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man, that setting up Thy throne in our hearts, to the dethronement of all our idols, and the things of earth we hold too dear, Thou mayest reign there alone in the fulness of Thy grace, and the consolations of Thy presence, till the time arrives when we shall reign with Thee in glory. Amen. -Richard S. Brooke (1835-1893).
Fourth Day, Fifth Week
-Psalm 88: 1-3, 13, 14. Such an experience as finds voice in this Psalm suggests at once that at times prayer costs persistence in the face of difficulties. The unreality of God, the difficulty of holding the mind to the act of prayer, the wayward mood, the disappointment of the spirit at praying which rings hollow and gives no result—all these difficulties men of prayer have known. Read the diary of Benjamin Jowett, the great Master of Balliol, “Nothing makes one more conscious of poverty and shallowness of character than difficulty in praying or attending to prayer. Any thoughts about self, thoughts of evil, day dreams, love fancies, easily find an abode in the mind. But the thought of God and of right and truth will not stay there, except with a very few persons. I fail to undersand my own nature in this particular. There is nothing which at a distance I seem to desire more than the knowledge of God, the ideal, the universal; and yet for two minutes I cannot keep my mind upon them. But I read a great work of fiction, and can hardly take my mind from it. If I had any real love of God, would not my mind dwell upon him?"
Gracious Father, who givest the hunger of desire, and satisfiest our hunger with good things; quicken the heart of
Thy servant who mourns because he cannot speak to Thee, nor hear Thee speak to him. Refresh, we beseech Thee, the dulness and dryness of his inner life. Grant him perseverance that he may never abandon the effort to pray, even though it brings for a time no comfort or joy. Enlarge his souls desires that he may be drawn unto Thee. Send forth Thy Spirit into his heart to help his infirmities; to give him freedom of utterance, and warmth of feeling. Let him muse upon Thy goodness; upon the blessings with which Thou hast strewn his path; upon the mystery of the world, and the shame of sin, and the sadness of death,—until the fire kindles and the heart melts in prayer and praise and supplication.
Lord, teach him to pray the prayer that relieves the burdened spirit, and brings Thy blessing, which maketh rich and addeth no sorrow. Hear us, for Jesus' sake. Amen. -Samuel McComb.
Fifth Day, Fifth Week
Give ear to my words, O Jehovah,
will keep watch.—Psalm 5:1-3. Probably most people are so constituted by nature and are so preoccupied by business that some such arrangement as is suggested in this Psalm about regularity is essential to a successful life of prayer. To be sure, Alice Freeman Palmer, first President of Wellesley, has this written of her in her husband's story of her life, “God was her steady companion, so naturally a part of her hourly thought that she attached little consequence to specific occasions of inter
She had no fixed times of prayer." But before any one presumes on such a record of fine living with God, minus regularity of prayer, he would better examine his own character with some scrutiny. The chances are in most lives that the keeping of the "morning watch” will prove to be one of the most salutary agencies within the control of the will. This will cost, as regularity always costs, a pera sistent determination not to surrender to adverse circumstances or wayward moods. But consider what it would mean each morning to put the life at God's disposal in some such way as Thomas à Kempis does in this prayer :
Lord, work in my heart a true Faith, a purifying Hope, and an unfeigned Lovė towards Thee; give me a full Trust on Thee, Zeal for Thee, Reverence of all things that relate to Thee; make me fearful to offend Thee, Thankful for Thy Mercies, Humble under Thy Corrections, Devout in Thy Service, and sorrowful for my Sins; and Grant that in all things I may behave myself so, as befits a Creature to his Creator, a Servant to his Lord: make me Diligent in all my Duties, watchful against all Temptations, perfectly Pure and Temperate, and so Moderate in Thy most Lawful Enjoyments, that they may never become a Snare to me; make me also, O Lord, to be so affected towards my Neighbour that I never transgress that Royal Law of Thine, of Loving him as myself; grant me exactly to perform all parts of Justice; yielding to all whatsoever by any kind of Right becomes their due, and give me such Mercy and Compassion, that I may never fail to do all Acts of Charity to all men, whether Friends or Enemies, according to Thy Command and Example. Amen.-Thomas à Kempis (1379-1471).
Sixth Day, Fifth Week
And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them; and his garments became glistering, exceeding white, so as no fuller on earth can whiten them. And there appeared unto them Elijah with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter answereth and saith to Jesus, Rabbi, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.—Mark 9:2-5.
How natural for Peter to desire to remain in such a glowing experience! But he could not; it was one of those elevated hours, that cannot be continuous, but that can reveal outlooks which make all the dusty traveling afterward more meaningful. Once in a while our moods go up a mountain and have a great experience, returning cleansed, exhilarated and reassured. We must cherish such hours, believe in the validity of their witness to God's presence with us, gain confidence from their testimony to our sonship with him, and keep the reassuring memory of life's meaning as we saw it then. But we must not refuse another sort of praying, less ecstatic and glowing, more quiet and commonplace. We must not cherish false expectations, demanding transfigured hours continually. Gethsemane is also prayer and many a lesser time when the soul inwardly steadies itself on God and trusts where it cannot see. Successful praying costs this sort of patience with commonplace hours. Said Fénelon: "Do not be discouraged at your faults; bear with yourself in correcting them, as you would with your neighbor. Accustom yourself gradually to carry prayer into all your daily occupations. Speak, move, work in peace, as if you were in prayer.”
O God, Thou hast found us, and not we Thee. At times we but dimly discern Thee; the dismal mists of earth obscure Thy glory. Yet in other and more blessed moments, Thou dost rise upon our souls, and we know Thee as the Light of all our seeing, the Life of all that is not dead within us, the Bringer of health and cure, the Revealer of peace and truth. We will not doubt our better moments, for in them Thou dost speak to us. We rejoice that Thou hast created us in Thine image. Thy love has stirred us into being, has endowed us with spiritual substance. In the intellect, whose thoughts wander through eternity; in the conscience that bears witness to Thy eternal righteousness; in the affections that make life sweet, and reach forth to Thee, O Lover of Mankind-in these, we are made heirs to the riches of Thy grace.-Samuel McComb.
Seventh Day, Fifth Week
Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise; For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of deceit have they opened against me:
They have spoken unto me with a lying tongue.
Such things as these true prayer is likely to cost: a good life, right thinking, special preparations of the mind, persistence through difficulties, regularity, and patience with commonplace hours. But a life that has learned the secret of real praying is worth all that it costs. As the Psalmist says, it is worth giving ourselves to. Consider Luther's great description of such a life: “Therefore, where there is a Christian, there is also the Holy Spirit, and he does nothing else save pray continually. For even if the mouth be not always moving and uttering words, yet the heart goes on beating unceasingly with cries like these, Ah! dear Father, may thy name be hallowed, may thy Kingdom come, and thy will be done. And whenever there come sorer buffetings and trials and needs, then the aspiration and supplication increase, even audibly, so that you cannot find a Christian man who does not pray; just as you cannot find a living man without a pulse that never stands still, but beats and beats on continually of itself, although the man may sleep or do anything else, so being all unconscious of this pulse." Let us today make Archbishop Trench's sonnet our prayer: "If we with earnest effort could succeed
To make our life one long connected prayer,
As lives of some perhaps have been and are;
Into thy presence, but continue there,
Like angels standing on the highest stair
But if distractions manifold prevail,
Continual readiness for prayer and praise,