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Posts Tagged ‘Leonard Ravenhill

Learning to Pray Requires Praying

Reading a book on prayer is not the same as praying.  We all agree with that.  Reading a book on evangelism is not the same as sharing your faith.  Reading a book on preaching is not the same as preaching.  Reading a book on how to be a better husband or wife is not the same as actually being a better spouse.  James 2:14-26 applies to all these: to merely hear the Word is not enough.  We must do what it says.  Jesus said that those who obey Him are His own (Luke 11:27-28).  Jesus said that the redeemed are those who do what He says (Matthew 7:21-23; 1 John 2:3-6).

Prayer is not meant to be dissected.  We can surely learn from great men and women of God about prayer.  I have read and love to read the works of great praying saints such as E.M. Bounds, John Hyde, Leonard Ravenhill, A.W. Tozer, and many more.  They have taught me much about prayer from a biblical viewpoint.  However, if all I do is read Bounds or Wesley or Ravenhill on prayer then I have not done anything really at all.  Prayer is not meant to be studied as much as it must be applied.  I could sit and give you quote after quote from Samuel Chadwick on prayer but I have not done what his book is trying to teach and that is to pray.  Prayer is not a practice of the intellect wherein I read and study various passages of Scriptures on prayer only to sit and meditate upon them without applying them.  Prayer is act of the will, an act of obedience to the Lordship of Christ since He said that His disciples would pray (Matthew 6:5).  Far be it from us to be sinning by not praying (1 Samuel 12:23).

I learned early on that prayer is not something that is taught as much as caught.  Two older saints of the Lord (now both with Jesus in glory) taught me to pray.  Brother Stewart and Brother Bush.  Two godly men.  Two men who loved Jesus with all their hearts.  Two men who worked hard their entire lives and had hands of steel to prove it but two men who feared God and had no problem bowing their knees to pray.  Both of these brothers would stand up during our Sunday night testimony times and basically preach a message and the message was always the same: we need to pray for revival.  These saints of God would go into our church’s prayer room and would spend much time before the throne of God.  They taught me how to cry out, how to enter into the holy presence of God, how to respect the presence of God, how to intercede for the lost, for revival, for the Church.  They would weep and wail and cry out with loud groaning.  These were not men who prayed silently but with loud cries, they cried out to the Lord (Hebrews 5:7).  These brothers knew how to touch God because they had been touched by God.  God had wonderfully saved them years before and here I was, a young 18 years old, learning to pray from them.  And I learned to pray.

Jesus did the same.  Certainly He taught on prayer (Luke 11:2-13) but He did so because the disciples saw His prayer life (Luke 11:1).  This was not abstract teaching.  The disciples saw the prayer life of Jesus and they wanted to learn to pray from Him.  Scripture says that He often withdrew to pray (Luke 5:16).  The disciples saw this and wanted to learn to touch the heart of the Father like Jesus did.

The sad reality is that many of us are educated beyond our level of obedience.  We know the commandments to prayer.  We know from memory many passages of Scripture on prayer.  But do we pray?  We read books on prayer.  Hear sermons on prayer.  Blog on prayer.  Talk about prayer.  But do we pray?  It is not enough to hear sermons, read books, and discuss prayer on blogs.  We must pray!  Prayer is an act of submission.  Leonard Ravenhill called prayer, “The acid test of devotion.”  Preaching, said Ravenhill, allows one to show your talents off before others but prayer does not.  Prayer is to be done in secret and only God knows the cries of our hearts and whether we truly pray.  God knows whether we spend more time blogging on prayer or reading about prayer than actually praying.  We cannot hide our prayerlessness before Him.  We can hide our prayerlessness before others easily and we can even deceive people into thinking we are a person of prayer but God knows whether we are seeking His face.  He knows whether we are lying about our prayer lives (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/28/2013 at 11:51 AM

Our Lack of Prayer Shows Our Lack of Faith

We say that we believe in God.  We even acknowledge the miracles that He did in the Scriptures.  We believe He is a God who raised the dead, who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, who is an ever-present help in the time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).  But I ask the question, does our prayer lives resemble our faith in God?  Or does our prayer life show that we really don’t trust God at all.  We seldom pray.  Seldom are found on our knees crying out to Him.  So few know how to pray today.  So few know how to really touch the throne of God in their intercession.

Leonard Ravenhill wrote it best when he wrote,

No man is greater than his prayer life.  The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying.  The pulpit can be a shop-window to display one’s talents; the prayer closet allows no showing off.

Poverty-stricken as the Church is today in many things, she is most stricken here, in the place of prayer.  We have many organizers, but few agonizers;  many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters.  Failing here, we fail everywhere.

The great saints of God labored in prayer.  George Whitefield said, “Whole nights and weeks have I spend in intercession before God.”  John Wesley would rise every morning at 4 AM to seek God for the first four hours of his day.  David Wilkerson “tithed” his day to the Lord by spending the first four hours of his day alone with God in prayer and studying His Word.  Martin Luther would pray for up to 2 hours a day.  David Brainerd, the great missionary to the American Indians and son-in-law to Jonathan Edwards, would often lie on his face before God for hours crying out for the souls of the Indians.  John Hyde, the great missionary to India, was known as “Praying Hyde” for his hours in prayer.  E.M. Bounds was known to pray for 8 hours a day near his death.  David Livingstone, the great British missionary and explorer of Africa, would pray for hours next to his bed and he died there.

Yet what about us?  We know the Word.  We know that Jesus said that we would pray if we are His disciples (Matthew 6:5).  We know His promises to hear us and answer us if we pray in faith (Mark 11:22-24; John 14:12-14).  We know the example of the early Church (Acts 2:42; 12:5; 16:13).  We read the commands to pray in the Epistles (Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6-7; Colossians 4:2-6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Hebrews 4:14-16; James 4:2-3; 5:16; 1 Peter 3:12; 4:7; 5:6-7) yet we don’t pray.  We know the promise of Romans 8:26-27, that the Spirit helps us pray but we don’t pray.  We show our lack of faith by our prayer lives.

Ravenhill also wrote, “The acid test of devotion is our prayer lives.”  What does your prayer life or mine say about our faith in God?  Let it not be said of the pagans and those who worship false gods that they are more devoted to their false gods than we are to the one true and living God.  The Muslim bows before Mecca crying out to a false god five times a day.  Can the disciple of Jesus not say that we pray more than five minutes a day?  The Buddhist sits alone in meditation for hours seeking a false reality.  Can it not be said of the disciple of Jesus that we don’t get alone with God and meditate on His Word (Psalm 1:1-3) and seek His face who is true?  The cults are known for their zeal.  Should not we be more zealous for the truth of God?

I have no doubt that God is merciful but our lack of faith in Him must disturb the angels.  No doubt God is sovereign but He has called His people to prayer and yet we would rather sit and watch television or waste time than to seek His face.  The prayer closet offers no rewards, no applause from men.  The prayer closet does offer this: the promise of Jeremiah 33:3.  I urge you saints of God to labor in prayer.  Seek His face at all times.  Our God will hear and He will restore and He will move in power as we cry out to Him.  He is more than able (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/27/2012 at 12:46 PM

How To Develop a Stronger Prayer Life

Let me briefly give you some pointers to developing a stronger prayer life.  These points have been points that I myself have put into practice in my own prayer life.  No doubt we all know that God wants us to pray (Jeremiah 33:3).  Jesus said that His disciples would be a people of prayer (Matthew 6:5).  It was the prayer life of Jesus (and not His teaching or His miracles) that the disciples wanted to learn about the most (Luke 11:1).  Paul admonished the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV) and he told the disciples in Colosse to “continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2 NKJV).  Revelation 5:8 records that the prayers of the saints rise up before the throne of God.  How vital then prayer is to the disciple!

How can we then strengthen our prayer lives?  Here are some quick points.

1.  Meditate on “Prayer” Scriptures.

Meditating upon the Word of God is so important (Psalm 1:1-3).  The Word of God is our delight (Psalm 119:162).  Jesus said that we were to abide in His teachings (which is His Word) to be His faithful disciples (John 8:31-32; cf. Matthew 7:24-27).  The Word of God is the only weapon the disciple is given to combat Satan and the lies of the world (Ephesians 6:17).  We are to renew our minds which can only occur in the Word of God (Romans 12:1-2).

I advise taking the “prayer” Scriptures and writing them down where you can read and re-read them to meditate upon them.  Passages such as 1 Samuel 12:23; Matthew 6:5-13; 7:7-11; 21:22; Mark 11:22-24; Luke 18:1-8; John 14:13-14; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6-7; Colossians 4:2; etc.  I would urge you to study all the major passages on prayer.  A good book on this is the book, The Spirit Helps Us Pray: A Biblical Theology of Prayer.  

2.  Study the Lives of Great Intercessors.

Study the lives of great prayer warriors such as John Hyde, David Brainerd, Leonard Ravenhill, E.M. Bounds, Andrew Murray, Charles Spurgeon, Rees Howells, David Livingstone, John Wesley, Martin Luther, and many more.  John Bunyan was a great man of prayer.  William and Catherine Booth, founds of the Salvation Army, were great intercessors.  Read and study their lives and imitate their faith in God (Hebrews 13:7).

3.  Read Books on Prayer.

A few books that I would highly recommend would be Why Revival Tarries? by Leonard Ravenhill, The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on PrayerPrayer by John Bunyan, A Method of Prayer by Matthew Henry, and The Path of Prayer by Samuel Chadwick.  

4.  Pray With Other Intercessors.

Find some men of God (if you’re a man or find women if you’re a woman) who seek God earnestly and pray with them.  Lay aside your Arminianism or your Calvinism to seek God with your brethren.  As long as we are orthodox in our theology over the major issues, seek God with such folks.  There is so much to learn from praying with others.  I first learned how to pray by praying with some older saints who are now with Jesus.  They taught me how to tarry in God’s presence, how to seek God earnestly for who He is not what we can get from Him, to learn to view prayer not as merely asking for things but to know God and love on Him in worship.  1 Timothy 2:8 should guide us here.

5.  Pray! 

To read on prayer or study Scripture on prayer or to meditate on prayer is not the same as praying.  Prayer must be practiced.  To merely talk about prayer is not the same as praying.  I know of churches that faithfully preach the Word of God and can expound on prayer but if they just talk about prayer, what is the point?  Prayer must be “worked” out.  Prayer must be something that we don’t just study but earnestly do (James 5:16-18).  The key difference between us and the early Church is not so much theology but its practice (Acts 2:42-47).  Prayer is important and powerfully because of who we are seeking, the sovereign God of the universe.  Let us pray!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/02/2012 at 8:48 PM

One Note on Modern Books on Prayer

I mentioned in a previous post my disdain for many books that I have read on prayer as of late by modern writers.  I want to add that I find it interesting that when you read older books on prayer such as E.M. Bounds, Samuel Chadwick, John Bunyan, or Charles Spurgeon, they rarely use any personal illustrations and in fact don’t rely on many illustrations at all.  R.A. Torrey might be the exception to this in his book, How To Pray.  Leonard Ravenhill, as far as I have read, never used personal illustrations much in his books other than telling a brief story about purchasing a book by E.M. Bounds on prayer while in college.  It seemed the older books on prayer focused entirely on prayer and the Scriptures.  I find comfort in that much more than in story after story about the author and their “great faith.”  What we really need to hear is not how God provided you with your 100,000 square foot building but what the does the Scriptures teach on prayer.

Just another reason I enjoy older books on prayer.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/21/2012 at 5:53 PM

Modern Books on Prayer

I am not a big fan of modern books on prayer.  I prefer to read E.M. Bounds on prayer or Andrew Murray or A.W. Tozer or Leonard Ravenhill or Samuel Chadwick than to read many modern books on prayer.  It seems you get two types of modern books when it comes to prayer.  The first is the “exegetical” approach to prayer.  I appreciate this more than the latter but I think many of us know many verses of Scripture on prayer but we just don’t pray.  We can quote the Lord’s teaching on prayer in Matthew 9:9-13 but we don’t follow His example nor His outline for prayer.

The second group bothers me the most.  Many of the modern books on prayer from The Prayer of Jabez to Sun Stand Still offer nothing new on prayer.  If anything they try to make prayer all about us and not much about God.  Oh God is here and there but He is there for a reason: you!  God wants to answer your prayers so that you can be blessed in this life.  Few take the first approach and go very deep into the Scriptures on prayer (though they will proof-text their books) and most make you remember more about the author or the author’s scheme then about God or His kingdom.  The countless stories that fill modern books on prayer are given, they say, to show us the author’s faith but all we remember are the authors.  The books are focused on the authors more so than on the Lord in my opinion.  Typical of the modern clergy-laity church where the pastor is the prophet, priest, and king of the house.

That’s why I never recommend modern books on prayer.  A few are good such as Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire though this book has a good many personal illustrations in it with some Scriptural teachings.  Cymbala’s theology is much sounder than the books listed above.  At least Cymbala is not so much focused on prayer pleasing yourself.

Prayer is not about you.  Prayer is to be focused on pleasing God.  When Jesus said in John 14:13 that we could ask anything in His name, He wasn’t meaning that we could pray for what our covetous desires.  John 14:14 makes it clear that the reason for John 14:13 is because of the glory of God.  God answers prayer because of His glory and for His honor.  Every answered prayer is in accordance with God being exalted.  Even healings are done for the glory of God (John 9).  The Apostles were clear in the book of Acts that they focused the attention on the Lord and not upon themselves.  Modern preachers would not do well in the book of Acts.  Modern preachers would never be able to utter the words of Acts 3:12 or Acts 14:14-15.  Nor would they be able to utter the words of Acts 26:20-21.  Of course, nor would they be able to declare James 5:16-18 when it comes to prayer other than stories that they tell about themselves.

Prayer is all about the glory of God.  Prayer is not about “your audacious faith” but the honor of God.  Prayer is not about pleasing your pleasures.  It is about Jesus and His kingdom (James 4:2-4).  Why would God want you to pray a prayer that would violate 1 John 2:15-17?  He does not.  He is holy and righteous and He will answer prayers that exalt Him as God.  God does still answer prayers but He answers them so that His name is praised (1 John 5:14-15).  By the way, prayer is not powerful.  Only God is.  Prayer is powerful because God answers prayer that glorifies His name.

Let me end with this, do you pray as Jesus prayed in John 17?  In John 17 Jesus prayed to the glory of God.  Jesus begins His prayer with a focus on glorifying God (John 17:1-5).  Jesus’ entire focus in His prayer in John 17 is upon the glory of God.  Go through John 17 and notice how many times Jesus says “you” and “Father.”  Even when praying for the Church in John 17:20-26 His focus is completely upon the glory of God.  He wants God the Father to give them unity so that God may be glorified.  You will not find the narcissism in Jesus’ praying that you’ll find in many modern books on prayer.

So if you want to study prayer then I encourage you to read the older works on prayer such as The Valley of Vision or the works of E.M. Bounds on prayer.  The best book I have ever read on prayer are the works of Leonard Ravenhill and especially his book, Why Revival Tarries?  Dead faithful men are faithful men still.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/18/2012 at 5:38 PM

Failing To Witness

Have you ever had one of the moments where it seemed you missed God?  Where it seems that God has placed a person with you for a moment so that you can share the gospel with them?  I had the moment and sadly, I let it pass.  My how I have been convicted over the past several hours since that moment passed me by.

This is how it happened for me.  I drive a truck for a living and was about to leave when I was told that a guy would be riding with me from our warehouse.  A young black man climbed into the truck and we exchanged names and shook hands and then off we went.  I played Lecrae all the way there as I figured he would sleep since we would be working overnight in another city about 120 miles away.  He was a quite guy so the night was uneventful and mainly he just watched me work (which was why he was sent with me).  On the way home, however, we talked.  We talked about work and then where he lived.  It comes to find out that we both went to the same high school though I finished school 11 years before he did and then it comes to find out that we both lived in the same neighborhood.  While his family still resides there, mine has since moved away.  I did mention the Lord and I did mention God’s grace but I never preached the gospel to him.  I felt deep within me while we were talking that I needed to preach the gospel to him and I never did.  At the end of my route he climbed out the truck and went home.  I missed my chance.

As I drove home that morning I knew that I had missed this moment to preach Christ.  I sensed a strong conviction from the Lord.  Here I claim to love Him yet I didn’t preach His gospel as He commanded (Mark 16:15).  Here I claim to want to see souls saved yet I didn’t share the only message that will save this young man (Acts 4:12).  I claim to be Spirit-filled (Acts 1:8) yet I ignored the Spirit’s prompting to share the gospel with this young man.

Now I could opt out of this by saying that if God wants to save this young man then let Him do it since salvation does belong to the Lord (Jonah 2:9).  Yet I will not.  I believe the duty of my life is to spread the gospel (Matthew 28:19).  Wherever I am, I am to glorify Jesus Christ in all that I say or do (Colossians 3:16).  I pray that this young man heard the gospel in the music of Lecrae but he needed to hear the gospel from me (Romans 10:17).  There is no salvation apart from the gospel.  Good works do not save.  Being a church goer does not save.  Being a Southerner does not save.  The only thing that saves is faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross (Romans 3:22-28).  Oh how can I be ashamed of this gospel (Romans 1:16-17)?  How could I not share Christ with a guy that the Lord placed in my truck for nearly 7 hours?

This is not the first time I have felt this way.  I can remember in college the Lord nudging me to share Christ with this young man who I worked with at UPS.  I never did.  I worked by him for nearly two years and not once did I preach the gospel to him.  I prayed for him often but never laid out the gospel for him to hear and understand.  I often ignored the conviction of the Holy Spirit while I was working by this guy and I look back with such sadness over that.

Now yes I do know that God forgives us of our sins (1 John 1:9).  I am thankful for God’s great grace and loving-kindness toward us.  I know that salvation is not based on whether I preached the gospel to the guy I worked with at UPS or whether I preached the gospel to this young man who rode in my truck with me.  But I do know that the Lord calls me His ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20).  I know that He desires to use me to glorify His name and that includes making disciples of His Son.  I know from study of Scripture that there is no other Savior and no other hope for these young men except the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:3-6).  I know that God’s desire is not for these two young men to go to hell but to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).  I pray that He does save them by His sovereign grace but why didn’t I preach the gospel to them?  No, I know that the Father doesn’t condemn me (Romans 8:1) but I do know that He wants me to preach the gospel to the lost.

So as I write this, I am convicted.  It has been a few days now since that failure and I still am praying for this young man to be saved by the power of God and I am praying for the Lord to help me make disciples.  Leonard Ravenhill wrote,

Could a mariner sit idle if he heard the drowning cry? Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die? Could a fireman sit idle, let men burn and give no hand? Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you damned?

William Booth wrote,

“Not called!” did you say? “Not heard the call,” I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face – whose mercy you have professed to obey – and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.

Thank God for His grace and mercy and thank God that my salvation is based on Jesus Christ alone and not what I do (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/14/2012 at 12:11 AM

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