"It Is Time to Seek the Lord": or, How God Answers Prayer

 •  18 min. read  •  grade level: 11
WHAT a privilege is prayer! For the true believer to be able to look up to God, his Father, about all the circumstances of his daily life, is indeed a mercy beyond expression. To know that God hears, and loves to answer the requests of His children, according to His own wise will, is an unspeakable comfort. Remember the beautiful words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, how He said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father IN MY NAME, He will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing IN MY NAME: ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23, 2423And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:23‑24)).
The hearts of believers should therefore be strengthened to persevere in prayer. The response may not come precisely as we anticipate. It may be deferred for an apparently indefinite period, but it is bound to come if we trust in God, and are content to let Him manifest His grace towards us in His own perfect way.
How many Christian mothers and fathers have prayed for years and years for their wayward children, and at last the love of the eternal God has touched the heart of the wanderers, and brought them home in true contrition of soul to the loving hearts awaiting them? This is an everyday story, and only serves to intensify the beauty and tenderness of the Saviour’s incomparable parable, which tells of the son who “took his journey into a far country and there wasted his substance in riotous living.” Who has not followed that son with marvelous interest? Observed how “he began to be in want,” and how “he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country.” We have watched him alone and friendless. No one to care for him! No one apparently to save! “He began to be in want.” Poor fellow his old companions and friends had forsaken him. He was associated with the swine! The blue canopy of heaven was above him: but it was all silent, still, voiceless. “No man gave to him.” Ah! then it was “the old, old story” — “He came to himself.” Remembrances of his former happy home crowded into his memory. He begins at the very lowest place. The servants in his father’s house, how favored they were! They had “bread enough and to spare,” while he perished with hunger. Then the father himself came before his soul, and in the assurance of that undying love he speaks. God only is there to hear his words. The Spirit of the living God was working in his heart to produce that memorable confession, “I will arise and go to my father, and say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” We can picture that homeward journey. The rags and the utter ruin, until that moment “when he was yet a great way off his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him,” or “covered him with kisses” as it might be read. We all know the story of his reception, the “robe,” the “ring,” the “shoes on his feet,” and the “fatted calf” killed. Oh! no wonder they began to be merry. That divine merriment produced ever-widening circles until there was “joy,” too, IN THE PRESENCE of the Angels over that “one sinner” repenting. “This, my son, was dead, and is alive again: he was lost and is found, and they began to be merry.”
This lovely story is perpetually repeated in everyday life, under our very eyes. We have read of a loving mother who every dark winter night put a light in her window in order that her wandering sailor boy might be guided home to the old cottage, and after years and years of forgetfulness he came back to fill her old loving heart with joy.
We have also read of another, a widow, who went into the dark, sinful places of the great city searching for her erring daughter. In and out of the dreadful resorts, where she feared she was likely to be, she went and fixed little cards in prominent positions where they were likely to be seen, with the following inscription in her own handwriting thereon: “MARY, I LOVE YOU STILL!” Eventually Mary saw one. Recollections of the time when she knelt at that Godly mother’s knee and said.
“Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name,”
came back to her and broke her heart, and led her to acknowledge her sin, and to determine by God’s grace to leave her sinful life and to return to paths of purity and blessing and peace. When she went back to the humble dwelling far away from the sin and the shame of the awful city, she found that the heart of her devoted mother had never ceased to yearn intensely for her restoration, and at last her heart was filled with rejoicing as she received her child with open arms to the old familiar dwelling that she had known in days gone by.
That is so like God. He loves the sinner, whoever he or she may be, or whatever the depth of their iniquity: but He waits to hear the heartfelt confession, “I have sinned against Heaven.” This is the starting point for forgiveness and pardon and peace, and unending joy and blessing.
Besides, how much encouragement there is in the scriptures for the true children of God to continue earnestly in prayer. Luther said, “A man cannot be a true believer, a child of God, unless he be a man of prayer: for what the breath is to the body, prayer is to the soul,” and good Bishop Taylor said, “Prayer is God’s bell-rope down here. When I am sad I touch it, and there is an answering peal in heaven, and blessings descend on my soul. When as a redeemed sinner I am happy, I touch it, and the joy-bells ring in heaven, there is gladness in heaven.” But the Bible, God’s word, abounds with every possible certainty that the Christian ought to never give up, never to lose faith, and never despair: but to be assured that the Lord hears and answers prayer. That is a remarkable scripture addressed to God’s ancient people in Isa. 62:6, 76I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, 7And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. (Isaiah 62:6‑7), “Ye that make mention of the Lord,” says the prophet, “keep not silence, and GIVE HIM NO REST till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” If this were the encouragement and words, concerning Jehovah, to the Israelite, “GIVE HIM NO REST,” what should it be for God’s children now, to whom He has given His Blessed Spirit, through whom they can come with boldness to ask continually every needed mercy?
In the same prophecy there is another very beautiful and wonderful scripture, because it tells of the grace so boundless and free that is ready to stream forth from God Himself on behalf of the needy suppliant. Listen to it! The Lord says, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I THE LORD WILL HEAR THEM, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water” (Isa. 41:17, 1817When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. 18I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. (Isaiah 41:17‑18)).
God has not changed: He is the same today as when He gave these wonderful promises in ages long ago. It is beautiful to note about Abraham, that God had no sooner called him out from his country and his kindred into the plain of Moreh, than “there he builded an altar unto the Lord, who appeared to him,” and it is written, “So Abraham prayed unto God” (Gen. 20:1717So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. (Genesis 20:17)). Then, again, Abraham’s steward, Eliezer, is it not lovely to watch him as he arrives near to “the city of Nahor,” whither he had gone to do his master’s bidding. We are told that “he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water, and he said, O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham,” and he prayed in terms so pathetically simple that God would direct the right damsel to appear, and so she did, for “it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out.” We cannot be surprised that the Lord so soon answered the earnest, humble prayer of this faithful man, who was satisfied to be able to say simply, “I am Abraham’s servant” (Gen. 24:3434And he said, I am Abraham's servant. (Genesis 24:34)).
How often, too, during the life of Jacob, did he turn to God in earnest supplication. His ways were often wayward, and yet from the day when he left the old home to travel to Padan-Aram, it seemed that his true resource was in God alone, From the night when the Lord spoke to him at Bethel, and he awoke, saying, “How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven,” until many long years after he returned, and “there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day,” and Jacob said to the man with whom he wrestled, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” All through that strange and eventful record Jacob constantly turned to God, and there is undoubted evidence that He heard and answered and blessed him: indeed, in this instance, the word came to him instantly, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince HAST THOU POWER WITH GOD, AND WITH MEN, AND HAST PREVAILED” (Gen. 32:2828And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. (Genesis 32:28)).
Who can read the prayer of Nehemiah without being impressed with the deep reality of this servant of the Lord? Listen to his touching utterances. “Let Thine ear be attentive,” he says to God, “and Thine eyes open, that Thou mayest hear the prayer of Thy servant, which I pray before Thee now . . . and prosper, I pray Thee, Thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cup-bearer,” and the prophet’s prayer was answered, for as he stood before Artaxerxes, the king noticed his countenance, and said, “For what dost thou make request?” and in an instant Nehemiah’s heart was up to God to give him the right answer, as he says, “So I prayed to the God of Heaven!”
How blessed it was also for David to pray. “Unto Thee will I pray,” he says. “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord: in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee and will look up. I sought the Lord and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears,” says the sweet singer of Israel. We might also tell of Solomon, Ezra, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and many other men of faith and prayer in days of old, around whom God threw the shield of His everlasting care and protecting love.
His dealings with the prophet Daniel are especially and singularly beautiful. It is written that “He went into his house: and his windows being open toward Jerusalem, he KNEELED UPON HIS KNEES three times a day and prayed, and gave thanks before his God” (Dan. 6:1010Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. (Daniel 6:10)). In a later chapter we are able to listen to his supplications. He says, “O my God, incline Thine ear and hear: open Thine eyes and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by Thy name: for we do not present our supplications before Thee for our righteousness, but for Thy great mercies. O Lord, hear: O Lord, forgive: O Lord, hearken and do: defer not, for Thine own sake, O my God: for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name” (Dan. 9:18, 1918O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. 19O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name. (Daniel 9:18‑19)). These are the pathetic and tender words of this great prophet. Would the Lord refuse such an entreaty? Would He turn a deaf ear to such an earnest cry? Surely not! for what does the Man of God say? Oh, listen to the story! “Yea, whiles I WAS SPEAKING IN PRAYER, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being CAUSED TO FLY SWIFTLY, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I have now come forth to give thee skill and understanding, AT THE BEGINNING of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee: for thou art greatly beloved” (Dan. 9:20-2320And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; 21Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. 22And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. 23At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. (Daniel 9:20‑23)): and the prophet adds that afterwards “There came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, and said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened” (Dan. 10:18, 1918Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, 19And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me. (Daniel 10:18‑19)). Such was the manner in which Jehovah heard and answered the prayers of His servant, the exile of Babylon.
What blessings would come down upon those for whom we pray, if God heard such earnest, direct, and wonderful prayers as Daniel’s straight from the yearning hearts of His children now. Too often, alas! we are like the disciples who were assembled in “the house of Mary, the mother of John,” as recorded in Acts 12. There it is written, “Many were gathered together praying,” and yet when Peter, who had been miraculously extricated from prison, “knocked at the door of the gate, the damsel Rhoda came to hearken,” and “when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in and told them Peter stood before the gate.” . . . But Peter continued knocking, and when they had opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. They could not believe in such an immediate answer to their prayers. It seemed so impossible: although they had prayed, they had left God greatly out of it, so much so that at first, in answer to the damsel Rhoda, they replied, “Thou art mad,” but she, constantly affirming that it was even so, then said they, “It is his Angel.” They would rather believe in the appearance of an apparition, than give credit to the fact that the Eternal God could cause the chains to fall from off His servant’s hands, and the iron gates to open of their own accord, or that the Apostle might be free once more to serve his Lord, and to rejoin those true and simple disciples “who were gathered together praying.”
We have referred to all these cheering examples of the blessedness and privilege of prayer, because lately we have heard of many instances in which God has so distinctly heard the continued prayers of His people. An old woman was recently visited. Poor and paralyzed, she could not attend her usual place of worship: but she told the young Christian who called upon her that she was “always very definite with the Lord.” She mentioned to Him exactly what she wanted, and although she was living alone in one room, without many friends, yet the delight of being “definite with the Lord” seemed to be very real to the aged believer, and to fill her heart with “joy unspeakable,” because, as she put it, she could “always talk to the Lord.”
We heard, too, some time ago of another Christian who lost a most valuable Bible. It was a presentation book, and had been made most useful by many marginal notes. For years he prayed for its recovery, and at last God converted a wild young fellow, who brought the very Bible to a Bible class. It had been lent to him for the occasion, but the name McVicker and an inscription were in it, and through these it reached the owner, whose heart was filled with gratitude for this gracious and remarkable answer to prayer. We know, too, how George Muller prayed every day for forty-five years for the conversion of one person, but as we write we cannot remember if he received an answer to these many years of prayer, before he was called home.
We are acquainted with a devoted father and mother who continually pray for their son, a young fellow who has heard the gospel for years and years, and yet who treads the path of sorrow and sin, and is now, although quite young, an apparently hopeless drunkard. We are certain that God will yet hear the agonized entreaty of these devoted Christian parents, and let them see their son saved front the power of sin through the precious blood of Christ, and “clothed and in his right mind,” like the man who had been possessed with the devil as described in Mark 5.
We have, furthermore, been led to dwell so much upon the holy privilege of prayer, because we recently heard of a beautiful instance of the way in which God is pleased, sometimes immediately, to answer the prayers of believing parents, and so we thought it might be an encouragement to others to continue “instant in prayer” (Rom. 12:1212Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; (Romans 12:12)).
It was in a lovely village in Devonshire that a mother and father were made exceedingly anxious for the conversion of their son. He had a companion who knew and loved the Lord. He very often talked to his friend about Christ and about God’s great salvation, but nothing seemed to move him. Very often his mother earnestly pleaded with him both for his own soul’s eternal welfare, and also for the joy and blessing of knowing Christ as his own Saviour, and having Him as his guide and counsellor and friend: but it all seemed to be of no avail. The father and mother waited upon God continually, asking Him by His Spirit to open the blind eyes of their son to see beauty in Christ, and to lead him by the tender love of the Lord in laying down His life for him, to believe on Him, and to trust Him for his present and eternal blessing: but he was deaf to every entreaty, and at times appeared ready to deliberately reject the Gospel. This was a grief and a sorrow to these loving, tender-hearted parents, that only those who truly love the Lord can fully understand. God’s time had, however, well-nigh come, for one night there was a harvest festival at the chapel, and John was in some way induced to attend. The preacher was a most earnest man, and took for his text the words:
He told his hearers not only of the earthly harvest that was ended, but of that harvest of judgment that awaits the impenitent and unsaved. “The harvest is passed: the summer is ended,” emphasized the preacher, “and we are not saved.” Our friend’s soul was troubled at these words. He knew it was true of him, and he went home convicted in his soul and terribly anxious. The realities of eternity stared him in the face, and try how he might, he could not get rid of them. All that night he was burdened with the sense of sin, and he dared not sleep until the matter was settled. Monday morning came, and he was up as usual very early. His mother noticed the expression of deep concern upon his face, but felt it was best to leave him alone with God. She felt certain that God’s Holy Spirit was dealing with her beloved boy, and she felt it was too solemn for her to add any human help just then to His Divine instrumentality, and so the father and son started off together, with their tools upon their backs, to engage in the ordinary occupations of the day. The sun had hardly risen, and it was in the quiet country road as they walked silently along that John at length turned to his father and just told him how in his heart he longed to be saved. The son confessed he was a sinner, but that Christ had died. He acknowledged he deserved death and judgment, but Christ was risen. By faith he looked away to the Saviour, and light broke in upon the young fellow’s soul. “IT IS TIME TO SEEK THE LORD, father,” he said: “now is the time”: and there at the dawning of the day they laid their tool baskets down by the side of the road, and knelt together in holy, solemn, wonderfully blessed prayer. Reader, that young man had “passed from death into life.” Have you? He began to learn the joys of salvation, and has been discovering more and more of its wonders ever since. He lives now to serve the Saviour and to glorify His adorable Name. Do you, reader? Is there any melody in the Name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to you?
That father and devoted mother are thanking God for hearing their prayers for their son, and rest assured of this, that he will never forget the prayer-meeting by the roadside, for he could say that morning, as did Jacob on his journey to Laban, “This is none other but the House of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” “Behold, now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:22(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) (2 Corinthians 6:2)).
“Love of God, so pure and changeless,
Blood of Christ, so rich and free;
Grace of God, so rich and boundless,
Magnify it all in me,—
Even me.”