Chapter 19: Understanding How God Works

He Encourages Earnestness

God’s professing people must be a praying people. He is not displeased with us for being earnest, as men commonly are; he bids us to cry after him, and give him no rest, Luke 11:5,6. It is a sign that God is coming to a people in mercy, when he pours out a spirit of prayer upon them. See how uncertain our creature-comforts are. See also God’s mercy in giving plenty, and peace to enjoy it. Let us delight in attending the courts of the Lord, that we may enjoy the consolations of his Spirit.

He Encourages Constant Communication With Him

What a blessed thing to be so familiar with God that you have His ear for your friends and neighbors! Plead with Him for the erring, the unbelieving, the profane. Never hold your peace towards God, for in this case speech is more than golden. By prayer you unlock the treasuries of heaven—keep the golden key in constant motion. Never cease to pray, since intercession is benediction. If the world be asleep, if the church be asleep, hold not your peace by night, and should the church become active and the world be a little awakened, redouble your prayer till the world is won. You spokesmen for God, and spokesmen to God, never hold your peace day or night.

Take no rest from prayer. Be always praying. If not always in the act of prayer, be always in the spirit of prayer. “Pray without ceasing.” Not only reason, but wrestle with God in prayer. Sometimes pray without words, and sometimes with them. Pray alone, and often pray with brethren. There is special prevalence in the prayer of two or three. “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.”

Never rest from prayer because you are weary of it. Whenever prayer becomes distasteful, it should be a loud call to pray all the more. No man has such need to pray as the man who does not care to pray. When you can pray, and long to pray, why then you will pray, but when you cannot pray, and do not wish to pray, why then you must pray, or evil will come of it. He is on the brink of ruin who forgets the mercy seat. When the heart is apathetic towards prayer, the whole man is sickening for a grievous disease. How can we be weary of prayer? It is essential to life. When a man grows weary of breathing, surely he is near to dying, when a man grows weary of praying, surely we ought to pray anxiously for him, for he is in an evil case. Never rest from prayer because you have prayed enough. When has a man prayed enough? The greatest pleaders with God in prayer are the hungriest after more of it. The more a man gets from God, the more he desires from God. Those who have but little, ask but little, but to him that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance. Does anyone say, “I have long been prayerful and watchful, and I shall now take things more easily”?

He Initiates the Relationship

And who starts the face-to-face conversation? The Lord! John makes that clear in John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.” He is the prime mover in salvation, the gift of faith, and the initiation of prayer. In prayer, He makes known to us what is His will so that we can ask for what He longs to give. He calls us into His presence because He has the answer to our needs and questions. “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

Our assurance that He hears us is that He is the one who asked for the conversation. He would not call us to prayer and then refuse to listen or be inattentive to our prayer. That’s the confidence, boldness, we have: prayer is our response to His call. In the time of face-to-face communion He makes clear what it is that we are to ask for in the needs He has come to us to help us solve.

So when we do ask, it is with the confidence that we are asking for what He is prepared to release for us. “And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” We know before we ask, because the content of our asking has been guided by Him.

He Wants Us To Pray For What He Desires

Jesus teaches this very clearly in the Gospels. He tells us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10 KJV), and He bids us to “ask the Lord of the harvest … to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt. 9:38).1 By this He means for us to understand and take seriously the fact that our prayer is a major factor in advancing God’s kingdom in this world. Jesus elsewhere encourages prayer in the strongest terms imaginable by saying, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). “Have faith in God … whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:22, 24). “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matt. 21:22). The clear implication of these and similar passages is that God commands us to pray and promises to answer in power when we do so.

Jesus demonstrated this in His own life and ministry. We are all familiar with how Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, preached the gospel, fed the hungry, comforted the brokenhearted, healed the sick, cast out demons, gave sight to the blind, and raised the dead. But we sometimes overlook that these powerful deeds were the overflow of a life of prayer, lived in daily communion with God. The Gospels tell us that early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus would rise and spend time alone with God in prayer (Mark 1:35). And often, even in busy periods of ministry, He would withdraw to solitary places and pray (Luke 5:16). At times He even spent whole nights in prayer (Luke 6:12). By making prayer such a high priority, Jesus was able to maintain constant communion with His Father and draw upon God’s wisdom, guidance, and power to fulfill His mission (John 5:19–20).

As Paul begins to tell Timothy how to conduct oneself in the local church (3:15), he puts prayer as the first priority (1 Tim 2:1, “First of all”). But Paul is not just talking about the need for prayer in general. He is talking about the need for prayer as it relates to the salvation of the lost. He repeats some words and ideas in 1 Tim 2:1-8 that show what he is driving at: “all men” (1 Tim 2:1); “all” (1 Tim 2:2); “God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:3, 4); “mediator … between God and men” (1 Tim 2:5); “a ransom for all, the testimony” (1 Tim 2:6); “preacher and … teacher of the Gentiles” (1 Tim 2:7). Paul is talking about men—people—and not just about a certain few, but about all men. And he is talking about the Savior. His concern is that all would be saved. What he is telling us is that,

Prayer that all people may be reached with the gospel should pervade the life of the church.

We should have such a burden for those who are perishing without Christ that we’re driven to entreat God, who is the Savior, that all people might be reached with the good news that there is a Mediator who gave Himself as the ransom for their sins.

God’s Plan Involves All Kinds of Prayer for All Kinds of People

In verse 1 Paul uses four different words for prayer. The words are not altogether distinct in meaning, but there are nuances of difference that reveal different needs that require prayer:

Entreaties” = prayer stemming from a sense of need. Sensing our lack and God’s sufficiency, our impotence and God’s omnipotence, should move us to pray.

Prayers” = a general term for prayer to God. One commentator suggests that the word here refers to requests for needs that are always present, in contrast to specific and special needs (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary [Baker], p. 92). This would include prayer for more wisdom, godliness, repentance, revival, etc.

Petitions” = means to converse freely; it pictures someone who can go into the presence of the king and talk freely with him on your behalf. It is used of the intercessory work of the Holy Spirit and of Christ on our behalf (Rom. 8:27, 34Heb. 7:25). It points to the fact that we can go freely before God at any time or in any place to talk with Him on behalf of others.

Thanksgivings” = this points to the fact that we must express not only our petitions, but our gratitude to God for His gracious answers.

The point of all these words is that we have different needs at different times. But at all times we need God and, therefore, we need to pray.

  1. H. Spurgeon said that Matt. 9:38 weighed on his heart more than any other text in the Bible! He said that it haunted him perpetually (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit[Pilgrim Publications], 19:466). So I pray that this simple message will haunt us:

We need to see as Jesus saw and feel as Jesus felt so that we will do as Jesus did.

Jesus saw lost people as distressed. The word means “troubled” or “vexed.” It points to the load of problems that people apart from Christ bear. Do you ever look carefully into people’s faces when you’re in public? If you do, you’ll see a lot of distressed, troubled people.

Jesus saw lost people as dispirited. The word means, “downcast” or “thrown down.” It points to the utterly helpless and forsaken condition of people who are lost in sin without the Savior. Philip Keller, in A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 [Zondervan], describes how sheep can get turned over on their backs and not be able to get up by themselves again. Such sheep are called “cast” or “cast down” sheep (p. 60). These sheep flail at the air with their legs, but they can’t get back on their feet without the aid of the shepherd. Left in this condition, helpless and vulnerable to their enemies, they will die after a few hours or days.

What a picture of sinners apart from the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ! Outwardly, they may look calm and comfortable. They may be successful in worldly terms. But Jesus sees their hearts before God. They’re “legs up,” unable to extricate themselves from their sin. They are downcast or dispirited. They may look normal outwardly, but inwardly they are, as Paul describes them (Eph. 2:12), without “hope and without God in the world.”

Jesus saw lost people as sheep without a shepherd. The Jewish religious leaders should have been shepherding these people, pointing them to God. But instead they were self-righteous and self-seeking…

So to be like our Savior, we need to see as Jesus saw: the great need of lost people; the great harvest of lost people; and, the great need for more workers in the harvest of lost people.

Chapter 19 Questions

  1. Pg 140: “ He even tells them to give Him no rest until He does what He has promised to do “ (see Isaiah 62:7). What in your prayer life have you not given any rest to God until He answers. Share examples.
  2. What promises are you praying for today ? Look up these verses and share which one is on your heart.  Or share one of your own
    • Psa 9:10, Psa 32:8, Psa 33:4 , 37:4 , 119:105 , 119:90
    • Gen 28:15
    • Joshua 1:9
    • Prov 3:6,16:
    • 2 Chron 30:9
    • Isa 30:21 , Isa 41:3 , Isa 58 :11, Isa 54:10
    • John 10:3-4
    • Hebrews 10:23
    • 2 Thess 3:3
  3. How can we ensure that we make prayer a priority in our lives ?  Discuss
  4. Pg 142: ” The usual method of God accomplishing His work is to place a prayer burden on the disciples heart ?  (Thrasher). How can we become more sensitive to the needs of others?
  5. Pg 145-146: Have you ever asked the Lord to teach you how to pray ? Share results, process.


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