“Do You Pray?” (Part 11) The End of This Series on Prayer by J. C. Ryle

Asking for very specific requests from God is sometimes uncomfortable for me.  I don’t want to seem like I’m telling Him what to do.  I don’t want to seem like I think I’m in charge.  “Do this, or else!”  In my mind, a demanding posture is the antithesis to humbly presenting my requests to God. I want to give God room to get the result I want, but in His way.  Hmmm.  That sounded kind of manipulative, didn’t it.  And yet, God says in His Word, “Ye have not because ye ask not.”  Of course, He also says we ask only to “consume it upon our own lusts.”

With these thoughts rumbling around in my brain, I took the time to reread the last part of “Do You Pray?”  God used these words to really help me get over my hesitancy to “open up” and talk to Him about what’s on my heart, and say it in my own words.  Amazingly, after 35 years as a Christian, that doesn’t happen as automatically as it should. It felt really good.  Telling Him how I feel and what I would like, as though I’m talking to my loving earthly father is a habit I want to perfect !


For 6 weeks, every Monday and Wednesday, I have been posting an excerpt from the work entitled, “Do You Pray?” by J. C. Ryle.
God can change the world
through our prayers!!
How has this affected your relationship with the Lord?  Has it changed anything?  Are you praying differently?  Do you find you have more faith?  Are you seeing answers to your prayers?  It has changed me.  My faith has become stronger.

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

“Do You Pray?” by J. C. Ryle,
Part 11:
“Asking, But Not Amiss”

I commend to you the importance of particularity in prayer.  We ought not to be content with great general petitions.  We ought to specify our wants before the throne of grace.  It should not be enough to confess we are sinners:  we should name the sins of which our conscience tells us we are most guilty.  It should not be enough to ask for holiness; we should name the graces in which we feel most deficient.  It should not be enough to tell the Lord we are in trouble; we should describe our trouble and all its peculiarities.

This is what Jacob did when he feared his brother Esau.  He tells God exactly what it is that he fears (Genesis 32:11).  This is what Eliezer did, when he sought a wife for his master’s son.  He spreads before God precisely what he wants (Genesis 24:12).  This is what Paul did when he had a thorn in the flesh.  He besought the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:8).  This is true faith and confidence.  We should believe that nothing is too small to be named before God.  What should we think of the patient who told his doctor he was ill, but never went into particulars?  What should we think of the wife who told her husband she was unhappy, but did not specify the cause?  What should we think of the child who told his father he was in trouble, but nothing more?  Christ is the true bridegroom of the soul, the true physician of the heart, the real father of all his people.  Let us show that we feel this by being unreserved in our communications with him.  Let us hide no secrets from him.  Let us tell him all our hearts.

I commend to you the importance of intercession in our prayers.  We are all selfish by nature, and our selfishness is very apt to stick to us, even when we are converted.  There is a tendency in us to think only of our own souls, our own spiritual conflicts, our own progress in religion, and to forget others.  Against this tendency we all have need to watch and strive, and not least in our prayers.  We should study to be of a public spirit.  We should stir ourselves up to name other names besides our own before the throne of grace.  We should try to bear in our hearts the whole world, the heathen, the Jews, the Roman Catholics, the body of true believers, the professing Protestant churches, the country in which we live, the congregation to which we belong, the household in which we sojourn, the friends and relations we are connected with.  For each and all of these we should plead.  This is the highest charity.  He loves me best who loves me in his prayers.  This is for our soul’s health.  It enlarges our sympathies and expands our hearts.  This is for the benefit of the church.  The wheels of all machinery for extending the gospel are moved by prayer.  They do as much for the Lord’s cause who intercede like Moses on the mount, as they do who fight like Joshua in the thick of the battle.  This is to be like Christ.  He bears the names of his people, as their High Priest, before the Father.  Oh, the privilege of being like Jesus!  This is to be a true helper to ministers.  If I must choose a congregation, give me a people that pray.

I commend to you the importance of thankfulness in prayer.  I know well that asking God is one thing and praising God is another.  But I see so close a connection between prayer and praise in the Bible, that I dare not call that true prayer in which thankfulness has no part.  It is not for nothing that Paul says, “By prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).  “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).  It is of mercy that we are not in hell.  It is of mercy that we have the hope of heaven.  It is of mercy that we live in a land of spiritual light.  It is of mercy that we have been Called by the Spirit, and not left to reap the fruit of our own ways.  It is of mercy that we still live and have opportunities of glorifying God actively or passively.  Surely the thoughts should crowd on our minds whenever we speak with God.  Surely we should never open our lips in prayer without blessing God for that free grace by which we live, and for that loving kindness which endureth forever.
Never was there an eminent saint who was not full of thankfulness.  St. Paul hardly ever writes an epistle without beginning with thankfulness.  Men like Whitefield in the last century, and Bickersteth in our time abounded in thankfulness.  Oh, reader, if we would be bright and shining lights in our day, we must cherish a spirit of praise.  Let our prayers be thankful prayers.

I commend to you the importance of watchfulness over your prayers.  Prayer is that point in religion at which you must be most of all on your guard.  Here it is that true religion begins:  here it flourishes, and here it decays.  Tell me what a man’s prayers are, and I will soon tell you the state of his soul.  Prayer is the spiritual pulse.  By this the spiritual health may be tested.  Prayer is the spiritual weatherglass.  By this we may know whether it is fair or foul with our hearts.  Oh, let us keep an eye continually upon our private devotions.  Here is the pith and marrow of our practical Christianity.  Sermons and books and tracts, and committee meetings and the company of good men, are all good in their way, but they will never make up for the neglect of private prayer.  Mark well the places and society and companions that unhinge your hearts for the communion with God and make your prayers drive heavily.  There be on your guard. Observe narrowly what friends and what employments leave your soul in the most spiritual frame, and most ready to speak with God.  To these cleave and stick fast.  If you will take care of your prayers, nothing shall go very wrong with your soul.

I offer these points for your private consideration.  I do it in all humility.  I know no one who needs to be reminded of them more than I do myself.  But I believe them to be God’s own truth, and I desire myself and all I love to feel them more.

I want the times we live in to be praying times.  I want the Christians of our day to be praying Christians.  I want the church to be a praying church.  My heart’s desire and prayer in sending forth this tract is to promote a spirit of prayerfulness.  I want those who never prayed yet, to arise and call upon God, and I want those who do pray, to see that they are not praying amiss.

THE END

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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How Much Do You Want From God? “Do You Pray?” Part 10

As we finish up this series, think now about who God wants you to impact, by sharing this series with them, and then get a few people or a group together.  (Don’t worry if you’re coming into this series at the end. Each part of this series can be read separately and stand on its own.)

I’m asking God for much fruit in all our lives
as we act upon what we’ve read:
God can change the world through our prayers!!

I rejoice in answered prayers–your prayers–on my behalf, as I’m feeling a lot better.  And now, this really is the final week of 5 (turned into 6) weeks in which, every Monday and Wednesday, I have been posting an excerpt from the work entitled, “Do You Pray?” by J. C. Ryle.
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 a great read-aloud as a family, especially with older elementary or teenaged children.  A Mens or Womens Bible Study/Prayer Group, or a Couples’ Fellowship with a deeper emphasis maybe?  These are just some of the ways you could share it with others.  With discussion following each part–maybe looking up and reading the verses cited–and prayer, or just reading a section and seeing how God applies it in individual lives.

Read:


And Now, we continue with
Part 10:
“How Much Do You Want From God?”

I commend to you the importance of earnestness in prayer.  It is not necessary that a man should shout, or scream, or be very loud, in order to prove that he is in earnest.  But it is desirable that we should be hearty and fervent and warm, and ask as if we were really interested in what we were doing.  It is the “effectual fervent” prayer that “availeth much.”  This is the lesson that is taught us by the expressions used in Scripture about prayer.  It is called, “crying, knocking, wrestling, laboring, striving.”

This is the lesson taught us by Scripture examples.  Jacob is one.  He said to the angel at Penuel, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me” (Genesis 32:26).  Daniel is another.  Hear how he pleaded with God:  “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God” (Daniel 9:19).  Our Lord Jesus Christ is another.  It is written of him, “In the days of his flesh, he offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears” (Hebrews 5:7).

Alas, how unlike is this to many of our supplications!  How tame and lukewarm they seem by comparison.  How truly might God say to many of us, “You do not really want what you pray for.”

Let us try to amend this fault.  Let us knock loudly at the door of grace, like Mercy in Pilgrim’s Progress, as if we must perish unless heard.  Let us settle it in our minds, that cold prayers are a sacrifice without fire.

Let us remember the story of Demosthenes the great orator, when one came to him, and wanted him to plead his cause.  He heard him without attention, while he told his story without earnestness.  The man saw this, and cried out with anxiety that it was all true.  “Ah,” said Demosthenes, “I believe you now.”

I commend to you the importance of praying with faith.  We should endeavor to believe that our prayers are heard, and that if we ask things according to God’s will, we shall be answered.  This is the plain command of our Lord Jesus Christ:  “Whatsoever things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24).  Faith is to prayer what the feather is to the arrow:  without it prayer will not hit the mark.  We should cultivate the habit of pleading promises in our prayers.

We should take with us some promise, and say, “Lord, here is thine own word pledged.  Do for us as thou hast said.”  This was the habit of Jacob and Moses and David.  The 119th Psalm is full of things asked, “according to thy word.”

Above all, we should cultivate the habit of expecting answers to our prayers.  We should do like the merchant who sends his ships to sea.  We should not be satisfied, unless we see some return.  Alas, there are few points on which Christians come short so much as this.  The church at Jerusalem made prayer without ceasing for Peter in prison; but when the prayer was answered, they would hardly believe it (Acts 12:15).  It is a solemn saying of Traill, “There is no surer mark of trifling in prayer, than when men are careless what they get by prayer.”
I commend to you the importance of boldness in prayer.  There is an unseemly familiarity in some men’s prayers which I cannot praise.  But there is such a thing as a holy boldness, which is exceedingly to be desired.

I mean such boldness as that of Moses, when he pleads with God not to destroy Israel.  “Wherefore,” says he, “should the Egyptians speak and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains?  Turn from thy fierce anger” (Exodus 32:12).  I mean such boldness as that of Joshua, when the children of Israel were defeated before men of Ai:  “What,” says he, “wilt thou do unto thy great name?” (Joshua 7:9).

This is the boldness for which Luther was remarkable.  One who heard him praying said, “What a spirit, what a confidence was in his very expressions.  With such a reverence he sued, as one begging of God, and yet with such hope and assurance, as if he spoke with a loving father or friend.”  This is the boldness which distinguished Bruce, a great Scotch divine of the seventeenth century.  His prayers were said to be “like bolts shot up into heaven.”  Here also I fear we sadly come short.  We do not sufficiently realize the believer’s privileges.  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 thy honor that thy gospel should increase?”

I commend to you the importance of fullness in prayer.  I do not forget that our Lord warns us against the example of the Pharisees, who, for pretense, made long prayers; and commands us when we pray not to use vain repetitions.

But I cannot forget on the other hand, that he has given his own sanction to large and long devotions by continuing all night in prayer to God.  At all events we are not likely in this day to err on the side of praying too much.  Might it not rather be feared that many believers in this generation pray too little?  Is not the actual amount of time that many Christians give to prayer, in the aggregate, very small?  I am afraid these questions cannot be answered satisfactorily.  I am afraid the private devotions of many are most painfully scanty and limited; just enough to prove they are alive and no more.

They really seem to want little from God.

They seem to have little to confess,
little to ask for,
and little to thank him for.

Alas, this is altogether wrong.  Nothing is more common than to hear believers complaining that they do not get on.  They tell us that they do not grow in grace as they could desire.  Is it not rather to be suspected that many have quite as much grace as they ask for?  Is it not the true account of many, that they have little, because they ask little?

The cause of their weakness is to be found in their own stunted, dwarfish, clipped, contracted, hurried, narrow, diminutive prayers.  They have not, because they ask not.  Oh, we are not straitened in Christ, but in ourselves.  The Lord says, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.”  But we are like the King of Israel who smote on the ground thrice and stayed, when he ought to have smitten five or six times.
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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