We continue our journey through Spurgeon’s Sermons on Prayer this month with a simple, yet profound sermon entitled “Pleading.” The sermon was preached on October 29, 1971 and is based on Psalm 70:5:
- “But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.”
Spurgeon has four simple points to make about a “successful pleader”:
“In our text we have the soul of a successful pleader under four aspects:
- We view, first, the soul confessing: “I am poor and needy.”
- You have, next, the soul pleading, for he makes a plea out of his poor condition, and adds, “Make haste unto me, O God!”
- You see, thirdly, a soul in its urgency, for he cries, “Make haste,” and he varies the expression but keeps the same idea: “Make no tarrying.”
- And you have, in the fourth and last view, a soul grasping God, for the psalmist puts it thus: “Thou art my help and my deliverer;” thus with both hands he lays hold upon his God, so as not to let him go till a blessing is obtained.”
In the first principle, Spurgeon argues that we must confess our sinfulness in prayer:
Let me speak especially to you who desire to find peace with God, and salvation through the precious blood: you will do well to make your confession before God very frank, very sincere, very explicit. Surely you have nothing to hide, for there is nothing that you can hide. He knows your guilt already, but he would have you know it, and therefore he bids you confess it. Go into the details of your sin in your secret acknowledgments before God; strip yourself of all excuses, make no apologies; say, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” Acknowledge the evil of sin, ask God to make you feel it; do not treat it as a trifle, for it is none. To redeem the sinner from the effect of sin Christ himself must needs die, and unless you be delivered from it you must die eternally. Therefore, play not with sin; do not confess it as though it were some venial fault, which would not have been noticed unless God had been too severe; but labour to see sin as God sees it, as an offence against all that is good, a rebellion against all that is kind; see it to be treason, to be ingratitude, to be a mean and base thing. Do not think that you can improve your condition before God by painting your case in brighter colours than it should be. Blacken it: if it were possible blacken it, but it is not possible. When you feel your sin most you have not half felt it; when you confess it most fully you do not know a tithe of it; but oh, to the utmost of your ability make a clean breast of it, and say, “I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.” Acknowledge the sins of your youth and your manhood, the sins of your body and of your soul, the sins of omission and of commission, sins against the law and offences against the gospel; acknowledge all, neither for a moment seek to deny one portion of the evil with which God’s law, your own conscience, and his Holy Spirit justly charge you.
He goes on to state that we need not only need to confess our sins, but also our powerlessness:
It is very significant that before Christ fed the thousands, he made the disciples sum up all their provisions. It was well to let them see how low the commissariat had become, for then when the crowds were fed they could not say the basket fed them, nor that the lad had done it. God will make us feel how little are our barley loaves, and how small our fishes, and compel us to enquire, “What are they among so many?” When the Saviour bade his disciples cast the net on the right side of the ship, and they dragged such a mighty shoal to land, he did not work the miracle till they had confessed that they had toiled all the night and had taken nothing. They were thus taught that the success of their fishery was dependent upon the Lord, and that it was not their net, nor their way of dragging it, nor their skill and art in handling their vessels, but that altogether and entirely their success came from their Lord. We must get down to this, and the sooner we come to it the better.
Spurgeon specifically applies this truth to his own congregation:
The Lord in this church, if he means greatly to bless us, may send us the trial of pouring on the water once, and twice, and thrice; he may discourage us, grieve us, and try us, and bring us low, till all shall see that it is not of the preacher, it is not of the organization, it is not of man, but altogether of God, the Alpha and the Omega, who worketh all things according to the council of his will.
Under the second point of “pleading,” Spurgeon says we must actually use pleas:
Upon this topic I would remark that it is the habit of faith, when she is praying, to use pleas. Mere prayer sayers, who do not pray at all, forget to argue with God; but those who would prevail bring forth their reasons and their strong arguments, and they debate the question with the Lord.
Within this section, he lists a few things we can plead in prayer (for a more robust list of how to argue/plead – see the March post):
Oh, brethren, let us learn thus to plead the precepts, the promises, and whatever else may serve our turn; but let us always have something to plead. Do not reckon you have prayed unless you have pleaded, for pleading is the very marrow of prayer.
Spurgeon emphasizes the importance of pleading with faith, trusting that God is able to give an answer:
Alas, a great many people play at praying, it is nothing better. I say they play at praying, they do not expect God to give them an answer, and thus they are mere triflers, who mock the Lord. He who prays in a business-like way, meaning what he says, honours the Lord. The Lord does not play at promising, Jesus did not sport at confirming the word by his blood, and we must not make a jest of prayer by going about it in a listless unexpecting spirit.
He lists a specific example of how one pleads with God in faith:
“I am poor and needy, make haste unto me, O God.” It is like another prayer of David: “Have mercy upon mine iniquity, for it is great.” It is not the manner of men to plead so, they say, “Lord, have mercy on me, for I am not so bad a sinner as some.” But faith reads things in a truer light, and bases her pleas on truth. “Lord, because my sin is great, and thou art a great God, let thy great mercy be magnified in me.” You know the story of the Syrophenician woman; that is a grand instance of the ingenuity of faith’s reasoning. She came to Christ about her daughter, and he answered her not a word. What do you think her heart said? Why, she said in herself, “It is well, for he has not denied me: since he has not spoken at all, he has not refused me.” With this for an encouragement, she began to plead again. Presently Christ spoke to her sharply, and then her brave heart said, “I have gained words from him at last, I shall have deeds from him by-and-by.” That also cheered her; and then, when he called her a dog. “Ah,” she reasoned, “but a dog is a part of the family, it has some connection with the master of the house. Though it does not eat meat from the table, it gets the crumbs under it, and so I have thee now, great Master, dog as I am; the great mercy that I ask of thee, great as it is to me, is only a crumb to thee; grant it then I beseech thee.” Could she fail to have her request? Impossible! When faith hath a will, she always finds a way, and she will win the day when all things forebode defeat.
In Spurgeon’s third point, he encourages us to be urgent in our pleadings with God:
God will come to bless you, and come speedily, when your sense of need becomes deep and urgent. Oh, how great is this church’s need! We shall grow cold, unholy, and worldly; there will be no conversions, there will be no additions to our numbers; there will be diminutions, there will be divisions, there will be mischief of all kinds; Satan will rejoice, and Christ will be dishonoured, unless we obtain a larger measure of the Holy Spirit. Our need is urgent, and when we feel that need thoroughly, then we shall get the blessing which we want.
In the fourth and final point, he urges us to grasp after God in our prayers:
“Thou art my help,” and with the other, “Thou art my deliverer.” Oh, those blessed “my’s,” those potent “my’s.” The sweetness of the Bible lies in the possessive pronouns, and he who is taught to use them as the psalmist did, shall come off a conqueror with the eternal God.
Spurgeon illustrates how this grasping is a throwing ourselves upon the strength of God:
Oh, you that are saved and, therefore, love Christ, I want you, dear brethren, as the saints of God, to practice this last part of my subject; and be sure to lay hold upon God in prayer. “Thou art my help and my deliverer.” As a church we throw ourselves upon the strength of God, and we can do nothing without him; but we do not mean to be without him, we will hold him fast. “Thou art my help and my deliverer.” There was a boy at Athens, according to the old story, who used to boast that he ruled all Athens, and when they asked him how, he said, “Why, I rule my mother, my mother rules my father, and my father rules the city.” He who knows how to be master of prayer will rule the heart of Christ, and Christ can and will do all things for his people, for the Father hath committed all things into his hands. You can be omnipotent if you know how to pray, omnipotent in all things which glorify God. What doth the Word itself say? “Let him lay hold on my strength.” Prayer moves the arm that moves the world. Oh for grace to grasp Almighty love in this fashion.”
You can read the entire sermon here.