Praying the Promises

IMG_0113Praying the Promises

In righteousness you shall be established; You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; And from terror, for it shall not come near you. Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me.  Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake.  “Behold, I have created the blacksmith  Who blows the coals in the fire,  Who brings forth an instrument for his work;  And I have created the spoiler to destroy.  No weapon formed against you shall prosper,  And every tongue which rises against you in judgment  You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,  And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the LORD. Isaiah 54:14-17

God created and sustains heavens and the earth by His word. And if we stand on His word and proclaim His word it will come to pass including that Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me.  Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake.  “Behold, I have created the blacksmith  Who blows the coals in the fire,  Who brings forth an instrument for his work;  And I have created the spoiler to destroy.  No weapon formed against you shall prosper,  And every tongue which rises against you in judgment  You shall condemn. Yes, there is great power in the Word of God not only to create heaven and earth but to change and even destroy all things! God’s word is unchanging:

Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, Or the captives of the righteous be delivered?  But thus says the LORD:  “Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away,  And the prey of the terrible be delivered;  For I will contend with him who contends with you,  And I will save your children.  I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh,  And they shall be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine.  All flesh shall know  That I, the LORD, am your Savior, And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.  Isaiah 49:24-25

‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ Jeremiah 33:3

Edward McKendree Bounds (1835-1913), Methodist minister and devotional writer understood prayer and wrote three excellent books about it. The following in an excerpt from one of his books ‘The Possibilities of Prayer’:

How broad these words of the Lord, how great the promise, how cheering to faith! They really challenge the faith of the saint. Prayer always brings God to our relief to bless and to aid, and brings marvelous revelation of his power. What impossibilities are there with God? Name them. “Nothing,” he says, “is impossible to the Lord.” And all the possibilities in God are in prayer. But without  the promise prayer is eccentric and baseless. Without prayer, the promise is dim, voiceless, shadowy, and impersonal. The promise makes prayer dauntless and irresistible. The apostle Peter declares that God has given to us “exceeding great and precious promises.” “Precious” and “exceeding great” promises they are, and for this very cause we are to “add to our faith,” and supply virtue. It is the addition which makes the promises current and beneficial to us. It is prayer which makes the promises weighty, precious and practical. The apostle Paul did not hesitate to declare that God’s grace so richly promised was made operative and efficient by prayer. “Ye also helping together by prayer for us.”[i]

The promises of God are “exceeding great and precious,” words which clearly indicate their great value and their broad reach, as grounds upon which to base our expectations in praying. Howsoever exceeding great and precious they are, their realization, the possibility and condition of that realization, are based on prayer. How glorious are these promises to the believing saints and to the whole church! How the brightness and bloom, the fruitage and cloudless midday glory of the future beam on us through the promises of God! Yet these promises never brought hope to bloom or fruit to a prayerless heart. Neither could these promises, were they a thousandfold increased in number and preciousness, bring millennium glory to a prayerless church. Prayer makes the promise rich, fruitful and a conscious reality.

Prayer as a spiritual energy, and illustrated in its enlarged and mighty working, makes way for and brings into practical realization the promises of God.

God’s promises cover all things which pertain to life and godliness, which relate to body and soul, which have to do with time and eternity. These promises bless the present and stretch out in their benefactions to the illimitable and eternal future. Prayer holds these promises in keeping and in fruition. Promises are God’s golden fruit to be plucked by the hand of prayer. Promises are God’s incorruptible seed, to be sown and tilled by prayer.

Prayer and the promises are interdependent. The promise inspires and energizes prayer, but prayer locates the promise, and gives it realization and location. The promise is like the blessed rain falling in full showers, but prayer, like the pipes which transmit, preserve and direct the rain, localizes and precipitates these promises, until they become local and personal, and bless, refresh and fertilize. Prayer takes hold of the promise and conducts it to its marvelous ends, removes the obstacles, and makes a highway for the promise to its glorious fulfillment.

Our prayers are too little and feeble to execute the purposes or to claim the promises of God with appropriating power. Marvelous purposes need marvelous praying to execute them. Miracle-making promises need miraclemaking praying to realize them. Only divine praying can operate divine promises or carry out divine purposes. How great, how sublime, and how exalted are the promises God makes to his people! How eternal are the purposes of God! Why are we so impoverished in experience and so low in life when God’s promises are so “exceeding great and precious”? Why do the eternal purposes of God move so tardily? Why are they so poorly executed? Our failure to appropriate the divine promises and rest our faith on them, and to pray believingly is the solution. “We have not because we ask not.” We ask and receive not because we ask amiss.

Prayer is based on the purpose and promise of God. Prayer is submission to God. Prayer has no sigh of disloyalty against God’s will. It may cry out against the bitterness and the dread weight of an hour of unutterable anguish: “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” But it is surcharged with the sweetest and promptest submission. “Yet not my will, but thine be done.”

But prayer in its usual uniform and deep current is conscious conformity to God’s will, based upon the direct promise of God’s Word, and under the illumination and application of the Holy Spirit. Nothing is surer than that the Word of God is the sure foundation of prayer. We pray just as we believe God’s Word. Prayer is based directly and specifically upon God’s revealed promises in Christ Jesus. It has no other ground upon which to base its plea. All else is shadowy, sandy, fickle. Not our feelings, not our merits, not our works, but God’s promise is the basis of faith and the solid ground of prayer.

God’s promises are dependent and conditioned upon prayer to appropriate them and make them a conscious realization. The promises are inwrought in us, appropriated by us, and held in the arms of faith by prayer. Let it be noted that prayer gives the promises their efficiency, localizes and appropriates them, and utilizes them. Prayer puts the promises to practical and present uses. Prayer puts the promises as the seed in the fructifying soil. Promises, like the rain are general. Prayer embodies, precipitates, and locates them for personal use. Prayer goes by faith into the great fruit orchard of God’s exceeding great and precious promises, and with hand and heart picks the ripest and richest fruit. The promises, like electricity, may sparkle and dazzle and yet be impotent for good till these dynamic, life-giving currents are chained by prayer, and are made the mighty forces which move and bless.

THE great promises find their fulfillment along the lines of prayer. They inspire prayer, and through prayer the promises flow out to their full realization and bear their ripest fruit.

God’s promises are always personal and specific. They are not general, indefinite, vague. They do not have to do with multitudes and classes of people in a mass, but are directed to individuals. They deal with persons. Each believer can claim the promise as his own. God deals with each one personally. So that every saint can put the promises to the test. “Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord.” No need of generalizing, nor of being lost in vagueness. The praying saint has the right to put his hand upon the promise and claim it as his own, one made especially to him, and one intended to embrace all his needs, present and future.

How large are the promises made to the saint! How great the promises given to poor, hungry-hearted, lost sinners, ruined by the fall! And prayer has arms sufficient to encompass them all, and prove them. How great the encouragement to all souls, these promises of God! How firm the ground on which to rest our faith! How stimulating to prayer! What firm ground on which to base our pleas in praying!

The Lord hath promised good to me,  His word my hope secures;  He will my shield and portion be As long as life endures.

One of the most important, far-reaching, peace-giving, necessary, and practical prayer possibilities we have in Paul’s words in Philippians, chapter four, dealing with prayer as a cure for undue care:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

“Cares” are the epidemic evil of mankind. They are universal in their reach. They belong to man in his fallen condition. The predisposition to undue anxiety is the natural result of sin. Care comes in all shapes, at all times, and from all sources. It comes to all of every age and station. There are the cares of the home circle, from which there is no escape save in prayer. There are the cares of business, the cares of poverty, and the cares of riches. Ours is an anxious world, and ours is an anxious race. The caution of Paul is well addressed, “In nothing be anxious.” This is the divine injunction, and that we might be able to live above anxiety and freed from undue care, “In everything, by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known unto God.” This is the divinely prescribed remedy for all anxious cares, for all worry, for all inward fretting.

The word careful means to be drawn in different directions, distracted, anxious, disturbed, annoyed in spirit. Jesus had warned against this very thing in the Sermon on the Mount, where he had earnestly urged his disciples, “Take no thought for the morrow,” in things concerning the needs of the body. He was endeavoring to show them the true secret of a quiet mind, freed from anxiety and unnecessary care about food and raiment. Tomorrow’s evils were not to be considered. He was simply teaching the same lesson found in Psalm 37:3, “Trust in the LORD, and do good;  Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.” In cautioning against the fears of tomorrow’s prospective evils, and the material wants of the body, our Lord was teaching the great lesson of an implicit and childlike confidence in God. “ Delight yourself also in the LORD,  And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

GOD has committed himself to us by his Word in our praying. The Word of God is the basis and the inspiration and the heart of prayer. Jesus Christ stands as the illustration of God’s Word, its illimitable good in promise as well as in realization. God takes nothing by halves. He gives nothing by halves. We can have the whole of him when he has the whole of us-His words of promise are so far-reaching, and so all-comprehending, that they seem to have deadened our comprehension and have paralyzed our praying. This appears when we consider those large words, when he almost exhausts human language in promises, as in “whatever,” “anything,” and in the all-inclusive “whatsoever,” and “all things.” These oft-repeated promises, so very great, seem to daze us, and instead of allowing them to move us to asking, testing, and receiving, we turn away full of wonder, but empty handed and with empty hearts.

We quote another passage from our Lord’s teaching about prayer. By the most solemn verification, he declares as follows:

“And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:23-24

Twice in this passage he declares the answer, and pledging his father, “He will give it to you,” and declaring with impressive and most suggestive emphasis, “Ask, and ye shall receive.” So strong and so often did Jesus declare and repeat the answer as an inducement to pray, and as an inevitable result of prayer, the apostles held it as so fully and invincibly established, that prayer would be answered, they held it to be their main duty to urge and command men to pray. So firmly were they established as to the truth of the law of prayer as laid down by our Lord, that they were led to affirm that the answer to prayer was involved in and necessarily bound up with all right praying. God the Father and Jesus Christ, his Son, are both strongly committed by all the truth of their word and by the fidelity of their character, to answer prayer.

Not only do these and all the promises pledge Almighty God to answer prayer, but they assure us that the answer will be specific, and that the very thing for which we pray will be given.

God’s promises and purposes go direct to the fact of giving for the asking. The answer to our prayers is the motive constantly presented in the Scriptures to encourage us to pray and to quicken us in this spiritual exercise. Take such strong, clear passages as these:

Call unto me, and I will answer thee. He shall call unto me, and I will answer. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

This is Jesus Christ’s law of prayer. He does not say, “Ask, and something shall be given you.” Nor does he say, “Ask, and you will be trained into piety.” But it is that when you ask, the very thing asked for will be given. Jesus does not say, “Knock, and some door will be opened.” But the very door at which you are knocking will be opened. To make this doubly sure, Jesus Christ duplicates and reiterates the promise of the answer: ” For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

Answered prayer is the spring of love, and is the direct encouragement to pray. “I love the Lord because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.”

The certainty of the father’s giving is assured by the father’s relation, and by the ability and goodness of the father. Earthly parents, frail, infirm, and limited in goodness and ability, give when the child asks and seeks. The parental heart responds most readily to the cry for bread. The hunger of the child touches and wins the father heart. So God, our heavenly Father, is as easily and strongly moved by our prayers as the earthly parent. “If ye being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father in heaven give good gifts unto them that ask him?” “Much more,” just as much more does God’s goodness, tenderness and ability exceed that of man’s.

Just as the asking is specific, so also is the answer specific. The child does not ask for one thing and get another. He does not cry for bread, and get a stone. He does not ask for an egg, and receive a scorpion. He does not ask for a fish, and get a serpent. Christ demands specific asking. He responds to specific praying by specific giving.

To give the very thing prayed for, and not something else, is fundamental to Christ’s law of praying. No prayer for the cure of blind eyes did he ever answer by curing deaf ears. The very thing prayed for is the very thing which he gives. The exceptions to this are confirmatory of this great law of prayer. He who asks for bread gets bread, and not a stone. If he asks for a fish, he receives a fish, and not a serpent. No cry is so pleading and so powerful as the child’s cry for bread. The cravings of hunger, the appetite felt, and the need realized, all create and propel the crying of the child. Our prayers must be as earnest, as needy, and as hungry as the hungry child’s cry for bread. Simple, artless, direct, and specific must be our praying, according to Christ’s law of prayer and his teaching of God’s fatherhood.

Prayer is asking God for something, and for something which he has promised. Prayer is using the divinely appointed means for obtaining what we need and for accomplishing what God proposes to do on earth. And prayer brings to us blessings which we need, and which only God can give, and which prayer can alone convey to us.

In their broadest fullness, the possibilities of prayer are to be found in the very nature of prayer. This service of prayer is not a mere rite, a ceremony through which we go, a sort of performance. Prayer is going to God for something needed and desired. Prayer is simply asking God to do for us what he has promised us he will do if we ask him. The answer is a part of prayer, and is God’s part of it. God’s doing the thing asked for is as much a part of the prayer as the asking of the thing is prayer. Asking is man’s part. Giving is God’s part. The praying belongs to us. The answer belongs to God. Man makes the plea and God makes the answer. The plea and the answer compose the prayer. God is more ready, more willing and more anxious to give the answer than man is to give the asking. The possibilities of prayer lie in the ability of man to ask large things and in the ability of God to give large things.

God’s only condition and limitation of prayer is found in the character of the one who prays. The measure of our faith and praying is the measure of his giving. As our Lord said to the blind man, “according to your faith be it unto you,” so it is the same in praying, “According to the measure of your asking, be it unto you.” God measures the answer according to the prayer. He is limited by the law of prayer in the measure of the answers he gives to prayer. As is the measure of prayer, so will be the answer. If the person praying has the characteristics which warrant praying, then the possibilities are unlimited. They are declared to be “all things whatsoever.” Here is no limitation in character or kind, in circumference or condition. The man who prays can pray for anything and for everything, and God will give everything and anything. If we limit God in the asking, he will be limited in the giving.

If we believe God’s Word, we are bound to believe that prayer affects God, and affects him mightily; that prayer avails, and that prayer avails mightily. There are wonders in prayer because there are wonders in God. Prayer has no talismanic influence. It is no mere fetish. It has no so-called powers of magic. It is simply making known our requests to God for things agreeable to his will in the name of Christ. It is just yielding our requests to a father, who knows all things, who has control of all things, and who is able to do all things. Prayer is infinite ignorance trusting to the wisdom of God. Prayer is the voice of need crying out to him who is inexhaustible in resources. Prayer is helplessness reposing with childlike confidence on the word of its Father in heaven. Prayer is but the verbal expression of the heart of perfect confidence in the infinite wisdom, the power and the riches of Almighty God, who has placed at our command in prayer everything we need. God’s word is unchanging:

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Colossians 4:12

[i] The Possibilities of Prayer by E.M.Bounds

[i] The Possibilities of Prayer by E.M.Bounds


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