True Praying in the Holy Spirit (4)
LABORING IN PRAYER (Part II)
By G. H. C. Macgregor
"Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." —Col. 4:12.
Yet when we have done all this, when we have learned the lessons that underlie the words we have just considered, we are only in a position to begin to understand the weight of that wonderful word from which we started.
For after our last word has taught us to make prayer the great business of life, this word bids us MAKE PRAYER A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH.
I do not think anything less strong than that brings out the force of the word of our text. It is a wonderful word. It is, as I have already stated, the word from which our English word "agonize" is taken. The word is used in the New Testament eight times, and the use of the word shows that to the work of prayer, if it is to be done properly, we must call in every motive whereby a man may be moved to strenuous toil.
We are to labor at prayer as a man labors at his daily work. We are to put forth our energy in this work until we are weary. This is the idea in the use of the word in Colossians 1:29, "Whereunto I labor also, striving according to His working which worketh in me mightily." We know that in our day the aim of some laborers is to make their daily task as light as possible. The less they do for their day’s wage the better pleased they are. It is to be feared that some of us labor in prayer after that fashion. We do not bend our back to this work, toiling at it as the rural laborer toils in the fields, with his eye on the sun, looking till it dip over the horizon, and bid him go home to rest.
We are to labor in prayer as a man labors in the arena, striving to obtain a prize, which he covets more than life; straining to avoid defeat, the shame of which he dreads more than death. This is the teaching of 1 Corinthians 9:25, "Every man that striveth in the games is temperate in all things." Today there is a passion for athletics, and any one who cares may see how men put their whole soul into sport. Would that God’s people were as earnest in prayer as the men of the world in sport were. Watch an athletic contest, and see how the men engaged in it bring to it not only the force of the body but of the mind. Every faculty is bent on winning the prize. That is how you and I are to pray. Agony in prayer means striving as the athlete in the arena. He strives for a corruptive prize; we strive for a prize above all prices—fellowship with God and knowledge of Him through His blessed Son.
We are to labor in prayer as a soldier labors on the battlefield. This is the teaching of 1 Timothy 6:12, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life." I do not think we have any conception of the way a soldier labors on the battlefield. From reading the accounts of many campaigns, I have received the impression that there is hardly any labor that man ever does, so intense as the labor of the battlefield. The soldier who does not put his whole heart into his work is sure of defeat. Have we not often been utterly defeated in prayer? We have knelt to pray, and because the heavens seemed as brass, and the earth as iron, we have turned away from this blessed work, disheartened and discouraged. We have not fought as good soldiers fight, till victory crowns their efforts. Yet thus we must strive if we are to know what true prayer is.
Wonderful as these verses are, there is other which carry us still deeper. For when we turn to John 18:36, we learn that we are to labor in prayer as a man would labor to defend a loved friend from danger. The discovery of this passage brought great delight to my soul. In it Jesus says, "My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world then would My servants fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews." We know that at the time of our Lord’s arrest the disciples fled panic-stricken. But the reason of their panic was that the Lord would not allow them to fight. They were brave men, and they loved their Master, and had He bidden them to do it, for Him they would gladly have laid down their lives. The lesson of the passage for us now is this, that we should bring to prayer all the chivalry and courage of our nature, which we would bring to the defense of our homes, and of our loved ones in a time of danger.
We are to labor in prayer as a man labors to save his soul. This is the lesson of Luke 13:24, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." Perhaps this verse will teach us more than any of the others. Many of us are Christian workers. To many of us the privilege has been given of leading anxious souls to the Lord Jesus. We know how a truly awakened soul, who feels the burden of guilt, and hears the thunder of God’s wrath, labors to be saved. We know the agony and earnestness with which he flees from the wrath to come, and lays hold on life eternal. We have seen this and thanked God for it. But have we ever prayed with an earnestness like His? Yet until we know what it is to bring to prayer something of strenuous desire which we brought to the salvation of our souls, we are not ready to be led to those heights of spiritual blessing and power to which our God calls us.
One verse more demands our attention and as we turn to it we feel that the place where we stand is holy ground. Will you read very reverently these verses, Luke 22:41-44, "And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast and kneeled down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if Thou be willing remove this cup from Me; nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done.’ And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." Only once is the word "agony" used in the Bible, and it is here. What depths open before us as we read this passage, and see what laboring in prayer means. It means seeing the world’s sin somewhat as Christ saw it; it means seeing the world’s need somewhat as Christ saw it. It means assenting, as utterly as Christ did, to God’s judgment upon sin. And it means entering so into the will of God about the world’s deliverance from sin, that for that end we are willing to lay down our lives. To true laboring in prayer there is necessary something of the Savior’s conception of sin, and an inner intimate fellowship with His sufferings. It is only after we have been in the Garden with Him, that we learn the deeper lessons of the school of prayer.
This, then, is laboring in prayer, and it is to this that you and I are called. Truly, there are depths in connection with prayer, which we have never fathomed. We should humble ourselves before God that we know so little in experience what agony in prayer really is.
You are reading the second part of chapter 4 of the book, True Praying in the Holy Spirit, by G.H.C. Macgregor. If you are interested in reading the previous chapter, you can find it by clicking on PRAYERPATHWAYS.
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May the riches of the blessings of the Lord come upon your prayer life!
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