Below we complete our short study of
J.C. Ryle’s exhortations on prayer.
While we should always come in humility before God in prayer, equally we should pray with holy boldness. Such was the practice of men such as Moses [cf. Exodus 32:11 - 14] and Joshua [cf. Joshua 7:6 - 10]. Ryle complained that Christians do not sufficiently realise their privileges. He wrote, ‘We do not plead as often as we might, “Lord, are we not thine own people? Is it not for thy glory that we should be sanctified? Is it not for thine honour that the gospel should increase?”’
Jesus warned against long, repetitive prayers [cf. Matthew 6:7], but he also prayed all night at times. [cf. Luke 6:12 - 16]. Ryle reckoned that in his days [19th. Century] that Christians were liable to pray too little rather than too much! He reckoned most Christians prayers were ‘scanty and limited - just enough to prove they are alive, and no more.’ Their prayers, he believed, lacked sufficient confession, petition and thanksgiving. If such a condemnation of the private prayer life of Christians in 19th. Century was valid, how much more so in 21st. Century!! It is such a lack of a private prayer life, in any period of time, that results in the lack of growth in a Christian. Ask little and you’ll get little. [cf. Psalm 81:8 - 16; 2 Kings 13:14 - 19].
[N.B.: in 2 Kings 13 the problem was not that the king did not obey the prophetic word, rather that he did not obey it enthusiastically enough.]
Jesus said, “when you pray . . when you pray . . when you pray . . .” [Mtt. 6:5, 6, 7]
How full and enthusiastic are your prayers; are my prayers?
Our prayers should not be general and vague: they should be specific. We are to name the sins we are confessing, not just state that we are sinners. If we feel we lack in holiness we should state in which areas of grace we feel deficient. If we are in trouble we should describe what the trouble and problems are. Such action is common in Scripture. Jacob [cf. Genesis 32:11], Eliezer [cf. Genesis 24:12 - 14], and Paul [cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7 - 8] are good examples for us to follow. Nothing is too small to be brought before the throne of grace. We would not go to a doctor and simply say we feel ill. We would tell him what we feel to be wrong. So it should be with God. We should pray confidently, in faith, before our Father in heaven who loves us. Keep no secrets from God, open your heart to him.
We are called to pray for others, not just ourselves. We need to look beyond our own interests and bring others before the throne of grace. Our prayers should not be selfish ones. Pray for fellow Christians; our country; our congregation; members of our household; our extended family. Such prayers show our great love for those whom we pray. Ryle wrote, ‘He loves me best who loves me in his prayers.’
Intercession stated Oswald Chambers ‘has no drawbacks, because it keeps our relationship completely open with God.’ Such prayers are beneficial to the health of the Church, and to the advancement of the gospel. Jesus the Christ intercedes for us before his Father’s throne. In intercessory prayer we are following his example. Ryle wrote, ‘If I must choose a congregation, give me a people that prays.’
In our early years most of us were taught to say “Thank you,” when we were given a gift or help. Yet how often we forget to thank God after he has answered our prayers in the affirmative! We have much for which to be thankful! It is through God’s mercy that Christians are no longer on the road to hell, but have the promise of heaven. It is through God’s mercy that we have been called by the Holy Spirit, and have not been left to reap the fruit of our own ways. It is through God’s mercy that we live, and have the opportunities to glorify God. [cf. Acts 17:24 - 25, 28] Such thoughts should be foremost in our thoughts as we come to God in prayer. It was such thoughts that led Paul to emphasise his thankfulness in his letters, and to encourage his readers to be thankful. [cf. Philippians 1:3 - 6; 4:6; Colossians 1:3 - 4; 4:2]
All our prayers should be thankful prayers!
We must be watchful over our prayers. Prayer is our spiritual pulse by which our spiritual health is tested. We should discard anything that, or anyone who, would distract us from praying. We should cling to anything that, or anyone who, would encourage us in prayer. Ryle wrote, ‘If you will only take care of your prayers, I will engage that nothing shall go very wrong with your soul.’
May God continuously bless and inspire us as we seek
continuously to bring before him more spirit-led, effective prayer.
Yours in Christ,