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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. They pray because theirs is the sublime ambition of the German mystic, "I would fain be to the Eternal Goodness what his own hand is to a man."
Only through men who take this attitude can God do his choicest work. A life that utterly lacks this attitude, wants the elements of power. When, therefore, 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. He is one of God's open doors into the world.
We have, then, two fundamentally opposed ideas of prayer : one, that by begging we may change the will of God and curry favor 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. Only the second is Christian. At once we see that the second, no less than the first, and in a way far truer, makes prayer not a form but a force. Prayer really does things. It cannot change God's intention, but it does change God's action. God had long intended Isaiah to be his prophet. When Isaiah said, “Here am I, send me," he did not alter in the least the divine purpose, but he did release it. God could do then what before he could not. God had long intended that Africa should be evangelized. When Livingstone cried, “O God, help me to paint this dark continent white,” he did not alter God's intention, but he did alter God's action. Power broke loose that before had been pent; the cooperation of a man's prayer, backed by his life, opened a way for the divine purpose. There was an invasion of the world by God through Livingstone. No one can set clear limits to this release of divine power which the effectual prayer of a righteous man can accomplish. Pentecost is typical: “When they had prayed, the place was shaken wherein they were gathered together; and they were all filled
with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).
SUGGESTIONS FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION If God is all-wise and all-good, what is the use of praying?
Can prayer change God's plans? If not, what is the use of praying?
How far are God's plans dependent upon individuals ?
Can God's purpose be stopped by the failure of an individual to cooperate?
If God is in any way dependent upon the cooperation of individuals, is this inconsistent with his sovereign power and wisdom?
What light do the experiences recorded in the Bible throw
upon the problem of prayer and the goodness of God?
In what respect did the request of James and John differ from true prayer?
Why did his belief in the goodness of God give Jesus confidence to pray?
What is the difference in emphasis between the prayer recorded in the eighty-first Psalm and Jesus' comment on the prayer of the hypocrites on the street corners?
In his Gethsemane prayer, what was Jesus' attitude to the will of God?
What place has prayer in the life of every man in finding and
doing God's will?
Hindrances and Difficulties
First Day, Fifth Week
Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him.-Phil. 3: 7-9.
We have been speaking of the privilege of prayer, the supreme opportunity of friendship with God kept vital by deliberate communion, and we may well stop now to count the cost. Paul is typical of all Christian seers in discovering that the “excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus” is not arrived at without counting some things loss. It does cost to win a life that really can pray. Vasari says that Raphael used to wear a candle in a paste board cap, so that, while he was painting, his shadow would not fall upon his work. Many a man's prayers are spoiled by his own shadow. There are things in his life which must be given up if ever he is truly to pray. He must wear on his forehead the candle of renunciation for his work's sake. Consider the evil attitudes, cherished sins, bad tempers in your life that make praying in any deep and earnest way a difficult undertaking.
O Lord, come quickly and reign on Thy throne, for now oft-times something rises up within me, and tries to take possession of Thy throne; pride, covetousness, uncleanness, and sloth want to be my kings; and then evil-speaking, anger,
hatred, and the whole train of vices join with me in warring against myself, and try to reign over me. I resist them, I cry out against them, and say, "I have no other king than Christ.” O King of Peace, come and reign in me, for I will have no king but Thee! Amen.-St. Bernard (1091-1153).
Second Day, Fifth Week
In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.-Phil. 4:6-8.
This connection of verses on great praying and right thinking is not accidental. A man cannot habitually indulge in mean, perverse, or abominable thoughts and suddenly come out of them into unimpeded communion with God. An automobile can be shifted from "low" to "high" with a stroke of the hand, but not so a man's mind. Real praying costs habitual self-discipline in thinking—the pure in heart see God. Sherwood Eddy says that the great Madras Young Men's Christian Association building was held up for months, after the site was chosen, the plans drawn, and the money provided, because two shanty-owners would not let go their hold on a little ground in the center of the plot. 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?
Most Merciful Father, who orderest the wills and affections of men; inspire in the heart of this Thy servant holy wishes and aspirations, that all base imaginings and sinful broodings may be cast out. Spirit of purity and grace, cleanse the thoughts of his heart and bring his whole being into captivity to the law of Christ. So direct and control his mind that he may ever think on whatsoever things are true and pure and lovely. Let no corrupt thought get dominion
over him. Enter Thou into the house of his soul. Enlarge and renew it and consecrate it to Thyself, that he may love Thee with all his mind and serve Thee with all his might. Free him from the fascinations of false pleasures and the allurements of debasing desires. Fill his eyes with the eternal beauty of goodness, that vice and sin may appear as they really are, the last shame and despair of life. Keep him outwardly in his body and inwardly in his soul, and constrain him to reverential obedience to the laws Thou hast ordained for both. Sustain him in health of body that he may the better control the motions of thought, and repel the assaults of passion. We ask it for Thy Son our Saviour's sake. Amen.-Samuel McComb.
Third Day, Fifth Week
Be not rash with thy inouth, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. -Eccl. 5:2.
Successful prayer involves not only the general preparation of good living and right thinking; it often costs special preparation. The mood may not be right; an irritated or anxious temper may be in the way; the preoccupation of business may still be straining our minds so that if we pray, only a small fraction of us is engaged in it-a dozen different exigencies may make special preparation an absolute necessity for real prayer. Consider with what rash hastiness, unprepared thoughts, preoccupied minds, and unexamined lives we often rush into God's presence and out again. Dr. South puts the matter with brusque directness, “None but the careless and the confident would rush rudely into the presence of a great man; and shall we in our applications to the great God, take that to be religion which the common reason of mankind will not allow to be manners?”
Slay utterly, Oh Lord, and cast down the sin which does so easily beset us; bridle the unholy affection; stay the unlawful thought; chasten the temper; regulate the spirit; correct the tongue; bend the will and the worship of our souls to Thee, and so sanctify and subdue the whole inward