“Our prayer must have few words, but be great and profound in content and meaning.”

“Our prayer must have few words, but be great and profound in content and meaning. The fewer the words, the better the prayer; the more words, the poorer the prayer. Few words and richness of meaning is Christian; many words and lack of meaning is pagan. Therefore Christ says that the disciples should ‘not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do.’ And in John 4 [:24] he tells the Samaritan woman, ‘Those who worship God must pray to him in spirit and in truth.’ The Father desires such worshipers.”
Martin Luther, LW, 42, 19-20.
Photo: "Our prayer must have few words, but be great and profound in content and meaning. The fewer the words, the better the prayer; the more words, the poorer the prayer. Few words and richness of meaning is Christian; many words and lack of meaning is pagan. Therefore Christ says that the disciples should 'not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do.' And in John 4 [:24] he tells the Samaritan woman, 'Those who worship God must pray to him in spirit and in truth.' The Father desires such worshipers."
Martin Luther, LW, 42, 19-20.

“Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know You, and desire nothing but You.” A prayer by Augustine of Hippo

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know You, and desire nothing but You.Let me hate myself and love You.

Let me do everything for the sake of You.
Let me humble myself and exalt You.
Let me think of nothing except You.
Let me die to myself and live in You.
Let me accept whatever happens as from You.
Let me banish self and follow You, and ever desire to follow You.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in You,
That I may deserve to be defended by You.
Let me fear for myself.
Let me fear You, and let me be among those who are chosen by You.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in You.
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of You.
Let me cling to nothing save only to You,
And let me be poor because of You.
Look upon me, that I may love You.

Call me that I may see You, and for ever enjoy You. 
– Augustine

 

Wilhelm Löhe

File:Wilhelm Loehe.jpg

Johann Konrad Wilhelm Löhe

(21 February 1808–2 January 1872)

From the Wikipedia page: Löhe (often rendered ‘Loehe’) was a pastor of the Lutheran Church, a writer, and is often regarded as being a founder of the deaconess movement in Lutheranism and a founding sponsor of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS). He was a pastor in nineteenth-century Germany. From the small town of Neuendettelsau, he sent pastors to North America, Australia, New Guinea, Brazil, and the Ukraine. His work for a clear confessional basis within the Bavarian church sometimes led to conflict with the ecclesiastical bureaucracy. His chief concern was that evangelism and social ministries would flow from the worship of the parish. Many Lutheran congregations in Michigan, Ohio, and Iowa were either founded or influenced by missionaries sent by Löhe. He is commemorated by the ELCA and the LCMS on 2 January.

Excerpt from The Spirit of Christ by Andrew Murray, Chapter 21: The Holy Spirit and Conscience.

Chapter 21: The Holy Spirit and Conscience.

Rom. 9:1. 8:16.

God’s highest glory is His Holiness in virtue of which He hates and destroys the evil, loves and works the good. In man, conscience has the same work: it condemns sin and approves the right. Conscience is the remains of God’s image in man, the nearest approach to the Divine in him, the guardian of God’s honour amid the ruin of the fall. As a consequence, God’s work of redemption must always begin with conscience. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of His Holiness; conscience is a spark of the Divine holiness; harmony between the work of the Holy Spirit in renewing and sanctifying man, and the work of conscience, is most intimate and essential. The believer who would be filled with the Holy Spirit, and experience to the full the blessings He has to give, must in the first place see to it that he yields to conscience the place and the honour which belong to it. Faithfulness to conscience is the first step in the path of restoration to the Holiness of God. Intense conscientiousness will be the groundwork and characteristic of true spirituality. As it is the work of conscience to witness to our being right towards our sense of duty and towards God, and the work of the Spirit to witness to God’s acceptance of our faith in Christ and our obedience to Him, the testimony of the Spirit and of conscience will, as the Christian life progresses, become increasingly identical. We shall feel the need and the blessedness of saying with Paul, in regard to all our conduct: ‘My conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost.’

Conscience can be compared to the window of a room, through which the light of heaven shines into it, and through which we can look out and see that heaven, with all that its light shines on. The heart is the chamber in which our Life dwells, our Ego, or Soul, with its powers and affections. On the walls of that chamber there is written the law of God. Even in the heathen it is still partly legible, though sadly darkened and defaced. ‘In the believer the law is written anew by the Holy Spirit, in letters of light, which often at first are but dim, but grow clearer and glow brighter as they are freely exposed to the action of the light without. With every sin I commit, the light that shines in makes it manifest and condemns it. If the sin be not confessed and forsaken, the stain remains, and conscience becomes defiled, because the mind refused the teaching of the light (Tit. 1:15). And so with one sin after another the window gets darker and darker, until the light can hardly shine through at all, and the Christian can sin on undisturbed, with a conscience to a large extent blinded and without feeling. In His work of renewal the Holy Spirit does not create new faculties: He renews and sanctifies those already existing. Conscience is the work of the Spirit of God the Creator; the first care of the Spirit of God the Redeemer is to restore what sin has defiled. It is only by restoring conscience to full and healthy action, and revealing in it the wonderful grace of Christ, ‘the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit,’ that He enables the believer to live a life in the full light of God’s favour. It is as the window of the heart that looks heavenward is cleansed and kept clean that we can walk in the Light.

The work of the Spirit on conscience is a threefold one. Through conscience the Spirit causes the light of God’s holy law to shine into the heart. A room may have its curtains drawn, and even its shutters closed: this cannot prevent the lightning flash from time to time shining into the darkness. Conscience may be so sin-stained and seared that the strong man within dwells in perfect peace. When the lightning from Sinai flashes into the heart, conscience wakens up, and is at once ready to admit and sustain the condemnation. Both the law and the gospel, with their call to repentance and their conviction of sin, appeal to conscience. And it is not till conscience has said Amen to the charge of transgression and unbelief that deliverance can truly come.

It is through conscience that the Spirit likewise causes the light of mercy to shine. When the windows of a house are stained, they need to be washed. I How much more shall the blood of Christ cleanse your conscience! The whole aim of the precious, blood of Christ is to reach the conscience, to silence its accusations, and cleanse it, till it testifies: Every stain is removed; the love of the Father streams in Christ in unclouded brightness into my soul. ‘A heart sprinkled from an evil conscience,’ ‘having no more conscience of sin’ (Heb. 9:14, 10:2, 22), is meant to be the privilege of every believer. It becomes so when conscience learns to say Amen to God’s message of the Power of Jesus’ Blood.

The conscience that has been cleansed in the blood must be kept clean by a walk in the obedience of faith, with the light of God’s favour shining on it. To the promise of the Indwelling Spirit, and His engagement to lead in all God’s will, conscience must say its Amen too, and testify that He does it. The believer is called to walk in humble tenderness and watchfulness, lest in anything, even the least, conscience should accuse him for not having done what he knew to be right, or done what was not of faith. He may be content with nothing less than Paul’s joyful testimony, ‘Our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, by the grace of God, we behaved ourselves in the world’ (2 Cor. 1:12. Comp. Acts 23:1, 24:16 ; 2 Tim. 1:3). Let us note these words well: ?Our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience! It is as the window is kept clean and bright by our abiding in the light, that we can have fellowship with the Father and the Son, the love of heaven shining in unclouded, and our love rising up in childlike trustfulness. ‘Beloved! if our heart condemn us not, we have boldness toward God, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight’ (1 John 3:21,22).

 The maintenance of a good conscience toward God from day to day is essential to the life of faith. The believer must aim at, must be satisfied with, nothing less than this. He may be assured that it is within his reach. The believers in the Old Testament by faith had the witness that they pleased God (Heb. 11:4, 5, 6, 39). In the New Testament it is set before us, not only as a command to be obeyed, but as a grace to be wrought by God Himself. ?That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all well-pleasing, strengthened with all might according to His glorious power.’ May God fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power.’ Working in us that which is well-pleasing in His sight! (Col. 1:10-11; 2 Thess.1:11; 1 Thess.4:1; Heb.12:28, 13:21).

The more we seek this testimony of conscience that we are doing what is well-pleasing to God, the more shall we feel the liberty, with every failure that surprises us, to look at once to the blood that ever cleanses, and the stronger will be our assurance that the indwelling sinfulness, and all its workings that are yet unknown to us, are covered by that blood too. The blood that has sprinkled the conscience abides and acts there in the power of the Eternal Life that knows no intermission, and of the unchangeable Priesthood that saves completely. ‘If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.’

The cause of the feebleness of our faith is owing to nothing so much as the want of a clean conscience. Mark well how closely Paul connects them in 1 Tim.: ‘Love out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned’ (1:5). ‘Holding faith and a good conscience, which some having thrust from them, have made shipwreck of the faith’ (1:19). And especially (3:9), ‘Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.’ The conscience is the seat of faith. He that would grow strong in faith, and have boldness with God, must know that he is pleasing Him (1 John 3:21-22). Jesus said most distinctly that it is for those who love Him and keep His commandments, that the promise of the Spirit, with the indwelling of the Father and the Son, the abiding in His love, and power in prayer, is meant.

How can we confidently claim these promises, unless in childlike simplicity our conscience can testify that we fulfil the conditions? Oh, ere the Church can rise to the height of her holy calling as intercessor, and claim these unlimited promises as really within her reach, believers will have to draw nigh to their Father, glorying, like Paul, in the testimony of their conscience, that, by the Grace of God, they are walking in holiness and godly sincerity. It will have to be seen that this is the deepest humility, and brings most glory to God’s free grace, to give up man’s ideas of what we can attain, and accept God’s declaration of what He desires and promises, as the only standard of what we are to be.

And how is this blessed life to be attained, in which we can daily appeal to God and men with Paul: ‘I say the truth in Christ, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost’? The first step is: Bow very low under the reproofs of conscience. Be not content with the general confession that there is a great deal wrong. Beware of confounding actual transgression with the involuntary workings of the sinful nature. If the latter are to be conquered and made dead by the indwelling Spirit (Rom. 8:13), you must first deal with the former. Begin with some single sin, and give conscience time in silent submission and humiliation to reprove and condemn. Say to your Father, that in this one thing you are, by His grace, going to obey. Accept anew Christ’s wonderful offer to take entire possession of your heart, to dwell in you as Lord and Keeper. Trust Him by His Holy Spirit to do this, even when you feel weak and helpless. Remember that obedience, the taking and keeping Christ’s words in your will and life, is the only way to prove the reality of your surrender to Him, or your interest in His work and grace. And vow in faith, that by God’s Grace you will exercise yourself herein, alway to have a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man.’

 When you have begun this with one sin, proceed with others, step by step. As you are faithful in keeping conscience pure, the light will shine more brightly from heaven into the heart, discovering sin you had not noticed before, bringing out distinctly the law written by the Spirit you had not been able to read. Be willing to be taught; be trustfully sure that the Spirit will teach. Every honest effort to keep the blood-cleansed conscience clean, in the light of God, will be met with the aid of the Spirit. Only yield yourself heartily and entirely to God’s will, and to the power of His Holy Spirit.

As you thus bow to the reproofs of conscience, and give yourself wholly to do God’s will, your courage will grow strong that it is possible to have a conscience void of offence. The witness of conscience, as to what you are doing, and will do by grace, will be met by the witness of the Spirit as to what Christ is doing and will do. In childlike simplicity you will seek to begin each day with the simple prayer: Father! there is nothing now between Thee and Thy child. My conscience divinely cleansed in the blood, bears me witness, Father! let not even the shadow of a cloud intervene this day. In everything would I do Thy will: Thy Spirit dwells in me, and leads me, and makes me strong in Christ. And you will enter upon that life which glories in free grace alone when it says at the close of each day, I Our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, by the Grace of God, we have behaved ourselves in the world’: ‘My conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost.’

Gracious God! I thank Thee for the voice Thou hast given in our heart, to testify whether we are pleasing to Thee or not. I thank Thee, that when that witness condemned me, with its terrible Amen to the curse of Thy law, Thou didst give the blood of Thy Son to cleanse the conscience. I thank Thee that at this moment my conscience can say Amen to the voice of the blood, and that I may look up to Thee in full assurance, with a heart cleansed from the evil conscience.

I thank Thee too for the Witness from heaven to what Jesus hath done and is doing for me and in me. I thank Thee that He glorifies Christ in me, gives me His Presence and His Power, and transforms me into His likeness. I thank Thee that to the presence and the work of Thy Spirit in my heart, my conscience can likewise say, Amen.

O my Father! I desire this day to walk before Thee with a good conscience, to do nothing that might grieve Thee or my Blessed Lord Jesus. I ask Thee, may, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the cleansing in the blood be a living, continual, and most effectual deliverance from the power of sin, binding and strengthening me to Thy perfect service. And may my whole walk with Thee be in the joy of the united witness of conscience and Thy Spirit that I am well-pleasing to Thee. Amen.

 

With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray

Fleming H. Revell Company, Publishers of Evangelical Literature.
_________________________________________________________________

PREFACE.

Of all the promises connected with the command, `ABIDE IN ME,’ there
is none higher, and none that sooner brings the confession, `Not that
I have already attained, or am already made perfect,’ than this: `If
ye abide in me,  ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto
you.’    Power with God is the highest attainment of the life of full
abiding.

And of all the traits of a life LIKE CHRIST there is none higher and
more glorious than conformity to Him in the work that now engages Him
without ceasing in the Father’s presence–His all-prevailing
intercession.  The more we abide in Him, and grow unto His likeness,
will His priestly life work in us mightily, and our life become what
His is, a life that ever pleads and prevails for men.

`Thou hast made us kings and priests unto God.’  Both in the king and
the priest the chief thing is power, influence, blessing.  In the king
it is the power coming downward; in the priest, the power rising
upward, prevailing with God.  In our blessed Priest-King, Jesus
Christ, the kingly power is founded on the priestly `He is able to
save to the uttermost, because He ever liveth to make intercession.’
In us, His priests and kings, it is no otherwise:  it is in
intercession that the Church is to find and wield its highest power,
that each member of the Church is to prove his descent from Israel,
who as a prince had power with God and with men, and prevailed.

It is under a deep impression that the place and power of prayer in
the Christian life is too little understood, that this book has been
written.  I feel sure that as long as we look on prayer chiefly as the
means of maintaining our own Christian life, we shall not know fully
what it is meant to be.  But when we learn to regard it as the highest
part of the work entrusted to us, the root and strength of all other
work, we shall see that there is nothing that we so need to study and
practise as the art of praying aright.  If I have at all succeeded in
pointing out the progressive teaching of our Lord in regard to prayer,
and the distinct reference the wonderful promises of the last night
(John xiv. 16) have to the works we are to do in His Name, to the
greater works, and to the bearing much fruit, we shall all admit that
it is only when the Church gives herself up to this holy work of
intercession that we can expect the power of Christ to manifest itself
in her behalf.  It is my prayer that God may use this little book to
make clearer to some of His children the wonderful place of power and
influence which He is waiting for them to occupy, and for which a
weary world is waiting too.

In connection with this there is another truth that has come to me
with wonderful clearness as I studied the teaching of Jesus on
prayer.  It is this:  that the Father waits to hear every prayer of
faith, to give us whatsoever we will, and whatsoever we ask in Jesus’
name.  We have become so accustomed to limit the wonderful love and
the large promises of our God, that we cannot read the simplest and
clearest statements of our Lord without the qualifying clauses by
which we guard and expound them.  If there is one thing I think the
Church needs to learn, it is that God means prayer to have an answer,
and that it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive what
God will do for His child who gives himself to believe that his prayer
will be heard.   God hears prayer; this is a truth universally
admitted, but of which very few understand the meaning, or experience
the power.  If what I have written stir my reader to go to the
Master’s words, and take His wondrous promises simply and literally as
they stand, my object has been attained.

And then just one thing more.  Thousands have in these last years
found an unspeakable blessing in learning how completely Christ is our
life, and how He undertakes to be and to do all in us that we need.  I
know not if we have yet learned to apply this truth to our
prayer-life. Many complain that they have not the power to pray in
faith, to pray the effectual prayer that availeth much.  The message I
would fain bring them is that the blessed Jesus is waiting, is
longing, to teach them this.  Christ is our life:  in heaven He ever
liveth to pray; His life in us is an ever-praying life, if we will but
trust Him for it.  Christ teaches us to pray not only by example, by
instruction, by command, by promises, but by showing us HIMSELF, the
ever-living Intercessor, as our Life.  It is when we believe this, and
go and abide in Him for our prayer-life too, that our fears of not
being able to pray aright will vanish, and we shall joyfully and
triumphantly trust our Lord to teach us to pray, to be Himself the
life and the power of our prayer.  May God open our eyes to see what
the holy ministry of intercession is to which, as His royal
priesthood, we have been set apart.  May He give us a large and strong
heart to believe what mighty influence our prayers can exert.  And may
all fear as to our being able to fulfil our vocation vanish as we see
Jesus, living ever to pray, living in us to pray, and standing surety
for our prayer-life.

ANDREW MURRAY

WELLINGTON, 28^th October 1895
_________________________________________________________________

FIRST LESSON, Lord, teach us to pray; The Only Teacher .

`And it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, that when
He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, Lord, teach us to
pray.’–Luke xi. 1.

THE disciples had been with Christ, and seen Him pray.  They had
learnt to understand something of the connection between His wondrous
life in public, and His secret life of prayer.  They had learnt to
believe in Him as a Master in the art of prayer–none could pray like
Him.  And so they came to Him with the request, `Lord, teach us to
pray.’  And in after years they would have told us that there were few
things more wonderful or blessed that He taught them than His lessons
on prayer.

And now still it comes to pass, as He is praying in a certain place,
that disciples who see Him thus engaged feel the need of repeating the
same request, `Lord, teach us to pray.’   As we grow in the Christian
life, the thought and the faith of the Beloved Master in His
never-failing intercession becomes ever more precious, and the hope of
being Like Christ in His intercession gains an attractiveness before
unknown.  And as we see Him pray, and remember that there is none who
can pray like Him, and none who can teach like Him, we feel the
petition of the disciples, `Lord, teach us to pray,’ is just what we
need.  And as we think how all He is and has, how He Himself is our
very own, how He is Himself our life, we feel assured that we have but
to ask, and He will be delighted to take us up into closer fellowship
with Himself, and teach us to pray even as He prays.

Come, my brothers!  Shall we not go to the Blessed Master and ask Him
to enrol our names too anew in that school which He always keeps open
for those who long to continue their studies in the Divine art of
prayer and intercession?  Yes, let us this very day say to the Master,
as they did of old, `Lord, teach us to pray.’  As we meditate, we
shall find each word of the petition we bring to be full of meaning.

`Lord, teach us to pray.’  Yes, to pray.  This is what we need to be
taught.  Though in its beginnings prayer is so simple that the
feeblest child can pray, yet it is at the same time the highest and
holiest work to which man can rise.   It is fellowship with the Unseen
and Most Holy One.  The powers of the eternal world have been placed
at its disposal.  It is the very essence of true religion, the channel
of all blessings, the secret of power and life.  Not only for
ourselves, but for others, for the Church, for the world, it is to
prayer that God has given the right to take hold of Him and His
strength.  It is on prayer that the promises wait for their
fulfilment, the kingdom for its coming, the glory of God for its full
revelation.  And for this blessed work, how slothful and unfit we
are.  It is only the Spirit of God can enable us to do it aright.  How
speedily we are deceived into a resting in the form, while the power
is wanting.  Our early training, the teaching of the Church, the
influence of habit, the stirring of the emotions–how easily these
lead to prayer which has no spiritual power, and avails but little.
True prayer, that takes hold of God’s strength, that availeth much, to
which the gates of heaven are really opened wide–who would not cry,
Oh for some one to teach me thus to pray?

Jesus has opened a school, in which He trains His redeemed ones, who
specially desire it, to have power in prayer.  Shall we not enter it
with the petition, Lord! it is just this we need to be taught! O teach
us to pray.

`Lord, teach us to pray.’  Yes, us, Lord.  We have read in They Word
with what power Thy believing people of old used to pray, and what
mighty wonders were done in answer to their prayers.  And if this took
place under the Old Covenant, in the time of preparation, how much
more wilt Thou not now, in these days of fulfilment, give Thy people
this sure sign of Thy presence in their midst.  We have heard the
promises given to Thine apostles of the power of prayer in Thy name,
and have seen how gloriously they experienced their truth:  we know
for certain, they can become true to us too.  We hear continually even
in these days what glorious tokens of Thy power Thou dost still give
to those who trust Thee fully.  Lord! these all are men of like
passions with ourselves; teach us to pray so too.  The promises are
for us, the powers and gifts of the heavenly world are for us.  O
teach us to pray so that we may receive abundantly.  To us too Thou
hast entrusted Thy work, on our prayer too the coming of Thy kingdom
depends, in our prayer too Thou canst glorify Thy name; `Lord teach us
to pray.’  Yes, us, Lord; we offer ourselves as learners; we would
indeed be taught of Thee.  `Lord, teach us to pray.’

`Lord, teach us to pray.’  Yes, we feel the need now of being taught
to pray.  At first there is no work appears so simple; later on, none
that is more difficult; and the confession is forced from us:  We know
not how to pray as we ought.  It is true we have God’s Word, with its
clear and sure promises; but sin has so darkened our mind, that we
know not always how to apply the word.  In spiritual things we do not
always seek the most needful things, or fail in praying according to
the law of the sanctuary.  In temporal things we are still less able
to avail ourselves of the wonderful liberty our Father has given us to
ask what we need.  And even when we know what to ask, how much there
is still needed to make prayer acceptable.  It must be to the glory of
God, in full surrender to His will, in full assurance of faith, in the
name of Jesus, and with a perseverance that, if need be, refuses to be
denied.  All this must be learned.  It can only be learned in the
school of much prayer, for practice makes perfect.  Amid the painful
consciousness of ignorance and unworthiness, in the struggle between
believing and doubting, the heavenly art of effectual prayer is
learnt.  Because, even when we do not remember it, there is One, the
Beginner and Finisher of faith and prayer, who watches over our
praying, and sees to it that in all who trust Him for it their
education in the school of prayer shall be carried on to perfection.
Let but the deep undertone of all our prayer be the teachableness that
comes from a sense of ignorance, and from faith in Him as a perfect
teacher, and we may be sure we shall be taught, we shall learn to pray
in power.  Yes, we may depend upon it, He teaches to pray.

`Lord, teach us to pray.’  None can teach like Jesus, none but Jesus;
therefore we call on Him, `LORD, teach us to pray.’  A pupil needs a
teacher, who knows his work, who has the gift of teaching, who in
patience and love will descend to the pupil’s needs.  Blessed be God!
Jesus is all this and much more.  He knows what prayer is.  It is
Jesus, praying Himself, who teaches to pray.  He knows what prayer
is.  He learned it amid the trials and tears of His earthly life.  In
heaven it is still His beloved work:  His life there is prayer.
Nothing delights Him more than to find those whom He can take with Him
into the Father’s presence, whom He can clothe with power to pray down
God’s blessing on those around them, whom He can train to be His
fellow-workers in the intercession by which the kingdom is to be
revealed on earth.  He knows how to teach.  Now by the urgency of felt
need, then by the confidence with which joy inspires.  Here by the
teaching of the Word, there by the testimony of another believer who
knows what it is to have prayer heard.  By His Holy Spirit, He has
access to our heart, and teaches us to pray by showing us the sin that
hinders the prayer, or giving us the assurance that we please God.  He
teaches, by giving not only thoughts of what to ask or how to ask, but
by breathing within us the very spirit of prayer, by living within us
as the Great Intercessor.  We may indeed and most joyfully say, `Who
teacheth like Him?’  Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach,
only how to pray.  He did not speak much of what was needed to preach
well, but much of praying well.  To know how to speak to God is more
than knowing how to speak to man.  Not power with men, but power with
God is the first thing.  Jesus loves to teach us how to pray.

What think you, my beloved fellow-disciples! would it not be just what
we need, to ask the Master for a month to give us a course of special
lessons on the art of prayer?  As we meditate on the words He spake on
earth, let us yield ourselves to His teaching in the fullest
confidence that, with such a teacher, we shall make progress.  Let us
take time not only to meditate, but to pray, to tarry at the foot of
the throne, and be trained to the work of intercession.  Let us do so
in the assurance that amidst our stammerings and fears He is carrying
on His work most beautifully.  He will breathe His own life, which is
all prayer, into us.  As He makes us partakers of His righteousness
and His life, He will of His intercession. too.  As the members of His
body, as a holy priesthood, we shall take part in His priestly work of
pleading and prevailing with God for men.  Yes, let us most joyfully
say, ignorant and feeble though we be, `Lord, teach us to pray.’

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

Blessed Lord! who ever livest to pray, Thou canst teach me too to
pray, me too to live ever to pray.  In this Thou lovest to make me
share Thy glory in heaven, that I should pray without ceasing, and
ever stand as a priest in the presence of my God.

Lord Jesus!   I ask Thee this day to enrol my name among those who
confess that they know not how to pray as they ought, and specially
ask Thee for a course of teaching in prayer.  Lord! teach me to tarry
with Thee in the school, and give Thee time to train me.  May a deep
sense of my ignorance, of the wonderful privilege and power of prayer,
of the need of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of prayer, lead me to
cast away my thoughts of what I think I know, and make me kneel before
Thee in true teachableness and poverty of spirit.

And fill me, Lord, with the confidence that with such a teacher as
Thou art I shall learn to pray.  In the assurance that I have as my
teacher, Jesus who is ever praying to the Father, and by His prayer
rules the destinies of His Church and the world, I will not be
afraid.  As much as I need to know of the mysteries of the
prayer-world, Thou wilt unfold for me.  And when I may not know, Thou
wilt teach me to be strong in faith, giving glory to God.

Blessed Lord! Thou wilt not put to shame Thy scholar who trusts Thee,
nor, by Thy grace, would he Thee either.  Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

SECOND LESSON. ‘In spirit and truth.’ or,    The True Worshippers.

`The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship
the Father in spirit and truth:  for such doth the Father seek to be
His worshippers.  God is a Spirit:  and they that worship Him must
worship Him in spirit and truth.’–John iv. 23, 24.

THESE words of Jesus to the woman of Samaria are His first recorded
teaching on the subject of prayer.  They give us some wonderful first
glimpses into the world of prayer.  The Father seeks worshippers:  our
worship satisfies His loving heart and is a joy to Him.  He seeks true
worshippers, but finds many not such as He would have them.  True
worship is that which is in spirit and truth.  The Son has come to
open the way for this worship in spirit and in truth, and teach it
us.  And so one of our first lessons in the school of prayer must be
to understand what it is to pray in spirit and in truth, and to know
how we can attain to it.

To the woman of Samaria our Lord spoke of a threefold worship.  There
is first, the ignorant worship of the Samaritans:  `Ye worship that
which ye know not.’  The second, the intelligent worship of the Jew,
having the true knowledge of God: `We worship that which we know; for
salvation is of the Jews.’  And then the new, the spiritual worship
which He Himself has come to introduce:  `The hour is coming, and is
now, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and
truth.’  From the connection it is evident that the words `in spirit
and truth’ do not mean, as if often thought, earnestly, from the
heart, in sincerity.  The Samaritans had the five books of Moses and
some knowledge of God; there was doubtless more than one among them
who honestly and earnestly sought God in prayer.  The Jews had the
true full revelation of God in His word, as thus far given; there were
among them godly men, who called upon God with their whole heart.  And
yet not `in spirit and truth,’ in the full meaning of the words.
Jesus says, `The hour is coming, and now is;’ it is only in and
through Him that the worship of God will be in spirit and truth.

Among Christians one still finds the three classes of worshippers.
Some who in their ignorance hardly know what they ask:  they pray
earnestly, and yet receive but little.  Others there are, who have
more correct knowledge, who try to pray with all their mind and heart,
and often pray most earnestly, and yet do not attain to the full
blessedness of worship in spirit and truth.  It is into this third
class we must ask our Lord Jesus to take us; we must be taught of Him
how to worship in spirit and truth.  This alone is spiritual worship;
this makes us worshippers such as the Father seeks.  In prayer
everything will depend on our understanding well and practising the
worship in spirit and truth.

`God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him, must worship Him in
spirit and truth.’  The first thought suggested here by the Master is
that there must be harmony between God and His worshippers; such as
God is, must His worship be.  This is according to a principle which
prevails throughout the universe:  we look for correspondence between
an object and the organ to which it reveals or yields itself.  The eye
has an inner fitness for the light, the ear for sound.  The man who
would truly worship God, would find and know and possess and enjoy
God, must be in harmony with Him, must have the capacity for receiving
Him.  Because God is Spirit, we must worship in spirit.  As God is, so
His worshipper.

And what does this mean?  The woman had asked our Lord whether Samaria
or Jerusalem was the true place of worship.  He answers that
henceforth worship is no longer to be limited to a certain place:
`Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain,
nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father.’  As God is Spirit, not
bound by space or time, but in His infinite perfection always and
everywhere the same, so His worship would henceforth no longer be
confined by place or form, but spiritual as God Himself is spiritual.
A lesson of deep importance.  How much our Christianity suffers from
this, that it is confined to certain times and places.  A man, who
seeks to pray earnestly in the church or in the closet, spends the
greater part of the week or the day in a spirit entirely at variance
with that in which he prayed.  His worship was the work of a fixed
place or hour, not of his whole being.  God is a Spirit:  He is the
Everlasting and Unchangeable One; what He is, He is always and in
truth.  Our worship must even so be in spirit and truth:  His worship
must be the spirit of our life; our life must be worship in spirit as
God is Spirit.

`God is a Spirit:  and they that worship Him must worship Him in
spirit and truth.’  The second thought that comes to us is that the
worship in the spirit must come from God Himself.  God is Spirit:  He
alone has Spirit to give.  It was for this He sent His Son, to fit us
for such spiritual worship, by giving us the Holy Spirit.  It is of
His own work that Jesus speaks when He says twice, `The hour cometh,’
and then adds, `and is now.’  He came to baptize with the Holy Spirit;
the Spirit could not stream forth till He was glorified (John i. 33,
vii. 37, 38, xvi. 7).  It was when He had made an end of sin, and
entering into the Holiest of all with His blood, had there on our
behalf received the Holy Spirit (Acts ii. 33), that He could send Him
down to us as the Spirit of the Father.  It was when Christ had
redeemed us, and we in Him had received the position of children, that
the Father sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts to cry,
`Abba, Father.’  The worship in spirit is the worship of the Father in
the Spirit of Christ , the Spirit of Sonship.

This is the reason why Jesus here uses the name of Father.  We never
find one of the Old Testament saints personally appropriate the name
of child or call God his Father.  The worship of the Father is only
possible to those to whom the Spirit of the Son has been given.  The
worship in  spirit is only possible to those to whom the Son has
revealed the Father, and who have received the spirit of Sonship.  It
is only Christ who opens the way and teaches the worship in spirit.

And in truth.  That does not only mean, in sincerity.  Nor does it
only signify, in accordance with the truth of God’s Word.  The
expression is one of deep and Divine meaning.  Jesus is `the
only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.’  `The law was
given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’  Jesus says, `I
am the truth and the life.’  In the Old Testament all was shadow and
promise; Jesus brought and gives the reality, the substance, of things
hoped for.  In Him the blessings and powers of the eternal life are
our actual possession and experience.  Jesus is full of grace and
truth; the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth; through Him the grace
that is in Jesus is ours in deed and truth, a positive communication
out of the Divine life.  And so worship in spirit is worship in truth;
actual living fellowship with God, a real correspondence and harmony
between the Father, who is a Spirit, and the child praying in the
spirit.

What Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, she could not at once
understand.  Pentecost was needed to reveal its full meaning.  We are
hardly prepared at our first entrance into the school of prayer to
grasp such teaching.  We shall understand it better later on.  Let us
only begin and take the lesson as He gives it.  We are carnal and
cannot bring God the worship He seeks.  But Jesus came to give the
Spirit:  He has given Him to us.  Let the disposition in which we set
ourselves to pray be what Christ’s words have taught us.  Let there be
the deep confession of our inability to bring God the worship that is
pleasing to Him; the childlike teachableness that waits on Him to
instruct us; the simple faith that yields itself to the breathing of
the Spirit.  Above all, let us hold fast the blessed truth–we shall
find that the Lord has more to say to us about it–that the knowledge
of the Fatherhood of God, the revelation of His infinite Fatherliness
in our hearts, the faith in the infinite love that gives us His Son
and His Spirit to make us children, is indeed the secret of prayer in
spirit and truth.  This is the new and living way Christ opened up for
us.  To have Christ the Son, and the Spirit of the Son, dwelling
within us, and revealing the Father, this makes us true, spiritual
worshippers.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

Blessed Lord!  I adore the love with which Thou didst teach a woman,
who had refused Thee a cup of water, what the worship of God must be.
I rejoice in the assurance that Thou wilt no less now instruct Thy
disciple, who comes to Thee with a heart that longs to pray in spirit
and in truth.  O my Holy Master!  do teach me this blessed secret.

Teach me that the worship in spirit and truth is not of man, but only
comes from Thee; that it is not only a thing of times and seasons, but
the outflowing of a life in Thee.  Teach me to draw near to God in
prayer under the deep impression of my ignorance and my having nothing
in myself to offer Him, and at the same time of the provision Thou, my
Saviour, makest for the Spirit’s breathing in my childlike
stammerings.  I do bless Thee that in Thee I am a child, and have a
child’s liberty of access; that in Thee I have the spirit of Sonship
and of worship in truth.  Teach me, above all, Blessed Son of the
Father, how it is the revelation of the Father that gives confidence
in prayer; and let the infinite Fatherliness of God’s Heart be my joy
and strength for a life of prayer and of  worship.  Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

THIRD LESSON. `Pray to thy Father, which is in secret;’ Or, Alone with God

`But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and
having shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy
Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee’–Matt. vi. 6.

AFTER Jesus had called His first disciples, He gave them their first
public teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.  He there expounded to
them the kingdom of God, its laws and its life.  In that kingdom God
is not only King, but Father, He not only gives all, but is Himself
all.  In the knowledge and fellowship of Him alone is its
blessedness.  Hence it came as a matter of course that the revelation
of prayer and the prayer-life was a part of His teaching concerning
the New Kingdom He came to set up.  Moses gave neither command nor
regulation with regard to prayer:  even the prophets say little
directly of the duty of prayer; it is Christ who teaches to pray.

And the first thing the Lord teaches His disciples is that they must
have a secret place for prayer; every one must have some solitary spot
where he can be alone with his God.  Every teacher must have a
schoolroom.  We have learnt to know and accept Jesus as our only
teacher in the school of prayer.  He has already taught us at Samaria
that worship is no longer confined to times and places; that worship,
spiritual true worship, is a thing of the spirit and the life; the
whole man must in his whole life be worship in spirit and truth.  And
yet He wants each one to choose for himself the fixed spot where He
can daily meet him.  That inner chamber, that solitary place, is
Jesus’ schoolroom.  That spot may be anywhere; that spot may change
from day to day if we have to change our abode; but that secret place
there must be, with the quiet time in which the pupil places himself
in the Master’s presence, to be by Him prepared to worship the
Father.  There alone, but there most surely, Jesus comes to us to
teach us to pray.

A teacher is always anxious that his schoolroom should be bright and
attractive, filled with the light and air of heaven, a place where
pupils long to come, and love to stay.  In His first words on prayer
in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus seeks to set the inner chamber
before us in its most attractive light.  If we listen carefully, we
soon notice what the chief thing is He has to tell us of our tarrying
there.  Three times He uses the name of Father:  `Pray to thy
Father;’  `Thy Father shall recompense thee;’ `Your Father knoweth
what things ye have need of.’  The first thing in closet-prayer is:  I
must meet my Father.  The light that shines in the closet must be:
the light of the Father’s countenance.  The fresh air from heaven with
which Jesus would have it filled, the atmosphere in which I am to
breathe and pray, is:  God’s Father-love, God’s infinite
Fatherliness.  Thus each thought or petition we breathe out will be
simple, hearty, childlike trust in the Father.  This is how the Master
teaches us to pray:  He brings us into the Father’s living presence.
What we pray there must avail.  Let us listen carefully to hear what
the Lord has to say to us.

First, `Pray to thy Father which is in secret.’  God is a God who
hides Himself to the carnal eye.  As long as in our worship of God we
are chiefly occupied with our own thoughts and exercises, we shall not
meet Him who is a Spirit, the unseen One.  But to the man who
withdraws himself from all that is of the world and man, and prepares
to wait upon God alone, the Father will reveal Himself.  As he
forsakes and gives up and shuts out the world, and the life of the
world, and surrenders himself to be led of Christ into the secret of
God’s presence, the light of the Father’s love will rise upon him.
The secrecy of the inner chamber and the closed door, the entire
separation from all around us, is an image of, and so a help to that
inner spiritual sanctuary, the secret of God’s tabernacle, within the
veil, where our spirit truly comes into contact with the Invisible
One.  And so we are taught, at the very outset of our search after the
secret of effectual prayer, to remember that it is in the inner
chamber, where we are alone with the Father, that we shall learn to
pray aright.  The Father is in secret:  in these words Jesus teaches
us where He is waiting us, where He is always to be found.  Christians
often complain that private prayer is not what it should be.  They
feel weak and sinful, the heart is cold and dark; it is as if they
have so little to pray, and in that little no faith or joy.  They are
discouraged and kept from prayer by the thought that they cannot come
to the Father as they ought or as they wish.  Child of God!  listen to
your Teacher.  He tells you that when you go to private prayer your
first thought must be:  The Father is in secret, the Father waits me
there.  Just because your heart is cold and prayerless, get you into
the presence of the loving Father.  As a father pitieth his children,
so the Lord pitieth you.  Do not be thinking of how little you have to
bring God, but of how much He wants to give you.  Just place yourself
before, and look up into, His face; think of His love, His wonderful,
tender, pitying love.  Just tell Him how sinful and cold and dark all
is:  it is the Father’s loving heart will give light and warmth to
yours.  O do what Jesus says:  Just shut the door, and pray to thy
Father which is in secret.  Is it not wonderful?  to be able to go
alone with God, the infinite God.  And then to look up and say:  My
Father!

`And thy Father, which seeth in secret, will recompense thee.’  Here
Jesus assures us that secret prayer cannot be fruitless:  its blessing
will show itself in our life.  We have but in secret, alone with God,
to entrust our life before men to Him; He will reward us openly; He
will see to it that the answer to prayer be made manifest in His
blessing upon us.  Our Lord would thus teach us that as infinite
Fatherliness and Faithfulness is that with which God meets us in
secret, so on our part there should be the childlike simplicity of
faith, the confidence that our prayer does bring down a blessing.  `He
that cometh to God must believe that He is a rewarder of them that
seek Him.’  Not on the strong or the fervent feeling with which I pray
does the blessing of the closet depend, but upon the love and the
power of the Father to whom I there entrust my needs.  And therefore
the Master has but one desire:  Remember your Father is, and sees and
hears in secret; go there and stay there, and go again from there in
the confidence:  He will recompense.  Trust Him for it; depend upon
Him:  prayer to the Father cannot be vain; He will reward you openly.

Still further to confirm this faith in the Father-love of God, Christ
speaks a third word:  `Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of
before ye ask Him.’  At first sight it might appear as if this thought
made prayer less needful:  God knows far better than we what we need.
But as we get a deeper insight into what prayer really is, this truth
will help much to strengthen our faith.  It will teach us that we do
not need, as the heathen, with the multitude and urgency of our words,
to compel an unwilling God to listen to us.  It will lead to a holy
thoughtfulness and silence in prayer as it suggests the question:
Does my Father really know that I need this?  It will, when once we
have been led by the Spirit to the certainty that our request is
indeed something that, according to the Word, we do need for God’s
glory, give us wonderful confidence to say, My Father knows I need it
and must have it.  And if there be any delay in the answer, it will
teach us in quiet perseverance to hold on:  FATHER!  THOU KNOWEST I
need it.  O the blessed liberty and simplicity of a child that Christ
our Teacher would fain cultivate in us, as we draw near to God:  let
us look up to the Father until His Spirit works it in us.  Let us
sometimes in our prayers, when we are in danger of being so occupied
with our fervent, urgent petitions, as to forget that the Father knows
and hears, let us hold still and just quietly say:  My Father sees, my
Father hears, my Father knows; it will help our faith to take the
answer, and to say:  We know that we have the petitions we have asked
of Him.

And now, all ye who have anew entered the school of Christ to be
taught to pray, take these lessons, practise them, and trust Him to
perfect you in them.  Dwell much in the inner chamber, with the door
shut–shut in from men, shut up with God; it is there the Father waits
you, it is there Jesus will teach you to pray.  To be alone in secret
with THE FATHER:  this be your highest joy.  To be assured that THE
FATHER will openly reward the secret prayer, so that it cannot remain
unblessed:  this be your strength day by day.  And to know that THE
FATHER knows that you need what you ask;  this be your liberty to
bring every need, in the assurance that your God will supply it
according to His riches in Glory in Christ Jesus.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

Blessed Saviour!  with my whole heart I do bless Thee for the
appointment of the inner chamber, as the school where Thou meetest
each of Thy pupils alone, and revealest to him the Father.  O my
Lord!  strengthen my faith so in the Father’s tender love and
kindness, that as often as I feel sinful or troubled, the first
instinctive thought may be to go where I know the Father waits me, and
where prayer never can go unblessed.  Let the thought that He knows my
need before I ask, bring me, in great restfulness of faith, to trust
that He will give what His child requires.  O let the place of secret
prayer become to me the most beloved spot of earth.

And, Lord!  hear me as I pray that Thou wouldest everywhere bless the
closets of Thy believing people.  Let Thy wonderful revelation of a
Father’s tenderness free all young Christians from every thought of
secret prayer as a duty or a burden, and lead them to regard it as the
highest privilege of their life, a joy and a blessing.  Bring back all
who are discouraged, because they cannot find ought to bring Thee in
prayer.  O give them to understand that they have only to come with
their emptiness to Him who has all to give, and delights to do it.
Not, what they have to bring the Father, but what the Father waits to
give them, be their one thought.

And bless especially the inner chamber of all Thy servants who are
working for Thee, as the place where God’s truth and God’s grace is
revealed to them, where they are daily anointed with fresh oil, where
their strength is renewed, and the blessings are received in faith,
with which they are to bless their fellow-men.  Lord, draw us all in
the closet nearer to Thyself and the Father.  Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

FOURTH LESSON `After this manner pray;’ Or, The Model Prayer.

`After this manner therefore pray ye:  Our Father which art in
heaven.’–Matt. vi. 9.

EVERY teacher knows the power of example.  He not only tells the child
what to do and how to do it, but shows him how it really can be done.
In condescension to our weakness, our heavenly Teacher has given us
the very words we are to take with us as we draw near to our Father.
We have in them a form of prayer in which there breathe the freshness
and fulness of the Eternal Life.  So simple that the child can lisp
it, so divinely rich that it comprehends all that God can give.  A
form of prayer that becomes the model and inspiration for all other
prayer, and yet always draws us back to itself as the deepest
utterance of our souls before our God.

`Our Father which art in heaven!’  To appreciate this word of
adoration aright, I must remember that none of the saints had in
Scripture ever ventured to address God as their Father.  The
invocation places us at once in the centre of the wonderful revelation
the Son came to make of His Father as our Father too.  It comprehends
the mystery of redemption–Christ delivering us from the curse that we
might become the children of God.  The mystery of regeneration–the
Spirit in the new birth giving us the new life.  And the mystery of
faith–ere yet the redemption is accomplished or understood, the word
is given on the lips of the disciples to prepare them for the blessed
experience still to come.  The words are the key to the whole prayer,
to all prayer.  It takes time, it takes life to study them; it will
take eternity to understand them fully.  The knowledge of God’s
Father-love is the first and simplest, but also the last and highest
lesson in the school of prayer.  It is in the personal relation to the
living God, and the personal conscious fellowship of love with
Himself, that prayer begins.  It is in the knowledge of God’s
Fatherliness, revealed by the Holy Spirit, that the power of prayer
will be found to root and grow.  In the infinite tenderness and pity
and patience of the infinite Father, in His loving readiness to hear
and to help, the life of prayer has its joy.  O let us take time,
until the Spirit has made these words to us spirit and truth, filling
heart and life:  `Our Father which art in heaven.’  Then we are indeed
within the veil, in the secret place of power where prayer always
prevails.

`Hallowed be Thy name.’  There is something here that strikes us at
once.  While we ordinarily first bring our own needs to God in prayer,
and then think of what belongs to God and His interests, the Master
reverses the order.  First, Thy name, Thy kingdom, Thy will; then,
give us, forgive us, lead us, deliver us.  The lesson is of more
importance than we think.  In true worship the Father must be first,
must be all.  The sooner I learn to forget myself in the desire that
HE may be glorified, the richer will the blessing be that prayer will
bring to myself.  No one ever loses by what he sacrifices for the
Father.

This must influence all our prayer.  There are two sorts of prayer:
personal and intercessory.  The latter ordinarily occupies the lesser
part of our time and energy.  This may not be.  Christ has opened the
school of prayer specially to train intercessors for the great work of
bringing down, by their faith and prayer, the blessings of His work
and love on the world around.  There can be no deep growth in prayer
unless this be made our aim.  The little child may ask of the father
only what it needs for itself; and yet it soon learns to say, Give
some for sister too.  But the grown-up son, who only lives for the
father’s interest and takes charge of the father’s business, asks more
largely, and gets all that is asked.  And Jesus would train us to the
blessed life of consecration and service, in which our interests are
all subordinate to the Name, and the Kingdom, and the Will of the
Father.  O let us live for this, and let, on each act of adoration,
Our Father! there follow in the same breath Thy Name, Thy Kingdom, Thy
Will;–for this we look up and long.

`Hallowed be Thy name.’  What name?  This new name of Father.  The
word Holy is the central word of the Old Testament; the name Father of
the New.  In this name of Love all the holiness and glory of God are
now to be revealed.  And how is the name to be hallowed?  By God
Himself:  `I will hallow My great name which ye have profaned.’  Our
prayer must be that in ourselves, in all God’s children, in presence
of the world, God Himself would reveal the holiness, the Divine power,
the hidden glory of the name of Father.  The Spirit of the Father is
the Holy Spirit:  it is only when we yield ourselves to be led of Him,
that the name will be hallowed in our prayers and our lives.  Let us
learn the prayer:  `Our Father, hallowed be Thy name.’

`Thy kingdom come.’  The Father is a King and has a kingdom.  The son
and heir of a king has no higher ambition than the glory of his
father’s kingdom.  In time of war or danger this becomes his passion;
he can think of nothing else.  The children of the Father are here in
the enemy’s territory, where the kingdom, which is in heaven, is not
yet fully manifested.  What more natural than that, when they learn to
hallow the Father-name, they should long and cry with deep
enthusiasm:  `Thy kingdom come.’  The coming of the kingdom is the one
great event on which the revelation of the Father’s glory, the
blessedness of His children, the salvation of the world depends.  On
our prayers too the coming of the kingdom waits.  Shall we not join in
the deep longing cry of the redeemed:  `Thy kingdom come’?  Let us
learn it in the school of Jesus.

`Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.’  This petition is too
frequently applied alone to the suffering  of the will of God.  In
heaven God’s will is done, and the Master teaches the child to ask
that the will may be done on earth just as in heaven:  in the spirit
of adoring submission and ready obedience.  Because the will of God is
the glory of heaven, the doing of it is the blessedness of heaven.  As
the will is done, the kingdom of heaven comes into the heart.  And
wherever faith has accepted the Father’s love, obedience accepts the
Father’s will.  The surrender to, and the prayer for a life of
heaven-like obedience, is the spirit of childlike prayer.

`Give us this day our daily bread.’  When first the child has yielded
himself to the Father in the care for His Name, His Kingdom, and His
Will, he has full liberty to ask for his daily bread.  A master cares
for the food of his servant, a general of his soldiers, a father of
his child.  And will not the Father in heaven care for the child who
has in prayer given himself up to His interests?  We may indeed in
full confidence say:  Father, I live for Thy honour and Thy work; I
know Thou carest for me.  Consecration to God and His will gives
wonderful liberty in prayer for temporal things:  the whole earthly
life is given to the Father’s loving care.

`And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’  As
bread is the first need of the body, so forgiveness for the soul.  And
the provision for the one is as sure as for the other.  We are
children but sinners too; our right of access to the Father’s presence
we owe to the precious blood and the forgiveness it has won for us.
Let us beware of the prayer for forgiveness becoming a formality:
only what is really confessed is really forgiven.  Let us in faith
accept the forgiveness as promised:  as a spiritual reality, an actual
transaction between God and us, it is the entrance into all the
Father’s love and all the privileges of children.  Such forgiveness,
as a living experience, is impossible without a forgiving spirit to
others:  as forgiven expresses the heavenward, so forgiving the
earthward, relation of God’s child.  In each prayer to the Father I
must be able to say that I know of no one whom I do not heartily love.

`And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
Our daily bread, the pardon of our sins, and then our being kept from
all sin and the power of the evil one, in these three petitions all
our personal need is comprehended.  The prayer for bread and pardon
must be accompanied by the surrender to live in all things in holy
obedience to the Father’s will, and the believing prayer in everything
to be kept by the power of the indwelling Spirit from the power of the
evil one.

Children of God! it is thus Jesus would have us to pray to the Father
in heaven.  O let His Name, and Kingdom, and Will, have the first
place in our love; His providing, and pardoning, and keeping love will
be our sure portion.  So the prayer will lead us up to the true
child-life:  the Father all to the child, the Father all for the
child.  We shall understand how Father and child, the Thine and the
Our, are all one, and how the heart that begins its prayer with the
God-devoted THINK, will have the power in faith to speak out the OUR
too.  Such prayer will, indeed, be the fellowship and interchange of
love, always bringing us back in trust and worship to Him who is not
only the Beginning but the End:  `FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM, AND THE
POWER, AND THE GLORY, FOR EVER, AMEN.’  Son of the Father, teach us to
pray, `OUR FATHER.’

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

O Thou who art the only-begotten Son, teach us, we beseech Thee, to
pray, `OUR FATHER.’  We thank Thee, Lord, for these Living Blessed
Words which Thou has given us.  We thank Thee for the millions who in
them have learnt to know and worship the Father, and for what they
have been to us.  Lord! it is as if we needed days and weeks in Thy
school with each separate petition; so deep and full are they.  But we
look to Thee to lead us deeper into their meaning:  do it, we pray
Thee, for Thy Name’s sake; Thy name is Son of the Father.

Lord!  Thou didst once say:  `No man knoweth the Father save the Son,
and he to whom the Son willeth to reveal Him.’  And again:  `I made
known unto them Thy name, and will make it known, that the love
wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them.’  Lord Jesus! reveal to
us the Father.  Let His name, His infinite Father-love, the love with
which He loved Thee, according to Thy prayer, BE IN US.  Then shall we
say aright, `OUR FATHER!’  Then shall we apprehend Thy teaching, and
the first spontaneous breathing of our heart will be:  `Our Father,
Thy Name, Thy Kingdom, Thy Will.’  And we shall bring our needs and
our sins and our temptations to Him in the confidence that the love of
such a Father care for all.

Blessed Lord! we are Thy scholars, we trust Thee; do teach us to pray,
`OUR FATHER.’  Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

FIFTH LESSON.`Ask, and it shall be given you; `

Or, The Certainty of the Answer to Prayer.

`Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and
it shall be opened unto you:  for every one that asketh receiveth, and
he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be
opened,’–Matt. vii. 7, 8.

`Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss.’–Jas. iv. 3.

OUR Lord returns here in the Sermon on the Mount a second time to
speak of prayer.  The first time He had spoken of the Father who is to
be found in secret, and rewards openly, and had given us the pattern
prayer (Matt. vi. 5-15).  Here He wants to teach us what in all
Scripture is considered the chief thing in prayer:  the assurance that
prayer will be heard and answered.  Observe how He uses words which
mean almost the same thing, and each time repeats the promise so
distinctly:  `Ye shall receive, ye shall find, it shall be opened unto
you;’ and then gives as ground for such assurance the law of the
kingdom:  `He that asketh, receiveth; he that seeketh, findeth; to him
that knocketh, it shall be opened.’  We cannot but feel how in this
sixfold repetition He wants to impress deep on our minds this one
truth, that we may and must most confidently expect an answer to our
prayer.  Next to the revelation of the Father’s love, there is, in the
whole course of the school of prayer, not a more important lesson than
this:  Every one that asketh, receiveth.

In the three words the Lord uses, ask, seek, knock, a difference in
meaning has been sought.  If such was indeed His purpose, then the
first, ASK, refers to the gifts we pray for.  But I may ask and
receive the gift without the Giver.  SEEK is the word Scripture uses
of God Himself; Christ assures me that I can find Himself.  But it is
not enough to find God in time of need, without coming to abiding
fellowship:  KNOCK speaks of admission to dwell with Him and in Him.
Asking and receiving the gift would thus lead to seeking and finding
the Giver, and this again to the knocking and opening of the door of
the Father’s home and love.  One thing is sure:  the Lord does want us
to count most certainly on it that asking, seeking, knocking, cannot
be in vain:  receiving an answer, finding God, the opened heart and
home of God, are the certain fruit of prayer.

That the Lord should have thought it needful in so many forms to
repeat the truth, is a lesson of deep import.  It proves that He knows
our heart, how doubt and distrust toward God are natural to us, and
how easily we are inclined to rest in prayer as a religious work
without an answer.  He knows too how, even when we believe that God is
the Hearer of prayer, believing prayer that lays hold of the promise,
is something spiritual, too high and difficult for the half-hearted
disciple.  He therefore at the very outset of His instruction to those
who would learn to pray, seeks to lodge this truth deep into their
hearts:  prayer does avail much; ask and ye shall receive; every one
that asketh, receiveth.  This is the fixed eternal law of the
kingdom:  if you ask and receive not, it must be because there is
something amiss or wanting in the prayer.  Hold on; let the Word and
the Spirit teach you to pray aright, but do not let go the confidence
He seeks to waken:  Every one that asketh, receiveth.

`Ask, and it shall be given you.’  Christ has no mightier stimulus to
persevering prayer in His school than this.  As a child has to prove a
sum to be correct, so the proof that we have prayed aright is, the
answer.  If we ask and receive not, it is because we have not learned
to pray aright.  Let every learner in the school of Christ therefore
take the Master’s word in all simplicity:  Every one that asketh,
receiveth.  He had good reasons for speaking so unconditionally.  Let
us beware of weakening the Word with our human wisdom.  When He tells
us heavenly things, let us believe Him:  His Word will explain itself
to him who believes it fully.  If questions and difficulties arise,
let us not seek to have them settled before we accept the Word.  No;
let us entrust them all to Him:  it is His to solve them:  our work is
first and fully to accept and hold fast His promise.  Let in our inner
chamber, in the inner chamber of our heart too, the Word be inscribed
in letters of light:  Every one that asketh, receiveth.

According to this teaching of the Master, prayer consists of two
parts, has two sides, a human and a Divine.  The human is the asking,
the Divine is the giving.  Or, to look at both from the human side,
there is the asking and the receiving–the two halves that make up a
whole.  It is as if He would tell us that we are not to rest without
an answer, because it is the will of God, the rule in the Father’s
family:  every childlike believing petition is granted.  If no answer
comes, we are not to sit down in the sloth that calls itself
resignation, and suppose that it is not God’s will to give an answer.
No; there must be something in the prayer that is not as God would
have it, childlike and believing; we must seek for grace to pray so
that the answer may come.  It is far easier to the flesh to submit
without the answer than to yield itself to be searched and purified by
the Spirit, until it has learnt to pray the prayer of faith.

It is one of the terrible marks of the diseased state of Christian
life in these days, that there are so many who rest content without
the distinct experience of answer to prayer.  They pray daily, they
ask many things, and trust that some of them will be heard, but know
little of direct definite answer to prayer as the rule of daily life.
And it is this the Father wills:  He seeks daily intercourse with His
children in listening to and granting their petitions.  he wills that
I should come to Him day by day with distinct requests; He wills day
by day to do for me what I ask.  It was in His answer to prayer that
the saints of old learned to know God as the Living One, and were
stirred to praise and love (Ps. xxxiv., lxvi. 19, cxvi. 1).  Our
Teacher waits to imprint this upon our minds:  prayer and its answer,
the child asking and the father giving, belong to each other.

There may be cases in which the answer is a refusal, because the
request is not according to God’s Word, as when Moses asked to enter
Canaan.  But still, there was an answer:  God did not leave His
servant in uncertainty as to His will.  The gods of the heathen are
dumb and cannot speak.  Our Father lets His child know when He cannot
give him what he asks, and he withdraws his petition, even as the Son
did in Gethsemane.  Both Moses the servant and Christ the Son knew
that what they asked was not according to what the Lord had spoken:
their prayer was the humble supplication whether it was not possible
for the decision to be changed.  God will teach those who are
teachable and give Him time, by His Word and Spirit, whether their
request be according to His will or not.  Let us withdraw the request,
if it be not according to God’s mind, or persevere till the answer
come.  Prayer is appointed to obtain the answer.  It is in prayer and
its answer that the interchange of love between the Father and His
child takes place.

How deep the estrangement of our heart from God must be, that we find
it so difficult to grasp such promises.  Even while we accept the
words and believe their truth, the faith of the heart, that fully has
them and rejoices in them, comes so slowly.  It is because our
spiritual life is still so weak, and the capacity for taking God’s
thoughts is so feeble.  But let us look to Jesus to teach us as none
but He can teach.  If we take His words in simplicity, and trust Him
by His Spirit to make them within us life and power, they will so
enter into our inner being, that the spiritual Divine reality of the
truth they contain will indeed take possession of us, and we shall not
rest content until every petition we offer is borne heavenward on
Jesus’ own words:  `Ask, and it shall be given you.’

Beloved fellow-disciples in the school of Jesus!  let us set ourselves
to learn this lesson well.  Let us take these words just as they were
spoken.  Let us not suffer human reason to weaken their force.  Let us
take them as Jesus gives them, and believe them.  He will teach us in
due time how to understand them fully:  let us begin by implicitly
believing them.  Let us take time, as often as we pray, to listen to
His voice:  Every one that asketh, receiveth.  Let us not make the
feeble experiences of our unbelief the measure of what our faith may
expect.  Let us seek, not only just in our seasons of prayer, but at
all times, to hold fast the joyful assurance:  man’s prayer on earth
and God’s answer in heaven are meant for each other.  Let us trust
Jesus to teach us so to pray that the answer can come.  He will do it,
if we hold fast the word He gives today:  `Ask, and ye shall receive.’

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

O Lord Jesus!  teach me to understand and believe what Thou hast now
promised me.  It is not hid from Thee, O my Lord, with what reasonings
my heart seeks to satisfy itself, when no answer comes.  There is the
thought that my prayer is not in harmony with the Father’s secret
counsel; that there is perhaps something better Thou wouldest give me;
or that prayer as fellowship with God is blessing enough without an
answer.  And yet, my blessed Lord, I find in Thy teaching on prayer
that Thou didst not speak of these things, but didst say so plainly,
that prayer may and must expect an answer.  Thou dost assure us that
this is the fellowship of a child with the Father:  the child asks and
the Father gives.

Blessed Lord!  Thy words are faithful and true.  It must be, because I
pray amiss, that my experience of answered prayer is not clearer.  It
must be, because I live too little in the Spirit, that my prayer is
too little in the Spirit, and that the power for the prayer of faith
is wanting.

Lord!  teach me to pray.  Lord Jesus!  I trust Thee for it; teach me
to pray in faith.  Lord!  teach me this lesson of today:  Every one
that asketh receiveth.  Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

SIXTH LESSON. How much more? Or, The Infinite Fatherliness of God.

`Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask him for a loaf, will
give him a stone; or if he shall ask for a fish, will give him a
serpent?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto
your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give
good things to them that ask Him?’–Matt. vii. 9-11

IN these words our Lord proceeds further to confirm what He had said
of the certainty of an answer to prayer.  To remove all doubt, and
show us on what sure ground His promise rests, He appeals to what
every one has seen and experienced here on earth.  We are all
children, and know what we expected of our fathers.  We are fathers,
or continually see them; and everywhere we look upon it as the most
natural thing there can be, for a father to hear his child.  And the
Lord asks us to look up from earthly parents, of whom the best are but
evil, and to calculate HOW MUCH MORE the heavenly Father will give
good gifts to them that ask Him.  Jesus would lead us up to see, that
as much greater as God is than sinful man, so much greater our
assurance ought to be that He will more surely than any earthly father
grant our childlike petitions.  As much greater as God is than man, so
much surer is it that prayer will be heard with the Father in heaven
than with a father on earth.

As simple and intelligible as this parable is, so deep and spiritual
is the teaching it contains.  The Lord would remind us that the prayer
of a child owes its influence entirely to the relation in which he
stands to the parent.  The prayer can exert that influence only when
the child is really living in that relationship, in the home, in the
love, in the service of the Father.  The power of the promise, `Ask,
and it shall be given you,’ lies in the loving relationship between us
as children and the Father in heaven; when we live and walk in that
relationship, the prayer of faith and its answer will be the natural
result.  And so the lesson we have today in the school of prayer is
this:  Live as a child of God, then you will be able to pray as a
child, and as a child you will most assuredly be heard.

And what is the true child-life?  The answer can be found in any
home.  The child that by preference forsakes the father’s house, that
finds no pleasure in the presence and love and obedience of the
father, and still thinks to ask and obtain what he will, will surely
be disappointed.  On the contrary, he to whom the intercourse and will
and honour and love of the father are the joy of his life, will find
that it is the father’s joy to grant his requests.  Scripture says,
`As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of
God:’  the childlike privilege of asking all is inseparable from the
childlike life under the leading of the Spirit.  He that gives himself
to be led by the Spirit in his life, will be led by Him in his prayers
too.  And he will find that Fatherlike giving is the Divine response
to childlike living.

To see what this childlike living is, in which childlike asking and
believing have their ground, we have only to notice what our Lord
teaches in the Sermon on the Mount of the Father and His children.  In
it the prayer-promises are imbedded in the life-precepts; the two are
inseparable.  They form one whole; and He alone can count on the
fulfilment of the promise, who accepts too all that the Lord has
connected with it.  It is as if in speaking the word, `Ask, and ye
shall receive,’ He says:  I give these promises to those whom in the
beatitudes I have pictured in their childlike poverty and purity, and
of whom I have said, `They shall be called the children of God’ (Matt.
v. 3-9):  to children, who `let your light shine before men, so that
they may glorify your Father in heaven:’  to those who walk in love,
`that ye may be children of your Father which is in heaven,’ and who
seek to be perfect `even as your Father in heaven is perfect’ (v.
45):  to those whose fasting and praying and almsgiving (vi. 1-18) is
not before men, but `before your Father which seeth in secret;’ who
forgive `even as your Father forgiveth you’ (vi. 15); who trust the
heavenly Father in all earthly need, seeking first the kingdom of God
and His righteousness (vi. 26-32); who not only say, Lord, Lord, but
do the will of my Father which is in heaven (vii. 21).  Such are the
children of the Father, and such is the life in the Father’s love and
service; in such a child-life answered prayers are certain and
abundant.

But will not such teaching discourage the feeble one?  If we are first
to answer to this portrait of a child, must not many give up all hope
of answers to prayer?  The difficulty is removed if we think again of
the blessed name of father and child.  A child is weak; there is a
great difference among children in age and gift.  The Lord does not
demand of us a perfect fulfilment of the law; no, but only the
childlike and whole-hearted surrender to live as a child with Him in
obedience and truth.  Nothing more.  But also, nothing less.  The
Father must have the whole heart.  When this is given, and He sees the
child with honest purpose and steady will seeking in everything to be
and live as a child, then our prayer will count with Him as the prayer
of a child.  Let any one simply and honestly begin to study the Sermon
on the Mount and take it as his guide in life, and he will find,
notwithstanding weakness and failure, an ever-growing liberty to claim
the fulfilment of its promises in regard to prayer.  In the names of
father and child he has the pledge that his petitions will be
granted.

This is the one chief thought on which Jesus dwells here, and which He
would have all His scholars take in.  He would have us see that the
secret of effectual prayer is:  to have the heart filled with the
Father-love of God.  It is not enough for us to know that God is a
Father:  He would have us take time to come under the full impression
of what that name implies.  We must take the best earthly father we
know; we must think of the tenderness and love with which he regards
the request of his child, the love and joy with which he grants every
reasonable desire; we must then, as we think in adoring worship of the
infinite Love and Fatherliness of God, consider with how much more
tenderness and joy He sees us come to Him, and gives us what we ask
aright.  And then, when we see how much this Divine arithmetic is
beyond our comprehension, and feel how impossible it is for us to
apprehend God’s readiness to hear us, then He would have us come and
open our heart for the Holy Spirit to shed abroad God’s Father-love
there.  Let us do this not only when we want to pray, but let us yield
heart and life to dwell in that love.  The child who only wants to
know the love of the father when he has something to ask, will be
disappointed.  But he who lets God be Father always and in everything,
who would fain live his whole life in the Father’s presence and love,
who allows God in all the greatness of His love to be a Father to him,
oh! he will experience most gloriously that a life in God’s infinite
Fatherliness and continual answers to prayer are inseparable.

Beloved fellow-disciple!  we begin to see what the reason is that we
know so little of daily answers to prayer, and what the chief lesson
is which the Lord has for us in His school.  It is all in the name of
Father.  We thought of new and deeper insight into some of the
mysteries of the prayer-world as what we should get in Christ’s
school;  He tells us the first is the highest lesson; we must learn to
say well, `Abba, Father!’  `Our Father which art in heaven.’  He that
can say this, has the key to all prayer.  In all the compassion with
which a father listens to his weak or sickly child, in all the joy
with which he hears his stammering child, in all the gentle patience
with which he bears with a thoughtless child, we must, as in so many
mirrors, study the heart of our Father, until every prayer be borne
upward on the faith of this Divine word:  `How much more shall your
heavenly Father give good gifts to them that ask Him.’

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

Blessed Lord!  Thou knowest that this, though it be one of the first
and simplest and most glorious lessons in Thy school, is to our hearts
one of the hardest to learn:  we know so little of the love of the
Father.  Lord!  teach us so to live with the Father that His love may
be to us nearer, clearer, dearer, than the love of any earthly
father.  And let the assurance of His hearing our prayer be as much
greater than the confidence in an earthly parent, as the heavens are
higher than earth, as God is infinitely greater than man.  Lord!  show
us that it is only our unchildlike distance from the Father that
hinders the answer to prayer, and lead us on to the true life of God’s
children.  Lord Jesus!  it is fatherlike love that wakens childlike
trust.  O reveal to us the Father, and His tender, pitying love, that
we may become childlike, and experience how in the child-life lies the
power of prayer.

Blessed Son of God!  the Father loveth Thee and hath given Thee all
things.  And Thou lovest the Father, and hast done all things He
commanded Thee, and therefore hast the power to ask all things.
Lord!  give us Thine own Spirit, the Spirit of the Son.  Make us
childlike, as Thou wert on earth.  And let every prayer be breathed in
the faith that as the heaven is higher than the earth, so God’s
Father-love, and His readiness to give us what we ask, surpasses all
we can think or conceive.  Amen.

NOTE.1

`Your Father which is in heaven.’  Alas!  we speak of it only as the
utterance of a reverential homage.  We think of it as a figure
borrowed from an earthly life, and only in some faint and shallow
meaning to be used of God.  We are afraid to take God as our own
tender and pitiful father.  He is a schoolmaster, or almost farther
off than that, and knowing less about us–an inspector, who knows
nothing of us except through our lessons.  His eyes are not on the
scholar, but on the book, and all alike must come up to the standard.

Now open the ears of the heart, timid child of God; let it go sinking
right down into the inner most depths of the soul.  Here is the
starting-point of holiness, in the love and patience and pity of our
heavenly Father.  We have not to learn to be holy as a hard lesson at
school, that we may make God think well of us; we are to learn it at
home with the Father to help us.  God loves you not because you are
clever not because you are good, but because He is your Father.  The
Cross of Christ does not make God love us; it is the outcome and
measure of His love to us.  He loves all His children, the clumsiest,
the dullest, the worst of His children.  His love lies at the back of
everything, and we must get upon that as the solid foundation of our
religious life, not growing up into that, but growing up out if it.
We must begin there or our beginning will come to nothing.  Do take
hold of this mightily.  We must go out of ourselves for any hope, or
any strength, or any confidence.  And what hope, what strength, what
confidence may be ours now that we begin here, your Father which is in
heaven!

We need to get in at the tenderness and helpfulness which lie in these
words, and to rest upon it–your Father.  Speak them over to yourself
until something of the wonderful truth is felt by us.  It means that I
am bound to God by the closest and tenderest relationship;  that I
have a right to His love and His power and His blessing, such as
nothing else could give me.  O the boldness with which we can draw
near!  O the great things we have a right to ask for!  Your Father.
It means that all His infinite love and patience and wisdom bend over
me to help me.  In this relationship lies not only the possibility of
holiness; there is infinitely more than that.

Here we are to begin, in the patient love of our Father.  Think how He
knows us apart and by ourselves, in all our peculiarities, and in all
our weaknesses and difficulties.  The master judges by the result, but
our Father judges by the effort.  Failure does not always mean fault.
He knows how much things cost, and weighs them where others only
measure.  YOUR FATHER.  Think how great store His love sets by the
poor beginnings of the little ones, clumsy and unmeaning as they may
be to others.  All this lies in this blessed relationship and
infinitely more.  Do not fear to take it all as your own.

1From Thoughts on Holiness, by Mark Guy Pearse.  What is so
beautifully said of the knowledge of God’s Fatherliness as the
starting-point of holiness is no less true of prayer.
_________________________________________________________________

SEVENTH LESSON. `How much more the Holy Spirit;

Or All-Comprehensive Gift.

`If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your
children, how much more shall the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit
to them that ask Him?’–Luke xi. 13.

IN the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord had already given utterance to
His wonderful HOW MUCH MORE?  Here in Luke, where He repeats the
question, there is a difference.  Instead of speaking, as then of
giving good gifts, He says, `How much more shall the heavenly Father
give THE HOLY SPIRIT?’  He thus teaches us that the chief and the best
of these gifts is the Holy Spirit, or rather, that in this gift all
others are comprised  The Holy Spirit is the first of the Father’s
gifts, and the one He delights most to bestow.  The Holy Spirit is
therefore the gift we ought first and chiefly to seek.

The unspeakable worth of this gift we can easily understand.  Jesus
spoke of the Spirit as `the promise of the Father;’ the one promise in
which God’s Fatherhood revealed itself.  The best gift a good and wise
father can bestow on a child on earth is his own spirit.  This is the
great object of a father in education–to reproduce in his child his
own disposition and character.  If the child is to know and understand
his father; if, as he grows up, he is to enter into all his will and
plans; if he is to have his highest joy in the father, and the father
in him,–he must be of one mind and spirit with him.  And so it is
impossible to conceive of God bestowing any higher gift on His child
than this, His own Spirit.  God is what He is through His Spirit; the
Spirit is the very life of God.  Just think what it means–God giving
His own Spirit to His child on earth.

Or was not this the glory of Jesus as a Son upon earth, that the
Spirit of the Father was in Him?  At His baptism in Jordan the two
things were united,–the voice, proclaiming Him the Beloved Son, and
the Spirit, descending upon Him.  And so the apostle says of us,
`Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your
hearts, crying, Abba, Father.’  A king seeks in the whole education of
his son to call forth in him a kingly spirit.  Our Father in heaven
desires to educate us as His children for the holy, heavenly life in
which He dwells, and for this gives us, from the depths of His heart,
His own Spirit.  It was this which was the whole aim of Jesus when,
after having made atonement with His own blood, He entered for us into
God’s presence, that He might obtain for us, and send down to dwell in
us, the Holy Spirit.  As the Spirit of the Father, and of the Son, the
whole life and love of the Father and the Son are in Him; and, coming
down into us, He lifts us up into their fellowship.  As Spirit of the
Father, He sheds abroad the Father’s love, with which He loved the
Son, in our hearts, and teaches us to live in it.  As Spirit of the
Son, He breathes in us the childlike liberty, and devotion, and
obedience in which the Son lived upon earth.  The Father can bestow no
higher or more wonderful gift than this:  His own Holy Spirit, the
Spirit of sonship.

This truth naturally suggests the thought that this first and chief
gift of God must be the first and chief object of all prayer.  For
every need of the spiritual life this is the one thing needful, the
Holy Spirit.  All the fulness is in Jesus; the fulness of grace and
truth, out of which we receive grace for grace.  The Holy Spirit is
the appointed conveyancer, whose special work it is to make Jesus and
all there is in Him for us ours in personal appropriation, in blessed
experience.  He is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus; as wonderful as
the life is, so wonderful is the provision by which such an agent is
provided to communicate it to us.  If we but yield ourselves entirely
to the disposal of the Spirit, and let Him have His way with us, He
will manifest the life of Christ within us.  He will do this with a
Divine power, maintaining the life of Christ in us in uninterrupted
continuity.  Surely, if there is one prayer that should draw us to the
Father’s throne and keep us there, it is this:  for the Holy Spirit,
whom we as children have received, to stream into us and out from us
in greater fulness.

In the variety of the gifts which the Spirit has to dispense, He meets
the believer’s every need.  Just think of the names He bears.  The
Spirit of grace, to reveal and impart all of grace there is in Jesus.
The Spirit of faith, teaching us to begin and go on and increase in
ever believing.  The Spirit of adoption and assurance, who witnesses
that we are God’s children, and inspires the confiding and confident
Abba, Father!  The Spirit of truth, to lead into all truth, to make
each word of God ours in deed and in truth.  The Spirit of prayer,
through whom we speak with the Father; prayer that must be heard.  The
Spirit of judgment and burning, to search the heart, and convince of
sin.  The Spirit of holiness, manifesting and communicating the
Father’s holy presence within us.  The Spirit of power, through whom
we are strong to testify boldly and work effectually in the Father’s
service.  The Spirit of glory, the pledge of our inheritance, the
preparation and the foretaste of the glory to come.  Surely the child
of God needs but one thing to be able really to live as a child:  it
is, to be filled with this Spirit.

And now, the lesson Jesus teaches us today in His school is this:
That the Father is just longing to give Him to us if we will but ask
in the childlike dependence on what He says:  `If ye know to give good
gifts unto your children, HOW MUCH MORE shall your heavenly Father
give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.’  In the words of God’s
promise, `I will pour out my Spirit abundantly;’ and of His command,
`Be ye filled with the Spirit’ we have the measure of what God is
ready to give, and what we may obtain.  As God’s children, we have
already received the Spirit.  But we still need to ask and pray for
His special gifts and operations as we require them.  And not only
this, but for Himself to take complete and entire possession; for His
unceasing momentary guidance.  Just as the branch, already filled with
the sap of the vine, is ever crying for the continued and increasing
flow of that sap, that it may bring its fruit to perfection, so the
believer, rejoicing in the possession of the Spirit, ever thirsts and
cries for more.  And what the great Teacher would have us learn is,
that nothing less than God’s promise and God’s command may be the
measure of our expectation and our prayer; we must be filled
abundantly.  He would have us ask this in the assurance that the
wonderful HOW MUCH MORE of God’s Father-love is the pledge that, when
we ask, we do most certainly receive.

Let us now believe this.  As we pray to be filled with the Spirit, let
us not seek for the answer in our feelings.  All spiritual blessings
must be received, that is, accepted or taken in faith.1  Let me
believe, the Father gives the Holy Spirit to His praying child.  Even
now, while I pray, I must say in faith:  I have what I ask, the
fulness of the Spirit is mine.  Let us continue stedfast in this
faith.  On the strength of God’s Word we know that we have what we
ask.  Let us, with thanksgiving that we have been heard, with
thanksgiving for what we have received and taken and now hold as ours,
continue stedfast in believing prayer that the blessing, which has
already been given us, and which we hold in faith, may break through
and fill our whole being.  It is in such believing thanksgiving and
prayer, that our soul opens up for the Spirit to take entire and
undisturbed possession.  It is such prayer that not only asks and
hopes, but takes and holds, that inherits the full blessing.  In all
our prayer let us remember the lesson the Saviour would teach us this
day, that, if there is one thing on earth we can be sure of, it is
this, that the Father desires to have us filled with His Spirit, that
He delights to give us His Spirit.

And when once we have learned thus to believe for ourselves, and each
day to take out of the treasure we hold in heaven, what liberty and
power to pray for the outpouring of the Spirit on the Church of God,
on all flesh, on individuals, or on special efforts!  He that has once
learned to know the Father in prayer for himself, learns to pray most
confidently for others too.  The Father gives the Holy Spirit to them
that ask Him, not least, but most, when they ask for others.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

Father in heaven!  Thou didst send Thy Son to reveal Thyself to us,
Thy Father-love, and all that that love has for us.  And He has taught
us, that the gift above all gifts which Thou wouldst bestow in answer
to prayer is, the Holy Spirit.

O my Father!  I come to Thee with this prayer; there is nothing I
would–may I not say, I do–desire so much as to be filled with the
Spirit, the Holy Spirit.  The blessings He brings are so unspeakable,
and just what I need.  He sheds abroad Thy love in the heart, and
fills it with Thy self.  I long for this.  He breathes the mind and
life of Christ in me, so that I live as He did, in and for the
Father’s love.  I long for this.  He endues with power from on high
for all my walk and work.  I long for this.  O Father!  I beseech
Thee, give me this day the fulness of Thy Spirit.

Father!  I ask this, resting on the words of my Lord:  `HOW MUCH MORE
THE HOLY SPIRIT.’  I do  believe that Thou hearest my prayer; I
receive now what I ask; Father!  I claim and I take it:  the fulness
of Thy Spirit is mine.  I receive the gift this day again as a faith
gift; in faith I reckon my Father works through the Spirit all He has
promised.  The Father delights to breathe His Spirit into His waiting
child as He tarries in fellowship with Himself.  Amen.

1The Greek word for receiving and taking is the same.  When Jesus
said, `Everyone that asketh receiveth,’ He used the same verb as at
the Supper, `Take, eat,’ or on the resurrection morning, `Receive,’
accept, take, `the Holy Spirit.’  Receiving not only implies God’s
bestowment, but our acceptance.
_________________________________________________________________

EIGHTH LESSON. `Because of his importunity;’

The Boldness of God’s Friends.

`And He said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go
to him at midnight, and say to him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for
a friend of mine is come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to
set before him’ and he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me
not:  the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I
cannot rise and give thee.  I say unto you, though he will not rise
and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity
he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.’–Luke xi. 5-8.

THE first teaching to His disciples was given by our Lord in the
Sermon on the Mount.  It was near a year later that the disciples
asked Jesus to teach them to pray.  In answer He gave them a second
time the Lord’s Prayer, so teaching them  what to pray.  He then
speaks of  how they ought to pray, and repeats what he formerly said
of God’s Fatherliness and the certainty of an answer.  But in between
He adds the beautiful parable of the friend at midnight, to teach them
the two fold lesson, that God does not only want us to pray for
ourselves, but for the perishing around us, and that in such
intercession great boldness of entreaty is often needful, and always
lawful, yea, pleasing to God.

The parable is a perfect storehouse of instruction in regard to true
intercession.  There is, first, the love which seeks to help the needy
around us:  `my friend is come to me.’  Then the need which urges to
the cry  `I have nothing to set before him.’  Then follows the
confidence that help is to be had:  `which of you shall have a friend,
and say, Friend, lend me three loaves.’  Then comes the unexpected
refusal:  `I cannot rise and give thee.’  Then again the perseverance
that takes no refusal:  `because of his importunity.’  And lastly, the
reward of such prayer:  `he will give him as many as he needeth.’  A
wonderful setting forth of the way of prayer and faith in which the
blessing of God has so often been sought and found.

Let us confine ourselves to the chief thought:  prayer as an appeal to
the friendship of God; and we shall find that two lessons are
specially suggested.  The one, that if we are God’s friends, and come
as such to Him, we must prove ourselves the friends of the needy;
God’s friendship to us and ours to others go hand in hand.  The other,
that when we come thus we may use the utmost liberty in claiming an
answer.

There is a twofold use of prayer:  the one, to obtain strength and
blessing for our own life; the other, the higher, the true glory of
prayer, for which Christ has taken us into His fellowship and
teaching, is intercession, where prayer is the royal power a child of
God exercises in heaven on behalf of others and even of the kingdom.
We see it in Scripture, how it was in intercession for others that
Abraham and Moses, Samuel and Elijah, with all the holy men of old,
proved that they had power with God and prevailed.  It is when we give
ourselves to be a blessing that we can specially count on the blessing
of God.  It is when we draw near to God as the friend of the poor and
the perishing that we may count on His friendliness; the righteous man
who is the friend of the poor is very specially the friend of God.
This gives wonderful liberty in prayer.  Lord!  I have a needy friend
whom I must help.  As a friend I have undertaken to help him.  In Thee
I have a Friend, whose kindness and riches I know to be infinite:  I
am sure Thou wilt give me what I ask.  If I, being evil, am ready to
do for my friend what I can, how much more wilt Thou, O my heavenly
Friend, now do for Thy friend what he asks?

The question might suggest itself, whether the Fatherhood of God does
not give such confidence in prayer, that the thought of His Friendship
can hardly teach us anything more:  a father is more than a friend.
And yet, if we consider it, this pleading the friendship of God opens
new wonders to us.  That a child obtains what he asks of his father
looks so perfectly natural, we almost count it the father’s duty to
give.  But with a friend it is as if the kindness is more free,
dependent, not on nature, but on sympathy and character.  And then the
relation of a child is more that of perfect dependence; two friends
are more nearly on a level.  And so our Lord, in seeking to unfold to
us the spiritual mystery of prayer, would fain have us approach God in
this relation too, as those whom He has acknowledged as His friends,
whose mind and life are in sympathy with His.

But then we must be living as His friends.  I am still a child even
when a wanderer; but friendship depends upon the conduct.  `Ye are my
friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.’  `Thou seest that faith
wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; and the
scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and he
was called the friend of God.’  It is the Spirit, `the same Spirit,’
that leads us that also bears witness to our acceptance with God;
`likewise, also,’ the same Spirit helpeth us in prayer.  It is a life
as the friend of God that gives the wonderful liberty to say:  I have
a friend to whom I can go even at midnight.  And how much more when I
go in the very spirit of that friendliness, manifesting myself the
very kindness I look for in God, seeking to help my friend as I want
God to help me.  When I come to God in prayer, He always looks to what
the aim is of my petition.  If it be merely for my own comfort or joy
I seek His grace, I do not receive.  But if I can say that it is that
He may be glorified in my dispensing His blessings to others, I shall
not ask in vain.  Or if I ask for others, but want to wait until God
has made me so rich, that it is no sacrifice or act of faith to aid
them, I shall not obtain.  But if I can say that I have already
undertaken for my needy friend, that in my poverty I have already
begun the work of love, because I know I had a friend Who would help
me, my prayer will be heard.  Oh, we know not how much the plea
avails:  the friendship of earth looking in its need to the friendship
of heaven:  `He will give him as much as he needeth.’

But not always at once.  The one thing by which man can honour and
enjoy his God is faith.  Intercession is part of faith’s
training-school.  There our friendship with men and with God is
tested.  There it is seen whether my friendship with the needy is so
real, that I will take time and sacrifice my rest, will go even at
midnight and not cease until I have obtained for them what I need.
There it is seen whether my friendship with God is so clear, that I
can depend on Him not to turn me away and therefore pray on until He
gives.

O what a deep heavenly mystery this is of persevering prayer.  The God
who has promised, who longs, whose fixed purpose it is to give the
blessing, holds it back.  It is to Him a matter of such deep
importance that His friends on earth should know and fully trust their
rich Friend in heaven, that He trains them, in the school of answer
delayed, to find out how their perseverance really does prevail, and
what the mighty power is they can wield in heaven, if they do but set
themselves to it.  There is a faith that sees the promise, and
embraces it, and yet does not receive it (Heb. xi. 13, 39).  It is
when the answer to prayer does not come, and the promise we are most
firmly trusting appears to be of none effect, that the trial of faith,
more precious than of gold, takes place.  It is in this trial that the
faith that has embraced the promise is purified and strengthened and
prepared in personal, holy fellowship with the living God, to see the
glory of God.  It takes and holds the promise until it has received
the fulfilment of what it had claimed in a living truth in the unseen
but living God.

Let each child of God who is seeking to work the work of love in his
Father’s service take courage.  The parent with his child, the teacher
with his class, the visitor with his district, the Bible reader with
his circle, the preacher with his hearers, each one who, in his little
circle, has accepted and is bearing the burden of hungry, perishing
souls,–let them all take courage.  Nothing is at first so strange to
us as that God should really require persevering prayer, that there
should be a real spiritual needs-be for importunity.  To teach it us,
the Master uses this almost strange parable.  If the unfriendliness of
a selfish earthly friend can be conquered by importunity, how much
more will it avail with the heavenly Friend, who does so love to give,
but is held back by our spiritual unfitness, our incapacity to possess
what He has to give.  O let us thank Him that in delaying His answer
He is educating us up to our true position and the exercise of all our
power with Him, training us to live with Him in the fellowship of
undoubting faith and trust, to be indeed the friends of God.  And let
us hold fast the threefold cord that cannot be broken:  the hungry
friend needing the help, and the praying friend seeking the help, and
the Mighty Friend, loving to give as much as he needeth.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

O my Blessed Lord and Teacher!  I must come to Thee in prayer.  Thy
teaching is so glorious, and yet too high for me to grasp.  I must
confess that my heart is too little to take in these thoughts of the
wonderful boldness I may use with Thy Father as my Friend.  Lord
Jesus!  I trust Thee to give me Thy Spirit with Thy Word, and to make
the Word quick and powerful in my heart.  I desire to keep Thy Word of
this day:  `Because of his importunity he will give him as many as he
needeth.’

Lord!  teach me more to know the power of persevering prayer.  I know
that in it the Father suits Himself to our need of time for the inner
life to attain its growth and ripeness, so that His grace may indeed
be assimilated and made our very own.  I know that He would fain thus
train us to the exercise of that strong faith that does not let Him go
even in the face of seeming disappointment.  I know He wants to lift
us to that wonderful liberty, in which we understand how really He has
made the dispensing of His gift dependent on our prayer.  Lord!  I
know this:  O teach me to see it in spirit and truth.

And may it now be the joy of my life to become the almoner of my Rich
Friend in heaven, to care for all the hungry and perishing, even at
midnight, because I know MY FRIEND, who always gives to him who
perseveres, because of his importunity, as many as he needeth.  Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

NINTH LESSON. `Pray the Lord of the harvest;’

Or, Prayer provides Labourers.

`Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but
the labourers are few.  Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest,
that He will send forth labourers into His harvest.’–Matt. ix. 37-38.

THE Lord frequently taught His disciples that they must pray, and how;
but seldom what to pray.  This he left to their sense of need, and the
leading of the Spirit.  But here we have one thing He expressly
enjoins them to remember:  in view of the plenteous harvest, and the
need of reapers, they must cry to the Lord of the harvest to send
forth labourers.  Just as in the parable of the friend at midnight, He
would have them understand that prayer is not to be selfish; so here
it is the power through which blessing can come to others.  The Father
is Lord of the harvest; when we pray for the Holy Spirit, we must pray
for Him to prepare and send forth labourers for the work.

Strange, is it not, that He should ask His disciples to pray for
this?  And could He not pray Himself?  And would not one prayer of His
avail more than a thousand of theirs?  And God, the Lord of the
harvest, did He not see the need?  And would not He, in His own good
time, send forth labourers without their prayer?  Such questions lead
us up to the deepest mysteries of prayer, and its power in the Kingdom
of God.  The answer to such questions will convince us that prayer is
indeed a power, on which the ingathering of the harvest and the coming
of the Kingdom do in very truth depend.

Prayer is no form or show.  The Lord Jesus was Himself the truth;
everything He spake was the deepest truth.  It was when (see ver. 36)
`He saw the multitude, and was moved with compassion on them, because
they were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd,’ that He
called on the disciples to pray for labourers to be sent among them.
He did so because He really believed that their prayer was needed, and
would help.  The veil which so hides the invisible world from us was
wonderfully transparent to the holy human soul of Jesus.  He had
looked long and deep and far into the hidden connection of cause and
effect in the spirit world.  He had marked in God’s Word how, when God
called men like Abraham and Moses, Joshua and Samuel and Daniel, and
given them authority over men in His name, He had at the same time
given them authority and right to call in the powers of heaven to
their aid as they needed them.  He knew that as to these men of old,
and to Himself for a time, here upon earth, the work of God had been
entrusted, so it was now about to pass over into the hands of His
disciples.  He knew that when this work should be given in charge to
them, it would not be a mere matter of form or show, but that on them,
and their being faithful or unfaithful, the success of the work would
actually depend.  As a single individual, within the limitations of a
human body and a human life, Jesus feels how little a short visit can
accomplish among these wandering sheep He sees around Him, and He
longs for help to have them properly cared for.  And so He tells His
disciples now to begin and pray, and, when they have taken over the
work from Him on earth, to make this one of the chief petitions in
their prayer:  That the Lord of the harvest Himself would send forth
labourers into His harvest.  The God who entrusted them with the work,
and made it to so large extent dependent on them, gives them authority
to apply to Him for labourers to help, and makes the supply dependent
on their prayer.

How little Christians really feel and mourn the need of labourers in
the fields of the world so white to the harvest.  And how little they
believe that our labour-supply depends on prayer, that prayer will
really provide `as many as he needeth.’  Not that the dearth of labour
is not known or discussed.  Not that efforts are not sometimes put
forth to supply the want.  But how little the burden of the sheep
wandering without a Shepherd is really borne in the faith that the
Lord of the harvest will, in answer to prayer, send forth the
labourers, and in the solemn conviction that without this prayer
fields ready for reaping will be left to perish.  And yet it is so.
So wonderful is the surrender of His work into the hands of His
Church, so dependent has the Lord made Himself on them as His body,
through whom alone His work can be done, so real is the power which
the Lord gives His people to exercise in heaven and earth, that the
number of the labourers and the measure of the harvest does actually
depend upon their prayer.

Solemn thought!  O why is it that we do not obey the injunction of the
Master more heartily, and cry more earnestly for labourers?  There are
two reasons for this.  The one is:  We miss the compassion of Jesus,
which gave rise to this request for prayer.  When believers learn that
to love their neighbours as themselves, that to live entirely for
God’s glory in their fellow-men, is the Father’s first commandment to
His redeemed ones, they will accept of the perishing ones as the
charge entrusted to them by their Lord.  And, accepting them not only
as a field of labour, but as the objects of loving care and interest,
it will not be long before compassion towards the hopelessly perishing
will touch their heart, and the cry ascend with an earnestness till
then unknown:  Lord!  send labourers.  The other reason for the
neglect of the command, the want of faith, will then make itself felt,
but will be overcome as our pity pleads for help.  We believe too
little in the power of prayer to bring about definite results.  We do
not live close enough to God, and are not enough entirely given up to
His service and Kingdom, to be capable of the confidence that He will
give it in answer to our prayer.  O let us pray for a life so one with
Christ, that His compassion may stream into us, and His Spirit be able
to assure us that our prayer avails.

Such prayer will ask and obtain a twofold blessing.  There will first
be the desire for the increase of men entirely given up to the service
of God.  It is a terrible blot upon the Church of Christ that there
are times when actually men cannot be found for the service of the
Master as ministers, missionaries, or teachers of God’s Word.  As
God’s children make this a matter of supplication for their own circle
or Church, it will be given.  The Lord Jesus is now Lord of the
harvest.  He has been exalted to bestow gifts–the gifts of the
Spirit.  His chief gifts are men filled with the Spirit.  But the
supply and distribution of the gifts depend on the co-operation of
Head and members.  It is just prayer will lead to such co-operation;
the believing suppliants will be stirred to find the men and the means
for the work.

The other blessing to be asked will not be less.  Every believer is a
labourer; not one of God’s children who has not been redeemed for
service, and has not his work waiting.  It must be our prayer that the
Lord would so fill all His people with the spirit of devotion, that
not one may be found standing idle in the vineyard.  Wherever there is
a complaint of the want of helpers, or of fit helpers in God’s work,
prayer has the promise of a supply.  There is no Sunday school or
district visiting, no Bible reading or rescue work, where God is not
ready and able to provide.  It may take time and importunity, but the
command of Christ to ask the Lord of the harvest is the pledge that
the prayer will be heard:  `I say unto you, he will arise and give him
as many as he needeth.’

Solemn, blessed thought!  this power has been given us in prayer to
provide in the need of the world, to secure the servants for God’s
work.  The Lord of the harvest will hear.  Christ, who called us so
specially to pray thus, will support our prayers offered in His name
and interest.  Let us set apart time and give ourselves to this part
of our intercessory work.  It will lead us into the fellowship of that
compassionate heart of His that led Him to call for our prayers.  It
will elevate us to the insight of our regal position, as those whose
will counts for something with the great God in the advancement of His
Kingdom.  It will make us feel how really we are God’s fellow-workers
on earth, to whom a share in His work has in downright earnest been
entrusted.  It will make us partakers in the soul travail, but also in
the soul satisfaction of Jesus, as we know how, in answer to our
prayer, blessing has been given that otherwise would not have come.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

Blessed Lord!  Thou hast this day again given us another of Thy
wondrous lessons to learn.  We humbly ask Thee, O give us to see
aright the spiritual realities of which Thou hast been speaking.
There is the harvest which is so large, and perishing, as it waits for
sleepy disciples to give the signal for labourers to come.  Lord,
teach us to look out upon it with a heart moved with compassion and
pity.  There are the labourers, so few.  Lord, show us how terrible
the sin of the want of prayer and faith, of which this is the token.
And there is the Lord of the harvest, so able and ready to send them
forth.  Lord, show us how He does indeed wait for the prayer to which
He has bound His answer.  And there are the disciples, to whom the
commission to pray has been given:  Lord, show us how Thou canst pour
down Thy Spirit and breathe upon them, so that Thy compassion and the
faith in Thy promise shall rouse them to unceasing, prevailing prayer.

O our Lord!  we cannot understand how Thou canst entrust such work and
give such power to men so slothful and unfaithful.  We thank Thee for
all whom Thou art teaching to cry day and night for labourers to be
sent forth.  Lord, breathe Thine own Spirit on all Thy children, that
they may learn to live for this one thing alone–the Kingdom and glory
of their Lord–and become fully awake to the faith of what their
prayer can accomplish.  And let all our hearts in this, as in every
petition, be filled with the assurance that prayer, offered in loving
faith in the living God, will bring certain and abundant answer.
Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

TENTH LESSON.`What wilt thou?’ Or, Prayer must be Definite.

`And Jesus answered him, and said, What wilt thou that I should do
unto thee?’–Mark x. 51; Luke xviii. 41.

THE blind man had been crying out aloud, and that a great deal, `Thou
Son of David, have mercy on me.’  The cry had reached the ear of the
Lord; He knew what he wanted, and was ready to grant it him.  But ere
He does it, He asks him:  `What wilt thou that I should do unto
thee?’  He wants to hear from his own lips, not only the general
petition for mercy, but the distinct expression of what his desire
was.  Until he speaks it out, he is not healed.

There is now still many a suppliant to whom the Lord puts the same
question, and who cannot, until it has been answered, get the aid he
ask.  Our prayers must not be a vague appeal to His mercy, an
indefinite cry for blessing, but the distinct expression of definite
need.  Not that His loving heart does not understand our cry, or is
not ready to hear.  But He desires it for our own sakes.  Such
definite prayer teaches us to know our own needs better.  It demands
time, and thought, and self-scrutiny to find out what really is our
greatest need.  It searches us and puts us to the test as to whether
our desires are honest and real, such as we are ready to persevere
in.  It leads us to judge whether our desires are according to God’s
Word, and whether we really believe that we shall receive the things
we ask.  It helps us to wait for the special answer, and to mark it
when it comes.

And yet how much of our prayer is vague and pointless.  Some cry for
mercy, but take not the trouble to know what mercy must do for them.
Others ask, perhaps, to be delivered from sin, but do not begin by
bringing any sin by name from which the deliverance may be claimed.
Still others pray for God’s blessing on those around them, for the
outpouring of God’s Spirit on their land or the world, and yet have no
special field where they wait and expect to see the answer.  To all
the Lord says:  And what is it now you really want and expect Me to
do?  Every Christian has but limited powers, and as he must have his
own special field of labour in which he works, so with his prayers
too.  Each believer has his own circle, his family, his friends, his
neighbours.  If he were to take one or more of these by name, he would
find that this really brings him into the training-school of faith,
and leads to personal and pointed dealing with his God.  It is when in
such distinct matters we have in faith claimed and received answers,
that our more general prayers will be believing and effectual.

We all know with what surprise the whole civilised world heard of the
way in which trained troops were repulsed by the Transvaal Boers at
Majuba.  And to what did they owe their success?  In the armies of
Europe the soldier fires upon the enemy standing in large masses, and
never thinks of seeking an aim for every bullet.  In hunting game the
Boer had learnt a different lesson:  his practised eye knew to send
every bullet on its special message, to seek and find its man.  Such
aiming must gain the day in the spiritual world too.  As long as in
prayer we just pour out our hearts in a multitude of petitions,
without taking time to see whether every petition is sent with the
purpose and expectation of getting an answer, not many will reach the
mark.  But if, as in silence of soul we bow before the Lord, we were
to ask such questions as these:  What is now really my desire?  do I
desire it in faith, expecting to receive?  am I now ready to place and
leave it in the Father’s bosom?  is it a settled thing between God and
me that I am to have the answer?  we should learn so to pray that God
would see and we would know what we really expect.

It is for this, among other reasons, that the Lord warns us against
the vain repetitions of the Gentiles, who think to be heard for their
much praying.  We often hear prayers of great earnestness and fervour,
in which a multitude of petitions are poured forth, but to which the
Saviour would undoubtedly answer `What wilt thou that I should do unto
thee?’  If I am in a strange land, in the interests of the business
which my father owns, I would certainly write two different sorts of
letters.  There will be family letters giving expression to all the
intercourse to which affection prompts; and there will be business
letters, containing orders for what I need.  And there may be letters
in which both are found.  The answers will correspond to the letters.
To each sentence of the letters containing the family news I do not
expect a special answer.  But for each order I send I am confident of
an answer whether the desired article has been forwarded.  In our
dealings with God the business element must not be wanting.  With our
expression of need and sin, of love and faith and consecration, there
must be the pointed statement of what we ask and expect to receive; it
is in the answer that the Father loves to give us the token of His
approval and acceptance.

But the word of the Master teaches us more.  He does not say, What
dost thou wish? but, What does thou will?  One often wishes for a
thing without willing it.  I wish to have a certain article, but I
find the price too high; I resolve not to take it; I wish, but do not
will to have it.  The sluggard wishes to be rich, but does not will
it.  Many a one wishes to be saved, but perishes because he does not
will it.  The will rules the whole heart and life; if I really will to
have anything that is within my reach, I do not rest till I have it.
And so, when Jesus says to us, `What wilt thou?’ He asks whether it is
indeed our purpose to have what we ask at any price, however great the
sacrifice.  Dost thou indeed so will to have it that, though He delay
it long, thou dost not hold thy peace till He hear thee?  Alas! how
many prayers are wishes, sent up for a short time and then forgotten,
or sent up year after year as matter of duty, while we rest content
with the prayer without the answer.

But, it may be asked, is it not best to make our wishes known to God,
and then to leave it to Him to decide what is best, without seeking to
assert our will?  By no means.  This is the very essence of the prayer
of faith, to which Jesus sought to train His disciples, that it does
not only make known its desire and then leave the decision to God.
That would be the prayer of submission, for cases in which we cannot
know God’s will.  But the prayer of faith, finding God’s will in some
promise of the Word, pleads for that till it come.  In Matthew (ix.
28) we read Jesus said to the blind man:  `Believe ye that I can do
this?’  Here, in Mark, He says:  `What wilt thou that I should do?’
In both cases He said that faith had saved them.  And so He said to
the Syrophenician woman, too:  `Great is thy faith:  be it unto thee
even as thou wilt.’  Faith is nothing but the purpose of the will
resting on God’s word, and saying:  I must have it.  To believe truly
is to will firmly.

But is not such a will at variance with our dependence on God and our
submission to Him?  By no means; it is much rather the true submission
that honours God.  It is only when the child has yielded his own will
in entire surrender to the Father, that he receives from the Father
liberty and power to will what he would have.  But, when once the
believer has accepted the will of God, as revealed through the Word
and Spirit, as his will, too, then it is the will of God that His
child should use this renewed will in His service.  The will is the
highest power in the soul; grace wants above everything to sanctify
and restore this will, one of the chief traits of God’s image, to full
and free exercise.  As a son, who only lives for his father’s
interests, who seeks not his own but his father’s will is trusted by
the father with his business, so God speaks to His child in all truth,
`What wilt thou?’  It is often spiritual sloth that, under the
appearance of humility, professes to have no will, because it fears
the trouble of searching out the will of God, or, when found, the
struggle of claiming it in faith.  True humility is ever in company
with strong faith, which only seeks to know what is according to the
will of God, and then boldly claims the fulfilment of the promise:
`Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

Lord Jesus!  teach me to pray with all my heart and strength, that
there may be no doubt with Thee or with me as to what I have asked.
May I so know what I desire that, even as my petitions are recorded in
heaven, I can record them on earth too, and note each answer as it
comes.  And may my faith in what Thy Word has promised be so clear
that the Spirit may indeed work in me the liberty to will that it
shall come.  Lord!  renew, strengthen, sanctify wholly my will for the
work of effectual prayer.

Blessed Saviour!  I do beseech Thee to reveal to me the wonderful
condescension Thou showest us, thus asking us to say what we will that
Thou shouldest do, and promising to do whatever we will.  Son of God!
I cannot understand it; I can only believe that Thou hast indeed
redeemed us wholly for Thyself, and dost seek to make the will, as our
noblest part, Thy most efficient servant.  Lord!  I do most
unreservedly yield my will to Thee, as the power through which Thy
Spirit is to rule my whole being.  Let Him take possession of it, lead
it into the truth of Thy promises, and make it so strong in prayer
that I may ever hear Thy voice saying:  `Great is thy faith:  be it
unto thee even as thou wilt.’  Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

ELEVENTH LESSON.

`Believe that ye have received;’

Or,    The Faith that Takes.

`Therefore I say unto you, All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for,
believe that ye have received them, and ye shall have them.’–Mark xi.
24

WHAT a promise!  so large, so Divine, that our little hearts cannot
take it in, and in every possible way seek to limit it to what we
think safe or probable; instead of allowing it, in its quickening
power and energy, just as He gave it, to enter in, and to enlarge our
hearts to the measure of what His love and power are really ready to
do for us.  Faith is very far from being a mere conviction of the
truth of God’s word, or a conclusion drawn from certain premises.  It
is the ear which has heard God say what He will do, the eye which has
seen Him doing it, and, therefore, where there is true faith, it is
impossible but the answer must come.  If we only see to it that we do
the one thing that He asks of us as we pray:  BELIEVE that ye have
received; He will see to it that He does the thing He has promised:
`Ye shall have them.’  The key-note of Solomon’s prayer (2 Chron. vi.
4), `Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who hath with His hands
fulfilled that which He spake with His mouth to my father David,’ is
the key-note of all true prayer:  the joyful adoration of a God whose
hand always secures the fulfilment of what His mouth hath spoken.  Let
us in this spirit listen to the promise Jesus gives; each part of it
has its Divine message.

`All things whatsoever.’  At this first word our human wisdom at once
begins to doubt and ask:  This surely cannot be literally true?  But
if it be not, why did the Master speak it, using the very strongest
expression He could find:  `All things whatsoever.’  And it is not as
if this were the only time He spoke thus; is it not He who also said,
`If thou canst believe, ALL THINGS are possible to him that
believeth;’  `If ye have faith, NOTHING shall be impossible to you.’
Faith is so wholly the work of God’s Spirit through His word in the
prepared heart of the believing disciple, that it is impossible that
the fulfilment should not come; faith is the pledge and forerunner of
the coming answer.  Yes, `ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER ye shall ask in prayer
believing, ye receive.’  The tendency of human reason is to interpose
here, and with certain qualifying clauses, `if expedient,’ `if
according to God’s will,’ to break the force of a statement which
appears dangerous.  O let us beware of dealing thus with the Master’s
words.   His promise is most literally true.  He wants His oft
repeated `ALL THINGS’ to enter into our hearts, and reveal to us how
mighty the power of faith is, how truly the Head calls the members to
share with Him in His power, how wholly our Father places His power at
the disposal of the child that wholly trusts Him.  In this `all
things’ faith is to have its food and strength:  as we weaken it we
weaken faith.  The WHATSOEVER is unconditional:  the only condition is
what is implied in the believing.  Ere we can believe we must find out
and know what God’s will is’ believing is the exercise of a soul
surrendered and given up to the influence of the Word and the Spirit;
but when once we do believe nothing shall be impossible.  God forbid
that we should try and bring down His ALL THINGS to the level of what
we think possible.  Let us now simply take Christ’s `WHATSOEVER’ as
the measure and the hope of our faith:  it is a seed-word which, if
taken just as He gives it, and kept in the heart, will unfold itself
and strike root, fill our life with its fulness, and bring forth fruit
abundantly.

`All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for.’  It is in prayer that
these `all things’ are to be brought to God, to be asked and received
of Him.  The faith that receives them is the fruit of the prayer.  In
one aspect there must be faith before there can be prayer; in another
the faith is the outcome and the growth of prayer.  It is in the
personal presence of the Saviour, in intercourse with Him, that faith
rises to grasp what at first appeared too high.  It is in prayer that
we hold up our desire to the light of God’s Holy Will, that our
motives are tested, and proof given whether we ask indeed in the name
of Jesus, and only for the glory of God.  It is in prayer that we wait
for the leading of the Spirit to show us whether we are asking the
right thing and in the right spirit.  It is in prayer that we become
conscious of our want of faith, that we are led on to say to the
Father that we do believe, and that we prove the reality of our faith
by the confidence with which we persevere.  It is in prayer that Jesus
teaches and inspires faith.  He that waits to pray, or loses heart in
prayer, because he does not yet feel the faith needed to get the
answer, will never learn to believe.  He who begins to pray and ask
will find the Spirit of faith is given nowhere so surely as at the
foot of the Throne.

`Believe that ye have received.’  It is clear that what we are to
believe is, that we receive the very things we ask.  The Saviour does
not hint that because the Father knows what is best He may give us
something else.  The very mountain faith bids depart is cast into the
sea.  There is a prayer in which, in everything, we make known our
requests with prayer and supplication, and the reward is the sweet
peace of God keeping heart and mind.  This is the prayer of trust. It
has reference to things of which we cannot find out if God is going to
give them.  As children we make known our desires in the countless
things of daily life, and leave it to the Father to give or not as He
thinks best.  But the prayer of faith of which Jesus speaks is
something different, something higher.  When, whether in the greater
interests of the Master’s work, or in the lesser concerns of our daily
life, the soul is led to see how there is nothing that so honours the
Father as the faith that is assured that He will do what He has said
in giving us whatsoever we ask for, and takes its stand on the promise
as brought home by the Spirit, it may know most certainly that it does
receive exactly what it asks.  Just see how clearly the Lord sets this
before us in verse 23:  `Whosoever shall not doubt in his heart, but
shall believe that what he saith cometh to pass, he shall have it.’
This is the blessing of the prayer of faith of which Jesus speaks.

`Believe that ye have received.’  This is the word of central
importance, of which the meaning is too often misunderstood.  Believe
that you have received! now, while praying, the thing you ask for.  It
may only be later that you shall have it in personal experience, that
you shall see what you believe; but now, without seeing, you are to
believe that it has been given you of the Father in heaven.  The
receiving or accepting of an answer to prayer is just like the
receiving or accepting of Jesus or of pardon, a spiritual thing, an
act of faith apart from all feeling.  When I come as a supplicant for
pardon, I believe that Jesus in heaven is for me, and so I receive or
take Him.  When I come as a supplicant for any special gift, which is
according to God’s word, I believe that what I ask is given me:  I
believe that I have it, I hold it in faith; I thank God that it is
mine.  `If we know that He heareth us, whatsoever we ask, we know that
we have the petitions which we have asked of Him.’

`And ye shall have them.’  That is, the gift which we first hold in
faith as bestowed upon us in heaven will also become ours in personal
experience.  But will it be needful to pray longer if once we know we
have been heard and have received what we asked?  There are cases in
which such prayer will not be needful, in which the blessing is ready
to break through at once, if we but hold fast our confidence, and
prove our faith by praising for what we have received, in the face of
our not yet having it in experience.  There are other cases in which
the faith that has received needs to be still further tried and
strengthened in persevering prayer.  God only knows when everything in
and around us is fully ripe for the manifestation of the blessing that
has been given to faith.  Elijah knew for certain that rain would
come; God had promised it; and yet he had to pray the seven times.
And that prayer was no show or play; an intense spiritual reality in
the heart of him who lay pleading there, and in the heaven above where
it had its effectual work to do.  It is `through faith and patience we
inherit the promises.’  Faith says most confidently, I have received
it.  Patience perseveres in prayer until the gift bestowed in heaven
is seen on earth.  `Believe that ye have received, and ye shall
have.’  Between the have received in heaven, and the shall have of
earth, believe:  believing praise and prayer is the link.

And now, remember one thing more:  It is Jesus who said this.  As we
see heaven thus opened to us, and the Father on the Throne offering to
give us whatsoever we ask in faith, our hearts feel full of shame that
we have so little availed ourselves of our privilege, and full of fear
lest our feeble faith still fail to grasp what is so clearly placed
within our reach.  There is one thing must make us strong and full of
hope:  it is Jesus who has brought us this message from the Father.
He Himself, when He was on earth, lived the life of faith and prayer.
It was when the disciples expressed their surprise at what He had done
to the fig-tree, that He told them that the very same life He led
could be theirs; that they could not only command the fig-tree, but
the very mountain, and it must obey.  And He is our life:  all He was
on earth He is in us now; all He teaches He really gives.  He is
Himself the Author and the Perfecter of our faith:  He gives the
spirit of faith; let us not be afraid that such faith is not meant for
us.  It is meant for every child of the Father; it is within reach of
each one who will but be childlike, yielding himself to the Father’s
Will and Love, trusting the Father’s Word and Power.  Dear
fellow-Christian! let the thought that this word comes through Jesus,
the Son, our Brother, give us courage, and let our answer be:  Yea,
Blessed Lord, we do believe Thy Word, we do believe that we receive.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

Blessed Lord!  Thou didst come from the Father to show us all His
love, and all the treasures of blessing that love is waiting to
bestow.  Lord!  Thou hast this day again flung the gates so wide open,
and given us such promises as to our liberty in prayer, that we must
blush that our poor hearts have so little taken it in.  It has been
too large for us to believe.

Lord! we now look up to Thee to teach us to take and keep and use this
precious word of Thine:  `All things whatsoever ye ask, believe that
ye have received.’  Blessed Jesus! it is Thy self in whom our faith
must be rooted if it is to grow strong.  Thy work has freed us wholly
from the power of sin, and opened the way to the Father; Thy Love is
ever longing to bring us into the full fellowship of Thy glory and
power; Thy Spirit is ever drawing us upward into a life of perfect
faith and confidence; we are assured that in Thy teaching we shall
learn to pray the prayer of faith.  Thou wilt train us to pray so that
we believe that we receive, to believe that we really have what we
ask.  Lord! teach me so to know and trust and love Thee, so to live
and abide in Thee, that all my prayers rise up and come before God in
Thee, and that my soul may have in Thee the assurance that I am
heard.  Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

TWELFTH LESSON.

`Have faith in God;’

Or,    The Secret of believing Prayer.

`Jesus, answering, said unto them, Have faith in God.  Verily I say
unto you, Whosoever shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe
that what He saith cometh to pass; he shall have it.  Therefore I say
unto you, All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye
have received them, and ye shall have them.’–Mark xi. 22-24.

THE promise of answer to prayer which formed our yesterday’s lesson is
one of the most wonderful in all Scripture.  In how many hearts it has
raised the question:  How ever can I attain the faith that knows that
it receives all it asks?

It is this question our Lord would answer today.  Ere He gave that
wonderful promise to His disciples, He spoke another word, in which He
points out where the faith in the answer to prayer takes its rise, and
ever finds its strength.  HAVE FAITH IN GOD:  this word precedes the
other, Have faith in the promise of an answer to prayer.  The power to
believe a promise depends entirely, but only, on faith in the
promiser.  Trust in the person begets trust in his word.  It is only
where we live and associate with God in personal, loving intercourse,
where GOD HIMSELF is all to us, where our whole being is continually
opened up and exposed to the mighty influences that are at work where
His Holy Presence is revealed, that the capacity will be developed for
believing that He gives whatsoever we ask.

This connection between faith in God and faith in His promise will
become clear to us if we think what faith really is.  It is often
compared to the hand or the mouth, by which we take and appropriate
what is offered to us.  But it is of importance that we should
understand that faith is also the ear by which I hear what is
promised, the eye by which I see what is offered me.  On this the
power to take depends.  I must hear the person who gives me the
promise:  the very tone of his voice gives me courage to believe.  I
must see him:  in the light of his eye and countenance all fear as to
my right to take passes away.  The value of the promise depends on the
promiser:  it is on my knowledge of what the promiser is that faith in
the promise depends.

It is for this reason that Jesus, ere He gives that wonderful
prayer-promise, first says, `HAVE FAITH IN GOD.’  That is, let thine
eye be open to the Living God, and gaze on Him, seeing Him who is
Invisible.  It is through the eye that I yield myself to the influence
of what is before me; I just allow it to enter, to exert its
influence, to leave its impression upon my mind.  So believing God is
just looking to God and what He is, allowing Him to reveal His
presence, giving Him time and yielding the whole being to take in the
full impression of what He is as God, the soul opened up to receive
and rejoice in the overshadowing of His love.  Yes, faith is the eye
to which God shows what He is and does:  through faith the light of
His presence and the workings of His mighty power stream into the
soul.  As that which I see lives in me, so by faith God lives in me
too.

And even so faith is also the ear through which the voice of God is
always heard and intercourse with Him kept up.  It is through the Holy
Spirit the Father speaks to us; the Son is the Word, the substance of
what God says; the Spirit is the living voice.  This the child of God
needs to lead and guide him; the secret voice from heaven must teach
him, as it taught Jesus, what to say and what to do.  An ear opened
towards God, that is, a believing heart waiting on Him, to hear what
He says, will hear Him speak.  The words of God will not only be the
words of a Book, but, proceeding from the mouth of God, they will be
spirit and truth, life and power.  They will bring in deed and living
experience what are otherwise only thoughts.  Through this opened ear
the soul tarries under the influence of the life and power of God
Himself.  As the words I hear enter the mind and dwell and work there,
so through faith God enters the heart, and dwells and works there.

When faith now is in full exercise as eye and ear, as the faculty of
the soul by which we see and hear God, then it will be able to
exercise its full power as hand and mouth, by which we appropriate God
and His blessing.  The power of reception will depend entirely on the
power of spiritual perception.  For this reason Jesus said, ere He
gave the promise that God would answer believing prayer:  `HAVE FAITH
IN GOD.’  Faith is simply surrender:  I yield myself to the impression
the tidings I hear make on me.  By faith I yield myself to the living
God.  His glory and love fill my heart, and have the mastery over my
life.  Faith is fellowship; I give myself up to the influence of the
friend who makes me a promise, and become linked to him by it.  And it
is when we enter into this living fellowship with God Himself, in a
faith that always sees and hears Him, that it becomes easy and natural
to believe His promise as to prayer.  Faith in the promise is the
fruit of faith in the promiser:  the prayer of faith is rooted in the
life of faith.  And in this way the faith that prays effectually is
indeed a gift of God.  Not as something that He bestows or infuses at
once, but in a far deeper and truer sense, as the blessed disposition
or habit of soul which is wrought and grows up in us in a life of
intercourse with Him.  Surely for one who knows his Father well, and
lives in constant close intercourse with Him, it is a simple thing to
believe the promise that He will do the will of His child who lives in
union with Himself.

It is because very many of God’s children do not understand this
connection between the life of faith and the prayer of faith that
their experience of the power of prayer is so limited.  When they
desire earnestly to obtain an answer from God, they fix their whole
heart upon the promise, and try their utmost to grasp that promise in
faith.  When they do not succeed, they are ready to give up hope; the
promise is true, but it is beyond their power to take hold of it in
faith.  Listen to the lesson Jesus teaches us this day:  HAVE FAITH IN
GOD, the Living God:  let faith look to God more than the thing
promised:  it is His love, His power, His living presence will waken
and work the faith.  A physician would say to one asking for some
means to get more strength in his arms and hands to seize and hold,
that his whole constitution must be built up and strengthened.  So the
cure of a feeble faith is alone to be found in the invigoration of our
whole spiritual life by intercourse with God.  Learn to believe in
God, to take hold of God, to let God take possession of thy life, and
it will be easy to take hold of the promise.  He that knows and trusts
God finds it easy to trust the promise too.

Just note how distinctly this comes out in the saints of old.  Every
special exhibition of the power of faith was the fruit of a special
revelation of God.  See it in Abraham:  `And the word of the Lord came
unto Abram, saying, Fear not, Abram; I am thy shield.  And He brought
him forth abroad, and said . . . AND HE BELIEVED THE LORD.’  And later
again:  `The Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, I am God
Almighty.  And Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him,
saying, As for me, behold my covenant is with thee.’  It was the
revelation of God Himself that gave the promise its living power to
enter the heart and work the faith.  Because they knew God, these men
of faith could not do anything but trust His promise.  God’s promise
will be to us what God Himself is.  It is the man who walks before the
Lord, and falls upon his face to listen while the living God speaks to
him, who will really receive the promise.  Though we have God’s
promises in the Bible, with full liberty to take them, the spiritual
power is wanting, except as God Himself speaks them to us.  And He
speaks to those who walk and live with Him.  Therefore, HAVE FAITH IN
GOD:  let faith be all eye and ear, the surrender to let God make His
full impression, and reveal Himself fully in the soul.  Count it one
of the chief blessings of prayer to exercise faith in God, as the
Living Mighty God who waits to fulfil in us all the good pleasure of
His will, and the work of faith with power.  See in Him the God of
Love, whose delight it is to bless and impart Himself.  In such
worship of faith in God the power will speedily come to believe the
promise too:  `ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER YE ASK, BELIEVE THAT YE
RECEIVE.’  Yes, see that thou dost in faith make God thine own; the
promise will be thine too.

Precious lessons that Jesus has to teach us this day.  We seek God’s
gifts:  God wants to give us HIMSELF first.  We think of prayer as the
power to draw down good gifts from heaven; Jesus as the means to draw
ourselves up to God.  We want to stand at the door and cry; Jesus
would have us first enter in and realize that we are friends and
children.  Let us accept the teaching.  Let every experience of the
littleness of our faith in prayer urge us first to have and exercise
more faith in the living God, and in such faith to yield ourselves to
Him.  A heart full of God has power for the prayer of faith.  Faith in
God begets faith in the promise, in the promise too of an answer to
prayer.

Therefore, child of God, take time, take time, to bow before Him, to
wait on Him to reveal Himself.  Take time, and let thy soul in holy
awe and worship exercise and express its faith in the Infinite One,
and as He imparts Himself and takes possession of thee, the prayer of
faith will crown thy faith in God.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

O my God! I do believe in Thee.  I believe in Thee as the Father,
Infinite in Thy Love and Power.  And as the Son, my Redeemer and my
Life.  And as the Holy Spirit, Comforter and Guide and Strength.
Three-One God, I have faith in Thee.  I know and am sure that all that
Thou art Thou art to me, that all Thou hast promised Thou wilt
perform.

Lord Jesus! increase this faith.  Teach me to take time, and wait and
worship in the Holy Presence until my faith takes in all there is in
my God for me.  Let it see Him as the Fountain of all Life, working
with Almighty Strength to accomplish His will on the world and in me.
Let it see Him in His love longing to meet and fulfil my desires.  Let
it so take possession of my heart and life that through faith God
alone may dwell there.  Lord Jesus, help me! with my whole heart would
I believe in God.  Let faith in God each moment fill me.

O my Blessed Saviour! how can Thy Church glorify Thee, how can it
fulfil that work of intercession through which Thy kingdom must come,
unless our whole life be FAITH IN GOD. Blessed Lord! speak Thy Word,
`HAVE FAITH IN GOD,’ unto the depths of our souls.
_________________________________________________________________

THIRTEENTH LESSON.

`Prayer and fasting;’

Or,    The Cure of Unbelief.

`Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we
cast him out?  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief:
for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard
seed, nothing shall be impossible to you.  Howbeit this kind goeth not
out but by prayer and fasting’–Matt. xvii. 19-21.

WHEN the disciples saw Jesus cast the evil spirit out of the epileptic
whom `they could not cure,’ they asked the Master for the cause of
their failure.  He had given them `power and authority over all
devils, and to cure all diseases.’  They had often exercised that
power, and joyfully told how the devils were subject to them.  And yet
now, while He was on the Mount, they had utterly failed.  That there
had been nothing in the will of God or in the nature of the case to
render deliverance impossible, had been proved:  at Christ’s bidding
the evil spirit had gone out.  From their expression, `Why could we
not?’ it is evident that they had wished and sought to do so; they had
probably used the Master’s name, and called upon the evil spirit to go
out.  Their efforts had been vain, and in presence of the multitude,
they had been put to shame.  `Why could we not?’

Christ’s answer was direct and plain:  `Because of your unbelief.’
The cause of His success and their failure, was not owing to His
having a special power to which they had no access.  No; the reason
was not far to seek.  He had so often taught them that there is one
power, that of faith, to which, in the kingdom of darkness, as in the
kingdom of God, everything must bow; in the spiritual world failure
has but one cause, the want of faith.  Faith is the one condition on
which all Divine power can enter into man and work through him.  It is
the susceptibility of the unseen:  man’s will yielded up to, and
moulded by, the will of God.  The power they had received to cast out
devils, they did not hold in themselves as a permanent gift or
possession; the power was in Christ, to be received, and held, and
used by faith alone, living faith in Himself.  Had they been full of
faith in Him as Lord and Conqueror in the spirit-world, had they been
full of faith in Him as having given them authority to cast out in His
name, this faith would have given them the victory.  `Because of your
unbelief’ was, for all time, the Master’s explanation and reproof of
impotence and failure in His Church.

But such want of faith must have a cause too.  Well might the
disciples have asked:  `And why could we not believe?  Our faith has
cast out devils before this:  why have we now failed in believing?
`The Master proceeds to tell them ere they ask:  `This kind goeth not
out but by fasting and prayer.’  As faith is the simplest, so it is
the highest exercise of the spiritual life, where our spirit yields
itself in perfect receptivity to God’s Spirit and so is strengthened
to its highest activity.  This faith depends entirely upon the state
of the spiritual life; only when this is strong and in full health,
when the Spirit of God has full sway in our life, is there the power
of faith to do its mighty deeds.  And therefore Jesus adds:  `Howbeit
this kind goeth not out but by fasting and prayer.’  The faith that
can overcome such stubborn resistance as you have just seen in this
evil spirit, Jesus tells them, is not possible except to men living in
very close fellowship with God, and in very special separation from
the world–in prayer and fasting.  And so He teaches us two lessons in
regard to prayer of deep importance.  The one, that faith needs a life
of prayer in which to grow and keep strong.  The other, that prayer
needs fasting for its full and perfect development.

Faith needs a life of prayer for its full growth.  In all the
different parts of the spiritual life, there is such close union, such
unceasing action and re-action, that each may be both cause and
effect.  Thus it is with faith.  There can be no true prayer without
faith; some measure of faith must precede prayer.  And yet prayer is
also the way to more faith; there can be no higher degrees of faith
except through much prayer.  This is the lesson Jesus teaches here.
There is nothing needs so much to grow as our faith.  `Your faith
groweth exceedingly,’ is said of one Church.  When Jesus spoke the
words, `According to your faith be it unto you,’ He announced the law
of the kingdom, which tells us that all have not equal degrees of
faith, that the same person has not always the same degree, and that
the measure of faith must always determine the measure of power and of
blessing.  If we want to know where and how our faith is to grow, the
Master points us to the throne of God.  It is in prayer, in the
exercise of the faith I have, in fellowship with the living God, that
faith can increase.  Faith can only live by feeding on what is Divine,
on God Himself.

It is in the adoring worship of God, the waiting on Him and for Him,
the deep silence of soul that yields itself for God to reveal Himself,
that the capacity for knowing and trusting God will be developed.  It
is as we take His word from the Blessed Book, and bring it to Himself,
asking him to speak it to us with His living loving voice, that the
power will come fully to believe and receive the word as God’s own
word to us.  It is in prayer, in living contact with God in living
faith, that faith, the power to trust God, and in that trust, to
accept everything He says, to accept every possibility He has offered
to our faith will become strong in us.  Many Christians cannot
understand what is meant by the much prayer they sometimes hear spoken
of:  they can form no conception, nor do they feel the need, of
spending hours with God.  But what the Master says, the experience of
His people has confirmed:  men of strong faith are men of much prayer.

This just brings us back again to the lesson we learned when Jesus,
before telling us to believe that we receive what we ask, first said,
`Have faith in God.’  It is God, the living God, into whom our faith
must strike its roots deep and broad; then it will be strong to remove
mountains and cast out devils.  `If ye have faith, nothing shall be
impossible to you.’  Oh! if we do but give ourselves up to the work
God has for us in the world, coming into contact with the mountains
and the devils there are to be cast away and cast out, we should soon
comprehend the need there is of much faith, and of much prayer, as the
soil in which alone faith can be cultivated.  Christ Jesus is our
life, the life of our faith too.  It is His life in us that makes us
strong, and makes us simple to believe.  It is in the dying to self
which much prayer implies, in closer union to Jesus, that the spirit
of faith will come in power.  Faith needs prayer for its full growth.

And prayer needs fasting for its full growth:  this is the second
lesson.  Prayer is the one hand with which we grasp the invisible;
fasting, the other, with which we let loose and cast away the
visible.  In nothing is man more closely connected with the world of
sense than in his need of food, and his enjoyment of it.  It was the
fruit, good for food, with which man was tempted and fell in
Paradise.  It was with bread to be made of stones that Jesus, when an
hungered, was tempted in the wilderness, and in fasting that He
triumphed.  The body has been redeemed to be a temple of the Holy
Spirit; it is in body as well as spirit, it is very specially,
Scripture says, in eating and drinking, we are to glorify God.  It is
to be feared that there are many Christians to whom this eating to the
glory of God has not yet become a spiritual reality.  And the first
thought suggested by Jesus’ words in regard to fasting and prayer, is,
that it is only in a life of moderation and temperance and self-denial
that there will be the heart or the strength to pray much.

But then there is also its more literal meaning.  Sorrow and anxiety
cannot eat:  joy celebrates its feasts with eating and drinking.
There may come times of intense desire, when it is strongly felt how
the body, with its appetites, lawful though they be, still hinder the
spirit in its battle with the powers of darkness, and the need is felt
of keeping it under.  We are creatures of the senses:  our mind is
helped by what comes to us embodied in concrete form; fasting helps to
express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to
sacrifice anything, to sacrifice ourselves, to attain what we seek for
the kingdom of God.  And He who accepted the fasting and sacrifice of
the Son, knows to value and accept and reward with spiritual power the
soul that is thus ready to give up all for Christ and His kingdom.

And then follows a still wider application.  Prayer is the reaching
out after God and the unseen; fasting, the letting go of all that is
of the seen and temporal.  While ordinary Christians imagine that all
that is not positively forbidden and sinful is lawful to them, and
seek to retain as much as possible of this world, with its property,
its literature, its enjoyments, the truly consecrated soul is as the
soldier who carries only what he needs for the warfare.  Laying aside
every weight, as well as the easily besetting sin, afraid of
entangling himself with the affairs of this life, he seeks to lead a
Nazarite life, as one specially set apart for the Lord and His
service.  Without such voluntary separation, even from what is lawful,
no one will attain power in prayer:  this kind goeth not out but by
fasting and prayer.

Disciples of Jesus! who have asked the Master to teach you to pray,
come now and accept His lessons.  He tells you that prayer is the path
to faith, strong faith, that can cast out devils.  He tells you:  `If
ye have faith, nothing shall be impossible to you;’ let this glorious
promise encourage you to pray much.  Is the prize not worth the
price?  Shall we not give up all to follow Jesus in the path He opens
to us here; shall we not, if need be, fast?  Shall we not do anything
that neither the body nor the world around hinder us in our great
life-work,–having intercourse with our God in prayer, that we may
become men of faith, whom He can use in His work of saving the world.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

O Lord Jesus! how continually Thou hast to reprove us for our
unbelief!  How strange it must appear to Thee, this terrible
incapacity of trusting our Father and His promises.  Lord! let Thy
reproof, with its searching, `Because of your unbelief,’ sink into the
very depths of our hearts, and reveal to us how much of the sin and
suffering around us is our blame.  And then teach us, Blessed Lord,
that there is a place where faith can be learned and gained,–even in
the prayer and fasting that brings into living and abiding fellowship
with Thyself and the Father.

O Saviour! Thou Thyself art the Author and the Perfecter of our faith;
teach us what it is to let Thee live in us by Thy Holy Spirit.  Lord!
our efforts and prayers for grace to believe have been so unavailing.
We know why it was:  we sought for strength in ourselves to be given
from Thee.  Holy Jesus! do at length teach us the mystery of Thy life
in us, and how Thou, by Thy Spirit, dost undertake to live in us the
life of faith, to see to it that our faith shall not fail.  O let us
see that our faith will just be a part of that wonderful prayer-life
which Thou givest in them who expect their training for the ministry
of intercession, not in word and thought only, but in the Holy Unction
Thou givest, the inflowing of the Spirit of Thine own life.  And teach
us how, in fasting and prayer, we may grow up to the faith to which
nothing shall be impossible.  Amen.

NOTE

At the time when Blumhardt was passing through his terrible conflict
with the evil spirits in those who were possessed, and seeking to cast
them out by prayer, he often wondered what it was that hindered the
answer.  One day a friend, to whom he had spoken of his trouble,
directed his attention to our Lord’s words about fasting.  Blumhardt
resolved to give himself to fasting, sometimes for more than thirty
hours.  From reflection and experience he gained the conviction that
it is of more importance than is generally thought.  He says,
`Inasmuch as the fasting is before God, a practical proof that the
thing we ask is to us a matter of true and pressing interest, and
inasmuch as in a high degree it strengthens the intensity and power of
the prayer, and becomes the unceasing practical expression of a prayer
without words, I could believe that it would not be without efficacy,
especially as the Master’s words had reference to a case like the
present.  I tried it, without telling any one, and in truth the later
conflict was extraordinarily lightened by it.  I could speak with much
greater restfulness and decision.  I did not require to be so long
present with the sick one; and I felt that I could influence without
being present.’
_________________________________________________________________

FOURTEENTH LESSON.

`When ye stand praying, forgive;’

Or,          Prayer and Love.

`And whensoever ye stand praying, forgive,  if ye have aught against
any one; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your
trespasses.’–Mark xi. 25.

THESE words follow immediately on the great prayer-promise, `All
things whatsoever ye pray, believe that ye have received them, and ye
shall have them.’  We have already seen how the words that preceded
that promise, `Have faith in God,’ taught us that in prayer all
depends upon our relation to God being clear; these words that follow
on it remind us that our relation with fellow-men must be clear too.
Love to God and love to our neighbour are inseparable:  the prayer
from a heart, that is either not right with God on the one side, or
with men on the other, cannot prevail.  Faith and love are essential
to each other.

We find that this is a thought to which our Lord frequently gave
expression.  In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. v. 23, 24), when
speaking of the sixth commandment, He taught His disciples how
impossible acceptable worship to the Father was if everything were not
right with the brother:  `If thou art offering thy gift at the altar,
and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave
there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled
to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.’  And so later, when
speaking of prayer to God, after having taught us to pray, `Forgive us
our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,’ He added at the
close of the prayer:  `If you forgive not men their trespasses,
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’  At the close of
the parable of the unmerciful servant He applies His teaching in the
words:  `So shall also my Heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive
not every one his brother from your hearts.’  And so here, beside the
dried-up fig-tree, where He speaks of the wonderful power of faith and
the prayer of faith, He all at once, apparently without connection,
introduces the thought, `Whensoever ye stand praying, forgive, if ye
have aught against any one; that your Father also which is in heaven
may forgive you your trespasses.’  It is as if the Lord had learned
during His life at Nazareth and afterwards that disobedience to the
law of love to men was the great sin even of praying people, and the
great cause of the feebleness of their prayer.  And it is as if He
wanted to lead us into His own blessed experience that nothing gives
such liberty of access and such power in believing as the
consciousness that we have given ourselves in love and compassion, for
those whom God loves.

The first lesson taught here is that of a forgiving disposition.  We
pray, `Forgive, even as we have forgiven.’  Scripture says, `Forgive
one another, even as God also in Christ forgave you.’  God’s full and
free forgiveness is to be the rule of ours with men.  Otherwise our
reluctant, half-hearted forgiveness, which is not forgiveness at all,
will be God’s rule with us.   Every prayer rests upon our faith in
God’s pardoning grace.  If God dealt with us after our sins, not one
prayer could be heard.  Pardon opens the door to all God’s love and
blessing:  because God has pardoned all our sin, our prayer can
prevail to obtain all we need.  The deep sure ground of answer to
prayer is God’s forgiving love.  When it has taken possession of the
heart, we pray in faith.  But also, when it has taken possession of
the heart, we live in love.  God’s forgiving disposition, revealed in
His love to us, becomes a disposition in us; as the power of His
forgiving love shed abroad and dwelling within us, we forgive even as
He forgives.  If there be great and grievous injury or injustice done
us, we seek first of all to possess a Godlike disposition; to be kept
from a sense of wounded honour, from a desire to maintain our rights,
or from rewarding the offender as he has deserved.  In the little
annoyances of daily life, we are watchful not to excuse the hasty
temper, the sharp word, the quick judgment, with the thought that we
mean no harm, that we do not keep the anger long, or that it would be
too much to expect from feeble human nature, that we should really
forgive the way God and Christ do.  No, we take the command literally,
`Even as Christ forgave, so also do ye.’  The blood that cleanses the
conscience from dead works, cleanses from selfishness too; the love it
reveals is pardoning love, that takes possession of us and flows
through us to others.  Our forgiving love to men is the evidence of
the reality of God’s forgiving love in us, and so the condition of the
prayer of faith.

There is a second, more general lesson:  our daily life in the world
is made the test of our intercourse with God in prayer.  How often the
Christian, when he comes to pray, does his utmost to cultivate certain
frames of mind which he thinks will be pleasing.  He does not
understand, or forgets, that life does not consist of so many loose
pieces, of which now the one, then the other, can be taken up.  Life
is a whole, and the pious frame of the hour of prayer is judged of by
God from the ordinary frame of the daily life of which the hour of
prayer is but a small part.  Not the feeling I call up, but the tone
of my life during the day, is God’s criterion of what I really am and
desire.  My drawing nigh to God is of one piece with my intercourse
with men and earth:  failure here will cause failure there.  And that
not only when there is the distinct consciousness of anything wrong
between my neighbour and myself; but the ordinary current of my
thinking and judging, the unloving thoughts and words I allow to pass
unnoticed, can hinder my prayer.  The effectual prayer of faith comes
out from a life given up to the will and the love of God.  Not
according to what I try to be when praying, but what I am when not
praying, is my prayer dealt with by God.

We may gather these thoughts into a third lesson:  In our life with
men the one thing on which everything depends is love.  The spirit of
forgiveness is the spirit of love.  Because God is love, He forgives:
it is only when we are dwelling in love that we can forgive as God
forgives.   In love to the brethren we have the evidence of love to
the Father, the ground of confidence before God, and the assurance
that our prayer will be heard, (1 John iv. 20, iii. 18-21, 23.).  `Let
us love in deed and truth; hereby shall we assure our heart before
Him.  If our heart condemn us not, we have boldness toward God, and
whatever we ask, we receive of Him.’  Neither faith nor work will
profit if we have not love; it is love that unites with God, it is
love that proves the reality of faith.  As essential as in the word
that precedes the great prayer-promise in Mark xi. 24, `Have faith in
God,’ is this one that follows it, `Have love to men.’  The right
relations to the living God above me, and the living men around me,
are the conditions of effectual prayer.

This love is of special consequence when we labour for such and pray
for them.  We sometimes give ourselves to work for Christ, from zeal
for His cause, as we call it, or for our own spiritual health, without
giving ourselves in personal self-sacrificing love for those whose
souls we seek.  No wonder that our faith is feeble and does not
conquer.  To look on each wretched one, however unloveable he be, in
the light of the tender love of Jesus the Shepherd seeking the lost;
to see Jesus Christ in him, and to take him up, for Jesus’ sake, in a
heart that really loves, –this, this is the secret of believing
prayer and successful effort.  Jesus, in speaking of forgiveness,
speaks of love as its root.  Just as in the Sermon on the Mount He
connected His teaching and promises about prayer with the call to be
merciful, as the Father in heaven is merciful (Matt. v. 7, 9, 22,
38-48), so we see it here:  a loving life is the condition of
believing prayer.

It has been said:  There is nothing so heart-searching as believing
prayer, or even the honest effort to pray in faith.  O let us not turn
the edge of that self-examination by the thought that God does not
hear our prayer for reasons known to Himself alone.  By no means.  `Ye
ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss.’  Let that word of God
search us.  Let us ask whether our prayer be indeed the expression of
a life wholly given over to the will of God and the love of man.  Love
is the only soil in which faith can strike its roots and thrive.  As
it throws its arms up, and opens its heart heavenward, the Father
always looks to see if it has them opened towards the evil and the
unworthy too.  In that love, not indeed the love of perfect
attainment, but the love of fixed purpose and sincere obedience, faith
can alone obtain the blessing.  It is he who gives himself to let the
love of God dwell in him, and in the practice of daily life to love as
God loves, who will have the power to believe in the Love that hears
his every prayer.  It is the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne:
it is suffering and forbearing love that prevails with God in prayer.
The merciful shall obtain mercy; the meek shall inherit the earth.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

Blessed Father!  Thou art Love, and only he that abideth in love
abideth in Thee and in fellowship with Thee.  The Blessed Son hath
this day again taught me how deeply true this is of my fellowship with
Thee in prayer.  O my God! let Thy love, shed abroad in my heart by
the Holy Spirit, be in me a fountain of love to all around me, that
out of a life in love may spring the power of believing prayer.  O my
Father! grant by the Holy Spirit that this may be my experience, that
a life in love to all around me is the gate to a life in the love of
my God.  And give me especially to find in the joy with which I
forgive day by day whoever might offend me, the proof that Thy
forgiveness to me is a power and a life.

Lord Jesus! my Blessed Teacher! teach Thou me to forgive and to love.
Let the power of Thy blood make the pardon of my sins such a reality,
that forgiveness, as shown by Thee to me, and by me to others, may be
the very joy of heaven.  Show me whatever in my intercourse with
fellowmen might hinder my fellowship with God, so that my daily life
in my own home and in society may be the school in which strength and
confidence are gathered for the prayer of faith.   Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

FIFTEENTH LESSON.

`If two agree;’

Or,    The Power of United Prayer

`Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as
touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my
Father which is in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered
together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.–Matt. xviii.
19, 20.

ONE of the first lessons of our Lord in His school of prayer was:  Not
to be seen of men.  Enter thy inner chamber; be alone with the
Father.  When He has thus taught us that the meaning of prayer is
personal individual contact with God, He comes  with a second lesson:
You have need not only of secret solitary, but also of public united
prayer.  And He gives us a very special promise for the united prayer
of two or three who agree in what they ask.  As a tree has its root
hidden in the ground and its stem growing up into the sunlight, so
prayer needs equally for its full development the hidden secrecy in
which the soul meets God alone, and the public fellowship with those
who find in the name of Jesus their common meeting-place.

The reason why this must be so is plain.  The bond that unites a man
to his fellow-men is no less real and close than that which unites him
to God:  he is one with them.  Grace renews not alone our relation to
God but to man too.  We not only learn to say `My Father,’ but `Our
Father.’  Nothing would be more unnatural than that the children of a
family should always meet their father separately, but never in the
united expression of their desires or their love.  Believers are not
only members of one family, but even of one body.  Just as each member
of the body depends on the other, and the full action of the spirit
dwelling in the body depends on the union and co-operation of all, so
Christians cannot reach the full blessing God is ready to bestow
through His Spirit, but as they seek and receive it in fellowship with
each other.  It is in the union and fellowship of believers that the
Spirit can manifest His full power.  It was to the hundred and twenty
continuing in one place together, and praying with one accord, that
the Spirit came from the throne of the glorified Lord.

The marks of true united prayer are given us in these words of our
Lord.  The first is agreement as to the thing asked.  There must not
only be generally the consent to agree with anything another may ask:
there must be some special thing, matter of distinct united desire;
the agreement must be, as all prayer, in spirit and in truth.  In such
agreement it will become very clear to us what exactly we are asking,
whether we may confidently ask according to God’s will, and whether we
are ready to believe that we have received what we ask.

The second mark is the gathering in, or into, the Name of Jesus.  We
shall afterwards have much more to learn of the need and the power of
the Name of Jesus in prayer; here our Lord teaches us that the Name
must be the centre of union to which believers gather, the bond of
union that makes them one, just as a home contains and unites all who
are in it.  `The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous
runneth into it and escape.’  That Name is such a reality to those who
understand and believe it, that to meet within it is to have Himself
present.  The love and unity of His disciples have to Jesus infinite
attraction:  `Where two or three are gathered in my Name, there am I
in the midst of them.’  It is the living presence of Jesus, in the
fellowship of His loving praying disciples, that gives united prayer
its power.

The third mark is, the sure answer:  `It shall be done for them of my
Father.’  A prayer-meeting for maintaining religious fellowship, or
seeking our own edification, may have its use; this was not the
Saviour’s view in its appointment.  He meant it as a means of securing
special answer to prayer.  A prayer meeting without recognised answer
to prayer ought to be an anomaly.  When any of us have distinct
desires in regard to which we feel too weak to exercise the needful
faith, we ought to seek strength in the help of other.  In the unity
of faith and of love and of the Spirit, the power of the Name and the
Presence of Jesus acts more freely and the answer comes more surely.
The mark that there has been true united prayer is the fruit, the
answer, the receiving of the thing we have asked:  `I say unto you, It
shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.’

What an unspeakable privilege this of united prayer is, and what a
power it might be.  If the believing husband and wife knew that they
were joined together in the Name of Jesus to experience His presence
and power in united prayer (1 Peter); if friends believed what mighty
help two or three praying in concert could give each other; if in
every prayer meeting the coming together in the Name, the faith in the
Presence, and the expectation of the answer, stood in the foreground;
if in every Church united effectual prayer were regarded as one of the
chief purposes for which they are banded together, the highest
exercise of their power as a Church; if in the Church universal the
coming of the kingdom, the coming of the King Himself, first in the
mighty outpouring of His Holy Spirit, then in His own glorious person,
were really matter of unceasing united crying to God;–O who can say
what blessing might come to, and through, those who thus agreed to
prove God in the fulfilment of His promise.

In the Apostle Paul we see very distinctly what a reality his faith in
the power of united prayer was.  To the Romans he writes (xv. 30):  `I
beseech you, brethren, by the love of the Spirit, that ye strive
together with me in your prayer to God for me.’  He expects in answer
to be delivered from his enemies, and to be prospered in his work.  To
the Corinthians (2 Cor. i. 11), `God will still deliver us, ye also
helping together on our behalf by your supplications;’ their prayer is
to have a real share in his deliverance.  To the Ephesians he writes:
`With all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit
for all the saints and on my behalf, that utterance may be given unto
me.’  His power and success in his ministry he makes to depend on
their prayers.  With the Philippians (i. 19) he expects that his
trials will turn to his salvation and the progress of the gospel
`through your supplications and  the supply of the spirit of Jesus
Christ.;  To the Colossians (iv. 3) he adds to the injunction to
continue stedfast in prayer:  `Withal praying for us too, that God may
open unto us a door for the word.’  And to the Thessalonians (2 Thess.
iii. 1) he writes:  `Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of
the Lord may run and be glorified, and that we may be delivered from
unreasonable men.’  It is everywhere evident that Paul felt himself
the member of a body, on the sympathy and co-operation of which he was
dependent, and that he counted on the prayers of these Churches to
gain for him, what otherwise might not be given.  The prayers of the
Church were to him as real a factor in the work of the kingdom, as the
power of God.

Who can say what power a Church could develop and exercise, if it gave
itself to the work of prayer day and night for the coming of the
kingdom, for God’s power on His servants and His word, for the
glorifying of God in the salvation of souls?  Most Churches think
their members are gathered into one simply to take care of and build
up each other.  They know not that God rules the world by the prayers
of His saints; that prayer is the power by which Satan is conquered;
that by prayer the Church on earth has disposal of the powers of the
heavenly world.  They do not remember that Jesus has, by His promise,
consecrated every assembly in His Name to be a gate of heaven, where
His Presence is to be felt, and His Power experienced in the Father
fulfilling their desires.

We cannot sufficiently thank God for the blessed week of united
prayer, with which Christendom in our days opens every year.  As proof
of our unity and our faith in the power of united prayer, as a
training-school for the enlargement of our hearts to take in all the
needs of the Church universal, as a help to united persevering prayer,
it is of unspeakable value.  But very specially as a stimulus to
continued union in prayer in the smaller circles, its blessing has
been great.  And it will become even greater, as God’s people
recognise what it is, all to meet as one in the Name of Jesus to have
His presence in the midst of a body all united in the Holy Spirit, and
boldly to claim the promise that it shall be done of the Father what
they agree to ask.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY’

—–0—–

Blessed Lord! who didst in Thy high-priestly prayer ask so earnestly
for the unity of Thy people, teach us how Thou dost invite and urge us
to this unity by Thy precious promise given to united prayer.  It is
when we are one in love and desire that our faith has Thy presence and
the Father’s answer.

O Father! we pray for Thy people, and for every smaller circle of
those who meet together, that they may be one.  Remove, we pray, all
selfishness and self-interest, all narrowness of heart and
estrangement, by which that unity is hindered.  Cast out the spirit of
the world and the flesh, through which Thy promise loses all its
power.  O let the though of Thy presence and the Father’s favour draw
us all nearer to each other.

Grant especially Blessed Lord, that Thy Church may believe that it is
by the power of united prayer that she can bind and loose in heaven;
that Satan can be cast out; that souls can be saved; that mountains
can be removed; that the kingdom can be hastened.  And grant, good
Lord! that in the circle with which I pray, the prayer of the Church
may indeed be the power through which Thy Name and Word are
glorified.  Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

SIXTEENTH LESSON.

`Speedily, though bearing long;’

Or,    The Power of Persevering Prayer.

`And He spake a parable unto them to the end that they ought always to
pray, and not to faint. . . . And the Lord said, Hear what the
unrighteous judge saith.  And shall not God avenge His own elect,
which cry to Him day and night, and He is long-suffering over them?  I
say unto you, that He will avenge them speedily.’–Luke xviii. 108.

OF all the mysteries of the prayer world, the need of persevering
prayer is one of the greatest.  That the Lord, who is so loving and
longing to bless, should have to be supplicated time after time,
sometimes year after year, before the answer comes, we cannot easily
understand.  It is also one of the greatest practical difficulties in
the exercise of believing prayer.  When, after persevering
supplication, our prayer remains unanswered, it is often easiest for
our slothful flesh, and it has all the appearance of pious submission,
to think that we must now cease praying, because God may have His
secret reason for withholding His answer to our request.

It is by faith alone that the difficulty is overcome.  When once faith
has taken its stand upon God’s word, and the Name of Jesus, and has
yielded itself to the leading of the Spirit to seek God’s will and
honour alone in its prayer, it need not be discouraged by delay.  It
knows from Scripture that the power of believing prayer is simply
irresistible; real faith can never be disappointed.  It knows how,
just as water, to exercise the irresistible power it can have, must be
gathered up and accumulated, until the stream can come down in full
force, there must often be a heaping up of prayer, until God sees that
the measure is full, and the answer comes.  It knows how, just as the
ploughman has to take his ten thousand steps, and sow his ten thousand
seeds, each one a part of the preparation for the final harvest, so
there is a need-be for oft-repeated persevering prayer, all working
out some desired blessing.  It knows for certain that not a single
believing prayer can fail of its effect in heaven, but has its
influence, and is treasured up to work out an answer in due time to
him who persevereth to the end.  It knows that it has to do not with
human thoughts or possibilities, but with the word of the living God.
And so even as Abraham through so many years `in hope believed against
hope,’ and then `through faith and patience inherited the promise,’ it
counts that the long-suffering of the Lord is salvation, waiting and
hasting unto the coming of its Lord to fulfil His promise.

To enable us, when the answer to our prayer does not come at once, to
combine quiet patience and joyful confidence in our persevering
prayer, we must specially try to understand the two words in which our
Lord sets forth the character and conduct, not of the unjust judge,
but of our God and Father towards those whom He allows to cry day and
night to Him:  `He is long-suffering over them; He will avenge them
speedily.’

He will avenge them speedily, the Master says.  The blessing is all
prepared; He is not only willing but most anxious to give them what
they ask; everlasting love burns with the longing desire to reveal
itself fully to its beloved, and to satisfy their needs.  God will not
delay one moment longer than is absolutely necessary; He will do all
in His power to hasten and speed the answer.

But why, if this be true and His power be infinite, does it often last
so long with the answer to prayer?  And why must God’s own elect so
often, in the midst of suffering and conflict, cry day and night?  `He
is  long-suffering over them.’  `Behold! the husbandman waiteth for
the precious fruit of the earth, being long-suffering over it, till it
receive the early and the latter rain.’  The husbandman does indeed
long for his harvest, but knows that it must have its full time of
sunshine and rain, and has long patience.  A child so often wants to
pick the half-ripe fruit; the husbandman knows to wait till the proper
time.  Man, in his spiritual nature too, is under the law of gradual
growth that reigns in all created life.  It is only in the path of
development that he can reach his divine destiny.  And it is the
Father, in whose hands are the times and seasons, who alone knows the
moment when the soul or the Church is ripened to that fulness of faith
in which it can really take and keep the blessing.  As a father who
longs to have his only child home from school, and yet waits patiently
till the time of training is completed, so it is with God and His
children:  He is the long-suffering One, and answers speedily.

The insight into this truth leads the believer to cultivate the
corresponding dispositions:  patience and faith, waiting and hasting,
are the secret of his perseverance.  By faith in the promise of God,
we know that we have the petitions we have asked of Him.  Faith takes
and holds the answer in the promise, as an unseen spiritual
possession, rejoices in it, and praises for it.  But there is a
difference between the faith that thus holds the word and knows that
it has the answer, and the clearer, fuller, riper faith that obtains
the promise as a present experience.  It is in persevering, not
unbelieving, but confident and praising prayer, that the soul grows up
into that full union with its Lord in which it can enter upon the
possession of the blessing in Him.  There may be in these around us,
there may be in that great system of being of which we are part, there
may be in God’s government, things that have to be put right through
our prayer, ere the answer can fully come:  the faith that has,
according to the command, believed that it has received, can allow God
to take His time:  it knows it has prevailed and must prevail.  In
quiet, persistent, and determined perseverance it continues in prayer
and thanksgiving until the blessing come.  And so we see combined what
at first sight appears so contradictory; the faith that rejoices in
the answer of the unseen God as a present possession, with the
patience that cries day and night until it be revealed.  The speedily
of God’s long-suffering is met by the triumphant but patient faith of
His waiting child.

Our great danger in this school of the answer delayed, is the
temptation to think that, after all, it may not be God’s will to give
us what we ask.  If our prayer be according to God’s word, and under
the leading of the Spirit, let us not give way to these fears.  Let us
learn to give God time.  God needs time with us.  If we only give Him
time, that is, time in the daily fellowship with Himself, for Him to
exercise the full influence of His presence on us, and time, day by
day, in the course of our being kept waiting, for faith to prove its
reality and to fill our whole being, He Himself will lead us from
faith to vision; we shall see the glory of God.  Let no delay shake
our faith.  Of faith it holds good:  first the blade, then the ear,
then the full corn in the ear.  Each believing prayer brings a step
nearer the final victory.  Each believing prayer helps to ripen the
fruit and bring us nearer to it; it fills up the measure of prayer and
faith known to God alone; it conquers the hindrances in the unseen
world; it hastens the end.  Child of God! give the Father time.  He is
long-suffering over you.  He wants the blessing to be rich, and full,
and sure; give Him time, while you cry day and night.  Only remember
the word:  `I say unto you, He will avenge them speedily.’

The blessing of such persevering prayer is unspeakable.  There is
nothing so heart-searching as the prayer of faith.  It teaches you to
discover and confess, and give up everything that hinders the coming
of the blessing; everything there may be not in accordance with the
Father’s will.  It leads to closer fellowship with Him who alone can
teach to pray, to a more entire surrender to draw nigh under no
covering but that of the blood, and the Spirit.  It calls to a closer
and more simple abiding in Christ alone.  Christian! give God time.
He will perfect that which concerneth you.
`Long-suffering–speedily,’ this is God’s watchword as you enter the
gates of prayer:  be it yours too.

Let it be thus whether you pray for yourself, or for others.  All
labour, bodily or mental, needs time and effort:  we must give up
ourselves to it.  Nature discovers her secrets and yields her
treasures only to diligent and thoughtful labour.  However little we
can understand it, in the spiritual husbandry it is the same:  the
seed we sow in the soil of heaven, the efforts we put forth, and the
influence we seek to exert in the world above, need our whole being:
we must give ourselves to prayer.  But let us hold fast the great
confidence, that in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

And let us specially learn the lesson as we pray for the Church of
Christ.  She is indeed as the poor widow, in the absence of her Lord,
apparently at the mercy of her adversary, helpless to obtain redress.
Let us, when we pray for His Church or any portion of it, under the
power of the world, asking Him to visit her with the mighty workings
of His Spirit and to prepare her for His coming, let us pray in the
assured faith:  prayer does help, praying always and not fainting will
bring the answer.  Only give God time.  And then keep crying day and
night.  `Hear what the unrighteous judge saith.  And shall not God
avenge His own elect, which cry to Him day and night, and He is
long-suffering over them.  I say unto you, He will avenge them
speedily.’

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

O Lord my God!  teach me now to know Thy way, and in faith to
apprehend what Thy Beloved Son has taught:  `He will avenge them
speedily.’  Let Thy tender love, and the delight Thou hast in hearing
and blessing Thy children, lead me implicitly to accept Thy promise,
that we receive what we believe, that we have the petitions we ask,
and that the answer will in due time be seen.  Lord! we understand the
seasons in nature, and know to wait with patience for the fruit we
long for–O fill us with the assurance that not one moment longer than
is needed wilt Thou delay, and that faith will hasten the answer.

Blessed Master! Thou hast said that it is a sign of God’s elect that
they cry day and night.  O teach us to understand this.  Thou knowest
how speedily we grow faint and weary.  It is as if the Divine Majesty
is so much beyond the need or the reach of continued supplication,
that it does not become us to be too importunate.  O Lord! do teach me
how real the labour of prayer is.  I know how here on earth, when I
have failed in an undertaking, I can often succeed by renewed and more
continuing effort, by giving more time and thought:  show me how, by
giving myself more entirely to prayer, to live in prayer, I shall
obtain what I ask.  And above all, O my blessed Teacher! Author and
perfecter of faith, let by Thy grace my whole life be one of faith in
the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me–in whom my prayer
gains acceptance, in whom I have the assurance of the answer, in whom
the answer will be mine.  Lord Jesus! in this faith I will pray always
and not faint.  Amen.

NOTE

The need of persevering importunate prayer appears to some to be at
variance with the faith which knows that it has received what it asks
(Mark xi. 24).  One of the mysteries of the Divine life is the harmony
between the gradual and the sudden, immediate full possession, and
slow imperfect appropriation.  And so here persevering prayer appears
to be the school in which the soul is strengthened for the boldness of
faith.  And with the diversity of operations of the Spirit there may
be some in whom faith takes more the form of persistent waiting; while
to others, triumphant thanksgiving appears the only proper expressions
of the assurance of having been heard.

In a remarkable way the need of persevering prayer, and the gradual
rising into greater ease in obtaining answer, is illustrated in the
life of Blumhardt.  Complaints had been lodged against him of
neglecting his work as a minister of the gospel, and devoting himself
to the healing of the sick; and especially his unauthorized healing of
the sick belonging to other congregations.  In his defense he writes:
`I simply ventured to do what becomes one who has the charge of souls,
and to pray according to the command of the Lord in James i. 6, 7.  In
no way did I trust to my own power, or imagine that I had any gift
that others had not.  But this is true, I set myself to the work as a
minister of the gospel, who has a right to pray.  But I speedily
discovered that the gates of heaven were not fully opened to me.
Often I was inclined to retire in despair.  But the sight of the sick
ones, who could find help nowhere, gave me no rest.  I thought of the
word of the Lord:  “Ask, and it shall be given you” (Luke xi. 9, 10).
And farther, I thought that if the Church and her ministers had,
through unbelief, sloth, and disobedience lost what was needed for
overcoming of the power of Satan, it was just for such times of
leanness and famine that the Lord had spoken the parable of the friend
at midnight and his three loaves.  I felt that I was not worthy thus
at midnight, in a time of great darkness, to appear before God as His
friend and ask for a member of my congregation what he needed.  And
yet, to leave him uncared for, I could not either.  And so I kept
knocking, as the parable directs, or, as some have said, with great
presumption and tempting God.  Be this as it may, I could not leave my
guest unprovided.  At this time the parable of the widow became very
precious to me.  I saw that the Church was the widow, and I was a
minister of the Church.  I had the right to be her mouthpiece against
the adversary; but for a long time the Lord would not.  I asked
nothing more than the three loaves; what I needed for my guest.  At
last the Lord listened to the importunate beggar, and helped me.  Was
it wrong of me to pray thus?  The two parables must surely be
applicable somewhere, and where was greater need to be conceived?

And what was the fruit of my prayer?  The friend who was at first
unwilling, did not say, Go now; I will myself give to your friend what
he needs; I do not require you; but gave it to me as His friend, to
give to my guest.  And so I used the three loaves, and had to spare.
But the supply was small, and new guests came; because they saw I had
a heart to help them, and that I would take the trouble even at
midnight to go to my friend.  When I asked for them, too, I got the
needful again, and there was again to spare.  How could I help that
the needy continually came to my house?  Was I to harden myself, and
say, What do you come to me?  there are large and better homes in the
city, go there.  Their answer was, Dear sir, we cannot go there.  We
have been there:  they were very sorry to send us away so hungry, but
they could not undertake to go and ask a friend for what we wanted.
Do go, and get us bread for we suffer great pain.  What could I do?
They spoke the truth, and their suffering touched my heart.  However
much labour it cost me, I went each time again, and got the three
loaves.  Often I got what I asked much quicker than at first, and also
much more abundantly.  But all did not care for this bread, so some
left my home hungry.’1

In his first struggles with the evil spirits, it took him more than
eighteen months of prayer and labour before the final victory was
gained.  Afterwards he had such ease of access to the throne, and
stood in such close communication with the unseen world, that often,
with letters came asking prayer for sick people, he could, after just
looking upward for a single moment, obtain the answer as to whether
they would be healed.

1From Johann Christophe Blumhardt, Ein Lebenabild von F. Etindel.
_________________________________________________________________

SEVENTEENTH LESSON.

`I know that Thou hearest me always;’

Or          Prayer in harmony with the being of God.

`Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest me.  And I knew that Thou
hearest me always.’–John xi. 41, 42.

`Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee.  Ask of me, and I
shall give Thee.’–Ps. ii. 7, 8.

IN the New Testament we find a distinction made between faith and
knowledge.  `To one is given, through the Spirit, the word of  wisdom;
to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to
another faith, in the same Spirit.’  In a child or a simple-minded
Christian there may be much faith with little knowledge.  Childlike
simplicity accepts the truth without difficulty, and often cares
little to give itself or others any reason for its faith but this:
God has said.  But it is the will of God that we should love and serve
Him, not only with all the heart but also with all the mind; that we
should grow up into an insight into the Divine wisdom and beauty of
all His ways and words and works.  It is only thus that the believer
will be able fully to approach and rightly to adore the glory of God’s
grace; and only thus that our heart can intelligently apprehend the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge there are in redemption, and be
prepared to enter fully into the highest note of the song that rises
before the throne:  `O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and
knowledge of God!’

In our prayer life this truth has its full application.  While prayer
and faith are so simple that the new-born convert can pray with power,
true Christian science finds in the doctrine of prayer some of its
deepest problems.  In how far is the power of prayer a reality?  If
so, how God can grant to prayer such mighty power?  How can the action
of prayer be harmonized with the will and the decrees of God?  How can
God’s sovereignty and our will, God’s liberty and ours, be
reconciled?–these and other like questions are fit subjects for
Christian meditation and inquiry.  The more earnestly and reverently
we approach such mysteries, the more shall we in adoring wonder fall
down to praise Him who hath in prayer given such power to man.

One of the secret difficulties with regard to prayer,–one which,
though not expressed, does often really hinder prayer,–is derived
from the perfection of God, in His absolute independence of all that
is outside of Himself.  Is He not the Infinite Being, who owes what He
is to Himself alone, who determines Himself, and whose wise and holy
will has determined all that is to be?  How can prayer influence Him,
or He be moved by prayer to do what otherwise would not be done?  Is
not the promise of an answer to prayer simply a condescension to our
weakness?  Is what is said of the power–the much-availing power–of
prayer anything more than an accommodation to our mode of thought,
because the Deity never can be dependent on any action from without
for its doings?  And is not the blessing of prayer simply the
influence it exercises upon ourselves?

In seeking an answer to such questions, we find the key in the very
being of God, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.  If God was only one
Person, shut up within Himself, there could be no thought of nearness
to Him or influence on Him.  But in God there are three Persons.  In
God we have Father and Son, who have in the Holy Spirit their living
bond of unity and fellowship.  When eternal Love begat the Son, and
the Father gave the Son as the Second Person a place next Himself as
His Equal and His Counsellor, there was a way opened for prayer and
its influence in the very inmost life of Deity itself.  Just as on
earth, so in heaven the whole relation between Father and Son is that
of giving and taking.  And if that taking is to be as voluntary and
self-determined as the giving, there must be on the part of the Son an
asking and receiving.  In the holy fellowship of the Divine Persons,
this asking of the Son was one of the great operations of the Thrice
Blessed Life of God.  Hence we have it in Psalm ii.:  `This day I have
begotten Thee:  ask of me and I will give Thee.’  The Father gave the
Son the place and the power to act upon Him.  The asking of the Son
was no mere show or shadow, but one of those life-movements in which
the love of the Father and the Son met and completed each other.  The
Father had determined that He should not be alone in His counsels:
there was a Son on whose asking and accepting their fulfilment should
depend.  And so there was in the very Being and Life of God an asking
of which prayer on earth was to be the reflection and the outflow.  It
was not without including this that Jesus said, “I knew that Thou
always hearest me.’  Just as the Sonship of Jesus on earth may not be
separated from His Sonship in heaven, even so with His prayer on
earth, it is the continuation and the counterpart of His asking in
heaven.  The prayer of the man Christ Jesus is the link between the
eternal asking of the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father and
the prayer of men upon earth.  Prayer has its rise and its deepest
source in the very Being of God.  In the bosom of Deity nothing is
ever done without prayer–the asking of the Son and the giving of the
Father.1

This may help us somewhat to understand how the prayer of man, coming
through the Son, can have effect upon God.  The decrees of God are not
decisions made by Him without reference to the Son, or His petition,
or the petition to be sent up through Him.  By no means.  The Lord
Jesus is the first-begotten, the Head and Heir of all things:  all
things were created through Him and unto Him, and all things consist
in Him.  In the counsels of the Father, the Son, as Representative of
all creation, had always a voice; in the decrees of the eternal
purpose there was always room left for the liberty of the Son as
Mediator and Intercessor, and so for the petitions of all who draw
nigh to the Father in the Son.

And if the thought come that this liberty and power of the Son to act
upon the Father is at variance with the immutability of the Divine
decrees, let us not forget that there is not with God as with man, a
past by which He is irrevocably bound.  God does not live in time with
its past and future; the distinctions of time have no reference to Him
who inhabits Eternity.  And Eternity is an ever-present Now, in which
the past is never past, and the future always present.  To meet our
human weakness, Scripture must speak of past decrees, and a coming
future.  In reality, the immutability of God’s counsel is ever still
in perfect harmony with His liberty to do whatsoever He will.  Not so
were the prayers of the Son and His people taken up into the eternal
decrees that their effect should only be an apparent one; but so, that
the Father-heart holds itself open and free to listen to every prayer
that rises through the Son, and that God does indeed allow Himself to
be decided by prayer to do what He otherwise would not have done.

This perfect harmony and union of Divine Sovereignty and human liberty
is to us an unfathomable mystery, because God as THE ETERNAL ONE
transcends all our thoughts.  But let it be our comfort and strength
to be assured that in the eternal fellowship of the Father and the
Son, the power of prayer has its origin and certainty, and that
through our union with the Son, our prayer is taken up and can have
its influence in the inner life of the Blessed Trinity.  God’s decrees
are no iron framework against which man’s liberty would vainly seek to
struggle.  No.  God Himself is the Living Love, who in His Son as man
has entered into the tenderest relation with all that is human, who
through the Holy Spirit takes up all that is human into the Divine
life of love, and keeps Himself free to give every human prayer its
place in His government of the world.

It is in the daybreak light of such thoughts that the doctrine of the
Blessed Trinity no longer is an abstract speculation, but the living
manifestation of the way in which it were possible for man to be taken
up into the fellowship of God, and his prayer to become a real factor
in God’s rule of this earth.  And we can, as in the distance, catch
glimpses of the light that from the eternal world shines out on words
such as these:  `THROUGH HIM we have access BY ONE SPIRIT unto THE
FATHER.’

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

Everlasting God!  the Three-One and Thrice Holy!  in deep reverence
would I with veiled face worship before the holy mystery of Thy Divine
Being.  And if it please Thee, O most glorious God, to unveil aught of
that mystery, I would bow with fear and trembling, lest I sin against
Thee, as I meditate on Thy glory.

Father!  I thank Thee that Thou bearest this name not only as the
Father of Thy children here on earth, but as having from eternity
subsisted as the Father with Thine only-begotten Son.  I thank Thee
that as Father Thou canst hear our prayer, because Thou hast from
eternity given a place in Thy counsels to the asking of Thy Son.  I
thank Thee that we have seen in Him on earth, what the blessed
intercourse was He had with Thee in heaven; and how from eternity in
all Thy counsels and decrees there had been room left for His prayer
and their answers.  And I thank Thee above all that through His true
human nature on Thy throne above, and through Thy Holy Spirit in our
human nature here below, a way has been opened up by which every human
cry of need can be taken up into and touch the Life and the Love of
God, and receive in answer whatsoever it shall ask.

Blessed Jesus!  in whom as the Son the path of prayer has been opened
up, and who givest us assurance of the answer, we beseech Thee, teach
Thy people to pray.  O let this each day be the sign of our sonship,
that, like Thee, we know that the Father heareth us always.  Amen.

NOTE.

`”God hears prayer.”  This simplest view of prayer is taken throughout
Scripture.  It dwells not on the reflex influence of prayer on our
heart and life, although it abundantly shows the connection between
prayer as an act, and prayer as a state.  It rather fixes with great
definiteness the objective or real purposes of prayer, to obtain
blessing, gifts, deliverances from God.  `Ask and it shall be given,”
Jesus says.

`However true and valuable the reflection may be, that God, foreseeing
and foreordaining all things, has also foreseen and foreordained our
prayers as links in the chain of events, of cause and effect, as a
real power, yet we feel convinced that this is not the light in which
the mind can find peace in this great subject, nor do we think that
here is the attractive power to draw us in prayer.  We feel rather
that such a reflection diverts the attention from the Object whence
comes the impulse, life, and strength of prayer.  The living God,
cotemporary and not merely eternal,1 the living, merciful, holy One,
God manifesting Himself to the soul, God saying, “Seek my face;” this
is the magnet that draws us, this alone can open heart and lips. . .

`In Jesus Christ the Son of God we have the full solution of the
difficulty.  He prayed on earth, and that not merely as man, but as
the Son of God incarnate.  His prayer on earth is only the
manifestation of His prayer from all eternity, when in the Divine
counsel He was set up as the Christ. . . . The Son was appointed to be
heir of all things.  From all eternity the Son of God was the Way, the
Mediator.  He was, to use our imperfect language, from eternity
speaking unto the Father on behalf of the world.’–SAPHIR, The Hidden
Life, chap. vi.  See also The Lord’s Prayer, p. 12.

1Should it not rather be cotemporary, because eternal, in the proper
meaning of this latter word?
_________________________________________________________________

EIGHTEENTH LESSON

`Whose is this image?’

Or,          Prayer in Harmony with the Destiny of Man.

`He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?–Matt.
xxi. 20.

`And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our
likeness.’–Gen. i. 26.

`WHOSE is this image?’  It was by this question that Jesus foiled His
enemies, when they thought to take Him, and settled the matter of duty
in regard to the tribute.  The question and the principle it involves
are of universal application.  Nowhere more truly than in man
himself.  The image he bears decides his destiny.  Bearing God’s
image, he belongs to God:  prayer to God is what he was created for.
Prayer is part of the wondrous likeness he bears to His Divine
original; of the deep mystery of the fellowship of love in which the
Three-One has His blessedness, prayer is the earthly image and
likeness.

The more we meditate on what prayer is, and the wonderful power with
God which it has, the more we feel constrained to ask who and what man
is, that such a place in God’s counsels should have been allotted to
him.  Sin has so degraded him, that from what he is now we can form no
conception of what he was meant to be.  We must turn back to God’s own
record of man’s creation to discover there what God’s purpose was, and
what the capacities with which man was endowed for the fulfilment of
that purpose.

Man’s destiny appears clearly from God’s language at creation.  It was
to fill, to subdue, to have dominion over the earth and all in it.
All the three expressions show us that man was meant, as God’s
representative, to hold rule here on earth.  As God’s viceroy he was
to fill God’s place:  himself subject to God, he was to keep all else
in subjection to Him.  It was the will of God that all that was to be
done on earth should be done through him:  the history of the earth
was to be entirely in his hands.

In accordance with such a destiny was the position he was to occupy,
and the power at his disposal.  When an earthly sovereign sends a
viceroy to a distant province, it is understood that he advises as to
the policy to be adopted, and that that advice is acted on:  that he
is at liberty to apply for troops and the other means needed for
carrying out the policy or maintaining the dignity of the empire.  If
his policy be not approved of, he is recalled to make way for some one
who better understands his sovereign’s desires’ as long as he is
trusted, his advice is carried out.  As God’s representative man was
to have ruled; all was to have been done under his will and rule; on
his advice and at his request heaven was to have bestowed its blessing
on earth.  His prayer was to have been the wonderful, though simple
and most natural channel, in which the intercourse between the King in
heaven and His faithful servant man, as lord of this world, was to
have been maintained.  The destinies of the world were given into the
power of the wishes, the will, the prayer of man.

With sin all this underwent a terrible change–man’s fall brought all
creation under the curse.  With redemption the beginning was seen of a
glorious restoration.  No sooner had God begun in Abraham to form for
Himself a people from whom kings, yea the Great King, should come
forth, than we see what power the prayer of God’s faithful servant has
to decide the destinies of those who come into contact with him.  In
Abraham we see how prayer is not only, or even chiefly, the means of
obtaining blessing for ourselves, but is the exercise of his royal
prerogative to influence the destinies of men, and the will of God
which rules them.  We do not once find Abraham praying for himself.
His prayer for Sodom and Lot, for Abimelech, for Ishmael, prove what
power a man, who is God’s friend, has to make the history of those
around him.

This had been man’s destiny from the first.  Scripture not only tells
us this, but also teaches us how it was that God could entrust man
with such a high calling.  It was because He had created him in His
own image and likeness.  The external rule was not committed to him
without the inner fitness:  the bearing God’s image in having
dominion, in being lord of all, had its root in the inner likeness, in
his nature.  There was an inner agreement and harmony between God and
man, and incipient Godlikeness, which gave man a real fitness for
being the mediator between God and His world, for he was to be
prophet, priest, and king, to interpret God’s will, to represent
nature’s needs, to receive and dispense God’s bounty.  It was in
bearing God’s image that he could bear God’s rule; he was indeed so
like God, so capable of entering into God’s purposes, and carrying out
His plans, that God could trust him with the wonderful privilege of
asking and obtaining what the world might need.  And although sin has
for a time frustrated God’s plans, prayer still remains what it would
have been if man had never fallen:  the proof of man’s Godlikeness,
the vehicle of his intercourse with the Infinite Unseen One, the power
that is allowed to hold the hand that holds the destinies of the
universe.  Prayer is not merely the cry of the suppliant for mercy; it
is the highest forth-putting of his will by man, knowing himself to be
of Divine origin, created for and capable of being, in king-like
liberty, the executor of the counsels of the Eternal.

What sin destroyed, grace has restored.  What the first Adam lost, the
second has won back.  In Christ man regains his original position, and
the Church, abiding in Christ, inherits the promise:  `Ask what ye
will, and it shall be done unto you.’  Such a promise does by no
means, in the first place, refer to the grace or blessing we need for
ourselves.  It has reference to our position as the fruit-bearing
branches of the Heavenly Vine, who, like Him, only live for the work
and glory of the Father.  It is for those who abide in Him, who have
forsaken self to take up their abode in Him with His life of obedience
and self-sacrifice, who have lost their life and found it in Him, who
are now entirely given up to the interests of the Father and His
kingdom.  These are they who understand how their new creation has
brought them back to their original destiny, has restored God’s image
and likeness, and with it the power to have dominion.  Such have
indeed the power, each in their own circle, to obtain and dispense the
powers of heaven here on earth.  With holy boldness they may make
known what they will:  they live as priests in God’s presence; as
kings the powers of the world to come begin to be at their disposal.
[1]   They enter upon the fulfilment of the promise:  `Ask whatsoever
ye will, it shall be done unto you.’

Church of the living God!  thy calling is higher and holier than thou
knowest.  Through thy members, as kings, and priests unto God, would
God rule the world; their prayers bestow and withhold the blessing of
heaven.  In His elect who are not just content to be themselves saved,
but yield themselves wholly, that through them, even as through the
Son, the Father may fulfil all His glorious counsel, in these His
elect, who cry day and night unto Him, God would prove how wonderful
man’s original destiny was.  As the image-bearer of God on earth, the
earth was indeed given into his hand.  When he fell, all fell with
him:  the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together.
But now he is redeemed; the restoration of the original dignity has
begun.  It is in very deed God’s purpose that the fulfilment of His
eternal purpose, and the coming of His kingdom, should depend on those
of His people who, abiding in Christ, are ready to take up their
position in Him their Head, the great Priest-King, and in their
prayers are bold enough to say what they will that their God should
do.  As image-bearer and representative of God on earth, redeemed man
has by his prayers to determine the history of this earth.  Man was
created, and has now again been redeemed, to pray, and by his prayer
to have dominion.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

Lord!  what is man, that Thou art mindful of him?  and the son of man,
that Thou visitest him?  for Thou has made him a little lower than the
angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.  Thou madest him
to have dominion over the work of Thy hands:  Thou hast put all things
under his feet.  O Lord our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the
earth!

Lord God!  how low has sin made man to sink.  And how terribly has it
darkened his mind, that he does not even know his Divine destiny, to
be Thy servant and representative.  Alas!  that even Thy people, when
their eyes are opened, are so little ready to accept their calling and
to seek to have power with God, that they may have power with men too
to bless them.

Lord Jesus!  it is in Thee the Father hath again crowned man with
glory and honour, and opened the way for us to be what He would have
us.  O Lord, have mercy on Thy people, and visit Thine heritage!  Work
mightily in Thy Church, and teach Thy believing disciples to go forth
in their royal priesthood, and in the power of prayer, to which Thou
hast given such wonderful promises, to serve Thy kingdom, to have rule
over the nations, and make the name of God glorious in the earth.
Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

[1] `God is seeking priests among the sons of men.  A human priesthood
is one of the essential parts of His eternal plan.  To rule creation
by man is His design; to carry on the worship of creation by man is no
less part of His design. `Priesthood is the appointed link between
heaven and earth, the channel of intercourse between the sinner and
God.  Such a priesthood, in so far as expiation is concerned, is in
the hands of the Son of God alone; in so far as it is to be the medium
of communication between Creator and creature, is also in the hands of
redeemed men–of the Church of God. `God is seeking kings.  Not out of
the ranks of angels.  Fallen man must furnish Him with the rulers of
His universe.  Human hands must wield the sceptre, human heads must
wear the crown.–The Rent Veil, by Dr. H. Bonar.
_________________________________________________________________

NINTEENTH LESSON.

`I go unto the Father!’

Or,          Power for Praying and Working.

`Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works
that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do;
because I go unto my Father.  And whatsoever ye shall ask in my Name,
that will I do.’–John xiv. 12, 13.

AS the Saviour opened His public ministry with His disciples by the
Sermon on the Mount, so He closes it by the Parting Address preserved
to us by John.  In both He speaks more than once of prayer.  But with
a difference.  In the Sermon on the Mount it is as to disciples who
have only just entered His school, who scarcely know that God is their
Father, and whose prayer chiefly has reference to their personal
needs.  In His closing address He speaks to disciples whose training
time is now come to an end, and who are ready as His messengers to
take His place and His work.  In the former the chief lesson is:  Be
childlike, pray believingly, and trust the Father that He will give
you all good gifts.  Here He points to something higher:  They are now
His friends to whom He has made known all that He has heard of the
Father; His messengers, who have entered into His plans, and into
whose hands the care of His work and kingdom on earth is to be
entrusted.  They are now to go out and do His works, and in the power
of His approaching exaltation, even greater works:  prayer is now to
be the channel through which that power is to be received for their
work.  With Christ’s ascension to the Father a new epoch commences for
their working and praying both.

See how clearly this connection comes out in our text.  As His body
here on earth, as those who are one with Him in heaven, they are now
to do greater works than He had done; their success and their
victories are to be greater than His.  He mentions two reasons for
this.  The one, because He was to go to the Father, to receive all
power; the other, because they might now ask and expect all in His
Name.  `Because I go to the Father, and–notice this and–and,
whatsoever ye shall ask, I will do.’  His going to the Father would
thus bring the double blessing:  they would ask and receive all in His
Name, and as a consequence, would do the greater works.  This first
mention of prayer in our Saviour’s parting words thus teaches us two
most important lessons.  He that would do the works of Jesus must pray
in His Name.  He that would pray in His Name must work in His Name.

He who would work must pray:  it is in prayer that the power for work
is obtained.  He that in faith would do the works that Jesus did, must
pray in His Name.  As long as Jesus was here on earth, He Himself did
the greatest works:  devils the disciples could not cast out, fled at
His word.  When He went to the Father, He was no longer here in the
body to work directly.  The disciples were now His body:  all His work
from the throne in heaven here on earth must and could be done through
them.  One might have thought that now He was leaving the scene
Himself, and could only work through commissioners, the works might be
fewer and weaker.  He assures us of the contrary:  Verily, verily, I
say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do
also, and he shall do greater works.’  His approaching death was to be
such a real breaking down and making an end of the power of sin; with
the resurrection the powers of the Eternal Life were so truly to take
possession of the human body and to obtain supremacy over human life;
with His ascension He was to receive the power to communicate the Holy
Spirit so fully to His own; the union, the oneness between Himself on
the throne and them on earth, was to be so intensely and divinely
perfect, that He meant it as the literal truth:  `Greater works than
these shall he do, because I go to the Father.’  And the issue proved
how true it was.  While Jesus, during three years of personal labour
on earth, gathered little more than five hundred disciples, and the
most of them so feeble that they were but little credit to His cause,
it was given to men like Peter and Paul manifestly to do greater
things than He had done.  From the throne He could do through them
what He Himself in His humiliation could not yet do.

But there is one condition:  `He that believeth on me, he shall do
greater works, because I go to the Father; and whatsover ye shall ask
in my Name, that will I do.’  His going to the Father would give Him a
new power to hear prayer.  For the doing of the greater works, two
things were needed:  His going to the Father to receive all power, our
prayer in His Name to receive all power from Him again.  As He asks
the Father, He receives and bestows on us the power of the new
dispensation for the greater works; as we believe, and ask in His
Name, the power comes and takes possession of us to do the greater
works.

Alas!  how much working there is in the work of God, in which there is
little or nothing to be seen of the power to do anything like Christ’s
works, not to speak of greater works.  There can be but one reason:
the believing on Him, the believing prayer in His Name, this is so
much wanting.  O that every labourer and leader in church, or school,
in the work of home philanthropy or foreign missions might learn the
lesson:  Prayer in the Name of Jesus is the way to share in the mighty
power which Jesus has received of the Father for His people, and it is
in this power alone that he that believeth can do the greater works.
To every complaint as to weakness or unfitness, as to difficulties or
want of success, Jesus gives this one answer:  `He that believeth on
me shall do greater works, because I go to the Father, and whatsoever
ye shall ask in my Name, that will I do.’  We must understand that the
first and chief thing for everyone who would do the work of Jesus, is
to believe, and so to get linked to Him, the Almighty One, and then to
pray the prayer of faith in His Name.  Without this our work is but
human and carnal; it may have some use in restraining sin, or
preparing the way for blessing, but the real power is wanting.
Effectual working needs first effectual prayer.

And now the second lesson:  He who would pray must work.  It is for
power to work that prayer has such great promises:  it is in working
that the power for the effectual prayer of faith will be gained.  In
these parting words of our blessed Lord we find that He no less than
six times (John xiv. 13, 14, xv. 7, 16, xvi. 23, 24) repeats those
unlimited prayer-promises which have so often awakened our anxious
questionings as to their real meaning:  `whatsoever,’ `anything,’
`what ye will,’ `ask and ye shall receive.’  How many a believer has
read these over with joy and hope, and in deep earnestness of soul has
sought to plead them for his own need.  And he has come out
disappointed.  The simple reason was this:  he had rent away the
promise from its surrounding.  The Lord gave the wonderful promise of
the free use of His Name with the Father in connection with the doing
of His works.  It is the disciple who gives himself wholly to live for
Jesus’ work and kingdom, for His will and honour, to whom the power
will come to appropriate the promise.  He that would fain grasp the
promise when he wants something very special for himself, will be
disappointed, because he would make Jesus the servant of his own
comfort.  But to him who seeks to pray the effectual prayer of faith,
because he needs it for the work of the Master, to him it will be
given to learn it; because he has made himself the servant of his
Lord’s interests.  Prayer not only teaches and strengthens to work:
work teaches and strengthens to pray.

This is in perfect harmony with what holds good both in the natural
and the spiritual world.  Whosoever hath, to him shall be given; or,
He that is faithful in a little, is faithful also in much.  Let us
with the small measure of grace already received, give ourselves to
the Master for His work:  work will be to us a real school of prayer.
It was when Moses had to take full charge of a rebellious people that
he felt the need, but also the courage, to speak boldly to God and to
ask great things of Him (Ex. xxxiii. 12, 15, 18).  As you give
yourself entirely to God for His work, you will feel that nothing less
than these great promises are what you need, that nothing less is what
you may most confidently expect.

Believer in Jesus!  You are called, you are appointed, to do the works
of Jesus, and even greater works, because He has gone to the Father to
receive the power to do them in and through you.

Whatsoever ye shall ask in my Name, that will I do.  Give yourself,
and live, to do the works of Christ and you will learn to pray so as
to obtain wonderful answers to prayer.  Give yourself, and live, to
pray and you will learn to do the works He did, and greater works.
With disciples full of faith in Himself, and bold in prayer to ask
great things, Christ can conquer the world.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

O my Lord!  I have this day again heard words from Thee which pass my
comprehension.  And yet I cannot do aught but in simple childlike
faith take and keep them as Thy gift to me too.  Thou hast said that
in virtue of Thy going to the Father, he that believeth on Thee will
do the works which Thou hast done, and greater works.  Lord!  I
worship Thee as the Glorified One, and look for the fulfilment of Thy
promise.  May my whole life just be one of continued believing in
Thee.  So purify and sanctify my heart, make it so tenderly
susceptible of Thyself and Thy love, that believing on Thee may be the
very life it breathes.

And Thou hast said that in virtue of Thy going to the Father,
whatsoever we ask, Thou wilt do.  From Thy throne of power Thou
wouldest make Thy people share the power given Thee, and work through
them as the members of Thy body, in response to their believing
prayers in Thy Name.  Power in prayer with Thee, and power in work
with men, is what Thou has promised Thy people and me too.

Blessed Lord!  Forgive us all that we have so little believed Thee and
Thy promise, and so little proved Thy faithfulness in fulfilling it.
O forgive us that we have so little honoured Thy all-prevailing Name
in heaven or upon earth.

Lord!  Teach me to pray so that I may prove that Thy Name is indeed
all-prevailing with God and men and devils.  Yea, teach me so to work
and so to pray that Thou canst glorify Thyself in me as the Omnipotent
One, and do Thy great work through me too.  Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

TWENTIETH LESSON.

`That the Father may be glorified;’

Or,    The Chief End of Prayer.

I go unto the Father.  And whatsoever ye shall ask in my Name, that
will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’–John xiv.
13.

THAT the Father may be glorified in the Son: it is to this end that
Jesus on His throne in glory will do all we ask in His Name.  Every
answer to prayer He gives will have this as its object:  when there is
no prospect of this object being obtained, He will not answer.   It
follows as a matter of course that this must be with us, as with
Jesus, the essential element in our petitions:  the glory of the
Father must be the aim and end, the very soul and life of our prayer.

It was so with Jesus when He was on earth.  `I seek not mine own
honour:  I seek the honour of Him that sent me;’ in such words we have
the keynote of His life.  In the first words of the high-priestly
prayer He gives utterance to it:  Father! Glorify Thy son, that Thy
Son may glorify Thee.  `I have glorified Thee on earth; glorify me
with Thyself.’  The ground on which He asks to be taken up into the
glory He had with the Father, is the twofold one:  He has glorified
Him on earth; He will still glorify Him in heaven.   What He asks is
only to enable Him to glorify the Father more.  It is as we enter into
sympathy with Jesus on this point, and gratify Him by making the
Father’s glory our chief object in prayer too, that our prayer cannot
fail of an answer.  There is nothing of which the Beloved Son has said
more distinctly that it will glorify the Father than this, His doing
what we ask; He will not, therefore, let any opportunity slip of
securing this object.  Let us make His aim ours:  let the glory of the
Father be the link between our asking and His doing:  such prayer must
prevail.1

This word of Jesus comes indeed as a sharp two-edged sword, piercing
even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and quick to discern the
thoughts and intents of the heart.  Jesus in His prayers on earth, in
His intercession in heaven, in His promise of an answer to our prayers
from there, makes this His first object–the glory of His Father.  Is
it so with us too?  Or are not, in large measure, self-interest and
self-will the strongest motives urging us to pray?  Or, if we cannot
see that this is the case, have we not to acknowledge that the
distinct, conscious longing for the glory of the Father is not what
animates our prayers?  And yet it must be so.

Not as if the believer does not at times desire it.   But he has to
mourn that he has so little attained.  And he knows the reason of his
failure too.  It was, because the separation between the spirit of
daily life and the spirit of the hour of prayer was too wide.  We
begin to see that the desire for the glory of the Father is not
something that we can awake and present to our Lord when we prepare
ourselves to pray.  No! it is only when the whole life, in all its
parts, is given up to God’s glory, that we can really pray to His
glory too.  `Do all to the glory of God,’ and, `Ask all to the glory
of God,’–these twin commands are inseparable:  obedience to the
former is the secret of grace for the latter.   A life to the glory of
God is the condition of the prayers that Jesus can answer, `that the
Father may be glorified.’

This demand in connection with prevailing prayer–that it should be to
the glory of God–is no more than right and natural.  There is none
glorious but the Lord:  there is no glory but His, and what He layeth
on His creatures.  Creation exists to show forth His glory; all that
is not for His glory is sin, and darkness, and death:  it is only in
the glorifying of God that the creatures can find glory.  What the Son
of Man did, to give Himself wholly, His whole life, to glorify the
Father, is nothing but the simple duty of every redeemed one.  And
Christ’s reward will be his too.  Because He gave Himself so entirely
to the glory of the Father, the Father crowned Him with glory and
honour, giving the kingdom into His hands, with the power to ask what
He will, and, as Intercessor, to answer our prayers.  And just as we
become one with Christ in this, and as our prayer is part of a life
utterly surrendered to God’s glory, will the Saviour be able to
glorify the Father to us by the fulfilment of the promise:
`Whatsoever ye shall ask, I will do it.’

To such a life, with God’s glory our only aim, we cannot attain by any
effort of our own.  It is only in the man Christ Jesus that such a
life is to be seen:  in Him it is to be found for us.  Yes blessed be
God!  His life is our life; He gave Himself for us; He Himself is now
our life.  The discovery, and the confession, and the denial, of self,
as usurping the place of God, of self-seeking and self-trusting, is
essential, and yet is what we cannot accomplish in our own strength.
It is the incoming and indwelling, the Presence and the Rule in the
heart, of our Lord Jesus who glorified the Father on earth, and is now
glorified with Him, that thence He might glorify Him in us;–it is
Jesus Himself  coming in, who can cast out all self-glorifying, and
give us instead His own God-glorifying life and Spirit.  It is Jesus,
who longs to glorify the Father in hearing our prayers, who will teach
us to live and to pray to the glory of God.

And what motive, what power is there that can urge our slothful hearts
to yield themselves to our Lord to work this in us?  Surely nothing
more is needed than a sight of how glorious, how alone worthy of glory
the Father is.  Let our faith learn in adoring worship to bow before
Him, to ascribe to Him alone the kingdom, and the power, and the
glory, to yield ourselves to dwell in His light as the ever-blessed,
ever-loving One.  Surely we shall be stirred to say, `To Him alone be
glory.’  And we shall look to our Lord Jesus with new intensity of
desire for a life that refuses to see or seek ought but the glory of
God.  When there is but little prayer that can be answered, the Father
is not glorified.  It is a duty, for the glory of God, to live and
pray so that our prayer can be answered.  For the sake of God’s glory,
let us learn to pray well.

What a humbling thought that so often there is earnest prayer for a
child or a friend, for a work or a circle, in which the thought of our
joy or our pleasure was far stronger than any yearnings for God’s
glory.  No wonder that there are so many unanswered prayers:  here we
have the secret.  God would not be glorified when that glory was not
our object.  He that would pray the prayer of faith, will have to give
himself to live literally so that the Father in all things may be
glorified in him.  This must be his aim:  without this there cannot be
the prayer of faith.  `How can ye believe,’ said Jesus, `which receive
glory of one another, and the glory that cometh from the only God ye
seek not?’  All seeking of our own glory with men makes faith
impossible:  it is the deep, intense self-sacrifice that gives up its
own glory, and seeks the glory of God alone, that wakens in the soul
that spiritual susceptibility of the Divine, which is faith.  The
surrender to God to seek His glory, and the expectation that He will
show His glory in hearing us, are one at root:   He that seeks God’s
glory will see it in the answer to his prayer, and he alone.

And how, we ask again, shall we attain to it?  Let us begin with
confession.  How little has the glory of God been an all-absorbing
passion; how little our lives and our prayers have been full of it.
How little have we lived in the likeness of the Son, and in sympathy
with Him–for God and His glory alone.  Let us take time, until the
Holy Spirit discover it to us, and we see how wanting we have been in
this.  True knowledge and confession of sin are the sure path to
deliverance.

And then let us look to Jesus.  In Him we can see by what death we can
glorify God.  In death He glorified Him; through death He was
glorified with Him.  It is by dying, being dead to self and living to
God, that we can glorify Him.  And this–this death to self, this life
to the glory of God–is what Jesus gives and lives in each one who can
trust Him for it.  Let nothing less than these–the desire, the
decision to live only for the glory of the Father, even as Christ did;
the acceptance of Him with His life and strength working it in us; the
joyful assurance that we can live to the glory of God, because Christ
lives in us;–let this be the spirit of our daily life.   Jesus stands
surety for our living thus; the Holy Spirit is given, and waiting to
make it our experience, if we will only trust and let Him; O let us
not hold back through unbelief, but confidently take as our
watchword–All to the glory of God!  The Father accepts the will, the
sacrifice is well-pleasing; the Holy Spirit will seal us within with
the consciousness, we are living for God and His glory.

And then what quiet peace and power there will be in our prayers, as
we know ourselves through His grace, in perfect harmony with Him who
says to us, when He promises to do what we ask:  `That the Father may
be glorified in the Son.’  With our whole being consciously yielded to
the inspiration of the Word and Spirit, our desires will be no longer
ours but His; their chief end the glory of God.  With increasing
liberty we shall be able in prayer to say:  Father!  Thou knowest, we
ask it only for Thy glory.  And the condition of prayer-answers,
instead of being as a mountain we cannot climb, will only give us the
greater confidence that we shall be heard, because we have seen that
prayer has no higher beauty or blessedness than this, that it
glorifies the Father.  And the precious privilege of prayer will
become doubly precious because it brings us into perfect unison with
the Beloved Son in the wonderful partnership He proposes:  `You ask,
and I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

Blessed Lord Jesus!  I come again to Thee.  Every lesson Thou givest
me convinces me more deeply how little I know to pray aright.  But
every lesson also inspires me with hope that Thou art going to teach
me, that Thou art teaching me not only to know what prayer should be,
but actually to pray as I ought.  O my Lord!  I look with courage to
Thee, the Great Intercessor, who didst pray and dost hear prayer, only
that the Father may be glorified, to teach me too to live and to pray
to the glory of God.

Saviour!  To this end I yield myself to Thee again.  I would be
nothing.  I have given self, as already crucified with Thee, to the
death.  Through the Spirit its workings are mortified and made dead;
Thy life and Thy love of the Father are taking possession of me.  A
new longing begins to fill my soul, that every day, every hour, that
in every prayer the glory of the Father may be everything to me.  O my
Lord!  I am in Thy school to learn this:  teach Thou it me.

And do Thou, the God of glory, the Father of glory, my God and my
Father, accept the desire of a child who has seen that Thy glory is
indeed alone worth living for.   O Lord!  Show me Thy glory.  Let it
overshadow me.  Let it fill the temple of my heart.  Let me dwell in
it as revealed in Christ.  And do Thou Thyself fulfil in me Thine own
good pleasure, that Thy child should find his glory in seeking the
glory of his Father.  Amen.

1See in the note on George Muller, at the close of this volume, how he
was led to make God’s glory his first object.
_________________________________________________________________

TWENTY-FIRST LESSON.

`If ye abide in me;’

Or     The All-Inclusive Condition.

`If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will,
and it shall be done unto you.’–John xv. 7.

IN all God’s intercourse with us, the promise and its conditions are
inseparable.  If we fulfil the conditions, He fulfils the promise.
What He is to be to us depends upon what we are willing to be to Him.
`Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.’  And so in prayer
the unlimited promise, Ask whatsoever ye will, has its one simple and
natural condition, if ye abide in me.  It is Christ whom the Father
always hears; God is in Christ, and can only be reached by being in
Him; to be IN HIM is the way to have our prayer heard; fully and
wholly ABIDING IN HIM, we have the right to ask whatsoever we will,
and the promise that it shall be done unto us.

When we compare this promise with the experiences of most believers,
we are startled by a terrible discrepancy.  Who can number up the
countless prayers that rise and bring no answer?  The cause must be
either that we do not fulfil the condition, or God does not fulfil the
promise.  Believers are not willing to admit either, and therefore
have devised a way of escape from the dilemma.  They put into the
promise the qualifying clause our Saviour did not put there–if it be
God’s will; and so maintain both God’s integrity and their own.  O if
they did but accept it and hold it fast as it stands, trusting to
Christ to vindicate His truth, how God’s Spirit would lead them to see
the Divine propriety of such a promise to those who really abide in
Christ in the sense in which He means it, and to confess that the
failure in the fulfilling the condition is the one sufficient
explanation of unanswered prayer.  And how the Holy Spirit would then
make our feebleness in prayer one of the mightiest motives to urge us
on to discover the secret, and obtain the blessing, of full abiding in
Christ.

`If ye abide in me.’  As a Christian grows in grace and in the
knowledge of the Lord Jesus, he is often surprised to find how the
words of God grow too, in the new and deeper meaning with which they
come to him.  He can look back to the day when some word of God was
opened up to him and he rejoiced in the blessing he had found in it.
After a time some deeper experience gave it a new meaning, and it was
as if he never had seen what it contained.  And yet once again, as he
advanced in the Christian life, the same word stood before him again
as a great mystery, until anew the Holy Spirit led him still deeper
into its Divine fulness.  One of these ever-growing, never-exhausted
words, opening up to us step by step the fulness of the Divine life,
is the Master’s precious `Abide in me.’  As the union of the branch
with the vine is one of growth, never-ceasing growth and increase, so
our abiding in Christ is a life process in which the Divine life takes
ever fuller and more complete possession of us.  The young and feeble
believer may be really abiding in Christ up to the measure of his
light; it is he who reaches onward to the full abiding in the sense in
which the Master understood the words, who inherits all the promises
connected with it.

In the growing life of abiding in Christ, the first stage is that of
faith.  As the believer sees that, with all his feebleness, the
command is really meant for him, his great aim is simply to believe
that, as he knows he is in Christ, so now, notwithstanding
unfaithfulness and failure, abiding in Christ is his immediate duty,
and a blessing within his reach.  He is specially occupied with the
love, and power, and faithfulness of the Saviour:  he feels his one
need to be believing.

It is not long before he sees something more is needed.  Obedience and
faith must go together.  Not as if to the faith he has the obedience
must be added, but faith must be made manifest in obedience.  Faith is
obedience at home and looking to the Master:  obedience is faith going
out to do His will.  He sees how he has been more occupied with the
privilege and the blessings of this abiding than with its duties and
its fruit.  There has been much of self and of self-will that has been
unnoticed or tolerated:  the peace which, as a young and feeble
disciple, he could enjoy in believing goes from him; it is in
practical obedience that the abiding must be maintained:  `If ye keep
my commands, ye shall abide in my love.’  As before his great aim was
through the mind, and the truth it took hold of, to let the heart rest
on Christ and His promises; so now, in this stage, he chief effort is
to get his will united with the will of his Lord, and the heart and
the life brought entirely under His rule.

And yet it is as if there is something wanting.  The will and the
heart are on Christ’s side; he obeys and he loves his Lord.  But
still, why is it that the fleshly nature has yet so much power, that
the spontaneous motions and emotions of the inmost being are not what
they should be?  The will does not approve or allow, but here is a
region beyond control of the will.  And why also, even when there is
not so much of positive commission to condemn, why so much of
omission, the deficiency of that beauty of holiness, that zeal of
love, that conformity to Jesus and His death, in which the life of
self is lost, and which is surely implied in the abiding, as the
Master meant it?  There must surely be something in our abiding in
Christ and Christ in us, which he has not yet experienced.

It is so.  Faith and obedience are but the pathway of blessing.
Before giving us the parable of the vine and the branches, Jesus had
very distinctly told what the full blessing is to which faith and
obedience are to lead.  Three times over He had said, `If ye love me,
keep my commandments,’ and spoken of the threefold blessing with which
He would crown such obedient love.  The Holy Spirit would come from
the Father; the Son would manifest Himself; the Father and the Son
would come and make their abode.  It is as our faith grows into
obedience, and in obedience and love our whole being goes out and
clings itself to Christ, that our inner life becomes opened up, and
the capacity is formed within of receiving the life, the spirit, of
the glorified Jesus, as a distinct and conscious union with Christ and
with the Father.  The word is fulfilled in us:  `In that day ye shall
know that I am in my Father and ye in me, and I in you.’  We
understand how, just as Christ is in God, and God in Christ, one
together not only in will and in love, but in identity of nature and
life, because they exist in each other, so we are in Christ and Christ
in us, in union not only of will and love, but of life and nature too.

It was after Jesus had spoken of our thus through the Holy Spirit
knowing that He is in the Father, and even so we in Him and He in us,
that He said, `Abide in me, and I in you.  Accept, consent to receive
that Divine life of union with myself, in virtue of which, as you
abide in me, I also abide in you, even as I abide in the Father.  So
that your life is mine and mine is yours.’  This is the true abiding,
the occupying of the position in which Christ can come and abide; so
abiding in Him that the soul has come away from self to find that He
has taken the place and become our life.  It is the becoming as little
children who have no care, and find their happiness in trusting and
obeying the love that has done all for them.

To those who thus abide, the promise comes as their rightful
heritage:  Ask whatsoever ye will.  It cannot be otherwise.  Christ
has got full possession of Them.  Christ dwells in their love, their
will, their life.  Not only has their will been given up; Christ has
entered it, and dwells and breathes in it by His Spirit.  He whom the
Father always hears, prays in them; they pray in Him:  what they ask
shall be done unto them.

Beloved fellow-believer!  let us confess that it is because we do not
abide in Christ as He would have us, that the Church is so impotent in
presence of the infidelity and worldliness and heathendom, in the
midst of which the Lord is able to make her more than conqueror.  Let
us believe that He means what He promises, and accept the condemnation
the confession implies.

But let us not be discouraged.  The abiding of the branch in the Vine
is a life of never-ceasing growth.  The abiding, as the Master meant
it, is within our reach, for He lives to give it us.  Let us but be
ready to count all things loss, and to say, `Not as though I had
already attained; I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for
which I also am apprehended of Christ Jesus.’  Let us not be so much
occupied with the abiding, as with Him to whom the abiding links us,
and His fulness.  Let it be Him, the whole Christ, in His obedience
and humiliation, in His exaltation and power, in whom our soul moves
and acts; He Himself will fulfil His promise in us.

And then as we abide, and grow evermore into the full abiding, let us
exercise our right, the will to enter into all God’s will.  Obeying
what that will commands, let us claim what it promises.  Let us yield
to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to show each of us, according to
his growth and measure, what the will of God is which we may claim in
prayer.  And let us rest content with nothing less than the personal
experience of what Jesus gave when He said, `If ye abide in me, ask
whatsoever ye will, it shall be done unto you.’

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY!’

—–0—–

Beloved Lord!  do teach me to take this promise anew in all its
simplicity, and to be sure that the only measure of Thy holy giving is
our holy willing.  Lord!  Let each word of this Thy promise be anew
made quick and powerful in my soul.

Thou sayest:  Abide in me!  O my Master, my Life, my All, I do abide
in Thee.  Give Thou me to grow up into all Thy fulness.  It is not the
effort of faith, seeking to cling to Thee, nor even the rest of faith,
trusting Thee to keep me; it is not the obedience of the will, nor the
keeping the commandments; but it is Thyself living in me and in the
Father, that alone can satisfy me.  It is Thy self, my Lord, no longer
before me and above me, but one with me, and abiding in me; it is this
I need, it is this I seek.  It is this I trust Thee for.

Thou sayest:  Ask whatsoever ye will!  Lord!  I know that the life of
full, deep abiding will so renew and sanctify and strengthen the will
that I shall have the light and the liberty to ask great things.
Lord!  let my will, dead in Thy death, living in Thy life, be bold and
large in its petitions.

Thou sayest:  It shall be done.  O Thou who art the Amen, the Faithful
and True Witness, give me in Thyself the joyous confidence that Thou
wilt make this word yet more wonderfully true to me than ever, because
it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive what God hath
prepared for them that love Him.  Amen.

NOTE

On a thoughtful comparison of what we mostly find in books or sermons
on prayer, and the teaching of the Master, we shall find one great
difference:  the importance assigned to the answer to prayer is by no
means the same.  In the former we find a great deal on the blessing of
prayer as a spiritual exercise even if there be no answer, and on the
reasons why we should be content without it.  God’s fellowship ought
to be more to us than the gift we ask; God’s wisdom only knows what is
best; God may bestow something better than what He withholds.  Though
this teaching looks very high and spiritual, it is remarkable that we
find nothing of it with our Lord.  The more carefully we gather
together all He spoke on prayer, the clearer it becomes that He wished
us to think of prayer simply as the means to an end, and that the
answer was to be the proof that we and our prayer are acceptable to
the Father in heaven. It is not that Christ would have us count the
gifts of higher value than the fellowship and favour of the Father.
By no means.  But the Father means the answer to be the token of His
favour and of the reality of our fellowship with Him.  `To-day thy
servant knoweth that I have found grace in thy sight, my lord, O king,
in that the king hath fulfilled the request of his servant.’

A life marked by daily answer to prayer is the proof of our spiritual
maturity; that we have indeed attained to the true abiding in Christ;
that our will is truly at one with God’s will; that our faith has
grown strong to see and take what God has prepared for us; that the
Name of Christ and His nature have taken full possession of us; and
that we have been found fit to take a place among those whom God
admits to His counsels, and according to whose prayer He rules the
world.  These are they in whom something of man’s original dignity
hath been restored, in whom, as they abide in Christ, His power as the
all-prevailing Intercessor can manifest itself, in whom the glory of
His Name is shown forth.   Prayer is very blessed; the answer is more
blessed still, as the response from the Father that our prayer, our
faith, our will are indeed as He would wish them to be.

I make these remarks with the one desire of leading my readers
themselves to put together all that Christ has said on prayer, and to
yield themselves to the full impression of the truth that when prayer
is what it should be, or rather when we are what we should be, abiding
in Christ, the answer must be expected.  It will bring us out from
those refuges where we have comforted ourselves with unanswered
prayer.  It will discover to us the place of power to which Christ has
appointed His Church, and which it so little occupies.  It will reveal
the terrible feebleness of our spiritual life as the cause of our not
knowing to pray boldly in Christ’s Name.  It will urge us mightily to
rise to a life in the full union with Christ, and in the fulness of
the Spirit, as the secret of effectual prayer.  And it will so lead us
on to realize our destiny:  `At that day:  Verily, verily, I say unto
you, If ye shall ask anything of the Father, He will give it you in my
Name:  ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be fulfilled.’
Prayer that is really, spiritually, in union with Jesus, is always
answered.
_________________________________________________________________

TWENTY-SECOND LESSON.

`My words in you.’

Or,    The Word and Prayer.

`If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will,
and it shall be done unto you.’–John xv. 7.

THE vital connection between the word and prayer is one of the
simplest and earliest lessons of the Christian life.  As that
newly-converted heathen put it:  I pray–I speak to my father; I
read–my Father speaks to me.  Before prayer, it is God’s word that
prepares me for it by revealing what the Father has bid me ask.  In
prayer, it is God’s word strengthens me by giving my faith its warrant
and its plea.  And after prayer, it is God’s word that brings me the
answer when I have prayed, for in it the Spirit gives me to hear the
Father’s voice.  Prayer is not monologue but dialogue; God’s voice in
response to mine in its most essential part.  Listening to God’s voice
is the secret of the assurance that He will listen to mine.  `Incline
thine ear, and hear;’ `Give ear to me;’ Hearken to my voice;’ are
words which God speaks to man as well as man to God.  His hearkening
will depend on ours; the entrance His words find with me, will be the
measure of the power of my words with Him.   What God’s words are to
me, is the test of what He Himself is to me, and so of the uprightness
of my desire after Him in prayer.

It is this connection between His word and our prayer that Jesus
points to when He says, `If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you,
ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’  The deep
importance of this truth becomes clear if we notice the other
expression of which this one has taken the place.  More than once
Jesus had said, “Abide in me and I in you.’  His abiding in us was the
complement and the crown of our abiding in Him. But here, instead of
`Ye in me and I in you,’ He says, `Ye in me and my words in you.’  His
words abiding are the equivalent of Himself abiding.

What a view is here opened up to us of the place the words of God in
Christ are to have in our spiritual life, and especially in our
prayer.  In a man’s words he reveals himself.  In his promises he
gives himself away, he binds himself to the one who receives his
promise.  In his commands he sets forth his will, seeks to make
himself master of him whose obedience he claims, to guide and use him
as if he were part of himself.  It is through our words that spirit
holds fellowship with spirit, that the spirit of one man passes over
and transfers itself into another.  It is through the words of a man,
heard and accepted, and held fast and obeyed, that he can impart
himself to another.  But all this in a very relative and limited
sense.

But when God, the infinite Being, in whom everything is life and
power, spirit and truth, in the very deepest meaning of the
words,–when God speaks forth Himself in His words, He does indeed
give HIMSELF, His Love and His Life, His Will and His Power, to those
who receive these words, in a reality passing comprehension.  In every
promise He puts Himself in our power to lay hold of and possess; in
every command He puts Himself in our power for us to share with Him
His Will, His Holiness, His Perfection.  In God’s Word God gives us
HIMSELF; His Word is nothing less than the Eternal Son, Christ Jesus.
And so all Christ’s words are God’s words, full of a Divine quickening
life and power.  `The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and
they are life.’

Those who have made the deaf and dumb their study, tell us how much
the power of speaking depends on that of hearing, and how the loss of
hearing in children is followed by that of speaking too.  This is true
in a wider sense:  as we hear, so we speak.  This is true in the
highest sense of our intercourse with God.  To offer a prayer–to give
utterance to certain wishes and to appeal to certain promises–is an
easy thing, and can be learned of man by human wisdom.  But to pray in
the Spirit, to speak words that reach and touch God, that affect and
influence the powers of the unseen world,–such praying, such
speaking, depends entirely upon our hearing God’s voice.  Just as far
as we listen to the voice and language that God speaks, and in the
words of God receive His thoughts, His mind, His life, into our heart,
we shall learn to speak in the voice and the language that God hears.
It is the ear of the learner, wakened morning by morning, that
prepares for the tongue of the learned, to speak to God as well as
men, as should be (Isa. l. 4).

This hearing the voice of God is something more than the thoughtful
study of the Word.  There may be a study and knowledge of the Word, in
which there is but little real fellowship with the living God.  But
there is also a reading of the Word, in the very presence of the
Father, and under the leading of the Spirit, in which the Word comes
to us in living power from God Himself; it is to us the very voice of
the Father, a real personal fellowship with Himself.  It is the living
voice of God that enters the heart, that brings blessing and strength,
and awakens the response of a living faith that reaches the heart of
God again.

It is on this hearing the voice, that the power both to obey and
believe depends.  The chief thing is, not to know what God has said we
must do, but that God Himself says it to us.  It is not the law, and
not the book, not the knowledge of what is right, that works
obedience, but the personal influence of God and His living
fellowship.  And even so it is not the knowledge of what God has
promised, but the presence of God Himself  as the Promiser, that
awakens faith and trust in prayer.  It is only in the full presence of
God that disobedience and unbelief become impossible.

`If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will,
it shall be done unto you.’  We see what this means.  In the words the
Saviour gives Himself.  We must have the words in us, taken up into
our will and life, reproduced in our disposition and conduct.  We must
have them abiding in us:  our whole life one continued exposition of
the words that are within, and filling us; the words revealing Christ
within, and our life revealing Him without.  It is as the words of
Christ enter our very heart, become our life and influence it, that
our words will enter His heart and influence Him.  My prayer will
depend on my life; what God’s words are to me and in me, my words will
be to God and in God.  If I do what God says, God will do what I say.

How well the Old Testament saints understood this connection between
God’s words and ours, and how really prayer with them was the loving
response to what they had heard God speak!  If the word were a
promise, they counted on God to do as He had spoken.  `Do as Thou hast
said;’ `For Thou, Lord, hast spoken it;’ `According to Thy promise;’
`According to Thy word;’ in such expressions they showed that what God
spake in promise was the root and the life of what they spake in
prayer.  If the word was a command, they simply did as the Lord had
spoken:  `So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken.’  Their life was
fellowship with God, the interchange of word and thought.  What God
spoke they heard and did; what they spoke God heard and did.  In each
word He speaks to us, the whole Christ gives Himself to fulfil it for
us. For each word He asks no less that we give the whole man to keep
that word, and to receive its fulfilment.

`If my words abide in you;’ the condition is simple and clear.  In His
words His will is revealed.  As the words abide in me, His will rules
me; my will becomes the empty vessel which His will fills, the willing
instrument which His will wields; He fills my inner being.  In the
exercise of obedience and faith my will becomes ever stronger, and is
brought into deeper inner harmony with Him.  He can fully trust it to
will nothing but what He wills; He is not afraid to give the promise,
`If my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, it shall be done
unto you.’  To all who believe it, and act upon it, He will make it
literally true.

Disciples of Christ!  is it not becoming more and more clear to us
that while we have been excusing our unanswered prayers, our impotence
in prayer, with a fancied submission to God’s wisdom and will, the
real reason has been that our own feeble life has been the cause of
our feeble prayers.  Nothing can make strong men but the word coming
to us from God’s mouth:  by that we must live.  It is the word of
Christ, loved, lived in, abiding in us, becoming through obedience and
action part of our being, that makes us one with Christ, that fits us
spiritually for touching, for taking hold of God.  All that is of the
world passeth away; he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  O
let us yield heart and life to the words of Christ, the words in which
He ever gives HIMSELF, the personal living Saviour, and His promise
will be our rich experience:  `If ye abide in me, and my words abide
in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY!’

—–0——

Blessed Lord!  Thy lesson this day has again discovered to me my
folly.  I see how it is that my prayer has not been more believing and
prevailing.  I was more occupied with my speaking to Thee than Thy
speaking to me.  I did not understand that the secret of faith is
this:  there can be only so much faith as there is of the Living Word
dwelling in the soul.

And Thy word had taught me so clearly:  Let every man be swift to
hear, slow to speak; let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything
before God.  Lord, teach me that it is only with Thy word taken up
into my life that my words can be taken into Thy heart; that Thy word,
if it be a living power within me, will be a living power with Thee;
what Thy mouth hath spoken Thy hand will perform.

Lord!   deliver me from the uncircumcised ear.  Give me the opened ear
of the learner, wakened morning by morning to hear the Father’s
voice.  Even as Thou didst only speak what Thou didst hear, may my
speaking be the echo of Thy speaking to me.  `When Moses went into the
tabernacle to speak with Him, he heard the voice of One speaking unto
him from off the mercy-seat.’  Lord, may it be so with me too.  Let a
life and character bearing the one mark, that Thy words abide and are
seen in it, be the preparation for the full blessing:  `Ask whatsoever
ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’  Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

TWENTY-THIRD LESSON

`Bear fruit, that the Father may give what ye ask;’

Or,          Obedience the Path to Power in Prayer.

`Ye did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that ye
should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide:  that
whatsoever ye shall ask  the Father in my name, He may give it
you.’–John xv. 16.

`The fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth
much.’–James. v. 16.

THE promise of the Father’s giving whatsoever we ask is here once
again renewed, in such a connection as to show us to whom it is that
such wonderful influence in the council chamber of the Most High is to
be granted.  `I chose you,’ the Master says, `and appointed you that
ye should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide;’ and
then He adds, to the end `that whatsoever ye,’ the fruit-bearing ones,
`shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you.’  This is
nothing but the fuller expression of what He had spoken in the words,
`If ye abide in me.’  He had spoken of the object of this abiding as
the bearing `fruit,’ `more fruit,’ `much fruit;’ in this was God to be
glorified, and the mark of discipleship seen.  No wonder that He now
adds, that where the reality of the abiding is seen in fruit abounding
and abiding, this would be the qualification for praying so as to
obtain what we ask.  Entire consecration to the fulfilment of our
calling is the condition of effectual prayer, is the key to the
unlimited blessings of Christ’s wonderful prayer-promises.

There are Christians who fear that such a statement is at variance
with the doctrine of free grace.  But surely not of free grace rightly
understood, nor with so many express statements of God’s blessed
word.  Take the words of St. John (1 John iii. 22):  `Let us love in
deed and truth; hereby shall we assure our heart before Him.  And
whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His
commandments, and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.” Or
take the oft-quoted words of James: `The fervent effectual prayer of a
righteous man availeth much;’ that is, of a man of whom, according to
the definition of the Holy Spirit, it can be said, `He that doeth
righteousness, is righteous even as He is righteous.’  Mark the spirit
of so many of the Psalms, with their confident appeal to the integrity
and righteousness of the supplicant.  In Ps. xviii, David says:  `The
Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the
cleanness of my hands hath He recompensed me. . . . I was upright
before Him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity: therefore hath the
Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness.’  (Ps. xviii.
20-26.  See also Ps. vii. 3-5, xv. 1, 2, xviii. 3, 6, xxvi. 1-6, cxix.
121, 153.)  If we carefully consider such utterances in the light of
the New Testament, we shall find them in perfect harmony with the
explicit teaching of the Saviour’s parting words:  `If ye keep my
commandments, ye shall abide in my love;’ `Ye are my friends if ye do
what I command you.’   The word is indeed meant literally:  `I
appointed you that ye should go and bear fruit, that,’ then,
`whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it
you.’

Let us seek to enter into the spirit of what the Saviour here teaches
us.  There is a danger in our evangelical religion of looking too much
at what it offers from one side, as a certain experience to be
obtained in prayer and faith.  There is another side which God’s word
puts very strongly, that of obedience as the only path to blessing.
What we need is to realize that in our  relationship to the Infinite
Being whom we call God who has created and redeemed us, the first
sentiment that ought to animate us is that of subjection:  the
surrender to His supremacy, His glory, His will, His pleasure, ought
to be the first and uppermost thought of our life.  The question is
not, how we are to obtain and enjoy His favour, for in this the main
thing may still be self.  But what this Being in the very nature of
things rightfully claims, and is infinitely and unspeakably worthy of,
is that His glory and pleasure should be my one object.  Surrender to
His perfect and blessed will, a life of service and obedience, is the
beauty and the charm of heaven.  Service and obedience, these were the
thoughts that were uppermost in the mind of the Son, when He dwelt
upon earth.  Service and obedience, these must become with us the
chief objects of desire and aim, more so than rest or light, or joy or
strength:  in them we shall find the path to all the higher
blessedness that awaits us.

Just note what a prominent place the Master gives it, not only in the
15^th chapter, in connection with the abiding, but in the 14^th, where
He speaks of the indwelling of the Three-One God.  In verse 15 we have
it:  `If ye love me, keep my commandments, and the Spirit will be
given you of the Father.  Then verse 21:  `He that hath my
commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me;’ and he shall
have the special love of my Father resting on him and the special
manifestation of myself.  And then again, verse 23, one of the highest
of all the exceeding great and precious promises:  `If a man love me
he will keep my words, and the Father and I will come and take up our
abode with him.’  Could words put it more clearly that obedience is
the way to the indwelling of the Spirit, to His revealing the Son
within us, and to His again preparing us to be the abode, the home of
the Father?  The indwelling of the Three-One God is the heritage of
them that obey.  Obedience and faith are but two aspects of one
act,–surrender to God and His will.  As faith strengthens for
obedience, it is in turn strengthened by it:  faith is made perfect by
works.  It is to be feared that often our efforts to believe have been
unavailing because we have not taken up the only position in which a
large faith is legitimate or possible,–that of entire surrender to
the honour and the will of God.  It is the man who is entirely
consecrated to God and His will who will find the power come to claim
everything that His God has promised to be for him.

The application of this in the school of prayer is very simple, but
very solemn.  `I chose you,’ the Master says, `and appointed you that
ye should go and bear fruit,’ much fruit (verses 5, 8), `and that your
fruit should abide,’ that your life might be one of abiding fruit and
abiding fruitfulness, `that’ thus, as fruitful branches abiding in me,
`whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it
you.’  O how often we have sought to be able to pray the effectual
prayer for much grace to bear fruit, and have wondered that the answer
came not.  It was because we were reversing the Master’s order.  We
wanted to have the comfort and the joy and the strength first, that we
might do the work easily and without any feeling of difficulty or
self-sacrifice.  And He wanted us in faith, without asking whether we
felt weak or strong, whether the work was hard or easy, in the
obedience of faith to do what He said:  the path of fruit-bearing
would have led us to the place and the power of prevailing prayer.
Obedience is the only path that leads to the glory of God.  Not
obedience instead of faith, nor obedience to supply the shortcomings
of faith; no, but faith’s obedience gives access to all the blessings
our God has for us.  The baptism of the Spirit (xiv. 16), the
manifestation of the Son (xiv. 21), the indwelling of the Father (xiv.
23), the abiding in Christ’s love (xv. 10), the privilege of His holy
friendship (xv. 14), and the power of all-prevailing prayer (xv.
16),–all wait for the obedient.

Let us take home the lessons.  Now we know the great reason why we
have not had power in faith to pray prevailingly.  Our life was not as
it should have been:  simple downright obedience, abiding
fruitfulness, was not its chief mark.  And with our whole heart we
approve of the Divine appointment:  men to whom God is to give such
influence in the rule of the world, as at their request to do what
otherwise would not have taken place, men whose will is to guide the
path in which God’s will is to work, must be men who have themselves
learned obedience, whose loyalty and submission to authority must be
above all suspicion.  Our whole soul approves the law:  obedience and
fruit-bearing, the path to prevailing prayer.   And with shame we
acknowledge how little our lives have yet borne this stamp.

Let us yield ourselves to take up the appointment the Saviour gives
us.  Let us study His relation to us as Master.  Let us seek no more
with each new day to think in the first place of comfort, or joy, or
blessing.  Let the first thought be:  I belong to the Master.  Every
moment and every movement I must act as His property, as a part of
Himself, as one who only seeks to know and do His will.   A servant, a
slave of Jesus Christ,–let this be the spirit that animates me.  If
He says, `No longer do I call you servants, but I have called you
friends,’ let us accept the place of friends:  `Ye are my friends if
ye do the things which I command you.’

The one thing He commands us as His branches is to bear fruit.   Let
us live to bless others, to testify of the life and the love there is
in Jesus.  Let us in faith and obedience give our whole life to that
which Jesus chose us for and appointed us to–fruit-bearing.  As we
think of His electing us to this, and take up our appointment as
coming from Him who always gives all He demands, we shall grow strong
in the confidence that a life of fruit-bearing, abounding and abiding,
is within our reach.  And we shall understand why this fruit-bearing
alone can be the path to the place of all prevailing prayer.  It is
the man who, in obedience to the Christ of God, is proving that he is
doing what his Lord wills, for whom the Father will do whatsoever he
will:  `Whatsoever we ask we receive, because we keep His
commandments, and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.’

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

Blessed Master!  teach me to apprehend fully what I only partly
realize, that it is only through the will of God, accepted and acted
out in obedience to His commands, that we obtain the power to grasp
His will in His promises and fully to appropriate them in our
prayers.  And teach me that it is in the path of fruit-bearing that
the deeper growth of the branch into the Vine can be perfected, and we
attain to the perfect oneness with Thyself in which we ask whatsoever
we will.

O Lord!  Reveal to us,  we pray Thee, how with all the hosts of
heaven, and with Thyself the Son on earth, and with all the men of
faith who have glorified Thee on earth, obedience to God is our
highest privilege, because it gives access to oneness with Himself in
that which is His highest glory–His all perfect will.  And reveal to
us, we pray Thee, how in keeping Thy commandments and bearing fruit
according to Thy will, our spiritual nature will grow up to the full
stature of the perfect man, with power to ask and to receive
whatsoever we will.

O Lord Jesus!  Reveal Thyself to us, and the reality of Thy purpose
and Thy power to make these Thy wonderful promises the daily
experience of all who utterly yield themselves to Thee and Thy words.
Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

TWENTY-FOURTH LESSON.

`In my Name;’

Or,    The All-prevailing Plea.

`Whatsoever ye shall ask in my Name, that will I do.  If ye shall ask
me anything in my Name, that will I do.  That whatsoever ye shall ask
the Father in my Name, He may give it you.  Verily, verily, I say unto
you, If ye shall ask anything of the Father, He will give it you in my
Name.  Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my Name:  ask, and ye shall
receive.  In that day ye shall ask in my Name.’–John xiv. 13, 14, xv.
16, xvi. 23, 24, 26.

HITHERTO the disciples had not asked in the Name of Christ, nor had He
Himself ever used the expression.  The nearest approach is, `met
together in my Name.’  Here in His parting words, He repeats the word
unceasingly in connection with those promises of unlimited meaning,
`Whatsoever,’ `Anything,’ `What ye will,’ to teach them and us that
His Name is our only, but also our all-sufficient plea.  The power of
prayer and the answer depend on the right use of the Name.

What is a person’s name?  That word or expression in which the person
is called up or represented to us.  When I mention or hear a name, it
calls up before me the whole man, what I know of him, and also the
impression he has made on me.  The name of a king includes his honour,
his power, his kingdom.  His name is the symbol of his power.  And so
each name of God embodies and represents some part of the glory of the
Unseen One.  And the Name of Christ is the expression of all He has
done and all He is and lives to do as our Mediator.

And what is it to do a thing in the name of another?  It is to come
with the power and authority of that other, as his representative and
substitute.  We know how such a use of another’s name always supposes
a community of interest.  No one would give another the free use of
his name without first being assured that his honour and interest were
as safe with that other as with himself.

And what is it when Jesus gives us power over His Name, the free use
of it, with the assurance that whatever we ask in it will be given to
us?  The ordinary comparison of one person giving another, on some
special occasion, the liberty to ask something in his name, comes
altogether short here,–Jesus solemnly gives to all His disciples a
general and unlimited power of the free use of His Name at  all  times
for all they desire.  He could not do this if He did not know that He
could trust us with His interests, that His honour would be safe in
our hands.  The free use of the name of another is always the token of
great confidence, of close union.  He who gives his name to another
stands aside, to let that other act for him; he who takes the name of
another, gives up his own as of no value.  When I go in the name of
another, I deny myself, I take not only his name, but himself and what
he is, instead of myself and what I am.

Such a use of the name of a person may be in virtue of a legal union.
A merchant leaving his home and business, gives his chief clerk a
general power, by which he can draw thousands of pounds in the
merchant’s name.  The clerk does this, not for himself, but only in
the interests of the business.  It is because the merchant knows and
trusts him as wholly devoted to his interests and business, that he
dares put his name and property at his command.  When the Lord Jesus
went to heaven, He left His work, the management of His kingdom on
earth, in the hands of His servants.  He could not do otherwise than
also give them His Name to draw all the supplies they needed for the
due conduct of His business.  And they have the spiritual power to
avail themselves of the Name of Jesus just to the extent to which they
yield themselves to live only for the interests and the work of the
Master.  The use of the Name always supposes the surrender of our
interests to Him whom we represent.

Or such a use of the name may be in virtue of a life union.  In the
case of the merchant and his clerk, the union is temporary.  But we
know how oneness of life on earth gives oneness of name:  a child has
the father’s name because he has his life.  And often the child of a
good father has been honoured or helped by others for the sake of the
name he bore.  But this would not last long if it were found that it
was only a name, and that the father’s character was wanting.  The
name and the character or spirit must be in harmony.  When such is the
case, the child will have a double claim on the father’s friends:  the
character secures and increases the love and esteem rendered first for
the name’s sake.   So it is with Jesus and the believer:  we are one,
we have one life, one Spirit with Him; for this reason we may come in
His Name.  Our power in using that Name, whether with God, or men, or
devils depends on the measure of our spiritual life-union.  The use of
the name rests on the unity of life; the Name and the Spirit of Jesus
are one. [2]

Or the union that empowers to the use of the Name may be the union of
love.  When a bride whose life has been one of poverty, becomes united
to the bridegroom, she gives up her own name, to be called by his, and
has now the full right to use it.  She purchases in his name, and that
name is not refused.  And this is done because the bridegroom has
chosen her for himself, counting on her to care for his interests:
they are now one.  And so the Heavenly Bridegroom could do nothing
less; having loved us and made us one with Himself, what could He do
but give those who bear His Name the right to present it before the
Father, or to come with it to Himself for all they need.  And there is
no one who gives himself really to live in the Name of Jesus, who does
not receive in ever-increasing measure the spiritual capacity to ask
and receive in that Name what he will.  The bearing of the name of
another supposes my having given up my own, and with it my own
independent life; but then, as surely, my possession of all there is
in the name I have taken instead of my own.

Such illustrations show us how defective the common view is of a
messenger sent to ask in the name of another, or a guilty one
appealing to the name of a surety.  No Jesus Himself is with the
Father; it is not an absent one in whose name we come.  Even when we
pray to Jesus Himself, it must be in His Name.  The name represents
the person; to ask in the Name is to ask in full union of interest and
life and love with Himself, as one who lives in and for Him.  Let the
Name of Jesus only have undivided supremacy in my heart and life, my
faith will grow to the assurance that what I ask in that Name cannot
be refused.  The name and the power of asking go together:   when the
Name of Jesus has become the power that rules my life, its power in
prayer with God will be seen too.

We see thus that everything depends on our own relation to the Name:
the power it has on my life is the power it will have in my prayers.
There is more than one expression in Scripture which can make this
clear to us.  When it says, `Do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus,’ we
see how this is the counterpart of the other, `Ask all.’  To do all
and to ask all in His Name, these go together.  When we read, `We
shall walk in the Name of our God,’ we see how the power of the Name
must rule in the whole life; only then will it have power in prayer.
It is not to the lips but to the life God looks to see what the Name
is to us.  When Scripture speaks of `men who have given their lives
for the Name of the Lord Jesus,’ or of one `ready to die for the Name
of the Lord Jesus,’ we see what our relation to the Name must be:
when it is everything to me, it will obtain everything for me.  If I
let it have all I have, it will let me have all it has.

`WHATSOEVER ye shall ask in my Name, that will I do.’  Jesus means the
promise literally.  Christians have sought to limit it:  it looked too
free; it was hardly safe to trust man so unconditionally.  We did not
understand that the word `in my Name’ is its own safeguard.  It is a
spiritual power which no one can use further than he obtains the
capacity for, by his living and acting in that Name.  As we bear that
Name before men, we have power to use it before God.  O let us plead
for God’s Holy Spirit to show us what the Name means, and what the
right use of it is.  It is through the Spirit that the Name, which is
above every name in heaven, will take the place of supremacy in our
heart and life too.

Disciples of Jesus!  Let the lessons of this day enter deep into your
hearts.  The Master says:  Only pray in my Name; whatsoever ye ask
will be given.  Heaven is set open to you; the treasures and powers of
the world of spirit are placed at your disposal on behalf of men
around you.  O come, and let us learn to pray in the Name of Jesus.
As to the disciples, He says to us, `Hitherto ye have not asked in my
Name:  ask, and ye shall receive.’  Let each disciple of Jesus seek to
avail himself of the rights of his royal priesthood, and use the power
placed at his disposal for his circle and his work.  Let Christians
awake and hear the message:  your prayer can obtain what otherwise
will be withheld, can accomplish what otherwise remains undone.  O
awake, and use the name of Jesus to open the treasures of heaven for
this perishing world.  Learn as the servants of the King to use His
Name:  `WHATSOEVER ye shall ask in my Name, THAT WILL I DO.’

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

Blessed Lord!  It is as if each lesson Thou givest me has such fulness
and depths of meaning, that if I can only learn that one, I shall know
how to pray aright.  This day I feel again as if I needed but one
prayer every day:  Lord!  Teach me what it is to pray in Thy Name.
Teach me so to live and act, to walk and speak, so to do all in the
Name of Jesus, that my prayer cannot be anything else but in that
blessed Name too.

And teach me, Lord!  to hold fast the precious promise that WHATSOEVER
we ask in Thy Name, Thou wilt do, the Father will give.  Though I do
not yet fully understand, and still less have fully attained, the
wondrous union Thou meanest when Thou sayest, IN MY NAME, I would yet
hold fast the promise until it fills my heart with the undoubting
assurance:  Anything in the Name of Jesus.

O my Lord!  let Thy Holy Spirit teach me this.  Thou didst say of Him,
`The Comforter, whom the Father shall send IN MY NAME.’  He knows what
it is to be sent from heaven in Thy Name, to reveal and to honour the
power of that Name in Thy servants, to use that Name alone, and so to
glorify Thee.  Lord Jesus!  let Thy Spirit dwell in me, and fill me.
I would, I do yield my whole being to His rule and leading.  Thy Name
and Thy Spirit are one; through Him Thy Name will be the strength of
my life and my prayer.  Then I shall be able for Thy Name’s sake to
forsake all, in Thy Name to speak to men and to God, and to prove that
this is indeed the Name above every name.

Lord Jesus!  O teach me by Thy Holy Spirit to pray in Thy Name.  Amen.

NOTE.

`What is meant by praying in Christ’s name?  It cannot mean simply
appearing before God with faith in the mediation of the Saviour.  When
the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He supplied them with
petitions.  And afterwards Jesus said to them, “Hitherto have ye asked
nothing in my Name.”  Until the Spirit came, the seven petitions of
the Lord’s prayer lay as it were dormant within them.  When by the
Holy Ghost Christ descended into their hearts, they desired the very
blessings which Christ as our High Priest obtains for us by His prayer
from the Father.  And such petitions are always answered.  The Father
is always willing to give what Christ asks.  The Spirit of Christ
always teaches and influences us to offer the petitions which Christ
ratifies and presents to the Father.  To pray in Christ’s name is
therefore to be identified with Christ as to our righteousness, and to
be identified with Christ in our desires by the indwelling of the Holy
Ghost.  To pray in the Spirit, to pray according to the will of the
Father, to pray in Christ’s name, are identical expressions.  The
Father Himself loveth us, and is willing to hear us:  two
intercessors, Christ the Advocate above, and the Holy Ghost, the
Advocate within, are the gifts of His love.

`This view may appear at first less consoling than a more prevalent
one, which refers prayer in Christ’s name chiefly to our trust in
Christ’s merit.  The defect of this opinion is, that it does not
combine the intercession of the Saviour with the will of the Father,
and the indwelling Spirit’s aid in prayer.  Nor does it fully realize
the mediation of Christ; for the mediation consists not merely in that
for Christ’s sake the Holy Father is able to regard me and my prayer;
but also, in that Christ Himself presents my petitions as His
petitions, desired by Him for me, even as all blessings are purchased
for me by His precious blood.

`In all prayer, the one essential condition is that we are able to
offer it in the name of Jesus, as according to His desire for us,
according to the Father’s will, according to the Spirit’s teaching.
And thus praying in Christ’s name is impossible without
self-examination, without reflection, without self-denial; in short,
without the aid of the Spirit.’–Saphiv, The Lord’s Prayer, pp. 411,
142.
_________________________________________________________________

[2] `Whatsoever ye shall ask in my Name,’ that is, in my nature; for
things with God are called according to their nature.  We ask in
Christ’s Name, not when at the end of some request we say, `This I ask
in the Name of Jesus Christ,’ but when we pray according to His
nature, which is love, which seeketh not its own but only the will of
God and the good of all creatures.   Such asking is the cry of His own
Spirit in our hearts.–Jukes.   The New Man.
_________________________________________________________________

TWENTY-FIFTH LESSON.

`At that day;’

Or,    The Holy Spirit and Prayer.

`In that day ye shall ask me nothing.   Verily, verily, I say unto
you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my Name, He will give it
you.  Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my Name:  ask, and ye shall
receive, that your joy may be full.  At that day ye shall ask in my
Name:   and I say not, that I will pray the Father for you, for the
Father Himself loveth you.’–John xvi. 23-26.

`Praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of
God.’–JUDE 20, 21.

THE words of John (I John ii. 12-14) to little children, to young men,
and to fathers suggest the thought that there often are in the
Christian life three great stages of experience.  The first, that of
the new-born child, with the assurance and the joy of forgiveness.
The second, the transition stage of struggle and growth in knowledge
and strength:  young men growing strong, God’s word doing its work in
them and giving them victory over the Evil One.  And then the final
stage of maturity and ripeness:  the Fathers, who have entered deeply
into the knowledge and fellowship of the Eternal One.

In Christ’s teaching on prayer there appear to be three stages in the
prayer-life, somewhat analogous.  In the Sermon on the Mount we have
the initial stage:  His teaching is all comprised in one word,
Father.  Pray to your Father, your Father sees, hears, knows, and will
reward:  how much more than any earthly father!  Only be childlike and
trustful.  Then comes later on something like the transition stage of
conflict and conquest, in words like these:  `This sort goeth not out
but by fasting and prayer;’ `Shall not God avenge His own elect who
cry day and night unto Him?’  And then we have in the parting words, a
higher stage.  The children have become men:  they are now the
Master’s friends, from whom He has no secrets, to whom He says, `All
things that I heard from my Father I made known unto you;’ and to
whom, in the oft-repeated `whatsoever ye will,’ He hands over the keys
of the kingdom.  Now the time has come for the power of prayer in His
Name to be proved.

The contrast between this final stage and the previous preparatory
ones our Saviour marks most distinctly in the words we are to meditate
on:  `Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my Name;’ `At that day ye
shall ask in my Name. `  We know what `at that day’ means.  It is the
day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  The great work Christ was
to do on the cross, the mighty power and the complete victory to be
manifested in His resurrection and ascension, were to issue in the
coming down from heaven, as never before, of the glory of God to dwell
in men.  The Spirit of the glorified Jesus was to come and be the life
of His disciples.  And one of the marks of that wonderful
spirit-dispensation was to be a power in prayer hitherto
unknown–prayer in the Name of Jesus, asking and obtaining whatsoever
they would, is to be the manifestation of the reality of the Spirit’s
indwelling.

To understand how the coming of the Holy Spirit was indeed to commence
a new epoch in the prayer-world, we must remember who He is, what His
work, and what the significance of His not being given until Jesus was
glorified.  It is in the Spirit that God exists, for He is Spirit.  It
is in the Spirit that the Son was begotten of the Father:  it is in
the fellowship of the Spirit that the Father and the Son are one.  The
eternal never-ceasing giving to the Son which is the Father’s
prerogative and the eternal asking and receiving which is the Son’s
right and blessedness–it is through the Spirit that this communion of
life and love is maintained.  It has been so from all eternity.  It is
so specially now, when the Son as Mediator ever liveth to pray.  The
great work which Jesus began on earth of reconciling in His own body
God and man, He carries on in heaven.  To accomplish this He took up
into His own person the conflict between God’s righteousness and our
sin.  On the cross He once for all ended the struggle in His own
body.  And then He ascended to heaven, that thence He might in each
member of His body carry out the deliverance and manifest the victory
He had obtained.  It is to do this that He ever liveth to pray; in His
unceasing intercession He places Himself in living fellowship with the
unceasing prayer of His redeemed ones.  Or rather, it is His unceasing
intercession which shows itself in their prayers, and gives them a
power they never had before.

And He does this through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit, the Spirit
of the glorified Jesus, was not (John vii. 39), could not be, until He
had been glorified.  This gift of the Father was something
distinctively new, entirely different from what Old Testament saints
had known.  The work that the blood effected in heaven when Christ
entered within the veil, was something so true and new, the redemption
of our human nature into fellowship with His resurrection-power and
His exaltation-glory was so intensely real, the taking up of our
humanity in Christ into the life of the Three-One God was an event of
such inconceivable significance, that the Holy Spirit, who had to come
from Christ’s exalted humanity to testify in our hearts of what Christ
had accomplished, was indeed no longer only what He had been in the
Old Testament.  It was literally true `the Holy Spirit was not yet,
for Christ was not yet glorified.’  He came now first as the Spirit of
the glorified Jesus.  Even as the Son, who was from eternity God, had
entered upon a new existence as man, and returned to heaven with what
He had not before, so the Blessed Spirit, whom the Son, on His
ascension, received from the Father (Acts ii. 33) into His glorified
humanity, came to us with a new life, which He had not previously to
communicate.  Under the Old Testament He was invoked as the Spirit of
God:  at Pentecost He descended as the Spirit of the glorified Jesus,
bringing down and communicating to us the full fruit and power of the
accomplished redemption.

It is in the intercession of Christ that the continued efficacy and
application of His redemption is maintained.  And it is through the
Holy Spirit descending from Christ to us that we are drawn up into the
great stream of His ever-ascending prayers.  The Spirit prays for us
without words:  in the depths of a heart where even thoughts are at
times formless, the Spirit takes us up into the wonderful flow of the
life of the Three-One God.  Through the Spirit, Christ’s prayers
become ours, and ours are made His:  we ask what we will, and it is
given to us.  We then understand from experience, `Hitherto ye have
not asked in my Name.  At that day ye shall ask in my Name.’

Brother!  what we need to pray in the Name of Christ, to ask that we
may receive that our joy may be full, is the baptism of this Holy
Ghost.  This is more than the Spirit of God under  the Old Testament.
This is more than the Spirit of conversion and regeneration the
disciples had before Pentecost.  This is more than the Spirit with a
measure of His influence  and working.  This is the Holy Spirit, the
Spirit of the glorified Jesus in His exaltation-power, coming on us as
the Spirit of the indwelling Jesus, revealing the Son and the Father
within.  (John xiv. 16-23.)  It is when this Spirit is the Spirit not
of our hours of prayer, but of our whole life and walk, when this
Spirit glorifies Jesus in us by revealing the completeness of His
work, and making us wholly one with Him and like Him, that we can pray
in His Name, because we are in very deed one with Him.  Then it is
that we have that immediateness of access to the Father of which Jesus
says, `I say not that I will pray the Father for you.’  Oh!  we need
to understand and believe that to be filled with this, the Spirit of
the glorified One, is the one need of God’s believing people.  Then
shall we realize what it is, `with all prayer and supplication to be
praying at all seasons in the Spirit,’ and what it is, `praying in the
Holy Ghost, to keep ourselves in the love of God.’  `At that day ye
shall ask in my Name.’

And so once again the lesson comes:  What our prayer avails, depends
upon what we are and what our life is.  It is living in the Name of
Christ that is the secret of praying in the Name of Christ; living in
the Spirit that fits for praying in the Spirit.  It is abiding in
Christ that gives the right and power to ask what we will:  the extent
of the abiding is the exact measure of the power in prayer.  It is the
Spirit dwelling within us that prays, not in words and thoughts
always, but in a breathing and a being deeper than utterance.  Just so
much as there is of Christ’s Spirit in us, is there real prayer.  Our
lives, our lives, O let our lives be full of Christ, and full of His
Spirit, and the wonderfully unlimited promises to our prayer will no
longer appear strange.  `Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my Name.
Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.  At that day ye
shall ask in my Name.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye
shall ask the father in my Name, He will give it you.’

`LORD , TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

O my God!  in holy awe I bow before Thee, the Three in One.  Again I
have seen how the mystery of prayer is the mystery of the Holy
Trinity.  I adore the Father who ever hears, and the Son who ever
lives to pray, and the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the
Son, to lift us up into the fellowship of that ever-blessed,
never-ceasing asking and receiving.  I bow, my God, in adoring
worship, before the infinite condescension that thus, through the Holy
Spirit, takes us and our prayers into the Divine Life, and its
fellowship of love.

O my Blessed Lord Jesus!  Teach me to understand Thy lesson, that it
is the indwelling Spirit, streaming from Thee, uniting to Thee, who is
the Spirit of prayer.  Teach me what it is as an empty, wholly
consecrated vessel, to yield myself to His being my life.  Teach me to
honour and trust Him, as a living Person, to lead my life and my
prayer.  Teach me specially in prayer to wait in holy silence, and
give Him place to breathe within me His unutterable intercession.  And
teach me that through Him it is possible to pray without ceasing, and
to pray without failing, because He makes me partaker of the
never-ceasing and never-failing intercession in which Thou, the Son,
dost appear before the Father.  Yea, Lord, fulfil in me Thy promise,
At that day ye shall ask in my Name.  Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my Name, that will He give.’
Amen.

——0—–

NOTE.

Prayer has often been compared to breathing:  we have only to carry
out the comparison fully to see how wonderful the place is which the
Holy Spirit occupies.  With every breath we expel the impure air which
would soon cause our death, and inhale again the fresh air to which we
owe our life.  So we give out from us, in confession the sins, in
prayer the needs and the desires of our heart.  And in drawing in our
breath again, we inhale the fresh air of the promises, and the love,
and the life of God in Christ.  We do this through the Holy Spirit,
who is the breath of our life.

And this He is because He is the breath of God.  The Father breathes
Him into us, to unite Himself with our life.  And then just as on
every expiration there follows again the inhaling or drawing in of the
breath, so God draws in again His breath, and the Spirit returns to
Him laden with the desires and needs of our hearts.  And thus the Holy
Spirit is the breath of the life of God, and the breath of the new
life in us.  As God breathes Him out, we receive Him in answer to
prayer; as we breathe Him back again, He rises to God laden with our
supplications.  As the Spirit of God, in whom the Father and the Son
are one, and the intercession of the Son reaches the Father, He is to
us the Spirit of prayer.  True prayer is the living experience of the
truth of the Holy Trinity.  The Spirit’s breathing, the Son’s
intercession, the Father’s will, these three become one in us.
_________________________________________________________________

TWENTY-SIXTH LESSON.

`I have prayed for thee;’

Or,    Christ the Intercessor.

`But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.’–Luke xxii. 32.

`I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you.’–John xvi.
26.

`He ever liveth to make intercession.’–Heb. vii. 25.

ALL growth in the spiritual life is connected with the clearer insight
into what Jesus is to us.  The more I realize that Christ must be all
to me and in me, that all in Christ is indeed for me, the more I learn
to live the real life of faith, which, dying to self, lives wholly in
Christ.  The Christian life is no longer the vain struggle to live
right, but the resting in Christ and finding strength in Him as our
life, to fight the fight and gain the victory of faith.  This is
specially true of the life of prayer.  As it too comes under the law
of faith alone, and is seen in the light of the fulness and
completeness there is in Jesus, the believer understands that it need
no longer be a matter of strain or anxious care, but an experience of
what Christ will do for him and in him–a participation in that life
of Christ which, as on earth, so in heaven, ever ascends to the Father
as prayer.  And he begins to pray, not only trusting in the merits of
Jesus, or in the intercession by which our unworthy prayers are made
acceptable, but in that near and close union in virtue of which He
prays in us and we in Him. [3]    The whole of salvation is Christ
Himself:  He has given HIMSELF to us; He Himself lives in us.  Because
He prays, we pray too.  As the disciples, when they saw Jesus pray,
asked Him to make them partakers of what He knew of prayer, so we, now
we see Him as intercessor on the throne, know that He makes us
participate with Himself in the life of prayer.

How clearly this comes out in the last night of His life.  In His
high-priestly prayer (John xvii.), He shows us how and what He has to
pray to the Father, and will pray when once ascended to heaven.  And
yet He had in His parting address so repeatedly also connected His
going to the Father with their new life of prayer.  The two would be
ultimately connected:  His entrance on the work of His eternal
intercession would be the commencement and the power of their new
prayer-life in His Name.  It is the sight of Jesus in His intercession
that gives us power to pray in His Name:  all right and power of
prayer is Christ’s; He makes us share in His intercession.

To understand this, think first of His intercession:  He ever liveth
to make intercession.  The work of Christ on earth as Priest was but a
beginning.  It was as Aaron He shed His blood; it is as Melchizedek
that He now lives within the veil to continue His work, after the
power of the eternal life.  As Melchizedek is more glorious than
Aaron, so it is in the work of intercession that the atonement has its
true power and glory.  `It is Christ that died:  yea more, who is even
at the right hand of God, who maketh intercession for us.’  That
intercession is an intense reality, a work that is absolutely
necessary, and without which the continued application of redemption
cannot take place.  In the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus the
wondrous reconciliation took place, by which man became partaker of
the Divine life and blessedness.  But the real personal appropriation
of this reconciliation in each of His members here below cannot take
place without the unceasing exercise of His Divine power by the head
in heaven.  In all conversion and sanctification, in every victory
over sin and the world, there is a real forth-putting of the power of
Him who is mighty to save.  And this exercise of His power only takes
place through His prayer:  He asks of the Father, and receives from
the Father.  `He is able to save to the uttermost, because He ever
liveth to make intercession.’  There is not a need of His people but
He receives in intercession what the Godhead has to give:  His
mediation on the throne is as real and indispensable as on the cross.
Nothing takes place without His intercession:  it engages all His time
and powers, is His unceasing occupation at the right hand of the
Father.

And we participate not only in the benefits of this His work, but in
the work itself.  This because we are His body.  Body and members are
one:  `The head cannot say to the feet, I have no need of thee.’  We
share with Jesus in all He is and has:  `The glory which Thou gavest
me, I have given them.’  We are partakers of His life, His
righteousness, His work:  we share with Him in His intercession too;
it is not a work He does without us.

We do this because we are partakers of His life:  `Christ is our
life;’  `No longer I, but Christ liveth in me.’  The life in Him and
in us is identical, one and the same.  His life in us is an
ever-praying life.  When it descends and takes possession of us, it
does not lose its character; in us too it is the every-praying life–a
life that without ceasing asks and receives from God.  And this not as
if there were two separate currents of prayer rising upwards, one from
Him, and one from His people.  No, but the substantial life-union is
also prayer-union:  what He prays passes through us, what we pray
passes through Him.  He is the angel with the golden censer:  `UNTO
HIM there was given much incense,’ the secret of acceptable prayer,
`that He should add it unto the prayers of all the saints upon the
golden altar.’  We live, we abide in Him, the Interceding One.

The Only-begotten is the only one who has the right to pray:  to Him
alone it was said,  `Ask, and it shall be given Thee.’  As in all
other things the fulness dwells in Him, so the true prayer-fulness
too; He alone has the power of prayer.  And just as the growth of the
spiritual life consists in the clearer insight that all the treasures
are in Him, and that we too are in Him, to receive each moment what we
possess in Him, grace for grace, so with the prayer-life too.  Our
faith in the intercession of Jesus must not only be that He prays in
our stead, when we do not or cannot pray, but that, as the Author of
our life and our faith, He draws us on to pray in unison with
Himself.  Our prayer must be a work of faith in this sense too, that
as we know that Jesus communicates His whole life in us, He also out
of that prayerfulness which is His alone breathes into us our praying.

To many a believer it was a new epoch in his spiritual life when it
was revealed to him how truly and entirely Christ was his life,
standing good as surety for his remaining faithful and obedient.  It
was then first that he really began to life a faith-life.  No less
blessed will be the discovery that Christ is surety for our
prayer-life too, the centre and embodiment of all prayer, to be
communicated by Him through the Holy Spirit to His people.  `He ever
liveth to make intercession’ as the Head of the body, as the Leader in
that new and living way which He hath opened up, as the Author and the
Perfecter of our faith.  He provides in everything for the life of His
redeemed ones by giving His own life in them:  He cares for their life
of prayer, by taking them up into His heavenly prayer-life, by giving
and maintaining His prayer-life within them.  `I have prayed for
thee,’ not to render thy faith needless, but `that thy faith fail
not:’ our faith and prayer of faith is rooted in His.  It is, `if ye
abide in me,’ the ever-living Intercessor, and pray with me and in
me:  `ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’

The thought of our fellowship in the intercession of Jesus reminds us
of what He has taught us more than once before, how all these
wonderful prayer-promises have as their aim and their justification,
the glory of God in the manifestation of His kingdom and the salvation
of sinners.  As long as we only or chiefly pray for ourselves, the
promises of the last night must remain a sealed book to us.  It is to
the fruit-bearing branches of the Vine; it is to disciples sent into
the world as the Father sent Him, to live for perishing men; it is to
His faithful servants and intimate friends who take up the work He
leaves behind, who have like their Lord become as the seed-corn,
losing its life to multiply it manifold;–it is to such that the
promises are given.  Let us each find out what the work is, and who
the souls are entrusted to our special prayers; let us make our
intercession for them our life of fellowship with God, and we shall
not only find the promises of power in prayer made true to us, but we
shall then first begin to realize how our abiding in Christ and His
abiding in us makes us share in His own joy of blessing and saving
men.

O most wonderful intercession of our Blessed Lord Jesus, to which we
not only owe everything, but in which we are taken up as active
partners and fellow-workers!  Now we understand what it is to pray in
the Name of Jesus, and why it has such power.  In His Name, in His
Spirit, in Himself, in perfect union with Him.  O wondrous, ever
active, and most efficacious intercession of the man Christ Jesus!
When shall we be wholly taken up into it and always pray in it?

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

Blessed Lord!  In lowly adoration I would again bow before Thee.  Thy
whole redemption work has now passed into prayer; all that now
occupies Thee in maintaining and dispensing what Thou didst purchase
with Thy blood is only prayer.  Thou ever livest to pray.  And because
we are and abide in Thee, the direct access to the Father is always
open, our life can be one of unceasing prayer, and the answer to our
prayer is sure.

Blessed Lord!  Thou hast invited Thy people to be Thy fellow-workers
in a life of prayer.  Thou hast united Thyself with Thy people and
makest them as Thy body share with Thee in that ministry of
intercession through which alone the world can be filled with the
fruit of Thy redemption and the glory of the Father.  With more
liberty than ever I come to Thee, my Lord, and beseech Thee:  Teach me
to pray.  Thy life is prayer, Thy life is mine.  Lord!  teach me to
pray, in Thee, like Thee.

And, O my Lord!  Give me specially to know, as Thou didst promise Thy
disciples, that Thou art in the Father, and I in Thee, and Thou in
me.  Let the uniting power of the Holy Spirit make my whole life an
abiding in Thee and Thy intercession, so that my prayer may be its
echo, and the Father hear me in Thee and Thee in me.  Lord Jesus!  let
Thy mind in everything be in me, and my life in everything by in
Thee.  So shall I be prepared to be the channel through which Thy
intercession pours its blessing on the world.  Amen.

NOTE.

`The new epoch of prayer in the Name of Jesus is pointed out by Christ
as the time of the outpouring of the Spirit, in which the disciples
enter upon a more enlightened apprehension of the economy of
redemption, and become as clearly conscious of their oneness with
Jesus as of His oneness with the Father.  Their prayer in the Name of
Jesus is now directly to the Father Himself.  “I say not that I will
pray  for you, for the Father Himself loveth you,”  Jesus says; while
He had previously spoken of the time before the Spirit’s coming:  “I
will pray the Father, and He will give you the Comforter.”  This
prayer thus has as its central thought the insight into our being
united to God in Christ as on both sides the living bond of union
between God and us (John xvii. 23: “I in them and Thou in me”), so
that in Jesus we behold the Father as united to us, and ourselves as
united to the Father.  Jesus Christ must have been revealed to us, not
only through the truth in the mind, but in our inmost personal
consciousness as the living personal reconciliation, as He in whom
God’s Fatherhood and Father-love have been perfectly united with human
nature and it with God.  Not that with the immediate prayer to the
Father, the mediatorship of Christ is set aside; but it is no longer
looked at as something external, existing outside of us, but as a real
living spiritual existence within us, so that the Christ for us, the
Mediator, has really become Christ in us.

`When the consciousness of this oneness between God in Christ and us
in Christ still is wanting, or has been darkened by the sense of
guilt, then the prayer of faith looks to our Lord as the Advocate, who
pays the Father for us.  (Compare John xvi. 26 with John xiv. 16, 17;
ix. 20; Luke xxi. 32; I John ii. 1.) To take Christ thus in prayer as
Advocate, is according to John xvi. 26 not perfectly the same as the
prayer in His Name. Christ’s advocacy is meant to lead us on to that
inner self-standing life-union with Him, and with the Father in Him,
in virtue of which Christ is He in whom God enters into immediate
relation and unites Himself with us, and in whom we in all
circumstances enter into immediate relation with God.  Even so the
prayer in the Name of Jesus does not consist in our prayer at His
command:  the disciples had prayed thus ever since the Lord had given
them His “Our Father,” and yet He says, “Hitherto ye have not prayed
in my Name.”  Only when the mediation of Christ has become, through
the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, life and power within us, and so
His mind, as it found expression in His word and work, has taken
possession of and filled our personal consciousness and will, so that
in faith and love we have Jesus in us as the Reconciler who has
actually made us one with God:  only then His Name, which included His
nature and His work, is become truth and power in us (not only for
us), and we have in the Name of Jesus the free, direct access to the
Father which is sure of being heard.  Prayer in the Name of Jesus is
the liberty of a son with the Father, just as Jesus had this as the
First-begotten.  We pray in the place of Jesus, not as if we could put
ourselves in His place, but in as far as we are in Him and He in us.
We go direct to the Father, but only as the Father is in Christ, not
as if He were separate from Christ.  Wherever thus the inner man does
not live in Christ and has Him not present as the Living One, where
His word is not ruling in the heart in its Spirit-power, where His
truth and life have not become the life of our soul, it is vain to
think that a formula like “for the sake of Thy dear Son” will
avail.’–Christliche Ethik, von Dr. I. T. Beck, Tubingen, iii. 39.
_________________________________________________________________

[3] See on the difference between having Christ as an Advocate or
Intercessor who stands outside of us, and the having Him within us, we
abiding in Him and He in us through the Holy Spirit perfecting our
union with Him, so that we ourselves can come directly to the Father
in His Name,–the note above from Beck of Tubingen.
_________________________________________________________________

TWENTY-SEVENTH LESSON.

`Father, I will;’

Or,    Christ the High Priest

`Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given me may be with me
where I am.’–John xvii. 24.

IN His parting address, Jesus gives His disciples the full revelation
of what the New Life was to be, when once the kingdom of God had come
in power.  In the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in union with Him the
heavenly Vine, in their going forth to witness and to suffer for Him,
they were to find their calling and their blessedness.  In between His
setting forth of their future new life, the Lord had repeatedly given
the most unlimited promises as to the power their prayers might have.
And now in closing, He Himself proceeds to pray.  To let His disciples
have the joy of knowing what His intercession for them in heaven as
their High Priest will be, He gives this precious legacy of His prayer
to the Father.  He does this at the same time because they as priests
are to share in His work of intercession, that they and we might know
how to perform this holy work.  In the teaching of our Lord on this
last night, we have learned to understand that these astonishing
prayer-promises have not been given in our own behalf, but in the
interest of the Lord and His kingdom:  it is from the Lord Himself
alone that we can learn what the prayer in His Name is to be and to
obtain.  We have understood that to pray in His Name is to pray in
perfect unity with Himself:  the high-priestly prayer will teach all
that the prayer in the Name of Jesus may ask and expect.

This prayer is ordinarily divided into three parts.  Our Lord first
prays for Himself (v. 1-5), then for His disciples (6-19), and last
for all the believing people through all ages (20-26).  The follower
of Jesus, who gives himself to the work of intercession, and would
fain try how much of blessing he can pray down upon his circle in the
Name of Jesus, will in all humility let himself be led of the Spirit
to study this wonderful prayer as one of the most important lessons of
the school of prayer.

First of all, Jesus prays for Himself, for His being glorified, that
so He may glorify the Father.  `Father! Glorify Thy Son.  And now,
Father, glorify me.’  And He brings forward the grounds on which He
thus prays.  A holy covenant had been concluded between the Father and
the Son in heaven.  The Father had promised Him power over all flesh
as the reward of His work:  He had done the work, He had glorified the
Father, and His one purpose is now still further to glorify Him.  With
the utmost boldness He asks that the Father may glorify Him, that He
may now be and do for His people all He has undertaken.

Disciple of Jesus!  here you have the first lesson in your work of
priestly intercession, to be learned from the example of your great
High Priest.  To pray in the Name of Jesus is to pray in unity, in
sympathy with Him.  As the Son began His prayer by making clear His
relation to the Father, pleading His work and obedience and His desire
to see the Father glorified, do so too.  Draw near and appear before
the Father in Christ.  Plead His finished work.  Say that you are one
with it, that you trust on it, live in it.  Say that you too have
given yourself to finish the work the Father has given you to do, and
to live alone for His glory.  And ask then confidently that the Son
may be glorified in you.  This is praying in the Name, in the very
words, in the Spirit of Jesus, in union with Jesus Himself.  Such
prayer has power.  If with Jesus you glorify the Father, the Father
will glorify Jesus by doing what you ask in His Name.  It is only when
your own personal relation on this point, like Christ’s, is clear with
God, when you are glorifying Him, and seeking all for His glory, that
like Christ, you will have power to intercede for those around you.

Our Lord next prays for the circle of His disciples.  He speaks of
them as those whom the Father has given Him.  Their chief mark is that
they have received Christ’s word.  He says of them that He now sends
them into the world in His place, just as the Father had sent
Himself.  And He asks two things for them:  that the Father keep them
from the evil one, and sanctify them through His Word, because He
sanctifies Himself for them.

Just like the Lord, each believing intercessor has his own immediate
circle for whom he first prays.  Parents have their children, teachers
their pupils, pastors their flocks, all workers their special charge,
all believers those whose care lies upon their hearts.  It is of great
consequence that intercession should be personal, pointed, and
definite.  And then our first prayer must always be that they may
receive the word.  But this prayer will not avail unless with our Lord
we say, `I have given them Thy word:’ it is this gives us liberty and
power in intercession for souls.  Not only pray for them, but speak to
them.  And when they have received the word, let us pray much for
their being kept from the evil one, for their being sanctified through
that word.  Instead of being hopeless or judging or giving up those
who fall, let us pray for our circle, `Father!  Keep them in Thy
Name;’ `Sanctify them through Thy truth.’  Prayer in the Name of Jesus
availeth much:  `What ye will shall be done unto you.’

And then follows our Lord’s prayer for a still wider circle.  `I pray
not only for these, but for them who through their word shall
believe.’  His priestly heart enlarges itself to embrace all places
and all time, and He prays that all who belong to Him may everywhere
be one, as God’s proof to the world of the divinity of His mission,
and then that they may ever be with Him in His glory.  Until then
`that the love wherewith Thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in
them.’

The disciple of Jesus, who has first in his own circle proved the
power of prayer, cannot confine himself within its limits:   he prays
for the Church universal and its different branches.  He prays
specially for the unity of the Spirit and of love.  He prays for its
being one in Christ, as a witness to the world that Christ, who hath
wrought such a wonder as to make love triumph over selfishness and
separation, is indeed the Son of God sent from heaven.  Every believer
ought to pray much that the unity of the Church, not in external
organizations, but in spirit and in truth, may be made manifest.

So much for the matter of the prayer.  Now for its mode.  Jesus says,
`FATHER!  I WILL.’  On the ground of His right as Son, and the
Father’s promise to Him, and His finished work, He might do so.  The
Father had said to Him, `Ask of me, and I will give Thee.’  He simply
availed Himself of the Father’s promise.  Jesus has given us a like
promise:  `Whatsoever ye will shall be done unto you.’  He asks me in
His Name to say what I will.  Abiding in Him, in a living union with
Him in which man is nothing and Christ all, the believer has the
liberty to take up that word of His High Priest and, in answer to the
question `What wilt thou?’ to say, `FATHER!  I WILLall that Thou hast
promised.’  This is nothing but true faith; this is honouring God:  to
be assured that such confidence in saying what I will is indeed
acceptable to Him.  At first sight, our heart shrinks from the
expression; we feel neither the liberty nor the power to speak thus.
It is a word for which alone in the most entire abnegation of our will
grace will be given, but for which grace will most assuredly be given
to each one who loses his will in his Lord’s.  He that loseth his will
shall find it; he that gives up his will entirely shall find it again
renewed and strengthened with a Divine Strength.  `FATHER!  I WILL:’
this is the keynote of the everlasting, ever-active, all-prevailing
intercession of our Lord in heaven.  It is only in union with Him that
our prayer avails; in union with Him it avails much.  If we but abide
in Him, living, and walking, and doing all things in His Name; if we
but come and bring each separate petition, tested and touched by His
Word and Spirit, and cast it into the mighty stream of intercession
that goes up from Him, to be borne upward and presented before the
Father;–we shall have the full confidence that we receive the
petitions we ask:  the `Father!  I will’ will be breathed into us by
the Spirit Himself.  We shall lose ourselves in Him, and become
nothing, to find that in our impotence we have power and prevail.

Disciples of Jesus!  Called to be like your Lord in His priestly
intercession, when, O when!  Shall we awaken to the glory, passing all
conception, of this our destiny to plead and prevail with God for
perishing men?  O when shall we shake off the sloth that clothes
itself with the pretence of humility, and yield ourselves wholly to
God’s Spirit, that He may fill our wills with light and with power, to
know, and to take, and to possess all that our God is waiting to give
to a will that lays hold on Him.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

O my Blessed High Priest!  who am I that Thou shouldest thus invite me
to share with Thee in Thy power of prevailing intercession!  And why,
O my Lord!  am I so slow of heart to understand and believe and
exercise this wonderful privilege to which Thou hast redeemed Thy
people.  O Lord!  give Thy grace that this may increasingly be my
unceasing life-work–in praying without ceasing to draw down the
blessing of heaven on all my surroundings on earth.

Blessed Lord!  I come now to accept this my calling.  For this I would
forsake all and follow Thee.  Into Thy hands I would believingly yield
my whole being:  form, train, inspire me to be one of Thy
prayer-legion, wrestlers who watch and strive in prayer, Israels,
God’s princes, who have power and prevail.  Take possession of my
heart, and fill it with the one desire for the glory of God in the
ingathering, and sanctification, and union of those whom the Father
hath given Thee.  Take my mind and let this be my study and my wisdom,
to know when prayer can bring a blessing.  Take me wholly and fit me
as a priest ever to stand before God and to bless in His Name.

Blessed Lord!  Be it here, as through all the spiritual life:  Thou
all, I nothing.  And be it here my experience too that he that has and
seeks nothing for himself, receives all, even to the wonderful grace
of sharing with Thee in Thine everlasting ministry of intercession.
Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

TWENTY-EIGHTH LESSON.

`Father!  Not what I will;’

Or,    Christ the Sacrifice.

`And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; remove
this cup from me:  howbeit not what I will, but what Thou wilt.’–Mark
xiv. 36.

WHAT a contrast within the space of a few hours!  What a transition
from the quiet elevation of that, He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and
said, FATHER I WILL,’ to that falling on the ground and crying in
agony. `My Father! Not what I will.’  In the one we see the High
Priest within the veil in His all-prevailing intercession; in the
other, the sacrifice on the altar opening the way through the rent
veil.  The high-priestly `Father!  I will,’ in order of time precedes
the sacrificial `Father!  Not what I will;’ but this was only by
anticipation, to show what the intercession would be when once the
sacrifice was brought.  In reality it was that prayer at the altar,
`Father!  Not what I will,’ in which the prayer before the throne,
`Father!  I will,’ had its origin and its power.  It is from the
entire surrender of His will in Gethsemane that the High Priest on the
throne has the power to ask what He will, has the right to make His
people share in that power too, and ask what they will.

For all who would learn to pray in the school of Jesus, this
Gethsemane lesson is one of the most sacred and precious.  To a
superficial scholar it may appear to take away the courage to pray in
faith.  If even the earnest supplication of the Son was not heard, if
even the Beloved had to say, `NOT WHAT I WILL!’ how much more do we
need to speak so.  And thus it appears impossible that the promises
which the Lord had given only a few hours previously, `WHATSOEVER YE
SHALL ASK,’ `WHATSOEVER YE WILL,’ could have been meant literally.  A
deeper insight into the meaning of Gethsemane would teach us that we
have just here the sure ground and the open way to the assurance of an
answer to our prayer.  Let us draw nigh in reverent and adoring
wonder, to gaze on this great sight–God’s Son thus offering up prayer
and supplications with strong crying and tears, and not obtaining what
He asks.  He Himself is our Teacher, and will open up to us the
mystery of His holy sacrifice, as revealed in this wondrous prayer.

To understand the prayer, let us note the infinite difference between
what our Lord prayed a little ago as a Royal High Priest, and what He
here supplicates in His weakness.  There it was for the glorifying of
the Father He prayed, and the glorifying of Himself and His people as
the fulfilment of distinct promises that had been given Him.  He asked
what He knew to be according to the word and the will of the Father;
He might boldly say, `FATHER!  I WILL.’  Here He prays for something
in regard to which the Father’s will is not yet clear to Him.  As far
as He knows, it is the Father’s will that He should drink the cup.  He
had told His disciples of the cup He must drink:  a little later He
would again say, `The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not
drink it?’  It was for this He had come to this earth.  But when, in
the unutterable agony of soul that burst upon him as the power of
darkness came upon Him, and He began to taste the first drops of death
as the wrath of God against sin, His human nature, as it shuddered in
presence of the awful reality of being made a curse, gave utterance in
this cry of anguish, to its desire that, if God’s purpose could be
accomplished without it, He might be spared the awful cup:  `Let this
cup pass from me.’  That desire was the evidence of the intense
reality of His humanity.  The `Not as I will’ kept that desire from
being sinful:  as He pleadingly cries, `All things are possible with
Thee,’ and returns again to still more earnest prayer that the cup may
be removed, it is His thrice-repeated `NOT WHAT I WILL’ that
constitutes the very essence and worth of His sacrifice.  He had asked
for something of which He could not say:  I know it is Thy will.  He
had pleaded God’s power and love, and had then withdrawn it in His
final, `THY WILL BE DONE.’  The prayer that the cup should pass away
could not be answered; the prayer of submission that God’s will be
done was heard, and gloriously answered in His victory first over the
fear, and then over the power of death.

It is in this denial of His will, this complete surrender of His will
to the will of the Father, that Christ’s obedience reached its highest
perfection.  It is from the sacrifice of the will in Gethsemane that
the sacrifice of the life on Calvary derives its value.  It is here,
as Scripture saith, that He learned obedience, and became the author
of everlasting salvation to all that obey Him.  It was because He
there, in that prayer, became obedient unto death, even the death of
the cross, that God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him the power
to ask what He will.  It was in that `Father!  Not what I will,’ that
He obtained the power for that other `FATHER!  I will.’  It was by
Christ’s submittal in Gethsemane to have not His will done, that He
secured for His people the right to say to them, `Ask whatsoever ye
will.’

Let me look at them again, the deep mysteries that Gethsemane offers
to my view.  There is the first:  the Father offers His Well-beloved
the cup, the cup of wrath.  The second:  the Son, always so obedient,
shrinks back, and implores that He may not have to drink it.  The
third:  the Father does not grant the Son His request, but still gives
the cup.  And then the last:  the Son yields His will, is content that
His will be not done, and goes out to Calvary to drink the cup.  O
Gethsemane!  in thee I see how my Lord could give me such unlimited
assurance of an answer to my prayers.  As my surety He won it for me,
by His consent to have His petition unanswered.

This is in harmony with the whole scheme of redemption.  Our Lord
always wins for us the opposite of what He suffered.  He was bound
that we might go free.  He was made sin that we might become the
righteousness of God.  He died that we might live.  He bore God’s
curse that God’s blessing might be ours.  He endured the not answering
of His prayer, that our prayers might find an answer.  Yea, He spake,
`Not as I will,’ that He might say to us, `If ye abide in me, ask what
ye will; it shall be done unto you.’

Yes, `If ye abide in me;’ here in Gethsemane the word acquires new
force and depth.  Christ is our Head, who as surety stands in our
place, and bears what we must for ever have borne.  We had deserved
that God should turn a deaf ear to us, and never listen to our cry.
Christ comes, and suffers this too for us:  He suffers what we had
merited; for our sins He suffers beneath the burden of that unanswered
prayer.  But now His suffering this avails for me:  what He has borne
is taken away for me; His merit has won for me the answer to every
prayer, if I abide in Him.

Yes, in Him, as He bows there in Gethsemane, I must abide.  As my
Head, He not only once suffered for me, but ever lives in me,
breathing and working His own disposition in me too.  The Eternal
Spirit, through which He offered Himself unto God, is the Spirit that
dwells in me too, and makes me partaker of the very same obedience,
and the sacrifice of the will unto God.  That Spirit teaches me to
yield my will entirely to the will of the Father, to give it up even
unto the death, in Christ to be dead to it.  Whatever is my own mind
and thought and will, even though it be not directly sinful, He
teaches me to fear and flee.  He opens my ear to wait in great
gentleness and teachableness of soul for what the Father has day by
day to speak and to teach.  He discovers to me how union with God’s
will in the love of it is union with God Himself; how entire surrender
to God’s will is the Father’s claim, the Son’s example, and the true
blessedness of the soul.  He leads my will into the fellowship of
Christ’s death and resurrection, my will dies in Him, in Him to be
made alive again.  He breathes into it, as a renewed and quickened
will, a holy insight into God’s perfect will, a holy joy in yielding
itself to be an instrument of that will, a holy liberty and power to
lay hold of God’s will to answer prayer.  With my whole will I learn
to live for the interests of God and His kingdom, to exercise the
power of that will–crucified but risen again–in nature and in
prayer, on earth and in heaven, with men and with God.  The more
deeply I enter into the `FATHER! NOT WHAT I WILL’ of Gethsemane, and
into Him who spake it, to abide in Him, the fuller is my spiritual
access into the power of His `FATHER! I WILL.  And the soul
experiences that it is the will, which has become nothing that God’s
will may be all, which now becomes inspired with a Divine strength to
really will what God wills, and to claim what has been promised it in
the name of Christ.

O let us listen to Christ in Gethsemane, as He calls, `If ye abide in
me, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’  Being of
one mind and spirit with Him in His giving up everything to God’s
will, living like Him in obedience and surrender to the Father; this
is abiding in Him; this is the secret of power in prayer.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

Blessed Lord Jesus!  Gethsemane was Thy school, where Thou didst learn
to pray and to obey.  It is still Thy school, where Thou leadest all
Thy disciples who would fain learn to obey and to pray even as Thou.
Lord! teach me there to pray, in the faith that Thou has atoned for
and conquered our self-will, and canst indeed give us grace to pray
like Thee.

O Lamb of God!  I would follow Thee to Gethsemane, there to become one
with Thee, and to abide in Thee as Thou dost unto the very death yield
Thy will unto the Father.  With Thee, through Thee, in Thee, I do
yield my will in absolute and entire surrender to the will of the
Father.  Conscious of my own weakness, and the secret power with which
self-will would assert itself and again take its place on the throne,
I claim in faith the power of Thy victory.  Thou didst triumph over it
and deliver me from it.  In Thy death I would daily live;  in Thy life
I would daily die.  Abiding in Thee, let my will, through the power of
Thine eternal Spirit, only be the tuned instrument which yields to
every touch of the will of my God.  With my whole soul do I say with
Thee and in Thee, `Father!  Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.’

And then, Blessed Lord!  Open my heart and that of all Thy people, to
take in fully the glory of the truth, that a will given up to God is a
will accepted of God to be used in his service, to desire, and
purpose, and determine, and will what is according to God’s will.  A
will which, in the power of the Holy Spirit the indwelling God, is to
exercise its royal prerogative in prayer, to loose and to bind in
heaven and upon earth, to ask whatsoever it will, and to say it shall
be done.

O Lord Jesus!  teach me to pray.  Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

TWENTY-NINTH LESSON.

`If we ask according to His will;

Or,    Our Boldness in Prayer.

`And this is the boldness which we have toward Him, that, if we ask
anything according to His will, He heareth us.  And if we know that He
hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which
we have asked of Him.’–I John v. 14, 15.

ONE of the greatest hindrances to believing prayer is with many
undoubtedly this:  they know not if what they ask is according to the
will of God.  As long as they are in doubt on this point, they cannot
have the boldness to ask in the assurance that they certainly shall
receive.  And they soon begin to think that, if once they have made
known their requests, and receive no answer, it is best to leave it to
God to do according to His good pleasure.  The words of John, `If we
ask anything according to His will, He heareth us,’ as they understand
them, make certainty as to answer to prayer impossible, because they
cannot be sure of what really may be the will of God.  They think of
God’s will as His hidden counsel–how should man be able to fathom
what really may be the purpose of the all-wise God.

This is the very opposite of what John aimed at in writing thus.  He
wished to rouse us to boldness, to confidence, to full assurance of
faith in prayer.  He says, `This is the boldness which we have toward
Him,’ that we can say:  Father!  Thou knowest and I know that I ask
according to Thy will:  I know Thou hearest me.  `This is the
boldness, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth
us.’  On this account He adds at once:  `If we know that He heareth us
whatsoever we ask, we know,’ through this faith, that we have,’ that
we now while we pray receive `the petition,’ the special things, `we
have asked of Him.’  John supposes that when we pray, we first find
out if our prayers are according to the will of God.  They may be
according to God’s will, and yet not come at once, or without the
persevering prayer of faith.  It is to give us courage thus to
persevere and to be strong in faith, that He tells us:  This gives us
boldness or confidence in prayer, if we ask anything according to His
will, He heareth us.  It is evident that if it be a matter of
uncertainty to us whether our petitions be according to His will, we
cannot have the comfort of what he says, `We know that we have the
petitions which we have asked of Him.’

But just this is the difficulty.  More than one believer says:  `I do
not know if what I desire be according to the will of God.  God’s will
is the purpose of His infinite wisdom:  it is impossible for me to
know whether He may not count something else better for me than what I
desire, or may not have some reasons for withholding what I ask.’
Every one feels how with such thoughts the prayer of faith, of which
Jesus said, `Whosoever shall believe that these things which he saith
shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith,’ becomes an
impossibility.  There may be the prayer of submission, and of trust in
God’s wisdom; there cannot be the prayer of faith.  The great mistake
here is that God’s children do not really believe that it is possible
to know God’s will.  Or if they believe this, they do not take the
time and trouble to find it out.  What we need is to see clearly in
what way it is that the Father leads His waiting, teachable child to
know that his petition is according to His will.1  It is through God’s
holy word, taken up and kept in the heart, the life, the will; and
through God’s Holy Spirit, accepted in His indwelling and leading,
that we shall learn to know that our petitions are according to His
will.

Through the word.  There is a secret will of God, with which we often
fear that our prayers may be at variance.  It is not with this will of
God, but His will as revealed in His word, that we have to do in
prayer.  Our notions of what the secret will may have decreed, and of
how it might render the answers to our prayers impossible, are mostly
very erroneous.  Childlike faith as to what He is willing to do for
His children, simply keeps to the Father’s assurance, that it is His
will to hear prayer and to do what faith in His word desires and
accepts.  In the word the Father has revealed in general promises the
great principles of His will with His people.  The child has to take
the promise and apply it to the special circumstances in His life to
which it has reference.  Whatever he asks within the limits of that
revealed will, he can know to be according to the will of God, and he
may confidently expect.  In His word, God has given us the revelation
of His will and plans with us, with His people, and with the world,
with the most precious promises of the grace and power with which
through His people He will carry out His plans and do His work.  As
faith becomes strong and bold enough to claim the fulfilment of the
general promise in the special case, we may have the assurance that
our prayers are heard:  they are according to God’s will.  Take the
words of John in the verse following our text as an illustration:  `If
any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask and
God will give him life.’  Such is the general promise; and the
believer who pleads on the ground of this promise, prays according to
the will of God, and John would give him boldness to know that he has
the petition which he asks.

But this apprehension of God’s will is something spiritual, and must
be spiritually discerned.  It is not as a matter of logic that we can
argue it out:  God has said it; I must have it.  Nor has every
Christian the same gift or calling.  While the general will revealed
in the promise is the same for all, there is for each one a special
different will according to God’s purpose.  And herein is the wisdom
of the saints, to know this special will of God for each of us,
according to the measure of grace given us, and so to ask in prayer
just what God has prepared and made possible for each.  It is to
communicate this wisdom that the Holy Ghost dwells in us.  The
personal application of the general promises of the word to our
special personal needs–it is for this that the leading of the Holy
Spirit is given us.

It is this union of the teaching of the word and Spirit that many do
not understand, and so there is a twofold difficulty in knowing what
God’s will may be.  Some seek the will of God in an inner feeling or
conviction, and would have the Spirit lead them without the word.
Others seek it in the word, without the living leading of the Holy
Spirit.  The two must be united:  only in the word, only in the
Spirit, but in these most surely, can we know the will of God, and
learn to pray according to it.  In the heart the word and the Spirit
must meet:  it is only by indwelling that we can experience their
teaching.  The word must dwell, must abide in us:  heart and life must
day by day be under its influence.  Not from without, but from within,
comes the quickening of the word by the Spirit.  It is only he who
yields himself entirely in his whole life to the supremacy of the word
and the will of God, who can expect in special cases to discern what
that word and will permit him boldly to ask.  And even as with the
word, just so with the Spirit:  if I would have the leading of the
Spirit in prayer to assure me what God’s will is, my whole life must
be yielded to that leading; so only can mind and heart become
spiritual and capable of knowing God’s holy will.  It is he who,
through word and Spirit, lives in the will of God by doing it, who
will know to pray according to that will in the confidence that He
hears us.

Would that Christians might see what incalculable harm they do
themselves by the thought that because possibly their prayer is not
according to God’s will, they must be content without an answer.
God’s word tells us that the great reason of unanswered prayer is that
we do not pray aright:  `Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask
amiss.’  In not granting an answer, the Father tells us that there is
something wrong in our praying.  He wants to teach us to find it out
and confess it, and so to educate us to true believing and prevailing
prayer.  He can only attain His object when He brings us to see that
we are to blame for the withholding of the answer; our aim, or our
faith, or our life is not what it should be.  But this purpose of God
is frustrated as long as we are content to say:  It is perhaps because
my prayer is not according to His will that He does not hear me.  O
let us no longer throw the blame of our unanswered prayers on the
secret will of God, but on our praying amiss.  Let that word, `Ye
receive not because ye ask amiss,’ be as the lantern of the Lord,
searching heart and life to prove that we are indeed such as those to
whom Christ gave His promises of certain answers.  Let us believe that
we can know if our prayer be according to God’s will.  Let us yield
our heart to have the word of the Father dwell richly there, to have
Christ’s word abiding in us.  Let us live day by day with the
anointing which teacheth us all things.  Let us yield ourselves
unreservedly to the Holy Spirit as He teaches us to abide in Christ,
to dwell in the Father’s presence, and we shall soon understand how
the Father’s love longs that the child should know His will, and
should, in the confidence that that will includes all that His power
and love have promised to do, know too that He hears the petitions
which we ask of Him.  `This is the boldness which we have, that if we
ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.’

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

Blessed Master!  With my whole heart I thank Thee for this blessed
lesson, that the path to a life full of answers to prayer is through
the will of God.  Lord!  Teach me to know this blessed will by living
it, loving it, and always doing it.  So shall I learn to offer prayers
according to that will, and to find in their harmony with God’s
blessed will, my boldness in prayer and my confidence in accepting the
answer.

Father!  it is Thy will that Thy child should enjoy Thy presence and
blessing.  It is Thy will that everything in the life of Thy child
should be in accordance with Thy will, and that the Holy Spirit should
work this in Him.  It is Thy will that Thy child should live in the
daily experience of distinct answers to prayer, so as to enjoy living
and direct fellowship with Thyself.  It is Thy will that Thy Name
should be glorified in and through Thy children, and that it will be
in those who trust Thee.   O my Father!  let this Thy will be my
confidence in all I ask.

Blessed Saviour!  Teach me to believe in the glory of this will.  That
will is the eternal love, which with Divine power works out its
purpose in each human will that yields itself to it.  Lord!  Teach me
this.  Thou canst make me see how every promise and every command of
the word is indeed the will of God, and that its fulfilment is secured
to me by God Himself.   Let thus the will of God become to me the sure
rock on which my prayer and my assurance of an answer ever rest.
Amen.

NOTE.

There is often great confusion as to the will of God.  People think
that what God wills must inevitably take place.  This is by no means
the case.  God wills a great deal of blessing to His people, which
never comes to them.  He wills it most earnestly, but they do not will
it, and it cannot come to them.  This is the great mystery of man’s
creation with a free will, and also of the renewal of his will in
redemption, that God has made the execution of His will, in many
things, dependent on the will of man.  Of God’s will revealed in His
promises, so much will be fulfilled as our faith accepts.  Prayer is
the power by which that comes to pass which otherwise would not take
place.  And faith, the power by which it is decided how much of God’s
will shall be done in us.  When once God reveals to a soul what He is
willing to do for it, the responsibility for the execution of that
will rests with us.

Some are afraid that this is putting too much power into the hands of
man.  But all power is put into the hands of man in Christ Jesus.  The
key of all prayer and all power is His, and when we learn to
understand that He is just as much with us as with the Father, and
that we are also just as much one with Him as He with the Father, we
shall see how natural and right and safe it is that to those who abide
in Him as He in the Father, such power should be given.   It is Christ
the Son who has the right to ask what He will:  it is through the
abiding in Him and His abiding in us (in a Divine reality of which we
have too little apprehension) that His Spirit breathes in us what He
wants to ask and obtain through us.  We pray in His Name:  the prayers
are really ours and as really His.

Others again fear that to believe that prayer has such power is
limiting the liberty and the love of God.  O if we only knew how we
are limiting His liberty and His love by not allowing Him to act in
the only way in which He chooses to act, now that He has taken us up
into fellowship with himself–through our prayers and our faith.  A
brother in the ministry once asked, as we were speaking on this
subject, whether there was not a danger of our thinking that our love
to souls and our willingness to see them blessed were to move God’s
love and God’s willingness to bless them.  We were just passing some
large water-pipes, by which water was being carried over hill and dale
from a large mountain stream to a town at some distance.  Just look at
these pipes, was the answer; they did not make the water willing to
flow downwards from the hills, nor did they give it its power of
blessing and refreshment:  this is its very nature.  All that they
could do is to decide its direction:  by it the inhabitants of the
town said they want the blessing there.  And just so, it is the very
nature of God to love and to bless.  Downward and ever downward His
love longs to come with its quickening and refreshing streams.  But He
has left it to prayer to say where the blessing is to come.  He has
committed it to His believing people to bring the living water to the
desert places:  the will of God to bless is dependent upon the will of
man to say where the blessing must descend.  `Such honour have His
saints.’  `And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that if
we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.  And if we know
that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions
which we have asked of Him.’

1See this illustrated in the extracts from George Muller at the end of
this volume.
_________________________________________________________________

THIRTIETH LESSON.

`An holy priesthood;’

Or,    The Ministry of Intercession.

`An holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to
God by Jesus Christ.’–I Peter ii. 5.

`Ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord.’–Isaiah lxi. 6.

THE Spirit of the Lord God is upon me:  because the Lord hath anointed
me.’  These are the words of Jesus in Isaiah.  As the fruit of His
work all redeemed ones are priests, fellow-partakers with Him of His
anointing with the Spirit as High Priest.  `Like the precious ointment
upon the beard of Aaron, that went down to the skirts of his
garments.’  As every son of Aaron, so every member of Jesus’ body has
a right to the priesthood.  But not every one exercises it:  many are
still entirely ignorant of it.  And yet it is the highest privilege of
a child of God, the mark of greatest nearness and likeness to Him,
`who ever liveth to pray.’  Do you doubt if this really be so?  Think
of what constitutes priesthood.  There is, first, the work of the
priesthood.   This has two sides, one Godward, the other manward.
`Every priest is ordained for men in things pertaining to God’ (Heb.
v. 1); or, as it is said by Moses (Deut. x. 8, see also xxi. 5,
xxxiii. 10; Mal. ii. 6):  `The Lord separated the tribe of Levi,  to
stand before the Lord to minister unto Him, and to bless His Name.’
On the one hand, the priest had the power to draw nigh to God, to
dwell with Him in His house, and to present before Him the blood of
the sacrifice or the burning incense.  This work he did not do,
however, on his own behalf, but for the sake of the people whose
representative he was.  This is the other side of his work.  He
received from the people their sacrifices, presented them before God,
and then came out to bless in His Name, to give the assurance of His
favour and to teach them His law.

A priest is thus a man who does not at all live for himself.  He lives
with God and for God.  His work is as God’s servant to care for His
house, His honour, and His worship, to make known to men His love and
His will.  He lives with men and for men (Heb. v. 2).  His work is to
find out their sin and need, and to bring it before God, to offer
sacrifice and incense in their name, to obtain forgiveness and
blessing for them, and then to come out and bless them in His Name.
This is the high calling of every believer.  `Such honour have all His
saints.’  They have been redeemed with the one purpose to be in the
midst of the perishing millions around them, God’s priests, who in
conformity to Jesus, the Great High Priest, are to be the ministers
and stewards of the grace of God to all around them.

And then there is the walk of the priesthood, in harmony with its
work.  As God is holy, so the priest was to be especially holy.  This
means not only separated from everything unclean, but holy unto God,
being set apart and given up to God for His disposal.  The separation
from the world and setting apart unto God was indicated in many ways.

It was seen in the clothing:  the holy garments, made after God’s own
order, marked them as His (Ex. xxviii.).  It was seen in the command
as to their special purity and freedom from all contact from death and
defilement (Lev. xi. 22).  Much that was allowed to an ordinary
Israelite was forbidden to them.  It was seen in the injunction that
the priest must have no bodily defect or blemish; bodily perfection
was to be the type of wholeness and holiness in God’s service.  And it
was seen in the arrangement by which the priestly tribes were to have
no inheritance with the other tribes; God was to be their
inheritance.  Their life was to be one of faith:  set apart unto God,
they were to live on Him as well as for Him.

All this is the emblem of what the character of the New Testament
priest is to be.  Our priestly power with God depends on our personal
life and walk.  We must be of them of whose walk on earth Jesus says,
`They have not defiled their garments.’

In the surrender of what may appear lawful to others in our separation
from the world, we must prove that our consecration to be holy to the
Lord is whole-hearted and entire.  The bodily perfection of the priest
must have its counterpart in our too being `without spot or blemish;’
`the man of God perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works,’
`perfect and entire, wanting nothing’ (Lev. xxi. 17-21; Eph. v. 27; 2
Tim. ii. 7; Jas. i. 4).  And above all, we consent to give up all
inheritance on earth; to forsake all, and like Christ to have only God
as our portion:  to possess as not possessing, and hold all for God
alone: it is this marks the true priest, the man who only lives for
God and his fellow-men.

And now the way to the priesthood.  In Aaron God had chosen all his
sons to be priests:  each of them was a priest by birth.  And yet he
could not enter upon his work without a special act of ordinance–his
consecration.  Every child of God is priest in light of his birth, his
blood relationship to the Great High Priest; but this is not enough:
he will exercise his power only as he accepts and realizes his
consecration.

With Aaron and his sons it took place thus (Ex. xxix.):  After being
washed and clothed, they were anointed with the holy oil.  Sacrifices
were then offered, and with the blood the right ear, the right hand,
and the right foot were touched.  And then they and their garments
were once again sprinkled with the blood and the oil together.  And so
it is as the child of God enters more fully into what THE BLOOD and
THE SPIRIT of which he already is partaker, are to him, that the power
of the Holy Priesthood will work in him.  The blood will take away all
sense of unworthiness; the Spirit, all sense of unfitness.

Let us notice what there was new in the application of the blood to
the priest.  If ever he had as a penitent brought a sacrifice for his
sin, seeking forgiveness, the blood was sprinkled on the altar, but
not on his person.  But now, for priestly consecration, there was to
be closer contact with the blood; ear and hand and foot were by a
special act brought under its power, and the whole being taken
possession of and sanctified for God.  And so, when the believer, who
had been content to think chiefly of the blood sprinkled on the
mercy-seat as what he needs for pardon, is led to seek full priestly
access to God, he feels the need of a fuller and more abiding
experience of the power of the blood, as really sprinkling and
cleansing the heart from an evil conscience, so that he has `no more
conscience of sin’ (Heb. x. 2) as cleansing from all sin.  And it is
as he gets to enjoy this, that the consciousness is awakened of his
wonderful right of most intimate access to God, and of the full
assurance that his intercessions are acceptable.

And as the blood gives the right, the Spirit gives the power, and fits
for believing intercession.  He breathes into us the priestly
spirit–burning love for God’s honour and the saving of souls.  He
makes us so one with Jesus that prayer in His Name is a reality.  He
strengthens us to believing, importunate prayer.  The more the
Christian is truly filled with the Spirit of Christ, the more
spontaneous will be his giving himself up to the life of priestly
intercession.  Beloved fellow-Christians!  God needs, greatly needs,
priests who can draw near to Him, who live in His presence, and by
their intercession draw down the blessings of His grace on others.
And the world needs, greatly needs, priests who will bear the burden
of the perishing ones, and intercede on their behalf.

Are you willing to offer yourself for this holy work?  You know the
surrender it demands–nothing less than the Christ-like giving up of
all, that the saving purposes of God’s love may be accomplished among
men.  Oh, be no longer of those who are content if they have
salvation, and just do work enough to keep themselves warm and
lively.  O let nothing keep you back from giving yourselves to be
wholly and only priests–nothing else, nothing less than the priests
of the Most High God.  The thought of unworthiness, of unfitness, need
not keep you back.  In the Blood, the objective power of the perfect
redemption works in you:  in  the Spirit its full subjective personal
experience as a divine life is secured.  The Blood provides an
infinite worthiness to make your prayers most acceptable:  The Spirit
provides a Divine fitness, teaching you to pray just according to the
will of God.  Every priest knew that when he presented a sacrifice
according to the law of the sanctuary, it was accepted:  under the
covering of the Blood and Spirit you have the assurance that all the
wonderful promises to prayer in the Name of Jesus will be fulfilled in
you.  Abiding in union with the Great High Priest, `you shall ask what
you will, and it shall be done unto you.’  You will have power to pray
the effectual prayer of the righteous man that availeth much.  You
will not only join in the general prayer of the Church for the world,
but be able in your own sphere to take up your special work in
prayer–as priests, to transact it with God, to receive and know the
answer, and so to bless in His Name.  Come, brother, come, and be a
priest, only priest, all priest.  Seek now to walk before the Lord in
the full consciousness that you have been set apart for the holy
Ministry of Intercession.  This is the true blessedness of conformity
to the image of God’s Son.

`LORD TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

O Thou my blessed High Priest, accept the consecration in which my
soul now would respond to Thy message.

I believe in the HOLY PRIESTHOOD OF THY SAINTS, and that I too am a
priest, with power to appear before the Father, and in the prayer that
avails much bring down blessing on the perishing around me.

I believe in the POWER OF THY PRECIOUS BLOOD to cleanse from all sin,
to give me perfect confidence toward God, and bring me near in the
full assurance of faith that my intercession will be heard.

I believe in the ANOINTING OF THE SPIRIT, coming down daily from Thee,
my Great High Priest, to sanctify me, to fill me with the
consciousness of my priestly calling, and with love to souls, to teach
me what is according to God’s will, and how to pray the prayer of
faith.

I believe that, as Thou my Lord Jesus art Thyself in all things my
life, so Thou, too, art THE SURETY FOR MY PRAYER-LIFE, and wilt
Thyself draw me up into the fellowship of Thy wondrous work of
intercession.

In this faith I yield myself this day to my God, as one of His
anointed priests, to stand before His face to intercede in behalf of
sinners, and to come out and bless in His Name.

Holy Lord Jesus!  accept and seal my consecration.  Yea, Lord, do Thou
lay Thy hands on me, and Thyself consecrate me to this Thy holy work.
And let me walk among men with the consciousness and the character of
a priest of the Most High God.

Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins IN HIS OWN BLOOD,
AND HATH MADE US kings and priests unto God and His Father; TO HIM be
glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen
_________________________________________________________________

THIRTY-FIRST LESSON.

`Pray without ceasing;’

Or,    A Life of Prayer.

`Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.  In everything give
thanks.–I Thess. v. 16, 17, 18.

OUR Lord spake the parable of the widow and the unjust judge to teach
us that men ought to pray always and not faint.  As the widow
persevered in seeking one definite thing, the parable appears to have
reference to persevering prayer for some one blessing, when God delays
or appears to refuse.  The words in the Epistles, which speak of
continuing instant in prayer, continuing in prayer and watching in the
same, of praying always in the Spirit, appear more to refer to the
whole life being one of prayer.  As the soul is filling with the
longing for the manifestation of God’s glory to us and in us, through
us and around us, and with the confidence that He hears the prayers of
His children; the inmost life of the soul is continually rising upward
in dependence and faith, in longing desire and trustful expectation.

At the close of our meditations it will not be difficult to say what
is needed to live such a life of prayer.  The first thing is
undoubtedly the entire sacrifice of the life to God’s kingdom and
glory.  He who seeks to pray without ceasing because he wants to be
very pious and good, will never attain to it.  It is the forgetting of
self and yielding ourselves to live for God and His honour that
enlarges the heart, that teaches us to regard everything in the light
of God and His will, and that instinctively recognises in everything
around us the need of God’s help and blessing, an opportunity for His
being glorified.  Because everything is weighed and tested by the one
thing that fills the heart–the glory of God, and because the soul has
learnt that only what is of God can really be to Him and His glory,
the whole life becomes a looking up, a crying from the inmost heart,
for God to prove His power and love and so show forth His glory.  The
believer awakes to the consciousness that he is one of the watchmen on
Zion’s walls, one of the Lord’s remembrancers, whose call does really
touch and move the King in heaven to do what would otherwise not be
done.  He understands how real Paul’s exhortation was, `praying always
with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit for all the saints and
for me,’ and `continue in prayer, withal praying also for us.’  To
forget oneself, to live for God and His kingdom among men, is the way
to learn to pray without ceasing.

This life devoted to God must be accompanied by the deep confidence
that our prayer is effectual.  We have seen how our Blessed Lord
insisted upon nothing so much in His prayer-lessons as faith in the
Father as a God who most certainly does what we ask.  `Ask and ye
shall receive;’ count confidently on an answer, is with Him the
beginning and the end of His teaching (compare Matt. vii. 8 and John
xvi. 24).  In proportion as this assurance masters us, and it becomes
a settled thing that our prayers do tell and that God does what we
ask, we dare not neglect the use of this wonderful power:  the soul
turns wholly to God, and our life becomes prayer.  We see that the
Lord needs and takes time, because we and all around us are the
creatures of time, under the law of growth; but knowing that not one
single prayer of faith can possibly be lost that there is sometimes a
needs-be for the storing up and accumulating of prayer, that
persevering pray is irresistible, prayer becomes the quiet, persistent
living of our life of desire and faith in the presence of our God.  O
do not let us any longer by our reasonings limit and enfeeble such
free and sure promises of the living God, robbing them of their power,
and ourselves of the wonderful confidence they are meant to inspire.
Not in God, not in His secret will, not in the limitations of His
promises, but in us, in ourselves is the hindrance; we are not what we
should be to obtain the promise.  Let us open our whole heart to God’s
words of promise in all their simplicity and truth:  they will search
us and humble us; they will lift us up and make us glad and strong.
And to the faith that knows it gets what it asks, prayer is not a work
or a burden, but a joy and a triumph; it becomes a necessity and a
second nature.

This union of strong desire and firm confidence again is nothing but
the life of the Holy Spirit within us.  The Holy Spirit dwells in us,
hides Himself in the depths of our being, and stirs the desire after
the Unseen and the Divine, after God Himself.  Now in groanings that
cannot be uttered, then in clear and conscious assurance; now in
special distinct petitions for the deeper revelation of Christ to
ourselves, then in pleadings for a soul, a work, the Church or the
world, it is always and alone the Holy Spirit who draws out the heart
to thirst for God, to long for His being made known and glorified.
Where the child of God really lives and walks in the Spirit, where he
is not content to remain carnal, but seeks to be spiritual, in
everything a fit organ for the Divine Spirit to reveal the life of
Christ and Christ Himself, there the never-ceasing intercession-life
of the Blessed Son cannot but reveal and repeat itself in our
experience.  Because it is the Spirit of Christ who prays in us, our
prayer must be heard; because it is we who pray in the Spirit, there
is need of time, and patience, and continual renewing of the prayer,
until every obstacle be conquered, and the harmony between God’s
Spirit and ours is perfect.

But the chief thing we need for such a life of unceasing prayer is, to
know that Jesus teaches us to pray.  We have begun to understand a
little what His teaching is.  Not the communication of new thoughts or
views, not the discovery of failure or error, not the stirring up of
desire and faith, of however much importance all this be, but the
taking us up into the fellowship of His own prayer-life before the
Father–this it is by which Jesus really teaches.  It was the sight of
the praying Jesus that made the disciples long and ask to be taught to
pray.  It is the faith of the ever-praying Jesus, whose alone is the
power to pray, that teaches us truly to pray.  We know why:  He who
prays is our Head and our Life.  All He has is ours and is given to us
when we give ourselves all to Him.  By His blood He leads us into the
immediate presence of God.  The inner sanctuary is our home, we dwell
there.  And He that lives so near God, and knows that He has been
brought near to bless those who are far, cannot but pray.  Christ
makes us partakers with Himself of His prayer-power and prayer-life.
We understand then that our true aim must not be to work much and have
prayer enough to keep the work right, but to pray much and then to
work enough for the power and blessing obtained in prayer to find its
way through us to men.  It is Christ who ever lives to pray, who saves
and reigns.  He communicates His prayer-life to us:  He maintains it
in us if we trust Him.  He is surety for our praying without ceasing.
Yes, Christ teaches to pray by showing how He does it, by doing it in
us, by leading us to do it in Him and like Him.  Christ is all, the
life and the strength too for a never-ceasing prayer-life.

It is the sight of this, the sight of the ever-praying Christ as our
life, that enables us to pray without ceasing.  Because His priesthood
is the power of an endless life, that resurrection-life that never
fades and never fails, and  because His life is our life, praying
without ceasing can become to us nothing less than the life-joy of
heaven.  So the Apostle says:  `Rejoice evermore; pray without
ceasing; in everything give thanks.’  Borne up between the
never-ceasing joy and the never-ceasing praise, never-ceasing prayer
is the manifestation of the power of the eternal life, where Jesus
always prays.  The union between the Vine and the branch is in very
deed a prayer-union.  The highest conformity to Christ, the most
blessed participation in the glory of His heavenly life, is that we
take part in His work of intercession:  He and we live ever to pray.
In the experience of our union with Him, praying without ceasing
becomes a possibility, a reality, the holiest and most blessed part of
our holy and blessed fellowship with God.  We have our abode within
the veil, in the presence of the Father.  What the Father says, we do;
what the Son says, the Father does.  Praying without ceasing is the
earthly manifestation of heaven come down to us, the foretaste of the
life where they rest not day or night in the song of worship and
adoration.

`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.’

—–0—–

O my Father, with my whole heart do I praise Thee for this wondrous
life of never-ceasing prayer, never-ceasing fellowship, never-ceasing
answers, and never-ceasing experience of my oneness with Him who ever
lives to pray.  O my God!  keep me ever so dwelling and walking in the
presence of Thy glory, that prayer may be the spontaneous expression
of my life with Thee.

Blessed Saviour!  with my whole heart I praise Thee that Thou didst
come from heaven to share with me in my needs and cries, that I might
share with Thee in Thy all-prevailing intercession.  And I thank Thee
that Thou hast taken me into the school of prayer, to teach the
blessedness and the power of a life that is all prayer.  And most of
all, that Thou hast taken me up into the fellowship of Thy life of
intercession, that through me too Thy blessings may be dispensed to
those around me.

Holy Spirit!  with deep reverence I thank Thee for Thy work in me.  It
is through Thee I am lifted up into a share in the intercourse between
the Son and the Father, and enter so into the fellowship of the life
and love of the Holy Trinity Spirit of God!  perfect Thy work in me;
bring me into perfect union with Christ my Intercessor.  Let Thine
unceasing indwelling make my life one of unceasing intercession.  And
let so my life become one that is unceasingly to the glory of the
Father and to the blessing of those around me.  Amen.
_________________________________________________________________

GEORGE MULLER, AND THE SECRET OF HIS

POWER IN PRAYER

WHEN God wishes anew to teach His Church a truth that is not being
understood or practised, He mostly does so by raising some man to be
in word and deed a living witness to its blessedness.  And so God has
raised up in this nineteenth century, among others, George Muller to
be His witness that He is indeed the Hearer of prayer.   I know of no
way in which the principal truths of God’s word in regard to prayer
can be more effectually illustrated and established than a short
review of his life and of what he tells of his prayer-experiences.

He was born in Prussia on 25^th September 1805, and is thus now eighty
years of age.  His early life, even after having entered the
University of Halle as a theological student, was wicked in the
extreme.  Led by a friend one evening, when just twenty years of age,
to a prayer meeting, he was deeply impressed, and soon after brought
to know the Saviour.  Not long after he began reading missionary
papers, and in course of time offered himself to the London Society
for promoting Christianity to the Jews.  He was accepted as a student,
but soon found that he could not in all things submit to the rules of
the Society, as leaving too little liberty for the leading of the Holy
Spirit.  The connection was dissolved in 1830 by mutual consent, and
he became the pastor of a small congregation at Teignmouth.  In 1832
he was led to Bristol, and it was as pastor of Bethesda Chapel that he
was led to the Orphan Home and other work, in connection with which
God has so remarkably led him to trust His word and to experience how
God fulfils that word.

A few extracts in regard to his spiritual life will prepare the way
for what we specially wish to quote of his experiences in reference to
prayer.

`In connection with this I would mention, that the Lord very
graciously gave me, from the very commencement of my divine life, a
measure of simplicity and of childlike disposition in spiritual
things, so that whilst I was exceedingly ignorant of the Scriptures,
and was still from time to time overcome even by outward sins, yet I
was enabled to carry most minute matters to the Lord in prayer.  And I
have found “godliness profitable unto all things, having promise of
the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”  Though very weak
and ignorant, yet I had now, by the grace of God, some desire to
benefit others, and he who so faithfully had once served Satan, sought
now to win souls for Christ.’

It was at Teignmouth that he was led to know how to use God’s word ,
and to trust the Holy Spirit as the Teacher given by God to make that
word clear.  He writes:–

`God then began to show me that the word of God alone is our standard
of judgment in spiritual things; that it can be explained only by the
Holy Spirit; and that in our day, as well as in former times.  He is
the Teacher of His people.  The office of the Holy Spirit I had not
experimentally understood before that time.

`It was my beginning to understand this latter point in particular,
which had a great effect on me; for the Lord enabled me to put it to
the test of experience, by laying aside commentaries, and almost every
other book and simply reading the word  of God and studying it.

`The result of this was, that the first evening that I shut myself
into my room, to give myself to prayer and meditation over the
Scriptures, I learned more in a few hours than I had done during a
period of several months previously.

`But the particular difference was that I received real strength for
my soul in so doing.  I now began to try by the test of the Scriptures
the things which I had learned and seen, and found that only those
principles which stood the test were of real value.’

Of obedience to the word of God, he writes as follows, in connection
with his being baptized:–

`It had pleased God, in His abundant mercy, to bring my mind into such
a state, that I was willing to carry out into my life whatever I
should find in the Scriptures.  I could say, “I will do His will,” and
it was on that account, I believe, that I saw which “doctrine is of
God.”–And I would observe here, by the way, that the passage to which
I have just alluded (John vii. 17) has been a most remarkable comment
to me on many doctrines and precepts of our most holy faith.  For
instance:  “Resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy
right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if any man will sue thee
at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.  And
whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.  Give to
him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not
thou away.  Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to
them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and
persecute you” (Matt. v. 39-44).  “Sell that ye have, and give
alms”(Luke xii. 33).  “Owe no man any thing, but to love one
another”(Rom. xii. 8).  It may be said, “Surely these passages cannot
be taken literally, for how then would the people of God be able to
pass through the world?”  The state of mind enjoined in John vii. 17
will cause such objections to vanish.  WHOSOEVER IS WILLING TO ACT OUT
these commandments of the Lord LITERALLY, will, I believe, be led with
me to see that to take them LITERALLY is the will of God.–Those who
do so take them will doubtless often be brought into difficulties,
hard to the flesh to bear, but these will have a tendency to make them
constantly feel that they are strangers and pilgrims here, that this
world is not their home, and thus to throw them more upon God, who
will assuredly help us through any difficulty into which we may be
brought by seeking to act in obedience to His word.’

This implicit surrender to God’s word led him to certain views and
conduct in regard to money, which mightily influenced his future
life.  They had their root in the conviction that money was a Divine
stewardship, and that all money had therefore to be received and
dispensed in direct fellowship with God Himself.  This led him to the
adoption of the following four great rules:  1.  Not to receive any
fixed salary, both because in the collecting of it there was often
much that was at variance with the freewill offering with which God’s
service is to be maintained, and in the receiving of it a danger of
placing more dependence on human sources of income than in the living
God Himself.  2.  Never to ask any human being for help, however great
the need might be, but to make his wants known to the God who has
promised to care for His servants and to hear their prayer.  3.  To
take this command (Luke xii. 33) literally, `Sell that thou hast and
give alms,’ and never to save up money, but to spend all God entrusted
to him on God’s poor, on the work of His kingdom.  4.  Also to take
Rom. xiii. 8, `Owe no man anything,’ literally, and never to buy on
credit, or be in debt for anything, but to trust God to provide.

This mode of living was not easy at first.  But Muller testifies it
was most blessed in bringing the soul to rest in God, and drawing it
into closer union with Himself when inclined to backslide.  `For it
will not do, it is not possible, to live in sin, and at the same time,
by communion with God, to draw down from heaven everything one needs
for the life that now is.’

Not long after his settlement at Bristol, `THE SCRIPTURAL KNOWLEDGE
INSTITUTION FOR HOME AND ABROAD’ was established for aiding in Day,
Sunday School, Mission and Bible work.  Of this Institution the Orphan
Home work, by which Mr. Muller is best known, became a branch.  It was
in 1834 that his heart was touched by the case of an orphan brought to
Christ in one of the schools, but who had to go to a poorhouse where
its spiritual wants would not be cared for.  Meeting shortly after
with a life of Franke, he writes (Nov, 20, 1835):  `Today I have had
it very much laid on my heart no longer merely to think about the
establishment of an Orphan Home, but actually to set about it, and I
have been very much in prayer respecting it, in order to ascertain the
Lord’s mind.  May God make it plain.’  And again, Nov. 25:  `I have
been again much in prayer yesterday and today about the Orphan Home,
and am more and more convinced that it is of God.  May He in mercy
guide me.  The three chief reasons are–1.  That God may be glorified,
should He be pleased to furnish me with the means, in its being seen
that it is not a vain thing to trust Him; and that thus the faith of
His children may be strengthened.  2.  The spiritual welfare of
fatherless and motherless children.  3.  Their temporal welfare.’

After some months of prayer and waiting on God, a house was rented,
with room for thirty children , and in course of time three more,
containing in all 120 children.  The work was carried on it this way
for ten years, the supplies for the needs of the orphans being asked
and received of God alone.  It was often a time of sore need and much
prayer, but a trial of faith more precious than of gold was found unto
praise and honour and glory of God.  The Lord was preparing His
servant for greater things.  By His providence and His Holy Spirit,
Mr. Muller was led to desire, and to wait upon God till he received
from Him, the sure promise of £15,000 for a Home to contain 300
children.  This first Home was opened in 1849.  In 1858, a second and
third Home, for 950 more orphans, was opened, costing £35,000.  And in
1869 and 1870, a fourth and a fifth Home, for 850 more, at an expense
of £50,000, making the total number of the orphans 2100.

In addition to this work, God has given him almost as much as for the
building of the Orphan Homes, and the maintenance of the orphans, for
other work, the support of schools and missions, Bible and tract
circulation.  In all he has received from God, to be spent in His
work, during these fifty years, more than one million pounds
sterling.  How little he knew, let us carefully notice, that when he
gave up his little salary of £35 a year in obedience to the leading of
God’s word and the Holy Spirit, what God was preparing to give him as
the reward of obedience and faith; and how wonderfully the word was to
be fulfilled to him:  `Thou hast been faithful over few things; I will
set thee over many things.’

And these things have happened for an ensample to us.  God calls us to
be followers of George Muller, even as he is of Christ.  His God is
our God; the same promises are for us; the same service of love and
faith in which he laboured is calling for us on every side.  Let us in
connection with our lessons in the school of prayer study the way in
which God gave George Muller such power as a man of prayer:  we shall
find in it the most remarkable illustration of some of the lessons
which we have been studying with the blessed Master in the word.  We
shall specially have impressed upon us His first great lesson, that if
we will come to Him in the way He has pointed out, with definite
petitions, made known to us by the Spirit through the word as being
according to the will of God, we may most confidently believe that
whatsoever we ask it shall be done.

PRAYER AND THE WORD OF GOD.

We have more than once seen that God’s listening to our voice depends
upon our listening to His voice.  (See Lessons 22 and 23.)  We must
not only have a special promise to plead, when we make a special
request, but our whole life must be under the supremacy of the word:
the word must be dwelling in us.  The testimony of George Muller on
this point is most instructive.  He tells us how the discovery of the
true place of the word of God, and the teaching of the Spirit with it,
was the commencement of a new era in his spiritual life.  Of it he
writes:–

`Now the scriptural way of reasoning would have been:  God Himself has
condescended to become an author, and I am ignorant about that
precious book which His Holy Spirit has caused to be written through
the instrumentality of His servants, and it contains that which I
ought to know, and the knowledge of which will lead me to true
happiness; therefore I ought to read again and again this most
precious book, this book of books, most earnestly, most prayerfully,
and with much meditation; and in this practice I ought to continue all
the days of my life.  For I was aware, though I read it but little,
that I knew scarcely anything of it.  But instead of acting thus and
being led by my ignorance of the word of God to study it more, my
difficulty in understanding it, and the little enjoyment I had in it,
made me careless of reading it (for much prayerful reading of the word
gives not merely more knowledge, but increases the delight we have in
reading it); and thus, like many believers, I practically preferred,
for the first four years of my divine life, the works of uninspired
men to the oracles of the living God.  The consequence was that I
remained a babe, both in knowledge and grace.  In knowledge, I say;
for all true knowledge must be derived, by the Spirit, from the word.
And as I neglected the word, I was for nearly four years so ignorant,
that I did not clearly know even the fundamental points of our holy
faith.  And this lack of knowledge most sadly kept me back from
walking steadily in the ways of God.  For when it pleased the Lord in
August 1829 to bring me really to the Scriptures, my life and walk
became very different.  And though ever since that I have very much
fallen short of what I might and ought to be, yet by the grace of God
I have been enabled to live much nearer to Him than before.  If any
believers read this who practically prefer other books to the Holy
Scriptures, and who enjoy the writings of men much more than the word
of God, may they be warned by my loss.  I shall consider this book to
have been the means of doing much good, should it please the Lord,
through its instrumentality, to lead some of His people no longer to
neglect the Holy Scriptures, but to give them that preference which
they have hitherto bestowed on the writings of men.

`Before I leave this subject, I would only add:  If the reader
understands very little of the word of God, he ought to read it very
much; for the Spirit explains the word by the word.  And if he enjoys
the reading of the word little, that is just the reason why he should
read it much; for the frequent reading of the Scriptures creates a
delight in them, so that the more we read them, the more we desire to
do so.

`Above all, he should seek to have it settled in his own mind that God
alone by His Spirit can teach him, and that therefore, as God will be
inquired of for blessings, it becomes him to seek God’s blessing
previous to reading, and also whilst reading.

`He should have it, moreover, settled in his mind that although the
Holy Spirit is the best and sufficient Teacher, yet that this Teacher
does not always teach immediately when we desire it, and that
therefore we may have to entreat Him again and again for the
explanation of certain passages; but that He will surely teach us at
last, if indeed we are seeking for light prayerfully, patiently, and
with a view to the glory of God.’ [4]

We find in his journal frequent mention made of his spending two and
three hours in prayer over the word for the feeding of his spiritual
life.  As the fruit of this, when he had need of strength and
encouragement in prayer, the individual promises were not to him so
many arguments from a book to be used with God, but living words which
he had heard the Father’s living voice speak to him, and which he
could now bring to the Father in living faith.

PRAYER AND THE WILL OF GOD.

One of the greatest difficulties with young believers is to know how
they can find out whether what they desire is according to God’s
will.  I count it one of the most precious lessons God wants to teach
through the experience of George Muller, that He is willing to make
know, of things of which His word says nothing directly, that they are
His will for us, and that we may ask them.  The teaching of the
Spirit, not without or against the word, but as something above and
beyond it, in addition to it, without which we cannot see God’s will,
is the heritage of every believer.  It is through THE WORD, AND THE
WORD ALONE, that the Spirit teaches, applying the general principles
or promises to our special need.  And it is THE SPIRIT, AND THE SPIRIT
ALONE, who can really make the word a light on our path, whether the
path of duty in our daily walk, or the path of faith in our approach
to God.  Let us try and notice in what childlike simplicity and
teachableness it was that the discovery of God’s will was so surely
and so clearly made known to His servant.

With regard to the building of the first Home and the assurance he had
of its being God’s will, he writes in May 1850, just after it had been
opened, speaking of the great difficulties there were, and how little
likely it appeared to nature that they would be removed:  `But while
the prospect before me would have been overwhelming had I looked at it
naturally, I was never even for once permitted to question how it
would end.  For as from the beginning I was sure it was the will of
God that I should go to the work of building for Him this large Orphan
Home, so also from the beginning I was as certain that the whole would
be finished as if the Home had been already filled.’

The way in which he found out what was God’s will, comes out with
special clearness in his account of the building of the second Home;
and I ask the reader to study with care the lesson the narrative
conveys:–

`Dec. 5, 1850.–Under these circumstances I can only pray that the
Lord in His tender mercy would not allow Satan to gain an advantage
over me.  By the grace of God my heart says:  Lord, if I could be sure
that it is Thy will that I should go forward in this matter, I would
do so cheerfully; and, on the other hand, if I could be sure that
these are vain, foolish, proud thoughts, that they are not from Thee,
I would, by Thy grace, hate them, and entirely put them aside.

`My hope is in God:  He will help and teach me.  Judging, however,
from His former dealings with me, it would not be a strange thing to
me, nor surprising, if He called me to labour yet still more largely
in this way.

`The thoughts about enlarging the Orphan work have not yet arisen on
account of an abundance of money having lately come in; for I have had
of late to wait for about seven weeks upon God, whilst little, very
little comparatively, came in, i.e. about four times as much was going
out as came in; and, had not the Lord previously sent me large sums,
we should have been distressed indeed.

`Lord!  how can Thy servant know Thy will in this matter?  Wilt Thou
be pleased to teach him!

December 11.–During the last six days, since writing the above, I
have been, day after day, waiting upon God concerning this matter.  It
has generally been more or less all the day on my heart.  When I have
been awake at night, it has not been far from my thoughts.  Yet all
this without the least excitement.  I am perfectly calm and quiet
respecting it.  My soul would be rejoiced to go forward in this
service, could I be sure that the Lord would have me to do so; for
then, notwithstanding the numberless difficulties, all would be well;
and His Name would be magnified.

`On the other hand, were I assured that the Lord would have me to be
satisfied with my present sphere of service, and that I should not
pray about enlarging the work, by His grace I could, without an
effort, cheerfully yield to it; for He has brought me into such a
state of heart, that I only desire to please Him in this matter.
Moreover, hitherto I have not spoken about this thing even to my
beloved wife, the sharer of my joys, sorrows, and labours for more
than twenty years; nor is it likely that I shall do so for some time
to come:  for I prefer quietly to wait on the Lord, without conversing
on this subject, in order that thus I may be kept the more easily, by
His blessing, from being influenced by things from without.  The
burden of my prayer concerning this matter is, that the Lord would not
allow me to make a mistake, and that He would teach me to do His will.

`December 26.–Fifteen days have elapsed since I wrote the preceding
paragraph.  Every day since then I have continued to pray about this
matter, and that with a goodly measure of earnestness, by the help of
God.  There has passed scarcely an hour during these days, in which,
whilst awake, this matter has not been more or less before me.  But
all without even a shadow of excitement.  I converse with no one about
it.  Hitherto have I not even done so with my dear wife.  For this I
refrain still, and deal with God alone about the matter, in order that
no outward influence and no outward excitement may keep me from
attaining unto a clear discovery of His will.  I have the fullest and
most peaceful assurance that He will clearly show me His will.  This
evening I have had again an especial solemn season for prayer, to seek
to know the will of God.  But whilst I continue to entreat and beseech
the Lord, that He would not allow me to be deluded in this business, I
may say I have scarcely any doubt remaining on my mind as to what will
be the issue, even that I should go forward in this matter.  As this,
however, is one of the most momentous steps that I have ever taken, I
judge that I cannot go about this matter with too much caution,
prayerfulness, and deliberation.  I am in no hurry about it.  I could
wait for years, by God’s grace, were this His will, before even taking
one single step toward this thing, or even speaking to anyone about
it; and, on the other hand, I would set to work tomorrow, were the
Lord to bid me do so.  This calmness of mind, this having no will of
my own in the matter, this only wishing to please my Heavenly Father
in it, this only seeking His and not my honour in it; this state of
heart, I say, is the fullest assurance to me that my heart is not
under a fleshly excitement, and that, if I am helped thus to go on, I
shall know the will of God to the full.  But, while I write this, I
cannot but add at the same time, that I do crave the honour and the
glorious privilege to be more and more used by the Lord.

`I desire to be allowed to provide scriptural instruction for a
thousand orphans, instead of doing so for 300.  I desire to expound
the Holy Scriptures regularly to a thousand orphans, instead of doing
so to 300.  I desire that it may be yet more abundantly manifest that
God is still the Hearer and Answerer of prayer, and that He is the
living God now as He ever was and ever will be, when He shall simply,
in answer to prayer, have condescended to provide me with a house for
700 orphans and with means to support them.  This last consideration
is the most important point in my mind.  The Lord’s honour is the
principal point with me in this whole matter; and just because this is
the case, if He would be more glorified by not going forward in this
business, I should by His grace be perfectly content to give up all
thoughts about another Orphan House.  Surely in such a state of mind,
obtained by the Holy Spirit, Thou, O my Heavenly Father, wilt not
suffer Thy child to be mistaken, much less deluded.  By the help of
God I shall continue further day by day to wait upon Him in prayer,
concerning this thing, till He shall bid me act.

`Jan. 2, 1851.–A week ago I wrote the preceding paragraph.  During
this week I have still been helped day by day, and more than once
every day, to seek the guidance of the Lord about another Orphan
House.  The burden of my prayer has still been, that He in His great
mercy would keep me from making a mistake.  During the last week the
book of Proverbs has come in the course of my Scripture reading, and
my heart has been refreshed in reference to this subject by the
following passages:  “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean
not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him,
and He shall direct thy paths”  (Prov. iii. 5, 6).  By the grace of
God I do acknowledge the Lord in all my ways, and in this thing in
particular; I have therefore the comfortable assurance that He will
direct my paths concerning this part of my service, as to whether I
shall be occupied in it our not.  Further:  “The integrity of the
upright shall preserve them”  (Prov. xi. 3).  By the grace of God I am
upright in this business.  My honest purpose is to get glory to God.
Therefore I expect to be guided aright.  Further:  “Commit thy works
unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established”  (Prov. xvi.
3).   I do commit my works unto the Lord, and therefore expect that my
thoughts will be established.  My heart is more and more coming to a
calm, quiet, and settled assurance, that the Lord will condescend to
use me still further in the orphan work.  Here Lord is Thy servant.’

When later he decided to build two additional houses, Nos. 4 and 5, he
writes thus again:–

`Twelve days have passed away since I wrote the last paragraph.  I
have still day by day been enabled to wait upon the Lord with
reference to enlarging the Orphan work, and have been during the whole
of this period also in perfect peace, which is the result of seeking
in this thing only the Lord’s honour and the temporal and spiritual
benefit of my fellow-men.  Without an effort could I by His grace put
aside all thoughts about this whole affair, if only assured that it is
the will of God that I should do so; and, on the other hand, would at
once go forward, if He would have it be so.  I have still kept this
matter entirely to myself.  Though it be now about seven weeks, since
day by day, more or less, my mind has been exercised about it, and
since I have been daily praying about it, yet not one human being
knows of it.  As yet I have not even mentioned it to my dear wife in
order that thus, by quietly waiting upon God, I might not be
influenced by what might be said to me on the subject.  This evening
has been particularly set apart for prayer, beseeching the Lord once
more not to allow me to be mistaken in this thing, and much less to be
deluded by the devil.  I have also sought to let all the reasons
against building another Orphan House, and all the reasons for doing
so pass before my mind:  and now for the clearness and definiteness,
write them down. . . .

`Much, however, as the nine previous reasons weigh with me, yet they
would not decide me were there not one more.  It is this.  After
having for months pondered the matter, and having looked at it in all
its bearings and with all its difficulties, and then having been
finally led, after much prayer, to decide on this enlargement, my mind
is at peace.  The child who has again and again besought His Heavenly
Father not to allow him to be deluded, nor even to make a mistake, is
at peace, perfectly at peace concerning this decision; and has thus
the assurance that the decision come to, after much prayer during
weeks and months, is the leading of the Holy Spirit; and therefore
purposes to go forward, assuredly believing that he will not be
confounded, for he trusts in God.  Many and great may be his
difficulties; thousands and ten thousands of prayers may have ascended
to God, before the full answer may be obtained; much exercise of faith
and patience may be required; but in the end it will again be seen,
that His servant, who trusts in Him, has not been confounded.’

PRAYER AND THE GLORY OF GOD.

We have sought more than once to enforce the truth, that while we
ordinarily seek the reasons of our prayers not being heard in the
thing we ask not being according to the will of God, Scripture warns
us to find the cause in ourselves, in our not being in the right state
or not asking in the right spirit.  The thing may be in full
accordance with His will, but the asking, the spirit of the
supplicant, not; then we are not heard.  As the great root of all sin
is self and self-seeking, so there is nothing that even in our more
spiritual desires so effectually hinders God in answering as this:  we
pray for our own pleasure or glory.  Prayer to have power and prevail
must ask for the glory of God; and he can only do this as he is living
for God’s glory.

In George Muller we have one of the most remarkable instances on
record of God’s Holy Spirit leading a man deliberately and
systematically, at the outset of a course of prayer, to make the
glorifying of God his first and only object.  Let us ponder well what
he says, and learn the lesson God would teach us through him:–

`I had constantly cases brought before me, which proved that one of
the especial things which the children of God needed in our day, was
to have their faith strengthened.

`I longed, therefore, to have something to point my brethren to, as a
visible proof that our God and Father is the same faithful God as ever
He was; as willing as ever to PROVE Himself to be the LIVING GOD in
our day as formerly, to all who put their trust in Him.

`My spirit longed to be instrumental in strengthening their faith, by
giving them not only instances from the word of God, of His
willingness and ability to help all who rely upon Him, but to show
them by proofs that He is the same in our day.  I knew that the word
of God ought to be enough, and it was by grace enough for me; but
still I considered I ought to lend a helping hand to my brethren.

`I therefore judged myself bound to be the servant of the Church of
Christ, in the particular point in which I had obtained mercy; namely,
in being able to take God at His word and rely upon it.  The first
object of the work was, and is still:  that God might be magnified by
the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they
need, only by prayer and faith, without any one being asked; thereby
it may be seen that God is FAITHFUL STILL, AND HEARS PRAYER STILL.

`I have again these last days prayed much about the Orphan House, and
have frequently examined my heart; that if it were at all my desire to
establish it for the sake of gratifying myself, I might find it out.
For as I desire only the Lord’s glory, I shall be glad to be
instructed by the instrumentality of my brother, if the matter be not
of Him.

`When I began the Orphan work in 1835, my chief object was the glory
of God, by giving a practical demonstration as to what could be
accomplished simply through the instrumentality of prayer and faith,
in order thus to benefit the Church at large, and to lead a careless
world to see the reality of the things of God, by showing them in this
work, that the living God is still, as 4000 years ago, the living
God.  This my aim has been abundantly honoured.  Multitudes of sinners
have been thus converted, multitudes of the children of God in all
parts of the world have been benefited by this work, even as I had
anticipated.  But the larger the work as grown, the greater has been
the blessing, bestowed in the very way in which I looked for
blessing:  for the attention of hundreds of thousands has been drawn
to the work; and many tens of thousands have come to see it.  All this
leads me to desire further and further to labour on in this way, in
order to bring yet greater glory to the Name of the Lord.  That He may
be looked at, magnified, admired, trusted in, relied on at all times,
is my aim in this service; and so particularly in this intended
enlargement.  That it may be seen how much one poor man, simply by
trusting in God, can bring about by prayer; and that thus other
children of God may be led to carry on the work of God in dependence
upon Him; and that children of God may be led increasingly to trust in
Him in their individual positions and circumstances, therefore I am
led to this further enlargement.’

PRAYER AND TRUST IN GOD.

There are other points on which I would be glad to point out what is
to be found in Mr. Muller’s narrative, but one more must suffice.  It
is the lesson of firm and unwavering trust in God’s promise as the
secret of persevering prayer.  If once we have, in submission to the
teaching of the Spirit in the word, taken hold of God’s promise, and
believed that the Father has heard us, we must not allow ourselves by
any delay or unfavourable appearances be shaken in our faith.

`The full answer to my daily prayers was far from being realized; yet
there was abundant encouragement granted by the Lord, to continue in
prayer.  But suppose, even, that far less had come in than was
received, still, after having come to the conclusion, upon scriptural
grounds, after much prayer and self-examination, I ought to have gone
on without wavering, in the exercise of faith and patience concerning
this object; and thus all the children of God, when once satisfied
that anything which they bring before God in prayer, is according to
His will, ought to continue in believing, expecting, persevering
prayer until the blessing is granted.  Thus am I myself now waiting
upon God for certain blessings, for which I have daily besought Him
for ten years and six months without one day’s intermission.  Still
the full  answer is not yet given concerning the conversion of certain
individuals, though in the meantime I have received many thousands of
answers to prayer.  I have also prayed daily without intermission for
the conversion of other individuals about ten years, for others six or
seven years, for others from three or two years; and still the answer
is not yet granted concerning those persons, while in the meantime
many thousands of my prayers have been answered, and also souls
converted, for whom I had been praying.  I lay particular stress on
this for the benefit of those who may suppose that I need only to ask
of God, and receive at once; or that I might pray concerning anything,
and the answer would surely come.  One can only expect to obtain
answers to prayers which are according to the mind of God; and even
then, patience and faith may be exercised for many years, even as mine
are exercised, in the matter to which I have referred; and yet am I
daily continuing in prayer, and expecting the answer, and so surely
expecting the answer, that I have often thanked God that He will
surely give it, though now for nineteen years faith and patience have
thus been exercised.  Be encouraged, dear Christians, with fresh
earnestness to give yourselves to prayer, if you can only be sure that
you ask things which are for the glory of God.

`But the most remarkable point is this, that  £6, 6s. 6d. from
Scotland supplied me, as far as can be known now, with all the means
necessary for fitting up and promoting the New Orphan Houses.  Six
years and eight months I have been day by day, and generally several
times daily, asking the Lord to give me the needed means for this
enlargement of the Orphan work, which, according to calculations made
in the spring of 1861, appeared to be about fifty thousand pounds:
the total of this amount I had now received.  I praise and magnify the
Lord for putting this enlargement of the work into my heart, and for
giving me courage and faith for it; and above all, for sustaining my
faith day by day without wavering.  When the last portion of the money
was received, I was no more assured concerning the whole, that I was
at the time I had not received one single donation towards this large
sum.  I was at the beginning, after once having ascertained His mind,
through most patient and heart-searching waiting upon God, as fully
assured that He would bring it about, as if the two houses, with their
hundreds of orphans occupying them, had been already before me.  I
make a few remarks here for the sake of young believers in connection
with this subject:  1.  Be slow to take new steps in the Lord’s
service, or in your business, or in your families:  weigh everything
well; weigh all in the light of the Holy Scriptures and in the fear of
God.  2.  Seek to have no will of your own, in order to ascertain the
mind of God, regarding any steps you propose taking, so that you can
honestly say you are willing to do the will of God, if He will only
please to instruct you.  3.  But when you have found out what the will
of God is, seek for His help, and seek it earnestly, perseveringly,
patiently, believingly, expectantly; and you will surely in His own
time and way obtain it.

`To suppose that we have difficulty about money only would be a
mistake:  there occur hundreds of other wants and of other
difficulties.  It is a rare thing that a day occurs without some
difficulty or some want; but often there are many difficulties and
many wants to be met and overcome the same day.  All these are met by
prayer and faith, our universal remedy; and we have never been
confounded.  Patient, persevering, believing prayer, offered up to
God, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, has always, sooner or later,
brought the blessing.  I do not despair, by God’s grace, of obtaining
any blessing, provided I can be sure it would be for any real good,
and for the glory of God.
_________________________________________________________________

[4] The extracts are from a work in four volumes, The Lord’s Dealings
with George Muller.  J. Nisbet & Co., London.
_________________________________________________________________

This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal
Library at Calvin College, http://www.ccel.org,
generated on demand from ThML source.

 

Andrew Murray by David Smithers

Andrew Murray

by David Smithers

      Soon after coming to Christ, I was given two small paperbacks written by  Andrew Murray, “The Prayer Life” and “Waiting on God”. It seemed with each new chapter came fresh insights and new experiences in prayer. As a young believer, these writings greatly helped me to define and establish my personal prayer life. The principles conveyed in those little dog-eared books still continue to have a significant influence upon my prayer life and ministry. Almost twenty years later, I am only now beginning to feel that I truly understand the depth of what Andrew Murray was writing about!
Most works on prayer direct you to a process of prayer, but Mr. Murray’s writings direct you to the person of prayer – JESUS CHRIST.
Birthplace & Home

Andrew Murray was born on May 9th, 1828 in a Dutch Reformed parsonage in Graaff Reinet, South Africa. It was here that his father, the Rev. Andrew  Murray, Sr. was ministering to the Dutch settlers. The Murray home was a vibrant and active place filled with the lively sounds of joy, prayer, and worship. Every Friday evening Andrew Murray’s father would gather his family together and read them moving accounts of past revivals. He would then retire to his study and pour out his heart in prayer for revival to come to South Africa. This had been his weekly habit since 1822. Young Murray also benefited from several other fine examples of Christian zeal and devotion. Such men as David Livingstone and Robert Moffat frequently      passed through their home on their way to the coast.

William C. Burns

In 1838, at the age of ten, Andrew left home with his brother John to study in Scotland. They stayed with their uncle, the Rev. John Murray. In the spring of 1840 the uncle introduced the boys to the revival ministry of William C. Burns. This renowned Scottish revivalist left a deep and lasting impression on the youthful Andrew Murray. The twelve-year-old      Murray must have been thrilled when Mr. Burns invited him to carry his Bible and cloak as they walked together to the revival meetings in  Aberdeen. Years later, Murray could still vividly recall the power of Burns’ godly influence upon his life. His sincerity, fervent praying, and penetrating preaching all helped Andrew Murray define his own personal      ministry and calling. The influence of one generation’s Spirit-filled ministry often waters the seeds of another generation’s harvest.
Pastor Blumhardt

After graduating from Marischal College in 1844, the two brothers went to Utrecht, Holland, for the purpose of further study in theology and the Dutch language. Religious life at this time in the Netherlands was at a low ebb and rationalism had crippled many of the pulpits and seminaries.
Much like the Wesley brothers and the Holy Club at Oxford, John and Andrew joined a zealous group at the college called “Sechor Dabar” (Remember the Word). Here they found like-minded brethren, warm fellowship, and true missionary zeal. During a vacation from their classes, the brothers visited Germany, where they had the opportunity to meet Pastor Blumhardt.
This remarkable man had been used to bring revival to the Renish province in Germany. This revival was marked by extraordinary manifestations of deliverance and healing the sick through prayer. “Andrew saw firsthand the ongoing work of God’s power in his own time.”

The Boy Preacher

The two brothers were ordained at The Hague on Andrew’s twentieth birthday, leaving soon afterwards to begin their work in South Africa.
Andrew appeared to be barely more than a child when he first returned to Africa. At twenty years old, he looked much younger than his age. An Old Dutch farmer was once heard to say, “Why, they have lent us a girl to preach to us.” Nevertheless, in spite of Murray’s fragile appearance, there was no end to his endurance and zeal. He would often go out for weeks at a time on horseback to hold meetings for the Boers, (Dutch-speaking South African farmers). These spiritually hungry farmers would come from literally hundreds of miles to listen to this “boy      preacher”. A temporary church of reeds would be quickly erected and then surrounded by hundreds of big Dutch farm wagons. It was during such ministry ventures, that the young Mr. Murray began to give expression to the fire and fervency so often associated with his classic writings on prayer and the Deeper Life.

Preparation for Revival

In 1860 Andrew Murray accepted a call to pastor the church at Worcester. His induction to the church coincided with a revival and missions conference made up of 374 South African ministers. The conference was planned for the specific purpose of encouraging spiritual revival and recruiting new workers and missionaries for the Dutch Reformed churches of South Africa. At the beginning of the conference a paper was handed out  which traced the news of the recent revival in America and Britain. The attending ministers were strongly encouraged to expect and pray for a similar move of God in South Africa. A Dr. Robertson spoke on their great need for revival, followed by a Dr. Adamson who then gave a detailed report on the recent awakening in America. Andrew Murray, Sr. attempted to address the gathering, but was unable, being overcome with brokenness and tears. Overall, the conference was a great success, encouraging fresh hope and prayer among the attending ministers.
Shortly after the conference, a meeting of young people was held at the  church on a Sunday evening. It was at this meeting that the Spirit of revival unexpectedly broke out. The meeting moved along as expected, until an unassuming 15-year-old black girl stood up to pray. Mr. Murray’s associate, J. C. deVries, was overseeing the prayer meeting and gives us an eyewitness account of these extraordinary events. “On a certain Sunday  evening there were gathered in a little hall some sixty young people. I  was the leader of the meeting, which began with a hymn and a lesson from God’s Word, after which I prayed. Three or four others gave out a verse of a hymn and prayed, as was the custom. Then a colored girl of about fifteen years of age, in service with a nearby farmer, rose at the back of the hall and asked if she too might propose a hymn. At first I hesitated, not knowing what the meeting would think, but better thoughts prevailed, and I replied, Yes.’ She gave out her hymn-verse and prayed in moving tones.
While she was praying, we heard, as it were, a sound in the distance, which came nearer and nearer, until the hall seemed to be shaken; with one or two exceptions, the whole meeting began to pray, the majority in audible voice, but some in whispers. Nevertheless, the noise made by the concourse was deafening. A feeling, which I cannot describe, took      possession of me”

Offended by Revival

While this meeting was going on, Andrew Murray was preaching in another section of the church. He was not present during the beginning of these   events. When his own service was over, an elder passed the door of the prayer meeting, heard the noise, peeked in, and then ran back to get Mr.   Murray. J. C. deVries vividly recalls Murray’s surprising reaction to the young people’s meeting, “Mr. Murray came forward to the table where I       knelt praying, touched me, and made me understand that he wanted me to rise. He then asked me what had happened. I related everything to him.
Then he walked down the room for some distance and called out as loudly as he could, ‘People, silence!’ But the praying continued. In the meantime, I   kneeled down again. It seemed to me that if the Lord was coming to bless us, I should not be upon my feet but on my knees. Mr. Murray then called loudly again, ‘People, I am your minister, sent from God! Silence!’ But there was no stopping the noise. No one heard him, but all continued praying and calling on God for mercy and pardon. Mr. Murray then returned to me and told me to start the hymn-verse commencing ‘Aid the soul that helpless cries’. I did so. But the emotions were not quieted and the     meeting went right on praying. Mr. Murray then prepared to depart, saying, ‘God is a God of order, and here everything is confusion!’ With that he left the hall.”
Revival Praying & Power

Prayer meetings were spontaneously organized every evening after that. The order of these meetings was usually the same each time, although no one set it. At the beginning there was generally great silence; no efforts were made to stir up emotions, but after the second or third prayer the      gathering would suddenly begin to simultaneously cry out in prayer. This was definitely not the custom of the Dutch Reformed churches at that time, nor did anyone ever teach them to do this. Sometimes the gathering would continue until three in the morning; even then, many wished to stay longer. As the people returned to their homes in the middle of the night they went singing joyously through the streets. The prayer meeting quickly grew and had to be moved to a nearby school building. Eventually, this    facility also proved to be far too small for the crowds of God-hungry seekers. “In places where prayer meetings were unknown a year before, now the people complained because meetings ended an hour too soon! Not only weekly but daily prayer meetings were demanded by the people, even three times a day – and even among children.” The revival shook the entire countryside. The young and old, rich and poor, blacks and whites were all equally affected by the revival. “It was quite amazing that the awakening was not confined to the towns and villages, but felt in totally isolated places without outside contacts, even on remote farms, where men and women were suddenly seized with emotions to which they had been utter strangers a few weeks or even days before.” People were frequently gripped with intense conviction. Strong men cried out in anguish while others fell to the ground unconscious and had to be carried out of the meetings.

Learning about Revival
J. C. deVries gives us a further account of Mr. Murray’s difficulty in accepting these manifestations as from God.  J. C. deVries writes, “On the first Saturday evening in the larger meeting-house, Mr. Murray was the leader. He read a portion of Scripture, made a few observations on it, engaged in prayer, and then gave others the opportunity to pray. During the prayer, which followed his, we heard again the same sound in the distance. It drew nearer and nearer and then suddenly the whole gathering was praying. That evening a stranger had been standing at the door from the beginning of the meeting, watching the proceedings. Mr. Murray      descended from the platform and again moved up and down among the people, trying to quiet them. The stranger then tiptoed forward from the door,      touched Mr. Murray gently, and said in English, ‘I think you are the minister of this congregation. Be careful what you do, for it is the Spirit of God that is at work here. I have just come from America, and      this is precisely what I witnessed there.”

Andrew Murray had been offended by the intense outbursts of emotional praying, and sought unsuccessfully to control and calm the meetings.      However, after this incident he apparently stopped trying to manhandle the Holy Spirit. He learned to accept these sudden outbursts of prayer and strong emotions as the work of God. His father, Andrew Murray, Sr. also confirmed that these stirrings were genuine, stating, “he blessed God that he lived to witness such a work of the Spirit”. Mr. Murray’s strong reaction seems to stem from the fact that these particular revival manifestations exceeded his own personal experience and sense of propriety. Though he had earnestly prayed for revival, studied reports about revival and even witnessed a measure of revival himself, he still failed to anticipate his own response to the supernatural nature of a revival in his own church.

Revival & Broken Expectations
Mr. Murray’s expectations about proper church order and that of the Holy Spirit’s were obviously quite different. Broken expectations, if left  unchecked, can lead to confusion, frustration and even harsh criticism.
When the crowd in Jerusalem rushed to observe the miracle of Pentecost, Acts 2: 6 notes that many of the onlookers were “CONFUSED”. These feelings of confusion obviously caused some to become offended, resulting later in them openly ridiculing the work of the Holy Spirit. -(Acts 2:6-13). Mr. Murray’s new revival experiences eventually taught him not to judge every seemingly confusing situation as the result of a lack of proper order.
Often we experience strong feelings of confusion or even frustration when we are suddenly placed in an unexpected or unfamiliar situation. All of us have surely struggled with feelings of confusion or anxiety while trying to find our bearings in an unfamiliar city or country. The source of our confusion was not a lack of proper order, but our own unfamiliarity with  our new surroundings and circumstances.
Acts 2:6 is not suggesting that God is the author of disorder and confusion! On the contrary, this verse serves to remind us that our natural sense of protocol and order is sometimes quite different than the      divine order of Heaven come down to earth. When we are suddenly surprised or confused by unfamiliar events, we must guard against thoughtlessly
rejecting them simply because they are new to our personal experience.
Only a PROUD heart rushes in to condemn what it does not understand! We must carefully examine all things according to the Scriptures, rather than by our personal preferences and traditions. Then and only then will we be need to hold fast to what is good in the coming days. -(1Thes 5:21).

Revival & the Keswick Convention

The lessons learned during this revival helped prepare Andrew Murray for his future role in the influential Keswick movement. Mr. Murray attended   the Keswick Convention for the first time in 1882. In 1895, he was asked to speak at both the Keswick and Northfield Conventions. Murray was warmly received at these conferences and was later responsible for bringing the Keswick movement to South Africa. The Keswick Convention was itself, the indirect fruit of this wonderful season of awakening. The revival touched at least four different continents, bringing with it a renewed faith and vision for personal holiness and the Spirit-filled life. It was this    liberating message that soon became synonymous with Andrew Murray’s personal ministry.
The birth of the Keswick Convention united the emerging European Holiness Movement and thereby helped to channel the fire and energy of what became known as the “Third Great Awakening”.  However, the Keswick Convention did much more than merely unify and preserve the remaining fruit of this great revival. With a clear call to personal holiness through faith in Christ, the Keswick movement helped to prepare a new generation for the next move  of God.
Those attending the conventions were always strongly encouraged to embrace a lifestyle of holiness, unity and prayer. In the 1902 Keswick Convention, five thousand Christians agreed to form home prayer circles for a worldwide outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of these Keswick  praying bands was no doubt realized through the Welsh Revival of 1904. R. B. Jones, Jessie Penn-Lewis, and F. B. Myer all considered the Keswick Convention as one of the hidden springs of the Welsh revival. Through the
biblical teaching of men like Andrew Murray, J. Elder Cumming, Evan Hopkins, F. B. Myer and many others, thousands of Christian workers and missionaries were empowered and purified to enter a new millennium of global harvest. James Hudson Taylor, A. T. Pierson, Samuel Zwemer and many      other missionary mobilizers regarded the Keswick Convention as one of the finest “hunting grounds” for the best missionary recruits. Here again we find it to be true, that the influence of one generation’s Spirit-filled ministry often waters the seeds of another generation’s harvest.
Andrew Murray’s Closing Days
On January 18th, 1917, Andrew Murray crossed over into Glory. He entered into Heaven the same way he lived on earth, praying and urging others to   pray. Few men have ever impacted more souls for the cause of the Spirit-filled life than Andrew Murray. He was arguably the Church’s most prolific writer on the subject of prayer and the Deeper Life, publishing  some 240 books between 1858 and 1917. Several of these books have been translated into as many as fifteen different languages. Soon after the Christian Literature Society for China translated Mr. Murray’s book, “The Spirit of Christ” into Chinese, revival reportedly broke out in Inland China. Even today his writings are still shaping the way multitudes of hungry Christians think about prayer and the Spirit-filled life.

Learning from our Forefathers!
Andrew Murray unquestionably was a man of rare gifts and deep spiritualinsight, yet he almost quenched a genuine revival. He was raised in a home where his father had faithfully prayed for more than 30 years for revival.
Nevertheless, for a time he stubbornly opposed the long-awaited answer to his father’s prayers. As a boy he had delighted in the revival ministry of William C. Burns and while in Germany he witnessed the miraculous ministry of Pastor Blumhardt. Yet, when personally confronted with revival    manifestations in his own church, he opposed them. I do not write these things to dishonor the memory of one of our respected fathers of the faith, but rather to pose an important and timely question. If such a gifted man as Andrew Murray could fail to recognize the Spirit of revival, while in the midst of preparing for revival, how much more are we capable of making the same mistake? This generation of Christians must be willing to learn from the experiences, insights, and errors of our spiritual forefathers if we are to be prepared for the next move of God. Are you willing to LEARN?

Resources Used – The Life of Andrew Murray of South Africa by J. Du Plessis, Andrew Murray and His Message by W. M. Douglas, Andrew Murray: Apostle of Abiding Love by Leona Choy, “THE LIFE OF FAITH, JANUARY 26,1967” St. Andrew of South Africa by N. L. Cliff, Andrew Murray by Dr. William Linder,Jr. Northfield Echoes Vol. 6 Northfield Conference  Addresses for 1899 Edited by Delavan L. Pierson, Evangelical Awakenings in Africa by J. Edwin Orr, The Fervent Prayer: The Worldwide Impact of the Great Awakening of 1858 by J. Edwin Orr, The Holiness Revival of the 19th Century by Melvin Easterday Dieter, The Keswick Convention: Its Message, Its Method and Its Men by C. F. Harford, Keswick from Within by J. B. Figgis, These Sixty Years: The Story of the Keswick Convention by Walter  B. Sloan, So Great Salvation: The History & Message of the Keswick Convention by Steven Barabas, Scotland’s Keswick by Norman C. Macfarlane, The Forward Movement of the Last Half Century by A. T. Pierson, Revive Us Again by Herbert Lockyer, Rent Heavens: The Revival of 1904 by R. B. Jones, The Awakening in Wales by Jessie Penn-Lewis.

Copyright © 2003. The Watchword. used by permission

 

“Prayer – A Privilege, Princely, Sacred” from The Reality of Prayer, by E.M. Bounds

What is God’s will about prayer? First of all, it is God’s will that we pray. “Jesus Christ spake a parable unto them to this end, that all men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”

Paul writes to young Timothy about the first things which God’s people are to do, and first among the first he puts prayer: “I exhort therefore that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men” (I Tim 2: 1 KJV).

Note how frequently prayer is brought forward in the New Testament: “Continuing instant in prayer”; “Pray without ceasing”; “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving”; “Be ye sober and watch unto prayer”; Christ’s clarion call was “watch and pray”. What are all these and others, if it is not the will of God that men should pray?
But how do I know that I am praying the will of God? Every true attempt to pray is in response to the will of God. Bungling it may be and untutored by human teachers, but it acceptable to God, because it is in obedience to his will. If I will give myself up to the inspiration of the Spirit of God, who commands me to pray, the details and the petitions of that praying will fall into harmony with the will of him who wills that I should pray.
Prayer is no little thing, no selfish and small matter. It does not concern the petty interests of one person. The littlest prayer broadens out by the will of God till it touches all words, conserves all interests, and enhances man’s greatest wealth, and God’s greatest good. God is so concerned that we pray that he has promised to answer prayer. He has not promised to do something general if we pray, but he has promised to do the very thing for which we have prayed.
Non-praying is lawlessness, discord, anarchy. Prayer, in the moral government of God, is as strong and far-reaching as the law of gravitation in the material world, and it is as necessary as gravitation to hold things in their proper sphere and in life.
One of the great purposes of God in his holy book is to impress on us indelibly the great importance, the priceless value, and the absolute necessity of asking God for the things which we need for time and eternity. He urges us by every consideration, and presses and warns us by every interest. He points us to his own son, turned over to us for our good, as his pledge that prayer will be answered, teaching us that God is our Father, able to do all things for us and to give all things to us, much more than earthly parents are able or willing to do for their children.
Let us thoroughly understand ourselves and understand, also, this great business of pray. Our one great business is prayer and we will never do it well unless we fasten it by all binding force. We will never do it well without arranging the best conditions of doing it well. Satan has suffered so much by good praying that all his wily, shrewd, and ensnaring devices will be used to cripple its performance.
Prayer is a privilege, a sacred, princely privilege. Prayer is a duty, an obligation most binding, and most imperative, which should hold us to it. Prayer is the appointed condition of getting God’s aid. This aid is as manifold and illimitable as God’s ability, and as varied and exhaustless is this aid as man’s need. Prayer is the channel through which all good flows from God to man, and all good from men to men. God is the Christian’s father. Asking and giving are in that relation.
Prayer is not a picture to handle, to admire, to look at. It is not beauty, colouring, shape, attitude, imagination or genius. These things do not pertain to its character or conduct. It is not poetry nor music. Its inspiration and melody come from heaven. Prayer belongs to the spirit, and at times it possesses the spirit and stirs the spirit with high and holy purposes and resolves.

The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds

FOREWORD

EDWARD McKENDREE BOUNDS did not merely pray well that he might
write well about prayer. He prayed because the needs of the world
were upon him. He prayed, for long years, upon subjects which the
easy-going Christian rarely gives a thought, and for objects which
men of less thought and faith are always ready to call impossible.
From his solitary prayer-vigils, year by year, there arose
teaching equaled by few men in modern Christian history. He wrote
transcendently about prayer, because he was himself, transcendent
in its practice.
As breathing is a physical reality to us so prayer was a
reality for Bounds. He took the command, “Pray without ceasing”
almost as literally as animate nature takes the law of the reflex
nervous system, which controls our breathing.
Prayer-books — real text-books, not forms of prayer — were
the fruit of this daily spiritual exercise. Not brief articles for
the religious press came from his pen — though he had been
experienced in that field for years — not pamphlets, but books
were the product and result. He was hindered by poverty,
obscurity, loss of prestige, yet his victory was not wholly
reserved until his death.
In 1907, he gave to the world two small editions. One of
these was widely circulated in Great Britain. The years following
up to his death in 1913 were filled with constant labour and he
went home to God leaving a collection of manuscripts. His letters
carry the request that the present editor should publish these
products of his gifted pen.
The preservation of the Bounds manuscripts to the present
time has clearly been providential. The work of preparing them for
the press has been a labour of love, consuming years of effort.
These books are unfailing wells for a lifetime of spiritual
water-drawing. They are hidden treasures, wrought in the darkness
of the dawn and the heat of the noon, on the anvil of experience,
and beaten into wondrous form by the mighty stroke of the Divine.
They are living voices whereby he, being dead, yet speaketh.
— C.C.

The above Foreword was written by Claude Chilton, Jr., an
ardent admirer of Dr. Bounds, and to whom we owe many obligations
for suggestions in editing the Bounds Spiritual Life Books. We
buried Claude L. Chilton February 18, 1929. What a meeting of
these two great saints of God, of shining panoply and knightly
grace!
Homer W. Hodge.
Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

I. PRAYER AND FAITH

“A dear friend of mine who was quite a lover of the chase,
told me the following story: ‘Rising early one morning,’ he said,
‘I heard the baying of a score of deerhounds in pursuit of their
quarry. Looking away to a broad, open field in front of me, I saw
a young fawn making its way across, and giving signs, moreover,
that its race was well-nigh run. Reaching the rails of the
enclosure, it leaped over and crouched within ten feet from where
I stood. A moment later two of the hounds came over, when the fawn
ran in my direction and pushed its head between my legs. I lifted
the little thing to my breast, and, swinging round and round,
fought off the dogs. I felt, just then, that all the dogs in the
West could not, and should not capture that fawn after its
weakness had appealed to my strength.’ So is it, when human
helplessness appeals to Almighty God. Well do I remember when the
hounds of sin were after my soul, until, at last, I ran into the
arms of Almighty God.” — A. C. Dixon.

IN any study of the principles, and procedure of prayer, of its
activities and enterprises, first place, must, of necessity, be
given to faith. It is the initial quality in the heart of any man
who essays to talk to the Unseen. He must, out of sheer
helplessness, stretch forth hands of faith. He must believe, where
he cannot prove. In the ultimate issue, prayer is simply faith,
claiming its natural yet marvellous prerogatives — faith taking
possession of its illimitable inheritance. True godliness is just
as true, steady, and persevering in the realm of faith as it is in
the province of prayer. Moreover: when faith ceases to pray, it
ceases to live.
Faith does the impossible because it brings God to undertake
for us, and nothing is impossible with God. How great — without
qualification or limitation — is the power of faith! If doubt be
banished from the heart, and unbelief made stranger there, what we
ask of God shall surely come to pass, and a believer hath
vouchsafed to him “whatsoever he saith.”
Prayer projects faith on God, and God on the world. Only God
can move mountains, but faith and prayer move God. In His cursing
of the fig-tree our Lord demonstrated His power. Following that,
He proceeded to declare, that large powers were committed to faith
and prayer, not in order to kill but to make alive, not to blast
but to bless.
At this point in our study, we turn to a saying of our Lord,
which there is need to emphasize, since it is the very keystone of
the arch of faith and prayer.
“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire when
ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
We should ponder well that statement — “Believe that ye
receive them, and ye shall have them.” Here is described a faith
which realizes, which appropriates, which takes. Such faith is a
consciousness of the Divine, an experienced communion, a realized
certainty.
Is faith growing or declining as the years go by? Does faith
stand strong and four square, these days, as iniquity abounds and
the love of many grows cold? Does faith maintain its hold, as
religion tends to become a mere formality and worldliness
increasingly prevails? The enquiry of our Lord, may, with great
appropriateness, be ours. “When the Son of Man cometh,” He asks,
“shall He find faith on the earth?” We believe that He will, and
it is ours, in this our day, to see to it that the lamp of faith
is trimmed and burning, lest He come who shall come, and that
right early.
Faith is the foundation of Christian character and the
security of the soul. When Jesus was looking forward to Peter’s
denial, and cautioning him against it, He said unto His disciple:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, to
sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fall
not.”
Our Lord was declaring a central truth; it was Peter’s faith
He was seeking to guard; for well He knew that when faith is
broken down, the foundations of spiritual life give way, and the
entire structure of religious experience falls. It was Peter’s
faith which needed guarding. Hence Christ’s solicitude for the
welfare of His disciple’s soul and His determination to fortify
Peter’s faith by His own all-prevailing prayer.
In his Second Epistle, Peter has this idea in mind when
speaking of growth in grace as a measure of safety in the
Christian life, and as implying fruitfulness.
“And besides this,” he declares, “giving diligence, add to
your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge
temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience
godliness.”
Of this additioning process, faith was the starting-point —
the basis of the other graces of the Spirit. Faith was the
foundation on which other things were to be built. Peter does not
enjoin his readers to add to works or gifts or virtues but to
faith. Much depends on starting right in this business of growing
in grace. There is a Divine order, of which Peter was aware; and
so he goes on to declare that we are to give diligence to making
our calling and election sure, which election is rendered certain
adding to faith which, in turn, is done by constant, earnest
praying. Thus faith is kept alive by prayer, and every step taken,
in this adding of grace to grace, is accompanied by prayer.
The faith which pcreates powerful praying is the
faith which centres itself on a powerful Person. Faith in
Christ’s ability to do and to do greatly, is the faith which prays
greatly. Thus the leper lay hold upon the power of Christ. “Lord,
if Thou wilt,” he cried, “Thou canst make me clean.” In this
instance, we are shown how faith centered in Christ’s ability to
do, and how it secured the healing power.
It was concerning this very point, that Jesus questioned the
blind men who came to Him for healing:
“Believe ye that I am able to do this?” He asks. “They said
unto Him, Yea, Lord. Then touched He their eyes, saying, According
to your faith be it unto you.”
It was to inspire faith in His ability to do that Jesus left
behind Him, that last, great statement, which, in the final
analysis, is a ringing challenge to faith. “All power,” He
declared, “is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.”
Again: faith is obedient; it goes when commanded, as did the
nobleman, who came to Jesus, in the day of His flesh, and whose
son was grievously sick.
Moreover: such faith acts. Like the man who was born blind,
it goes to wash in the pool of Siloam when told to wash. Like
Peter on Gennesaret it casts the net where Jesus commands,
instantly, without question or doubt. Such faith takes away the
stone from the grave of Lazarus promptly. A praying faith keeps
the commandments of God and does those things which are well
pleasing in His sight. It asks, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to
do?” and answers quickly, “Speak, Lord, Thy servant heareth.”
Obedience helps faith, and faith, in turn, helps obedience. To do
God’s will is essential to true faith, and faith is necessary to
implicit obedience.
Yet faith is called upon, and that right often to wait in
patience before God, and is prepared for God’s seeming delays in
answering prayer. Faith does not grow disheartened because prayer
is not immediately honoured; it takes God at His Word, and lets
Him take what time He chooses in fulfilling His purposes, and in
carrying on His work. There is bound to be much delay and long
days of waiting for true faith, but faith accepts the conditions
— knows there will be delays in answering prayer, and regards
such delays as times of testing, in the which, it is privileged to
show its mettle, and the stern stuff of which it is made.
The case of Lazarus was an instance of where there was delay,
where the faith of two good women was sorely tried: Lazarus was
critically ill, and his sisters sent for Jesus. But, without any
known reason, our Lord delayed His going to the relief of His sick
friend. The plea was urgent and touching — “Lord, behold, he whom
Thou lovest is sick,” — but the Master is not moved by it, and
the women’s earnest request seemed to fall on deaf ears. What a
trial to faith! Furthermore: our Lord’s tardiness appeared to
bring about hopeless disaster. While Jesus tarried, Lazarus died.
But the delay of Jesus was exercised in the interests of a
greater good. Finally, He makes His way to the home in Bethany.
“Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am
glad for your sakes, that I was not there, to the intent ye may
believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.”
Fear not, O tempted and tried believer, Jesus will come, if
patience be exercised, and faith hold fast. His delay will serve
to make His coming the more richly blessed. Pray on. Wait on. Thou
canst not fail. If Christ delay, wait for Him. In His own good
time, He will come, and will not tarry.
Delay is often the test and the strength of faith. How much
patience is required when these times of testing come! Yet faith
gathers strength by waiting and praying. Patience has its perfect
work in the school of delay. In some instances, delay is of the
very essence of the prayer. God has to do many things, antecedent
to giving the final answer — things which are essential to the
lasting good of him who is requesting favour at His hands.
Jacob prayed, with point and ardour, to be delivered from
Esau. But before that prayer could be answered, there was much to
be done with, and for Jacob. He must be changed, as well as Esau.
Jacob had to be made into a new man, before Esau could be. Jacob
had to be converted to God, before Esau could be converted to
Jacob.
Among the large and luminous utterances of Jesus concerning
prayer, none is more arresting than this:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the
works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these
shall he do; because I go unto My Father. And whatsoever ye shall
ask in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified
in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in My Name, I will do it.”
How wonderful are these statements of what God will do in
answer to prayer! Of how great importance these ringing words,
prefaced, as they are, with the most solemn verity! Faith in
Christ is the basis of all working, and of all praying. All
wonderful works depend on wonderful praying, and all praying is
done in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amazing lesson, of wondrous
simplicity, is this praying in the name of the Lord Jesus! All
other conditions are depreciated, everything else is renounced,
save Jesus only. The name of Christ — the Person of our Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ — must be supremely sovereign, in the hour
and article of prayer.
If Jesus dwell at the fountain of my life; if the currents of
His life have displaced and superseded all self-currents; if
implicit obedience to Him be the inspiration and force of every
movement of my life, then He can safely commit the praying to my
will, and pledge Himself, by an obligation as profound as His own
nature, that whatsoever is asked shall be granted. Nothing can be
clearer, more distinct, more unlimited both in application and
extent, than the exhortation and urgency of Christ, “Have faith in
God.”
Faith covers temporal as well as spiritual needs. Faith
dispels all undue anxiety and needless care about what shall be
eaten, what shall he drunk, what shall be worn. Faith lives in the
present, and regards the day as being sufficient unto the evil
thereof. It lives day by day, and dispels all fears for the
morrow. Faith brings great ease of mind and perfect peace of
heart.
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on
Thee: because he trusted in Thee.”
When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are, in
a measure, shutting tomorrow out of our prayer. We do not live in
tomorrow but in today. We do not seek tomorrow’s grace or
tomorrow’s bread. They thrive best, and get most out of life, who
live in the living present. They pray best who pray for today’s
needs, not for tomorrow’s, which may render our prayers
unnecessary and redundant by not existing at all!
True prayers are born of present trials and present needs.
Bread, for today, is bread enough. Bread given for today is the
strongest sort of pledge that there will be bread tomorrow.
Victory today, is the assurance of victory tomorrow. Our prayers
need to be focussed upon the present, We must trust God today, and
leave the morrow entirely with Him. The present is ours; the
future belongs to God. Prayer is the task and duty of each
recurring day — daily prayer for daily needs.
As every day demands its bread, so every day demands its
prayer. No amount of praying, done today, will suffice for
tomorrow’s praying. On the other hand, no praying for tomorrow is
of any great value to us today. To-day’s manna is what we need;
tomorrow God will see that our needs are supplied. This is the
faith which God seeks to inspire. So leave tomorrow, with its
cares, its needs, its troubles, in God’s hands. There is no
storing tomorrow’s grace or tomorrow’s praying; neither is there
any laying-up of today’s grace, to meet tomorrow’s necessities. We
cannot have tomorrow’s grace, we cannot eat tomorrow’s bread, we
cannot do tomorrow’s praying. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil
thereof;” and, most assuredly, if we possess faith, sufficient
also, will be the good.

II. PRAYER AND FAITH (Continued)

“The guests at a certain hotel were being rendered
uncomfortable by repeated strumming on a piano, done by a little
girl who possessed no knowledge of music. They complained to the
proprietor with a view to having the annoyance stopped. ‘I am
sorry you are annoyed,’ he said. ‘But the girl is the child of one
of my very best guests. I can scarcely ask her not to touch the
piano. But her father, who is away for a day or so, will return
tomorrow. You can then approach him, and have the matter set
right.’ When the father returned, he found his daughter in the
reception-room and, as usual, thumping on the piano. He walked up
behind the child and, putting his arms over her shoulders, took
her hands in his, and produced some most beautiful music. Thus it
may be with us, and thus it will be, some coming day. Just now, we
can produce little but clamour and disharmony; but, one day, the
Lord Jesus will take hold of our hands of faith and prayer, and
use them to bring forth the music of the skies.” — Anon

GENUINE, authentic faith must be definite and free of doubt. Not
simply general in character; not a mere belief in the being,
goodness and power of God, but a faith which believes that the
things which “he saith, shall come to pass.” As the faith is
specific, so the answer likewise will be definite: “He shall have
whatsoever he saith.” Faith and prayer select the things, and God
commits Himself to do the very things which faith and persevering
prayer nominate, and petition Him to accomplish.
The American Revised Version renders the twenty-fourth verse
of the eleventh chapter of Mark, thus: “Therefore I say unto you,
All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye receive
them, and ye shall have them.” Perfect faith has always in its
keeping what perfect prayer asks for. How large and unqualified is
the area of operation — the “All things whatsoever!” How definite
and specific the promise — “Ye shall have them!”
Our chief concern is with our faith, — the problems of its
growth, and the activities of its vigorous maturity. A faith which
grasps and holds in its keeping the very things it asks for,
without wavering, doubt or fear — that is the faith we need —
faith, such as is a pearl of great price, in the process and
practise of prayer.
The statement of our Lord about faith and prayer quoted above
is of supreme importance. Faith must be definite, specific; an
unqualified, unmistakable request for the things asked for. It is
not to be a vague, indefinite, shadowy thing; it must be something
more than an abstract belief in God’s willingness and ability to
do for us. It is to be a definite, specific, asking for, and
expecting the things for which we ask. Note the reading of Mark
11:23:
“And shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that
those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have
whatever he saith.”
Just so far as the faith and the asking is definite, so also
will the answer be. The giving is not to be something other than
the things prayed for, but the actual things sought and named. “He
shall have whatsoever he saith.” It is all imperative, “He shall
have.” The granting is to be unlimited, both in quality and in
quantity.
Faith and prayer select the subjects for petition, thereby
determining what God is to do. “He shall have whatsoever he
saith.” Christ holds Himself ready to supply exactly, and fully,
all the demands of faith and prayer. If the order on God be made
clear, specific and definite, God will fill it, exactly in
accordance with the presented terms.
Faith is not an abstract belief in the Word of God, nor a
mere mental credence, nor a simple assent of the understanding and
will; nor is it a passive acceptance of facts, however sacred or
thorough. Faith is an operation of God, a Divine illumination, a
holy energy implanted by the Word of God and the Spirit in the
human soul — a spiritual, Divine principle which takes of the
Supernatural and makes it a thing apprehendable by the faculties
of time and sense.
Faith deals with God, and is conscious of God. It deals with
the Lord Jesus Christ and sees in Him a Saviour; it deals with
God’s Word, and lays hold of the truth; it deals with the Spirit
of God, and is energized and inspired by its holy fire. God is the
great objective of faith; for faith rests its whole weight on His
Word. Faith is not an aimless act of the soul, but a looking to
God and a resting upon His promises. Just as love and hope have
always an objective so, also, has faith. Faith is not believing
just anything; it is believing God, resting in Him, trusting His
Word.
Faith gives birth to prayer, and grows stronger, strikes
deeper, rises higher, in the struggles and wrestlings of mighty
petitioning. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the
assurance and realization of the inheritance of the saints. Faith,
too, is humble and persevering. It can wait and pray; it can stay
on its knees, or lie in the dust. It is the one great condition of
prayer; the lack of it lies at the root of all poor praying,
feeble praying, little praying, unanswered praying.
The nature and meaning of faith is more demonstrable in what
it does, than it is by reason of any definition given it. Thus, if
we turn to the record of faith given us in that great honour roll,
which constitutes the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, we see
something of the wonderful results of faith. What a glorious list
it is — that of these men and women of faith! What marvellous
achievements are there recorded, and set to the credit of faith!
The inspired writer, exhausting his resources in cataloguing the
Old Testament saints, who were such notable examples of wonderful
faith, finally exclaims:
“And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to
tell of Gideon and Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David
also, and Samuel, and of the prophets.”
And then the writer of Hebrews goes on again, in a wonderful
strain, telling of the unrecorded exploits wrought through the
faith of the men of old, “of whom the world was not worthy.” “All
these,” he says, “obtained a good report through faith.”
What an era of glorious achievements would dawn for the
Church and the world, if only there could be reproduced a race of
saints of like mighty faith, of like wonderful praying! It is not
the intellectually great that the Church needs; nor is it men of
wealth that the times demand. It is not people of great social
influence that this day requires. Above everybody and everything
else, it is men of faith, men of mighty prayer, men and women
after the fashion of the saints and heroes enumerated in Hebrews,
who “obtained a good report through faith,” that the Church and
the whole wide world of humanity needs.
Many men, of this day, obtain a good report because of their
money-giving, their great mental gifts and talents, but few there
be who obtain a “good report” because of their great faith in God,
or because of the wonderful things which are being wrought through
their great praying. Today, as much as at any time, we need men of
great faith and men who are great in prayer. These are the two
cardinal virtues which make men great in the eyes of God, the two
things which create conditions of real spiritual success in the
life and work of the Church. It is our chief concern to see that
we maintain a faith of such quality and texture, as counts before
God; which grasps, and holds in its keeping, the things for which
it asks, without doubt and without fear.
Doubt and fear are the twin foes of faith. Sometimes, they
actually usurp the place of faith, and although we pray, it is a
restless, disquieted prayer that we offer, uneasy and often
complaining. Peter failed to walk on Gennesaret because he
permitted the waves to break over him and swamp the power of his
faith. Taking his eyes from the Lord and regarding the water all
about him, he began to sink and had to cry for succour — “Lord,
save, or I perish!”
Doubts should never be cherished, nor fears harboured. Let
none cherish the delusion that he is a martyr to fear and doubt.
It is no credit to any man’s mental capacity to cherish doubt of
God, and no comfort can possibly derive from such a thought. Our
eyes should be taken off self, removed from our own weakness and
allowed to rest implicitly upon God’s strength. “Cast not away
therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.”
A simple, confiding faith, living day by day, and casting its
burden on the Lord, each hour of the day, will dissipate fear,
drive away misgiving and deliver from doubt:
“Be careful for nothing, but in everything, by supplication
and prayer, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known
unto God.”
That is the Divine cure for all fear, anxiety, and undue
concern of soul, all of which are closely akin to doubt and
unbelief. This is the Divine prescription for securing the peace
which passeth all understanding, and keeps the heart and mind in
quietness and peace.
All of us need to mark well and heed the caution given in
Hebrews: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil
heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”
We need, also, to guard against unbelief as we would against
an enemy. Faith needs to be cultivated. We need to keep on
praying, “Lord, increase our faith,” for faith is susceptible of
increase. Paul’s tribute to the Thessalonians was, that their
faith grew exceedingly. Faith is increased by exercise, by being
put into use. It is nourished by sore trials.
“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than
of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be
found unto praise and honour and glow at the appearing of Jesus
Christ.”
Faith grows by reading and meditating upon the Word of God.
Most, and best of all, faith thrives in an atmosphere of prayer.
It would be well, if all of us were to stop, and inquire
personally of ourselves: “Have I faith in God? Have I real faith,
— faith which keeps me in perfect peace, about the things of
earth and the things of heaven?” This is the most important
question a man can propound and expect to be answered. And there
is another question, closely akin to it in significance and
importance — “Do I really pray to God so that He hears me and
answers my prayers? And do I truly pray unto God so that I get
direct from God the things I ask of Him?”
It was claimed for Augustus Caesar that he found Rome a city
of wood, and left it a city of marble. The pastor who succeeds in
changing his people from a prayerless to a prayerful people, has
done a greater work than did Augustus in changing a city from wood
to marble. And after all, this is the prime work of the preacher.
Primarily, he is dealing with prayerless people — with people of
whom it is said, “God is not in all their thoughts.” Such people
he meets everywhere, and all the time. His main business is to
turn them from being forgetful of God, from being devoid of faith,
from being prayerless, so that they become people who habitually
pray, who believe in God, remember Him and do His will. The
preacher is not sent to merely induce men to join the Church, nor
merely to get them to do better. It is to get them to pray, to
trust God, and to keep God ever before their eyes, that they may
not sin against Him.
The work of the ministry is to change unbelieving sinners
into praying and believing saints. The call goes forth by Divine
authority, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be
saved.” We catch a glimpse of the tremendous importance of faith
and of the great value God has set upon it, when we remember that
He has made it the one indispensable condition of being saved. “By
grace are ye saved, through faith.” Thus, when we contemplate the
great importance of prayer, we find faith standing immediately by
its side. By faith are we saved, and by faith we stay saved.
Prayer introduces us to a life of faith. Paul declared that the
life he lived, he lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved him
and gave Himself for him — that he walked by faith and not by
sight.
Prayer is absolutely dependent upon faith. Virtually, it has
no existence apart from it, and accomplishes nothing unless it be
its inseparable companion. Faith makes prayer effectual, and in a
certain important sense, must precede it.
“For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that
He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”
Before prayer ever starts toward God; before its petition is
preferred, before its requests are made known — faith must have
gone on ahead; must have asserted its belief in the existence of
God; must have given its assent to the gracious truth that “God is
a rewarder of those that diligently seek His face.” This is the
primary step in praying. In this regard, while faith does not
bring the blessing, yet it puts prayer in a position to ask for
it, and leads to another step toward realization, by aiding the
petitioner to believe that God is able and willing to bless.
Faith starts prayer to work — clears the way to the mercy-
seat. It gives assurance, first of all, that there is a mercy-
seat, and that there the High Priest awaits the pray-ers and the
prayers. Faith opens the way for prayer to approach God. But it
does more. It accompanies prayer at every step she takes. It is
her inseparable companion and when requests are made unto God, it
is faith which turns the asking into obtaining. And faith follows
prayer, since the spiritual life into which a believer is led by
prayer, is a life of faith. The one prominent characteristic of
the experience into which believers are brought through prayer, is
not a life of works, but of faith.
Faith makes prayer strong, and gives it patience to wait on
God. Faith believes that God is a rewarder. No truth is more
clearly revealed in the Scriptures than this, while none is more
encouraging. Even the closet has its promised reward, “He that
seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly,” while the most
insignificant service rendered to a disciple in the name of the
Lord, surely receives its reward. And to this precious truth faith
gives its hearty assent.
Yet faith is narrowed down to one particular thing — it does
not believe that God will reward everybody, nor that He is a
rewarder of all who pray, but that He is a rewarder of them that
diligently seek Him. Faith rests its care on diligence in prayer,
and gives assurance and encouragement to diligent seekers after
God, for it is they, alone, who are richly rewarded when they
pray.
We need constantly to be reminded that faith is the one
inseparable condition of successful praying. There are other
considerations entering into the exercise, but faith is the final,
the one indispensable condition of true praying. As it is written
in a familiar, primary declaration: “Without faith, it is
impossible to please Him.”
James puts this truth very plainly.
“If any of you lack wisdom,” he says, “let him ask of God,
that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall
be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he
that wavereth (or doubteth) is like a wave of the sea, driven with
the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall
receive any thing of the Lord.”
Doubting is always put under the ban, because it stands as a
foe to faith and hinders effectual praying. In the First Epistle
to Timothy Paul gives us an invaluable truth relative to the
conditions of successful praying, which he thus lays down: “I will
therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without
wrath and doubting.”
All questioning must be watched against and eschewed. Fear
and peradventure have no place in true praying. Faith must assert
itself and bid these foes to prayer depart.
Too much authority cannot be attributed to faith; but prayer
is the sceptre by which it signalizes its power. How much of
spiritual wisdom there is in the following advice written by an
eminent old divine.
“Would you be freed from the bondage to corruption?” he asks.
“Would you grow in grace in general and grow in grace in
particular? If you would, your way is plain. Ask of God more
faith. Beg of Him morning, and noon and night, while you walk by
the way, while you sit in the house, when you lie down and when
you rise up; beg of Him simply to impress Divine things more
deeply on your heart, to give you more and more of the substance
of things hoped for and of the evidence of things not seen.”
Great incentives to pray are furnished in Holy Scriptures,
and our Lord closes His teaching about prayer, with the assurance
and promise of heaven. The presence of Jesus Christ in heaven, the
preparation for His saints which He is making there, and the
assurance that He will come again to receive them — how all this
helps the weariness of praying, strengthens its conflicts,
sweetens its arduous toil! These things are the star of hope to
prayer, the wiping away of its tears, the putting of the odour of
heaven into the bitterness of its cry. The spirit of a pilgrim
greatly facilitates praying. An earth-bound, earth-satisfied
spirit cannot pray. In such a heart, the flame of spiritual desire
is either gone out or smouldering in faintest glow. The wings of
its faith are clipped, its eyes are filmed, its tongue silenced.
But they, who in unswerving faith and unceasing prayer, wait
continually upon the Lord, do renew their strength, do mount up
with wings as eagles, do run, and are not weary, do walk, and not
faint.

III. PRAYER AND TRUST

“One evening I left my office in New York, with a bitterly
cold wind in my face. I had with me, (as I thought) my thick, warm
muffler, but when I proceeded to button-up against the storm, I
found that it was gone. I turned back, looked along the streets,
searched my office, but in vain. I realized, then, that I must
have dropped it, and prayed God that I might find it; for such was
the state of the weather, that it would be running a great risk to
proceed without it. I looked, again, up and down the surrounding
streets, but without success. Sudden]y, I saw a man on the
opposite side of the road holding out something in his hand. I
crossed over and asked him if that were my muffler? He handed it
to me saying, ‘It was blown to me by the wind.’ He who rides upon
the storm, had used the wind as a means of answering prayer.” —
William Horst.

PRAYER does not stand alone. It is not an isolated duty and
independent principle. It lives in association with other
Christian duties, is wedded to other principles, is a partner with
other graces. But to faith, prayer is indissolubly joined. Faith
gives it colour and tone, shapes its character, and secures its
results.
Trust is faith become absolute, ratified, consummated. There
is, when all is said and done, a sort of venture in faith and its
exercise. But trust is firm belief, it is faith in full flower.
Trust is a conscious act, a fact of which we are sensible.
According to the Scriptural concept it is the eye of the new-born
soul, and the ear of the renewed soul. It is the feeling of the
soul, the spiritual eye, the ear, the taste, the feeling — these
one and all have to do with trust. How luminous, how distinct, how
conscious, how powerful, and more than all, how Scriptural is such
a trust! How different from many forms of modern belief, so
feeble, dry, and cold! These new phases of belief bring no
consciousness of their presence, no “Joy unspeakable and full of
glory” results from their exercise. They are, for the most part,
adventures in the peradventures of the soul. There is no safe,
sure trust in anything. The whole transaction takes place in the
realm of Maybe and Perhaps.
Trust like life, is feeling, though much more than feeling.
An unfelt life is a contradiction; an unfelt trust is a misnomer,
a delusion, a contradiction. Trust is the most felt of all
attributes. It is all feeling, and it works only by love. An
unfelt love is as impossible as an unfelt trust. The trust of
which we are now speaking is a conviction. An unfelt conviction?
How absurd!
Trust sees God doing things here and now. Yea, more. It rises
to a lofty eminence, and looking into the invisible and the
eternal, realizes that God has done things, and regards them as
being already done. Trust brings eternity into the annals and
happenings of time, transmutes the substance of hope into the
reality of fruition, and changes promise into present possession.
We know when we trust just as we know when we see, just as we are
conscious of our sense of touch. Trust sees, receives, holds.
Trust is its own witness.
Yet, quite often, faith is too weak to obtain God’s greatest
good, immediately; so it has to wait in loving, strong, prayerful,
pressing obedience, until it grows in strength, and is able to
bring down the eternal, into the realms of experience and time.
To this point, trust masses all its forces. Here it holds.
And in the struggle, trust’s grasp becomes mightier, and grasps,
for itself, all that God has done for it in His eternal wisdom and
plenitude of grace.
In the matter of waiting in prayer, mightiest prayer, faith
rises to its highest plane and becomes indeed the gift of God. It
becomes the blessed disposition and expression of the soul which
is secured by a constant intercourse with, and unwearied
application to God.
Jesus Christ clearly taught that faith was the condition on
which prayer was answered. When our Lord had cursed the fig-tree,
the disciples were much surprised that its withering had actually
taken place, and their remarks indicated their in credulity. It
was then that Jesus said to them, “Have faith in God.”
“For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto
this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea, and
shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things
which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he
saith. Therefore, I say unto you, What things soever ye desire,
when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have
them.”
Trust grows nowhere so readily and richly as in the prayer-
chamber. Its unfolding and development are rapid and wholesome
when they are regularly and well kept. When these engagements are
hearty and full and free, trust flourishes exceedingly. The eye
and presence of God give vigorous life to trust, just as the eye
and the presence of the sun make fruit and flower to grow, and all
things glad and bright with fuller life.
“Have faith in God,” “Trust in the Lord” form the keynote and
foundation of prayer. Primarily, it is not trust in the Word of
God, but rather trust in the Person of God. For trust in the
Person of God must precede trust in the Word of God. “Ye believe
in God, believe also in Me,” is the demand our Lord makes on the
personal trust of His disciples. The person of Jesus Christ must
be central, to the eye of trust. This great truth Jesus sought to
impress upon Martha, when her brother lay dead, in the home at
Bethany. Martha asserted her belief in the fact of the
resurrection of her brother:
“Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in
the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus lifts her trust clear above the mere fact of the
resurrection, to His own Person, by saying:
“I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me,
though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and
believeth in Me, shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith
unto Him, Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son
of God, which should come into the world.”
Trust, in an historical fact or in a mere record may be a
very passive thing, but trust in a person vitalizes the quality,
fructifies it, informs it with love. The trust which informs
prayer centres in a Person.
Trust goes even further than this. The trust which inspires
our prayer must be not only trust in the Person of God, and of
Christ, but in their ability and willingness to grant the thing
prayed for. It is not only, “Trust, ye, in the Lord,” but, also,
“for in the Lord Jehovah, is everlasting strength.”
The trust which our Lord taught as a condition of effectual
prayer, is not of the head but of the heart. It is trust which
“doubteth not in his heart.” Such trust has the Divine assurance
that it shall be honoured with large and satisfying answers. The
strong promise of our Lord brings faith down to the present, and
counts on a present answer.
Do we believe, without a doubt? When we pray, do we believe,
not that we shall receive the things for which we ask on a future
day, but that we receive them, then and there? Such is the
teaching of this inspiring Scripture. How we need to pray, “Lord,
increase our faith,” until doubt be gone, and implicit trust
claims the promised blessings, as its very own.
This is no easy condition. It is reached only after many a
failure, after much praying, after many waitings, after much trial
of faith. May our faith so increase until we realize and receive
all the fulness there is in that Name which guarantees to do so
much.
Our Lord puts trust as the very foundation of praying. The
background of prayer is trust. The whole issuance of Christ’s
ministry and work was dependent on implicit trust in His Father.
The centre of trust is God. Mountains of difficulties, and all
other hindrances to prayer are moved out of the way by trust and
his virile henchman, faith. When trust is perfect and without
doubt, prayer is simply the outstretched hand, ready to receive.
Trust perfected, is prayer perfected. Trust looks to receive the
thing asked for — and gets it. Trust is not a belief that God can
bless, that He will bless, but that He does bless, here and now.
Trust always operates in the present tense. Hope looks toward the
future. Trust looks to the present. Hope expects. Trust possesses.
Trust receives what prayer acquires. So that what prayer needs, at
all times, is abiding and abundant trust.
Their lamentable lack of trust and resultant failure of the
disciples to do what they were sent out to do, is seen in the case
of the lunatic son, who was brought by his father to nine of them
while their Master was on the Mount of Transfiguration. A boy,
sadly afflicted, was brought to these men to be cured of his
malady. They had been commissioned to do this very kind of work.
This was a part of their mission. They attempted to cast out the
devil from the boy, but had signally failed. The devil was too
much for them. They were humiliated at their failure, and filled
with shame, while their enemies were in triumph. Amid the
confusion incident to failure Jesus draws near. He is informed of
the circumstances, and told of the conditions connected therewith.
Here is the succeeding account:
“Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse
generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer
you? Bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil, and he
departed out of him and the child was cured from that very hour.
And when He was come into the house, His disciples asked Him
privately, Why could not we cast him out? And He said unto them,
This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting.”
Wherein lay the difficulty with these men? They had been lax
in cultivating their faith by prayer and, as a consequence, their
trust utterly failed. They trusted not God, nor Christ, nor the
authenticity of His mission, or their own. So has it been many a
time since, in many a crisis in the Church of God. Failure has
resulted from a lack of trust, or from a weakness of faith, and
this, in turn, from a lack of prayerfulness. Many a failure in
revival efforts has been traceable to the same cause. Faith had
not been nurtured and made powerful by prayer. Neglect of the
inner chamber is the solution of most spiritual failure. And this
is as true of our personal struggles with the devil as was the
case when we went forth to attempt to cast out devils. To be much
on our knees in private communion with God is the only surety that
we shall have Him with us either in our personal struggles, or in
our efforts to convert sinners.
Everywhere, in the approaches of the people to Him, our Lord
put trust in Him, and the divinity of His mission, in the
forefront. He gave no definition of trust, and He furnishes no
theological discussion of, or analysis of it; for He knew that men
would see what faith was by what faith did; and from its free
exercise trust grew up, spontaneously, in His presence. It was the
product of His work, His power and His Person. These furnished and
created an atmosphere most favourable for its exercise and
development. Trust is altogether too splendidly simple for verbal
definition; too hearty and spontaneous for theological
terminology. The very simplicity of trust is that which staggers
many people. They look away for some great thing to come to pass,
while all the time “the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and
in thy heart.”
When the saddening news of his daughter’s death was brought
to Jairus our Lord interposed: “Be not afraid,” He said calmly,
“only believe.” To the woman with the issue of blood, who stood
tremblingly before Him, He said:
“Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and
be whole of thy plague.”
As the two blind men followed Him, pressing their way into
the house, He said:
“According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were
opened.”
When the paralytic was let down through the roof of the
house, where Jesus was teaching, and placed before Him by four of
his friends, it is recorded after this fashion:
“And Jesus seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the
palsy: Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”
When Jesus dismissed the centurion whose servant was
seriously ill, and who had come to Jesus with the prayer that He
speak the healing word, without even going to his house, He did it
in the manner following:
“And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou
hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed
in the selfsame hour.”
When the poor leper fell at the feet of Jesus and cried out
for relief, “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean,” Jesus
immediately granted his request, and the man glorified Him with a
loud voice. Then Jesus said unto him, “Arise, go thy way; thy
faith hath made thee whole.”
The Syrophenician woman came to Jesus with the case of her
afflicted daughter, making the case her own, with the prayer,
“Lord, help me,” making a fearful and heroic struggle. Jesus
honours her faith and prayer, saying:
“O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou
wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”
After the disciples had utterly failed to cast the devil out
of the epileptic boy, the father of the stricken lad came to Jesus
with the plaintive and almost despairing cry, “If Thou canst do
anything, have compassion on us and help us.” But Jesus replied,
“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that
believeth.”
Blind Bartimaeus sitting by the wayside, hears our Lord as He
passes by, and cries out pitifully and almost despairingly,
“Jesus, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.” The keen ears of our
Lord immediately catch the sound of prayer, and He says to the
beggar:
“Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately
he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.”
To the weeping, penitent woman, washing His feet with her
tears and wiping them with the hair of her head, Jesus speaks
cheering, soul-comforting words: “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in
peace.”
One day Jesus healed ten lepers at one time, in answer to
their united prayer, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” and He
told them to go and show themselves to the priests. “And it came
to pass as they went, they were cleansed.”

IV. PRAYER AND DESIRE

“There are those who will mock me, and tell me to stick to my
trade as a cobbler, and not trouble my mind with philosophy and
theology. But the truth of God did so burn in my bones, that I
took my pen in hand and began to set down what I had seen.” —
Jacob Behmen.

DESIRE is not merely a simple wish; it is a deep seated craving;
an intense longing, for attainment. In the realm of spiritual
affairs, it is an important adjunct to prayer. So important is it,
that one might say, almost, that desire is an absolute essential
of prayer. Desire precedes prayer, accompanies it, is followed by
it. Desire goes before prayer, and by it, created and intensified.
Prayer is the oral expression of desire. If prayer is asking God
for something, then prayer must be expressed. Prayer comes out
into the open. Desire is silent. Prayer is heard; desire, unheard.
The deeper the desire, the stronger the prayer. Without desire,
prayer is a meaningless mumble of words. Such perfunctory, formal
praying, with no heart, no feeling, no real desire accompanying
it, is to be shunned like a pestilence. Its exercise is a waste of
precious time, and from it, no real blessing accrues.
And yet even if it be discovered that desire is honestly
absent, we should pray, anyway. We ought to pray. The “ought”
comes in, in order that both desire and expression be cultivated.
God’s Word commands it. Our judgment tells us we ought to pray —
to pray whether we feel like it or not — and not to allow our
feelings to determine our habits of prayer. In such circumstance,
we ought to pray for the desire to pray; for such a desire is God-
given and heaven-born. We should pray for desire; then, when
desire has been given, we should pray according to its dictates.
Lack of spiritual desire should grieve us, and lead us to lament
its absence, to seek earnestly for its bestowal, so that our
praying, henceforth, should be an expression of “the soul’s
sincere desire.”
A sense of need creates or should create, earnest desire. The
stronger the sense of need, before God, the greater should be the
desire, the more earnest the praying. The “poor in spirit” are
eminently competent to pray.
Hunger is an active sense of physical need. It prompts the
request for bread. In like manner, the inward consciousness of
spiritual need creates desire, and desire breaks forth in prayer.
Desire is an inward longing for something of which we are not
possessed, of which we stand in need — something which God has
promised, and which may be secured by an earnest supplication of
His throne of grace.
Spiritual desire, carried to a higher degree, is the evidence
of the new birth. It is born in the renewed soul:
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that
ye may grow thereby.”
The absence of this holy desire in the heart is presumptive
proof, either of a decline in spiritual ecstasy, or, that the new
birth has never taken place.
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after
righteousness: for they shall be filled.”
These heaven-given appetites are the proof of a renewed
heart, the evidence of a stirring spiritual life. Physical
appetites are the attributes of a living body, not of a corpse,
and spiritual desires belong to a soul made alive to God. And as
the renewed soul hungers and thirsts after righteousness, these
holy inward desires break out into earnest, supplicating prayer.
In prayer, we are shut up to the Name, merit and intercessory
virtue of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest. Probing down, below
the accompanying conditions and forces in prayer, we come to its
vital basis, which is seated in the human heart. It is not simply
our need; it is the heart’s yearning for what we need, and for
which we feel impelled to pray. Desire is the will in action; a
strong, conscious longing, excited in the inner nature, for some
great good. Desire exalts the object of its longing, and fixes the
mind on it. It has choice, and fixedness, and flame in it, and
prayer, based thereon, is explicit and specific. It knows its
need, feels and sees the thing that will meet it, and hastens to
acquire it.
Holy desire is much helped by devout contemplation.
Meditation on our spiritual need, and on God’s readiness and
ability to correct it, aids desire to grow. Serious thought
engaged in before praying, increases desire, makes it more
insistent, and tends to save us from the menace of private prayer
— wandering thought. We fail much more in desire, than in its
outward expression. We retain the form, while the inner life fades
and almost dies.
One might well ask, whether the feebleness of our desires for
God, the Holy Spirit, and for all the fulness of Christ, is not
the cause of our so little praying, and of our languishing in the
exercise of prayer? Do we really feel these inward pantings of
desire after heavenly treasures? Do the inbred groanings of desire
stir our souls to mighty wrestlings? Alas for us! The fire burns
altogether too low. The flaming heat of soul has been tempered
down to a tepid lukewarmness. This, it should be remembered, was
the central cause of the sad and desperate condition of the
Laodicean Christians, of whom the awful condemnation is written
that they were “rich, and increased in goods and had need of
nothing,” and knew not that they “were wretched, and miserable,
and poor, and blind.”
Again: we might well inquire — have we that desire which
presses us to close communion with God, which is filled with
unutterable burnings, and holds us there through the agony of an
intense and soul-stirred supplication? Our hearts need much to be
worked over, not only to get the evil out of them, but to get the
good into them. And the foundation and inspiration to the incoming
good, is strong, propelling desire. This holy and fervid flame in
the soul awakens the interest of heaven, attracts the attention of
God, and places at the disposal of those who exercise it, the
exhaustless riches of Divine grace.
The dampening of the flame of holy desire, is destructive of
the vital and aggressive forces in church life. God requires to be
represented by a fiery Church, or He is not in any proper sense,
represented at all. God, Himself, is all on fire, and His Church,
if it is to be like Him, must also be at white heat. The great and
eternal interests of heaven-born, God-given religion are the only
things about which His Church can afford to be on fire. Yet holy
zeal need not to be fussy in order to be consuming. Our Lord was
the incarnate antithesis of nervous excitability, the absolute
opposite of intolerant or clamorous declamation, yet the zeal of
God’s house consumed Him; and the world is still feeling the glow
of His fierce, consuming flame and responding to it, with an ever-
increasing readiness and an ever-enlarging response.
A lack of ardour in prayer, is the sure sign of a lack of
depth and of intensity of desire; and the absence of intense
desire is a sure sign of God’s absence from the heart! To abate
fervour is to retire from God. He can, and does, tolerate many
things in the way of infirmity and error in His children. He can,
and will pardon sin when the penitent prays, but two things are
intolerable to Him — insincerity and lukewarmness. Lack of heart
and lack of heat are two things He loathes, and to the Laodiceans
He said, in terms of unmistakable severity and condemnation:
“I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art
lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My
mouth.”
This was God’s expressed judgment on the lack of fire in one
of the Seven Churches, and it is His indictment against individual
Christians for the fatal want of sacred zeal. In prayer, fire is
the motive power. Religious principles which do not emerge in
flame, have neither force nor effect. Flame is the wing on which
faith ascends; fervency is the soul of prayer. It was the
“fervent, effectual prayer” which availed much. Love is kindled in
a flame, and ardency is its life. Flame is the air which true
Christian experience breathes. It feeds on fire; it can withstand
anything, rather than a feeble flame; and it dies, chilled and
starved to its vitals, when the surrounding atmosphere is frigid
or lukewarm.
True prayer, must be aflame. Christian life and character
need to be all on fire. Lack of spiritual heat creates more
infidelity than lack of faith. Not to be consumingly interested
about the things of heaven, is not to be interested in them at
all. The fiery souls are those who conquer in the day of battle,
from whom the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and who take
it by force. The citadel of God is taken only by those, who storm
it in dreadful earnestness, who besiege it, with fiery, unabated
zeal.
Nothing short of being red hot for God, can keep the glow of
heaven in our hearts, these chilly days. The early Methodists had
no heating apparatus in their churches. They declared that the
flame in the pew and the fire in the pulpit must suffice to keep
them warm. And we, of this hour, have need to have the live coal
from God’s altar and the consuming flame from heaven glowing in
our hearts. This flame is not mental vehemence nor fleshy energy.
It is Divine fire in the soul, intense, dross-consuming — the
very essence of the Spirit of God.
No erudition, no purity of diction, no width of mental
outlook, no flowers of eloquence, no grace of person, can atone
for lack of fire. Prayer ascends by fire. Flame gives prayer
access as well as wings, acceptance as well as energy. There is no
incense without fire; no prayer without flame.
Ardent desire is the basis of unceasing prayer. It is not a
shallow, fickle inclination, but a strong yearning, an
unquenchable ardour, which impregnates, glows, burns and fixes the
heart. It is the flame of a present and active principle mounting
up to God. It is ardour propelled by desire, that burns its way to
the Throne of mercy, and gains its plea. It is the pertinacity of
desire that gives triumph to the conflict, in a great struggle of
prayer. It is the burden of a weighty desire that sobers, makes
restless, and reduces to quietness the soul just emerged from its
mighty wrestlings. It is the embracing character of desire which
arms prayer with a thousand pleas, and robes it with an invincible
courage and an all-conquering power.
The Syrophenician woman is an object lesson of desire,
settled to its consistency, but invulnerable in its intensity and
pertinacious boldness. The importunate widow represents desire
gaining its end, through obstacles insuperable to feebler
impulses.
Prayer is not the rehearsal of a mere performance; nor is it
an indefinite, widespread clamour. Desire, while it kindles the
soul, holds it to the object sought. Prayer is an indispensable
phase of spiritual habit, but it ceases to be prayer when carried
on by habit alone. It is depth and intensity of spiritual desire
which give intensity and depth to prayer. The soul cannot be
listless when some great desire fires and inflames it. The urgency
of our desire holds us to the thing desired with a tenacity which
refuses to be lessened or loosened; it stays and pleads and
persists, and refuses to let go until the blessing has been
vouchsafed.

“Lord, I cannot let Thee go,
Till a blessing Thou bestow;
Do not turn away Thy face;
Mine’s an urgent, pressing case.”

The secret of faint heartedness, lack of importunity, want of
courage and strength in prayer, lies in the weakness of spiritual
desire, while the non-observance of prayer is the fearful token of
that desire having ceased to live. That soul has turned from God
whose desire after Him no longer presses it to the inner chamber.
There can be no successful praying without consuming desire. Of
course there can be much seeming to pray, without desire of any
kind.
Many things may be catalogued and much ground covered. But
does desire compile the catalogue? Does desire map out the region
to be covered? On the answer, hangs the issue of whether our
petitioning be prating or prayer. Desire is intense, but narrow;
it cannot spread itself over a wide area. It wants a few things,
and wants them badly, so badly, that nothing but God’s willingness
to answer, can bring it easement or content.
Desire single-shots at its objective. There may be many
things desired, but they are specifically and individually felt
and expressed. David did not yearn for everything; nor did he
allow his desires to spread out everywhere and hit nothing. Here
is the way his desires ran and found expression:
“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek
after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of
my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His
temple.”
It is this singleness of desire, this definiteness of
yearning, which counts in praying, and which drives prayer
directly to core and centre of supply.
In the Beatitudes Jesus voiced the words which directly bear
upon the innate desires of a renewed soul, and the promise that
they will be granted: “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst
after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
This, then, is the basis of prayer which compels an answer —
that strong inward desire has entered into the spiritual appetite,
and clamours to be satisfied. Alas for us! It is altogether too
true and frequent, that our prayers operate in the arid region of
a mere wish, or in the leafless area of a memorized prayer.
Sometimes, indeed, our prayers are merely stereotyped expressions
of set phrases, and conventional proportions, the freshness and
life of which have departed long years ago.
Without desire, there is no burden of soul, no sense of need,
no ardency, no vision, no strength, no glow of faith. There is no
mighty pressure, no holding on to God, with a deathless,
despairing grasp — “I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless
me.” There is no utter self-abandonment, as there was with Moses,
when, lost in the throes of a desperate, pertinacious, and all-
consuming plea he cried: “Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin;
if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book.” Or, as there was
with John Knox when he pleaded: “Give me Scotland, or I die!”
God draws mightily near to the praying soul. To see God, to
know God, and to live for God — these form the objective of all
true praying. Thus praying is, after all, inspired to seek after
God. Prayer-desire is inflamed to see God, to have clearer,
fuller, sweeter and richer revelation of God. So to those who thus
pray, the Bible becomes a new Bible, and Christ a new Saviour, by
the light and revelation of the inner chamber.
We iterate and reiterate that burning desire — enlarged and
ever enlarging — for the best, and most powerful gifts and graces
of the Spirit of God, is the legitimate heritage of true and
effectual praying. Self and service cannot be divorced — cannot,
possibly, be separated. More than that: desire must be made
intensely personal, must be centered on God with an insatiable
hungering and thirsting after Him and His righteousness. “My soul
thirsteth for God, the living God.” The indispensable requisite
for all true praying is a deeply seated desire which seeks after
God Himself, and remains unappeased, until the choicest gifts in
heaven’s bestowal, have been richly and abundantly vouchsafed.

V. PRAYER AND FERVENCY

“St. Teresa rose off her deathbed to finish her work. She
inspected, with all her quickness of eye and love of order the
whole of the house in which she had been carried to die. She saw
everything put into its proper place, and every one answering to
their proper order, after which she attended the divine offices of
the day. She then went back to her bed, summoned her daughters
around her . . . and, with the most penitential of David’s
penitential prayers upon her tongue, Teresa of Jesus went forth to
meet her Bridegroom.” — Alexander Whyte.

PRAYER, without fervour, stakes nothing on the issue, because it
has nothing to stake. It comes with empty hands. Hands, too, which
are listless, as well as empty, which have never learned the
lesson of clinging to the Cross.
Fervourless prayer has no heart in it; it is an empty thing,
an unfit vessel. Heart, soul, and life, must find place in all
real praying. Heaven must be made to feel the force of this crying
unto God.
Paul was a notable example of the man who possessed a fervent
spirit of prayer. His petitioning was all-consuming, centered
immovably upon the object of his desire, and the God who was able
to meet it.
Prayers must be red hot. It is the fervent prayer that is
effectual and that availeth. Coldness of spirit hinders praying;
prayer cannot live in a wintry atmosphere. Chilly surroundings
freeze out petitioning; and dry up the springs of supplication. It
takes fire to make prayers go. Warmth of soul creates an
atmosphere favourable to prayer, because it is favourable to
fervency. By flame, prayer ascends to heaven. Yet fire is not
fuss, nor heat, noise. Heat is intensity — something that glows
and burns. Heaven is a mighty poor market for ice.
God wants warm-hearted servants. The Holy Spirit comes as a
fire, to dwell in us; we are to be baptized, with the Holy Ghost
and with fire. Fervency is warmth of soul. A phlegmatic
temperament is abhorrent to vital experience. If our religion does
not set us on fire, it is because we have frozen hearts. God
dwells in a flame; the Holy Ghost descends in fire. To be absorbed
in God’s will, to be so greatly in earnest about doing it that our
whole being takes fire, is the qualifying condition of the man who
would engage in effectual prayer.
Our Lord warns us against feeble praying. “Men ought always
to pray,” He declares, “and not to faint.” That means, that we are
to possess sufficient fervency to carry us through the severe and
long periods of pleading prayer. Fire makes one alert and
vigilant, and brings him off, more than conqueror. The atmosphere
about us is too heavily charged with resisting forces for limp or
languid prayers to make headway. It takes heat, and fervency and
meteoric fire, to push through, to the upper heavens, where God
dwells with His saints, in light.
Many of the great Bible characters were notable examples of
fervency of spirit when seeking God. The Psalmist declares with
great earnestness:
“My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto Thy
judgments at all times.”
What strong desires of heart are here! What earnest soul
longings for the Word of the living God!
An even greater fervency is expressed by him in another
place:
“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my
soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living
God: when shall I come and appear before God?”
That is the word of a man who lived in a state of grace,
which had been deeply and supernaturally wrought in his soul.
Fervency before God counts in the hour of prayer, and finds a
speedy and rich reward at His hands. The Psalmist gives us this
statement of what God had done for the king, as his heart turned
toward his Lord:
“Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not
withholden the request of his lips.”
At another time, he thus expresses himself directly to God in
preferring his request:
“Lord, all my desire is before Thee; and my groaning is not
hid from Thee.”
What a cheering thought! Our inward groanings, our secret
desires, our heart-longings, are not hidden from the eyes of Him
with whom we have to deal in prayer.
The incentive to fervency of spirit before God, is precisely
the same as it is for continued and earnest prayer. While fervency
is not prayer, yet it derives from an earnest soul, and is
precious in the sight of God. Fervency in prayer is the precursor
of what God will do by way of answer. God stands pledged to give
us the desire of our hearts in proportion to the fervency of
spirit we exhibit, when seeking His face in prayer.
Fervency has its seat in the heart, not in the brain, nor in
the intellectual faculties of the mind. Fervency therefore, is not
an expression of the intellect. Fervency of spirit is something
far transcending poetical fancy or sentimental imagery. It is
something else besides mere preference, the contrasting of like
with dislike. Fervency is the throb and gesture of the emotional
nature.
It is not in our power, perhaps, to create fervency of spirit
at will, but we can pray God to implant it. It is ours, then, to
nourish and cherish it, to guard it against extinction, to prevent
its abatement or decline. The process of personal salvation is not
only to pray, to express our desires to God, but to acquire a
fervent spirit and seek, by all proper means, to cultivate it. It
is never out of place to pray God to beget within us, and to keep
alive the spirit of fervent prayer.
Fervency has to do with God, just as prayer has to do with
Him. Desire has always an objective. If we desire at all, we
desire something. The degree of fervency with which we fashion our
spiritual desires, will always serve to determine the earnestness
of our praying. In this relation, Adoniram Judson says:
“A travailing spirit, the throes of a great burdened desire,
belongs to prayer. A fervency strong enough to drive away sleep,
which devotes and inflames the spirit, and which retires all
earthly ties, all this belongs to wrestling, prevailing prayer.
The Spirit, the power, the air, and food of prayer is in such a
spirit.”
Prayer must be clothed with fervency, strength and power. It
is the force which, centered on God, determines the outlay of
Himself for earthly good. Men who are fervent in spirit are bent
on attaining to righteousness, truth, grace, and all other sublime
and powerful graces which adorn the character of the authentic,
unquestioned child of God.
God once declared, by the mouth of a brave prophet, to a king
who, at one time, had been true to God, but, by the incoming of
success and material prosperity, had lost his faith, the following
message:
“The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole
earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is
perfect toward Him. Herein hast thou done foolishly; therefore,
from henceforth thou shalt have wars.”
God had heard Asa’s prayer in early life, but disaster came
and trouble was sent, because he had given up the life of prayer
and simple faith.
In Romans 15:30, we have the word, “strive,” occurring, in
the request which Paul made for prayerful cooperation.
In Colossians 4:12, we have the same word, but translated
differently: “Epaphras always labouring fervently for you in
prayer.” Paul charged the Romans to “strive together with him in
prayer,” that is, to help him in his struggle of prayer. The word
means to enter into a contest, to fight against adversaries. It
means, moreover, to engage with fervent zeal to endeavour to
obtain.
These recorded instances of the exercise and reward of faith,
give us easily to see that, in almost every instance, faith was
blended with trust until it is not too much to say that the former
was swallowed up in the latter. It is hard to properly distinguish
the specific activities of these two qualities, faith and trust.
But there is a point, beyond all peradventure, at which faith is
relieved of its burden, so to speak; where trust comes along and
says: “You have done your part, the rest is mine!”
In the incident of the barren fig tree, our Lord transfers
the marvellous power of faith to His disciples. To their
exclamation, “How soon is the fig tree withered alway!” He said:
“If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this
which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this
mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall
be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer,
believing, ye shall receive.”
When a Christian believer attains to faith of such
magnificent proportions as these, he steps into the realm of
implicit trust. He stands without a tremor on the apex of his
spiritual outreaching. He has attained faith’s veritable top stone
which is unswerving, unalterable, unalienable trust in the power
of the living God.

VI. PRAYER AND IMPORTUNITY

“How glibly we talk of praying without ceasing! Yet we are
quite apt to quit, if our prayer remained unanswered but one week
or month! We assume that by a stroke of His arm or an action of
His will, God will give us what we ask. It never seems to dawn on
us, that He is the Master of nature, as of grace, and that,
sometimes He chooses one way, and sometimes another in which to do
His work. It takes years, sometimes, to answer a prayer and when
it is answered, and we look backward we can see that it did. But
God knows all the time, and it is His will that we pray, and pray,
and still pray, and so come to know, indeed and of a truth, what
it is to pray without ceasing.” — Anon.

OUR Lord Jesus declared that “men ought always to pray and not to
faint,” and the parable in which His words occur, was taught with
the intention of saving men from faint-heartedness and weakness in
prayer. Our Lord was seeking to teach that laxity must be guarded
against, and persistence fostered and encouraged. There can be no
two opinions regarding the importance of the exercise of this
indispensable quality in our praying.
Importunate prayer is a mighty movement of the soul toward
God. It is a stirring of the deepest forces of the soul, toward
the throne of heavenly grace. It is the ability to hold on, press
on, and wait. Restless desire, restful patience, and strength of
grasp are all embraced in it. It is not an incident, or a
performance, but a passion of soul. It is not a want, half-needed,
but a sheer necessity.
The wrestling quality in importunate prayers does not spring
from physical vehemence or fleshly energy. It is not an impulse of
energy, not a mere earnestness of soul; it is an inwrought force,
a faculty implanted and aroused by the Holy Spirit. Virtually, it
is the intercession of the Spirit of God, in us; it is, moreover,
“the effectual, fervent prayer, which availeth much.” The Divine
Spirit informing every element within us, with the energy of His
own striving, is the essence of the importunity which urges our
praying at the mercy-seat, to continue until the fire falls and
the blessing descends. This wrestling in prayer may not be
boisterous nor vehement, but quiet, tenacious and urgent. Silent,
it may be, when there are no visible outlets for its mighty
forces.
Nothing distinguishes the children of God so clearly and
strongly as prayer. It is the one infallible mark and test of
being a Christian. Christian people are prayerful, the worldly-
minded, prayerless. Christians call on God; worldlings ignore God,
and call not on His Name. But even the Christian had need to
cultivate continual prayer. Prayer must be habitual, but much more
than a habit. It is duty, yet one which rises far above, and goes
beyond the ordinary implications of the term. It is the expression
of a relation to God, a yearning for Divine communion. It is the
outward and upward flow of the inward life toward its original
fountain. It is an assertion of the soul’s paternity, a claiming
of the sonship, which links man to the Eternal.
Prayer has everything to do with moulding the soul into the
image of God, and has everything to do with enhancing and
enlarging the measure of Divine grace. It has everything to do
with bringing the soul into complete communion with God. It has
everything to do with enriching, broadening and maturing the
soul’s experience of God. That man cannot possibly be called a
Christian, who does not pray. By no possible pretext can he claim
any right to the term, nor its implied significance. If he do not
pray, he is a sinner, pure and simple, for prayer is the only way
in which the soul of man can enter into fellowship and communion
with the Source of all Christlike spirit and energy. Hence, if he
pray not, he is not of the household of faith.
In this study however, we turn our thought to one phase of
prayer — that of importunity; the pressing of our desires upon
God with urgency and perseverance; the praying with that tenacity
and tension which neither relaxes nor ceases until its plea is
heard, and its cause is won.
He who has clear views of God, and Scriptural conceptions of
the Divine character; who appreciates his privilege of approach
unto God; who understands his inward need of all that God has for
him — that man will be solicitous, outspoken and importunate. In
Holy Writ, the duty of prayer, itself, is advocated in terms which
are only barely stronger than those in which the necessity for its
importunity is set forth. The praying which influences God is
declared to be that of the fervent, effectual outpouring of a
righteous man. That is to say, it is prayer on fire, having no
feeble, flickering flame, no momentary flash, but shining with a
vigorous and steady glow.
The repeated intercessions of Abraham for the salvation of
Sodom and Gomorrah present an early example of the necessity for,
and benefit deriving from importunate praying. Jacob, wrestling
all night with the angel, gives significant emphasis to the power
of a dogged perseverance in praying, and shows how, in things
spiritual, importunity succeeds, just as effectively as it does in
matters relating to time and sense.
As we have noted, elsewhere, Moses prayed forty days and
forty nights, seeking to stay the wrath of God against Israel, and
his example and success are a stimulus to present-day faith in its
darkest hour. Elijah repeated and urged his prayer seven times ere
the raincloud appeared above the horizon, heralding the success of
his prayer and the victory of his faith. On one occasion Daniel
though faint and weak, pressed his case three weeks, ere the
answer and the blessing came.
Many nights during His earthly life did the blessed Saviour
spend in prayer. In Gethsemane He presented the same petition,
three times, with unabated, urgent, yet submissive importunity,
which involved every element of His soul, and issued in tears and
bloody sweat. His life crises were distinctly marked, his life
victories all won, in hours of importunate prayer. And the servant
is not greater than his Lord.
The Parable of the Importunate Widow is a classic of
insistent prayer. We shall do well to refresh our remembrance of
it, at this point in our study:
“And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought
always to pray, and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a
judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man; and there was a
widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of my
adversary. And he would not for a while; but afterward he said
within himself, Though I fear not God nor regard man; yet because
this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual
coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge
saith. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and
night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you He will
avenge them speedily.”
This parable stresses the central truth of importunate
prayer. The widow presses her case till the unjust judge yields.
If this parable does not teach the necessity for importunity, it
has neither point nor instruction in it. Take this one thought
away, and you have nothing left worth recording. Beyond all cavil,
Christ intended it to stand as an evidence of the need that
exists, for insistent prayer.
We have the same teaching emphasized in the incident of the
Syrophenician woman, who came to Jesus on behalf of her daughter.
Here, importunity is demonstrated, not as a stark impertinence,
but as with the persuasive habiliments of humility, sincerity, and
fervency. We are given a glimpse of a woman’s clinging faith, a
woman’s bitter grief, and a woman’s spiritual insight. The Master
went over into that Sidonian country in order that this truth
might be mirrored for all time — there is no plea so efficacious
as importunate prayer, and none to which God surrenders Himself so
fully and so freely.
The importunity of this distressed mother, won her the
victory, and materialized her request. Yet instead of being an
offence to the Saviour, it drew from Him a word of wonder, and
glad surprise. “O woman, great is thy faith! Be it unto thee, even
as thou wilt.”
He prays not at all, who does not press his plea. Cold
prayers have no claim on heaven, and no hearing in the courts
above. Fire is the life of prayer, and heaven is reached by
flaming importunity rising in an ascending scale.
Reverting to the case of the importunate widow, we see that
her widowhood, her friendlessness, and her weakness counted for
nothing with the unjust judge. Importunity was everything.
“Because this widow troubleth me,” he said, “I will avenge her
speedily, lest she weary me.” Solely because the widow imposed
upon the time and attention of the unjust judge, her case was won.
God waits patiently as, day and night, His elect cry unto
Him. He is moved by their requests a thousand times more than was
this unjust judge. A limit is set to His tarrying, by the
importunate praying of His people, and the answer richly given.
God finds faith in His praying child — the faith which stays and
cries — and He honours it by permitting its further exercise, to
the end that it is strengthened and enriched. Then He rewards it
by granting the burden of its plea, in plenitude and finality.
The case of the Syrophenician woman previously referred to is
a notable instance of successful importunity, one which is
eminently encouraging to all who would pray successfully. It was a
remarkable instance of insistence and perseverance to ultimate
victory, in the face of almost insuperable obstacles and
hindrances. But the woman surmounted them all by heroic faith and
persistent spirit that were as remarkable as they were successful.
Jesus had gone over into her country, “and would have no man know
it.” But she breaks through His purpose, violates His privacy,
attracts His attention, and pours out to Him a poignant appeal of
need and faith. Her heart was in her prayer.
At first, Jesus appears to pay no attention to her agony, and
ignores her cry for relief. He gives her neither eye, nor ear, nor
word. Silence, deep and chilling, greets her impassioned cry. But
she is not turned aside, nor disheartened. She holds on. The
disciples, offended at her unseemly clamour, intercede for her,
but are silenced by the Lord’s declaring that the woman is
entirely outside the scope of His mission and His ministry.
But neither the failure of the disciples to gain her a
hearing nor the knowledge — despairing in its very nature — that
she is barred from the benefits of His mission, daunt her, and
serve only to lend intensity and increased boldness to her
approach to Christ. She came closer, cutting her prayer in twain,
and falling at His feet, worshipping Him, and making her
daughter’s case her own cries, with pointed brevity — “Lord, help
me!” This last cry won her case; her daughter was healed in the
self-same hour. Hopeful, urgent, and unwearied, she stays near the
Master, insisting and praying until the answer is given. What a
study in importunity, in earnestness, in persistence, promoted and
propelled under conditions which would have disheartened any but
an heroic, a constant soul.
In these parables of importunate praying, our Lord sets
forth, for our information and encouragement, the serious
difficulties which stand in the way of prayer. At the same time He
teaches that importunity conquers all untoward circumstances and
gets to itself a victory over a whole host of hindrances. He
teaches, moreover, that an answer to prayer is conditional upon
the amount of faith that goes to the petition. To test this, He
delays the answer. The superficial pray-er subsides into silence,
when the answer is delayed. But the man of prayer hangs on, and
on. The Lord recognizes and honours his faith, and gives him a
rich and abundant answer to his faith-evidencing, importunate
prayer.

VII. PRAYER AND IMPORTUNITY (Continued)

“Two-thirds of the praying we do, is for that which would
give us the greatest possible pleasure to receive. It is a sort of
spiritual self-indulgence in which we engage, and as a consequence
is the exact opposite of self-discipline. God knows all this, and
keeps His children asking. In process of time — His time — our
petitions take on another aspect, and we, another spiritual
approach. God keeps us praying until, in His wisdom, He deigns to
answer. And no matter how long it may be before He speaks, it is,
even then, far earlier than we have a right to expect or hope to
deserve.” — Anon.

THE tenor of Christ’s teachings, is to declare that men are to
pray earnestly — to pray with an earnestness that cannot be
denied. Heaven has harkening ears only for the whole-hearted, and
the deeply-earnest. Energy, courage, and persistent perseverance
must back the prayers which heaven respects, and God hears. All
these qualities of soul, so essential to effectual praying, are
brought out in the parable of the man who went to his friend for
bread, at midnight. This man entered on his errand with
confidence. Friendship promised him success. His plea was
pressing: of a truth, he could not go back empty-handed. The flat
refusal chagrined and surprised him. Here even friendship failed!
But there was something to be tried yet — stern resolution, set,
fixed determination. He would stay and press his demand until the
door was opened, and the request granted. This he proceeded to do,
and by dint of importunity secured what ordinary solicitation had
failed to obtain.
The success of this man, achieved in the face of a flat
denial, was used by the Saviour to illustrate the necessity for
insistence in supplicating the throne of heavenly grace. When the
answer is not immediately given, the praying Christian must gather
courage at each delay, and advance in urgency till the answer
comes which is assured, if he have but the faith to press his
petition with vigorous faith.
Laxity, faint-heartedness, impatience, timidity will be fatal
to our prayers. Awaiting the onset of our importunity and
insistence, is the Father’s heart, the Father’s hand, the Father’s
infinite power, the Father’s infinite willingness to hear and give
to His children.
Importunate praying is the earnest, inward movement of the
heart toward God. It is the throwing of the entire force of the
spiritual man into the exercise of prayer. Isaiah lamented that no
one stirred himself, to take hold of God. Much praying was done in
Isaiah’s time, but it was too easy, indifferent and complacent.
There were no mighty movements of souls toward God. There was no
array of sanctified energies bent on reaching and grappling with
God, to draw from Him the treasures of His grace. Forceless
prayers have no power to overcome difficulties, no power to win
marked results, or to gain complete victories. We must win God,
ere we can win our plea.
Isaiah looked forward with hopeful eyes to the day when
religion would flourish, when there would be times of real
praying. When those times came, the watchmen would not abate their
vigilance, but cry day and night, and those, who were the Lord’s
remembrancers, would give Him no rest. Their urgent, persistent
efforts would keep all spiritual interests engaged, and make
increasing drafts on God’s exhaustless treasures.
Importunate praying never faints nor grows weary; it is never
discouraged; it never yields to cowardice, but is buoyed up and
sustained by a hope that knows no despair, and a faith which will
not let go. Importunate praying has patience to wait and strength
to continue. It never prepares itself to quit praying, and
declines to rise from its knees until an answer is received.
The familiar, yet heartening words of that great missionary,
Adoniram Judson, is the testimony of a man who was importunate at
prayer. He says:
“I was never deeply interested in any object, never prayed
sincerely and earnestly for it, but that it came at some time, no
matter how distant the day. Somehow, in some shape, probably the
last I would have devised, it came.”
“Ask, and ye shall receive. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock,
and it shall be opened unto you.” These are the ringing challenges
of our Lord in regard to prayer, and His intimation that true
praying must stay, and advance in effort and urgency, till the
prayer is answered, and the blessing sought, received.
In the three words ask, seek, knock, in the order in which He
places them, Jesus urges the necessity of importunity in prayer.
Asking, seeking, knocking, are ascending rounds in the ladder of
successful prayer. No principle is more definitely enforced by
Christ than that prevailing prayer must have in it the quality
which waits and perseveres, the courage that never surrenders, the
patience which never grows tired, the resolution that never
wavers.
In the parable preceding that of the Friend at Midnight, a
most significant and instructive lesson in this respect is
outlined. Indomitable courage, ceaseless pertinacity, fixity of
purpose, chief among the qualities included in Christ’s estimate
of the highest and most successful form of praying.
Importunity is made up of intensity, perseverance, patience
and persistence. The seeming delay in answering prayer is the
ground and the demand of importunity. In the first recorded
instance of a miracle being wrought upon one who was blind, as
given by Matthew, we have an illustration of the way in which our
Lord appeared not to hearken at once to those who sought Him. But
the two blind men continue their crying, and follow Him with their
continual petition, saying, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.”
But He answered them not, and passed into the house. Yet the needy
ones followed Him, and, finally, gained their eyesight and their
plea.
The case of blind Bartimaeus is a notable one in many ways.
Especially is it remarkable for the show of persistence which this
blind man exhibited in appealing to our Lord. If it be — as it
seems — that his first crying was done as Jesus entered into
Jericho, and that he continued it until Jesus came out of the
place, it is all the stronger an illustration of the necessity of
importunate prayer and the success which comes to those who stake
their all on Christ, and give Him no peace until He grants them
their hearts’ desire.
Mark puts the whole incident graphically before us. At first,
Jesus seems not to hear. The crowd rebukes the noisy clamour of
Bartimaeus. Despite the seeming unconcern of our Lord, however,
and despite the rebuke of an impatient and quick-tempered crowd,
the blind beggar still cries, and increases the loudness of his
cry, until Jesus is impressed and moved. Finally, the crowd, as
well as Jesus, hearken to the beggar’s plea and declare in favour
of his cause. He gains his case. His importunity avails even in
the face of apparent neglect on the part of Jesus, and despite
opposition and rebuke from the surrounding populace. His
persistence won where half-hearted indifference would surely have
failed.
Faith has its province, in connection with prayer, and, of
course, has its inseparable association with importunity. But the
latter quality drives the prayer to the believing point. A
persistent spirit brings a man to the place where faith takes
hold, claims and appropriates the blessing.
The imperative necessity of importunate prayer is plainly set
forth in the Word of God, and needs to be stated and re-stated
today. We are apt to overlook this vital truth. Love of ease,
spiritual indolence, religious slothfulness, all operate against
this type of petitioning. Our praying, however, needs to be
pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency
which will not be denied, and a courage which never fails.
We have need, too, to give thought to that mysterious fact of
prayer — the certainty that there will be delays, denials, and
seeming failures, in connection with its exercise. We are to
prepare for these, to brook them, and cease not in our urgent
praying. Like a brave soldier, who, as the conflict grows sterner,
exhibits a superior courage than in the earlier stages of the
battle; so does the praying Christian, when delay and denial face
him, increase his earnest asking, and ceases not until prayer
prevail. Moses furnishes an illustrious example of importunity in
prayer. Instead of allowing his nearness to God and his intimacy
with Him to dispense with the necessity for importunity, he
regards them as the better fitting him for its exercise. When
Israel set up the golden calf, the wrath of God waxed fierce
against them, and Jehovah, bent on executing justice, said to
Moses when divulging what He purposed doing, “Let Me alone!” But
Moses would not let Him alone. He threw himself down before the
Lord in an agony of intercession in behalf of the sinning
Israelites, and for forty days and nights, fasted and prayed. What
a season of importunate prayer was that!
Jehovah was wroth with Aaron, also, who had acted as leader
in this idolatrous business of the golden calf. But Moses prayed
for Aaron as well as for the Israelites; had he not, both Israel
and Aaron had perished, under the consuming fire of God’s wrath.
That long season of pleading before God, left its mighty
impress on Moses. He had been in close relation with God
aforetime, but never did his character attain the greatness that
marked it in the days and years following this long season of
importunate intercession.
There can be no question but that importunate prayer moves
God, and heightens human character! If we were more with God in
this great ordinance of intercession, more brightly would our face
shine, more richly endowed would life and service be, with the
qualities which earn the goodwill of humanity, and bring glory to
the Name of God.

VIII. PRAYER AND CHARACTER AND CONDUCT

“General Charles James Gordon, the hero of Khartum, was a
truly Christian soldier. Shut up in the Sudanese town he gallantly
held out for one year, but, finally, was overcome and slain. On
his memorial in Westminster Abbey are these words, ‘He gave his
money to the poor; his sympathy to the sorrowing; his life to his
country and his soul to God.'” — Homer W. Hodge.

PRAYER governs conduct and conduct makes character. Conduct, is
what we do; character, is what we are. Conduct is the outward
life. Character is the life unseen, hidden within, yet evidenced
by that which is seen. Conduct is external, seen from without;
character is internal — operating within. In the economy of grace
conduct is the offspring of character. Character is the state of
the heart, conduct its outward expression. Character is the root
of the tree, conduct, the fruit it bears.
Prayer is related to all the gifts of grace. To character and
conduct its relation is that of a helper. Prayer helps to
establish character and fashion conduct, and both for their
successful continuance depend on prayer. There may be a certain
degree of moral character and conduct independent of prayer, but
there cannot be anything like distinctive religious character and
Christian conduct without it. Prayer helps, where all other aids
fail. The more we pray, the better we are, the purer and better
our lives.
The very end and purpose of the atoning work of Christ is to
create religious character and to make Christian conduct.
“Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all
iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of
good works.”
In Christ’s teaching, it is not simply works of charity and
deeds of mercy upon which He insists, but inward spiritual
character. This much is demanded, and nothing short of it, will
suffice.
In the study of Paul’s Epistles, there is one thing which
stands out, clearly and unmistakably — the insistence on holiness
of heart, and righteousness of life. Paul does not seek, so much,
to promote what is termed “personal work,” nor is the leading
theme of his letters deeds of charity. It is the condition of the
human heart and the blamelessness of the personal life, which form
the burden of the writings of St. Paul.
Elsewhere in the Scriptures, too, it is character and conduct
which are made preeminent. The Christian religion deals with men
who are devoid of spiritual character, and unholy in life, and
aims so to change them, that they become holy in heart and
righteous in life. It aims to change bad men into good men; it
deals with inward badness, and works to change it into inward
goodness. And it is just here where prayer enters and demonstrates
its wonderful efficacy and fruit. Prayer drives toward this
specific end. In fact, without prayer, no such supernatural change
in moral character, can ever be effected. For the change from
badness to goodness is not wrought “by works of righteousness
which we have done,” but according to God’s mercy, which saves us
“by the washing of regeneration.” And this marvellous change is
brought to pass through earnest, persistent, faithful prayer. Any
alleged form of Christianity, which does not effect this change in
the hearts of men, is a delusion and a snare.
The office of prayer is to change the character and conduct
of men, and in countless instances, has been wrought by prayer. At
this point, prayer, by its credentials, has proved its divinity.
And just as it is the office of prayer to effect this, so it is
the prime work of the Church to take hold of evil men and make
them good. Its mission is to change human nature, to change
character, influence behaviour, to revolutionize conduct. The
Church is presumed to be righteous, and should be engaged in
turning men to righteousness. The Church is God’s manufactory on
earth, and its primary duty is to create and foster righteousness
of character. This is its very first business. Primarily, its work
is not to acquire members, nor amass numbers, nor aim at money-
getting, nor engage in deeds of charity and works of mercy, but to
produce righteousness of character, and purity of the outward
life.
A product reflects and partakes of the character of the
manufactory which makes it. A righteous Church with a righteous
purpose makes righteous men. Prayer produces cleanliness of heart
and purity of life. It can produce nothing else. Unrighteous
conduct is born of prayerlessness; the two go hand-in-hand. Prayer
and sinning cannot keep company with each other. One, or the
other, must, of necessity, stop. Get men to pray, and they will
quit sinning, because prayer creates a distaste for sinning, and
so works upon the heart, that evil-doing becomes repugnant, and
the entire nature lifted to a reverent contemplation of high and
holy things.
Prayer is based on character. What we are with God gauges our
influence with Him. It was the inner character, not the outward
seeming, of such men as Abraham, Job, David, Moses and all others,
who had such great influence with God in the days of old. And,
today, it is not so much our words, as what we really are, which
weighs with God. Conduct affects character, of course, and counts
for much in our praying. At the same time, character affects
conduct to a far greater extent, and has a superior influence over
prayer. Our inner life not only gives colour to our praying, but
body, as well. Bad living means bad praying and, in the end, no
praying at all. We pray feebly because we live feebly. The stream
of prayer cannot rise higher than the fountain of living. The
force of the inner chamber is made up of the energy which flows
from the confluent streams of living. And the weakness of living
grows out of the shallowness and shoddiness of character.
Feebleness of living reflects its debility and langour in the
praying hours. We simply cannot talk to God, strongly, intimately,
and confidently unless we are living for Him, faithfully and
truly. The prayer-closet cannot become sanctified unto God, when
the life is alien to His precepts and purpose. We must learn this
lesson well — that righteous character and Christlike conduct
give us a peculiar and preferential standing in prayer before God.
His holy Word gives special emphasis to the part conduct has in
imparting value to our praying when it declares:
“Then shalt thou call and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt
cry, and He shall say, Here I am; if thou take away from the midst
of thee the yoke, the putting forth the finger, and speaking
vanity.”
The wickedness of Israel and their heinous practices were
definitely cited by Isaiah, as the reason why God would turn His
ears away from their prayers:
“And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes
from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your
hands are full of blood.”
The same sad truth was declared by the Lord through the mouth
of Jeremiah:
“Therefore, pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a
cry or prayer for them; for I will not hear them in the time that
they cry unto Me for their trouble.”
Here, it is plainly stated, that unholy conduct is a bar to
successful praying, just as it is clearly intimated that, in order
to have full access to God in prayer, there must be a total
abandonment of conscious and premeditated sin.
We are enjoined to pray, “lifting up holy hands, without
wrath and doubting,” and must pass the time of our sojourning
here, in a rigorous abstaining from evil if we are to retain our
privilege of calling upon the Father. We cannot, by any process,
divorce praying from conduct.
“Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His
commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in His
sight.”
And James declares roundly that men ask and receive not,
because they ask amiss, and seek only the gratification of selfish
desires.
Our Lord’s injunction, “Watch ye, and pray always,” is to
cover and guard all our conduct, so that we may come to our inner
chamber with all its force secured by a vigilant guard kept over
our lives.
“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be
overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this
life, and so that day come upon you unawares.”
Quite often, Christian experience founders on the rock of
conduct. Beautiful theories are marred by ugly lives. The most
difficult thing about piety, as it is the most impressive, is to
be able to live it. It is the life which counts, and our praying
suffers, as do other phases of our religious experience, from bad
living.
In primitive times preachers were charged to preach by their
lives, or not to preach at all. So, today, Christians, everywhere,
ought to be charged to pray by their lives, or not to pray at all.
The most effective preaching, is not that which is heard from the
pulpit, but that which is proclaimed quietly, humbly and
consistently; which exhibits its excellencies in the home, and in
the community. Example preaches a far more effective sermon than
precept. The best preaching, even in the pulpit, is that which is
fortified by godly living, in the preacher, himself. The most
effective work done by the pew is preceded by, and accompanied
with, holiness of life, separation from the world, severance from
sin. Some of the strongest appeals are made with mute lips — by
godly fathers and saintly mothers who, around the fireside, feared
God, loved His cause, and daily exhibited to their children and
others about them, the beauties and excellencies of Christian life
and conduct.
The best-prepared, most eloquent sermon can be marred and
rendered ineffective, by questionable practices in the preacher.
The most active church worker can have the labour of his hands
vitiated by worldliness of spirit and inconsistency of life. Men
preach by their lives, not by their words, and sermons are
delivered, not so much in, and from a pulpit, as in tempers,
actions, and the thousand and one incidents which crowd the
pathway of daily life.
Of course, the prayer of repentance is acceptable to God. He
delights in hearing the cries of penitent sinners. But repentance
involves not only sorrow for sin, but the turning away from wrong-
doing, and the learning to do well. A repentance which does not
produce a change in character and conduct, is a mere sham, which
should deceive nobody. Old things must pass away, all things must
become new.
Praying, which does not result in right thinking and right
living, is a farce. We have missed the whole office of prayer if
it fail to purge character and rectify conduct. We have failed
entirely to apprehend the virtue of prayer, if it bring not about
the revolutionizing of the life. In the very nature of things, we
must quit praying, or our bad conduct. Cold, formal praying may
exist side by side, with bad conduct, but such praying, in the
estimation of God, is no praying at all. Our praying advances in
power, just in so far as it rectifies the life. Growing in purity
and devotion to God will be a more prayerful life.
The character of the inner life is a condition of effectual
praying. As is the life, so will the praying be. An inconsistent
life obstructs praying and neutralizes what little praying we may
do. Always, it is “the prayer of the righteous man which availeth
much.” Indeed, one may go further and assert, that it is only the
prayer of the righteous which avails anything at all — at any
time. To have an eye to God’s glory; to be possessed by an earnest
desire to please Him in all our ways; to possess hands busy in His
service; to have feet swift to run in the way of His commandments
— these give weight and influence and power to prayer, and secure
an audience with God. The incubus of our lives often breaks the
force of our praying, and, not unfrequently, are as doors of
brass, in the face of prayer.
Praying must come out of a cleansed heart and be presented
and urged with the “lifting up of holy hands.” It must be
fortified by a life aiming, unceasingly, to obey God, to attain
conformity to the Divine law, and to come into submission to the
Divine will.
Let it not be forgotten, that, while life is a condition of
prayer, prayer is also the condition of righteous living. Prayer
promotes righteous living, and is the one great aid to uprightness
of heart and life. The fruit of real praying is right living.
Praying sets him who prays to the great business of “working out
his salvation with fear and trembling;” puts him to watching his
temper, conversation and conduct; causes him to “walk
circumspectly, redeeming the time;” enables him to “walk worthy of
the vocation wherewith he is called, with all lowliness and
meekness;” gives him a high incentive to pursue his pilgrimage
consistently by “shunning every evil way, and walking in the
good.”

                IX. PRAYER AND OBEDIENCE

“An obedience discovered itself in Fletcher of Madeley, which
I wish I could describe or imitate. It produced in him a ready
mind to embrace every cross with alacrity and pleasure. He had a
singular love for the lambs of the flock, and applied himself with
the greatest diligence to their instruction, for which he had a
peculiar gift. . . . All his intercourse with me was so mingled
with prayer and praise, that every employment, and every meal was,
as it were, perfumed therewith.” — John Wesley.

UNDER the Mosaic law, obedience was looked upon as being “better
than sacrifice, and to harken, than the fat of lambs.” In
Deuteronomy 5:29, Moses represents Almighty God declaring Himself
as to this very quality in a manner which left no doubt as to the
importance He laid upon its exercise. Referring to the waywardness
of His people He cries:
“O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear
Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well
with them, and with their children after them.”
Unquestionably obedience is a high virtue, a soldier quality.
To obey belongs, preeminently, to the soldier. It is his first and
last lesson, and he must learn how to practice it all the time,
without question, uncomplainingly. Obedience, moreover, is faith
in action, and is the outflow as it is the very test of love. “He
that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth
Me.”
Furthermore: obedience is the conserver and the life of love.
“If ye keep My commandments,” says Jesus, “ye shall abide in
My love, even as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in
His love.”
What a marvellous statement of the relationship created and
maintained by obedience! The Son of God is held in the bosom of
the Father’s love, by virtue of His obedience! And the factor
which enables the Son of God to ever abide in His Father’s love is
revealed in His own statement, “For I do, always, those things
that please Him.”
The gift of the Holy Spirit in full measure and in richer
experience, depends upon loving obedience:
“If ye love Me, keep My commandments,” is the Master’s word.
“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another
Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.”
Obedience to God is a condition of spiritual thrift, inward
satisfaction, stability of heart. “If ye be willing and obedient,
ye shall eat the fruit of the land.” Obedience opens the gates of
the Holy City, and gives access to the tree of life.
“Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may
have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the
gates, into the city.”
What is obedience? It is doing God’s will: it is keeping His
commandments. How many of the commandments constitute obedience?
To keep half of them, and to break the other half — is that real
obedience? To keep all the commandments but one — is that
obedience? On this point, James the Apostle is most explicit:
“Whosoever shall keep the whole law,” he declares, “and yet offend
in one point, he is guilty of all.”
The spirit which prompts a man to break one commandment is
the spirit which may move him to break them all. God’s
commandments are a unit, and to break one strikes at the principle
which underlies and runs through the whole. He who hesitates not
to break a single commandment, would — it is more than probable
— under the same stress, and surrounded by the same
circumstances, break them all.
Universal obedience of the race is demanded. Nothing short of
implicit obedience will satisfy God, and the keeping of all His
commandments is the demonstration of it that God requires. But can
we keep all of God’s commandments? Can a man receive moral ability
such as enables him to obey every one of them? Certainly he can.
By every token, man can, through prayer, obtain ability to do this
very thing.
Does God give commandments which men cannot obey? Is He so
arbitrary, so severe, so unloving, as to issue commandments which
cannot be obeyed? The answer is that in all the annals of Holy
Scripture, not a single instance is recorded of God having
commanded any man to do a thing, which was beyond his power. Is
God so unjust and so inconsiderate as to require of man that which
he is unable to render? Surely not. To infer it, is to slander the
character of God.
Let us ponder this thought, a moment: Do earthly parents
require of their children duties which they cannot perform? Where
is the father who would think, even, of being so unjust, and so
tyrannical? Is God less kind and just than faulty, earthly
parents? Are they better and more just than a perfect God? How
utterly foolish and untenable a thought!
In principle, obedience to God is the same quality as
obedience to earthly parents. It implies, in general effect, the
giving up of one’s own way, and following that of another; the
surrendering of the will to the will of another; the submission of
oneself to the authority and requirements of a parent. Commands,
either from our heavenly Father or from our earthly father, are
love-directing, and all such commands are in the best interests of
those who are commanded. God’s commands are issued neither in
severity nor tyranny. They are always issued in love and in our
interests, and so it behooves us to heed and obey them. In other
words, and appraised at its lowest value — God having issued His
commands to us, in order to promote our good, it pays, therefore,
to be obedient. Obedience brings its own reward. God has ordained
it so, and since He has, even human reason can realize that He
would never demand that which is out of our power to render.
Obedience is love, fulfilling every command, love expressing
itself. Obedience, therefore, is not a hard demand made upon us,
any more than is the service a husband renders his wife, or a wife
renders her husband. Love delights to obey, and please whom it
loves. There are no hardships in love. There may be exactions, but
no irk. There are no impossible tasks for love.
With what simplicity and in what a matter-of-fact way does
the Apostle John say: “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him,
because we keep His commandments, and do those things which are
pleasing in His sight.”
This is obedience, running ahead of all and every command. It
is love, obeying by anticipation. They greatly err, and even sin,
who declare that men are bound to commit iniquity, either because
of environment, or heredity, or tendency. God’s commands are not
grievous. Their ways are ways of pleasantness, and their paths
peace. The task which falls to obedience is not a hard one. “For
My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”
Far be it from our heavenly Father, to demand impossibilities
of His children. It is possible to please Him in all things, for
He is not hard to please. He is neither a hard master, nor an
austere lord, “taking up that which he lays not down, and reaping
that which he did not sow.” Thank God, it is possible for every
child of God, to please his heavenly Father! It is really much
easier to please Him than to please men. Moreover, we may know
when we please Him. This is the witness of the Spirit — the
inward Divine assurance, given to all the children of God that
they are doing their Father’s will, and that their ways are well-
pleasing in His sight.
God’s commandments are righteous and founded in justice and
wisdom. “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and
just and good.” “Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.”
God’s commandments, then, can be obeyed by all who seek supplies
of grace which enable them to obey. These commandments must be
obeyed. God’s government is at stake. God’s children are under
obligation to obey Him; disobedience cannot be permitted. The
spirit of rebellion is the very essence of sin. It is repudiation
of God’s authority, which God cannot tolerate. He never has done
so, and a declaration of His attitude was part of the reason the
Son of the Highest was made manifest among men:
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through
the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful
flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the
righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not
after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
If any should complain that humanity, under the fall, is too
weak and helpless to obey these high commands of God, the reply is
in order that, through the atonement of Christ, man is enabled to
obey. The Atonement is God’s Enabling Act. That which God works in
us, in regeneration and through the agency of the Holy Spirit,
bestows enabling grace sufficient for all that is required of us,
under the Atonement. This grace is furnished without measure, in
answer to prayer. So that, while God commands, He, at the same
time, stands pledged to give us all necessary strength of will and
grace of soul to meet His demands. This being true, man is without
excuse for his disobedience and eminently censurable for refusing,
or failing, to secure requisite grace, whereby he may serve the
Lord with reverence, and with godly fear.
There is one important consideration those who declare it to
be impossible to keep God’s commandments strangely overlook, and
that is the vital truth, which declares that through prayer and
faith, man’s nature is changed, and made partaker of the Divine
nature; that there is taken out of him all reluctance to obey God,
and that his natural inability to keep God’s commandments, growing
out of his fallen and helpless state, is gloriously removed. By
this radical change which is wrought in his moral nature, a man
receives power to obey God in every way, and to yield full and
glad allegiance. Then he can say, “I delight to do Thy will, O my
God.” Not only is the rebellion incident to the natural man
removed, but a heart which gladly obeys God’s Word, blessedly
received.
If it be claimed, that the unrenewed man, with all the
disabilities of the Fall upon him, cannot obey God, there will be
no denial. But to declare that, after one is renewed by the Holy
Spirit, has received a new nature, and become a child of the King,
he cannot obey God, is to assume a ridiculous attitude, and to
display, moreover, a lamentable ignorance of the work and
implications of the Atonement.
Implicit and perfect obedience is the state to which the man
of prayer is called. “Lifting up holy hands, without wrath and
doubting,” is the condition of obedient praying. Here inward
fidelity and love, together with outward cleanness are put down as
concomitants of acceptable praying.
John gives the reason for answered prayer in the passage
previously quoted: “And whatsoever we ask we receive of Him
because we keep His commandments and do those things which are
pleasing in His sight.”
Seeing that the keeping of God’s commandments is here set
forth as the reason why He answers prayer, it is to be reasonably
assumed that we can keep God’s commandments, can do those things
which are pleasing to Him. Would God make the keeping of His
commandments a condition of effectual prayer, think you, if He
knew we could not keep His statutes? Surely, surely not!
Obedience can ask with boldness at the Throne of grace, and
those who exercise it are the only ones who can ask, after that
fashion. The disobedient folk are timid in their approach and
hesitant in their supplication. They are halted by reason of their
wrong-doing. The requesting yet obedient child comes into the
presence of his father with confidence and boldness. His very
consciousness of obedience gives him courage and frees him from
the dread born of disobedience.
To do God’s will without demur, is the joy as it is the
privilege of the successful praying-man. It is he who has clean
hands and a pure heart, that can pray with confidence. In the
Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter
into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My
Father which is in heaven.”
To this great deliverance may be added another:
“If ye keep My commandments ye shall abide in My love, even
as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.”
“The Christian’s trade,” says Luther, “is prayer.” But the
Christian has another trade to learn, before he proceeds to learn
the secrets of the trade of prayer. He must learn well the trade
of perfect obedience to the Father’s will. Obedience follows love,
and prayer follows obedience. The business of real observance of
God’s commandments inseparably accompanies the business of real
praying.
One who has been disobedient may pray. He may pray for
pardoning mercy and the peace of his soul. He may come to God’s
footstool with tears, with confession, with penitent heart, and
God will hear him and answer his prayer. But this kind of praying
does not belong to the child of God, but to the penitent sinner,
who has no other way by which to approach God. It is the
possession of the unjustified soul, not of him who has been saved
and reconciled to God.
An obedient life helps prayer. It speeds prayer to the
throne. God cannot help hearing the prayer of an obedient child.
He always has heard His obedient children when they have prayed.
Unquestioning obedience counts much in the sight of God, at the
throne of heavenly grace. It acts like the confluent tides of many
rivers, and gives volume and fulness of flow as well as power to
the prayer chamber. An obedient life is not simply a reformed
life. It is not the old life primed and painted anew nor a church-
going life, nor a good veneering of activities. Neither is it an
external conformation to the dictates of public morality. Far more
than all this is combined in a truly obedient Christian, God-
fearing life.
A life of full obedience; a life settled on the most intimate
terms with God; where the will is in full conformity to God’s
will; where the outward life shows the fruit of righteousness —
such a life offers no bar to the inner chamber but rather, like
Aaron and Hur, it lifts up and sustains the hands of prayer.
If you have an earnest desire to pray well, you must learn
how to obey well. If you have a desire to learn to pray, then you
must have an earnest desire to learn how to do God’s will. If you
desire to pray to God, you must first have a consuming desire to
obey Him. If you would have free access to God in prayer, then
every obstacle in the nature of sin or disobedience, must be
removed. God delights in the prayers of obedient children.
Requests coming from the lips of those who delight to do His will,
reach His ears with great celerity, and incline Him to answer them
with promptitude and abundance. In themselves, tears are not
meritorious. Yet they have their uses in prayer. Tears should
baptize our place of supplication. He who has never wept
concerning his sins, has never really prayed over his sins. Tears,
sometimes, is a penitent’s only plea. But tears are for the past,
for the sin and the wrongdoing. There is another step and stage,
waiting to be taken. It is that of unquestioning obedience, and
until it is taken, prayer for blessing and continued sustenance,
will be of no avail.
Everywhere in Holy Scripture God is represented as
disapproving of disobedience and condemning sin, and this is as
true in the lives of His elect as it is in the lives of sinners.
Nowhere does He countenance sin, or excuse disobedience. Always,
God puts the emphasis upon obedience to His commands. Obedience to
them brings blessing, disobedience meets with disaster. This is
true, in the Word of God, from its beginning to its close. It is
because of this, that the men of prayer, in Holy Writ, had such
influence with God. Obedient men, always, have been the closest to
God. These are they who have prayed well and have received great
things from God, who have brought great things to pass.
Obedience to God counts tremendously in the realm of prayer.
This fact cannot be emphasized too much or too often. To plead for
a religious faith which tolerates sinning, is to cut the ground
from under the feet of effectual praying. To excuse sinning by the
plea that obedience to God is not possible to unregenerate men, is
to discount the character of the new birth, and to place men where
effective praying is not possible. At one time Jesus broke out
with a very pertinent and personal question, striking right to the
core of disobedience, when He said: “Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord,
and do not the things I say?”
He who would pray, must obey. He who would get anything out
of his prayers, must be in perfect harmony with God. Prayer puts
into those who sincerely pray a spirit of obedience, for the
spirit of disobedience is not of God and belongs not to God’s
praying hosts.
An obedient life is a great help to prayer. In fact, an
obedient life is a necessity to prayer, to the sort which
accomplishes things. The absence of an obedient life makes prayer
an empty performance, a mere misnomer. A penitent sinner seeks
pardon and salvation and has an answer to his prayers even with a
life stained and debauched with sin. But God’s royal intercessors
come before Him with royal lives. Holy living promotes holy
praying. God’s intercessors “lift up holy hands,” the symbols of
righteous, obedient lives.

X. PRAYER AND OBEDIENCE (Continued)

“Many exemplary men have I known, holy in heart and life,
within my four score years. But one equal to John Fletcher — one
so inwardly and outwardly obedient and devoted to God — I have
not known.”  — John Wesley.

IT is worthy of note that the praying to which such transcendent
position is given and from which great results are attributable,
is not simply the saying of prayers, but holy praying. It is the
“prayers of the saints,” the prayers of the holy men of God.
Behind such praying, giving to it energy and flame are the men and
women who are wholly devoted to God, who are entirely separated
from sin, and fully separated unto God. These are they who always
give energy, force and strength to praying.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was preeminent in praying, because He
was preeminent in saintliness. An entire dedication to God, a full
surrender, which carries with it the whole being, in a flame of
holy consecration — all this gives wings to faith and energy to
prayer. It opens the door to the throne of grace, and brings
strong influence to bear on Almighty God.
The “lifting up of holy hands” is essential to Christly
praying. It is not, however, a holiness which only dedicates a
closet to God, which sets apart merely an hour to Him, but a
consecration which takes hold of the entire man, which dedicates
the whole life to God.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate
from sinners,” had full liberty of approach and ready access to
God in prayer. And He had this free and full access because of His
unquestioning obedience to His Father. Right through His earthly
life His supreme care and desire was to do the will of His Father.
And this fact, coupled with another — the consciousness of having
so ordered His life — gave Him confidence and assurance, which
enabled Him to draw near to the throne of grace with unbounded
confidence, born of obedience, and promising acceptance, audience,
and answer.
Loving obedience puts us where we can “ask anything in His
name,” with the assurance, that “He will do it.” Loving obedience
brings us into the prayer realm, and makes us beneficiaries of the
wealth of Christ, and of the riches of His grace, through the
coming of the Holy Spirit who will abide with us, and be in us.
Cheerful obedience to God, qualifies us to pray effectually.
This obedience which not only qualifies but fore-runs prayer,
must be loving, constant, always doing the Father’s will, and
cheerfully following the path of God’s commands.
In the instance of King Hezekiah, it was a potent plea which
changed God’s decree that he should die and not live. The stricken
ruler called upon God to remember how that he had walked before
Him in truth, and with a perfect heart. With God, this counted. He
hearkened to the petition, and, as a result, death found his
approach to Hezekiah barred for fifteen years.
Jesus learned obedience in the school of suffering, and, at
the same time, He learned prayer in the school of obedience. Just
as it is the prayer of a righteous man which availeth much, so it
is righteousness which is obedience to God. A righteous man is an
obedient man, and he it is, who can pray effectually, who can
accomplish great things when he betakes himself to his knees.
True praying, be it remembered, is not mere sentiment, nor
poetry, nor eloquent utterance. Nor does it consist of saying in
honeyed cadences, “Lord, Lord.” Prayer is not a mere form of
words; it is not just calling upon a Name. Prayer is obedience. It
is founded on the adamantine rock of obedience to God. Only those
who obey have the right to pray. Behind the praying must be the
doing; and it is the constant doing of God’s will in daily life
which gives prayer its potency, as our Lord plainly taught:
“Not every one which saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter
into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My
Father which is in heaven. Many will say unto Me in that day,
Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name, and in Thy Name have
cast out devils? And in Thy Name done many wonderful works? And
then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me,
ye that worketh iniquity.”
No name, however precious and powerful, can protect and give
efficiency to prayer which is unaccompanied by the doing of God’s
will. Neither can the doing, without the praying, protect from
Divine disapproval. If the will of God does not master the life,
the praying will be nothing but sickly sentiment. If prayer do not
inspire, sanctify and direct our work, then self-will enters, to
ruin both work and worker.
How great and manifold are the misconceptions of the true
elements and functionings of prayer! There are many who earnestly
desire to obtain an answer to their prayers but who go unrewarded
and unblest. They fix their minds on some promise of God and then
endeavour by dint of dogged perseverance, to summon faith
sufficient to lay hold upon, and claim it. This fixing of the mind
on some great promise may avail in strengthening faith, but, to
this holding on to the promise must be added the persistent and
importunate prayer that expects, and waits till faith grows
exceedingly. And who is there that is able and competent to do
such praying save the man who readily, cheerfully and continually,
obeys God?
Faith, in its highest form, is the attitude as well as the
act of a soul surrendered to God, in whom His Word and His Spirit
dwells. It is true that faith must exist in some form, or another,
in order to prompt praying; but in its strongest form, and in its
largest results, faith is the fruit of prayer. That faith
increases the ability and the efficiency of prayer is true; but it
is likewise true that prayer increases the ability and efficiency
of faith. Prayer and faith, work, act and react, one upon the
other.
Obedience to God helps faith as no other attribute possibly
can. When obedience — implicit recognition of the validity, the
paramountcy of the Divine commands — faith ceases to be an almost
superhuman task. It requires no straining to exercise it.
Obedience to God makes it easy to believe and trust God. Where the
spirit of obedience fully impregnates the soul; where the will is
perfectly surrendered to God; where there is a fixed, unalterable
purpose to obey God, faith almost believes itself. Faith then
becomes almost involuntary. After obedience it is, naturally, the
next step, and it is easily and readily taken. The difficulty in
prayer is not with faith, but with obedience, which is faith’s
foundation.
We must look well to our obedience, to the secret springs of
action, to the loyalty of our heart to God, if we would pray well,
and desire to get the most out of our praying. Obedience is the
groundwork of effectual praying; this it is, which brings us nigh
to God.
The lack of obedience in our lives breaks down our praying.
Quite often, the life is in revolt and this places us where
praying is almost impossible, except it be for pardoning mercy.
Disobedient living produces mighty poor praying. Disobedience
shuts the door of the inner chamber, and bars the way to the Holy
of holies. No man can pray — really pray — who does not obey.
The will must be surrendered to God as a primary condition of
all successful praying. Everything about us gets its colouring
from our inmost character. The secret will makes character and
controls conduct. The will, therefore, plays an important part in
all successful praying. There can be no praying in its richest
implication and truest sense, where the will is not wholly and
fully surrendered to God. This unswerving loyalty to God is an
utterly indispensable condition of the best, the truest, the most
effectual praying. We have “simply got to trust and obey; there’s
no other way, to be happy in Jesus — but to trust, and obey! ”

XI. PRAYER AND VIGILANCE

“David Brainerd was pursued by unearthly adversaries, who
were resolved to rob him of his guerdon. He knew he must never
quit his armour, but lie down to rest, with his corselet laced.
The stains that marred the perfection of his lustrous dress, the
spots of rust on his gleaming shield, are imperceptible to us; but
they were, to him, the source of much sorrow and ardency of
yearning.” — Life Of David Brainerd.

THE description of the Christian soldier given by Paul in the
sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, is compact and
comprehensive. He is depicted as being ever in the conflict, which
has many fluctuating seasons — seasons of prosperity and
adversity, light and darkness, victory and defeat. He is to pray
at all seasons, and with all prayer, this to be added to the
armour in which he is to fare forth to battle. At all times, he is
to have the full panoply of prayer. The Christian soldier, if he
fight to win, must pray much. By this means, only, is he enabled
to defeat his inveterate enemy, the devil, together with the Evil
One’s manifold emissaries. “Praying always, with all prayer,” is
the Divine direction given him. This covers all seasons, and
embraces all manner of praying.
Christian soldiers, fighting the good fight of faith, have
access to a place of retreat, to which they continually repair for
prayer. “Praying always, with all prayer,” is a clear statement of
the imperative need of much praying, and of many kinds of praying,
by him who, fighting the good fight of faith, would win out, in
the end, over all his foes.
The Revised Version puts it this way:
“With all prayer and supplication, praying at all seasons in
the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and
supplications, for all saints, and on my behalf, that utterance
may be given unto me, in opening my mouth to make known with
boldness the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am in bonds.”
It cannot be stated too frequently that the life of a
Christian is a warfare, an intense conflict, a lifelong contest.
It is a battle, moreover, waged against invisible foes, who are
ever alert, and ever seeking to entrap, deceive, and ruin the
souls of men. The life to which Holy Scripture calls men is no
picnic, or holiday junketing. It is no pastime, no pleasure jaunt.
It entails effort, wrestling, struggling; it demands the putting
forth of the full energy of the spirit in order to frustrate the
foe and to come off, at the last, more than conqueror. It is no
primrose path, no rose-scented dalliance. From start to finish, it
is war. From the hour in which he first draws sword, to that in
which he doffs his harness, the Christian warrior is compelled to
“endure hardness like a good soldier.”
What a misconception many people have of the Christian life!
How little the average church member appears to know of the
character of the conflict, and of its demands upon him! How
ignorant he seems to be of the enemies he must encounter, if he
engage to serve God faithfully and so succeed in getting to heaven
and receive the crown of life! He seems scarcely to realize that
the world, the flesh and the devil will oppose his onward march,
and will defeat him utterly, unless he give himself to constant
vigilance and unceasing prayer.
The Christian soldier wrestles not against flesh and blood,
but against spiritual wickedness in high places. Or, as the
Scriptural margin reads, “wicked spirits in high places.” What a
fearful array of forces are set against him who would make his way
through the wilderness of this world to the portals of the
Celestial City! It is no surprise, therefore, to find Paul, who
understood the character of the Christian life so well, and who
was so thoroughly informed as to the malignity and number of the
foes, which the disciple of the Lord must encounter, carefully and
plainly urging him to “put on the whole armour of God,” and “to
pray with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” Wise, with a
great wisdom, would the present generation be if all professors of
our faith could be induced to realize this all-important and vital
truth, which is so absolutely indispensable to a successful
Christian life.
It is just at this point in much present-day Christian
profession, that one may find its greatest defect. There is
little, or nothing, of the soldier element in it. The discipline,
self-denial, spirit of hardship, determination, so prominent in
and belonging to the military life, are, one and all, largely
wanting. Yet the Christian life is warfare, all the way.
How comprehensive, pointed and striking are all Paul’s
directions to the Christian soldier, who is bent on thwarting the
devil and saving his soul alive! First of all, he must possess a
clear idea of the character of the life on which he has entered.
Then, he must know something of his foes — the adversaries of his
immortal soul — their strength, their skill, their malignity.
Knowing, therefore, something of the character of the enemy, and
realizing the need of preparation to overcome them, he is prepared
to hear the Apostle’s decisive conclusion:
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in he power
of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able
to stand against the wiles of the devil. Wherefore, take unto you
the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand in the evil
day, and having done all, to stand.”
All these directions end in a climax; and that climax is
prayer. How can the brave warrior for Christ be made braver still?
How can the strong soldier be made stronger still? How can the
victorious battler be made still more victorious? Here are Paul’s
explicit directions to that end:
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the
Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and
supplication for all saints.”
Prayer, and more prayer, adds to the fighting qualities and
the more certain victories of God’s good fighting-men. The power
of prayer is most forceful on the battle-field amid the din and
strife of the conflict. Paul was preeminently a soldier of the
Cross. For him, life was no flowery bed of ease. He was no dress-
parade, holiday soldier, whose only business was to don a uniform
on set occasions. His was a life of intense conflict, the facing
of many adversaries, the exercise of unsleeping vigilance and
constant effort. And, at its close — in sight of the end — we
hear him chanting his final song of victory, a I have fought a
good fight,” and reading between the lines, we see that he is more
than conqueror!
In his Epistle to the Romans, Paul indicates the nature of
his soldier-life, giving us some views of the kind of praying
needed for such a career. He writes:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s
sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with
me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from
them that do not believe in Judaea.”
Paul had foes in Judaea — foes who beset and opposed him in
the form of “unbelieving men” and this, added to other weighty
reasons, led him to urge the Roman Christians to “strive with him
in prayer.” That word “strive” indicated wrestling, the putting
forth of great effort. This is the kind of effort, and this the
sort of spirit, which must possess the Christian soldier.
Here is a great soldier, a captain-general, in the great
struggle, faced by malignant forces who seek his ruin. His force
is well-nigh spent. What reinforcements can he count on? What can
give help and bring success to a warrior in such a pressing
emergency? It is a critical moment in the conflict. What force can
be added to the energy of his own prayers? The answer is — in the
prayers of others, even the prayers of his brethren who were at
Rome. These, he believes, will bring him additional aid, so that
he can win his fight, overcome his adversaries, and, ultimately,
prevail.
The Christian soldier is to pray at all seasons, and under
all circumstances. His praying must be arranged so as to cover his
times of peace as well as his hours of active conflict. It must be
available in his marching and his fighting. Prayer must diffuse
all effort, impregnate all ventures, decide all issues. The
Christian soldier must be as intense in his praying as in his
fighting, for his victories will depend very much more on his
praying than on his fighting. Fervent supplication must be added
to steady resolve, prayer and supplication must supplement the
armour of God. The Holy Spirit must aid the supplication with His
own strenuous plea. And the soldier must pray in the Spirit. In
this, as in other forms of warfare, eternal vigilance is the price
of victory; and thus, watchfulness and persistent perseverance,
must mark the every activity of the Christian warrior.
The soldier-prayer must reflect its profound concern for the
success and well-being of the whole army. The battle is not
altogether a personal matter; victory cannot be achieved for self,
alone. There is a sense, in which the entire army of Christ is
involved. The cause of God, His saints, their woes and trials,
their duties and crosses, all should find a voice and a pleader in
the Christian soldier, when he prays. He dare not limit his
praying to himself. Nothing dries up spiritual secretions so
certainly and completely; nothing poisons the fountain of
spiritual life so effectively; nothing acts in such deadly
fashion, as selfish praying.
Note carefully that the Christian’s armour will avail him
nothing, unless prayer be added. This is the pivot, the connecting
link of the armour of God. This holds it together, and renders it
effective. God’s true soldier plans his campaigns, arranges his
battle-forces, and conducts his conflicts, with prayer. It is all
important and absolutely essential to victory, that prayer should
so impregnate the life that every breath will be a petition, every
sigh a supplication. The Christian soldier must needs be always
fighting. He should, of sheer necessity, be always praying.
The Christian soldier is compelled to constant picket-duty.
He must always be on his guard. He is faced by a foe who never
sleeps, who is always alert, and ever prepared to take advantage
of the fortunes of war. Watchfulness is a cardinal principle with
Christ’s warrior, “watch and pray,” forever sounding in his ears.
He cannot dare to be asleep at his post. Such a lapse brings him
not only under the displeasure of the Captain of his salvation,
but exposes him to added danger. Watchfulness, therefore,
imperatively constitutes the duty of the soldier of the Lord.
In the New Testament, there are three different words, which
are translated “watch.” The first means “absence of sleep,” and
implies a wakeful frame of mind, as opposed to listlessness; it is
an enjoinder to keep awake, circumspect, attentive, constant,
vigilant. The second word means “fully awake,” — a state induced
by some rousing effort, which faculty excited to attention and
interest, active, cautious, lest through carelessness or
indolence, some destructive calamity should suddenly evolve. The
third word means “to be calm and collected in spirit,”
dispassionate, untouched by slumberous or beclouding influences, a
wariness against all pitfalls and beguilements.
All three definitions are used by St. Paul. Two of them are
employed in connection with prayer. Watchfulness intensified, is a
requisite for prayer. Watchfulness must guard and cover the whole
spiritual man, and fit him for prayer. Everything resembling
unpreparedness or non-vigilance, is death to prayer.
In Ephesians, Paul gives prominence to the duty of constant
watchfulness, “Watching thereunto with all perseverance and
supplication.” Watch, he says, watch, WATCH! “And what I say unto
you, I say unto all, Watch.”
Sleepless wakefulness is the price one must pay for victory
over his spiritual foes. Rest assured that the devil never falls
asleep. He is ever “walking about, seeking whom he may devour.”
Just as a shepherd must never be careless and unwatchful lest the
wolf devour his sheep, so the Christian soldier must ever have his
eyes wide open, implying his possession of a spirit which neither
slumbers nor grows careless. The inseparable companions and
safeguards of prayer are vigilance, watchfulness, and a mounted
guard. In writing to the Colossians Paul brackets these
inseparable qualities together: “Continue in prayer,” he enjoins,
“and watch in the same, with thanksgiving.”
When will Christians more thoroughly learn the twofold
lesson, that they are called to a great warfare, and that in order
to get the victory they must give themselves to unsleeping
watchfulness and unceasing prayer?
“Be sober, be vigilant,” says Peter, “because your adversary,
the devil, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.”
God’s Church is a militant host. Its warfare is with unseen
forces of evil. God’s people compose an army fighting to establish
His kingdom in the earth. Their aim is to destroy the sovereignty
of Satan, and over its ruins, erect the Kingdom of God, which is
“righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” This militant
army is composed of individual soldiers of the Cross, and the
armour of God is needed for its defence. Prayer must be added as
that which crowns the whole.

“Stand then in His great might,
With all His strength endued;
But take, to arm you for the fight,
The panoply of God.”

Prayer is too simple, too evident a duty, to need definition.
Necessity gives being and shape to prayer. Its importance is so
absolute, that the Christian soldier’s life, in all the breadth
and intensity of it, should be one of prayer. The entire life of a
Christian soldier — its being, intention, implication and action
— are all dependent on its being a life of prayer. Without prayer
— no matter what else he have — the Christian soldier’s life
will be feeble, and ineffective, and constitute him an easy prey
for his spiritual enemies.
Christian experience will be sapless, and Christian influence
will be dry and arid, unless prayer has a high place in the life.
Without prayer the Christian graces will wither and die. Without
prayer, we may add, preaching is edgeless and a vain thing, and
the Gospel loses its wings and its loins. Christ is the lawgiver
of prayer, and Paul is His Apostle of prayer. Both declare its
primacy and importance, and demonstrate the fact of its
indispensability. Their prayer-directions cover all places,
include all times, and comprehend all things. How, then, can the
Christian soldier hope or dream of victory, unless he be fortified
by its power? How can he fail, if in addition to putting on the
armour of God he be, at all times and seasons, “watching unto
prayer”?

XII. PRAYER AND THE WORD OF GOD

“How constantly, in the Scriptures, do we encounter such
words as ‘field,’ ‘seed,’ ‘sower,’ ‘reaper,’ ‘seed-time,’
‘harvest’! Employing such metaphors interprets a fact of nature by
a parable of grace. The field is the world and the good seed is
the Word of God .Whether the Word be spoken or written, it is the
power of God unto salvation. In our work of evangelism, the whole
world is our field, every creature the object of effort and every
book and tract, a seed of God.” — David Fant, Jr.

GOD’S Word is a record of prayer — of praying men and their
achievements, of the Divine warrant of prayer and of the
encouragement given to those who pray. No one can read the
instances, commands, examples, multiform statements which concern
themselves with prayer, without realizing that the cause of God,
and the success of His work in this world is committed to prayer;
that praying men have been God’s vicegerents on earth; that
prayerless men have never been used of Him.
A reverence for God’s holy Name is closely related to a high
regard for His Word. This hallowing of God’s Name; the ability to
do His will on earth, as it is done in heaven; the establishment
and glory of God’s kingdom, are as much involved in prayer, as
when Jesus taught men the Universal Prayer. That “men ought always
to pray and not to faint,” is as fundamental to God’s cause,
today, as when Jesus Christ enshrined that great truth in the
immortal settings of the Parable of the Importunate Widow.
As God’s house is called “the house of prayer,” because
prayer is the most important of its holy offices; so by the same
token, the Bible may be called the Book of Prayer. Prayer is the
great theme and content of its message to mankind.
God’s Word is the basis, as it is the directory of the prayer
of faith. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all
wisdom,” says St. Paul, “teaching and admonishing one another in
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your
hearts to the Lord.”
As this word of Christ dwelling in us richly is transmuted
and assimilated, it issues in praying. Faith is constructed of the
Word and the Spirit, and faith is the body and substance of
prayer.
In many of its aspects, prayer is dependent upon the Word of
God. Jesus says:
“If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask
what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
The Word of God is the fulcrum upon which the lever of prayer
is placed, and by which things are mightily moved. God has
committed Himself, His purpose and His promise to prayer. His Word
becomes the basis, the inspiration of our praying, and there are
circumstances under which, by importunate prayer, we may obtain an
addition, or an enlargement of His promises. It is said of the old
saints that they, “through faith obtained promises.” There would
seem to be in prayer the capacity for going even beyond the Word,
of getting even beyond His promise, into the very presence of God,
Himself.
Jacob wrestled, not so much with a promise, as with the
Promiser. We must take hold of the Promiser, lest the promise
prove nugatory. Prayer may well be defined as that force which
vitalizes and energizes the Word of God, by taking hold of God,
Himself. By taking hold of the Promiser, prayer reissues, and
makes personal the promise. “There is none that stirreth up
himself to take hold of Me,” is God’s sad lament. “Let him take
hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me,” is God’s
recipe for prayer.
By Scriptural warrant, prayer may be divided into the
petition of faith and that of submission. The prayer of faith is
based on the written Word, for “faith cometh by hearing, and
hearing by the Word of God.” It receives its answer, inevitably —
the very thing for which it prays.
The prayer of submission is without a definite word of
promise, so to speak, but takes hold of God with a lowly and
contrite spirit, and asks and pleads with Him, for that which the
soul desires. Abraham had no definite promise that God would spare
Sodom. Moses had no definite promise that God would spare Israel;
on the contrary, there was the declaration of His wrath, and of
His purpose to destroy. But the devoted leader gained his plea
with God, when he interceded for the Israelites with incessant
prayers and many tears. Daniel had no definite promise that God
would reveal to him the meaning of the king’s dream, but he prayed
specifically, and God answered definitely.
The Word of God is made effectual and operative, by the
process and practice of prayer. The Word of the Lord came to
Elijah, “Go show thyself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the
earth.” Elijah showed himself to Ahab; but the answer to his
prayer did not come, until he had pressed his fiery prayer upon
the Lord seven times.
Paul had the definite promise from Christ, that he “would be
delivered from the people and the Gentiles,” but we find him
exhorting the Romans in the urgent and solemn manner concerning
this very matter:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s
sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with
me in your prayers to God for me; that I may be delivered from
them that do not believe in Judaea, and that my service which I
have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints.”
The Word of God is a great help in prayer. If it be lodged
and written in our hearts, it will form an outflowing current of
prayer, full and irresistible. Promises, stored in the heart, are
to be the fuel from which prayer receives life and warmth, just as
the coal, stored in the earth, ministers to our comfort on stormy
days and wintry nights. The Word of God is the food, by which
prayer is nourished and made strong. Prayer, like man, cannot live
by bread alone, “but by every word which proceedeth out of the
mouth of the Lord.”
Unless the vital forces of prayer are supplied by God’s Word,
prayer, though earnest, even vociferous, in its urgency, is, in
reality, flabby, and vapid, and void. The absence of vital force
in praying, can be traced to the absence of a constant supply of
God’s Word, to repair the waste, and renew the life. He who would
learn to pray well, must first study God’s Word, and store it in
his memory and thought.
When we consult God’s Word, we find that no duty is more
binding, more exacting, than that of prayer. On the other hand, we
discover that no privilege is more exalted, no habit more richly
owned of God. No promises are more radiant, more abounding, more
explicit, more often reiterated, than those which are attached to
prayer. “All things, whatsoever” are received by prayer, because
“all things whatsoever” are promised. There is no limit to the
provisions, included in the promises to prayer, and no exclusion
from its promises. “Every one that asketh, receiveth.” The word of
our Lord is to this all-embracing effect: “If ye shall ask
anything in My Name, I will do it.”
Here are some of the comprehensive, and exhaustive statements
of the Word of God about prayer, the things to be taken in by
prayer, the strong promise made in answer to prayer:
“Pray without ceasing;” “continue in prayer;” “continuing
instant in prayer;” “in everything by prayer, let your request be
made known unto God;” “pray always, pray and not faint;” “men
should pray everywhere;” “praying always, with all prayer and
supplication.”
What clear and strong statements are those which are put in
the Divine record, to furnish us with a sure basis of faith, and
to urge, constrain and encourage us to pray! How wide the range of
prayer, as given us, in the Divine Revelation! How these
Scriptures incite us to seek the God of prayer, with all our
wants, with all our burdens!
In addition to these statements left on record for our
encouragement, the sacred pages teem with facts, examples,
incidents, and observations, stressing the importance and the
absolute necessity of prayer, and putting emphasis on its all-
prevailing power.
The utmost reach and full benefit of the rich promises of the
Word of God, should humbly be received by us, and put to the test.
The world will never receive the full benefits of the Gospel until
this be done. Neither Christian experience nor Christian living
will be what they ought to be till these Divine promises have been
fully tested by those who pray. By prayer, we bring these promises
of God’s holy will into the realm of the actual and the real.
Prayer is the philosopher’s stone which transmutes them into gold.
If it be asked, what is to be done in order to render God’s
promises real, the answer is, that we must pray, until the words
of the promise are clothed upon with the rich raiment of
fulfilment.
God’s promises are altogether too large to be mastered by
desultory praying. When we examine ourselves, all too often, we
discover that our praying does not rise to the demands of the
situation; is so limited that it is little more than a mere oasis
amid the waste and desert of the world’s sin. Who of us, in our
praying, measures up to this promise of our Lord:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the
works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these
shall he do, because I go to My Father.”
How comprehensive, how far reaching, how all-embracing! How
much is here, for the glory of God, how much for the good of man!
How much for the manifestation of Christ’s enthroned power, how
much for the reward of abundant faith! And how great and gracious
are the results which can be made to accrue from the exercise of
commensurate, believing prayer!
Look, for a moment, at another of God’s great promises, and
discover how we may be undergirded by the Word as we pray, and on
what firm ground we may stand on which to make our petitions to
our God:
“If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask
what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
In these comprehensive words, God turns Himself over to the
will of His people. When Christ becomes our all-in-all, prayer
lays God’s treasures at our feet. Primitive Christianity had an
easy and practical solution of the situation, and got all which
God had to give. That simple and terse solution is recorded in
John’s First Epistle:
“Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His
commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in His
sight.”
Prayer, coupled with loving obedience, is the way to put God
to the test, and to make prayer answer all ends and all things.
Prayer, joined to the Word of God, hallows and makes sacred all
God’s gifts. Prayer is not simply to get things from God, but to
make those things holy, which already have been received from Him.
It is not merely to get a blessing, but also to be able to give a
blessing. Prayer makes common things holy and secular things,
sacred. It receives things from God with thanksgiving and hallows
them with thankful hearts, and devoted service.
In the First Epistle to Timothy, Paul gives us these words:
“For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be
refused, if it be received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified
by the word of God and prayer.”
That is a statement which gives a negative to mere
asceticism. God’s good gifts are to be holy, not only by God’s
creative power, but, also, because they are made holy to us by
prayer. We receive them, appropriate them and sanctify them by
prayer.
Doing God’s will, and having His Word abiding in us, is an
imperative of effectual praying. But, it may be asked, how are we
to know what God’s will is? The answer is, by studying His Word,
by hiding it in our hearts, and by letting the Word dwell in us
richly. “The entrance of Thy word, giveth light.”
To know God’s will in prayer, we must be filled with God’s
Spirit, who maketh intercession for the saints, and in the saints,
according to the will of God. To be filled with God’s Spirit, to
be filled with God’s Word, is to know God’s will. It is to be put
in such a frame of mind, to be found in such a state of heart, as
will enable us to read and interpret aright the purposes of the
Infinite. Such filling of the heart, with the Word and the Spirit,
gives us an insight into the will of the Father, and enables us to
rightly discern His will, and puts within us, a disposition of
mind and heart to make it the guide and compass of our lives.
Epaphras prayed that the Colossians might stand “perfect and
complete in all the will of God.” This is proof positive that, not
only may we know the will of God, but that we may know all the
will of God. And not only may we know all the will of God, but we
may do all the will of God. We may, moreover, do all the will of
God, not occasionally, or by a mere impulse, but with a settled
habit of conduct. Still further, it shows us that we may not only
do the will of God externally, but from the heart, doing it
cheerfully, without reluctance, or secret disinclination, or any
drawing or holding back from the intimate presence of the Lord.

XIII. PRAYER AND THE WORD OF GOD (Continued)

“Some years ago a man was travelling in the wilds of
Kentucky. He had with him a large sum of money and was well armed.
He put up at a log-house one night, but was much concerned with
the rough appearance of the men who came and went from this abode.
He retired early but not to sleep. At midnight he heard the dogs
barking furiously and the sound of someone entering the cabin.
Peering through a chink in the boards of his room, he saw a
stranger with a gun in his hand. Another man sat before the fire.
The traveller concluded they were planning to rob him, and
prepared to defend himself and his property. Presently the
newcomer took down a copy of the Bible, read a chapter aloud, and
then knelt down and prayed. The traveller dismissed his fears, put
his revolver away and lay down, to sleep peacefully until morning
light. And all because a Bible was in the cabin, and its owner a
man of prayer.” — Rev. F. F. Shoup.

PRAYER has all to do with the success of the preaching of the
Word. This, Paul clearly teaches in that familiar and pressing
request he made to the Thessalonians:
“Finally, brethren, pray for us that the Word of the Lord may
have free course, and be glorified.”
Prayer opens the way for the Word of God to run without let
or hindrance, and creates the atmosphere which is favourable to
the word accomplishing its purpose. Prayer puts wheels under God’s
Word, and gives wings to the angel of the Lord “having the
everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth,
and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” Prayer
greatly helps the Word of the Lord.
The Parable of the Sower is a notable study of preaching,
showing its differing effects and describing the diversity of
hearers. The wayside hearers are legion. The soil lies all
unprepared either by previous thought or prayer; as a consequence,
the devil easily takes away the seed (which is the Word of God)
and dissipating all good impressions, renders the work of the
sower futile. No one for a moment believes, that so much of
present-day sowing would go fruitless if only the hearers would
prepare the ground of their hearts beforehand by prayer and
meditation.
Similarly with the stony-ground hearers, and the thorny-
ground hearers. Although the word lodges in their hearts and
begins to sprout, yet all is lost, chiefly because there is no
prayer or watchfulness or cultivation following. The good-ground
hearers are profited by the sowing, simply because their minds
have been prepared for the reception of the seed, and that, after
hearing, they have cultivated the seed sown in their hearts, by
the exercise of prayer. All this gives peculiar emphasis to the
conclusion of this striking parable: “Take heed, therefore, how ye
hear.” And in order that we may take heed how we hear, it is
needful to give ourselves continually to prayer.
We have got to believe that underlying God’s Word is prayer,
and upon prayer, its final success will depend. In the Book of
Isaiah we read:
“So shall My word be that goeth out of My mouth; it shall not
return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please,
and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
In Psalm 19, David magnifies the Word of God in six
statements concerning it. It converts the soul, makes wise the
simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, endures
eternally, and is true and righteous altogether. The Word of God
is perfect, sure, right, pure. It is heart-searching, and at the
same time purifying, in its effect. It is no surprise therefore
that after considering the deep spirituality of the Word of God,
its power to search the inner nature of man, and its deep purity,
the Psalmist should close his dissertation with this passage:
“Who can understand his errors?” And then praying after this
fashion: “Cleanse Thou me from secret faults. Keep back Thy
servant also from presumptuous sins. Let them not have dominion
over me. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my
heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my
redeemer.”
James recognizes the deep spirituality of the Word, and its
inherent saving power, in the following exhortation:
“Wherefore, lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of
naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which
is able to save your souls.”
And Peter talks along the same line, when describing the
saving power of the Word of God:
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of
incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth
forever.”
Not only does Peter speak of being born again, by the
incorruptible Word of God, but he informs us that to grow in grace
we must be like new-born babes, desiring or feeding upon the
“sincere milk of the Word.”
That is not to say, however, that the mere form of words as
they occur in the Bible have in them any saving efficacy. But the
Word of God, be it remembered, is impregnated with the Holy
Spirit. And just as there is a Divine element in the words of
Scripture, so also is the same Divine element to be found in all
true preaching of the Word, which is able to save and convert the
soul.
Prayer invariably begets a love for the Word of God, and sets
people to the reading of it. Prayer leads people to obey the Word
of God, and puts into the heart which obeys a joy unspeakable.
Praying people and Bible-reading people are the same sort of folk.
The God of the Bible and the God of prayer are one. God speaks to
man in the Bible; man speaks to God in prayer. One reads the Bible
to discover God’s will; he prays in order that he may receive
power to do that will. Bible-reading and praying are the
distinguishing traits of those who strive to know and please God.
And just as prayer begets a love for the Scriptures, and sets
people to reading the Bible, so, also, does prayer cause men and
women to visit the house of God, to hear the Scriptures expounded.
Church-going is closely connected with the Bible, not so much
because the Bible cautions us against “forsaking the assembling of
ourselves together as the manner of some is,” but because in God’s
house, God’s chosen minister declares His Word to dying men,
explains the Scriptures, and enforces their teachings upon his
hearers. And prayer germinates a resolve, in those who practise
it, not to forsake the house of God.
Prayer begets a church-going conscience, a church-loving
heart, a church-supporting spirit. It is the praying people, who
make it a matter of conscience, to attend the preaching of the
Word; who delight in its reading; exposition; who support it with
their influence and their means. Prayer exalts the Word of God and
gives it preeminence in the estimation of those who faithfully and
wholeheartedly call upon the Name of the Lord.
Prayer draws its very life from the Bible, and has no
standing ground outside of the warrant of the Scriptures. Its very
existence and character is dependent on revelation made by God to
man in His holy Word. Prayer, in turn, exalts this same
revelation, and turns men toward that Word. The nature, necessity
and all-comprehending character of prayer, is based on the Word of
God.
Psalm 119 is a directory of God’s Word. With three or four
exceptions, each verse contains a word which identifies, or
locates, the Word of God. Quite often, the writer breaks out into
supplication, several times praying, “Teach me Thy statutes.” So
deeply impressed is he with the wonders of God’s Word, and of the
need for Divine illumination wherewith to see and understand the
wonderful things recorded therein, that he fervently prays:
“Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out
of Thy law.”
From the opening of this wonderful Psalm to its close, prayer
and God’s Word are intertwined. Almost every phase of God’s Word
is touched upon by this inspired writer. So thoroughly convinced
was the Psalmist of the deep spiritual power of the Word of God
that he makes this declaration:
“Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against
Thee.”
Here the Psalmist found his protection against sinning. By
having God’s Word hidden in his heart; in having his whole being
thoroughly impregnated with that Word; in being brought completely
under its benign and gracious influence, he was enabled to walk to
and fro in the earth, safe from the attack of the Evil One, and
fortified against a proneness to wander out of the way.
We find, furthermore, the power of prayer to create a real
love for the Scriptures, and to put within men a nature which will
take pleasure in the Word. In holy ecstasy he cries, “O, how I
love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day.” And again: “How
sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my
taste.”
Would we have a relish for God’s Word? Then let us give
ourselves continually to prayer. He who would have a heart for the
reading of the Bible must not — dare not — forget to pray. The
man of whom it can be said, “His delight is in the law of the
Lord,” is the man who can truly say, “I delight to visit the place
of prayer.” No man loves the Bible, who does not love to pray. No
man loves to pray, who does not delight in the law of the Lord.
Our Lord was a man of prayer, and He magnified the Word of
God, quoting often from the Scriptures. Right through His earthly
life Jesus observed Sabbath-keeping, church-going and the reading
of the Word of God, and had prayer intermingled with them all:
“And He came to Nazareth where He had been brought up, and as
His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath Day, and
stood up to read.”
Here, let it be said, that no two things are more essential
to a spirit-filled life than Bible-reading and secret prayer; no
two things more helpful to growth in grace; to getting the largest
joy out of a Christian life; toward establishing one in the ways
of eternal peace. The neglect of these all-important duties,
presages leanness of soul, loss of joy, absence of peace, dryness
of spirit, decay in all that pertains to spiritual life.
Neglecting these things paves the way for apostasy, and gives the
Evil One an advantage such as he is not likely to ignore. Reading
God’s Word regularly, and praying habitually in the secret place
of the Most High puts one where he is absolutely safe from the
attacks of the enemy of souls, and guarantees him salvation and
final victory, through the overcoming power of the Lamb.

XIV. PRAYER AND THE HOUSE OF GOD

“And dear to me the loud ‘Amen,’
Which echoes through the blest abode —
Which swells, and sinks, then swells again,
Dies on the walls — but lives with God! ”

PRAYER stands related to places, times, occasions and
circumstances. It has to do with God and with everything which is
related to God, and it has an intimate and special relationship to
His house. A church is a sacred place, set apart from all
unhallowed and secular uses, for the worship of God. As worship is
prayer, the house of God is a place set apart for worship. It is
no common place; it is where God dwells, where He meets with His
people, and He delights in the worship of His saints.
Prayer is always in place in the house of God. When prayer is
a stranger there, then it ceases to be God’s house at all. Our
Lord put peculiar emphasis upon what the Church was when He cast
out the buyers and sellers in the Temple, repeating the words from
Isaiah, “It is written, My house shall be called the house of
prayer.” He makes prayer preeminent, that which stands out above
all else in the house of God. They, who sidetrack prayer or seek
to minify it, and give it a secondary place, pervert the Church of
God, and make it something less and other than it is ordained to
be.
Prayer is perfectly at home in the house of God. It is no
stranger, no mere guest; it belongs there. It has a peculiar
affinity for the place, and has, moreover, a Divine right there,
being set, therein, by Divine appointment and approval.
The inner chamber is a sacred place for personal worship. The
house of God is a holy place for united worship. The prayer-closet
is for individual prayer. The house of God is for mutual prayer,
concerted prayer, united prayer. Yet even in the house of God,
there is the element of private worship, since God’s people are to
worship Him and pray to Him, personally, even in public worship.
The Church is for the united prayer of kindred, yet individual
believers.
The life, power and glory of the Church is prayer. The life
of its members is dependent on prayer and the presence of God is
secured and retained by prayer. The very place is made sacred by
its ministry. Without it, the Church is lifeless and powerless.
Without it, even the building, itself, is nothing, more or other,
than any other structure. Prayer converts even the bricks, and
mortar, and lumber, into a sanctuary, a holy of holies, where the
Shekinah dwells. It separates it, in spirit and in purpose from
all other edifices. Prayer gives a peculiar sacredness to the
building, sanctifies it, sets it apart for God, conserves it from
all common and mundane affairs.
With prayer, though the house of God might be supposed to
lack everything else, it becomes a Divine sanctuary. So the
Tabernacle, moving about from place to place, became the holy of
holies, because prayer was there. Without prayer the building may
be costly, perfect in all its appointments, beautiful for
situation and attractive to the eye, but it comes down to the
human, with nothing Divine in it, and is on a level with all other
buildings.
Without prayer, a church is like a body without spirit; it is
a dead, inanimate thing. A church with prayer in it, has God in
it. When prayer is set aside, God is outlawed. When prayer becomes
an unfamiliar exercise, then God Himself is a stranger there.
As God’s house is a house of prayer, the Divine intention is
that people should leave their homes and go to meet Him in His own
house. The building is set apart for prayer especially, and as God
has made special promise to meet His people there, it is their
duty to go there, and for that specific end. Prayer should be the
chief attraction for all spiritually minded church-goers. While it
is conceded that the preaching of the Word has an important place
in the house of God, yet prayer is its predominating,
distinguishing feature. Not that all other places are sinful, or
evil, in themselves or in their uses. But they are secular and
human, having no special conception of God in them. The Church is,
essentially, religious and Divine. The work belonging to other
places is done without special reference to God. He is not
specifically recognized, nor called upon. In the Church, however,
God is acknowledged, and nothing is done without Him. Prayer is
the one distinguishing mark of the house of God. As prayer
distinguishes Christian from unchristian people, so prayer
distinguishes God’s house from all other houses. It is a place
where faithful believers meet with their Lord.
As God’s house is, preeminently, a house of prayer, prayer
should enter into and underlie everything that is undertaken
there. Prayer be longs to every sort of work appertaining to the
Church of God. As God’s house is a house where the business of
praying is carried on, so is it a place where the business of
making praying people out of prayerless people is done. The house
of God is a Divine workshop, and there the work of prayer goes on.
Or the house of God is a Divine schoolhouse, in which the lesson
of prayer is taught; where men and women learn to pray, and where
they are graduated, in the school of prayer.
Any church calling itself the house of God, and failing to
magnify prayer; which does not put prayer in the forefront of its
activities; which does not teach the great lesson of prayer,
should change its teaching to conform to the Divine pattern or
change the name of its building to something other than a house of
prayer.
On an earlier page, we made reference to the finding of the
Book of the Law of the Lord given to Moses. How long that book had
been there, we do not know. But when tidings of its discovery were
carried to Josiah, he rent his clothes and was greatly disturbed.
He lamented the neglect of God’s Word and saw, as a natural
result, the iniquity which abounded throughout the land.
And then, Josiah thought of God, and commanded Hilkiah, the
priest, to go and make inquiry of the Lord. Such neglect of the
Word of the Law was too serious a matter to be treated lightly,
and God must be enquired of, and repentance shown, by himself, and
the nation:
“Go enquire of the Lord for me, and for them that are left in
Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is
found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out upon
us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do
after all that is written in this book.”
But that was not all. Josiah was bent on promoting a revival
of religion in his kingdom, so we find him gathering all the
elders of Jerusalem and Judah together, for that purpose. When
they had come together, the king went into the house of the Lord,
and himself read in all the words of the Book of the Covenant that
was found in the house of the Lord.
With this righteous king, God’s Word was of great importance.
He esteemed it at its proper worth, and counted a knowledge of it
to be of such grave importance, as to demand his consulting God in
prayer about it, and to warrant the gathering together of the
notables of his kingdom, so that they, together with himself,
should be instructed out of God’s Book concerning God’s Law.
When Ezra, returned from Babylon, was seeking the
reconstruction of his nation, the people, themselves, were alive
to the situation, and, on one occasion, the priests, Levites and
people assembled themselves together as one man before the water
gate.
“And they spake unto Ezra the scribe, to bring the book of
the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel. And Ezra
the priest brought the law before the congregation, both of men
and women, and all that could hear with understanding. And he read
therein before the street that was before the water gate from the
morning until midday; and the ears of all the people were
attentive unto the book of the law.”
This was Bible-reading Day in Judah — a real revival of
Scripture-study. The leaders read the law before the people, whose
ears were keen to hear what God had to say to them out of the Book
of the Law. But it was not only a Bible-reading day. It was a time
when real preaching was done, as the following passage indicates:
“So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly and
gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.”
Here then is the Scriptural definition of preaching. No
better definition can be given. To read the Word of God distinctly
— to read it so that the people could hear and understand the
words read; not to mumble out the words, nor read it in an
undertone or with indistinctness, but boldly and clearly — that
was the method followed in Jerusalem, on this auspicious day.
Moreover: the sense of the words was made clear in the meeting
held before the water gate; the people were treated to a high type
of expository preaching. That was true preaching — preaching of a
sort which is sorely needed, today, in order that God’s Word may
have due effect on the hearts of the people. This meeting in
Jerusalem surely contains a lesson which all present-day preachers
should learn and heed.
No one having any knowledge of the existing facts, will deny
the comparative lack of expository preaching in the pulpit effort
of today. And none, we should, at least, imagine, will do other
than lament the lack. Topical preaching, polemical preaching,
historical preaching, and other forms of sermonic output have, one
supposes, their rightful and opportune uses. But expository
preaching — the prayerful expounding of the Word of God is
preaching that is preaching — pulpit effort par excellence.
For its successful accomplishment, however, a preacher needs
must be a man of prayer. For every hour spent in his study-chair,
he will have to spend two upon his knees. For every hour he
devotes to wrestling with an obscure passage of Holy Writ, he must
have two in the which to be found wrestling with God. Prayer and
preaching: preaching and prayer! They cannot be separated. The
ancient cry was: “To your tents, O Israel! “The modern cry should
be: “To your knees, O preachers, to your knees!”

Digitized by Harry Plantinga, 1994.
This etext is in the public domain.
From the uncopyrighted 1976 Baker Book House edition,
ISBN 0-8010-0659-7.

 

E.M. Bounds by David Smithers

E.M. Bounds

PRAYER MAKES HISTORY
by David Smithers

 

E. M. Bounds in his book “Prayer and Praying Men”, wrote “Elijah learned new and higher lessons of prayer while hidden away by God and with God . . ” This statement is certainly also true of its author. E. M. Bounds was a man hidden away by God and with God in prayer. During his lifetime he never attracted a large following or gained the success and reputation that one might expect. After forty-six years of faithful ministry he still was virtually unknown. Out of the eight classics on prayer he wrote, only two were published during his lifetime. Though hidden and unrecognized while alive, E.M. Bounds is now considered by most evangelicals as the most prolific and fervent author on the subject of prayer.

E. M. Bounds was born on August 15th, 1835 and died on August 24th, 1913. Some may be surprised by this fact, assuming Bounds to be a contemporary author, because of his clear and forthright writing style. As a young man E. M. Bounds practiced law until feeling called to the ministry. He was ordained a Methodist minister in 1859. E. M. Bounds also served as a Confederate Army Chaplain during the Civil War. As a result he was captured and held as a prisoner of war for a short time. After his incarceration, Bounds returned to Franklin, Tennessee, where he and Confederate Troops had suffered a bloody defeat. Bounds could not forget about Franklin, where so many had been ravaged by the Civil War. “When Brother Bounds came to Franklin he found the Church in a wretched state”. Immediately he sought out a half-dozen men who really believed in the power of prayer. Every Tuesday night they got on their knees to pray for revival, for themselves, the Church and the town. “For over a year this faithful band called upon the Lord until God finally answered by fire. The revival came down without any previous announcement or plan, and without the pastor sending for an evangelist to help him.”

It became increasingly apparent that E. M. Bounds was gifted in building and reviving the Church. This prophet of prayer often made preachers uncomfortable with his call for holiness and his attacks on lusting for money, prestige and power. “His constant call for revival annoyed those who believed that the Church was essentially sound . . .” God gave him a great prayer commission, requiring daily intercession. He labored in prayer for the sanctification of preachers, revival of the Church in North America and the spread of holiness among professing Christians. He spent a minimum of three to four hours a day in fervent prayer. “Sometimes the venerable mystic would lie flat on his back and talk to God; but many hours were spent on his knees or lying face down where he could be heard weeping . . .”

W. H. Hodge, who is responsible for putting most of Bounds’ writings into print, gives us some personal insights into Bounds’ life. He writes, “I have been among many ministers and slept in the same room with them for several years. They prayed, but I was never impressed with any special praying among them until one day a small man with gray hair and an eye like an eagle came along. We had a ten day convention. We had some fine preachers around the home, and one of them was assigned to my room. I was surprised early next morning to see a man bathing himself before day and then see him get down and begin to pray. I said to myself, ‘He will not disturb us, but will soon finish’, he kept on softly for hours, interceding and weeping softly, for me and my indifference, and for all the ministers of God. He spoke the next day on prayer. I became interested for I was young in the ministry, and had often desired to meet with a man of God that prayed like the saints of the Apostolic age. Next morning he was up praying again, and for ten days he was up early praying for hours. I became intensely interested and thanked God for sending him. ‘At last,’ I said, I have found a man that really prays. I shall never let him go. He drew me to him with hooks of steel.”

In closing let us consider some of E. M. Bounds’ remarks on revival, “Revivals are among the charter rights of the Church . . . A revival means a heartbroken pastor. A revival means a church on its knees confessing its sins – the sins of the individual and of the Church – confessing the sins of the times and of the community.”

References Used: E. M. Bounds the Man of Prayer  by Lyle Wesley Dorsett, Prayer and Revival  by E. M. Bounds, Purpose in Prayer  by E. M. Bounds