“I have sought Your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to Your promise.” (Psalm 119:58)
Many years ago it was a common practice amongst devout Christians to have what was called a ‘promise box’. A ‘promise box’ was simply a small container in which a person kept a series of cards on which were written some of the most inspiring promises of God. The aim was to keep the cards in an accessible place so they could be used at any time as a basis for prayer. When the cards were used specifically for prayer, the believer was said to be ‘pleading God’s promises’.
One of the most important things that we can do when we pray is to follow God’s advice to Israel to ‘present your case and set forth your arguments’ (Isaiah 41:21). One very effective way to do this is to plead God’s promises back to Him. The reason why this is so important is, as CH Spurgeon reminds us, that ‘every promise of Scripture is a writing of God which may be pleaded before Him with this reasonable request, “Do as You have promised.” The Creator’, he said, ‘will not cheat the creature who depends upon this truth; and far more, the Heavenly Father will not break His word to His own child.’
The reason why it is important to plead God’s promises is that they represent a binding and written agreement on God’s part to do or to forbear from doing a particular act. God’s promises are special in that they are even more reliable than a firm handshake or a ‘gentleman’s agreement’. They are absolutely binding on God. Why? For the simple reason that the validity of a promise rests on the character and capacity of the one who makes it. When another person makes a promise to us, we always ask ourselves the question, “Is this person likely to keep his word and does he have the power to deliver what he’s promised?” The simple truth is that God’s holiness and His absolute power make His promises far more reliable than a Reserve Bank guarantee.
A simple case shows how we can claim God’s promises in prayer. In Genesis 32:9-12 we meet Jacob on his way back to Israel. However, before he can reach his homeland he must first get past his brother who wants to kill him. Jacob turns to prayer and says to God, “You have told me to go back to my country and You have said, ‘I will make you prosper…and make your descendants like the sand of the seashore.’” Here Jacob prays for deliverance, not for selfish reasons, but on the basis of God’s guarantee for his future. Basing our prayers on God’s promises, as opposed to our desires, is always the best policy.