23/06/2008

Sermon Lift up thy prayer


Isaiah 37:4 Lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left

Hezekiah being both distressed and alarmed at the invasion of his land by Sennacherib, King of Assyria, sends some of his chief officers to the prophet Isaiah, entreating him to use his interest in the court of heaven, in behalf of himself and his afflicted people; hoping that God would be prevailed upon to scatter the gathering clouds; or if not, it would afford some satisfaction that they had not been wanting in their application to him. If prayer be answered, the blessing coming in that way will be doubly sweet; but if not, prayer itself affords some relief. The possibility of acceptance and success is a sufficient motive to the duty: Lift up therefore thy prayer for the remnant that is left.

1. The person who is to engage in the work of intercession, was one of great eminence in the church and commonwealth, a good and a great man, a prophet of the Lord, and one who was indulged with peculiar nearness to him. To such a one, prayer is not only a duty, but sidelight. Others ought to pra ; but he can pray, and cannot but pray. Persons of eminent piety will not be contented with ordinary applications to the throne of grace; they will seek till they find, and wrestle till they prevail. Therefore lift up thy prayer, oh man of God; for the prayer of the righteous availeth much.
2. Those for whom the prophet was requested to pray, were the remnant that was left; a certain number, known unto God, and who remained after the rest were scattered or destroyed. ... The prophet's making intercession for this remnant, if so it be understood, may teach us, that though in our prayers we should be forgetful of none, yet we are to be particularly mindful of our fellow christians, especially when in a state of adversity. They have also most need of our prayers ; for their enemies are more numerous, malignant, and powerful, than those of other people.
3. There is something observable as to the manner in which the prophet's intercession is requested: Lift up thy prayer said the messengers of the king, for the remnant that is left.

This expressive form of speech may teach us to remember

1. That the glorious object of prayer is infinitely exalted, sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, his train filling the temple. And though he condescends to hearken to our requests, he is still the high and the lofty One who inhabiteth eternity, and must be approached with reverence and godly fear. All our thoughts and conceptions are lost in the immensity of God, whose greatness is unsearchable.
2. The low and mean condition of the worshipper. We are to remember not only that God is in heaven, but that we are upon earth. We are less than nothing in his sight, and should be so in our own.
Other particulars are also suggested by this impressive form of speech; such as
(1) The secrecy of prayer, according to our Lord's direction: When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which seeth in secret ; and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. Lifting up a prayer may denote the same thing as David expresses, by the lifting up of the soul to God, in mental and silent ejaculation. This is the essence of prayer, without any of its external appendages. It is prayer before God, when there is no appearance of it before men. Such brief and tender embassies to heaven are likely to meet with little interruption, because they may be made before the corruptions of the heart have power to operate, or before the adversary can know the purpose for which they are employed. Containing also an implicit acknowledgment of the divine omniscience, and of our absolute dependence upon God, these silent and momentary aspirations are highly pleasing in his sight.
(2) The importunity and ardour of prayer, may be denoted by this expression. In lifting up our prayer to God, our affections should rise high, though our voice may be low and feeble. God invites us to his throne, and we should labour to be in good earnest when we come thither. Thus Bartimeus, and thus the woman of Canaan prayed. In scripture, prayer is often expressed by crying, groaning, wrestling, labouring, striving; all which denote a holy importunity, or sacred violence.
(3) The spirituality and heavenly-mindedness of the person engaged. There may be spirituality in prayer, where there is not that earnestness and vehemence which might be desired. Who would not wish to experience that humble, composed, and devotional frame of mind which David discovered, when he went in and sat before the Lord, recollected the mercies of his past life, and broke forth into that rapturous expression of gratitude and love? " Who am I, oh Lord God, and what is my father's house, that thou hast brought me hitherto!"
(4) Boldness and confidence, accompanied with the hope of being heard and answered, is also a prerequisite to acceptable prayer. If any of you lack wisdom, says James, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering; for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed: for let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
(5) The expression in the text may denote the proper end of prayer, which is not to draw the divine Being near to us, but ourselves near to him; not that he may be moved, and induced to give, but that we may be suitably prepared to receive. He often waiteth to be gracious, because he is a God of judgment, abounding towards us in all wisdom and prudence. He sees that the desired good is either not good for us, or that it would be better to bestow it at some other time, or in some other way: but in any case he hath not said to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain. The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth: he will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them. Ps 145:18, 19

Lord, let my prayer like incense rise,
Before thy throne above the skies;
And my requests accepted be,
Through Jesus pleading there for me.

When nought but troubles here I find,
Prayer relieves the anxious mind;
By it I cast my care on thee,
Who carest, and wilt care for me.

Thou sovereign Ruler of my heart,
Thy quick'ning grace to me impart;
If this denied, I prayer restrain,
Or pray remissly, and in vain.

This is an alternative version of Hymn 440 found in the book in this form
Lord, let my prayer like incense rise,
Before thy throne above the skies;
My breathings all accepted be,
Through Jesus pleading there for me.

When nought but troubles here I find,
And none to ease my burdened mind,
Oh may this thought the mountain move,
That I've an Advocate above.
Thou sovereign ruler of my heart,
Thy quickening grace to me impart,
That I no more may prayer restrain,
Or pray remissly and in vain.

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