KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God... "
TO BE THE LORD'S PRAYER
The subject of prayer is one of universal interest. No one is able to answer all the questions that might be asked concerning it, but the instinct of prayer is so deep-seated in the human psyche that all men pray at one time or another, consciously' sub-consciously, or un-consciously. Prayers differ in scope and quality, according to the spiritual experience of those who pray. During World War II reports circulated from the front lines indicated that there were no athiests in the foxholes. Passengers on a hijacked plane, campers whose camp is invaded at night by plundering and pillaging bears, office workers stranded on an elevator by a power failure, parents pacing the hospital corridor outside the operating room, business men eager for an important contract to be theirs—all these people resort to prayer. When we come to the end of ourselves' when life piles up problems beyond our ability to cope' when crisis strikes our hearts with fear and terror' we do not hesitate to pray. After all, what else can we do?
There's a story about a rancher who wanted nothing to do with God. He disliked churches and Christians, he despised preachers, and he made sure that his sons, Tom, Dick, and Harry, felt the same way. One day, though, the local minister was called out to the ranch. A rattlesnake had bitten Tom, and the doctor had done all he could. "Please, will you pray for Tom?" the rancher pleaded. So the preacher prayed: "Lord, we thank you for sending this rattlesnake to bite Tom, for it is the first time that he has ever admitted that he needs you. And Lord, we pray for two more rattlesnakes to bite Dick and Harry, so that they' too' may receive this blessing. And, Lord, we pray for an especially big and ornery rattlesnake to come and bite the old man so that he, too, will know what it means to need you."
Someone has said that prayer "is helplessness casting itself upon power; it is misery seeking peace; it is unholiness embracing purity; it is hatred desiring love. Prayer is corruption panting for immortality; it is the eagle soaring heavenward; it is the dove returning home; it is the prisoner pleading for release; it is the mariner steering for the haven amid the dangerous storm; it is the soul, oppressed by the world, escaping to the empyrean, and bathing its ruffled plumes in the ethereal and the divine."
Prayer has sometimes been considered as either a mark of superstition or as soinething mysterious. lt is neither! Prayer is a dynamic reality and fundamental principle in our universe, and is no more superstitious or mysterious than life itself, the atmosphei.e, the law of gravity, or the beating of your heart. It is amazing how science is discovering the fact that the realm of the unseen is the reahn of power. When electricity was discovered no one saw it; they only saw the effects of it. When the atom was discovered and the ability to split it no one saw it; they only saw the effects of it. And what an awesome effect it was! Today the scientists are talking about splitting an electron, one of the infinitesimal parts of the atom, which they say will release even greater power. One wonders just how much farther the research must go until, in the realm of the unseen, science at last breaks through the invisible barrier. between the natural and the realm of the spirit, the very presence and power of God, the source of all the cosmic powers of the universe.One thing we already know - the realm of the unseen is the realm of power. "Prayer has divided seas and rolled back flowing rivers, it has made flinty rocks gush into fountains' it has quenched flames of fire, it has muzzled lions, disarmed vipers, neutralized poisons, it has marshalled the stars against the wicked, it has stopped the course of the moon and arrested the sun in its race, it has burst open iron gates and recalled men from the grave, it has conquered the strongest devils and commanded legions of angels down fiom heaven. Prayer ha, bridled and chained the raging passions of men and destroyed vast armies of proud, daring, blustering atheists. Prayer has brought one man from the bottom of the sea and carried another in a chariot of fire to heaven." That is not mere conjecture or exaggeration, that is historical fact. Prayer has done many other things as well. It is an awesome, mighty force in the world of men.
THE CREATIVE POWER OF PRAYER
Many times through my early Christian life I wondered about prayer. What is prayer, and why should we pray? God is omniscient—He knows all things. He knows the end from the beginning; in fact, He ordained both the end and the beginning and all that transpires between. He is conscious of all our needs and problems at all times. Jesus said, "Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things." You cannot tell God anything new. Do you, precious friend of mine, really believe that God knows what is best for you, or must you try to "figure out" what is best and then tell God about it? Do you know something about yourself that God does not know and must be informed of? Is it possible that God, having created you and ordained all your steps, does not know how to care for the works of His hands without a request from you? As I meditated upon these questions I also understood that God "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" and that I couldn't change His will no matter how hard I prayed. The only prayers that God can answer are those according to His will, He cannot act contrary to His own will nor can He deny Himself; so if I wasn't telling God something that He didn't already know, and I wasn't going to make Him change His mind about any matter, what was the object and purpose in praying? I knew God wasn't going to move contrary to His will and plan just to satisfy my desires and indulge my wishes—so why pray? This puzzled me for some time until He gave me an understanding of what true prayer is.
As we are taken through this process of transformation into the image of God we begin to realize that God really does know what is best for us and HE WILL DO THAT. We begin to know God really does know all about us and we have nothing to tell Him. We begin to learn that God does care for us in the most abundant way and we need say nothing to Him about it. We find out that God's judgment concerning us lacks nothing and we can add nothing to it. The God I worship and love and obey must be the God who does know everything, who needs no counselors, who has all power and has complete control over my life and everything in the whole vast universe. I do not care to worship a God who has to depend upon me to advise Him what to do in any situation, or suggest the solution to any problem. If God does not know what is to be done in any and all circumstances, I am certain no mere mortal can enlighten Him.
Let me give you an illustration. In John 6:5-13 we find the story of Jesus feeding the multitude. Before the miracle Jesus asked Philip, "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" It appears that Jesus needed help to find a solution. But in verse six we see the principle I am talking about, for it says, "And this He asked TO PROVE (TEST) HIM: FOR HE HIMSELF KNEW WHAT HE WOULD DO." This one single work of Jesus is the whole work of God in miniature. Just as Jesus knew in this instance what He would do, just so does God know in all instances what He will do. The question Jesus put to Philip was only to show Philip the difference between what he possessed and what Jesus possessed. I cannot worship a God who has to be told about my body needing healing, or needs to be reminded about my financial needs, or informed about my loved one's spiritual condition. My God must be One who knows all and can do all.
Once when the Lord was walking this earthly sod there came unto Him a Roman centurion whose servant was sick. "And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto Him a centurion, beseeching Him, and saying, Lord, my servant Beth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus said unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof: but SPEAK THE WORD ONLY, and my servant will be healed" (Mat. 8:5-8). Jesus spoke the word and the servant was healed that same moment. The Lord wasn't near the place, but He spoke and a healing took place. How did this happen? When He spoke His Spirit went forth and did the work. God speaks, His Spirit goes forth and things are created. The Christ speaks, His Spirit goes forth and people are healed, the dead are raised, the blind see, the lame walk, lives are transformed, and great and mighty things are accomplished for the Kingdom of God. The Lord speaks and mighty empires rise and fall. Did you ever notice that the Lord never did any great works without speaking. To the man with the withered arm He said, "Stretch out your hand." To the paralytic He said, "Arise, take up your bed and walk." To the dead He said, "Come forth!" He spoke the word and marvelous things happened. We are to do the same. When we speak, whatever kind of spirit we are speaking by, we transmit it to others. When we pray in the spirit we are not just asking God to do something He is reluctant to do, we are sending forth His Spirit to do the work we are asking God to do, for it is by His Spirit He does the work. We are actually answering our own prayer by releasing His Spirit within us to do the work. We are beginning to understand what it means to speak the word. But let us be sure it is the word of God that we are speaking by the Spirit of God. Jesus said, "I do only those things which I see my Father do...I speak what I hear from my Father." If we are praying out of our own hopes and desires little or nothing will be accomplished. If we speak by a wrong spirit we tear down and do damage to the work of God. We can only speak that word with authority WHICH WE HAVE HEARD FROM OUR FATHER. That is the secret. If we hear nothing, we speak nothing. What we do hear, that we speak. When we pray and speak by the Holy Spirit tremendous things will take place. We have experienced this only by measure at the present time, but soon, very soon this old earth is going to see something it has never seen before when God has His sons ready and sends them forth speaking the word by His Spirit. When praying in the spirit we are not trying to stir up a reluctant, uncaring God to do something for His suffering creatures, not by any means; we are entering in to be laborers together with Him in doing the things His loving, caring heart longs to do for His own. There is an enemy to be defeated, there are prison doors to be opened, there are captives to be set free and this is how it is going to happen—by prayer, real prayer, prayer in the Spirit of God.
DOMINION THROUGH PRAYER
When God placed the world and all things under the dominion of man, made in His own image, it was God's plan that man should do nothing but with God and by God, and God Himself would do all His work in the world in and through man. In that long ago beginning Adam was in very deed the owner, master, and ruler of the earth and all creation.
In this connection Andrew Murray has penned some powerful and instructive words. "'Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest' (Mat. 9:37-38). Strange, is it not, that He should ask His disciples to pray for this? Could He not pray Himself? And would not one prayer of His avail more than a thousand of theirs? And God, the Lord of the harvest, did He not see the need? And would He not, in His own good time, send forth laborers without their prayer? Such questions lead us up to the deepest mysteries of prayer, and its power in the Kingdom of God. The answers to such questions will convince us that prayer is indeed a power, on which the ingathering of the harvest and the coming of the Kingdom of God in very truth depend.
"Prayer is no form or show. The Lord Jesus was Himself the truth; everything He spake was the deepest truth. It was when 'He saw the multitude, and was moved with compassion on them, because they were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd,' that He called on the disciples to pray for laborers to be sent among them. He did so because He really believed that their prayer was needed, and would help. The veil which so hides the invisible world from us was wonderfully transparent to the holy human soul of Jesus. He had looked long and deep and far into the hidden connection of cause and effect in the spirit world.
"Man's destiny appears clearly from God's language at creation. It was to fill, to subdue, to have dominion over the earth and all in it. All the three expressions show us that man was meant, as God's representative, to hold rule here on earth. As God's viceroy he was to fill God's place: himself subject to God, he was to keep all else in subjection to Him. It was the will of God that all that was to be done on earth should be done through him: the history of the earth was to be entirely in his hands. In accordance with such a destiny was the position he was to occupy, and the power at his disposal. When an earthly sovereign sends a viceroy to a distant province, it is understood that he advises as to the policy to be adopted, and that that advice is acted on: that he is at liberty to apply for troops and the other means needed for carrying out the policy of maintaining the dignity of the empire. If his policy is not approved of, he is recalled to make way for some one who better understands his sovereign's desires; as long as he is trusted, his advice is carried out. As God's representative man was to have ruled; all was to have been done under his will and rule; on his advice and at his request heaven was to have bestowed its blessing on the earth. His prayer was to have been the wonderful, though simple and most natural channel, in which the intercourse between the King in heaven and His faithful servant, man, as Lord of this world, was to have been maintained. The destinies of the world were given into the power of the wishes, the will, the prayer of man.
"This had been man's destiny from the first. Scripture not only tells us this, but also teaches us how it was that God could entrust man with such a high calling. That was because He had created him in His own image and likeness. The external rule was not committed to him without the inner fitness: the bearing of God's image in having dominion, in being lord of all, had its root in the inner likeness, in his nature. There was an inner agreement and harmony between God and man, an incipient Godlikeness, which gave man a real fitness for being the mediator between God and His world, for he was to be a prophet, priest, and king, to interpret God's will, to represent nature's needs, to receive and dispense God's bounty. It was his bearing God's image that he could bear God's rule; he was indeed so like God, so capable of entering into God's purposes, and carrying out His plans, that God could trust him with the wonderful privilege of asking and obtaining what the world might need. Prayer still remains what it would have been if man had never fallen: the proof of man's Godlikeness, the vehicle of his intercourse with the Infinite Unseen One, the power that is allowed to hold the hand that holds the destinies of the universe. Prayer is not merely the cry of the suppliant for mercy; it is the highest forth-putting of his will by man, knowing himself to be of divine origin, created for and capable of being, in king-like liberty, the executor of the counsels of the Eternal.
"What sin destroyed, grace has restored. What the first Adam lost, the second has won back. What Adam failed in, Jesus Christ has demonstrated for us. In Christ man regains his original position, and the saint, abiding in Christ, inherits the promise: 'Ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.' Those who walk in this power understand how the New Creation has brought them back to their original destiny, has restored God's image and likeness, and with it the power to have dominion. Such have indeed the power, each in their own realm, to obtain and dispense the power of heaven here on earth. With holy boldness they make known what they will: they live as priests in God's presence; as kings the powers of the world to come begin to be at their disposal. Church of the living God! thy calling is higher and holier than thou knowest. Through thy members, as kings and priests unto God, would God rule the world. God would prove how wonderful man's original destiny was. As the image-bearer of God on earth, the earth was indeed given into his hand. When he fell, all fell with him: the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together. But now he is redeemed; the restoration of the original dignity has begun. It is in very deed God's purpose that the fulfillment of His eternal purpose, and the coming of His Kingdom, should depend on those of His people who, abiding in Christ, are ready to take up their position in Him their Head, the great Priest-King after the order of Melchizedek, and in their prayers are bold enough to say through His mind what they will that their God should do. An Image-bearer and representative of God on earth, redeemed man has by his prayers to determine the history of this earth. Man was created, and has now again been redeemed, to pray, and by his prayer to have dominion"—end quote.
Prayer in no way involves a denial of God's omnipotence, omniscience, or changelessness. God's mind does not change and is not affected by any outside influence, either of saint or devil. We do not pray with the idea that we are going to alter what God has decided to perform, or coerce God into doing what He is reluctant to do. We pray in union with the precious mind that was in Christ Jesus and we pray that we may obtain what the Father has decided shall come to pass precisely through our prayers! Prayer is a divine and spiritual activity, a function of the Kingdom of God. Adoration is the celebration of the sovereign, omnipotent God. Confession is the acknowledgment of the fallenness and limitation of our present earthly existence. Thanksgiving is the celebration of the in-breaking of God's love and power into humanity's sin and death. It is the offering of gratitude for the reality and experience of Kingdom power. Petition is the cry for the presence and action of Kingdom power in each life situation. It is also the cry for the coming of God's rule in its fullness. Through prayer, the sons of God move history toward that day when the Kingdom will triumph in all realms, consummating God's work in the world, that God may be All-in-all. The act of praying is participation in the process of creation, the re-creation of the world. To be effective partners with God in the creative process, the minds and hearts of God's sons must be attuned to the divine program. We must catch the vision concerning the power and glory of the Kingdom, and creation's hope in the manifestation of the sons of God. In prayer you align yourself to the purposes and power of God's Kingdom, and God is able to do through you manifold times more than He could do otherwise. God is the Saviour of all men. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. God will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. In sonship prayer we align our will with God's will and creatively speak the word that brings it to pass—for no man, in this life or the next, is beyond the power and grace of God to save. Hallelujah!
GOD WILL HAVE ALL MEN TO BE SAVED—THROUGH PRAYER!
There is a beautiful and most meaningful passage of scripture in I Timothy 2:1-6. "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."
It is not our purpose to address at this time the differences between supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks—but would point out that there is a double purpose for all these. First, for our own welfare in this present world, so that "we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." Second, that the will of God shall be wrought out in the salvation of ALL MEN. God will have all men to be saved— delivered, set free, restored, redeemed from the tyranny of sin and death—and to come to the knowledge of the truth—to the full experiential knowing of all that is reality in Christ, transformed into His image, filled with His fullness, that God may be All-in-all. THIS IS HIS WILL, and for us to pray on any level beneath this is to pray out of harmony with His purpose. How narrow sometimes our prayers can be! "Bless me, bless my wife, my son John, my daughter Susan, we four, no more." We should pray broadly for everyone to be saved—we have God's Word for it! We are not to pray just for the narrow confines of our own interests, but for ALL MEN. I think this is tremendous. When we come before the throne of grace there must be a universality about our prayers—on behalf of all creation. We stand before God as representatives of a needy creation. It takes the enablement of the indwelling Spirit of God for us to identify ourselves with such heartbreak and sorrow, and then to bear that need before the throne of grace. Not to tell God how to order His purpose, but in faith in His mercies and grace, to present ourselves, and all creation, in surrender to Him for His will to be wrought in us all, unto salvation. This is the ministry of the sons of God, the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. We care, we have compassion, not with carnal sympathy, but with that divine love that ultimately will see a total restoration of all to God.
The text quoted above is one of rare beauty. It is indeed like a precious diamond, the effulgence of whose radiance dazzles the mind. It is a drop of pure distilled essence, whose fragrance fills the rooms of the heart. It is a joy forevermore and a challenge to everyone who reads it with an understanding heart. It should be engraved upon the heart of every saint of God. There is so much depth to that text that I am afraid that we often do not even perceive it. It is like beautiful sky of deep rich blue and one cannot even begin to grasp the vast depth above us. So it is with this passage!
When we think of and seek the will of God we should not limit ourselves to concern about our individual lives and needs, but rather learn His will for all men and use this as a guideline for our behavior and feelings toward them. Reread I Timothy 2:1-6 and note what we are taught—God wills "all men to be saved." He wills "that all men should come to the knowledge of the truth." What effect should this will of God have on us? And how must we become participators with Him in the fulfilling of His will? First, accept what His Word teaches; believe in His love; and leave it to God to someday fulfill all that He means. Your task is to prayerfully accept God's will and to receive it into your heart. Believe what is written: GOD WILLS that all men be saved. Let faith in those beautiful words take possession of your heart; allow God's will to BECOME YOUR WILL and inspire your life. If we accept this will of God, taking it into our hearts and making it truly ours, how will our lives be affected? The first result will be just what Paul commands—prayers and intercessions FOR ALL MEN. We will learn to see each man he the proper light, not the light of who he is, what he does, or what he deserves, but in the light of God's love and God's will for him. If God so loved miserable and unworthy creatures and so desired to help them that He sent His Son to die for them, and if our will is one with His, we will be inspired to love them and pray earnestly for them.
You will note that the command to pray for all men is rooted in the fact that God WILL HAVE ALL MEN TO BE SAVED. We must ever distinguish between the fact of the salvation of all and the manner in which God brings it to pass. He condescends to work through human instruniciltality. Since God purposes to save all men, He has a PLAN, a PROCESS, and an INSTRUMENTALITY by which to accomplish this! Part of the process is the intercessory prayers of the saints. The men who are to be saved are held under the power of the devil. The saints are called as God's INSTRUMENT of salvation. On behalf of lost men they engage in spiritual warfare, claiming these men for God and His Kingdom, binding the enemy that enslaves them, bringing deliverance to the captives. That all men be saved is God's purpose. Intercessory prayer is part of the process. "I exhort therefore, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men….." To say that since God will save all men we need not pray for them, is to say that God has a purpose to save them, but NO MEANS BY WHICH TO ACCOMPLISH IT. That would be like saying that a contractor is going to build a skyscraper and, since he is going to build it, there is no need for nails, hammers, saws, heavy equipment, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, brick masons, etc. How ridiculous! All those things are the necessary instruments and means of accomplishing his will and plans. I meet some who call themselves sons of God who have no compassion or concern for lost and sorrowing humanity. They leave it all to fate or to God's sovereignty in some future time. Every thing and every one are "all right." There is nothing further to do, God will take care of it all. Yes He will! And He will take care of it through us, the body of the Christ who so loved and died, the Royal Priesthood after God's own heart.
The prayers of the saints! Prayer is not a useless exercise, it is part of God's cosmic purpose. I don't pretend to understand it all, but when Jesus was going away He said, Hitherto have ye asked noticing in my name, from now on you will ask the Father in my name, and whatever you ask the Father I will do it." Ah, we have missed the importance of prayer in the redemptive and reconstructive and restorational purposes of God! Our prayers ARE important! Don't ask me to explain the mystery of the apparatus, but they are important. You'll find yourself praying, you'll find yourself desiring to pray, and that's the Holy Spirit urging you to do what is necessary to enable things to happen the way they are supposed to happen. There is a relationship between the decrees of God and the response of God's people! God created all things by a Word. God SAID, "Let there be...and it was so." That's a CREATIVE WORD! Prayer is a participation in the creative Word of God, speaking the new creation into existence. It's a mystery I don't fully understand, but there are times when I have to pray, there are times when the altar of my soul is full of clouds of holy incense as I send up to God petitions, as I decree a Word, not for myself, not for mundane things, but for others, and when I can't articulate them in English I send them up in an unknown tongue. And there is that deep inner consciousness that somehow I am participating in a great tableau and drama of history.
Through many years the spirit of intercessory prayer has stirred within my spirit and I have been compelled to pray not only for my loved ones, but also for some of the most wicked, unbelieving, and treacherous men and women upon the face of God's earth. I speak not of an occasional weak, insipid little table-prayer, but of deep travail and intense spiritual warfare on behalf of the souls of these individuals. Among those for whom I have been moved to intercede have been world leaders such as Golda Meir, Nikita Khruchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Mickhail Gorbachev, and Fidel Castro. Must I now believe that my prayers shall never be answered because some of these persons have passed away with no evidence of conversion in their lives, and that the omniscient and omnipotent Holy Spirit who wrought so mightily in these supplications, failed? Not by any means! For I have seen dramatic results in the lives of some I have unceasingly prayed for, and there is no limitation of either time or space in prayer.
My heart is emboldened by the testimony of that great man of God, George Muller. George Muller was literally the "man God made," and whom God used to house, feed, clothe, educate and save thousands of orphans in England. The key to George Muller's triumphs of faith is to be found in the fact that George in his youth opened all avenues of his being to the divine infilling. Henceforth he was a man who lived with eternity in view. He looked, after the shadow of God's glory rested upon him, beyond time and limitation and saw God. From that time forward he was never again to ask man for body or soul needs. He realized that God alone was able, and in that realization the puny supplies of man dwarfed beside the reservoirs of God's grace which he tapped by faith. He learned the secret of getting things from God, the simple expedient of boldly coming to the throne to receive. He practiced this daily for seventy-three years, and in coming he never found the throne vacant nor the supplies exhausted. He learned not to bind God by the limits of his own faith. He asked, knowing that God, who heard, was able. Muller has been called "the apostle of faith." When there was a vision to be fulfilled never once did he announce his plans in advance, nor even once did he appeal to men for help. He shut himself up in solitude and prayed to his Father who saw and heard in secret. George Muller's faith was grandly rewarded, for God furnished in response to his prayers approximately seven and a half million dollars. From a most insignificant beginning the work grew until it became the leading supporter of missions, distributor of Bibles and religious literature, as well as the outstanding "father of the orphans."
When George Muller arrived at the twilight of his life God, he estimated, had answered over fifty thousand of his prayers, many thousands of which were answered on the day he made them and often before he arose from his knees. Some of his petitions, however, lingered across the decades. Here is a sample of such asking: "In November, 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without a single intermission, whether sick or in health, on the land or on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements might be. Eighteen months elapsed before the first of the five was converted. I thanked God and prayed on for the others. Five years elapsed, and then the second was converted. I thanked God for the second, and prayed on for the other three. Day by day I continued to pray for them, and six years passed before the third was converted. I thanked God for the three, and went on praying for the other two. These two remain unconverted. The man to whom God in the riches of His grace has given tens of thousands of answers to prayer in the self-same hour of the day in which they were offered has been praying day by day for nearly thirty-six years for the conversion of these individuals, and yet they remain unconverted. But I hope in God, I pray on, and look yet for the answer. They are not converted yet, but they will be"—end quote. This was the faith that carried him through every straitened place. He met emergencies by asking and in due time God supplied whatever the need might be. Those prayers? you ask. In 1897, those two men, sons of a friend of Mr. Muller's youth, were not converted after he had entreated God on their behalf for fifty-two years daily. But after his death God brought them into the fold! Such was this man's triumphant faith, whatever the difficulty.
And I would add—would God that he might have prayed for the salvation of ALL MEN! He prayed for five—and they were all saved. Praise God for that! But we are commanded to pray, supplicate, intercede, and give thanks for all men... "For God will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." "Whatsoever ye ask in my name, I will do it." What awesome power! Ah, we know it works for needs, money, jobs, healing, problems,—carnal things. But does it work for the SOULS OF MEN? Dare we ask for the salvation of men with the same confidence that God will grant our request as when we ask for a new pair of shoes? The Holy Spirit answers, "Yes!" "For God will have all men to be saved." And I answer, "Yes!" For I have personally seen: God-rnoves sovereignly and powerfully in men's lives in response to my prayers. As with George Muller, it sometimes took years but I never fainted and God never failed.
Those foolish people who in their willful and petulant ignorance dare to say, "If God is going to save every one, why need I bother?" really do not deserve either recognition or an answer. Since my eyes have caught a vision of the supernal glory of the will of God to save all men, and my ears have heard the Word of the Spirit commanding, "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for ALL MEN," my heart responds with the greatest eagerness, for the greatness of His infinite love and purpose for every man who has ever lived, sets aflame the love of God in my heart until every breath I breathe is a fervent prayer, "THY WILL BE DONE! THY WILL BE DONE!" This is the hope that consumes my life and all my waking hours, and beside it all else is the grossest and lowest vanity. Stir yourself in repentance and in prayer and in consecration, ye carnal minded, blessing-seeking souls who think you shall enjoy the glories of heaven while billions for whom the Christ died writhe in the tormenting flames of hell, possessed by the devil forever.
Prayer is irreplaceable. Nothing can take its place. Substitutes are readily available for almost everything else. A prosthesis is a good replacement for a lost leg. A hearing aid is an excellent device for the hearing impaired. Organs of the body can be replaced by man-made gadgets and machines. If telephone communications break down, the fax machine, overnight express mail, the automobile, or the airplane can serve in its place. One could even carry the message on foot. A poor substitute is better than none. Not so with prayer, however. It has no replacement. There are no substitutes. Ask God to form afresh the Lord Jesus in all His beauty and power in your innermost being, that you might think His thoughts, desire what He desires, love as He loves' and pray His prayers. This is the secret of sonship prayer. Oh, that God would raise up a mighty army of priests after the order of Melchizedek so able to cooperate with Him, so willing to be yielded, that He might perform His perfect will and work through them. He does and He shall, praise His name!
Prayer is not a little habit pinned on to us while we were tied to our mother's apron strings; neither is it a decent little fifteen-second grace said over an hour's dinner, but it is a most serious work in the Unction of the Kingdom of God. The little estimate we put on prayer is evident from the small amount of time we devote to it. How poor and pitiful our petty, childish praying beside the example of the firstborn Son of God—He who prayed in the mountains, symbolic of the high places of the Spirit, and continued in prayer all night—until the New Day dawned! To holy men of God who think praying their main business and devote their energies to it according to this high estimate of its importance does God commit the keys to His Kingdom, and by them does He work His spiritual wonders in the world. Prayer is co-operation with God. When we are moved to speak with God it is only because God is already speaking with us. God's promptings are the earnest of His answer. The spirit of prayer is God-awakened, God-evoked, and God-propelled. Prayer is supernatural. "The Lord worked with them" (Mk. 16:20) is a succinct history of the early saints. There are many ways to "work" with God—but He wants to bring you into His inner circle where you can hear His great heart beating for creation. Furthermore, He has created you in Christ Jesus with the awesome ability to speak TO Him, FOR Him, and AS Him!
If you programmed a talking robot to pray, would God listen? Suppose the robot prayed without ceasing, suppose he prayed earnestly, suppose he prayed articulately and with a sob in his voice. Let's say he used all the available aspects of prayer—praise, supplication, intercession, giving of thanks—would God pay any attention to the robot's prayers? Of course not! But wait a minute. If we say that God will not hear or answer a robot's prayers, we have accepted a startling proposition—prayer is more than words! You see—it is not mere words that cause things to happen, but the authority behind the words, the power within the words. In the beginning God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. The Word issued out of divine BEING and NATURE—therefore there was power in the words. Jesus said, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life" (Jn. 6:63). Paul wrote, "For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power" (I Cor. 4:20). A robot would have no power with God in prayer because he has no union with God in life, and no authority out of that union. I do not hesitate to tell you, my beloved, that it is also true that a living man, moving apart from union with God, has no more power in prayer than an automated robot!
The God of all grace, the God of love, the God of kindness and tender mercies, seeks the welfare of His creation and His creatures everywhere. His love is boundless, His power omnipotent, and His purpose immutable. Nothing that we ever dreamed of good for any man or any race or any nation has touched the garment's hem of the good He purposes or the blessing toward which He works. He is not like the pagan deities, who, like Baal, must be awakened from his sleep and besought to do good deeds for men. His great and eternal purpose sweeps unceasingly through creation, comprehending every child of His and working toward the goal of a world wherein sin, sorrow, pain, limitation, and death have forever been banished from the minds and experience of men. When men go up to such a God in prayer, their intercession must mean casting themselves in with the eternal purpose of the Father, "laying hold upon God," not to call Him to action, as though He needed that, but to be carried along with Him in His program for the redemption and restoration of all into harmony with Him. God wants men to be made one in Him in prayer, aligning their desires with His, until their intercession becomes the effective expression and vehicle of His will. As in an irrigation system, with its vast network of channels, the sluice-gate would not plead with the reservoir to remember its forgotten power of blessing, but rather, feeling the urge of the flowing water, would desire to be opened, that through it the waiting stream might find an entrance into all fields and the will of the reservoir be done—so should the sons of God respond to the love of God in prayer. In prayer something creative is being done. Again, as in the beginning, the voice of God sounds forth, piercing the darkness that hangs like a shroud over the human soul, commanding, "Let there be light!" Prayer is the heart of God expressed, His creative fiat through His body by which the New Creation is called into existence.
Speaking of this wonderful and divine principle in prayer, Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote: "When a mother prays for her wayward son, no words can make clear the vivid reality of her supplications. Her love pours itself out in insistent demand that her boy must not be lost. She is sure of his value, with which no outward thing is worthy to be compared, and of his possibilities which no sin of his can ever make her doubt. She will not give him up. She follows him through his abandonment down to the gates of death; and if she loses him through death into the mystery beyond, she still prays on in secret, with intercessions she may not dare to utter, that wherever in the conscious universe he may be, God will reclaim him. As one considers such an experience of vicarious praying, he sees that it is not merely resignation to the will of God; it an urgent assertion of a great desire. She does not really think that she is persuading God to be good to her son, for the courage in her prayer is due to her certain faith that God also must wish that boy to be recovered from his way. She rather is taking on her heart the same burden that God has on His; is joining her demand with the divine desire. In this system of personal life that makes up the moral universe, she is taking her place alongside God in an urgent, Creative outpouring of sacrificial love. Her intercession is the utterance of her life; it is love on its knees"—end quote.
When we enter into the ministry of prayer in earnest, two questions confront us. First, How can I, with all my weakness, imperfection and limitation, influence God through my words? How does prayer work? Why is it needed? And second, How can I bless others by prayer? We do not need to understand just how prayer works in order to use it, any more than we have to understand electricity before we can use it, but it may at times help us at our task if we understand. Someone has given the following comparison: "You have a piece of meat which you want to preserve until the next week. You take it to the refrigerator where there is a freezing unit. When the meat is placed within its sphere of influence, or within the radius of its power, it takes on some of the quality of the low temperature: extreme coldness. As long as it remains there it retains these ice qualities and is preserved from decay."
There is some person who you are moved to help. The compassion of Christ in you reaches out to him to bring the blessings and benefits of the Kingdom of God into his life. You lift him in prayer—and by so doing you actually place him within the sphere of God's influence, within the radius of His power. In due time this individual becomes aware of the dealing of God in his life and begins to take on some of the attributes of God: love, joy, peace, faith, righteousness, strength, wisdom, victory. In prayer we bring a person or situation within the sphere of God's activity and hold him there. "But," someone asks, "is not God everywhere, and is not all creation within His sphere of influence? Does not God know all the needs of the world far better than we, and does He not love all people more perfectly than we? Is He not in control of all things, and cannot He reach them sovereignly—without our help?" Certainly God is everywhere, and His power is unlimited. But I cannot emphasize too strongly the principle that God has a means, a method, a channel through which He conveys His power, through which He does His work. Just as electricity flows through wires, so the en ergy of God flows through the body of Christ—the temple of God. His power is transmitted from spirit to spirit.
If a person is, in their consciousness, wholly of the earth, earthy, and bound up by the outward world of appearances, he is unconscious of God's reality and power. As prayer flows out on behalf of this person, and the will of God is decreed toward him, the energy of God is channeled like a laser beam, the Spirit breaks through the carnal, material wall and God penetrates man. If you, by faith and love, catch a man up with your spirit and bear him to God, he is brought within the influence of the Spirit, and is transformed. God's love is pouring out all the time: it is man who is estranged, alienated, and dead (unresponsive) to God. It is our ministry as sons of God to respond for man, to make that upward and outward reach which man cannot make for himself, to complete the circuit, releasing the transfiguring life-flow of God.
It is wholly a secret service. There are people today who are doing the most in the Kingdom of God who have never preached a sermon or publicly done anything for God. We do not know oft times who these people are, but they accomplish more for God than a hundred who would claim more attention and thought. Prayer opens a whole planet and the universe to a man's activities. I can as really be affecting men for God in far away Russia or Africa or China through prayer, as if I were there. A man may turn aside today, and shut his door, and as truly spend an hour in Russia—as though he were there in body. Is that true? Without any doubt he may turn his key and be in the power of the spirit in Russia as though he were there in actual bodily form. In the power exerted upon men he is truly present at the objective point of his prayer. He is there in the spirit and by the spirit.
Some dear soul objects, "If you were there bodily you could influence men more by your personal contact, your living words." So you could. If you were in Russia you could add your personality and the audible preaching of the Gospel to your prayer. That would be a great thing to do. Would that there were many times more going for that blessed personal ministry! We praise God for those He is sending around the world with the Gospel of the Kingdom in this important hour. But whether there or here, you must first win the victory, every step, every life, every group, every situation and circumstance, every principality and power, in secret, in the spirit-realm. This SPIRIT-TRANSMISSION called prayer puts the saint of God in closest touch with the world, wherever he is. Prayer knows no limitations. It ignores space. It spans time. It travels beyond the speed of light. It surpasses physical strength and ability. It goes straight, by the transmission of spirit, into men's hearts, quietly passes through walls, and past locked doors, penetrates beyond the prejudices of men's minds and all natural and religious barriers, and comes into direct contact with the inner heart and will to be affected.
Many examples of this power of prayer are to be found in the great revivals and moves of God throughout history. Dick Eastman records: "Finney's revival rocked America's Eastern states in the first half of the nineteenth century. One man, known as Father Nash, would precede Finney to cities scheduled for crusades. Three or four weeks in advance of meetings Father Nash humbly journeyed to town. No great crowds waited to welcome him and no bands played fanfares of greeting. Father Nash would quietly find a place of prayer. During the revivals countless souls were won and lives changed. Finney's name soon gained acclaim, and his sermons pierced the hearts of multitudes. Somewhere alone, however, knelt humble Father Nash. After revival came, he quietly left town for another crusade, there to labor on bended knees. He knew the meaning of intercession. Father Nash concerned himself with others, often sacrificing the finer things of life. He had no home, no church support, and often missed the taste of home-cooked meals. Nights were spent without a bed, and clothes became frayed. What did Nash receive for this? Little in this life, perhaps, but much in the Kingdom of Heaven. He owns stock in two and one-half million Finney converts. Few realize how many souls found Christ because of Father Nash. Finney had remarkable talent to preach. Certainly he had a special touch from God. But mark this fact—Every Finney needs a Father Nash!"
E. F. Hallock has written: "David Brainerd prayed in the wilderness of New York. Brainerd went to work among the Indians of the forests of New York back in colonial days. He was a young man of exceedingly poor health but tremendous devotion to God. His ministry was a ministry of intercessory prayer. It is said of him that he prayed kneeling in the snow until his body was wet with sweat. He had to preach through an interpreter and often times through an interpreter that was drunk on whiskey; but the Holy Spirit fell on the Indians in that area and multitudes of them came to know the Lord."
There is a saying of St. Augustine which gives deep insight into one of the blessed spiritual laws in prayer: "Without God we cannot: without us God will not." God has purposed to work in partnership with man. Prayer is our co-operation with the heavenly Father in His redemptive activity in men's lives; it is pleading God's will on behalf of the whole creation. It is man working together with God for the achievement of His purpose of the ages. In this significant hour there is a longing deep within to be able to pray in such a way that we become a part of the birthing of a new manifestation of Gods grace and power in the earth which will establish His righteousness from pole to pole and His Kingdom from sea to sea, drawing all men and nations to walk in the light of the Lord. It is not another revival we want, not another healing meeting, not another evangelistic crusade, not another television network, but THY KINGDOM COME. Even while I pen these words, there is an inner sense that this deep prayer, inexpressible in words, is arising from the hearts of vast numbers of apprehended ones appointed for this Day. It is the cry of the Holy Spirit which proceeds from the Throne, into our hearts—that we be the expression of His reign in the earth - and it flows back to Him from our spirits. This prayer will be answered, because it is HIS OWN PRAYER—HIS WILL MADE FLESH IN US. A sovereign working of God! Man will never be able to take any credit, saying, "My prayers accomplished this." The cause is ALL HIS. Truly, "We are laborers together with God," but "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."
Prayer is work. There is struggle involved in praying. Paul speaks of this in Colossians 4:17-13. "Epaphras, who is one of yourselves, a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. He is always striving for you earnestly in his prayers, pleading that you may—as persons of ripe character and clear conviction—stand firm and mature, convinced and fully assured in everything willed by God. For I bear him testimony that he has labored hard in your behalf." This kind of laboring in prayer has often been misunderstood. People have thought of it as a wrestling in prayer with God, the thought that it takes mighty fervor and persistence to persuade God to move in a situation. His gifts and graces must be wrung from him by great effort. Prayer is conceived of as a means by which God can be made to relent, and be moved to give us an answer to our prayers. And if we are successful in this endeavor, it is because we have fought with God, stormed heaven with our demands, convinced God by our crying needs, and, on the whole, persevered until He has yielded. I do not hesitate to tell you that such a crude and unscriptural notion is a wicked blasphemy against the God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, and the Christ who so loved the church that He gave Himself for it. Our labor is not to convince or persuade God, but to bring ourselves into union with His mind and penetrate the walls of resistance that oppose the rule of God. Prayer is work, and if we are to work with God we must know what God is doing and how He does it. History is full of pathetic instances of men and movements who supposed they could work for God by using carnal methods. But no one can work for God—we must work with God, yea, God must work in and through us. What is important is not what we are doing, but what God is doing.
I will tell you what God is doing. He is BRINGING MANY SONS TO GLORY! The purpose of God in this hour is sonship. All who have ears to hear must hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. The Spirit is saying today that He is preparing a people, He is preparing a body, He is preparing Souls who shall be conformed to the image of His Son, who shall he partakers of the divine nature, who shall have the mind of Christ, who shall be brought to glory and who then shall become the very express image of the Father. These shall become the brightness of the Father's glory. Even as the first Son, who went into the ground and died as a grain of wheat to produce other sons in His likeness, bearing His image—God sent Him to be the Saviour of the world. God is now preparing sons, God is now preparing a body for that first Son, we are the body of the first Son, the body of Christ. God is not talking to babies today. God is not talking to spiritual children today. God is not sending children today, He is sending sons, whose only desire is that the Father may be glorified, that the pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand, that the will of the Father may be done. We are the body of the Christ and in and through these sons, when all have grown up into His fullness, His salvation shall be manifested unto the ends of the earth. The Lord is saying unto His people today: "For this cause have I raised thee up and sent thee to be a light unto the nations, and thou shalt be My salvation to the ends of the earth" (Isa. 49:6; Acts 13:47).
The day of revivals is over. The hour has arrived when God's Kingdom shall triumph in all realms. The endgame is here. The conclusion of the age, the grand consummation of God's purpose among the nations is at hand. The story is told of a little boy who couldn't play outside because it was raining. His father, who was trying to take an afternoon nap on the sofa, became annoyed. "Go to the other room, son; Daddy wants to sleep. Find something in there to play with." "Like what?" "Anything," snapped the father. "There isn't anything,'' replied the lad. Grabbing the newspaper, the man tore out a page with a large map of the world printed on it. With the scissors he cut it into dozens of odd-shaped pieces like a puzzle. "There, see if you can put that together, and don't bother me till you're done." The father settled down on the sofa thinking his problem was solved, but ten minutes later there was a tug on his shirt. "You can't be done yet! But there on the floor was the neatly constructed world. "How did you do it?" he asked. "Easy," said his son. "A man's picture was on the back, and when I got the man together right, the world was right." Ah, yes—when God gets HIS MAN put together in the fullness of Christ all the problems of the world will simply fall into place! Let us not expend our energies at this late hour trying to get the world straightened out and ordered aright. Let us give ourselves to apprehending that for which Jesus Christ has apprehended us—to grow up unto a PERFECT MAN, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Then the whole creation will fall into place. Let us not sell creation short!
It's harvest time. "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He may send forth laborers into His harvest." That is what I am praying for in these days. I am praying for the sons of God. I am praying for you, my beloved. I am praying for the nations. I am praying for the New World Order brought by the Kingdom of God. Greater wonders than men have ever witnessed in all the revivals and movements of history shall be wrought in the earth at the manifestation of the sons of God. Sonship is the hope of creation, and how creation groans for release! "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present thee are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope. Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8:18-21).
Who shall banish cruel oppression? Who shall drive savage war with all its horrors, from the face of the earth? Who shall stay the ravages of famine, pestilence, and disease? Who shall free the sad world from murder, suicide, hatred, and crime? Who shall release the prisoners of sin and death, and wipe all tears from off all faces, that there be no more crying, neither sorrow, nor pain anywhere in God's beautiful earth? The moan of the world's agony comes to me as the surge of the sea upon a rocky shore. Alas, Lord! for the sorrow, bondage, sin, suffering and death which all our efforts cannot undo, and all our sympathy cannot banish. What cans't Thou do for these, O Lord? And I hear the Lord's whisper loom within my deepest spirit. "The sons of God are arising to set creation free. As the sons arise in the power of my peace—fear, hatred, and violence shall cease. As the sons arise in the authority of my victory—oppression and tyranny shall end. As the sons arise in the power of my righteousness—the bondage of sin shall be broken and mankind released into my holiness. As the sons arise arise in the intelligence of my mind—ignorance and superstition shall surrender to my wisdom. As the sons arise in the quickening of my life— death's hold shall be broken and the way of life opened to all mankind. As the sons arise in the splendor of my light—the darkness shall flee away, the sorrowing shall be comforted, the meek exalted to reign, the broken-hearted healed, and the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. "
Let us pray!
To be continued J. PRESTON EBY [HOME] [KINGDOM RESOURCES]