(N.B. This post is not about Romania. If you want to read about my travels, read what I wrote yesterday or stay tuned for more later in the week)
‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
I decided to start my day off with a little bit of Spurgeon. Ok, ok. I’ll be honest. I didn’t wake up thinking, “Oh, I just really want to read a little Spurgeon.” I did, however, want to read something, and I just happened to stumble upon this little nugget.
There are different translations of these words. One version renders it, “I will shew thee great and fortified things.” Another, “Great and reserved things.” Now, there are reserved and special things in Christian experience: all the developments of spiritual life are not alike easy of attainment. There are the common frames and feelings of repentance, and faith, and joy, and hope, which are enjoyed by the entire family; but there is an upper realm of rapture, of communion, and conscious union with Christ, which is far from being the common dwelling-place of believers. We have not all the high privilege of John, to lean upon Jesus’ bosom; nor of Paul, to be caught up into the third heaven. There are heights in experimental knowledge of the things of God which the eagle’s eye of acumen and philosophic thought hath never seen: God alone can bear us there; but the chariot in which he takes us up, and the fiery steeds with which that chariot is dragged, are prevailing prayers. Prevailing prayer is victorious over the God of mercy, “By his strength he had power with God: yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Beth-el, and there he spake with us.” Prevailing prayer takes the Christian to Carmel, and enables him to cover heaven with clouds of blessing, and earth with floods of mercy. Prevailing prayer bears the Christian aloft to Pisgah, and shows him the inheritance reserved; it elevates us to Tabor and transfigures us, till in the likeness of his Lord, as he is, so are we also in this world. If you would reach to something higher than ordinary grovelling experience, look to the Rock that is higher than you, and gaze with the eye of faith through the window of importunate prayer. When you open the window on your side, it will not be bolted on the other.
I liked this concept about prevailing prayer, and I wanted to read more about it. Well, if you are unfamiliar with Spurgeon, let me just say he has a lot of good things to say on prayer, which made finding the entirety of this text pretty much impossible. However, there are a few things I like about this text. The first is it reminds us Jeremiah 33:3 is true–call out to God, and He will answer. The second is growth comes through prayer and actually spending time with God. In fact, certainly levels of growth/depth/whatever word you want to use can only be obtained through diligent prayer.
However, these thoughts still leave us with the question, “What, exactly, is prevailing prayer?” I think this answer can be summed up with 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Like anything you learn, when you start to study Christianity and issues of faith, there are many things you have to accept at face value and then discover the “why” at some later point. Prayer is one of those things. You learn pretty quickly prayer is extremely important in a Christian’s life. We are told prayer is powerful, and, if you are looking, you see how and when prayer works. However, at some point, we all begin to ask why. Why is prayer important? Why is prevailing prayer important? Why is it God’s will for us to always rejoice, continually pray, and always give thanks?
As someone who has studied science, I’m a firm believer that good questions lead to a few answers and even more questions. Questions should be asked again from time to time and re-evaluated. Once we gain knowledge, asking a question again leads to a greater understanding. I love why questions, and my response to answers to these questions is usually, “But, why?” I’m very rarely satisfied with simple answers, especially if I can see the topic is much deeper. However, Spurgeon provide a simple, yet satisfying answer to these questions.
THE position of our text is very suggestive. Observe what it follows. It comes immediately after the precept, “Rejoice evermore;” as if that command had somewhat staggered the reader, and made him ask “How can I always rejoice?” and, therefore, the apostle appended as answer, “Always pray.” The more praying the more rejoicing. Prayer gives a channel to the pent-up sorrows of the soul, they flow away, and in their stead streams of sacred delight pour into the heart. At the same time the more rejoicing the more praying; when the heart is in a quiet condition, and full of joy in the Lord, then also will it be sure to draw nigh unto the Lord in worship. Holy joy and prayer act and react upon each other.
Observe, however, what immediately follows the text: “In everything give thanks.” When joy and prayer are married their first born child is gratitude. When we joy in God for what we have, and believingly pray to him for more, then our souls thank him both in the enjoyment of what we have, and in the prospect of what is yet to come. Those three texts are three companion pictures, representing the life of a true Christian, the central sketch is the connecting link between those on either side. These three precepts are an ornament of grace to every believer’s neck, wear them every one of you, for glory and for beauty; “Rejoice evermore;” “Pray without ceasing;” “in everything give thanks.”
Prayer must be coupled with rejoicing in what God has done, is doing, and will do in our lives. Praying with this perspective forces us to remember all of His promises. How do we know if a promise has been fulfilled unless we constantly remind ourselves what those promises actually are? This constant reminder eventually lends itself to us seeing the promises of God fulfilled. Seeing the fulfillment has two very natural results. The first, which Spurgeon suggests in the above text is gratitude. Being thankful for what God had done in your life is essential for peace, joy, and happiness because your perspective is based on the blessings you are receiving as opposed to what God hasn’t done yet.
The second result is increased faith. For most of us, it is much easier to believe God will do something when we have seen Him do it before (and, if you are like me, it takes a lot of times for it to really stick). But, how does this all lead to greater revelation of God, a deeper experience of His presence? In my experience, increased faith increases our desire to be in God’s presence. When we actively seek God’s presence, we can’t help but have a greater unity with Christ. It is in the place of unity in which God reveals those “great and unsearchable things,” because we have positioned ourselves close enough to actually hear what He has to say, we can discern His voice from all others, and we actually believe what He says.
It takes time and dedication to get to this place, not because we must prove ourselves to God, but because we must overcome the obstacles we put in our own way. Me must overcome our misgivings and doubts. We must believe what is true over what we feel to be true. Above all, we must allow Truth to actually transform our lives, instead of living from one experience to another.
If you find yourself in a difficult situation, try rejoicing and giving thanks. If you don’t know what you are supposed to do next, pray, because it is through God alone that we receive wisdom and gain knowledge to the unanswerable questions. If you want to deepen your relationship with God or increase your faith, pray, rejoice, and give thanks. You can only see promises fulfilled if you actually know what the promises are.