Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.—Habakkuk 2.4.

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A Sermon on Prayer.

By T. James Blair.

Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church at North Union, PA.

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TrueCovenanter.com Editor’s Introduction.

The sermon which follows was found as an old mimeograph copy of four pages among the papers and writings of Pastor Blair.  Likely it was prepared by his daughter, Mrs. Ethel White, and circulated among the remaining members of the North Union congregation some time after the death of Pastor Blair in 1960.

2015.04.20::JTKer.

TEXT: “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”  Matthew 6:9.

Prayer is one of the most glorious benefits God has appointed for the use and good of his people.  Prayer is the Christian’s life-line to Heaven.  (Cut the diver’s life-line and he will perish unless he can surface quickly.)  If the Christian is cut off from prayer he will soon perish if he cannot quickly attain heaven.  But who can sever this life-line?  Neither men nor devils can do this.  There is but one who could cut that life-line, and that is God, but He will not.  Consider his wonderful love, glorious grace, and marvellous condescension.  He says: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” Heb. 13.6.

What a glorious thing it is for a citizen to have liberty of acceptance to his sovereign at all times, and to know that he will be allowed to plead his case and to ask for help at any time.  Prayer is the soul’s trading with heaven.  God comes down to us by his Spirit and we go up to him by prayer.  The Shorter Catechism defines prayer as “An offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.”  Paul tells the Philippians, “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made to God.”  To none but God; he is the searcher of all hearts and who alone can hear and answer our requests.  Papists pray to saints and angels which is expressly forbidden, Colossians 2.18,19: “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.”  This is casting off the good, or letting go the Head, even Jesus Christ.

1. TO WHOM PRAYER IS TO BE MADE.

Prayer is to be made to God only.  Psalm 65.1-2: “Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed.  O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.”  Hereby God is known to be the true God because He hears prayer which none besides Him can do.  Elijah says, “Hear me, O Lord, hear me; that this people may know that thou art the Lord God.”  God only can help.  Men may hear and yet be utterly unable to assist.  Even the wicked king of Israel knew this answer when the woman cried, “Help, my Lord, oh King.” His reply was, “If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee?” {2}

If we are in outward distress, then we are to pray to God, who will send down and save.  Psalm 18.6, “In my distress, I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.”

If we are in inward affliction, God alone can pour the oil of joy into the heart.  Therefore prayer is to be made to God only.  Prayer is an eminent part of religious worship.  Religious worship is to be given to God only.  Matt. 4.10: “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”  Faith in God is the foundation of prayer; we are to believe, and call only on Him.

IN WHOSE NAME ARE WE TO PRAY?

In the name of Jesus Christ, and no other.  John 14.13: “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”  What is it to pray in the name of Christ?  To pray in the name of Christ, is not only to mention Christ’s name in prayer, but to come to God at his command, John 16.24, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name; ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”  Jesus sends his people to the Father to ask for the supply of all their needs, and to plead that they are sent by Him, as one would send the indigent to the Prince and give him liberty to use his name as reference.  So, let US be sure of our interest in Christ.  “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” John 14.7.  As Nebuchadnezzar had Daniel and the three children taught the Chaldee language so he could converse with them, so none can approach the Father without they can use the language of Heaven; none can learn the language of Heaven except those who are taught by Christ and clothed by Him with courtly robes.  No one will find favor at the court of Heaven unless they belong to his Family.

We are to ask favors for his sake, and draw strength to PRAY from CHRIST as our great High Priest.  Access to the throne of heaven is blocked by our sins.  Sinners have no such confidence to seek the Lord; but Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, died for sinners such as we are, and he gathers them to himself by Effectual Calling.  He directs them to come to Him for all their supplies; and he gives them this token by the Holy Spirit. Rom. 8.26,27. {3} “Likewise the spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the spirit because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” We are to direct our prayer to God through Jesus Christ: “Wherefore he is able also to save them unto the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” [Heb. 7.25.]  [See also] Heb. 13.15: All the sacrifices of people under the law were offered by the priests; here reference is made to Christ’s priestly office.  He sanctifies and dedicates our persons unto God, that we may be meet to offer sacrifices to Him.

Depend on Christ.  (1) For access: “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence. [Eph. 3.12.]  [And consider] John 14.6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”  (2) For acceptance: “He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” [Eph. 1.6.]  Only a crucified Christ alone can bear the weight of acceptance of our persons and services.  (3) For a Return: “And this is the confidence we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us.” [1 John 5.14.]  No prayers are heard and answered but for the Mediator’s sake.  Why must we pray in the name of Christ?  Because there is no access for sinful men to God but through a mediator.  Sin hath bolted the door of access to the throne, and Christ alone can open it.

HOW ARE WE TO PRAY?

We need direction in prayer because of God’s greatness.  It is to the Most High that dwells in Heaven that we must address our petitions.  Solomon says in Eccl. 5.2, “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”  Rash and fearless approaches to the throne of grace bespeak unbecoming thoughts of God and the majesty of the throne in heaven.  Who, coming into the presence of his Prince, would not seek direction as to the right and proper manner of approaching?  How much more in coming unto Him who is Lord of Kings and potentates, and Lord of the whole universe?

Our gracious God has not left us without direction in this matter.  He has given us the rule for our direction in prayer.  Who else could do it?  How else could we know it? {4}  First a general rule is given, that is God’s Word, in which his will is revealed to us as to all things to be believed or done by us, in subject, manner, and words.  Prayer consists of petition, confession, and thanksgiving.  Eph. 4.6: “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known unto God.”  Whoso has the Word of God dwelling richly in his heart, will not lack subject of prayer either for himself or others.  The scriptures have a storehouse of subject matter for prayer.  The main scope of the Scriptures is to chalk out the way of salvation for us.  It makes a clear discovery of Christ.  John 20.31: “These things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing ye might have life through his name.” [Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity.]  Christ has given us a model and pattern for all our prayer.  O the love and condescension to allow us to come to the throne and use the petitions he has made ready to our hand.

Conclusion:

Our errand to the throne of grace is to render acceptable worship to God.  Who is so high and holy, who slew Nadab and Abihu that offered strange fire before Him, and said, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”  We go to the throne to present our supplications for the things we need for time and for Eternity.  If God help us not, all the world cannot do it.  Our souls are at stake, so we come to God about their eternal destiny.  We are weak and liable to mistake in our approaches.  Job 37.19: “Teach us what we shall say unto him; for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness.”  We have no skill to manage the business ourselves, for we are ready to go wrong and to ask of God things not agreeable to his will.  Rom. 8.26: “Likewise the spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought:” and James 4.3: “Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”  The danger of mistaking either in the manner or matter of prayer may provoke the Lord to bring down a curse upon us instead of a blessing.  Remember God’s eye is upon us in prayer: implore the help of God’s spirit to fix our minds, and make them intent and serious in prayer.


Editor’s Note.

Besides the above sermon on prayer, which was found in mimeograph form, there also exists an old 1960 manuscript from Pastor Blair, on the subject of Prayer, and titled “We are to pray in the name of Christ with Prayer & Supplication,” and marked by another hand as “Near Last Writing.”  This text is evidently incomplete and unpolished, and suggests that while Pastor Blair’s thoughts remained holy and spiritual, yet his concentration was no longer what it had been in former years.  His memory of the Scriptures and Presbyterian Catechisms was clearly intact, but the disconnected fragments of thoughts he began piecing together in this late notebook will be of interest only to select persons.  If the reader is interested, please contact the editor.