Stephen Caswell © 2004
Judge Black’s - Previous Engagement
Judge Black, of Georgia, when he was a young lawyer, was invited to deliver an address of welcome to the Governor of the State on Monday evening. He took great pains to prepare his address, but a telegram came on Monday, saying that the Governor’s visit would be deferred till Wednesday evening. Mr. Black at once wrote the committee that a previous engagement would prevent his being present on Wednesday evening. Few persons besides the pastor of his church knew that the previous engagement was the regular weekly prayer-meeting which the young Christian lawyer had set apart as sacredly devoted to the public worship of God; and no service to man or State, though it might be for his own promotion, could deter him from his purpose.
Are you a good intercessor? Do you pray earnestly for the needy? Do you persist in prayer until God answers? What priority does prayer have in your life? If you believe prayer is important do you attend the Church prayer meetings? This evening I would like to look at the subject of prayer a little more deeply. Are there any conditions that God requires of us before He will grant our requests? We will look at 3 things. Our Conduct, Our Concern, Our Communication.
Firstly, Our Conduct
Good intercessors conduct themselves appropriately; obedience, fellowship & God's will.
Obedience is very closely related to answered prayer. God doesn’t answer many of our prayers because of disobedience. Disobedience is rebellion against God! Will God bless us if we rebel against Him? How can He grant our requests yet ignore our sin? He can't! Psalm 66:18: If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. Obedience is the first condition of answered prayers. 1 John 3:21-22: Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. Because Abraham obeyed God, the Lord blessed Him. God answered His prayers. I want to look at three specific ways that Abraham obeyed God.
Faith - Leaving His Home In Ur
Genesis 12:1-4: Now the Lord had said to Abram: Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation. So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
It required a lot of faith for Abraham to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees. Hebrews 11:8 says that Abraham went out not knowing where he was going. The Lord didn't tell him. Abraham had lived in Ur for sixty or seventy years. When Abraham heard God's call he obeyed. He forsook his home and left. Abraham had great wealth and possessions in Ur, yet He gave it all up at the Lord's command; that's obedience and faith. He lived all his days in Canaan as a traveler. He trusted the Lord to provide for his needs. He dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob. Abraham was willing to step out in faith and obey God.
Sacrifice - His Only Son Isaac
Genesis 22:2-3: Then God said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you. So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
Abraham also put God before his family. God promised Abraham and Sarah a son. They had to wait some 25 years for this promise to be fulfilled. Then God asked Abraham to present his only son as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah. Again, Abraham obeyed God. We know, God restored Isaac to Abraham again, but he had no guarantee that this would happen. Yes, Abraham's sacrifice was very real. Obedience usually costs us something. But the reward makes it worth while. Abraham was willing to make costly sacrifices to obey God.
Values - Ruling His Home
Genesis 18:19: For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.
Not only did Abraham obey God, he also taught his family to obey God. Abraham ruled his home with God's values. He always put God first and he taught his children to do the same. He taught them the way of the Lord. He instructed them about their covenant with God. This is seen by the effort he made to find a godly wife for Isaac. Abraham put God first. No wonder he is called the friend of God. Abraham ruled his home well. He taught his children to obey God. Obedience is the first condition of answered prayer.
Fellowship is the second condition of answered prayer. John 15:7 says: If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. To abide in Christ is to enjoy the Lord's fellowship. Remember Paul’s command to the Thessalonians, pray without ceasing. God wants us to walk and talk with Him each day. He wants us to spend time alone in His presence. God desires to meet with us so that He can reveal Himself to us. Abraham regularly experienced this kind of fellowship in his life.
Genesis 12:7-8: Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, To your descendants I will give this land. And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.
God spoke to Abraham. He shared many secrets with him. Abraham offered sacrifices for his sin and called on the Lord. If we want to be good intercessors we must spend time alone with the Lord. We must grow in our relationship with Him. We can't expect to be good intercessors if we don't know the Lord. How can we pray confidently to a stranger? It’s impossible! Fellowship is the 2nd condition of answered prayer.
Carver On Prayer Dr. George Washington Carver
My prayers seem to be more of an attitude than anything else. I indulge in no lip service, but ask the great God silently, daily, and often many times a day, to permit me to speak to Him. I ask Him to give me wisdom, understanding and bodily strength to do His will. Hence, I am asking and receiving all the time. That's a good description of fellowship with God.
c. God's Will
1 John 5:14-15: Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
God's will is the third condition of answered prayer. God has plans for all men. The first is that we might be saved. God also wants us to live holy lives, to be fruitful in good works. He intends to establish a righteous kingdom. Therefore, when we pray it’s important to pray for God's will. Abraham did! Genesis 18:23: And Abraham came near and said, Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Abraham prayed that God might act justly. Often it is God's will for us to be part of the answer to our prayers. He gave us the burden to pray. God works through us.
From Prayer To Praise
Charles Spurgeon once called a meeting of his board to consider a pressing financial need of his famous Tabernacle. The members all agreed that the thing to do was to pray until the Lord sent the supply. At this point Mr. Spurgeon interrupted, Wait a minute! Before you begin this prayer meeting there is something I’d like to do. Taking a sheet of paper, he wrote, C. H. Spurgeon gives 50 pounds. Next he passed it around that the others might write down how much they would give. When the subscriptions were totaled, the prayer meeting turned out to be a praise and glory session, for the need had been fully met!
Does a good intercessor conduct himself in a certain way? Yes, he does, He obeys God, enjoys fellowship with God & prays according to God's will. Do you obey the Lord? Are you willing to obey even if it means leaving your home and family ties? Abraham did. Will you obey God even if it means personal sacrifice? Abraham put his only son on the altar in obedience to God. Do you rule your home well? Do you teach your family to keep the ways of the Lord? Are you living in fellowship with the Lord? Do you share your life with Him? Do you pray for God's will to be done?
Secondly, Our Concern
a. Know The Needs
How can we pray for people if we don't know their problems? A good intercessor knows the needs of others. Otherwise his prayers are based on ignorance. We may pray like some folk do, God bless the missionaries! God wants us to be more concerned than that. He wants us to know their needs and pray intelligently. In Ephesians 6:18 we are commanded to watch and pray. Operation World was written so Christians can pray intelligently for missions around the world. The spiritual needs of every country are individually listed in this book. Prayer letters and prayer guides also assist us. When God makes us aware of a need we should pray for it. Abraham did!
Genesis 18:17,20-21: And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, And the Lord said, Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorra is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.
God could have hidden His plans from Abraham, but He didn't. The Lord revealed them to Abraham knowing that he would intercede for Sodom and Gomorra. In fact I believe that God wanted Abraham to intercede for them. Ezekiel 22:30 says this: So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.
Her Prayer Line
Alta Vail of Emporia, Kansas, tells in Sunshine magazine how she found a new way to pray while ironing. One day she was thinking about the different kinds of lines — bus lines, clothes lines, fishing lines, telephone lines. Why not a prayer line? she asked herself. So she strung a short rope across one corner of her kitchen where she irons and hung cards on it with names of people she knew needed prayer. As she irons, she prays for each person by name. Not surprisingly, news has spread and she gets regular requests to hang on her prayer line.
b. Know Your God
We must also know the character of our God. When we pray we mustn't ask God to act contrary to His nature. Since God is holy, we should pray that righteousness will prevail. Since God is love we should pray that God will reveal His love to the world. Since God is faithful we should claim the promises in His Word. Since God is merciful and gracious we should pray that He will save sinners. Jesus rebuked James and John for wanting to call down fire upon the Samaritans for rejecting the Gospel. God wants to save people. He would rather save men than condemn them. Judgment won't come until God has given people opportunity to repent. Yes it is important for us to pray that God will act in accordance with His nature. Abraham prayed according to the character of his God.
Genesis 18:25: Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
c. Plead With God
It is one thing to know the needs, but quite another to do something about them. Often we hear about the needs in the world from missionaries and become concerned. But when we go home we forget about them. We don't do anything to help the situation. We should plead with God for the needs that we know about. Abraham was concerned for his nephew Lot and his family and he did something about it. He pleaded for God to save the righteous. Lot was a believer living in Sodom. Abraham was also concerned about other righteous people that may have lived in Sodom and Gomorra. Perhaps he thought that Lot might have taught others to serve the true God too.
So Abraham pleaded with God. He was burdened for the righteous and poured out his concerns to the Lord. Abraham didn't try and paint a good picture of Sodom and Gomorra. He didn't deny their great sin. Rather Abraham pleaded for God's mercy. After all God is merciful. He doesn't punish us according to our sins. The Lord had come down from heaven to evaluate the situation first hand. God didn't have to do that, but He did because He cares about people.
A good intercessor personally knows the needs and the greatness of his God. Do you take the time to find out the needs of the world? Do you receive prayer letters and guides? He also knows his God. Do you know the Lord? Do you pray according to His righteous nature? Do you believe that He can meet the world's needs? Do you plead for the lost? Do you pour out your heart for them? Do you pray for missionaries and evangelists? Do you plead with God to save sinners?
Thirdly, Our Communication
a. Draw Near
When we are burdened for someone. We need to draw aside from the rush and bustle of life and present our needs to God. Abraham drew near to God and presented his petition. Genesis 18:23: And Abraham came near and said, Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? The Lord encourages us to meet with Him at the throne of grace. Hebrews 4:16: Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. The hymn says it well. Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care, precious Savior still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer. Every believer needs to come aside into the quiet place. Here we can we can intercede for the many needs people have.
b. Be Humble
James 4:6 says: But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.
We are invited to draw near to God and present our petitions. But it's very important that we remember who God is and who we are. We should come into God's presence humbly and thoughtfully. God is sovereign and we are sinful people. Therefore we must not become flippant in our relationship with God. Some men today say that we should name it and claim it. They misunderstand the promises of God concerning prayer. They teach that God must grant us our petitions when we pray in Jesus' name. As if Christ's name is a magic spell that forces God to obey us. This is completely wrong! Abraham doesn't intercede this way at all. He is humble as he intercedes for the righteous.
Genesis 18:27, 30: Then Abraham answered and said, Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Then he said, Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there? So He said, I will not do it if I find thirty there.
Abraham referred to himself as dust and ashes. He knew that he was inferior to God who is so great. He acknowledged the Lord as the Judge of all the earth. He recognized that God would do what was right. Abraham asked the Lord to be patient with him. He knew he had no right to ask anything from God. But he also knew that the Lord was merciful and He would listen to His petition. Abraham knew that God was faithful and merciful.
Let us pray the same way that Abraham did. Because, we have the privilege of coming before God's throne of grace, let us come humbly. Let's be mindful of who God is and who we are. When Jesus taught the disciples to pray He emphasized the importance of reverence and God's glory. Matthew 6:9-10: In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
c. Be Persistent
Genesis 18:23-24: And Abraham came near and said, Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?
We must also persist in prayer. Too often people pray once or twice about something and then stop. But God often waits to see how sincere we are about our request. God wants to know that we mean business. Elijah prayed and it didn't rain for three and a half years. Then he prayed again and it rained. But we often overlook that Elijah prayed seven times the second time. Jesus commanded us to pray and not lose heart. God wants us to pray and keep on praying. We need to spend much more time in prayer if we would see God do great things.
Colossians 4:2-4: Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
Philippians 4:6-7: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
The fate of the nation was hanging precariously in the balances. General Lee and his army had surged forward to the environs of Gettysburg, where the fateful, decisive battle of the Civil War was in the making. The sorrows and burdens of the war-torn nation had exacted its terrible toll on the occupant of the White House, Abraham Lincoln. Yet, on the eve of the crucial Battle of Gettysburg, he was calm and assured. His serenity was reassuring to his generals. When they inquired, How can you be so self-possessed in this hour of the nation’s mortal peril and darkness? Lincoln said, I spent last night in prayer before the Lord. He has given to me the assurance that our cause will triumph and that the nation will be preserved!
In Genesis 18:23-33: Abraham did this too. He interceded for the righteous of Sodom and Gomorra and kept at it. He came before the Lord six times on their behalf. Finally, Abraham received God's promise of mercy if He could find just ten righteous men in Sodom. God was faithful to answer Abraham's prayer. Tragically, the Lord couldn't find ten righteous men in Sodom. Nevertheless He delivered righteous Lot and two of his daughters.
Genesis 19:29: And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt. God remembered Abraham saving Lot. His prayer was answered.
Make Me An Intercessor
Make me an Intercessor, One who can really pray,
One of the Lord’s Remembrancers, By night as well as day.
Make me an Intercessor, In Spirit-touch with Thee,
And give the heavenly vision, Praying through to victory.
Make me an Intercessor, Teach me how to prevail,
To stand my ground and still pray on, Though power's of hell assail.
Make me an Intercessor, Sharing Thy death and life,
In prayer claiming for others, Victory in the strife.
Make me an Intercessor, Willing for deeper death,
Emptied, broken, then made anew, And filled with Living Breath.
Make me an Intercessor, Reveal this mighty thing,
The wondrous possibility, Of paying back my King.
Make me an Intercessor, Hidden-unknown — set apart,
Thought little of by those around, But satisfying thine heart.
How should we present our prayers to God? Firstly, Do you draw near to God each day? Do you come aside into the quiet place with the Lord? Do you meet with others to pray? Secondly, Do you humble yourself before Him when you pray? Do you remember who God is and who you are? Kneeling in prayer is quite appropriate! Finally we must persevere in prayer. Do you persist in prayer until God gives you peace in your heart that God has taken care of the matter? Do you claim His promises?
Tonight we looked at prayer under three headings: Our Conduct, Our Concern, Our Communication. I trust that we will live in such a way that God can use us mightily in prayer. Amen!
Numbers 6:24-26: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.