Thursday, April 30, 2020

Anticipatory Prayer by A.W. Tozer (Part 2)

I have been sharing from A.W. Tozer's book, "The Dangers of a Shallow Faith: Awakening from Spiritual Lethargy." To read Part 1, click here...


There are crises that wait for us out there, as there was the crisis that faced Jesus and His disciples, and David, and Israel, and Daniel, and Elijah, and all the rest. And there are crises that wait for us. I want to name a few of them briefly.

When Facing Acute Trouble

The history of the race shows that trouble will come to all of us sometime. When sharp trouble, with its shocking, weakening sting, comes, some Christians meet it unprepared and, of course, they collapse. Is it the trouble that brings the collapse? Yes and no. The trouble brings the collapse in that they would not have collapsed without the trouble. But it is not the trouble that causes them to collapse, because if they had anticipated it and prepared for it, they would not have collapsed. As Proverbs 24:10 says, the man who goes down under trouble has little strength. His strength is small because his prayers are few and lean, but the man whose prayers are many and strong will not collapse when the trouble comes.

When Facing Temptation

Temptation often comes unexpected and subtle. It is unexpected and too subtle for the flesh, but anticipatory prayer gets the soul ready for whatever temptation there may be. Was it the day that David walked on the rooftop that he fell into his disgraceful and tragic temptation with Bathsheba? No, it was the long gap of unrecorded time that the historians say was in between, and they do not know what David was doing. I know what David was not doing: he was not waiting on his God. He was not out looking at the stars and saying, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1). Yes, he had done that, but now he was not doing it. David went down because the whole weight of his wasted weeks previous this temptation bore down upon him. Temptation cannot hurt you if you have anticipated it by prayer; but temptation will certainly trip you if you have not.

When Attacked by Satan

Satan’s attacks are rarely anticipated because Satan is too shrewd to be uniform. If Satan established a pattern of attack, we would soon catch on to it. If the devil were to act in a uniform way and his attacks came on a regular schedule, the human race would have found him out a long time ago. The poorest church member would have learned how to avoid him. Because he acts in a highly irregular way and mixes things up, his attacks are deadly if we have not the shield of faith to protect ourselves.

A baseball pitcher does not start throwing when the first inning begins and throw the same ball in the same place for nine innings. If he did, the score would be 128 to 0. What does he do? He mixes them up. The batter never knows what type of ball is going to appear. First up, then down, then in, then out, then low, then fast, then down the middle; he mixes them up. It is the absence of uniformity that makes the pitcher effective.

Do you think the devil is not as smart as some of these major league baseball pitchers? Do you think the devil does not know that the way to win over a Christian is to fool him by irregularity? His modus operandi is to never attack twice the same way on the same day and to keep coming in from one side, one time, another side another time.

Do you think that boxer goes in there and gets himself rigidly stereotyped? He leads with his left, he strikes with his right, he moves back two steps, he moves forward two steps. Why, the commonest stumblebum would win over a fighter like that. A fighter has to use his head. He attacks from one side, then from the other, then dashes in, then backs away, then pedals backward, then charges, then his left and right, then feint, then five steps, then duck, then weave, then bob, you know how fighters do it.

The devil will come after you today like a wild bull of Bashan, and tomorrow he will be as soft as a lamb; and the next day he will not bother you at all. Then he will fight you three days in a row, and then let you alone for three weeks. Remember what was said of Jesus after the three temptations? He left Him for a season. Why? To get the Lord to drop His guard, of course.

The devil fights like a boxer, pitches like a skilled pitcher and uses all kinds of strategy. That is why I say that it is hard to anticipate him; you do not know what he is going to do next. You can always put a blanket anticipation down by realizing that the devil is always after you; and so by prayer and watching and waiting on God, you can be ready for his coming when he does come. You can win—not the day he arrives, but the day before he arrives. Not the noon he gets to you, but the morning before the noon.

Never Let the Day Creep Up on You

The only way to win consistently is to keep the blood of the Lamb on the doorposts of your heart; to keep the cloud and fire over you in the way Jehovah God led the Israelites night and day through the desert; to keep your fighting clothes on and never allow the day to creep up on you.

Never get up late in the morning and look at your clock and say, “I’m late and can’t take time now,” and dash away. If you must dash away, take a New Testament along. Instead of reading a magazine or newspaper on your break or at lunch, read your New Testament, and then bow your head and talk to God. Rather than not pray at all, grab prayer somewhere. As Bishop Ralph Cushman (1879–1960) wrote in “I Met God in the Morning”:

I met God in the morning 
when the day was at its best,
And His Presence came like sunrise,
Like a glory in my breast.

All day long the Presence lingered,
All day long He stayed with me,
And we sailed in perfect calmness
O’er a very troubled sea.

Other ships were blown and battered,
Other ships were sore distressed,
But the winds that seemed to drive them,
Brought to me a peace and rest.

Then I thought of other mornings,
With a keen remorse of mind,
When I too had loosed the moorings,
With the presence left behind.

So, I think I know the secret,
Learned from many a troubled way:
You must seek Him in the morning
If you want Him through the day!

Never let Thursday floor you because you did not pray on Wednesday. Never let Tuesday get you down because you were prayerless on Monday. Never let three o’clock in the afternoon bring you down because you did not pray at seven o’clock in the morning.

I have four recommendations to help you value the necessity and power of prayer and to stay on top of what each day brings.

Never Act as if Things Were All Right

If the devil lets you alone for a while, and you are not in much trouble and you are reasonably happy and reasonably spiritual, you are likely to develop a complex that says, “Things are all right,” and you will neglect your prayer life. Remember: As long as sin and the devil, disease and death are abroad in the land like a fire, like a contagious disease, things are not all right. You are not living in a healthy or wholesome world, a helpful world, a world that is geared to keep you spiritually healthy. This vile world is not a friend of grace to lead us on to God: it is the opposite. Instead of assuming that things are all right, assume that they are always wrong, and then prayerfully prepare for them and anticipate them in whatever direction they come.

Never Trust the Devil

Do not trust the devil and say, “Things are all right, and I don’t need to pray now. This devil business is overdone, and I will not pray today. I will wait until Wednesday.” You cannot trust the devil, because it is from the devil that all of the world’s tyrannical and genocidal governments past and present learn their technique and get their psychology. We must never trust the devil. Never imagine that he is smiling; never look at a picture of him by Paul Gustave DorĂ©, or some other artist, and say, “Oh, he’s not a bad-looking devil; perhaps all this is more or less just like Santa Claus and Jack Frost; it’s only imaginary.” Always anticipate any possible attack by watching and praying; for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is terribly weak.

Never Become Overconfident

Many a man has lost a fight by being overconfident. Many a businessman has lost a business because he was overconfident. Self-confidence takes our focus off Christ and puts it on ourselves and our abilities, which fall far short in comparison with the devil’s. Our confidence must always be in Christ and His abilities. Whenever we think that we can, we usually end up failing miserably. It is a wise devil that feeds into a person’s confidence in self. The devil is willing to give as much credit to “self” as long as he accomplishes his objective.

Never Underestimate the Power of Prayer

“Watch and pray,” said Jesus, and He practiced it; He won because He practiced prayer and caught the spinning world that sin had thrown out of gear, caught it in the web of His own love and redeemed us by the shedding of His own blood. He did it because He had prepared Himself for that awful, yet glorious, event by prayer the night before, and by prayer in the mountains at other times, and by prayer down the years through His boyhood.

Remember that without prayer, you cannot win; and with it, you cannot lose. Granted, of course, that it is true prayer, and not just the saying of words; and granted that your life is in harmony with your prayer. If you fail to pray, you cannot win. For the Lord gave us the example of anticipatory prayer—getting ready for any event by seeking the face of God in watchful prayer at regular times.

 If you enjoyed this, you might also like these articles... 

"Practicing the Presence of God..." (Brother Lawrence)
"The Knowledge of the Holy" (Tozer) 
"The Infinitude of God" (Tozer)

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Anticipatory Prayer by A.W. Tozer (Part 1)

A.W. Tozer is one of my favorite writers and preachers from the past. He was a man truly sold out for God and devoted not only to his local congregation but to the church at large. In my opinion, his books "The Pursuit of God" and "The Knowledge of the Holy" are must-read books for anyone wanting to live more than a superficial Christian life.

I have been reading his book, "The Dangers of a Shallow Faith: Awakening from Spiritual Lethargy."  One chapter in particular grabbed my attention, and I felt the lesson that he presented in this chapter, entitled "Getting Ready to Fight the Good Fight" were too good to keep to myself. I have re-titled it "Anticipatory Prayer" because that is essentially the subject matter. In this time of world-wide crisis, it is more important that ever to understand this lesson. Please read this prayerfully...I believe this could be a great help to many of us! 

(Italics and bold print are mine.)


"Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matt. 26:41)

On that night in the garden, the Lord Jesus Christ was about to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. He was about to offer His holy soul and have poured out upon that soul the accumulated putrefaction and moral filth of the whole race of men; and He would carry it to the tree and die there in agony and blood. I think there can be no doubt that this is the record of the most critical event in the history of the world. It had about it and upon it more mighty historic significance, greater human weight of weal and woe, than any other event or series of events in the history of mankind. Only the one most vitally concerned anticipated this crisis and prepared for it. That man, of course, was Jesus, and He prepared for it by the most effective preparation known in heaven or in earth; namely, prayer. Our Lord prayed in the garden.

Let us not pity our Lord as some are inclined to do, but let us thank Him that He foresaw the crisis and that He went to the place of power and the source of energy and readied Himself for that event. Because He did this, He triumphantly passed the cosmic crisis before Him. I say “cosmic crisis” because it had to do with more than this world; it had to do with more than the human race; it had to do with the entire cosmos, the whole wide universe.

The Lord was dying that all things might be united in Him. That the heavens as well as the earth might be purged and that new heavens and a new earth might be established that could never pass away. All of this rested upon the shoulders of the Son of God on that night in the garden. He prepared for this cosmic event in the most effective way known under the sun, and that is by going to God in prayer.

Over against that were His disciples. They approached the crisis without anticipation; partly because they did not know, and partly because they did not care, and partly because they were too unspiritual to be concerned, and partly because they were sleepy. So, carelessly and prayerlessly and sleepily, they allowed themselves to be carried by the rolling of the wheel of time into a crisis so vital, so significant, so portentous that nothing like it has ever happened in the world and never will happen again.

They were bogged down in spiritual lethargy and were unconscious of the importance of that hour. They did not anticipate any crisis, and therefore were completely unprepared for it. The result of their failure to anticipate was that one betrayed our Lord; one denied our Lord; and all forsook our Lord and fled away. Then Christ gave them these words as a sort of a little diamond set in a great ring. He said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41).

I want to point out that this prayer Jesus made that night in the garden was an anticipatory prayer; that is, He prayed in anticipation of something He knew was coming in the will of God, and He prepared for it. I want to emphasize and lay upon your conscience to practice anticipatory prayer, because battles are lost before they are fought.

Battles are always lost before they are fought. You can write that line across your heart or across your memory, and the history of the world and biography will support it. It was true of France in the Second World War. During the First World War, France’s cry electrified the world: “They shall not
pass!” And pass they did not. France, in her strength, rose and opposed the hordes of the Kaiser. But only 25 years later, the hordes of Hitler came down, and France surrendered almost without firing a gun. To this day, men do not know why. Why did they lose the battle? Why did France surrender? She surrendered because between her finest hour when she cried, “They shall not pass,” and her disgraceful surrender, she had politically, morally and spiritually decayed, like an old tree filled with dry rot. When the tanks of Hitler came sweeping in, France went down and has never risen since. She still manifests the same spirit in her politics and in her social life that caused her to lose the Second World War.

This is also true of professional fighters. Fighting men are said to leave their victory in the nightclub. A man, to be at his fighting peak, must take care of himself. Some fighters, after gaining world acclaim and becoming popular, start going to the nightclubs, drinking, staying up all night and sleepily loafing in the day. Then it is time to fight again. Though they try desperately to get ready by what they call training, the nightclubs have taken too much out of them. So they go into the ring and collapse in the fifth round, and people say, “How could it be that this mighty fighter should go down so disgracefully before a man who is not even rated and was not supposed to be that good?” He lost the fight before he went into the ring, not when they counted him out there on the floor face down and unconscious. He drank, stayed up and danced half the night or all of the night. He left his victory in the nightclub.


It was also true of Israel. In the Old Testament, when Israel went in to battle righteous and prayed-up, she never lost a battle. When she went in filled with iniquity, and prayerless, she never won a battle. She always lost her battle when she worshiped the golden calf or sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play, or when she intermarried with the nations or when she neglected the altar of Jehovah and raised up a heathen altar under some tree. It was in those times that Israel lost her battles. It was by lack of anticipation; it was before it happened that she lost.


Not only are battles lost before they are fought, but battles are also won before they are fought. Take
David and Goliath as an example. Little David with his ruddy cheeks went out and slew the mighty, roaring, breast-beating giant, who was 11 feet tall and had a sword like a weaver’s beam. Tiny, stripling David went out and with one stone laid Goliath low, and with his own great sword, which David could hardly lift, cut off Goliath’s head, carried that huge head by the hair and laid it before shouting, triumphant Israel.

When did David win that battle? Was it when he walked quietly out to meet that great boasting giant? No. Let somebody else try it and the words of Goliath would have proved true: “I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field” (1 Sam. 17:44). Under other circumstances, he would have done just that

David was a young man who knew God, had slain the lion and the bear and had taken his sheep as the very charge of the Almighty. He had prayed and meditated and lay under the stars at night and talked to God and had learned that when God sends a man, that man can conquer any enemy, no matter how strong. So it was not that morning on the plain between the two hills that David won; it was all down the years to his boyhood, when his mother taught him to pray and he learned to know God for himself.


After 20 years of separation, Jacob was to meet his angry brother who had threatened to kill him. He had run away so that Esau could not kill him after he took his older brother’s birthright, and now he was coming back. The Lord revealed that the next day they would meet there on the plain beyond the river Jabbok.

The next day they met, right on the plain, and threw themselves into each other’s arms. Esau forgave Jacob, and Jacob conquered his brother’s ire and murderous intent. When did he do it? Did he do it that morning when he walked out to meet his brother and crossed over the river? No, he did it the night before when he wrestled alone with his God. It was then that he prepared himself to conquer Esau. Esau, being the stocky, solemn, hairy man of the forest who had threatened that he would slay Jacob when he found him. How could Esau cancel that oath? God Almighty took it out of his heart when Jacob wrestled alone by the river. It is always so. Jacob conquered Esau not when they met, but the night before they met.


Elijah defeated wicked Ahab, Jezebel and all the prophets of Baal and brought victory and revival to Israel. When did he do it? Did he do it that day on Mount Carmel? After Baal followers had prayed all day long and leaped on the altar and cut themselves until they were bloody, Elijah walked up at six o’clock in the evening at the time of the evening sacrifice. He prayed a little prayer. Was it a prayer that took him 20 minutes, as we sometimes do in prayer meeting and shut others out? No, it was a blunt, brief little prayer of exactly 66 words in English. I would assume it was fewer words in Hebrew.

Did Elijah’s prayer bring down the fire? Yes and no. Yes, because if it had not been offered, there would have been no fire. No, because if Elijah had not known God all down the years and had not stood before God during the long days and months and years that preceded Carmel, that prayer would have collapsed by its own weight and they would have torn Elijah to pieces. So it was not on Mount Carmel that Baal was defeated; it was on mount Gilead. Remember, it was from Gilead that Elijah came.

I always feel that I am a better man for reading this story about how that great, shaggy, hairy man dressed in the simple rustic garb of the peasant came down boldly, staring straight ahead and without any court manners or without any knowledge of how to talk or what to do. He walked straight in, smelling of the mountain and the field, and stood before the cowardly, hen-pecked Ahab and said, “I’m Elijah. I stand before Jehovah, and I’m here to tell you they’ll be no rain until I say so.” That was a dramatic, terrible and wonderful moment; but back of that were long years of standing before Jehovah. He did not know he was going to be sent to the court of Ahab, but he anticipated it through long prayers, waiting and meditating in the presence of his God....

To read Part 2, click here...

If you enjoyed this, you might also like these articles... 

"Practicing the Presence of God..." (Brother Lawrence)
"The Knowledge of the Holy" (Tozer) 
"The Infinitude of God" (Tozer)

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Practicing the Presence of God In The Midst of "Pandemic Panic" (Spiritual Maxims by Brother Lawrence)

It is a frightful time that we find ourselves in as I write this in March, 2020. Just a few weeks ago the stock market was riding high, we here in the United States had the best economy in recent memory with full employment, and the world by and large was at peace. Then came the coronavirus, properly known as Covid-19. We have just in the last few weeks seen our entire society upended. The stock market has plunged 10,000 points or more. Millions of people have lost their jobs as the government has been forced to close many businesses (in my state, all non-essential businesses are currently closed), our houses of worship are empty as we all are being asked (essentially ordered) to practice "social distancing", a phrase virtually no one had heard of only a few weeks ago but is now on everyone's lips. As I write this, over 600,000 worldwide have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and here in the States we have the dubious distinction of having the most infections of any country in the world. We just passed 100,000 infected and 1,700 deaths.  The really frightening thing about this is that we are by all accounts still in the early stages of this pandemic. We seem to be "holding it all together" but not by much.

Rather than seeing this as "gloom and doom" however, I see this as a call from God to turn to Him. In times of prosperity, it is our natural tendency to turn away from God. From time to time, in His mercy, He afflicts us in the hope that we will turn to Him. This, I believe, is one of those times.

I was drawn earlier to read from the writings of a lowly French monk of the 17th century by the simple name of Brother Lawrence. This man of little education worked in a small monastery preparing meals for other monks. While doing his lowly kitchen duties, he developed the practice of living always in conscious awareness of God. "Despite his humble position in the community, his reputation attracted many visitors from the outside who sought spiritual guidance from him. The practical wisdom that he shared became the basis of his book, 'Practicing the Presence of God'" (From the Forward to the book). This book has been a source of great spiritual wisdom for many for over three centuries.

I read this morning Brother Lawrence's "Spiritual Maxims" from that book. I believe in this time of "pandemic panic", his words are exactly what we need. I share a portion of these with you here. (Italics and bold print are mine)



1. We are to practice honoring God and His Glory in everything that we do and say. This is our goal: to offer to God a sacrifice of perfect worship in this life and throughout eternity. We should firmly resolve to overcome every difficulty that we encounter in reaching this goal by the grace of God. 
2. When we begin the spiritual life, we should do a thorough inquiry into our human nature, probing to its deepest depths. We will find that we are unworthy of the name of Christ. We are subject to all sorts of difficulties and weaknesses. These trouble us and damage our spiritual health. They cause us to waver and be unstable in our emotions and attitudes. We are creatures chastened and humbled by God through countless sufferings and adversities, inside and outside. 
3. We must steadfastly believe, and never doubt, that all suffering is for our good. God is disciplining us. His Divine Providence permits our souls to pass through many difficult experiences and times of trial. We are to endure various sorrows and sufferings for the love of God, for as long as He deems it necessary. Without submission of the heart and spirit to the will of God, devotion and perfection cannot exist. 
4. The higher the spiritual state to which a soul aspires, the more it is dependent on grace. The grace of God is necessary every moment, for without it the soul can do nothing. The world, the flesh, and the devil join forces and assault the soul directly and relentlessly. Without humble reliance on the ever-present assistance of God, they drag the soul down in spite of all resistance. To rely on God’s help seems difficult, but grace makes it easy, and it brings joy.


1. The practice of the Presence of God is the most holy, the most all-encompassing, and the most necessary practice of the spiritual life. It trains the soul to find its joy in His Divine Companionship. At all times and at every moment, it engages the soul in humble and loving communion with Him, without rules or methods. This is practiced in all circumstances, in times of temptation and tribulation, spiritual dryness and apathy, and even when we fall into unfaithfulness and sin. 

2. We should commit ourselves unceasingly to this one goal: that everything we do be little acts of communion with God. This must be natural and not artificial, coming from the purity and simplicity of the heart. 

3. We must do everything thoughtfully and mindfully, without impulsiveness or rashness, which indicate an undisciplined mind. We must go about our daily activities quietly, calmly, and lovingly, asking Him to bless the work of our hands. By keeping our heart and mind fixed on God, we shall bruise the head of the evil one, and cast his weapons to the ground. 

4. When we are busy meditating on spiritual things, or doing our daily devotions, or even raising our voice in prayer, we ought to stop every once in a while to worship God in the depth of our being. Taste Him as if in passing. Touch Him, as it were, by stealth. Know that God is with you in everything you do. He is at the very depth and center of your soul. Why not pause for a moment from time to time in the midst of your busyness, even during the act of prayer, to worship Him within your soul? Why not praise Him, ask for His help, offer Him the service of your heart, and give Him thanks for all His loving-kindnesses and tender mercies? 

What offering is more acceptable to God than to, periodically throughout the day, leave behind the things of our outward senses and withdraw within to worship Him in the secret place of the soul? By doing this we destroy the love of self, which can survive only among the things of sense. These times of quiet retirement with God rid us unconsciously of self-love. 

Truly we could give God no greater evidence of our trust and faithfulness than by turning from the creation to find our joy in the present moment in the Creator. I am not suggesting that we completely disregard forever the outward things that are around us. That is impossible. Prudence (wisdom), the mother of the virtues, must be your guide. Yet it is a common error of religious persons to neglect this practice of stopping for a moment in order to worship God in the depth of their soul and enjoy briefly the peace of communion with Him...

5. Our acts of worship are to be prompted and guided by faith. We must honestly believe that God is really within our souls. We must believe that we should worship Him, love Him, and serve Him in spirit and in truth. We must believe that He sees all and that all hearts are open to Him, both our own and those of all His creatures. We must believe that He is self-existent and that all His creatures live and move and have their being in him. We believe that His Perfection is infinite and sovereign, and demands the full surrender of our whole selves, body and soul. It is only right that we owe Him all our thoughts, words and actions. Let us pay our debt. 

6. It is necessary to examine ourselves carefully to find out which virtues we lack most, and which are the hardest for us to acquire. We should seek to discover which sins most easily ensnare us, and at what times and on what occasions we usually fall. In time of struggle we ought to turn to God with perfect confidence, abiding steadfastly in the Presence of His Divine Majesty. In lowly adoration we can tell Him our sorrows and our failures, asking Him lovingly for the assistance of His grace. In our weakness we shall find strength in Him.

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