The Good Soldier's Prayer
James Smith, 1864
"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus!" 2 Timothy 2:3
"Save me for your mercies' sake!" Psalm 31:16
Some people tell us that they do not know how to pray. This proves that they are not accustomed to pray — and are therefore in a very dangerous state! They tell us that do not understand the nature of prayer — and are therefore very ignorant of God's word.
Prayer is the exercise of the heart. It is the soul speaking with God. It is just telling the Lord what we feel, what we fear, and what we desire. It is exceedingly simple. To the true Christian, it is quite natural. He prays for all he needs, whenever he is troubled, tried, or afflicted. There can be no religion without prayer, or prayer without the knowledge of God. If we know God — we shall draw near to him, speak with him, pour out our hearts before him, ask favors of him, and receive blessings from him.
My friend, do you pray? Do you pray regularly? Do you pray because you feel that you cannot live without it? Do you pray because you love it? Is praying to you as natural as breathing? It should be so. It will be so, if you become a real Christian, and walk closely with God.
Scriptural prayers are generally short prayers, they are full of meaning, there are no waste words in them — but every word is important. Here is such a prayer at the head of this article; let us look at it for a minute or two — it is a soldier's prayer, for David was a soldier, and a great one too. Observe,
First, it is a sinner praying — for he prays for salvation. No one needs salvation, but a sinner. It is a sinner taught of God; for no one seeks salvation — until taught by the Holy Spirit that he is lost, ruined, and undone. It is a sinner drawn by God, for no one goes to God for salvation — until attracted by the secret power of the Most High. It is a sinner pleading with God. He feels he is in the presence of God — he feels that he must be saved by God — or be lost forever. It is a sinner asking a great favor of God, the greatest favor he could ask — or that God could give. Nothing trifling fills his thoughts. Nothing lowly engages his attention.
He wishes to make sure work. He wants to get God on his side. He pleads as one in earnest, as one that is sincere, as one that will not easily be put off. His life, his eternal life, depends on his obtaining his suit. He feels that this is his opportunity, and he must not let it slip; but he must improve it for the most important purpose. He knows what he is about. He feels the importance of his employment. He prays as if he meant every word he utters, as if every word came up from the very bottom of his heart. "Save me for your mercies' sake!"
Now, my dear friend, you are a sinner, you need salvation — but do you feel your need of it? Do you go to God on purpose to entreat him to save you? Do you pray in downright earnest, as if you really meant to obtain salvation, if God will bestow it upon such a one as you are? If so, blessed are you; if not, your state is truly dangerous. God's own children, his beloved ones, can never rest satisfied until they obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus.
Secondly. It is a sinner seeking a great blessing, even salvation. Now what is salvation? It is deliverance — deliverance from all real evils, both temporal and spiritual. A present deliverance. A perfect deliverance. An eternal deliverance.
A deliverance from the guilt of sin — by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus upon the conscience.
A deliverance from the power of sin — by the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart.
A deliverance from all present evils — by the certain working of a special providence.
A deliverance from the wrath of God and the flames of Hell — by the mercy of God, the merit of Christ, and the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit.
Salvation is of the Lord alone. No one can save but the Almighty God. No works of the creature, no ceremonies of men, no sufferings in the flesh — will ever save a sinner; or go any way toward his salvation. It is God's work. The heart must be changed — and no one can change it but God. The sins must be pardoned — and no one can forgive sins but God. The person must be protected from Satan and other foes — and no one can protect it but God. God glories in saving sinners. He will get eternal honor by it, and he will not give his glory to another, or his honor to any of his creatures. Friend, God can save you. He must save you — or you will be forever lost. But if you wish God to save you — you must ask him. You must go to him, you must plead with him, nor must you give over until you prevail. Success is certain — if prayer is hearty, earnest, and importunate.
Thirdly. It is a sinner seeking a great blessing on God's own terms. Salvation is of grace, or it is a free favor. No one deserves to be saved. No one can purchase, or procure salvation by anything he can do or suffer. If man has it — God must give it. If God give it — he will give it freely. He delights in mercy. He is never backward to show mercy. But he will have us feel our misery, our poverty, and our obligation to him. He will save us on the ground of his mercy — but on no other ground. Out of pure pity to us. Out of tender compassion for us. For the sake of his own mercy — that is, to prove it, to display it, to exalt it, to bring honor to it. God's mercy is infinite, and cannot be exhausted. It is everlasting, and cannot change. It is free, and cannot be purchased. It is glorified in sinners, and therefore we may with confidence pray. "Save me for your mercies' sake!"
Fellow soldier, are you saved? Has God saved you for his mercies' sake? If so, you have felt yourself lost, you have despaired of all help in yourself, or from any creature, you have fled for refuge to Jesus; and in answer to prayer, you have obtained mercy. Is it so? Then I give you joy. I own you as my brother in Christ. I exhort you to cleave to the Lord with full purpose of heart.
I beseech you to tell your comrades what God has done for you. Never mind a sneer, or even a profane oath; but pity, pray for, and plead with them. As they are — you were once; and as they are — you would be this day — but for sovereign and distinguishing grace. Praise God for what he has done for you — and endeavor to bring others to him.
Fellow soldier, are you careless about salvation? Are you floating down the stream? Are you doing as your comrades do, and leaving the future to take care of itself? I beseech you, reflect for one moment. You are an immortal being. You must live forever. You may live in glory, honor, and unspeakable happiness. You will live in shame, pain, and inconceivable torment, if you pursue your present course. Stop! I beseech you stop! Think! I beseech you, think!! God in his mercy will save you — if you seek him. God in his justice will damn you — if you neglect him. His mercy is infinite — but his justice is infinite too. There are thousands of soldiers in Hell at this moment; because they despised and slighted God's mercy — will you increase the number? There are many, very many soldiers in Heaven, because they sought and found God's mercy — will you go and unite with them? Will you? Say, will you? Which shall it be — Heaven, or Hell?
Which? Which? Infinitely gracious God, have mercy upon the soldier, who is now reading these lines — save, "O save him for your mercies' sake." "Deliver him from going down to the pit," and raise him to a state of grace here, and glory hereafter, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.