Prayer Found in the Heart
Published on Thursday, February 4th, 1904,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
On Lord's-day Evening, January 16th, 1876.
"Therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee."2 Samuel 7:27.
T IS A VERY BLESSED thing for a child of God to be anxious to glorify his Heavenly Father, whether his wish is realized or not. The strong desire to magnify God is acceptable to him, and is an indication of spiritual health. It is certain, in the long run, to bring blessing to our own souls; and I have frequently noticed that, when we earnestly desire to do something special for the Lord, he generally does something for us very much of the same kind. David wished to build a house for God. "No," says Jehovah, "thou hast been a man of war, and I will not employ a warrior in spiritual business; but I will build thee a house." So, although David may not build a house for God, it is well that the plan of it is in his heart; and God, in return, builds up his house, and sets his son, and his son's son, upon the throne after him. But, my dear friend, if thou shouldst not find an opportunity to do all that is in thine heart, yet, nevertheless, it is well that it is there. Carry out the project if thou canst; but if thou canst not, it may be that, as thou hast desired to deal with the Lord, so will he really deal with thee. If you have sown sparingly, you shall reap sparingly. If you have sown liberally, you shall reap largely; for, often and often, the Lord's dealings with his own people are a sort of echo to their hearts of their dealings with him.
He hath an ear to hear;"
and his short hymn contains a great truth. God does bend the heart to pray; and, oftentimes, he does this by filling us with sorrow; and, then, in the day of our distress, we cry unto him. But I have also known him do it in the sweeter way, as he did with David, by filling the heart with joy till we have been so glad and grateful that we have felt that we must pray, as David did, on another occasion, when he said, "Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live."
So, the Lord puts prayer into our heart by instructing us how to pray and by inclining us to pray.
Then he puts prayer into the heart by encouragement. You notice that my text begins with "Therefore." "Therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee." What does David mean by that "therefore"? Why, God had promised to do great things for him; and, my brother or sister, you may always safely ask for that which God has promised to give. When he gives you the promise of anything, he does as good as say to you, "Come, my child, ask for this; be not slow to come to me with your requests." If the Lord has said that he will bestow any blessing, what greater encouragement to pray can you possibly desire? But this promise, according to the Hebrew, had been given to David in a very special manner. In our version, it is rendered, "Thou hast revealed to thy servant"; but the marginal reading is, "Thou hast opened the ear of thy servant." A promise in the Bible is, often, a promise to a deaf ear; but the promise, applied by the Spirit of God, goes right through the outer organ, and penetrates to the ear of the soul. I am sure, dear friends, that you can never be backward in prayer when God opens your ear, and puts a promise into it. The richness, the sweetness, the sureness, the preciousness of the promise, when the Holy Spirit seals it home to the heart, makes a man go to his knees, he cannot help doing so; and thus, the Lord greatly encourages the needy soul to pray.
I will not keep you longer upon this point when I have just said that I believe God puts prayers into our hearts by a sense of his general goodness. We see how kind and good he is to the sons of men as a whole; and, therefore, we pray to him. By his special goodness to his own chosen people, we see still more of his compassion and tenderness, and so we are moved to pray to him. Especially does he put prayer into our hearts when he gives us a sight of the cross. We see there how greatly Jesus loved us, and, therefore, we pray. We rightly argue that he, who gave Jesus for us, will deny to us nothing that is for our good; and, therefore, again we pray. Often are we stirred up to pray by the recollection of former answers to prayer, and sometimes by observing how God hears other men and other women pray. Anyhow, it is a blessed thing when the Lord comes by, and scatters the seeds of prayer in our hearts, so that, when we want to pray, we have only to look within our own renewed nature and there we find the prayer that we shall do well to pray unto God.
III. Our last question, upon which I must speak but briefly, is this. WHAT MUST YOU AND I DO IN ORDER TO BE ABLE TO FIND PRAYERS IN OUR HEARTS?
Ah, dear friends, I am afraid that some of you can do nothing in this matter until, first of all, your hearts are renewed by grace. Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? "No one. And who can fetch an acceptable prayer out of an unaccepted person? No one. So, sinner, thou must first come to Jesus, confessing thy sin, and looking to his dear wounds, and finding a broken heart within thee as the result of his pierced heart; and when the Lord has looked upon you in his pardoning love, then you will find many prayers in your heart.
I asked a young friend, "Did you pray before conversion?" She answered that she did pray "after a sort." I then enquired, "What is the difference between your present prayers and those you offered before you knew the Lord?" Her answer was, "Then, I said my prayers; but, now, I mean them. Then, I said the prayers which other people taught me; but, now, I find them in my heart." There is good reason to cry "Eureka!" when we find prayer in our heart. Holy Bradford would never cease praying or praising till he found his heart thoroughly engaged in the holy exercise. If it be not in my heart to pray, I must pray till it is. But, oh, the delight of pleading with God when the heart casts forth mighty jets of supplication, like a geyser in full action! How mighty is supplication when the whole soul becomes one living, hungering, expecting desire!
But some Christian people often feel as if they could not pray; they get into a condition in which they are not able to pray, and that is a very sad state for any child of God to be in. How much do I personally desire ever to possess the true spirit of prayer! When I was at Mr. Rowland Hill's house at Wotton-under-Edge, many years ago, I asked, "Where did Mr. Hill use to pray? "And the answer of someone, who had known him when he was there, was, "He used to pray everywhere." I said, "Yes; but did he not have a special place for prayer? "The reply was, "I do not know; I never saw him when he was not praying." "Well, but," I asked, "did he not study somewhere?" I was told that he was always studying, wherever he went, yet that he was always in the spirit of prayer. The good old man, at last, had got into such a blessed state of mind that, when he sat down on the sofa, he would be going over a familiar hymn; and when he walked in the garden, he would be to-tooting something gracious. You know how they found him, in George Clayton's chapel over yonder. His carriage had not come, after the service, and he was walking up and down the aisles, softly singing to himself,
For Jesus hath loved me, I cannot tell why;
But this I do find, we two are so joined,
He'll not be in glory, and leave me behind."
Good old soul! he had got to find it in his heart to pray always. He used to wander down the Blackfriars Road, with his hands under his coat tails, and stop to look in very nearly every shop-window; but, all the while, he was talking with God just as much as any man could have done who had shut himself up in a cloister. This is a blessed state of mind to be in,to find as many prayers in your soul as there are hairs on your head; to pray as often as the clock ticks; to wake up in the night, and feel that you have been dreaming prayers; and when you rise in the morning, to find that your first thought is either that of praising God for his many mercies, or else pleading for somebody or other who needs your prayers.
How are you to get into this state? Well, I cannot tell you, except this; live near to God. If you live near to God, you must pray. He that learns how to live near to God will learn how to pray, and to give thanks to God. Look into your hearts, also, as David did. You cannot find prayer there if you do not look for it. Think much of your own needs, for a realization of how many and how great they are will make you pray. When you see the falls of others, recollect that you also will fall unless God holds you up; so make that a reason and subject for prayer. When you see others who are slack in devotion, or who have become cold in heart remember you will be as they are if grace does not prevent. So, let your own needs drive you to prayer.
Then read the Scriptures very much; study them; suck the sweetness out of them, for they are sweeter than honey and the honeycomb. You cannot fail to be much in prayer if you spend much time in the reading of the Word. If you will let God speak to you, I am sure you will be constrained to speak with God. Dwell much upon the doctrines of the gospel; seek to understand them; live upon them, and upon the promises, too. It is a blessed temptation to find one of God's precious promises, for you feel then as if you were tempted to pray, so as to plead it. If a man were to give me a cheque, I do not think I should be so foolish as not to cash it; and if God gives me a promise, which is better than any man's cheque, the most natural thing is for me to go on my knees to heaven's bank to seek to have it changed,to get the blessing God really promised he would give me. So, keep hard by the promises, and closer still to the faithful Promiser. Live to God; live for God; live in God; and you will find prayers come out of your soul as sparks come out of the chimney of the blacksmith's smithy. If there is a blazing fire within, and the bellows blowing it up, and the smith is hard at work in his calling, the sparks will fly. And in this cold weather, dear brethren, it is necessary to keep our hearts warm. Have you noticed thatched cottages, and other houses where the snow lies on the roof? You say, "Yes." But have you noticed, where there is a good fire in the house, anywhere near the roof, how soon the snow is melted? And if you want to get warm, and keep warm, in the midst of a cold, graceless world, that chills the very marrow in a believer's bones, keep a warm heart inside, for that will tend to make it warm outside too. God grant you this blessing, and keep you ever abounding in prayer; and he shall have all the praise.
I do trust that some, who never prayed before, will try to pray. Nobody ever sneers at prayer but the man who does not pray, and nobody ever denies its efficacy but the man who knows nothing at all about it. And such men are out of court, and have no right to speak upon this matter. But men who are honest in other things, and who would be believed in a court of law, should be believed when they bear their solemn testimony that, times without number, God has heard their prayers. Try it, friend. God help thee to try it! Especially begin by believing in Jesus, and then shalt thou rightly seek unto the Almighty, and he will be found of thee. Yea, thou shalt lift up thine eyes to heaven, and the Lord will look down upon thee, and accept thee, and bless thee, both now and for ever. So may it be, for his dear Son's sake! Amen.
2 Samuel 7:18-29; and Luke 18:1-14.
2 Samuel 7:18. Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD,
David desired to build a temple for God, and the prophet Nathan conceiving that such a design must be acceptable to the Most High, told the king to proceed with it, but God's mind was otherwise, and Nathan had to tell David that it was well that it was in his heart, but that God intended the temple to be built, not by him, but by his son Solomon. However, the Lord gave to David very large promises, and when he had received them, through Nathan, he was so overcome with gratitude that he went in, and "sat before the Lord." That was his posture in prayer on this occasion. Good men have been known to pray kneeling, which seems to be the most natural attitude. Some have prayed with their faces between their knees, as Elias did. Some have prayed standing, as the publican did. Some have prayed sitting, as David did. Probably, he was mingling prayer and meditation when he "sat before the Lord,"
18. And he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD! and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?
How often has a similar feeling leaped into our heart! Why should the Lord have dealt so well with us?
Or give the Creator delight?"
19. And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord GOD; but thou hast spoken also of thy servant's house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord GOD?
No man could not have been so kind as that. The love of Jesus surpasses the love of women, and the love of God surpasses all the kindness of men.
20. And what can David say more unto thee? for thou, Lord GOD, knowest thy servant.
"What I cannot utter, thou canst perceive in my heart, though I cannot express it."
21-25. For thy word's sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these great things, to make thy servant know them. Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for thy land, before thy people, which thou, redeemest to thee from Egypt, from the nations and their gods? For thou hast confirmed to thyself thy people Israel to be a people unto thee for ever: and thou, LORD, art become their God. And now, O LORD God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as thou hast said.
That is a very short, but exceedingly pithy prayer: "Do as thou hast said." You do not need any larger promises, brethren, than the Lord has already given to you: could he give you any larger ones?
You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?"
What you have to do is to take the promises he has given, and spread them out before the mercy-seat, and then say to him, "Do as thou hast said." What strength there is in this plea! Hath he said, and shall he not do it? "Will he break his promise, or shall his right hand fail to perform that which has gone forth from his lips? Far be it from us to think so, but let us say to him, "Do as thou hast said." That is the very essence of prayer. Take care not to forget it.
26-29. And let thy name be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee. For thou, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee. And now, O lord GOD, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant: therefore now let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue for ever before thee:
You see how he clings to God's promise: "Thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant." If you get a promise from the Lord, and cling to it as you wrestle with the angel, you will surely prevail. You must win the blessing if you can plead, as David did, "Thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant."
29. For thou, O lord GOD, hast spoken it:
How he dwells on it!
29. And with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed for ever.
Now let us read two of our Lord's parables concerning prayer.
Luke 18:1-8. And he spake a parable unto them to this end that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: and there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them. I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
The whole force of this parable goes to show the prevalence of importunity. If you cannot get your desire of God the first time, go again, and, if need be, go again seven times. Yea, if need be, in submission to his will, go seventy times seven. I am afraid there is no fear of our having to be asked the question, "Will ye weary my God also?" Oh, no! we do not pray enough for that, neither are we so importunate as this poor widow was. Let us prove the power of importunate prayer, and rest assured that heaven's gate must open if we do but know how to knock, and that the blessing must be given if we do but continue to ask for it, for praying breath is never spent in vain.
9-11. And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
And he drew up his skirts, and got to windward, for fear lest any breath that should blow from the publican should defile his sanctified person.
12. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
It was not a prayer at all, as you perceive. It was a thanksgiving; but the thanksgiving was merely a veil for self-adulation.
13. And the publican, standing afar off,
Not daring to come near to the inner shrine,
13. Would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
I do not suppose that he thought he had really prayed; he scarcely dared to call it prayer. Perhaps, as he went home, he said, "I went up to the temple to pray, but I was so bowed down with a sense of my guilt that I could not pray." But that was not our Lord's verdict:
14. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"992, 996, 229.