Tag Archives: Prayer

“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).

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Christian Theology, D.A. Carson, Elders, Jesus Christ, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel

“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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Banner of Truth, Christian Theology, Eschatology, J.C. Ryle, Jesus Christ, Prayer, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel

“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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Theology, D.A. Carson, Jesus Christ, Prayer, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Thanksgiving, The Gospel

“We give thanks to You” by Matthew Henry

“We give thanks to You, the God of gods, the Lord of lords, for Your covenant love endures forever. Your goodness is Your glory, and Your glory is Your goodness. In Your kindness You are gracious to undeserving sinners according to the abundance of Your grace. You manifest Your mercy to the rebellious who have lived in debauchery. You show Your mercy to whom You choose to show mercy, even to degenerate idol-worshippers like ourselves. All Your works praise You and Your saints bless Your holy name. Psa. 136:2, 3; Exod. 33:19; Psa. 145:10.

You are gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in covenant love. You have told us that You do not delight in afflicting the children of men. Though You cause them grief, You have compassion according to the greatness of Your unfailing love. You take great pleasure in those that fear You, the ones who hope in the love You manifest through Your covenant. Psa. 145:8; Lam. 3:32, 33; Psa. 147:11.

Thank You for demonstrating Your mercy by causing Your sun to shine on the evil and the good. You graciously send rain on the just and the unjust. We thank You for the arrival of every new day. We see with our own eyes that You have stretched out the heavens like a vast curtain where You have pitched a tent for the sun, which shines forth as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber and rejoices as a strong man to run a race. Matt. 5:45; Psa. 104:2; 19:4, 5.

When we consider the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the sun, the moon and the stars which You have ordained, we stand in awe that You have shown such care for us. For what is man that you should give any consideration of him? You bless us with the light of the sun that is a pleasant thing for our eyes. May all glory go to the Father of light, who commands the morning and causes the dawn to know its place. You have never left Yourself without witness among the nations. For you have provided all the peoples of the world with abundance, giving them rain from heaven and fruitful seasons on earth, providing them with food to eat and filling their hearts with joy and gladness. Psa. 8:3, 4; Eccles. 11:7; James 1:17; Job 38:12; Acts 14:17.

We honour You for the way You cover the heavens with clouds, and prepare rain for the earth. You make grass grow on the mountains. You give food to the wild beasts and the young ravens which cry out to You. You cause it to rain in the wilderness where there is no man. You satisfy even the desolate wastelands. Psa. 147:8, 9; Job 38:26, 27.

We bless You when we see how You show Your care for the earth by watering it. You enrich the soil with the river of God which is full of water as it flows down from heaven. You provide grain, and water the earth’s ridges abundantly. You settle its furrows and soften it with showers. You bless its sprouts and crown the year with Your bounty. Our carts are heavy with abundance. You make springs pour forth water in the valleys, creating rivulets that run among the hills, and give drink to every beast of the field, and the birds of the air nest by the waters, singing among the branches. Psa. 65:9-11; Psa. 104:10-12.

We stand in awe as we consider that You laid the foundation of the earth so that it will never be moved. You set boundaries for the seas so they will never again flood the earth. You shut up the sea with bars and doors, saying, ‘Up to this point you shall come, but no farther. Here your proud waves shall stop.’ You have held to Your oath when You swore that the waters of Noah would never again overwhelm the earth. You remain faithful to Your covenant commitment that so long as the earth continues, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease. Your covenant of the day and of the night has never been broken. You give the sun for a light by day, and the moon and the stars for lights by night. Psa. 104:5, 9; Job 38:8, 10, 11; Isa. 54:9; Gen. 8:22; Jer. 33:20; 31:35.

We marvel at Your abundant provision for every living thing. Every creature waits on You to give them their food at the right season. Whatever You give them they gather. You open your hand in blessing, and they are filled with good things. You hide Your face and they are terrified. When You take away their breath, they die and return to dust. Then You renew the face of the earth. You send out Your Spirit and they are created. This, your glory, shall endure forever, and You will rejoice in Your own works. Psa. 104:27-31.

You cause grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate. You enable man to bring forth food from the earth – wine that gladdens his heart, oil that makes his face shine, and bread to strengthen his heart. You give life and breath to every living thing. The whole earth is full of Your gracious love. Psa. 115:16; Eccles. 1:4; Deut. 29:20; Psa. 8:6; Gen. 9:2; Prov. 8:31.

Amen.”

–Matthew Henry, A Way to Pray: A Biblical Method for Enriching Your Prayer Life and Language by Shaping Your Words with Scripture, Ed. O. Palmer Robertson (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1710/2015), 133-137.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Theology, Communion with God, Jesus Christ, Matthew Henry, Prayer, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Thanksgiving, The Gospel

“Sin hurts” by Thomas Watson

“Affliction can hurt a man only while he is living, but sin hurts him when he is dead.”

–Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer  (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1662/1999), 309.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Theology, Jesus Christ, Prayer, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sin, The Gospel, Thomas Watson

“What forgiveness of sin is” by Thomas Watson

“The nature of forgiveness will more clearly appear by opening some Scripture-phrases.

1. To forgive sin, is to take away iniquity. ‘Why dost thou not take away my iniquity?’ (Job 7:21). It is a metaphor taken from a man that carries an heavy burden ready to sink him, and another comes, and lifts off this burden. So when the heavy burden of sin is on us, God in pardoning, lifts off this burden from the conscience, and lays it upon Christ: ‘The Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all’ (Isa. 53:6).

2. To forgive sin, is to cover sin. ‘Thou hast covered all their sin,’ (Ps. 32:1). This was typified by the mercy-seat covering the ark, to show God’s covering of sin through Christ. God doth not cover sin in the Antinomian sense, so as He sees it not, but He doth so cover it, as He will not impute it.

3. To forgive sin, is to blot it out. ‘I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions,’ (Isa. 43:25). The Hebrew word, to lot out, alludes to a creditor, who, when his debtor hath paid him, blots out the debt, and gives him an acquittance. So God, when He forgives sin, blots out the debt, He draws the red lines of Christ’s blood over our sins, and so crosseth the debt-book.

4. To forgive sin, is for God to scatter our sins as a cloud. ‘I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions,’ (Isa. 44:22). Sin is the cloud interposed, God dispels the cloud, and breaks forth with the light of His countenance.

5. To forgive sin, is for God to cast our sins into the depths of the sea. ‘Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea,” (Micah 7:19). This implies God’s burying them out of sight, that they shall not rise up in judgment against us. God will throw them in, not as cork that riseth again, but as lead that sinks to the bottom.”

–Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer  (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1662/1999), 214-215.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Theology, Forgiveness, Glory of Christ, Jesus Christ, Prayer, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel, Thomas Watson, Union with Christ

“Forgiveness of sins” by Thomas Watson

“Daily bread may make us live comfortably, but forgiveness of sins will make us die comfortably.”

–Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer  (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1662/1999), 211.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Theology, Forgiveness, Glory of Christ, Jesus Christ, Prayer, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel, Thomas Watson, Worldview