“Do You Pray?” Part 4

In our morning devotional time as a family, my husband, Jerry, has been challenging us by reading from J. C. Ryle.  Would you like to go deeper with God?  Ryle’s writings will help you.

This is week 2 of 5 weeks in which every Monday and Wednesday, I will be posting an exerpt from this work, entitled “Do You Pray?” by J. C. Ryle, which we’ve been reading together, and which has challenged my heart deeply.  I hope it will do the same for you.

My heart’s been warmed to read your comments and see your response to this series so far.  I can’t help but wonder, “Is there anyone reading this who does not yet know this Jesus Christ personally, of whom Mr. Ryle speaks?  Or, are you yearning for, but haven’t experienced, the kind of “knowing” which he is talking about, which would result in the kind of praying of which he writes?  Please, I would love to talk to you about knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior, really knowing Him.  Email me.  Also ask God to show you that He’s real, to help you. He is more than willing, and that’s the heart of this post: Part 4.

Part 3 Here, And Now, we go to
Part 4: How Can You Pray
If You Don’t Know The One To Whom You Speak?
I ask whether you pray,
because prayer is an act in religion to which there is great encouragement.

There is everything on God’s part to make prayer easy, if men will only attempt it.  All things are ready on his side.  Every objection is anticipated.  Every difficulty is provided for.  The crooked places are made straight and the rough places are made smooth.  There is no excuse left for the prayerless man.

There is a way by which any man, however sinful and unworthy, may draw near to God, the Father.  Jesus Christ has opened that way by the sacrifice he made for us upon the cross.  The holiness and justice of God need not frighten sinners and keep them back.  Only let them cry to God in the name of Jesus, only let them plead the atoning blood of Jesus, and they shall find God upon a throne of grace, willing and ready to hear.  The name of Jesus is a never-failing passport for our prayers.  In that name a man may draw near to God with boldness, and ask with confidence.  God has engaged to hear him.  Think of this.  Is not this encouragement?

There is an Advocate and Intercessor always waiting to present the prayers of those who come to God through him.  That Advocate is Jesus Christ.  He mingles our prayers with the incense of his own Almighty intercession.  So mingled, they go up as a sweet savor before the throne of God.  Poor as they are in themselves, they are mighty and powerful in the hand of our High Priest and Elder Brother.  The bank note without a signature at the bottom is nothing but a worthless piece of paper.  The stroke of a pen confers on it all its value.  The prayer of a poor child of Adam is a feeble thing in itself, but once endorsed by the hand of the Lord Jesus it availeth much.  There was an officer in the city of Rome who was appointed to have his doors always open, in order to receive any Roman citizen who applied to him for help.  Just so the ear of the Lord Jesus is ever open to the cry of all who want mercy and grace.  It is his office to help them.  Their prayer is his delight.  Think of this.  Is not this encouragement?

There is the Holy Spirit ever ready to help our infirmities in prayer.  It is one part of his special office to assist us in our endeavors to speak with God.  We need not be cast down and distressed by the fear of not knowing what to say.  The Spirit will give us words if we seek his aid.  The prayers of the Lord’s people are the inspiration of the Lord’s Spirit, the work of the Holy Ghost who dwells within them as the Spirit of grace and supplication.  Surely the Lord’s people may well hope to be heard.  It is not they merely that pray, but the Holy Ghost pleading in them.  Reader, think of this.  Is not this encouragement?

There are exceeding great and precious promises to those who pray.  What did the Lord Jesus mean when he spoke such words as these:  “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and  ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:  for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).  “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22).  “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14).  What did the Lord mean when he spoke the parables of the friend at midnight and the importunate widow (Luke 11:5; Luke 18:1)?  Think over these passages.  If this is not encouragement to pray, words have no meaning.

There are wonderful examples in Scripture of the power of prayer.  Nothing seems to be too great, too hard, or too difficult for prayer to do.  It has obtained things that seemed impossible and out of reach.  It has won victories over fire, air, earth, and water.  Prayer opened the Red Sea.  Prayer brought water from the rock and bread from heaven.  Prayer made the sun stand still.  Prayer brought fire from the sky on Elijah’s sacrifice.  Prayer turned the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.  Prayer overthrew the army of Sennacherib.  Well might Mary Queen of Scots say, “I fear John Knox’s prayers more than an army of ten thousand men.”  Prayer has healed the sick.  Prayer has raised the dead.  Prayer has procured the conversion of souls.  “The child of many prayers,” said an old Christian to Augustine’s mother, “shall never perish.”  Prayer, pains, and faith can do anything.  Nothing seems impossible when a man has the spirit of adoption.  “Let me alone,” is the remarkable saying of God to Moses when Moses was about to intercede for the children of Israel–the Chaldee version has, “Leave off praying”–(Exodus 32:10).  So long as Abraham asked mercy for Sodom, the Lord went on giving.  He never ceased to give till Abraham ceased to pray.  Think of this.  Is not this encouragement?

What more can a man want to lead him to take any step in religion, than the things I have just told him about prayer?  What more could be done to make the path to the mercy seat easy, and to remove all occasions of stumbling from the sinner’s way?  Surely if the devils in hell had such a door set open before them, they would leap for gladness, and make the very pit ring with joy.

But where will the man hide his head at last who neglects such glorious encouragements?  What can possibly be said for the man who, after all, dies without prayer?  Surely I may feel anxious that you should not be that man.  Surely I may well ask–Do you pray?

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J. C. Ryle

J.C. Ryle –  (1816-1900), first Anglican bishop of Liverpool
J.C. Ryle was a prolific writer, vigorous preacher, faithful pastor, husband of three wives (widowed three times) and the father to five children. He was thoroughly evangelical in his doctrine and uncompromising in his Biblical principles. After being in Pastoral ministry in England for 38 years, in 1880 (at age 64) Ryle became the first bishop of Liverpool, England and remained there for 20 years. He retired in 1900 (at age 83) and died later that same year at age 84.