Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a Baptist preacher in London during the 1800s. He left behind over 3500 sermons that fill 63 volumes. A small collection of his sermons on prayer are published under the title 12 Sermons on Prayer.
I will post some of the best quotes I find in these sermons as we walk through “The Year of Prayer” at The Summit Church. 12 sermons in the collection, 12 months in a year – thus you can expect one Spurgeon post per month.
Why am I doing this? Two reasons:
- I hope and pray that Spurgeon’s teaching stimulates our congregation to enjoy sweet communion with our Triune God in prayer.
- I hope to expose many to the rich heritage of Christian teaching that lies practically untouched by many modern-day Christians. Perhaps less and less people will be guilty of what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.”
The first sermon in the collection was preached on March 12th, 1865 and is entitled “The Golden Key of Prayer.” Spurgeon’s text on that Sunday morning was Jeremiah 33:3: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” His point is simple: God commands us to call on Him in prayer.
We are not merely counselled and recommended to pray, but bidden to pray. This is great condescension. An hospital is built: it is considered sufficient that free admission shall be given to the sick when they seek it; but no order in council is made that a man must enter its gates. A soup kitchen is well provided for in the depth of winter. Notice is promulgated that those who are poor may receive food on application; but no one thinks of passing an Act of Parliament, compelling the poor to come and wait at the door to take the charity. It is thought to be enough to proffer it without issuing any sort of mandate that men shall accept it. Yet so strange is the infatuation of man on the one hand, which makes him need a command to be merciful to his own soul, and so marvellous is the condescension of our gracious God on the other, that he issues a command of love without which not a man of Adam born would partake of the gospel feast, but would rather starve than come. In the matter of prayer it is even so. God’s own people need, or else they would not receive it, a command to pray. How is this? Because, dear friends, we are very subject to fits of worldliness, if indeed that be not our usual state. We do not forget to eat: we do not forget to take the shop shutters down: we do not forget to be diligent in business: we do not forget to go to our beds to rest: but we often do forget to wrestle with God in prayer, and to spend, as we ought to spend, long periods in consecrated fellowship with our Father and our God. With too many professors the ledger is so bulky that you cannot move it, and the Bible, representing their devotion, is so small that you might almost put it in your waistcoat pocket. Hours for the world! Moments for Christ! The world has the best, and our closet the parings of our time. We give our strength and freshness to the ways of mammon, and our fatigue and languor to the ways of God. Hence it is that we need to be commanded to attend to that very act which it ought to be our greatest happiness, as it is our highest privilege to perform, viz. to meet with our God. “Call upon me,” saith he, for he knows that we are apt to forget to call upon God.
Later, Spurgeon prompts the listeners to search the Scriptures themselves:
It may be a seasonable exercise for some of you to find out how often in scripture you are told to pray. You will be surprised to find how many times such words as these are given; “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee”—“Ye people, pour out your heart before him.” “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near.” “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”—“Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation”—“Pray without ceasing”—“Come boldly unto the throne of grace,” “Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you.” “Continue in prayer.”
He then asks us to consider God’s promise to answer, while taking His faithfulness into account:
Will he give the invitation to us to seek his face, and when we as he knows, with so much trepidation of fear, yet summon courage enough to fly into his bosom, will he then be unjust and ungracious enough to forget to hear our cry and to answer us? Let us not think so hardly of the God of heaven. Let us recollect next, his past character as well as his nature. I mean the character which he has won for himself by his past deeds of grace. Consider, my brethren, that one stupendous display of bounty—if I were to mention a thousand I could not give a better illustration of the character of God than that one deed—“He that spared not his own Son, but freely delivered him up for us all”—and it is not my inference only, but the inspired conclusion of an apostle—“how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” If the Lord did not refuse to listen to my voice when I was a guilty sinner and an enemy, how can he disregard my cry now, that I am justified and saved! How is it that he heard the voice of my misery when my heart knew it not, and would not seek relief, if after all he will not hear me now that I am his child, his friend? The streaming wounds of Jesus are the sure guarantees for answered prayer…
…You misread Calvary, if you think that prayer is useless. But, beloved, we have the Lord’s own promise for it, and he is a God that cannot lie. “Call upon me in, the day of trouble and I will answer thee.” Has he not said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believe that ye shall have it and ye shall have it.” We cannot pray, indeed, unless we believe this doctrine; “for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him;”
Later, Spurgeon briefly touches on the relationship between prayer and God’s will:
Still remember that prayer is always to be offered in submission to God’s will; that when we say, God heareth prayer, we do not intend by that, that he always gives us literally what we ask for. We do mean, however, this, that he gives us what is best for us; and that if he does not give us the mercy we ask for in silver, he bestows it upon us in gold. If he doth not take away the thorn in the flesh, yet he saith, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” and that comes to the same in the end.
Towards the end, Spurgeon speaks a word of encouragement to teachers in the local church:
Brethren in the ministry, you who are teachers in the Sabbath school, and all of you who are learners in the college of Christ Jesus, I pray you remember that prayer is your best means of study: like Daniel you shall understand the dream, and the interpretation thereof, when you have sought unto God; and like John you shall see the seven seals of precious truth unloosed, after that you have wept much. “Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up the voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
Finally, Spurgeon pleads with the believer to consider what he/she is missing out in being prayerless:
You cannot guess how greatly God will bless you. Only go and stand at his door, you cannot tell what is in reserve for you. If you do not beg at all, you will get nothing
You can read the entire sermon here.
 Spurgeon, C. H. (1865). The Golden Key of Prayer. In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 11, p. 146). London: Passmore & Alabaster.