The Secret Of Effectual Prayer (Part 1)
By Andrew Murray
"What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye have received them, and ye shall have them" (Mark 11:24).
Here is a summary of the teaching of our Lord Jesus on prayer. Learn to look upon His teaching on prayer as a definite promise of what He, by His Holy Spirit dwelling in you, is going to work into your very being and character.
In this verse our Lord gives us the five marks, or essential elements of true prayer. There must be, first, the heart’s desire; then the expression of that desire in prayer; with that, the faith that carries the prayer to God; in that faith, the acceptance of God’s answer; then comes the experience of the desired blessing. Why should we not say, I want to ask and receive in faith the power to pray just as, and as much as, my God expects of me? Let us meditate on our Lord’s words, in the confidence that He will teach us how to pray for this blessing.
1. "What things soever ye desire…." Desire is the soul of prayer. The cause of insufficient or unsuccessful prayer is often to be found in the feebleness of desire. Some are sure that they have very earnestly desired what they ask. But if they consider whether their desire has been as wholehearted as God would have it and as the heavenly worth of these blessings demands, they may come to see that it was the lack of desire that was the cause of failure. What is true of God is true of each of His blessings, and is the more true the more spiritual the blessing: "Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13).
Of Judah in the days of Asa it is written, "They... sought Him with their whole desire" (2 Chron. 15:15). A Christian may often have earnest desires for spiritual blessings, but alongside of these there are other desires in his daily life occupying a large place in his interests and affections. The spiritual desires are not all-absorbing. He wonders that his prayer is not heard. It is simply that God wants the whole heart. "The Lord thy God is one Lord, therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart" (Deut. 6:4-5). The law is unchangeable.
God offers Himself, gives Himself away, to the wholehearted who give themselves wholly away to Him. He gives us according to our heart’s desire, not as we think it, but as He sees it. If there be other desires which are more at home with us, which have our heart more than Himself and His presence, He allows these to be fulfilled, and the desires that engage us at the hour of prayer cannot be granted.
We desire the gift of intercession, grace and power to pray aright. Our hearts must be drawn away from other desires. We must give ourselves wholly to this one. We must be willing to live wholly in intercession for the kingdom. By fixing our eye on the blessedness and the need of this grace, by thinking of the certainty that God will give it to us, by giving ourselves up to it for the sake of the perishing world, desire may be strengthened, and the first step taken toward the possession of the coveted blessing.
Let us seek the grace of prayer, as we seek the God with whom it will link us, "with our whole desire"; we may depend upon the promise, "He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him" (Psa. 145:19). Let us not fear to say to Him, "I desire it with my whole heart."
2. "What things soever ye desire when ye pray…" The desire of the heart must become the expression of the lips. Our Lord Jesus more than once asked those who cried to Him for mercy, "What wilt thou?" He wanted them to say what they would. To speak it out roused their whole being into action, brought them into contact with Him, and wakened their expectation. To pray is to enter into God’s presence, to claim and secure His attention, to have distinct dealing with Him in regard to some request, to commit our need to His faithfulness and to leave it there. It is in so doing that we become fully conscious of what we are seeking.
There are some who often carry strong desires in their hearts, without bringing them to God in the clear expression of definite and repeated prayer. There are others who go to the Word and its promises to strengthen their faith, but do not give sufficient place to that pointed asking of God which helps the soul to the assurance that the matter has been put into God’s hands. Still others come in prayer with so many requests and desires, that it is difficult for themselves to say what they really expect God to do.
If you would obtain from God this great gift of faithfulness in prayer and power to pray aright, begin by exercising yourself in prayer in regard to it. Say of it to yourself and to God: "Here is something I have asked, and am continuing to ask till I receive. As plain and pointed as words can make it, I am saying, ‘My Father, I do desire, I do ask of Thee, and expect of Thee, the grace of prayer and intercession.’"
3. "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe…" Faith is the life and power of prayer. If we are to enter upon a life of intercession in which there is to be joy and power and blessing, if we are to have our prayer for the grace of prayer answered, we must learn anew what faith is, and begin to live and pray in faith as never before.
Faith is the opposite of sight, and the two are contrary the one to the other. "We walk by faith and not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). If the unseen is to get full possession of us, and heart and life and prayer are to be full of faith, there must be a withdrawal. The spirit that seeks to enjoy as much as possible of what is innocent or legitimate, that gives the first place to the calls and duties of daily life, is inconsistent with a strong faith. "We look not at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen" (2 Cor. 4:18). The negative side needs to be emphasized if the positive is to become natural to us (2 Cor. 4:18). In praying, faith depends upon our living in the invisible world.
The great reason for our lack of faith is our lack of knowledge of God and intimacy with Him. "Have faith in God," Jesus said when He spoke of removing mountains (Mark 11:22). It is as a soul knows God, is occupied with His power, love and faithfulness, comes out of self and the world, and allows the light of God to shine on it, that unbelief will become impossible. However little we may be able to solve intellectually all the mysteries and difficulties connected with answers to prayer, we have the adoring assurance: This God is our God. He will bless us. He does indeed answer prayer. And the grace to pray I am asking for He will delight to give.
– Abridged from The Ministry Of Intercession by Andrew Murray.
(To be continued)