By Arthur Wallis
"Thou hast wrestled with God. . . and hast prevailed" (Gen. 32:28, Darby).
From the basic factors which condition our approach to God we now come to the working factors, the dynamics of prevailing prayer. These are the operations of mind and heart which give force to our praying. These are the conditions of prayer to which God has pledged Himself to respond.
But there's a power which man can wield
When mortal aid is vain,
That eye, that arm, that love to reach,
That listening ear to gain.
That power is prayer, which soars on high,
Through Jesus to the throne,
And moves the hand which moves the world,
To bring salvation down.
- J. A. WALLACE.
These principles are closely related to those just considered, for the state of one's heart in approaching God will largely determine the working of one's heart in the exercise of prayer.
The New Testament contains six principles, and any one of them, if obeyed, will ensure that the prayer prevails. The first requires that we pray
In the Position of Abiding
"If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John 15:7). In the previous chapter the Lord Jesus had told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come to them. "In that day," He said, "ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in Me, and I in you" (14:20). In other words, the Spirit would reveal to them the true significance of the Son being "in the Father," and that they were similarly in Him, and He in them.
What He meant by being "in the Father" is fully unfolded throughout the gospel of John. The Father was His whole source and sphere of life. He had not come of Himself, but had been sent by the Father (John 7:28; 8:42). He had no teaching or words of His own, but spoke the words given Him by the Father (John 7:16, etc.). He could do nothing of Himself, only what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19). His very life depended on the Father (John 6:57). He ever sought, not His own will or glory, but the Father's (John 5:30; 8:49). Because He chose to be limited by the Father's will, dependent on the Father's resources, seeking the Father's glory, He could truly declare, "I am in My Father".
To abide in Christ is to maintain in principle the same relationship towards Him that He maintained towards the Father. "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked" (1 John 2:6). This means firstly, a life of submission in which we gladly consent to the limitations of "that good and acceptable and perfect will of God". We accept a bondage which we find to be perfect freedom. We pray, "Make me a captive Lord, and then I shall be free." This was truly His life who said, "I delight to do Thy will, O my God" (Ps. 40:8); and again, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me" (John 4:34). It must be ours also if we would abide.
Then it must be also a life of renunciation of ourselves, our abilities, our resources. We have to come to the place of weakness and emptiness that His strength may be made perfect in us.
This is the place of abiding. He is the vine, we are the branches. The vine has everything, the branch has nothing. "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself. . . so neither can ye" (John 15:4). This fact, obvious to the mind, does not easily sink down into the heart. Through the bitter experiences of failure we have to learn the lesson.
Hudson Taylor said that when God decided to evangelize Inland China, He looked around to find a man who was weak enough for Him to use. The attitude of self renunciation characterized the life of the Saviour. "The Son can do nothing of Himself" (John 5:19, 30); "My teaching is not Mine" (John 7:16); "neither have I come of Myself" (John 8:42). We are called to follow Him. "Whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33).
Finally, abiding involves a life of faith which looks to Christ for all, and finds its all sufficiency in Him. Alongside the statement of Christ, "Apart from Me ye can do nothing"(John 15:5), we must put Paul's triumphant declaration, "I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13). The Saviour revealed that His was a life of faith in dependence on the Father, when He said, "I live because of the Father" (John 6:57). But He also declared, "Because I live ye shall live also" (John 14:19), and this requires the same attitude of faith that possessed Him. Paul set forth the true life of renunciation and of faith when He said, "I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me. . . I live by faith, the faith of the Son of God [Darby], who loved me, and gave Himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20). This is truly the abiding life.
As well as abiding in Him, the condition requires that His words abide in us. These He had earlier described as "spirit and life" (John 6:63), that is full of divine energy and life giving power. It is impossible to embrace those life giving words without experiencing their spiritual and moral force. Christ had to say of some, "My word hath not free course in you" (John 8:37). They rejected both Him and His message, to their own eternal disaster. Others accepted the message joyfully, but did not allow it to root fully in their hearts, so that the new growth withered in the hour of persecution; or they allowed it to be choked by worldly cares, and so to become unfruitful. These received the word, but did not allow it to abide in them. There were those, however, who allowed His word to make its home in their hearts, to take deep root, and to spring up in spiritual fruitfulness. "They have kept Thy word," He said of them to the Father (John 17:6). His words had already begun to abide in them, doing their quickening and fertilizing work.
There may be different grades or degrees of abiding, according to our spiritual understanding and development. The principle, however, does not change. When we can say from the heart, "To me to live - Christ" (Phil. 1:21), we are surely abiding in Him, and this gives us a position of authority with God in prayer. So long as we fulfil the condition, as it is revealed to us, the Lord is pledged to answer whatever prayer we offer. So long as we abide in Christ and His words abide in us, He can safely trust us with a blank check drawn on the bank of heaven.
"Ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
In His holy humanity the Saviour's prayers were never refused by God, because He was ever abiding in the Father. "Father," He prayed, "I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always" (John 11:41). Seeking neither His own will nor His own glory, but ever the Father's, He had only to ask in order to receive. We shall be trusted in the same way when we fulfil the same condition. When the Father knows that it will be in His interests and for His glory that a certain petition is fulfilled, He cannot but respond to it. Such petitions ever flow from the life that abides in Christ. This suggests our next great condition of prevailing prayer. It must be -
In the Will of God
"And this is the boldness which we have toward Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of Him" (1 John 5:14, 15). Notice that this verse is designed to give us a holy confidence before God, "this is the boldness which we have." Sometimes when a believer prays with boldness he is reproved by another, and reminded that he can only receive if it is God's will, and that he should pray with submission. The use that some make of this verse, always tacking on to their petitions, "if it be Thy will", would make the promise read, "This is the uncertainty that we have towards Him, that only if we should happen to pray according to His will is He at all likely to hear us." Thus would they make this word, given for the strengthening of their faith, a refuge for their unbelief.
Now notice the phrase, "anything according to His will". "Anything" gives the wonderful scope of the promise; "according to His will" gives the divine limitation. Someone has well said that nothing is beyond the reach of prayer, save that which lies outside the will of God.
Prevailing prayer therefore involves a knowledge of the will of God. Then comes the assurance, "He heareth us." According to Scripture usage, for God to hear our prayer is for Him to accept it and fulfil the petition.
To speak of God "hearing and answering prayer" is mere tautology. If God hears, He answers; if He does not answer, then He does not hear. "And if we know that He heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of Him" (verse 15). "And if" shows that verse 15 is additional as well as conditional. We may pray according to God's will and so prevail without verse 15, without knowing that He has heard us or having the prior assurance that we have prevailed, until the answer comes. But where we have this assurance that He is hearing, where in fact we have "prayed through", we know we have in the purpose of God received the answer, and the petition will be fulfilled.
The vital condition, then, is that our petition is in the will of God. Is it possible to discover His will in the matters we bring before Him in prayer? There is much general praying we may do, viz. "for all men; for kings and all that are in high place" (1 Tim. 2:1), where we may not know God's will, and yet do right to pray. But in the specific petitions that we offer, especially concerning ourselves, we have every reason to expect to know God's will.
"Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (Eph. 5:17), "that ye may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Col. 1:9), "but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:2). But how may we know the will of God concerning our petitions?
The word of God may teach us His will. There are things for which we pray that are plainly revealed in Scripture to be His will for us. If we pray for holiness we may be sure that we pray according to His will because He has commanded us to be holy (1 Pet. 1:15, 16), and because "this is the will of God, even your sanctification" (1 Thess. 4:3). Are we praying for wisdom? "God. . . giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not" (Jas. 1:5). Are we asking for the power and gifts of the Spirit? "How much more shall your heavenly Father give [the good things of] the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him" (Matt. 7:11); Luke 11:13), But what of revival? It has already been shown in chapter three that the promises in Scripture which reveal God's willingness to send revival are legion. Let us take them out of the showcase and turn them into fuel for prayer.
We may also be taught the will of God by the operation of the Spirit in our hearts. "And in like manner the Spirit joins also His help to our weakness; for we do not know what we should pray for as is fitting, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered. But He [God, Jer. 17:10] Who searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He intercedes for saints according to [the will of] God" (Rom. 8:26, 27, Darby).
Christ's intercession for the believer is effected apart from him. The Spirit's intercession for the believer is effected through him. Verse 23 states that we groan, verse 26 that He groans, but these are not two groanings but one. Are you in ignorance of how and what to pray? You have One within, "if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you," who has perfect knowledge of the divine will, faultless intercommunication with the Father, and His almighty power in intercession is limited only by your own degree of preparation and willingness and capacity for prayer. He is the gracious Paraclete (Comforter), that is, the Advocate called to our side to present our case and plead our cause in the courts of heaven. Let us allow Him full play. Let us give Him opportunity to lead us, burden us, and strengthen us, if we would pray according to God's will and prevail.
It must ever be remembered that knowing the will of God involves a heart in full submission to that will, whatever it may be. "If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know. . ." (John 7:17). Secondly, it involves a patient waiting upon God in prayer that the Spirit may enlighten us. We have to pray with David, "Show me Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths. Guide me in Thy truth, and teach me. . . on Thee do I wait all the day" (Ps. 25:4).
The testimony of one of the greatest prayer warriors of modern times illustrates the importance of these two features, the willing heart and the waiting heart, in discerning the will of God. After seven weeks of patient waiting upon God regarding the building of two additional houses for his orphan age at a cost of about 50,000, George Muller of Bristol wrote: "I have still day by day been enabled to wait upon the Lord with reference to enlarging the orphan work, and have been during the whole of this period in perfect peace, which is the result of seeking in this thing only the Lord's honour and the temporal and spiritual benefit of my fellow men.
Without an effort could I by His grace put aside all thoughts about this whole affair, if only assured that it is the will of God that I should do so; and, on the other hand, would at once go forward, if He would have it be so. . . After having for months pondered the matter, and having looked at it in all its bearings and with all its difficulties, and then having been finally led, after much prayer, to decide on this enlargement, my mind is at peace." (from A Narrative of the Lord's Dealings with George Muller).
Thus may we also, by patient waiting upon God, pray our way through into the assurance of His will. This is the place of faith, which leads us to the next great principle. . . Prayer to prevail must be -
"Jesus. . . saith. . . Have faith in God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou taken up and cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he saith cometh to pass; he shall have it. Therefore I say unto you, All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye have received them, and ye shall have them." (Mark 11:22-24; see also Matt. 21:21, 22). "If ye have faith. . . nothing shall be impossible unto you" (Matt. 17:20). "Let him ask in faith, nothing doubting" (Jas. 1:6).
The faith that operates in prayer is not an uncanny "knack"or mysterious faculty which some saints have, but which it is not given to the rest to possess. "Have faith in God" is a command of Jesus Christ, and as such we are expected to obey it (Matt. 28:20). The One Who commands us to believe is the One Who enables us to believe. Faith, however, cannot be worked up. No mere decision of the will can produce it. It is necessary to understand and obey the laws by which faith operates.
The basis of faith is a right heart condition before God. The deadliest enemy to faith in the heart is pride. This is a common reason for a weak faith, especially pride in spiritual things. A concern about our reputation in the eyes of men, rather than in the eyes of God; a jealous desire to guard our position, rights or dignity, though it be at the expense of the Lord's, may effectually destroy the spirit of faith in the heart. "How can ye believe, which receive glory one of another, and the glory that cometh from the only God ye seek not?"(John 5:44).
Effective faith in prayer is clearly impossible with such a heart condition.
It is deeply significant that the two who were commended by Christ in the Gospels for their outstanding faith were also outstanding for their humility. There was the centurion who said, "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof," but of whom Christ said, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel" (Matt. 8:8-10); and there was the Canaanitish woman who alluded to herself when she said, "The dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table," to whom the Saviour said, "O woman, great is thy faith." (Matt. 15:22-28).
On another occasion when the apostles asked the Lord to increase their faith, He spoke of the servant ploughing, or feeding sheep, who had to learn to be humble as well as obedient towards his master. He concluded, "Even so ye also, when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do." (Luke 17:5-10). An obedient humble heart is the first secret of the increase of faith.
Then the instrument of faith is the word of God, with its untold wealth of precious and exceeding great promises. It is the promises that quicken faith, and it is faith that apprehends the promises. We do not speak here of the gift of faith which is bestowed on a few (1 Cor. 12:9; 13:2), but the grace of faith which is open to all: all, that is, who are "the heirs of the promise"(Heb. 6:17). Faith cannot look to God to do other than what He has promised. Since the very nature of faith is reckoning on the faithfulness of God, it is of necessity bounded by His promises.
The faith of Abraham was just this, he "believed God"(Rom. 4:3), believed that He meant what He said, and would fulfil it. "Looking unto the promise of God, he wavered not through unbelief, but waxed strong through faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform" (Rom. 4:20). With his eyes fixed upon the promise of God, Abraham's faith grew strong, until at length it could cast aside even the mountain of physical impossibility, and grasp the promised blessing.
Faith, mighty faith the promise sees
And looks to God alone,
Laughs at impossibilities
And cries, "It shall be done."
"So faith then is by a report, but the report by God's word."(Rom. 10:17, Darby). Faith grows exceedingly in the soul whose gaze is fixed upon the promises. Such faith is like the grain of mustard seed, so small in its beginnings, but containing within itself the life principle which can grow into something mighty under the quickening influence of the Spirit.
Finally there is the exercise of faith, even patience. The mark of a vital faith is that it endures.
God desires that we may obtain the promises (Heb. 11:33), but this requires a faith which has been purified and perfected through the exercise of patience. God is not only concerned that our praying should change things, but that it should change us; that through patient waiting upon Him our spiritual characters may be purified and deepened.
God told Abraham that he would have an heir in his old age, a child of promise; but the years passed by and still there was no son. When the improbable had become the impossible, then Abraham's faith was made perfect, and he was certain that the promise would be fulfilled and so it was. "And thus, having patiently endured, he obtained the promise"(Heb. 6:15). But Abraham was not unique, for many have obtained in the same way. Let us then be "imitators of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Heb. 6:12).
"Believe that ye have received", is the Saviour's word to us, "and ye shall have." It is clear that during the waiting time Abraham believed that he had received, for the simple reason that he was "giving glory to God" in confident anticipation of the blessing. While still praying and waiting he was brought to the point of faith where he was as sure of the son that was to be given, as if he held the babe in his arms. To reach the same point should be our goal as we pray for revival.
Referring to the outbreak of the awakening in Kilsyth, July 23rd, 1839, William Burns wrote: "Some of the people of God who had been longing and wrestling for a time of refreshing from the Lord's presence, and who had, during much of the previous night, been travailing in birth for souls, came to the meeting, not only with the hope, but with well nigh the certain anticipation of God's glorious appearing." We cannot expect to reach this point without perseverance and patience. You may have prayed long and earnestly for revival. Your faith may have been sorely tried and tested. You may have been tempted to give up in despair. Hold on! Hold on! for He is faithful that promised. The very testing is effecting in you the will of God, and preparing you for the blessing. "Cast not away therefore your boldness, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise." (Heb. 10:35).
Then prevailing prayer must be also -
In the Name of Christ
"And whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13; other refs.: John 14:14; 15:16; 16:23, 24, 26). There is an astonishing emphasis in the New Testament on the value and power of the Name of Christ. We call upon it for salvation (Rom. 10:13); we are washed, sanctified, and justified in it (1 Cor. 6:11); we are baptized into it (Acts 10:48); and so come to hope in it (Matt. 12:21). Further, in that Name we should meet together (Matt. 18:20), give thanks (Eph. 5:20), pray (John 14:13), preach (Luke 24:47), teach (Acts 4:18, 20), perform the supernatural (Mark 16:17), in fact, do all things (Col. 3:17). This is the Name we are privileged to bear, and for which we are called to suffer (Acts 9:15, 16). It should be our supreme desire to see it magnified, as it was in Ephesus, in a time of powerful revival (Acts 19:17).
The Name of the Lord Jesus is the very sphere of our life and the very source of our authority.
Can He be less than God who bears a Name of such significance? To deny the deity of Christ is to deny the divine authority which Scripture attaches to His Name.
What is the meaning of praying in His Name? When we speak today of acting in another's name we use the expression in much the same way as Scripture, Dr. Torrey put it thus: "If, for example, I should go to the First National Bank of Chicago, and present a check which I had signed for fifty dollars, the paying teller would say to me: 'Why, Mr. Torrey, we cannot cash that. You have no money in this bank.' But if I should go to the First National Bank with a check for five thousand dollars made payable to me, and signed by one of the large depositors in that bank, they would not ask whether I had money in that bank or in any bank, but would honour the check at once. So it is when I go to the bank of heaven, when I go to God in prayer. I have nothing deposited there, I have absolutely no credit there, and if I go in my own name I will get absolutely nothing; but Jesus Christ has unlimited credit in heaven, and He has granted to me the privilege of going to the bank with His Name on my checks, and when I thus go, my prayers will be honoured to any extent." (How to pray).
To pray for revival in the Name of Christ, is to pray as His representative, and the prayers are as effective as if it were His own blessed lips that framed them, and His own holy hands that were lifted up upon the throne of Jehovah. Therefore to pray in the Name of the Son is to pray with all the authority of the Son, who has Himself openly declared, "All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth."(Matt. 28:18).
In olden times a man might be rudely awakened in the night by a great knocking on his outer door, and a soldier's voice calling out, "Open in the King's name." It would not matter that the soldier was but a corporal, and that he had only a handful of men under him: if he was acting for the king, all the authority of the king lay behind his command, and none would be able to withstand it. "The king's word hath power; and who may say unto him, What doest thou?"(Eccles. 8:4). How much more the word of the King of kings!
There are many prayers that have "in the Name of Jesus" appended to them which are not honoured in heaven. There may well be those who never pray without using this formula as a "rubber stamp." to whom the Saviour might truly say, "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My Name" (John 16:24). There are other prayers, however, that omit the expression and yet fulfil the condition, and so prevail.
What does the condition involve, and how may we be sure that we are praying in the Name? It means that we pray as His representatives, that is, according to His mind and purpose.
When in prayer we are moved by His compassion, motivated by His interests, weighed down by His burdens, reaching out towards His objectives, then we are praying in His Name. In a word, it involves being one with Him in will and purpose. When, prior to His death, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about praying in His Name, He taught them that they had not yet prayed thus (John 16:24), but that they would do so "in that day"(John 16:26) referring to Pentecost (see 14:16-20).
Praying in the Name awaited the moment when they should receive the Spirit and be baptized into the body of Christ. They would thus be united in the Spirit with their risen Head. "In that day," He declared, "ye shall ask in My Name." Thus the whole matter hinges on our experimental union with Christ. It is but the prayer activity of one who is abiding in Him, and presents yet another aspect of praying in God's will.
It has been shown that praying in His Name involves acting as His representative, but this applies not only to the asking, but also to the receiving. When we obtain what we ask in the Name of Christ, we are still bound by the fact that we are His representatives. It is still His desires and purposes that must ever be before us.
If a landowner authorized his agent to collect the rental due from one of his tenants, the agent would go and ask for it in his master's name, and in that name would receive it. When, however, he has the money in his hand, he does not cease to be his master's agent. He is not free to spend the money as he likes, but to hold it in trust as a steward, disposing of it only according to the will of his master.
It is so with us. We ask in His Name; we receive in His Name; we hold in His Name.
Everything obtained is a trust, and one day we shall be called to give an account. This is directly connected with the question of right motives considered in the previous chapter. "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures." (Jas. 4:3).
The Lord Jesus must take care to safeguard His rights, and our acting only in His Name is His safeguard.
"When Scripture speaks of men who have given their lives for the Name of the Lord Jesus or of one ready to die for the Name of the Lord Jesus, we see what our relation to the Name must be: when it is everything to me, it will obtain everything for me. If I let it have all I have, it will let me have all it has." (Andrew Murray). Let us take a final look at the opening verse, "Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name. . . that the Father may be glorified in the Son." Here, then, is the acid test. We pray in the Name only when the supreme objective of our praying, colouring all our thoughts and desires concerning it, is that "the Father maybe glorified in the Son". There is unlimited scope here to pray for revival, for when is the Father more glorified in the Son than when the Spirit is working in the midst of the church in resistless power?
Then, to prevail in prayer means praying -
In the Spirit
Scripture speaks of "praying in the Holy Spirit"(Jude 20), and again, "praying at all seasons in the Spirit" (Eph. 6:18). Since all saints without distinction are exhorted to pray thus, there can be no suggestion that this is an experience outside the reach of all but the most exalted believers. Paul not only expected the Ephesian saints to pray thus, but to do so "at all seasons".
What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? It means, in a phrase, to pray in the realm of the Spirit. It is possible for praying to be vain talking, like the teaching of some whom Paul described (1 Tim. 1:6), or like the vain repetitions of the heathen (Matt. 6:7), neither of which is even intelligent. Such formalism is nothing more than an activity of the lips; it is praying in the realm of the body. It is possible, however, for our praying to be thoughtful and intelligent, and even scriptural in its phraseology, but nothing more. Such is praying in the realm of the mind, and this can never prevail with God.
The praying we are concerned with is that which may utilize the body, that is, the lips may express it; and that which demands the cooperation of the mind with all its faculties; but is essentially that which moves in the supernatural realm of the Spirit. This is but another aspect of praying in faith. Reason can take us so far, but faith reaches out into a realm where reason cannot go. "Where reason fails with all her powers, there faith prevails and love adores." Praying in faith is not irrational but super-rational. It is exactly thus with praying in the Spirit.
It involves three things:
Firstly, the Spirit has anointed the suppliant. Without the anointing of the Spirit there can be no praying in the Spirit. In Old Testament times those who acted Godward for the people, the intercessors of Israel, were the priests. Before they could exercise this ministry they had to be anointed. The Lord Jesus promised the disciples that through the Holy Spirit, the promised Comforter, they would have a new insight into the mind of God: "In that day ye shall ask Me no question"(John 16:23, margin); and they would be enabled to pray in His Name, obtaining whatever they asked: "If ye shall ask anything of the Father, He will give it you in My name." (John 16:23). Thus praying in the Spirit is also related to praying according to God's will and praying in the Name of Christ. May the Lord raise up those who, like Stephen, shall be, "full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" (Acts6:5), that they may be mighty to pray in faith and in the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, the Spirit is directing the prayer. We are ignorant of the things for which to pray and how we ought to pray for them, but the omniscient Spirit helps our weakness by interceding on our behalf, and this intercession of the Spirit in us and for us is in perfect accord with the mind of God (Rom. 8:26, 27). So here is another link with praying in the will of God. The mighty intercessions of the Spirit are dependent on the use of our yielded wills, minds, and desires. When we grant Him these, our praying is in fact His praying in us - we are praying in the Spirit.
Thirdly, the Spirit is energizing the praying. To pray in the Spirit is supremely to pray in the energy of the Spirit. There is perhaps no work that requires more energy than praying. There is a constant temptation to faint (Luke 18:1). So great are the demands of the prayer battle, that "even the youths [with their energy and enthusiasm] shall faint and be weary, and the young men [in the prime of their strength] shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord [that they may be directed and energized by the Spirit] shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles [achieving the impossible]; they shall run, and not be weary [accomplishing the extraordinary]; they shall walk, and not faint [doing the humdrum]" (Isa. 40: 30, 31). Such will be found "praying at all seasons in the Spirit".
Some may pray regularly and fervently. They may exercise a measure of faith. They may pray according to God's will. They may witness their prayers answered from time to time. But what is it that makes the praying of those who have become mighty in intercession so different? What is the secret of such astonishing energy and irresistible faith? How is it they can plead with such boldness, and are able with authority to cast mountains into the sea? Just this, they are praying with holy energy; they are praying in the Spirit.
Finally, prayer will prevail whenever believers pray -
"If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father, which is in heaven." (Matt. 18:19). The importance of acting in unison is clear enough in the natural realm. The power of a tug of war team depends, not so much on the total strength or weight of its members, but on the precision with which they pull as one.
Said Solomon, "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, and hath not another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have warmth: but how can one be warm alone? And if a man prevail against him that is alone, two shall withstand him." (Eccles. 4:9-12). In other words, when it comes to the peril of stumbling, growing cold, or being overcome by the enemy, "Two are better than one."
This same principle was demonstrated by the Lord when He sent out the Twelve (Mark 6:7) and later the Seventy (Luke 10:1) "by two and two". When the ass and colt were to be brought (Matt. 21:1), or the upper room prepared for the Passover (Mark 14:13), He sent two disciples. There was the same principle when the Holy Spirit separated Barnabas and Paul for their special work (Acts13:2). When the partnership was broken by dissension the principle was still followed, "Barnabas took Mark", while "Paul chose Silas".
There appear to have been few, if any, "lone wolves" or free lance preachers among those early workers. The mighty ministry of these that "turned the world upside down" was characterized by teamwork. References to "Paul's companions in travel"(Acts 19:29), his "fellow workers"(Rom. 16:21, etc.), his "partner" (2 Cor. 8:23), his "fellow soldier"(Phil. 2:25, etc.), reveal what a vital part these played in the apostle's ministry. He seemed out of his element when he found himself without them (Acts 17:15, 16; 2 Cor. 2:13).
This wonderful prayer promise shows that the principle of united action has a special significance in the realm of prayer. "If two of you," that is the smallest possible combination, and therefore includes any larger, "shall agree. . . as touching anything that they shall ask", means very much more than general outward agreement concerning the objective of the praying, or the petitions offered. Two believers may pray for the same thing, using even the same words, without knowing the agreement spoken of here.
The Greek word for "agree" in this verse might be transliterated "symphonize". From the cognate noun we get our word "symphony", translated "music" in Luke 15: 25. As in an orchestra different personalities, playing different instruments, with varying skill and ability are made to "symphonize", and so produce harmony pleasing to the ear, so in the realm of prayer, even when outward expression and manner of praying may be totally different, there can be a harmony of spirit that reaches the ear of God, delights His heart, and moves His hand to bestow the blessing desired.
How may this spiritual oneness in prayer be effected? Acts 15 records the controversy in the church at Jerusalem over the circumcision of Gentile converts. The whole assembly was concerned about this matter, and yet was divided upon it, some holding that it was necessary before they could be saved, others that it was not. One and another gave their judgment until the mind of the Spirit became clear, and the whole church was brought to see it. "It seemed good unto us, having come to one accord," ran the decree they then issued (Acts 15:25).
Many were the mistimed, discordant notes when the music began that day. How were they all brought to such perfect harmony before the assembly separated? An unseen Conductor controlled the orchestra, and the movement of His hand effected the harmony. Present there, though unseen to human eye, was "the hand of God to give them one heart" (2 Chron. 30:12).
The hand was the Spirit, and the harmony produced "the unity of the Spirit". The church was in submission to Him; there was the exercise of patience; and the seemingly impossible was achieved. "It seemed good unto us. . . it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us" (Acts 15:25, 28) - that was the secret. Although divided, they wanted the mind of God; they were miraculously brought to one mind; they knew that this one mind must be the mind of God.
This incident provides an illustration of much united prayer that has prevailed. Initial discord of spirit may be inevitable, but where hearts are earnestly seeking the mind of God, are open to the influences of the Spirit, and are prepared to wait patiently before the Lord, He is able, we know not how, to produce that "symphonizing" prayer which brings from heaven the answer, "It shall be done." By this wondrous working of the Spirit heaven and earth are linked in the fulfilling of the will of God. The Lord had said, "What things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and what things soever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 18:18); and then He added, "If two of you shall agree on earth. . . it shall be done. . . in heaven." Earth is characterized by discord and division, heaven by harmony and unity. When spiritual unity comes to those praying on earth, it has come from heaven through the operation of the Spirit, and such praying must return to heaven and be ratified there. To all such praying on earth, God will respond in heaven with His divine "Amen" - it shall be done." What power He has put into the hands of His people! And yet how little used, how seldom proved!
Let us view this great truth from another aspect presented to us in Scripture, that of the Church being the body of Christ, the means by which the Head in heaven expresses Himself on earth. A child playing with a skipping rope demonstrates the control of the mind over the body. By means of the spirit animating that child the head exercises control and causes the members to move in harmony.
Even so with those who have been baptized into the body of Christ. When two or more are praying in spiritual unity it is because the Spirit of the ascended Head, sent forth to possess and empower the body, is effecting the harmony, that the will of the Head may be done. The Psalmist expressed the same truth when he said, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard; that came down upon the skirt of his garments; like the dew of Hermon, that cometh down upon the mountains of Zion." (Ps. 133). This wondrous unity is "like the oil. . . like the dew", because both are typical of the Spirit, and this is "the unity of the Spirit". The oil comes down from the Head, even to those represented by the lowest extremity (or skirt) of the garments. The dew comes down from the exalted summit of Hermon, whose snow clad peak is often hidden behind the clouds, to the lowlier mountains of Zion. Spiritual unity may be enjoyed on earth but it can only come from heaven.
Having likened the blessedness of this unity to oil and dew, the Psalmist concludes, "For there [where brethren dwell together in unity] the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore." Once this unity is effected in prayer, the blessing is assured. Of the hundred and twenty in the upper room we read, "These all with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer." (Acts 1:14). Through patient and steadfast waiting upon God they were brought to that symphony of prayer which knew no discordant note, and which brought from heaven the first great outpouring.
When again believers "with one accord continue steadfastly in prayer" for such a visitation, the Spirit will surely be poured out again. The Lord has not withdrawn His promise. "If two of you shall agree. . . it shall be done." This unity is the crown of spiritual preparation. When the saints pray as one, revival is nigh, even at the doors.
Not only is revival the product of unity, but the producer of unity. It is characteristically a time when personal, social and sectarian barriers are thrown down, when hearts are melted and fused in the fires of the Spirit, and when believers see themselves as never before "all one in Christ Jesus". "They shall see, eye to eye, when the Lord returneth to Zion" (Isa. 52:8).
Perhaps there is no time when the yearning of the Saviour, "that they may be one" (John 17:11) is more nearly fulfilled than in seasons of revival. They provide a blessed foretaste of a day yet future when the saints shall "all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13), and the Savior's prayer be finally answered.
For the present let this great principle of spiritual unity be harnessed to the task of praying down the blessing. Are you praying for revival alone? Ask God to give you another of like mind with whom you may agree, that the power of your praying may increase manifold. Are you already praying with others? Look to God to bring all to that "one accord", that heart agreement that ensures the answer.
Steps to the Throne
It is recorded that "there were six steps to the throne" which King Solomon made (2 Chron.
9:18). Through Christ we have access in prayer to a throne infinitely greater and more glorious than Solomon's. Praying in the position of abiding, in the will of God, in faith, in the Name of Christ, in the Spirit, and in unison are the six steps to the throne of God. They are all connected and interrelated, and any one of them is enough to lead us through to God in prevailing prayer. We have only to plant the foot of prayer upon one, and God has pledged Himself to grant us, not something, but the very thing that we ask. If we pray for revival, fulfilling any of these principles, we shall obtain revival. "Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive. . ." (Heb. 4:16).