The Privilege of Prayer
THROUGH nature and revelation, through His
providence, and by the influence of His Spirit, God speaks to us. But these are not
enough; we need also to pour out our hearts to Him. In order to have spiritual life and
energy, we must have actual intercourse with our heavenly Father. Our minds may be drawn
out toward Him; we may meditate upon His works, His mercies, His blessings; but this is
not, in the fullest sense, communing with Him. In order to commune with God, we must have
something to say to Him concerning our actual life.
Prayer is the opening of the
heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what
we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us,
but brings us up to Him.
When Jesus was upon the
earth, He taught His disciples how to pray. He directed them to present their daily needs
before God, and to cast all their care upon Him. And the assurance He gave them that their
petitions should be heard, is assurance also to us.
Jesus Himself, while He dwelt
among men, was often in prayer. Our Saviour identified Himself with our needs and
weakness, in that He became a suppliant, a petitioner, seeking from His Father fresh
supplies of strength, that He might come forth braced for duty and trial. He is our
example in all things. He is a brother in our infirmities, "in all points tempted
like as we are;" but as the sinless one His
nature recoiled from evil; He endured
struggles and torture of soul in a world of sin. His humanity made prayer a necessity and
a privilege. He found comfort and joy in communion with His Father. And if the Saviour of
men, the Son of God, felt the need of prayer, how much more should feeble, sinful mortals
feel the necessity of fervent, constant prayer.
Our heavenly Father waits to
bestow upon us the fullness of His blessing. It is our privilege to drink largely at the
fountain of boundless love. What a wonder it is that we pray so little! God is ready and
willing to hear the sincere prayer of the humblest of His children, and yet there is much
manifest reluctance on our part to make known our wants to God. What can the angels of
heaven think of poor helpless human beings, who are subject to temptation, when God's
heart of infinite love yearns toward them, ready to give them more than they can ask or
think, and yet they pray so little and have so little faith? The angels love to bow before
God; they love to be near Him. They regard communion with God as their highest joy; and
yet the children of earth, who need so much the help that God only can give, seem
satisfied to walk without the light of His Spirit, the companionship of His presence.
The darkness of the evil one
encloses those who neglect to pray. The whispered temptations of the enemy entice them to
sin; and it is all because they do not make use of the privileges that God has given them
in the divine appointment of prayer. Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant
to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven's storehouse, where
the boundless resources of Omnipotence? Without unceasing prayer and
diligent watching we are in danger of growing careless and of deviating from the right
path. The adversary seeks continually to obstruct the way to the mercy seat, that we may
not by earnest supplication and faith obtain grace and power to resist temptation.
There are certain conditions
upon which we may expect that God will hear and answer our prayers. One of the first of
these is that we feel our need of help from Him. He has promised, "I will pour water
upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground." Isaiah 44:3. Those who
hunger and thirst after righteousness, who long after God, may be sure that they will be
filled. The heart must be open to the Spirit's influence, or God's blessing cannot be
Our great need is itself an
argument and pleads most eloquently in our behalf. But the Lord is to be sought unto to do
these things for us. He says, "Ask, and it shall be given you." And "He
that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him
also freely give us all things?" Matthew 7:7; Romans 8:32.
If we regard iniquity in our
hearts, if we cling to any known sin, the Lord will not hear us; but the prayer of the
penitent, contrite soul is always accepted. When all known wrongs are righted, we may
believe that God will answer our petitions. Our own merit will never commend us to the
favor of God; it is the worthiness of Jesus that will save us, His blood that will cleanse
us; yet we have a work to do in complying with the conditions of acceptance.
Another element of prevailing
prayer is faith. "He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a
rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Hebrews 11:6. Jesus said to His
disciples, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them,
and ye shall have them." Mark 11:24. Do we take Him at His word?
The assurance is broad and
unlimited, and He is faithful who has promised. When we do not receive the very things we
asked for, at the time we ask, we are still to believe that the Lord hears and that He
will answer our prayers. We are so erring and short-sighted that we sometimes ask for
things that would not be a blessing to us, and our heavenly Father in love answers our
prayers by giving us that which will be for our highest good--that which we ourselves
would desire if with vision divinely enlightened we could see all things as they really
are. When our prayers seem not to be answered, we are to cling to the promise; for the
time of answering will surely come, and we shall receive the blessing we need most. But to
claim that prayer will always be answered in the very way and for the particular thing
that we desire, is presumption. God is too wise to err, and too good to withhold any good
thing from them that walk uprightly. Then do not fear to trust Him, even though you do not
see the immediate answer to your prayers. Rely upon His sure promise, "Ask, and it
shall be given you."
If we take counsel with our
doubts and fears, or try to solve everything that we cannot see clearly, before we have
faith, perplexities will only increase
and deepen. But if we come to God, feeling helpless
and dependent, as we really are, and in humble, trusting faith make known our wants to Him
whose knowledge is infinite, who sees everything in creation, and who governs everything
by His will and word, He can and will attend to our cry, and will let light shine into our
hearts. Through sincere prayer we are brought into connection with the mind of the
Infinite. We may have no remarkable evidence at the time that the face of our Redeemer is
bending over us in compassion and love, but this is even so. We may not feel His visible
touch, but His hand is upon us in love and pitying tenderness.
When we come to ask mercy and
blessing from God we should have a spirit of love and forgiveness in our own hearts. How
can we pray, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," and yet indulge
an unforgiving spirit? Matthew 6:12. If we expect our own prayers to be heard we must
forgive others in the same manner and to the same extent as we hope to be forgiven.
Perseverance in prayer has
been made a condition of receiving. We must pray always if we would grow in faith and
experience. We are to be "instant in prayer," to "continue in prayer, and
watch in the same with thanksgiving." Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2. Peter exhorts
believers to be "sober, and watch unto prayer." 1 Peter 4:7. Paul directs,
"In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made
known unto God." Philippians 4:6. "But ye, beloved," says Jude,
"praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God." Jude 20, 21.
Unceasing prayer is the unbroken union of the soul with God, so that life from God flows
into our life; and from our life, purity and holiness flow back to God.
There is necessity for
diligence in prayer; let nothing hinder you. Make every effort to keep open the communion
between Jesus and your own soul. Seek every opportunity to go where prayer is wont to be
made. Those who are really seeking for communion with God will be seen in the prayer
meeting, faithful to do their duty and earnest and anxious to reap all the benefits they
can gain. They will improve every opportunity of placing themselves where they can receive
the rays of light from heaven.
We should pray in the family
circle, and above all we must not neglect secret prayer, for this is the life of the soul.
It is impossible for the soul to flourish while prayer is neglected. Family or public
prayer alone is not sufficient. In solitude let the soul be laid open to the inspecting
eye of God. Secret prayer is to be heard only by the prayer-hearing God. No curious ear is
to receive the burden of such petitions. In secret prayer the soul is free from
surrounding influences, free from excitement. Calmly, yet fervently, will it reach out
after God. Sweet and abiding will be the influence emanating from Him who seeth in secret,
whose ear is open to hear the prayer arising from the heart. By calm, simple faith the
soul holds communion with God and gathers to itself rays of divine light to strengthen and
sustain it in the conflict with Satan. God is our tower of strength.
Pray in your closet, and as
you go about your daily labor let your heart be often uplifted to God.
It was thus that
Enoch walked with God. These silent prayers rise like precious incense before the throne
of grace. Satan cannot overcome him whose heart is thus stayed upon God.
There is no time or place in
which it is inappropriate to offer up a petition to God. There is nothing that can prevent
us from lifting up our hearts in the spirit of earnest prayer. In the crowds of the
street, in the midst of a business engagement, we may send up a petition to God and plead
for divine guidance, as did Nehemiah when he made his request before King Artaxerxes. A
closet of communion may be found wherever we are. We should have the door of the heart
open continually and our invitation going up that Jesus may come and abide as a heavenly
guest in the soul.
Although there may be a
tainted, corrupted atmosphere around us, we need not breathe its miasma, but may live in
the pure air of heaven. We may close every door to impure imaginings and unholy thoughts
by lifting the soul into the presence of God through sincere prayer. Those whose hearts
are open to receive the support and blessing of God will walk in a holier atmosphere than
that of earth and will have constant communion with heaven.
We need to have more distinct
views of Jesus and a fuller comprehension of the value of eternal realities. The beauty of
holiness is to fill the hearts of God's children; and that this may be accomplished, we
should seek for divine disclosures of heavenly things.
Let the soul be drawn out and
upward, that God may grant us a breath of the heavenly atmosphere. We may keep so near to
God that in every unexpected
trial our thoughts will turn to Him as naturally as the
flower turns to the sun.
Keep your wants, your joys,
your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot
weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His
children. "The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." James 5:11. His heart
of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him
everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up
worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns
our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark
for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can
befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere
prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes
no immediate interest. "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their
wounds." Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and
full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not
another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.
Jesus said, "Ye shall
ask in My name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the
Father Himself loveth you." "I have chosen you: . . . that whatsoever ye shall
ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you." John 16:26, 27; 15:16. But to pray
in the name of Jesus is something more than a mere mention of that name at the beginning
and the ending of a prayer. It is to pray in the mind and spirit of Jesus, while we
believe His promises, rely upon His grace, and work His works.
God does not mean that any of
us should become hermits or monks and retire from the world in order to devote ourselves
to acts of worship. The life must be like Christ's life--between the mountain and the
multitude. He who does nothing but pray will soon cease to pray, or his prayers will
become a formal routine. When men take themselves out of social life, away from the sphere
of Christian duty and cross bearing; when they cease to work earnestly for the Master, who
worked earnestly for them, they lose the subject matter of prayer and have no incentive to
devotion. Their prayers become personal and selfish. They cannot pray in regard to the
wants of humanity or the upbuilding of Christ's kingdom, pleading for strength wherewith
We sustain a loss when we
neglect the privilege of associating together to strengthen and encourage one another in
the service of God. The truths of His word lose their vividness and importance in our
minds. Our hearts cease to be enlightened and aroused by their sanctifying influence, and
we decline in spirituality. In our association as Christians we lose much by lack of
sympathy with one another. He who shuts himself up to himself is not filling the position
that God designed he should. The proper cultivation of the social elements in our nature
brings us into sympathy with others and is a means of development and strength to us in
the service of God.
If Christians would associate
together, speaking to each other of the love of God and of the precious
redemption, their own hearts would be refreshed and they would refresh one another. We may
be daily learning more of our heavenly Father, gaining a fresh experience of His grace;
then we shall desire to speak of His love; and as we do this, our own hearts will be
warmed and encouraged. If we thought and talked more of Jesus, and less of self, we should
have far more of His presence.
If we would but think of God
as often as we have evidence of His care for us we should keep Him ever in our thoughts
and should delight to talk of Him and to praise Him. We talk of temporal things because we
have an interest in them. We talk of our friends because we love them; our joys and our
sorrows are bound up with them. Yet we have infinitely greater reason to love God than to
love our earthly friends; it should be the most natural thing in the world to make Him
first in all our thoughts, to talk of His goodness and tell of His power. The rich gifts
He has bestowed upon us were not intended to absorb our thoughts and love so much that we
should have nothing to give to God; they are constantly to remind us of Him and to bind us
in bonds of love and gratitude to our heavenly Benefactor. We dwell too near the lowlands
of earth. Let us raise our eyes to the open door of the sanctuary above, where the light
of the glory of God shines in the face of Christ, who "is able also to save them to
the uttermost that come unto God by Him." Hebrews 7:25.
We need to praise God more
"for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men." Psalm
107:8. Our devotional exercises should not
consist wholly in asking and receiving. Let us
not be always thinking of our wants and never of the benefits we receive. We do not pray
any too much, but we are too sparing of giving thanks. We are the constant recipients of
God's mercies, and yet how little gratitude we express, how little we praise Him for what
He has done for us.
Anciently the Lord bade
Israel, when they met together for His service, "Ye shall eat before the Lord your
God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households,
wherein the Lord thy God hath blessed thee." Deuteronomy 12:7. That which is done for
the glory of God should be done with cheerfulness, with songs of praise and thanksgiving,
not with sadness and gloom.
Our God is a tender, merciful
Father. His service should not be looked upon as a heart-saddening, distressing exercise.
It should be a pleasure to worship the Lord and to take part in His work. God would not
have His children, for whom so great salvation has been provided, act as if He were a
hard, exacting taskmaster. He is their best friend; and when they worship Him, He expects
to be with them, to bless and comfort them, filling their hearts with joy and love. The
Lord desires His children to take comfort in His service and to find more pleasure than
hardship in His work. He desires that those who come to worship Him shall carry away with
them precious thoughts of His care and love, that they may be cheered in all the
employments of daily life, that they may have grace to deal honestly and faithfully in all
We must gather about the
cross. Christ and Him
crucified should be the theme of contemplation, of conversation, and
of our most joyful emotion. We should keep in our thoughts every blessing we receive from
God, and when we realize His great love we should be willing to trust everything to the
hand that was nailed to the cross for us.
The soul may ascend nearer
heaven on the wings of praise. God is worshiped with song and music in the courts above,
and as we express our gratitude we are approximating to the worship of the heavenly hosts.
"Whoso offereth praise glorifieth" God. Psalm 50:23. Let us with reverent joy
come before our Creator, with "thanksgiving, and the voice of melody." Isaiah