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he prays he reaches no heights of conscious fellowship with God. During the singing of a hymn like "Sweet Hour of Prayer” he feels as unresponsive to the experience from which the hymn arose as Dean Stanley would have felt to the music. The Dean could not recognize even the national anthem save by the fact that the people all arose at the first bar. What shall be said to a man who thus believes in God and tries to do his will, but who is not warmly conscious of fellowship with him in prayer? Something surely must be said, for if prayer is so interpreted that it is left as the possession of those only who are of the emotional and mystic temperament, many of the most useful folk on earth, in whom practical and intellectual interests are supreme—the thinkers and the workers—will feel themselves excluded from the possibility of praying.

We touch here one of the most crucial matters in our study of prayer. Every man must be allowed to pray in his own way. It is far from being true that the most valuable temperament in religion is the mystical. God needs us all. Some are phlegmatic-stolid, patient, undemonstrative; some are choleric-high-spirited, nervous, passionate; some sanguine—hopeful, cheerful, light-hearted; some are somber and serious. Even this time-honored classification of the temperaments is not exhaustive. There are as many temperaments as there are men, and each has his own problems and his peculiar way of expressing the spirit of Christ. The first step in useful living for many folk is the recognition of God's purpose in making us on such unique and individual plans. He evidently likes us better that way. John makes a better John than Peter ever could have been, and Peter useful Peter than was possible to John. We are so used to school examinations where the whole class must submit to the same tests of excellence that we forget how surely in the moral life we shall have individual tests. Each man is being tried in a private examination. He is not expected to be a Christian in any other man's way. As in Emerson's parable of the mountain and the squirrel, he can be undismayed by the special excellence of another, and can say as the squirrel did to the mountain,

are

nor

"If I cannot carry mountains on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut.”

Now this general principle has its special application to prayer. Nothing could be more intensely individual than the prayers of the Bible. Nobody tries to commune with God in anyone else's way. Some pray kneeling, like Paul (Acts 20:36); some standing, like Jeremiah (Jer. 18:20); some sitting, like David (II Sam. 7:18); some prostrate, like Jesus (Matt. 26:39). Some pray silently, like Hannah (1 Sam. 1:13); some aloud, like Ezekiel (Ezek. 11:13). Some pray in the temple (II Kings 19:14); some in bed (Psalm 63:6), in the fields (Gen. 24: 11, 12,), on the hillside (Gen. 28: 18-20), on the battlefield (I Sam. 7:5), by a riverside (Acts 16:13), on the seashore (Acts 21:5), in the privacy of the chamber (Matt. 6:6). Moreover all sorts of temperaments are found at prayer; practical leaders like Nehemiah, who in a silent ejaculation of the spirit seeks God's help before he speaks to the king (Neh. 1:3, 5); poets like the writer of the twentyseventh Psalm, who love communion with God; men of melancholy mind like Jeremiah, “Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul loathed Zion?" (Jer. 14: 19); and men of radiant spirit like Isaiah, “Jehovah, even Jehovah, is my strength and song; and he is become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2). There are as many different ways of praying as there are different individuals. Consider the prayer of St. Augustine: “Let my soul take refuge from the crowding turmoil of worldly thoughts beneath the shadow of thy wings; let my heart, this sea of restless waves, find peace in thee, O God.” And then in contrast consider the prayer of Lord Ashley, before he charged at the battle of Edge Hill: “O Lord, thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget thee, do not thou forget me.”

We need always to remember, therefore, that there is no one mould of prayer into which our communion with God must be run. Let each man pray as best he can. Let no man make himself the slave of another's methods. Professor George Albert Coe has put a valuable truth into a few succinct sentences: "The tendency ... is to create an impression that the more valuable forms of prayer are reserved for a special class of persons. This impression, too, is unconsciously fostered by the adulation that is bestowed upon men, often young men, who cultivate a particular type of prayer, and talk a great deal about it. What we need more than almost anything else is to cultivate in timid souls that tend to

self-distrust, in critical souls that think before they assert, and in active souls that prefer giving to receiving, a robust respect for their own natural types of prayer."

IV

If we are to deal adequately, however, with the trouble which some habitually and all of us occasionally have in realizing the presence of God, we must do more than tell each man to pray as he can. There are prevalent attitudes among people who try to pray that make the consciousness of God's presence well-nigh impossible. We may note as the first of these that vague groping after a God outside of us which so often ends in the futile feeling of having talked to empty space. Many men, in their earnest desire to enter fully into the Christian experience, strain after a realization of God's presence as though by some violence and stress of the will it could be attained. Their souls are mortars, their petitions bombs; they explode themselves toward heaven, and save for the echo of their own outburst they hear no answer whatever. Madame Guyon records that just this was her perplexity until a Franciscan friar gave her this suggestive advice: “Madame, you are seeking without that which you have within. Accustom yourself to seek God in your own heart, and you will find him.” This counsel is wise and practical. The presence of God can be experienced only within our own hearts. All the best in us is God in us. Generally, if not always, it is quite impossible to distinguish between the voice of God and the voice of our own best conscience and ideals. They are not to be distinguished. What we call conscience and ideals are God's voice, mediated to us through our own finest endowments.

This does not mean that these voices of God, mediated to us through our best, are infallible. It does mean that God in them is trying to speak to us according to our capacity to understand. If our windows are soiled, the sun's rays are hindered; but that fact is no denial of the truth that whatever light does come through our windows comes from the

So God is compelled to minister his blessing to us through our own capacities to receive and appropriate. No man should ever grope outside of his best self to find God.

sun.

He should always seek the God who is speaking to him in his best self.

During a dry season in the New Hebrides, John G. Paton the missionary awakened the derision of the natives by digging for water. They said water always came down from heaven, not up through the earth. But Paton revealed a larger truth than they had seen before by discovering to them that heaven could give them water through their own land. So men insist on waiting for God to send them blessing in some supernormal way, when all the while he is giving them abundant supply if they would only learn to retreat into the fertile places of their own spirits where, as Jesus said, the wells of living waters seek to rise. We need to learn Eckhart's lesson, “God is nearer to me than I am to myself; he is just as near to wood and stone, but they do not know it.” We need to understand the word attributed to Albert the Great, “To mount to God is to enter into one's self. For he who inwardly entereth and intimately penetrateth into himself gets above and beyond himself and truly mounts up to God.” And in learning the meaning of words like these, we shall be coming into the spirit of many a Scripture passage: "If we love one another, God abideth in us" (I John 4:12); “We are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them(II Cor. 6:16); “If any man open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20); “The water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water” (John 4:14).

Any one, therefore, troubled by the seeming unreality of God may well imitate the Psalmist who begins his psalm by saying, “I will cry unto God," and who in the sixth verse says, “I commune with mine own heart” (Psalm 77). The two verses are not in conflict. The only way any one can commune with God is through his own heart. Indeed, we may call those psychologists to witness who discover in the spirit's life the transforming influences of which we have been speaking, and who ascribe them to the "subconscious.” Powers of joy and peace, influences that renovate character, change disposition, and inspire service, do appear in human life, they say, but these effects which the New Testament attributes to the Holy Spirit, they ascribe to the "subconscious." There should be no permanent misunderstanding here. The tides that come into New York Harbor come

through the Narrows, but they do not start there. You never can get at the secret of the inflow from the sea, which makes the sailing of great ships possible, by saying that the presence of the Narrows explains it. The tides come through the Narrows, not from them. So we cannot solve the mystery of that divine help which great souls know by giving names to substations in our own minds. We must go deeper and farther than that. God himself is trying through our best to find a channel for his Spirit.

V

The consideration of this vague groping after a God outside of us, leads us to a matter even more important. The elemental trouble with the prayers of those who fail to find God real is often the very fact that they are seeking for God. No one is prepared to experience the presence of God until he sees that God is seeking for him. Paul describes the pagan world as seeking God, “if haply they might feel after him and find him” (Acts 17:27); and many a Christian in this regard is a pagan still. We have turned the parables of Jesus in the fifteenth Chapter of Luke quite upside down. According to our attitude in prayer, the shepherd is lost, and the sheep have gone out on the tempest-driven mountainside to hunt for him. But not so the Master! To him the sheep are wandering, and the shepherd with undiscourageable persistency is seeking them. Without this thought of God as initiating the search, so that our finding of him is simply our response to his quest for us, the endeavor of any man to seek God is of all enterprises the most hopeless. How can the finite discover the Infinite unless the Infinite desires to be found? How can man break up into an experience of God unless God is seeking to reach down into friendship with man? The deepest necessity of a fruitful life of prayer is the recognition that God's search for men is prior to any man's search for God. In the words of one of Faber's hymns,

“ 'Tis rather God who seeks for us
Than we who seek for him.”

Now the search of God for man has always been believed by Christians, but by many it has become a historical matter.

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