Persevering Private Prayer: A Test of True Faith

Job 27:8-10
       For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him? Will he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God?

JONATHAN EDWARDS (1703-1758): If you are one of those who has forsaken God and left off calling upon His name, you have the judgment of God and the sentence of God in the Scriptures against you.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): The hypocrite is often exposed here. An unsound heart will be meddling with prayer now and then, but grows weary of the work at last, especially if he be made to wait long for an answer. Saul prays to God, and because he hears not from Him, goes at last to seek the devil (I Samuel 28:6,7).

JONATHAN EDWARDS: When a hypocrite has had his false conversion, in his mind his wants are already supplied and his desires are already answered. So he finds no further business at the throne of grace. He was never sensible that he had any other needs but that of being safe from hell. And now that he is converted (as he thinks) that need is supplied. Why, then, should he still go on to resort to the throne of grace with earnest requests? He is out of danger; all that he was afraid of has been removed…While he was under awakenings, he had this to stir him up to go to God in prayer: he was in continual fear of hell. This put him to cry to God for mercy. But since, in his opinion, he is converted, he has no further business about which to go to God. And although he may keep up the duty of prayer in the outward form a little while, for fear of spoiling his hope, yet he will find it a dull business of continuing it without any need or necessity; and so by degrees he will drop the practice.

BROWNLOW NORTH (1810-1875): There can be no real prayer where there is no sense of need.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Will he always call upon God? No, he prays himself weary of praying; something or other will, in time, make him quarrel with that which he never inwardly liked; whereas the sincere believer hath that in him which makes it impossible he should quite give over praying, except he should also cease believing: prayer is the very breath of faith; stop a man’s breath, and where is he then?

JONATHAN EDWARDS: Hypocrites never had the spirit of prayer given them. They may have been stirred up to the external performance of this duty, and that with a great deal of earnestness and affection, and yet always have been destitute of the true spirit of prayer. The spirit of prayer is an holy spirit, a gracious spirit. We read of the spirit of grace and supplication, Zechariah 12:10: I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplication. Wherever there is a true spirit of supplication, there is the spirit of grace…True Christian prayer is the faith and reliance of the soul breathed forth into words. But a hypocrite is without the spirit of faith.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Faith enables the soul to persevere in prayer.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): I remember the observation of an old Divine, and it is not too strongly expressed: “It is impossible for a man to be godly, who neglects secret devotion, and next to impossible that he should ever become so.” To which he adds, “You may as well talk of a wise fool, a wicked saint, a sober drunkard, or an honest thief, as of a prayerless Christian!”

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): If we are prayerless, we are Christless.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): A life of faith will ever be a life of prayer.

JOHN ANGELL JAMES (1785-1869): Prayer is the first step in the divine life, prayer is the second, prayer is the third, and indeed necessary through the whole Christian course.

WILLIAM JAY: If this witness be true, what are we to think of many who make some pretensions to religion! Their lives are full of action, and void of thought. They visit the temple, and are ever hearing sermons; but they are shy of the closet.

JONATHAN EDWARDS: I would exhort those who have entertained a hope of their being true converts, and yet since their supposed conversion have left off the duty of secret prayer and ordinarily allow themselves in the omission of it to throw away their hope. If you have left off calling upon God, it is time for you to leave off hoping and flattering yourselves with an imagination that you are the children of God…
      It is probable that some of you who have entertained a good opinion of your state and have looked upon yourselves as converts, but have lately in a great measure left off the duty of secret prayer, will this evening attend secret prayer, and continue to do so for a little while after your hearing this sermon. And your end in doing so is that you may solve the difficulty and the objection which is made against the truth of your hope. But this will not hold―what you now hear will have such effect upon you only for a little while. The business and cares of the world shall again begin to crowd a little upon you…after a while, you will come to the same pass again as before in casting off fear and restraining prayer before God.
      It is not very likely that you will ever be constant and persevering in this duty until you obtain a better principle in your hearts. The streams which have no springs to feed them will dry up. The drought and heat consume the snow waters…The seed that is sown in stony places, though it seems to flourish at present, yet, as the sun shall rise with a burning heat, will wither away. None will bring forth good fruit with patience but those whose hearts have become good ground.

C. H. SPURGEON: But if thou art right at heart, thou wilt be able to say, “I could not live without prayer; I have to weep over my prayers, but still I should weep ten times more if I did not pray…and when my heart is busy with the world’s affairs, it is often going up to His throne.” A good sign, Christian, a good sign for thee; if thou canst go through this test, thou mayest hope that all is well.


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