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True Prayer-True Power

Written by: Spurgeon, C.H.    Posted on: 03/31/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

                                                True PrayerTrue Power! by the REV. C.H. SPURGEON                                                 

               "Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive and ye                shall have them."Mark 11:24.

          THIS VERSE has something to do with the faith of miracles; but I think it hath far more reference to the           miracle of faith. We shall say at any rate, this morning, consider it in that light. I believe that this text is           the inheritance not only of the apostles, but of all those who walked in the faith of the apostles, believing           in the promises of the Lord Jesus Christ. The advice which Christ gave to the twelve and to his immediate           followers, is repeated to us in God's Word this morning. May we have grace constantly to obey it. "What things           soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." How many persons there           are who complain that they do not enjoy prayer. They do not neglect it, for they dare not; but they would neglect           it if they dared, so far are they from finding any pleasure therein. And have we not to lament that sometimes the           chariot-wheels are taken off, and we drive right heavily when we are in supplication? We spend the time allotted,           but we rise from our knees unrefreshed, like a man who has lain upon his bed but has not slept so as to really           recover his strength. When the time comes round again conscience drives us to our knees, but there is not sweet           fellowship with God. There is no telling out of our wants to him in the firm conviction that he will supply them.           After having gone again through a certain round of customary utterances, we rise from our knees perhaps more           troubled in conscience and more distressed in mind than we were before. There are many Christians, I think, who           have to complain of thisthat they pray not so much because it is a blessed thing to allowed to draw near to God,           as because they must pray, because it is their duty, because they feel that if they did not, they would lose one of           the sure evidences of being Christians. Brethren, I do not condemn you; but at the same time, if I may be the           means of lifting you up this morning from so low a state of grace into a higher and more healthy atmosphere, my           soul shall be exceeding glad. If I can show you a more excellent way; if from this time forth you may come to look           at prayer as your element, as one of the most delightful exercises of your life; if you shall come to esteem it more           than your necessary food, and to value it as one of heaven's best luxuries, surely I shall have answered a great           end, and you shall have to thank God for a great blessing.               Give me than your attention while I beg you, first, to look at the text; secondly to look about you; and the, to           look above you.               I. First, LOOK AT THE TEXT. If you look at it carefully, I think you will perceive the essential qualities           which are necessary to any great success and prevalence in prayer. According to our Saviour's description of           prayer, there should always be some definite objects for which we should plead. He speaks of things"what           things soever ye desire." It seems then that he did not put it that God's children would go to him to pray when they           have nothing to pray for. Another essential qualification of pray is earnest desire; for the Master supposes here           that when we pray we have desires. Indeed it is not prayer, it may be something like prayer, the outward form or           the bare skeleton, but it is not the living thing, the all-prevailing, almighty thing, called prayer, unless there be a           fulness and overflowing of desires. Observe, too, that faith is an essential quality of successful prayer"believe           that ye receive them." Ye cannot pray so as to be heard in heaven and answered to your soul's satisfaction, unless           you believe that God really hears and will answer you. One other qualification appears here upon the very surface,           namely, that a realizing expectation should always go with a firm faith"believe that ye receive them." Not           merely believe that "ye shall" but "ye do" receive themcount them as if they were received, reckon them as if           you had them already, and act as if you had themact as if you were sure you should have thembelieve that ye           receive them, and ye shall have them." Let us review these four qualifications, one by one.               To make prayer of any value, there should be definite objects for which to plead. My brethren, we often           ramble in our prayers after this, that, and the other, and we get nothing because in each we do not really desire           anything. We chatter about many subjects, but the soul does not concentrate itself upon any one object. Do you           not sometimes fall on your knees without thinking beforehand what you mean to ask God for? You do so as a           matter of habit, without any motion of your heart. You are like a man who should go to a shop and not know           what articles he would procure. He may perhaps make a happy purchase when he is there, but certainly it is not a           wise plan to adopt. And so the Christian in prayer may afterwards attain to a real desire, and get his end, but how           much better would he speed if having prepared his soul by consideration and self-examination, he came to God for           an object at which he was about to aim with real request. Did we ask an audience at Her Majesty's court, we           should be expected to reply to the question, "What do you wish to see her for?" We should not be expected to go           into the presence of Royalty, and then to think of some petition after we came there. Even so with the child of           God. He should be able to answer the great question, "What is thy petition and what is thy request, and it shall be           done unto thee?" Imagine an archer shooting with his bow, and not knowing where the mark is! Would he be           likely to have success? Conceive a ship on a voyage of discovery, putting to sea without the captain having any           idea of what he was looking for! Would you expect that he would come back heavily laden either with the           discoveries of science, or with the treasures of gold? In everything else you have a plan. You do not go to work           without knowing that there is something that you designed to make; how is it that you go to God without knowing           what you design to have? If you had some object you would never find prayer to be dull and heavy work; I am           persuaded that you would long for it. You would say, "I have something that I want. Oh that I could draw near           my God, and ask him for it; I have a need, I want to have it satisfied, and I long till I can get alone, that I may           pour out my heart before him, and ask him for this thing after which my soul so earnestly pants" You will find it           more helpful to your prayers if you have some objects at which you aim, and I think also if you have some           persons whom you will mention. Do not merely plead with God for sinners in general, but always mention some in           particular. If you are a Sunday-school teacher, don't simply ask that you class may be blessed, but pray for your           children definitely by name before the Most High. And if there be a mercy in your household that you crave, don't           go in a round-about way, but be simple and direct in your pleadings with God. When you pray to him, tell him           what you want. If you have not money enough, if you are in poverty, if you are in straits, state the case. Use no           mock-modesty with God. Come at once to the point; speak honestly with him. He needs no beautiful periphrasis           such as men will constantly use when they don't like to say right out what they mean. If you want either a           temporal or spiritual mercy, say so. Don't ransack the Bible to find out words in which to express it. Express your           wants in the words which naturally suggest themselves to you. They will be the best words, depend upon it.           Abraham's words were the best for Abraham, and yours will be the best for you. You need not study all the texts           in Scripture, to pray just as Jacob and Elias did, using their expressions. If you do you will not imitate them. You           may imitate them literally and servilely, but you lack the soul that suggested and animated their words. Pray in           your own words. Speak plainly to God; ask at once for what you want. Name persons, name things, and make a           straight aim at the object of your supplications, and I am sure you will soon find that the weariness and dullness of           which you often complain in your intercessions, will no more fall upon you; or at least not so habitually as it has           heretofore done.               "But," saith one, "I do not feel that I have any special objects for which to pray." Ah! My dear brother, I           know not who you are, or where you live, to be without special objects for prayer, for I find that every day brings           neither its need or its trouble, and that I have every day something to tell to my God. But if we had not a trouble,           my dear brethren, if we had attained to such a height in grace that we had nothing to ask for, do we love Christ so           much that we have no need to pray that we may love hi more? Have we so much faith that we have ceased to cry,           "Lord increase it?" You will always, I am sure, by little self-examination, soon discover that there is some           legitimate object for which you may knock at Mercy's door and cry, "Give me, Lord, the desire of my heart." And           if you have not any desire, you have but to ask the first tried Christian you meet, and he will tell you of one. "Oh,"           he will reply to you, "If you have nothing to ask for yourself, pray for me. Ask that a sick wife may be recovered.           Pray that the Lord will lift up the light of his countenance upon a desponding heart; ask that the Lord would send           help to some minister who has been labouring in vain, and spending his strength for nought." When you have done           for yourself, plead for others; and if you cannot meet with one who can suggest a theme, look on this huge,           Sodom, this city like another Gomorrah lying before you; carry it constantly in your prayers before God and cry,           "Oh that London may live before thee, that its sin may be stayed, that its righteousness may be exalted, that the           God of the earth may get unto himself much people out of this city."               Equally necessary is it with the definite object for prayer that there should be an earnest desire for its           attainment. "Cold prayers," says an old divine, "ask for a denial." When we ask the Lord coolly, and fervently, we           do as it were, stop his hand, and restrain him from giving us the very blessing we pretend that we are seeking.           When you have your object in your eye, your soul must become so possessed with the value of that object, with           your own excessive need for it, with the danger which you will be in unless that object should be granted, that you           will be compelled to plead for it as a man pleadeth for his life. There was a beautiful illustration of true prayer           addressed to man in the conduct of two noble ladies, whose husbands were condemned to die and were about to           be executed, when they came before. king George and supplicated for their pardon. The king rudely and cruelly           repulsed them. George the first! it was like his very nature. And when they pleaded yet again, and again, and           again, they could not be gotten to rise from their knees; they had actually to be dragged out of court, for they           would not retire until the king had smiled upon them, and told them that their husbands should live. Alas! they           failed, but they were noble women for their perseverance in thus pleading for their husbands' lives. That is the           way for us to pray to God. We must have such a desire for the thing we want, that we will not rise until we have           itbut in submission to his divine will, nevertheless. Feeling that the thing we ask for cannot be wrong, and that           he himself hath promised it, we have resolved it must be given, and if not given, we will plead the promise, again,           and again, till heaven's gates shall shake before our pleas shall cease. No wonder that God has not blessed us           much of late, because we are not fervent in prayer as we should be. Oh, those cold-hearted prayers that die upon           the lipsthose frozen supplications; they do not move men's hearts, how should they move God's heart? they do           not come from our own souls, they do not well up from the deep secret springs of our inmost heart, and therefore           they cannot rise up to him who only hears the cry of the soul, before whom hypocrisy can weave no veil, or           formality practice any disguise. We must be earnest, otherwise we have no right to hope that the Lord will hear           our prayer.               And surely, my brethren, it were enough to restrain all lightness and constrain an unceasing earnestness, did           we apprehend the greatness of the Being before whom we plead. Shall I come into thy presence, O my God, and           mock thee with cold-hearted words? Do the angels veil their faces before thee, and shall I be content to prattle           through a form with no soul and no heart? Ah, my brethren! we little know how many of our prayers are an           abomination unto the Lord. It would be an abomination to you and to me to hear men ask us in the streets, as if           they did not want what they asked for. But have we not done the same to God? Has not that which is heaven's           greatest boon to man, become to us a dry dead duty? It was said of John Bradford that he had a peculiar art in           prayer, and when asked for his secret he said, "When I know what I want I always stop on that prayer until I feel           that I have pleaded it with God, and until God and I have had dealings with each other upon it." I never go on to           another petition till I have gone through the first." Alas! for some men who begin "Our Father which art in heaven,           hallowed be thy name;" and before they have realized the adoring thought"hallowed be thy name,"they have           begun to repeat the next words"Thy kingdom come;" then perhaps something strikes their mind, "Do I really           wish his kingdom to come? If it were to come now where should I be?" And while they are thinking of that, their           voice is going on with, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;" so they jumble up their prayers and run the           sentences together. Oh! stop at each one till you have really prayed it. Do not try to put two arrows on the string           at once, they will both miss. He that would load his gun with two charges cannot expect to be successful.           Discharge one shot first, and then load again. Plead once with God and prevail, and then plead again. Get the first           mercy, and then go again for the second. Do not be satisfied with running the colours of your prayers into one           another, till there is no picture to look at but just a huge daub, a smear of colours badly laid on. Look at the Lord's           Prayer itself. What clear sharp outlines there are in it. There are certain definite mercies, and they do not run into           one another. There it stands, and as you look at the whole it is a magnificent picture; not confusion, but beautiful           order. Be it so with your prayers. Stay on one till you have prevailed with that, and then go on to the next. With           definite objects and with fervent desires mixed together, there is the dawning of hope that ye shall prevail with           God.               But again: these two things would not avail if they were not mixed with a still more essential and divine           quality, namely, a firm faith in God. Brethren, do you believe in prayer? I know you pray because you are God's           people; but do you believe in the power of prayer? There are a great many Christians that do not, they think it is a           good thing, and they believe that sometimes it does wonders; but they do not think that prayer, real prayer, is           always successful. They think that its effect depends upon many other things, but that it has not any essential           quality or power in itself. Now, my own soul's conviction is, that prayer is the grandest power in the entire           universe; that it has a more omnipotent force than electricity, attraction, gravitation, or any other of those secret           forces which men have called by names, but which they do not understand. Prayer hath as palpable, as true, as           sure, as invariable and influence over the entire universe as any of the laws of matter. When a man really prays, it           is not a question whether God will hear him or not, he must hear him; not because there is any compulsion in the           prayer, but there is a sweet and blessed compulsion in the promise. God has promised to hear prayer, and he will           perform his promise. As he is the most high and true God, he cannot deny himself. Oh! to think of this; that you a           puny man may stand here and speak to God, and through God may move all the worlds. Yet when your prayer is           heard, creation will not be disturbed; though the grandest ends be answered, providence will not be disarranged for           a single moment. Not a leaf will fall earlier from the tree, not a star will stay in its course, nor one drop of water           trickle more slowly from its fount, all will go on the same, and yet your prayer will have effected everything. It will           speak to the decrees and purposes of God, as they are being daily fulfilled; and they will all shout to your prayer,           and cry, "Thou art our brother; we are decrees, and thou a prayer; but thou art thyself a decree, as old, as sure, as           ancient as we are." Our prayers are God's decrees in another shape. The prayers of God's people are but God's           promises breathed out of living hearts, and those promises are the decrees, only put into another form and fashion.           Do not say, "How can my prayers affect the decrees?" They cannot, except in so much that your prayers are           decrees, and that as they come out, every prayer that is inspired of the Holy Ghost unto your soul is as omnipotent           and as eternal as that decree which said, "Let there be light, and there was light;" or as that decree which chose his           people, and ordained their redemption by the precious blood of Christ. Thou has power in prayer, and thou           standest to-day among the most potent ministers in the universe that God has made. Thou has power over angels,           they will fly at thy will. Thou hast power over fire, and water, and the elements of earth. Thou hast power to           make thy voice heard beyond the stars; where the thunders die out in silence, thy voice shall wake the echoes of           eternity. The ear of God himself shall listen and the hand of God himself shall yield to thy will. He bids thee cry,           "Thy will be done," and thy will shall be done. When thou canst plead his promise then thy will is his will. Seems           it not my dear friends, an awful thing to have such a power in one's hands as to be able to pray? You have heard           sometimes of men who pretended to have a weird and mystic might, by which they could call up spirits from the           vasty deep, by which they could make showers of rain, or stop the sun. It was all a figment of the fancy, but were           it true the Christian is a greater magician still. If he has but faith in God, there is nothing impossible to him. He           shall be delivered out of the deepest watershe shall be rescued out of the sorest troublesin famine he shall be           fedin pestilence he shall go unscathedamidst calamity he shall walk firm and strongin war he shall be ever           shieldedand in the day of battle he shall lift up his head, if he can but believe the promise, and hold it up before           God's eyes and plead it with the spell of unfaltering reliance. There is nothing, I repeat it, there is no force so           tremendous, no energy so marvellous, as the energy with which God has endowed every man, who like Jacob can           wrestle, like Israel can prevail with him in prayer. But we must have faith in this; we must believe prayer to be           what it is, or else it is not what it: should be. Unless I believe my prayer to be effectual it will not be, for on my           faith will it to a great extent depend. God may give me the mercy even when I have not faith; that will be his own           sovereign grace, but he has not promised to do it. But when I have faith and can plead the promise with earnest           desire, it is no longer a probability as to whether I shall get the blessing, or whether my will shall be done. Unless           the Eternal will swerve from his Word, unless the oath which he has given shall be revoked, and he himself shall           cease to be what he is, "We know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."               And now to mount one step higher, together with definite objects, fervent desires and strong faith in the           efficacy of prayer there should beand ()h may divine grace make it so with us!there should be mingled a           realising expectation. We should be able to count over the mercies before we have got them, believing that they           are on the road. Reading the other day in a sweet little book, which I would commend to the attention of you all,           written by an American author who seems to know the power of prayer thoroughly, and to whom I am indebted           for many good thingsa little book called The Still Hour, I met with a reference to a passage in the book of           Daniel, the tenth chapter I think, where, as he says, the whole machinery of prayer seems to be laid bare. Daniel is           on his knees in prayer, and Michael the archangel come to him. He talks with him and tells him that as soon as           ever Daniel began to set his heart to understand, and to chasten himself before God, his words were heard, and           the Lord had dispatched the angel. Then he tells him in the most business-like manner in the world, "I should have           been here before, but the Prince of Persia withstood me; nevertheless the prince of thy nation helped me, and I           am come to comfort and instruct thee." See now. God breathes the desire into our hearts, and as soon as the           desire is there, before we call he begins to answer. Before the words have got half way up to heaven, while they           are yet trembling on the lipknowing the words we mean to speakhe begins to answer them, sends the angel;           the angel comes and brings down the needed blessing. Why the thing is a revelation if you could see it with your           eyes. Some people think that spiritual things are dreams, and that we are talking fancies. Nay, I do believe there is           as much reality in a Christian's prayer as in a lightning flash; and the utility and excellency of the prayer of a           Christian may be just as sensibly known as the power of the lightning flash when it rends the tree, breaks off its           branches, and splits it to the very root. Prayer is not a fancy of fiction; it is a real actual thing, coercing the           universe, binding the laws of God themselves in fetters, and constraining the High and Holy One to listen to the           will of his poor hut. favoured creature-man. But we want always to believe this. We need a realizing assurance in           prayer. To count over the mercies before they are come! To be sure that they are coming! To act as if we had got           them! When you have asked for your daily bread, no more to be disturbed with care, but to believe that God has           heard you, and will give it to you. When you have taken the case of your sick child before God to believe that the           child will recover, or if it should not, that it will be a greater blessing to you and more glory to God, and so to leave           it to him. To be able to say, "I know he has heard me now; I will stand on my watch-tower; I will look for my           God and hear what he will say to my soul." Were you ever disappointed yet, Christian, when you prayed in faith           and expected the answer? I bear my own testimony here this morning, that I have never yet trusted him and found           him fail me. I have trusted man and have been deceived, but my God has never once denied the request I have           made to him, when I have backed up the request with belief in his willingness to hear, and in the assurance of his           promise.               But I hear some one say, "May we pray for temporals?" Ay, that you may. In everything make known your           wants to God. It is not merely for spiritual, but for everyday concerns. Take your smallest trials before him. He is           a God that heareth prayer; he is your household God as well as the God of the Sanctuary. Be ever taking all that           you have before God. As one good man who is about to be united with this Church told me of his departed wife,           "Oh," said he, "she was a woman that I could never get to do anything till she had made a matter of prayer of it.           Be it what it might, she used to say, 'I must make it a matter of prayer;'" Oh for more of this sweet habit of           spreading everything before the Lord, just as Hezekiah did Rabshekah's letter, and there leaving it, saying, "Thy           will be done, I resign it to thee!" Men say Mr. Muller of Bristol is enthusiastic, because he will gather seven           hundred children and believe that God will provide for them; though there is nothing in the purse he is only doing           what ought to be the commonplace action of every Christian man. He is acting upon a rule at which the worldling           always must scoff, because he does not understand it; a system which must always appear to weak judgment of           sense, not upon common sense, but upon something higher than common senseupon uncommon faith. Oh that           we had that uncommon faith to take God at his word! He cannot and he will not permit the man that trusteth him           to he ashamed or confounded. I have thus now, as best I could, set forth before you what I conceive to be four           essentials of prevailing prayer"Whatsoever things ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye           shall have them."               II. Having thus asked you to look at the text, I want you now to LOOK ABOUT YOU. Look about you at           our meetings for prayer, and look about you at your private intercessions, and judge them both by the tenour of           this text. First, look about you at the meetings for prayer; I cannot speak very pointedly in this matter, because I           do honestly believe that the prayer-meetings which are usually held among us, have far less of the faults which I           am about to indicate, that any others I have ever attended. But, still they have some of the faults, and I hope that           what we shall say, will be taken personally home by every brother who is in the habit of engaging publicly in           supplication at prayer-meetings. Is it not a fact, that as soon as you enter the meeting, you feel, the case of many           praying men (to speak hardly perhaps, but I think honestly) lies in having a good memory to recollect a great many           texts, which always have been quoted since the days of our grandfather's grandfather, and to be able to repeat           them in good regular order. The gift lies also in some churches, especially in village churches, in having strong           lungs, so as to be able to hold out, without taking breath for five and twenty minutes when you are brief, and three           quarters of an hour when you are rather drawn out. The gift lies also in being able not to ask for anything in           particular, but in passing through a range of everything, making the prayer, not an arrow with a point, but rather           like a nondescript machine, that has no point whatever, and yet is meant to be all point, which is aimed at           everything, and consequently strikes nothing. Those brethren are often the most frequently asked to pray, who           have those peculiar, and perhaps, excellent gifts, although I certainly must say that l cannot obey the apostle's           injunction in coveting very earnestly such gifts as these. Now, if instead thereof, some man is asked to pray, who           has never prayed before in public; suppose he rises and says, "Oh Lord, I feel myself such a sinner that I can           scarcely speak to thee, Lord, help me to pray! o Lord, save my poor soul! O that thou wouldst save my old           companions! Lord, bless our minister! be pleased to give us a revival. O Lord, 1 can say no more; hear me for           Jesu's sake! Amen." Well, then, you feel somehow, as if you had begun to pray yourself. You feel an interest in           that man, partly from fear lest he should stop, and also because you are sure that what he did say, he meant. And           if another should get up after that, and pray in the same spirit, you go out and say, "This is real prayer." I would           sooner have three minutes prayer like that, that thirty minutes of the other sort, because the one is praying, and the           other is preaching. Allow me to quote what an old preacher said upon the subject of prayer, and give it to you as a           little word of advice"Remember, the Lord will not hear thee, because of the arithmetic of thy prayers; he does           not count their numbers. He will not hear thee because of the rhetoric of thy prayers; he does not care for the           eloquent language in which they are conveyed. He will not listen to thee because of the geometry of thy prayers;           he does not compute them by their length, or by their breadth. He will not regard thee because of the music of thy           prayers; he doth not care for sweet voices, nor for harmonious periods. Neither will he look at thee because of the           logic of thy prayers; because they are well arranged, and excellently comparted. But he will hear thee, and he will           measure the amount of the blessing he will give thee, according to the divinity of thy prayers. If thou canst plead           the person of Christ, and if the Holy Ghost inspire thee with zeal and earnestness, the blessings which thou shalt        

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Prayer   in Sermons

Spurgeon's Prayers   in Sermons




The Gospel of Prayer   in Sermons

A Prayer For Those Who Are Stressed   in Christian Living

The Kneeling Christian   in Christian Living




In the Garden   in Sermon Outlines

Christ in Gethsemane   in Sermons

PRAYING FOR FORGIVENESS.   in Bible Studies

Praying in the Spirit   in Bible Studies

The Hush of Heaven   in Sermons

The Rent Veil   in Sermons

Why Must We Pray?   in Christian Living


No Substitute for Prayers!   in Christian Living

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