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by Mr. John Samuel Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, September 9, 2017

“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).

You have heard many sermons on prayer. Your mind may be expecting what you are going to hear now and is therefore already beginning to wander. Prayer is a part of the basics of Christianity. The basics are not spectacular or exciting. The basics are boring. You may feel that the basics do not need to be reconsidered again and again. You feel that you have a fairly strong idea of what prayer is and that you know how to pray, and you do not need to continually think about it again and again.

Do you know what the best soldiers in the world do? Do you know what the most skilled and elite Special Forces soldiers do? All day long, over and over again, day after day, the best and most skilled and most elite Special Forces soldiers practice the basics. But you may wonder, those elite soldiers are already experts, why do they need to practice the basics? Those soldiers take their operations very seriously and those soldiers know that on the battlefield, the basics keep soldiers alive. You are a soldier. You are on a battlefield. The Bible says,

“ For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Remember that you are a soldier on a battlefield and the risks and the stakes are real. The battlefield is dangerous. You have an adversary in the Devil that is stronger than you. You have an entire army of demons against you. You are deep behind enemy lines living in a city that is enslaved in sin and lost in the great apostasy. You are a soldier of Christ. The subject of prayer is one of the basics of the Christian faith. Prayer is something that children learn how to do. Prayer is basic. But on this battlefield of life, it is the basics that will keep you alive. Therefore, consider the following carefully.

Last year I spoke about prayer. I talked about organized and ordered prayer. But very few people seemed to remember it or apply it to their prayer life. Therefore I am returning to the subject, and presenting it in a different way. My subject is serious prayer. I am not dealing with praying for your food, or a quick prayer that you send up to God. Those are good things to do and you should do them, but that is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about serious prayer. I am talking about prayer when something is at risk. I am talking about prayer that is interceding for someone. I am talking about prayer that is fighting for something. I am talking about prayer that is pleading with God. I am talking about the battle of prayer. I want to talk about two important elements of serious, organized, impassioned 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).

I. First, a heart that cares.

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

Notice that Job has a cause. Job is talking about something that he actually cares about. Job is not talking about prayer that is done half-heartedly. Job is not talking about prayer that is done with a distracted and busy mind. Job is talking about a cause. If you know the story of Job, at this moment, he is talking about making a case for his entire life. Job cares about what he is going to pray about. Job said, “I would order my cause before him” (Job 23:4). This is essential. Prayer that does not come from a heart that cares is just a speech made to the sky. Some of the most powerful prayers ever made were not made eloquently, but passionately.

Evan Roberts prayed that God would bend him. His prayer was not eloquent, but passionate. His heart cared. His heart was not insincere. Evan Roberts had a cause. You know what it is like to pray with a heavy heart. You know what it is like to have the whole world go dark and sit in that darkness with a full heart and a single thought of prayer, “God, help me.” That is praying with a heart that cares. That is serious prayer. That is prayer with something at risk. That is intercessory prayer. That is prayer that keeps you alive. The Psalmist prayed, “Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You” (Psalm 38:9). God hears the prayers of the heart.

But how will you convince your heart to care about what you are praying for? You must think about what you are going to pray for. Think about what you really want. Focus on that one thing. It must become 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, and you know that passion is something you must have, therefore you must ask God for passion.

It is easy to fall into the trap of praying thoughtlessly and carelessly for things that you know are important. These prayers are complacent. On the battlefield, complacency gets soldiers killed. You must be constantly reminding yourself what is at stake. Remind yourself what is at risk.

Complacent prayers will tend to be unorganized and unanswered. Complacent prayers will tend to be half-hearted. If you approach something half-heartedly, you will probably not be prepared. 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.

As you consider the consequences of your prayer not being answered a certain care in your heart will begin to fester. The embers of your heart must begin to stir until they are on fire for what you are asking God for. Your heart must care. Now that you have a heart that cares, now that you have a cause, now you can obey what the Bible tells you to do with your cares,

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).

“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).

II. Second, a heart that cares, prepares for prayer.

The first preparation for prayer is to have a heart that cares about what you are asking for. But a heart that cares will prepare as much as possible. 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. You would do all of this, because your heart cares quite a bit about what you are going to ask for, and so therefore you would prepare. Do the same with God in prayer. Do not approach God with shallow unprepared thoughts. Do not approach God with incomplete ideas. Apply yourself.

Prepare by paying attention to the situation around you. Jesus told us to watch and pray. As you pay attention to past events and the situation around you, your prayers prayer will become more prepared. Take, for example praying for the presence of the Holy Spirit in the services. It is effortless to get complacent, and pray habitually for the Holy Spirit’s presence, knowing that it is important, and yet being somehow uncaring. But if you remember why the Holy Spirit’s presence is important, your heart will become prepared to pray. Bring your heart to the place of caring. Walk the perimeter of your situation. Ask yourself, what would happen if the Holy Spirit of God is not here in the services? What has happened in the past when that was the case? Could there be a demonic attack? Would the sermon be powerless? Would the service be any good at all? What will happen to the souls of the people you care about if the Holy Spirit is absent?

Consider the multiple sides to the situation. Pay attention to what is happening. Consider how your situation or someone else’s 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? 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. You must know what is happening around you in order to properly pray for it. Prepare for praying by watching and paying attention.

Prepare for prayer by organizing 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 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.

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.

Bouncing wildly from one thing to another suggests that you have not prepared yourself to pray. 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 impassioned prayer from a heart that cares. Therefore because of your lack of passion you are not ready to pray seriously, and you should prepare for prayer by returning to the stage of preparing your heart to pray.

Prepare for prayer by knowing what kind of prayers God answers. In order to do this, it is absolutely necessary that you know what the Bible says. Therefore you must read your Bible carefully. Therefore you must listen to the sermons carefully. In the court of law, attorneys make their arguments by appealing to the law that applies to their case. In order to do this, they must study the law very carefully. An attorney that did not prepare for their case by studying the law and the cases that apply to what they are arguing for could not expect to convince the judge of anything.

You also have something to appeal to. You have the divine revelation of the Word of God. You are not preparing to pray if you neglect your Bible and do not listen to the sermons. The Bible and the sermons are giving you ammunition to use in the battle of prayer. If you are not giving the Bible and the sermons your attention, you are by definition unprepared to pray seriously. Take for example the case of Abraham.

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?” “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. But the prerequisite, the necessary information needed in order to make this argument, was that Abraham needed to know the character of God. Abraham had to have an idea of who God was. If Abraham did not know who God was, if Abraham did not believe God was fair, he would be wise to stay silent. But, Abraham knew that God was just. Abraham knew who God was. Therefore Abraham argued and reasoned with God. You must know who God is by listening to the sermons carefully and reading the Bible constantly.

Serious prayer requires careful thought and preparation. Prepare yourself by preparing your heart to care. Pick out 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. Prepare by watching and praying. 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. You must have a cause. You must have a heart that cares. The desire to have your request is critical to serious prayer. A serious prayer 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. Prepare for prayer by reading the Bible and listening to the sermons. You are practicing the basics, and on the battlefield of the Christian life, it is the basics that will keep you alive.

“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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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Am Praying For You” (Samuel O. Cluff, 1837-1910).



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).

(Ephesians 6:12)

I.   First, a heart that cares, Psalm 38:9; Philippians 4:6.

II.  Second, a heart that cares, prepares for prayer, Matthew 6:7;
Genesis 18:23-25.