“Do You Pray?” Part 7 Do You Want to be Happy?

This is week 4 of 5 weeks in which, every Monday and Wednesday, I will be posting an excerpt from the work entitled, “Do You Pray?” by J. C. Ryle.  My husband recently finished reading it to us a little bit every morning in our family devotions.  It has challenged my heart deeply.  I hope it will do the same for you.

Each part can be read and stand on its own alone.
Don’t worry if you’re coming into this series in the middle!

I recommend you copy each part into a Word file,
so you can read a little or a lot at a time,
and underline parts that the Lord causes to
jump off the page.

Maybe you’d like to read this aloud with your family during your family devotions or in the evenings.

Reread those parts where you know
God is really speaking to you–you know the ones–
where you feel that it was written just for you!
If God is convicting you of sin, turn from it and repent.
If God is challenging you to do something, Do It!

Let it spur you on to a deeper prayer life!
Then apply what you read:
There’s Tremendous Power in Prayer!!

And Now, we continue with
Part 7:
I ask, lastly, whether you pray because
prayer is one of the best means of
happiness and contentment.

We live in a world where sorrow abounds. This has always been its state since sin came in. There cannot be sin without sorrow. And until sin is driven out from the world, it is vain for any one to suppose he can escape sorrow.

Some without doubt have a larger cup of sorrow to drink than others.  But few are to be found who live long without sorrows or cares of one sort or another.  Our bodies, our property, our families, our children, our relations, our servants, our friends, our neighbors, our worldly callings, each and all of these are fountains of care.  Sicknesses, deaths, losses, disappointments, partings, separations, ingratitude, slander, all these are common things.  We cannot get through life without them.  Some day or other they find us out.  The greater are our affections the deeper are our afflictions, and the more we love the more we have to weep.

And what is the best means of cheerfulness in Such a world as this?  How shall we get through this valley of tears with least pain?  I know no better means than the regular, habitual practice of taking everything to God in prayer.

This is the plain advice that the Bible gives, both in the Old Testament and the New.  What says the psalmist?  “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).  “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee:  he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).  What says the apostle Paul?  “Be careful for nothing; but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God:  and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).  What says the apostle James?  “Is any afflicted among you? let him pray” (James 5:13).

This was the practice of all the saints whose history we have recorded in the Scriptures.  This is what Jacob did when he feared his brother Esau.  This is what Moses did when the people were ready to stone him in the wilderness.  This is what Joshua did when Israel was defeated before the men of Ai.  This is what David did when he was in danger at Keilah.  This is what Hezekiah did when he received the letter from Senacherib.  This is what the church did when Peter was put in prison.  This is what Paul did when he was cast into the dungeon at Philippi.

The only way to be really happy in such a world as this is to be ever casting all our cares on God.  It is trying to carry their own burdens which so often makes believers sad.  If they will tell their troubles to God, he will enable them to bear them as easily as Samson did the gates of Gaza.  If they are resolved to keep them to themselves, they will find one day that the very grasshopper is a burden.

There is a friend ever waiting to help us, if we will unbosom to him our sorrow–a friend who pitied the poor and sick and sorrowful, when he was upon earth–a friend who knows the heart of man, for he lived thirty-three years as a man among us–a friend who can weep with the weepers, for he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief–a friend who is able to help us, for there never was earthly pain he could not cure.  That friend is Jesus Christ.  The way to be happy is to be always opening our hearts to him.  Oh that we were all like that poor Christian who only answered, when threatened and punished, “I must tell the Lord.”

Jesus can make those happy who trust him and call on him, whatever be their outward condition.  He can give them peace of heart in a prison, contentment in the midst of poverty, comfort in the midst of bereavements, joy on the brink of the grave.  There is a mighty fullness in him for all his believing members–a fullness that is ready to be poured out on every one that will ask in prayer.  Oh that men would understand that happiness does not depend on outward circumstances, but on the state of the heart.

Prayer can lighten crosses for us, however heavy.  It can bring down to our side One who will help us to bear them.  Prayer can open a door for us when our way seems hedged up.  It can bring down One who will say, “This is the way, walk in it.”  Prayer can let in a ray of hope when all our earthly prospects seem darkened.  It can bring down One who will say, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”  Prayer can obtain relief for us when those we love most are taken away, and the world feels empty.  It can bring down One who can fill the gap in our hearts with himself, and say to the waves within, “Peace; be still.”  Oh that men were not so like Hagar in the wilderness, blind to the well of living waters close beside them.

I want you to be happy.  I know I cannot ask you a more useful question than this:  Do you pray?

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.

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