(Kersten, The Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons, Vol.2, Part 19) Of Prayer Lord's Day 45 Psalter No. 7 st. 1 & 2 Read Matthew 21:1-22 Psalter No. 5 st. 2, 4, 5 Psalter No. 90 st. 2 & 3 Psalter No. 157 st. 8 & 9 Beloved, After the Lord Jesus had made His royal entrance into Jerusalem, He went into the temple on the following morning. Will there be room for Him, Who is the Son of David and Who will reign upon the throne of David forever? Will there be place for Him in His house which according to the prophecies shall be prepared for Him, and in which He alone shall be the true Minister for the salvation of His elect? The answer is given in the chapter that was just read to you. As He had done some years before, when the Lord cleansed the temple, He now does again; for in the temple were buyers and sellers which He cast out, and the seats of them that sold doves He overthrew, together with the tables of the money-changers. He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called the house of prayer'; but ye have made it a den of thieves." Will this cleansing bring about a change? No, on the contrary, for what He did there brings judgment upon the place where He formerly had dwelt. The hour had come that men shall call upon the Name of the Lord in all places, and not only at Jerusalem. "Ye have made it a den of thieves." Yes, for the Lord will turn this trading into one that is more abominable, than any that ever took place on earth. Will not Judas, the betrayer, sell his Master into the hand of the priests and rulers of the people to put Him to death? A more shameful betrayal, a much more dreadful transaction will take place here. Here the Lord will be sold for the price of a slave, namely: thirty pieces of silver. Here will He be sold, Who humbled Himself as a slave for the sake of His people, so that He might bring eternal liberty to His own. Thereby, as I have just said, judgment was passed upon that place which was to be called a house of prayer - a house of prayer as Isaiah had prophesied - which in fulfillment had become a den of thieves. It had been a house of prayer, for there the Lord had His dwelling, so that He might display His favour in the midst of His people, show His fatherly love and everlasting mercy, and grant His people entrance into the most holy place. It had been a house of prayer, for here they sought God's face; they sought it in the blood that was shed, that pointed to the blood of the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world. It had been a house of prayer, where they communed with the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ. Now there is to be a house of prayer wherever the Lord makes His ministration glorious in the hearts of sinners, where they obtain access to God through Christ, to seek the Lord's countenance for the fulfillment of all their needs for soul and body. It is prayer that God's people need continually and it is prayer in which the Lord will glorify Himself. It is this prayer that I shall consider with you according to the explanation given us in Lord's Day 45 of our Catechism. Lord's Day 45 Q. 116. Why is prayer necessary for Christians? A. Because it is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us: and also, because God will give His grace and Holy Spirit to those only, who with sincere desires continually ask them of Him, and are thankful for them. Q. 117. What are the requisites of that prayer, which is acceptable to God, and which He will hear? A. First, that we from the heart pray to the one true God only, who has manifested Himself in His Word, for all things, He has commanded us to ask of Him; secondly, that we rightly and thoroughly know our need and misery, that so we may deeply humble ourselves in the presence of His divine Majesty; thirdly, that we be fully persuaded that He, notwithstanding that we are unworthy of it, will, for the sake of Christ our Lord, certainly hear our prayer, as He has promised us in His Word. Q. 118. What has God commanded us to ask of Him? A. All things necessary for soul and body; which Christ our Lord has comprised in that prayer He Himself has taught us. Q. 119. What are the words of that prayer? A. Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. Our subject for discussion is prayer as a part of thankfulness and as we follow the order of the Catechism, we shall consider: I. Why prayer is necessary, II. What are the requisites of true prayer, and III. What we ask in that prayer. I Why is prayer necessary for Christians? That is our first question. The words, "necessary for Christians" means that God's people need prayer. Christians are the redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. They are the glorified in Christ at the right hand of the Father. In Him salvation is granted by grace, yes by grace alone, and in Christ their Head they are made partakers of all that is necessary for salvation. Why is it necessary for God's people to pray at all? The Lord knows their needs. They need not lay them in order before Him, as though He did not know their circumstances; for He searches the heart and tries the reins. Why is prayer necessary for Christians? Indeed there are those who continue in a passive, wicked life, and deny the necessity of prayer, thereby disavowing the ministration of the Holy Ghost in the hearts of His people. For the Spirit is emphatically called the Spirit of grace and of supplications. "Prayer is necessary" our Catechism correctly says, "because it is the chief part of thankfulness." In dealing with the subject of thankfulness, the law was first discussed and then prayer. At the conclusion of our discussion with the law as the instructor gave a survey of the entire matter, we saw that the ministration of the law in practical life, led God's children to a closer discovery of self, so they might seek more their righteousness in Christ. That seeking of their righteousness in Christ means to walk in the law of the Lord. Seeking their righteousness in Christ means by prayer, with greenings and supplications to cry to the Lord continually, so that He may glorify Himself in us. Thus it is evident that God's people cannot do without prayer. The instructor makes it still clearer when he says that prayer is the chief part of gratitude which God requires of us. Why is prayer the chief part of gratitude? Because in prayer lies an acknowledgment of the living God as the Father of lights, from Whom every good gift and every perfect gift comes down. By nature we live without God. In that state we do not know Him; there is no seeking of Him, no asking for Him and no true fear of Him. In Isaiah 29:15 a woe is pronounced upon them that seek to hide their counsel from the Lord. They sought the deliverance of Israel in their own strength, having no need of God, and did not call upon Him. The Lord wants to be recognized in prayer. In true prayer lies a seeking of the living God, of His favour, of His grace, of His majesty and power, in order that He may glorify those attributes in and upon us. Thus the church sang in Psalm 68 (Psalter No. 183:2b): "Our God is near to help us Our God is strong to save, The Lord alone is able To ransom from the grave." Calling upon the name of the Lord is an acknowledgment that He only is the eternal and true God. Therefore in Scripture the entire service dedicated to God is termed calling upon the name of the Lord. In the days of Enoch, as we read in Genesis 4, men began to call upon the name of the Lord. That is to say, men began to worship the Lord openly, in distinction from the family of Cain, and to acknowledge Him as the living God. When Daniel was in Babylon, and the king had decreed that no man might call upon any god except the king, Daniel opened his window toward Jerusalem three times a day, as he did before. Why did not Daniel pray quietly in secret, to remain concealed from his enemies? Because this was to the honour of God; because he acknowledged that the living God is greater than all earthly powers, and no king or emperor can forbid or prevent anyone from calling upon the Name of the Lord. Is it not a clear example to show that prayer is a calling upon and seeking the Lord; that it is an acknowledgment of Him as He is exalted above all might and powers, and as He alone is the true God? "Therefore" the instructor continues, "prayer is necessary, because God will give His grace and Holy Spirit to those only, who with sincere desires continually ask them of Him, and are thankful for them." God will give His grace and Holy Spirit. If the Lord gives them, it is a gift of His sovereign and eternal good pleasure. It is not that we first begin to pray and then God gives His Holy Spirit. By that Spirit a lost sinner is made alive and becomes exercised in prayer. This is the order which is followed throughout the history of God's church. Prayer is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Here the instructor intends to show us in what way the Lord and His grace are found. I shall give you a few examples. There is the example of Cain, the murderer of his brother, who goes on without seeking God, without bowing before Him, without finding atonement as a guilty soul, for his iniquity. For he says, "My punishment is greater than I can bear" and thus he turns his back to God. Consider Esau who sought a place of repentance carefully with tears, but never found it. In Esau's heart there was no asking after the Lord and no seeking of the living God to be saved by Him alone, in that blood that he willingly rejected when he despised his birthright. The Lord has prescribed a way in which He wants His people to walk. Does He not say in His Word: "I do it not for your sakes, but for My holy name's sake. I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel"? The instructor says that the Lord will give His grace and Holy Spirit to those only who ask them of Him. The Lord will not turn a suppliant away. The Lord Jesus says, "If a son ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" That is why the apostle says in Romans 12:12, "Continuing instant in prayer" so that there may be a continual seeking and asking of the Lord, for which He will glorify Himself, not because of the praying, but upon the prayer of those people. When Israel was oppressed unto death in Egypt, a cry went up unto heaven. The Lord said that He heard their groaning and the time of deliverance arrived. Then Israel came into the land of Canaan and compassed Jericho. The city was taken by prayer. In the time of Elijah it rained not in three years and six months; then it rained again according to his word and upon his prayer. Is not the scripture itself abundantly clear in showing us how the Lord is a hearer of prayer and how He will show His people His favour and grace in the way of prayer? A woman in the tabernacle is wrestling with the Lord in prayer. Eli thinks she is drunken, but the sorrowful Hannah cannot bear her grief any longer. She pours out the complaint of her barrenness before the Lord and He remembered her. He heard her prayer. The Catechism is right when it says that the Lord will give His grace and Holy Spirit to those only, who with sincere desires continually ask them of Him and are thankful for them. With sincere desires means with the inmost longing of the soul. All our prayers are not prayers that ascend to God. With God's people it is also true that they cannot have a true sigh, a heartfelt prayer and lively desires at will. But when their souls are constrained by the Holy Ghost to cleave to the Lord, that indeed is a prayer which is the fruit of the Spirit. It also says "continually ask". This means that God's children receive in Christ a ground to plead upon, and in Him a free access to the throne of grace, which is founded upon the promises the Lord Himself has given in His Word. In the night at Peniel, Jacob was left alone. Then a man came and wrestled with him. It was God Himself, Who came to obtain His right and His glory. Then follows the wrestling of the impotent Jacob which make him a victor. There are times in the life of God's people that you see them wrestling with God for His grace. They do so, not only for the needs of their own souls, but they also become the burden bearers of their families, for whom they come before God in secret. God also grants His people the privilege of carrying the needs of His church and of His servants. There are some who lay the needs of the congregation before the Lord, even though they cannot attend the services. Nevertheless, with their hearts they are present in the midst of the congregation, when they lay the needs of the congregation in the preaching of the Word before the Lord. God has often made His people burden bearers for the Nation and authorities. They were bearers and supplicants in times of need. May the Lord give more supplicants in our land, so that they who have learned to pray, may have access to the throne with the present needs. Then there would still be hope for our people. But, O, when conditions are such as we read in the prophecy of Jeremiah, where the Lord says, "Pray not thou for this people", then the people are in a sad state. In the previous world war, there were some of God's children who could carry the needs of our nation to God and were given faith to believe that the Lord would protect us. It seemed as if the Lord intended to involve us in the judgments, but He passed us by and we were spared from the judgment of destruction. Prayer is a means by which the Lord glorifies Himself through free grace by the ministration of the Holy Spirit, according to His sovereign good pleasure. God will give His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who continually ask them of Him, and are thankful for them. God's people do indeed come with supplication and weeping, but also with gladness and joy in humility of heart before God, saying, "What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me?" The true enjoyment of God's blessing lies in this, that we may rejoice in the Lord and have our joy in Him. Thus prayer is necessary for Christians. I have already said that all prayer is not true prayer. There is also a praying amiss, says the apostle. What then are the requisites of that true prayer, that shall be acceptable before God? This brings me to my second point. II First that we from the heart pray to the one true God only, Who has manifested Himself in His Word, for all things He has commanded us to ask of Him. It must be then a praying to the living God alone. How was the anger of the Lord kindled because of Israel's idolatry! They worshipped images and that which is no god. The Lord is a jealous God, and He will not give His glory to another, neither His praise to graven images. When Rome bows to images, God's wrath is kindled. To whom shall we pray? Not to the saints, but to God alone; to the only true God, since He alone can grant us what we need for time and eternity. It is to His honour that we call upon Him, and only upon Him for all things that He has commanded us in His Word to ask of Him. Praying is not asking for everything I want. Praying is in the first place, subjecting ourselves to God's counsel and government. He controls our life; He decides what we need. Hence we must pray to the Lord for all that He has commanded us in His Word to ask of Him; and that with submission to Him and childlike trust, so that He may fulfill that necessity and lead to His honour. He seeks His honour in His people and true prayer seeks God's honour, according to the exaltation of His three holy Names, for our salvation and deliverance. Secondly our instructor says "that we rightly and thoroughly know our need and misery, so we may deeply humble ourselves in the presence of His divine majesty." It is necessary for us to know our need and misery rightly, yes, thoroughly. If the knowledge of our need is lacking, there is no felt need to seek God. That is why we can live on so comfortably by nature. That is also why God's people can so often be at ease without Him. For that reason the Lord often deals so with His children, that they can no longer be satisfied without Him. The Lord causes them rightly to know their need and misery, so that in deep humility they may turn to the Lord, as the poet sang in Psalm 130, "Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord." Observe how the lively prayer of the publican proceeds from a thorough knowledge of his need when he said, "God be merciful to me a sinner." Notice the circumstances in which the publican found himself, the need in which he knew himself to be as he stood in the rear of the temple. He dared not come to the front; he dared not consider himself to be one of God's people as he saw his own sinful life, which caused him to smite upon his breast, because sin had become an inward grief to him. He saw himself lost before God's judgment seat. If there is no knowledge of our need, no thorough knowledge of our misery, then we do not flee to God. So it is continually with God's children, as they advance on the way of life. How necessary it is for them to have the discoveries of the Holy Spirit continually. Yes, even those who are more established have continual need of these discoveries of self and an acquaintance with that corruption, of which Paul complained when he cried out, "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." Only then do God's children learn to seek the Lord's face in Christ, and with all their temporal needs to seek refuge in Him alone. In the third place, true prayer requires that we be fully persuaded that He will for the sake of Christ our Lord, certainly hear our prayer, as He has promised us in His Word, though we are unworthy of it. It is "for the sake of Christ our Lord". If that faith in respect to Christ does not become active, we will perish in our misery. That can happen here at times in pangs of conscience and fear of death and hell, or in the assaults of the prince of darkness, which some are heavily burdened under. Yes, even God's people would faint under these burdens if God gave no relief. Notice the examples in the Bible. Judas perishes eternally with his confession, "I have betrayed innocent blood", because he had no access to the throne of grace through the blood of Christ, and the devil seized him in his claws. How necessary it is for us to have the ministration of the Holy Spirit in our prayers, whereby we may flee to God in Christ with a consciousness of our needs, also whereby we find our deliverance in Him alone. Then the instructor adds so clearly, "notwithstanding that we are unworthy of it." He seems to say, "It is the characteristic of a true supplicant, that his prayer comes from a humble heart." This is wrought already in the new born soul who is convinced of his sin, for he bows under the justice of God in the dust of self-abhorrence. Yes, there are moments in his life that he says "amen" to the Word of God, even if it should condemn him forever. That is a true supplicant who approaches God from the depths of self condemnation, but who seeks Him as He has revealed Himself in His Word, namely, as the Way, the Truth and the Life. The true supplicant is humbled again and again before the Lord; nevertheless he experiences an enlargement of heart which opens his eye for Christ, for the riches of His grace and everlasting mercy. Without Him we would faint under the burden of our misery and the weight of our sin as we are given to understand it; but when we thoroughly know our need, we shall seek refuge in Christ by faith through the operation of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, to see our deliverance is to be found in Him alone. He has promised it in His Word. He opens the gospel for His saints and uses it to give strength and joy in their souls. In this way the Lord Himself makes His people a praying people in His sight, praying all their lives from the first moment on, praying under all the circumstances and needs they are in, so that they may always be driven out to the Lord. By nature we flee from God. Adam hid himself before God. It is natural for us to turn our backs to God, but the true supplicant is constrained to go to God with the burden of his sins, his misery and his iniquities, and receives acceptance in Christ as a naked sinner. This then is the prayer which the Lord requires, which is also wrought by the Lord Himself, and in which the Lord will glorify Himself. III In that Prayer, God's people ask for all things necessary for both soul and body. What has God commanded us to ask of Him? All things necessary for soul and body, which Christ our Lord has comprised in that prayer He Himself has taught us. As Mediator between God and men, the Lord Jesus has purchased both the souls and bodies of His people, when He suffered in soul and body and offered Himself for His church. Therefore as the sympathizing High Priest, He will see and provide all the necessities of His church in this life, including their temporal necessities. Christ did not offer Himself for the reprobates, but for the elect of His Father. For them He merited the right, the sanctified right, to everything which is needed to fulfill His Father's counsel and afterward to receive them up in glory. God causes His children to fulfill His counsel. At the same time the Lord gives them what they need for their temporal life. Thereby God's church in Christ is given a sanctified right to that which it needs, in order to walk the paths which the Lord has ordained for them, so that they shall attain the end the Lord has determined and the goal that He has set. Hence there are bodily needs which God's children lay before the Lord. Before I spoke of Hannah, how she complained of her barrenness before the Lord. The Lord heard her prayer and her desire was granted. God hears the prayers of His people. He wishes to be acknowledged also in this temporal life as the Father of lights, from Whom every good gift and every perfect gift comes. Oftentimes the needs are so great that God's people see no solution. They prostrate themselves before the Lord in secret, making known all their needs to Him, Who alone can help and give solution in every circumstance of life. How wonderful are the deliverances at times which God gives to His saints, and the expressions of His love in Christ in supplying their physical and spiritual needs. Oh, then their souls find rest and peace as they have gladness and joy in that covenant that is enduring and firm and can never be moved; for that testament is irrevocably firm in the death of the Testator. Christ has procured that testament for His church. He entered into the depth of our fall. He undertook for His church and brought them back into communion with the Father. Here He would have His people inherit that which He has procured, when He enables them to walk with Him by faith and not by sight. Walking by sight is laid away for heaven. There shall be no doubters there. There faith shall be changed to sight, but in this life the needs are many, and God's people long to have these needs fulfilled. The spiritual need which gives their souls no rest is the need for restoration in the state of grace and reconciliation with God, and in communion with their Maker and Creator. There lies the rest and the joy of their hearts. What, then, shall they request of the Lord? Their needs for soul and body. The Lord has given a form for true prayer. I shall not say much more about it. This prayer is discussed later in this Catechism. I would note only the following: The Lord Jesus taught His disciples this prayer. This does not mean that we may only use this form prayer. This form prayer does not always suffice for God's people, even though it is the most perfect prayer. In their hearts they feel a real need to pour out their hearts before the Lord in their own words, to explain the experiences and needs of their hearts to Him. Must we disapprove of form prayers? No, certainly not. Who would dare to disapprove of the prayer the Lord Jesus Himself gave us? But in that prayer He wishes to teach us what we should ask of God, that He might fulfill our needs - needs for time and eternity - the gift of daily bread, the forgiveness of our sins, and guidance on life's pathway, so that one day we shall obtain the eternal victory. For His is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. What does the Lord teach us in this prayer? To pray for all things necessary for soul and body, that those needs may be fulfilled out of the fulness of God in Christ Jesus. There, then, lie the exercises of God's people, as we sing together out of Psalm 34. "O magnify the Lord with me, Let us to praise His Name agree; I sought the Lord, He answered me, And from my fears He set me free. "Who look to Him shall walk in light, With joy their faces shall be bright, Distressed, they cried; the Lord arose And saved them out of all their woes." Psalter No. 90 St. 2, 3 Man must be wrought upon by the Spirit of God in order to pray in truth. He is the Spirit of grace and supplication, but also the Spirit that convinces of sin, righteousness and judgment. He is the Spirit that glorifies Christ in the hearts of His people, lost in themselves, and makes them prayerful with respect to Him, by Whom they must be reconciled to God. Does this mean that a natural man need not pray? Does this mean that a natural man need not sing psalms? Then we can go further and say, "I am unconverted. Need I go to church? Must I still read the Bible?" No, that is not the way. To do His work in us, the Lord uses means. In our temporal life the Lord has often shown that He heard the prayer of unconverted people. Shall I give you a clear example? The Lord said to the prophet, "Sees thou how Ahab humbleth himself before Me? Because he humbleth himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days." The Lord postponed the judgment because the wicked king Ahab humbled himself before the Lord. Here you have a clear example that God sees the wicked when he humbles himself before the Lord. On the contrary if we go on and seek to hide ourselves from the Lord, thinking that we can go our own way, the Lord is ready with his stroke. There is also a slighting of the Lord in the performance of the service which He Himself has ordained, and He will requite in anger the injury which is done to Him. Must then an unconverted man pray before he eats, give thanks when he has finished and bow his knees morning and evening? Yes, for it is comely to acknowledge God as the Source and Fountain of all good. Parents, impress it upon the hearts of your children. You must teach them this while they are young. Boys and girls, you must also persevere when you leave your parents' home and go into the world, perhaps to associate with scoffers. Never neglect to acknowledge the Lord openly and do not be ashamed to seek the Lord's face in your prayers. God is worthy that we should look up to Him, to ask His blessing upon His gifts. Yes, more: We live under the Word; we were nurtured under it; we sit under it in our youth, and when we grow up we sit under it until we are old. What then should our work be? To say continually, "Lord, bless the Word I have heard, and sanctify it to my heart, for I am a stranger to Thee. I know by Thy Word that I am walking to destruction, but I do not realize it. Sanctify Thy Word to my eternal welfare." Do you sometimes come to church with that attitude? Do you sometimes bow your knees in secret? When the Word goes unheeded by you, must you not say, "My mind was filled with other thoughts"? Remember that every sermon will some day aggravate your punishment. If you are in trouble in your temporal life or in difficult circumstances, bring them before the Lord and lay them before Him in prayer. Boys, do so in your youth; girls, do not forget it, when you are young. There may be difficulties in your young hearts that you cannot reveal to another. Lay them before the Lord. May there be many impressions in your conscience. Seek to keep them alive. Most important, God's Word tells us there is a way of salvation in Christ. Oh, that it might be revealed to your souls, so that you perish not in the distress and the accusations of your conscience. May the inward conviction of your guilt bring you to the salvation which is in Christ Jesus. For we must seek that salvation only in Him. With all this remember one thing, and remember it your whole life: never, never seek the ground of your salvation in your church attendance, in your prayers, or in your serious conversation, for in this is no ground at all. God never does anything because of our prayer. He is as righteous in withholding His grace as He is free in granting it. On the one hand, be thoroughly convinced of your personal responsibility at all times; on the other hand, be convinced also that all your own works are of no avail, even though you should creep upon your knees until they bleed. On the contrary, a work of God must be glorified in us, namely: that the Lord in grace glorifies Himself in humbling our hearts. Praying is something more than saying beautiful words in the form of a prayer. Praying is a holy art that is taught only in the school of Jesus Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit. True supplicants are people who are convinced in their hearts that they are lost. That is a work of the Holy Spirit, Who convincingly shows them their need, causing them to call upon Him and to cry to Him. Let God's people tell you how they learned to pray. They could not be content with form prayers, but their greenings went out to the living God, to know and find Him. Now the Catechism states correctly that to thoroughly know our need and misery belongs to true prayer. To God's dear people, I would say what we should desire especially is the discovering light of the Holy Spirit, to teach us to know ourselves in our inward, spiritual need; because we are traveling to eternity and by nature we are without God in the world. This is the way to become reconciled with God, and find our happiness in communion with Him. God cares for us, our God is He; Who would not fear His majesty In earth as well as Heaven. Psalm 68 - Psalter No. 420:5b If that true knowledge of misery and that thorough knowledge of need is not in our heart, we live easily. Notice then how many will claim that they are converted. One thinks he has experienced this and another that. But where is the sense of need which drove them to Christ? If our need is properly known and our lost state impressed upon our hearts, oh, then we would be overwhelmed with grief and faint if the Lord did not give an opening, through sighs of importunity at His throne of grace. He grants these openings from the beginning of the new life, when He applies the comforts of the Word and the encouragements which are in Christ. Therein He gives poor sinners a free access to His throne of grace. The sweetness of those experiences cannot be described. Oh, how satisfying are those sweet humblings before the face of God, and those utterings of complaint, as they are experienced in the hearts of those needy souls. With all that has been experienced, there remains an insufficiency which oppresses them, so that they cannot die and meet God. To be sure, on God's side the security of the entire church lies eternally firm in Christ for both small and great. But those concerned souls cannot reason it out or draw a conclusion from this. They did not participate in God's council. On their side, they are faced with the fact that there are only two ways: a way outside of Christ to eternal perdition, and the other way which is only Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Let me say it very simply as it lies in the hearts of those concerned souls. They say, "With all that we have experienced, we are outside of Christ. If we have no conscious knowledge of having been implanted in Him, oh, then all is lost." What is the result of this? The knowledge of our need. "For we are in an unreconciled state before God. If we must die in this state, we shall receive the heaviest judgment, because we came so near, and yet remain outside forever." What counsel must we give you then? Ask much for the discovering light of the Holy Spirit, that you may go freely to that High Priest, Who came to reconcile sinners with God. Then the prayers of the church of God ascend from the golden Altar of Incense before the face of God. May the Lord grant you such a praying life. May we never be rich in ourselves but have many wants, in order that we may call upon the Lord continually. Therein lies progress on the way of life and in this way salvation is nearer than when first we believed. The church of God has been promised that it will enter the kingdom of Heaven through many tribulations. There are tribulations in the body, adversities in the world, and troubles in daily life, so that they are wont to say, "My soul is full of troubles." But these are the wise purposes and wise ways of the Lord to drive them out to Him, so that they may appear before Him with their wants. God wants to teach His people subjection to His will. It may happen that the Lord pursues a course wherein flesh and blood are crucified; for He would be the All in All for His people. He wants the heart of His people to go out to Him, in order to have communion with Him in this life and to agree with Him in prosperity and adversity. I know that this is contrary to flesh and blood. It is an impossible thing for flesh and blood to do. Oh, what a conflict God's people have within! In this way they must be exercised and led that they may seek the Lord in deep humiliation, while lying at His feet in prayer more and more. God is glorified when we lose ourselves and when the creature is lost out of sight, so that our strength in the Lord may increase, as well as our liberty in approaching to Him. Here lies the thanksgiving of His people when they say, "O Lord, I will praise Thee though Thou wast angry with me." Here they acknowledge His great name. Oh, that the Lord might bind the needs of His church upon the hearts of His children. People of God, think, think much on the needs of the church of God in our land. Support God's servants with your prayers in your inner chamber. Beg the Lord that He may grant them the discovering light of the Holy Spirit, so that they may speak to the heart of Jerusalem. Let there also be in our hearts the humble acknowledgment of God's great Name in joy and gladness, so that the Lord may be adored for our salvation. Oh, people of God, what a glorious thing this will be! God seeks His own honour, but that includes our salvation. Here there are moments of union with Him by faith, but soon we shall praise the Triune God forever, to bring honour and blessing to Him that sitteth upon the throne and to the Lamb, Who has redeemed us to God by His precious blood. Amen. Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons, Vol.2 (continued in part 20...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: krhc2-19.txt .