Dear Emmanuel Family,
I am always buoyed during the week by the small group that gathers for prayer at the church on Tuesdays at noon. Small groups like that one and others can really be a motor for God’s gracious work in a church. Thank you to those who pray on Tuesdays and at other times.
As we approach an important Day of Prayer at Emmanuel this Sunday, I’d like to share a few thoughts I’ve been mulling over this week and last, having to do with prayer and obedience.
This is a critical time of transition at Emmanuel, and the success of the transition will depend largely on prayer. Prayer, in turn, will depend, in large part, on obedient lives. It will not be a time for us to be careless in our walk with the Lord.
E.M. Bounds writes the following about obedience : “Unquestionably obedience is a high virtue, a soldier quality. To obey belongs, preeminently, to the soldier. It is his first and last lesson, and he must learn how to practice it all the time, without question, uncomplainingly. Obedience, moreover, is faith in action, and is the outflow as it is the very test of love. Jesus said, “He that has my commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves me” (John 14:21).
Elsewhere in the Bible, the following is said about the link between obedience and effectual praying : “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22).
Some of you will be out of town for our Concert of Prayer this Sunday. If you’re in town, I hope you will join us for this special and important day. It will be a morning for adults, young people, and children. Whether you are with us in body or in spirit, take time over this holiday to prepare your heart for prayer for Emmanuel. I’ve strung together below a few additional thoughts from E.M. Bounds’ book on obedience and prayer. Meditate upon them with me. I am aware of my own struggle with obedience to the Lord – in act, in my words, in my attitudes. Let’s hear God’s call to obedience, understanding how obedient living gives us freedom and faith for great praying.
With love and thanksgiving,
God’s commands are issued neither in severity nor tyranny. They are always issued in love and in our interests, and so it behooves us to hear and obey them. In other words, and appraised at its lowest value – God having issued his commands to us, in order to promote our good, it pays, therefore, to be obedient. Obedience brings its own reward. God has ordained it so, and since he has, even human reason can realize that he would never demand that which is out of our power to render.
Obedience is love, fulfilling every command, love expressing itself. Obedience, therefore, is not a hard demand made upon us, any more than the service a husband renders his wife, or a wife renders her husband. Love delights to obey, and please whom it loves. There are no hardships in love. There may be exactions, but no irk. There are no impossible tasks for love.
With what simplicity and in what a matter-of-fact way does the apostle John say : “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight.”
Far be it from our heavenly Father to demand impossibilities of his children. It is possible to please him in all things, for he is not hard to please. He is neither a hard master, nor an austere lord. Thank God, it is possible for every child of God to please his heavenly Father ! It is really much easier to please him than to please men.
“The Christian’s trade,” says Luther, “is prayer.” But the Christian has another trade to learn, before he proceeds to learn the secrets of the trade of prayer. He must learn well the trade of perfect obedience to the Father’s will. Obedience follows love, and prayer follows obedience. The business of real observance of God’s commandments inseparably accompanies the business of real praying.
An obedient life is a great help to prayer. In fact, an obedient life is necessary to prayer, to the sort which accomplishes things. The absence of an obedient life makes prayer an empty performance, a mere misnomer. A penitent sinner seeks pardon and salvation and has an answer to his prayers even with a life stained and debauched with sin. But God’s royal intercessors come before him with royal lives. Holy living promotes holy praying. God’s intercessors “lift up holy hands,” the symbols of righteous obedient lives. (See 1 Timothy 2:1-10.)
Obedience to God helps faith as no other attribute possibly can. When obedience exists, – implicit recognition of the validity, the paramountcy of the divine commands – faith ceases to be an almost superhuman task. It requires no straining to exercise it. Obedience to God makes it easy to believe and trust God. Where the spirit of obedience fully impregnates the soul ; where the will is perfectly surrendered to God ; where there is a fixed, unalterable purpose to obey God, faith almost believes itself. Faith then becomes almost involuntary. After obedience it is, naturally, the next step, and it is easily and readily taken. The difficulty in prayer is not with faith, but with obedience, which is faith’s foundation.
We must look well to our obedience, to the secret springs of action, to the loyalty of our heart to God, if we would pray well, and desire to get the most out of our praying. Obedience is the ground work of effectual praying ; this it is, which brings us nigh to God.
The lack of obedience in our lives breaks down our praying. Quite often, the life is in revolt and this places us where praying is almost impossible, except it be for pardoning mercy. Disobedient living produces mighty poor praying. Disobedience shuts the door of the inner chamber, and bars the way to the Holy of Holies. No man can pray – really pray – who does not obey.
The will must be surrendered to God as a primary condition of all successful praying. Everything about us gets its coloring from our inmost character. The secret will makes character and controls conduct. The will, therefore, plays an important part in all successful praying. There can be no praying in its richest implication and truest sense where the will is not wholly and fully surrendered to God. This unswerving loyalty to God is an utterly indispensable condition of the best, the truest, the most effectual praying.