Simple Papers on the Church of God: Part 18, Prayer and Prayer Meetings

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But further, since unlimited power was at His command to do whatsoever they asked, He proceeded to tell them on what conditions, all their requests would be granted. " If ye abide in Me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:77If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7)) Conforming to these conditions-for they are conditions-they could reckon on asking the right things, and could be sure of receiving an answer. For, if abiding in Christ, and His words abiding in them, they would be in the full current of God's thoughts, and hence their desires would be quite in conformity with His mind. Further, He added, " Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you." (John 15:1616Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (John 15:16)) Here He again lays down conditions, and mentions the name of the One to whom they were to address themselves, which as yet in this discourse He had not stated. And now one more point had to be noticed, ere His instructions on the subject of prayer were completed; viz., the time from whence they might begin thus to pray. "At that day," i.e. after His resurrection, " ye shall ask in my name; and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God." (John 16:26,2726At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. (John 16:26‑27)) Familiar personal intercourse with the Lord as man upon the earth would cease; for He would be no longer present with them in the manner that He had been. They would therefore in that day ask nothing of Him; but whatsoever they should ask the Father in His name, the Father would give them. (John 16:2323And 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. (John 16:23)) So direct was to be their intercourse with the Father, and such a valid plea would they be able always to urge before Him.
Four distinct points then are taken up by the Lord in these three chapters of John's gospel. 1st, In whose name we are to pray (14); 2nd, Conditions on which, if fulfilled, we can be sure of answers to our requests; 3rd, The BUT further, since unlimited (15); and, 4th, The time when the Lord's instructions were first to be acted on. (16) Whilst then we can always present our requests to God the Father, who is never weary of hearkening to the cry of His children, and whilst we have a plea on which to base our petitions-a plea the full value of which is known, not to us, but to Him to whom we pray-there are, we must ever remember, conditions laid down, conforming to which we can reckon upon an answer to our prayers; viz., faith, as set forth in Matt. 21, and the conditions stated in the gospel by John. A remembrance of these will surely check rash and inconsiderate petitions. Can I link the name of Christ with the prayer I am presenting to the Father? Have I the mind of God as to that which I am solicitous to get? Can I prefer my requests in faith?
These remarks apply to prayer in general, both private and public. Liberty to resort to the former is freely given us in the epistles. (Rom. 12:1212Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; (Romans 12:12); Eph. 6:1818Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (Ephesians 6:18); Phil. 4:66Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6); Col. 4:22Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; (Colossians 4:2); 1 Thess. 5:1717Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17); 1 Peter 4:77But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. (1 Peter 4:7)) Instructions about the latter are set forth in 1 Tim. Of common prayer the Lord also has made mention in Matt. 18:19,2019Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:19‑20), assuring His disciples that if only two should agree touching anything they might ask, it should be done for them of His Father who is in the heavens; for where two or three are gathered together unto His name, there is He in the midst of them. On His presence then we can reckon, if the condition laid down is complied with-gathered unto His name; for of that His people need never be deprived, however small their number, though they are upon earth and He is in heaven.
Now this supposes a meeting for prayer, directions for which Timothy received from Paul. For, what the order of such a meeting should be, it is not left to man to devise. How various in that case the arrangements would surely be! God, however, has given us by, the apostle His regulations in connection with it. And such were needed; for since Christianity restores woman to her proper place in connection with man, which amongst the heathen was lost, and Judaism did not teach (Matt. 19:88He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. (Matthew 19:8)), though she is still subject to God's governmental dealings, the consequence of the fall; and since too the saints were taught that in Christ there is neither male nor female (Gal. 3:2828There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)), there was a danger-and the state of matters shows it had already arisen-lest they should confound the condition in Christ with the relative position of the sexes in the assembly. In Christ we are all one; in the assembly we are not. The grace shown to us in Christ does not override God's order in creation. This the Corinthians had to be taught (1 Cor. 11:1-91Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. 2Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. 3But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. 4Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his head. 5But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 6For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. 7For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. 8For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. 9Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. (1 Corinthians 11:1‑9)), and of this Timothy is reminded.
Looking at that chapter, we can form a very good idea of what a prayer meeting must have been in apostolic times, if all gathered together were in subjection to the teaching of the Word. Composed of persons of both sexes, the men only opened their mouths in prayer, any one of whom, however, was free, if guided by the Spirit, to lead the whole company in their devotions. " For I will," wrote the apostle, " that the men pray everywhere." Both the men and the women were indwelt by the Holy Ghost; for He then dwelt, and does now dwell, in every true believer. The fact then of having received the Holy Ghost did not make such an one fit to lead others in prayer. All were one in Christ; but God's order in the assembly was to be observed, although, as it would seem, the separation of the sexes, carried out in the synagogue, was not maintained in the Christian assembly. Might then any man, because of his sex, make himself the mouthpiece of the company in their devotions? Assuming that he was otherwise able to do it, he would nevertheless, on any occasion, have been disqualified, if he could not lift up holy (or pious) hands without wrath and reasoning. What creatures then they were in themselves in the assembly at Ephesus, since such a caution was required! "Just like me," however, any one, and every one, who knows something of his evil nature, must surely acknowledge. What grace then to allow such to approach the throne of grace on behalf of themselves, and as the mouth-pieces of the assembly of God!
If we had been present at such a meeting, we should have found the women, who were obedient to the apostolic injunctions, adorned in seemly guise, with modesty and discretion; and instead of setting off their persons by jewels or costly array, had we watched their general behavior, followed them to their homes, and spent a day in their company, we should have seen them adorned with ornaments of great value indeed, such as become women professing godliness, even with good works. Further, whilst in the assembly they would all have been silent (1 Cor. 14:3434Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. (1 Corinthians 14:34)), elsewhere we should have found them surely learning in quietness (ἤσυχία), not teaching nor usurping authority over the men; but being in quietness, remembering both woman's place in creation, as evidenced by the fact that Adam was first formed, then Eve, and the fatal consequences of her intercourse in the garden with the serpent. The woman was deceived, the man was not. Adam hearkened to the voice of his wife. She proved her unfitness to take the lead. "Nevertheless," adds the apostle, " she shall be preserved in child-bearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." Thus, whilst the head of the woman is the man, her preservation in child-bearing is connected governmentally as much with the husband's behavior as with her own.
Having glanced at the orderly arrangement of a prayer meeting, we may in conclusion inquire, what would have been the character of their prayers. Very comprehensive they might be, and very free. Bound by no written or pre-arranged form, they could freely make use of all the different kinds of prayer with which we are acquainted. Supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks, they were free to present before the throne of grace. Addressing the High and the Holy One with all the reverence and solemnity that befits a creature addressing its God, they could nevertheless speak to Him in all the confidence of children, being free to express every desire, and to lay before Him all the wants and wishes of the assembly. The grace this speaks of is great. God would be entreated of them. He would hearken to their prayers. He would let them hold free, personal intercourse with Him; for such ἐντεύξις,1 translated intercession, seems to imply. And to thanksgivings too they were also free to give utterance on such occasions. For if mindful of the grace which gives free access to God, and the freedom permitted of speaking on behalf of all saints and all men, remembering too past answers to prayer, surely in the consciousness of all this thanksgivings might well mingle with supplications, prayers, and intercessions. How comprehensive then can prayers be, since we may pray for all saints and for all men! In Eph. 6:1818Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (Ephesians 6:18) we are exhorted to pray for all saints; in 1 Tim. 2:11I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; (1 Timothy 2:1) we are taught to pray for all men. Each of these statements is in character with the epistle in which it occurs. In Ephesians we are taught especially about the body of Christ; in Timothy we have God presented as the Savior. Prayer for all saints is in keeping with the teaching of the one; prayer for all men is in full accord with the line of truth in the other.
Living as the early Christians did under rulers who knew not God, prayer, they were taught, was to be offered for those in authority, as well as for the wellbeing and necessities of individuals. Thus grace, of which they were partakers, was to be manifested in them; and a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty, they might lead, the result of God upholding and restraining the constituted authorities placed over them. Thank God, we in our land are little familiar with the troubles, and the insecurity to life and property, which are liable to attend the absence of a stable government. Still, prayer for the powers that be we should not on that account forget; for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Of God's willingness to save all we are here reminded, that we may pray for all; but of His counsels the apostle is not in this passage treating. How willing is God to save! He declares it, and He has given proofs of it: " There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men." Here national distinctions and dispensational position drop out of sight. And the Mediator, the man Christ Jesus, gave Himself a ransom for all, and appointed Paul to be a herald, an apostle, and a teacher of nations, in faith and truth to testify of it. He gave Himself! What words for us to read! He has provided too the channel by which this should be made known. What desire on His part for men's salvation does this manifest! What freedom must this have given them when presenting petitions to God!
C. E. S.