3178. The Preparatory Prayers Of Christ

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No. 3178-56:1. A Sermon Delivered On Thursday Evening, August 7, 1873, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, December 30, 1909.

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form like a dove on him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, “You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased.” {Lu 3:21,22}

And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and he continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called to him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom he also named apostles. {Lu 6:12,13}

And it came to pass about eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the form of his countenance was altered, and his clothing was white and glistening. {Lu 9:28,29}

And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there by himself. But the boat was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. {Mt 14:23-25}

Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. And I knew that you always hear me: but because of the people who stand by I said it, so that they may believe that you have sent me.” {Joh 11:41,42}

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for you, that your faith does not fail: and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren.” {Lu 22:31,32}

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”: and having said this, he gave up the ghost. {Lu 23:46}

For other sermons on this text:

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 798, “Special Protracted Prayer” 789}

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3178, “Preparatory Prayers of Christ, The” 3179}

   {See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Lu 22:32"}

   {See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Lu 23:46"}

1. There is one peculiarity about the life of our Lord Jesus Christ which everyone must have noticed who has carefully read the four Gospels, namely, that he was a man of much prayer. He was mighty as a preacher; for even the officers who were sent to arrest him said, “Never did a man speak like this man.” But he appears to have been even mightier in prayer, if such a thing could be possible. We do not read that his disciples ever asked him to teach them to preach, but we are told that, “as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’” He had no doubt been praying with such wonderful fervour that his disciples realized that he was a master of the holy art of prayer, and therefore they desired to learn the secret for themselves. The whole life of our Lord Jesus Christ was one of prayer. Though we are often told about his praying, we feel that we scarcely need to be informed of it, for we know that he must have been a man of prayer. His acts are the acts of a prayerful man; his words speak to us like the words of one whose heart was constantly lifted up in prayer to his Father. You could not imagine that he would have breathed out such blessings on men if he had not first breathed in the atmosphere of heaven. He must have been much in prayer or he could not have been so abundant in service and so gracious in sympathy.

2. Prayer seems to be like a silver thread running through the entire of life of our Saviour, yet we have the record of his prayers on many special occasions; and it struck me that it would be both interesting and instructive for us to notice some of the times which Jesus spent in prayer. I have selected a few which occurred either before some great work or some great suffering, so our subject will really be the preparatory prayers of Christ, the prayers of Christ as he was approaching something which would put a special stress and strain on his manhood, either for service or for suffering; and if the consideration of this subject shall lead all of us to learn the practical lesson of praying at all times, and yet to have special times for prayer just before any particular trial or unusual service, we shall not have met in vain.

3. I. The first prayer we are to consider is OUR LORD’S PRAYER IN PREPARATION FOR HIS BAPTISM. It is in Luke chapter three: “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying,” (it seems to have been a continuous act in which he had been previously occupied,) “the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form like a dove on him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, ‘You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased.’” {Lu 3:21,22}

4. The baptism of our Lord was the beginning of his manifestation to the sons of men. He was now about to take upon himself in full all the works of his Messiahship; and, consequently, we find him very specially engaged in prayer; and, beloved, it seems to me to be particularly appropriate that, when any of us have been converted, and are about to make a scriptural profession of our faith,—about to take up the soldier’s life under the great Captain of our salvation,—about to start out as pilgrims to Zion’s city bound,—I say that it seems to me to be particularly appropriate for us to spend much time in very special prayer. I should be very sorry to think that anyone would venture to come to be baptized, or to be united with a Christian church, without having made that action a matter of much solemn consideration and earnest prayer; but when the decisive step is about to be taken, our whole being should be very specially concentrated on our supplication at the throne of grace. Of course, we do not believe in any sacramental efficacy attached to the observance of the ordinance, but we receive a special blessing in the act itself because we are moved to pray even more than usual before it takes place and at the time. In any case, I know that it was so in my own life. It was many years ago, but its memory is very vivid at this moment, and it seems to me as though it only happened yesterday. It was in the month of May, and I rose very early in the morning, so that I might have a long time in private prayer. Then I had to walk about eight miles, from Newmarket to Isleham, where I was to be baptized in the river; and I think that the blessing I received that day resulted largely from that season of solitary supplication, and my meditation, as I walked along the country roads and lanes, on my indebtedness to my Saviour, and my desire to live for his praise and glory. Dear young people, take care that you start right in your Christian life by being much in prayer. A profession of faith that does not begin with prayer will end in disgrace. If you come to join the church, but do not pray to God to uphold you in consistency of life, and to make your profession sincere, the probability is that you are already a hypocrite; or if that is too uncharitable a suggestion, the probability is that, if you are converted, the work has been of a very superficial character, and not of that deep and earnest kind of which prayer would be the certain indicator. So again I say to you that, if any of you are thinking of making a profession of your faith in Christ, be sure then, in preparation for it, you devote a special season to drawing near to God in prayer.

5. As I read the first text, no doubt you noticed that it was while Christ was praying that “the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form like a dove on him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, ‘You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased.’” There are three occasions, of which we read in Scripture, when God bore audible testimony to Christ, and on each of these three occasions he was either in the act of prayer or he had been praying only a very short time before. Christ’s prayer is especially mentioned in each example side by side with the witness of his Father; and if you, beloved friends, want to have the witness of God either at your baptism or on any subsequent act of your life, you must obtain it by prayer. The Holy Spirit never sets his seal to a prayerless religion. It does not have in it what he can approve of. It must be truly said of a man, “Behold, he prays,” before the Lord bears such testimony concerning him as he bore concerning Saul of Tarsus, “He is a chosen vessel for me, to bear my name before the Gentiles.”

6. So we find that it was while Christ was praying at his baptism that the Holy Spirit came on him, “in a bodily form like a dove,” to qualify him for his public service; and it is through prayer that we also receive that spiritual enrichment that equips us as co-workers together with God. Without prayer, you will remain in a region that is desolate as a desert; but bend your knees in supplication to the Most High, and you have reached the land of promise, the country of blessing. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you,” not merely concerning his gracious presence, but concerning the powerful and efficacious working of the Holy Spirit. More prayer, more power; the more pleading with God that there is, the more power will there be in pleading with men, for the Holy Spirit will come over us while we are pleading, and so we shall be prepared and qualified to do the work to which we are called by God.

7. Let us learn, then, from this first example of our Saviour’s preparatory prayer, at his baptism, the necessity of special supplication on our part in similar circumstances. If we are making our first public profession of faith in him, or if we are renewing that profession, if we are moving to another sphere of service, if we are taking an office in the church as deacons or elders, if we are beginning the work of the pastorate, if we are in any way coming out more distinctly before the world as the servants of Christ, let us set apart special seasons for prayer, and so seek a double portion of the Holy Spirit’s blessing to rest on us.

8. II. The second example of the preparatory prayers of Christ which we are to consider is OUR LORD’S PRAYER PREPARATORY TO CHOOSING HIS TWELVE APOSTLES. It is recorded in Luke chapter six: “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 798, “Special Protracted Prayer” 789} “And when it was day, he called to him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom he also named apostles.” {Lu 6:12,13}

9. Our Lord was about to extend his ministry; his one tongue, his one voice, might have delivered his personal message throughout Palestine, but he was desirous of having far more done than he could individually accomplish in the brief period of his public ministry on the earth. He would therefore have twelve apostles, and afterwards seventy disciples, who would go out in his name, and proclaim the glad news of salvation. He was infinitely wiser than the wisest of mere men, so why did he not at once select his twelve apostles? The men had been with him from the beginning and he knew their characters, and their fitness for the work he was about to entrust to them; so he might have said to himself, “I will have James, and John, and Peter, and the rest of the twelve, and send them out to preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and to exercise the miraculous powers with which I will endow them.” He might have done this if he had not been the Christ of God; but being the anointed of the Father, he would not take such an important step as that without long-continued prayer, so he went alone to his Father, told him all that he desired to do, and pleaded with him, not in the brief fashion that we call prayer, which usually lasts only a few minutes, but his pleading lasted through an entire night.

10. What our Lord asked for, or how he prayed, we cannot tell, for it is not revealed to us; but I think we shall not be guilty of vain or unwarranted curiosity if we use our imagination for a minute or two. In doing so, with the utmost reverence, I think I hear Christ crying to his Father that the right men might be selected as the leaders of the Church of God on the earth. I think I also hear him pleading that a divine influence might rest on these chosen men, that they might be kept in character, honest in heart, and holy in life, and that they might also be preserved sound in doctrine and not turn aside to error and falsehood. Then I think I hear him praying that success might attend their preaching, that they might be guided where to go, where the blessing of God would go with them, that they might find many hearts willing to receive their testimony, and that, when their personal ministry should end, they might pass on their commission to others, so that, as long as there should be a harvest to be reaped for the Lord, there should be labourers to reap it; as long as there should be lost sinners in the world, there should also be earnest, consecrated men and women seeking to pluck the brands from the burning. I will not attempt to describe the mighty wrestlings of that night of prayer when, in strong crying and tears, Christ poured out his very soul into his Father’s ear and heart. But it is clear that he would not despatch a solitary messenger with the glad tidings of the gospel unless he was assured that his Father’s authority and the Spirit’s power would accompany the servants whom he was about to send out.

11. What a lesson there is in all this for us! What infallible guidance there is here concerning how a missionary society should be conducted! Where there is one committee meeting for business, there ought to be fifty for prayer; and whenever we get a missionary society whose main business it is to pray, we shall have a society whose distinguishing characteristic will be that it is the means of saving a multitude of souls. And to you, my dear young brethren in the College, I feel moved to say that I believe we shall have a far greater blessing than we have already had when the spirit of prayer in the College is greater than it now is, though I rejoice to know that it is very deep and fervent even now. You, brethren, have never been lacking in prayerfulness; I thank God that I have never had occasion to complain or to grieve on that account; but, still, who knows what blessing might follow a night of prayer at the beginning or at any part of the session, or an all-night wrestling in prayer in the privacy of your own bedrooms? Then, when you go out to preach the gospel on the Sabbath day, you will find that the best preparation for preaching is much praying. I have always found that the meaning of a text can be better learned by prayer than in any other way. Of course, we must consult lexicons and commentaries to see the literal meaning of the words, and their relationship to each other; but when we have done all that, we shall still find that our greatest help will come from prayer. Oh, that every Christian enterprise were begun with prayer, continued with prayer, and crowned with prayer! Then we might also expect to see it crowned with God’s blessing. So once again I remind you that our Saviour’s example teaches us that, for times of special service, we need not only prayers of a brief character, excellent as they are for ordinary occasions, but special protracted wrestling with God like that of Jacob at the Brook Jabbok, so that each one of us can say to the Lord, with holy determination,—

   With thee all night I mean to stay,

   And wrestle till the break of day.

When such sacred persistence in prayer as this becomes common throughout the whole Church of Christ, Satan’s long usurpation will be coming to an end, and we shall be able to say to our Lord, as the seventy disciples did when they returned to him with joy, “Even the demons are subject to us through your name.”

12. III. Now, thirdly, let us consider OUR LORD’S PRAYER PREPARATORY TO HIS TRANSFIGURATION. You will find it in Luke chapter nine: “And it came to pass about eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the form of his countenance was altered, and his clothing was white and glistening.” {Lu 9:28,29} You see that it was as he prayed that he was transfigured.

13. Now, beloved, do you really desire to reach the highest possible attainments of the Christian life? Do you, in your innermost soul, pine and pant after the choicest joys that can be known by human beings this side of heaven? Do you aspire to rise to full fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and to be transformed into his image from glory to glory? If so, the way is open to you; it is the way of prayer, and only there will you find these priceless blessings. If you fail in prayer, you will assuredly never come to Tabor’s top. There is no hope, dear friends, of our ever attaining to anything like a transfiguration, and being covered with the light of God, so that whether in the body or out of the body we cannot tell, unless we are much in prayer.

14. I believe that we make more real advance in the divine life in an hour of prayer than we do in a month of sermon-hearing. I do not mean that we are to neglect the assembling of ourselves together, as the habit of some is; but I am sure that, without the praying, the hearing is of little worth. We must pray, we must plead with God if we are really to grow spiritually. In prayer, very much of our spiritual digestion is done. When we are hearing the Word, we are very much like the cattle when they are cropping the grass; but when we follow our hearing with meditation and prayer, we do, as it were, lie down in the green pastures, and get the rich nutriment for our souls out of the truth. My dear brother or sister in Christ, would you shake off the earthliness that still clings to you? Would you get rid of your doubting and your fearing? Would you overcome your worldliness? Would you master all your besetting sins? Would you glow and glisten in the brightness and glory of the holiness of God? Then, be much in prayer, as Jesus was. I am sure that it must be so, and that, apart from prayer, you will make no advance in the divine life; but that, in waiting on God, you shall renew your spiritual strength, you shall mount up with wings as eagles, you shall run, and not be weary, you shall walk, and not faint.

15. IV. I must hurry on, lest time should fail us before I have finished; and I must put together two of OUR LORDS PRAYERS PREPARATORY TO GREAT MIRACLES.

16. The first, which preceded his stilling of the tempest on the Lake of Gennesaret, is recorded in Matthew chapter fourteen: “And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there by himself. But the boat was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.” {Mt 14:23-25} He had been pleading with his Father for his disciples; and then, when their boat was tossed by the waves, and driven back by the contrary winds, he came down to them from the lofty place where he had been praying for them, making a pathway for himself across the turbulent waters that he was about to calm. Before he walked on those tossing billows, he had prayed to his Father; before he stilled the storm, he had prevailed with God in prayer.

17. Am I to do any great work for God? Then I must first be mighty on my knees. Is there a man here who is to be the means of covering the sky with clouds, and bringing the rain of God’s blessing on the dry and barren church which so greatly needs reviving and refreshing? Then he must be prepared for that great work as Elijah was when, on the top of Carmel, “he cast himself down on the earth, and put his face between his knees,” and prayed as only he could pray. We shall never see a little cloud, like a man’s hand, which shall afterwards cover all the sky with blackness, unless first of all we know how to cry mightily to the Most High; but when we have done that, then we shall see what we desire. Moses would never have been able to control the children of Israel as he did, if he had not first been in communion with his God in the desert, and afterwards in the mount. So, if we are to be men of power, we also must be men of prayer.

18. The other example to which I want to refer, showing how our Lord prayed before working a mighty miracle, happened when he stood by the grave of Lazarus. You will find the account of it in John chapter eleven: “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. And I knew that you always hear me: but because of the people who stand by I said it, so that they may believe that you have sent me.’” {Joh 11:41,42} He did not cry, “Lazarus, come out,” so that the people heard it, and Lazarus heard it, until he had first prayed, “My Father, grant that Lazarus may rise from the dead,” and had received the assurance that he would do so as soon as he was called by Christ to come out from the grave.

19. But, brethren, do you not see that, if Christ, who was so strong, needed to pray like this, what need there is for us, who are so weak, also to pray? If he, who was God as well as man, prayed to his Father before he performed a miracle, how necessary it is for us, who are merely men, to go to the throne of grace, and plead there with persistent fervency if we are ever to do anything for God! I fear that many of us have been feeble out here in public because we have been feeble up there on the lone mountain side where we ought to have been in fellowship with God. The way to be prepared to work what men will call wonders is to go to the God of wonders and implore him to gird us with his all-sufficient strength so that we may do exploits for his praise and glory.

20. V. The next prayer we are to consider is OUR LORD’S PRAYER PREPARATORY TO PETER’S FALL. We have the record of that in Luke chapter twenty-two: “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, so that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for you, so that your faith does not fail: and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren.’” {Lu 22:31,32} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2620, “Christ’s Prayer for Peter” 2621} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2034, “Peter’s Restoration” 2035} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2035, “Peter After His Restoration” 2036}

21. There is much that is admirable and instructive in this utterance of our Lord. Satan had not then tempted Peter, yet Christ had already pleaded for the disciple whose peril he clearly foresaw. Some of us would have thought that we were very prompt if we had prayed for a brother who had been tempted, and who had yielded to the temptation; but our Lord prayed for Peter before he was tempted. As soon as Satan had desired to have him in his sieve, so that he might sift him as wheat, our Saviour knew the thought that was formed in the diabolical mind, and he at once pleaded for his imperilled servant, who did not even know the danger that was threatening him. Christ is always ahead of us. Before the storm comes, he has provided the harbour of refuge; before the disease attacks us, he has the remedy ready to cure it; his mercy outruns our misery.

22. What a lesson we ought to learn from this action of Christ! Whenever we see any friend in peril through temptation, let us not begin to talk about him, but let us at once pray for him. Some people are very fond of hinting and insinuating about what is going to happen to certain people with whom they are acquainted. Please, beloved friends, do not do so. Do not hint that So-and-so is likely to fall, but pray that he may not fall. Do not insinuate anything about him to others, but tell the Lord what your anxiety is concerning him.

23. “But So-and-so has made a lot of money, and he is getting very purse-proud.” Well, even if it is so, do not talk about him to others, but pray God to grant that he may not be allowed to become purse-proud. Do not say that he will be, but pray constantly that he may not be, and do not let anyone but the Lord know that you are praying for him.

24. “Then there is So-and-so; he is so elated with the success he has had that one can scarcely get to speak to him.” Well, then brother, pray that he may not be elated. Do not say that you are afraid he is growing proud, for that would imply what you would yourself be if you were in his place. Your fear reveals a secret concerning your own nature, for what you judge that he would be is exactly what you would be in similar circumstances. We always measure other people’s grain with our own bushel; we do not borrow their bushel; and we can judge ourselves by our judgment of others. Let us cease these censures and judgments, and let us pray for our brethren. If you fear that a minister is somewhat turning aside from the faith, or if you think that his ministry is not as profitable as it used to be, or if you see any other imperfection in him, do not go and talk about it to people on the street, for they cannot set him right; but go and tell his Master about him, pray for him, and ask the Lord to make right whatever is wrong. There is a sermon by old Matthew Wilks about our being epistles of Christ, written not with ink, and not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart; and he said that ministers are the pens with which God writes on their hearers’ hearts, and that pens need nibbing every now and then, and even when they are well nibbed they cannot write without ink; so he said that the best service that the people could render to the preacher was to pray the Lord to give them new nibs, and dip them in the ink afresh, so that they might write better than before. Do so, dear friends; do not blot the page with your censures and unkind remarks, but help the preacher by pleading for him even as Christ prayed for Peter.

25. VI. Now I must close with our LORD’S PREPARATORY PRAYER JUST BEFORE HIS DEATH. You will find it in Luke chapter twenty-three: “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit:’ and having said this, he gave up the ghost.” {Lu 23:46} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2311, “Our Lord’s Last Cry from the Cross” 2312} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2644, “The Last Words of Christ on the Cross” 2645}

26. Our Lord Jesus was very specially occupied in prayer as the end of his earthly life drew near. He was about to die as his people’s Surety and Substitute; the wrath of God, which was due to them, fell on him. Knowing all that was to befall him, “he set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem”; and, in due time, “he endured the cross, despising the shame”; but he did not go to Gethsemane and Golgotha without prayer. Son of God as he was, he would not undergo that terrible ordeal without much supplication. You know how much there is about his praying in the later chapters of John’s Gospel. There is especially that great prayer of his for his Church, in which he pleaded with wonderful fervour for those whom his Father had given him. Then there was his agonized pleading in Gethsemane, when “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” We will not say much about that, but we can well imagine that the bloody sweat was the outward and visible expression of the intense agony of his soul, which was “very sorrowful, even to death.”

27. All that Christ did and suffered was full of prayer, so it was only fitting that his last utterance on earth should be the prayerful surrender of his spirit into the hands of his Father. He had already pleaded for his murderers, “Father, forgive them: for they do not know what they are doing.” He had promised to grant the request of the penitent thief, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Now nothing remained for him to do but to say, “‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’: and having said this, he gave up the ghost.” His life, which had been a life of prayer, was also closed with prayer,—an example well worthy of his people’s imitation.

28. Perhaps I am addressing someone who is conscious that a serious illness is threatening. Well then, dear friend, prepare for it by prayer. Are you dreading a painful operation? Nothing will help you to bear it so well as pleading with God concerning it. Prayer will help you mentally as well as physically; you will face the ordeal with far less fear if you have laid your care before the Lord, and committed yourself, body, soul, and spirit, into his hands. If you are expecting, before long, to reach the end of your mortal life, either because of your advanced age, or your weak constitution, or the inroads of the deadly consumption, pray much. You need not fear to be baptized in Jordan’s swelling flood if you are constantly being baptized in prayer. Think of your Saviour in the garden and on the cross, and pray even as he did, “Not my will, but yours be done.…Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

29. While I have been speaking like this to believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, there may have been some here, who are still unconverted, who have imagined that prayer is the way to heaven; but it is not. Prayer is a great and precious help on the road, but Christ alone is the Way, and the very first step heavenward is to trust ourselves entirely to him. Faith in Christ is the all-important matter; and if you truly believe in him, you are saved. But the very first thing that a saved man does is to pray, and the very last thing that he does before he gets to heaven is to pray. Well did Montgomery write,—

   Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice,

      Returning from his ways;

   While angels in their songs rejoice,

      And cry, “Behold, he prays!”

   Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,

      The Christian’s native air;

   His watchword at the gates of death:

      He enters heaven with prayer.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Lu 18:1-14}

1. And he spoke a parable to them for this purpose, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2519, “When Should We Pray?” 2520}

An old writer says that many of Christ’s parables need a key to unlock them. Here, the key hangs outside the door; for, at the very beginning of the parable, we are told what Christ meant to teach by it: “that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” And this is the parable:—

2. Saying, “There was in a city a judge, who did not fear God, neither regarded man:

It is a great pity for any city and for any country where the judges do not fear God, where they feel that they have been put into a high office in which they may do just as they please. There were such judges in the olden times even in this land; may God grant that we may not see any more like them!

3. And there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Avenge me of my adversary.’

She had no friend to plead for her, she had no one to help her; and, therefore, when she was robbed of her little patrimony, she went to the court, and asked the judge for justice.

4. And he would not for a while:

He preferred to be unjust; since he could do as he liked, he liked to do as he should not.

4, 5. But afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God, nor regard man; yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she wearies me.’”

She seems to have gone to him so often that he grew quite fatigued and pained by her persistence; the Greek words are very expressive, as though she had punched him in the eye, and so bruised him that he could not endure it any longer. Of course, the poor woman had not done anything of the kind; but the judge describes her continual persistence as a wounding of him, as an attacking of him, an assault on him, for he had perhaps a little conscience left. He had, at least, enough honesty to confess that he did not fear God, nor regard man, and there are some, of whom that is true, who will not admit it; but this judge admitted it, and though he was very little troubled about it, he said, “that I may not be worried to death by this woman’s continual coming, I will grant her request, and avenge her of her adversary.”

6, 7. And the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge says. And shall not God avenge his own elect, who cry day and night to him, though he bears long with them? {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2836, “Prayerful Persistence” 2837}

He is no unjust judge; he is One who is perfectly holy, and just, and true, and who appears in a nearer and dearer character than that of judge, even as the One who chose his people from eternity. “Shall not God avenge his own elect?” Indeed, that he will; only let them persevere in prayer, and “cry day and night to him.”

8. I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?” {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1963, “The Search for Faith” 1964}

If anyone can find it, he can, for he is the Creator of it; yet, when he comes, there will be so little of it in proportion to what he deserves, and so little in proportion to the lovingkindness of the Lord, that it will seem as if even he could not find it; although, if there were only as much faith as a grain of mustard seed, he would be the first to find it.

9 And he spoke this parable to certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

It seems as if these two things went together, and that, as our esteem of ourselves goes up, our esteem of others goes down; the scales seem to work that way.

10. “Two men went up into the temple to pray; {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2395, “The Blessings of Public Worship” 2396}

It was the place that was especially dedicated for prayer; it was the place where God had promised to meet supplicants. They did well, in those days, to go up into the temple to pray to God, though, in these days,—

   Where’er we seek him he is found,

   And every place is hallowed ground.

It is sheer superstition which imagines that one place is better for prayer than another. As long as we can be quiet and still, let us pray wherever we may be.

10, 11. The one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed like this with himself, “God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.

It is possible that this was all true; we have no indication that he was a hypocrite, and if what he said was true, there was something in it for which he might well thank God. It was a great mercy not to be an extortioner, nor unjust, nor an adulterer, but what spoiled his expression of thankfulness was that back-handed blow at the other man who was praying in the same temple: “or even as this tax collector.” What had the Pharisee to do with him? He had quite enough to occupy his thoughts if he could only see himself as he really was in God’s sight.

12. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.”

Observe that there is no prayer in all that the Pharisee said. There was a great deal of self-righteousness and self-congratulation; but nothing else. There was certainly no prayer at all in it.

13. And the tax collector, standing afar off,

Just on the edge of the crowd, keeping as far away as he could from the most holy place,—

13. Would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but beat on his breast, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1949, “A Sermon for the Worst Man on Earth” 1950}

That was all prayer; it was a prayer for mercy, it was a prayer in which the supplicant took his right place, for he was, as he said, “a sinner.” He does not describe himself as a penitent sinner, or as a praying sinner, but simply as a sinner, and as a sinner he goes to God asking for mercy.

Our English version does not give the full meaning of the tax collector’s prayer, it is, “God be propitious to me,” that is, “be gracious to me through the ordained sacrifice”; and that is one of the points of the prayer that made it so acceptable to God. There is a mention of the atonement in it, there is a pleading of the sacrificial blood. It was a real prayer, and an acceptable prayer, while the Pharisee’s boasting was not a prayer at all.

14. I tell you, this man

This tax collector, sinner as he had been, though he had no broad phylacteries like the Pharisee had, though he may not have washed his hands before he came into the temple, as no doubt the Pharisee did,—this man, who could not congratulate himself on his own excellence, “this man”—

14. Went down to his house justified rather than the other:

He obtained both justification and the peace of mind that comes from it. God smiled on him, and set him at ease concerning his sin. The other man received no justification; he had not sought it, and he did not get it. He had a kind of spurious ease of mind when he went into the temple, and he probably carried it away with him, but he certainly was not justified in the sight of God. {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2687, “Too Good to be Saved!” 2688}

14. For everyone who exalts himself shall be abased; and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”

God turns things upside down. If we think much of ourselves, he makes little of us, and if we make little of ourselves, we shall find that a humble and contrite heart he will not despise. May he teach us so to pray that we may go down to our house justified, as the tax collector was!

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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