Emily J. Bryant
How to Pray
Key Thought: "It was a humble serving maid who explained to her learned master and pastor how it was possible to "pray without ceasing." "When I arise in the morning," said she, "I pray that I may have a part in the resurrection of the Just; when I dress, I pray that I may be clothed in Christ's righteousness; when taking my breakfast, that I may be fed with the bread of life." and each of her common dally duties suggested a corresponding spiritual need and with it went up the prayer for that need."
Prayer is Petition
Prayer is petition. It must arise from a conscious need to One who is able to supply that need. The term is commonly applied to petitions addressed to a deity by a needy humanity. God alone can supply the needs of His creatures, and God requires us to ask for what we need, hence, prayer. It is the duty of God's children to ask of Him, the Creator and Provider, the supply of our needs and to thank Him for the same.
He waits for our petitions: for physical benefits, for mental and spiritual blessings. He sends His rain and sunshine upon the just and the unjust, and a large portion of these recipients neglect to ask, or to thank God for His mercies.
"Prayer," says Hannah More, "is the cry of faith to the ear of mercy. It is not eloquence, but earnestness; not definition of helplessness, but the feeling of it; not figures of speech, but compunction of soul." The broader and deeper our experience, the broader and deeper will be our prayers.
But prayer is not only asking. This privilege of approach to the divine Majesty should not be regarded as only an occasion for a determined siege of begging, as if we had had nothing to bring, but everything which a selfish nature can covet to ask. It is true we cannot ask too largely when coming to our King, whose power is infinite; it is true we have no merit, no price to give for all God's mercies, but we may offer worship and praise before His altar, and our heavenly Father listens to hear the voice of praise and adoration from loving, obedient hearts.
When king David brought the ark out of Obed-Edom to Jerusalem, he said: "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; bring an offering and come before him; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." We would emphasize the words "give," "bring," and "worship" in these and the following sentences. Again he says: "O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker." And in another place, "Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool." The place to offer worship, praise, to bring an offering, to bow down in holy adoration is at His footstool, on our knees. When the leper came to be healed he worshiped Christ. When the woman of Canaan besought Christ's healing touch for her daughter, she came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, help me," and again cometh "the mother of Zebedee's children with his sons worshiping him and desiring a certain thing of him." Here we have ample Bible example of worship and adoration in connection with our petitions, and a prayer without this must ever be wanting in one of its grandest elements. Adoration, praise, thanksgiving, confession, petition, and intercession, all in the name and to the praise of our great Intercessor and His merit, are proper elements of prayer.
In every place and at all times where duty calls the Christian is prayer suitable. Every moment of need is the occasion for prayer, whether it be in the field where the battle rages fiercest, or in the quiet closet, whether walking on the street, or sitting in the prayer-meeting. After setting out on a work of mercy we need not, like one, turn back to our quiet room for further prayer, but in our carriage, on our journey, we may find Christ, and make known our needs to Him. It was a humble serving maid who explained to her learned master and pastor how it was possible to "pray without ceasing." "When I arise in the morning," said she, "I pray that I may have a part in the resurrection of the Just; when I dress, I pray that I may be clothed in Christ's righteousness; when taking my breakfast, that I may be fed with the bread of life." and each of her common dally duties suggested a corresponding spiritual need and with it went up the prayer for that need.
Christ spent whole nights in prayer. He prayed on the Mount of Transfiguration, and then followed that wonderful manifestation of divine majesty. He used prayer on all the grand occasions of His wonderful life, and the Father granted, and still grants, His most glorious exhibitions of power in response to prayer. At His baptism, in the temple, and at the grave of Lazarus, He prayed, and finally on the Cross, when He voluntarily surrendered His Spirit unto the keeping of the Father, He prayed, and such a change spread over nature as may not again appear until He comes the second time. Consecrated Christians have also found remarkable answers to prayer.
The result of constant and close communion with our Lord is apparent beyond the answers received to our petitions. A prayerful spirit leaves its impetus upon the character in a growing likeness to Him we love. As we move silently along the pathway of life, sharp with many a thorn, we learn to endure the same sharp pains in outward silence if we dwell with Christ within. Temporal pains and pleasures adjust themselves according to their spiritual value for discipline, while the heart holds heavenly audience with our King, until the things which are unseen and spiritual outweigh the things which are seen and temporal in our experience, while upon others we may bring great blessings through prayer. The Holy Spirit can reach all hearts, and the rebelling and the stranger may yield to His influence through our prayers. By such means souls that we may not reach in other ways may be won by our prayers. It was a beautiful habit of an old lady to select some individual in the congregation and make him the subject of prayer until brought to Christ and then to choose another. We may find pleasure in praying even for our enemies and those who misunderstand us until they shall find a nobler plane of life.
As long as God rules the world and prayer moves the Omnipotent Arm, so long may faithful Christians, like Monica, the devoted mother of Augustine, accomplish great results through the silent and invisible agency of prayer. "Prayer is the expression of the soul's desire." "Prayer is the Christian's vital breath."
Taken from Herald of Gospel Liberty, Volume 103, Issues 27-52, November 2, 1911, pp. 1386,1387.