An Approving Heart-Confidence In Prayer
from "The Way Of Salvation"
IN discussing this subject, I shall,
I. If our heart does not condemn us, we can have confidence we are acceptable to God.
If our heart really does not condemn us, it is because we are conscious of being
conformed to all the light we have, and of doing the whole will of God as far as
we know it. While in this state it is impossible that, with right views of God's
character, we should conceive of him as condemning us. Our intelligence instantly
rejects the supposition that he does or can condemn us, that is, for our present
state. We may be most deeply conscious that we have done wrong heretofore, and we
may feel ourselves to be most guilty for this, and may be sure that God disapproves
those past sins of ours, and would condemn us for them even now, if the pardoning
blood of Christ had not intervened; but where pardon for past sins has been sought
and found through redeeming blood, "there is therefore no more condemnation"
for the past. And in reference to the present, the obvious truth is that if our conscience
fully approves of our state, and we are conscious of having acted according to the
best light we have, it contradicts all our just ideas of God to suppose that he condemns
us. He is a father, and he cannot but smile on his obedient and trusting children.
Indeed, ourselves being in this state of mind, it is impossible for us not to suppose that God is well pleased with our present state. We cannot conceive of him as being otherwise than pleased; for, if he were displeased with a state of sincere and full obedience, he would act contrary to his own character; he would cease to be benevolent, holy, and just. We cannot, therefore, conceive of him as refusing to accept us when we are conscious of obeying his will so far as we know it. Suppose the case of a soul appearing before God, fully conscious of seeking with all the heart to please God. In this case the soul must see that this is such a state as must please God.
Let us turn this subject over till we get it fully before our minds. For what is it that our conscience rightly condemns us? Plainly for not obeying God according to the best light we have. Suppose now we turn about and fully obey the dictates of conscience. Then its voice approves and ceases to condemn. Now all just views of the Deity require us to consider the voice of conscience in both cases as only the echo of his own. The God who condemns all disobedience must of necessity approve of obedience; and to conceive of him as disapproving our present state would be, in the conviction of our own minds, to condemn him.
It is therefore by no means presumption in us to assume that God accepts those who are conscious of really seeking supremely to please and obey him.
Again, let it be noted that in this state with an approving conscience, we should have no self-righteousness. A man in this state would at this very moment ascribe all his obedience to the grace of God. From his inmost soul he would say, "By the grace of God, I am what I am"; and nothing could be farther from his heart than, to take praise or glory to himself for anything good. Yet I have sometimes been exceedingly astonished to hear men, and even ministers of the gospel, speak with surprise and incredulity of such a state as our text presupposes -- a state in which a man's conscience universally approves of his moral state. But why be incredulous about such a state? Or why deem it a self-righteous and sinful state? A man in this state is as far as can be from ascribing glory to himself. No state can be farther from self-righteousness. So far is this from being a self-righteous state, that the fact is, every other state but this is self-righteous, and this alone is exempt from that sin. Mark how the man in this state ascribes all to the grace of God. The apostle Paul when in this state of conscious uprightness most heartily ascribes all to grace. "I laboured," says he, "more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God that is in me."
But, observe that, while the apostle was in that state, it was impossible that he should conceive of God as displeased with his state. Paul might greatly and justly condemn himself for his past life, and might feel assured that God disapproved and had condemned Saul, the proud persecutor, though he had since pardoned Saul, the praying penitent. But the moral state of Paul the believer, of Paul, the untiring labourer for Christ, of Paul, whose whole heart and life divine grace has now moulded into his own image, this moral state Paul's conscience approves, and his views of God compel him to believe that God approves.
So of the apostle John. Hear what he says "Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." But here rises up a man to rebuke the apostle. What! he says, did you not know that your heart is corrupt, that you never can know all its latent wickedness, that you ought never to be so presumptuous as to suppose that you "do those things that please God?" Did you not know that no mere man does ever, even by any grace received in this life, really "keep the commandments of God so as to do those things that are pleasing in his sight?" No, says John, I did not know that. "What," rejoins his reprover, "not know that sin is mixed with all you do and that the least sin is displeasing to God?" Indeed, replies John, I knew I was sincerely trying to please God, and verily supposed I did please him and did keep his commandments, and that it was entirely proper to say so, all to the praise of upholding, sanctifying grace.
Again, when a man prays disinterestedly, and with a heart in full and deep sympathy with God, he may and should have confidence that God hears him. When he can say in all honesty before the Lord, Now, Lord, thou knowest that through the grace of thy Spirit my soul is set on doing good to men for thy glory; I am grieved for the dishonour done to thee, so that "rivers of water run down my eyes, because men keep not thy law," then he cannot but know that his prayers are acceptable to God.
Indeed no one, having right views of God's character, can come to him in prayer in a disinterested state of mind, and feel otherwise than that God accepts such a state of mind. Now since our heart cannot condemn us when we are in a disinterested state of mind, but must condemn any other state, it follows that if our heart does not condemn us, we shall have, and cannot but have, confidence that God hears our prayers and accepts our state as pleasing in his sight.
Again, when we are conscious of sympathising with God himself, we may know that God will answer our prayers. There never was a prayer made in this state of sympathy with God, which he failed to answer. God cannot fail to answer such a prayer without denying himself. The soul, being in sympathy with God, feels as God feels; so that for God to deny its prayers, is to deny his own feelings, and refuse to do the very thing he himself desires. Since God cannot do this, he cannot fail of hearing the prayer that is in sympathy with his own heart.
In the state we are now considering, the Christian is conscious of praying in the Spirit, and therefore must know that his prayer is accepted before God. I say, he is conscious of this fact. Do not some of you know this? Ye who thus live and walk with God, do you not know that the Spirit of God helps your infirmities, and makes intercession for you according to the will of God? Are you not very conscious of these intercessions made for you, and in your very soul, as it were, with groanings that cannot be uttered? Your heart within pants and cries out after God, and is lifted up continually before him as spontaneously as it is when your heart sings, pouring out its deep outgushings of praise. You know how sometimes your heart sings, though your lips move not and you utter no sound; yet your heart is full of music, making melody to the Lord. Even so, your soul is sometimes in the mood of spontaneous prayer, and pours out its deep-felt supplications into the ears of the Lord of Hosts just as naturally as you breathe. The silent and ceaseless echoing of your heart is, Thy kingdom come -- thy kingdom come; and although you may not utter these words, and perhaps not any words at all, yet these words are a fair expression of the overflowing desires of your heart.
And this deep praying of the heart goes on while the Christian is still pursuing the common vocations of life. The man, perhaps, is behind the counter or in his workshop driving his plane, but his heart is communing or interceding with God. You may see him behind his plow -- but his heart is deeply engrossed with his Maker; he follows on, and only now and then starts up from the intense working of his mind and finds that his land is almost finished. The student has his book open to his lesson; but his deep musings upon God, or the irrepressible longings of his soul in prayer, consume his mental energies, and his eye floats unconsciously over the unnoticed page. God fills his thoughts. He is more conscious of this deep communion with God than he is of the external world. The team he is driving or the book he professes to study is by no means so really and so vividly a matter of conscious recognition to him as is his communion of soul with his God.
In this state, the soul is fully conscious of being perfectly submissive to God. Whether he uses these words or not, his heart would always say, "Not my will, O Lord, but thine be done." Hence he knows that God will grant the blessing he asks, if he can do so without a greater evil to his kingdom than the resulting good of bestowing it. We cannot but know that the Lord delights to answer the prayers of a submissive child of his own.
Again, when the conscience sweetly and humbly approves, it seems impossible that we should feel so ashamed and confounded before God as to think that he cannot hear our prayer. The fact is, it is only those whose heart condemns them, who come before God ashamed and confounded, and who cannot expect God to answer their prayers. These persons cannot expect to feel otherwise than confounded, until the sting of conscious guilt is taken away by repentance and faith in a Redeemer's blood.
Yet again, the soul in this state is not afraid to come with humble boldness to the throne, as God invites him to do; for he recognises God as a real and most gracious father, and sees in Jesus a most compassionate, and condescending high priest. Of course he can look upon God only as being always ready to receive and welcome himself to his presence.
Nor is this a self-righteous state of mind. Oh, how often have I been amazed and agonised to hear it so represented! But how strange is this! Because you are conscious of being entirely honest before God, therefore it is maintained that you are self-righteous! You ascribe every good thing in yourself most heartily to divine grace, but yet you are (so some say) very self-righteous notwithstanding! How long will it take some people to learn what real self-righteousness is? Surely it does not consist in being full of the love and Spirit of God; nor does humility consist in being actually so full of sin and self-condemnation that you cannot feel otherwise than ashamed and confounded before both God and man.
II. If our heart does not condemn us, we may have confidence that we shall receive the things we ask.
III. Why will God certainly answer such a prayer, and how can we know that he will?
Now, if it is his delight and his life to do good, how greatly must he rejoice
when we remove all obstacles out of the way! How does his heart exult when another,
and yet another, opportunity is afforded him of pouring out blessings in large and
rich measure! Think of it, sinner, for it applies to you! Marvellous as you may think
it, and most strange as it may seem, judged of by human rules and human examples,
yet of God it cannot fail of being always true that he delights supremely in doing
you good, and only waits till you remove the obstacles; then would his vast love
break forth, and pour its ocean tides of mercy and of grace all around about you.
Go and bow before your injured Sovereign in deep submission and real penitence, with
faith also in Jesus for pardon, and thus put this matter to a trial! See if you do
not find that his mercies are high above the heavens! See if anything is too great
for his love to do for you!
And let each Christian make a similar proof of this amazing love. Place yourself where mercy can reach you without violating the glorious principles of Jehovah's moral government; and then wait and see if you do not experience the most overwhelming demonstrations of his love! How greatly does your Father above delight to pour out his mighty tides of blessings! Oh, he is never so well pleased as when he finds the channel open and free for these great currents of blessings to flow forth upon his dear people!
A day or two since, I received a letter from the man in whose behalf you will recollect that I requested your prayers at a late church prayer-meeting. This letter was full of precious interest. The writer has long been a stranger to the blessedness of the gospel; but now he writes me: "I am sure you are praying for me, for within a week I have experienced a peace of mind that is new to me."
I mention this now as another proof of the wonderful readiness of our Father in heaven to hear and answer prayer. Oh, what love is this! To what shall I compare it? and how shall I give you any adequate view of its amazing fullness and strength? Think of a vast body of water, pent up and suspended high above our heads, pressing and pressing at every crevice to find an outlet where it may gush forth. Suppose the bottom of the vast Pacific should heave and pour its ocean tides over all the continents of the earth. This might illustrate the vast overflowings of the love of God; how grace and love are mounting up far and infinitely above all the mountains of your sins. Yes; let the deep, broad Pacific Ocean be elevated on high and there pent up, and then conceive of its pressure. How it would force its way and pour out its gushing floods wherever the least channel might be opened! And you would not need to fear that your little wants would drain it dry! Oh, no! you would understand how there might be enough and to spare; how it might be said, "Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it"; how the promises might read, "Bring ye all the tithes into my store-house, and prove me now herewith, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out blessings till there be not room enough to receive them." The great oceans of divine love are never drained dry. Let Christians but bring in their tithes and make ready their vessels to receive, and then, having fulfilled the conditions, they may "stand still and see the salvation of God." Oh, how those mountain floods of mercy run over and pour themselves all abroad till every capacity of the soul is filled! Oh, how your little vessels will run over and run over, as in the case of the prophet when the widow's vessels were all full, and he cried out, Oh, hasten, hasten! "Is there not another vessel?" Still the oil flows on -- is there not another vessel? No more, she says; all are full; then and only then was the flowing oil stayed. How often have I thought of this in seasons of great revival, when Christians really get into a praying frame, and God seems to give them everything they ask for; until at length the prophet cries out, Is there not yet another vessel? Oh, bring more vessels, more vessels yet, for still the oil is flowing and still runs over; but ah, the church has reached the limit of her expectation. She has provided no more vessels: and the heavenly current is stayed. Infinite love can bless no more; for faith is lacking to prepare for and receive it.
And now let me say to the impenitent sinners in this assembly, If others do not labour to promote a revival, begin at once and do it yourself. Learn from such a case as I have just stated what you can do. Don't you think you could do something of the greatest value to souls if you would seriously try? Who is there here -- let me see -- what young man or young woman is there here now impenitent, do not you believe that if you would repent yourself, you might then go and pray and labour and secure the conversion of others, perhaps many others, of your companions?
Sinners are usually disposed to throw all the responsibility of this labour and prayer upon Christians. I throw it back upon you. Do right yourselves, and then you can pray. Do right, and then none can labour with more effect than yourselves in this great work of bringing back wandering prodigals to their father's house.
Christian hearer, is it not a dreadful thing for you to be in a state in which you cannot prevail with God? Let us look around; how is it with you? Can you prevail with God; and you -- and you? Who are they, and how many are there, in such a state that their prayers avail nothing, and who know before they pray, and while they are praying, that they are in no fit state to offer prevailing prayer? One of the brethren, you recollect, said to us at a recent church meeting, "I have lost my power to prevail with God. I know I am not ready for this work." How many others are there, still in the same awful condition?
Oh! how many have we here who are the salt of the earth, whose prayers and redeeming influence save the community from becoming perfectly putrid with moral corruption? I hope they will be found alive and at work in this trying hour. Oh! we must have your prayers for the impenitent -- for the anxious -- for backsliders; or if you cannot pray -- at least come together and confess your sins; tell your brethren and sisters you cannot pray, and beg of them to pray for you that you may be brought back to the light and the peace -- and the penitence of real salvation.
RELATED STUDY AIDS:
Section Sub-Index for Finney: Voices of Philadelphia
Homepage Holy Bible .Jehovah Jesus Timeline .Prophecy Philadelphia Fellowship Promises Stories Poetry Links
Purpose ||.What's New || Tribulation Topics || Download Page || Today's Entry
Topical Links: Salvation || Catholicism || Sound Doctrine || Prayer