September 30: Praying with Elijah

E.M. Bounds
E.M. Bounds

We’re continuing our study with E.M. Bounds on Prayer and Praying Men, and looking at Elijah.

“I have known men,” says Goodwin—it must have been himself—“who came to God for nothing else but just to come to Him, they so loved Him. They scorned to soil Him and themselves with any other errand than just purely to be alone with Him in His presence. Friendship is best kept up, even among men, by frequent visits; and the more free and defecate those frequent visits are, and the less occasioned by business, or necessity, or custom they are, the more friendly and welcome they are.”—Rev. Alexander Whyte

Elijah is preeminently the elder of the prophets. The crown, the throne and the scepter are his. His garments are white with flame. He seems exalted in his fiery and prayerful nature, as a being seemingly superhuman, but the New Testament places him alongside of us as man of like nature with us. Instead of placing himself outside the sphere of humanity, in the marvelous results of his praying, it points to him as an example to be imitated and as inspiration to stimulate us. To pray like Elijah, and to have results like Elijah, is the crying need of the times.

Elijah had learned the lesson of prayer, and had graduated in that divine school ere we know him. Somewhere in the secret places, on mountain or in plain, he had been alone with God, an intercessor against the debasing idolatry of Ahab. Mightily had his prayers prevailed with God. How confidently and well assured were the answers to his praying.

He had been talking with God about vengeance. He was the embodiment of his times. Those times were times of vengeance. The intercessor was not to be clothed with an olive branch with its fillet of wood, the symbol of a suppliant for mercy, but with fire, the symbol of justice and the messenger of wrath. How abruptly does he come before us in the presence of Ahab! Well assured and with holy boldness does he declare before the astonished, cowering king his message of fearful import, a message gained by his earnest praying,—“in praying he prayed that it might not rain,” and God did not deny his prayer. “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years but according to my word.”

The secret of his praying and the character of the man are found in the words, “Before whom I stand.” We are here reminded of Gabriel’s words to Zacharias in informing this priest of the coming of a son to him and his wife in their old age: “I am Gabriel that standeth in the presence of God.” The archangel Gabriel had scarcely more unflinching devotion, more courage, and more readiness of obedience, and more jealously of God’s honor, than Elijah. What projecting power do we see in his prayer! “And it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.” What omnipotent forces which can command the powers of nature! “Not dew nor rain.” What man is this who dares utter such a claim or assert such a power? If his claim be false, he is a fanatic or a madman. If his claim be true, he has stayed the benevolent arm of Omnipotence, and put himself, by God’s leave, in God’s place. The accursed and burnt-up land and the fiery, rainless and dewless days and nights, attest the truth of his saying, and prove the sternness, strength, firmness and passion of the man who holds back the clouds and stays the blessed visitation of the rain. Elijah is his name, and this attests the truth of that name, “My God is Jehovah.”

His prayers have the power to stay the benignant course of nature. He stands in God’s stead in this matter. The sober, passionless, unimaginative James, the brother of our Lord, in his Epistle, says to us: “See what prayer can do, by Elijah! Pray as Elijah prayed. Let the righteous man put forth to its fullest extent the energy of prayer. Let saints and sinners, angels and devils, see and feel the mighty potencies of prayer. See how the prayer of a good man has power and influence, and avails with God!”

No sham praying was that of Elijah, no mere performance, no spiritless, soulless, official praying was it. Elijah was in Elijah’s praying. The whole man, with all his fiery forces, was in it. Almighty God to him was real. Prayer to him was the means of projecting God in full force on the world, in order to vindicate His name, establish His own being, to avenge His blasphemed name and violated law, and to vindicate His servants.

Elijah “prayed earnestly,” or we could say, “In his prayer he prayed,” or “with prayer he prayed.” That is, with all the combined energies of prayer he prayed.

Elijah’s praying was strong, insistent, and resistless in its elements of power. Feeble praying secures no results and brings neither glory to God nor good to man.

Elijah learned new and higher lessons of prayer while hidden away by God and with God when he was by the brook Cherith. He was doubtless communing with God while Ahab was searching all lands for him. After a while he was ordered to Sarepta, where God had commanded a widow to sustain him. He went there for the widow’s good as well as for his own. A benefit to Elijah and a signal good to the widow were the results of Elijah’s going. While this woman provided for him, he provided for the woman. Elijah’s prayers did more for the woman than the woman’s hospitality did for Elijah. Great trials awaited the widow and great sorrows too. Her widowhood and her poverty tell of her struggles and her sorrows. Elijah was there to relieve her poverty and to assuage her griefs.

Here is the interesting account:

“And it came to pass that after these things, the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was sore, that there was no breath left in him.

“And she said unto Elijah, What have I do to with thee, O thou man of God? Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance and to slay my son?

“And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed.

“And he cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn by slaying her son?

“And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee let this child’s soul come into him again.

“And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

“And Elijah took the child and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother. And Elijah said, See, thy son liveth.

“And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.”

Elijah’s prayer enters regions where prayer had never gone before. The awful, mysterious and powerful regions of the dead are now invaded by the presence and demands of prayer. Jesus Christ refers to Elijah’s going to this widow as mainly, if not solely, for her good. Elijah’s presence and praying keep the woman from starving and brings her son back from death. Surely no sorrow is like the bitterness of the loss of an only son. With what assured confidence Elijah faces the conditions! There is no hesitancy in his actions, and there is no pause in his faith. He takes the dead son to his own room, and alone with God he makes the issue. In that room God meets him and the struggle is with God alone. The struggle is too intense and too sacred for companionship or for spectator. The prayer is made to God and the issue is with God. The child has been taken by God, and God rules in the realms of death. In His hands are the issues of life and death. Elijah believed that God had taken the child’s spirit, and that God could as well restore that spirit. God answered Elijah’s prayer. The answer was the proof of Elijah’s mission from God, and of the truth of God’s Word. The dead child brought to life was a sure conviction of this truth: “Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth. Answers to prayer are the evidences of the being of God and of the truth of His Word.

The immortal test of Elijah made in the presence of an apostate king, and in the face of a backslidden nation and an idolatrous priesthood on Mount Carmel, is a sublime exhibition of faith and prayer. In the contest the prophets of Baal had failed. No fire from heaven falls from heaven in answer to their frantic cries. Elijah, in great quietness of spirit and with confident assurance, calls Israel to him. He repairs the wasted altar of God, the altar of sacrifice and of prayer, and puts the pieces of the bullock in order on the altar. He then uses every preventive against any charge of deception. Every thing is flooded with water. Then Elijah prays a model prayer, remarkable for its clearness, its simplicity and its utmost candor. It is noted for its brevity and its faith.

Read the account given in the Scriptures:

“And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.

“Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.

“Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

“And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, The Lord, he is God; The Lord, he is God.”

Elijah had been dealing directly with God as before. True prayer always deals with God. This prayer of Elijah was to determine the existence of the true God, and the answer direct from God settles the question. The answer is also the credentials of Elijah’s divine mission and the evidence that God deals with men. If we had more of Elijah’s praying, marvels would not be the marvels that they are now to us. God would not be so strange, so far away in being and so feeble in action. Everything is tame and feeble because our praying is so tame and feeble.

God said to Elijah, “Go show thyself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.” Elijah acted promptly on the divine order, and showed himself to Ahab. He had made his issue with Ahab, Israel and Baal. The whole current of national feeling had turned back to God. The day was fading into the evening shades. No rain had come. But Elijah did not fold his arms and say the promise had failed, but gave point and fulfillment to the promise.

Here is the Scripture record with the result given:

“And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of abundance of rain.

“So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel. And he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees.

“And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.

“And it came to pass at the seventh time that he said, Behold there riseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.

“And it came to pass in the meanwhile, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.

“And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah.”

Then it was, as James records, “And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

Elijah’s importunate, fiery praying and God’s promise brought the rain. Prayer carries the promise to its gracious fulfillment. It takes persistent and persevering prayer to give to the promise its largest and most gracious results. In this instance it was expectant prayer, watchful of results, looking for the answer. Elijah had the answer in the small cloud like a man’s hand. He had the inward assurance of the answer even before he had the rain. How Elijah’s praying shames our feeble praying! His praying brought things to pass. It vindicated the existence and being of God, brought conviction to dull and sluggish consciences, and proved that God was still God in the nation. Elijah’s praying turned a whole nation back to God, ordered the moving of the clouds, and directed the falling of the rain. It called down fire from heaven to prove the existence of God or to destroy God’s enemies.

The praying of the Elder Prophet of Israel was clothed in his robes of fire. The golden crown was on his head, and his censer was full and fragrant with the flame, the melody and the perfume of prayer. What wonderful power clothed him on this occasion! It was no wonder that Elisha cried out as he saw this fiery prophet of the Lord enter the chariot for his heavenly ride, “My father! my father! The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!” But chariots and armies could not begin to do as much for Israel as did this praying Elijah. Prayers are omnipotent forces, worldwide and heaven-reaching.

Where are the praying ones of modern times of fiery faith who can incense Elijah’s prayers? We need at this time rulers in the Church who can add to the force, flame and fragrance of Elijah’s praying by their own prayers.

Elijah could touch nothing but by prayer. God was with him mightily because he was mighty in prayer.

In the contest with the prophets of Baal, he makes the issue clearly and positively to determine the true God, as one to be made by prayer. Does God live? Is the Bible a revelation from Him? How often in these days are those questions rising? How often do they need to be settled? An appeal by prayer is the only Settlement to them. Where is the trouble? Not in God, but in our praying. The proof of God and of His being is that He answers prayer. It takes the faith and prayer of Elijah to settle the question. Where are the Elijahs in the Church of the present day? Where are the men of like passions as he, who can pray as he prayed? We have thousands of men of like passions, but where are the men of like praying as he was? Notice with what calm, assured confidence he stakes the issue and builds the altar. How calm and pointed is his prayer on that occasion!

Instead of such praying being out of the range of New Testament principles and moderation, this very praying of Elijah is pressed as an example to be imitated and as an illustration of what prayer can do when performed by the right men in the right way. Elijah’s results could be secured if we had more Elijah men to do the praying.

Elijah prayed really, truly and earnestly. How much of praying there is at the present time which is not real praying, but is a mere shell, shucks, and mere words! Much of it might well be termed non-praying. The world is full of such praying. It goes nowhere, it avails nothing, it brings no returns. In fact, no returns nor results are expected.

The requisites of true prayer are the requisites of scriptural, vital, personal religion. They are the requisites of real religious service in this life. Primary among these requisites is that in serving, we serve. So in praying, we must pray. Truth and heart reality, these are the core, the substance, the sum, the heart of prayer. There are no possibilities in prayer without we really pray in all simplicity, reality and trueness. Prayerless praying—how common, how popular, how delusive and vain!

September 29: Praying with Moses

E.M. Bounds
E.M. Bounds

We’re continuing our study with E.M. Bounds on Prayer and Praying Men, by looking at Moses.

Intercessory Prayer is a powerful means of grace to the praying man. Martyn observes that at times of inward dryness and depression, he had often found a delightful revival in the act of praying for others for their conversion, or sanctification, or prosperity in the work of the Lord. His dealings with God for them about these gifts and blessings were for himself the divinely natural channel of a renewed insight into his own part and lot in Christ, into Christ as his own rest and power, into the “perfect freedom” of an entire yielding of himself to his Master for His work—Bishop Handley C. G. Moule.

Prayer unites with the purposes of God and lays itself out to secure those purposes. How often would the wise and benign will of God fail in its rich and beneficent ends by the sins of the people if prayer had not come in to arrest wrath and make the promise sure! Israel as a nation would have met their just destruction and their just fate after their apostasy with the golden calf had it not been for the interposition and unfainting importunity of Moses’ forty days’ and forty nights’ praying!

Marvelous was the effect of the character of Moses by his marvelous praying. His near and sublime intercourse with God in the giving of the law worked no transfiguration of character like the tireless praying of those forty days in prayer with God. It was when he came down from that long struggle of prayer that his face shone with such dazzling brightness. Our mounts of transfiguration and the heavenly shining in character and conduct are born of seasons of wrestling prayer. All-night praying has changed many a Jacob, the supplanter, into Israel, a prince, who has power with God and with men.

No mission was more majestic in purpose and results than that of Moses, and none was more responsible, diligent and difficult. In it we are taught the sublime ministry and rule of prayer. Not only is it the medium of supply and support, but it is a compassionate agency through which the pitying long-suffering of God has an outflow. Prayer is a medium to restrain God’s wrath, that mercy might rejoice against judgment.

Moses himself and his mission were the creation of prayer. Thus it is recorded: “When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the Lord, then the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place.” This is the genesis of the great movement for the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage.

The great movements of God have had their origin and energy in and were shaped by prayers of men. Prayer has directly to deal with God. Other ends, collateral and incidental, are secured by prayer, but mainly, almost solely, prayer has to deal with God. He is pleased to order His policy, and base His action on the prayers of His saints. Prayer influences God greatly. Moses cannot do God’s great work, though God-commissioned, without praying much. Moses cannot govern God’s people and carry out the divine plans, without having his censer filled full of the incense of prayer. The work of God cannot be done without the fire and fragrance are always burning, ascending and perfuming.

Moses’ prayers are often found relieving the terrible stroke of God’s wrath. Four times were the prayers of Moses solicited by Pharaoh to relieve him of the fearful stroke of God’s wrath. “Entreat the Lord,” most earnestly begged Pharaoh of Moses, while the loathsome frogs were upon him. And “Moses cried unto the Lord because of the frogs which God had brought against the land of Egypt, and the Lord did according to the word of Moses.” When the grievous plague of flies had corrupted the whole land, Pharaoh again piteously cried out to Moses, “Entreat for me.” Moses went out from Pharaoh and entreated the Lord, and the Lord again did according to the word of Moses. The mighty thunderings and hail in their alarming and destructive fury extorted from this wicked king the very same earnest appeal to Moses, “Entreat the Lord.” And Moses went out from the city into privacy, and alone with Almighty God, he “spread abroad his hands unto the Lord, and the thunderings and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured out upon the earth.”

Though Moses was the man of law, yet with him prayer asserted its mighty force. With him, as in the more spiritual dispensation, it could have been said, “My house is the house of prayer.”

Moses accepts at its full face value the foundation principle of praying that prayer has to do with God. With Abraham we saw this dearly and strongly enunciated. With Moses it is dearer and stronger still if possible. It declared that prayer affected God, that God was influenced in His conduct by prayer, and that God hears and answer prayer even when the hearing and answering might change His conduct and reverse His action. Stronger than all other laws, and more inflexible than any other decree, is the decree, “Call upon me and I will answer you.”

Moses lived near God, and had the freest and most unhindered and boldest access to God, but this, instead of abating the necessity of prayer, made it more necessary, obvious and powerful. Familiarity and closeness to God gives relish, frequency, point and potency to prayer. Those who know God the best are the richest and most powerful in prayer. Little acquaintance with God, and strangeness and coldness to Him, make prayer a rare and feeble thing.

There were conditions of extremity to which Moses was reduced which prayer did not relieve, but there is no position of extremity which baffles God, when prayer pats God into the matter.

Moses’ mission was a divine one. It was ordered, directed and planned by God. The more there is of God in a movement, the more there is of prayer, conspicuous and controlling. Moses’ prayer rule of the church illustrates the necessity of courage and persistence in prayer. For forty days and forty nights was Moses pressing his prayer for the salvation of the Lord’s people. So intense was his concern for them which accompanied his long season of praying, that bodily infirmities and appetites were retired. How strangely the prayers of a righteous man affect God is evident from the exclamation of God to Moses, “Now, therefore, let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation.” The presence of such an influence over God fills us with astonishment, awe and fear. How lofty, bold and devoted must be such a pleader!

Read this from the divine record:

“And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold!

“Yet now if thou wilt forgive their sin—and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.

“Therefore now go, and lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee. Behold my angel shall go before thee.”

The rebellion of Korah was the occasion of God’s anger flaming out against the whole congregation of Israel, who sympathized with these rebels. Again Moses appears on the stage of action, this time having Aaron to join him in intercession for these sinners against God. But it only shows that in a serious time like this Moses knew to whom to go for relief, and was encouraged to pray that God would stay His wrath and spare Israel. Here is what is said about the matter:

“And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying,

“Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.

“And they fell on their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?”

The assumption, pride and rebellion of Miriam, sister of Moses, in which she had the presence and sympathy of Aaron, put the praying and the spirit of Moses in the noblest and most amiable light. Because of her sin God smote her with leprosy. But Moses made tender and earnest intercession for his sister who had so grievously offended God, and his prayer saved her from the fearful and incurable malady.

The record is intensely interesting, and follows just here:

“And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them and the cloud departed from off the tabernacle and behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow; and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and behold she was leprous.

“And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my Lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin unto us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned.

“Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother’s womb.

“And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her, O God, I beseech thee.

“And the Lord said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? Let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received again.”

The murmurings of the children of Israel furnished conditions which called into play the full forces of prayer. They impressively bring out the intercessory feature of prayer and disclose Moses in his great office as an intercessor before God in behalf of others. It was at Marah, where the waters were bitter and the people grievously murmured against Moses and God.

Here is the Scripture account:

“And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah; for they were bitter; therefore the name of it was called Marah.

“And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?

“And Moses cried unto the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet; there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them.”

How many of the bitter places of the earth have been sweetened by prayer the records of eternity alone will disclose.

Again at Taberah the people complained, and God became angry with them, and Moses came again to the front and stepped into the breach and prayed for them. Here is the brief account:

“And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost part of the camp.

“And the people cried unto Moses, and when unto the Lord, the fire was quenched.”

Moses got what he asked for. His praying was specific and God’s answer was likewise specific. Always was he heard by Almighty God when prayed, and always was he answered by God. Once the answer was not specific. He had prayed to go into Canaan. The answer came but not what he asked for. He was given a vision of the Promised Land, but he was not allowed to go over Jordan into that land of promise. It was a prayer on the order of Paul’s when he prayed three times for the removal of the thorn in the flesh. But the thorn was not removed. Grace, however, was vouchsafed which made the thorn a blessing.

It must not be thought that because Psalm 90 is incorporated with what is known as the “Psalms of David,” that David was the author of it. By general consent it is attributed to Moses, and it gives us a sample of the praying of this giver of the law of God to the people. It is a prayer worth studying. It is sacred to us because it has been the requiem uttered over our dead for years that are past and gone. It has blessed the grave of many a sleeping saint. But its very familiarity may cause us to lose its full meaning. Wise will we be if we digest it, not for the dead, but for the living, that it may teach us how to live, how to pray while living, and how to die. “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. Establish thou the work of our hands, yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”

September 28: Praying with Abraham

E.M. Bounds
E.M. Bounds

We’re continuing with E.M. Bounds in his study, Prayer and Praying Men, by looking at Abraham today.

Oh for determined men and women, who will rise early and really burn out for God. Oh for a faith that will sweep into heaven with the early dawning of the morning and have ships from a shoreless sea loaded in the soul’s harbor ere the ordinary laborer has knocked the dew from his scythe or the huckster has turned from his pallet of straw to spread nature’s treasures of fruit before the early buyers.—Rev. Homer W. Hodge.

Abraham, the friend of God, was a striking illustration of one of the Old Testament saints who believed strongly in prayer. Abraham was not a shadowy figure by any means. In the simplicity and dimness of the patriarchal dispensation, as illustrated by him, we learn the worth of prayer, as well as discover its antiquity. The fact is, prayer reaches back to the first ages of man on earth. We see how the energy of prayer is absolutely required in the simplest as well as in the most complex dispensations of God’s grace. When we study Abraham’s character, we find that after his call to go out into an unknown country, on his journey with his family and his household servants, wherever he tarried by the way for the night or longer, he always erected an altar, and “called upon the name of the Lord.” And this man of faith and prayer was one of the first to erect a family altar, around which to gather his household and offer the sacrifices of worship, of praise and of prayer. These altars built by Abraham were, first of all, essentially altars about which he gathered his household, as distinguished from secret prayer.

As God’s revelations became fuller and more perfect, Abraham’s prayerfulness increased, and it was at one of these spiritual eras that “Abraham fell on his face and God talked with him.” On still another occasion we find this man, “the father of the faithful,” on his face before God, astonished almost to incredulity at the purposes and revelations of Almighty God to him in promising him a son in his old age, and the wonderful engagements which God made concerning his promised son.

Even Ishmael’s destiny is shaped by Abraham’s prayer when he prayed, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!”

What a remarkable story is that of Abraham’s standing before God repeating his intercessions for the wicked city of Sodom, the home of his nephew Lot, doomed by God’s decision to destroy it! Sodom’s fate was for a while stayed by Abraham’s praying, and was almost entirely relieved by the humility and insistence of the praying of this man who believed strongly in prayer and who knew how to pray. No other recourse was opened to Abraham to save Sodom but prayer. Perhaps the failure to ultimately rescue Sodom from her doom of destruction was due to Abraham’s optimistic view of the spiritual condition of things in that city. It might have been possible,—who knows?—that if Abraham had entreated God once more, and asked Him to spare the city if even one righteous man was found there, for Lot’s sake, He might have heeded Abraham’s request.

Note another instance in the life of Abraham as showing how he was a man of prayer and had power with God. Abraham had journeyed to and was sojourning in Gerar. Fearing that Abimelech might kill him and appropriate Sarah his wife to his own lustful uses, he deceived Abimelech by claiming that Sarah was his sister. God appeared unto Abimelech in a dream and warned him not to touch Sarah, telling him that she was the wife of Abraham, and not his sister. Then he said unto Abimelech, “Now restore therefore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live.” And the conclusion of the incident is thus recorded: “So Abraham prayed unto God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife, and his maid servants, and they bare children. For the Lord had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, his wife.”

This was a case somewhat on the line of that of Job at the close of his fearful experience and his terrible trials, when his friends, not understanding Job, neither comprehending God’s dealings with this servant of His, falsely charged Job with being in sin as the cause of all his troubles. God said to these friends of Job, “My servant Job shall pray for you, for him will I accept. And the Lord turned the captivity of Job when he had prayed for his friends.”

Almighty God knew His servant Job as a man of prayer, and He could afford to send these friends of Job to him to pray in order to carry out and fulfill His plans and purposes.

It was Abraham’s rule to stand before the Lord in prayer. His life was surcharged with prayer and Abraham’s dispensation was sanctified by prayer. For wherever he halted in his pilgrimage, prayer was his inseparable accompaniment. Side by side with the altar of sacrifice was the altar of prayer. He got up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord in prayer.

September 27: Praying with Solomon

E.M. Bounds
E.M. Bounds

We’re continuing with E.M. Bounds in his classic, Prayer and Praying Men, looking at Solomon today:

Nor must even Solomon be overlooked in the famous catalogue of men who prayed in Old Testament times. Whatever their faults, they did not forget the God who hears prayer nor did they cease to seek the God of prayer. While this wise man in his later life departed from God, and his sun set under a cloud, we find him praying at the commencement of his reign.

Solomon went to Gibeon to offer sacrifice, which always meant that prayer went in close companionship with sacrifice, and while there, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a vision by night, saying unto him, “Ask what I shall give thee.” The sequel shows the material out of which Solomon’s character was formed. What was his request?

“O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of my father; and I am but a little child; I know not how to go out or to come in.

“And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.

“Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?”

We do not wonder that it is recorded as a result of such praying:

“And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.

“And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thy enemies, but has asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;

“Behold I have done according to thy word; Lo, I have given thee a wise and understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.

“Also I have given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honor; so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.”

What praying was this! What self-deprecation and simplicity! “I am but a little child.” How he specified the one thing needful! And see how much more he received than that for which he asked!

Take the remarkable prayer at the dedication of the temple. Possibly this is the longest recorded prayer in God’s Word. How comprehensive, pointed, intensive, it is! Solomon could not afford to lay the foundations of God’s house in anything else but in prayer. And God heard this prayer as he heard him before, “And when Solomon had made an end of his praying, the fire came down from heaven, and the glory of the Lord filled the house,” thus God attested the acceptance of this house of worship and of Solomon, the praying king.

September 26: Praying with David

We’re continuing with E.M. Bounds in his classic, Prayer and Praying Men. Today we’re looking at David:

How greatly we need a school to teach the art of praying! This simplest of all arts and mightiest of all forces is ever in danger of being forgotten or depraved. The further we get away from our mother’s knees, the further do we get away from the true art of praying. All our after-schooling and our after-teachers unteach us the lessons of prayer. Men prayed well in Old Testament times because they were simple men and lived in simple times. They were childlike, lived in childlike times and had childlike faith.

In citing the Old Testament saints noted for their praying habits, by no means must David be overlooked, a man who preeminently was a man of prayer. With him prayer was a habit, for we hear him say, “Evening and morning and at noon will I pray and cry aloud.” Prayer with the Sweet Psalmist of Israel was no strange occupation. He knew the way to God and was often found in that way. It is no wonder we hear his call so dear and impressive, “O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” He knew God as the one being who could answer prayer: “O thou that hearest prayer, to thee shall all flesh come.”

When God smote the child born of Bathsheba, because David had by his grievous sins given occasion of the enemies of God to blaspheme, it is no surprise that we find him engaged in a week’s prayer, asking God for the life of the child. The habit of his life asserted itself in this great emergency in his home, and we find him fasting and praying for the child to recover. The fact that God denied his request does not at all affect the question of David’s habit of praying. Even though he did not receive what he asked for, his faith in God was not in the least affected. The fact is that while God did not give him the life of that baby boy, He afterward gave him another son, even Solomon. So that possibly the latter son was a far great blessing to him than would have been the child for whom he prayed.

In close connection with this season of prayer, we must not overlook David’s penitential praying when Nathan, by command of God, uncovered David’s two great sins of adultery and murder. At once David acknowledged his wickedness, saying unto Nathan, “I have sinned.” And as showing his deep grief over his sin, his heart-broken spirit, and his genuine repentance, it is only necessary to read Psalm 51 where confession of sin, deep humiliation and prayer are the chief ingredients of the Psalm.

David knew where to find a sin-pardoning God, and was received back again and had the joys of salvation restored to him by earnest, sincere, penitential praying. Thus are all sinners brought into the divine favor, thus do they find pardon, and thus do they find a new heart.

The entire Book of Psalms brings prayer to the front, and prayer fairly bristles before our eyes as we read this devotional book of the Scriptures.

September 25: Praying with Jonah

E.M. Bounds
E.M. Bounds

We’re going back to E.M. Bounds for his studies of Prayer and Praying Men, and we’ll start with an unlikely figure, Jonah:

Jonah, the man who prayed in the fish’s belly, brings to view another remarkable instance of these Old Testament worthies who were given to prayer. This man Jonah, a prophet of the Lord, was a fugitive from God and from the place of duty. He had been sent on a mission of,warning to wicked Nineveh, and had been commanded to cry out against them, “for their wickedness is come up before me,” said God. But Jonah, through fear or otherwise, declined to obey God, and took passage on a ship for Tarshish, fleeing from God. He seems to have overlooked the plain fact that the same God who had sent him on that alarming mission had His eye upon him as he hid himself on board that vessel. A storm arose as the vessel was on its way to Tarshish, and it was decided to throw Jonah overboard in order to appease God and to avert the destruction of the boat and of all on board. But God was there as He had been with Jonah from the beginning. He had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah, in order to arrest him, to defeat him in his flight from the post of duty, and to save Jonah that he might help to carry out the purposes of God.

It was Jonah who was in the fish’s belly, in that great strait, and passing through a strange experience, who called upon God, who heard him and caused the fish to vomit him out on dry land. What possible force could rescue him from this fearful place? He seemed hopelessly lost, in “the belly of hell,” as good as dead and damned. But he prays—what else can he do? And this is just what he had been accustomed to do when in trouble before.

“I cried by reason of my affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardst my voice.”

And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

Like others he joined prayer to a vow he had made, for he says in his prayer, “But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.”

Prayer was the mighty force which brought Jonah from “the belly of hell.” Prayer, mighty prayer, has secured the end. Prayer brought God to the rescue of unfaithful Jonah, despite his sin of fleeing from duty, and God could not deny his prayer. Nothing is too hard for prayer because nothing is too hard for God.

That answered prayer of Jonah in the fish’s belly in its mighty results became an Old Testament type of the miraculous power displayed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Our Lord puts His seal of truth upon the fact of Jonah’s prayer and resurrection.

Nothing can be simpler than these cases of God’s mighty deliverance. Nothing is plainer than that prayer has to do with God directly and simply. Nothing is clearer than that prayer has its only worth and significance in the great fact that God hears and answers prayer. This the Old Testament saints strongly believed. It is the one fact that stands out continuously and prominently in their lives. They were essentially men of prayer.

September 24: Differences between Old and New Testament Prayers

Herbert Lockyer has published a book, All the Prayers of the Bible. The Table of Contents is an extremely helpful resource as you study prayer, for example:

Genesis

  • Prayer History Begins Gen 4:26
  • Prayer and Spiritual Progress Gen 5:21-24
  • Prayer and the Altar Gen 12, 13
  • Prayer for an Heir Gen 15
  • Prayer—the Language of a Cry Gen 16
  • Prayer and Revelation Gen 17
  • Prayer for a Wicked City Gen 18, 19
  • Prayer after a Lapse Gen 20
  • Prayer of Obedience Gen 22
  • Prayer for a Bride Gen 24
  • Prayer for a Barren Wife Gen 25:19-23
  • Prayer Changes Things Gen 26
  • Prayer as a Vow, Gen 28
  • Prayer about a Wronged Brother Gen 32
  • Prayer—The Motion of a Hidden Fire Gen 39-41; 45:5-8; 50:20, 24
  • Prayer for Blessing upon the Tribes Gen 48, 49

In his introduction to the Prayers in the New Testament (available at Google Books free preview), he writes on the differences between Old Testament and New Testament prayers:

As we approach the still richer treasure of prayer the New Testament contains, what else can we say but, “Lord, it is good for us to be here”? At the outset of our meditation, let it be clearly understood that while we find further confirmation, we do not have any higher evidence than the Old Testament presents of the fact that God hears and answers prayer.

From Genesis to Malachi we have ample proof of prayer being fully answered by God. No sincere saint was sent away empty. No petition in submission to the divine will failed of an appropriate answer. As the Bible, however, contains a progressive revelation of the mind and will of God, we have aspects concerning the duty and privilege of prayer of new and intense interest….

Prayers of the two Testaments are different in several ways. First of all, Old Testament saints were taken up in the majority of cases, with secular or temporal blessings. Their prayers were, more or less, of an earthly nature. One exception is David, whose Psalm-prayers were of a heavenly nature. Spiritual communion was his desire as he panted after God (Psalm 42:1).

The New Testament abounds with directions to pray for and seek after spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). Under grace, believers are on vantage-ground. Theirs is a fuller revelation than that enjoyed by saints of old. They have been given specific directions on how to desire spiritual gifts and graces, with promises and assurances inspiring confidence to possess their possessions.

Herbert Lockyer, All the Prayers of the Bible

September 23: Listening with the Israelites

We’re on day 5 of learning to listen to the Lord.

And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.

Exodus 15:26

Often we assume something mysterious or highly spiritual about hearing God’s voice and taking time to listen. But God speaks to us thru His Word. We can open it each day. But sometimes we don’t diligently hearken – we kinda gloss over it.

To diligently hearken means to examine our lives against God’s will for our lives. During the listening part of prayer, examine Scripture that you’ve read and see – has God prompted you in ways that you could respond?

Let’s give ear to His commandments!

[12] Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.

Psalm 119:12

September 22: Listening with Adam

We’ve seen some of the ways to listen to God already, but today we’ll highlight a way not to listen to God.

[10] And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

Genesis 3:10

Adam responded to God’s voice with fear – but the wrong kind of fear.

Adam was afraid, while we’re told to have the ‘fear of the Lord’

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether

Psalm 19:9

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Proverbs 19:10

Adam was afraid, in Hebrew: waira. This is where we’re told fear not. Don’t be frightened, scared, paralyzed, forced to hide.

Fear of the Lord, fear, in Hebrew: yirat. This is the idea of reverence.

A way to visualize reverence is to ‘bow the knee.’ Here’s a song from our friend Ron Hamilton (Patch the Pirate) on how to reverence our God!

Bow the Knee, by Ron Hamilton

September 21: Listening with Sarah

We’re on day 3 of Listening to God in prayer. One of the problems we have is that after we’ve identified God’s voice, we respond too quickly.

[9] And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.
[10] And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
[11] Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
[12] Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
[13] And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
[14] Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.
[15] Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.

Genesis 18

What is God saying to you that you’re quick to dismiss or laugh off? Is He asking you to pray for a loved one’s salvation? To share the gospel with a friend? Is He calling you into the ministry?

We may still be trying to figure out if it’s God that is speaking to us – but let’s be careful not to dismiss what He’s saying simply because it doesn’t fit our preconceived limitations for our life. Remember:

  • Noah was a drunk
  • Abraham was too old
  • Isaac was a daydreamer
  • Jacob was a liar
  • Leah was ugly
  • Joseph was abused
  • Moses had a stuttering problem
  • Gideon was afraid
  • Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
  • Rahab was a prostitute
  • Jeremiah was too young
  • David was an adulterer (not to mention a murderer)
  • Elijah was suicidal
  • Isaiah preached naked
  • Jonah ran from God
  • Naomi was a widow
  • Job went bankrupt
  • John the Baptist ate bugs
  • Andrew lived in the shadow of his big brother
  • Peter denied Christ
  • All the disciples fell asleep while praying (and ran away when Jesus really needed them.)
  • Martha worried about everything
  • The Samaritan woman was divorced (more than once)
  • Mary Magdalene was demon-possessed
  • Zaccheus was too small
  • Timothy had an ulcer
  • Paul was a Christian-killer
  • Oh…and Lazarus was dead