‘So they…came to the king of Israel, and said, thy servant Ben-hadad saith, I pray thee, let me live. And he said, is he yet alive? he is my brother … Then he said, go ye, bring him.’ 1 Kings 20:32–33
Suggested Further Reading: Luke 18:9–17
How does your child come to you when he wants anything? Does he open a big book, and begin reading, ‘My dear, esteemed, and venerated parent, in the effulgence of thy parental beneficence’? Nothing of the kind. He says, ‘Father, my clothes are worn out, please buy me a new coat;’ or else he says, ‘I am hungry, let me have something to eat.’ That is the way to pray, and there is no prayer which God accepts but that kind of prayer—right straight from the heart, and right straight to God’s heart. We miss the mark when we go about to gather gaudy words. What! gaudy words on the lips of a poor sinner? Fine phrases from a rebel? There is more true eloquence in ‘God be merciful to me a sinner,’ than in all the books of devotion which bishops, and archbishops, and divines ever compiled. ‘Thy servant Ben-hadad saith, I pray thee, let me live.’ I feel inclined to stop and ask you to bow your heads, and pray that prayer—‘O God, thy servant saith, I pray thee, let me live. O cut me not down as a cumberer of the ground, but let me live; I am dead in trespasses and sins; quicken me, O Lord, and let me live; and when thou comest to slay the wicked on the earth, I pray thee, let me live; and when thou shalt destroy the ungodly, and sweep them with the broom of destruction into the pit that is bottomless, I pray thee, let me live.’ You see there is not a word of merit; there is nothing about what man has done; Ben-hadad only calls himself a servant. ‘Make me as one of thy hired servants.’ ‘Thy servant Ben-hadad saith, I pray thee, let me live.’
For meditation: There are three kinds of prayers which cut no ice with God—publicity-seeking prayers (Matthew 6:5), padded-out prayers (Matthew 6:7) and pretended prayers (Mark 12:40). Jesus taught His followers to pray privately and pointedly (Matthew 6:6,9–13). Have you truly prayed for your sins to be forgiven (Luke 11:4)?
Sermon no. 535
11 October (1863)