Gen. 4:25-26: "And Adam knew his wife again, and she bare a son and called his name Seth; for God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord."
I. A SAD BACKGROUND.
Behind our text for today is a sad background of prayerlessness. There was no public worship of God and no individual took seriously the exercise of prayer. Adam who seems to have sinned in the early morning of his existence, was 130 at the birth of his son Seth; Seth was 105 at the birth of his son Enos. That makes 235 years. Counting Enos as no more than 15 when this revival of Prayer came, what a world of prayerlessness for 250 to 300 years. What rapid strides unchecked wickedness can make in a much shorter time than that!
Such a sad situation faces us today in too many quarters. Men have not yet taken seriously the matter of prayer. Lack of connection with heaven seems no cause for alarm. Let a light circuit get broken or our telephone out of fix, what a howl we raise instantly. But let the lines of prayer be so laden with worldliness and sins that we never send to God a message nor receive from Him an answer, it seems a matter of little or no concern. God grant to arouse us out of the deep stupor into which our material and mechanical age has drifted. The world of our day is no better than that of Seth and Enos. It thinks it can get along without God's mercy in Christ that comes when men call on the name of the Lord.
What a comment this is on the life of Adam! Not on what Adam had but what he lacked. I think Adam was saved; I think he saw the way of the cross when God clothed him and Eve with the coats of skins. But his life was never enriched by constant prayer, and he left to his descendants no special memory of a godly life of abiding fellowship with God. Too many lives run the trodden ruts of the world and never lead men to serious prayer to God. Yet, here is a greater miracle than this radio system by which we speak to you today. The first wireless was prayer. We speak into this dumb microphone that neither frowns with displeasure nor smiles with delight, and yet the miracle is that you hear me miles away as if I stood or sat by you! As far as human senses can tell, men cry unto God and their prayers go into thin air or carry no 'higher than our heads. But what marvels, what miracles! God hears and answers our wireless messages of prayer. Some one thousands of miles away feels the touch of God because we touch God in humble prayer. Some burden is lighter far beyond the reach of our hands because the hand of prayer touched the hand divine that moves the world and touches heavy hearts with tenderness.
II. A HAPPY CRISIS.
It is nothing short of a crisis in a man's soul when he awakes to his need of God's mercy and begins to call on Him. Such a crisis Happily came in the days of Seth and Enos. A revival of prayer, a revival of soul needs always shake a life, a home, a church, a community, a world.
Men began to pray. The icebergs of indifference melted; the altars of prayer dotted the land of darkness. The dance of worldliness turned to the daring of courageous walk before God. The unrest of life became the unwearied waitings before God. The cesspools of unbridled wickedness became houses of ardent prayer. Nature's beauties glowed with new meaning; life pulsated with a new force, even power divine. Men's hearts of drunkenness were electrified with a new consciousness of God in daily life.
"Then began men to call on the name of the LORD." They did more than call His name in mere recitation. They called on the Lord for help, for salvation, for forgiveness, for guidance. Mentioning God's name in prayer, counting beads, saying masses, vain repetitions and the like are quite different from truly calling on the Lord. His name stands for what God is and does. Oh soul, do you truly call on Him?
Then men began to pray. They distrusted their wisdom to untie the baffling knots of unpleasant circumstances and heart-piercing afflictions. They called on the Lord. They saw human philosophy could not pierce through the darkness of death. They discounted material prosperity as the source of soul satisfaction; they called on the Lord. They leaned not on physical strength, good health, or military prowess; they called on the Lord. Stripped of everything as a means of salvation and rest, they called on the Lord.
In that day men had not learned the base practise of calling on idols or the useless habit of praying to saints. They called on the LORD.
"Then began men to call on the name of the Jehovah." Jehovah is the covenant name of God. It tells of redemption, Of the Promised Deliverer, of Christ the Lord, the seed of the woman. Men may admire God as a Creator, extol Him for His power, laud Him for the beauties of nature, and yet never call on Him for His mercy and grace. Jesus said, "Ye believe in God, believe also in Me." A faith in God that leaves out Jesus as Savior cannot save the soul. "He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father who hath sent Him," John. 5:23. Be sure you honor and call upon God in mercy as He is made known to us through Jesus Christ alone.
The favorable mention of Seth and Abel is because they were praying men. The world may not honor men of prayer, but God does. The name of the wicked shall rot; the good deeds of the moralist be forgotten, but "then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord and thought upon His name," Malachi 3:16.
III. A GLORIOUS SEQUEL.
Then men began to pray, but they did not exhaust the limitless possibilities of prayer. What a story since then! What a book of striking incidents and remarkable answers to prayer since then! The Bible is full of them. Every period of revival is aglow with them. Every life of prayer burns with ardent petitions and heartfelt thanksgivings.
I think one of the tasks of semi-prayerless Christians will be in the glory world to revel in the heavenly archives of asked and answered prayer. I am sure worldly Lot has already learned the secrets of his failures in not having an altar of prayer as Abraham did almost everywhere he journeyed.
What broad stretches of unexplored territory lie ahead of him who prays conqueringly. Tennyson had it right when he wrote:
More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore let their voice
Rise like a foundation for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats,
That nourish a blind life within the brain.
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer,
Both for themselves and those who call them friend.
Men tell us the world is governed by law and scoff at the possibility of prayer. Yet, thank God, believing souls go on praying and getting answers. That is the acid test. They pray and get. Men may call the testimonies of unmistakable answers to prayer mere coincidences of circumstances, but men and women who know the blessings of prayer just go on asking for and expecting such marvelous coincidences. What do the scoffs of an unbelieving world amount to so long as they pray and get answers?
Men may say we are wasting our breath in prayer, but what care we so long as the mountains of difficulties waste away before us, when we see the bright linings to the dark clouds, while we walk on the sunny side of threatening circumstances, as our lives are iridescent with glowing blessings God has given? And, my friends, the man who prays and gets answers wants every other man to know this undiminished fountain of blessing.
But do not the glorious possibilities of prayer shame us? How much more we might have? James says, "Ye have not because we ask not; ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (4:2-3). There is the key to it. His storehouse is full; our baskets go empty because we do not ask or do not ask aright.Our little faith signs the checks of His promises as though we thought God's bank of blessings was ready for the hands of the receiver. We fearfully wade in the shallows as thought there were no deeps into which to plunge. We scantily feed from His granary as though the last grain had been given. We doubtfully roll our burdens on Him as though He were a weakling. We faintly lift our voices to him as though He were a weakling. We faintly lift our voices to him as though He were weary of hearing. But the true story reads quite differently Isaiah 59:1-2, "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy that it cannot hear; but your Iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you that He will not hear. ""What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!"
"Then began men to call on the name of the Lord."
1. As it was with Seth and Enos, so it must be with us THE CALL OF REALIZED NEED. Why do you, my friend, not pray? You say you don't know. Fine, I can tell you from God's word. You do not see the need. Men make place in their lives for the things they feel they need and want. Men pray when the burden crushes. Men go to God's house to prayer when their souls are awake. Men like Tom Paine, who left God out of his life and reasoned against God, prayed the shrieks of despair that could be heard almost a mile because the stern facts of death and judgment without God crowded on his poor soul. Awake, awake, O sleeping world, call on God for His mercy in Jesus Christ.
Look at thy poor soul. Clad about with its filthy rags of righteousness, but wholly naked of a fit covering before God.
Look about thy soul. Surrounded by the angry waves of temptations, cut off from escape by the pitfalls of sin, and driven in mad unrest into countless sinful pleasures.
Look above thy soul. Threatened by the frowning providences of God that call you to meet Him in Judgment.
Look ahead of thy soul. Faced with the white throne of a righteous God, the bar of flaming justice, and the bottomless pit of hell, with only the brittle thread of uncertain life to hold you out of its yawning bosom.
Look to the cross of Calvary for the salvation of thy soul. Look; Look and live. Isaiah 45:22, "Look unto Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God and there is none else."
2. As it was with Seth and Enos, so it must be with us THE CALL OF TRUSTING FAITH. You say you have called on God, and He has not saved you. Hear Him, "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved" (Acts 2). You have not called aright. You have not despaired of all other means of escape. You have not called trustingly. Call, He will answer. I know because He heard my despairing yet believing cry. Call on the Lord Jesus. Just trust Him. Call and say, "It all depends on Jesus; I am eternally lost without Him; if I go to hell I will go there calling on Him; He must, He will hear. He has promised; He will make it good." And my friend, as you call and leave it there, He has already heard. You will have the assurance. You will not need anyone to tell you there is a God, or that Jesus saves. You will know it yourself. You can sing with David, "I love the Lord because He hath heard my voice and my supplications" (Psalm 116:1).
3. As it was with Seth and Enos, so it must be with us THE CALL OF OPEN CONFESSION. No need for you, sinner friend, to call so long as you try to cover your sins. Proverbs 28:13, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." Say with the publican, "God be propitious to me the sinner."
A Negro was praying but got no answer. His colored adviser said, "Sambo, don't jes say you have sinned; tell de Lawd you stole dat chicken." He meant, "Face sin squarely, no dodging; make definite confession without any hedging." And friends, that is the kind of call that gets the answer.
Men began in salvation to call on the Lord in confession of sin; they need to continue until their death day. That gracious promise in I John. 1:9 was made to Christians - there were none in that day who lived above sin - "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
The greatest hindrance to a widespread, yea worldwide, revival today is unconfessed sins in the lives of Christians. Call; yes, Brother, call, but tell the Lord you stole that chicken. He knows your strayings; He knows we so often draw near with the lips when our hearts are far away. Oh for a revival of calling on the name of the Lord.
4. As it was with Seth and Enos, so it must be with us THE CALL OF EAGER READINESS. What good will it do Christians to pray for the salvation of the world and yet hold the word of life undelivered to earth's millions? What profit is there in making prayer for the salvation of some sinner and yet refuse to witness to him of Jesus' power to save Him? What benefit is it to pray that others may give to the spread of the gospel when we hold tightly our own purse strings? What power will our prayers have to kill worldliness in others when we make excuse for or even admire the spots of the world on our Christian garments?
We need to stop fooling ourselves; we are not praying as we ought. Our hearts are not as passionately missionary, as constantly seeking the lost, as liberally giving, as fully denying the world, as daily crucifying self as they need to be. God grant us such a revival in our day that the historian can truly say, "Then began Christians to call on the Lord with a new fervor, a fresh zeal, an overflowing heart, a ready hand, a crucified and consecrated life. Then began Christians to forsake the world and its ways, to live as pilgrims and strangers here, looking for a better land, to tarry long in their closets of prayer, to seek out the lost day and night."
And the historian will tell the other side of the story: "Then began sinners to call upon the name of the Lord, confessing their sins and finding glorious pardon in the blood of Jesus Christ and giving evidence of salvation by transformed living. "
[From the West Kentucky Bible School Voice paper, Murray, KY, Volume V, June 1937, pp.1-3. The document is from Boyce Digital Library, Archives and Special Collections, SBTS, Louisville, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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