Have Christians a Right to Pray
“If It Be Thy Will”
By John G. Lake
I am going to read a familiar portion of the Word of God. It is the Lord’s Prayer as recorded in the 11th chapter of Luke.
I purpose this afternoon to speak on this subject, “Have Christians a right to Pray, “if it be Thy will” concerning sickness?” Personally, I do not believe they have, and I am going to give you my reasons.
“And it came to pass that, as he was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ And He said unto them, ‘When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.’” Luke 11:1-4.
Beloved, if there is one thing in the world I wish I could do for the people of Spokane, it would be to teach them to pray. Not teach them to say prayers, but teach them, to pray. There is a mighty lot of difference between saying prayers and praying.
“The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up, and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
The prayer of faith has power in it. The prayer of faith has trust in it The prayer of faith has healing in it for soul and body. The disciples wanted to know how to pray real prayers, and Jesus said unto them, “When ye pray say, Our Father which art in heaven ...Thy will be done.”
Everybody stops there, and they resign their intelligence at that point to the unknown God. When you approach people and say to them, “You have missed the spirit of the prayer,” they look at you in amazement. But, Beloved, it is a fact. I want to show it to you this afternoon as it is written in the Word of God. It does not say, “if it be Thy will,” and stop there. There is a comma there, not a period. The prayer is this, “Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.” That is mighty different, is it not? Not “Thy will be done,” let the calamity come, let My children be stricken with fever, or my son go to the insane asylum or my daughter go to the home of the feeble minded. That is not what Jesus was teaching the disciples to pray. Jesus was teaching the people to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Let the might of God be known. Let the power of God descend. Let God avert the calamity that is coming, Let it turn aside through faith in God. “Thy will be done on earth (here) as it is in heaven.”
How is the will of God done in heaven? For a little time I want to direct your thought with mine heavenward. We step over there and we look all about the city. We note its beauty and its grandeur. We see the Lamb of God. We do not observe a single drunken man on the golden streets; not a single man on crutches; not a woman smelling of sin.
A man came in the other day and was telling me what an ardent Christian he is. But after he left, I said, “Lift the windows and let the balance of the man out.” Men ought to smell like they pray. We defile ourselves with many things.
A dear man came to me the other day in great distress. He said his eyes were going blind. The physician told him he had only a year of sight, perhaps less. As I endeavoured to comfort him and turn his face toward God, I reverently put my hands on his eyes and asked God for Christ’s sake to heal him, and as I did so the Spirit of God kept speaking to my soul and saying, “Amaurosis.” I said, “What is amaurosis?” As soon as I could get to a dictionary, I looked up the word to see what it is. It is a disease of the eyes, caused by the use of nicotine. That was what was the matter with the man. The Spirit of the Lord was trying to tell me, but I was too dull; I did not understand. I do not know what the man’s name is, but the other day God sent him back to my office. As we sat together I related the incident to him and said, “My brother, when you quit poisoning yourself the probability is that you may not need any healing from God.”
We defile ourselves in various ways; we go on defiling ourselves; and some people are able to stand the defilement a long time and throw it off. Others are not able to. It poisons their system and destroys their faculties. One man may drink whisky and live to be an old man. Another may go to wreck in a few months or years. Some systems will throw off much; others will not.
Now, when we get to the beautiful City, we did not find any of these conditions, and so we say, “Angel, what is the reason you do not have any sin up here?” “Why the reason we do not have any sin here is because THE WILL OF GOD IS BEING DONE.”
I have been used to looking for the sick, and if I see a man with a lame leg or a woman with a blind eye, I will see that a way-down the street. I have mingled with the sick all my life. So I look around up there, and I do not see anybody on crutches or anybody that is lame, no cancers or consumption, or any sickness at all. So I say to my guide, “Angel, tell me what the reason is that you do not have any sickness up here.” The Angel replies, “THE WILL OF GOD IS BEING DONE HERE.” No sin where the will of God is being done. No sickness where the will of God is being done.
Then I return to the earth, and I can pray that prayer with a new understanding. “Thy will be done in me on earth as thy will is done in heaven.” Just as the will of God is done there, so let the will of God be done here. Let the will of God be done in me. “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.”
But some one says, “Brother, do you not remember on the 8th of Matthew how a leper came to Jesus one day and said to Him, “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean?” “The leper said, when he prayed, ‘If it be Thy will,’ why should I not say that too,” Well, he was ignorant of what the will of Christ was concerning sickness. Perhaps he had been up on the mountainside and had heard Jesus preach that wonderful sermon on the mount, for it was at its close that he came to Jesus and said, “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” He knew Christ’s ability to heal but did not understand his willingness. Jesus’ reply settled the question for the leper and it should settle the question for every other man for ever. Jesus said, “I will, be thou clean.” If He ever had said anything else to any other man, there might be some reason for us to interject “if it be Thy will” in our prayers when we ask God for something He has declared His will on. If always doubts. The prayer of faith has no if’s in it.
Suppose a drunken man kneels down at this platform and says, “I want to find God. I want to be a Christian.” Every man and woman in this house who knows God would say, “Yes,” right away. “Tell him to pray, to have faith in God, and God will deliver him.” Why do you do it? Simply because there is no question in your mind concerning God’s will in saving a sinner from his sins. You know He is ready to do it when a sinner is ready to confess his sin. But you take another step over, and here is another poor fellow by his side with a lame leg, and he comes limping along and kneels down, or tries to, and right away a lot of folks say, “I wish he would send for a doctor,” or else pray, “if it be Thy will, make him well” forgetting “who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases.”
Instead of Christians taking the responsibility, they try to put the responsibility on God. Everything there is in the redemption of Jesus Christ is available for man when man will present his claim in faith and take it. There is no question in the mind of God concerning the salvation of a sinner. No more is there concerning the healing of the sick one. It is in the atonement of Jesus Christ, bless God. His atonement was unto the uttermost, to the last need of man. The responsibility rests purely, solely and entirely on man. Jesus put it there. Jesus said, “WHEN ye pray, believe that ye receive, and YE SHALL HAVE.” No questions or if’s in the words of Jesus. If He ever spoke with emphasis on any question, it was on the subject of God’s will and the result of faith in prayer. Indeed, He did not even speak them in ordinary words, but in the custom of the East, He said, “Verily, verily.” Amen, amen - the same as if I would stand in a American court and say, “I swear I will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” So the Easterner raised his hand and said, “Amen, amen.” or “Verily, verily” - “with the solemnity of an oath I spy unto you.” So Jesus said, “When ye pray, believe that ye receive, and ye shall have.”
James, in expounding the subject, says concerning those that doubt, “Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” Why? Well, he says, a man that doubteth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. There is no continuity in his prayer. There is no continuity in his faith. There is no continuity in his character. There is no concentration in God for the thing that he wants. He is like the waves of the sea, scattered and shattered, driven here and there by the wind because there is if in it “Let not that man think he shall receive anything of the Lord.”
Now that leper did not know what the mind of Jesus was concerning sickness. Perhaps he had seen others healed of ordinary diseases, but leprosy was a terrible thing. It was incurable and contagious. The poor man was compelled as he went down the road to cry out, “Unclean, unclean,” in order that people might run away from him.
In my work in South Africa I saw dozens of them, hundreds of them, thousands of them. I have seen them with their fingers off of the first joint, at the second joint, with their thumbs off, or nose off, their teeth gone, the toes off, the body scaling off, and I have seen God heal them in every stage. On one occasion in our work, a company of healed lepers gathered on Christmas eve and partook of the Lord’s supper. Some had no fingers on their hands, and they had to take the cup between their wrists, but the Lord had been there and healed them. That was not under my ministry but under the ministry of a poor black fellow, who five or six years did not even wear pants. He wore a goat skin apron. But he came to Christ. He touched the living One. He received the power of God, and he manifests a greater measure of the real healing gift than I believe any man ever has in modern times. And if I were over there, I would kneel down and ask that black man to put his hands on my head and ask God to let the same power of God come into my life that he has in his.
You have no more right to pray “if it be Thy will” concerning your sickness than the leper had. Not as much, because for two thousand years the Word of God has been declared and the Bible has been an open book. We ought to be intelligent beyond any other people in the world concerning the mind of God.
“But Brother,” someone says, “you have surely forgotten that when Jesus was in the garden He prayed ‘Lord if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wilt.’” No, I have not forgotten. You are not the Saviour of the world, beloved. That was Jesus’ prayer. No other man could ever pray that prayer but the Lord Jesus. But I want to show you, beloved, what caused Jesus to pray that prayer because a lot of folks have never understood it.
Jesus had gone into the garden to pray. The burden of His life was upon him. He was about to depart. He had a message for the world. He had been compelled to commit it to a few men - ignorant men. I believe that he wondered, “Will they be able to present the vision? Will they see it as I have seen it? Will they be able to let the people have it as I have given it to them?” No doubt, these were some of the inquiries besides many more.
Do you know what the spirit of intercession is? Do you know what it means when a common man comes along, as Moses did, and takes upon himself the burden of the sin of the people and then goes down in tears and repentance unto God until the people are brought back in humility and repentance to His feet? When in anxiety for his race and people, Moses said, “Lord, if you forgive not this peoples blot my name out of thy book.” He did not want any heaven where his people were not.
Think of it! Moses took upon himself that responsibility, and he said to God, “If you forgive not this people, blot my name out of thy book.” God heard Moses’ prayer, Bless God!
Paul, on one occasion, wrote practically the same words. “I would be accursed for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” He felt the burden of his people. So Jesus in the garden felt the burden of the world, the accumulated sorrows of mankind, their burdens of sin, their burdens of sickness. And as He knelt to pray, His heart breaking under it, the great drops of sweat came out on His brow like blood falling to the ground. But the critics have said, “It was not blood.” Judge V. V. Barnes, in his great trial before Judge Landis, actually sweat blood until his handkerchief would be red with the blood that oozed through his pores. His wife said that for three months she was compelled to put napkins over his pillow. That is one of the biggest men God has ever let live in the world. His soul was big, and he saw the possibility of the hour for a great people and desired as far as he could to make that burden easy for them. He did not want the estate to go into the hands of a receiver. The interests of one hundred thousand people was in his hands, the accumulated properties of families who had no other resource. He was so large that the burden of his heart bore down on him so that he sweat blood and did so for three months. But people of these days say, “It looked like blood,” and are so teaching their Sunday School scholars. The Lord have mercy on them! The blood came out and fell down to the ground.
Jesus thought He was going to die right there in the garden, but He was too big to die there. He wanted to go to the cross. He wanted to see this thing finished on behalf of the race of man, and so He prayed, “Lord, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” What was the cup? Was it the cup of suffering that was breaking Him down, that was draining the life blood out right then, and that would be His death instead of the cross? But He towered above that and prayed, “Lord, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Instantly the angels came and ministered to Him, and in the new strength He received, He went on to the cross and to His death as the Saviour of mankind.
Beloved, I want to tell you that if there was a little sweating of blood and that kind of prayer, there would be less sickness and sin than there is. God is calling for a people who will take upon them that kind of burden and let the power of God work through them.
People look in amazement in these days when God answers prayer for a soul. A week ago last night my dear wife and I went down to pray for a soul on the Fort Wright line, a Mr. McFarland. She is going to be here one of these days to give her testimony. Ten years ago a tree fell on her and broke her back. She became paralysed, and for ten years she has been in a wheel chair, her limbs swollen, and her feet a great senseless lump that hangs down useless. She says many preachers have visited her. In these years, and they have told her to be reconciled to the will of God, to sit still and suffer longer. She said, “Oh, I would not mind not walking; if the pain would just stop for a little while, it would be so good.” We lovingly laid our hands upon her and prayed. You say, “Did you pray, ‘if it be Thy will?’” No! You bet I did not, but I laid my hands on that dear soul and prayed, “You devil that has been tormenting this woman for ten years and causing the tears to flow, I rebuke you in the Name of the Son of God. And by the authority of the Son of God I cast you out.” Something happened. Life began to flow into her being, and the pain left. In a little while she discovered that power was coming back into her body. She called me up the other day and said, “Oh, such a wonderful thing has taken place. This morning in bed I could get up on my hands and knees.” Poor soul, she called in her neighbours and relatives because she could get on her hands and knees in bed.
Do you not know you have painted Jesus Christ as a man without a soul? You have painted God to tho world as a tyrant. On the other hand, He is reaching out His hands in love to stricken mankind desiring to lift them up. But He has put the responsibility of the whole matter on you and me. That question of the WILL OF GOD was everlastingly settled long ago, eternally settled, no question about the will of God.
The redemption of Jesus Christ was an uttermost redemption, to the last need of the human heart, bless God, for body, for soul, for spirit. He is a Christ and saviour even to the uttermost. Blessed be His Name. Who shall dare to raise a limit to the accomplishment of faith through Jesus Christ? I am glad the tendency is to take down the barriers and let all the faith of your heart go out to God for every man and for every condition of life, to let the love of God flow out of your soul to every hungry soul.
Instead of praying “Lord, if it be Thy will” when you kneel beside your sick friend, Jesus Christ has commanded you and every BELIEVER to lay YOUR hands on the sick. This is not my ministry nor my brethren’s only. It is the ministry of every believer. And if your ministers do not believe it, God have mercy on them; and if your churches do not believe it, God have mercy on them.
In these days the churches are screaming and crying because Christian-Science is swallowing up the world, and that it is false. Why do the people go to Christian Science? Because they can not get any truth where they are. Let the day come when the voices of men ring out and tell the people the truth about the Son of God, who is a redeemer even unto the uttermost for body and soul and spirit. He redeems back to God. Beloved, believe it and receive the blessing that will come into your own life. Amen.
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John G Lake - His Life, His Sermons, His Boldness of Faith (O1)