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Lowell Brueckner

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The Privilege of Every Christian II


“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”                                                Hebrews 4:16

Prayer generates power

I have taken a lot of space with Exodus 33, but we go on to see something more. As wonderful as a friendly encounter with God is, we want to see beyond that fact, in order to realize the power of prayer: “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.” Elijah’s prayer sealed the heavens and it did not rain for 3 ½ years. That’s power! Go with me also to Revelation 8:3-5: “Another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.” That’s power! Then Acts 1:14 with 2:1,2: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication… they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” That’s power!

Marc and Melodie Sankey, Methodist missionaries to Mexico, went through many agonizing months, when their 8-year-old boy, Logan, contracted a serious and rare fungus, affecting his eye. It carried a 90% mortality rate. Of course, the parents and many others were in constant, desperate prayer. The prognosis went from bad to worse, as time went by. At a Methodist camp in Florida, healing services were held on two Saturdays, during the camp, and Melodie, in particular, wanted to be there. It was God’s sovereign time to answer prayer and after tears and fervent prayer in that meeting, Logan was anointed, and his parents believed that God had touched him. And He had!  There was marked improvement immediately, although treatment continued for several months. His vision was restored to 20/20 without any permanent damage, physically or psychologically. I have a CD, in which Logan, as an adult, sings with his family, such songs as “Thank you, Lord, for your blessing on me!” That’s power!

Jim Cymbala is a well-known pastor in New York City, one who knew of the power of prayer since his conversion. He held prayer meetings every Tuesday night and taught his congregation that it was the most important meeting of the week. And then, his teenage daughter ran away from home. During the long period, when they heard nothing from her, their only recourse was the best one. It was prayer. During one prayer meeting, a lady, sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit, let it be known that she felt that, if they would pray again at that moment, God would do something. The next morning Mrs. Cymbala came into her husband’s office and said, “Come down, Jim, our daughter is in the living room!” She never left again and today is married and in Christian service. That’s power!

A successful Christian businessman in Ohio with a ministry of personal evangelism was diagnosed with cancer and given, at the most, two years to live. His doctor ordered biopsies from 22 points in his body. The night before the operation, he was lying in his hospital bed alone with the Lord, and committed his situation into God’s hands. He accepted the will of God, but had only one request: “Lord, let the time that I have left to live be the most productive of my life.” And then, he felt a strong warmth flow through his body and somehow knew that God was healing him. Hours after the operation, the doctor burst into the hospital room, where he was visiting with his wife, and exclaimed, “We can’t find any cancer in any part of your body!” They later received a letter from a missionary lady, who didn’t know of the diagnosis. She named a date and asked if anything was wrong on that day, because she had had a heavy burden for him. As she prayed the burden lifted… at just the time, when the warmth entered his body in the hospital. That’s power! In these three cases there were special moments, when God moved in sovereign power, but we don’t arrive at these moments without a habitual practice of prayer.

I want you to see by the Bible, the company that God gives to aid us in prayer. We already mentioned the angel at the altar in heaven, who offers incense with the prayers of all the saints. We may think that our words are weak and ineffective, but let’s consider Jacob’s dream from Genesis 28:12: “Behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” Jesus revealed the meaning of this dream to His disciples, at the moment when Nathanael came to Him in John 1:50-51: “You will see greater things then these. Amen, amen, (literal Hebrew) I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” He is speaking of prayer offered in the name of the Son of Man, our Ladder into the Holy of Holies. Angels ascend with the prayers and descend with the answers.

I offer a compilation of verses, which show that angels accompany prayer: “The whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to (Zacarias), standing on the right side of the altar of incense… The angel said to him… your prayer is heard… (Lk.1:10-13). “About the ninth hour of the day, he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and say to him, ‘Cornelius!’… ‘Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God’ (Ac.10:3,4). “Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church… Behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, ‘Arise quickly!’ And his chains fell off his hands” (Ac.12:5,7). “I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer… Yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man (angel) Gabriel… reached me about the time of the evening offering… He informed me… At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you…” (Dn.9:3,21,23). And in heavenly places, described in Revelation 5:8, there are 24 elders and four powerful living creatures with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

How does Jesus want us to pray?

I don’t know if you have heard a doctrine, which is based on three words, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing”. I want to mention it, in order to point to the instruction of Jesus concerning prayer. Some have arrived at the conclusion that we are to be continually in prayer throughout the day, whether working or playing, and in the night during waking hours. I will say that it is certainly not a bad practice, but my point is, that it is not what Paul was teaching the Thessalonians. A problem arises, when this kind of prayer is substituted for taking time alone with God. Also, I think there is a danger in it of altering the essence of prayer. To better understand exactly what Paul means in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, it will help us to see how he used the term “without ceasing” on four other occasions:

Ro.1:9: “God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.”

If Paul was continually in prayer for the Romans, he wouldn’t have opportunity to prayer for other churches.

1 Thess.1:3: “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Was Paul thinking about this every hour of the day?

1 Thess.2:13: “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

Does that mean that Paul walked around all day, thinking and saying, “Thank you, God, for the Thessalonians?”

2 Tim.1:3: “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers, did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day.”

Paul goes as far as to say that night and day he prayed for Timothy. Even during the night on his bed, he prayed for him, but does it mean that all day and all night, he didn’t stop praying? Of course not.

These passage clearly show us the meaning of the words “without ceasing”, so that we can know that to pray without ceasing does not mean to be praying without a break. Then, what does it mean? Simply, that we are to pray habitually and not break the habit.  

Paul also said that when he prayed for the Ephesians, he did not cease to give thanks for them, mentioning them in his prayers (Eph.1:16). Then he said in 3:14, “I bow my knees to the Father… that He would grant you…” So, it is quite evident that Paul does not mean that he was praying for the Ephesians all day long, thanking God for them. It’s a matter of common sense. Of course, the fact that Paul habitually prayed on his knees, does not make it a law to do so. It means that there was a time, or maybe more than one time a day, when Paul put other activities aside and was on his knees before the Father. 

Jesus taught us to pray this way (Mt.6:6): “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” The danger in misinterpreting 1 Thessalonians 5:17, is that with a wrong interpretation, we will begin to change our concept of prayer and the need to take time to be alone with God, as Jesus showed that we must do. We will substitute for that need, praying while we work, rest and play, and abandon the habit of entering a place, where we cannot be interrupted in our communion with God. In so doing, we disobey the instructions of Jesus and our relationship with God suffers the consequences.

Not only did Jesus instruct us about how to pray, but He gave us plenty of examples. He is our greatest example in prayer and the Gospels teach us that He customarily got alone with His Father:

Mk.1:35: “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before the daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.”

Mk.6:46: “And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray.”

Lk.5:16: “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.”

Lk.6:12: “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.”

Lk.9:28: “Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray.”

Lk.11:1 (a time to which we have already referred): “Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

Lk.22:41: “And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed…” Mt.26:42: “Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done…” Mt.26:44: “So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.”

Besides these examples, we have John 17 in its entirety, in which he prays to the Father. It is true that prayer is conversation with God, as some are quick to point out, but I think we have already shown that it is more than conversation. It is a generator, which produces power that can stop rain and cause it to fall again, it can remove mountains and trees, bring multitudes to repentance, and bring the fear of God upon entire nations. We rob ourselves and the church of tremendous advantages, when we fail to take in the whole concept of prayer.

The secret of success in prayer

Please read John15:1-7, in which Jesus teaches of being one with Him in order to assure consistent answers to prayer. First of all, He declares, “I am the true vine”, then He adds, “You are the branches”. Any natural grapevine will confirm His teaching that the branch is totally dependent on the vine for life, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered.” Therefore, He continues, we must abide in Him and then, the life that flows from the vine will flow through us; that is, He will be in us. He brings us to this absolute and essential conclusion: “Without Me you can do nothing.”

However, if we are one with Him and we live according to the knowledge of His word, our will made one with His, then: “You will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” In other words, that position in Christ, will guarantee 100% results in prayer!

I have no way of knowing how many, who read this article, are willing to join me in confessing that our present position in prayer is not what it should be. I also do not know what must happen so that I will live up to what I have taught here. Prayer must become the number one priority in our lives. No one will question that music plays an important role in the church, but music is not the supreme need; teaching and preaching are vital in the church and in evangelism, but it is not the most important part. The Christian education that parents must give their children is of high importance, but again it is not the number one priority. The supreme and so often the most neglected activity in the individual Christian, as well as in the church corporately, is prayer.

I am convinced that the Lord must begin to correct our deficiency by a work that brings humiliation. Have you noticed that the very first requirement in the oft-repeated promise of the Lord in 2 Chronicles 7:14 is, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves”?The Laodicean curse of self-sufficiency, i.e. “I have need of nothing”, is the product of an extreme arrogance! I hope that I quote Leonard Ravenhil with reasonable accuracy after hearing him assert a number of times: “He who is self-confident has no desire to pray; he who is self-sufficient does not need to pray; and he who is self-righteous cannot pray.” All these egocentric conditions must suffer an ignominious defeat, in order that the people, who are called by His name today, can be reduced to prayer.

Unknown said...
July 17, 2020 at 3:18 AM  

Thanks brother "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God " ,it's the humble who receives grace, and the childlike who is absolutely dependent on the Father who receives the answer. God bless Lowell thanks for the stirring encouragement Amen.

Lowell Brueckner said...
July 17, 2020 at 4:17 AM  

Thank you for your comment! It is absolutely true. We need to see the biblical concept of pride and humility. Habakkuk's majestic statement, which inspired the New Testament writers and the reformists, carries the Bible definition (2:4): "Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith." The just one humbly confides in God; the proud is self-reliant. The proud one justifies himself; the humble one, like the publican, recognizes his sin and guilt. This morning I'm thinking about how different Christians view sin. Let me give an example: Someone might say, "I sinned today... I did not pray." Another says, "I sinned today... I prayed and I sinned in my prayer." See what I mean? The first sees the holiness of God on a much lower level than the second. Because the second sees it clearly, he is much more conscious of his lack and need of God.

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