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by Mr. John Samuel Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Friday Evening, September 2, 2016

“Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments” (Job 23:3-4).

The following is based upon the sermon “Order and Argument in Prayer” by C. H. Spurgeon. Spurgeon’s thoughts have been condensed into simple English. In addition, with the help of Dr. Hymers and Dr. Cagan, I have added some thoughts and Bible verses.

In the verse that was just read, Job wanted to find God and pray to Him. He did not want to speak to God in just a normal way. There was something more serious in Job’s intentions. He wanted to pray in this way: “I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments” (Job 23:4). There are two things to learn from this verse about real prayer – about serious prayer.

I. First, serious prayer is ordered – organized.

Job said, “I would order my cause before him” (Job 23:4).

Think about what you are going to pray for. Think about what you really want. Focus on that one thing. It must be important to you. When someone gave John R. Rice a prayer request, he never agreed to pray for it. Instead he would tell the person that he would ask God to give him a burden to pray for it. Otherwise he would not truly want that request and his prayer would not be a real prayer. What do you really want? Figure out why you want it. Try to understand why it has not happened. Think about why it is outside of your power. If you are not passionate about it, ask God for passion. Complacent prayers will tend to be unorganized. Complacent prayers will tend to be half-hearted. If you approach something half-heartedly, you will probably not be prepared. Prepare yourself before you pray. Especially if you are going to lead in prayer, whether in the home or in the church, do not depend on improvisation. Your heart must be settled on the task at hand. Your focus must be on the situation. You need something. You desperately need something. But you cannot attain it. It is outside of your power. It is outside of your control. And so you are about to approach the God of the Universe in the name of Jesus. You will approach God in the attempt to convince God. To convince God that He must provide according to your needs. That is a serious situation. That is not to be approached without careful thought. Think about what you are praying for.

Organize your prayer. Some people think of prayer as repeating the same set of requests over and over again. Some people may think that prayer is saying the same things every time they pray. If someone prays for the same thing every time, he has not thought over his prayer. He has not taken a moment to invest himself in his request with God. Some people think of prayer as saying religious words. But word choices do not take the place of a sincere argument. If I wanted to borrow some money from you, I would not rely on big words alone to make my argument compelling. You would not be convinced if I suddenly changed my vocabulary, but the content of what I said did not make sense. Religious words do not replace a cohesive thought.

Some people make prayer into shouting at God. But a person’s volume is not a substitute for an argument. Neither is going wildly from one thing to another. If a certain request is important to you, then it does not make sense that you would quickly move on to the next request and then the next request without first fully pleading your case. Some people pray in very general words: “Dear God, bless the church, save the lost, bless me and my family.” But that does not take very much thought. That is evidence of a lack of sincerity. That is not organized and ordered prayer.

If you were going into a court to speak to the judge, you would think about what you were going to say. You would consider carefully that which you were going to ask for. You would think about how you were going to convince the judge to give you what you wanted. I also would argue that your involvement and preparation for that conversation would increase proportionately to the seriousness of the request. If you were going to ask your boss at work for something, you would think about what you were going to say and how you were going to say it. Do the same with God in prayer. Do not approach God with shallow thoughts. Do not approach God with incomplete ideas. Apply yourself.

Consider the multiple sides to the situation. How the situation impacts not only you but the people around you. How does the situation impact God’s glory? How does the situation impact God’s ministry and the progress of His kingdom? What will be the consequences of not receiving the request? What will happen if God does grant your request? There are many different sides to every situation. A single event or request does not begin or end with only your experience. This request is important. It is important to you. It may also be important to your family, or your church, or your friend, or maybe even to God. Remember that God is listening. God is much higher and greater than a human boss or judge.

What attitude should you have in prayer? Remember that we are nothing but “dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). We have no right in ourselves to ask anything from God. But through Jesus Christ you can come “boldly before the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). In and through Christ you can come directly to the Father. If you pray in the name of Jesus, He will hear you as He hears His own Son Jesus Christ. If you have trusted Christ, through Him you are God’s son or daughter. That is not a small thought. You are beloved and accepted because of Jesus. God will hear you!

Think about what you are going to ask for. Make it clear what you want. Jesus told us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). In teaching His Disciples about prayer Jesus gave the illustration, “Friend, lend me three loaves” (Luke 11:5).

If you want to pray for something, pray for that thing. Abraham prayed, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” (Genesis 17:18). Spurgeon said, “Say ‘Ishmael,’ if you mean ‘Ishmael.’”

If you are praying for someone to be converted, pray for that person by name. When you are leading in prayer, it is enough to present God the person’s name in your thoughts. But even if left unspoken, you can still communicate to God exactly who you are asking for. God can hear the groaning and uttering of your heart. If you are asking for a request, ask for it specifically. “Help me to get this job.” “Heal my sickness (or the sickness of another person).” “Help me to get names and phone numbers. Open the hearts and minds of the people I will meet tonight so they will give me their names and phone numbers.”

If you run through prayers without thinking about them, you are praying in “vain repetitions.” Jesus said, “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7). If you run through a list of prayers routinely without thinking, every time you pray – at home or in church – you are praying in vain repetitions. You might as well be mumbling a Catholic rosary or a Buddhist chant.

If you say the same thing in every church prayer meeting just to be able to stand up and say something, do not expect to be answered. Think about what you are going to pray for. You are asking God – a Person – for something specific. Then speak to God and ask Him for what you want.

II. Second, serious prayer uses arguments – reasons.

Job said, “I would...fill my mouth with arguments” (Job 23:4). “I would fill my mouth with reasons why God should give me what I ask Him for.” What sort of arguments – reasoning – should be used?

First, speak of God’s attributes – what He is like. Abraham prayed for God not to destroy Sodom. He said,

“Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure [maybe] there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:23-25).

Abraham appealed to God’s justice. He was saying, “If there are 50 righteous people, will you destroy them along with the wicked?” Would that be fair? “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” In fact, he kept on praying until God agreed not to destroy the city even if there were 10 righteous people there. Notice that Abraham was persistent. Abraham had the courage to ask for reason in spite of wrath. Abraham had the faith to ask for mercy in spite of sin. Abraham had enough confidence in God’s attributes to engage in such an argument. Abraham was not disrespectful. Abraham had so much respect for God that he could appeal to the quality of God’s character. If Abraham did not believe God was fair, he would be wise to stay silent. But, Abraham knew that God was just. Therefore Abraham argued and reasoned with God.

God is the same today. The Bible says, “I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). The Bible says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God is the same now as He was then. You can pray to God, and He will hear you, just as God heard when people prayed to Him then. In a court of law, attorneys will often appeal to precedent. Precedent is an earlier event that is accepted as an example to be considered in a similar situation. When you read the Bible or hear the Bible preached, remember what you read and what is said. Think about how what God has done in the past applies to what God can do today. Pay attention to what God has done in your life. Use it as a reference for what God can do in the future. Remember what God has done in the lives of people around you. Jesus told His Disciples to watch and pray. Connect seemingly unrelated events through the bridge of the power of God in answered prayer. Think about how it is consistent with God’s character. Remember what God has done in the past. Appeal to who God is. Pray to God in the same way as great men in the Bible prayed.

Second, you can appeal to God’s existence. Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal. God did not answer the prayers of these false prophets. But Elijah prayed to God to accept his own sacrifice. Elijah said,

“Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God” (I Kings 18:36-37).

Elijah prayed, “Show us that you are the true God.” And God answered Elijah. God sent fire from Heaven and burned up Elijah’s sacrifice.

Years later, after Elijah was taken up into Heaven, his disciple Elisha prayed, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” (II Kings 2:14). “Where are you, God?” God showed Himself and divided the waters of the River Jordan for Elisha. God showed that He was real.

Third, speak of God’s promises – for He will be faithful to His Word. In II Samuel, chapter 7, God promised David through the prophet Nathan that David would have a son, who would build the temple of God, and who would sit on his throne in Jerusalem, and that the people of Israel would endure forever. David said to God,

“For thou hast confirmed to thyself thy people Israel to be a people unto thee for ever: and thou, Lord, art become their God. And now, O Lord God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as thou hast said. And let thy name be magnified for ever, saying, The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee. For thou, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee. And now, O Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant: Therefore now let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue for ever before thee: for thou, O Lord God, hast spoken it: and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed for ever” (II Samuel 7:24-29).

David prayed to God to keep His promises and bring these things to pass. The Bible says, “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). In modern English we could say, “Even if every man is a liar, God is true.” The Bible says “The Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him” (Deuteronomy 7:9). God keeps His promises. You can bring the promises of God to Him in prayer. I will continue on this topic in the next message.

Order and argument in prayer requires careful thought and preparation. Prepare yourself by isolating what you truly want from God. Think carefully to be sure that you must depend on God for this request. Upon being convinced that you need God to provide for this need, direct your thoughts to why it must happen. Why is the request important? Why is it important that your request be granted at this moment? Allow that thought to build urgency and a burden within you. The desire to have your request is critical to building an invested and cohesive argument. A strong argument is not likely to result from a heart that is not invested. Approach the request from multiple perspectives. Avoid prayers that depend on volume or unnecessary recitation. Do not repeat your prayers thoughtlessly. Avoid prayers that are too general. Be specific in prayer. Build upon your prayers by referring to what God has done in the Bible. Build upon your prayers by referring to what God has done in your life. Chanting the same words again and again does not increase the likelihood that God will respond. However, instead reason with God in ordered and argued prayers. Reason with God. Appeal to God’s attributes. Appeal to God’s existence. Appeal to God’s promises. God will honor his promises. God will hear your sincere and ordered arguments of prayer.

“Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments” (Job 23:3-4).

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by Mr. John Samuel Cagan

“Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments” (Job 23:3-4).

I.   First, serious prayer is ordered – organized, Genesis 18:27;
Hebrews 4:16; Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:5; Genesis 17:18;
Matthew 6:7.

II.  Second, serious prayer uses arguments – reasons, Genesis 18:23-25;
Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; I Kings 18:36-37; II Kings 2:14;
II Samuel 7:24-29; Romans 3:4; Deuteronomy 7:9.