PRAYING FOR PROSPERITY
A sermon preached by Mr. D. G. Crowter on Sunday morning 11th March 1990 at Gower St. Memorial Chapel, London.
“Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.” Psalm 118 v.25.
This is a cry from the heart. It was a cry from the heart of the psalmist some three thousand years ago; it was a cry from the heart of Jesus Himself nearly two thousand years ago; it is a cry from the heart of the Lord’s people still, in every age. It is often a cry from my heart. Is it a cry from yours? Is this your own desire expressed so beautifully in inspired language? “Save now, I beseech Thee, O LORD; O LORD, I beseech Thee, send now prosperity.” O what a great mercy it is if we find our hearts so in tune with the language of the man of God so long ago, and with the very desire of Jesus Himself in His life, and no doubt still in His intercession now in glory! What a wonder it is that there should be this union of desire and of heart between the Lord’s people and the Lord Himself!
Some of you might wonder why I should speak of Jesus especially from this Old Testament verse. But undoubtedly this Psalm refers very much to Him, and this part of it especially so. He Himself declared that He was this “Stone which the builders refused,” but which became, by God’s own appointing and by His power, “the Headstone of the corner,” the Foundation-stone of His Church. And not only so, but all this passage refers to Him. The following words in verse 25, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the LORD,” were spoken by the people of the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on the colt. And a little while later He quoted the same words in reference to His Second Coming to this earth. He said they would not see Him again until they would say, “Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the LORD.” And this Psalm was the last of that series of Psalms which was called the “Great Hallel”, the Psalms that were sung by the Jewish people every year at the Passover feast. And after Jesus with His disciples had in the upper room celebrated the Passover, and He had instituted the Lord’s Supper, we read that “when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives.” In all probability it was this hymn, this Psalm, that they sang on that occasion. And so Jesus Himself, from His heart, sang these very words. They were His deep desire as He went to the cross. For that is the whole basis of this subject. There could be no such prayer, no such hope, unless Jesus Himself had laid down His spotless life in death. The whole foundation of this word, and of this prayer, is the Redeemer’s work at Calvary, the culmination of His life of perfect obedience. So there is really very much behind this word. There can be no salvation, there can be no prosperity, apart from the saving work of Jesus Himself. We have nowhere else to look but there, to what He has done in such complete perfection and such divine sufficiency, in the atonement that He has made for sin. It is on that basis, and that alone, that we pray, “Save now, I beseech thee.”
Now this is an earnest supplication, an earnest intreaty. The very language of the verse shows that. There are no vain repetitions in the Word of God. When we find words coming again there is a purpose behind them. And clearly the psalmist felt this very keenly in his own heart, as no doubt Jesus did; so that it was no needless repetition when he said these things again, or used similar words; “Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.” And the Lord has so designed to appoint this way, He has said, “I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock,” Ezekiel 36.37. But He has appointed this way of His blessing – that we should desire and earnestly plead for those favours that we feel to need.
This is also an urgent prayer. You can surely feel that there is an urgency in it. The word ‘now’ occurs twice in this verse, in each petition. Often in our prayers we are not to use such a word as that. With respect to many matters it is necessary that we should wait upon the Lord until His time comes. But there are occasionally indications that His time is ‘now.’ The psalmist in the next Psalm says at one point, it is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have despised thy Law,” and we might surely echo that today. And there are those times when the situation seems to be so urgent and the need so great that the Lord’s people are so brought to call upon Him to do something now. With regard to this present service, I need help now. And I cannot possibly do without the Lord’s help. If that help should be withheld then I must finish and sit down. It is now that you and I need help in the worship of God, because it is a present need. And that is sometimes so in the history of the Church of God. We might feel with regard to our situation here that we so need prosperity now. We feel the need for the Lord to work amongst us even now.
In the great land of China, some years ago, there was a little Chinese girl of eight. She had been to the local mission where the Gospel had been brought from this country. And she had heard that Gospel and received it into her heart. But her grandfather, who kept to the old idolatrous worship, was very much opposed to this child acting in this way. And when he found her praying, or when he found she had been to the services, he would beat her severely. But she still went. However one day it was very different, because her grandfather had heard that a band of soldiers was coming to that city and wanted again to be housed while they were there. The previous time they had come to his house, and they had been such a nuisance that he absolutely dreaded them coming there again. So he went to his little grand-daughter and asked her to pray. The soldiers were coming then; it was an urgent need. So that little girl got down on her knees in her grandfather’s house and prayed. She said how glad she was that for once her grandfather had asked her to pray. And she prayed in her simple way to the Lord that He should answer now. She said that it was His opportunity to show that He was indeed a God who answered prayer. And that band of soldiers, with the leader on his horse at the front, came to the gate. But the horse would not go in. It stubbornly and decidedly refused to enter. No amount of wheedling or whipping would make any difference. That horse simply would not go through that entrance. And the officer, after a while, said to his men, “There must be devils in there. The horse can see them, but we can’t. None of you go in there.” And so they all turned away – because one little girl of eight was praying inside with such urgency. The grandfather went to the missionary that evening with tears in his eyes, told him all about it, and said, “Teach me to pray like that.” It was such an astonishing answer to that little girl’s prayer, at such a time of need. And the Lord does answer these cries from the heart. Sometimes it may be the time to say, “Now, Lord – save now; send now prosperity.”
This is a prayer for prosperity. Prosperity – what is that? We surely know something of what this word means, what it means really to prosper. It means to do well, to succeed, to make progress. We find it in the life of Joseph, when he was in Potiphar’s house, and afterwards in the prison, we read twice, that the Lord was with him and made everything to prosper in his hand. It is a very wonderful testimony. And how good it is when that is so with us. Because the Lord was with Joseph, everything that Joseph did turned out well: it succeeded. And others could see that it did. It was evident that the Lord was with him and made him to prosper. We find the same word at the beginning of Nehemiah, when that good man was so inclined by the Lord to go back to Jerusalem and to rebuild the walls of that city, which had all been broken down. And he said in his prayer to the Lord on that occasion, as we read it in the first chapter, “O Lord, I beseech thee, let thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.” And as we read in the next chapter, when the opponents began to try to hinder him, he said, “The God of heaven, he will prosper us.” Now, are you praying like this? Do you ask that the Lord would make what you do to prosper, with His blessing upon it? That it should advance, that it should do well, that there should be true prosperity attending it? Now it is the Lord who sends prosperity; it is our part to seek it and to desire it, to pray that the Lord would send this prosperity.
Now clearly, the Psalmist here does not merely refer to ordinary things in life. It is good when the Lord does make all that we do to prosper. But there is the spiritual side of matters that is so especially important. Clearly the Psalmist had this in view, because this language is of a spiritual nature. The two clauses of this verse really go together:
“Save now . . . send prosperity.” The psalmist was concerned, as the other verses show, with salvation, with nothing less than that salvation which God Himself sends. Now the word which is translated ‘Save now’ is the word ‘Hosanna’, the word that those children and others called out in songs of praise as Jesus entered into Jerusalem. It is essentially the same word that we find in the name of one of the prophets, Hosea, which means ‘salvation’; and in the name of Hoshea, afterwards Joshua, which we find in the Old Testament. Hoshea means ‘salvation’ and Jehoshua or Joshua means ‘Jehovah saves’ or ‘The Lord saves.’ And the Hebrew name Joshua is the very same as the Greek name Jesus, which means ‘The Lord (or Jehovah) saves’. Salvation is in Jesus Christ, as the Psalmist says here; “The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.”
There was once a person who was brought into a deep spiritual concern. And when the pastor asked her what it was she desired, it came straight from her heart – “salvation.” That was what she wanted, in one word. And O that we all felt that great need of our soul’s salvation!
Now every deliverance that God granted in Old Testament times was a type, or picture, or figure, of salvation through Jesus Christ. It was so with those great deliverances of Israel out of Egypt and later from Babylon. They needed to be saved from various dangers and from many sins. We see it in the case of Jonah. When he was in the stomach of the great fish he cried to the Lord. As he said afterwards: “I cried by reason of my affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me.” And in that very strange situation that Jonah was found in, the Lord heard his cry and answered him. And Jonah’s testimony, which is of such importance, is the testimony of the whole of the Word of God, “Salvation is of the
LORD.” It is He who saves. And, dear friends, we all need that salvation every day. There are many spiritual dangers we need to be saved from. If (and it is such an unspeakable blessing) we have been brought into a state of salvation, of justification through the Lord Jesus and His work, yet we still need to be saved from sin every day, to be saved from the world around us, to be saved from Satan and all his wiles. We need still to be saved, because we still are in a situation of great danger, in an enemy country. So this is a very necessary prayer. These two things so go together: “Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.”
So this is a prayer for spiritual prosperity. It is a prayer of the psalmist, and of all the people of God, because this is what they so desire. And it is for the glory of Jesus Christ. That is the main purpose and motive behind such a word. Of course, we may feel a great need ourselves and it is good that we should, because we do so need salvation and prosperity. But the great end in view should be the glory of Jesus Christ in the salvation of precious souls and in the prosperity of His Church. It is not merely for our own convenience, and comfort, and consolation; much more than that, and much higher than that, it is that God should be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ, His beloved Son. Jesus came to this world “to seek and to save that which was lost.” And it is said by Isaiah concerning Him: “The pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” So in seeking this, if it is in our hearts to seek it, we are in harmony, not only with the inspired man of God who wrote the Psalm, but with the Lord Jesus Himself in His concern for the salvation of all His people.
Well, these things begin at home – personally. If you seek prosperity, then you must first seek it for yourself. Not only for ourselves, but for others also, we so need to consider our own spiritual states, and whether or not the work is prospering in our own hearts and lives. This is surely the first thing that we must consider with regard to such a prayer as this:
‘Send now prosperity – to me, and to others.” Well, how shall we know if there is prosperity in our souls, if we are really in a prosperous state? The apostle John in his third epistle says: “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” What a mercy it is if your soul is prospering! If it is so, you need the Lord to preserve and to maintain that prosperity: and if it is not so, how much you need Him to send this prosperity into your soul and into your life. And we so need the gracious influence and teachings of the Holy Spirit, the grace and love of the Lord Jesus, that we might be brought nearer to God. It is in nearness to God that there is soul prosperity; as the psalmist says, “It is good for me to draw near to God.” That is truly profitable; that is where there is real prosperity – in nearness to Him, in abiding in Jesus Christ to bring forth fruit.
But there are four words especially on my mind with regard to this matter of soul prosperity, and how we can know if there is any real prosperity with us. The first is concern, spiritual concern. Almost any state of soul is better than stony indifference. I am reminded of the way that Jesus said that His Word, as it is preached and as it is sent by the Son of Man Himself, sometimes falls on stony ground. What prospect is there then of any springing up and bringing forth of fruit? O we do need a true spiritual concern, an exercise of soul. Does your heart go with the psalmist when he says: “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is?” Do you have this soul-thirst for God? How often the psalmist expressed himself in such language. He had this deep spiritual concern. He longed for the presence of the Lord with him in a satisfying way. As he also says in another of those Psalms:
“Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy.” God was the very joy of his heart. The joy that he wanted was that which flows from communion with Him. O how we do need a deep spiritual concern! It is an evidence of prosperity of soul.
And then there is contrition. The psalmist says in the 51st Psalm:
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” The humble, contrite heart is an acceptable sacrifice to Him. It is a mark of true prosperity when we mourn over our sins and after the Saviour, when we have that spirit of deep repentance, as the hymn says:
“Daily I’d repent of sin,
Daily wash in Calvary’s blood,
Daily feel thy peace within,
Daily I’d commune with God.”
That is evidence of spiritual prospering, that things are going on well with the soul, when there are such desires as that. Because we have to be emptied of self so that we might be filled with the Spirit of God. We have to be brought low so that we may truly worship the Most High. We have to realise our deep spiritual need, so as to apply continually to the fulness of grace that there is in Jesus Christ. O my dear friend, it is a sign of true spiritual prosperity when you are really nothing and Jesus Christ is truly all in all. When He is exceedingly precious and beloved to your soul, that is a sign of the prosperity which we so need.
There is also consecration. The hymn says:
“Take my life, and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.”
And it is the result of the constraining love of the Saviour in the heart
that brings the soul to yield itself entirely unto the Lord, according to that word in Romans 6: “Yield yourselves unto God . . . and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God,” as “servants to righteousness unto holiness.” Is that what you do, day by day? Do you have this constraining power of God’s love, so that you do really, in the truest sense of the word, obey the word of God when He says: “My son, give me thine heart.” It is this spirit of devotion, of being “surrendered to the Crucified,” of being His and His alone. As the hymnwriter says at the end of that hymn:
“Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store:
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee!”
And then there is the spirit of contentment. The apostle Paul, after he had been in bonds for years, and was even then chained in the prison at Rome, could say: “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” O how much better that is than a spirit of murmuring and grumbling and complaining, which is so common to the human race, and is even sometimes found amongst the people of God! As the apostle says in the Hebrews: “Be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Thus the Lord has spoken to His people; and what a rich and continual portion of comfort and strength that is, to have such a promise as that, that He will never leave nor forsake them! So he says: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have.” And this will lead to that spirit of gratitude and praise which is certainly an indication of prosperity of soul. This Psalm, like many, is so full of praise. In the 21st verse the psalmist says: “I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.” And again he says, in the 28th verse, as in others: “Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.” That is a prosperous state of soul when you can say, “Every day will I bless thee, and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.”
And so if you put these things together, they are indications of what it is that constitutes a prosperous state of soul, what real prosperity is. It is when these things are flourishing, when there is “growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” When there is spiritual concern and exercise and thirsting for God; when there is contrition and humility of heart which brings us to a real esteem for the Saviour; when there is consecration of our whole selves to God and His Son; and when there is that spiritual contentment, and praise, and gratitude, and love to God, these are indications of a state of prosperity, a good place for the soul to be in.
Now, dear friend, do you know what it is? The psalmist says elsewhere how he had been troubled and distressed, but he adds, “He brought me forth also into a large place” – into a state of prosperity. It says in the margin a ‘moist place’, a place where the rain had come and there was a springing up of new life. Where there is real springing up of spiritual life that is so promising, it is an indication of prosperity beginning. O dear friends, I do desire for every one of you that your soul may prosper, that you may know and experience these things which indicate that the Lord’s Spirit is truly at work.
Prosperity in the Church
But then it is not only in a personal way that we need prosperity, it is needed in the Church of God as well. And we may understand this prayer very much in that sense; “I beseech thee, send now prosperity.” O what a great need there is for prosperity in the Church of God! Now when those things that I have just mentioned with regard to our individual state are prospering, there will be a union together in them. When you enjoy the same blessings as others, when you have the same desires and exercises, the same high esteem for the Lord Jesus Christ, there will be a knitting together, which is an evidence of prosperity in the Church. We so need that union of which the apostle speaks when he says, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” There is the fulfilment of that promise in Jeremiah 31: “They … shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd”, a flowing together in union. That is how the psalmist expresses it in the 133rd Psalm: “Behold” – see this, consider it, regard it – “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard; … As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” That is where there is prosperity, when the Lord sees that spirit of unity and peace and love abounding amongst His people.
And that is not all. We may join this with the other part of this verse. Where there is prosperity in the Church there will certainly be that spirit of loving unity, but also that desire, and the answer to the prayer: “Save now, I beseech thee.” The salvation of souls is an evidence of prosperity. And how we need this in our day! In the Church of Christ and in this land. How we long to see the evidence of souls saved by God’s sovereign grace! How this was evident, in both aspects of it, in the early Church at Jerusalem! Those that believed, were of one heart and one soul. We read of them that “they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And great fear came upon every soul.” They did not count what they possessed as their own, but shared all with one another. Then we read this: “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” – those that were being saved. And later we read that the Lord added to the Church “multitudes both of men and women,” and “a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” There was this growth, this extension in the Church. There was a growth, not only in the spirituality of individual prosperity, but in numbers and in the strength of the Church in that place. How we do need, dear friends, this prosperity today! And not only is this so amongst ourselves, but in many another church of God. There are vast numbers of gospel churches throughout the world in the various lands. And surely, if we are rightly concerned, we should desire that every true church should prosper; that there might be this individual and collective prosperity, that the Lord would send that prosperity in every part of the world. It is really the same, essentially, as the prayer that the Saviour taught His disciples to pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.”
Now there is here a need for prayer. This is an inspired prayer. We have seen how it sprang from the heart of the psalmist and many after him as they sang these psalms; how it sprang up in the heart of Jesus Himself, how it was His desire and prayer, and no doubt still is in His intercession in glory; and how it is the desire of the people of God still. Now dear friends, if we did not have the Word of God, we should scarcely know how to pray at all. But there is such a great deal of guidance from the Lord in His Word. There is so much direction, so many examples of the prayer of the heart, of the Lord’s people in their desires and concerns. And this is such a suitable prayer. May it spring from our hearts today and constantly! It is such an urgent, earnest intreaty unto the Lord to do what He has so purposed to do and what He has so promised to do – to save precious souls and to grant spiritual prosperity amongst His people and in His Church.
But here there is also praise. Now when Jesus rode into Jerusalem the people used this word ‘Hosanna’ in the form of praise as well. Although it means ‘Save now’, it also has a note of praise in it as well, as we find in this Psalm. I read the other day that the Church militant cries ‘Hosanna’ – ‘Save, LORD’; and the Church triumphant sings ‘Hallelujah’ – ‘Praise ye the LORD’. Although that is a simplification, yet there must be a lot of truth in it. This is the prayer of the Church of God; “Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity,” And there is also this note of praise to the LORD:
“Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.” And as the prayer is answered, so there will be the note of praise for the salvation of precious souls, and for the prosperity that God sends. O may it be not only our urgent prayer, but also the praise of our hearts thus to speak unto the Lord and to address ourselves to His holy throne. May God thus bless His Word to our hearts. Amen.