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house of God, which render it one of the grounds of acceptable prayer. In the first place, by His intercessions, He actually procures for sinners that pardon without which no available petition can be urged. He presents in the holiest of all the proofs of His atoning sacrifice, and the evidences of His completed mediatorial work. As it was necessary that He should have somewhat to offer, He appears in the heavenly sanctuary not without blood. He shows His wounded hands and feet and side, and by these affecting memorials of Calvary pleads for the pardon and salvation of the guilty and the lost. Faithful to His promise to His Son, and ever ready to hear the prayers of this, His anointed One, the Father puts into His hands the pardon which He seeks, to be dispensed by Him to those for whom He died. The death of Christ had removed the obstacles that opposed the forgiveness of the sinner, and His intercessory work as the complement of His atonement actually obtains it for His people.
In the second place, as the public organ of worship, He is the only medium through whom the prayers of sinners can reach the Majesty on high. He presides over the throne of grace sprinkled with His own atoning blood and receives the prayers of those who come unto God by Him. Attaching to them, intrinsically worthless as they are, the infinite merits of His sacrifice and adding to them His own prevalent intercessions, He offers them as incense before His Father's throne. It is thus, my brethren, our prayers are heard. It is not so much we who pray as Jesus our High Priest who prays for us. It is not in ourselves that we prevail with God, it is Jesus who prevails with Him in our poor name, and for our poor sake. It is this that gives us heart to persevere in prayer. It is this that saves us
from despair. We are so conscious that our prayers are marred by weakness, carnality and sin, that we should abandon the attempt to offer them at all were we not supported by the conviction that they are received by our great and merciful High Priest, that they are presented by His hands, seconded by His merits, and enforced by His pleas.
It may be added to these considerations that the intercessions of Him who presides over the house of God procure for us the influence of the Holy Spirit by whom we are incited to pray, and taught how to pray and what things to pray for; who intercedes for the saints according to the will of God and makes intercessions within us with unutterable groanings. We are privileged to plead with God in view of the fact that His own blessed Spirit indites our petitions, and that, being thus prompted, they are according to His mind.
We are now prepared to meet the difficulty suggested in a previous part of this discourse, how, notwithstanding the fact that the mediation of Christ is essential to the offering of acceptable prayer, and that the unregenerate who are spiritually dead and, therefore, incapable of rendering spiritual worship to God, are not only under obligation to pray, but are led earnestly to pray and receive a gracious answer to their prayers. The explanation is that Jesus, the great High Priest, presents His blood in their behalf, sues out pardon for them by His availing intercessions, and secures for them the grace of the Holy Spirit who, coming, in the first instance, not in answer to their prayers, but to the prayers of the great Mediator, awakens in them a sense of their spiritual wants, impels them to pray for divine help, and enables them while struggling in supplication to believe in the person and trust in the merits of
the Savior. The people of God, while in their unconverted and ungodly condition, are accepted not because of the efficacy of their prayers, but because Jesus has previously prayed for them. This is the encouragement which the unconverted sinner has in attempting to pray. His prayers in themselves do not deserve an
God might in justice reject them. But the mediation and intercession of Christ render it consistent with His perfections that He should receive the sinner and hear his prayer. He meets him in Christ, regards him in Christ, and blesses him for Christ's sake. The love He bears His dear Son and the honor he puts upon His atoning death and priestly intercession cause Him to bow down His ear to the cry of the wretched suppliant who prostrates himself at His feet.
“Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God, let us draw near." The infinite mercy of God which regarded us in our ruin has provided for us a way of access into His gracious and reconciled presence; and having furnished us in the death and intercession of His Son the grounds of acceptable prayer, He invites, commands and urges us to pray, adding His word of promise that if we present our petitions in sincere reliance upon these grounds, He will grant us those blessings which it is consistent with His glory and our welfare to confer.
Should any now ask, What are the grounds of acceptable prayer, the answer is, the atoning death and the priestly advocacy of the great Mediator; and should any inquire, What authority we have to pray, the reply is, the invitation, command, and promise of Him who has furnished the grounds of prayer.
THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER
James, v: 16. “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
In the last discourse which, it may be remembered, was occupied with the consideration of the spirit of prayer, I endeavored to elucidate the manner in which this great duty ought to be performed. In the first place, it was shown that in prayer we should draw near to God; that we should avail ourselves of that perfect liberty of access to Him which is granted to us under the present dispensation in consequence of the accomplishment of the atoning work of Christ, and His prevalent advocacy of our cause in the heavenly Holy of Holies; that we should be satisfied with nothing short of an intimate personal communion with the Father of our spirits; and that we should strive to attain that fervor of affection and kindling of emotion which naturally spring from near and holy intercourse with Him. In the second place, it was urged that we should come to God with a true heart; with a heart true to the spirituality of His nature and worshipping Him in spirit and in truth; with a heart true to His infinite greatness and glory, and serving Him with reverence and godly fear; with a heart true to His majesty, holiness and omniscience, and calling on Him with a sincerity exclusive of formality, duplicity and hypocrisy; that we should come with a heart true to ourselves, a heart true to our real condition of poverty, sinfulness and want, and pressing its petitions with fervent earnestness and importunate ceaselessness. In the third place, it was contended that we
should pray in full assurance of faith, that is to say, in undoubting reliance upon the death and intercessions of the Lord Jesus as sufficient grounds for our petitions, in unquestioning confidence in the willingness of our great High Priest to present and of our heavenly Father to accept our prayers, and with a firm belief in the promises of God to answer us favorably so far as may be for His glory and our good. In the fourth place, it was seen that we should come to God having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience; that is, with hearts discharged by the application of the blood of atonement from the enslaving influence of a condemning conscience, and relieved of that condition in which a misled conscience tolerates the indulgence of sin; and that we should come having our bodies washed with pure water, or, in other words, resisting the solicitations of those more open
grosser sins of the flesh which it is the office of the blood of Jesus and the grace of the Holy Spirit to wash away.
Your attention, on the present occasion, is invited to a consideration of the efficacy of prayer. The text declares that “the fervent, effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” It has been remarked that there is an apparent pleonasm in these words, that it is somewhat strange that the apostle should affirm that efficacious prayer is efficacious. I do not see that the criticism is well taken. What he means to say is simply that it is not all prayer which may be expected to avail with God, but that which springs from a felt sense of misery and want, and is therefore urged with heartfelt earnestness and fervor. It is such prayer, when offered by a righteous man—one who relies upon the justifying righteousness of Christ and is conscious of righteous intentions which exclude hypocrisy—that enters