This is the final week of 5 weeks in which, every Monday and Wednesday, I have been posting an excerpt from the work entitled, “Do You Pray?” by J. C. Ryle.
Has God changed your prayer life through reading this? Do you think differently about prayer? Do you feel a yearning, burning desire for an intimacy with the Lord through prayer that you didn’t feel before? I pray God is at work in you and has used this series in some way. Thank you so much to those of you who’ve commented! You encourage me when you share what the Lord’s doing in your life in a comment or an email.
I am thinking about the direction of future posts now that this prayer series is almost done and your feedback would be greatly appreciated. I need to know if this kind of deeper, more serious challenge to your faith is something you would like to see once a year, several times a year, or you don’t want to see it again! I believe that it’s been very positively received, and I intend to continue doing something like it at least once a year, but would you like more? Be honest, please.
Don’t worry if you’re coming into this series in the middle or the end! Each part of this series can be read separately and stand on its own. I do recommend you go back and 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 at you.
This series would be great read aloud as a family, especially with older elementary or middle and older children. This Prayer Series would be superb as the basis for a Couples’, Mens’ or Womens’ Bible Study, with discussion following each part–maybe looking up and reading the verses cited–and prayer.
My prayer is that it will spur you on to a deeper prayer life!
There’s Tremendous Power in Prayer!!
And Now, we continue with
Part 9: Reverence, Humility and
Consistency in Prayer
Let me speak, lastly, to those who do pray. I trust that some who read this tract know well what prayer is, and have the Spirit of adoption. To all such, I offer a few words of brotherly counsel and exhortation. The incense offered in the tabernacle was ordered to be made in a particular way. Not every kind of incense would do. Let us remember this and be careful about the matter and manner of our prayers.
Brethren who pray, if I know anything of a Christian’s heart, you are often sick of your own prayers. You never enter into the apostle’s words, “When I would do good, evil is present with me,” so thoroughly as you sometimes do upon your knees. You can understand David’s words, “I hate vain thoughts.” You can sympathize with that poor converted Hottentot who was overheard praying, “Lord, deliver me from all my enemies, and above all, from that bad man–myself.” There are few children of God who do not often find the season of prayer a season of conflict. The devil has special wrath against us when he sees us on our knees. Yet, I believe that prayers which cost us no trouble should be regarded with great suspicion. I believe we are very poor judges of the goodness of our prayers, and that the prayer which pleases us least, often pleases God most. Suffer me then, as a companion in the Christan warfare, to offer you a few words of exhortation. One thing, at least, we all feel: we must pray. We cannot give it up. We must go on.
I commend then to your attention, the importance of reverence and humility in prayer. Let us never forget what we are, and what a solemn thing it is to speak with God. Let us beware of rushing into his presence with carelessness and levity. Let us say to ourselves: “I am on holy ground. This is no other than the gate of heaven. If I do not mean what I say, I am trifling with God. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Let us keep in mind the words of Solomon, “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in heaven, and thou on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). When Abraham spoke to God, he said, “I am dust and ashes.” When Job spoke to God, he said, “I am vile.” Let us do likewise.
I commend to you the importance of praying spiritually. I mean by that, that we should labor always to have the direct help of the Spirit in our prayers, and beware above all things of formality. There is nothing so spiritual but that it may become a form, and this is specially true of private prayer. We may insensibly get into the habit of using the fittest possible words, and offering the most scriptural petitions, and yet do it all by rote without feeling it, and walk daily round an old beaten path. I desire to touch this point with caution and delicacy. I know that there are certain great things we daily want, and that there is nothing necessarily formal in asking for these things in the same words. The world, the devil, and our hearts, are daily the same. Of necessity we must daily go over old ground. But this I say, we must be very careful on this point. If the skeleton and outline of our prayers be by habit almost a form, let us strive that the clothing and filling up of our prayers be as far as possible of the Spirit. As to praying out of a book in our private devotions, it is a habit I cannot praise. If we can tell our doctors the state of our bodies without a book, we ought to be able to tell the stage of our souls to God. I have no objection to a man using crutches when he is first recovering from a broken limb. It is better to use crutches, than not to walk at all. But if I saw him all his life on crutches, I should not think it matter for congratulation. I should like to see him strong enough to throw his crutches away.
I commend to you the importance of making prayer a regular business of life. I might say something of the value of regular times in the day for prayer. God is a God of order. The hours for morning and evening sacrifice in the Jewish temple were not fixed as they were without a meaning. Disorder is eminently one of the fruits of sin. But I would not bring any under bondage. This only I say, that it is essential to your soul’s health to make praying a part of the business of every twenty-four hours in your life. Just as you allot time to eating, sleeping, and business, so also allot time to prayer. Choose your own hours and seasons. At the very least, speak with God in the morning, before you speak with the world: and speak with God at night, after you have done with the world. But settle it in your minds, that prayer is one of the great things of every day. Do not drive it into a corner. Do not give it the scraps and parings of your duty. Whatever else you make a business of, make a business of prayer.
I commend to you the importance of perseverance in prayer. Once having begun the habit, never give it up. Your heart will sometimes say, “You have had family prayers: what might harm if you leave private prayer undone?” Your body will sometimes say, “You are unwell or sleepy, or weary; you need not pray. Your mind will sometimes say, “You have important business to attend to today; cut short your prayers.” Look on all such suggestions as coming direct from Satan. They are all as good as saying, “Neglect your soul.” I do not maintain that prayers should always be of the same length; but I do say, let no excuse make you give up prayer. Paul said, “Continue in prayer, and, “Pray without ceasing.”
He did not mean that men should be always on their knees, but he did mean that our prayers should be, like the continual burnt offering, steadily persevered in every day; that it should be like seed time and harvest, and summer and winter, unceasingly coming round of regular seasons; that it should be like the fire on the altar, not always consuming sacrifices, but never completely going out. Never forget that you may tie together morning and evening devotions, by an endless chain of short ejaculatory prayers throughout the day. Even in company, or business, or in the very streets, you may be silently sending up little winged messengers to God, as Nehemiah did in the very presence of Artaxerxes. And never think that time is wasted which is given to God. A nation does not become poorer because it loses one year of working days in seven, by keeping the Sabbath. A Christian never finds he is a loser, in the long run, by persevering in prayer.
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.
This is one of my very favorite verses: Let us live it out together, Friends!
Psalm 55:17–“Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud:
and he shall hear my voice.”