Job 15:4
Eliphaz thinks that Job's wild words are a reproach to religion, and that the effect of them will be to undermine faith and discourage prayer. His is a common alarm of short-sighted, cautious people who think it safest to suppress doubt, and to whom the hasty utterances of a disturbed mind are most dreadful, although the fact is that the cold repetition of narrow and erroneous dogmas is far more hurt[hi to the cause of spiritual religion.

I. THE EVIL OF RESTRAINING PRAYER. However it may be brought about, there cannot be two opinions of the evil of this course of action. It may be said that we need not pray because God knows what we require without our telling him - knows it even better than we know it ourselves. The answer to this excuse or difficulty is that the object of prayer is not to add to God's information, but to commit our needs to him.

1. We lose what God gives in response to prayer. He expects us to entrust ourselves to him. He has bidden us seek his face (Psalm 27:8). Christ has told us to ask, that we may receive (John 16:24). St. James explains that we "have not" sometimes just "because we ask not" (James 4:2).

2. We miss the spiritual blessedness of prayer. The chief good of prayer is not in the gifts it calls down from heaven, but in the very exercise itself. It is a greater blessing than any of the things that it is the means of bringing to us. To be in communion with God is better than to receive any favours from God.

"Prayer is the Christian's vital breath." Restraining prayer is the soul holding its breath. This must end in death. Even when it is not complete, the stifling of the spiritual activities must result.

II. THE CAUSES OF RESTRAINING PRAYER.

1. Whatever leads to unbelief. This was Eliphaz's thought, though he misapplied it, for he imagined that Job's extravagant utterances would discourage men's faith in religion and in the efficacy of prayer. But the truth is that the dreary formalism, the dismal orthodoxy which clung to antiquity and ignored spiritual instincts, the harsh uncharitableness that killed the spirit of religion while defending the name of it, were the greater hindrances to faith. When faith is thus hindered prayer freezes on our lips.

2. Worldly living. Some men are too busy to find time for prayer. But Luther is repotted to have said he had so much to do that he could not afford less than four hours a day for prayer, regarding prayer as the secret of strength for work. It is possible to be much in prayer, however, without giving a long time to acts of devotion; for prayer is inward and spiritual. It is not the occupation of one's time, but the ensnaring of one's heart with worldly things, that restrains prayer.

3. Sin. The penitent sinner may and will pray, casting himself on the mercy of God. Christ's model of the prayer that is acceptable to God is the cry of the penitent, "God, be merciful to me a sinner." But sin harboured and loved completely crushes the spirit of prayer. No man can really pray who will not renounce his sin. Of course, it is possible to cry out selfishly for some gift from God. But the real prayer, which is communion with God, must be repressed and restrained by sin, because sin is separation from God. - W.F.A.







Thou restrainest prayer before God.
All the motives by which the heart of man can be influenced, combine to urge upon him the great duty of prayer. Whence, then, arises the guilty indifference to spiritual prayer, so prevalent among us? Why will men, whose only hope depends upon the undeserved compassion of their Heavenly Father, close up, as it were, by their own apathy and unbelief, the exhaustless fountain from whence it longs to flow, and restrain prayer before God? Examine some of the more common hindrances to comfort and success in the exercise of prayer; and inquire why so little growth in grace is derived from this essential element of the Christian life. Prayer is restrained before God —

I. WHEN HE IS APPROACHED IN A PROUD, UNHUMBLED STATE OF HEART. Such was the sin of Job when the Temanite reproved him. Can an unrestrained communion be held with God by one whose spirit has not yet been subdued by the knowledge of his sin, the conviction of his danger, the shame of his ingratitude? If prayer be anything, it is the utterance of one self-condemned, to the Being by whom he was made, the Judge by whose verdict he must abide, the Redeemer through whose mercy he may be saved. If prayer have any special requisites, contrition must be its very essence. Without a proper sense of the evil predominating within us, there can be no holy freedom in prayer; no aspiration of the soul towards heaven; no unrestrained utterance of the Psalmist's cry, "Make me a clean heart, O God!" An unhumbled mind and an unrestrained prayer are palpable contradictions.

II. WHEN THE SUPPLIANT IS ENSLAVED BY THE LOVE AND INDULGENCE OF ANY SIN. relates of himself, that although he dared not omit the duty of prayer, but, with his lips constantly implored deliverance from the power and love of his besetting sins, they had so strongly entwined themselves around his heart, that every petition was accompanied with some silent aspiration of the soul, for a little longer delay amidst the unhallowed sources of his past gratifications. Judge, then, whether Augustine in this state did not restrain prayer before God. Forbidden acts, or the indulgence of unblest desires, overrule and hinder the transgressor's prayer. Let me warn you also against a devotion to the pursuits, pleasures, and attractions of the world. The spirit thus entangled and ensnared, may indeed undertake the employment; but instead of being occupied by the majesty of Jehovah, the love of Immanuel, and the momentous aspect of eternal things, it will be fluttering abroad among the passing and perishing vanities in which it seeks its mean and grovelling good. Can he whose attention is mainly confined to the acquisition of temporal good, expand his heart in prayer for mercies unseen and spiritual? God comes to us in His Gospel, exhibiting on the one hand His greatness and His goodness, and on the other, exposing the emptiness of time and sense.

III. WHEN WE PRAY WITHOUT FERVENCY. What is the object of supplication? Is it not that we may share the privileges of the family of heaven; serving God with delight and love among His people below; and becoming meet to serve Him day and night in His temple above, among the spirits of the just made perfect? Are these, then, mercies which should be sought in the mere language of prayer, unanimated by its spirit and its fervency? The prayer which God will hear and bless, demands some touch of the spirit manifested by the believing Syrophenician woman. If this fervour of prayer be wanting, the deficiency originates in an evil heart of unbelief which departs from the living God.

IV. WHEN WE NEGLECT TO PRAY FREQUENTLY. Our wants are continually recurring; but only the fulness of infinite mercy can supply them. We are, in fact, as absolutely dependent upon the daily mercies of our God, as were the Israelites upon the manna which fell every morning around their tents. Constant prayer, therefore, must be necessary. There is continual need of prayer for growth in grace.

V. WHEN WE REGARD PRAYER RATHER AS A BURDENSOME DUTY THAN A DELIGHTFUL PRIVILEGE. A wondrous provision has been made to qualify guilty and polluted creatures for approaching the God of all purity and holiness. "We who some time were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." "Through Him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father." The Christian draws nigh with the united offering of prayer and thanksgiving. Do we then not restrain prayer, when, instead of addressing ourselves to it with glad hearts and holy boldness, we are led unwillingly to the duty, and urged only by the gloomy demands of a spirit of bondage? Until converse with God in prayer be the life and pleasure of the soul, the balm that best allays its pains, the consolation that best speaks peace and silence to its sorrows, the cordial that revives its fainting affection, there can be no unreservedness of heart in this great duty. We should open our whole hearts to the eye of His mercy; tell Him of every wish; relate every sorrow; entreat Him to sympathise in every suffering, and feel assured that He will minister to every want.

VI. WHEN IT IS CONFINED TO REQUESTS FOR MERCIES OF LESSER CONCERN AND MOMENT. We have immortal spirits, no less than perishable bodies. We are probationers for heaven. We have sinful souls which must be pardoned; we have carnal minds, which must be renewed. The spirit is more valuable than the body; eternity more momentous than time. Is not prayer then restrained, when, instead of employing it to seek the things which belong to our peace, we desire this world's good with absorbing earnestness; and the better part, which cannot be taken away, feebly, if at all? Every mercy, we may be sure, waits upon the prayers of an open heart.

(R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)

This is part of the charge brought by Eliphaz against Job. I address myself to the true people of God, who understand the sacred art of prayer, and are prevalent therein; but who, to their own sorrow and shame, must confess that they have restrained prayer. We often restrain prayer in the fewness of the occasions that we set apart for supplication. We constantly restrain prayer by not having our hearts in a proper state when we come to its exercise. We rush into prayer too often. We should, before prayer, meditate upon Him to whom it is to be addressed; upon the way through which my prayer is offered. Ought I not, before prayer, to be duly conscious of my many sins? If we add meditation upon what our needs are, how much better should we pray! How well if, before prayer, we would meditate upon the past with regard to all the mercies we have had during the day. What courage that would give us to ask for more! It is not to be denied, by a man who is conscious of his own error, that in the duty of prayer itself we are too often straitened in our own bowels, and do restrain prayer. This is true of prayer as invocation; as confession; as petition; and as thanksgiving. And lastly, it is very clear that, in many of our daily actions, we do that which necessitates restrained prayer.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

This is one of the many censures that Job's friends passed upon him. He could not be convicted of the fact, without being convicted of sin. Prayer is most positively enjoined, as a primary duty of religion; a duty strictly in itself, as the proper manner of acknowledging the supremacy of God and our dependence. Prayer cannot be discountenanced on any principle which would not repress and condemn all earnest religious desires. Would it not be absurd to indulge these desires, if it be absurd to express them? And worse than absurd, for What are they less than impulses to control the Divine determinations and conduct? For these desires will absolutely ascend toward Him. Again, it is the grand object to augment these desires. Then here too is evidence in favour of prayer. For it must operate to make them more strong, more vivid, more solemn, more prolonged, and more definite as to their objects. Forming them into expressions to God will concentrate the soul in them, and upon these objects. As to the objection that we cannot alter the Divine determinations; it may well be supposed that it is according to the Divine determinations that good things shall not be given to those that will not petition for them; that there shall be this expression of dependence and acknowledgment of the Divine supremacy. Now for the manner in which men avail themselves of this most sublime circumstance in their condition. We might naturally have expected an universal prevalence of a devotional spirit. Alas! there are millions of the civilised portion of mankind that practise no worship, no prayer at all, in any manner; they are entirely "without God in the world," To say of such an one, "Thou restrainest prayer," is pronouncing on him an awful charge, is predicting an awful doom. We wish, however, to make a few admonitory observations on the great defectiveness of prayer in those who do feel its importance, and are not wholly strangers to its genuine exercise. How much of this exercise, in its genuine quality, has there been in the course of our life habitually? Is there a very frequent, or even a prevailing reluctance to it, so that the chief feeling regarding it is but a haunting sense of duty and of guilt in the neglect? This were a serious cause for alarm, lest all be wrong within. Is it in the course of our days left to uncertainties whether the exercise shall be attended to or not? Is there a habit of letting come first to be attended to any inferior thing that may offer itself? When this great duty is set aside for an indefinite time, the disposition lessens at every step, and perhaps the conscience too. Or, in the interval appropriate to this exercise, a man may defer it till very near what he knows must be the end of the allowed time. Again, an inconvenient situation for devotional exercise will often be one of the real evils of life. Sometimes the exercise is made very brief from real, unqualified want of interest. Or prayer is delayed from a sense of recent guilt. The charge in the text falls upon the state of feeling which forgets to recognise the value of prayer as an instrument in the transactions of life. And it falls, too, on the indulgence of cares, anxieties, and griefs, with little recourse to this great expedient.

(John Foster.)

I. THE EMPLOYMENT, THE IMPORTANCE OF WHICH IS ASSUMED. The employment of prayer. The end and object of all prayer is God. God, who is the only true object of prayer, has rendered, it a matter of positive and universal duty. The obligation cannot but be reasonably and properly inferred from those relations which are revealed as essentially existing between man and God.

II. THE NATURE OF THE HABIT, THE INDULGENCE OF WHICH IS CHARGED. Instead of submitting to and absolutely obeying the injunctions which God has imposed upon thee, thou art guilty of holding back and preventing the exercise of supplication. Some of the modes in which men are guilty of restraining prayer before God.

1. He restrains prayer who altogether omits it.

2. Who engages but seldom in it.

3. Who excludes from his supplications the matters which are properly the objects of prayer.

4. Who does not cherish the spirit of importunity in prayer.

III. THE EVILS, THE INFLICTION OF WHICH IS THREATENED.

1. Restraining prayer prevents the communication of spiritual blessings.

2. It exposes positively to the judicial wrath of God.

(James Parsons.)

This text helps us to put our finger on the cause of a great deal that is amiss in all of us. Here is what is wrong, "Thou restrainest prayer before God." If you are restraining prayer, that is, neglecting prayer, pushing it into a corner, and making it give way to everything else, — offering it formally and heartlessly, and with no real earnestness and purpose, praying as if you were sure your prayer would go all for nothing, — then it is no wonder if you are downhearted and anxious; and if grace is languishing and dying in you, and you growing, in spite of all your religious profession, just as worldly as the most worldly of the men and Women round you. There can be no doubt at all that the neglect of prayer is a sadly common sin. It is likewise a most extraordinary folly. There are people who restrain prayer, who do not pray at all, because they believe that prayer will do them no good, that prayer is of no use. But we believe in prayer. We believe in the duty of it; we believe in the efficacy of it. It is not for any expressed erroneous opinion that professing Christians restrain prayer. It is through carelessness; lack of interest in it; vague dislike to close communion with God; lack of vital faith, the faith of the heart as well as head. That is what is wrong; want of sense of the reality of prayer; dislike to go and be face to face alone with God. It is just when we feel least inclined to pray, that we need to pray the most earnestly. Be sure of this, that at the root of all our failures, our errors, our follies, our hasty words, our wrong deeds, our weak faith, our cold devotion, our decreasing grace, there is the neglect of prayer. If our prayers were real; if they were hearty, humble, and frequent, then how the evil that is in us would sink down abashed; then how everything holy and happy in us would grow and flourish!

(A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

When the fear of God is cast off, the first and fundamental principle of personal religion is removed; and when prayer before God is restrained, it is an evidence that this first and fundamental principle is either wanting altogether, or for a time suspended in its exercise. To "cast off fear" is to live "without God in the world"; and to restrain prayer before God is a sure indication that this godless, graceless life, is already begun in the soul, and will speedily manifest itself in the character and conduct.

I. WHAT IS PRAYER BEFORE GOD?

1. It has God for its object. To each of the persons of the Godhead prayer may and should be made. To pray unto any of the host of heaven, or any mere creature whatever, is both a senseless and a sinful exercise. Because none of them can hear or answer our prayers. They know not the heart. They cannot be everywhere present. They cannot answer. To pray to any creature is sinful, because giving to the creature the glory which belongs exclusively to the Creator. To hear, accept, and answer prayer, is the peculiar prerogative of the only "living and true God." By this He is distinguished from the "gods many and lords many" of the heathen.

2. It has Christ for its only medium. "In whom we have boldness, and access with confidence, by the faith of Him." He is our friend at the court of heaven.

3. It has the Bible for its rule and reason. For its rule to direct us. It is the reason for enforcing prayer.

4. It has the heart for its seat. It does not consist in eloquence, in fluency of speech, in animal excitement, in bodily attitudes, or in outward forms. Words may be necessary to prayer, even in secret, for we think in words; but words are not of the nature and essence of prayer. There may be prayer without utterance or expression; but there can be no prayer without the outgoing of the heart, and the offering up of the desires unto God.

II. WHAT IS IT TO RESTRAIN PRAYER BEFORE GOD? This fault does not apply to the prayerless. They who never pray to God at all, cannot be charged with restraining prayer before Him.

1. Prayer may be restrained as to times. Most people pray to God sometimes. It is a great privilege that we may pray to God at all times. The pressure of business and the want of time, form the usual excuse for infrequency in prayer. But is it not a duty to redeem time for this very purpose?

2. As to persons. For whom ought we to pray? Some are as selfish in their prayers as they are bigoted in their creed, and stingy in their purse. Paul says, "I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men."

3. As to formal prayer. The attitude of prayer is assumed, the language of prayer is employed, and the forms of prayer are observed; but the spirit of prayer, which gives it life and energy and efficacy, is wanting. Now look at prayer in its power. Three attributes are requisite to make prayer of much avail with God; faith, importunity, and perseverance.

III. WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF RESTRAINING PRAYER BEFORE GOD? These are just like the spirit and habit from which they flow, — evil, only evil, and that continually, to individuals, to families, and to communities, civil and sacred. The evils may be comprised and expressed in two particulars, — the prevention of Divinely promised blessings, and exposure to Divine judgments. Let these considerations be —

(1)A warning to the prayerless, and

(2)A monitor to the prayerful.

(George Robson.)

Christian Age.
This instructive anecdote relating to President Finney is characteristic: — A brother who had fallen into darkness and discouragement, was staying at the same house with Dr. Finney over night. He was lamenting his condition, and Dr. F., after listening to his narrative, turned to him with his peculiar earnest look, and with a voice that sent a thrill through his soul, said," You don't pray! that is what's the matter with you. Pray — pray four times as much as ever you did in your life, and you will come out." He immediately went down to the parlour, and taking the Bible he made a serious business of it, stirring up his soul to seek God as did Daniel, and thus he spent the night. It was not in vain. As the morning dawned he felt the light of the Sun of Righteousness shine upon his soul. His captivity was broken; and ever since he has felt that the greatest difficulty in the way of men being emancipated from their bondage is that they "don't pray." The bonds cannot be broken by finite strength. We must take our case to Him who is mighty to save. Our eyes are blinded to Christ the Deliverer. He came to preach deliverance to the captive, to break the power of habit; and herein is the rising of a great hope for us.

(Christian Age.)

Among the wonders which science has achieved, it has succeeded in bringing things which are invisible, and impalpable to our sense, within the reach of our most accurate observations. Thus the barometer makes us acquainted with the actual state of the atmosphere. It takes cognisance of the slightest variation, and every change is pointed out by its elevation or depression, so that we are accurately acquainted with the actual state of the air, and at any given time. In like manner the Christian has within him an index by which he may take cognisance and by which he may measure the elevation and degrees of his spirituality — it is the spirit of inward devotion. However difficult it may seem to be to pronounce on the invisibilities of our spirituality, yet there is a barometer to determine the elevation or depression of the spiritual principle. It marks the changes of the soul in its aspect towards God. As the spirit of prayer mounts up, there is true spiritual elevation, and as it is restrained, and falls low, there is a depression of the spiritual principle within us. As is the spirit of devotion and communion such is the man.

(H. G. Salter.)

In vain do we charge the gun, if we intend not to let it off. Meditation filleth the heart with heavenly matter, but prayer gives the discharge, and pours it forth upon God, whereby He is overcome to give the Christian his desired relief and succour. The promise is the bill or bond, wherein God makes Himself a debtor to the creature. Now, though it is some comfort to a poor man that hath no money at present to buy bread with, when he reads his bills and bonds, to see that he hath a great sum owing him; yet this will not supply his present wants and buy him bread. No, it is putting his bond in suit must do this. By meditating on the promise thou comest to see there is support in, and deliverance out of, affliction engaged for; but none will come till thou commencest thy suit, and by prayer of faith callest in the debt. God expects to hear from you before you can expect to hear from Him. If thou "restrainest prayer," it is no wonder the mercy promised is retained. Meditation is like the lawyer's studying the case in order to his pleading it at the bar. When, therefore, thou hast viewed the promise, and affected thy heart with the riches of it, then fly thee to the throne of grace and spread it before the Lord.

( W. Gurnall..)

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