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Rev. Haak is pastor of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan and radio pastor for the Reformed Witness Hour, on which this message was aired.

God has given to us a precious and wonderful gift. It is called prayer.

As children of God, also as young people, there is nothing more important than to develop a regular life of prayer. The most important thing in your life is not your studies, work, business, rushing here and there. But the most important thing is to live truly a life of prayer. Without prayer, we would soon be off the path of obedience and life, and running madly down the dead-end trails of this world. How heavy our burdens become, how dim our eye of faith grows. How we are left only with ourselves—if we forsake prayer. Prayer is communion with God. It is thus no luxury for us but something that is essential to our life. Prayer is not simply for super-pious people, or for old people. Prayer is spiritual bread and water. “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint,” said the Lord Himself (Luke 18:1).

One of the verses of Scripture that I would choose in order to show to you the rich and comforting truths of prayer is Jeremiah 33:3. We read: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”

In this verse Jeremiah is being counseled by God Himself. For forty years the prophet Jeremiah had warned that Judah and Jerusalem would be destroyed for their sins, and now the armies of Babylon are at the very walls of the city. It would be very difficult to conceive of a situation more painful than the situation that confronted Jeremiah. Forty years he has faithfully preached the Word of God, only to see God’s Word rejected and all signs of godliness among the people of God gone and replaced by nothing but coldness, darkness, and corruptions.

Further, Jeremiah, when he is counseled by God to pray, is in prison. It was exactly in that dark time that God comes to His servant with words of encouragement.

The first word of encouragement that God brought to Jeremiah is found in Jeremiah 32. It was the word of encouragement that was brought to him through his uncle’s son. This cousin told him that he must purchase a field and make sure that the transaction was properly recorded. For, although all that he could see right now was the coming judgments of God and the certainty that God’s people were going to be destroyed and led away captive, nevertheless, God was going to bring His people back.

Prayer, then, is given to the hopeless spiritual prisoner. Prayer is given as the instrument and not to faint,” said the Lord Himself (Luke 18:1).

One of the verses of Scripture that I would choose in order to show to you the rich and comforting truths of prayer is Jeremiah 33:3. We read: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”

In this verse Jeremiah is being counseled by God Himself. For forty years the prophet Jeremiah had warned that Judah and Jerusalem would be destroyed for their sins, and now the armies of Babylon are at the very walls of the city. It would be very difficult to conceive of a situation more painful than the situation that confronted Jeremiah. Forty years he has faithfully preached the Word of God, only to see God’s Word rejected and all signs of godliness among the people of God gone and replaced by nothing but coldness, darkness, and corruptions.

Further, Jeremiah, when he is counseled by God to pray, is in prison. It was exactly in that dark time that God comes to His servant with words of encouragement.

The first word of encouragement that God brought to Jeremiah is found in Jeremiah 32. It was the word of encouragement that was brought to him through his uncle’s son. This cousin told him that he must purchase a field and make sure that the transaction was properly recorded. For, although all that he could see right now was the coming judgments of God and the certainty that God’s people were going to be destroyed and led away captive, nevertheless, God was going to bring His people back.

Prayer, then, is given to the hopeless spiritual prisoner. Prayer is given as the instrument to confirm in your heart God’s promises even in the darkest of times. To you who are shut up in the heaviness of prison, the heaviness of your own heart, and your eyes fail to see how God’s promises can be fulfilled, God says to you, “Call upon me.”

If the Scriptures make anything clear, it is this: we are called to pray. Old or young, male or female, child or parent: God says, Call upon Me. It would be a very good exercise for you to take out your Bible and study how many times these words are given: Psalm 50:15Psalm 62:8Isaiah 55:6Matthew 7:7Mark 14 in the words of the Lord unto the disciples; I Thessalonians 5;Hebrews 4James 4. God has filled the Bible with so many commands to pray that the child of God need never wonder whether or not he must pray.

We say, We have prayed; now what? And God responds: Pray on. Whether you feel the heaven is as brass above you, whether your spirits fail—even then the Scriptures say to us in James 5: Call upon the elders that they may pray for you.

So long as we are in the flesh, we need the command to pray or else God would not give it. We are, after all, subject to worldliness, to cares of this present life. We get caught up in this life, in its worries and cares. We do not forget to eat. We do not forget to go to bed. We do not forget to consult our feelings. Certainly we remember to spend long hours toiling over our business. And we remember to find time for our pleasures. But we often forget to wrestle with God in prayer. Hours we can set aside for self and for the world. Moments for God? That we forget. So often we give the world our best, and the leftover time for prayer. Therefore God says, Call upon Me! Sometimes our hearts are heavy under a load of sin and sadness and we say, “Why should I pray?” Or we say, “I can’t. I can’t pray.”

Oh, thank God then for this Word, this Word that cuts through all of our fog and says, “If you feel corrupted yet in your sins; if you feel you have no strength; even if you have to crawl and creep: go, go to the throne of grace. Call upon God!” Though words may fail you, though you must stammer, though you can hardly find the words to express that which is in your soul, no matter what, pray!

That is why, I believe, one of the most realistic and beautiful pictures of prayer in the Bible is the picture of Jacob when he wrestled with God all night and would not let God go. That is prayer: wrestling with God—expenditure of intense spiritual energies.

There stands, so long as we breathe, this command, suitable to every case and every circumstance into which you as a child of God may be cast. God says, Call upon Me.

Are you troubled? Call upon God.

Are you disturbed by men? Call upon God.

Are you at your wits’ end and you see now no way out? Call upon God.

Are you lonely? Call upon God.

Do your friends fail you? Pray.

Are your children a burden to you and your soul? Bring that to God in prayer.

Are you, perhaps, angry with God? Are you struggling with the will of God, and your flesh becomes angry with what He is revealing to you or performing in your life? Pray.

Do you feel that God is far from you today? Pray. Call upon me, says the Word. Cast thy burden upon the Lord, arise and go to your Father.

And God promises: “I will answer thee.”

As the command to pray is very plain, so the promise of God is also plain: I will answer thee. That promise rests upon the character of God. I will answer thee. When He calls us to seek His face, and when we, out of this present life, by His grace, fly to Him in all of our fears and toils, will He not have mercy? Will He not hear us? Will He not rush to our side? He that spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all (Rom. 8:32)—what is the conclusion of that? “How shall he not also with Christ freely give us all things.” Would He refuse to listen and to answer? Surely God will answer the prayers of His people.

Our own experience confirms this as children of God. God answers us not because of the worthiness of our prayers, but because we have one, Jesus Christ, who ever liveth to make intercession for us at the right hand of God. We may be sure of this: God hears our prayers and God will answer. That means that He will answer what is the deepest need of our hearts. That God hears our prayers does not mean that he always gives us literally what we are asking for. He answers us for sure. But He may not take away the thorn in the flesh that we have asked Him to remove. He may not give us what we think we have to have. He will not allow our puny wisdom to dictate to His perfect wisdom. We would not want that. We want the wisdom of God to direct our path.

So we pray: “Father, hear me.” We unburden our souls. We bring to Him our needs. But we say, “Lord, Thou knowest. And Thou knowest the end from the beginning. Thou knowest what is best for me. Father, Thy will be done. Give me the assurance of Thy grace, that Thou art with me.” That is our prayer.

Come boldly, we read in Hebrews 4, that we might receive what? Hebrews 4 says this: “Come boldly that we might receive mercy and grace to help us in time of need.”

To Jeremiah God said: “I will answer Thee and I will show Thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” That is something more, is it not? Prayer is not only communion with God, but prayer is also enlightenment for our souls. Without prayer we see only the earthly. God says, “I will show thee great and fortified things, which are hidden from thee.” What does that mean? Is God saying, “I am going to give you some extra revelation, something that you will not find in the Bible. No. It means this: Prayer is the means of God to strengthen our faith in the promises of God’s Word. Prayer is the means of God to strengthen us in the promises of God’s covenant and of His salvation. Remember Jeremiah.

But still there was nothing to confirm that promise as far as Jeremiah’s own eye could see. All that his own eye could see was the army of the Babylonians. His ears heard the war-drums and the smash of the boulders thrown from the catapults against the walls of the city and the crash of the rams against the city gates. And he was in a prison, and everyone wanted to forget about him. Then the Word of the Lord came to him: “Call upon Me, Jeremiah, and I will answer thee and show thee great and fortified things hidden from earthly sight. I will show you the greatness of the love of God. I will show you the indestructibleness of His Word. I will show to the eye of faith that everything is serving My purpose.”

Prayer lifts you up to Calvary. Prayer lifts you up on high, above the swirling tumult of the present, to see the purposes of God in Christ and to know that these purposes shall forever stand. Prayer brings you to know the love of God in Jesus Christ so that by faith you might say, “I am persuaded that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” That is the blessing of prayer.

Is there anything so precious as that? That is why God must lead us now, often in the way of trial—to humble us, to teach us to pray, to bring us to that point where we cannot see.

Prayer in a prison was a golden key to unlock those things. Souls arise in liberty. May God Himself speak to you now today these words: “Call upon Me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.”