I commend to you the importance of fullness in prayer. I do not forget that
our Lord warns us against the example of the Pharisees, who, for pretense,
made long prayers; and commands us when we pray not to use vain repetitions.
But I cannot forget, on the other hand, that he has given his own sanction to
large and long devotions by continuing all night in prayer to God. At all
events, we are not likely in this day to err on the side of praying too much.
Might it not rather be feared that many believers in this generation pray too
little? Is not the actual amount of time that many Christians give to prayer,
in the aggregate, very small? I am afraid these questions cannot be answered
satisfactorily. I am afraid the private devotions of many are most painfully
scanty and limited; just enough to prove they are alive and no more. They
really seem to want little from God. They seem to have little to confess,
little to ask for, and little to thank him for. Alas, this is altogether
wrong. Nothing is more common than to hear believers complaining that they do
not get on. They tell us that they do not grow in grace as they could desire.
Is it not rather to be suspected that many have quite as much grace as they
ask for? Is it not the true account of many, that they have little, because
they ask little? The cause of their weakness is to be found in their own
stunted, dwarfish, clipped, contracted, hurried, narrow, diminutive prayers.
They have not, because they ask not. Oh, we are not straitened in Christ, but
in ourselves. The Lord says, âOpen thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.â But we
are like the King of Israel who smote on the ground thrice and stayed, when he
ought to have smitten five or six times.
I commend to you the importance of particularity in prayer. We ought not to be
content with great general petitions. We ought to specify our wants before the
throne of grace. It should not be enough to confess we are sinners: we should
name the sins of which our conscience tells us we are most guilty. It should
not be enough to ask for holiness; we should name the graces in which we feel
most deficient. It should not be enough to tell the Lord we are in trouble;
we should describe our trouble and all its peculiarities. This is what Jacob
did when he feared his brother Esau. He tells God exactly what it is that he
fears (Gen 32:11). This is what Eliezer did, when he sought a wife for his masterâs
son. He spreads before God precisely what he wants (Gen 24:12). This is what
Paul did when he had a thorn in the flesh. He besought the Lord (2Co 12:8).
This is true faith and confidence. We should believe that nothing is too small
to be named before God. What should we think of the patient who told his
doctor he was ill, but never went into particulars? What should we think of
the wife who told her husband she was unhappy, but did not specify the cause?
What should we think of the child who told his father he was in trouble, but
nothing more? Christ is the true bridegroom of the soul, the true physician of
the heart, the real father of all his people. Let us show that we feel this by
being unreserved in our communications with him. Let us hide no secrets from
him. Let us tell him all our hearts.
I commend to you the importance of intercession in our prayers. We are all selfish
by nature, and our selfishness is very apt to stick to us, even when we are
converted. There is a tendency in us to think only of our own souls, our
own spiritual conflicts, our own progress in religion, and to forget others.
Against this tendency we all have need to watch and strive, and not least in
our prayers. We should study to be of a public spirit. We should stir
ourselves up to name other names besides our own before the throne of grace.
We should try to bear in our hearts the whole world, the heathen, the Jews,
the Roman Catholics, the body of true believers, the professing Protestant
churches, the country in which we live, the congregation to which we belong,
the household in which we sojourn, the friends and relations we are connected
with. For each and all of these we should plead.
This is the highest charity. He loves me best who loves me in his prayers.
This is for our soulâs health. It enlarges our sympathies and expands our
hearts. This is for the benefit of the church. The wheels of all machinery
for extending the gospel are moved by prayer. They do as much for the Lordâs
cause who intercede like Moses on the mount, as they do who fight like Joshua
in the thick of the battle. This is to be like Christ. He bears the names of
his people, as their High Priest, before the Father. Oh, the privilege of being
like Jesus! This is to be a true helper to ministers. If I must choose a
congregation, give me a people that pray.
J. C. Ryle. A Call to Prayer: With Study Guide (Kindle Locations