Torrey - Man -14.6- What should we pray for?

VI. WHAT SHOULD WE PRAY FOR?

PRAYERS RELATING TO GOD.

Matthew 6:9 — "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name."

First Proposition: We should pray for the hallowing of God's name.

The supreme desire of every believer's heart should be that God be duly honored and revered. This should be the highest motive in all our prayers.

The chief purpose of our prayers should be that God may be glorified in granting our petitions. (Compare to John 17:1, 12:27-28.) Matthew 6:10 — "Thy kingdom come.”

Second Proposition: We should pray for the coming of God's kingdom.

God's kingdom will surely come anyway, but our prayers will hasten the coming of that kingdom. Little do most of us realize how far our prayers go in hastening the coming of God's kingdom, and how far our neglect of prayer goes in retarding the coming of that kingdom. The coming of God's kingdom is one of the desires of the true believer's heart. Yet this prayer is often uttered thoughtlessly and mechanically. Revelation 22:20 — "He that testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly: Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Third Proposition: We should pray for the coming of God's king, Jesus.

The kingdom will never come until the King comes. Yet there are many who have prayed often that the kingdom of God would come, who have never prayed once that the King would come. This prayer stands as the climax of Christian aspiration. It is the final prayer of the Bible. The whole revelation of the Bible leads up to this. How often have you prayed for it? Matthew 6:10 RV — "Thy will be done as in heaven, so on earth."

Fourth Proposition: We should pray that God's will be done on earth as in heaven.

God's will is the most desirable thing in the universe to the true child of God. (Compare to John 4:34.) He wishes it done in himself, but not only in himself, but everywhere and in every person and thing. No other prayer rings out quite so heartily from an understanding soul as this: "Thy will be done." Habakkuk 3:2 — "0 LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy." See also Psalm 85:6.

Fifth Proposition: We should pray for the reviving of God's work and God's people.

There is much prayer for revival in these days, but how much of that prayer is governed by the thought that it is God's work and God's people that must be revived? How much of our concern comes from the fact that God's work is declining or being neglected? Far too often, it is only the interests of men that we have in view in our prayers and efforts for revival. Prayer for the reviving of God's work and God's people is a prayer that God is pleased to answer. All through the centuries of Israel's and the church's history, God has granted His reviving grace in answer to prayer. Prayer has been the most prominent human element in great revivals. It has been behind everything else. There have been extraordinary revivals without extraordinary preaching; there have never been extraordinary revivals without extraordinary praying.

PRAYERS RELATING TO MINISTERS OF THE WORD.

Matthew 9:38 — "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest."

Sixth Proposition: We should pray that God send laborers into His harvest.

Christ has given us an urgent command to pray this prayer. Have you obeyed Him? There was never a time when there was a greater need for laborers than today. The fields are white and open to the harvesters as perhaps never before in the history of the church and the world.

There are a great many professed laborers in the Lord's harvest who He surely never sent. The way to get the right laborers for any particular field is to pray for them. (Compare to Acts 1:24.) If Paul and Barnabas had taken to God in prayer the matter of whether Mark was God's man to take with them on their second missionary journey, instead of trying to settle it themselves, there would have never been occasion to write one of the saddest verses in the Bible ( Acts 15:39). Many other bitter separations among brethren over ministers could have been avoided in the same way. Colossians 4:3 — "Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds."

Seventh Proposition: We should pray for a door of utterance to be opened for those who preach the word.

The way to get open doors is to ask for them. There are few more pitiable sights than men who believe God has called them to preach, but who can find no open door. True prayer to God to open a door, and a willingness to enter the door God opens, would solve the difficulty. If there is any place where the gospel ought to be preached but there is no open door, pray for it. Paul was in a most unlikely place to find an open door when he made this request. He was in prison, but God heard the prayer and Paul entered a door to an audience he is still preaching to. Many doors in heathen lands seemingly closed and barred against the gospel have been opened in the same way. Prayer to God will open more doors than appeals to human governments. Ephesians 6:19-20 RV — "That utterance may be given unto me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly as I ought to speak."

Eighth Proposition: We should pray for ministers of the word to make known the Gospel with boldness, that they may speak as they ought to speak.

Not only are open doors needed, but also open mouths to enter the open doors. Ministers of the word greatly need boldness in this compromising age, and God's children should pray constantly that ministers of the word may have this boldness. If even fearless Paul felt the need of prayer along this line, how much more do ordinary men need it! There are plenty today to criticize the timidity of preachers of the word; how many are there who are in constant, earnest prayer that they may be given utterance, "to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel"? Praying will accomplish far more than grumbling and criticizing. (See Acts 4:29,31.) 2 Thessalonians 3:1 RV — "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified, even as also it is with you."

Ninth Proposition: We should pray for ministers of the word, that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified.

We complain of the slow progress of the word. Are we praying that it may run? <19D209> Psalm 132:9 — "Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness."

Tenth Proposition: We should pray that God's ministers may be clothed with righteousness.

The text applies primarily to priests, and the preacher of the word is, strictly speaking, no more a priest than any other believer; but he does in a particular way represent God, and God's honor is involved in his walk. We may then quite legitimately apply to the representative of God this petition.

We should desire and pray for the righteous walk of those who represent God. This is sadly needed in this day when so many of them are falling into sin, and when the enemies of the Lord are so glorying in their downfall. We live in a perilous time and we do well to pray for all saints, but especially for those in whose steadfast righteousness God is particularly honored, and in whose fall God is particularly dishonored.

PRAYERS FOR SPIRITUAl, BLESSINGS.

Matthew 6:12 — "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Psalm 25:11 — "For thy name's sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great." Psalm 5:11 — "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions." Luke 18:13 — "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." Hosea 14:2 — "Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips." Exodus 34:9 — "And he said, if now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance." Exodus 32:31-32 — "And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin — and if not, blot me I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written." 1 Kings 8:47-50 — "Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captive saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; and so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name: Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them." Acts 8:22 — "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee."

Eleventh Proposition: We should pray for forgiveness of our sins.

It is sometimes said that believers ought not to pray for forgiveness of sin, but simply to confess their sins. That comes from forcing 1 John 1:9 ("If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness") beyond what it says and contradicts the plain teachings of the word elsewhere. It is true that God has provided pardon for all the believer's sins on the ground of the all-sufficing atoning blood of Christ, but what God has thus provided we appropriate to ourselves by confession of sin and prayer for pardon. Prayer for pardon is a proper acknowledgment to God of our guiltiness. Prayers for pardon are more frequent in the Bible than prayers for almost anything else. Of course, we ought not to pray again and again for the forgiveness of some sin that we have already laid before God and that has been put away forever. <19D923> Psalm 139:23-24 "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

Twelfth Proposition: We should pray for the Lord to search us and try us.

The true child of God will desire that every evil way in him be searched out and brought to light. This work can never be thoroughly and satisfactorily done by any process of personal self examination. God must do it, and He does it in answer to prayer. It needs to be done frequently. Sin, selfishness, carnality, and worldliness surround us as the very atmosphere we breathe; they are constantly creeping into our hearts and lives unawares. Each day should close by our going into God's presence and laying our inmost lives and outward walk before him, and asking Him to search them through and through, to lay bare to us whatever in them is hateful to him. This will be to us a painful but salutary process. Psalm 51:7 — "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Psalm 19:12 — "Who can understand his error? cleanse thou me from secret faults."

Thirteenth Proposition: We should pray for cleansing from sin.

The Hebrew verb translated "cleanse" in both of these passages means to clear or acquit. (See Psalm 19:12 RV.) This prayer is a prayer for pardon, cleansing from guilt, rather than for cleansing from the presence of sin. Psalm 51:10 — "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."

Fourteenth Proposition: We should pray for God to create in us a clean heart.

It is vain for us to try to cleanse our own heart. A clean heart requires a creative act that God alone can perform. He will do it in answer to prayer.

He will create in us a heart that loves righteousness and hates sin. <19B9117> Psalm 119:117 — "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually."

Fifteenth Proposition: We should pray for God to hold us up.

If God holds us up, we "shall be safe." It is a hopeless task to try to stand alone. The way is too slippery, and none of us is surefooted. He "that thinketh he standeth" needs to "take heed lest he fall" ( 1 Corinthians 10:12). The only sure way of taking heed is by humble, honest, and earnest prayer. God is abundantly able and willing to hold us up ( 1 Corinthians 10:13). Psalm 19:13 — "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression."

Sixteenth Proposition: We should pray to be kept back from and delivered from the dominion of presumptuous sins.

The word here translated presumptuous, means primarily boiling, then swelling, insolent, arrogant, proud. Pride and arrogance are common to us all. God alone can keep us back from them. <19B910> Psalm 119:10 — "With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments."

Seventeenth Proposition: We should pray that God will not let us wander from His commandments. "Prone to wander" is what every child of Adam is. Unless we are constantly looking to God to keep us from wandering, we are sure to go astray from the straight path of His word. But he is ready to keep us from wandering if we look to Him to do it. Matthew 6:13 RV — "And bring us not into temptation." Mark 14:38 RV "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Eighteenth Proposition: We should pray that we enter not into temptation.

This is the prayer that springs from a true knowledge of self. If we have true humility we will recognize our own weakness and this petition will be upon our lips often. No one who has any true knowledge of self will court temptation. He will flee from it and pray for God not to bring him into it.

Many who have made seemingly great attainments in the spiritual life have fallen because they have lost the spirit of this prayer. It is one of the most suggestive petitions of the prayer Jesus taught His disciples. Matthew 6:13 RV — "But deliver us from the evil one."

Nineteenth Proposition: We should pray to be delivered from Satan.

Anyone who carefully and candidly studies the New Testament and human history must be convinced of the existence and awful power, cunning and malignity of the evil one. Our only security against his wiles and his power is in constant prayer to God. <19E103> Psalm 141:3 — "Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips."

Twentieth Proposition: We should pray that the door of our lips be kept.

This is the only way in which our speech can be governed. "The tongue can no man tame: it is a restless evil" ( James 3:8 RV), but God can govern it and will in answer to prayer. Psalm 86:11 — "Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name." <19B933> Psalm 119:33 — "Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I will keep it unto the end." Psalm 25:4 "Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths." <19E310> Psalm 143:10 — "Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy Spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness."

Twenty-first Proposition: We should pray for God to teach us His way, the way of His statutes and His path, and to do HIS will.

We will never know His way nor how to do His will until He Himself teaches us, and He will not teach us unless we ask Him to. We can, however, ask Him with absolute confidence that He will teach us. Psalm 90:12 RV — "So teach us to number our days, that we may get us an heart of wisdom."

Twenty-second Proposition: We should pray for God to so teach us that we become wise. Luke 11:1 — "And it came to pass, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples."

Twenty-third Proposition: We should pray to be taught to pray. "We know not how to pray as we ought," but the Lord is just as ready to teach us today by His Spirit ( Romans 8:26 RV), and by His word, as He was to teach His disciples when here, by word of mouth. <19B918> Psalm 119:18 — "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law."

Twenty-fourth Proposition: We should pray for God to open our eyes to behold wondrous things out of HIS own word.

We shall never see nor appreciate the wondrous things of God's word until God Himself opens our eyes to behold them. This He does in answer to prayer. Prayer gives a keenness of perception to spiritual beauty of which the prayerless man never dreams. No amount of study of Hebrew or Greek, or mere intellectual study of any sort, will open spiritual eyes blinded by sin. The prayerless eye can no more see the spiritual beauty of God's truth revealed in the Bible, than the blind natural eye can see the beauties of the natural world through any spectacles. There must be natural sight to discern natural beauty.

There must be spiritual sight to discern spiritual beauty. A man who has sight can see more beauty without spectacles than a sightless man can with the best glasses ever constructed. So the man who has spiritual sight can see more beauty in the word of God without the aid of scholarship, than the spiritually sightless man can with all the aids of the most recent and most approved scholarship. There is many a modern Bartimeus occupying a theological professorship who needs to cry, "Lord, that I might receive my sight" ( Mark 10:51). But they go on, the blind leading the blind, and both are falling into the ditch of destructive criticism. Only prayer will open our eyes to a real appreciation of the Bible. One can see more of its beauty and learn more of its truth in an hour at the feet of Jesus, than in four years at the feet of men who, professing themselves to be wise, are become fools ( Romans 1:22). Every minister and every believer needs to take a course in God's seminary, where one matriculates by prayer. The most ignorant and the most learned child of God will find that the Bible opens up wonderfully through prayer. One ought never to open his Bible, even for a few moments' study, without at least breathing to God the substance of the psalmist's prayer. Psalm 31:3 — "For thou art my rock and my fortress: therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me." Psalm 27:11 — "Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies." <19D924> Psalm 139:24 — "And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

Twenty-fifth Proposition: We should pray to be led and guided.

Who knows the way he ought to take? Perils are on every hand, but there is ever an unerring hand within reach to lead us safely on. We grasp that hand by prayer. We need God's guidance at every step of the way. We cannot altogether trust the wisest human guides. We do not need to. It is our privilege not only to ask God to lead us, but to lead us "in a plain path" ( Psalm 27:11). He is ready to lead us in the way everlasting. Ephesians 1:16-19 RV — "Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; having the eyes of your heart enlightened that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ."

Twenty-sixth Proposition: We should pray for a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The only way to really know Christ is through that spirit of wisdom God gives in answer to prayer. No amount of unaided searching will ever find Him.

The result of receiving this "spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him" will be that we will have the eyes of our hearts enlightened so that we shall know what the hope of His calling is, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints are, and what the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe is. Colossians 1:9-10 RV — "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray and make request for you, that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God."

Twenty-seventh Proposition: We should pray to be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to walk worthily of the Lord, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of the Lord.

This prayer is worthy of deep and careful meditation. Ephesians 3:14,16 RV — "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father.... that he would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man."

Twenty-eighth Proposition: We should pray that we may be strengthened with power through the Spirit in the inner man.

The result of the inward strengthening thus granted will be: (a) that Christ will dwell in our hearts through faith, (b) that we, being rooted and grounded in love, shall be made strong to apprehend together with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, and (c) that we shall be filled unto all the fulness of God (verses 17-19). Surely that is a glorious and inexhaustible prayer. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 — "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you."

Twenty-ninth Proposition: We should pray for God to make us increase and abound in love toward one another..

Many of us bewail our lack of love. This verse indicates the way to get it: ask for it. In this way He will establish our hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (verse 13). 1 Thessalonians 5:23 RV — "And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Thirtieth Proposition: We should pray the God of peace to sanctify us, that our spirit, soul, and body be preserved without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The word for "wholly" in this passage is an extremely strong word; it is a double word, and means "perfect in every respect," absolutely perfect.

Nothing short of absolute perfection will satisfy the true child of God. We may have already attained a relative perfection, a condition of maturity ( Philippians 3:15; 1 Corinthians 2:6; 2 Corinthians 13:11), but we pray for absolute perfection, and in answer to our prayers, it shall be ours at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Psalm 27:4 RV "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple."

Thirty-first Proposition: We should pray for personal nearness to and communion with God and the glad contemplation of His beauty.

This was the psalmist's supreme request. He longed not so much for Jehovah's gifts as for Jehovah Himself. Luke 11:13 — "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him." Acts 8:15 — "Who, when they were come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost." (Compare to John 4:10; 7:37-39.)

Thirty-second Proposition: We should pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 5 1:12 — "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation."

Thirty-third Proposition: When the joy of the salvation of the Lord has been lost, we should pray for its restoration.

PRAYERS FOR TEMPORAL BLESSINGS.

James 1:5 — "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

Thirty-fourth Proposition: We should pray for wisdom.

This is not altogether a temporal blessing, but this promise covers wisdom in temporal matters as well as in spiritual. We have a right to ask God for wisdom in all the affairs of life. (Compare to Proverbs 3:6.) Matthew 6:11 — "Give us this day our daily bread."

Thirty-fifth Proposition: We should pray for our daily bread.

The exact meaning of the word translated "daily" is hard to determine, as it is used nowhere else, except in the parallel passage Luke 11:3. Various translations have been suggested, such as "sufficient bread," "bread proper for our sustenance," "needful bread," "bread of the coming day." They amount to about the same thing. In any case, the thought is we are to depend upon God from day to day to supply our physical needs, as they arise. The petition does not give us any warrant to ask God for stores for future need, but it does invite us to ask God for sufficient supplies for each day's need as it arises. In the Old Testament ( Genesis 27:28; Chronicles 4:10), we find prayers for large earthly prosperity which were answered. (Compare also to Genesis 28:3.) James 5:14-16 — "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he hath committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

Thirty-sixth Proposition: We should pray for healing in physical weakness. (Compare to <19A303> Psalm 103:3.)

In Judges 16:28, we find Samson praying for extraordinary physical strength for an extraordinary emergency. The strength was granted, and God today gives men extraordinary strength for extraordinary emergencies.

This fact gives us no warrant for tempting God by overwork. Psalm 17:8-9 RV — "Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me under the shadow of thy wings, from the wicked that spoil me, my deadly enemies, that compass me about."

Thirty-seventh Proposition: We may pray to God for keeping from the wicked who spoil us and the deadly enemies who surround us.

This will afford us better protection in a lawless city or in the perils of the foreign field than carrying firearms for self-defense. (Compare also to Isaiah 19:20 RV; Psalm 59:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:2.) <19C206> Psalm 122:6 — "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee."

Thirty-eighth Proposition: We should pray for the peace of Jerusalem. (Compare to Isaiah 62:6; Psalm 51:18.) Jeremiah 29:7 — "And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace."

Thirty-ninth Proposition: We should pray for the peace of the city where God has placed us.

It is doubtful whether we can accomplish much in some cities by our votes, but there is no city where we cannot accomplish much by our prayers.

There is a place where the influence of a child of God counts more than at the polling-booth or the caucus: at the throne of grace. There are many today urging Christians to vote as they pray. The average nineteenth century Christian needs more to be urged to pray as he votes. If he were to vote as he prayed he would not vote at all. Prayer needs to be made a power in municipal affairs. 1 John 5:14 — "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us."

Fortieth Proposition: We should pray for anything that is according to the will of God.

QUESTION: How are we to know what is according to the will of God?

ANSWER: By the promises of His word, and by the leadings of His Holy Spirit. Whenever I find God promising anything in His word, I know it is His will to give it. Whenever the Holy Spirit leads my heart to pray for anything, I know that this also is according to the will of God ( Romans 8:26-27). Philippians 4:6,19 RV — "In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God .... And my God shall fulfill every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

Forty-first Proposition: We should pray for everything we need.

It is our privilege to live a life absolutely free from anxious thought. This is only possible by taking every need, great and small, to the Father in trustful prayer. Then "the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall guard our hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus" ( Philippians 4:7).