True Praying in the Holy Spirit (5)

True Praying in the Holy Spirit (5)


By G. H. C. Macgregor


"The Spirit helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought" ĖRom. 8:26

In Chapter IV we saw how impossible it is for us to pray without the help of the Spirit of God; and we saw that the help is graciously offered. Of how it is bestowed, and of the manner in which the Holy Spirit assists us in our prayers, we are now to speak.

Prayer is a very wide term. It includes adoration, confession, thanksgiving, petition, and total self-surrender. These are all essential to rich, full, deep prayer. And in connection with them all the help of the Holy Spirit is indispensable. But for the present we limit our attention to the work of the Holy Spirit in connection with Petition. This is the central, most characteristic feature of prayer. Prayer is more than petition, but without petition there is no real prayer. Prayer is the making of our requests known unto God. But for this work we are ourselves insufficient. The Apostle expressly declares, "We know not what we should pray for as we ought" (Rom. 8:26). Our ignorance of the right matter of prayer puts an arrest on the work of praying.

If our prayers are to prevail before God, they must conform to three conditions. They must be for what need; they must be for what God has promised; they must be for what it will be to the glory of God that He should grant.

  1. Prayer in order to prevail must be prayer for what we need. But the Holy Spirit alone can reveal to us what our real needs are. To some it may seem strange to be told that we know not what we need. But it is undoubtedly true. Sometimes, alas! When we go to prayer we do not even know what we want. Some begin to pray without having paused for a moment to think of what they are going to pray for. They have no definite business to transact with God. Their prayers are utterly vague. If after they had knelt down someone were to ask them, "What are you going to pray for?" they would be at a loss to reply. But vagueness of purpose leads inevitably to weakness of desire, and to powerlessness in pleading. If our prayers are to be powerful, they must be definite; and if they are to be definite, they must be Spirit-taught.

  2. The Holy Spirit alone can reveal to us our temporal needs, and teach us rightly to pray about the affairs of this life. There are few things about which earnest Christians find more difficulty than about how to pray rightly for temporal blessings. We may pray for health when God is about to send us a sickness which will bring infinite blessings; we may pray for deliverance from straitened circumstances and hard conditions of life, the removal of which would be a spiritual disaster. Our prayers for temporal blessings must be in the line of the Divine purpose concerning us. But this is known to the Holy Spirit, and if we are under His control, obedient to His voice, and attentive to hear it, He will whisper to us what our Fatherís purpose for us is, and lead us to pray for things which are according to His will.

    Further, the Holy Spirit alone can reveal to us our spiritual needs. How infinite these are! How little we know of them, and how utterly inadequate our prayers about them are! Our spiritual needs spring mainly from the presence of sin within us and around us, from the depravity of our hearts, from the power and malice of Satan, and from the necessity of attaining to holiness of life.

    But how little we know of sin! The ignorance even of Christians as to the condemning, polluting, misleading, seducing, blinding, deceiving, ensnaring, destroying power of sin is simply appalling. The shallowness of the spiritual life of many is due to the shallowness of their thoughts about sin. Deeper conviction of sin is one of the greatest needs of the Church today. We shall never pray rightly for mercy or for deliverance until the Holy Spirit has revealed to us the exceeding sinfulness of sin.

    And how little we know of ourselves! Self-deception about our spiritual condition is terribly easy and terribly common. Our hearts are so corrupt they cannot fathom their own corruption. We may think we have obtained only asleep, waiting till we are off our guard to spring upon us, and fling us to the ground. We are usually weakest where we fancy ourselves strongest. If left without the assistance of the Blessed Spirit of God, the things we forget to pray for will probably be the things we most need. He must daily search us, discover to us our weakness and emptiness, that He may moment by moment keep us abiding in unbroken fellowship with Him in whom is our fullness and our strength.

    Then how little we know of the subtilty and strength of the adversary! Peter warned us to be on our guard. "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). The prompting of the Spirit of God is needful to discover to us the devices of Satan, and to teach us how to pray against them.

    Then again, how little do we know about holiness! How few of us have seen its beauty! Would our prayers for holiness be so intermittent, so feeble, so easily arrested, if the glory of a holy life were revealed to our souls? Dear reader, you and I will never rightly pray to be like Christ, until the Holy Spirit shows us our need, until He discovers to us how far we are from being like our Lord, and how infinitely blessed and glorious it is to be conformed to His image.

  3. Prayer, in order to prevail, must be prayer for what God has promised. Promise must always proceed prayer, for we have no warrant to pray for anything, which God has not promised. Owen, in his wonderful discourse on the subject with which we are dealing in this book, says, "God knows our wants, what is good of us, what is useful to us, what is necessary to bring us to the enjoyment of Himself, infinitely better than we do ourselves; yea, we know nothing of these things but what He is pleased to teach us. Hence believers may learn what is good for them, and what is wanting to them, from a study of the promises more clearly and certainly than by any means whatever." Ignorance of Godís promises is a more fatal hindrance to prayer even than ignorance of our own needs.

  4. Now although by diligent study of the Bible, and by the aid of a faithful memory, we may obtain such a knowledge of the promises of God as to be able to use the words of the promises in prayer, yet the glory and power of the promises can be revealed to the soul only by the Spirit of God. Every one knows that a promise may be quoted in prayer without being a stepping-stone on which the soul rises to take hold of God. "This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us; and if we know that He heareth us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him" (1 John 5:14, 15). This confidence that we are praying according to God's will, and that our prayers will prevail, becomes ours through the work of the Holy Spirit bringing home the promises of God in power to our hearts. We cannot live a Christian life aright unless we know how to pray aright; we cannot know how to pray aright unless we know the promises of God, and these we can know only by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

  5. Prayer, in order to prevail, must be for what it would be to the glory of God to grant. A right motive and a right aim are essential to true prayer. As we saw in the last chapter, there must be an entire absence of self-will. How often God has to say to His children, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss"! Sometimes our prayers are actually sinful. We endeavor by prayer to make God minister to our self-esteem. How often has very earnest prayer for the fullness of the Holy Spirit been in vain, because he who sought that unspeakable blessing sought it rather for the glory which the possession of it, or the reputation for the possession of it, might bring to man, than for the honor and praise that might be brought to God.

  6. And oftentimes our prayers are foolish. We ask for things shameful and hurtful, and our Father in His love refuses to answer our prayers. On the flyleaf of the Bible of a Scottish minister the words were found written, "Thanks be to God for many unanswered prayers." If we are to pray aright, our prayers must have a right aim and end. We need teaching here, and teaching we may have. The indwelling Spirit, if we yield ourselves to Him, will help our infirmities, will remove our ignorance and foolishness, and lead us out to pray only for those things which will be for the glory of God and for our own good.



You are reading the third 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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