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
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
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 are treasured
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 received.
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
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
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
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
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 to work.
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
truths of 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 things.
We must gather about the cross. Christ
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 51:3.