|Home Page||Grace Baptist Church
Save file: MP3 - WMA - View related sermons Click here
TEXT: Matthew 6:9-13
SUBJECT: Baxter on Prayer
Tonight, with the Lord's blessing, we'll continue our study of the works of Richard Baxter. He was a Puritan pastor who wrote thousands of pages to help people live for Christ. Thus far, we've read him on Christian love, on backsliding, on the love of money, on public worship, and on reading the Bible.
Now we'll see what he has to say about prayer. It's in his Christian Directory and takes up about two pages. My hope is that it will help you to pray more, to pray better, and to love that God Who hears prayer.
IF YOU WANT TO PRAY BETTER, KNOW GOD BETTER.
"Labor above all to know that God to Whom you pray...as all-sufficient for your relief, in the infiniteness of His power, wisdom, and goodness...and as your [Chief Happiness]".
You all pay lip service to these things. But do you believe them? If you believed in His Almighty Power, you'd ask Him for big things. If you believed in His Infinite Love, you'd pray for them in faith. If you believed His Fellowship is your highest Happiness, you wouldn't think prayer is such a drag. In short, if you knew God better, you'd pray more and better and with a heart full of faith, hope, and love.
The best way to "know God better" is to read the Bible. And to meditate on the God revealed in it. When you don't have a Bible with you, think on what you've read before. When you can't think of anything, just open your eyes! "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork". The size, complexity, beauty and order of Creation reveals a God Who knows how to help you and has plenty of power to do it.
This is what Jeremiah did. God told him that Israel would return to the land. But at the time, it seemed impossible. Till the prophet looked up. Then he knew better. And prayed...
"Ah LORD God!
Behold, You have made
the heavens and the earth
by Your great power and
There is nothing to hard
Problems seem to big to pray about...till we see God "high and lifted up". Sins seem to bad to confess...till we see God "giving His only begotten son". The Two Books of God--Scripture and Nature--reveal a Sovereign God who is Love. And stir us up to pray.
What was said in another connection, applies also to prayer. "The people who know their God will be strong and do exploits".
IF YOU WANT TO PRAY BETTER, INCREASE YOUR FAITH.
"Labor when you are about to pray, to stir in your souls most lively and serious belief of those unseen things that your prayers have respect to; and pray as if you saw them all the while; as if you saw God in His glory and Jesus Christ your Mediator interceding for you in the heavens. As you would pray if your eyes beheld all these, so strive to pray while you believe them, and say to yourself, `Are they not as if I saw them?'"
What would the vision of Jesus Christ, glorified at God's Right Hand, do for your prayer life? Do you think you'd pray with more reverence? With deeper humility? Do you think you'd pray for selfish things? Do you think you'd complain about His sovereignty? Do you think you'd conceal your sins?
You wouldn't. When Isaiah saw the Lord in glory, He overcome with a sense of unworthiness. And felt an eager desire to do whatever He commanded.
Now, it's not likely that your eyeballs will see the Lord. But so what? He's there. And exalted--whether you see Him or not! The job of faith is to see the truth without your eyes.
If you did, you'd praise, thank, and pray to Him with a new vigor.
IF YOU WANT TO PRAY BETTER, THINK ABOUT YOUR WEAKNESSES AND SINS.
"Labor for a constant acquaintance with yourselves and manifold needs".
Unfallen, man is weak and dependent on God. Every breath you take is a gift of God--a gift He's not obliged to give. If you knew that, you'd pray a lot more than you do. And more fervently too. Don't you pray better when you're sick? Or in danger? Sure you do. And here's why: You feel your need. But you're just as needy when you don't feel it. Peter needed the Lord as much when he stood on the ground as when he walked on the water. He just didn't realize it.
"Without Me you can do nothing" said our Lord. Think about that and you'll pray better.
You're not only to think of your weakness, but also your sin and guilt.
"Know well what sin is, and what God's wrath and hell and judgments are, and what sin you have committed, and what duty you have omitted, and what corruptions are yet within you, and what mercy and grace you stand in need of, and all this will make you pray and pray with purpose".
The Pharisee may pray often and tastefully, but he'll never pray acceptably. Why not? Because the only sacrifice God wants is "A broken and contrite heart". Without it, you're not praying at all.
Don't wallow in your sin as though it were greater than God can forgive. But call it to mind, confess it, feel your unworthiness to stand before such Holiness, and find washing in the Blood of Christ.
Nothing hinders prayer more than human pride. And nothing is more proud than thinking you're sufficient and pretty good. You're not.
IF YOU WANT TO PRAY BETTER, BE HONEST.
"See that you hate hypocrisy and let not your lips go against your heart. Do not love the sin you pray against; truly desire the grace you ask for; and be not like those lazy wishers who pray God to give them increase in harvest while they lie in bed...Oh! What an abundance of wretches offer up mock prayers to God".
The words are painful, aren't they? "Mock prayers". Saying our prayers the way an actor says his lines. We love the sins we confess. We pray for grace--but don't really want it. We say "Make us witnesses for You", but have no intention of doing anything about it.
Don't you hate to be lied to? Especially when you know the other person knows you know? We know God knows our hypocrisy. But we put on the show for Him any way! Hell doesn't have a hot enough place for such people. God forgive us! And give us grace to be honest. Really.
IF YOU WANT TO PRAY BETTER, PAY ATTENTION TO THE THINGS THAT DRAW YOU AWAY FROM GOD.
"Search your hearts and watch them carefully, lest some beloved vanity alienate you from your [prayers] and turn away your thoughts and affections".
The key word here is "vanity". Baxter doesn't say "sin". For it's not only "bad things" that take us away from prayer, but "good things" too. Our Lord named some, "Cares of the world and the pleasures of this life". There's nothing wrong with thinking about your bills or with planning a vacation. In their place. But they mustn't dominate your thoughts and take you away from God.
This is a hard one. Just this week, my own prayers have been terribly distracted. What do you do about it? Turn the concerns into prayers, Philippians 4:6.
IF YOU WANT TO PRAY BETTER, PRAY FOR WHAT GOD WANTS.
"Be sure that you pray for nothing that is disagreeable to the will of God and that is not for your good, the good of others, and the honor of God".
This speaks for itself. James said, "You ask and receive not because you ask amiss, to consume it upon your lusts". Ask yourself, "What am I praying for most of the time?" Is it what you want? Or what God wants for you? The two coincide at times--but not always.
Read the Bible and find out what God wants. Pray for it.
IF YOU WANT TO PRAY BETTER, WORK AT IT.
"Labor hard to keep a reverent, serious, fervent frame and do not allow your prayers to grow lax and cold and a lip-labor".
You don't expect someone to have a strong, muscular body without hard work. You shouldn't expect your prayers to be fervent and holy without working at it. And working hard. Paul wants us to labor and strive in prayer.
Bad praying is often the result of pure laziness. You've got to repent of that if you want to pray better.
IF YOU WANT TO PRAY BETTER, USE THE LORD'S PRAYER.
"For the matter and order of your desires and prayers, take the Lord's prayer as your special rule; and labor to understand it".
Baxter is not saying "Recite the Lord's Prayer" (though there's nothing wrong with that). Rather, he's saying, "Use it as a model". Pray for the things mentioned in it; and in the same order; for the same reasons; and so on.
|Home Page |
Sermons provided by www.GraceBaptist.ws