Christ Opens a School of Prayer
January 28th, 1968 @ 7:30 PM
CHRIST OPENS A SCHOOL OF PRAYER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-28-68 7:30 p.m.
We invite you who are sharing this service on the radio to turn to the eleventh chapter of the Book of Luke, the Third Gospel, and with us in this First Baptist Church in Dallas, read out loud the first ten verses. This is the pastor preaching the message tonight entitled Christ Opens a School of Prayer. Luke chapter 11, the first 10 verses, and sharing your Bible with a visitor or guest who does not have one, may we all read it out loud together? Luke chapter 11, the first ten verses. Now together:
And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
And He said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
And He said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
And the verses that follow after are no less precious as the Lord teaches His disciples how to pray. Now, in the brief moment that we have, we shall follow our Savior as He is depicted here in these first beginning verses. "And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a certain place, His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray" [Luke 11:1]. Now, I think there were three reasons that lay back of that earnest request on the part of the Lord’s disciples.
First: as they listened to Jesus praying, it seemed to them that they had never prayed in their lives. There was something in the intercessory importunity of our Lord that the disciples did not know and did not possess. This is not the only time that they had heard their Master praying. The Gospel of Mark is the gospel of Simon Peter, and in the first chapter of that presentation of our Savior, it says that the throngs were seeking Him, and Simon led them where he thought the Savior might be found and at length found Him in a solitary place where He had been praying all night long [Mark 1:35].
Luke is careful to describe to us that when the Master was baptized, being baptized, He was praying [Luke 3:21]. Luke also is careful to point out that when the Master was transfigured, He was praying [Luke 9:29]. And Luke again says that before the Lord chose the twelve apostles, He prayed all night long [Luke 6:12]. So this is not the first time that the disciples have listened and have seen our Lord bowed in intercession. And as they watched Him and as they listened to Him, they concluded they knew nothing about prayer in themselves.
There is a second reason, I think, why the disciples asked the Lord to teach them how to pray. It is this: as they followed His ministry, they came to the conclusion that there was a connection between His secret life of prayer and His wondrous life of open ministry. There was power in His hands, and even from His robe virtue would bless and heal [Matthew 14:36]. There were words of wisdom and grace that fell from His lips as they had never heard or read before, not even in the Old Testament Scriptures, and His life was saintly and holy and without spot and blemish. And those disciples came to that conclusion: that there was some connection between His secret life of intercession and His wondrous life of grace and ministry.
I think there was a third reason why the disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray, and it was this: it seemed so simple, so easy, but in seeking to be mighty in intercession, they found it so difficult. I think all of us finally come to Romans 8:26: "For we know not what to pray for as we ought," so Jesus opens a school of prayer that we might know how to pray. He prayed in the days of His flesh. He prays in heaven now, and He responds, teaching His disciples to pray.
I don’t read in the Bible anywhere that He taught His disciples how to preach, but He did teach them how to pray. I would suppose therefore that it is not as significant and as vital that we preach well as that we pray well, for how can a man have power with men until first he has power with God? "So it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, that His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray," and the Lord said, "This is the way to pray."
Now, there are two things in that passage: one, the will to pray, and second, the way to pray. "Lord teach us to pray," not how to pray – in that sentence, though it is implied – but first, "teach us to pray": the will to pray. Now, there are three things that interdict and intervene in our praying. First: we have a carnal and an everlasting tendency to depend upon ourselves and not upon God. We make our own choices, we follow our own ways, we conclude our own conditions and whether God’s in it or not, whether the Lord’s pleased with it or not, this is what we are going to do and we attempt it in our own strength.
Our prayers are verbal, they are perfunctory, they are ephemeral, they are peripheral; they are never actually vital and dynamic. Consequently, we lack the will to pray. Our Savior bowed in intercession, in importunity, and rose from His kneeling position strong in the power to do God’s will. We are not like that. We choose our own course. We follow our own ways. There are certain things that we have decided to do, and whether God wills it or not, whether the Lord is pleased with it or not, this is the way we have chosen to go. We lack the will to pray.
Second: there is an innate and carnal reluctance on our part really to lay our cause and our case before God. We are afraid that God will interdict and intervene and deny what we would like to do. Therefore, we lack the will to lay our cause and our case before God.
Third: there is a reluctance on our part to pray because we faint; we grow weary in it. Luke later on in the eighteenth chapter of his Gospel says, "And the Lord spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint" [Luke 18:1]. What does he mean by that? Simply this: it is easy, and we like it to do a work before God that is public and that is seen, but to do a work before God that is private and unseen is so distasteful to us, and we faint with it and discontinue it.
It surprises me when actually I look at myself, and it surprises me in the whole fabric of the church how much we are dependent upon public applause and acclamation and appreciation for what we do. We like to be seen of men. We like their words of praise and appreciation. For example, in a great meeting, who has paid any attention to somebody who prayed God’s Spirit down? But the name of the evangelist will be on every lip. As I watch the progress of a crusade or a great revival, how much of it will be in the energy of the flesh? How much of it will be of man, of personality? In advertisement, and I don’t know how any other way, and in presentation, in radio, in television, in newspaper, in film, in every way, the evangelist will be on every lip, on every page, in every advertisement, and I can see how that would please a man; but to do a work that is never seen, that is hidden away, the agony of conflict and the inward war and the inward strife in the soul where nobody would ever see and nobody would ever know, that is why we faint.
The will to pray; "Lord teach us to pray." Then the Lord replies how to pray. I have four alliterative words that describe how the Lord taught His disciples to pray. First, our approach: "Our Father who art in heaven." On the basis of sonship – and if we had time to describe it – if you would read the eight chapter of the Book of Romans, if you’d read the fourth chapter of the Book of Galatians: no longer servants, but sons whereby we cry, "Abba, Father" [Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6]. On the basis of sonship, of adoption, we belong to the family of God: "Our Father in heaven," our approach.
Now, the aim and the purpose of our intercession: "Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth" [Luke 11:2]. Hallowed be Thy name: reverent, holy, sanctified be Thy name. I have never understood how men can speak familiarly with God as though they were equal, old buddy-buddy. Ah! A song like that, or a prayer like that, or a speech like that violates everything I feel in my heart toward God. He is so exalted, high and lifted up, and I am a worm in the dust. "Hallowed," holy, saintly, sanctified, reverent, awesome "be Thy name."
If you remember the sixth chapter of the Book of Isaiah where he describes the vision in which he gave his life to the Lord, he saw high above the throne the seraphim and "each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly" [Isaiah 6:2]. Do you get the proportion? Even the seraphim who stand in the presence of God, holy, hallowed, reverent, with twain he covered his face in awesome worship and adoration, and with twain he covered his feet, unworthy, covered over, and with twain seeking to do God’s will in the earth.
This ought to be the proportion of our intercession before God. To do something for God, yes; but first and above all to bow in His holy presence, even as Abraham one time said, "Lord, I have taken upon myself to speak unto Thee, the great High God, I who am but dust and ashes" [Genesis 18:27]. Our approach to God ought always to be one of deepest reverence and humility; "Hallowed be Thy name."
"Thy kingdom come": I haven’t time to preach on the coming kingdom, praying for the return of the Lord; no kingdom without a king. "Lord, hasten Thy coming": The Bible closes with that. "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely I come quickly," and the answering response from the sainted seer: "Amen. Even so, come, blessed Jesus" [Revelation 22:20]. "Thy kingdom come, and Thy will be done." And Thy will be done. Ah! how difficult, how difficult, how difficult; "Thy will be done" [Luke 11:2].
What is the great purpose of prayer? I know it is all right, and I find no fault when I speak of our praying mostly as celestial begging. "Lord give me this," and "Lord give me that," and "Lord give me this other." And I have no word against it. We are taught to ask, and to seek, and to knock [Matthew 7:7], I know. But if prayer alone is begging, "Gimme Lord, gimme, and I still don’t have enough, give me some more and I still don’t have enough, gimme, gimme," somehow we have lost sight of a tremendous facet of this contact with God and this importunity and intercession that ought to characterize the servants of the Lord who bow before the great, high and mighty King. "Thy will be done."
Let me say it like this. Suppose a boat throws a line to the shore and a sailor, a pier man, wraps it around the posts – you’ve seen them – and pulls the line. Which one is pulled? Does the ship’s line pull the shore to the ship, or does the ship’s line pull the ship to the shore? Isn’t it a truism? Is it axiomatic? When the line is pulled, the ship is pulled to the shore. So it is with our seizing upon God. We are not pulling God’s will to us. What we are doing is we are pulling ourselves to God’s will. And sometimes I know, sometimes, not only by experience, I know by the Word of God that sometimes that will is so opposite and so different from what we would ask for.
Look, because we pray does not mean we shall be delivered from suffering. One of the sweetest passages in the Bible is in this chapter in the Book of Hebrews. Our Lord, "Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up supplications and prayers with strong crying and tears unto Him who was able to save Him from death; Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered" [Hebrews 5:7-8]. "With strong crying and tears unto Him who was able to save Him from death; Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered." Prayer was not meant to deliver God’s saints from suffering.
Prayer was not meant to deliver God’s people from sickness. In the last chapter and almost the last words that Paul wrote in 2 Timothy, he said, "Trophimus" – his faithful fellow minister Trophimus – "Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick" [2 Timothy 4:20b]. Sick. Prayer does not deliver us from martyrdom. After the benedictory close of 2 Timothy, soon thereafter Paul laid his head on the chopping block. And the Book of Acts is careful to say that when Stephen was stoned – do you remember the sentence? "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon the name of the Lord" [Acts 7:59a]. While he was praying, they stoned him to death.
Praying does not deliver us from persecution. The eighth chapter of the Book of Acts begins, "And upon the death of Stephen there arose a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem" [Acts 8:1a]. "Thy will be done." Maybe it is God’s will that we weep. Maybe it is God’s will that our hearts be broken. Maybe it is God’s will that our lives be crushed. Maybe it is God’s will that we suffer. Prayer is not to deliver us from these trials and tribulations and heartaches of the flesh, but prayer is to bind us to God whatever God’s will is.
We must hasten. How shall we pray? We shall pray in abounding dependence. Our attitude shall be one of leaning and trusting and looking and expectancy. "Give us this day our daily bread" [Luke 11:3], from Thy hands, God’s hands.
Back of the loaf is the snowy flour
And back of the flour is the mill
And back of the mill is the [wheat] and the shower,
And the sun and the Father’s will.
[Maltbie D. Babcock 1858-1901]
To remember that the clothes that I wear and the shelter under which I abide and the food that I eat ultimately is a gift from God, it comes from His gracious hands, therefore I shall thank God for the food that I eat, the bread that I break, the clothes that I wear, the shelter under which I abide. The attitude of dependency upon God: "Lord, these things come from Thy bountiful and gracious hands."
And the last, the atmosphere of our praying: how shall we surround ourselves, the spirit of it? We shall forgive others as we look to God to forgive us, leading us not into temptation, but deliver us from these fleshly and selfish evils.
Our attitude in prayer: first the Lord said, "When you come before the Lord and dedicate a gift to Him, if you remember that somebody has aught against you, go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift to God" [Matthew 5:23-24]. Prayer that is preceded by hearts full of bitterness and animosity and unforgiveness, these prayers are interdicted; they are destroyed before they are sent. Our hearts are to be open toward God and open toward all men. And that’s not easy.
You know, once in a while, I will turn to an Old Testament story and just read it all over again. I have read it a thousand times, I guess many more, but I have never read it yet but that God blessed me in it. The story is that human drama of Esau and Jacob, and Jacob was a shyster, he was a deceiver, he was a supplanter, and they named him that: Jacob. When he was born, he held the heel of his older brother Esau, and they called him Jacob, supplanter, deceiver [Genesis 25:26].
And you remember the story continues, and in one instance after another, Jacob maneuvers always to a selfish advantage. Esau was an outdoor, open, rugged sort of a fellow, and Jacob saw it. And upon a time when he was famished and hungry, being objective in his life and mostly unplanned in his outlook, why, he sold his whole birthright for something to eat, mess of pottage. Jacob saw it and seized it and bought it for a mess of pottage [Genesis 25:29-34]. That’s Jacob. And when his mother suggested to him how to receive the blessing from old and mostly blind Isaac, Jacob was immediately a part of the plot and of the action and stole the blessing, lying to his aged and blind father [Genesis 27:1-36].
And that as though there were not breach enough between those boys, that, that created a veritable gulf between them. "And Esau vowed saying, I will kill my brother Jacob" [Genesis 27:41b], and Jacob fled away. And upon a day, the Lord appeared to him in Paddan-aram and said, "You go back, you go back" [Genesis 31:3]. And Jacob is returning, and Esau hears of it, and Esau arms four hundred of his men to meet Jacob; four hundred armed men to meet Jacob! [Genesis 32:6].
And the years of that festering hatred and bitterness increasing, mounting with every remembrance and reconciliation; and that night at the River Jabbok, Jacob was met by a Man from heaven, wrestled against him all night long, stubborn in his will, unbreakable in his resolve; Jacob the supplanter! And the Angel from heaven prevailed not against Jacob though He wrestled with him all night long, and when the dawn began to break, the Angel touched his thigh, and the hollow of his thigh was broken and out of joint, and he couldn’t stand, and left broken and crippled! The Angel started to leave, and Jacob seized upon Him and said, "Oh no! Oh no! Do not leave me like this, broken and crippled." And the Angel said, ‘What is your name?" And Jacob said, "My name is Supplanter, Deceiver, Jacob." And the Angel said, "Thou shalt no longer be called a deceiver, a supplanter, Jacob. Thy name shall be called Israel, a prince of God," and the Angel left him, and he called the name of the place Peniel: "the face of God." [Genesis 32: 24-30].
And then this, the next day, the next day Esau came to meet his brother with four hundred armed men, four hundred! And when he met Jacob his brother, his brother went out to meet him, unable to walk. And then the verse, do you remember it? "And Esau saw him, and ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept together" [Genesis 33:4]. It is unimaginable, it is indescribable, the bitterness, the rancor, the hatred, four hundred armed men, but when God broke Jacob, in one moment, the whole world was made over again.
This is the atmosphere and the background of our prayer. Lord, Lord, take away aught that separates between my soul and my Savior. Lord, wash away aught between me and any who might ever have known me or touched me. Lord, make it right. Make it right. And God makes it right. No wonder the disciples said, "Lord we do not know how to pray. Teach us to pray" [Luke 11:1]. And no wonder Paul wrote, "For we know not how to pray as we ought" [Romans 8:26]. May the Spirit make intercession for us according to the will of God.
O Lord, let me enroll in Thy school. Let me be a pupil and a learner in Thy sight. Lord, teach us to pray. I ought not to speak of it and we not pray? Where you are, humble your heart, bow your head. Blessed Savior, we are like children. We know so little. We are so unworthy, so weak, so unknowing. Lord, teach us to pray, and in the spirit of our Savior who bowed, God’s will be done, and rose in strength to do it, may God meet with us in our secret place of commitment, and may we rise to be strong to do God’s will in the earth [Matthew 26:39]. Bless, Master, for we lean on Thy kind arm, in Jesus’ dear name, amen.
Now, while we sing our hymn of appeal, while our people prayerfully wait for you, a couple you, a family you, one somebody you to give himself to Jesus, would you come tonight? A family you: "Pastor, this is my wife, these are our children. All of us are coming tonight." How ever the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, come now. Make it now, do it now. In the balcony round, down one of these stairways at the front and the back, come. On this lower floor, into the aisle, down to the front: "Here I am, pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart to the Lord." While we sing this hymn of appeal, decide now to come, and when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming. "Here, O Lord, here I am." Answer with your life. Do it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE SCHOOL OF PRAYER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The disciples watching Jesus pray (Luke 11:1)
A. Came to wonder if they had ever really known what prayer is
B. Came to understand a connection between His powerful outward ministry and His private prayer life
C. Prayer seems simple, but we find it increasingly difficult (Romans 8:26)
II. The will to pray
A. Our weaknesses
1. We rely on ourselves, not on God
2. We are afraid God will interdict and deny what we would like
3. We become faint; grow weary in it (Luke 18:1)
a. We like to be seen
III. The way to pray
A. Our approach (Luke 11:2a, Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:4-7)
B. The aim and purpose of our intercession (Luke 11:2b)
1. Hallowing the Name (Isaiah 6:2, Genesis 18:27)
2. Coming of the kingdom (Revelation 22:20)
3. Doing of His will
a. Because we pray does not mean we shall be delivered from suffering, sickness, martyrdom or persecution (Hebrews 5:7-9, 2 Timothy 4:20b, Acts 7:59a, Acts 8:1a)
C. Our attitude should be one of humble dependence (Luke 11:3)
D. The atmosphere of our praying (Luke 11:4)
1. Forgiveness, humility (Matthew 5:23-24)