Alan Richardson – Prayer – Pukekohe 2 Convention, New Zealand – Saturday afternoon, December 17, 2005

Luke 11:1-5, I have been thinking about this matter of prayer and the hymn says prayer is a mighty source of power. I think that is a dilemma that many of God’s people make from time to time and God’s servants face, too. When certain kinds of difficulties come and certain situations and problems arise how it should be handled. We know that Jesus did advise Matthew 18:15, that if you have anything against your brother go to your brother alone and if he hears you thou hast gained thy brother. That is always the best. When it is possible. I don’t think Jesus was giving people license to run along to other people with all kinds of faults, He was referring to something that was essentially quite important, particularly in matters of doctrine. It is always better for a person to go to the one concerned because of this reason, then you have gained thy brother. If a person goes to a brother or sister in a situation like that and has some other motive, rather than the motive to help their brother or sister, it wouldn’t work. It only works when the motive is to help the person you go to.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that Jesus spoke those words when He had to put a child in the midst of His disciples. Because certain tendencies were arising among them, particularly the desire of who would be the greatest among them. He knew that tendency was growing. It would ruin the work He was seeking to do amongst the apostles. He dealt with the problem rapidly, and He put a small child in the midst of His disciples and told them in quite definite language, “Except you become converted and become as little children, you will no wise enter the Kingdom of heaven.”
There are other situations better handled by prayer. I remember I was in my fifth year in the work and I was still rather a novice as far as this work was concerned. As I was leaving to go to my field, a certain person told me about a very serious problem and indeed it was serious. No way could I speak to the person concerned, he was now out of my reach, for me to be able to talk to him, I could see that maybe I could have gone to other people it would have caused a lot of complications. I can tell you that I prayed about that problem, every day for several weeks and maybe months, and it wasn’t before the end of the year before the Lord dealt with that problem. I don’t say it was because of my prayers that the Lord dealt with that problem. The Lord knew that there was a problem that should be dealt with but I think that the Lord is touched when He sees His people praying. A number of years later, maybe five years later, a similar situation arose, of deep concern, but would have caused a lot of complications if man tried to handle it. I don’t remember making that such an urgent matter of prayer, I am sure there were other people more concerned than I was, were praying also. Again the Lord dealt with that problem in a way that the results were far better than if anyone else had dealt with it.
I remember the time I received a letter from our esteemed elder Nathan McCarthy. I think we feel it that he is no longer able to be with us. He was at the Pukekohe Convention place for most years over a period of fifty years or sixty years, he attended regularly. He is now frail in body, no longer able to talk, no longer able to walk, he is entirely in the Lord’s hands at this point. We do appreciate the help he was to us over the years.
In the year 1985 about in the middle of the year, I received a letter from Nathan, Willie Phyn had not long died and in that letter Nathan said we believe that in the near future, we are going to need some brother of your age group, back in this land of New Zealand. He added, “Nothing decided yet, nothing will be done in a hurry, but if you were the one chosen, what would your response be to this?” So I was left with the matter of answering that question. I could give no other answer to him than when I offered for the work, and went out into the work, I was prepared to go with any companion, to any place and to any part of the world, and that is still the feeling in my heart. I told him I had far greater confidence in the decisions the elder brother would make in the matter concerning myself than any confidence in my own feelings regarding that matter. Probably nine months or twelve before anything was really done. About six months later in May, I was back in New Zealand. But I can tell you for a period of six months, part of my prayer every day was that God would guide the elder brothers in the decisions that they were making. So I had a lot of confidence in the power of prayer. Things can be achieved in the power of prayer, that can be achieved in no other way.
I want to point out to you one very important verse regarding prayer and that’s in John I 5:14, “And this is the confidence we have in Him, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.” Now I’ve heard of some people and the way they talk about the matter of prayer, you will have to question whether they think that prayer is a place where they can persuade God to make the decisions that they want. I don’t believe that prayer was ever intended for that. The way I feel regarding prayer is regarding myself that prayer is the place where I get the strength to help me to do God’s will, and prayer is a place where I ought to condition my petitions in such a way that they would be fully in accordance with the will of God on certain matters. I have heard of people you have to believe in more descriptive terms, the way they pray unto the God of heaven even in public, you will have to believe that God is a water tap. You know you go to a water tap and when you want water you turn the tap and open it, the water comes out and when you have had enough you turn it off. I would like to tell you that God is not like that. Like we were hearing earlier in the meeting, we have to go into the closet, we have to wait for God’s time for us to draw near and for God’s time for us to speak to him. God’s time is the all-important thing.
I think it is in the 131st Psalm, David said he had learned to behave himself before God like the weaned child, that is the time they are fully dependent on their parents. And the need of a babe is such that if the babe cries, it is normally fed on demand, at the early stages anyway. Whenever the time comes and the child grows up and then begins in a high chair and later sits at the table, by this time the child is weaned, and the child has to learn to eat at the appointed time, it has to learn to eat what is put before it. I had a great problem eating certain things, I don’t know why. Fortunately for me, my father had a stronger will than I had, and I had to learn to eat what was put before me. I can say in the years of my gospel work, that was a great asset, because I never had any problems over eating certain things. My father had to teach me how to eat what was put before me and as David said I’ve behaved myself like a weaned child, and he was speaking about his relationship before God, how he was as he approached under the God of heaven, and he said with the spirit of a weaned child. In other words, he expected to get the answer to his prayers, in God’s time and in God’s way. He wasn’t expecting to get the answer to his prayer in his own time, in his own way but he received the answer to his prayer in God’s time and in God’s way. That is just one of the aspects about prayer.
I was thinking about things to pray for. I think that you understand according to the Bible what the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 6, when we pray unto the God of heaven, we don’t need to give him a list of all the things we need. How do we know that? It says Jesus said God knows what things ye have need of before you even ask the God of heaven and God knows the things we have need of. So it is not to present to God a list of our needs or desires that we pray unto Him, and we are earnestly encouraged to pray, ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you, nobody who gets up and asks, nobody who gets up and knocks will get the door opened unto them, we have to ask and we have to knock. Why do we go to the God of heaven, in prayer, because we want Him to know, we don’t want Him to be mistaken. We feel our need and full dependence on Him. That we recognize there are so many things we need and we can’t do for ourselves, that can only be provided by the God of heaven, and that is why we go to Him in prayer, because we want Him to understand fully and completely that we are dependent on Him. At the end of the last book of the Bible, Revelations 22, it speaks about prayer there. In the message of the Spirit and the message of the Bride, the message of the Spirit and the message of the Bride says, “Come, come Lord Jesus, come quickly.” I wonder if you are praying a prayer like that.
The Bible tells us quite clearly that the Lord Jesus is going to return, the only thing He does not tell us is when. Those of you who have your Bibles with you, I would like you to turn to Matthew 24. Two verses I would like you to take particular note of: verse 36, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. As in the days of Noah, so shall also the coming of man be.” Verse 42, “Watch therefore; for you know not what hour your Lord doth come.”
In this religious world around us, there are many religious groups who are speculating regarding the return of the Lord Jesus. You may not know , back in the year 1844 to 1845 in the State of New York, there was a man called Miller, who said that the Lord Jesus was going to return that particular year of 1845, He was going to return first of all to the mountains of New York city. Of course, thousands of people followed that man up to the top of those mountains, but they were a disappointed people. The Lord Jesus never came, even though Mr. Miller said He was going to come. Out of that situation, many people became disillusioned. Some people still held onto their belief, which they called the Adventist belief. Those people who supported Mr. Miller were called Adventists, they were waiting for the Lord’s coming or the Second Advent. Out of those Adventists sprung two groups. A lady by the name of Ellen White, who was in Texas, got her revelation on the seventh day, and the people that recognized her revelation were called Seventh Day Adventists. Also after the wider group of Adventists came a man called Judge Rutherford and Pastor Russell who were responsible for forming the group that is commonly known now as the Jehovah Witnesses, they came out of the same Adventists group. If you ever, and I hope you don’t, meet up with them, you will find that their studies are most of the time looking into books like Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelations trying to determine when the Lord is going to return. In 1914, Judge Rutherford said that the Lord Jesus was going to return in that year 1914, but He didn’t return in 1914, but they said the Lord had returned but He had not revealed Himself yet. Ninety years have passed since then, so people know it was a fallacy.
The Lord Jesus said that in the days preceding the return of the Lord Jesus, there will be many false Christs come (Matthew 24:4). Jesus answered them and said, “Take heed that no man deceives you, for many shall come in My name saying, ‘I am the Christ;’ and deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that ye be not troubled.” That I think was referring to the period called, “The destruction of the city of Jerusalem.” But later regarding the period of Christ’s return, later in the chapter v.24. says, “There shall arise false Christs, and false profits and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” Then Jesus said about the time approaching His return, He said there will be false Christs, people claiming to be Christ, then He said there will be false prophets. Prophets who claim to have a special message of God regarding His return. I like what it says in Luke’s Gospel where it says, “Go ye not after them.”
It might be possible in the future for any one of us here or some of the younger ones here might come to your door in perhaps eighty years time, sixty years time, forty, twenty, or ten years time or soon and somebody comes to your door, and says to you, “I want to share something with you seeing you are my friend, my special revelation which I have received from the Lord, and he says the Lord’s return is soon, might be June, August, or October, the Lord Jesus is going to return.” I think you know the answer now, don’t you? You will just be able to quietly, gently point them to those verses in Matthew 36, the ones we just read out, “That no one, not even the angels, but My Father only.” Verse 42, “Watch therefore for ye know not what hour your Lord shall come.” We are glad that the Lord Jesus is going to come, it may be sooner than later, we don’t know, but the important thing as far as I am concerned, is not that when he comes but when He does come, I am prepared. And if you read through the last verses in Matthew 24 and as you read through the last verse in Luke 12, there is all the encouragement you need to help you to prepare for the coming of the Lord particularly about watching and praying.
Prayer in the last chapter in Revelations, prayer should be, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus, come Lord Jesus come quickly,” that is the message of the Spirit and the message of the Bride. I think I mentioned in a recent meeting, one of the old servants of God talking to a religious man one time and they were talking about the Lord’s return and our worker asked the man, “Would you like the Lord Jesus to return soon or later?” The man who was a deacon in the local church became very quiet, but after a long pause, he said, “I think if I was honest, I would have to say that I would prefer the Lord to delay His coming, because there are some things in my private life and my present life too, that are not as clean as I would like them to be. I would prefer to have an opportunity to put them right, before the Lord Jesus returns.” Well of course he was working on the supposition that the Lord Jesus was going to delay His coming. We don’t need to worry about when the Lord Jesus comes, if we are prepared tomorrow and prepared the day following.
In Luke 11, again there are some of the things there about shutting the door and entering the closet and shutting to the door. Philippians 4:6 that we should pray to the God of heaven with thanksgiving, that is something that always delights the heart of God. Hebrews 11:6, it says that without faith, it is impossible to please God, but they that come to Him must believe that He is and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Now coming before God in the place of prayer, can prove non-rewarding if we don’t come before the God of heaven with complete faith and trust, it also says, that to come before the God of heaven without wrath and doubting.
I don’t believe a person can have faith and be doubting. There are a few things that are not concurrent, you may have faith and trust but not doubting it is impossible to do the two things concurrently. There is a verse in Psalm 66, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” So it is very important we come before the God of heaven. It is important to regard the two men who went to pray in the temple, both praying to the God of heaven and each one praying very differently. The importance of coming to the God of heaven in humility when praying. The one man was so confident in his own righteousness in the fact he was not like what other men were, not like the publican who was standing nearby and yet the publican who Jesus said of his prayer, “Lord be merciful unto me a sinner,” so we do need to have the necessary degree of humility when we come before the God of Heaven in prayer. I don’t think any one of us when we reach heaven will be telling about what we have done. As it tells us in Revelations 5 and other like chapters, we will all be singing praise to one who washed us and cleansed us in His own blood. That’s the One we will be giving the honour and the praise to.
I thought about Cain and Abel who came before the God of Heaven, presented their offerings unto God. The Old Testament teaching was that if anyone came before the God of Heaven, they were not to come empty handed. That was the Old Testament setting. God wants us to bring certain things when we come into His presence and I think the spirit we bring with us is the most important thing when we go into the place of prayer. Cain faced this situation when he made his offering to the God of Heaven, his offering was not acceptable because he just brought an offering of his own efforts, his own labours, the fruit of the field but his brother Abel seemed to have a greater perception, he understood that God required a living offering, so he took one of the lambs of his flock and offered unto the God of heaven and his offering was accepted. Some would think that was somewhat unfair, Cain offering took a lot more effort, he spent hours out there, plowing the ground, sowing, weeding, and then harvesting and after that he brought his offering to the God of Heaven, “Sorry, Cain, your offering is not accepted,” and Abel just cared for the sheep, there was not such labour and work, but his effort was acceptable. I think the lesson was in reality God trying to teach them a lesson and humanity, through them a lesson for all time, that God does want a living offering. That was the concept that the Apostle Paul understood so clearly when he said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Of course Cain’s situation could have been so different if he said quietly to the Lord of Heaven, “Look, Lord, I’m sorry, I have wasted one whole year, I didn’t intend it to be that way. If I was granted next year, I was going to do it Your way.” It could have been so different. couldn’t it, for Cain and for Abel. I think that was the situation that some of us can face from time to time. God would care for us and is interested in us, but would have to tell us that our lives are not acceptable as we would like to believe that they are. There is something that we are doing that we should not be doing, or there is something that we are not doing that we should be doing, and to please the God of Heaven. The all important thing is how we respond when God speaks to us like that.
I thought of Moses in Exodus 32 who, when he came down from the mountain he found that the people had broken out and built the golden calf and he asked would the Lord rather blot his name out of the Book of Life, than to destroy His people and that was a big thing for him to offer. Moses had the spirit of Christ himself and was willing to suffer so that others could be restored to the mercy of God.
In closing, the Lord’s prayer said, “Our Father,” only people pray that prayer, I don’t believe that it was to be just a repetition. We shouldn’t say our Father unless we are prepared to be His child. If we are prepared to be His child, of the God of Heaven that entitles us to address Him as our Father. We shouldn’t say, “Who art in Heaven,” if only earthly matters concern you. If our time and affections concern us only with earthly matters, it’s hardly appropriate to say about the One in Heaven if we are only concerned about earth. “Hallowed be Thy Name,” that means that God’s name be made holy, how can we say, “Hallowed be Thy name,” if we are taking God’s name in vain. I know that God’s people act so differently to the people of the world. “Thy Kingdom come” except here on earth. You wouldn’t want God’s people to covet that which would interfere with our natural ambitions. Something would have to change when Christ comes if you are only concerned about earthly matters. We should not be saying, “Thy will be done on earth as it is done in Heaven” if it is always our will that comes first, if it is our will that comes first we are praying inappropriately. “Forgive us our trespasses” would be inappropriate, if we believe that others should forgive our sins only. If we forgave the sins and trespasses of others it would be appropriate. For us to pray to the God of Heaven, “Lead us not into temptation,” if we were deliberately leaving doors open to temptation or if we put ourselves in the situation where we could cause temptation to other people, if we leave the door open to our own temptation or cause temptations to others, it would be inappropriate for us to pray, “Unto the God of Heaven, lead us not into temptation.” In all these things, it is better until we have put our thoughts, our ways, and our lives, and our desires in perfect harmony with the God of Heaven.
I am grateful that God has given me a deep appreciation in the matter of prayer to the God of Heaven. If you realize it is a privilege, you must be more effective in prayer and to know better how to use the place of prayer now, because I am concerned and convinced by the experience that I have, there is no way more efficient having God’s help than in the place of prayer. Sometimes we can intervene or think to intervene in situations ourselves but as God knows, it would be in vain. He can solve all matters and difficulties in better ways than we can. We are glad that God’s people and in the ministry too, are a praying people, we need so much help through prayer.