A Year of Prayer with Spurgeon: Part 2

February 16, 2018 // Articles

Pri Garach serves as an elder at The Summit Church. He is also the Director of Equipping and Managing Editor for The Summit Institute.


We continue with our monthly installments of Charles Spurgeon on the topic of prayer.  February is a short month, which calls for a shorter post.  (You can find past posts here).

Spurgeon’s text for this month’s sermon is Psalm 147:9,  “He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.”  He entitles the sermon, “The Raven’s Cry.”[1]  He begins by comparing how much more willing God is to listen to our prayers, than the ravens:

Now, if God hears such a strange, chattering, indistinct cry as that of a raven, do you not think that he will also hear the rational and expressive prayer of a poor, needy, guilty soul who is crying unto him, “God be merciful to me a sinner”? Surely your reason tells you that!


There is however, one advantage that the raven has over us:

A raven, however, I fear has sometimes a great advantage over some sinners who seek God in prayer, namely in this: young ravens are more in earnest about their food than some are about their souls. This, however, is no discouragement to you, but rather a reason why you should be more earnest than you have hitherto been. When ravens want food, they do not cease crying till they have got it; there is no quieting a hungry young raven till his mouth is full, and there is no quieting a sinner when he is really in earnest till he gets his heart full of divine mercy. I would that some of you prayed more vehemently! “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” An old Puritan said, “Prayer is a cannon set at the gate of heaven to burst open its gates:” you must take the city by storm if you would have it.


Spurgeon argues that our prayers are much more pleasing to God, because we ask for something much more superior than the raven does:

Remember, that the matter of your prayer is more congenial to the ear of God than the raven’s cry for meat. All that the young ravens cry for is food; give them a little carrion and they have done. Your cry must be much more pleasing to God’s ear, for you entreat for forgiveness through the blood of his dear Son. It is a nobler occupation for the Most High to be bestowing spiritual than natural gifts.


Later, he teaches on the necessary work of the Holy Spirit if we are to genuinely engage in prayer from the heart:

The cry of a young raven is nothing but the natural cry of a creature, but your cry, if it be sincere, is the result of a work of grace in your heart. When the raven cries to heaven it is nothing but the raven’s own self that cries; but when you cry “God be merciful to me a sinner,”—it is God the Holy Spirit crying in you. It is the new life which God has given you crying to the source from whence it came to have farther communion and communication with its great Original. It needs God himself to set a man praying in sincerity and in truth. We can, if we think it right, teach our children to “say their prayers,” but we cannot teach them to “pray.” You may make a “prayer-book,” but you cannot put a grain of “prayer” into a book, for it is too spiritual a matter to be encased between leaves. Some of you, perhaps, may “read prayers” in the family; I will not denounce the practice, but I will say this much of it—you may read those “prayers” for seventy years, and yet you may never once pray, for prayer is quite a different thing from mere words. True prayer is the trading of the heart with God, and the heart never comes into spiritual commerce with the ports of heaven until God the Holy Ghost puts wind into the sails and speeds the ship into its haven. “Ye must be born again.” If there be any real prayer in your heart, though you may not know the secret, God the Holy Ghost is there.


The Holy Spirit is not alone in helping us plead with the Father.  The Lord Jesus himself comes to our assistance:

When the young ravens cry they cry alone, but when you pray you have a mightier one than you praying with you. Hear that sinner crying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Hark! Do you hear that other cry which goes up with his? No, you do not hear it, because your ears are dull and heavy, but God hears it. There is another voice, far louder, and sweeter than the first, and far more prevalent, mounting up at the same moment and pleading, “Father, forgive them through my precious blood.”

You can read the entire sermon here.

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1866). The Raven’s Cry. In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 12, pp. 49–60). London: Passmore & Alabaster.