r12 Preparation - 2. A Call to Prayer
Isaiah 62: 6 - 7 All of us pray. I once heard of an atheist who prayed. He said, "God, I just want to let you know that I don’t believe you exist." Everyone prays at one time or another. Generally, when we are in trouble or facing a crisis, we pray. If the situation is desperate, we all pray. We should be praying more for our country. Our situation is desperate enough to pray. Prayer is one of the mysteries of God. We don’t really understand how it works. At times we are not sure that it works. Then, when God answers a prayer, we are filled with faith and gratitude. Our theology of prayer is cloudy at times. We want God to answer every prayer, but realise when we look back, that we are glad He did not. Ruth Graham, Billy Graham’s wife said, "God has not always answered my prayers. If he had, I would have married the wrong man-several times!" Although we do not always or even often know how God works through prayer, God is at work through prayer. And we need to pray. Alfred Lord Tennyson said: More things are wrought by prayer Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice Rise like a fountain for me night and day For what are men better than sheep or goats That nourish a blind life within the brain, If knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer Both for themselves and those who call them friends? Robert Murray McCheyne wrote, "What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more." That is a very powerful statement. It could also apply to the church. It could be easily altered to say, "What a church is on its knees before God, that it is, and nothing more." Prayer is the source of life and power for churches and individuals. By prayer we tap into the mind of God. By prayer we move the hand that moves the world. By prayer we receive grace and faith. By prayer we acquire wisdom and direction. Yet churches often neglect prayer. Christians neglect prayer. Even pastors neglect prayer. It’s troubling. Yet, for the Christian, prayer should be a natural thing. Like breathing, prayer sustains our lives. By it the believer communicates with God. Through it the believer sees God’s will come to pass. Prayer changes things, and changes us, and it is the most powerful weapon against Satan that we have. Samuel Chadwick said, "The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray." Andrew Murray said, "The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history." Charles Spurgeon said, "I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach." Prayer is powerful. There is no doubt in my mind that if we were to understand the power of prayer, and practice powerful praying, we would see God do fantastic things. Obviously, the Bible has much to say about prayer. The verses of our focus today are taken from the Old Testament, the book of Isaiah. While this may seem to be an unusual passage on prayer, if you examine it closely you will find an extremely valuable insight into the secret of effective prayer. In this passage we see how to get God’s attention. Here we see how to get things done through prayer. Here we will see the objective of prayer, the provision God has made for prayer, and our responsibility in prayer. 1. The Objective Let’s start not at the beginning, but at the end. Let’s look first at the objective or the goal for prayer. Some people may think that the goal for prayer is to receive that for which you are praying. It is precisely at this point that many go wrong. The goal for prayer is not to see our will accomplished, but to see God’s will accomplished. Here, in Isaiah, God is calling His people to prayer. He tells those who pray to take no rest for themselves and to give God no rest until God does something very specific — “till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” This was to be the objective of their prayer. This was the goal of their prayer. But it was the object and goal of their prayer because it was the will of God. Prayer is always centred around and in the will of God. Here, God’s will is to make His people a praise to His glory. Indeed, this is always been God’s will for His people at any time. It certainly was His desire for Israel – v. 1. It is plain to see that God’s desire for Jerusalem and all of Israel was that they should show forth His glory through their lives. This was God’s will for them. This is also God’s will for the church today - Ephesians 1: 12. It is still God’s desire for the church today to be a praise to His glory. That is His will for us. That is His will for the church. He desires that we glorify Him through the church. So the people of God in the Old Testament were called to prayer to that end. We today would be wise to do the same. When we do so, we are praying according to the will of God. God desires that His church be a glorious church. He desires that through our good works we might glorify Him. He desires for the church to bear fruit, much fruit, fruit that remains, in order that He might be glorified. He desires to see people saved, delivered, and filled with His Spirit. The key to prayer is praying according to the will of God. For prayer to be effective, it must be the kind of prayer that first seeks to discover the will of God. Then we must commit ourselves to pray according to that will. That kind of praying will be effective praying. What is God’s will for your life? What is God’s will for this church? Are you taking the time to discover that will? Are you taking the time to pray according to what God desires for His church? 2. The Provision We have seen the objective of prayer, now let’s turn our attention to the provision for prayer. God has made a provision to see His will accomplished – v. 6. God has set watchmen on the walls who never cease to cry to God. These watchmen are the provision God has made to see His will accomplished. In the time in which Isaiah was written the cities of the Middle East were fortified with walls surrounding them. People were set on top of these walls as look-outs. Their job was to keep a watchful eye out for the enemy who might attack without warning. They were the first lines of defence for the city. Here God gives an unusual application to this familiar sight. He describes these watchmen as those who cry to Him on behalf of the city – v. 6, 7. These watchmen were those who were to call on the Lord. In the New American Standard Bible and other translations, it calls these people, those who remind the Lord. Their job was to cry to God and remind Him of His promise to Jerusalem until that promise was fulfilled. This is an interesting and powerful view of prayer. The view we have of prayer here is that prayer is reminding the Lord of what God has already stated that He desires to do. Prayer is praying the promises of God. Why should one need to remind the Lord? Is God forgetful? What kind of God would forget His own promises? No, God certainly remembers His promises. It is at this point we come to realise what God is after in prayer. It is not that God forgets and must be reminded. It is that we need the exercise of reminding the Lord. In so doing several things are accomplished. We remind ourselves of God’s promises. We come to a greater understanding of what are the promises. We begin to understand the mind of God and see more clearly what is His will for the situation about which we are praying. Prayer is not for God’s sake; it is for ours. We become these watchmen on the walls when we undertake to cry to the Lord in prayer. This is God’s desire. He is looking for a people to stand with Him in His purposes. God is looking for intercessors who will pray according to His will. And God has tied the accomplishing of His will to the willingness of His people to pray. 3. Our Responsibility The goal is to see God’s will accomplished. The provision God has made for this is a people who pray. Now we come to our responsibility to be those people. As has been already said, God ties the accomplishing of His will to His people’s willingness to pray - Ezekiel 22: 30, where we find God getting ready to destroy the land because of the evil people in it. Sometimes God’s purposes are not accomplished because His people will not pray. This should immediately bring us to the conclusion that we have a responsibility to seek God’s face through prayer. God will establish us through prayer. God will accomplish His will in our lives through prayer. God will accomplish His purposes in our church through prayer. But God desires a certain kind of prayer. He desires persistent prayer. Again, look at Isaiah 62: "You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth." This is the picture of persistent prayer. We are to come to God again and again and again until the thing for which we are praying is accomplished. We are to remind the Lord of His promises. We are to cry unto God. We must come and keep coming. Luke 11: 9, 10 - This is an interesting passage. The verbs indicate a persistent coming to God. We are to ask, and to keep on asking. We are to seek, and keep on seeking. We are to knock, and to keep on knocking. They also indicate an increasing sincerity and commitment to seeing our prayers answered. To ask is one thing, but to seek implies greater effort. And to knock implies even greater persistence. God honours persistent prayer. We are told in the book of James that we do not have because we do not ask. If we really want to see God’s activity in our lives we must ask. If we really want to see God move in our church we must ask. If we really want to see God move in our world we must ask - 2 Chronicles 7: 14. The great Bible teacher R. A. Torrey - said this about the place of prayer in revival: “I can give a prescription that will bring revival — revival to any church, or community, or any city on earth. First: Let a few Christians get thoroughly right with God. If this is not done, the rest will come to nothing. Second: Let them bind themselves together to pray for revival until God opens the windows of heaven and comes down. Third: Let them put themselves at the disposal of God for His use as He sees fit in winning others to Christ. That is all. I have given this prescription around the world and in no instance has it failed. It cannot fail.” This is indeed a correct prescription. But the medicine only does good when it is taken. To have the cure sitting on the shelf neglected because you are too busy to take it is a tragedy. Harry Emerson Fosdick - "Our failure to think of prayer as a privilege may be partly due to the fact that we can pray any time. The door to prayer is open so continuously that we fail to avail ourselves of an opportunity which is always there." We can touch God through prayer, but only when we actually take the time to pray. We must plan to pray and then we must pray. This is what every church needs. Jesus said that prayer would be a central and distinguishing mark of His church. His house would be a house of prayer. Are you willing to pray and pray and keep on praying until it makes a difference? Are you willing to become a watchman on the walls, crying to God day and night, taking no rest for yourself and giving God no rest until He accomplishes His purpose in your life, and in this church? This is the challenge for you today. This is the call that the Spirit is giving to you. You are being called to become Watchmen on the Wall. You are being called to call upon the One who can make a difference in this life. You are being called to commit yourself to pray.