THE GREAT PROMISE.
“If ye shall ask anything in my name I will do it.” John 14: 14
How often a verse of Scripture seems to be a sealed treasure. You read it again and again but it is padlocked against you. No light breaks from its recesses as you search. But some day, all unexpectedly to yourself, it suddenly opens and discloses its beauties, even as a jewel casket might unclose under the touch of a secret spring and lay bare in an instant all the radiance and loveliness of the priceless gem that lies within. Just so as you let the Spirit of truth lift out from the heart of this passage the condition "In my name" note the precious jewel of truth which is laid bare thereby. Not that this condition is not needful. It is always and absolutely so. For no suppliant can come to God and be heard in prayer save as he comes in the name of our Lord. But assuming now that this condition is fulfilled in our petition and that we are asking in His name and for that which is according to His will. Then there stands forth from the heart of this verse these wondrous words
"If" Ye Ask......I Will do.”
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Consider the WONDERFULNESS of this Promise.
Many and precious are the other promises which God gives to His praying children. He tells us that as we pray and receive our joy shall be full, (Jno. 16: 24); that if we bring all things to Him in prayer His own unspeakable peace shall possess and keep our hearts in Christ Jesus, (Phil. 4: 7); that of all who ask from Him, not one shall be turned away; that to any who knock at His door it shall without fail be opened, (Jno. 7: 7, 8). Familiar enough and gracious too is His truth that as we ask He gives. So says His Word again and again: "Ask and it shall be given you;" "Every one that asketh receiveth;" "How much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to them that ask Him." But here in the heart of this great chapter, we come upon the greatest promise God has ever given to His praying children. Presuming that the child of God is asking in His name, or according to His will, the wondrous statement is here made that not only as we pray does God give, but that
AS WE PRAY GOD WORKS.
God, the eternal God of the universe, stands, as it were, like an almighty servant and says: "If you, my child, will only pray I will work; if you will only be busy with asking I will see to the doing." Not only does He bestow at our cry, but He acts. Not only does our praying evoke His bounty, it sets in motion His omnipotence. Wherefore, as we enter into the secret chamber of prayer, nothing will so stir us to mighty intercession, nothing will so soon make us master-pleaders with God for a lost world, as to whisper to our own soul, again and again, this wonderful truth, "While I am praying GOD is really DOING that which I am asking!"
Thus to a child of God bowed in prayer that the gospel may be sent to the dark lands, though he may not see it, yet as he prays God baffles the powers of darkness; as he prays God moves the hearts of kings; as he prays God breaks down the barriers to evangelization; as he prays God loosens the bands of superstition; as he prays God opens up the pathways to forbidden lands; as he prays God unclasps the purses of His children; as he prays God raises up and thrusts forth the gospel messengers to the whitened harvests. As he is praying GOD IS DOING. This is explicitly asserted. "Search my word," says our Lord. Find out clearly in it what my will is concerning the world. Pray according to that will. Then as you pray "Lord thrust forth laborers into the harvest," I thrust them forth! As you pray "Lord break down the obstacles," I break them down! As you pray "Lord stir men's hearts to give," I stir them! Whatsoever ye ask in my name, I do." Beloved, what a tremendous responsibility is ours! What a unique privilege! That all the power of an omnipotent God is ready and waiting to be put into triumphant, irresistible action at the prayer of one of His children ! That the very hosts of heaven are marshaled against the powers of darkness at that importunate call of yours which is according to the will of God! He declares that all power in heaven and earth is His, and then, as it were, places Himself at our disposal and says, "Now my child you pray and I will work; you ask and I will do." As an engineer might suffer a child, powerless in itself, to call forth mighty power, not its own, by opening the throttle of his great machine, so God says to us weaklings, "All power is mine, but unto you it is given to call it forth by prayer." If it be true, then, that God's omnipotence is placed at our disposal, we are as responsible for its exercise through prayer as though we possessed it ourselves. Behold here the shame of an unevangelized world, of two thousand years delay, of our cowardice and faltering in the presence of difficulties. For though we have had no power to do, yet the mighty God, linking Himself with us as a real yoke-fellow and coworker, has said
"IF YE ASK I WILL DO."
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Consider the NEED of this Promise.
Notice the working of God in human hearts, in answer to prayer, as the great secret of power in the apostolic church. It was God who poured out the Holy Spirit upon the waiting multitude; it was God who wrought conviction in the three thousand which made them cry out in agony of were being saved; it was the Lord who healed the lame man through the word of Peter: "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk" were the words with which Peter greeted him. It was the Lord who stretched forth His hand to heal and to do signs and wonders in the name of His holy child Jesus"; it was the Lord to whom Ananias and his wife are said to have lied and not to men; it was the angel of the Lord who opened the prison and brought forth the disciples; it was the Lord who sent Philip down into the desert; it was the Lord who said, "Go near and join thyself to the chariot;" it was the Lord who met Saul in the road, and his word was, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" And again, when Ananias came to him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord bath sent me." Notice the Lord working with Peter and Cornelius. He fairly manipulates them as one might manipulate figures upon a stage. It was the Lord who drew Peter aside to prayer; it was the Lord who let down the sheet from heaven and spoke to him; it was the Lord who said, "Go with the men fearing nothing," and it was the Lord who fell upon the waiting multitude at the house of Cornelius as they listened to Peter's message. So also in our own day. Charles Finney so realized the need of God's working in all his service that he was wont to send the godly Father Nash on in advance to pray down the power of God into the meetings which he was about to hold. David Brainerd prayed eight days in the wilderness for the working of God's Spirit among the Indians, and hundreds were brought to Christ in answer to his asking. In the great Irish revival of a half century ago, the most striking feature was the working of God's Spirit in the hearts of men. Conviction fell upon men in street, field, and forest, and the church stood in awe at the wonderful work of God in the hearts of lost men. And all this in answer to the prayers of His children.
How we need this same mighty doing of God in our own midst to-day. We need it in the pulpit; we need it in the mission field; we need it in the hearts of the unsaved; we need it in our own lives as God's servants. We need it in the church of Jesus Christ as much as of old. Revivals are sadly infrequent. Strong conviction in the hearts of men bowing them down with deep contrition of soul is almost a thing of the past. The form of godliness without the power thereof is more and more prevalent. The clang of machinery is heard everywhere in the church's work, but not the sound of the rushing mighty wind. There are many tongues of utterance but the tongue of fire is rare. The church is the most highly organized machine in existence. But "a machine is an instrument for the transmission of power." If there is no power, of what avail is the machine? "Power belongeth unto God." It flows down from God to us through prayer. Therefore prayerlessness is powerlessness.
"We may appoint the evangelistic meeting; call the evangelist; train the great choir of voices; organize and equip the meeting in every detail; advertise the service; crowd the auditorium with listeners to the preached Word — but, if the power of God does not fall upon preacher and people, if the Spirit of God does not work in the hearts of the lost; if the presence of God is not seen and felt in the assembled multitude our efforts are in vain. God's power alone is equal to the crisis that every lost soul confronts in the time of decision which follows the preaching of His Word. "Why could not we cast him out?" said the disciples to our Lord concerning the demon who possessed the suffering child. And so we find ourselves saying: Why cannot we cast out the demons of drink and impurity from men? Why cannot we accomplish mighty results in the sphere in which God has placed us? The answer is found in the very terms of the question — because "we" are trying to do it in our own power. We think it is our energy; our plans and efforts; our wisdom; our power that is to bring things to pass. And some day we waken up to find the power gone and the fruitfulness missing and the blessing lost from our lives, and we say as the apostle said, Why cannot we do these things? And back to us comes the same answer our Lord gave to the failure of His disciples, "Have faith in GOD." As though He said: "YOU cannot cast out devils, nor do anything else, in your own strength. It is GOD alone who can do these things. But if you will learn the secret of the prayer life and come to Him, then, though you yourselves cannot do and are never, in your own strength, meant to do, He fulfils His great promise:
"If — ye — ask — I — will — do."
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Consider the PRIVILEGE of this Promise.
If you were weary and despondent and wished to be soothed and cheered by the sweet influence of music, what a privilege you would consider it to have a Mozart, a Beethoven, or a Liszt soothe your tired nerves with ravishing melodies simply because you had asked them. If you had some dear friend, the memory of whose face you wished to treasure upon canvass, what a privilege you would reckon it, at your merest request, to have a Raphael, or a Reynolds, or a Van Dyke paint that face with masterful skill. To have such masters come and do for you because you had asked would indeed be accounted a rare and gracious privilege.
But who is it here who offers to do for us, if we will only ask? It is no untried apprentice, no bungling worker accustomed to failure. It is God HIMSELF. It is the mightiest doer in the universe who says "I will do, if you ask." Unrivalled wisdom, boundless skill, limitless power, infinite resources are His. Think a moment who it is that promises. He who shrouded the land of Egypt in awful darkness; He who turned her streams of water to streams of blood; He who laid His hand upon her first-born and filled her borders with mourning; He who broke the stubborn will of her impious king; He who led forth His people Israel, with mighty arm and outstretched hand; He who parted the great sea, and made the glassy walls of water to be bulwarks of safety to them, and swift avalanches of death to their pursuing foes; He who, when His children cried for water, sweetened the bitter wells to quench their thirst; He who, when they hungered sent them bread from heaven; He who, when they marched about Jericho in utter self- helplessness, leveled its towering walls by the word of His power; He who walked with His three children in the fierce, fiery furnace, yet kept them even from the smell of scorching garments; He who stilled the tempest, walked on the seas, cast out devils, healed the living and raised the dead—it is this same mighty doer who says He will do for me, if I ask! This omnipotence is the very same omnipotence whose doing is awaiting my praying !
Yea the God who holds the sea in the hollow of His hand; the God who swings this ponderous globe of earth in its orbit more easily than you could swing a child's toy rubber ball; the God who marshals the stars and guides the planets in their blazing paths with undeviating accuracy; the God of Sinai, and of Horeb; the heaven-creating, devil-conquering, dead-raising God, — it is this very God who says to you and to me:
IF YE ASK I WILL DO
Consider the SURENESS of the Promise.
God does not say "If ye ask perchance I shall do"; or, "If ye ask I may do"; but "If ye ask I WILL do." It is Satan alone who tempts us to question this "I will" of God's prayer promise: to doubt whether God will really hear and answer us as He has answered others in times past. Just so did he tempt Adam and Eve to doubt God's word: "In the day thou eatest thereof thou SHALT SURELY die." But God's "I will" of promise to us is just as sure as God's "Thou SHALT" of punishment was to them. Over against Satan's subtle lies let us ever place the eternal certainty of these blessed words of promise "I WILL do." Steadfast and sure is His word of promise. "Though it seems to you difficult, yea impossible, to be done, yet if ye ask I will do. Though for reasons of love and child-training I long delay, yet if ye ask I will do. Though Satan resists with fierce and desperate opposition, yet if ye ask I will do. Though ye are in dire need, I will supply that need if ye but ask. Though ye walk in darkness and know not the way before you, yet I will guide you if ye but ask. Though the obstacles are many, and the hearts of my children slow to obey, yet I will thrust forth laborers into the dark lands if ye but ask in faith."
In all ages God has made this word "If ye ask will do" to be true to His children. How sure it was with Peter when the young church prayed for his deliverance from the hand of Herod. How they must have feared as they prayed; how they must have thought of the iron-bound gates, the massive walls, the vigilant and ever present guards. Yet God's word was true. When they prayed, God did. When they asked, the gates swung open to an unseen hand, the prison was shaken by an unseen power, and the astonished disciple was led forth by a ministering angel from the God Himself who did as His people asked. Perhaps Elijah trembled at the thought of closing the doors of heaven by his own petitioning. Yet God's word was sure to him too. When he asked, God did for him, and the skies became as brass over the parched and rainless earth. Again he asked and still God did, and the heavens were opened and flooded that same earth with showers of blessing. Daniel asked and God did by showing him the wondrous vision of His people's coming King. Hezekiah asked and God did by driving back the host of the Syrians, smiting thousands of them by the hand of his death angel. The disciples asked for boldness and God did by pouring out the Holy Spirit in abundant power, "And they spake the Word with boldness." Charles Finney asked and God did, by smiting men with heart-searching conviction under the mighty power of His servant's messages. George Müller asked and God did, by building orphanages; supporting thousands of parentless children through faith alone, and sending in all over thirty thousand answers to prayer to this godly servant. Hudson Taylor asked and God did, by founding, sustaining and marvelously blessing one of the greatest missionary enterprises the world has ever seen, through the power of believing prayer alone. John G. Paton asked and God did in all the record of his deliverances and blessings among the savages of the New Hebrides. Jacob Chamberlain asked in the jungles of India, in deadly peril from rising flood, and God whispered words of guidance to his inmost soul, led him to the banks of the flooded Godavari, loosed a boat from its moorings ten miles above, and gave passage and deliverance to his servants by a veritable miracle in the heart of India. In all ages has our God been true to this blessed prayer promise.
No word of His has ever failed nor ever shall. When Elijah prayed for rain it was just as sure as when the waiting heavens began to pour forth their torrents. When the church prayed for Peter's deliverance it was as sure as when the barred gates clanged open and the angel of deliverance was walking by his side. Let these wondrous words "I WILL do" ring in our ears day after day until deep down in our heart of hearts we shall have no shadow of doubt that an omnipotent God stands pledged and ready to work mighty deeds for us if we will but believingly ask that which is according to His divine will.
"If Ye Ask... I WILL Do"
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Consider the SIMPLICITY of the Promise.
God does not say to us: "If ye win my favor by good works I will do"; or, "If ye bring sacrifices or burnt offerings to my altar I will do"; or, "If ye make me rich gifts of silver and gold I will do." But simply, "If ye ASK I will do." The way to get a thing which is sold is to pay for it; the way to get a thing which is earned is to work for it; the way to get a thing which is given is to ask for it. We lie in an age of grace. God's method of blessing His children is not to sell but to give. God's plan for them to receive, is not to buy nor to earn, but only to ask. The very simplicity of this causes us to stumble. We are like Naaman the leper. When told to go and wash in Jordan, he was insulted and refused. "Why does not the prophet come forth and do some great thing? Why does he not stretch forth his hand and bid the disease depart? Why does he ask me to do so simple an act as to go wash in the Jordan? Are there not rivers in Damascus far better than this?" And he was about to depart in a rage. Then wise advisers counseled him thus: "If the prophet had bidden thee do some great thing, would'st thou not have done it? Why not go wash then in the Jordan?" And he went, and washed and was made clean. Just so with us. If God's blessings came to us by purchase, we would work day and night for the gold and silver wherewith to buy them. If they came to us through our own deeds of merit we would climb many a St. Peter's staircase, and toil our weary way to many a distant Mecca to win them. But because God's mighty doing for us is conditioned on our simple asking we stumble thereat, and fail to find the blessing he has in store for those who simply ask.
Dr. Gordon tells of a little child in one of the New England States who fell and broke her arm. Her father was a physician, and after he had set the broken member, the little one said to him, "Papa, can you cure it for me?" "No, my child, I cannot do any more for it." "Well, papa, I am going to ask Jesus to cure it," to which the father gave a smiling, but doubtful assent. That night the little one in her evening prayer, put up a simple request to the Lord Jesus to heal the broken arm. The next morning she came in triumph to her astonished and awe-stricken father and showed him her arm made perfectly whole. Would not our Lord have more of such simple faith in us His children? We who know so much that we would not do a thing like this, is not our wisdom that wisdom of men which is foolishness with God? We have grown so wise we have forgotten how to trust. We are so self-dependent that we do not know the power and blessing of utter dependence on God. "Except ye become as little children ye cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Except we live like such we cannot know the secrets of its blessedness. God wants us to go in and out before Him as a little child goes in and out of its father's 'house, asking for what we need and for what will glorify God in the most artless and childlike faith that God will surely give it. So doing our service for Him may not be so fussy, pretentious and feverish as much of modern religious activity is, but it will have the fragrance, simplicity and divine anointing that can flow only from Him who lives a life of prayer and childlike trust in God his Father, and who trusts implicitly in His great promise:
"If ye ASK I will do."
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Consider the PERSONALNESS of this Promise.
In James 5: 17, the Word of God, after telling us of the wonderful prayer-life of Elijah: how he had through prayer shut up the heavens until they were as brass, and then how by the same simple faith in God he had opened them so that they poured forth rain in floods upon the drouthsmitten earth, goes on to use these words: "Elijah was a man of like nature (R. V.) with us." And what is it that is meant here? Simply this, The Holy Ghost who wrote this book, knew that when we read the narrative of the wondrous deeds wrought by Elijah through prayer, we would, in the weakness of our faith, be saying: "Ah, yes; it is all right for a man like Elijah to expect wonderful answers to his prayers; but I am not an Elijah, and I cannot expect God to do great things for me in the prayer life." And so God puts in this narrative those striking words of rebuke to our unfaith. He says in effect: "Elijah was a flesh and blood man just like you, and if You come to me with the same simple faith I will do wondrous things for you as well as for him. Not only when Elijah, or Moses, or Paul, asked did I do, but if ye ask I will do for you. There was not anything in the nature of Elijah different from yours. It was not that Elijah himself was a wonderful man. But he trusted in a wonderful God. And if you do the same and ask with the same faith I will do great things for you."
A godly woman, mother of six children, had come into a place of great stress. Her husband, absent in a distant city earning the livelihood, had been unfortunate; the needed remittances had failed to come to the wife and family, and their last loaf of bread had been eaten at the evening meal. The next morning, without a morsel of food in the house, the trustful mother set the table with seen plates, and gathering the children about her, said: "And now children we must ask God to supply our need." As she finished her petition for help one of the little ones cried out, "There is the baker at the door." Immediately his knock was heard, and entering, he said, "I was stalled in the snow this morning and thought I would come in to get warm. By the way do you need any bread this morning?" "Yes," said the mother, "but we have no money to buy any." "What?" said the baker, as he glanced at the empty plates and took in the situation, "do you mean to say you have no bread for these children?" "Not a morsel," said the mother. "Well, you shall soon have some," said the kindhearted man, and going out quickly to his wagon he returned with seen loaves of bread and laid one at each plate. Thereupon, one of the little children, picking up a loaf in his arms, dancing around the room, crying out, "Mamma, I prayed for bread and God heard me, and sent me bread." "And me!" "And me!" chorused the rest of the glad-hearted little folk. Each one of the little ones felt that God heard him personally and sent a loaf to him directly and individually. And was it not true?
Even so does our Father in heaven deal with us His children if we but trust Him. He does not say "It is only the great ones of the kingdom of heaven whom I hear and answer; only the Elijahs and Daniels, the Elishas and Pauls. But in His great promise of prayer to us He puts that little word "YE," and says it to all His children who will believe Him. "YE" pastors whose work must be a failure without the convicting power of God upon your people; who need yourself the anointing of God's Spirit for the mighty preaching of the Word; who are deeply conscious of the need of God's working through prayer if your work is not to be fruitless. "YE," missionaries who are contending against the awful powers of darkness in heathendom; meeting the fierce wrath of the adversary at every turn; conscious of his deadly assaults upon your own inner life; seeing the sin and blackness of the human heart as none of the rest of us do; face to face with problems which only God can solve. "YE," who have loved ones outside of Christ, who are daily resisting His call; who are going down to eternal death unless God works in their hearts through prayer. "YE," who serve the Lord and realize the need of His quickening power in all that you say and do. YE, who are burdened with anxious care; YE, who walk in darkness and have no light; YE, who are high or low, rich or poor, learned or ignorant, it matters not; to all you His children, He says
"If ye ask I will do for YOU."
Taken from James McConkey’s Prayer, chapter 3 “The Great Promise.”