"The Lord will hear when I call upon Him." -- PS. iv.3.
"I have called upon Thee, for Thou wilt hear me, O God!" -- PS. xvii.6.
"I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me." -- MIC. vii.7.
The power of prayer rests in the faith that God hears it. In more than one sense this is true. It is this faith that gives a man courage to pray. It is this faith that gives him power to prevail with God. The moment I am assured that God hears me too, I feel drawn to pray and to persevere in prayer. I feel strong to claim and to take in faith the answer God gives. One great reason of lack of prayer is the want of the living, joyous assurance: "My God will hear me." If once God's servants got a vision of the living God waiting to grant their request, and to bestow all the heavenly gifts of the Spirit they are in need of, for themselves or those they are serving, how everything would be set aside to make time and room for this one only power that can ensure heavenly blessing -- the prayer of faith!
When a man can, and does say, in living faith, "My God will hear me!" surely nothing can keep him from prayer. He knows that what he cannot do or get done on earth, can and will be done for him from heaven. Let each one of us bow in stillness before God, and wait on Him to reveal Himself as the prayer-hearing God. In His presence the wondrous thoughts gathering round the central truth will unfold themselves to us.
1. "My God will hear me." -- What a blessed certainty! -- We have God's word for it in numberless promises. We have thousands of witnesses to the fact that they have found it true. We have had experience of it in our lives. We have had the Son of God come from heaven with the message that if we ask, the Father will give. We have had Himself praying on earth, and being heard. And we have Him in heaven now, sitting at the right hand of God and making intercession for us. God hears prayer -- God delights to hear prayer. He has allowed His people a thousand times over to be tried, that they might be compelled to cry to Him, and learn to know Him as the Hearer of Prayer.
Let us confess with shame how little we have believed this wondrous truth, in the sense of receiving it into our heart, and allowing it to possess and control our whole being. That we accept a truth is not enough; the living God, of whom the truth speaks, must in its light so be revealed, that our whole life is spent in His presence, with the consciousness as clear as in a little child towards its earthly parent -- I know for certain my father hears me.
Beloved child of God! you know by experience how little an intellectual apprehension of truth has profited you. Beseech God to reveal Himself to you. If you want to live a different prayer-life, bow each time ere you pray in silence to worship this God; to wait till there rests on you some right sense of His nearness and readiness to answer. So will you begin to pray with the words, "My God will hear me!"
2. "My God will hear me." What a wondrous grace! -- Think of God in His infinite majesty, His altogether incomprehensible glory, His unapproachable holiness, sitting on a throne of grace, waiting to be gracious, inviting, encouraging you to pray with His promise: "Call upon Me, and I will answer thee." Think of yourself, in your nothingness and helplessness as a creature; in your wretchedness and transgressions as a sinner; in your feebleness and unworthiness as a saint; and praise the glory of that grace which allows you to say boldly of your prayer for yourself and others, "My God will hear me." Think of how you are not left to yourself, and what you can accomplish, in this wonderful intercourse with God. God has united you with Christ; in Him and His Name you have your confidence; on the throne He prays with you and for you; on the footstool of the throne you pray with Him and in Him. His worth, and the Father's delight in hearing Him, are the measure of your confidence, your assurance of being heard. There is more. Think of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God's own Son, sent into your heart to cry, Abba, Father, and to be in you a Spirit of Supplication, when you know not what to pray as you ought. Think, in all your insignificance and unworthiness, of your being as acceptable as Christ Himself. Think in all your ignorance and feebleness, of the Spirit making intercession according to God within you, and cry out, "What wondrous grace! Through Christ I have access to the Father, by the Spirit. I can, I do believe it: 'My God will hear me.'"
3. "My God will hear me." -- What a deep mystery! -- There are difficulties that cannot but at times arise and perplex even the honest heart. There is the question as to God's sovereign, all-wise, all-disposing will. How can our wishes, often so foolish, and our will, often so selfish, overrule or change that perfect will? Were it not better to leave all to His disposal, who knows what is best, and loves to give us the very best? Or how can our prayer change what He has ordained before? Then there is the question as to the need of persevering prayer, and long waiting for the answer. If God be Infinite Love, and delighting more to give than we to receive, where the need for the pleading and wrestling, the urgency, and the long delay of which Scripture and experience speak? Arising out of this there is still another question -- that of the multitude of apparently vain and unanswered prayers. How many have pleaded for loved ones, and they die unsaved. How many cry for years for spiritual blessing, and no answer comes. To think of all this tries our faith, and makes us hesitate as we say, "My God will hear me."
Beloved! prayer, in its power with God, and His faithfulness to His promise to hear it, is a deep spiritual mystery. To the questions put above answers can be given that remove some of the difficulty. But, after all, the first and the last that must be said is this: As little as we can comprehend God can we comprehend this, one of the most blessed of His attributes, that He hears prayer. It is a spiritual mystery -- nothing less than the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God hears because we pray in His Son, because the Holy Spirit prays in us. If we have believed and claimed the life of Christ as our health, and the fulness of the Spirit as our strength, let us not hesitate to believe in the power of our prayer too. The Holy Spirit can enable us to believe and rejoice in it, even where every question is not yet answered. He will do this, as we lay our questionings in God's bosom, trust His faithfulness, and give ourselves humbly to obey His command to pray without ceasing. Every art unfolds its secrets and its beauty only to the man who practises it. To the humble soul who prays in the obedience of faith, who practises prayer and intercession diligently, because God asks it, the secret of the Lord will be revealed, and the thought of the deep mystery of prayer, instead of being a weary problem, will be a source of rejoicing, adoration, and faith, in which the unceasing refrain is ever heard: "My God will hear me!"
4. "My God will hear me." What a solemn responsibility! -- How often we complain of darkness, of feebleness, of failure, as if there was no help for it. And God has promised in answer to our prayer to supply our every need, and give us His light and strength and peace. Would that we realised the responsibility of having such a God, and such promises, with the sin and shame of not availing ourselves of them to the utmost. How confident we should feel that the grace, which we have accepted and trusted to enable us to pray as we should, will be given.
There is more. This access to a prayer-hearing God is specially meant to make us intercessors for our fellowmen. Even as Christ obtained His right of prevailing intercession by His giving Himself a sacrifice to God for men, and through it receives the blessings He dispenses, so, if we have truly with Christ given ourselves to God for men, we share His right of intercession, and are able to obtain the powers of the heavenly world for them too. The power of life and death is in our hands (1 John v.16). In answer to prayer the Spirit can be poured out, souls can be converted, believers can be established. In prayer the kingdom of darkness can be conquered, souls brought out of prison into the liberty of Christ, and the glory of God be revealed. Through prayer, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, can be wielded in power, and, in public preaching as in private speaking, the most rebellious made to bow at Jesus' feet.
What a responsibility on the Church to give herself to the work of intercession! What a responsibility on every minister, missionary, worker, set apart for the saving of souls, to yield himself wholly to act out and prove his faith: "My God will hear me!" And what a call on every believer, instead of burying and losing this talent, to seek to the very utmost to use it in prayer and supplication for all saints and for all men. My God will hear me: The deeper our entrance into the truth of this wondrous power God hath given to men, the more whole-hearted will be our surrender to the work of intercession.
5. "My God will hear me." What a blessed prospect! -- I see it -- all the failures of my past life have been owing to the lack of this faith. My failure, especially in the work of intercession, has had its deepest root in this -- I did not live in the full faith of the blessed assurance, "My God will hear me!" Praise God! I begin to see it -- I believe it. All can be different. Or, rather, I see Him, I believe Him. "My God will hear me!" Yes, me, even me! Commonplace and insignificant though I be, filling but a very little place, so that I will scarce be missed when I go -- even I have access to this Infinite God, with the confidence that He heareth me. One with Christ, led by the Holy Spirit, I dare to say: "I will pray for others, for I am sure my God will listen to me: 'My God will hear me.'" What a blessed prospect before me -- every earthly and spiritual anxiety exchanged for the peace of God, who cares for all and hears prayer. What a blessed prospect in my work -- to know that even when the answer is long delayed, and there is a call for much patient, persevering prayer, the truth remains infallibly sure -- "My God will hear me!"
And what a blessed prospect for Christ's Church if we could but all give prayer its place, give faith in God its place, or, rather, give the prayer-hearing God His place! Is not this the one great thing, those, who in some little measure begin to see the urgent need of prayer, ought in the first place to pray for. When God, at the first, time after time, poured forth the Spirit on His praying people, He laid down the law for all time: as much of prayer, so much of the Spirit. Let each one who can say, "My God will hear me," join in the fervent supplication, that throughout the Church that truth may be restored to its true place, and the blessed prospect will be realised: a praying Church endued with the power of the Holy Ghost.
6. "My God will hear me." What a need of Divine teaching! -- We need this, both to enable us to hold this word in living faith, and to make full use of it in intercession. It has been said, and it cannot be said too often or too earnestly, that the one thing needful for the Church of our day is, the power of the Holy Spirit. It is just because this is so, from the Divine side, that we may also say as truly that, from the human side, the one thing needful is, more prayer, more believing, persevering prayer. In speaking of lack of the Spirit's power, and the condition for receiving it, someone used the expression -- the block is not on the perpendicular, but on the horizontal line. It is to be feared that it is on both. There is much to be confessed and taken away in us if the Spirit is to work freely. But it is specially on the perpendicular line that the block is -- the upward look, and the deep dependence, and the strong crying to God, and the effectual prayer of faith that avails -- all this is sadly lacking. And just this is the one thing needful.
Shall we not all set ourselves to learn the lesson which will make prevailing prayer possible -- the lesson of a faith that always sings, "My God will hear me"? Simple and elementary as it is, it needs practice and patience, it needs time and heavenly teaching, to learn it aright. Under the impression of a bright thought, or a blessed experience, it may look as if we knew the lesson perfectly. But ever again the need will recur of making this our first prayer -- that God who hears prayer would teach us to believe it, and so to pray aright. If we desire it we can count upon Him He who delights in hearing prayer and answering it, He who gave His Son that He might ever pray for us and with us, and His Holy Spirit to pray in us, we can be sure there is not a prayer that He will hear more certainly than this: that He so reveal Himself as the prayer-hearing God, that our whole being may respond, "My God will hear me."