March 27th, 1983 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-27-83 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message in the series on prayer. Today it is entitled Covenant Praying and is an in-depth study of one of the most amazing words of our Lord. In Matthew chapter 18, verse 19:
Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask,
it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven
Very patent is it that the Lord had said that several times. He begins the avowal with palin, "again":
As I have said heretofore, I repeat now:
Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask,
it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
Does this mean just agree to ask? If so, it is a preposterous and ridiculous and unimaginable statement – to pick out somebody, anybody, and say, "Let’s agree to ask right now and make any kind of a request." No. There is a profoundly deeper meaning in this promise of our Lord, and we are going to enter into it in depth this morning. It is so pertinent to us. It has to do with our every moment of life and our every dream of the future. So I have studied it, and this is the result of my much studying. The emphasis of this word from our Lord is on
agreement. Agreement – symphōnÃ©ō. We say symphonia. That is the noun form translated here "agree, agreement," symphonia.
In Luke 15:25, when the elder son comes in from the field, he hears a sumphōnia. It is translated in the King James Version "music." He hears music when he comes in from the field. Do you remember the story? The younger brother who has been so prodigal and obstreperous and incorrigible and worldly and sinful and riotous and drunken and promiscuous – the younger brother has come home. And the father has killed the fatted calf and has called in the friends and neighbors. And when the elder brother comes in, he listens to a sumphōnia, translated "music, harmony." Now, the adjectival form of it is sÃ½mphōnos, "harmonious," agreeing with. For example, in 1 Corinthians 7:5, Paul uses the adjectival form of the word saying to a husband and a wife that it is fine and blessed of God if they "agree" – if they come together in a common purpose for fasting and prayer. You have the verbal form of it often in the New Testament: sumphōnÃ©ō, "to agree with, to agree together, to arrange with." For example, in Matthew 20:2, the Lord speaks of the laborers who sumphōnÃ©ō agreed on a denarius a day; a day’s wages, a sumphōnia. It is used in a bad sense in Acts 5:9, when it describes Ananias and Sapphira as sumphōnÃ©ō "agreeing" to lie to the Holy Spirit of God, keeping back a part of what they had promised to give to the Lord. In Luke 5:36, our Lord speaks of an old garment with a new patch on it, and he says that the two do not sumphōnÃ©ō, they "do not agree." Then in Acts 15:15 at the Jerusalem conference, the words of the prophets, the disciples recall sumphōnÃ©ō; they "agreed" with the gospel that the Lord has given to them that the Gentiles; the whole world is to be included in the kingdom of God – sumphōnÃ©ō, "to agree with."
Peri, "as touching, concerning, respecting" any pantÃ³s, "the whole world" and all that is in it. It includes everything in your life. It is not just compartmentalized as most of us look upon religion: "This is religious and this is something that I can talk to God about; this is secular and this is something that I do not talk to God about." That is not the faith. The faith is pervasive; it is an entering into every part of our human life, all of it, all of it. And this promise concerns any part of it, every part of it, all parts of it.
Then that word, "thing," is pragma; and our word "pragmatic" comes from that – pragmatic, something down here that concerns us – prÃ¡gma, "thing." It refers to your business. It refers to our occupation. [It] refers to this life, and that is why I am emphasizing it–that what the Lord is saying is not something over here that is particularly, spiritually defined in our minds, but it’s every part of our lives. That word prÃ¡gma is used in 2 Timothy 2:4: "No man that warreth entanges himself with the affairs," that is the way it is translated in the King James Version, "with the affairs of this life;" pragmateÃa – plural – prÃ¡gma, "the affairs, the things we do." And pragmateuomai means "to do business, to do business, to trade." In Luke 19:13, in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew, the word is "pounds." In Luke, in the story of our Lord, He goes away on a long journey, and He gives to one of His servants ten pounds, ten talents, and He gives to another of his servants five pounds, five talents, and to another one. And then He says, and the King James Version is, "Occupy till I come." You have no idea of what the Lord really said when you translate that word "occupy," pragmateÃºomai, "do business, trade, until I come."
It was out of a study of that word of our Lord, pragmateÃºomai, "do business, trade," that it came to my mind for this series beginning tomorrow at noon, our pre-Easter services on God’s business world. Tomorrow, Guaranteed Securities; the next day: Frozen Assets; the next day, When the Soul Goes Bankrupt; the next day: The Law and the P-R-O-F-I-T-S, The Law and the Profits; and the last day, The Legacy Our Lord Has Left Us. PragmateÃºomai, "do business," pleases God when we are at it, when we get with it, when we work, when we are giving our energies to it. He says that is what we are to do, pragmateÃºomai, "Do business until I come." When the Lord comes, He is to find us busy. We are to be working at it, staying with it, pouring our lives into it.
So the emphasis I say, in this unusual word, "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything they shall ask, it shall be done of them of My Father which is in heaven" [Matthew 18:19]. The central heart of that concerns the agreement. It is not the number. The reason the Lord used the number two is because it is the lowest, smallest, possible denominator concerning which anybody could agree. You have to have at least two for agreement. But that is incidental. He could have said two hundred. He could have said two thousand. He could have said, "If three of you agree." He could have said, "If three hundred of you agree." He could have said, "If three thousand of you agree." It is not concerned with numbers as such. The concern concerns the agreement. Of course, the more numbers we have, the more possibility we have of enlisting the help, and intervention, and the strength, and wisdom, and success and blessing of Almighty God. But however number they are, any number, this obtains says our Lord.
Well, what does that mean to agree, this symphonia? Well, there are several things that I find in the Bible concerning which we must agree if we have the answer from God. We are to agree in our desires, not just words. Our Lord plainly taught us, we’re not heard for our words, for our much speaking. A peripheral of saying of things to God and calling it prayer may be better for us than cursing or using language to tell off-colored stories, but that is not real prayer, not real prayer. We agree in our desires in our importunity. We deeply ask this, want this, plead for this from God.
Second: we agree in the motive that gives birth to the desire. That is the reason why we must have in our hearts an agreement that pleases God. For example, we are now interceding – you do before every service – we are now interceding for our revival meeting. Well, there are a lot of reasons why we could ask God for a blessing on the meeting. The evangelist, for example, would like to make a good report. So he prays for a wonderful revival in order that he might say to the world, "Just look at this wonderful meeting." Or the pastor could pray for a marvelous revival so he could boast and say, "Look at my church, how it is growing. Look at all the new members that I have." Or a wife could pray for her husband in the revival. He is selfish and stubborn and obstreperous, and she wants him to be tame and amenable and submissive and a whole lot of other things that she would like for him to be. So she prays that he will get right in the revival. Well, I don’t blame her for that. That is just a lesser reason why we pray for revival. Now, the singer or the duet or the quartet, or octet, or whoever it is, they can pray for a great revival so that they can shine and they can have invitations to go other places. Oh, we could spend the morning defining, delineating, describing some of the lesser reasons why we are asking God for an outpouring of His Spirit. But none of those is pleasing to God. I do want our church to grow. I do want to see the preacher succeed who’s coming to lead us. I do pray that our singers and players will do marvelously well, and I could be in sympathy with any home or family that wants to see a member change. But the great motive must be two-fold in a request like that. Number one, and above all: "Lord, Lord, that Thy name may be exalted in the earth." Our minister from Britain so often times begins his prayer, "Oh Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth. Lord, Lord, that everything that is pertaining to the meeting and to the services, that it might exalt Your wonderful name, might glorify our blessed Lord Jesus." Then another, "O Lord, how deeply moving the desire; Lord, Lord, that the lost might be saved; that people might come to know Thee; that we might be rescued from the judgment and the bondage of damnation and hell and that we might be saved to Thee, to God, to heaven."
I do not know of a better way to illustrate that kind of a prayer than to think of it in terms of a father and a mother who are praying for a child. Any true father and mother that prays for a child will do so unselfishly just for the love of the youngster. "Lord, Lord, this child, that he might be blessed of Thee, that he might love Thee, that he might serve Thee, that he might be a joy to Thee." I cannot – I can hardly imagine a father or a mother praying for a child selfishly, "For me, for me." Praying for the child, "Lord, bless this child," and the altruistic, heavenly desire for the youngster is a good picture of how we ought to pray before the Lord. Not selfishly but, "Lord, and then in the revival that Thy name might be glorified; that the lost might be saved; that all of us might be revived and drawn closer to Thee." When we agree on those great principles, God does something. And we agree in faith. We are expecting the blessing.
"Lord, You said if we would agree in what we ask, what we desire of Thee, that it will be given us. And we expect that, Lord. We do not believe that You would deceive us. You would say these things to us and they matter not to Thee when we importunately knock at the throne of grace, at the door of glory." We are absolutely persuaded that God will answer prayer. It is in the promises of God that you will. It is in the will of God that we pray and ask. "Lord, we believe that You are going to answer."
And then we agree upon the specifics. We are not praying just any time; no time, some time, another time; and in the meantime, we are going to attend to something else, no particular specific, just praying, just saying words. No! We are praying pragmata about a certain thing. That can be anything. I am just speaking of our revival now because it is especially upon my heart, but we are to be specific in our praying. Pray about anything. Name it before the Lord. Name it before Him.
I wonder if you would think me crude if I told you something that I am doing now. Some time ago, I was flying on an airplane – a long time ago, those little old planes then – and I had a bad cold, and I burst my eardrum. And that eardrum has been burst ever since. And the doctors say to me, "Now, you lay yourself liable to an infection if you do not get that healed in some way." So a few days ago I had it operated on, and I had a piece of my inner ear cut out and placed there for it to heal back, to be an ear drum. Well, it has taken a long time now to heal and the doctors had given up hope for it. But last time I went to it – and I go back to him tomorrow – he said, "You know, there is a ninety-nine percent chance now that it will heal – that that ear drum is going to complete its little passage across that aperture." And you know what I pray? And you think this is foolishness before God, but every day, I get down on my knees and I say, "Lord, heal this ear drum." And I point to it right there and I say, "Lord, I am talking about that one right there, that one right there." Now, God knows which ear drum I am talking about, I am sure. God knows I want it healed, but I think that is what He meant. We are to be specific in what we pray for. "Lord, heal this eardrum – see this one right here – this one."
"Lord, I am talking about John, my boy," or, "I am talking about Mary, my girl." Or, "I am talking about my business." Or, "I am talking about my job." Or, "I am talking about my home." Or, "I am talking about my mortgage." Or, "I am talking about," and just name it. Be specific in what you pray for. I am not saying that there is not virtue in our generalities, "Lord, bless the world and bless us. Amen." But it pleases God when we pray pragmatically – prÃ¡gma, specifically – about anything. He is interested in us. You are – if you have a child you love, there is not anything about that child that you are not interested in. Well, He is our heavenly Father, and He is interested in us. Ask Him. Pray to Him.
So, we agree not just in asking, but in everything essential to obtaining the blessing – all the details that go along with our intercession. For example, if two or more of us agree that we’re going to visit Israel, there are a whole lot of little old things that we do in order to make our journey to Israel. If two of us were to agree to build an engine – or in the most part, it would be many of us, like that great assembly line at the Arlington General Motors plant. All of them agree. They are going to build a great engine and a tremendously effective automobile. And every detail along the line they have agreed, "You are going to do this, and you are going to do that, and I am going to do this." And that line moves along. There is agreement, symphonia, in every detail. That is the way we are. Our revival will be blessed in proportion to the unison and the unity of effort and intercession that we pour into it. We agree in believing God will give us a revival. We agree in feeling the necessity for a revival. We agree in regard to the importance of a revival. And we agree into the measures that are essential to the promotion of a revival – our own devotion, our own praying, our own intercession. The church must be agreed. We’ll not have a revival without it.
The Pentecostal chapter, the second chapter of the Book of Acts, begins with this word: Acts 2, verse1, "They were all with one accord in one place." That word translated "one accord" is homothumadon. I preached an entire sermon one time on homothumadon. It is a word that Luke, Dr. Luke, likes. He is the only one that uses it outside of one time in the fifteenth chapter [Acts 15:25], where Paul uses it [Romans 15:6]. Dr. Luke loved that word, homothumadon, and he uses it again and again and again – only one in the Bible outside of that one instance of the apostle Paul – he is the only one that uses it. Homo you know is the word for "same"; thumadon; thumos is a word that describes an intense emotional moving in the mind. And that was strange to me because when I think of emotion, I always think of it in terms of the heart. That word homothumadon refers to a tremendous emotional commitment in the mind, in the volition. It is something that we have decidedly, statedly, volitionally given ourselves to–homothumadon, "one accord," translated. And that refers to the church there at Pentecost. Well, I can easily – and you can, too – imagine what would happen to any church, anywhere, that gave itself with a tremendous, emotional, volitional commitment that such a thing might please God and come to pass.
Now, in my reading I came across an instance of that – an agreement in intercession in prayer. It came about like this. In a generation before us, there was a wonderful preacher, evangelist, and pastor named J. Wilbur Chapman. He is the preacher that Billy Sunday drove stakes down for his tent. And when Wilbur Chapman, in later ministries, left the evangelistic work to go back into the pastorate, why there was that tent in these revival engagements and nobody to preach to them. So Billy Sunday, who had been driving stakes for Wilbur Chapman, decided that he would try to pick up the work of Wilbur Chapman. And he did and became, as you know, the world-famous evangelist of the recent generation. Well anyway, Wilbur Chapman was called to the pastorate of the Bethany Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. He felt himself, being young and inexperienced, he felt himself unable and not gifted in such a great assignment. So, now this is the reason I picked up the story – as you know, I am a devotee of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, our greatest Baptist preacher that ever lived, pastor in the last century of the [Metropolitan] Tabernacle in London. The young fellow Wilbur Chapman went to London to attend the services of Charles Haddon Spurgeon in the Baptist Tabernacle. And when he came back, he was a new man. The church hardly recognized him. And there broke out a great revival meeting in Bethany Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia – so much so that as time went on in a few years he went into evangelism, became a world-famous evangelist like Dwight L. Moody.
Now, the pastor gave credit for that, largely to Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and he described one day what happened to him. He says that at the close of a wondrous day in the London [Metropolitan] Tabernacle, he went up to Spurgeon to thank him for what he had done to help him in his heart as he prepared for the great work in Philadelphia. Then Spurgeon replied, "Tut, tut, my brother, the blessing is from above. Every day and night, thousands of people in London and scores of thousands everywhere in the English-speaking world are praying for the Tabernacle and for me as the pastor. If you wish to have a soul-winning church, get your people to pray." That is what Spurgeon told the young fellow. So he came back home to his new congregation in Philadelphia, and he asked them to unite with him – symphonia – in prayer for the unsaved, and to keep on praying. And they responded with gladness and perseverance, and there broke out a great revival in the Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. And in describing what had happened in the church, Wilbur Chapman said that the most valuable member of his congregation is a dear, sainted woman who is unable to leave her room and unable to leave her bed, but she intercedes for the unsaved and the unchurched by name; and when they are saved, she glorifies God for His intervention and salvation in their lives.
I am just saying that it is obvious why these things come to pass – what the Lord says is the most practical thing that you could think for. He is not speaking ephemerally way off there in some far off area of life that concerns us not at all. He is talking about things that work – prÃ¡gma – pragmatic things down here. And they do work. They do work.
After preparing this sermon this last week, I have sat myself to a thing that I cannot tell you what it is now because I am just praying and asking God for it. It concerns my sheep, my little herd. I have got me a whole herd now. It started off with a sheep. I have got a whole bunch of them now. But I am praying for something, and I am doing it in faith. And I think God’s going to bring it to pass, and when He does, it is going to be a marvelous thing, a wonderful thing. It pleases God that we ask.
Now, I have one other avowal: prayer carries with it our commitment to work for the request that we have made. It is a concomitant. It is a component. It is a part, an integral part, of it. When I pray, that means I have committed in my soul that I will work and labor to help God answer it. For example in Nehemiah, which is an instance of God’s great layman, God’s businessman, Nehemiah – you know, we think in terms of "the religion is a preacher." Gracious no. Some of the greatest saints of all time have been laymen, laywomen. Well, Nehemiah was one of them. Nehemiah 4:9: "We made our prayer unto God." Then the next verse, "So we labored in the work;" and the next verse, "Neither I nor my brethren, nor the men who followed me – none of us put off our clothes saving that everyone put them off for washing" [Nehemiah 4:9-23]. He prayed, and then he and his brethren worked day and night never even taking off their clothes. Look again, Jesus in Gethsemane in Matthew 26:42: He prayed saying, "Thy will be done." Now in the next verse, "Then cometh He to His disciples and sayeth unto them, ‘Rise, let us be going’" [Matthew 25:45-46]. Or look again, the apostles in Acts 4:29, "And now, Lord, grant unto Thy servants that with all boldness we may speak Thy word." Now the next verse, "And they spake the word of God with boldness" [Acts 4:31].
We close our prayers with an "amen." "Amen" at the end of the prayer – that is, "Let it be truly and verily, Lord, let it be. Amen." It is our affirmation. It is our commitment to the request we have made–"amen." Now, that is not something that I just conjured up out of my mind. I went through the Bible with that, and this is what I found such as Deuteronomy 27:14-26, verse 14: on mount Ebal, "The Levites shall speak, and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice," Then he goes down the commandments. Then the next verse, "Cursed be the man that maketh any graven image, which is an abomination unto the Lord,and all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’" All right, verse 16 is the next commandment, "And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’" And then the next commandment, "All the people shall say ‘Amen.’" It is a commitment to that Decalogue. And the eighteenth verse, and the nineteenth verse, and the twentieth verse, and the twenty-first verse, and the twenty-second, and the twenty-third, and the twenty-fourth and the twenty-fifth; and after every one of them, "And the people shall say, ‘Amen.’" We are affirming and committing ourselves to the Word of the Lord. And then the last verse, the twenty-sixth, "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’" It is a commitment to the prayer. In I Kings 1:, King David said:
Anoint Solomon my son, king over Israel: and blow ye the trumpet, and say, God save king Solomon,
And Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, answered the king and said,
"Amen: the Lord God of my lord the king say so, too."
[1 Kings 1:34-36]
And when Benaiah said that, he went out and with his sword and the men who were with him. They put down the rebellion of Joab and denied the throne to Adonijah whom they were seeking to make king over Israel. "Amen," and that carried with it the tremendous commitment.
In Revelation 3:14:
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write;
These things saith the Amen.
Jesus says, "My name is Amen":
Thus saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness,
I know thy works,As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and turn,
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne.
The "amen" carries with it a commitment to bring to pass with God these things for whom we have made request. Prayer always carries with it the commitment to work, to labor, to do, to strive.
A man prays for a house, "Lord, Lord, I want to a house!" and he says, "Amen!" with a hammer and a saw. Or he goes to the mortgage bankers, or he goes to the loan people, or he goes to the people who sell real estate; and he works in order that he might have a house, amen! And the man prays for a job, then he goes through all of the ads, and then he goes to the unemployment agencies, and he goes to the friends and employers, and he says, "Amen!" asking for a job. A man prays for a good wife, "Lord, Lord, give me a good wife, not one of these honky-tonky bar flies, not one of these pick-ups out on the street. Lord, give me a good wife!" And he joins the Singles Division of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and he gets him a good wife. Ha–at the 8:15 service two of the handsomest boys I have ever seen, young fellows came down, confessed their faith in the Lord and joined the church by baptism. And David Roddy, our singles leader, came and stood between them and he says, "Pastor this is what you’re preaching about. They are coming down here, and they are going to get two beautiful girls for wives." Lord, Lord, they are the smartest boys–none like them, none like them.
A man prays for the Christian conversion of the world then he supports marvelous missionary outreaches of our dear church and the man prays for a revival, "Lord, Lord!" And he gives himself to visitation, and invitation, and witnessing. He prays for revival and he comes, he attends. He prays for revival, and he brings prayer. All of us are here, and he prays for revival, and he brings his friends and his neighbors. He prays for revival, and he calls someone on the telephone. And he prays for revival, and he offers God his heart and his hand. Now that is what that text means. "Palin–As I have said before, I say to you again, if two," if two thousand, if twenty thousand "of you agree, symphonia, touching anything you shall ask, it will done of you of My Father in heaven."
O Lord what a day! What a marvel, a visitation, an intervention, an outpouring from heaven, if our people would do that simple and humble thing. Lord. Lord, we are asking God for a visitation from above, amen. And that means pouring our lives into the affirmation. And God does it. He wouldn’t deceive us or mislead us. His Word is true. He is faithful to keep every promise that He made. Now let us stand together.
Our Lord in heaven, as You look down upon these three thousand that are in God’s sanctuary today, O Master! Is it not in our hearts, a symphonia, an agreement? Lord, Lord, bear Thy strong arm to save. And in our praying, in our affirmation and our commitment may a revival break out. Lord, Lord, do it. Do it. Bless our dear people. Some of the saintliest people in God’s world are our fellow prayer partners. God bless everyone who pours into this evangelistic effort his best: these who sing, these who play, all of us who visit, who call, who attend. May it start right now Lord, with a gracious harvest. We’ve prayed, we’ve called, we’ve visited; we prepared for this invitation. Now Lord, honor our intercessions with a sweet response.
And while our people pray, in a moment when we sing and the family group up there in the balcony, there is time and to spare. Down one of those stairways, "Pastor, we are coming today. We are here." In the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, God has spoken to us and we are on the way." God love you, the angels attend you, the Holy Spirit sanctify and hallow that decision. And on the first note of the first stanza take that first step, God will do the rest. He will see you through. And our Lord, thank Thee for this sweet response of these who come, in Thy precious and saving name, amen. A thousand times welcome while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The text
1. Noun symphonia – harmony, music, agree, agreement(Luke 15:25)
2. Adjective symphonos – harmonious, agreeing with(1 Corinthians 7:5)
3. Verb symphoneo – to agree with, to agree together (Matthew 20:2, Acts 5:9, Luke 5:36, Acts 15:15)
B. "As touching, concerning" – peri
C. "The whole world" – pantos
D. "Thing" – pragma(2 Timothy 2:4, Luke 19:13)
II. Emphasis upon the agreement
A. Jesus is stating the strongest case possible
1. Two is the least number between whom there can be agreement
2. Emphasis is on the agreement, not the number of people
B. Agree as touching anything
1. Agree in our desires
2. Agree in the motive that gives birth to the desire
3. Agree in faith
4. Agree upon the specifics
5. Agree not just in asking but in everything essential to obtaining the blessing(Acts 2:1, 15:25, Romans 15:6)
III. Prayer carries with it our commitment to work for the requests we have made
A. Nehemiah(Nehemiah 4:9-23)
B. Jesus in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:42, 46)
C. The apostles (Acts 4:29, 31)
D. "Amen" is our affirmation (Deuteronomy 27:14-26, 1 Kings 1:33, 36, Revelation 3:14-15, 19, 21)