John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 19

*Building by Prayer and Faith

It is with your heart that you believe and are justified.

Romans 10:10 NIV

Friend, come up higher! Do not be content with good works: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the fatherless and widowed in their affliction, or the sick and those in prison, and the stranger. Do you preach the truth of Jesus in the name of Christ? Do the influence of the Holy Spirit and the power of God enable you to bring sinners from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God?

Then go and learn what you have taught: By grace you are saved through faith…not by our works of righteousness…but of His own mercy He saves us (see Ephesians 2:8, Titus 3:5).

Learn to hang naked upon the cross of Christ, counting all you have done just so much dross and dung. Apply to Him just in the spirit of the dying thief and the harlot with her seven devils! Lord, save or I perish! Else you are still on the sand: and after saving others, you will lose your own soul.

If you now believe, pray, Lord, increase my faith. Or, if you have not faith, pray, Give me this faith, though it be as a grain of mustard seed. For only saving faith, the faith that builds upon a rock, stands firm when the floods rise and the winds blow. And this true saving faith will indeed be manifested in good works of righteousness.

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

Wesley, in this nineteenth lesson on prayer, makes a clear distinction between relying on our works of righteousness to bring us righteousness and relying on the mercy of God to give us saving faith that will manifest in good works. In between the two positions, Wesley pleads with us to, “Learn to hang naked upon the cross of Christ, counting all you have done just so much dross and dung. Apply to Him just in the spirit of the dying thief and the harlot with her seven devils! Lord, save or I perish! Else you are still on the sand: and after saving others, you will lose your own soul.”

If anyone was aware of the trap of relying on works of righteousness as a means of gaining salvation, it was Wesley. For many years, even though he had graduated from Oxford, been ordained, traveled as a missionary to America, and was known for his life of service to others, Wesley was not saved. But Wesley knew he wasn’t saved and was in distress because of it. It was only after returning from America, at perhaps one of the lowest points in his life, that he attended a Moravian meeting at Aldersgate Street in London, and recounted the story in a journal entry dated May 24, 1738:

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading [Martin] Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Wesley found the truth of God’s great love for us, as the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (NASB). In his letter to Titus, chapter 3, verse 5, Paul also writes, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”

Until we are saved by grace through faith, good works are simply that. Good works. They are not bad in themselves and are often helpful to those in need. The fact is though, until we recognize our need for God alone to save us, human beings deceive themselves in thinking those good works merit our right to boast about our own goodness. If we can get good on our own, we make God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit a liar. God inspired Isaiah the prophet to set humanity strait, millenniums ago, in writing, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 18

*Family Prayer

“Those who are wise will instruct many.”

Daniel 11:33 NIV

We prepare our household to serve the Lord by instructing them. We take care to see that every person under our roof has all such knowledge necessary to salvation. It is our responsibility to see that our spouse and children are taught those things which belong to their eternal peace. Plan, especially for the Lord’s Day, that all may attend the public services for instruction. And take care that they have time daily for reading, meditation, and prayer. Neither should any day pass without family prayer, seriously performed.

You should particularly endeavor to instruct your children early, plainly, frequently, patiently. Whenever a child begins to speak, you may be assured that reason has begun to work. From that time, lose no opportunity of speaking of the things of God.

But speak plainly, using such words as little children understand—such as they themselves use. Do this frequently, lifting up your heart to God that He would open their understanding and pour His light upon them.

But all this will not avail unless you persevere in it. Never leave off till you see the fruit of it. To do this, you will find the absolute need of being endued with power from on high. Without this, I am persuaded, none will have passion sufficient for the work.

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

As far as I can tell, Wesley, in this eighteenth lesson on prayer, is reflecting chiefly on his own childhood. According to Wikipedia, the following is a synopsis of John’s early life:

“John Wesley was born in 1703 in Epworth, 23 miles (37 km) north-west of Lincoln, as the fifteenth child of Samuel Wesley and his wife Susanna Wesley (née Annesley). Samuel Wesley was a graduate of the University of Oxford and a poet who, from 1696, was rector of Epworth. He married Susanna, the twenty-fifth child of Samuel Annesley, a dissenting minister, in 1689. Ultimately, she bore nineteen children, of which nine lived beyond infancy. She and Samuel Wesley had become members of the Church of England as young adults.

“As in many families at the time, Wesley’s parents gave their children their early education. Each child, including the girls, was taught to read as soon as they could walk and talk. They were expected to become proficient in Latin and Greek and to have learned major portions of the New Testament by heart. Susanna Wesley examined each child before the midday meal and before evening prayers. The children were not allowed to eat between meals and were interviewed singly by their mother one evening each week for the purpose of intensive spiritual instruction. In 1714, at age 11, Wesley was sent to the Charterhouse School in London (under the mastership of John King from 1715), where he lived the studious, methodical and, for a while, religious life in which he had been trained at home.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wesley#Early_life

Although Wesley puts the responsibility on the husband to train their wife and children, it seems in the Wesley home that Susanna had the personal education and dedication to carry forth that duty. In spite of his father doing his part to produce nineteen children, Samuel was often away from home, sometimes for extended periods. This arrangement, therefore, worked well for their household. Wesley was undoubtedly taught in the same manner he extols in this lesson; that being “to instruct your children early, plainly, frequently, patiently.”

In the times and social climate in which we live today, who has the training of our children been turned over to? If both parents work outside the home, daycare has become a necessity in our modern climate. At school age, unless parents choose to homeschool and control the curriculum, it is not only a question of who is training our children, but what are they learning? Many states are mandating sexuality education for younger and younger children, with some content that is contrary to Christian values and God’s moral law.

It is imperative, no matter how you as a parent choose to meet these challenges, to stay in communication with your children. Ask questions, show concern, and above all, pray with and for your children. Earnestly seek God’s wisdom and guidance.

John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 17

*Ask in Faith

Ask in faith without any doubting.

James 1:16 NASB

Regarding the use of prayer as a means of grace, the direction which God has given us by the apostle James is most clear. With regard to prayer of every kind, public or private, and the blessing attached to it, he says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach” (James 1:5 NKJV) (if they ask; otherwise “you do not have because you do not ask,” James 4:2 NKJV). If they ask, God does not reproach them but says, “it will be given to [them]” (James 1:5 NKJV).

Because the apostle adds, “Let him ask in faith,” some may object that this is not a direction to unbelievers (to seekers), to those who do not know the pardoning grace of God. I answer: The meaning of the word faith in this place is fixed by the apostle himself, as it were on purpose to halt this objection. The words immediately following are “nothing wavering, “without doubting. Not doubting but that God hears his prayer and will fulfill the desire of his heart; will grant him the grace, the wisdom for which he asks.

We must conclude, therefore, that scripture shows that all who desire the grace of God are to wait for it in the way of prayer.

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

In this seventeenth lesson on prayer, Wesley continues his defense of prayer as a means of grace. He cites James 1:6 as a beginning scripture. Let us read James 1:2-8 for context: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Wesley takes a stance in this lesson that anyone, everyone, believer or not, can partake of God’s grace of wisdom by waiting on it in prayer, with faith, to the One “who gives to all generously and without reproach.” The bulk of this lesson is a rebuttal to those who think otherwise. “Because the apostle adds, ‘Let him ask in faith,’ some may object that this is not a direction to unbelievers (to seekers), to those who do not know the pardoning grace of God. I answer: The meaning of the word faith in this place is fixed by the apostle himself, as it were on purpose to halt this objection. The words immediately following are “nothing wavering, “without doubting. Not doubting but that God hears his prayer and will fulfill the desire of his heart; will grant him the grace, the wisdom for which he asks.”

Currently, many Muslims, who do not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, are calling out to Him to reveal Himself to them if, indeed, He is real and alive. Jesus is answering many of them in dreams and visions throughout the Middle East. They are not meeting with God’s reproach, but with His love and mercy toward them.

How many of us have sought God without fully knowing God? How many of us have called on the Jesus of the cross, without fully knowing what that cross cost Him and without fully knowing what that cross made available to us? Did God reproach us because we sought Him? No. It was His prevenient or preceding grace that gave us cause to seek Him in the first place. It was God’s grace already working in us that allowed us to seek His grace. It was God’s wisdom already working in us that allowed us to seek even more of His wisdom.

Wesley shows in this lesson his conviction of the broad strokes of God’s prevenient grace toward man that lead to the narrow way and strait gate of salvation.

John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 16

*Prayer and Grace

You have purified yourselves by obeying the truth.

1 Peter 1:22 NIV

It has been vehemently objected that Christ is the only means of grace. I answer, This is mere playing upon words. Explain your term, and the objection vanishes away. When we say, “Prayer is a means of grace,” we understand a channel through which the grace of God is conveyed. When you say, “Christ is the means of grace,” you mean the sole price and purchaser of it, that “no man comes unto the Father, but through Him.” And who denies it?

But does not the scripture (it has been objected, also) direct us to wait for salvation? Does not David say, “My soul waits for God; from Him comes my salvation?” Does not Isaiah teach us the same, saying, “O Lord, we have waited for You?”

All this cannot be denied. We are undoubtably to wait on Him. But how shall we wait? Can you find a better way of waiting for Him than the way He Himself has appointed? Consider the very words of the prophet Isaiah. The whole sentence runs thus: “In the way of Your judgments [or ordinances], O Lord, we have waited for You” (Isaiah 26:8 NKJV). In the same way did David wait: “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end” (Psalm 119:33 NKJV).

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

Wesley, in this sixteenth lesson on prayer, defends prayer as a means of grace while fully acknowledging Christ as the source of grace. A means of grace is a channel by which THE means of grace, Christ Himself in all of His fullness, is communicated to us.

He goes on to site both the prophet Isaiah and King David as examples of those who learned to wait upon the Lord. And what better way, he asks, than that way of prayer that Christ Himself has appointed.

Does Jesus not say in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you?” In fact, it is actually saying, Keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking! We ask, we seek, we knock in prayer.

Concerning prayer as a means of grace, the apostle James has some important things to say. We often quote the scripture, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2b NASB). But we must read this verse in the context of verses 1-3 in order to get its full meaning. It reads, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” Our motives are not always pure as we keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. So asking alone, may not yield the harvest we are after.

The verse Wesley starts with here, 1 Peter 1:22, is part of a longer discourse on how we should relate to one another because we have been born again. Verses 1:22-2:3 read, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ” ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.” And this is the word which was preached to you. Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (NASB).

Grace, by any means, never contradicts the truth, but upholds it.

John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 15

*Always Rejoice; Pray; Give thanks

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing…give thanks.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB

“Rejoice always” in uninterrupted happiness in God. “Pray without ceasing,” which is the fruit of “always rejoicing” in the Lord. “In everything give thanks,” which is the fruit of both the former. This is Christian perfection. Further than this we cannot go, and we need not stop short of it.

Our Lord has purchased joy, as well as righteousness, for us. It is the very design of the gospel that, being saved from guilt, we should be happy in the love of Christ.

Prayer may be said to be the breath of our spiritual life. One who lives cannot possibly cease breathing. So much as we really enjoy of God’s presence, so much prayer and praise do we offer up “without ceasing”; else our rejoicing is but delusion.

Thanksgiving is inseparable from true prayer; it is almost essentially connected with it. One who always prays is ever giving praise, whether in ease or pain, both for prosperity and for the greatest adversity. He blesses God for all things, looks on them as coming from Him, and receives them only for His sake—not choosing nor refusing, liking nor disliking, anything, but only as it is agreeable or disagreeable to His perfect will.

“For this,” that you should thus rejoice, pray, give thanks, “is the will of God,” always good, always pointing at our salvation!

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

Wesley bases this fifteenth lesson on prayer on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Let us read it in context from verse 14 through 22: “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”

When we look closely at this, we notice that verses 16-18 are sandwiched between references to good and evil on both ends. On one end, “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people,” and on the other, “hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” The remedy for evil and the prescription for good seems to rest in “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

The book of Psalms, in particular, gives us many examples of the propriety of thanksgiving to God as a believer. Here are a few random passages:

Psalm 7:17 I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

Psalm 9:1-2 I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

Psalm 95:1-3 O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God And a great King above all gods,

Psalm 100:4-5 Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 118:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Only when we know God is in control can we offer praise in any state we find ourselves. As Wesley says, “This is Christian perfection. Further than this we cannot go, and we need not stop short of it.” Amen

John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 14

*Prayer—The Crowning Weapon

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful…with all perseverance…for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:18 NKJV

The description of the whole armor of God shows us how great a thing it is to be a Christian. The lack of any one thing makes us incomplete. Though one has his loins girded, has on the breastplate, his feet shod, the shield of faith, and sword of the Spirit, yet one more thing is needed: praying always. At all times and occasions, in the midst of all actions, inwardly “praying without ceasing.” “By the Spirit”—through the influence of the Holy Spirit. “With all prayer”—all sort of prayer: public, private, mental, vocal. Do not be diligent in one kind of prayer and negligent in others; if we desire our petitions answered, let us use all. Some use only mental prayer, thinking it is a way of worship superior to any other. But it requires far more grace to be enabled to pour out a fervent and continued prayer than to offer up mental aspirations.

“Supplication”—repeating and urging our prayer, as Christ did in the garden; “watching”—inwardly attending on God, to know His will, gain power to do it, and attain to the blessings we desire. “With all perseverance for all the saints”—continuing to the end in this holy exercise that others may do all the will of God and be steadfast. Perhaps we receive few answers to prayer because we do not intercede enough for others.

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

As Wesley encouraged us to use all means of grace in lesson thirteen, in this fourteenth lesson on prayer, he encourages us to use all the types of prayer available to us.

This call to prayer that Wesley unfolds ends a section in Ephesians 6:10-18 dealing with spiritual warfare. It reads, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,…” (NASB)

Wesley aptly brings out the point that without prayer, our armor is incomplete. We put on the armor, we move in the armor, and fight with the armor through prayer. Prayer is a vital piece of our armor.

As Paul writes to the Ephesians, Wesley also points out the need for us to intercede for others. In fact, he wonders if the answer to our own prayers might be hindered because we do not pray enough for others.

Perhaps no other prayer catches this sense of service to others in prayer as does the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

Amen

John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 13

*Deny self to obey the Lord

Fervent in spirit…devoted to prayer.

Romans 12:11-12 NASB

Here is one who has not made shipwreck of the faith. He still has a measure of the Spirit of adoption, which continues to witness with his spirit that he is a child of God. However, he is not going on to perfection. He is not, as once, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, panting after the whole image and full enjoyment of God, as the hart pants after the water brooks (Psalm 42:1). Rather, he is weary and faint in his mind, and, as it were, hovering between life and death.

And why is he thus? Because he has forgotten the Word of God, which says that “by works faith is made perfect” (James 2:22). He does not use all diligence in working the works of God. He does not continue instant in prayer—private as well as public. He has slacked off communing at the Lord’s Table, or in hearing the Word, in meditation, fasting, and religious conference. If he does not wholly neglect some of these means of grace, at least he does not use them with all his might.

Why does he not now continue in prayer? Because in times of dryness it is pain and grief to him. He does not continue in hearing the Word at all opportunities because sleep is sweet, or it is cold or rainy. So his faith is not made perfect, neither can he grow in grace, because he will not deny himself and take up his cross.

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

In this thirteenth lesson on prayer, Wesley cites from Roman 12:11-12. Let us read verses 9-13 to get a better context on the passage. “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality” (Rom. 12:9-13 NASB). This passage is amid the apostle Paul teaching about the multi-membered Body of Christ and a believer’s obligation to pour him or herself into whatever arena of service they find themselves called to with exuberance.

For Wesley, a lack of Christian growth over a period of many years in those who were baptized into the Anglican Church as infants was a travesty he found all too often. Always the pragmatist, Wesley realized that one cannot be guided on ideals alone but must add positive actions to make those ideals living. He once said, “Prayer continues in the desire of the heart, though the understanding be employed on outward things.”

Wesley understood “means of grace” as ways in which God works invisibly in disciples, quickening, strengthening, and confirming their faith. They should be employed by believers to open their hearts and lives to God’s work in them.

Means of grace, mentioned in this lesson, are prayer, the Lord’s Table, hearing God’s Word (at public worship), meditation, fasting, and religious conference, which, according to Professor Kevin Watson, is honest, direct, piercing conversation with other Christians that is intended to help the participants grow in holiness.

Wesley concludes by “Why does he not now continue in prayer? Because in times of dryness it is pain and grief to him. He does not continue in hearing the Word at all opportunities because sleep is sweet, or it is cold or rainy. So his faith is not made perfect, neither can he grow in grace, because he will not deny himself and take up his cross.”

As mature as we sometimes think we are, if we are honest, we will admit to occasional troubles in prayer and the other means of grace. It usually comes down to, as Wesley states, that we have ceased to make a priority of hungering and thirsting after righteousness, panting after the whole image and full enjoyment of God, as the hart pants after the water brooks. This brings up an obvious question. If we are not fervent in hungering and thirsting after the kingdom of God and His righteousness, what are we hungering and thirsting for?

John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 12

*Be Anxious for Nothing

“It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Luke 12:32 NKJV

How much more, then, will it please our heavenly Father to give us food and raiment? And since you have such an inheritance, regard not your earthly possessions.

To the same effect, the apostle Paul wrote the Philippians (4:6 NKJV): “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

If men are not gentle toward you, yet neither on this nor any other account, be not anxious, but pray. Carefulness and prayer cannot stand together. “In everything” great and small, “let your requests be made known”; they who by a preposterous shame or distrustful modesty cover, stifle, or keep in their desires, as if they were too small or too great, must be racked with care. But from them they are entirely delivered, who pour them out with a free and filial confidence.

“To God”—it is not always proper to disclose them to people. “By supplication”—which is the enlarging upon and pressing our petition. “With thanksgiving”—the surest mark of a soul free from care and of prayer joined with true resignation. This is always followed by peace. Peace and thanksgiving are joined together (Colossians 3:15). Thus “the morrow shall take care for itself”—be careful for the morrow when it comes. Today, be free from care.

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

In this twelfth lesson on prayer, Wesley starts with Luke 12:32: “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” He holds this up as the gold standard of giving from the Father. That is, if the kingdom is God’s good pleasure to give us, and that by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, what else is there that God cannot or will not give us? If God bankrupted heaven on our behalf in the giving of His only begotten Son, and it was God’s good pleasure to do so on our behalf, is there anything we could ask for that would not pleasure Him in the giving?

But to keep our longings in perspective, we must also look at Matthew 6:19-24, which reads,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ” The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? ” Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Philippians 4:6 is certainly an important admonition to pray. But these verses from Matthew add the additional question, “What should we be praying for?” If God’s good pleasure is in giving us the kingdom, and if in seeking the kingdom first all other things are added to us, how should we, then, direct our prayers?

John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 11

*Wait on the Lord

My soul waits…for God only.

Psalm 62:1 NASB

The generality of Christians are accustomed to use some kind of prayer. Now, perhaps you are one who still uses the same form you used when you were a child. But surely, there is a “more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31) of ordering our private devotions. Consider both your inward and outward state and vary your prayers accordingly. Suppose you are healthy, at ease, and have kind relations, good neighbors, and agreeable friends. Then your outward state obviously calls for praise and thanksgiving to God.

On the other hand, if you are in adversity, in poverty or need, in distress or danger, or in pain or sickness, then you are called to pour out your soul before God in prayer suited to your circumstances.

In like manner, you may suit your devotions to your inward state, the present state of your mind. Are you in heaviness, either from a sense of sin or from manifold temptations? Let your prayer consist of the confessions, petitions, and supplications that agree with your distressed state of mind.

On the contrary, is your soul in peace? Are you rejoicing in God? Are His consolations large toward you? Then say with the Psalmist, “You are my God and I will love You…I will praise you.” Reading and meditating on a psalm of praise is the natural rising of a thankful heart. “A more excellent way” than any form.

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

John Wesley, in this eleventh lesson on prayer, reminds us of not only the circumstantial need for varied types of prayer, but also the rich ways that God has ordained for us to call upon His name.

He lists four types of prayer in his teaching. First, praise and thanksgiving. Secondly, pouring out of the soul. Next is confessions, petitions, and supplications. And lastly, psalms of praise.

Although not in the same order that Wesley chooses, his types of prayer are in line with Paul’s instructions to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:1-3 which says, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (NASB).

The Amplified Bible draws out the distinction between the outer life and inner life that Wesley makes when it says, “First of all, then, I admonish and urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be offered on behalf of all men. For kings, and all who are in positions of authority or high responsibility, that [outwardly] we may pass a quiet and undisturbed life [and inwardly] a peaceable one in all godliness and reverence and seriousness in every way. For such [praying] is good and right, and [it is] pleasing and acceptable to God our Savior” (AMP).

The other point Wesley makes in this teaching is that some believers, having at some time learned a specific form of prayer, never expand their prayer lives outside of that form. That may be the Lord’s Prayer, taken as a mere form, or some other prayer learned at home or in church. There is nothing wrong with these, but as Wesley points out, not all circumstances of life call for the same type of prayer. He admonishes us to start where we are, externally and internally, and move from there into the type of prayer suitable to our situation. Of course, the prayer of thanksgiving is always suitable to whatever state we find ourselves in, for we thank God for Who He is, regardless of our needs.

Jesus prayed regularly, sometimes throughout the night. The apostle Paul was a man of prayer. All his general epistles and personal letters are laced with prayer throughout. The other New Testament writers placed a high value on prayer as well. Prayer was not only an occasion; it was a lifestyle.

Wesley once said, “All that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer, when it is done in simplicity, according to the order of God, without either adding to or diminishing from it by his own choice.”

One last word from Paul. In Ephesians 6:18, the NIV records his instructions, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 10

*Have a holy urgency

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks [from heaven].

Hebrews 12:25 NIV

Strive to enter by the narrow door.

Strive, as in an agony of holy fear. A promise has been made of your entering into His rest (see Hebrews 4:9-11). Strive, lest you should come short of it.

Strive, in all the fervor of desire, with groans that words cannot express.

Strive, by prayer without ceasing. At all times, in all places, lift up your heart to God. Give Him no rest till you, like the psalmist, “awake with God’s likeness” and are satisfied with it.

To conclude: Strive to enter in at the narrow gate. Strive, not only by this agony of soul, of conviction, of sorrow, of shame, of desire, of fear, of unceasing prayer. Strive, likewise, by putting in order all your conversation, your whole life, by walking with all your strength in all the ways of God–the way of innocence, of piety, and of mercy. Shun all the appearance of evil. Do all possible good to all people. Deny your own will in all things, and take up your cross daily.

Be ready to cut off everything that would hinder, and to cast it from you. Be ready and willing to suffer the loss of possessions, of friends, of health, of all things on earth, so you may enter into the kingdom of heaven.

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

Wesley, in this tenth lesson on prayer, calls upon us to heed the call of God. He begins with Hebrews 12:25, which says, “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven” (NASB). And in heeding, let it be done with striving. Striving means to make great efforts to achieve or obtain something.

What John Wesley is getting to here is not to assume, with a casual attitude that all things in your life are in order before God. It is hard to hear correction when one feels no correction is needed. It is hard to repent when one feels themselves above it. These people are headed for destruction. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus tells us, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Complacency in our spiritual life is a trap the enemy sets for all of us. Add to that the desires of our flesh and the pull of the world upon us and we can see the wisdom in Wesley’s words of exhortation: “Strive to enter in at the narrow gate. Strive, not only by this agony of soul, of conviction, of sorrow, of shame, of desire, of fear, of unceasing prayer. Strive, likewise, by putting in order all your conversation, your whole life, by walking with all your strength in all the ways of God, the way of innocence, of piety, and of mercy. Shun all the appearance of evil. Do all possible good to all people. Deny your own will in all things, and take up your cross daily.

“Be ready to cut off everything that would hinder, and to cast it from you. Be ready and willing to suffer the loss of possessions, of friends, of health, of all things on earth, so you may enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

With all this striving Wesley is calling for, some might ask about the rest he references. Hebrews 4:9-11 reads “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience” (NASB). The striving comes with obedience. The rest comes with entering.

Hear His word, heed His word, and let His word lead you in by the narrow gate of life.

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