Thursday, February 3, 2011

John Bunyan On Prayer

John Bunyan wrote Prayer

I must remind you that Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to the Word of God, for the good of the Church, with submission in faith to the will of God.   Remember, your prayers must always sincerely pour out your heart or soul to God.  Sincerity is a grace that runs through all the graces of God in us.   Sincerity should control and run through all the actions of a Christian. If your actions are not sincere, then God will not approve your actions.  What must be true regarding sincere actions will be equally true of prayer.  David speaks of this when he mentions his own prayers: "I cried out to him," to the Lord, "with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer" (Psalm 66:17-19).

Sincerity is a crucial element in prayer.   Unless we are sincere, God will not look upon our words as prayer in the good sense.  I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing."   As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.   I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips." (Psalm 16:1-4) And God also tells us, "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:12,13).   Tile Lord has rejected many prayers for their lack of sincerity. Through the prophets, God said, "They do not cry out to me from their hearts" that is, in sincerity, "but wail upon their beds" (Hosea 7:14). Their prayers were pretentious.   Their prayers were hypocritical, a mere show to be seen by others. They prayed to be applauded for their loud prayers.  Jesus Christ commended Nathanael for his sincerity, when he was seated under the fig tree.   We read: "When. Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, 'Here; is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false'" (John 1:47). I suppose this good man was pouring out his soul to God in prayer under the fig tree. Jesus knew he prayed  with a sincere and unfeigned spirit before the Lord. .Sincerity is one of the principal ingredients in prayer that influences God to hear and consider it. Thus, "The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him" (Proverbs 15:8).   Why must sincerity be an essential element of I acceptable prayer to God?  Because sincerity moves you in all simplicity to open your heart to God and to tell Him your case plainly and without equivocation.   Sincerity in prayer motivates your heart to condemn your sin plainly, without concealing the facts, intentions or feelings under false excuses and pretences. When we pray from the heart, we cry to God heartily without complimenting ourselves or praising our righteousness. The Lord declared to Jeremiah the prophet: "I have surely heard Ephraim's moaning: 'You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me, and I will return, because you are the Lord my God. After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast.   I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.' (Jeremiah 31:18,19) Sincerity is always the same in a person, whether he is praying in a corner all alone or praying before the whole world. Sincerity does not know how to wear two different masks, one for an appearance before others and another for a short span in a corner before God. Sincere Christians must have God. They must be with Him in what they know as the pleasant duty of prayer from the heart.  Sincere prayer is not lip-labour, because God looks at the heart. Prayer from the heart looks at God. Prayer from the heart and soul which God regards is that prayer from His children which is accompanied with sincerity.

PRAYER: Oh Lord, my God, may I be found of You as Jesus found Nathanael along the way, in sincere and in utterly devoted prayer to You. I confess that some of my motives for prayer have been selfish and self-seeking. I confess that I have often not taken the time to examine my heart and open it completely before You in prayer. Instead, I have come asking only for the things that I want You to do for me. I bow before You now, O Lord, in humble submission, and I ask You to make in me a clean heart and put a right spirit within me. As I examine my own heart, I come to You in complete sincerity that I would be known of You and You would be known of me, that Your Son might commend me when we meet, that there would be nothing false in me, that I might also feel free to pray in the Name of the Saviour knowing that I am cleansed by His atoning blood. Amen.     --JOHN BUNYAN