The Definiteness Of Prayer
Illustrating the Need of a Subject of Prayer
“If a son shall ask bread of any of you, that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish gave him a serpent? or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?” (Verses 11, 12).
If we ask one thing God will not mock us and give us something else, a stone for bread, a scorpion for an egg? He will always answer. It may be “No” or it may be “Yes;” and often the answer will not be in the way we expected it, nor at the time we expected it. Abraham prayed for Sodom; God answered by saving Lot. The early Church prayed for Peter’s release but did not expect the answer in the way it came, nor the time it came.
1. Definite in subject — We should have a definite need, hence a definite subject. As to that need, that is with the individual or Church. It may be the soul — need (Psa. 41:4); it may be a mental need (Matt. 17:14-18); it may be a financial need, the tax problem (Matt. 17:21-27); it may be material (James 5:17, 18); it may be for those in authority and all men (1 Tim. 2:1, 3); it may be for one’s enemies (Matt. 5:44); it may be for the Christian ministry (Eph. 6:18, 19); It may be that God would open a door of utterance (Col. 4:3); it may be for the advancement of the Word of God (2 Thess. 3:10); it may be for the vindication of God’s cause (1 Kings 18:30-39; Acts 4:23-31). It matters not, there must be a definite subject. At times the definite subject may be that we shall have a definite subject.
2. Definite in concentration — The admonition to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ is very applicable here. We are in prayer to talk to God and to hear His voice. We are not only to enter into the closet but to shut the door. “The act of praying,” said Coleridge, “is the very highest energy of which the human mind is capable; praying, that is, with the total concentration of the faculties.”
3. Definite in time — While “every season” is the time of prayer, “By all prayer and supplication praying in every season in the spirit” (Eph. 6:18), yet there must be a definite time, if possible at all, or we will suffer loss. The poet puts it,
“Take time to be holy, Speak oft with thy Lord.”
If we do not take time, we will never have time. The set time for one may not he the most opportune time for another. In every case, however, there should be a time set apart for prayer.
Luther said, “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.” Concerning the Rev. John Wesley it is said, “He thought prayer to be more his business than anything else and I have seen him come out of his closet with a serenity of face next to shining.”
4. Definite place — Here again the place may be said to be “everywhere.” “I will therefore that men pray everywhere” (1 Tim. 2:8), yet there must be definiteness as to place. “Enter into thy closet,” said the Master. “The closet!” We well recall an illustration from a charge which we served. On visiting a member of our congregation one day, she greeted us at the door with the words, and in a triumphant tone, “It is settled, Mr. Wiseman. I got the victory yesterday in the hen-house.” It was a hell-house formerly, and, of course, always retained its original name. Then it was a clean little house in the back yard. And this good sister made it her closet of prayer. It is for you to select your place of prayer.
5. Definite in spirit — It might mean a battle to get into the spirit of prayer, but it is a battle worth while. We have already seen to some extent at least what this means by the pattern or spirit of prayer as outlined in what is known as “the Lord’s Prayer,” though properly speaking it is the disciple’s prayer.
(1) There must be the spirit of humility — “God resisteth the proud but giveth grace to the humble.” (James 4:6). “If my people shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land.” (2 Chron 7:14). We must approach God on deep humility if we would get a hearing.
(2) There must be the spirit of dependence — “Without Me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5). A conscious realization of our utter dependence upon Almighty God must be keenly felt and realized if we would receive answers to prayer.
(3) There must be the spirit of thankfulness — “By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Phil. 4:6). “Be ye thankful.” (Col. 3:15). Be thankful to God for what He has done and definitely thank Him for it. Join the thanksgiving committee!
(4) There must be the spirit of watchfulness — “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” (Matt. 26:41). “Watching thereunto with all perseverance.” (Eph. 6:18). If we fail to watch, we cannot pray. We must live on the “Watch-tower.” Watch and pray go together.
(5) There must be the spirit of feasting on the Word of God — “If ye abide in Me and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and, it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7). Prayer and the words of Christ, in other words prayer and the Bible are closely associated. We talk to God in prayer and God talks to us through His Word.
(6) There must be the spirit of fasting — “Prayer and fasting” are associated. (Matt. 17:21). “Why could we not cast him out?” was the question arising out of the experience of failure.
The answer is found in the passage quoted, and it is the reason for many a failure. There is a time to fast as well as pray.
(7) There must be the spirit of confidence instead of worry — “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known unto God.” (Phil. 4:16). Be anxious in nothing but in everything pray. “In every thing.”
6. Definite in purpose — There is but one purpose, the good of humanity and the glory of God. “Thy will, not mine” must characterize all our praying.
7. Definite in faith — “Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them.” (Mark 11:24). Note the other, faith precedes reception. “Believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them.” While in prayer faith appropriates the promise. Amen.
“Faith laughs at impossibilities and cries, ‘It must be done.'”