« ÖncekiDevam »
means of inducing the gods to change the course of things, but their own gift of communion with themselves, the blessing of the living gods upon their children.” When one turns to Christian experience he finds this aspect of prayer everywhere magnified and exalted. When Tennyson described prayer's meaning for his life 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.” Consider how entirely this realm of prayer lies outside the disappointments of denied petition for changed circumstances.
Father, I thank Thee for Thy mercies which are new every morning. For the gift of sleep; for health and strength; for the vision of another day with its fresh opportunities of work and service; for all these and more than these, I thank Thee. Before looking on the face of men I would look on Thee, who art the health of my countenance and my God. Not without Thy 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; under disappointment, full of hope in Thee. Grant this for Thy goodness' sake. Amen.Samuel McComb.
Second Day, Seventh Week
How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God!
-Psalm 139: 17, 18, 23, 24. Consider the Psalmist's use of prayer as an opening of the heart to God's search, a means of restandardizing the life and aligning it continually with God's will
. Should any number of disappointed petitions for external things blind our eyes to this transforming use of prayer ? A typical result of Quintín Hogg's work for boys in London was seen in Jem Nicholls, a reclaimed lad of the streets. When Jem was asked, after Mr. Hogg's death, how the fight for character was coming on, he said, “I have a bit of trouble in keeping straight, but I thank God all is well. You see, I carry a photo of 'Q. H.' with me always, and whenever I am tempted, I take it out and his look is a wonderful help, and by the grace of God I am able to overcome all.” Prayer can be in our lives this sort of cleansing and empowering look at our Lord. It sets us right, reestablishes our standards, confirms our best resolves. After all, is not this what we most want prayer for? Are we not showing poor judgment when we surrender this kind of praying because other kinds do not always seem effective?
Almighty God, who by Thy grace and providence hast brought my great and crying sins to light, I most humbly beseech Thee to continue Thy grace and mercy to me, that my conscience being now awakened, I may call my ways to remembrance, and confess, and bewail and abhor all the sins of my life past. And, O merciful God, .give me true repentance for them, even that repentance to which Thou hast 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 Thy hands, through the merits and mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.-Bishop Thos. Wilson (1663-1755).
Third Day, Seventh Week
Seek ye Jehovah while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto Jehovah, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, and giveth seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.—Isaiah 55: 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 all our requests were answered. Think over the faith in God's providence, superior wisdom, and mercy which Isaiah here makes the basis of prayer. Is it not clear that our clamorous demands that this kind of God should please us, justify Longfellow in his table-talk in breaking out into this indignant and somewhat exaggerated reproof: “What discord should we bring into the universe if our prayers were all answered ! Then we should govern the world and not God. And do you think we should govern it better? It gives me only pain when I hear the long, wearisome petitions of men asking for they know not what. As frightened women clutch at the reins when there is danger, so do we grasp at God's government with our prayers. Thanksgiving with a full heartand the rest silence and submission to the divine will!"
Thou hast called us to Thyself, most merciful Father, with love and with promises abundant; and we are witnesses that it is not in vain that we draw near to Thee. We bear witness to Thy faithfulness. Thy promises are Yea and Amen. Thy blessings are exceeding abundant more than we know or think. We thank Thee for the privilege of prayer, and for Thine answers to prayer; and we rejoice that Thou dost not answer according to our petitions. We are blind, and are constantly seeking things which are not best for us. If Thou didst grant all our desires according to our requests, we should be ruined. In dealing with our little children we give them, not the things which they ask for, but the things which we judge to be best for them; and Thou, our Father, art by Thy providence overruling our ignorance and our headlong mistakes, and are doing for us, not so much the things that we request of Thee as the things that we should ask; and we are, day by day, saved from peril and from ruin by Thy better knowledge and by Thy careful love. Amen.Henry Ward Beecher.
Fourth Day, Seventh Week
Yet a 'further reason for the way we let 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 the one petition that, so far as we have record, he ever offered for his own individual need:
And by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted overmuch. Concerning this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.-II Cor. 12:7-9.
How often do God's replies thus come to us in disguise, so that we, lacking Paul's insight, do not recognize them, Henry Ward Beecher stated with characteristic humor what is often a very serious truth in the practice of prayer. "A woman," he said, “prays for patience and God sends her a green cook.” That is, we seek for a thing, and God gives us a chance. When our answers come so, they are likely neither to be recognized nor welcomed. The old Olney Hymns contain two stanzas that are applicable to not a little experience with prayer:
“I asked the Lord that I might grow,
In faith, and love and ev'ry grace,
And seek more earnestly his face.
"Twas he who taught me thus to pray,
And he I know has answered prayer,
As almost drove me to despair.”
O God, forgive the poverty, the pettiness, Lord, the childish folly of our prayers. Listen, not to our words, but to the groanings that cannot be uttered; hearken, not to our petitions, but to the crying of our need. So often we pray for that which is already ours, neglected and unappropriated; so often for that which never can be ours; so often for that which we must win ourselves; and then labour endlessly for that which can only come to us in prayer.
How often we have prayed for the coming of Thy kingdom, yet when it has sought to come through us we have sometimes barred the way; we have wanted it without in others, but not in our own hearts. We feel it is we who stand between man's need and Thee; between ourselves and what we might be; and we have no trust in our own strength, or loyalty, or courage.
O give us to love Thy will, and seek Thy kingdom first of all. Sweep away our fears, our compromise, our weakness, lest at last we be found fighting against Thee. Amen. -W. E. Orchard.
Fifth Day, Seventh Week
But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord; a doubleminded man, unstable in all his ways.-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 all the time ways in which we could answer our own requests. Many a man asks for a thing, and God's answer is wisdom sufficient to get the thing. Dean Bosworth puts it clearly: “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 that the disciple wants work or money. If his Father has power to put an appropriate suggestion into his mind, or into some other man's mind, or into the minds of both, the prayer can be answered. And this can be done by means of, and not in spite of, the laws of mental action. We are able to put thoughts into each other's minds by means of words, and science seems to be surely demonstrating the fact that there