We’re continuing in our “hour of prayer” as we look at watching. We’ve learned that there is an attentiveness aspect to watching. However as we look in the Old Testament, we’ll see it’s essential for gathering wisdom:
Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
Wisdom is speaking in Proverbs 8, and we see that she is crying in the gates (Proverbs 8:3). Wisdom has been around since the beginning (Psalm 104:24). And God wants us to be wise (Proverbs 8:33).
How can we grow in wisdom? Can we get a blessing from God? Let’s look again at Proverbs 8:34.
Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
Notice it involves:
Receiving (“Blessed is the man that heareth me”)
Repetition (“watching daily at my gates”)
Respect (“waiting at the posts of my doors”)
Make sure your eyes and ears are open in your time with God to receive what He says. Make it a daily practice to be at the gates of wisdom. And make it a priority – we’re often waiting at the posts of television, or a new smartphone game. Let’s give our respect, our priority to gaining wisdom!
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
1 Peter 4:7
If you’re like me, this idea of watching is a foreign concept. We saw yesterday that this is more than a passive absorption of television, rather Jesus calls us to be sober and vigilant. Peter is extending this idea – and the Scottish preacher Robert Murray M’Cheyne has some advice for us in The Christian’s Daily Companion:
Observe the duties of a believer. “Be sober, and watch unto prayer.”
(i) Be sober. Let nothing dim the eye that is looking on eternal realities. Let nothing engross the heart that is already given away to Christ. Sit loose to the dearest objects in this world. Brainerd mentions an instance of a poor Indian woman who, after her conversion, was resigned to the divine will in the most tender points. She was asked, “What if God should take away your husband from you, how do you think you could bear that?”. She replied, “He belongs to God and not to me. He may do with him just as He pleases.” An old divine says, “Build your nest upon no tree here; for you see God hath sold the forest to death, and every tree whereon we would rest is ready to be cut down, to the end we may flee, and mount up, and build upon the rock, and dwell in the holes of the rock”.
Be sober in the griefs of this world. Weep as though you wept not. This world is the vale of tears. It is a Bochim [Hebrew word in Judges 2:1,5, meaning “the place of weepers”]. There are always some mourning. No sooner is the tear dried up on one cheek than it trickles down another. Still the believer should be sober and chastened in his grief. Weep not for those that died in the Lord; they are not lost, but gone before. The sun, when it sets, is not lost; it is gone to shine in another hemisphere. And so have they gone to “shine like the sun, in the kingdom of their Father”. Weep not for those who died out of the Lord. When Aaron lost his two sons, “Aaron held his peace”. Weep not over bodily pains and losses. Murmur not. Be sober. If you are in Christ, these are all the hell you will ever bear. When we win to the presence of Jesus, all our griefs shall look like children’s griefs. A day in His banqueting house will make you “forget your poverty, and remember your misery no more”.
Sit loose to this world’s enjoyments. Be sober. In a little while you will be at your Father’s table above, drinking the wine new with Christ, you will meet with all your brothers and sisters in the Lord, you will have pure joy in God through ceaseless ages. Do not be much taken with the joys that are here. If ever you are so much engrossed with any enjoyment here that it takes away your love for prayer, or for your Bible, or that it would frighten you to hear the cry, Behold the Bridegroom cometh—then your heart is “overcharged”. You are abusing this world.
(ii) Watch. “Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” Nothing is more difficult than to watch. We are naturally like him who said, “a little more sleep, and a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep”.
One thing is essential to all true watching—the gift of the Holy Spirit. “Anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see” (Revelation 3:18). Take out the beam that is in thine own eye. Not only abstain from dimming the spiritual eye, but dear it. what shall I watch? Watch the work of grace in thine own soul. Has God cast the seed into the field of thine heart? Then see if the blade appear, or the ear, or the full corn in the ear. Has your soul been made a vineyard of red wine? Then say often to your Beloved, “Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appears, and the pomegranates bud forth” (Song 7:12).
Watch thine enemies. You have enemies within, and enemies without. Many seek to take thy crown. “Cast all your care upon the Lord, for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Watch the Redeemer’s cause. The disciples slept while Jesus’ body sweated drops of blood. Many disciples do the same in our day. Lie not on a bed of ivory while Joseph is in affliction. Be one of the “watchmen over the walls of Jerusalem” (Isaiah 62). Be one of those who watch for the morning.
(iii) Watch unto prayer. Some watch and pray not. Right watching quickens prayer. Seest thou the wants, corruptions, infirmities, backslidings, temptations of thine own spirit, the heart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, yea, unsearchably wicked to human eye. Watch unto prayer. Let the eye look within, and then above. Seest thou the cause of Jesus bleeding, Israel turning back before their enemies, plants of the Lord’s planting withering, many walking no more with Jesus, Ephesus losing her first love, Laodicea turning lukewarm, ministers fainting in the day of adversity, Jonah fleeing from the presence of the Lord, the hands of Moses weary, Amalek prevailing against Israel? “Watch unto prayer.”
Seest thou a spring-time of love, Immanuel coming over the mountains of Bether, winter departing, flowers appearing, showers of blessing falling? “Watch unto prayer.” Soon Scotland’s day of grace will be ended. “Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain.” Hearest thou Ephraim bemoaning himself, the dry bones of Israel shaking, saints loving her stones? Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; never hold thy peace day nor night, give Him no rest—”Watch unto prayer.”
The challenge we have today is that certain words trigger certain contexts. When we hear the word “watch” we think “TV” and we assume we can relax and enjoy. What did Jesus mean by the word “watch”?
Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me
When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, he asked his disciples to watch with him. Obviously he wasn’t asking them to watch television. We see He was discouraged not to find them praying. Is watching a synonym for praying?
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak
It seems that watching is distinct from praying. It’s times like this that I love using Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary (free online). Webster’s is filled with Scripture and is a great tool to understand Scripture.
5. To be attentive; to be vigilant in preparation for an event or trial, the time of whose arrival is uncertain.
WATCH therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. Mat 24.
A few days ago, we looked at President Lincoln’s call for fasting and prayer. Other periods of American history were not overshadowed by crisis. Yet even in these times people recognized the need for thanksgiving.
Some people know that the sculptor of Mount Rushmore was Gutzon Borglum.
Most people don’t know that Gutzon Borglum called for a short history of the United States to be carved into stone at Mount Rushmore as well.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the chairman of the Inscription Committee. An inscription was chosen – but the insufferable Borglum was unable to accept anyone’s art (or literature) as equal to his own. It wasn’t until thirty years after Borglum died that the history was installed at Mount Rushmore.
Before these words are sand-blasted off by revisionist historians, I grabbed a photograph of this amazing history:
Almighty God, from this pulpit of stone the American people render thanksgiving and praise for the new era of civilization brought forth upon this continent. Centuries of tyrannical oppression sent to these shores, God-fearing men to seek in freedom the guidance of the benevolent hand in the progress toward wisdom, goodness toward men, and piety toward God.
Even though this was penned near the bottom of the Great Depression, notice the closing words:
Holding no fear of the economic and political chaotic clouds hovering over the earth, the consecrated Americans dedicate this nation before God, to exalt righteousness and to maintain mankind’s constituted liberties so long as the earth shall endure.
Daniel Whittle reminds us that God is faithful to His promises!
He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.
A poor man with an empty purse came one day to Michael Feneberg, the godly pastor of Seeg, in Bavaria, and begged three crowns (15 shillings, or roughly $200 today), that he might finish his journey.
It was all the money Feneberg had, but as he besought him so earnestly in the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus he gave it.
Immediately after, he found himself in great outward need, and seeing no way of relief he prayed, saying, ‘Lord, I lent Thee three crowns; Thou hast not yet returned them, and Thou knowest how I need them. Lord, I pray Thee, give them back.’
The same day a messenger brought a money-letter, which Gossner, his assistant, reached over to Feneberg, saying, ‘Here, father, is what you expended.’
The letter contained two hundred thalers, or about one hundred and fifty dollars (over $4,000 today), which the poor traveler had begged from a rich man for the vicar; and the childlike old man, in joyful amazement, cried out, ‘Ah, dear Lord, one dare ask nothing of Thee, for straightway Thou makest one feel so much ashamed!’
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
Daniel Whittle shares this account of how someone sensitive to the Lord’s leading, gave – and received!
“‘A friend,’ says a venerable clergyman, Rev. Mr. H—-, ‘at a time when gold was scarce, made me a present of a five-dollar gold piece. I resolved not to spend it, and for a long time carried it in my pocket as a token of friendship. In riding about the country, I one day fell in with an acquaintance, who presented a subscription-book for the erection of a church in a destitute place.
“‘I can do nothing for you, Mr. B—-,’ said I; ‘my heart is in this good undertaking, but my pocket is entirely empty; having no money, you must excuse me.’
“‘Oh, certainly,’ said he; ‘all right, sir. We know you always give when it is in your power.’
“We parted; and after I had proceeded some distance, I bethought me of the piece of gold in my vest pocket. ‘What,’ said I to myself, ‘I told that man I had no money, when I had by me all the time this gold pocket-piece. This was an untruth, and I have done wrong.’ I kept reproaching myself in this way until I stopped, and took from my pocket the five-dollar piece.
“‘Of what use,’ said I, ‘is this piece of money, stowed away so nicely in my pocket?’ I made up my mind to turn back, and rode as fast as I could until I overtook Mr. B—-, to whom I gave the coin, and resumed my journey.
“A few days after, I stopped at the house of a lady, who treated me very hospitably, for which I could make no return, except in thanks and Christian counsel. When I took leave, she slipped into my vest pocket a little folded paper, which she told me to give to my wife. I supposed it was some trifle for the children, and thought no more of it until I reached home. I handed it to my wife, who opened it, and to my astonishment it was a five-dollar gold piece, the identical pocket-piece I had parted with but a few days before. I knew it was the same, for I had made a mark upon it; how this had been brought about was a mystery, but that the hand of the Lord was in it I could not doubt. ‘See,’ said I to my wife; ‘I thought I gave that money, but I only lent it; how soon has the Lord returned it! Never again will I doubt his word.’
“I afterward learned that Mr. B—- had paid over the coin to the husband of the lady at whose house I staid, along with some other money, in payment for lumber, and he had given it to his wife.
“Take my advice, and when appealed to for aid, fear not to give of your poverty; depend upon it the Lord will not let you lose by it, if you wish to do good. If you wish to prosper, ‘Give, and it shall be given unto you; for with the same measure that ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.’ ‘Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.'”
And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.
We read of Balaam who’s donkey had better spiritual vision than he did – but has God stopped using animals to accomplish His will? Daniel Whittle records an account that seems to indicate that God still uses animals to answer prayer!
One morning a Christian farmer, in Rhode Island, put two bushels of rye in his wagon and started to the mill to get it ground. On his way to the mill he had to drive over a bridge that had no railings to the sides of it.
When he reached the middle of this bridge his horse, a quiet, gentle creature, began all at once to back. In spite of all the farmer could do, he kept on backing till the hinder wheels went over the side of the bridge, and the bag of grain was tipped out and fell into the stream. Then the horse stood still.
Some men came to help the farmer. The wagon was lifted back and the bag of grain was fished up from the water. Of course it could not be taken to the mill in that state. So the farmer had to take it home and dry it.
He had prayed that morning that God would protect and help him through the day, and he wondered what this accident had happened for. He found out, however, before long.
On spreading out the grain to dry he noticed a great many small pieces of glass mixed up with it. If this had been ground up with the grain into the flour it would have caused the death of himself and his family.
But Jehovah-Jireh was on that bridge. He made the horse back and throw the grain into the water to save the family from the danger that threatened them.
Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln William H. Seward, Secretary of State.
Daniel Whittle records this anecdote that’s a helpful reminder in prayer:
At family prayer, little Mary, one evening when all was silent, looked anxiously in the face of her back-sliding father, who had ceased to pray in his family, and said to him with quivering lips, “Pa, is God dead?”
“No, my child–why do you ask that?”
“Why, Pa, you never talk to him now as you used to do,” she replied.
These words haunted the father until he was mercifully reclaimed.
Daniel Whittle’s accounts of prayer are helpful – because too often we hear a sermon illustration that seems too far-fetched. Perhaps we check it on Snopes and find that the story is unsubstantiated. This account is one in which Daniel Whittle was personally involved.
One of the most beautiful incidents ever known relating to the faith of children, and the reward of their trust, is contained in the following circumstance, personally known to the editor of this book, who was a participant in the facts.
The only child of a young married couple, living in this city, their pride, their hope and joy, and the darling of the whole family, was seized with severe sickness, grew rapidly worse. The grandfather, who was a skilled physician, was constantly present, ministering in every way, by every means, but nothing was of any avail. No medicine could cure, and the child seemed ready to die. No one could think of relief or knew where to find it.
The grandfather, at last, proposed to lay the case before God, and ask the prayers of His people in the child’s behalf. The mother was only too glad to ask other prayers with her own, to bring relief. The father, who had hitherto never seriously thought of religion, was in intense anxiety and despair. Here was his first, his only child about to be taken away from him, and then came the thought, is it possible his family life was not to be blessed; his child was in distress, no human effort was available.
At last, he too joined in the prayer of his wife and father, and bowing before the Great Unknown, unseen God, he poured out his heart in prayer, saying, “Lord, if thou wilt spare my child, wilt give him life, and thus show to me thy power and will to save, I will never doubt again, and will give thee my heart”
A request for prayer was written and sent to the pastor, Dr. William Adams, of the Madison Square Church. It arrived after church service had begun; the sexton was unwilling to carry it to the pulpit, as it was against the rule, but when told he must, as a life was in great danger, he consented, and delivered it to the pastor.
The messenger waited breathlessly, and when in silence the doctor specifically mentioned the case before him, and asked the Lord to heal and spare the little one, and comfort the hearts of all, and make it a witness of his love and power, the messenger accidentally looked at the clock, and it marked just quarter to eleven, A.M.
When prayer was finished he returned home. Arriving at home, he was astonished to find the child better, its whole condition had changed, the medicine had taken hold, and the doctor now said everything was so hopeful the child would surely recover, and it did. But mark the unparalleled singularity of the scene.
The father asked the messenger the time when the prayer was offered. He replied, “At a quarter to eleven.” The father in astonishment said, “At that very moment the disease changed, and the doctor said he was better.”
The father, who had thus been proving the Lord with this test of prayer and its identity of time in his answer, was so overwhelmingly convinced of the real power of prayer, and thereby of the real existence of God, and that a Christian life was one of facts as well as beliefs, now finding that the Lord had indeed kept His own promise, he, too, kept his promise and gave his heart to the Lord, and became henceforth, a professing Christian.
But there were more wonderful things yet to happen–a period of five years passed. Other children were added to the family, and one day, the youngest, a sweet, beautiful girl, was taken suddenly ill with convulsions. The sickness for days tasked the strength of the mother, and the skill of the doctor, but no care, ingenuity, or knowledge could overcome the disease or subdue the pain.
The little girl’s fits were severe and distressing, and there were but short intervals between, just time to come out of one and with a gasp, pass into another still more terrible. In its occasional moments of reason, it would look piteously as if mutely appealing, and then the next convulsion would take it and seem to leave it just at death’s door.
All attendants were worn with care, the doctor fairly lived in the house and forsook all his other business. The clergyman came and comforted the anxious hearts with words of sympathy and prayer; but her little brother Merrill, (whose own life we have just related,) tender-hearted, a mere child, scarce seven years of age, who had known of the Lord, and who believed that He was everywhere and could do everything, was intensely grieved at “Mamie’s” distress, and came at last to his mother and asked if he could go and “make a prayer to God for Sissy.”
The mother said, “Go.”
The little boy went back into his room, and kneeling humbly by the side of his bed, as he did at his night and morning prayers, uttered this request:
“O God, please to bless little sister, she is very sick. Please stop her fits so she won’t have any more. For Jesus’ sake, amen.”
He came back, told his mamma what he said, and added: “Mamma, I don’t think she will have any more.”
Now mark how the Lord honored this simple faith of the little child. From that very moment the fits left her. They never returned; and the child soon entirely recovered.
Notice the full beauty and instruction of these two incidents: Little Merrill’s life was saved in answer to prayer; was the means of his father’s salvation, and when he in turn had grown to an age when he could learn of God, his own prayer was the means of saving his own sister’s life.
Notice, too, that all earthly available means were used to save each child, but to no effect. Physicians and parents considered the case hopeless, and then committed it to the decision of God.
Notice, too, that when little Merrill was so sick, that the mother and doctor both prayed, yet it was not until his father had also prayed that the answer came. God meant to honor the faith of the first two, but was waiting for the prayer of the third ere he granted the request. That child’s sickness was one of the purposes of God.
Notice in the second case, that while father, mother, doctor, the clergyman, and others of the house were all trusting in prayer, yet the Lord was waiting for the prayer of the little brother, ere he sent the blessing of relief. Such an incident draws its own conclusion.
Never cease in prayer for anything which is to God’s honor and glory.
Use all the possible means to help God.
Where human means are of no avail, commit it to God and wait in humble resignation.
Ask others to pray, too, for the same object, that when the answer comes, God may be glorified before the sight of others as well as your own.
When so many are waiting to see if God will honor his promises, depend upon it, God will be found faithful to all his word.