Make It a Matter of Prayer
October 4th, 1987 @ 8:15 AM
1 Thessalonians 5:17-25
MAKE IT A MATTER OF PRAYER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-4-87 8:15 a.m.
Welcome again to the multitudes who share the hour on radio. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Make it a Matter of Prayer.
The first letter that Paul ever wrote to a church is 1 Thessalonians, written to the church in the capital city of Macedonia, Thessalonica. And in my Bible, as I turn the pages of this first letter, and then soon followed by his second letter, on every page, and sometimes three and four times on a page, the apostle will mention prayer. For example:
- In 1 Thessalonians 1:2: “We give thanks to God for you, making mention of you in our prayers.”
- In the next chapter: “For this cause we thank God without ceasing, for you” [1 Thessalonians 2:13].
- In the next chapter: “Night and day exceedingly praying” [1 Thessalonians 3:10].
- In the following chapter: “Pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17].
- The next verse, 23: “The very God of peace sanctify you; and I pray God your body and soul and spirit be blameless before the coming of the Lord” [1 Thessalonians 5:23].
- Two verses down: “Brethren, pray for us” [1 Thessalonians 5:25].
- I turn the page into this second letter, chapter 1, verse 11: “We pray always for you” [2 Thessalonians 1:11].
- In the next chapter, “We are bound to give thanks always to God for you” [2 Thessalonians 2:13].
- And in the next chapter, “Finally, brethren, pray for us” [2 Thessalonians 3:1].
And the text: “Pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17].
That does not mean that we are always to be on our knees in formal supplication. In Luke 11:1, the chapter begins, “When our Lord ceased praying, His disciples came and said, Lord, teach us to pray.” What it means is that we are to seek the face of God and the blessing and presence of our Lord in all of the vicissitudes and providences of life. Everything is to be made a matter of prayer.
When you are weary in body and soul,
Cumbered with many a care;
When work is claiming its strength—taking toll,
Make it a matter of prayer.
When you’re discouraged, distraught and dismayed,
Sinking almost in despair,
Remember there’s One who will come to your aid,
If you will make it a matter of prayer.
And when you are lost in the world’s tangled maze,
And life seems a helpless affair,
Direction will come for all of your ways,
If you’ll make it a matter of prayer.
[from “Make it a Matter of Prayer,” Edna R. Brown, in Bible Monitor,
Vol XXI, June 15, 1943, No. 12]
Someone could well observe, “That is an admission of inadequacy and insufficiency and inability.” We would be the first to confirm that observation and avowal. It is because we are weak, it is because we don’t know what to do, it is because of our lack and frailty that we bring our poor souls to God and ask His blessing and His remembrance of us. Like Abraham, who says, “Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak unto Thee, I who am but dust and ashes” [Genesis 18:27]. And the providences of life, the vicissitudes of life, bring us to our knees. Who is sufficient for all of the overwhelming sorrows and hurts that come into daily experience?
The Lord closed His great Sermon on the Mount with the parable of the two men: one built his house on the sand, and the floods rose, and the storms beat, and the winds blew. Then He says, “The second man built his house on a rock. And the floods rose, and the storms came, and the winds blew” [Matthew 7:24-27]. You know what is remarkable to me about that parable is not so much that one man built his house on the sand and was destroyed, and the other one built his house on the rock and was saved; what’s remarkable to me about that parable is that both men built their houses in the way of a flood, and of a storm, and of the maelstrom of a hurricane. That’s life: however we may be, whatever our status, whatever our poverty or influence, however great or small, all of us build our houses in the path of a storm and of a flood. And these providences inevitably and inexorably come. We need God.
“Pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. We are encouraged to pray by the Word of the Lord, by this infallible and inerrant Book.
- Jeremiah 33:3: “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
- Luke 11: “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For he that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh, for him it shall be opened” [Luke 11:9-10].
- In the fourteenth chapter of John: “Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I give you” [John 14:13].
- In the fourth chapter of Philippians: “Be careful, be anxious for nothing: but in everything with prayer and supplication make your requests known to God” [Philippians 4:6].
We are encouraged to pray by the Word of the Lord.
We are encouraged to pray by the example of God’s saints.
- When the angels went on their way to destroy the cities of the plain, Abraham stood yet before the Lord [Genesis 18:22-33].
- At the River Jabbok, Jacob wrestled with God in prayer before meeting the face of his angry brother Esau, and named the place Peniel, “I have seen God’s face” [Genesis 32:30].
- Hannah, barren and sterile, asked God for a child [1 Samuel 1:11].
- Elijah knelt before the Lord, crying, “O God, hear me, hear me” [1 Kings 18:37].
- Jesus prayed for us in that high priestly prayer of John 17:20-26. Jesus is “able to save to the uttermost, seeing He ever, maketh intercession for us” [Hebrews 7:25].
We are encouraged to pray by the example of God’s saints and by the beautiful intercessory remembrance of our wonderful Lord.
And we are encouraged to pray by the very stupendous assignment God has given to us, placed in our hands, assigned for our task. Who is equal to it? O Lord, who is able?
When I was about eighteen years of age, I was pastor of a beautiful little village church in Coryell County called White Mound. There in a large, large churchyard surrounded by a fence was that beautiful country church with two white columns in front of it, and then on this side an open tabernacle, and then just beyond on that same churchyard the parsonage. For about the first ten years of my pastoral work, I was single; I was not married. So the parsonage was empty. Once a year, and it was an annual event, once a year, the church had a tremendous revival under that open tabernacle. And some of the finest evangelists in the earth were there in those annual revivals to conduct them. But this year they asked their young new pastor to conduct those services. And when Sunday night came, the first night of the revival, I stood there by the tabernacle in that large churchyard, and the people were pouring in from the ends of the earth. They came by horseback, they came by buggy, they came by wagon, they came by T-model Ford, they came by foot. It seemed to me the whole earth was gathering for that revival. The singer for the meeting was a young fellow by the name of Fred Swank. And I turned to Fred Swank—Dr. McLaughlin for a while was the music leader and the educational director with Fred Swank in the only church he ever pastored, one he pastored about forty-five or more years—I turned to him and I said, “My heart fails me. I don’t think I can preach to this vast throng. I feel so feeble and unable.” The great throng frightened me. He put his arm around me and said, “You come with me”; and he took me to the back of that empty parsonage, and sat me down on one of the three steps that rose from the ground to the kitchen backdoor. He turned in his Bible to 1 Peter 5, and read verses 6 and 7: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due season: Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” [1 Peter 5:6-7]. Then he knelt down and prayed for me. God in heaven bowed down to hear; and He poured out His Spirit upon that wonderful revival.
That was then. This is now. I was called as pastor of this blessed church in September of 1944. Dr. Truett, the great world-famed preacher, had died the sixth of July, the month before. And my first sermon delivered to the church as its pastor was the first Sunday in October. And when I finished the sermon, I knelt down on the right side of this sacred pulpit desk; I knelt down and prayed. The people had never seen anyone kneel in the pulpit to pray. And when I knelt down and began to pray, the great throng in this sanctuary began quietly to cry; just crying before the Lord as we asked God’s presence and God’s blessing upon the ministry that lay ahead. And when the service was over, Bob Coleman, who was Dr. Truett’s assistant for over forty years, put his hand around my shoulder, his arm around my shoulder, and he said, “Young pastor, this is your anniversary.” He said, “I have never been in a service like this, not in my long life.” And from that sacred moment until this, we have cast ourselves upon the kind providences and goodnesses and grace of our Lord, asking Him to be with us, and to bless us, and to strengthen us, and to help us. And that is our commitment to our dear Lord this holy and heavenly day.
God, remember us. God, stand by us. God, hear us as we pray; and may the beautiful song, the anthem sung by our wonderful choir, to You, Lord, praise and honor and glory forever and ever and ever, world without end! Amen! Amen!
As we sing our hymn of appeal, a family you to come into the fellowship of our dear church; a couple you, placing your home in the hand of Christ; a one somebody you, accepting Jesus as Savior; as the Lord shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. Make it now. Come now, on the first note of this first stanza, and angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.