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God did seek for man in Christ. This fundamental truth is of the utmost importance for prayer. For, as a matter of fact, whenever a Christian prays he prays to the God whose love for us Christ revealed, and to the knowledge of whom we never should have come without Christ. As Fichte put it, “All who since Jesus have come into union with God have come unto union with God through him." But this belief in God's search for man in Christ not sufficient for prayer. God is forever seeking each man. The promptings of conscience, the lure of fine ideals, the demands of friendship, the suggestions of good books, the calls to service, every noble impulse in hours when
“The spirit's true endowments
are all the approach of God to us. Prayer is not groping after him. Prayer is opening the life up to him. The prayerless heart is fleeing from God. Finding God is really letting God find us; for our search for him is simply surrender to his search for us. When the truth of this is clearly seen, prayer becomes real. There is no more talking into empty space, no more fumbling in the dark to lay hold on him. We go into the secret place and there let every fine and ennobling influence which God is sending to us have free play. We let him speak to us through our best thoughts, our clearest spiritual visions, our finest conscience. We no longer endeavor to escape. We find him as run-away children, weary of their escapade, find their father. They consent to be found by him.
“I said, 'I will find God,' and forth I went
To seek Him in the clearness of the sky,
But over me stood unendurably
Still to find God, ‘I will go seek,' said I,
‘His way upon the waters, and drew nigh An ocean marge, weed-strewn and foam-besprent;
And the waves dashed on idle sand and stone,
And very vacant was the long, blue sea;
My window open to the vanishing day,
And it sufficed that I was found of Thee."
SUGGESTIONS FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION
munion with God peculiar to the “realm of religion”? What is necessary to be able to enjoy a sunset, a painting, or a musical symphony? Can any but a technical expert really enjoy these? To what extent do these conclusions apply to enjoying communion with God?
Can a man without an appreciation of nature, art and intellectual integrity fully commune with God? How far is the completeness of such communion dependent upon the range of human interests and experiences?
In the light of the above questions, to what extent are "spiritual" qualifications essential only to "religious" experiences ?
How do the hindrances to human friendship differ from the hindrances to communion with God?
In the light of Jesus' teachings, what are the principal
hindrances to prayer in the realm of character? Where first shall we look for hindrances to communion with God?
What dependence is to be placed upon "favorable moods"?
In the general enterprises of human life, how much allowance is made for favorable moods?
How far is special application necessary if advantage is to be taken of such moods? What is the relation of favorable moods to prayer? What light does the Transfiguration throw on this?
What relation has a man's temperament to his ability to
achieve reality in prayer?
How far is reality in prayer possible to people with other than a mystical temperament? What proportion of prayers recorded in the Bible are the prayers of mystics? What proportion in later history?.
To what degree must the form of prayer be determined by the type of personality? What answer would the Bible record of prayers suggest?
What prevalent attitudes among the people make the consciousness of God's presence well-nigh impossible? How can these attitudes be overcome?
How can the hindrances to prayer in the life of any particular
individual be overcome?
Prayer and the Reign of Law
First Day, Sixth Week
The heavens declare the glory of God;
-Psalm 19: 1-6.
Consider the ease with which the Psalmist here ascribes all the activities of the heavens to the direct influence of God. The idea of natural law has not gotten between him and the Creator; whenever the sun comes up or the stars appear he feels that God is doing it. Now it may still be true, as Mr. Chesterton remarks, that each morning God says to the sun, "Get up, do it again !" but it is difficult for most people to imagine that. The sun seems to run itself by law; everything seems to run itself, so that in the modern mind this psalm is unconsciously changed until it reads, “The heavens declare the glory of law." In the weekly
we shall conside the unreasonableness of this negation of religious faith which our modern scientific knowl
edge has caused in many, but in the daily readings let us note the ways in which our new information about natural law practically affects us. Does it not, as we have today suggested, seem to push God away off? The world looks like a great machine, self-running and self-regulating, with God a very distant Sustainer, if he is anywhere at all. Thomas Hood put the feeling into a familiar verse:
“I remember, I remember
The fir-trees dark and high;
Were close against the sky.
But now 'tis little joy
Than when I was a boy."
O God, we thank Thee for this universe, our great home; for its vastness and its riches, and for the manifoldness of the life which teems upon it and of which we are part. We praise Thee for the arching sky and the blessed winds, for the driving clouds and the constellations on high. We praise Thee for the salt sea and the running water, for the everlasting hills, for the trees, and for the grass under our feet. We thank Thee for our senses by which we can see the splendor of the morning, and hear the jubilant songs of love, and smell the breath of the springtime. Grant us, we pray Thee, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty, and save our souls from being so steeped in care or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless and unseeing when even the thornbush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God. -Walter Rauschenbusch.
Second Day, Sixth Week