Ordering Our Cause
I have often wondered why answered prayer seems to be the exception rather than the typical in our lives today. It ought not be that way, knowing the many promises of our Lord to us and knowing He never breaks His promises. Since I could use more of my prayers answered, I read some of what Charles H. Spurgeon had to say about the subject. Spurgeon teaches that we miss out on the blessings of having many of our prayers answered because of how we pray.
One thing I found interesting is that Spurgeon advocates what he calls “Order and Argument In Prayer” and I immediately became wary. He explains that the ancient saints ordered their causes before the Lord – using the word ‘arguing’ in his teaching. The arguing he is talking about is not what normally comes to my mind – disputing, conflict, etc. Instead he uses the word as if preparing a case to be heard in court, legal arguments carefully prepared and thought out.
He uses the biblical example of a priest preparing to make a sacrifice with all of the ritual associated with it to make the point that even though we need not perform all of those rituals, we should offer our spiritual sacrifices with ”holy carefulness.”
As another biblical reference Spurgeon uses David. “See how David prayed when God had blessed him. He went in before the Lord – understand that. He did not stand outside at a distance, but went in before the Lord and sat down…Sitting down quietly and calmly before the Lord, he then began to pray, but not until he had first thought over the divine goodness and so attained to the spirit of prayer. By the assistance of the Holy Spirit, he opened his mouth. Oh, that we more often sought the Lord in this style!”
Then he shows how Abraham serves as an example. “He rose up early – here was his willingness. He went three days’ journey – here was his zeal. He left his servants at the foot of the hill – here was his privacy. He carried the wood and the fire with him – here was his preparation. Lastly, he built the altar and laid the wood in order and then took the knife – here was the devout carefulness of his worship.”
First part of preparation: Humility before Almighty God. “Feeling the reality of God’s presence, our minds will be led by divine grace into a humble state. We will feel like Abraham when he said, “I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27) “…we will be humble yet bold petitioners, humbly asking mercy through the Savior’s blood.”
Second: Understanding the reality of grace. “When I feel that I am in the presence of God and I take my rightful position in His presence, the next thing I will want to recognize will be that I have no right to what I am seeking and cannot expect to obtain it except as a gift of grace. I must recollect that God limits the channel through which He will give mercy: He will give it to me through His dear Son. Let me put myself then under the patronage of the Great Redeemer. Let me feel that now it is no longer I who speak but Christ who speaks with me. While I plead, I plead His wounds, His life, His death, His blood, Himself. This is truly getting into order.”
Third: Consider the subject of the prayer. “It is most proper in prayer to aim at great distinctness of supplication. It is good not to beat around the bush in prayer, but to come directly to the point. I like that prayer of Abraham’s: “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” (Genesis 17:18) “There is the name of the person prayed for and the blessing desired, all put in a few words: “that Ishmael might live before thee”…Ordering our cause would bring us to greater distinctness of mind.”
Fourth: Determine whether it is a fitting thing to ask. “Some prayers would never be offered if people would only think. A little reflection would show us that some things that we desire are better left alone…There must be mingled with acceptable prayer the holy salt of submission to the divine will.” Martin Luther said, “I will have my will of Thee at this time”…a wicked presumption without the next sentence: “I will have my will, for I know that my will is Thy will.” Furthermore, “when we are sure that what we ask for is for God’s glory, then, if we have power in prayer, we may say, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me” (Genesis 32:26).
Summary: “Put these three things together: deep spirituality, which recognizes prayer as being real conversation with the invisible God; much distinctness, which is the reality of prayer, asking for what we want with much fervency, believing the thing to be necessary and therefore resolving to obtain it if it can be had by prayer; and above all these, complete submission, leaving it still with the Master’s will. Intermingle all these, and you have a clear idea of what it means to order your cause before the Lord.”
Filling the mouth with arguments
“The second part of prayer is filling the mouth with arguments – not filling the mouth with words or good phrases or pretty expressions, but filling the mouth with arguments. The ancient saints were known to argue in prayer.”
The arguments to be used are for our benefit, certainly not for our all-knowing God’s benefit. Obedience to Isaiah 41:21, “Present your case,” the Lord says. “Bring forward your strong arguments,” the King of Jacob says,” allows us to feel the value of the mercy, because when a person pursues arguments for something it is because we attach importance for what we seek. And if God’s blessings were to come to us unasked for, would we really appreciate them as we should?