Dr. Wayne A. Lawson
Antioch Institutional Baptist Church
Oklahoma City, OK
Preached Sunday March 7, 2010
Annual Ushers Day – 3:30 pm
(I claim no originality of this message. I first preached it about 14 years ago. I modified much of it for this delivery)
TITLE: THE LADDER OF PRAYER
SCRIPTURE: GENESIS 28:12
12And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
I am honored this afternoon to stand here and bring an encouraging message on this our Usher’s Annual Day. Just in case you are nervous this afternoon, I know that you have heard “I WOULD RATHER BE A DOORKEEPER IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD” preached every way it could possibly be expounded upon. So I found myself communing with God seeking a message that will bless all of us. I felt the leading of the Holy Ghost take me to the simple but challenging subject of prayer. This is a remarkable verse about a very memorable scene. This afternoon I desire to use the imagery of the verse without direct regard to its context. I realize and fully understand this passage pertains to Jacob’s dream or vision, which Connected Heaven and Earth. However, I ask that we put the knowledge that we have pertaining to this event to back of our minds, for it will play a secondary role as this thought develops.
We will not deal this afternoon with the full value of the scriptural context, however; we will examine the first portion of this vision or dream and attempt to have this brief portion stand alone. Those who read devotional books such as Daily Bread or Living Word, have seen on many occasions what the devotional writers have termed “The Ladder of Prayer.” Jacob, on his journey to Haran, stopped in a place called LUZ and there he went to sleep and had a life-changing dream of a STAIRWAY REACHING TOWARD HEAVEN - with angels ascending and descending on it
The dream that Jacob had is one of the Greatest dreams ever recorded in Antiquity. He dreamed that he saw a ladder set up on earth, and it reached all the way to Heaven. At the top of the ladder was God, and scampering up and down the ladder were angels, going up and down. Yes, God Himself was at the top of the ladder. The message of God emanated from Heaven from the top of the ladder, and take note it was not at the bottom of the ladder set on earth. The message from God always comes from Heaven, and not from men at the bottom of the ladder. It comes from God and delivered by men. So what can we glean from this dream, this vision?
Prayer is regarded as the Ascent – Rising to God, an upward movement, which step by step, the soul liftsd airborne. I want to concentrate on the separate steps of this Ladder of Prayer – the ascent that carries the heart upward to the throne. I want you to understand this morning where Prayer begins and to what Heights it is capable of Rising. It is on this Ladder of Prayer I should like to dwell – beginning with the lowest step and so ascending to higher steps.
The First Step on The Ladder of Prayer is called -- EMERGENCY PRAYER. Prayer commonly begins in every individuals life with Cry of Escape from some external evil. This is the Lowest Step on Ladder – souls cry is wrung from some form of disaster or adversity. When men and women faced with dangerous operation; midst vehicle accident, something that momentarily unsettles our lives, or as Paul said may find self in midst of shipwreck in perils of water. Those recently found enduring floods in Florida and other parts of the world, experienced this first step on The Ladder of Prayer. Perhaps when we find a loved one has taken ill or situation of great hazard we cry out to God for help saying where else can we turn. Some scholars attempt to classify that first prayer of a sinner as the prayer of repentance, this is not so, this is the first or initial step.
It is in such a cry that prayer is often born into existence - keep in mind these prayers are not for blessings of the soul. They are wrung out not in spiritual darkness but in some type of distress. Bible does not rule such desperate prayers out because there is no plea for pardon. Lord Knows Our Frame of Mind, our going out and our coming in. God knows that we are but the dust. Therefore, he welcomes the strong cry, and calls it prayeer – although it is uttered in distress or adversity. God is not concerned about a lengthy prayer, he is not concerned about our prayers being theologically sound, not concerned about rythmatic flow, He welcomes this first step on The Ladder of Prayer.
If we study the scriptures we would note that approximately 90% of the time, when men drew nigh to Jesus the things they cried for could scarcely be called spiritual at all:
• Some prayed for sight (Bethsaida)
• Two blind men followed Jesus – “THOU SON OF DAVID HAVE MERCY ON US”
• Some prayed for physical power (Issue of Blood)
• Daughter of Canaanite Woman
• Nobleman’s son at Capernium
• Leper came down from Mountain - “IF THOU WILT THOU CANST MAKE ME CLEAN”
• Centurion’s Servant Speak a Word and heal by the Remote Control of your Divine Power
• Others prayed in the Wild Uproar of the Storm – “LORD SAVE US, CAREST THOU NOT THAT WE PERISH”
It is important to realize that in the ear of God those cries which are but Rudiments of Prayer are neither rejected nor despised by God. We hear so often that God does not hear the prayers of sinners -- ST. JOHN 9:31 “NOW WE KNOW THAT GOD HEARETH NOT SINNERS: BUT IF ANY MAN BE A WORSHIPPER OF GOD, AND DOETH HIS WILL, HIM HE HEARETH.” Place in proper context, this was the comments of a frightened man who had just received his sight and found himself challenged by the religious leaders of the day. What he was saying was simply that God hears all, he is not necessarily compelled to move as if for a Christian. The first step on The Ladder of Prayer is simply a Conditioned Response. It is like walking through Living room in middle of night and Stub Your Toe on coffee Table and holler “JESUS” - hope that’s what you holler - Conditioned Response.
After this step we are able to continue our upward climb – able to take Second Step -- moving slightly higher on The Ladder of Prayer. Step two is labeled CONFESSION. This is the stage when prayer for outward help becomes Cry of Deliverance from Sin. In first step during that appeal to heaven there is scarcely any consciousness of sin. No thought except for what has currently befallen us. But on second step, slowly as a person prays for help there steals on him the strange conviction that he needs something deeper than assistance and that in the sight of God he is but a Sinner.
It is during this time, Prayer in sight of god rises to what is called the Second Stage. Born in need of help in some dark hour it passes onward to need of pardon. It deepens into prayer for FORGIVENESS – for the inward cleansing of HEART – DELIVERANCE – through the Grace of God, from the sin that doth so easily beset us. Don’t you know that a sinner will not become saved until they become tired of themselves.
• Get to the point where I’m tired of living like this
• Tired of this situation
• Realize don’t have to live in the Muck and the Mire
• Begin to make sense of those Old Hymns
• ON CHRIST THE SOLID ROCK I STAND, ALL OTHER GROUND IS SINKING SAND
• AMAZING GRACE HOW SWEET THE SOUND THAT SAVED A WRETCH LIKE ME
• DOWN AT THE CROSS WHERE MY SAVIOR DIED, DOWN WHERE FROM CLENSING FROM SIN I CRIED
• I KNOW IT WAS THE BLOOD THAT SAVED ME
• GUIDE ME OH THOU GREAT JEHOVAH, PILGRIM THROUGH THIS BARREN LAND
Jesus takes prayer by the hand, leads it upward to this higher step. People often went to Jesus asking for something physical. He always listened and answered. They asked for sight, received. Jesus had a way of turning through of sinner to their sin. He would give a blessing and say “GO AND SIN NO MORE.” He would simply listen and then respond “COME AND DRINK OF THAT FOUNTAIN.” This is the second step on The Ladder of Prayer. We are no longer crying wildly to heaven as in some storm or shipwreck. We are now crying for a CLEAN HEART AND A RIGHT SPIRIT TO BE RENEWED WITH US. Against Thee Oh Lord Have We Sinned - Jesus then responds to us ISAIAH 1:18 “THOU YOUR SINS BE AS SCARLET, THEY SHALL BE AS SNOW, RED LIKE CRIMSON, THEY SHALL BE AS WOOL.”
Now we are able to take step higher on The Ladder of Prayer. Now ready for Step Three. This step I have labeled SUPPLICATION FOR GOD’S GRACE. When men have prayed for pardon, afterwhile they begin to realize they need to be clothed in God’s Love. Now realize certain virtues that they must achieve. Soon find out that now we need PATIENCE to run this race -- COURAGE to withstand the fiery darts of the evil one -- Self Control if we are to walk in the light of the Lord. This is where many get stuck. This Rung on the Ladder challenges us for our COMMITMENT. We don’t have time for prayer or value prayer until we reach this significant rung.
We soon realize that we must come to throne of God often and asking. I realize that God knows what we are going to ask before we pray but Father delights to have his children asking – ASK – SEEK – KNOCK. ST. MATTHEW 7:7 “ASK, AND IT SHALL BE GIVEN YOU: SEEK, AND YE SHALL FIND; KNOCK, AND IT SHALL BE OPENED UNTO YOU.” We have come a long way from Cry in hour of disaster. We have risen to life of need, which is wide as the Mercy, Grace of God. This stage it is realized:
• We need New Walk
• New Talk
• New Shout
• Don’t see the way we used to see
• Don’t go where we used to go
• Don’t think like we used to think
Before we move to the final step it is important that you realize that the first three steps have a Common Denominator, one thing in common, one common element. The element is Presence of Self. In these initial three stages of prayer, as we try to approach God there is the presence of self.
• STEP ONE = Eyes on your situation or situation of loved one
• STEP TWO = We confess our present condition that we are sinners
• STEP THREE = We seek God’s Grace, we know that GREATER IS HE THAT IS WITHIN US THAN HE THAT IS IN THE WORLD
• These three stages we are strictly concerned about the ME factor
So then, the question arises - Is there any prayer possible where self shall be utterly forgotten? Want you to know this afternoon, there is such a stage at the Topmost step of The Ladder of Prayer which rises from this side Jordan where we rest and reaches to the Glory of the Throne of God. This is STEP FOUR on the Ladder. It is labeled - TRUE SUBMISSION TO GOD’S WILL. Such prayer is not only possible but within such grasp of everyone of us. It is born when a man has learned to look to God and to say with whole heart – “NOT MY WILL, BUT LET THY WILL BE DONE.” There is no longer any thought of our will it is merged with the Sweet Will of God.
• Through Light and Shadows
• Through Gladness and Adversity
• Through Rain and Shine
• Through Trials and Perfect Peace
• The Will of God Shall Be Done in My Life
• Something makes you go on when you don’t feel like pressing on
• Something makes you Stand when you don’t feel like Standing
• Something makes you Shout when you don’t feel like Shouting
• Something makes you Pray when you don’t feel like Praying
• Something makes you Hold Your Peace
There may be many a struggle before this stage is reached. Even Jesus staggered prior to this stage saying – “IF IT BE POSSILE, LET THIS CUP PASS FROM ME; NEVERTHELESS NOT AS I WILL, BUT AS THOU WILT.” But when it is reached then there is Perfect Peace and new light on everything that happens in your life. At this stage we are able to commune with the Father. In closing let me say in this Final step on The Ladder of Prayer is when we find Joy and Power in Prayer. Prayer is the Key and faith unlocks the Door.
Without Prayer can’t commune with the Father, without progressing through the stages of Prayer we shall never be able to fall down and cry out ABBA FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN. Without prayer it is Impossible to please God -
• Without prayer God can not mold and shape us
• Without prayer God’s will cannot be done in our lives
• Without prayer can’t move from Milk to meat of the Word
• Without Prayer God cannot talk to us
• Without Prayer circumstance cannot change
• Without Prayer can’t know God, God can’t know us
How do you know this Reverend, how can you be so sure? Why do you think this is so important? Because I found out one day that the ladder that Jacob saw was Jesus. The ladder is Jesus. In the gospel according to John, we note the real meaning of that ladder. Jesus had called Philip, and Philip went to find Nathanael. He told him he had found the Messiah. Nathanael said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming and said: “Behold an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile.” Nathanael said, “Rabbi whence knowest thou me?” Jesus said, “Yesterday when you were under the fig tree, I saw thee.” Because of this insight of Jesus, Nathanael said, “Rabbi thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel.”
• Then Jesus exploded this explanation on him about Jacob’s ladder. He said, ST. JOHN 1:51 “AND HE SAITH UNTO HIM, VERILY, VERILY, I SAY UNTO YOU, HEREAFTER, YE SHALL SEE HEAVEN OPEN, AND THE ANNGELS OF GOD ASCENDING AND DESCENDING UPON THE SON OF MAN”
• According to the Lord, He Himself is Jacob’s ladder
• Jesus is the perfect explanation of the Ladder
• Jesus came down to man from Heaven, and now man can go back up that ladder to Heaven
--If you want power with God you must spend time in Prayer
--If you think you have Power with God, you should be the first one running to Prayer Service on Wednesday Nights, if you have Prayer Service at home than you should also have prayer service in God’s house.
--At the 3:00 hour Paul and Silas were rushing past the Gate called Beautiful trying to make their way to Prayer Service
--Jesus at twelve years of age was lost and found in the Temple in the midst of Prayer Service
--Somebody today is stuck on the ladder of prayer, have not made it to the top rung.
--God’s Ladder of Grace reached down to me by placing me in a home where the Bible was taught, preached, and lived - where I learned early the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That Ladder reached to me one day and saved my soul.
“Heaven is not gained by a single bound, but by climbing the ladder round by round.
-We are climbing Jacob’s ladder; We are climbing Jacob’s ladder;
-We are climbing Jacob’s ladder; Soldiers of the cross.
-Every rung goes higher, higher; Every rung goes higher, higher;
-Every rung goes higher, higher; Soldiers of the cross.”
-High Five your Neighbor – Tell them I’m Going Higher
-Every round Goes Higher and Higher
- The Ladder of Prayer