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SUGGESTIONS FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION

What makes prayer a pious form rather than a vital transac

tion?

What gave vitality to the Psalmist's prayer?

What is the difference between a Buddhist turning a prayer wheel and a Christian praying ?

What merit is there in praying ?

What is the estimate of the value of the individual in the

Christian religion?

What was Jesus' view as set forth in the Daily Readings?

What place has the individual had in the history of the Church?

How does the Christian religion differ from other religions in its estimate of the worth of the individual?

How far are Christians justified in basing their confidence

in prayer on God's care for the individual? Is the possibility of prayer dependent upon God's care for the individual ?

To what extent is prayer futile if God does not care for us?

What are your chief difficulties in a belief that God cares for each individual? To what extent do you feel these difficulties make prayer impossible?

How far is it reasonable to think that God cares for us?

What difference will it make in my prayers if I really believe

God cares for me as an individual?

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CHAPTER IV

Prayer and the Goodness of God

DAILY READINGS

First Day, Fourth Week

And there came near unto him_James and John, the sons of Zebedee, saying unto him, Teacher, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall ask of thee. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? And they said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink? or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?–Mark 10:35-38.

Of all misconceptions of prayer, none is more common than the idea that it is a way of getting God to do our will. Note the request which James and John made of our Lord: they wanted him to put himself at their disposal; they wished their will for themselves to be in absolute control, with the Master as aider and abettor of it. Prayer to God, so conceived, is simply self-will, expecting the Almighty to back it up and give it right-of-way. Consider how often our praying is thus our demand on God that he shall do exactly what we want; and then in contrast, note this real prayer of D. L. Moody:

Use me then, my Saviour, for whatever purpose, and in whatever way, Thou mayest require. Here is my poor heart, an empty vessel; fill it with Thy grace. Here is my sinful and troubled soul; quicken it and refresh it with Thy love. Take my heart for Thine abode; my mouth to spread abroad the glory of Thy name; my love and all my powers, for the advancement of Thy believing people; and never suffer the steadfastness and confidence of my faith to abate-that so at all times I may be enabled from the heart to say, "Jesus needs me, and I Him."-D. L. Moody.

Second Day, Fourth Week

The trouble with many folk is that they believe in only a part of God. They believe in his love, and thinking of that alone they are led into entreating him as though he might be coaxed and wheedled into giving them what they want. They argue that because he is benigni and kindly he will give in to a child's entreaty and 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 willhis plan for the character and the career of each of us. When anyone believes in the whole of God, is sure that he has a wise and a good purpose for every child of his, and for all the world, prayer inevitably becomes not the endeavor to get God to do our will, but the endeavor to open our lives to God so that God can do in us what he wants to do. Consider, in the light of this truth, the prayer of the Master in Gethsemane:

Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto his disciples, Sit ye here, while I go yonder and pray. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and sore troubled. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: abide ye here, and watch with me. And he went forward a little, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Again a second time he went away, and prayed, saying, My Father, if this cannot pass away, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And he left them again, and went away, and prayed a third time, saying again the same words.—Matt. 26:36-44.

O Lord, Thou knowest what is best for us, let this or that be done, as Thou shalt please. Give what Thou wilt, and how much Thou wilt, and when Thou wilt. Deal with me as Thou thinkest good, and as best pleaseth Thee. Set me wh Thou wilt, and deal vith me in all things just as Thou wilt. Behold, I am Thy servant, prepared for all things; for I desire not to live unto myself, but unto Thee; and Oh, that I could do it worthily and perfectly! Amen. - Thomas à Kempis (1379-1471).

Third Day, Fourth Week

Let us this week consider particularly the ways in which the practice of prayer opens our lives to God so that his will can be done in and through us. For one thing, prayer, as we now are thinking of it, involves solitude, where the voice of God has a chance to be heard.

And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee.—Matt. 6: 5, 6.

Consider the testmony of different sorts of men to the value of occasional solitude in the midst of a busy life. Says Walter Savage Landor, the poet, “Solitude is the ante-chamber of God; only one step more, and you can be in his immediate presence.' Goethe says, “No one produce anything important unless he isolates himself.” “Chinese” Gordon writes to his sister, “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 use the scales of the sanctuary, to see and weigh the true value of things and sayings.” And an anonymous epigram hits off the important truth, “He is a wonderful man who can thread a needle while at cudgels in a crowd.” How much

can

time, away from the distractions of business, and the strife of tongues, are we giving to the enriching use of solitude?

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly; grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what Thou wouldest have us to do; that the spirit of Wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in Thy light we may see light, and in Thy straight path may not stumble, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.-William Bright.

Fourth Day, Fourth Week

Prayer opens our lives to the guidance of God because by its very nature it encourages the receptive mood. The dominant mood today is active; but some things never come into life until a man is receptive. That a boy should run many errands for his father and should be faithful and energetic in doing it is of great importance; but the most far-reaching consequences in that boy's life are likely to come from some quiet hour, when he sits with his father, and has his eyes opened to a new idea of life, which the father never could give him in his more active moods. God's trouble to get people to listen is set forth in the eighty-first Psalm:

Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee:
But my people hearkened not to my voice;
And Israel would none of me.
So I let them go after the stubbornness of their heart,
That they might walk in their own counsels.
Oh that my people would hearken unto me.

Psalm 81:8, II-13.

Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee; Thou only knowest what I need; Thou lovest me better than I know how to love myself. O Father! give to Thy child that which he himself knows not how to ask. I dare not ask either for crosses or consolations: I simply present myself before Thee, I open my heart to Thee. Behold my needs which I know not myself; see and do according to Thy tender mercy. Smite, or heal; depress me, or raise me up:

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