"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

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6, 7

There are some of the injunctions of the Word of God regarding prayer, which the ungodly and prayerless turn into ridicule, because they know not, neither can they understand, the "things of the Spirit of God." Attaching to the words of Scripture a meaning which they do not bear, they endeavor to weaken the faith of the Christian, or to fill his mind with doubt and anxiety, by the false insinuation, that an impossible duty has been assigned—that God demands more than man is able to perform. They point to such passages as these—"Pray without ceasing"—"Continue instant in prayer"—"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit "—"In everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

Now it would be impossible to comply with such injunctions, if they meant the ceaseless utterance of words—the constant and idle expression of wishes and desires—if the Christian were required, amid the duties and the business of life, to be continually sending up petitions to God—to be ever occupied in kneeling at the throne of grace and making known his requests unto God. But, God demands no impossibilities of His children, and therefore such injunctions must have a different meaning. And the true, scriptural meaning, will not long be difficult or doubtful, to those who have, in any measure, realized the value, the blessedness, and the privilege of prayer.

The exhortation, then, of the apostle, to the Philippian Church, means, first, that prayer should be the pervading spirit of the Christian life—that it should be, as leaven, fermenting the whole substance of our moral being—a sentinel, continually keeping watch over our unguarded movements—a sanctified enclosure, fencing us round by the protection and presence of God. Like those bright and glorious orbs which revolve in the skies above us—no sounds may be uttered—but the language of the heart unceasingly ascends to the Father of spirits, and enters into the ears of the Lord God Almighty. There may be no form—no utterance of language—it may be a tear—a sigh—a wish—a hope—a desire—a groan—but the whole Christian life is pervaded by the spirit of prayer.

"Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
Uttered, or unexpressed—
The kindling of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast."

The formation of plans—the carrying on of daily duty—the going forth to encounter any difficulty or trial—the bearing up under reproach, injury, or wrong, are all thought of, in subjection to the will of God, in prayer. The Christian man will not absolutely say, "I will do," "I will not do," until he has thus committed the matter, in prayer, to God. It fills his heart as he opens his eyes to another day—and, a silent prayer is breathed, that its dangers may not injure his soul—that its good may be received with thankfulness, and its evils may be averted or shunned. It enters into all his hopes and desires, so that they are always, "If the Lord will." When an evil thought rushes into the Christian's heart, it finds that the spirit of prayer is there to meet it—when a subtle temptation creeps stealthily through the soul, if it has been thus exercised, there is comparatively but little upon which it can lay hold, and it retires without having drawn him into sin. It is thus that he realizes prayer as a perpetual safeguard against the attacks of the adversary; and, living under its sacred influence, he has the blessed consciousness of living near to God. God dwells in him, and he in God—the Divine image is reflected upon his soul, for "God is light, and he who dwells in light, dwells in God and God in him."

Under all circumstances and in all conditions, this spirit of silent, yet earnest, believing prayer, may have its power upon the heart. Its home is the Christian's bosom—its hallowed influence pervades the Christian's life—it brings down the happiness and peace of heaven itself into the Christian's soul, so far as these can be enjoyed in this imperfect state of being; and, it is, in truth, the most elevating, comforting, and transforming, of all the duties, in which the Christian can engage on earth. It brings him nearest to his God, and his God to him. There are no circumstances in which it can be crushed—no peculiarities of place in which it may not be indulged. In the time of adversity—when earthly blessings are removed—this spirit sustains the soul, by leading it to "cast all its care on God who cares for it." In the hour of bereavement—when the home is desolated and the heart is wrung—this spirit calls Jesus to look upon the desolated home and the torn heart, and reminds Him, that when on earth, He once shed a tear over a scene like this; and, there is no thought of a removal of the sorrow, except by the spirit of prayer, which can alone cope with the sad, desolating power of grief.

Thus the Christian realizes, that, at all times, he has comfort and help at hand—that his communion is with an ever-present and all-sufficient God—that he may keep up an communion with heaven, to which the most rapid communication and the closest converse of earth, supply not the equivalent. He realizes, too, that no calamity is too great—no event too trivial—to be carried to the throne of grace, and laid before the Lord—that he may detail his every sorrow in the ear of Divine sympathy—that he may repair with every difficulty, to Divine wisdom—and seek the supply of every want, out of the Divine resources—and this, not once, or for a short period at stated times, but at any moment—at every time of need. Whatever be the day of distress, it is a day for prayer. Whatever be the time of calamity, it is a time when prayer is available. Joy is a fitting season for prayer, and sorrow a fitting season too; the times of poverty and wealth—of sickness and of health—may all be leavened with the spirit of habitual prayer. The crosses which mar the Christian's peace—the vexations which oppress his spirit—the clouds of earthly disappointment which sometimes come—are all fitting themes for prayer.

As there is no danger which is above the power of God, so there is no concern which is beneath His care. Therefore, the believer learns "to pray always," or, as the apostle tells us, "in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known unto God." The gate of prayer is always open, and the winged prayer will, in an instant, bring the Savior near—bring Him in all the intensity of His love—in all the fullness of His grace—in all the abundance of His strength—and in all the sweetness of His sympathy, and assurance of His death-destroying might, into the faint and failing heart. "The sorrows of death," says David, "compassed me, and the pains of hell took hold upon me—I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord—O Lord, I beseech you, deliver my soul. Gracious is the Lord and righteous; yes, our God is merciful. I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto your rest, O my soul; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you."

But, while the Christian may thus, in everything, hold sweet, unbroken communion with heaven—and, through all the duties and trials of daily life, may cherish and retain the spirit of prayer—he will have his special sacred times with God. Times of meditation and prayer—times which only sickness or imperative necessity will ever permit him to invade or to interrupt—times when the world and the things of the world are forgotten, and the soul draws fresh nourishment, and strength, and hope, from pouring out its desires and longings—its supplications and entreaties, at the throne of grace, and, anew, asking help against coming toils and trials, from its gracious and compassionate Heavenly Father.

How often these seasons should be, or how long they should be, we have no express commandment of God. He would trust to our love and gratitude—to our sense of the greatness of the privilege—to our consciousness of need—to our remembrance of past joy experienced, in holding communion with the Father of our spirits and the Redeemer of our souls. And oh! if we have known the blessedness of communion with God—if we have realized the peace—the comfort—the joy of believing prayer—no rule is required. We will count it no hard duty which we must do—we will not ask, Can we live without it? but we will regard it as the noblest exercise of the soul—the most exalted privilege—and the purest pleasure on earth—to pour out our heart before our Father, and to send up holy desires to the Throne of Grace.

No true Christian—who has set his affections on things above—who has taken up his cross to follow Jesus—and who is striving to walk even as He also walked—will live without closet, and family, and social prayer. He will seek retirement and seclusion, where he may "alone with God" unburden his spirit—where he may make confessions, reveal anxieties, and present petitions—which he could not unveil to any human ear. And he will repair to the family altar, that, with his children and dependents, he may thank God for family mercies, acknowledge family sins, and entreat the Lord to continue family blessings—to impart Divine grace, guidance, and strength, amid family trials, difficulties, and labors. And, knowing that he is but one of the unnumbered family of God scattered throughout the world—that there are many beyond his own family circle, who stand in need of his sympathy and his prayers—or, with whom he ought to unite in the worship and service of God—he will take part in social prayer, and unite with his brethren in Christ Jesus, either in the assembly where only "two or three are met together in the name of God," or in the sanctuary, where, with the congregation of God's people, he may wait upon the Lord in the appointed ordinances of His Church, and hallow the Sabbath, in obedience to the Divine command.

But, the exhortation of the apostle goes even further than this, and implies that, in every condition and circumstance of life, Divine guidance, and help, and counsel, should be sought in prayer. There are many, who flee to a Throne of Grace in times of extremity, but who are strangers to it when all is calm and tranquil—who never imagine that the help of God is needed quite as much in prosperity as in adversity—in health as in sickness. "When trouble is upon them," says Scripture, "they will pour out their souls unto God." "In their affliction they will seek me, says the Lord." Yes, they know they cannot, in such trying circumstances, bear up without the help of Heaven—they feel the utter insufficiency of human resources, and the weakness of human trust—and they cry unto the Lord for help. They pray in the tempest, but are silent in the calm—they implore deliverance from the sick-bed, but not the fear and love of God to keep and guide them in the day of health—they make their complaint under the pressure of calamity, or the burden of distress, but they ask not for a thankful spirit in the midst of their plenty and prosperity.

The true Christian, however, realizing his own feebleness and his entire dependence on the grace and help of God—"in everything makes known his requests unto God"—not merely in times of tribulation, when the storm has driven him to seek for shelter—not merely in days of sickness and trouble when he stands as it were on the brink of death's dark flood—but when everything is bright and prosperous, and when health and vigor animate his frame. If in sickness, he prays for patience—in health, he prays for a thankful spirit. If in adversity, he prays that God may not forget him—in prosperity, he prays that he may not forget God. He makes known his requests, not merely for spiritual, but for temporal blessings, knowing that his temporal and spiritual lot are inseparable, and that, in the arrangements of both, he cannot and ought not to rely on his own judgment and discretion, but on the gracious promise of God—"In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."

He is conscious, that he can take no step—engage in no enterprise, which may not, for good or evil, have an effect upon his everlasting happiness; and, therefore, he prays that he may be guided in the right way—that the step he is about to take, may be such as God will approve—that every movement of his, may be attended with the Divine blessing—that, in whatever duty he is engaged—in whatever society he mingles, God's presence may accompany him, and that, throughout all, he may be enabled to "walk worthy of the vocation with which he has been called."

Christian! be assured, this is the only way in which to tread safely and securely the path of life—in everything you undertake—in everything you purpose to follow out—whether in your family or in the world, to make known your requests unto God, and to ask His blessing, His guidance and His support. He has graciously permitted you to lay everything—(be it great or small—important or trivial, in human view)—before Him in prayer, and He has promised to direct and guide you. "Trust in the Lord, and do good—so shall you dwell in the land, and verily you shall be fed. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass."

Oh! from how many false and sinful steps might we be preserved, if before venturing upon them we had all formed the habit of praying!—"May the angel of God's presence go with me where I go, and be with me where I am." What confidence would it impart in the midst of doubt and perplexity, if every duty—every project—every undertaking, were preceded by humble and earnest prayer for Divine guidance and direction!—if the Christian, when surrounded by difficulties, and beset on every hand by obstacles—which seemed to indicate that the step he had taken was a false one—if he could say, "I took this step under Divine direction—I embarked in this enterprise, after I had sought counsel of the Lord. Difficulties may have arisen—obstacles which I did not anticipate may be lying in the way—the waters may seem to be troubled—and the vessel appear to labor, but I set out under the best pilotage. Every sail was filled with the breath of prayer, and I will therefore calmly entrust my all to Him who said, 'I am with you always, even unto the end.'"

Reader! the assurance of the inspired apostle is, that if "in everything" you thus "make known your requests unto God," then, "the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus." The peace of God! a peace which the heaviest storms shall not disperse, nor the wildest tempest terrify—a peace, which will remain unbroken when earthly props are removed, and earthly stays are taken from you—a peace, which will enable you, amid the wreck of fondest hopes, and the ruin of the most cherished plans, still to repose on the bosom of infinite love, and to say, "Here I find rest—here no troubles can reach me—here I still enjoy the peace which passes all understanding."

We do not say this is always the experience of the believer; but, that it is not so, is owing to the weakness of his faith, and not the lack of willingness on the part of God to impart the blessing of peace—is owing, it may be, to the fact, that he has not "in everything made known his requests unto God." He has kept back something which still disquiets and alarms—something which he is afraid or unwilling to reveal at the Throne of Grace.

For, observe it must be "in everything" that the heart must be laid bare before God—"in everything," that the matter must be committed to His care. You are not to ask His counsel and then follow your own—you are not to "cast your care upon God," and then in distrust of His providential goodness, to take back the burden upon yourself; but, when you have unburdened your soul of a request, you are to leave all in the Lord's hands—when you have made known your desire, you are to leave the mercy-seat, like Hannah, "with a countenance no more sad." The warm sunshine of promise, should dry up every tear and dissipate every cloud of unbelief, for, "whoever puts his trust in the Lord, shall lack no good thing."

Not, that you are to cease from effort after prayer, or relax your diligence in the Christian race. If you leave God to do all, God will leave you to do all. He will refuse to grant your request, until He discovers, that, along with prayer, there is diligence—that you are really desirous to "stir up the gift of God which is in you." You must, then, both in regard to temporal and spiritual matters, combine the two duties—you must labor and pray—you must fight and pray—you must watch and pray—resist and pray. You are to strive, as if all depended upon yourself, and yet, knowing that the blessing can come only from God—that He only can give you success, that He only can ensure a successful outcome.

"Pray then with all prayer and supplication," and "watch thereunto with all perseverance." Trust God at all times, and pray that you may have the fulfillment of the assurance, "My presence shall go with you." That will lighten the darkest hour and assuage the acutest suffering—that will throw a gleam of sunshine over the gloomiest, and add a luster to the brightest scenes of life. With God by your side, what have you to fear? He will guide you over every difficulty, and protect you in every danger. You will learn, day by day, more of your Father's care in protecting—your Father's goodness in assisting—your Father's authority in correcting, and your Father's love in chastening. In joy and in sorrow—in health and in sickness—in prosperity and in adversity, you will realize the meaning of that sweet promise—"Kept as the apple of His eye."

While in the world, there will be vicissitudes in your experience; but, the care of your heavenly Father will provide for all. You may be "led about"—from gardens of Eden, smiling with the flowers of hope and the tree of life, to dreary deserts and unploughed seas of sand—from Nebo's heights with the beauteous scenery of Canaan in view, to the valley of Baca and its well of tears—from the river "whose streams make glad the city of our God," to the sterile shores of the Dead Sea—from the beams of mid-day brightness, to the solemn gloom of midnight—from the merry hearth and home of loving friends and cherished sympathies, to the cold churchyard and broken hearts. Yet, fear not—All is the work of your Father's hand! He will not leave nor forsake you, and His "peace which passes all understanding, will still keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus."

And the time is near at hand, when He will fulfill all your desires, and more than answer all your prayers—when you will enjoy the peace and the rest of heaven itself—no more to be disturbed or broken by earthly disappointments, cares, and troubles—when the shining of your sun will be unclouded—when, with a grateful heart, filled with the recollection of all that God has done for you—of your Savior's unchanging, faithful, and undying love—you will strike your golden lyre and sing in sweeter tones than ever fell on mortal ears—"Unto Him who has loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and His Father—to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever! Amen."

Most merciful God and Father, who has taught us to be careful for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, to make our requests known unto You; we cast ourselves on Your care, and humbly ask of You those things which are necessary—for the body as well as the soul.

Grant us, we beseech You, such a competent portion of earthly blessings, as Your wisdom sees to be suitable and expedient for us. And whatever You are pleased to send, make us to be heartily content with Your blessed will. Teach us to acknowledge and adore You in all Your gifts, and when earthly comforts fail, to joy evermore in the God of our salvation.

Above all, O God, grant that our spiritual desires may be more and more abundantly supplied, through the fullness of the blessings of Your Gospel; to the end that, growing in knowledge and in grace, our souls may be strengthened and nourished unto life eternal. May it please You in all our undertakings to encourage us with Your favor, to further us with Your help, and to grant us such success as seems good to You, who orders all things well and wisely for us.

Oh, take us henceforth under Your heavenly guidance and protection. In all our ways may we acknowledge You, that You may direct our paths. In whatever state Your providence has placed us, may we be enabled to walk with You in newness of life, constantly trusting in Your fatherly care, seeking at all times to be instructed by Your wisdom, and earnestly striving, not only in our outward deeds, but in our inward thoughts and affections, to be entirely devoted to Your service.

Graciously hear us, O God, for the sake of Your well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Father of Love, our Guide and Friend,
Oh, lead us gently on,
Until life's trial-time shall end,
And heavenly peace be won!
We know not what the path may be,
As yet by us untrod;
But we can trust our all to Thee,
Our Father and our God!

If called, like Abraham's child, to climb
The hill of sacrifice,
Some angel may be there in time;
Deliverance shall arise—
Or, if some darker lot be good,
Oh, teach us to endure
The sorrow, pain, or solitude,
That makes the spirit pure!

Christ by no flowery pathway came;
And we, His followers here,
Must do Your will, and praise Your name,
In hope, and love, and fear;
And, until in heaven we sinless bow,
And faultless anthems raise,
O Father, Son, and Spirit, now
Accept our feeble praise.
—W. Josiah Irons


Heavenly Father, to whose eye
Future things unfolded lie,
Through the desert where I stray
Let Your counsels guide my way.

Lord, uphold me day by day;
Shed a light upon my way;
Guide me through perplexing snares;
Care for me in all my cares.

All I ask for is, enough!
Only, when the way is rough
Let Your rod and staff impart
Strength and courage to my heart.

Should Your wisdom, Lord, decree
Trials long and sharp for me,
Pain or sorrow, care or shame,
Father! glorify Your name!

Let me neither faint nor fear,
Feeling still that You are near,
In the course my Savior trod,
Tending still to You, my God.
—Josiah Conder

Home       QUOTES       SERMONS       BOOKS