Today's Broadcast

Father, Glorify Your Son

A Message by Sinclair Ferguson

In churches, we often hold social gatherings in order to grow in our knowledge of one another. There is perhaps no other gathering where we get to know people better than the prayer meeting. There, we have the privilege, as we listen to others pray out loud, of having them reveal some of the deepest desires of their hearts. If we share such a privilege within the context of the church, then there could be no greater privilege for the disciples of Jesus than to listen to Him pray. In this lesson, as we come to the end of the Upper Room Discourse, Dr. Ferguson begins to open up the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus Christ, focusing first on the prayer of Jesus concerning Himself.

From the series: Lessons From the Upper Room

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Consistent, Persevering Prayer

  2. devotional

    A Servant's Prayer

  3. article

    Talking to God

Consistent, Persevering Prayer

Having covered each component of the armor of God, we understand that we cannot succeed against the Devil if we rely on ourselves. We need the belt of truth to keep the daggers of false doctrine from cutting our legs out from under us. Christ’s imputed righteousness gives us ultimate protection from condemnation and accusation, and the breastplate of a Spirit-developed righteous character guards against the powerful blows of sin that try to destroy our hearts. The shoes of the gospel of peace give us solid footing and ready us to fight. Faith acts as a shield that drives us to seek shelter in God against the flaming arrows of enticing temptations. Salvation, our helmet, protects our minds, enabling us to remain focused on the kingdom. God’s Word is our mighty sword, the weapon that brings the Lord’s enemies to submissive repentance and keeps us on the narrow way by forcing us to our knees in gratitude for salvation and sorrow for sin (Eph. 6:10–17).

Our ultimate reliance on Christ for success in spiritual warfare is underscored in today’s passage. The participial phrase used in Ephesians 6:18 (“praying at all times in the Spirit”) covers everything that comes before it. In so doing, it indicates that we don the armor of God — we clothe ourselves in Christ Himself — by consistent, persistent prayer. Praying at all times is nothing less than taking every opportunity to acknowledge our weakness and our need for the Lord’s mighty help against Satan. Prayerful dependence must be the consistent attitude of our hearts, both in difficult times that make us quick to run to God and when prosperous seasons tempt us to forget our need for Him. John Calvin writes, “Paul therefore desires us to allow no opportunity to pass — on no occasion to neglect prayer; so that praying always is the same thing as praying both in prosperity and in adversity.”

Prayer is to be made in the Spirit (v. 18), which is not a reference to speaking in tongues. Instead, it refers to petitioning God for specific things (“all prayer and supplication”) through the Spirit, who is the One who prompts us to pray and then takes what we offer and makes it acceptable to the Father (Rom. 8:26). The Lord wants us to make specific requests, understanding that they will be granted in accordance with His perfect will (James 4:2; 1 John 5:14).

A Servant's Prayer

Moses indicates that the servant charged with finding Isaac’s wife was a godly man. He wants to obey Abraham’s request to the letter, and so he is careful to find out what to do should his mission go awry (Gen. 24:5). The Lord demands such fidelity of His people (1 Peter 2:18). Moreover, this servant will not go until Abraham releases him from his vow should his quest be unsuccessful (Gen. 24:8–9). Knowing that he must keep his word (Num. 30:2), he will not swear an oath until a provision is made if he cannot keep it.

In today’s passage, Abraham’s servant shows himself faithful once again with his prayer for the Lord to give him success in his endeavor. Thus the servant displays his deep trust in God, reminding us that the Lord’s holy people must be a praying people (Ps. 32:6).

Notably, he asks God to reveal Isaac’s wife in a very specific manner. But is it appropriate to ask God for such signs in prayer? John Calvin addresses this issue in his commentary, concluding that we must look to Scripture for assurance and not lay conditions upon the Lord when we pray. Obviously, this is sound advice, reflecting the biblical principle that we may not put God to the test (Deut. 6:16). 

However, Calvin also writes: “The general law, by which all the pious are bound, does not prevent the Lord, when he determines to give something extraordinary, from directing the minds of his servants towards it.” Some decisions present us with several valid options, and so it is fitting to ask God to confirm His will more clearly. For example, we might have to pick one of two jobs that offers equal opportunities for us to fulfill our vocations. In this case, it would be wise to ask the Lord to act in order to help us choose rightly. We might ask Him to close a door and open another, for instance.

Finally, Matthew Henry notes that Abraham’s servant goes to a well, a place of labor. He looked for an industrious and hospitable woman (Gen. 24:12–14), one who embodied the traits of an excellent and godly wife later prescribed in Scripture (Prov. 31). Like this servant, let us first seek to narrow our options by the clear teachings of God’s Word before we ask Him to facilitate our decision-making. 

Talking to God

Iain Campbell

Both praise and prayer are appropriate and necessary responses to God's revelation of himself to us. He has spoken to us, and we, in turn, speak to Him. That such communication is possible is due to the fact that the divine Word became flesh for us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Now, as a consequence, human words may enter into God's presence through the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The book of Psalms is a book of praises. God's people were to enter His presence with praise (Pss. 92:1; 100:4), and with psalms (47:7). But the psalms were more than praise, or, perhaps we should say, that which praises God is not merely a description of His greatness. The fact that some psalms are actually prayers is a reminder to us that God is glorified by us when we express our dependence on Him. Prayer is the language of the child who comes as a dependent to his father.

Indeed, one of the most helpful keys to the canonical prayers of the book of Psalms is to see how they breathe the spirit of the Lord's Prayer. When we pray, we long to see God's name glorified and magnified. "O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" says David in Psalm 8. "O God, save me by your name," he prays in Ps. 54:1, on an occasion of great trial. The prayers of God's people extol God's name and take refuge in it.

When we pray, we seek the extension of God's kingdom. In our prayers, we acknowledge that "God reigns over the nations and that "the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods" (95:3). We pray that the testimony of the church will "make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom" (145:12). We honor God as we seek the extension of His kingdom. We pray that God's will may be done on earth, as it is in heaven. In prayer, we acknowledge that God's sovereignty is exercised over His creation, as He governs the world by His providence (147:15) and commands angels for the good of His people (91:11). But we long to see men yield to Jesus Christ and pay homage to His authority by ‘kissing the Son' (2:12).

We pray for our daily bread, knowing that as "man ate of the bread of the angels" in the wilderness (78:25), so God will not leave His people begging for bread (37:25). In prayer, we acknowledge that as God can cut off the supply of bread (105:16), so He can supply strength to man with food (104:15).

In prayer, we confess our trespasses to God. This is surely the most difficult prayer of all. When David did not confess his sin, his strength was gone (32:4), but when he confessed, he found God faithful to forgive (32:5). The language of David's penitence in Psalm 51 is deep, as he opens his heart to the God against whom alone he sinned, and who alone could forgive. Yet the language of prayer is not only the language of dependence but of confidence as we approach the mercy seat saying, "With you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared" (130:4).

As we pray to God, we ask that He will keep us from temptation: "I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless," says the psalmist in Psalm 101:3. The resolution becomes a petition in 119:37—"Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways." Grace gives us new resolutions, and it turns us to God for the power to keep them.

We pray that God will deliver us from evil. Some of the most moving psalms are those which arise out of the groanings of the psalmists in hard circumstances. In Psalm 74, there seems to be no future for the cause of God in the world. In Psalm 123, God's people bemoan that they have had their fill of the world's contempt. In these, and many other cases, the only place for faith to go is to the God of the covenant, who can deliver from trial, from distress, from darkness, and from death.

The confidence of the faithful man of God is summarized in these glorious verses:

He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. (Ps. 112:7–8)

When Jesus taught us to pray following the pattern of the Lord's Prayer, He was summarizing the great themes of the prayers of the Word of God. All of these encourage us to come before God in the confidence that all our longings are before Him, and our sighing is not hidden from Him (Ps. 38:9). It truly is good to draw near to God (Ps. 73:28).

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