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An Extract from

The Meaning of Prayer

written by

Professor Henry Emerson Fosdick

Published by Australia Student Christian Movement in 1921

Extracted by Ken Walker

It seemed a pity to me that such a wonderful book on the meaning and practice of prayer should not be available to this modern age, so much in need of prayer. So I have condensed the essence of it from nearly 200 pages down to 35 pages.

What is written here is a precis in the form of a series of extracts from the whole book. It includes scripture references, anecdotes and wonderful explanations of the deeper and wider meanings of prayer, things which I have never seen in other books on prayer. A high percentage of this extract is a straight copy of Fosdick's words, as most often his words supplied the true and intended meaning. During the writing, little error was observed, although on a couple of occasions there were aspects of his argument that left me wondering a little. However, these have not been altered in any way, leaving the reader to watch for anything that may mislead. However, the predominant part of his writing is just so wonderful, with depths not seen in modern writings. It is hoped that the reader will increase his Godliness and pray-ability from studying this extract from The Meaning of Prayer.

This writing is available free on Good News Australia at http://www.vicnet.net.au/~gnaust/

and may be copied for FREE distribution, as the copyright would have expired years ago. ( The copyright was taken out by The International Committee of Young Men's Christian Association in 1915 )

It may help the reader to know that the book is set out as a 10 week study of 7 days for each week. At the end of each 7 day period, there are rather apt comments on the studies for the whole week.

Ken Walker - January 23rd 1999.

 

Introduction.

An alarming weakness among Christians is that we are producing Christian activities faster than we are producing Christian experience and Christian faith; that the discipline of our souls and the deepening of our acquaintance with God are not proving sufficiently thorough to enable us to make the unprecedented expansion opportunity and responsibility of our generation. These studies and spiritual exercises in helping men and women to form that most transforming, most energizing, and most highly productive habit - the habit of Christlike prayer - will do much to overcome this danger. In endeavouring to clear away the difficulties that hamper fellowship with this living God, this book has used the scriptures as descriptions of an experience which men have actually had with God.

Chapter 1. The Naturalness of Prayer. (P1)

2 Chron 6:32-33. With prayer we are dealing with a natural function of human life. This fact allowed Samuel Johnson to pray, "Oh Lord in whose hands are life and death, by whose power I am sustained, and by Whose mercy I am spared, looked down upon me with pity. Forgive me that I have until now so much neglected the duty which Thou has assigned to me." The apostle Paul reminds us in Acts 17 that "He himself given to all life and breath and all things."

Acts 17:22-28 ; 2 Kings 19:15-19 ; Ps 103:23-28. Consider the meaning of the fact that prayer and worship are universal. Somewhere in every man there is a capacity for worship and prayer. For example, whenever in national life a time of great stress comes, men, however sceptical feel the impulse to pray, and they found that there was a God and so a crisis shakes loose that tendency to pray. There is this natural tendency to pray in the crisis. (P5)

I Kings 3:7-9. Abraham Lincoln once said "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go; and that all around me seemed insufficient for the day." Prayer enabled men to cope when burdened with new and crushing responsibilities or facing powerful enemies.

Daniel 6:10. Prayer to Daniel, was not simply an impulsive cry of need, wrung from him by sudden crises or by overwhelming responsibilities. Daniel not only prayed in emergencies of peril and responsibility: he prayed three times a day. Prayer only brought on by crisis is quite inadequate. J. Nordon offered the following prayer to ensure that he did the right thing daily. "I'm forced good Father, to seek You daily. You offer yourself to be found. Whenever I seek you I find you, in my house, in the fields, in the temple and on the highway. Whatever I write you are with me. Wherever I am, I feel some measure of your mercy and love. If I be oppressed: you defend me; if I be envied, You guard me: if I hunger, you feed me; whatsoever I want you give me. (P7)

Eph 3:14-19. In the scripture prayer has risen into an elevated demand on life, unselfish and constant. Paul prays as an intelligent, persevering and well directed person. Anselm in the 11th century expressed it this way. "My God and my Lord, You are my hope and my heart's joy. Lord, make me to know you right, that I may more and more love you and enjoy you and possess you." (P8)

Comments on Chapter 1

Prayer should be considered a natural function of life and not an artificial addition. The reason why we are to pray is simply that we cannot help praying. The culture of prayer, therefore, is not importing an alien, but is training a native citizen of the soul. (P9) This comment, from a religion outside of Christianity could be applied with good value to Christianity itself. "There are three degrees in prayer. The first is when it is only spoken by the lips. The second is when with difficulty, by a resolute effort, the soul succeeds in fixing its thought on divine things. The third is when the soul finds it hard to turn away from God.." Therefore, man is cutting himself off from one of the elemental functions of human life when he denies in himself the tendency to pray.

Mankind never outgrows prayer. Coleridge says, "The act of praying is the very highest energy of which the human mind is capable." (P11) The naturalness of prayer is seen in the fact that prayer is latent in the life of every one of us. When some overwhelming need comes upon us the impulse is still to pray. We may note in passing the patent argument here for the truth of religion. Can it be that all men, in all ages and all lands, have been engaged in talking forever to a silent world from which no answer comes? But hunger could never have persisted without food, nor breathing without air, nor intellectual life without truth, nor prayer without God. (P13)

If we were to leave prayer to be merely a tendency, and therefore spasmodic, occasional and untrained, men would pray only when they have reached their wits end. Therein is a tragedy. Prayer, left as an undisciplined impulse, inevitably sinks into such a spasmodic and frantic use as the scripture in Jonah suggests. "When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord." The baneful effect of this spasmodic use of prayer is easily seen. For one thing it utterly neglects all Christian conceptions of God and goes back to the pagan thought of him. God becomes nothing more than a power to be occasionally called into our help. The Christian God desires to be to every one an inward and abiding friend, a purifying presence in daily life, the One whose moral purpose continually restrains and his love upholds. We should not use God as a power to be occasionally summoned to our aid. (P15)

This use of prayer as merely a spasmodic cry out of an occasional crisis, makes it heartily selfish. This sort of prayer is a true parallel to that ignoble of religion, in which prayer, left fitful and undisciplined, is nothing more than an occasional selfish demand on God. What prayer can do must be seen in the pray-ers. Whenever they speak, language seems to them the inadequate way to describe the saving and empowering influences of habitual prayer. God has given to real prayer the power to shape the future for men and the world. Prayer is the very sword of the Saints. (P 17)

This then, is the summary of the matter. Deep in every one of us lies the tendency to pray. If we allow it to remain merely a tendency, it becomes nothing but a selfish, unintelligent, occasional cry of need. But understood and disciplined, it reveals possibilities whose limits never have been found.

Chapter 2 Prayer as Communion with God.

Ps 22:1-5. The thought of prayer as a natural function in human life ought to be of practical service to us: it should keep us from yielding too easily to disbelief or discouragement when we have difficulty with prayer in our individual experience. This is what the Psalmist must have felt. Note the three troubles which the Psalmist is having. He cannot make God seem real to him; his prayer brings him no relief in his difficulties; and even persistence in prayer accomplishes nothing. He sees that the accumulating testimony of his fathers in all ages bears witness to the power of prayer. He sees that probably the trouble is with himself and not with the prayer. He sets himself therefore to understand prayer if he can and in the 22nd verse of the psalm he begins the recital of the victorious outcome. "I will declare Your name to my brethren. In the midst of the assembly I will praise you." (P20)

Let us consider some of the practical reasons for failure to make the most out of our power to pray. Our failure in prayer is partly due to the prevailing temper of the generation, which in its splendid enthusiasm for work, has neglected that culture of prayer, on which in the end the finest quality of spiritual and the deepest resources of power must depend. Is not this one reason why keen observers note that our generation is marked by practical efficiency and spiritual shallowness? (P22)

1 Cor 13:11. Failure to cultivate a power of prayer goes back to childish ideas of the meaning of prayer, which we have not outgrown, and which hamper us and make prayer seem unreasonable and futile. When Christ sets as the ideal childlike qualities of sincerity and humility, he is not asking us to be childish. We have an obligation to exercise our intelligence, and to outgrow infantile prayer and to enlarge our conceptions of fellowship with God in this life. We can be childlike in our faith without being childish in our prayer. Childishness in prayer is chiefly evidenced in an overwhelming desire to beg things from God, and the corresponding failure to desire above all else the friendship of God himself. The same growth ought to take place in our relationship with God, which occurs in a normal fellowship between the child and his parents. At first the child wants the parents gifts, but maturity comes when the child's deepest understanding of the parents themselves increases, with delight in the friendship, thankfulness for the care, acceptance of the ideals, reliance on the counsel, joy in their approval. The child grows through desiring things from his parents, into love of his parents, for their own sakes. (P23)

Luke 15:11-13, 17-19. Note the change of "give me" to "make me". In other words we should cease valuing God merely because of the things He may give, that we may come into the love of God himself and the desire to be made more like him. (P24)

Ps 63:1,3,5-8. Prayer has failed in some because it has always appeared to be an obligation rather than a privilege. In this Psalm, prayer and is not a burden to be borne or obligation to be fulfilled. Prayer is a privilege, like friendship and family love. The man who misses the real meanings of prayer has not so much refused an obligation. It is more that he has robbed himself of life's supreme privilege - friendship with God.

1 Tim 2:1-5, 8. This is where Paul says, "I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men. Our failure to think of prayer as a privilege may be partly due to the fact that we can pray at any time or in every place. The door of prayer is open so continuously that we fail to avail ourselves of opportunity which is always there. It may be that, through sheer negligence and the deceiving influence of good but weak intentions, we are missing one of life's great privileges, because it is so commonplace. We might well pray, "Lord, keep me sensitive to the grace that is around about me at all times."

Luke 11:1-4. Another practical reason for failure in prayer is found in impatience. We have made a few futile and hurried attempts at praying and seeing no good consequence, have impatiently called the practice worthless and have quit. But friendship with God is not really tested with occasional connections. Friendship is rather a life to be lived, habitually, persistently - and its results are cumulative over the years. So prayer is cumulative life of friendship with God.. Such praying was a lesson to be learned by assiduous practice. Thomas a Kempis said it is a great art to commune with God. (P27)

Which of these seven practical causes of failure, considered this week, apply to you - pitting a little individual failure against the experience of the race; welcoming the emphasis on work to the exclusion of the emphasis on prayer ; thinking of prayer childishly until it has seemed irrational; valuing God less than the things He gives, until the prayer has looked mean; regarding prayer as obligation rather than a privilege; neglecting prayer because it is so familiar an opportunity; impatience with praying after a few, fitful trials. (P28)

We may will take note of St. Augustine's prayer. 'Come, O Lord, in much mercy down into my soul and take possession and dwell there. Enter then, and adorn, and make it such as You can inhabit, since it is the work of Your hands. Give me Your Own self, without which, though you should give me all that ever you have made, yet could not my desires be satisfied. Let my soul ever seek you and make me persist in seeking, till I have found and am in full possession of You. Amen." And perhaps we should add: "that you are in full possession of me." (P28)

Comments on Chapter 2

When we were little children prayer was vividly real. Prayer was an Aladdin's lamp, for by rubbing it we summoned the angels of God to do our bidding. Prayer became a charm. But how steadily our faith in prayer gave place to doubt, and then to confident denial. We relied not so much on prayer but on foresight, work, money and shrewdness to obtain our desires. Where then is the old trust that used to look for gifts from heaven. Our faith has been staggered by the impotence of our petition and the seeming indifference of God. (P30)

This practical disappointment with prayer leads in most men to one or two conclusions. The first is that he gives up praying altogether or else seeks a new motive for doing so to take the place of his old expectation of definite results from God. So men who learned to pray in childlike expectation of getting precisely what they asked, are disillusioned by disappointment, but they continue to pray with a new motive. So they say, " never mind if you do not obtain your request, just remember that it does you good to pray." The act of prayer enlarges your sympathies, lightens your mind, sweetens your disposition, and widens the perspective of your thought. So men, returning disappointed from prayer as a means of obtaining definite requests, try to content themselves with prayer as the reflex action of their own minds. So many think of prayer as a form of spiritual gymnastics which strengthens the fibre of their own sympathy. They pray, not because they think it helps their friends, but because the act itself strengthens them. But this kind of prayer is not going to persist for very long. Modern man finds himself on the horns of a dilemma. They say that prayer is in the an effective way of getting things by begging, or else prayer is the reflex action of man's own mind. But the dilemma is false.

Prayer may involve something of the both, but the value of prayer is neither the one nor the other. The essential nature of prayer lies in a realm higher than either, where all that is false is both transcended and all that is true is emphasized. The meaning of prayer is not that God will give us what we ask for. Sometimes the answer is a NO. Jesus prayed with such conscious joy that at times his countenance was changed with the glory of it. Can you imagine him upon his knees, talking to himself? Surely, when the Master prayed he met Somebody. His life was impinged on by another life. His prayer was not monologue but Dialogue, not soliloquy, but friendship. For prayer is neither chiefly begging for things, nor is it merely self communion, it is that lofty experience within the reach of any soul. It is communion with God.

This does not answer all questions about prayer, nor exhaust all its meaning. Definite petition has its important place, to be considered later. But at the beginning of a study the thought of prayer as communion with God puts the centre of the matter where it taught to be. (P32)

The thought of prayer as communion with God makes praying an habitual attitude, not simply an occasional act. It is continuous fellowship with God. The biography of praying men makes it clear, that praying to them, is a very different matter from saying prayers. One sees prayer as an act of devotion within an unseen presence, which in fellowship with Whom peace and strength is found. Prayer is not a mechanical repetition of verbal fullness but a strong and secret uplifting of the heart to the Father of us all. This habitual attitude of secret communion lies at the heart of the matter. These are seeking God himself, rather than his outward gifts. Jeremy Taylor a describes his own praying as making frequent colloquies and short discoursings between God and his own soul. Brother Lawrence said that, " we should establish ourselves in a sense of God's presence by continually conversing with him in prayer." Another, Carlyle, said, " prayer is the aspiration of the poor struggling heavy laden soul towards His eternal father, with or without words." (P33)

To be sure, this habitual attitude is helped not hindered by occasional acts of devotion. Moreover if all hours are to be in some degree, God conscious, some hours should be deliberately so. John Wesley said that he resolved to devote an hour morning and evening to private prayer, no pretense, no excuse whatsoever. It is said that the greatest praying has generally meant habitual communion with God, expressed in occasional acts, and occasional acts that deepened habitual communion. But whatever the method, all was abiding fellowship with God.

The thought of prayer as communion with God releases us from the pressure of many intellectual difficulties. To commune with God, is not only prayer in its deepest meaning, it is prayer in its simplest most intelligible form. When a man sits in fellowship with his friend, neither begging for things by trying to content himself with soliloquy, but gaining the aspiration, vision, peace, and joy which friendship brings through mutual communion, he does not fear the reign of law. The reign of friendship is communion and prayer is the fulfilling of the law. (P34)

The innermost nature of prayer is the search of the soul for God and not for His gifts. Recall St. Augustine's entreaty in the fourth century, "give me your own self , without Whom, though You should give me all You have ever made, my desires could not be satisfied." Also, Thomas Kempis in the fifteenth century, "it is too small and unsatisfactory, whatsoever the gifts you have given me, apart from Yourself." Prayer at its centre is a simple and as profound as friendship. (P35)

The inevitable effect of this sort of communion is that God becomes real. Only to one who prays can God make Himself vivid. People that have never had real prayer have never come into that personal experience of communion with God which says " I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my mind sees Thee" ( Job of 42: 5) God is not real because they do not pray. Granted a belief that God is, the practice of prayer is necessary to make God not merely an idea held in the mind, but a presence recognized in the life. As the Psalmist exclaimed, "O God, thou art my God. " (Ps 63: 1] .

There is an inward certainty of God that can only come from personal communion with God. Those who do not salute God may offer Voltaire's soulful observation, " we salute, but we do not speak" That phrase is a true description of many men's relationship with God. They believe that God is; they cannot explain the universe without him; they are theists, but they maintain no personal relationship with Him. They salute but do not speak. They are moved by the dignity and exaltation of the church service, but they have no personal fellowship with God.

When men complain then, that God is not real to them, the reply is fair: how can God be real to some of us? What conditions have we fulfilled that would make anybody real? It is only where there is a constant sense of spiritual fellowship and this is refreshed daily, that we can call it a true friendship and, where soul talks with soul in conscious fellowship. The friend grows real. No friendship can sustain the neglect of such communion. Even God grows unreal and ceases to be our Unseen Friend when we forget our communion with Him. (P37)

Chapter 3. God's Care for the Individual.

Ps 6 :5-8. Perhaps the greatest single difficulty in maintaining the habit of prayer is a tendency to make it of pious form and not of vital transaction. We begin by trying to pray and by saying prayers. If the act of prayer can be seen as the great Christians have seen it, the vital and sustaining friendship with God who cares for everyone of us, praying will cease being a form, and become a force and a privilege. Sir William Grenfell said, " The privilege of prayer to me is one of my most cherished possessions, because faith and experience alike convince me that God himself sees and answers, and his answers I never venture to criticize. It is only my part to ask. It is entirely His to give or withhold, as He knows is best ............. when I can neither see, nor hear, nor speak, I still I can pray so that God can hear. (P39) Benjamin Jenks prayed, " Oh Lord, renew our spirits and draw hearts unto thyself, that our work may not a burden, but a delight. Let us not serve you with the spirit of bondages as slaves, but with cheerfulness and gladness of children, delighting ourselves in you and rejoicing in your work."

Matt 18:12-14. One of root reasons why prayer becomes merely a pious form is that, while people believe in God in a general and vague fashion, they do not vividly grasp the idea that God cares for an is dealing with everyone of us. To this question George Dawson prayed, "Grant unto us that in all troubles of this our mortal life, we may flee to the knowledge of Thy loving kindness and tender mercy, that the storms of life may pass over us. Whatsoever this life may bring us, grant that it may never take from us the full faith that you are our father. Grant us Your light that we may have life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." (P41)

Matt 10:29-31 Let us face again today that formality and prayer that comes from the failure to grasp the individual love of God for each of us. Perhaps even greater for most people is the difficulty that the imagination faces on how great is the love of God. Can we imagine that? Is it not unimaginable, though plainly true? St. Augustine prayed, " whose so cares for everyone of us, as if all were but one. Blessed it is the man who loves You, and is Your friend. I will trust in You whatsoever I have received from you, so I shall lose nothing."

John 17:20-23. Consider what it would mean for prayer, to believe that God cares just so much for each of us. In God's sight, all the suns and stars are inferior to us. Has your failure in prayer been due to your failure in apprehending for yourself this heart of the gospel. (P43)

Hebrews 4:15-16. In contrast to this reality of prayer , how many people know prayer only to be a formality, because it is a practice taught in infancy and maintained by force of habit as a tradition. To them, it does not mean, "grace to help us in a time of need" Consider a vital prayer like that from Thomas a Kempis, founded on the thought of God's individual love. " When you come into my soul, all that is with me shall rejoice. You are my hope and refuge in the day of my trouble. Set me free from all evil passions and heal my heart of all inordinate affections, that being inwardly cured and thoroughly cleansed, I maybe made fit to love, courageous to suffer and steady to persevere. Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing more courageous, nothing fuller nor better in heaven and earth, because love is born of God and cannot rest but in God, above all created things. Let me love You more than myself nor love myself but for You." Amen. (P44)

Isaiah 1:11-15. To many people prayer is a pious practice rather than vital transaction, because it is looked upon as a good work which wins merit in the eyes of God. What a pitiful misunderstanding of prayer! Prayer is not a good work in return for which a blessing is given.

Romans 8:14-17. In the light of his passage how impossible to think of saying prayers as merely a pious practice. Prayer seen in the light of this Christian truth, becomes at once the claiming on the sonship, the appropriation of the heritage. Of how many of us is it true, that friendship with God is an unclaimed heritage? In our prayers are we appropriating our faith that God really does care? Augustine prayed, " to grant me, even me, my dearest Lord, to know you, and to love you, and rejoice in you. If I cannot do these perfectly in this life, then let me at least to higher degrees every day, till I can do them in perfection. Let my love of You grow more and more, that it may be full hereafter. I know O God that you are of God of truth. Make good your gracious promises to me that my joy may be full." (P47)

Comments on Chapter 3

When the man sets himself to practice communion with God he is likely to awaken with a start some day to a disturbing reflection - which is "I'm taking for granted that when I pray, the eternal father is especially solicitous on my behalf." Prayer does involve confidence that God takes an interest in the individual who prays. The Bible is pre-eminently a book of prayer which involves the companion fact that the God of the Bible cares for individuals. Throughout the Bible and especially in the new testament, God is not a king dealing with men in masses. God is a father, and the essence of fatherhood is individual care for the children. This truth that God cares for everyone of us is easy to speak about or contemplate, but hard to believe. How can God care for each of us? We know the heart of Jesus well enough to understand that he loved everyone He met. But God? How can we make it real to ourselves that He who sustains the Milky Way knows us by name? (P47)

For one thing, we seem too small and insignificant for Him to know. That presupposes in us a degree of value and importance surpassing imagination. It seems almost unbelievable that an individual man can be worth so much. Even the Psalmist felt to wonder of man's worth when he cried, " When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man, that you and mindful of him?"

How can we pray in the confidence that God knows and cares for each one of us? There is nothing too great for the creator to accomplish, and nothing too small for him to attend to. As an astronomer watchers the unconscious heavens, does not God know as we do, that the man, with his powers of vision, intellect, volition, and character, is far more marvellous than all the stars he sees? We might as well deny God's existence altogether if we affirm that he is enamoured by hugeness and blind to spiritual values. The personality is one infinitely valuable treasure in the universe. If God is, he cares; if he cares, he cares for personality. (P49)

The difficulty which many experience in trying to conceive of God's individual care, is complicated by the fact that not only are we small, but there are countless multitudes of us. With so many people, how can God know us all by name? However, this is a childish imposition of our human limitations onto God, this fear that he will find it trying to remember so many people. But we may be sure that He perfectly understands and cares for each most minute detail. Consider then the meaning of God's knowledge of men. When God thinks of China, he knows everyone of the Chinese by name. We stand, everyone separate in His thought. He lifts us up from the obscurity of our littleness, picks us out from the multitude of our fellows and gives our lives the dignity of His individual care. All great pray-ers have lived in the power of this individual relationship with God. As the Psalmist says in Ps. 35: 8 , "I will give You thanks in the great congregation.. I will praise You among much people." (P51)

So important is the vital apprehension of this truth, that we may well approach it from another angle. When one believes in God at all, he must believe that God has a purpose for the universe as a whole, that creation means something, has a goal, is not a blind accident, but a wise plan. Indeed, most man do believe this. The contrary position makes life too empty and futile to be easily tolerable. If there is no purpose in creation at all, it came from nowhere and is going nowhere, means nothing, then the world is like a busy seamstress sewing on a machine with no thread in it. Most men do believe that there is a thread of divine purpose in this machine of the universe and that it binds the separate centuries together. This raises the question. Can God have a purpose for the whole and not for the parts? No father can love his family in general, without loving the several members in particular. So God can neither care nor plan for his world as a whole, without caring and planning for each of the individuals that make his world. Purpose for the universe and purpose for each life are two aspects of the same thing and they mutually involve each other. (P52)

Indeed, prayer is the personal appropriation of this faith that God cares for each of us. When a man really prays he no longer leaves his thought of God's individual care as the theory. Prayer is the practice of fellowship with God.

When we have satisfied our minds of God's individual care, we have arrived at the beginning and not a the end of the matter. Now comes the vital and searching task of laying hold of the experience of that care. We must pass from thought into spiritual activity, into an adventure of the soul as the practice of prayer. (P53)

Chapter 4. Prayer and the Goodness of God.

Mark 10:35-38. Of all the misconceptions of prayer, none is more common than the idea that it is a way of getting God to do our will. Consider how often our praying is our demand on God that he should do exactly what we want. Note in contrast this real prayer of D.L. Moody. "Use me then, my Saviour, for whatever purpose, and in what way you may require. Here is my poor heart, an empty vessel, fill it with Your grace. Here is my sinful and troubled soul. Quicken it and refresh it with your love. Take my heart for your abode, my mouth to spread abroad the glory of your name, my love and all my powers, for the advancement of Your believing people, and never suffer the steadfastness of my confidence of my faith to abate." (P56)

Matt 26:36-44. The trouble with many folk is that they believe in only a part of God. They believe in his love and that He will give in to a child's entreaty and will do what the child happens to desire. They do not really believe in God's wisdom - his knowledge of what is best for all of us, and in his world - his plan for the character and the career of each of us. When anyone believes in the whole of God, prayer becomes not an endeavour to get God to do our will, but to endeavour to open our lives to God so that God can do in us what he wants to do. So Thomas a Kempis prayed: "Lord, you know what is best for us. Let this or that be done, as you shall please. Give what you will, and how much you will, and when you will. Deal with me as you think good, and as pleases You. I desire not to live for myself but unto you."

Matt 6:5-6. Let us this week consider particularly, the ways in which to practice of prayer opens our lives to God so that His will can be done in and through us. Goethe said, " no one can produce anything important unless he isolates himself." Chinese Gordon also. " Getting quiet does one good - it is impossible to hear God's voice in a whirl of visits - you must be more or less in the desert to see and weigh the true value of things." As William Bright prayed, " Oh God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly, grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us do, that the spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path we may not stumble. Amen."

Psalm 81:8,11-13. The prayer opens our lives to the guidance of God because by its very nature it encourages the receptive mood. The most far-reaching consequences are likely to come in prayer from some quiet hour, when the pray-er sits with his Father and has his eyes opened to a new idea of life, which the Father never would give him in his more active moods. God's trouble is to get people to listen to Him. Note the marvellous prayer of Fenelon. " Oh Lord, I do not know what I ought ask of you. You know what I need. You love me better than I know how to myself. Oh Father, give to your child that which he himself knows not how to ask. I simply present myself before you, and open my heart to you. Behold my needs which I know not myself. Smite, or heal, depress me, or raise me up I adore all your purposes without knowing them. I am silent, I offer myself in sacrifice. I yield myself to you. I would have no other desire than to accomplish your will. Teach me to pray. Pray Yourself in me. Amen."

John 7:16-18. Prayer opens our lives to God so that His will can be done in and through us, because in true prayer we habitually put ourselves into the attitude of willingness to do whatever God wills. We must be willing to do what He wills. True prayer is putting ourselves at God's disposal as did Blaise Pascal. "O Lord, let me not desire health or life, except to spend them for you. You will alone know what is good for me. Do therefore what seems best to you. Give to me, or take from, conform my will to Yours, and grant that, with humble and perfect submission and in holy confidence I may receive the orders of your eternal Providence." (P59)

Exodus 33:11 and James 2:23. The most transforming influences in life are personal friendships. Consider then what persistent fellowship with God will mean in changing life's quality and tone. Henry Drummond said, " ten minutes spent with Christ everyday, even two minutes, if it be face-to-face and heart to heart, will make the whole of life different." Perhaps the greatest consequence of prayer is just this atmosphere which the life carries away with it, as Moses came with shining face from the communion of his heart with God. True prayer is habitually putting oneself under God's influence. As Henry Beecher prayed, " we rejoice that in all time men have found a refuge in You, and that prayer is the voice of love, the voice of pleading, and the voice of thanksgiving. It is to have the consciousness that your thoughts are upon us, and to experience the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - this is answer to prayer transcending all things that we can think of.." (P60)

Isaiah 64:7. Consider the reasonableness of the Prophets condemnation of prayer-less-ness in view of this week's truth. Take out of life, solitude where God's voice can be heard, the receptive mood that welcomes guidance, the willingness to do whatever God wills, that puts itself habitually at God's disposal, and the fellowship that gives God's secret influence its opportunity; and what can God do with any life? Think of the things God wants to give to and do through our lives and consider how a prayer-less unreceptive heart blockades his will. (P61)

Comments on Chapter 4

One of the most common complexities concerning prayer is that God knows what we need, so why tell him. Why should we, weak and fallible mortals, urge the good God to work good in the world? This objection to prayer is the stronger because reverence and humility before God seem to be involved in it all. It also has the ring of sincere faith. It comes from a strong and glad belief in the Providence of God. The man shrinks from prayer because it seems silly and presumptuous for ignorance to instruct Perfect Wisdom, for human evil to attempt the persuasion of Perfect Love to do good.

It is interesting then to discover that the Master's life of urgent prayer was founded on these very ideas, which now are used as arguments against prayer. On the contrary, the love and wisdom of God were the foundations of His prayer. In God's wisdom he found assuring confidence when He prayed. Just because of God's perfect knowledge of love, the Master seems to say, pray with confidence. What prayer does is open the way for God to do what He wants to do. Prayer cannot change God's purpose, but prayer can release it. God cannot do for the man with the closed heart what he can do for the man with the open heart. You can give God a chance to work his will in and for and through you. Prayer is simply giving the wise and good God an opportunity to do what His wisdom and love want done. (P63)

Christian prayer is giving God an opportunity to do what he wants, what he has been trying, perhaps for years to do in our lives, hindered by our unreadiness, our lack of receptivity, our closed hearts and unresponsive minds. What we do does not change God's plan, but it does give God's plan a gang-way. In other words, we must not conceive of prayer as an overcoming of God's reluctance, but as a laying hold of his highest willingness. The other fallacy underlying the thought that the wisdom and love of God make praying superfluous, is the idea that God can do all He wills without help from us. But He cannot. Experience of the race is clear - that some things God never can do until he finds the man who prays. God's will depends on man's cooperation. Only when men gird the loins of the minds and undiscourageably give themselves to intellectual toil, will God reveal the truth to them. And God cannot do some things unless men work. (P64)

Now, if God has left some things contingent on man's thinking and working, why may he not have left some things contingent on man's praying? Some things never without thinking; some things never without working; some things never without praying! Prayer is one of the three forms of man's cooperation with God. The fact therefore, that God it is all-wise and all-good is no more reason for abandoning prayer and for abandoning thought and work. All these three are necessary to make the will of God dominant in human life. We pray for the same reason that we work and think, because only so can the wise and good God get some things done which He wants done. Cooperation with God's will is the true expression of a Christian attitude, whereas resignation in the presence of things evil or imperfect is sin. Men act on the assumption that the present situation may be temporarily God's will, but that He has put them in it so that they may fight their way out to a situation that is ultimately His will. To this end, men think and work and pray. (P65) Men do not submit to God's purpose; they assert it.

Another point is that unless men pray, there are some things which God cannot say to them. One of the strongest misconceptions concerning prayer is that it consists chiefly in talking to God, whereas the best part of prayer is a listening to God. Without such open-heartedness to God, some things which he wills can never be done. The fact is, we seldom listen. God has a hard time even to get in the word edgewise, and in lives so conducted there are some things which God himself, with all His wisdom and goodwill, cannot do. Experience shows that vision and stimulus come in quiet and receptive hours, where God can speak.

The dependence upon God's will upon the cooperation of man's prayer, may be further seen in the fact that until men pray there are some things which God cannot give. Giving is not a simple matter. It is always a dual transaction in which the recipient is as important a factor as the giver. The father is helpless. He must wait, His love pent, His willingness checkmated, until the prayer, however faint, arises in the heart. God cannot bestow His best on men unless they pray. Whenever we pray intent on what we want, we are likely to be disappointed. But when we pray, intent on what God wants to give us, we need never be disappointed. (P67) Men who come to God not to dictate, but to receive, have approached prayer from the right angle. Prayer is not to ask what we wish of God, but what God wishes of us.

The dependence of God on the cooperation of men's prayer, may be further seen in the fact that until men pray there are some things which God cannot DO through them. Souls who have ushered in new eras of spiritual life have never been content with working for God. They have made it their ideal to let God work through them. Great servants of God have thought what God can do through them if they gave Him the opportunity. To be pliable in the hands of God was the first aim. One said,

"prayer is my chief work, and it is by means of it that I carry on the rest."

The ideal of such living is deeper than working for God. To release the eternal purpose through their lives into the world; to be made a vehicle for power which they do not create but can transmit - this is their ideal. Only through men who take this attitude, can God to his choicest work. When a man prays intent chiefly on what he wishes done, his prayer is a failure. But when he prays in order that he may release through his life what God wishes done, he has discovered the great secret. Through him habitually praying, God can do what else would be impossible. (P69)

We have two fundamentally opposed ideas of prayer. One, that by begging we may change the will of God and curry favour or win gifts by coaxing; the other, that prayer is offering God the opportunity to say to us, give to us, and do through us what He wills. Prayer really does things. It cannot change God's intention, but it does change God's action.

Chapter 5 Hindrances and Difficulties.

Phil 3:7-9. We have been speaking of the privilege of prayer, but there is also a cost, spoken of by Paul. Paul talked about the, " excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ" is not arrived at without counting some things loss. It does cost to win a life that can really pray. There are things in life which must be given up, if ever one is truly to pray. He must renunciate certain things for the sake of prayer. (P71)

Phil 4:6-8. The connection in these verses between great praying and right thinking is not accidental. Real praying costs habitual self - discipline in thinking - "the pure in heart see God". What is the name of that shanty in your mind which is holding up the great building of character and service for which God has the plans and the means ready?

Eccl 5:2. Successful prayer involves not only the general preparation of good living and right thinking, it often costs special preparation, avoiding irritation, anxiety, preoccupation etc. Consider with what rash hastiness, unprepared thoughts, preoccupied minds, and unexamined lives we often rush into God's presence again and again. (P73)

Ps 88:1-3, 13,14. At times prayer costs persistence in the face of difficulties. Nothing makes one more conscious of poverty and shallowness of character and difficulty in praying or attending to prayer. There is nothing which at a distance I seem to desire more than the knowledge of God; and yet for two minutes I cannot keep my mind upon them. To that end Samuel McComb prayed, "Quicken the heart of your servant who mourns because he cannot speak to You nor hear You speak to him. Refresh me Lord from the dullness and dryness of my life. Grant me perseverance that I made never abandon the effort to pray. Send forth your spirit into my heart to help my infirmities. Lord, teach me to pray the prayer that relieves the burdened spirit, and brings your blessing.. Hear us, for Jesus sake. Amen.."

Psalm 5:1-3. Regularity is essential to a successful life of prayer. (P75) The chances are in most lives that the keeping of the morning watch (praying early morning) will prove to be one of the most salutary agencies within the control of the will. However, regularity always costs, because one needs the determination not to surrender to adverse circumstances or wayward moods.

Mark 9:2-5. During the transfiguration, the disciples experienced great exhilaration and reassurance. Prayer can be like that and we must cherish such hours. But we must not refuse another sort of praying, less ecstatic and glowing, all quiet and commonplace. Successful praying costs the sort of patience with commonplace hours. Said Fenelon: "Do not be discouraged at your faults; bear with yourself in correcting them, as you would with your neighbour. Accustom yourself gradually to carry prayer into all your daily occupations. Speak, move, work in peace, as if you were in prayer. " (P77)

Ps 109:1-4. A life that has learned the secret of real praying is worth all that it costs. It is worth giving ourselves to. Luther said, " Therefore, where there is a Christian, there is also the Holy Spirit, and He does nothing else but pray continually. For even if the mouth be not always be moving and uttering words, yet the heart goes on beating unceasingly with cries like these, Ah dear Father, may Your name be hallowed, and may Your kingdom come, Your will be done. Whenever there comes sorer buffetings and trials and needs, then the aspiration and supplications increase, so that you cannot find a Christian man who does not pray."

Comments on Chapter 5.

Prayer in practice meets obstacles and brings about practical difficulties which perplex many who sincerely try to pray. Real communion involves the vivid consciousness that someone is present, with Whom we are enjoying fellowship. The practice of God' presence is not so simple as words sometimes make it seem to be. One obvious reason for this sense of God's unreality is that sin separates us from God as per Isaiah 59: 2. So if we have unconfessed sin God will not hear us. God's reality is not a matter to be taken for granted, as it must be a progressive and often laborious achievement of the spirit! Spiritual alienation between God and man makes fellowship impossible. Of all the evils that separate man and God, Jesus especially noted two, impurity and vindictiveness. These come from the scriptures - " blessed are the pure in heart for the shall see God." and "the un-brotherly spirit that will not forgive or seek to be forgiven." Matt 5 : 23, 24. No one can be wrong with man and right with God. The envy that corrupts the heart, even if it finds no expression in word or deed - such attitudes always prove impassable barriers to spontaneous prayer. When therefore, anyone encounters the practical difficulty that arises from the sense of God's unreality, he may well search his life for sinister habits of thought, or cherished evils dimly recognized as wrong, but unsurrendered, for lax carelessness in conduct, or deliberate infidelity to conscience, for sins whose commission he deplores, but whose results he still clings to and desires, and above all the selfishness that hinders loving and so breaks the connections that bind us to God and one another. (P81)

The sense of God's unreality however, does not necessarily imply a wicked life. All of us for example have moods in which the vision of God grows dim. We have mountains and valleys, emotional ups and downs. Cowper tells us that in prayer he had known such exaltation that he thought he would die from excessive joy. But at another time he said "I seem to myself to be have been banished to a remoteness from God's presence." None knows how many byways the heart has, and back lanes to slip away from the presence of God. The first step in dealing with this familiar experience is to recognize its naturalness and therefore to go through it undismayed. Make up your mind in advance to keep your course steady, when you feel like it, and when you don't. (P81) The man who surrenders to the same variable moods is deemed to inefficiency. Good advice is that - "when you cannot pray as you want, pray as you can". It is also good to read from collections of prayers from some of the older saints, as these often prime the pump for our own prayer.

Deeper than the difficulty of passing moods lies the problem of those who habitually fail to feel the presence of God. Some men have the right temperament to make this easy, but others are not so gifted. What shall be said to a man who believes in God and tries to do his will, but who is not warmly conscious of fellowship with him in prayer? We touch here one of the most crucial matters in our study of prayer. Every man must be left to pray in his way. God needs us all, some stolid and patient, others high spirited and nervous. The first step in useful living for many folk is their recognition of God's purpose in making us on such unique and individual planes. Each man is being tried in his own private examination. He is not expected to be a Christian in any other man's way. Nothing could be more intensely individual than the prayers of the Bible. Nobody tries to commune with God in anyone else's way. Some kneel, stand, sit, lie prostrate, pray silently, pray aloud, etc. Let each man in pray as best he can. What we need more than almost anything else is to cultivate in timid souls that tend to self-distrust, in critical souls that think before they assert, and in active souls that prefer giving to receiving, a robust respect for their own natural types of prayer. (P86)

We must do more than tell each man to pray as he can. There are prevalent attitudes among people who try to pray that makes the consciousness of God's presence well nigh impossible. We may note as the first of these that vague groping after a God from outside of us, which so often ends in the futile feeling of having talked to empty space. Madame Guyon was given critical advice about this. " Madame, you are seeking without that which you have within. Accustom yourself to seek God in your own heart and you will find him." The presence of God can be experienced only within our hearts. All the best in us is God in us. Generally, it is quite impossible to distinguish between the voice of God and the voice of our best conscience and ideals. ( I disagree with the author here - it is difficult, but not impossible - K.W. ) What we call conscience and ideals are God's voice, mediated to us through the own finest endowments. (P86) So God is compelled to minister his blessing to us through our own capacities to receive and appropriate. No man should ever grope outside of his best self to find God. He should always seek God who is speaking to him in his best self.

There is another part of this truth from John Paton the missionary. Many insist on waiting for God to send them blessing in some super-normal way, when all the while he is giving them abundant supply. If they only learned to retreat into the fertile places of their own spirits where, as Jesus said, the wells of living water seek to rise. Albert the Great said "to mount to God is to enter into one's own self." Anyone therefore, troubled by the seeming unreality of God may well imitate the Psalmist who begins his psalm by saying, "I will cry unto God," and who in the sixth verse said " I commune with mine own heart." Ps. 77. The two verses are not in conflict. The only way anyone can commune with God is through his own heart. (P87) God Himself is trying through our best to find a channel for His Spirit.

The consideration of this vague groping after a God outside of us, leads us to another matter even more important. The elemental trouble with the prayers of those who fail to find God real, is often the very fact that they are seeking for God. But no one is prepared to experience the presence of God until he sees that God is seeking for him. Without this thought of God as initiating the search, so that our finding of Him is simply our response to His quest for us, the endeavour of any man to seek God is of all enterprises is the most hopeless. How can the finite discover the Infinite unless the Infinite desires to be found? How can man break into an experience of God unless God is seeking to reach down into friendship with man? The deepest necessity of a fruitful life prayer is the recognition that God's search for man is prior to any man's search for God. God did seek for man in Christ. This fundamental truth is of the utmost importance for prayer. Whenever a Christian prays he prays to the God whose love for us Christ revealed, and to the knowledge of Whom we never should have come without Christ. God is forever seeking each man. The promptings of conscience, the lure of fine ideals, that demands of friendship, the suggestions of good books, the calls to service, every notable impulse, are all the approach of God to us. Prayer is not groping after Him. Prayer is opening up a life to him. The prayer-less heart is fleeing from God. Finding God is really letting God find us; for our search for Him is simply surrender to his search for us. We go into secret place and there let every fine and ennobling influence which God is sending to us to have free play. We find him as runaway children, weary of their escapade, find their Father. They consent to be found by Him. (P89)

Chapter 6. Prayer and the Reign of Law.

Ps 19:1-6. This psalm says that the heavens declare the glory of God. The Psalmist here ascribes all the activities of the heavens to the direct influence of God. The idea of natural law has not got between him and the creator. Whenever the sun comes up or the stars appear he feels that God is doing it. But it is difficult for most people to imagine that. To the modern mind it is more that the heavens declare the glory of Law, thus negating religious faith. There are many ways in which new information about natural law affects us. The world looks like a great machine, self-running and self-regulating, with God the very distant Sustainer, if He is anywhere at all. But we should thank God for this universe, this world with all its vastness and richness, which He created.

Psalm 139:1-10. In contrast with this Psalmist's sense of God's immediate presence, the reign of law not only seems to push God away, it pushes Him away back into history. He becomes nothing more than a hypothesis to explain how the universe happened to exist in the first place. Some have thought that the world was made by a god who had died before his work was complete. Consider whether your prayers have been hindered by the subtle influence of this idea of God. Before men can really pray, God must be seen as a present and living God whose ways of action we partially have plotted and called natural laws. (P94)

To combat this Samuel McComb prayed, "O Lord our God, we desire to feel you near us in spirit and in body at this time. We know that in you we live and move and have our being. But we are cast down and easily disquieted, and we wander in many a sad wilderness where we lose the conscious experience of your presence. Yet the deepest meaning of our hearts is to you. Nothing less than Yourself can still all the hunger, or quench the thirst with which You have inspired us. Power of our souls! Enter Thou into them and fit them for yourself, making pure with Christ's purity, loving and lovable with his love."

Romans 8:26-28. " The Spirit himself makes intercession for us." Note the connection of thought here between prayer, and belief in the controlling Providence of God that makes all things work together for good to those that love Hi m. This connection is vital! Unless God's Providence does control, so that he is now at work in the world shaping events and moulding men, what is the use of praying? This is one of our modern perplexities. The reign of law seems to rule out the activity of Providence. In our childlike spirit we pray for anything. So what has changed? Is it not our increasing knowledge or the reign of natural law? Florence Nightingale said that God's scheme for us is not that He should give us what we ask for, but that mankind should obtain it for mankind. (P95)

Psalm 104:1-12. In this psalm, there is a glowing expression of faith in the controlling presence of God in his world. Some find it difficult to share this faith because the reign of law suggests that any help from God would involve a miracle, an intervention in the regular natural law. But this is not so. Plant a pebble and a seed side by side. The law of the pebble is to lie dead; the law of the seed is to grow. If therefore the pebble could see the seed sprouting, how certainly it would lift its pebble hands and in astonishment and cry, " a miracle!" But no law is broken there. It is the fulfilling of a larger and higher law than we have yet understood. God's Providence never has and never does involve breaking His laws; it means that we are as little acquainted with all the resources of the spiritual universe as a pebble is with the resources of the plant. Remember that natural law is nothing but man's statement of how things regularly happen, as far as he has been able to observe them. (P97) And so we could pray as did Wescott. " Draw our heights to You with the power of Your love. Teach us to be anxious for nothing. Take from us all doubt and mistrust. Make us know that all things are possible to us through your Son our Redeemer. Amen."

Isaiah 40:22-26. The central trouble in the religious thinking of many people lies here: the new knowledge of the universe has made their childish thoughts of God inadequate, and instead of getting a worthier and larger idea of God to meet the new need, they give up all vital thought about God whatsoever. In this scripture, Isaiah is reaching out for as great a conception of God as he can compass, because the situation demands it. Part of St. Augustine's prayer explains the dilemma. " Hear me, who am trembling in this darkness, and stretch forth Your hand unto me and hold forth Thy light before me."

Habakkuk 3:17-18. We have noted five effects that knowledge of the reign of law has on modern minds: it pushes God away off; pushes Him away back; makes His special help seem impossible; suggests that any providential aid would involve a miracle; and finally makes our immature childish ideas of Him inadequate. Note the lack of presumption with which Habakkuk uses his faith. The forces of nature are in the hands of God, but the prophet does not immodestly demand that they should be used in accordance with human desires. Consider the importance of this attitude for prayer. Belief in God's Providence is not to be confused with the arrogant assumption that Providence must be exercised as we wish. (P99)

Again, Samuel McComb's prayer helps. "Whatever it be that holds me back from self surrender to You, grant that it may be taken out of the way, that I may have free and open intercourse between You and me. My I be willing to trust where I cannot prove; willing to believe my better moments in spite of all that contradicts them..... Take from me all dreaded evils that may never happen. Grant me the victory over every besetting doubt; and patience while any darkness remains."

Ps 138:1-3, 7-8. Note the joyful certainty with which this Psalmist testifies to the effect of prayer on his life. With all the puzzles that perplex our thought when we try to pray that God will change outward circumstances, this inward realm where prayer is continually efficacious remains undisturbed. He concludes that where he has been in earnest his prayer is answered. Also that all my expeditions of prayer made me stronger, morally and mentally than any of my non-praying companions. It did not blind my eyes, nor dull my mind, or close my ears; but on the contrary it gave me confidence. More, it gave me joy and pride in my work. (P101) McComb again. " Eternal God, lead us into the blessedness of the mystery of communion with You.. May all that is unworthy or fearful be banished by the gladness of your perfect love."

Comments on Chapter 6.

( Note from the writer. This section on natural law and prayer was rather difficult to precis, the full text being rather long and hard to fully understand. I trust I have chosen the right words to convey the meaning intended. )

One element in communion with God has so far been kept in the background of the discussion. Prayer is conversation, but it is not conversation for conversation's sake. Communion with God is commonly motivated by desire; the element of petition belongs by nature to the tendency which has led all men to pray. Now as soon as petition enters into man's prayers, he is likely to run up against an obstacle that seems very formidable. He comes face-to-face with the reign of law, as modern knowledge has revealed it. In this special difficulty men are often disappointed because the Bible does not directly help. The truth of the matter is this: just as the Bible assumes the existence of God, so it also assumes the naturalness of prayer. However, God does not have any difficulty in making the fleece both wet and dry in the same night, stopping the sun, making the axe head sink or float, or opening prison doors without human help. The writers of scripture for the most part described events in terms of miracle and not of law. Also, the Bible assumes that prayer is an entirely natural thing to do. (P103)

Natural law of is not at all what superficial thinking makes it appear to be. In this an important secret is revealed. Persons cannot for example violate the law of gravity, but they can use the law-abiding force of gravitation to do, which without their co-operation, never would occur. Persons, while they can never break nor change laws, can utilize, manipulate, and combine the forces which laws control to do what those forces by themselves would not accomplish. The insight which takes from the heart of religion all fear of the reign of law is this: "personality, even in ourselves, how much more in God, is the master and not merely the slave of all law-abiding forces. " For example, if I wish to build a bridge, breaking many a natural law (eg gravity) then I will manipulate and utilize the law-abiding energies of nature until millions of men shall cross this river on my bridge. (P105)

So one of the most liberating conceptions that can come to any mind, is this perception that law-abiding forces can be made the servants of personal will. The whole analogy of human experience suggests that the world is not governed by law; that it is governed by God according to law. He providentially utilizes, manipulates, and combines his invariable ways of acting to serve his own internal purposes. God is not far off. He is free, more free that we can guess to use the forces he has ordained. (P108) While the Bible does not deal with the modern problem of natural law, in its reference to prayer, we still may share with the Bible that utter confidence in the power and willingness and liberty of God to help his children, which makes the scriptures radiant with trust and hope. However, there are many good prayers that God must not answer, but there are no good prayers which he cannot answer. If a prayer is left unanswered, it is not because the reign of law prevents. It is because there are vast realms where God must not substitute our wish for his plan. (P109)

To pray about everything, in submission to God's world, would be both more human and more Christian than a scrupulous limitation of our prayers to what we might think permissible subjects of petition. The forces of the external world are in the hands of God to do with them as he wishes, but that does not necessarily mean that he must do with them as we wish. God must not surrender his sovereignty on demand. To put it another way, faith in prayer may be both presumptuous and clamorous, but prayer in faith asks everything in entire submission to the will of God and rejoices in God's sovereignty. (P110)

There is a realm however, where none need be hesitant in expecting answer to prayer. Prayer in the law of personal relationships where men deal with one another and with God, and there are conditions of communion, laws of fellowship and prayer. (P111)

Chapter 7 Unanswered Prayer.

Habukkuk 1:1-4, 13. Complaint about unanswered prayer is nothing new. Habakkuk expresses it well in this prayer. This week we will take up the reasons for such experiences and we will consider the unreasonableness of allowing such experiences to cause the abandonment of prayer. For one thing, unanswered petition ought not to cause the abandonment of all praying because much of the greatest praying is not petition at all. (P112)

Tennyson described prayer's meaning for his life when he said, "prayer is like opening a sluice between the great ocean and our little channels, when the sea gathers itself together and flows in at full-tide." Samuel McComb sums it up well in his prayer. "Father, I thank you for your mercies which are new very morning. For all the gifts you give us such sleep, health and strength. Before looking on the face of men I would look to you, who art the health of my countenance and my God. Not without your guidance would I go forth to meet the duties and tasks of the day. Strengthen me so that in all my work I may be faithful; amid trials, courageous; in suffering, patient; in disappointment, full of hope in you. Grant these for your goodness sake. Amen."

Psalm 139:17, 18, 23-24. The Psalmist uses prayer as an opening of the heart to God's search, a means of re-standardizing the life and aligning it continually with God's word. This is a transforming use of prayer. Prayer can be in our lives with this sort of cleansing and empowering look at our Lord. It sets us right, re-establishes our standards and confirms our best resolves. Thomas Wilson prayed, " O merciful God, give me true repentance from my sin, even that repentance to which you have promised mercy and pardon, that even the consequences of my wrongdoing may bring a blessing to me, and that in all I may find mercy at your hands." (P115)

Isaiah 51:6-11. To make unanswered petition an excuse for abandoning all prayer is clearly unreasonable when we stop to consider how utterly unfitted we are to substitute our wish for God's will, and what appalling results would follow if our requests were answered. Think over the faith in God's Providence, superior wisdom, and mercy which Isaiah here makes the basis for prayer. What discord should we bring into the universe if our prayers were all answered! Then we should govern the world and not God. We should have thanksgiving with a full heart and the rest silence and submission to the divine will. Henry Beecher prayed such.... " We thank you for the privilege of prayer and for Your answers to prayer; and we rejoice with You that You do not answer according to our petitions. We are blind, and are constantly seeking things which are not the best for us. If You did grant all our desires we should be ruined. Thou our Father are by Thy Providence overruling our ignorance and our headlong mistakes. We are, day by day, saved from peril and from ruin by your better knowledge and by your careful love. Amen. "

2 Cor 12:7-9. Yet a further reason for the way we let that denied petition break our faith in prayer is that we fail to see how often God answers our prayers in ways that we do not expect and, it may be, do not like. Consider Paul's experience in this prayer. How often do God's replies come to us in disguise, so that we, lacking Paul's insight, do not recognize them. Sometimes we seek for a thing, and God gives us a chance. Consider this poem. " Twas He who taught me thus to pray, and He I know has answered prayer, but it has been in such a way, as almost drove me to despair." (P117)

James 1:5-8. Our petitions seem to us to be denied and we give up praying in discouragement, when the fact may be that God is suggesting to us ways in which we can answer our own requests. Many a man asks for a thing, and God's answer is wisdom sufficient to get the thing. Almost all the petitions a disciple ever has occasion to make to His Father can be answered without recourse to the so-called laws of nature: if God has power to put a thought into the mind of man. Suppose the disciple wants work. If his father has power to put an appropriate suggestion into his mind the prayer can be answered. Jesus simply assumes that God has so made the human mind that it is capable of an interchange with himself, its heavenly father. (P119)

Luke 18:1-8. Men often called their petitions unanswered because in their impatience they do not give God time. In the parable of the judge, the lesson was that if it was worthwhile waiting persistently upon the unjust judge, how much more surely worthwhile to wait patiently on the Fatherly God! Spurgeon put the case strongly: "it may be your prayer is like a ship, which, when it goes on a very long voyage, does not come home laden so soon; but when it does come home it has richer freight.." We might pray as Anselm prayed, "fill our hearts we pray with the graces of your Holy Spirit, with love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Teach us to love those who hate us; to pray for those who despitefully use us.' (P120)

Peter 4:12-16, 19. Note the serious situation reflected in this scripture, the suffering endured, the fiery trial to the faced, and consider the spirit of prayer where, "as to a faithful creator" they commit their souls. Some people make an unreasonable surrender of their praying, because they had been disappointed in getting their desires, and suppose that the great pray-ers have estimated the value of prayer in terms of the trouble out all which it saved them. On the contrary, many a saint has prayed his best for changed circumstances and then has committed his soul "as to a faithful creator" although the outward trouble was still there. The person who prays must be ready to have his request denied, if it runs counter to God's will, which is dictated by a more infinite wisdom. (P121)

W. Orchard prayed in part, " it has pleased you to hide from us a perfect knowledge, yet You call us for a perfect trust in You.. We cannot see tomorrow, we know not the way that we take, darkness hangs about our path and mystery meets us that every turn. May we not suffer for any terror of darkness or from any torment of mind to sin against our souls, or to fail You. Amen."

Comments on Chapter 7.

To the beginner in the high art of praying, the Bible is often a very disheartening book. Its characters appear at first sight to enjoy the uninterrupted experience of answered prayer. If this were true however, it would be a book utterly inadequate to meet our needs. One of the sorest trials of the faith is petition unanswered. The Bible itself records experience of un-granted prayer. Even in the Psalms, one finds not alone jubilant gratitude over petitions denied, but despondent sorrow at the petitions denied. However, the Bible turns out to be full of unanswered prayers. Examples are Moses, Habakkuk, Paul and Jesus. We find whole classes of men whose petitions are on principal denied. One of the reasons is unforgiveness. Jesus tells his disciples that if the man does not forgive his enemies, even his own prayer for God's pardon and will be disregarded.

In dealing with this problem we should emphasize the truth before maintained, that petition is by no means the only form of prayer. Even though a man never asked God for anything, he still could pray. Indeed, the value of prayer is made to hinge too often upon the granting of minor material requests. In scripture we see the prayer of adoration. We also see the prayer of confession and the prayer of thanksgiving. Also there is the prayer of consecration. Overall, prayer is communion with God. (P123)

This province of petition is important. It is not the whole of prayer, but it is the original form of prayer. Men cannot be content simply to praise God, confess to Him, thank Him, make vows of devotion, and enjoy communion with Him. Men have desires. Petition, in its lower forms is the result of ignorant, unspiritual immaturity. But petitions that well up out of mankind's deep desires for real good, are an integral part of prayer. The Bible uses explicit and sweeping words about petition. "Ask and it shall be given to you, believe and you shall receive."

One obvious reason for our unanswered petitions is the ignorance of our asking. Almost all of us pray in ignorance of our profoundest needs. Indeed, instead of calling prayers unanswered, it is far truer to recognize that NO is as real an answer as YES and often far more kind. (P125)

This suggestion gains force when we perceive that often, if God granted the form of our petition, he would deny the substance of our desire. St. Augustine's mother did not want to her son to sail for Italy for she wanted him to be a Christian, and could not bear losing him from her influence. But even while she prayed there passionately for her son's retention at home, he sailed by the grace of God for Italy where he was persuaded by Ambrose to become a Christian. The form of her petition was denied but the substance of the desire was granted. As Augustine himself puts it," Thou, in the depth of Thy councils, hearing the main point of the desire, regardest not what she then asked, that Thou mightest make me what she ever desired." (P125)

Another plain reason for our denied request is that we continually try to make prayer a substitute for intelligence and work. We have already seen that there are three chief ways in which men cooperate with God: thinking, working, and praying. Now, no one of these three can never take place of another. When our petitions cross over into the realms where results was be achieved, not by asking, but by working or thinking, the petitions cannot be granted. There are prayers for example which attempt to achieve by supplications what can be achieved only by effective thinking. What if men could sail their ships as well by prayer alone as by knowledge of science of navigation. If life is to mean development and discipline, some things must be impossible until men think, no matter how hard they pray. God much surely require us as individuals and as a race to endure the discipline of painful enterprise and struggle, rather than find an easy relief by asking. There are prayers too which attempt to accomplish by supplications what can be accomplished only by work. When one studies the great servants of the kingdom at prayer, he always finds in them this sturdy commonsense. If ever an enterprise was begun, continued, and ended in prayer, it was Nehemiah's reconstruction of the Hebrew Commonwealth; for Nehemiah always combined prayer and work, without confusing them. (P127)

Still another reason for un-granted petitions may be noted: we are not ready for the reception of the gift which we desire. The trouble is not with the petition, but with us who offer it . We are lackadaisical in our desires and therefore are not importunate in our prayers. At first it may seem surprising that we should insist on importunity in prayer. If God is good and wishes to give us the best, why must we clamour long enough after real good, eagerly and patiently and with importunity seeking it? Jesus insisted on importunity in prayer. "His spoke a parable to the to the end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint." Luke 18: 1. Jesus insisted on tireless praying. He said prayer was seeking after spiritual good. The necessity of this sort of prayer is not difficult to understand. Anyone who has serious business will wait for an answer to his summons and if need be, will ring again. When we said that both "no" and "yes" were real answers to prayers, we did not exhaust the possibilities. There is another answer which God continually gives us life - "wait." Prayer must be an intent, zealous, busy and operative prayer and not an individual spasm of petition. Our prayers upbraid our spirit's when we beg tamely for those things for which we ought to die. There are some things God cannot give to a man unless the man has prepared and proved his spirit by persistent prayer. (P129)

We can see then, from the wider domain of prayer into the special problems of petition, that there are three comprehensive reasons for denied request: the ignorance of our asking, the use of prayer in fields where it does not belong, and the unreadiness of our own lives to receive the good we seek. Praying must be in Jesus name, but no hurried addition of "For Jesus sake" appended to a prayer can satisfy this deep and spiritual demand. Petition must be in accordance with the divine will and in harmony with Christ's spirit. St. Augustine's prayer was: " O Lord, grant that I may do Your will as if it were my will; so that you may do my will as if it were Your will." Prayer is not to be depended on, but God is. God always answers true prayer in one of two ways. For either he changes the circumstances or he supplies sufficient power to overcome them. He answers either the petition or the man. A Christian knows he is not refused what he has prayed for, and finds in fact, that he is helped in all troubles.....and that God gives him power to bear his troubles and to overcome them: which is just the same thing as taking his trouble away from him. Scores of Judson's petitions had gone without an affirmative answer. But Judson always had been answered. He had been upheld, guided, reinforced; unforseen doors had opened through the very trials he sought to avoid; and the deep desires of these his life were being accomplished, not in his way but beyond his way. As Paul said, "My God shall fulfil every need." (P131)

Chapter 8. Prayer as a Dominant Desire

1 Cor 12:28 to 13:1. We have not dealt yet with one of the deepest troubles in our praying. Our prayers are often unreal because they do not represent what in our inward hearts we sincerely crave. (P133) For example, we pray against some evil habit in our lives, while at the same time we refuse to give up the practices that make the habit easy. We do not want the answer enough to burn the bridges across which the sin continually comes. W.E. Orchard prayed, " make us strong enough to bear the vision of the truth, and to have done with all falsehood, pretence, and hypocrisy, so that we may see things as they are, and fear no more. Enable us to look upon the love which has borne with us and the heart that suffers for us." (P134)

Matthew 18:23-24, 27-35. The unreality of our praying may be a illustrated in our petitions for forgiveness. Nothing may be more superficial than the request for pardon; nothing can be more searching than a genuine experience of penitence. To be sincerely sorry for the evil itself, rather than for its consequences; to be ashamed of our failure, so that we feel ourselves to be the brother of all sinners is to experience the thought, "there but for the grace of God go I." A man so ashamed of himself will seek forgiveness and renewal, with a genuine desire that will make his supplications real, and by the very vividness of his own sense of guilt, will find it impossible to be unforgiving to any other man. Consider the Master's insistence on that kind of genuineness our prayers for pardon.

John 17:11-21. Consider another way in which we pray insincerely. We go through the form of praying for our friends. It seems the right thing to do, and it gives us at least a momentary glow of unselfishness. But the prayer does not rise from a controlling desire for our friends good. We often do not really care enough about our friends, so that our supplications for them has vital meaning for us and, therefore God. The reality of this intercessory prayer in John's seventeenth Chapter goes back to the genuineness of the love out of which it came.

Job 31:16-22. We often emphasize the fact that prayer is a powerful builder of character; but the other side of the truth is important, that great character is essential to great praying. A man with a small, mean self-indulgent life cannot genuinely offer a great prayer. When pity leads us to ask God's mercy on the poor, the value of the praying depends on the controlling power of that good desire in our lives. Can God see our habitual, systematic care for the poor, the proof of the prayers in sincerity? (P138)

Acts 13:1-4. Paul's first missionary tour was conceived in the spirit of prayer and furthered by prayers' power. The plain fact often is that, while we are offering prayers, we are offering nothing else. We make supplications a substitution for devotion and believe that an occasional dole from our surplus is sufficient. We need to have the Lord pour forth His sanctifying spirit on our fellow Christians abroad, and His converting grace on those who are living in darkness. (P139)

Ps 122 : 6-9. In the time of a great war, nothing is more natural than to pray for peace. But of all petitions that arise for peace, how many represent deep and transforming devotion of the life to the course of human brotherhood? Men pray for peace and ask for human brotherhood to come, but they are most un-brotherly to the foreigner within their own communities. The prayers tend to be long-range dreams that do not touch their lives. And least of all do many of us, when we pray for peace, purge our own hearts of that rancour that lies behind all war.

1 Kings 21 : 1-4. Ahab's prayer here was simply is covetous desire for Naboth's vineyard. No formal, proper, pious supplications addressed to God could have hidden from the divine insight, this deeper fact that what Ahab really wanted was his neighbours field. Consider how when God must so look through our conventionally proper petitions, and in our hearts perceive our unvoiced but controlling wants -sometimes as mean, selfish, covetous as Ahab's. These are the deep prayers of our lives - our hearts are set upon them - and God is not deceived when we tell Him in pious phrases that we wish His blessing. Let us consider this week what our hearts really are set on, what are our chief ambitions and desires. (P142)

Comments on Chapter 8.

Until now we have spoken of prayer as a definitely religious act. We have thought of hearts bowed in the presence of God. But in this chapter we must sink down into the realm of human desire, which, like an ocean under separate waves, lies beneath all especially religious petitions. We must ask not only what our desires are when we bow before God, but what are our dominant aims are in daily business; what we are really after in our innermost ambitions and what is our demand on life. Prayer, in this more exclusive sense, is the settled craving of a man's heart, good or bad, his inward love and determining desire. When the prodigal son asked his father for his inheritance it was a prayer resolutely directed towards evil, but it was still prayer. In a sense, every wish, with God, is a prayer. (P143)

One immediate result of this point of view is a clear perception that everybody is praying. Prayer regarded as a definite act of approach to God may be shut out from any life. But prayer regarded as desire, exercised in any realm and for anything, at once includes us all. Ordinarily, prayer is regarded as the act of a man's best hours. But in this deeper sense men pray in their worst hours too. Prayer may be either heavenly or devilish. David, with licentious heart, putting Uriah at the front of the battle is still praying. (P143)

It is to be noted also, that prayer in this sense is the inward measure of any man's quality. Living beings reveal their grade in the scale of existence by their wants. Inanimate things want nothing. But the faintest glimmering of life however, brings in the reign of want. The greater a man is, the wider and deeper and finer are his desires. His prayer is the measure of him. So each man prays ,and as he prays, he reveals his quality. No man can escape the prayer of dominant desire, nor evade the inevitable measurement of his life by his prayer. (P144)

This truth becomes very serious when we face a further development of it : that the prayer of dominant desire always tends to obtain its object. This is true because the central craving organizes all the faculties of our lives and sets minds and hands to do its bidding. The prayer of dominant desire habitually proceeds thought and work. We think and labour because in our innermost heart we have prayed first, because some Desire is in us calling to our minds. Desire is the element force in human experience. (P145)

Dominant desire gathers up the scattered faculties, concentrates the mind, nerves the will, and drives hard towards the issue. It always tends to achieve its end. If you have the thing in mind, it is not long before you have it in hand. This prayer of dominant desire tends to achieve its object, not merely because it concentrates the powers within the man, but because it calls into alliance with it forces from without the man. (P145)

When a man craves vicious pleasure, low companions inevitably drift to him from every side; His prayer creates a call that is answered by everything kindred to his want. The universe itself responds to a man's insistent demands upon it. Even the forces of the spiritual world align themselves, however reluctantly, with a man's controlling prayer. He can create a back eddy in the river of God's will, and the very waters that would have helped him go straight on, will now swirl around his dominant desire. Here then, is one of the most revealing and startling aspects in which the meaning of prayer may be considered. " we are all praying the prayer of dominant desire; our quality is measured by it; and because it both engages in its service, our inward powers and calls its furtherance forces from without, it tends with certainty to achieve its end.' (P146)

When from this general consideration of prayer as desire, we move up to the more usual thought of prayer as the soul's definite approach to God, we gain outlooks on the subject that no other road so well affords. We see clearly that many of the speeches addressed to God that we have called prayers are not real prayers at all. They are our our dominant desires. They do not express the inward set and determination of our lives. What we pray for in the closet is not the thing that daily we are seeking with undiscouraged craving. Is not difficult to pray with the lips for renewed character and serviceable life, for social justice and the triumph of the gospel. The Bible shows us in many familiar passage what we ought to pray for and we can readily frame petitions that copy the letter of such prayers. There is an appalling hiatus between the requests publicly made and the manifest desires of the man who prays. Prayer that is not dominant desire is too weak to achieve anything.

This perception of the nature of true prayer as dominant desire addressed to God, lights up two important matters. Firstly, viewed as a significant contribution to our thoughts on unanswered prayer. It suggests that while man's outward petition may be denied, his dominant desire, which is his real prayer, maybe granted. Many a man would have to confess that for all his denied petition, he has gotten what his heart was inwardly set upon. The controlling passion in any life draws an answer, sometimes with appalling certainty. Men are given to complaining of unanswered prayer, but the great disasters are due to answered prayers. The trouble with men is that often they do get what they want. The prodigal son prayer was a dominant desire fulfilled. The Bible is full of answered prayers that ruined men. The power of dominant desire is terrific. Again in history, we see the old truth come true: "he gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul." Psalm 106:15. (P148)

This perception of the nature of prayer as dominant desire also lights up one of the most notable causes of failure in praying- insincerity. Jesus emphasize this. He meant that the petition offered must be the genuine overflow of inward desire. Pharisees prayed on street corners. But the prayers did not represent the inward and determining wishes of the men. The petitions were not sincere. Their habitual ambitions did not tally with their occasional supplications. Prayer is the central and determining force of a man's life. Prayer is dominant desire calling God to hear.

We pray as we think we ought to. We ask for blessings that we feel are properly to be asked for, graces that we should want, whether we do or not. We ask God for the things which we presume God would like us to ask for. We have not at the centre of lives controlling desires so worthy that we can ask God to further them, and so earnest that our prayers are the spontaneous utterance of their urgency. Only when a petition becomes an "effective demand" is it real prayer. (P149)

When a man rehearses all the blessings he has prayed for himself and the world, he may well go on to ask whether he really wishes to prayers granted. Is he willing to pay the price? The great servants of the kingdom have always been men of powerful prayer because they were men of dominant desire for whose fulfilment they were willing to sacrifice anything, praying for the triumph of Christ with all their hearts and hurling their lives after their prayers. St. Augustine at last really prayed for purity, until the answer involved tearing loose the dearest ties of his past life. Prayer becomes serious business when it becomes dominant desirre.

In the Bible, the word prayer is not mentioned in the the beatitudes. How can that be? The Master put prayer into the beatitudes in one of the greatest descriptions to be found in the Bible. "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." Matthew 5:6. Prayer is hunger and thirst. Prayer is our demand on life, elevated, purified, and aware of a Divine Alliance. (P150)

Chapter 9. Prayer as a Battlefield.

Ps 51; 6 - 13. The prayer here is for a cleansed and empowered personality. What is taking place is one of those inner struggles on whose moral purity and power depend. For prayer is the innermost form of the fight for character. The aim to the of prayer is to attain the habit of goodness, so as no longer merely to have the things that are good, but to be good. Who rises from his prayer a better men, his prayer is answered. The profoundest need of the world is clean, strong, devoted personality. We are not poor in material prosperity but the real poverty is poverty of character. Let us consider this week the service of prayer as an inner battlefield on which the issues of character are settled. (P152)

Mark 1 : 32 - 39. Is the solitary prayer of the Master a battle for courage and strength to go on? If the Master needed the courage that comes in solitary prayer, can we dispense with it? Many lives would be strengthened, then tone would be changed from anxious timidity to power, if they would learn the secret of this inner friendship. As Samuel McComb prayed, "Put such a spirit of trust within me that all fear and foreboding shall be cast down, and that right reason and calm assurance may rule my thoughts and impulses. Let quietness and confidence be my strength." (P154)

Eph 6 : 10 - 18. To Paul prayer evidently has a warlike aspect. In prayer he finds the battlefield when he fights his fears and gains enduring power that he may be able, "having done all, to stand." The great succession of God's people have proved by the way they handled their troubles, even more than by the way they handled their talents, what God can do for a man of faith! Many may think prayer as a strange way of gaining power to endure, but the indestructible elements of the soul, that cannot be crushed or consumed by adversity, do come from our spiritual fellowship with God. Lady Jean Grey prayed, " give me grace to await your leisure, and patiently to bear what you do unto me, nothing doubting or mis-trusting Your goodness towards me; for You know what is good for me better than I do. Therefore do with me in all things what You will; only arm me; with Your armour, that I may stand fast; above all things, taking to me the shield of faith; Praying always that I may refer myself wholly to Your will, abiding Your pleasure, and comforting myself in those troubles which it shall place You to send me, seeing such troubles are profitable for me; and I am persuaded that all You do cannot be but well; and unto You be all honour and glory. Amen." (P156)

Matt 4 : 1 - 11. In this scripture the Master fought out the purpose of his life. These words indicate the atmosphere of devotion in which this battle was fought. Do we do with our temptations in this high way? Consider the besetting sins - temper, passion, the irreverence or whatever other form of self will we most easily fall into, and think of the way the habitual use of inward prayer would help us. What a cleansing effect takes place in our lives if we grow accustomed to usher God in upon the scene when uncleanness or ill-temper or self-will appears. Gradually but surely those feelings and thoughts, which are not comfortable when God is present, disappear. (P157)

James 5 : 13 - 16. Never more than in our day has the wisdom of this ancient advice been clear. Prayer is the inner battlefield when men often conquer most effectually the false worries, trivial anxieties, morbid humours and all the unwholesome spectres of the mind that irritate the spirit and make the body ill. There they learn Paul's lesson, "In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplications with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God. And a peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall guard your heart's and thoughts in Christ Jesus."

Samuel McComb again. " Rescue me from the misery of groundless fears and restless anxieties.. Lead me into the secret of your peace which quiets every misgiving and fills the heart with joy and confidence. Save me from the shame and emptiness of a hurried life. Grant me to possess my soul in patience. Amid the storms and stress of life, let me hear a deeper noise assuring me that You live and that all is well. Strengthen me to do my daily work in quietness and confidence, fearing no tomorrow, nor the evil that it brings, for you are with me. Amen. (P158)

Luke 22 : 42. Consider the battlefield of Gethsemane. Was there ever a more eventual engagement than that? It was a struggle for clear vision to see, and strength to do the will of God. The will of God was settled; He wanted clearly to see it and strongly to be apprehended by it, and He called God in to fight the narrower self will that opposed the larger devotion. What a deep experience such praying brings into any life that knows it. To enter it we must enter into God. (P159)

Ezra 9 : 6,7,10, 13-15. See how plainly the concern with which this prayer is burdened is the character of the people. Ezra's interest as he prays is moral; he wants transformed life, cleansed personality, empowered manhood, social righteousness. We have been seeing how moral courage, fortitude, power in temptation, spiritual poise and clear vision of God's will, may be won upon the inner battlefield of prayer. Consider the vitality that such a use of prayer puts into the religious life. In involves making God and actual partner in our moral struggle; it fills the religion with practical significance. It makes the centre of religion a fight for character. Samuel McComb prayed, " there are moments when I am afraid of myself, when the world the flesh and the devil seem more powerful than the forces of good.. But now I look to You in whom dwelleth all the fullness of grace and might and redemption.. Blessed Saviour, I take you afresh to be my refuge, my defence, my strong tower from the enemy. Hear me and bless me now and never. Amen."

Comments on Chapter 9

Praying, because it is communion with God, is similar to fellowship with a friend, and so we can emphasize its peaceful aspect. Jeremy Taylor described it as " the peace of the spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of the recollection." Prayer is this, but prayer is also a battlefield. When a man, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, calls God into alliance, he does so because he has a fight on his hands. He may have set his heart on the dominant decide of goodness, but that desire meets enemies that must be beaten. No one in earnest about goodness has ever succeeded in describing the achievement of goodness except in terms of a fight. In this moral battle, the decisive part of the engagement is not public and ostentatious ; it is in secret. Long before the armies clash in the field there has been a conflict in the office. Even in the Master's public ministry lay the battles in the desert which were fought out in prayer, deciding the controlling principles of his life. All public consequences go back to secret conflicts. The decisive battles of the world are hidden, and all the outward conflicts are but the echo and reverberation of that more real and inward war. To be sure, prayer is thus the fight for character. People such as Madam Guyon, who had protracted union with God made mistakes in the exaggerations of the mystical realms. The real prayer-ers however, have not weltered in futile emotion, supposed to be induced by God; they have been warriors who were on the inner battlefield fighting at the issues of righteousness with God as their ally. (P163)

The biographies of praying men referred to their experience of prayer as a battlefield and what this meant to them. They say that for one thing it has been the place where they reconquered faith and re-established confidence in God and in themselves. St. Francis of Assisi used to sit in prayer by the hour, with no spoken word except the occasional exclamation, " God." Doubts, if may be, had assailed his life; the clamour of the flesh had dulled the voice of the spirit; practical perplexities had distracted his life ; and he went out from all of these to take a reassuring look at the Eternal. He got himself together and came back, " things seen" a little more obscurer, " things unseen" vivid. So prayer is an observatory. In prayer, outlooks are obtained that orient life aright, that reveal perspective and give proportion, so that the solitary conflict proves the redemption of every day's most common task. (P165)

The biographies of praying men show is also that their struggles for right desire were fought out on the battlefield of prayer. Such praying requires in us the very thing we lack. Let a men try as he will to set his heart on righteousness, the course of that desire does not flow smoothly; it is impeded, sometimes halted, by landslides and cross currents. From this we can learn that one of the deepest needs in character is right desire. Now prayer has been the battlefield where the war against wrong desire has been fought out. No one has so frankly revealed issues of prayer as a battlefield for the conquest of desire as "Chinese" Gordon. Writes Gordon, " backbiting and envy were my delight, but by dint of perseverance in prayer, God has given the the mastery to a great degree; I do not wish to give it up, so I sought Him to give me that wish; He did so and then I had the promise of his fulfilment. My constant prayer is against Agag, who of course is here in the form of my flesh, "I had a terrible struggle this morning with a Agag"; "I had a terrible half-hour this morning, hewing Agag in pieces before the Lord."

Who can fail to see what Gordon meant? Some impurity was in him and he hauled it before the face of God and slew it there ; some selfish ambition, counter to the will of God. Prayer is often spoken of as the preparation for the fight of life, but it is worthwhile to note how truly here prayer was the fight itself. Prayer was the actual battle between a wrong desire for right one, with God called in as an ally. Day by day Gordon returned to cast down unholy passions and selfish aims and to confirm every true ambition in the sight of God. (P166)

The biographies of praying men show also that prayer was the battlefield where they fought out the issue between the two conflicting motives that most master human life - the praise of the world on the one side, and the approval of God on the other. One distinguishing quality of superior souls is their capacity to discount the praise of men and to set their hearts singly upon pleasing God. Such men are not so acutely aware of the public opinion of the earth as they were with the Public Opinion of the universe, in the sight of which they set themselves to stand clear and blameless. At times, that vividness with which such souls perceived the will of God for them, and the steadiness with which they do it, despite the condemnation of their fellows, lifts heroism to superhuman heights. These men live and work in the vivid consciousness of the "Father whose sees in secret." The dominant motive is to satisfy Him. But such living as this costs the fight. (P167)

God is not the only one whom they try to please. Evil assumes its most seductive form when it appeals to this same motive -- when some wrong minded friend requests what good conscious cannot grant. Sin in the abstract is hateful, but when it clothes itself in human flesh and waits to smile approval upon our compliance, it becomes tremendously attractive. Would Herod had slain John if the deed had not been pleasing to the Herodias? However, there are times when to please God and to please some human friend are synonymous. (P167)

Because, therefore, to displease people causes us most acute unhappiness, and to win their approval is life's most poignant satisfaction, some of the severest battles in the modern life must be fought about this issue. This conflict between the desire to please God and those who represent Him, and to please the generation in which He lived was the central struggle of the Master's life, and He fought it out in prayer. His idea of daily duty was defined in his own words, "I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.." This great battle of the master was waged in prayer, before ever its results were seen in public. Prayer is the fight for the power to see and the courage to do the will of God. No man's life can altogether lack that struggle, if he is to achieve dependable integrity that cannot be bought or scared. The best guarantee of character that is not for sale in this battlefield prayer, where day by day the issue is settled that we shall live, "not as pleasing men, but God which proveth our hearts." (P169)

To the great pray-ers, this practice of prayer has meant this vital struggle of which we have been speaking. On that secret battlefield faith and confidence have been reconquered, right desires have been confirmed, and men have gone from it to leave "in the sight of God." When men say that they have no time for praying, they can hardly have seen the truth that prayer is this innermost, decisive business of life. Whitefield, the great companion of the Wesley's, use to lie all day prostrate in prayer, and Luther, in the crisis of his life, said, " I'm so busy now that if I did not spend two or three hours each day prayer I could not get through the day."

The length of time is not the decisive matter in prayer. " we may pray most when we say least" as St. Augustine remarked; " and we may well pray least when we say most." (P170)

Chapter 10 Unselfishness in Prayer.

Matt 14 : 22 - 23. We are surely right in saying that the dominant motive of the Master's life was service. Yet we find Him here sending away multitudes so he could go into the solitude of the hills to pray. Was this selfish? Must we not suppose that he sent away the people, sought solitude, and gave Himself to prayer, because he believed that by so doing he was rendering the largest service to others. Consider the increased power for usefulness that came to the Master in His prayer, the recovery from spiritual exhaustion and fresh sense of God's companionship that He secured. Are we not often shallow in our service and superficially in our influence, just because we do not escape the multitude long enough for the ministry of unselfish praying alone?

Luke 11 5 : 8. The one who prays is asking for bread, not for his own sake, but for his friends. The need of another has made him feel the poverty of his own life; " I have nothing to set before him." How much praying ought to be done - by parents who feel their insufficiency in meeting their children deepest needs, by every teacher or minister or physician who deals intimately with human lives, by all in responsible positions in the social and political life, of a community. Many of us, like a man in the parable, do not see how empty our cupboards are "until a friend "comes to us from the journey," and then our barren uselessness, our ill-equipped spirits, our meagre souls shame us. Such persistent importunity as this belongs rightfully to a man who is praying unselfishly - the motive of whose cry is the desire to have plenty to set before his friend.(P173)

An anonymous prayer read as follows. "Grant unto us O Lord God that we may love one another unfeignedly; for where love is, there You are; and he that loves his brother is born a You, and dwells in You, and You in him. Love us, therefore O Lord and shed your love into a hearts, that we may love You, and a brethren in You and for You, as all children to You, through Jesus Christ our Lord. With Amen."

1 Cor 12 : 12 - 21 , 26 -27. Paul's classic figure of body and members is the basis of intercessory prayer? "No man is the whole of himself; his friends are the rest of him." Let a man endeavour to abstract from his life all the meaning that has come from friends, family, and social relationships, and he will soon see how very small his narrow self is, and how his true and greater self is inconceivable without the social body of which is a member. We are in the love system where the aspiration of one member heightens the entire group. As Walter Rauschenbusch puts it, "fill us now with hunger and thirst for justice that we bear glad findings to the poor and set at liberty all who are in the prison house of want and sin. "

Matt 6 : 7 - 15. Mark the fact that this praery is not given simply for public use when men are praying together; it is directly related to the injunction to go into one's closet, shut the door, and pray in secret. Even when in solitude an individual is communing with God, he is to say not merely I and My, but Our. The degree to which this social spirit in prayer will take possession of us depends on the vividness with which we perceive the intimate relationships that bind all men together, until each individual is seen not simply as a separate thread, but as an inseparable element in the closely woven fabric of human life. (P178)

Matt 13 : 44 - 46. How plainly the petition, " Thy Kingdom come" represented the controlling passion of Jesus! The prayer at its best always refuses the impossible task of separating the I from the we, and in its supplications gathers up the common needs of all mankind to carry them in earnest sympathy to God. Walter Rauschenbusch prayed, "O Christ you have bidden us to pray for the coming of your Father's kingdom in which His righteous will shall be done on earth. As we have mastered nature that we might gain wealth, help us now to Master the social relations of mankind that we may gain justice and a world of brothers. For what shall it profit our nation if it gains numbers and riches, and loses the sense of the living God and the joy of human brotherhood? Make us determined to live by truth and not by lies, to found our common life on the eternal foundations of righteousness and love. Cast down the throne of mammon who ever grinds the life of men, and set up Your throne O Christ for you died that man might live."

Matt 18 : 18 - 19. Jesus words about praying together are quite as positive as his words about praying alone. We often quote this reference to "two or three" but in fact the contrast lies between social and solitary prayer. Christ means to stress the fact that He is especially present in a praying group. Praying for another, especially an unfriendly man, is a searching test of our relationship with him. But praying with another - how much more intimate and penetrating a test is that? Prayer is the most effective cleanser of personal relationships, when in the home people kneel amid the familiar scenes of daily life. The bitter word and neglected kindness will quarrel with the mutual prayer; people must really be loyal to one another to pray well together. (P179)

Matt 5 : 43 - 45. These passages of scripture are as open windows into the habitual intercessions of the Master. We have been noting different forms which unselfish praying takes: praying for our own need that we may serve others better; pleading the common wants which belong to all of us; offering an entreaty for the coming kingdom; and praying together in a social group. But in addition to these the Master prayed for individual people, both His enemies and his friends. His love was personal and concrete; when He prayed He used names. When a man prays in secret for another, and does it genuinely, he must really care. Before Oliver Cromwell died he prayed, " Lord, though I am a miserable and wretched creature, I am in covenant with You through grace. And I may, I will, come to You, for Your people. You have made though very unworthy, a mean instrument to do them some good, and Your service. Lord, however you dispose of me, continue, then go on and to do good for them. Given them consistency of judgment, one heart, and mutual love. Teach those who looked too much on Your instruments, to depend more upon Yourself. Amen. "

Comments on Chapter 10.

Of all the forces in human life that go to the making of dominant desire, none is more powerful than love. But one also finds the sordid Ahab, and the avaricious Judas ( with negative and evil desires) . An example on the good side was a lad named Muller. His testimony read, "my mother gave me a life preserver, that's how I got saved. I guess she didn't have none herself, because they can't find her." Trace in this testimony the direction of the mother's dominant desire. So the controlling wants all the world's devotees, from mothers to martyrs, have been unselfish. Said General Gordon, "I declare, if I could stop this slave traffic, I would willingly be shot this night." Cried John Knox, "God, give me Scotland, or I die." Indeed what expression of dominant desire could be more natural than this prayer of Knox? Paul's vital trust in God was devoted to a cause when he prayed for others. "Unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers." [Romans 1: 9] and "I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers." [Eph 1:15-16] Also, '" In every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy." [Phil 1:4] When dominant desire becomes unselfish, the result is truly represented in these prayers of Paul. (P182)

In considering the meaning of this sort of praying we may well note, that a man can pray unselfishly for himself. When the Master said, "I sanctify myself," he was not selfish. He was really saying that for their sakes I sanctify myself. The vividness with which this motive in prayer will appeal to any man depends on his clear perception of the intimate ways in which his friends welfare and happiness depend on him .

No man can keep the consequences of any evil to himself. The consequences seep through his individual life, and run out into the community. When the scripture says, "be sure your sins will find you out," it does not mean "will be found out." It means what it says, " will find YOU out," track you down, spoil your character, destroy your happiness, ruin your influence; and because it does that, it will find your friends out, will tend to pull them down with you, will surely make goodness harder for them, and within your family circle will roll upon those who love you the burden of vicarious suffering. Sinning even in its most private forms, is to put poison into the public reservoir, and sooner or later everybody is the worse for the pollution. But no man ever yet bore all the consequences of his own sin.

The cross is a universal fact - a symbol of the suffering brought on those who have not done the wrong by those who have.

To pray for one's life in the light of this fact is to pray unselfishly. A man, for each friends sake may well pray against the emptiness and uselessness of his life, and may well seek power to be worth as much as possible to others. Here is where we face the real trouble with our prayers. Not for lack of satisfying philosophy do our prayers run dry, but for lack of love. We do not care enough about people and causes to pray for ourselves on their account. (P184)

Unselfishness in prayer, however, never has been and never can be fully satisfied with praying for ourselves for others' sakes. It involves specifically praying for others, and the more deep and constraining the love, the more natural is the definite entreaty for God's blessing upon our friends. The prayers of Jesus indicating His habit of intercession are abundant and convincing. We can see immediately that such intercessions sincerely and habitually practiced, will have notable result in the one who prays. It carries man out of himself; it brings to mind the names and needs of many friends, making the heart ready for service and the imagination apt to perceive ways of helping those else forgotten and neglected. Intercession is the best arbitrator of all differences, the best promoter of true friendship, the best cure and preservative against all unkind tempers, all angry and haughty passions.

For another thing, intercession will often have effect in the lives on those of whose behalf the prayer is made, if only for this reason, that the knowledge that these friends are praying for him is one of the finest and most empowering influences that can surround any man. The only thing that has kept many people going is the prayer of others and knowing that they are praying for you. (P186)

In addition to these two effects, Christians have looked to intercession for a far more vital consequence. When trust for God and love for men co-exist in any life, prayer for others inevitably follows. Deepening intimacy with God, by itself, may find expression in quiet communion; enlarging love for men, alone, may utter itself in serviceable deeds; but these two cannot live together in the same life without sometimes combining in vicarious prayer. The genuine intercessors, who in costly praying have thrown their personal love aside alongside God's, and have earnestly claimed blessings for their friends, have felt that they were not playing with a toy, but that they were somehow using the creative power of personality in acting ways for God to work his will. They have been convinced that their intercessions wrought consequences for their friends.

To some people intercession seems to mean that one person may persuade a thoughtless or unwilling God to do something for another person. A popular analogy has tended to keep alive this misconception. God in many ways, so runs the analogy, refuses to work His will save as some man corporates with Him. So intercessory prayer may be another way in which God waits for our assistance. If He will not do some things for my friend until I work, it may be that he will not do other things until I pray. There is an element of the truth in this analogy, but the limited application of the comparison is clear. God cannot save my family life without my co-operation, because he cannot take my place as son or husband or father; He must work through me. The trouble with such an idea intercession is not simply intellectual; but moral. That one individual, myself, should try to persuade another individual, God, to do for a third individual, my friend, something which the second individual, God, had not thought of, or was intending otherwise, or was arbitrarily withholding until I asked to have it given, plainly involves the thought of deity with pagan elements in it. And many people, feeling this, have given up intercession as unreasonable.

Earnest Christians, in their intercessions, are about a serious and reasonable business, whose sources lie deep in the needs of human life. A clear and rational belief in intercession must start with two truths: first, the Christian gospel about God; and second, the intimate relationships that make the world of persons an organic whole.

As to the first, the Christian God desires the welfare of all men everywhere; His love is boundless in extent and individual in application.

When men go up to such a God in vicarious prayer, their intercession must mean casting themselves in with the eternal purpose of the Father for His children, laying hold on God, not to call Him to ministry as though he needed that, but the carried along with him in his desire for all mens good. Nothing is more wanted in the world than such intercession. God wants men to lay hold of and love Him in inward prayer, aligning their dominant desires with His, until their intercession becomes the effective ally of His will. (P189)

As to the second truth which underlies the reasonableness of intercession - persons are not separate individuals merely, like grains of sand in a bag, but as Paul says, are members of one another. The more we know about personality, the less possible it is to draw clear circles about each one of us, petitioning ourselves from one another. We all run in to each other, like inter-flowing rivulets with open channels, above ground and subterranean.

So that if a men believes in God, in Whom all live and have their being, there is no basis for denying the possibility that prayer may open ways of personal influence even at a distance. Personality, at its best, in its thinking and working is creative, and when in this love-system of persons, a soul throws in its dominant desire alongside God's, no one can easily set boundaries to that prayer's influence. (P189)

Our experience is clear that something creative is being done when in this unitary system of personal life human souls take on themselves God's burden for men, and in vicarious prayer throw themselves in with His sacrificial purpose. The man who prays changes the centre of gravity of the world of persons. Other persons will be different as well as himself, and he could not have produced this difference by any other means than this union of himself with God. (P190)

But no explanation, however reasonable, can do justice to the experience of vicarious praying. To feel that, we must turn to life. When a mother prays for her wayward son, no words can make clear the vivid reality of her supplications. Her love pours itself out in insistent demand that her boy must not be lost. She is sure of his value, with which no outward thing is worthy to be compared, and of his possibilities which no sin of his can ever make her doubt. She will not give him up.

As one considers such an experience of vicarious praying he sees that it is not merely resignation to the will of God: it is urgent assertion of a great desire. She does not really think she's persuading God to be good to her son, for the courage in her prayer is due to her certain faith that God must also wish that boy to be recovered from his sin. She rather is taking on her heart the same burden that God has on His; is joining her demand with the Divine desire. In this system of personal life which makes up the moral universe, she is taking her place alongside God in an urgent, creative outpouring of sacrificial love. Now this mother does not know and cannot know just what she is accomplishing by her prayers. But we know that such mothers save their sons when others fail. The mystery of prayers projectile force is great, but the certainty of such prayers influence, one way or another, in working redemption for needy lives, is greater still. It may be, as we have said, that God has so ordained the laws of human interrelationships that we can help one another not alone by our deeds, but also directly by our thoughts, and that earnest prayer may be the exercise of this power in its highest terms. But whether that mother has ever argued out of theory or not, she still prays on. Her intercession is the utterance of her life; it is love on its knees. (P191)

The chief obstacles to intercession are moral. We live for what we can get; our dominant desires are selfish. The main current of us runs in the channel of our mean ambitions, and our thoughts of other people and of great causes are but occasional eddies on the surface of the stream. But we have to take care. The prayers must mean something to us, if they out to mean anything to God. We must also remember that intercession is the result of generous devotion, not of logical analysis. When such devotion comes into the life of any man who vitally believes in God, like a rising stream in a dry river bed, it lifts the obstacles at whose removal he has tugged in vain, and floats them off. The unselfish prayer of dominant desire clears its own channel. We put our lives into other people, and into great causes; and our prayers follow after, voicing our love. We do it because love makes us, and we continue it because the validity of our praying is proved in our experience.

"We pray as much as we desire, and we desire as much as we love."