SUSSEX MARTYRS ANNUAL MEETING 2019
THE POWER OF PRAYER
The Christian should join prayer to all other means because of the great prevalency that prayer hath with God. He will do no great matter for a saint without prayer, and nothing is too great for Him to do at his request.
Prayer, like Jonathan’s bow, when duly qualified as to the person and act, never returns empty. Never was faithful prayer lost at sea. No merchant trades with such certainty as the praying saint. Some prayers indeed have a longer voyage than other; but then they come with the richer lading at last into the port. In trading, he gets most by his commodity that can forebear his money longest. So does the Christian that can with most patience stay for a return of his prayer. Such a soul shall never be ashamed of his waiting. The promise is as an assuring office to secure him his adventure (I John 3:22). O who can express the powerful oratory of a believer’s prayer! “This little word, ‘Father’, lisped forth in prayer by a child of God, exceeds the eloquence of Demosthenes, Cicero, and all other so famed orators in the world” (Luther).
We read of taking heaven “by force” (Matt. 11:12). If ever this may be said to be done it is in prayer. Saith Tertullian, “We knock at heaven, and the merciful heart of God flies open, which we bring away with us.” And in the same apology he speaks of Christians, how they went to pray, as an army doth to besiege a town, and take it by storm. And then he adds, “This holy violence we offer to God in prayer is very pleasing to Him.” Surely, if it were not, He would neither help the Christian so in the work, nor reward him for it when it is done. Whereas He doth both…..
He helped Jacob to overcome: “By his strength he had power with God” (Hos. 12:3). That is, not by his own, but by the strength he had from God. And then He puts honour upon him for the victory, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince thou hast power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Gen 32:28).
It were easy here to expatiate into a large history of the great exploits which prayer is renowned for in holy writ. See Jas. 5:17; Isa. 37; Dan. 2:18; 2 Sam 15:31; Est. 4:16; Acts 12:5; John 9:41; Jonah 2:2; Jos. 10:12,14; 2 Kings 20:10; Psa. 106:23; Ezek. 22:30. This is the key that hath opened and again shut heaven. It hath vanquished mighty armies, and unlocked such secrets as passed the skill of the very devil himself to find out. It hath strangled desperate plots in the very womb wherein they were conceived, and made those engines of cruelty prepared against the saints recoil upon the inventors of them; so that they have inherited the gallows which they did set up for others. At the knock of prayer, prison doors have opened, the grave hath delivered up its dead; and the sea’s leviathan, not able to digest his prey, hath been made to vomit it up again. It hath stopped the sun’s chariot in the heavens, yea made it to go back. And that which surpasseth all, it hath taken hold of the Almighty, when on His full march against persons and people, and hath put Him to a merciful retreat. Indeed, by the power prayer hath with God, it comes to prevail over all the rest.
He that hath a key to God’s heart cannot be shut out or stopped at the creature’s door. Now prayer moves God and overcomes Him, not by causing any change in the divine will and making God to take up new thoughts of doing that for His people which He did not before intend. No, God is immutable, and what good He doth in time for His people He purposed before any time was. But prayer is said to more than overcome God; because He then gives what from eternity He purposed to give upon their praying to Him. For when God decreed what He would do for His saints, He also purposed that they should pray for the same. “I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them” (Ezek. 36:37). Prayer’s midwifery shall be used to deliver the mercies God purposeth and promiseth. Hezekiah understood this when he calls the prophet to the church’s labour, and bids, because “the children” – that is deliverance – is stuck in her birth, that he should therefore “lift up a prayer” (Isa.37:3,4). And when Daniel had found the full reckoning of the promise – how long it had to go with the deliverance promised for their return from captivity – perceiving it hastened, he therefore falls hard to prayer, knowing God’s purpose to give doth not discharge us from our duty to ask (Dan. 9:3).