The Life of Prayer Part 2
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G.o.d holds us responsible for our doubt but does not require us to produce, by our own will, the faith which brings us into contact with His love and blessing, for this is His impartation; but He does require us to prevent it from running out, as from leaking vessels, through all the openings of our miserable doubts. There is one thing that we can all do-we can refuse to doubt; we can refuse to entertain the questioning and fear, the morbid apprehension and subtle Satanic insinuation; and if we do this, G.o.d will do the rest and enable us to stand fast in faith, and press forward to the fullness of His blessing.
This is where the enemy concentrates his strongest attacks, waiting when the hour of trial comes and our prayer seems to be refused and delayed, and hurling all his shafts of fire and evil suggestion into our trembling hearts to try to drive us from our confidence and get us to betray our own cause by consenting to his wicked questionings. Therefore Christ has said, "Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, . . . he shall have whatsoever he saith." So "Abraham staggered not at the promise of G.o.d through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to G.o.d." So we are to hold fast the faith we have professed without wavering, for, "He is faithful that promised." "Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." G.o.d waits to give His blessing to the soldiers who stand their ground, and who, when the blessing comes, are there to claim it.
But perhaps you say, "I have already doubted, and forfeited my blessing. Is it then too late to receive the answer?" No, not if you will repent of your doubt as you would of any other sin, and immediately bring forth fruits meet for repentance by refusing from henceforth and forevermore to be betrayed into the same sin. Often we shall find that such a fall becomes the occasion of thoroughly convincing us of the sin of doubting and curing us of it forever.
Beloved, have you been trifling with G.o.d in this matter of prayer and defrauding yourself of the blessings for which you have already suffered so much? May the Lord set your face this day like a flint, and fix your feet on the rock and stay your soul upon G.o.d!
Our prayers will be hindered if we stand on forbidden ground, or in anything hold back from the Master's will. It is not necessary that there should be willful sin or actual vice and transgression of moral law. It may simply be disobedience to the Spirit's voice in some definite leading to service or testimony. We have known many instances of persons who did not receive the full answers to their prayers for the baptism of the Holy Spirit until they had definitely obeyed the voice of G.o.d in some particular where they had been shrinking or hesitating. We have known many sad cases of persons who have failed to receive the answer to their prayer for healing because they were standing in some forbidden place, holding back their testimony for G.o.d, from timidity or the fear of man, or failing to take some step of faith to which the Holy Spirit was calling; and it was not until after months or even years of striving with G.o.d and bitter sorrow that they learned the lesson, and in prompt and thorough obedience received perfect deliverance and wondrous blessing.
The Bible has some very solemn instances of good men standing on forbidden ground and finding their power and defense departing from them. The mighty Samson lost all his hold upon G.o.d the moment he left his place of separation. Abraham had no power while in a compromising att.i.tude in Egypt. Jacob had no vision of G.o.d during the years of his wandering. And even the good Josiah lost his heavenly protection and sacrificed his precious life because he stepped beyond the divine will and went unbidden against Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt, who warned him of his fate if he persisted in his rash presumption. There is not one of us who stands on consecrated ground but would probably lose even life itself if we persisted in disobeying the distinct call of G.o.d to special service or pressing forward where He had said "No."
It is a very solemn thing for those who are walking in the Spirit to trifle with His voice or be disobedient to His least command. Such disobedience may interrupt all intercourse and hider all prayer.
But again, forbidden means may effectually interrupt our Father's blessing. It is possible to ask G.o.d's help in a proper manner and spirit, and then immediately go to work to help Him to fulfill our prayer in an unlawful manner. No doubt Jacob sincerely asked G.o.d for the coveted blessing, but he proceeded afterwards to take the most unworthy means to accomplish his purpose, and involved himself in years of waiting and sorrow. No doubt Moses sincerely asked G.o.d to deliver Israel by His hand when forty years of age, but he proceeded in the most rash and improper manner to accomplish his patriotic desire by slaying an Egyptian, and involving himself in crime and peril from the hand of the king.
Doubtless, Abraham thought that his compromise about Hagar was going to a.s.sist G.o.d in fulfilling His own promise of a son, but he only silenced the heavenly voice for many years and brought upon himself domestic strife and trouble, hindering the object he had at heart. No doubt Saul of Tarsus sincerely prayed for salvation for many a year, but he sought it by his own righteousness and missed his aim by not submitting himself to the righteousness of G.o.d, and his whole race today are praying in vain for mercy, which they reject by rejecting G.o.d's only appointed way.
Many a soul prays for sanctification but fails to enter into the blessing because he does not intelligently understand and believingly accept G.o.d's appointed means by Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit. Many a prayer for the salvation of others is hindered because the very friend who prays for his friend takes the wrong course to bring about the answer and resorts to means which are wholly fitted to defeat his worthy object. We know many a wife who is pleading for her husband's soul and hoping to win him by avoiding anything that may offend him, yielding to all his worldly tastes in the vain hope of attracting him to Christ.
Far more effective would be an att.i.tude of fidelity to G.o.d and fearless testimony to Him, such as G.o.d could bless. Many a church asks the Lord for His blessing, and then goes to work to defeat it by methods of worldly conformity which G.o.d never can countenance. Many a congregation wonders why it is so poor and struggling and its prayer for financial resources never answered, and yet it may be found that its financial methods are wholly unscriptural and often unworthy of ordinary self-respect, and such as a decent worldly inst.i.tution would not stoop to depend upon.
When we ask G.o.d for any blessing, we must allow Him to direct the steps which are to bring the answer. G.o.d will give His power to every heart that will let Him hold the reins. Many an invalid is praying for healing and yet directly neglecting G.o.d's very prescription for disease and resorting to means which He has not countenanced, and which probably He would utterly forbid, especially to one who claimed to be in the att.i.tude of simple faith. G.o.d's answer must be brought by His own messengers, and the steps which we take in bringing about the answer must be based on His absolute direction.
Take, for example, the course of David the second time the Philistines invaded his realm after his coronation. Suppose David had done just what he had done before and marched directly against them and then asked G.o.d to bless him. He would have been defeated, for this time the command was entirely different from the previous occasion. "Thou shalt not go up; but fetch a compa.s.s behind them," that is, take a circuitous course, march away from them first, then around by a flank movement, "and come upon them over against the mulberry trees. And let it be, when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the Lord go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines." Here we see that the answer was dependent on explicit obedience to the Lord's directions.
Is this not the reason, beloved, of many of our unanswered prayers? Have we waited for our Master's orders and sought the answer in the direction that He bade? Oh, how solemn are the words of the prophet Zechariah respecting one of G.o.d's most precious promises, "This shall come to pa.s.s if ye diligently obey the voice of the Lord your G.o.d." And that is but the echo of G.o.d's word concerning Abraham, "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him."
Perhaps the greatest hindrance to effectual prayer, and no doubt to the life of prayer, is ignorance respecting the Holy Spirit and the interior life. With so many, prayer is the hasty utterance of the mere natural heart. It is little more than the cry of a suffering brute or the wail of an almost unconscious babe. True, G.o.d hears the faithless cry of human misery, but this is not prayer. The voice which always reaches the Father's ear is the voice of a trusting child and the Holy Spirit breathing in the heart of that child. True prayer should be His prompting, and it is because most persons know Him so little, and walk with Him at such a distance, that they are comparative strangers to the language of heavenly communion.
The life of prayer is an interior life, a spiritual life, and many persons do not know this, and do not want it. It holds too constant a check upon the heart, it requires too utterly that we should walk softly with our G.o.d. Most persons like to be their own masters, and the habit of walking step by step with G.o.d and submitting every thought and desire to an inward Monitor is intolerable to their imperious self-will, or at least unfamiliar to their experience.
But this is truly the very element of the life of prayer. It is an interior life. Its home is "the secret place of the most High," and its dwelling, "the shadow of the Almighty." It .is the intercourse of an inseparable divine companions.h.i.+p. It is Enoch walking with G.o.d. It is Elisha clinging to his master and saying, "As the Lord liveth and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee." It is the very breathing of the inner man, and is as necessary and unintermittent as the pulsation of a human heart and the respiration of a human bosom.
Beloved, is not this the difficulty, after all, about your prayers? Are they not the spasmodic cries of great emergencies rather than the habitual intercourse of a heavenly life? If you were accustomed to walk ever by His side, you would not get so far that you need to call so loudly and so long in the hour of extremity. It is the habit of constant prayer that prepares us for the great conflicts of prayer, and he, who in this neglects the moment, will find himself unprepared for the emergencies. G.o.d is calling you to a closer walk with Him, to open your heart for His continual abiding, and to receive into your breast the Spirit of grace and supplications to become to you the Mighty Advocate who shall inspire all your pet.i.tions and bear them on the strong wings of His love and power to the Advocate on high, through Whom you shall receive the answer of that Father who ever answers the prayer which He inspires.
We sometimes see it advertised by our great financial houses that they have a private wire with all the great centers of trade. He who possesses in his heart the Holy Ghost has a private wire to the throne, and at any moment can open and maintain direct communication with heaven and bring all its legions, if need be, to His immediate aid. 0 beloved, surely it is worth your while to yield yourself to a consecrated life and to allow your loving Lord to make your heart His temple and His throne, where prayer shall ever be the familiar and unbroken intercourse of a happy child with the Father Who is ever at hand.
Oh, how happy they, who are thus within continual reach of the supply of every need and the balm for every wound! Sorrow may overshadow, Satan may a.s.sail, difficulty may encompa.s.s on every side, but, through prayer, relief is always new and the victorious spirit returns fresh from every conflict with a strength, which, Phoenix like, rises from its own ashes and grows, with each renewing, in freshness and gladness.
A South American traveler tells of a curious conflict which he once witnessed between a little quadruped and a terrific and poisonous snake of great size. The little creature seemed no match for its antagonist that threatened to destroy it and its helpless brood by a blow, but it fearlessly faced its mighty enemy and rus.h.i.+ng in its face struck him with a succession of fierce and telling blows, but received at the onset a deep and apparently fatal wound from his poisonous fangs, which flashed for a moment with an angry fire, and then fastened themselves deep into the flesh of the daring little a.s.sailant.
For a moment it seemed as if all was over, but the wise little creature immediately retired into the forest and hastening to the plantain tree eagerly devoured a portion of its leaves, and immediately came back, apparently fresh and restored, to renew the fray with fresh vigor and determination. Again and again this strange spectacle was repeated; the serpent ferociously attacked, greatly exhausted, and again and again wounded its antagonist to death, as it seemed, but the little creature successively repaired to its simple prescription and returned to renewed victory, until, in the course of an hour or two, the battle was over, the mammoth reptile lay still and dead, and the little victor was unharmed in the midst of the nest and the helpless little ones, who had been thus saved from destruction.
How often we are wounded by the dragon's sting, wounded it would seem to death; and if we had to go through some long ceremony to reach the source of life, we must faint and die! But, blessed be His Name! there is ever, for us, a Plant of healing as near at hand as that which the forest holds in its shade, to which we may continually repair and come back refreshed, invigorated, transfigured, like Him, Who, as He prayed on the mount, shone with the brightness of celestial light; and as He prayed in the garden, arose triumphant over the fear of death, and strengthened from on high to accomplish the mighty battle of our redemption.
Oh, the victories of prayer! They are the mountain tops of the Bible. They take us back to the plains of Mamre, to the fords of Peniel, to the prison of Joseph, to the triumphs of Moses, to the victories of Joshua, to the deliverances of David, to the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, to the whole story of the Master's life, to the secret of Pentecost, to the keynote of Paul's unparalleled ministry, to the lives of saints and the deaths of martyrs, to all that is most sacred and sweet in the history of the Church and the experience of the children of G.o.d.
And when, for us, the last conflict shall have pa.s.sed, and the footstool of prayer shall have given place to the harp of praise, the scenes of time that shall be gilded with eternal radiance shall be those often linked with deepest sorrow and darkest night, over which we have written the inscription, "JEHOVAH-SHAMMA: The Lord was there!" Only that which G.o.d touched shall be remembered or worth remembering forever. These are imperishable memorials. Oh, that henceforth they may cover every pathway and every step of life's journey, and that we may recognize whatever comes as but another call to prayer and another opportunity for G.o.d to manifest His glory and erect the everlasting memorial of His victorious love!
We close this little message with the thought with which we began its first chapter; namely, that the way the Master taught His disciples to pray was by starting them at once to pray.
Begin this moment to pray for the very first thing that comes to your heart as a need, and go right on turning everything into prayer until you have to stop in the very fullness of your heart and turn it all into praise. And "now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."
The Life of Prayer Part 2
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The Life of Prayer Part 2 summary
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