
bring you to the presence of God,
fortify you against temptation, and
strengthen you with strength in your soul.
There are manyREASONS why we should continue in prayer — take three.
First, because God requires it. He tells you, by the lips of Jesus, that you "ought always to pray — and not to faint." He directs you, by Paul, "to pray without ceasing." It is a surprising fact — but it is a fact, that God loves to hear us pray. He never wearies of hearing us. Poor though our prayers are, broken and unconnected though they are, so imperfect that we feel utterly ashamed of them — yet the Lord loves to hear us. And, perhaps, one reason why he does not answer sooner is, because he loves to hear us pray so much.
Secondly, then, because God approves of it. If he permitted us to continue praying, for our own relief merely — it would be a mercy. But he requires it of us as a duty, and approves of it as an act of obedience. He loves for his child to speak with him, treat him with confidence, and expect blessings from him! And therefore He says, "Continue praying — and as soon as it will be good for you, and honorable to Me — I will surely answer your prayers!"
Thirdly, because He rewards it. Those who pray
most — get most. Not because there is any merit in prayer — but
because it is the Lord's plan; he wills it to be so, it pleases him that it
should be so. Hence Jesus said, "When you pray, go into your room, close the
door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what
is done in secret, will reward you!"
Let us "continue in prayer," then, when all is dark
and dreary. Our Father can hear us then, and we can speak to him,
and plead with him, without a light. Dark hours . . .
make the promises shine,
endear the throne of grace, and
enhance the value of our privileges.
"By night," says the spouse, "on my bed I sought Him." Let us, also, seek him, cry to him, call upon him, plead with him, and give him no rest — until he arises and has mercy upon us.
Let us "continue in prayer," when all is discouraging. If, like Jacob, we think that all things are against us; or even conclude with Jeremiah, "Surely God has turned against me! He turns his hand against me all the day!" — still let us pray on. If we restrain prayer — we shall be the losers. If we persevere in prayer — we must prevail. He said, "Seek — and you shall find; knock — and it shall be opened unto you."
Let us "continue in prayer," though all seems disheartening. It was disheartening to the disciples to toil all night, and catch nothing; nevertheless at their Master's bidding, they again let down the net. So, however disheartened we may be with long waiting, though hope deferred may have made the heart sick — yet "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up!" Let us, then, pray always — and not faint.
As dark as the night may be,
as discouraging as our circumstances may be,
as disheartened as we may have been —
let us rouse up, start afresh, and say, "Let Satan say as he will, let unbelief work as it may, let my heart deceive me ever so much, let never so many circumstances rise to discourage me — yet will I continue in prayer, trust in the Lord, and stay myself upon my God!"
Let us "continue in prayer" though no answer is given. The poor Syrophenician woman cried to Jesus; but, "he answered her not a word." She fell at his feet, and pleaded, as only a mother could plead; but he repulsed her. She continued in prayer until he exclaimed, "Oh, woman, great is your faith — be it unto you even as you will!" Precious instance this of the power of prayer, of the importance of persevering in prayer. Keep at it then, though day after day you wait and no answer comes; or if, after waiting long, a rough answer is given you.
There was nothing but love in Joseph's heart when he answered his brethren roughly; so there is nothing but love in the heart of God, when you have to say, "By terrible things in righteousness have you answered us, O God of our salvation!"
"Continue in prayer," though your enemies prevail against you. It may be no proof of God's displeasure, though they do. The enemies of Joseph prevailed against him: the enemies of Daniel prevailed against him; and the enemies of Paul prevailed against him — but were these instances any proof of God's displeasure? No, not any, and as it was said of Gad, so it proved true of them: "Gad, a troop shall overcome him; but he shall overcome at the last."
The triumphing of your wicked enemies is but short; for God will beat down your foes before your face, and will plague those who hate you in the end.
"Continue in prayer," though God seems set against you. He may cover himself with a cloud — as though he was determined that your prayer should not pass through. He may hold back the face of his throne, and hang a cloud upon it. But, as Jacob, when the angel would leave him without the blessing, refused and prevailed; as the disciples at Emmaus, when Jesus made as if he would go further, constrained him, and conquered — so must you. He may delay to answer prayer — but he will never deny the prayer of His child. He may try your faith now; but he will honor it in the end. If he frowns — still plead; if he is silent — cry the more; and if his chariot is driven on — run behind it, and refuse to be beaten from it. This must prevail.
If any one of God's family needs this exhortation to
"continue in prayer" — I am the man!
Naturally backward to plead with God;
often discouraged by circumstances without,
and doubts, and fears, and unbelief within;
harassed by Satan, and prone to believe his lies
— how often have I restrained prayer before God!
If any one of God's family need prayer — I am the man!
Look where you will, you will see causes to "continue in prayer." In the world — how many! In the church — how many! In the heart — how many!
Oh, Spirit of God, as the Spirit of prayer — rest upon my soul, fill my heart, and daily draw me to the throne of grace! Help my infirmities, furnish me with arguments, fire me with zeal, impart faith, infuse power, and enable me to "continue in prayer, and to watch in the same with thanksgiving!"
Prayer was appointed to convey
The blessings God designs to give,
Long as they live should Christians pray,
For only while they pray, they live.
The Christian's heart this prayer indites,
He speaks as prompted from within;
The Spirit his petition writes.
And Christ receives and gives it in.
And will you still in silence lie,
When Christ stands waiting for your prayer?
My soul, you have a friend on high,
Arise, and try your interest there!
If pain afflict, or wrongs oppress,
If cares distract, or fears dismay;
If guilt dejects, if sin distress;
The remedy's before you--pray.
'Tis prayer supports the soul that's weak,
Though thought be broken, language lame;
Pray, if you can or cannot speak;
But pray with faith in Jesus' name.
Depend on him, you can not fail,
Make all your wants and wishes known,
Fear not, his merit must prevail;
Ask what you will, it shall be done!