Tag Archives: Prayer

“Make me also an instrument of His glory” by Jonathan Edwards

“Sir,

My request to you is that, in your intended journey through New England the next summer, you would be pleased to visit Northampton. I hope it is not wholly from curiosity that I desire to see and hear you in this place; but I apprehend, from what I have heard, that you are one that has the blessing of heaven attending you wherever you go; and I have a great desire, if it may be the will of God, that such a blessing as attends your person and labors may descend on this town, and may enter mine own house, and that I may receive it in my own soul.

Indeed I am fearful whether you will not be disappointed in New England, and will have less success here than in other places: we who have dwelt in a land that has been distinguished with light, and have long enjoyed the gospel, and have been glutted with it, and have despised it, are I fear more hardened than most of those places where you have preached hitherto.

But yet I hope in that power and mercy of God that has appeared so triumphant in the success of your labors in other places, that He will send a blessing with you even to us, though we are unworthy of it. I hope, if God preserves my life, to see something of that salvation of God in New England which He has now begun, in a benighted, wicked, and miserable world and age and in the most guilty of all nations.

It has been with refreshment of soul that I have heard of one raised up in the Church of England to revive the mysterious, spiritual, despised, and exploded doctrines of the gospel, and full of a spirit of zeal for the promotion of real vital piety, whose labors have been attended with such success. Blessed be God that hath done it! He is with you, and helps you, and makes the weapons of your warfare mighty.

We see that God is faithful, and never will forget the promises that He has made to His church; and that He will not suffer the smoking flax to be quenched, even when the floods seem to be overwhelming it; but will revive the flame again, even in the darkest times.

I hope this is the dawning of a day of God’s mighty power and glorious grace to the world of mankind. May you go on, reverend Sir! And may God be with you more and more abundantly, that the work of God may be carried on by a blessing on your labors still, with that swift progress that it has been hitherto, and rise to a greater height, and extend further and further, with an irresistible power bearing down all opposition!

And may the gates of hell never be able to prevail against you! And may God send forth more laborers into His harvest of a like spirit, until the kingdom of Satan shall shake, and his proud empire fall throughout the earth and the kingdom of Christ, that glorious kingdom of light, holiness, peace and love, shall be established from one end of the earth unto the other!

I fear it is too much for me to desire a particular remembrance in your prayers, when I consider how many thousands do doubtless desire it, who can’t all be particularly mentioned; and I am far from thinking myself worthy to be distinguished.

But pray, Sir, let your heart be lifted up to God for me among others, that God would bestow much of that blessed Spirit on me that He has bestowed on you, and make me also an instrument of His glory.

I am, reverend Sir, unworthy to be called your fellow laborer,

Jonathan Edwards”

–Jonathan Edwards, Letters and Personal Writings (ed. George S. Claghorn and Harry S. Stout; vol. 16; The Works of Jonathan Edwards; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1998), 16: 80–81. Edwards wrote this letter to George Whitefield on February 12, 1739/40.

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“Preaching was to him no light or trifling task” by Susannah Spurgeon

“In describing a typical week’s work, a beginning can most appropriately be made with an account of the preparation for the hallowed engagements of the Sabbath.

Up to six o’clock, every Saturday evening, visitors were welcomed at ‘Westwood,’ the dear master doing the honours of the garden in such a way that many, with whom he thus walked and talked, treasure the memory of their visit as a very precious thing.

At the tea-table, the conversation was bright, witty, and always interesting; and after the meal was over, an adjournment was made to the study for family worship, and it was at these seasons that my beloved’s prayers were remarkable for their tender childlikeness, their spiritual pathos, and their intense devotion. He seemed to come as near to God as a little child to a loving father, and we were often moved to tears as he talked thus face to face with his Lord.

At six o’clock, every visitor left, for Mr. Spurgeon would often playfully say, ‘Now, dear friends, I must bid you ‘Good-bye,’ and turn you out of this study; you know what a number of chickens I have to scratch for, and I want to give them a good meal tomorrow.’

So, with a hearty ‘God bless you!’ he shook hands with them, and shut himself in to companionship with his God. The inmates of the house went quietly about their several duties, and a holy silence seemed to brood over the place.

What familiar intercourse with the Saviour he so greatly loved, was then vouchsafed to him, we can never know, for, even while I write, I hear a whisper, ‘The place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’

No human ear ever heard the mighty pleadings with God, for himself, and his people, which rose from his study on those solemn evenings; no mortal eyes ever beheld him as he wrestled with the Angel of the covenant until he prevailed, and came back from his brook Jabbok with the message he was to deliver in his Master’s Name.

His grandest and most fruitful sermons were those which cost him most soul-travail and spiritual anguish;—not in their preparation or arrangement, but in his own overwhelming sense of accountability to God for the souls to whom he had to preach the gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.

Though he had the gift of utterance above many, preaching was to him no light or trifling task; his whole heart was absorbed in it, all his spiritual force was engaged in it, all the intellectual power, with which God had so richly endowed him, was pressed into this glorious service, and then laid humbly and thankfully at the feet of his Lord and Saviour, to be used and blessed by Him according to His gracious will and purpose.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records, by His Wife and His Private Secretary, 1878–1892 (vol. 4; Chicago; New York; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1900), 4: 64-65.

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“Prayer on Sunday after the Sermon” by Zacharias Ursinus

“Almighty God, heavenly Father, who has promised us that whatever we ask of you in the name of Your dear Son Jesus Christ, You will surely give to us. (John 16:23)

[Hallowed be Your name]

We ask You to work in us by Your Holy Spirit, so that we may rightly know You, and sanctify, glorify, and praise You in all Your works, in which shine forth Your omnipotence, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, mercy, and truth. Grant us also that we may so direct our whole life—thoughts, words, and deeds—that Your name is not blasphemed because of us but honored and praised.

[Your kingdom come]

Rule us also by the scepter of Your Word and the power of Your Holy Spirit that we and all men may daily more and more surrender and submit to Your Majesty. Preserve and increase Your Church. Destroy all works of the devil, and every false and wicked counsel conceived against Your holy Word. Bring to ruin Your enemies by the power of Your truth and righteousness, so that every power that raises itself against Your honor may be more and more destroyed and demolished each day, until the fullness of Your kingdom comes, when on the final day You will reveal Your glory in us and You will be all in all forevermore.

[Your will be done]

Grant also that we and all men may deny our own will and all the lust of our flesh, and without any murmuring obey Your will, which alone is good. Grant that everyone may carry out the duties of his office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.

[Give us today our daily bread]

Provide us also with all our bodily needs, peace, and a good government, so that we may acknowledge that You are the only fountain of all good, and a faithful Father who cares for His children; that also our care and labor, and also Your gifts, cannot do us any good without Your blessing. Grant, therefore, that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures and put it only in You.

[Forgive us our debts]

And for the sake of the shedding of Christ’s blood, do not impute to us, poor sinners, any of our transgressions and debts, nor the evil which still clings to us, as we also find this evidence of Your grace in our hearts that we desire to wholeheartedly forgive our neighbor and increase His benefit.

[And lead us not into temptation, etc.]

And because we are so weak in ourselves that we cannot stand even for a moment, and moreover, our sworn enemies—the devil, the world, and our own flesh—do not cease to attack us. Will You, therefore, keep and strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, so that we may firmly resist them and not go down to defeat in this spiritual war, but remain persistent until we finally obtain the complete victory and reign together with Your Son, our Lord and Protector, Jesus Christ, in Your kingdom forevermore.

All this we ask from You, not so that we, but that You may be praised forevermore, and because You are able to do so as Almighty God, and are also willing as a faithful Father, as certainly as we wholeheartedly desire these things from You, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.”

—Zacharias Ursinus, “Palatinate Church Order (1563),” as quoted in Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present, Eds. Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2018), 614-615.

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“Never could it be possible for any man to estimate what he owes to a godly mother” by Charles Spurgeon

“Fathers and mothers are the most natural agents for God to use in the salvation of their children.

I am sure that, in my early youth, no teaching ever made such an impression upon my mind as the instruction of my mother. Neither can I conceive that, to any child, there can be one who will have such influence over the young heart as the mother who has so tenderly cared for her offspring.

A man with a soul so dead as not to be moved by the sacred name of ‘mother’ is creation’s blot. Never could it be possible for any man to estimate what he owes to a godly mother.

Certainly I have not the powers of speech with which to set forth my valuation of the choice blessing which the Lord bestowed on me in making me the son of one who prayed for me, and prayed with me.

How can I ever forget her tearful eye when she warned me to escape from the wrath to come? I thought her lips right eloquent. Others might not think so, but they certainly were eloquent to me.

How can I ever forget when she bowed her knee, and with her arms about my neck, prayed, ‘Oh, that my son might live before Thee!’

Nor can her frown be effaced from my memory,—that solemn, loving frown, when she rebuked my budding iniquities.

And her smiles have never faded from my recollection,—the beaming of her countenance when she rejoiced to see some good things in me towards the Lord God of Israel.

My mother said to me, one day, ‘Ah, Charles! I often prayed to the Lord to make you a Christian, but I never asked that you might become a Baptist.’

I could not resist the temptation to reply, ‘Ah, mother! The Lord has answered your prayer with His usual bounty, and given you exceedingly abundantly above what you asked or thought.'”

–Charles Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography: Volume 1, The Early Years (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1898/1962), 44-45.

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“A prayer for preachers” by D.A. Carson

“Keep revising, praying, and preparing so it is not so much that you have mastered the material as that it has mastered you. There is a way of preaching in which you project an image of being an expert. There is a way of preaching in which you project an image of having been captured.

The latter is gained partly by continually revising, thinking through, and how you express yourself. It’s also attained by where your heart is, how greatly you think of God and of Christ and of the Gospel and how little you think of your preparation even though you’ve been so diligent at it. Let’s bow in prayer.

In truth, merciful God, we discover to our shame that we are not very consistent and we often slip and slide and become intoxicated by peripheral things. O Lord God, in the pressure on our time help us to make choices that are wise, honoring to You, for our people’s good. In the midst of counseling and caring and basic administration, remind us again and again that we are called to the ministry of the Word and prayer.

With all that means for study and preparation as well as for delivery, with all that it means for explaining the Bible to a single person, bringing the comfort of the Word to someone who is ill in the hospital or in an evangelistic group explaining your most Holy Word to people who don’t have a clue, with all that it means for sermon preparation, we confess humbly that we are, at best, unprofitable servants and that what we achieve we achieve by Your grace.

Make us, we beg of You, as holy as pardoned sinners can be this side of the consummation. Make us workers who do not need to be ashamed, rightly interpreting the Word of God. Help us so to grow in life and doctrine that others will see our progress and glorify You. Whether our charge is large or small, whether it is viewed as strategic or in some way removed from the hubbub of life, grant that our deepest concern will be for the well-being of the men and women over whom You have placed us as under-shepherds.

Grant to us the deepest desire to keep our eyes fixed on Christ Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has now sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. We bless You, Lord God, for the immense privilege of Christian ministry, and in its sorrows and hurts, give us a forbearing, forgiving spirit, a persevering grace that lives with eternity’s values in view.

In its moments of triumph and joy, help us to understand that as we work out our salvation, it is You working in us both to will and to do of Your good pleasure. As we grow in love for one another, help us to eschew every hint of the green-eyed monster so we start comparing service records and sizes of church.

Help us rather to be faithful to the One who has called us to live with eternity’s values in view, to delight in faithfulness in small things, to look forward to the approval of the Master Himself on the last day: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in a few matters; I will make you ruler over many things.’

Have mercy on us, Your people. Teach us not only understanding but tears. Help us to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep, and so to show ourselves mastered by the text that our very blood will be Bibline, prick us and we bleed Scripture. This for Christ’s sake, Amen.”

–D.A. Carson, “Preaching through Bible Books,” in D.A. Carson Sermon Library (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2016).

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“Pray for the worst, the hardest, and the most unbelieving” by J.C. Ryle

“Do we know what it is to pray for ourselves? This, after all, is the first question for self-inquiry. The man who never speaks to God about his own soul, can know nothing of praying for others.

He is as yet Godless, Christless, and hopeless, and has to learn the very rudiments of religion. Let him awake, and call upon God.

But do we pray for ourselves? Then let us take heed that we pray for others also.

Let us beware of selfish prayers,—prayers which are wholly taken up with our own affairs, and in which there is no place for other souls beside our own.

Let us name all whom we love before God continually.

Let us pray for all,—the worst, the hardest, and the most unbelieving.

Let us continue praying for them year after year, in spite of their continued unbelief.

God’s time of mercy may be a distant one. Our eyes may not see an answer to our intercessions. The answer may not come for ten, fifteen, or twenty years.

It may not come till we have exchanged prayer for praise, and are far away from this world. But while we live, let us pray for others.

It is the greatest kindness we can do to anyone, to speak for him to our Lord Jesus Christ. The day of judgment will show that one of the greatest links in drawing some souls to God, has been the intercessory prayer of friends.”

–J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1878/2013), 116-117.

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“For what do we commonly give thanks?” by D.A. Carson

“‘We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring‘ (2 Thess. 1:3–4).

Clearly, thanksgiving is a fundamental component of the mental framework that largely controls Paul’s intercession. But for what does Paul offer thanks?

For what do we commonly give thanks? We say grace at meals, thanking God for our food; we give thanks when we receive material blessings—when the mortgage we’ve applied for comes through, or when we first turn on the ignition in a car we’ve just purchased. We may sigh a prayer of sweaty thanks after a near miss on the highway; we may utter a prayer of sincere and fervent thanks when we recover from serious illness.

We may actually offer brief thanksgiving when we hear that someone we know has recently been converted. But by and large, our thanksgiving seems to be tied rather tightly to our material well-being and comfort. The unvarnished truth is that what we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most highly value. If a large percentage of our thanksgiving is for material prosperity, it is because we value material prosperity proportionately.

That is why, when we first turn to Paul’s thanksgivings, they may startle us; they may even seem alien, for they do not focus on what many of us habitually cherish. Paul gives thanks for signs of grace among Christians, among the Christians whom he is addressing.

1. Paul gives thanks that his readers’ faith is growing.

‘We… thank God for you,’ he says, ‘…because your faith is growing more and more’ (v. 3). Since he speaks of their growing faith, he cannot be referring to their initial conversion, but to their increasing reliance upon the Lord. Indeed, the word faith (Gk. pistis) can also mean “fidelity” or ‘faithfulness,’ and in this context ‘fidelity’ and ‘trust’ are not far apart. Growing fidelity to the Lord and his gospel is inevitably stamped by increasing trust in the Lord and his gospel; increasing trust breeds reliability. The Thessalonians are growing in their faith, not satisfied by yesterday’s attainments but stretching upward in spiritual maturity, and for this Paul gives thanks.

2. Paul gives thanks that their love is increasing.

What he has in mind in this context is not their love toward God (though he presupposes that love for God is increasing too), still less some mawkish or merely sentimental feeling, but the practical ‘love every one of you has for each other.’ If their love for one another is growing, it can only be because they are Jesus’ disciples: did not Jesus himself say that such love would be the distinguishing mark of his followers (John 13:34–35)?

It is worth probing this line of thought a little further. A close-knit society with shared ideals and goals frequently finds it relatively easy to foster love, tolerance, and inner cohesion. Whether we think of the local rock-climbing club, the regional football team, or a socially cohesive local church, a certain amount of fraternal depth is common enough. Of course, such groups may run into terrible division over power politics or a disruptive member or a nasty bit of nepotism, but some measure of transparent love is not all that unusual in such groups.

Ideally the church is different. It is made up of people who are as varied as can be: rich and poor, learned and unlearned, practical and impractical, sophisticated and unsophisticated, aristocratic and plebeian, disciplined and flighty, intense and carefree, extrovert and introvert—and everything in between. The only thing that holds such people together is their shared allegiance to Jesus Christ, their devotion to him, stemming from his indescribable love for them.

That is why it is always wretchedly pathetic when a local church becomes a cauldron of resentments and nurtured bitterness. This pitiful state of affairs may erupt simply because there is very little at the social, economic, temperamental, educational, or other levels to hold people together. Therefore, when Christians lose sight of their first and primary allegiance, they will squabble.

When social or racial or economic or temperamental uniformity seems more important than basking in the love of God in Christ Jesus, idolatry has reared its blasphemous head. When protestations of profound love for Jesus Christ are not mirrored in love for others who profess to love the same Jesus Christ, we may legitimately ask how seriously we should take these protestations.

But we may put this positively. When Christians do grow in their love for each other, for no other reason than because they are loved by Jesus Christ and love him in return, that growing love is an infallible sign of grace in their lives. As Paul hears reports of the Thessalonians, he is struck by their growing love.

Such love must be the work of God, and so it is to God that Paul directs his thanks. Most emphatically is this particular display of love a signal demonstration of grace: ‘every one’ of the Thessalonian believers has been caught up in it, not some small, spiritual elite.

This is the stuff of revival, and Paul is grateful.

3. Paul gives thanks that they are persevering under trial.

Formally, of course, this particular aspect of his thanksgiving is cast in slightly different form from the other two. Still, it is unmistakable enough if we follow his line of argument.

The crucial element to notice is that Paul’s gratitude to God is not exclusively private, as if it were restricted to his prayer closet. Because the faith and love of the Thessalonians had increased, they were spiritually strong enough to persevere under the persecutions and trials they were even then enduring. Their steady perseverance was so outstanding that Paul boasts about it ‘among God’s churches’ (v. 4).

This does not mean that Paul is saying, ‘See what a great church I’ve planted!’ What he is saying is certainly not boasting of that order, for that would be boasting about himself, not boasting about them. Rather, he is saying something like this: ‘Have you noticed how powerfully the grace of God is operating in the lives of the Thessalonian believers? The way they withstand the pressures of persecution and of assorted trials is truly remarkable, a compelling testimony to the grace of God. Fortified by their growing faith and love, they just press on and on. What an example! What an encouragement! What an incentive for the rest of us!’ Thus, his boasting is nothing other than more praise and thanksgiving to God, uttered in the presence of other churches.

So what do we thank God for? Elsewhere, Paul tells us to set our hearts on things above (Col. 3:1). If what we highly cherish belongs to the realm of heaven, our hearts and minds will incline to heaven and all its values; but if what we highly cherish belongs to the realm of earth and the merely transitory, our hearts and minds will incline to the merely transitory. After all, the Master himself taught us that our hearts will run to where our treasure lies (Matt. 6:19–21).

So what does this have to do with our praying?

If in our prayers we are to develop a mental framework analogous to Paul’s, we must look for signs of grace in the lives of Christians, and give God thanks for them. It is not simply that Paul gives thanks for whatever measure of maturity some group of Christians has achieved, before he goes on to ask for yet more maturity (though in part that is what he is doing). Rather, the specific elements in his thanksgiving show the framework of values he brings to his intercession—and we urgently need to develop the same framework.

For what have we thanked God recently?

Have we gone over a list of members at our local church, say, or over a list of Christian workers, and quietly thanked God for signs of grace in their lives?

Do we make it a matter of praise to God when we observe evidence in one another of growing conformity to Christ, exemplified in trust, reliability, love, and genuine spiritual stamina?”

–D.A. Carson, Praying With Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992/2015), 40–44.

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