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The Order and Argument in Prayer

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Jan 7, 2019

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)

In Job’s uttermost extremity he cried after the Lord. The longing desire of an afflicted child of God is to see his Father’s face once more. His first prayer is not, “Oh, that I might be healed of the disease which now festers in every part of my body!” Nor is it even, “Oh, that I might see my children restored from the jaws of the grave and my property once more brought from the hand of the spoiler!” But the first and uppermost cry is, “Oh, that I knew where to find Him who is my God! Oh, that I might come even to His seat!” God’s children run home when the storm comes on.

It is the heaven‑born instinct of a gracious soul to seek shelter from all problems beneath the wings of Jehovah. “He who has made God his refuge” might serve as the title of a true believer. A hypocrite, when he feels that he has been afflicted by God, resents the infliction and, like a slave, would run from the Master who has scourged him. The true heir of heaven does not do so. He kisses the hand that struck him, and he seeks shelter from the rod in the bosom of that very God who frowned upon him.

You will observe that the desire to commune with God is intensified by the failure of all other sources of consolation. When Job first saw his friends at a distance, he may have entertained a hope that their kind counsel and compassionate tenderness would blunt the edge of his grief. However, they had not spoken long before he cried out in bitterness, “Miserable comforters are ye all” (Job 16:2). They put salt into his wounds, they heaped fuel upon the flame of his sorrow, and they added the gall of their reproaches to the wormwood of his griefs. In the sunshine of his smile they once had longed to sun themselves, and now they dare to cast shadows upon his reputation, most ungenerous and undeserved.

Alas for the poor man when his wine cup mocks him with vinegar and his pillow pricks him with thorns! The patriarch turned away from his sorry friends and looked up to the celestial throne, just as a traveler turns from his empty skin bottle and runs full speed to the well. He bids farewell to earthborn hopes and cries, “Oh that I knew where I might find [my God]!”

My friends, nothing teaches us so much the preciousness of the Creator as when we learn the emptiness of all besides. When you have been pierced through and through with the sentence, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm” (Jer. 17:5), then you will suck unutterable sweetness from the divine assurance, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is” (Jeremiah 17:7). Turning away with bitter scorn from earth’s hives, where you found no honey but many sharp stings, you will rejoice in Him whose faithful word is sweeter than honey or the honeycomb.

It is further observable that although a good man hastens to God in his trouble, although he runs with all the more speed because of the unkindness of his fellowmen, sometimes the gracious soul is left without the comfortable presence of God. This is the worst of all griefs. The text of this chapter is one of Job’s deep groans, far deeper than any that came from him on account of the loss of his children and his property: “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” The worst of all losses is to lose the smile of God. He now had a foretaste of the bitterness of his Redeemer’s cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). God’s presence is always with His people in one sense, as far as secretly sustaining them is concerned, but His manifest presence they do not always enjoy. You may be beloved of God and yet have no consciousness of that love in your soul. You may be as dear to His heart as Jesus Christ Himself; yet for a small moment He may forsake you, and in a little wrath He may hide Himself from you (Isaiah 54:7–8).

But, dear friends, at such times the desire of the believing soul gathers yet greater intensity from the fact of God’s light being withheld. The gracious soul addresses itself with a double zeal to find God, and it sends up its groans, its entreaties, its sobs, and its sighs to heaven more frequently and fervently. “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” Distance or labor are as nothing; if the soul only knew where to go, it would soon overleap the distance. That seems to me to be the state of mind in which Job pronounced the words of our text.

We cannot stop on this point, for the object of this chapter beckons us onward. It appears that Job’s end in desiring the presence of God was that he might pray to Him. He had prayed, but he wanted to pray as in God’s presence. He desired to plead as before one whom he knew would hear and help him. He longed to state his own case before the seat of the impartial Judge, before the very face of the all‑wise God. He would appeal from the lower courts, where his friends judged unrighteous judgment, to the Court of King’s Bench—the high court of heaven. “There,” he says, “I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.”

In this verse Job teaches us how he meant to plead and intercede with God. He does, as it were, reveal the secrets of his closet and unveil the art of prayer. We are here admitted into the guild of suppliants; we are shown the art and mystery of pleading; we have here taught to us the blessed handicraft and science of prayer. If we can be bound apprentice to Job for the next chapter and can have a lesson from Job’s Master, we may acquire great skill in interceding with God.

There are two things here set forth as necessary in prayer: ordering our cause and filling our mouths with argu­ments. We will speak of those two things, and then if we have rightly learned the lesson, a blessed result will follow.

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