FFF 9:9 (Sept 1963)
By-Products of Prayer
Every Need Suplied
“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” (Matt. 7:7-8).
It has been said that “The greatest saints are the asking saints.” So often we fail to ask the Lord for our wants and needs. The latter He has promised to supply (Phil. 4:19); the former He delights to give when in accord with His will and what He knows is best for us. “Ask,” “seek” and “knock” are present tense commands, emphasizing a necessary persistence in our praying and apropriately illustrated by the Lord’s parable of the importunate friend (see Luke 11:5-8). The words of Matthew 7:7 have often been used as an acrostic:
The practical minded James chided his readers, saying, “… ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (Jas. 4:2-3).
What a blessed by-product of prayer! Every need supplied. But we must ask.
“Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
Again, the Lord Jesus Christ commanded His disciples to “ask,” the present tense once more stressing perseverance in prayer, the sense being: “keep on asking, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
Christian, have you lost your joy? Then PRAY! If any man had reason to lose his joy, it was Nehemiah. Having been granted permission by Artaxerxes Longimanus, the Persian king, to go to Jerusalem — and this through prayer — Nehemiah made the three-month journey. Having at last arrived in the city of his fathers, he was faced with the arduous task of rebuilding the ruined walls and gates, rallying and readying the returned remnant, and restoring moral and civil order — all in the face of enemy opposition from within and without. With the manifold task of rebuilding finally completed, what does the godly, stalwart Nehemiah say? “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (8:10). What was his secret? Prayer! A study of this great and neglected Old Testament book will readily reveal that Nehemiah was a man of prayer, and it is noteworthy that his praying was coupled with hard work. A true builder for God, he had learned the secret of praying without ceasing, that is, of holding communion with God about everything as it happened. Whether sitting, standing, walking, or working, he turned his heart simply and naturally to the Lord as an ever-present Friend. Prayer was as simple and natural for Nehemiah as breathing.
A joyless Christian is a weak Christian, and the basic reason for such a condition stems from prayerlessness. No prayer; no joy. No joy; no strength. It’s that simple and clear-cut. But faithfulness in prayer will yield fulness of joy.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7-9).
At this stage of his experience the Apostle Paul was a strong Christian, but a physical affliction of some sort (it matters not what it was) proved a tremendous trial to his soul, even bringing him into conflict with the powers of hell. Three times over he cried to the Lord for deliverance, revealing on his part a readiness to pray and assurance of being heard. Did the Lord hear and answer? He certainly did, but perhaps not quite in the way Paul expected Him to answer and not as the great Apostle had initially asked Him. Instead of affirmatively answering his petition, the Lord gave him a promise, the realization of which transformed his burden into a blessing; his trial into a triumph. This promise was the sufficiency of Christ’s grace to meet his deep need, and as never before Paul entered into the experience and appreciation of “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10), especially as he undoubtedly recalled the Lord’s experience in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Matt. 26:36-46 with Luke 22:44) .
The present tense of “is” in the Lord’s promise to Paul should fill our hearts with the assurance that His grace today is no less sufficient to minister to our needs than it was in the Apostle’s day, even midst the severest of trials and temptations. If we will but draw on it, Christ’s limitless grace — the infinite love and power of His blessed Person and presence in action on our behalf —is always there “in time of need” (Heb. 4:16), G. Campbell Morgan said that he never tired of pointing out that the Greek phrase translated, “in time of need,” is a colloquialism, of which our expression, “nick of time,” is the exact equivalent.
Bishop Handley C. G. Moule has attested the authenticity of the account that has often been told of an esteemed servant of Christ who, in an hour of deep trial, agonizing before the Lord, praying, “Let Thy grace be sufficient for me.” Momentarily lifting his tear-filled eyes, a newly hung wall plaque met his gaze, bearing the words, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” The “is” was brightly and conspicuously painted, and the text came home to his heart with such freshness and blessing that he rose to a new life of peace and power in Christ (The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 118).
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (Jas. 1:5).
Wisdom is the practical use of knowledge, and every day of our lives we need divine wisdom, especially midst the various testings of life which sooner or later come to all (see Jas. 1:2-4). This choice and challenging text reveals the twofold secret of obtaining it. First of all, we must realize that we lack wisdom; and, secondly, we must ask God for it. Again, we are commanded to “ask,” the present tense of the verb once more emphasizing persistence in prayer — “let him keep on asking.” Furthermore, if we ask God for wisdom we are assured that He will not rebuke us, for He delights to give with a free hand, as conveyed by the adverb “liberally” (see 2 Col, 8:2). There are no strings attached to the Lord’s giving. When He gives, He keeps nothing back, but graciously promises to grant His wisdom to all who ask Him for it. This verse is aptly illustrated, especially the joyous theme of God’s gracious giving, in the Old Testament account of Solomon’s prayer for wisdom and the Lord’s generous answer (see 1 Kings 3:9-12).
An Increased Sense Of The Presence Of God
“Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you” (Jas. 4:8).
As for “the proud,” who feel no need of coming to the Throne of Grace, God “resisteth” such (Jas. 4:6), that is, He continually keeps them at a distance from Him. But the humble-hearted, who have put away every vestige of pride and all thought of self-sufficiency, are promised an increased sense of God’s presence as they act upon the blessed invitation to draw near to Him. In fact, “draw nigh” is not alone an invitation, it is a command, the tense calling for a decisive stand.
It was David who said, “It is good for me to draw near to God” (Ps. 73:28). And this should be our decisive and daily attitude, knowing that God never refuses the fellowship of those who seek His face and that He cannot but be intensely grieved if we choose to live at a distance from Him. True, the Lord has promised to be with us always, to never leave us, nor forsake us (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5), but unless we draw near to Him we shall never know the reality and blessedness of His presence. It is nothing short of tragic that so many Christians seem content to know the presence of Christ only as a fact, not as a force; only as a promise, not as a power.
The brief but blessed words of our text would suggest not only the idea of waiting upon God in prayer, but also the thought of walking with God along life’s pathway, just as Enoch did for 300 years (see Gen. 5:22-24; Heb. 11:5-6)! However, such a privilege requires preparation, the kind of preparation set forth in the remaining words of James 4:8.
Let us be like Abraham of old, the great “Pioneer of Faith,” who “stood yet before the Lord” and “drew near” (Gen. 18:22-23).
Here, then, are seven by-products of prayer: Fortifying Peace, Renewed Spiritual Strength, Every Need Supplied, Abounding Joy, All-Sufficient Grace, Divine Wisdom, and an Increased Sense of The Presence of God.
Martin Luther once said: “If I should neglect prayer but a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith.” And to this might be added that if we should neglect prayer but a single day, we should forfeit much of the spiritual blessedness of prayer’s by-products which are its enriching and enabling rewards.