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This little book has been written in the hope that it may help to clarify a subject which is puzzling many minds. Prayer is the soul of religion, and failure there is not a superficial lack for the supply of which the spiritual life leisurely can wait. Failure in prayer is the loss of religion itself in its inward and dynamic aspect of fellowship with the Eternal. Only a theoretical deity is left to any man who has ceased to commune with God, and a theoretical deity saves no man from sin and disheartenment and fills no life with a sense of divine commission. Such vital consequences require a living God who actually deals with men.
In endeavoring to clear away the difficulties that hamper fellowship with this living God, the book has used the Scripture as the basis of its thought. But the passages of Scripture quoted are not employed as proof texts to establish an opinion; they are uniformly used as descriptions of an experience which men have actually had with God. In a study such as this, the Bible is the invaluable laboratory manual which records all phases of man's life with God and God's dealing with man.
A debt of gratitude is due to many books and many friends consulted by the author. In particular, Professor George Albert Coe, Ph.D., of the Union Theological Seminary, New York City, and Mr. Frederick M. Harris, of Association Press, have given generously of their time and counsel.
Each chapter is divided into three sections : Daily Readings, Comment for the Week, and Suggestions for Thought and Discussion. This arrangement for daily devotional reading —“The Morning Watch,” for intensive study, and for study group discussion, has met such wide acceptance in my previous book that it has been continued here.
Special acknowledgment is gladly made to the following: to the Pilgrim Press for permission to use selections from Dr. Rauschenbusch's "Prayers of the Social 1 lopping"; to E.
P. Dutton & Company for permission to use prayers from "A Chain of Prayers Across the Ages”; to the Rev. Samuel McComb and the publishers for permission to draw upon “A Book of Prayer," Copyright, 1912, Dodd, Mead & Company; to George W. Jacobs & Company for permission to make quotations from “The Communion of Prayer"; to Mrs. Mary W. Tileston for the use of “Prayers Ancient and Modern”; to Fleming H. Revell for permission quote from Henry Ward Beecher's "Book of Public Prayer"; and to the author and publishers of W. E. Orchards' “The Temple," E. P. Dutton & Company.
H. E. F. June 1, 1915
The Naturalness of Prayer
First Day, First Week
Samuel Johnson once was asked what the strongest argument for prayer was, and he replied, “Sir, there is no argument for prayer.” One need only read Johnson's own petitions, such as the one below, to see that he did not mean by this to declare prayer irrational; he meant to stress the fact that praying is first of all a native tendency. It is a practice like breathing or eating in this respect, that men engage in it because they are human, and afterward argue about it as best they can. As Carlyle stated it in a letter to a friend : “Prayer is and remains the native and deepest impulse of the soul of man.” Consider this universal tendency to pray as revealed in “Solomon's prayer" at the dedication of the temple:
Moreover concerning the foreigner, that is not of thy people Israel, when he shall come from a far country for thy great name's sake, and thy mighty hand, and thine outstretched arm; when they shall come and pray toward this house; then hear thou from heaven, even from thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calleth to thee for; that all the peoples of the earth may know thy name, and fear thee, as doth thy people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name.-II Chron. 6:32, 33.
Note how this prayer takes for granted that any stranger coming from anywhere on earth is likely to be a praying man. Let us say to ourselves on this first day of our study,
that in dealing with prayer we are dealing, as this Scripture suggests, with a natural function of human life.
"All souls that struggle and aspire,
O Lord, in whose hands are life and death, by whose power I am sustained, and by whose mercy I am spared, look down upon me with pity. Forgive me that I have until now so much neglected the duty which Thou hast assigned to me, and suffered the days and hours of which I must give account to pass away without any endeavor to accomplish Thy will. Make me to remember, O God, that every day is Thy gift, and ought to be used according to Thy command. Grant me, therefore, so to repent of my negligence, that I may obtain mercy from Thee, and pass the time which Thou shalt yet allow me in diligent performance of Thy commands, through Jesus Christ. Amen. --Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).
Second Day, First Week
Epictetus was a non-Christian philosopher and yet listen to him: “When thou hast shut thy door and darkened thy room, say not to thyself that thou art alone. God is in thy room.” Read now Paul's appreciation of this hunger for God and this sense of his presence which are to be found among all peoples.
Ye men of Athens, in all things I perceive that ye are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, “To an Unknown God.” What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this I set forth unto you. The God that made the world and all things therein, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is he served by men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; aná he made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek God, if haply, they might feel after him and find him, though he is not
far from each one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain even of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.--Acts 17:22-28.
Consider the meaning of the fact that prayer and worship are thus universal; that all peoples do "seek God, if haply, they might feel after him and find him.” It is said that an ignorant African woman, after hearing her first Christian sermon, remarked to her neighbor, “There! I always told you that there ought to be a God like that.” Somewhere in every man there is the capacity for worship and prayer, for the apprehension of God and the love of him. Is not this the distinctive quality of man and the noblest faculty which he possesses? How then are we treating this best of our endowments ?
O Lord our God, grant us grace to desire Thee with our whole heart; that so desiring we may seek and find Thee; and so finding Thee may love Thee; and loving Thee, may hate those sins from which Thou hast redeemed us. Amen. Anselm (1033-1109).
Third Day, First Week
Prayer has been greatly discredited in the minds of many by its use during war. Men have felt the absurdity of praying on opposite sides of a battle, of making God a tribal leader in heaven, to give victory, as Zeus and Apollo used to do, to their favorites. Let us grant all the narrow, bitter, irrational elements that thus appear in prayer during a war, but let us not be blind to the meaning of this momentous fact: whenever in national life a time of great stress comes, men, however sceptical, feel the impulse to pray. How natural is Hezekiah's cry in the siege of Jerusalem!
O Jehovah, the God of Israel, that sittest above the cherubim, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth. Incline thine ear, O Jehovah, and hear; open thine eyes, O Jehovah, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, wherewith he hath sent him to defy the living God. Of a truth, Jehovah, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were no gods but the work of men's