THE CONDITIONS OF PREVAILING PRAYER
DELIVERED ON TUESDAY, MAY 21, 1850,
BY THE REV. PROFESSOR FINNEY,
[First in a series of three "Lectures on the Conditions of Prevailing Prayer."]
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."--Matt. vii. 7, 8.
"Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts."--James iv. 3.
These two passages of Scripture may seem to contradict each other, yet they do not. Matthew affirms that all prayer is heard and answered --"Every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." James says that some ask, and do not receive; and inquires the reason why. Yet, I repeat, these Scriptures do not contradict each other by any means. When it is said, that "every one that asketh receiveth," we are to understand, of course, that there is a right asking, and a wrong asking; for what James says will compel us to do this, were we not otherwise disposed to do it. James says, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss;" which informs us that there are certain conditions for a right asking, and that there is such a thing as asking amiss. There are few persons who have not, some time or other, felt stumbled on reading these passages. So much is said in the Scriptures about God's answering, while so much is prayed for that is not answered, that it is a sore trial to many minds. It was to myself a stumbling-block; for some time, I could not understand at first how it could be that such unqualified assertions, as those which are made by Matthew, were consistent with the fact that so much prayer remained unanswered.
My mistake was twofold--1. I expected all prayer to be answered literally; overlooking the fact, that God often answers prayer according to the spirit, when he does not answer it precisely according to the letter. We have an illustration of this in the case of Paul, when he prayed to be delivered from the thorn in the flesh. This "thorn in the flesh was a messenger of Satan sent to buffet him, lest he should be exalted above measure," because of the abundance of the revelations which had been committed unto him. Christ had a particular object in giving him this thorn in the flesh, whatever it might have been. It appeared that Paul was distressed about it; and he besought Christ to remove it. His object was not selfish. It would interfere with his usefulness, he thought. Now, Christ did not grant the letter of this petition, yet he granted the spirit of it. He said, "My grace is sufficient for thee;" informing him that he had this thorn in the flesh for a good purpose; that it should not prove an injury, or stand in the way of his influence, but that his grace should be "sufficient" for him, Paul now says, he "gloried in his infirmities;" in short, instead of then persisting in desiring to have the thorn removed, he rather gloried in it, that the power of Christ might rest upon him, assured that the thing he feared should not come upon him. This was all he wanted. He did not want the thorn removed, if it would not injure his usefulness. Let this illustrate what I mean. I said I stumbled, and many others have done so, because they did not understand that prayer is frequently answered, not according to the letter, but the true spirit--the substance and essence is granted, though not in the way which was expected.
Another mistake, 2. I fell into, and which I suppose is common among intelligent men, was, that I overlooked the fact that there are certain conditions expressed in the Bible, upon which prayer may be expected to be answered, and that there is a distinction between that which is commonly regarded as prayer, and that which God regards as such. As soon as my attention was directed to that question, I was satisfied that the difficulty lay, not in the Bible not being true--the difficulty was not that God was a hearer, and not an answerer of prayer--but that he himself had pointed out certain conditions upon which he would answer it, expressly in some instances, always impliedly, and that we need not expect an answer, except upon those conditions.
No doubt, God often listens to the cry of distress, without regard to the character of the petitioner, or whether he has any character at all. In other words, I suppose he often hears the moanings of animals in distress, and comes to their assistance; he hears the young ravens when they cry; he even hears human beings--that is, he can do it, and he is disposed to do it, when he can do so consistently with his relations to the universe. This, however, is not prayer; it is merely the cry of anguish. God comes to the relief of such whenever he can properly do it. I would not throw a stumbling-block in the way of those who have this in their minds; no doubt, there is a cry of distress, but I have to speak to that prayer which is heard and answered. In hearing the cry of distress, without regard to the character, motives, or designs of the petitioners, it is a mere breaking forth of God's benevolence, without having given any pledge that he would hear and answer such petitions.
But there is a kind of prayer to which God stands pledged to give an answer, and it is of that kind of prayer that I propose to treat this evening; and especially, I desire to enter to-night upon some of the conditions that God has himself revealed to us. Let me read a passage to illustrate what I mean,--"Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God; and whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight" (I John iii. 21, 22). Now, what have we here? By the term "heart," we understand conscience; for it is our conscience that condemns us. If our conscience condemn us not, God is greater than our conscience, and must condemn us all the more. If God much more condemn us, his dominion is greater and much more searching even than that of our conscience. But "if the heart condemn us not,"--this plainly implies, if we do not keep a conscience void of offence towards God and man, we cannot expect answers to our prayers. If we have violations of conscience, sins of omission, and sins of commission--anything conscience condemns, conscience admonishes us--God is not pleased with us, and, therefore, we cannot expect an answer to our supplications. This is not directly affirmed, but it is plainly implied, in our text. "If the heart condemn us," God much more condemns us. This means, that if our hearts condemn us not, then we may expect an answer to prayer; but if our hearts do condemn us, we cannot, and we ought not, to expect an answer to our petitions. It is clear, therefore,
1. A clear conscience--a conscience void of offence--is a revealed condition of prevailing prayer. Where persons allow themselves in anything their consciences do not approve, or where they live in any neglect or commission--in any state of mind for which their conscience condemns them, and God all the more condemns them, how can they expect to prevail with God? Why, they are living in such a manner that their own consciences affirm that they are not devoted to God!
The Psalmist says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalm lxvi. 18). Here we have the fact clearly stated.
2. The rejection not only of sins of the outward life, but the rejection of heart sins, is an indispensable condition of prevailing prayer. In the first passage I have read, it is merely implied, that if we do not keep a conscience void of offense--if we do not reject the sins both of our heart and life--we cannot expect him to hear us. In the second passage, this is expressly affirmed--"if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." What is this? Why, if you have iniquity in your hearts. What are heart sins? Every form of selfishness belongs to the heart, as does all sin,--or, properly speaking, every species of self-seeking. God expressly says, in some cases he will not hear you. Will not this account for the fact, that many do that which they call "praying," without prevailing with God?
3. But, again: A spirit of universal obedience is another revealed condition of prevailing prayer. it is said, "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination" (Proverbs xxviii. 9). The term "law," is here used to include the whole of the revealed will of God, and is inclusive of whatever God reveals as his will to men. "Turning away," here implies unwillingness to obey--a spirit of disobedience. Now, here we are informed, that whosoever is in that state of mind--unwilling to obey God--"his prayer shall be abomination." But we also do well in such cases to inquire, what is it to turn away the ear, as the term is here used? All neglect to attend to what God says, is turning away the ear; all refusal or neglect to obey what God requires, is turning away the ear; everything of this kind is implied in turning away the ear. Wherever persons pretend in some things to obey God, while in other things they disobey him, this is turning away the ear. Universal obedience--a state of mind desirous of doing whatever God's known law requires--is, therefore, a necessary condition of prevailing prayer.
4. Being and abiding in Christ, is another revealed condition of prevailing prayer. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John xv. 7). It is also said, "That if a man abide not in me"--that is, in Christ--"he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered"; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (John xv. 6). Surely a man that abides not in Christ, cannot be expected to be in a state of mind to prevail with God. It cannot be doubted, therefore, that except you abide in Christ, you cannot prevail in prayer with God. What is it, then, to abide in Christ? it is, to live and walk in the spirit, to have Christ dwelling in us, and we so dwelling in him, that his spirit shall influence us--in other words, it is a yielding of ourselves completely up to him in confidence, embracing him in faith, and so completely abiding in and committing yourselves up to him, as to be brought under his influence. Now, except we be thus united to Christ by faith, so that God regards us as being in Christ, and as receiving things for Christ's sake, and through Christ, we cannot expect to prevail with him. This is abundantly taught in the Bible. We must be so united to him by faith, as really to walk in the spirit of Christ. He says, if we are in this state, whatsoever we ask, he will give us. How is this? He must mean a good deal by being in him, if, when we are in him, and his word abides in us, we shall have whatsoever we ask; for this is certainly a very extensive promise. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Now, again: "Ye shall ask what ye will." This plainly implies, that persons who are in Christ, in the sense here meant, are in such a state of mind as never to ask anything of Christ, the true spirit of which it is not proper for him to grant. He would not dare to make such a promise, unless he knew that if a person really abode in him, in this sense, he would only ask what could be consistently granted. It is of great importance that we should understand what is really implied in this. What striking passages are these! He says, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Does he mean, that the person being and abiding in him, should ask anything whatever, and it should be granted? or does he mean, that you would always ask according to his will--that you would, in that state of mind, never ask anything contrary to the revealed will of God--that the true spirit of your petitions would always be in precise accordance with his will. If he did not mean this, he could not make such a promise. He leaves the promise without any limitation--"Ask what ye will;" this must imply, they will not have the will to ask anything contrary to the revealed will of Christ, and that those who are really in Christ, abiding in Christ, are taught by the Spirit of God to pray in a much higher sense than people generally suppose. "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, became he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans viii. 26,27). Here, then, we have it revealed that the saints are led to pray. Those that abide in Christ--walk and live in his spirit, we are informed are led to pray for things according to the will of God--in other words, they are led to pray for those things which God would grant. Now, if we really are in Christ, and abide in him, and his words abide in us, in the sense he must mean here, the spirit of our prayers will always be in accordance with his will. He may, therefore, with the utmost safety, promise to grant all that such persons would ask. Christ did not mean to say, that every such petition would be granted to the letter, but that their hearts would be in such a state--living in the spirit of prayer--they would be so led, that the spirit of their petitions would always be granted. But this implies plainly, that there are some persons who are not in such a state that they can expect an answer to their petitions. If a man does not abide in Christ, and Christ's words do not abide in him, his prayer is not in the spirit that Christ himself would pray in, and it, therefore, cannot be expected to prevail. The first Sabbath I preached here, I preached upon two petitions of the Lord's prayer, and then I clearly set forth the state of mind in which we could sincerely offer the Lord's prayer. Now, this state of mind is undoubtedly a condition of prevailing prayer; but as I explained then at large, I now will only say, to be in a state of mind in which you can sincerely offer the Lord's prayer, is a condition of prevailing prayer.
5. Ardent desire is a condition of prevailing prayer. It is one thing to say prayer, and quite another thing to be exercised with a strong desire. Prayer, when prevalent, is a strong desire of the heart to have a certain blessing. What would be thought of an individual who should petition the government of this country for a certain thing, and immediately become careless about it; and even almost forget what he had been seeking? Yet does not this resemble the prayer of some persons? Those who pray in the spirit of prayer, pray with a strong desire. The Holy Spirit itself is said to make intercession for the saints, in groanings that cannot be uttered.
6. A willingness to have our prayers answered, is an indispensable condition of prevailing prayer. Persons often pray, when they would be very unwilling to have their prayers answered. They often ask things of God, which they would not have answered except upon certain conditions of their own. They would have God take their way of answering them, and are not willing that he should take his own way. Now, unless they are willing that God should answer them in his own way--that he should use the essential means, and fulfill the essential conditions of answering them,--why, of course, their prayer cannot be expected to prevail. Men often ask things, which cannot be done without strong measures, which would greatly agonise, distress, and as far as this world's goods are concerned, ruin the fortunes of those who pray for them. If we seek things of God, we must be willing to submit the manner to him, and that they may be given us in any way that shall seem good to him. If we ask for more faith, or to be perfected in love, we must, of course, be willing that God should take his own method--that he should remove whatever stands in the way of it--that he should take away whatever idol we have--that he should do what is necessary to be done, in order to answer our requests. Sometimes persons pray, when really in their hearts they interpose conditions. They would have God humble them, if he could do it without disgracing them, or destroying their property. They would have God sanctify them, if it can be done without breaking off their self-indulgences. Things, however, cannot be granted without the removal of obstacles; and to pray acceptably, we must be willing to part with a right hand or to put out a right eye, if these things stand in the way of God's granting our request. Suppose a person pray to be made holy, for example, he must be willing to be made holy; and if there shall be any stumbling-block in the way--any besetting sin--any unmortified appetite, any passion, any propensity,--he must be willing to give it up. If he is unwilling, and insists that the blessing must be granted in his own way, why then he cannot be said to pray acceptably. Again, the man who would pray God acceptably to be made holy, must love his enemies. The man who would pray God to be holy, and yet continue in the practice of certain forms of sin, is tempting him, because he is to unwilling to yield up his idols, to be crucified to the world. Persons must be willing to be, to do, to suffer, whatever is implied in having their prayers answered, or indispensable to having them answered, or they do not pray acceptably. Were they to examine the matter, they would often find the difficulty in themselves; they are praying for things which they know themselves to need, but are really making such conditions and reservations that their prayer cannot be accepted. I could relate, if I had time, and it were worth while, a great many particular cases which have come under my own observation, of persons who have begun to question whether God was really willing to hear prayer, and whether prayer had any such prevalence as it is represented to have in the Bible; but by and bye they come to understand that the difficulty was not in God, but that they were really unwilling that God should give them what they sought, on those terms on which alone he could do so. Many persons pray that they may be Christians, but all the time are unwilling to be Christians, and when they come to conceive rightly of what it is to be a Christian, they perceive that they are entirely unwilling to have their prayers answered. I recollect the case of a young lady, who professed to have an intense willingness to become a Christian. She had prayed a great deal, and had done all that she supposed that she possibly could; and finally, after making these pretences, after a long time, during which her mind was strongly exercised about her soul, one day she retired to her chamber to pray. She knelt down, but before she opened her mouth it was shown her what was implied in becoming a Christian--living a holy life. Certain things came so strongly before her, as to what it was necessary to be, to do, and to suffer, in order to be a Christian, that she said it seemed to be put to her, as if God himself had put it to her before her face, "Are you willing that every obstacle shall be removed? Furthermore, it seemed clear, that if she would ask sincerely, her prayer would be granted. But as soon as she saw what was really implied, she rose up and went away, and would not ask. She saw she had not heart to attempt it. So it often is, where persons continue praying, until they doubt whether God be willing to answer prayer, and are ready to accuse him of being unfaithful. At length they see that, within themselves, they are not really willing to receive the true spirit of the thing which they seek.
7. But I may remark again: Disinterestedness is a condition of prevailing prayer. James says, "Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." I do not mean by this absence of interest, that nothing should be sought, but directly opposite. We should desire, but it should be for a right reason. Suppose an individual prays for his own sanctification, why desires he it? Is it merely for the pleasure or the honour of being sanctified? What does he want to be sanctified for? Is it not to affect a removal of the trouble and disgrace attending on sin? Is it not that he may enter the perpetual sunshine, and happiness, and joy of God's peace? Is this the reason? Does he seek it for his own particular benefit--for some selfish reason? No wonder, then, if he asks in this way, that he is not answered. He asks selfishly. Suppose you are wounded to the heart at a world around you living in sin; if your object is to glorify God, your eye is single to this; you want to hold up the true light of the Gospel, that men may understand what it is, that their souls may be enlightened, saved; if such be your object, and such alone, than you are sympathising with God, and you are asking the blessing for the same reason that God would give it you. Again, do you sympathise with God's motives, plans, and designs? If persons ask for blessings, they must sympathise with God in this respect. They must ask for a reason for which God can consistently give. It must not be such a reason as God would blush to acknowledge to have influenced his conduct; but such as to justify him in the sight of every moral agent in the universe. A selfish petition, therefore, will have no influence with God. It would disgrace him if it should. Petitions must be free from selfishness. We must rise above mere selfish considerations, and take into view the great reason for which God answers prayer. If persons would pray, for example, for their own holiness and sanctification, it should be because they sympathise with God's view of sin. They must be willing to be holy, whatever fiery trials the attainment and maintenance of holiness may lead them through. Men take a wrong view of this matter, supposing sanctification has no trials, whereas it often tests and tries men, in order that they and every one else may see what God has done for them. When God gives great blessings, he does not intend that they should be hid under a bushel. When he gives persons great grace, he always places them in a position to try them. If they do not pass through seasons to try them, how should anybody know that God had given them great grace? Now, are you willing to be sanctified, cost what it may?--willing to give up all iniquity in every form, let the consequence be what it may, so that God may be glorified?
You must have right motives, too, for praying for others, as well as when praying for yourselves; as, for instance, when interceding for your children, your husbands, your wives. I recollect the case of a woman who had a husband who was impenitent. I questioned her as to the manner in which she prayed, and she told me that she had prayed for a long time, that she had not given up, and did not mean to give up, but that she did not know why it was she was never answered. I then asked her, why she prayed for it at all? She said, "Oh! I should enjoy myself so much better--it would be altogether much more comfortable for me." Everything she said clearly showed that it was for her own comfort she wanted her husband converted. I could get nothing else out of her but this. I told her, therefore, that it was no wonder her prayers were not answered, whilst she was so perfectly selfish, and did not enter into God's reasons at all. Now, parents pray for their children in the same spirit. It is merely a selfish thing they have in view. They pray, not because they at all sympathise with God in respect to them.
A circumstance was related to me at a place where there was a revival of religion:--The minister was going out in the morning to visit some inquirers, and he called upon one of the principal persons in the place, who said to him, "What should you think of a man praying for the Holy Spirit day after day, and his prayer remaining unanswered?" "Why," said the minister, "I should fear he was praying from wrong motives." "What motives should he have?" "What motives have you? Do you want to enjoy your money more, and be happier? The devil might have such a reason as this." The minister then quoted the words of the Psalmist, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee." He turned away from the minister, and he said afterwards, that the first thought that arose in his mind was a hope that he might never see him again, so angry was he. He saw at once that his prayer had always been selfish. He was struck with this, yet so great was his pride, that when he discovered that he had always been selfish,--that he had never had a true idea of religion or prayer in his mind,--that he was perfectly selfish, and nothing less than a hollow-hearted professor, that he prayed to God to take his life. He felt that he would rather die, even should he go to hell, than, after sustaining such a position in the Church as he had, the people should know that he had been deceiving and deceived. Soon afterwards he was converted, and then he saw clearly where he had been. The fact that we ask and receive not, is accounted for by the fact that we ask amiss, that we "may consume it upon our lusts." This is a great truth, which many persons would do well to ponder, instead of accusing God, as they do, of not giving them what they ask?
8. Faith, also, is an indispensable condition of prevailing prayer. As you all very well know, this is affirmed expressly in the Bible--"Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandmen waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain." In other words, it is often affirmed and everywhere it is always implied.
9. Again,--we are to pray in the name of Christ. This is so often implied in the Bible, that I need not quote any passages. Let us inquire what is meant by praying in the name of Christ. How are we to use Christ's name? Perhaps I had better not enlarge under this head here. It is too extensive for the few remarks I shall now be able to give it. At a future time I will enlarge more upon this than I can at present. There is a great mistake among professors of religion in this respect. Many do not understand what is meant. They do not, therefore, make such use of Christ's name as to prevail. Christ's name, properly used, is as prevalent in the mouth of his people, as in his own. If used, as he intended it should be used, it is just as prevalent in their hands as in his own. Suppose Baron Rothschild were to lend a man, in this city, his name; and suppose that such an individual were to go to the Bank, and stumble at his own poverty! if he had Baron Rothschild's signature, which is well known at the Bank, how does he go? Does he go as if poor?--too poor to have such a name prevail for him? Not he indeed; he can get any amount of money he pleases. His own poverty is no stumbling-block at all in his way. But I will not enlarge. This is a condition of prevailing prayer.
10. Perseverance is another condition of prevailing prayer, and to be in the spirit of prayer we must have it. We have some striking instances of this in the Bible. For instance, take the cases of Jacob, Moses, Elijah, Daniel, and the Syrophoenician woman. I cannot enlarge here. I must defer this also to another time. Your spirit, though distressed, should not be at all disheartened; when individuals really have the spirit of prayer, and set themselves to prevail with God, they are not disheartened because they do not at once prevail, but follow up petition with request, turning them over and over.
Take the case of Jacob, for example. How very affecting were the circumstances under which he is represented as prevailing with God! He wrestled all night. It must have appeared to him, as if it was determined not to answer him. He seemed rather to resist him. The circumstances were these:--Jacob, on account of his conduct towards his brother, had fled from his country, and remained absent for a long time, until God promised him that he would go with him and bless him. On his way, he was informed that Esau was coming with large hosts, and he had every reason to believe that he would take vengeance upon him for his past misconduct. This, of course, greatly distressed him. He made every arrangement which a prudent man would naturally make, in order, if possible, to propitiate Esau. He sent on persons before him, and then he retired alone to pray. Doubtless, Jacob had a great weight on his mind. He remembered, most likely, how he had injured Esau--how he became possessed of his birth-right, and, therefore, he feared that Esau would take vengeance. He had God's promise, and he went aside to plead with God. For a time, the Almighty seemed to resist him. He struggled, but he could not overcome. He continued to struggle and to pray throughout the night. God seemed to take every way to try him. He had many confessions to make, and a great deal of breaking down to undergo, just as in those struggles which some of you can instance in your own experience, when you have set your heart upon obtaining a blessing, and believe some point is not exactly clear between you and God. In such times you have felt yourselves in such agony, that the perspiration has poured down you, and even if you have not obtained, yet you have not given up the struggle, until you have finally humbled yourselves. Then you have prevailed. This was the case with Jacob. He needed to be humbled and broken down. Probably, till then, he never saw his conduct towards Esau exactly in the proper light. He struggled; God resisted. Yet he continued to struggle. God touched his thigh, and made him a cripple to the end of his life. Nevertheless, when he could wrestle no longer, still he held on, exclaiming, "I will not let thee go," though God told him to do so. "I will not let thee go," he says, "except thou bless me." Had he a right to say this? Yes, he had. He had God's express promise; therefore he would do it. God seemed as if he was not going to fulfil his promise. Doubtless, this delay, however, was of great importance. Jacob's mind was preparing to receive the blessing in such a manner as would do good. Jacob was determined not to be denied--as if he had said, "Thou hast promised, and I will not be denied!" This is not impudence. He did not mean that Jacob should be disheartened, although severely tried, as was necessary.
He had not only much to confess, but much to promise. There was a great and a wonderful struggle within. Now mark, suppose he had not held on--what then? The fact is, he did hold on till the very last. What a remarkable answer, when he said, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me." God said, "What is thy name?" I suppose Jacob blushed when he answered that his name was Jacob, which means a supplanter. He confessed his name was a supplanter, and he was a supplanter, because he had supplanted his brother Esau. I am a supplanter! That's my name. What a significant circumstance was this. Jacob was so bold and so vehement, that he said, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me." "What is thy name," said the Almighty, "that thou shouldest presume thus?" "My name," said he, "is Jacob." God said, "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed" (Genesis xxxii. 28). "No more shalt thou be called Jacob"--the matter was settled. He was a supplanter all along. You will recollect from the circumstance of his birth, how he came to be named Jacob--how he cried out, and illustrated his name by taking the birthright of his brother. Jacob all along had proved himself to be rightly named, but after this mighty exercise of faith, this taking hold and keeping hold of God's promises, under all those discouraging circumstances--for these things, God did well to alter his name, that it might remind him no more of his having been a supplanter, and to give him one which should remind him of his having had power with God and prevailed.
Again-take the case of Moses. He stepped forward, as it were, and took hold of the uplifted hand of the Almighty. God promised Moses that a certain thing should be done for the people; but the people had sinned, and gone into idolatry. Then he said, "Let me alone, that I may consume them in a moment" (Numbers xvi. 21). What a peculiar position did he place himself in! It might have been a temptation to a man of less grace to have given up. God had promised to make of him a great nation. Some men might have said, "Well, if God will make of me a great nation--let them be consumed; they are rebels, and have destroyed themselves." But Moses said, "What will the Egyptians say?" See his regard for God's honour, and his persevering spirit. God seemed to have anticipated his prayer and forbad it. He did not mean this (it might have been, however, so to a man without Moses' confidence and grace). He said, "Let me alone that I may consume them, for they are a rebellious people." But no,--Moses must step right forward to reason with God. "What will the Egyptians say? What wilt thou do with thy great name? Will not they say that thou hast taken them up into the wilderness on purpose to slay them?" Having asked, "What will the Egyptians say?" he says, "Forgive them, or blot out my name from the book that thou hast written." How beautiful was Moses' simple heartedness and confidence--his determination to stand in the gap between God and the people! I shall not detain you any longer now, but I shall pursue the subject to-morrow evening. Amen.
[First in a series of three "Lectures on the Conditions of Prevailing Prayer."]
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