"His name shall endure for ever; his name shall be continued as long as the sun, and men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed." (Psalm 72:17)
THESE words are a part of a prayer of David, the man after God's own heart, and in the conclusion of this Psalm he says, "The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended." Prayer will never end till it is turned into praise, and the heart has all it wants. When you have all your heart's desire, prayer will cease. There is a time to begin prayer, and a time to cease; and endless praise will be the employ of that soul wherever prayer is begun.
Prayer is not what many think it is; it is not a task. If you pray as a task, you do not get anything. Prayer is a lifting up of the heart's desire to God for something you want, uttered or unexpressed.
"Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near."
Jonah said, "Yet will I look again toward thy holy temple....and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple." This is wonderful prayer in a look. The Lord spake to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land in answer to that prayer. Therefore we will say prayer was a privilege for Jonah in the fish's belly.
Nor should you think you must have many series of exercises and prayers before you get anything. It is not so at all. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise," (2 Peter 3:9) as we count slackness. If we were in exercise and distress for a thousand years, it would not merit anything at God's hand. But he withholds at times, and
"Hides the purpose of his grace
To make it better known."
that we may know him more perfectly in it. In infinite mercy and wisdom it is he withholds the answer. You may often hear the saints in conversation rehearse their trials and exercises and then the deliverance, and say, "It was five months or five years before it came." That is good; but do not gather from it that his hand is slow to move. Our hearts are never half so free to pray, even when they are as the breath of prayer under the sweet power of the Spirit, as God's heart is to answer. God's heart is so free, so gracious, he will make the answer large; and he knows how and when. We will look at two or three instances.
Suppose God had answered Joseph two years before, and delivered him out of the hand of the jailer. Well, that would have been very nice, but not very large compared with what his deliverance was when it came. The revolving wheel of providence would not have gone round to a certain place; providence was not ripe then for Joseph to be made ruler in the land. His deliverance would not have been so great; no more would yours or mine be if we could have it before the time. We are like children; before the fruit is ripe, we want it. We are so short of patience, so short of faith, we want it now. But the Father of all mercies locks up his blessings from his children till the set time; not because he has not a heart to love them; not because he delights to see his children cry in sorrow and want. His promise is, "I will be with him in trouble." (Ps. 91:15) "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee;" (Isa. 43:2) that is, to strengthen thee in them. One says, "In the day when I cried, thou answeredst me and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul," (Ps. 138:3) though I did not get the deliverance I wanted. Did you ever know what it was to have strength put into your faith, that you could wait longer and feel a calm and quietness in waiting? "I will wait for the Lord." Like Job, "All the days of my appointed time will I wait." What a mercy the Lord is not slack to fulfill his promise!
Perhaps you can go back and see some circumstance that made you first turn aside to pray, when you were brought in secret on your knees, or when you had access to the Lord in trouble; when creatures failed to give you help and support. There was a time when David began to pray; and in this Psalm he finished. I often wonder how my prayers will finish. David's had a blessed finish. "His name shall endure for ever....All nations shall call him blessed. Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever; and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen." (Ps. 72:17-19) At the beginning of his Psalms, in Psalm 1, he makes a great acknowledgment of reverence for the God of heaven, showing the man is blessed that fears him. I believe some of the first movings in the heart savingly are in the affections and desires, to set them upon the blessing God's people have, feeling, "O if I were as certain of my interest as they are!" Mark, there is a vital reality in saving religion; there is a real holiness in saving grace in the man that has it, a divine reality in the power of the Holy Spirit in the soul; and these things are profitable to young and old. Without these it is of little consequence what our sphere in life is; it will end in sorrow.
Then what a great mercy if God has begun to move and stir your heart to begin to pray. Very soon the end will come; and it will end in praise. This great favor God has given his people, the throne of grace; and he has left it always open. "I exhort, therefore, that first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men." (1 Tim. 2:1) This exercise will soon stop, when our tongues lie silent in the grave; and I want to feel in my dying hour that my soul has been in earnest exercise for my poor children and friends while I lived. Though today I have felt very cold and dead, it does not alter what has been. That power of prayer will come again if ever you have had it; but God has not put it into your hands. He says, "I will pour upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplications." (Zech. 12:10) When he does this, the soul is in the exercise of prayer directly; and when he stops, prayer is dormant. There never was a soul since Adam fell that prayed in spirit to God but through this pouring out of the Spirit. Then this is true: "Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee." (Ps. 9:10) The man or woman that prays is the one that has the operation of the Spirit.
Let us see the circumstances that led David to write this Psalm. He had it in his heart to build a house to the Lord; but the Lord sent Nathan to him, saying, "Thou shalt not build it." He would not let him do a good thing, though he said it was well it was in his heart. But he said, "Solomon, thy son, he shall build my house and my courts." Then when Solomon sat upon the throne, and David saw him crowned in his last days, his faith took hold of the promise given by Nathan from God's mouth, that his seed should endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before him; and he prayed this prayer. What could he do better? When our children move into any important place, then we pray. So when David had the promise, he went in and sat before the Lord, and said, "Who am I, O Lord God, and what is mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? and yet this was a small thing in thine eyes, O God; for thou hast also spoken of thy servant's house for a great while to come....What can David speak more to thee?...do as thou hast said...for thou blessest, O Lord, and it shall be blessed for ever." Now he saw it fulfilled, his son sat upon his throne, and he prayed, "Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son;" (Ps. 72:1) and his faith went further than to Solomon, for he says, "He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence." (Ps. 72:14) Solomon could not, you know. David looked to Solomon's great Antitype Christ, who should be his Son, "of the seed of David according to the flesh;" and he says, "His name shall endure for ever; his name shall be continued as long as the sun, and men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed." (Ps. 72:17)
When Adam named all the creatures, he named them according to their natures; whatever he named them they were. So this name means Christ himself, the holy, everlasting Son of God. It means him in his soul of pity, love, mercy, compassion, faithfulness, glory, and majesty. Therefore David says, "He shall endure for ever," in the covenant, in Zion, in the gospel; and his memorial to all generations. We see what faith David had when he died, what a finish to his prayers. He says, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles."
A word or two about the power of this name, which is himself, with all his glorious attributes. We read Peter and John went up into the temple to pray, and there was an impotent man at the gate, who asked alms. But Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk;" (Acts 3:6) and he did directly. He rose up and went into the temple, leaping and walking and praising God. Well, the Sanhedrim and the Jews took Peter and John and called them in question about the deed that was done, to know by what means he was made whole. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, "If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man,...be it known unto you all...that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole." (Acts 4:9) "Yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all." (Acts 3:16) It is said, "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." Then the Lord has given his church a blessed direction how to overcome him; and thousands have done it through his name. Know, then, it was his divine purpose it should be so; that through his name blessings should descend to sinners, and through his name the hearts and wants of sinners should ascend to him.
"Prayer was appointed to convey
The blessings God designs to give;
Long as they live should Christians pray;
For only while they pray they live."
You will find this true. The more you listen to that prayerless spirit which all the human race have and particularly God's people feel at times, the more power it will have. You may get off your knees cast down, and feel no inclination to go again to pray for hours together; and you may go again in a cold, formal way and think it is of little use; but mark, if the edge be blunt, the man puts to more strength. If you give up, it is not from faith, certainly not; Satan will get the advantage, and the more you do so, the more you may. Faith leads you to pray through this dark, heavy cloud on your spirit.
"Though thought be broken, language lame,
Pray if thou canst or canst not speak;
But pray with faith in Jesus' name."
If it is only a lisping, if you can get into a corner and lift up only a look. "Lord, thou canst look into my heart; thou canst see my death and all my carnality and all my thoughts." In going to him so, against wind and tide, I have found God has met me.
"And men shall be blessed in him." The first blessing is a heart to seek God, which we have been speaking of. The heart that seeks him is under the control of his grace, blessed in him, and is under the promise: "Your heart shall live that seek God." But how shall we discern between real seeking and the hypocrite's prayers, which are an abomination to the Lord? It is said, "Lord, in trouble have they visited thee; they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them." That is a particular time when God's people pray, when his chastening is upon their spirits and they are in guilt, sin, and trouble. David says, "I found trouble and sorrow, Then called I upon the name of the Lord, O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul." "Pardon mine iniquity; for it is great." The publican cried, "God be merciful to me, a sinner!" and poor Hannah, under the hidings of God's face and his chastening on her spirit in her barren state, "prayed unto the Lord and wept sore." She says, "Out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto." Do you ever cry in your trouble, when you are surrounded with cares in providence and feel guilty? You fear yourself, those about you, and the path you are in, lest you should be swallowed up from all his saving mercies, and you cry. That is God drawing your soul; you are blessed in him already. He is with you, and his name shall endure for ever.
"And men shall be blessed in him" with living faith; that is, a supernatural principle rooted in the bottom of the heart in regeneration. There faith is seated, "the faith of God's elect;" (Titus 1:1) and "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:4) There is not a man without faith but the world masters him and reigns over him to endless destruction. And where faith is in the heart, the world struggles for the mastery. O what fawning, serpentine ways it has to entangle the soul in its meshes; and
"Seldom do we see the snare
Before we feel the smart."
But where faith is, it will overcome it. There are times when by faith the world has no power over the affections and conscience; no more than the sea has to cover over a great mountain, not a bit more. Here are the heart and affections above it. Did you ever have your mind, thoughts, and affections right above the elements of the world? That is one of the greatest blessings men are blessed with in him; and the Lord does not give and take away. No, never.
Another blessing we have in him is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom cries, "Turn you at my reproof; behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you." (Prov. 1:23) If you turn at his reproof, you will want to listen to his dictates in your conscience; and as his reproofs in different things are felt and you listen to them through humbling grace, you will have his Spirit more abundantly. But is said of Ephraim, "I smote him, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart;" and God said, "Let him alone; let him go; his own backslidings shall reprove him." There is no greater judgment than that. But O the sweet mercy there is in God's rebukes in the conscience, and how sweet it is to listen to them and fall down before him. Though they seem bitter as they enter, the bitter herbs and the paschal Lamb are put together; and if you never have those bitter things, you will never have the paschal Lamb. "The reproofs of instruction are the ways of life;" and "he that hateth reproof hateth knowledge." "Turn you at my reproof."
Sometimes we have a reproof for our prayerlessness; sometimes for our unthankfulness. Is not that true? Then what can we do? If we come here,
"Lord, we lie before thy feet;
Look on all our deep distress;
Thy rich mercy may we meet;
Clothe us with thy righteousness,"
that is a safe place. If in any measure our spirits fall before his reproofs at his feet, he will pour out of his Spirit upon us. The more helpless we are the better; our helplessness is a commendation of his mercy.
Men are blessed in him with his Spirit, prompting them to secret prayer. You never had a prayer but the Holy Spirit prompted it. Then see what great blessings are lodged in your heart.
Not only have we these blessings in him to prepare and fit us for himself, but the Holy Spirit will take of the things of Jesus and apply them to our souls. (John 16:14,15) As Aaron took the scarlet wool and the hyssop, and dipped them in the blood of the sacrifice for cleansing the leper, sprinkled the blood upon the leper seven times, and pronounced him clean, so the Holy Spirit will cause the things of Christ to touch your soul and conscience. O what a holy delight there is then in God's ways and things! You would be as holy as God is, and would never sin again if you could help it. That is the Holy Spirit sanctifying your heart and affections, sprinkling the unclean. In those moments the world is not very heavy on you; you can turn your back upon it. You would sooner have part and lot in a crucified Redeemer than have all the world calls good or great.
Wherever the Lord brings the atonement into the heart, another blessing comes in his own time and way, the Spirit of adoption, "whereby we cry, Abba, Father!" "My Lord and my God." This is the most blessed privilege we can have this side of the grave. It includes all that God has. If you receive God as your God by the sweet Spirit of adoption, you have the glory and fullness of the promise, all that God has, the Trinity in Unity. How enlarging is a grain of grace in a sinner's heart, to enable our finite affections to expand and take in Christ in his infinite love and grace; like the heart of Thomas, when he took Christ into his troubled spirit, and said, "My Lord and my God."
Suppose, then, we have trouble, it will soon end; but this is endless. Balaam's lips were opened for Israel, and he began to repeat blessing after blessing. When Balak stopped him, saying, "I took thee to curse mine enemies, and lo, thou has blessed them altogether. Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all," Balaam answered, "He hath blessed, and I cannot revoke it." There is no revoking the blessing. If God has lodged the least one in your heart, he will never take it away, and you are interested in all he is and has. He says, "I will put upon you none other burden; but that which ye have already, hold fast till I come;" as much as to say, "While Satan and sin would push you about, hold that fast in filial fear and faith, and I will be faithful to what I gave you. You will find I am your Refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."