The Still Hour
Ch. 5: Faith in Prayer
Key Thought: "An astronomer does not turn his telescope to the skies with a more reasonable hope of penetrating those distant heavens, than I have of reaching the mind of God, by lifting up my heart at the throne of Grace. This is the privilege of my calling of God in Christ Jesus. Even my faltering voice is now to be heard in heaven, and it is to put forth a power there, the results of which only God can know, and only eternity can develop."
Faith in Prayer
As a Prince Hast Thou Power With God Gen. 32:28.
An intrepid faith in prayer will always give it unction. Let the faith of apostles in the reality of prayer as a power with God take possession of a regenerate heart, and it is inconceivable that prayer should be to that heart a lifeless duty. The joy of hope, at least, will vitalize the duty. The prospect of gaining an object, will always affect thus the expression of intense desire.
The feeling which will become spontaneous with a Christian, under the influence of such a trust, is this: ‘I come to my devotions this morning, on an errand of real life. This is no romance and no farce. I do not come here to go through a form of words. I have no hopeless desires to express. I have an object to gain. I have an end to accomplish. This is a business in which I am about to engage. An astronomer does not turn his telescope to the skies with a more reasonable hope of penetrating those distant heavens, than I have of reaching the mind of God, by lifting up my heart at the throne of Grace. This is the privilege of my calling of God in Christ Jesus. Even my faltering voice is now to be heard in heaven, and it is to put forth a power there, the results of which only God can know, and only eternity can develop. Therefore, ‘O Lord! thy servant findeth it in his heart to pray this prayer unto Thee.’
‘Good prayers,’ says an old English divine, ‘never come weeping home. I am sure I shall receive either what I ask or what I should ask.’ Such a habit of feeling as this will give to prayer that quality which Dr. Chalmers observed as being the characteristic of the prayers of Doddridge, — that they had an intensely ‘business-like’ spirit.
Observe how thoroughly this spirit is infused into the scriptural representation of the interior working of prayer in the counsels of God, respecting the prophet Daniel. The narrative is intelligible to a child; yet scarcely another passage in the Bible is so remarkable, in its bearing upon the difficulties which our minds often generate out of the mystery of prayer. Almost the very mechanism of the plan of God, by which this invisible power enters into the execution of His decrees, is here laid open.
‘While I was speaking,’ the prophet says, ‘Gabriel, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me, and said, “O Daniel, at the beginning of thy supplication, the commandment came forth, and I am come to show thee; for thou art greatly beloved.”’ What greater vividness could be given to the reality of prayer, even to its occult operation upon the Divine decrees? No sooner do the words of supplication pass out from the lips, than the command is given to one of the presence-angels, ‘Go thou;’ and he flies swiftly to the prostrate suppliant, and touches him bodily, and talks with him audibly, and assures him that his desire is given to him. ‘I am come to thee, O man greatly beloved; I am commissioned to instruct and to strengthen thee. I was delayed in my journey to thee, else I had come more speedily to thy relief; for one and twenty days the prince of Persia withstood me; but Michael came to help me; the archangel is leagued with me to execute the response to thy cry. I must return to fight that prince of Persia who would have restrained me from thee; unto thee am I sent. From the first day that thou didst set thy heart to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard; and I am come because of thy words. Again I say, O man greatly beloved! fear not; peace be unto thee; be strong, yea, be strong.’ Could any diagram of the working of prayer amidst the purposes of God, give to it a more vivid reality in our conceptions, than it receives from this little passage of dramatic narrative, which you will find, in substance, in the ninth and tenth chapters of the prophecy of Daniel?
I have sometimes tried to conceive a panorama of the history of one prayer. I have endeavored to follow it from its inception in a human mind, through its utterance by human lips; and in its flight up to the ear of Him who is its Hearer because He has been also its Inspirer; and on its journey around to the unnumbered points in the organism of His decrees which this feeble human voice reaches, and from which it entices a responsive vibration, because this also is a decree of as venerable antiquity as theirs; and in its return from those altitudes, with its golden train of blessings to which eternal counsels have paid tribute, at His bidding. I have endeavored to form some conception thus, of the methods by which this omnipotence of poor human speech gains its end, without a shock to the system of the universe, with not so much as a whit of change to the course of a leaf falling in the air. But how futile is the strain upon these puny faculties! How shadowy are the thoughts we get from any such attempt to master prayer! Do we not fall back with glad relief upon the magnitude of this fact of prayer, ‘beyond the stars heard,’ and answered through these ministries of angels?
Human art has not yet succeeded in extending the electric telegraph around one globe. The combined science and skill and wealth of the nations have failed thus to connect the two continents. But yonder is a child, whose lisping tongue is every day doing more than that. In God’s administration of things, that child’s morning prayer is a mightier reality than that. It sets in motion agencies more secret, and more impalpable, and yet conscious agencies, whose chief vocation, so far as we know it, is to minister at that child’s bidding. ‘Verily I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.’ Could we appreciate prayer, think you, as such a reality, such a power, so genuine, so vital a thing in the working of the Divine plan, so free from trammel in its mystery, so much resembling the power of God because of its mystery, and yet could we find it to be in our own experience an insipid duty?