The Hidden Life of Prayer

by David MacIntyre

1"Believe me, to pray with all your heart and strength, with the reason and the will, to believe vividly that God will listen to your voice through Christ, and, verily, to do the thing He pleaseth thereupon this is the last, the greatest achievement of the Christian's warfare upon earth. Teach us to pray, O Lord." Coleridge.

2Dr. Horton, Verbum Dei, p. 214.

3"It is a tremendously hard thing to pray aright. Yea, it is verily the science of all sciences even to pray so that the heart may approach unto God with all gracious confidence, and say, 'Our Father, which art in heaven.' For he who can take to himself such confidence of grace is already over the hill Difficulty, and has laid the foundation-stone of the temple of prayer."-Luther, Parting Words (Edin., 1903), p. 73.

"Perfect prayer is not attained by the use of many words, but through deep desire."-Catherine of Siena.

4"We know the utility of prayer from the efforts of the wicked spirits to distract us during the Divine office; and we experience the fruit of prayer in the defeat of our enemies."-John Climacus, The Holy Ladder of Perfection, xxviii. 64.

"When we go to God by prayer. the devil knows we go to fetch strength against him, and therefore he opposeth us all he can."-R. Sibbes, Divine Meditations, 164.

5"If thou find a weariness in this duty, suspect thyself, purge and refine thy heart from the love of all sin, and endeavor to put it into a heavenly and spiritual frame; and then thou wilt find this no unpleasant exercise, but full of delight and satisfaction. In the meantime. complain not of the hardness of the duty, but of the untowardness of thy own heart."-The Whole Duty of Man (Lond., 1741), p. 122.

6F. W. H. Myers, Poems.

7"In our mutual intercourse and conversation-amidst all the busiest scenes of our pilgrimage-we may be moving to and fro on the rapid wing of prayer, of mental prayer-that prayer that lays the whole burden of the heart on a single sigh. A sigh breathed in the Spirit. though inaudible to all around us but God, may sanctify every conversation, every event in the history of the day. We must have fellowship at all times either with the spirit of the world or with the Spirit of God....Prayer will be fatiguing to flesh and blood if uttered aloud and sustained long. Oral prayer, and prayer mentally ordered in words though not uttered aloud, no believer can engage in without ceasing; but there is an undercurrent of prayer that may run continually under the stream of our thoughts, and never weary us. Such prayer is the silent breathing of the Spirit of God, who dwells in our hearts (vide Rom. 8:9, and 1 Col. 3:16); it is the temper and habit of the spiritual mind; it is the pulse of our life which is hid with Christ in God."-Hewitson's Life, pp. 100, 101.

"My mind was greatly fixed on Divine things: almost perpetually in the contemplation of them. I spent most of my time in thinking of Divine things, year after year; often walking alone in the woods, and solitary places, for meditation, soliloquy, and prayer, and converse with God; and it was always my manner to sing forth my contemplations. I was almost constantly in ejaculatory prayer, wherever I was. Prayer seemed to be natural to me, as the breath by which the inward burnings of my heart had vent."-Jonathan Edwards, Memoirs. chap. i.

"I see that unless I keep up short prayer every day throughout the whole day, at intervals, I lose the spirit of prayer. I would never lose sight any hour of the Lamb in the midst of the throne, and if I have this sight I shall be able to pray.-Andrew A. Bonar, Diary. 7th October 1860.

8"Is not the name of Prayer usual to signify even all the service that ever we do God ?"-Hooker, Eccles. Polity, v. 23.

9Dr. A. B. Davidson, Waiting upon God, p. 14.

10Compare the sentence of Thomas Hooker, of Hartford-"Prayer is the principal work of a minister, and it is by this he must carry on the rest."

11"Whoever is diligent in public prayers, and yet negligent in private. it is much to be feared he rather seeks to approve himself to men than to God." The Whole Duty of Man (Lond., 1741), p. 119.

12Harvey's The Rise of the Quakers, pp. 73, 74.

13The Scale of Perfection, I. i. 1.

14The late Dr. John Paton, of the New Hebrides, tells of such a prayer-chamber in his father's modest dwelling:-"Our home consisted of a 'but' and a 'ben,' and a mid-room, or chamber, called the 'closet.'...The closet was a very small apartment betwixt the other two, having room only for a bed, a little table, and a chair, with a diminutive window shedding a diminutive light on the scene. This was the sanctuary of that cottage home. There daily, and many times a day, generally after each meal, we saw our father retire, and-shut to the door;' and we children got to understand, by a sort of spiritual instinct (for the thing was too sacred to be talked about), that prayers were being poured out there for us, as of old by the High Priest within the veil in the Most Holy Place. We occasionally heard the pathetic echoes of a trembling voice, pleading as for life, and we learned to slip out and in past that door on tip-toe, not to disturb the holy change. The outside world might not know, but we knew, whence came that happy light, as of a new-born smile, that always was dawning on my father's face: it was a reflection from the Divine Presence, in the consciousness of which he lived. Never, in temple or cathedral, in mountain or in glen, can I hope to feel that the Lord God is more near, more visibly walking and talking with men, than under that humble cottage roof of thatch and oaken wattles."-Dr. John G. Paton, Autobiography, pp. 10, 11.

15"On his return from the West Indies to the Clyde, Hewitson was privileged to lead to Christ one of the sailors. "I am not in want of a closet to pray in," said he one day, as the voyage drew near its termination; "I can just cover my face with my hat, and I am as much alone with God as in a closet." The man had sailed from Antigua a careless sinner.-Hewitson's Life, p. 283.

16"Let no man that can find time to bestow upon his vanities...say he wants leisure for prayer."-The Whole Duty of Man (Lond. 1741), p. 120.

17In all his journeyings John Wesley used to carry about with him a little note-book for jottings, the first crude draft of his Journals. On the front page of each successive copy of this memorandum book he always recorded a resolution to spend two hours daily in private prayer, no evasion or proviso being admitted. Perhaps such a rule may seem to some to be rigid even to formality. Let no one he bound by another's practice; but in every case let due provision be made for intercourse with God.

18"And here I was counseled to set up one other sail, for before I prayed but twice a day, I here resolved to set some time apart at mid-day for this effort, and, obeying this, I found the effects to be wonderful."-Memoirs of the Rev. James Fraser (Wodrow), p. 208.

19But Fraser of Brea gives a caution respecting this which is worth remembering: __ "Under the pretense of waiting on the Lord for strength, I have been driven to gaze, and neglect the duty itself, when there hath been an opportunity; so in preparing for prayer have neglected prayer." Memoirs, p. 290.

20"It was a saying of the martyr Bradford that be would never leave a duty till he had brought his heart into the frame of the duty; he would not leave confession of sin till his heart was broken for sin; he would not leave petitioning for grace till his heart was quickened and enlivened in a hopeful expectation of more grace; he would not leave the rendering of thanks till his heart was enlarged with the sense of the mercies which lie enjoyed and quickened in the return of praise."-Bickersteth, A Treatise on Prayer, p. 93.

21"This helping of the Spirit (Rom. 8:26) is very emphatical in the original; as a man taking up a heavy piece of timber by the one end cannot alone get it up till some other man takes it up at the other end, and so helps him; so the poor soul that is pulling and tugging with his own heart he finds it heavy and dull, like a log in a ditch, and he can do no good with it, till at last the Spirit of God comes at the other end, and takes the heaviest end of the burden, and so helps the soul to lift it up."-I. Ambrose, Prima Media et Ultima, p. 333. Père La Combe says: "I have never found any one who prayed so well as those who had never been taught how. They who have no master in man have one in the Holy Spirit."-Spiritual Maxims, 43.

22The reader will find a striking passage, hearing on this point, in the Autobiography of George Muller (Lond., 1905), pp. 152, 153.

23"Always enter upon prayer by putting yourself in the Divine Presence" (Francois de Sales). Gaston de Renty defines this posture of the soul as "a state of modest presence before God, in which you maintain yourself, looking to His Spirit to suggest what He pleases to you, and receiving it in simplicity and confidence, just as if He were uttering words in your hearing." Avila, a Spanish writer on religion tells us that "we ought to address ourselves to prayer rather in order to listen than to speak."

24"Prayer discovers to us the true state of our soul, for, according to theologians, it is the mirror which shows us our correct portrait."-St. John Climacus, The Holy Ladder of Perfection, xx iii. 38.

25"The petitions of believers...are echoes, so to speak, of the Master's own words. Their prayer is only some fragment of His teaching transformed into a supplication. It must then be heard, for it is the expression of His will."-Bishop Westcott, on John 15:7.

26"Prayer is heard when it passes from the believer's heart to the Redeemer's heart, and is appropriated by the Redeemer, or made His own."-W. H. Hewitson, Life, p. 375.

27Epictetus, Eph. 1:16.

28Richard Baxter advises that on Sabbath days we should be briefer in confession and lamentation, and give ourselves more to praise and thanksgiving (Method of Peace and Comfort). It was Grimshaw's custom to begin his morning devotions by singing the doxology. Of Joseph Alleine it was said, "Such was the vehement heavenliness of his spirit, that his favorite employment was praise."

29Chrysostom, quoted by Thomas Watson.

30"No doubt the angels think themselves as insufficient for the praises of the Lord as we do."-John Livingstone's Diary, 14 Dec., 1634 (Wodrow Society).

31"Think of the guilt of sin, that you may be humbled. Think of the power of sin, that you may seek strength against it. Think not of the matter of sin...lest you be more and more entangled." John Owen.

32The biographer of Charles Simeon, of Cambridge, remarks: "Simeon in his private hours was peculiarly broken and prostrate before the Lord."

33By Dr. Payson, Lift, p. 79.

34"In prayer we tempt God if we ask for that which we labour not for; our faithful endeavors must second our devotion....If we pray for grace and neglect the spring from whence it comes, how can we speed ? It was a rule in ancient times, 'Lay thy hand to the plow, and then pray.' No man should pray without plowing, nor plow without prayer."-R. Sibbes, Divine Meditations, p. 174.

35"Prayer not only obtains mercies; it sweetens and sanctifies them."-Flavel, Works, v. 351.

"God does not delay to hear our prayers, because He has no mind to give; but that, by enlarging our desires, He may give us the more largely."-Anselm of Canterbury.

36"We must draw off from prayer, from resting in it, or trusting upon it; a man may preach much, and instead of drawing nigh to God, or enjoying sweet communion with Christ, he may draw nigh to prayer, his thoughts may be more upon his prayer than upon God to whom he prays; and he may live more upon his cushion than upon Christ; but when a man indeed draws nigh to God in prayer, he forgets prayer, and remembers God, and prayer goes for nothing, but Christ is all."-Isaac Ambrose, Prima Media et Ultima, p. 332.

37"The brief, childlike letters that were sent to him by them [his sons] were bound up into a paper volume, which he carried about with him during his Mongolian wanderings, and in looking over them he found an unfailing solace and refreshment." Life of Gilmour of Mongolia, pp. 241, 251.

38"It was seven years before William Carey baptized his first convert in India; it was seven years before Judson won his first disciple in Burma; Morrison toiled seven years before the first Chinaman was brought to Christ; Moffat declares that he waited seven years to see the first evident moving of the Holy Spirit upon his Bechuanas of Africa; Henry Richards wrought seven years on the Congo before the first convert was gained at Banza Manteka." A. J. Gordon, The Holy Spirit in Missions, pp. 139, 140.

39Jeremy Taylor, The Return of Prayers. This applies also on a lower level. George Müller writes, "These last three days I have had very little real communion with God, and have therefore been very weak spiritually, and have several times felt irritability of temper. May God in mercy help me to have more secret prayer." Autobiography, p. 67.

40On this point Müller says elsewhere: "It is not enough to begin to pray, nor to pray aright; nor is it enough to continue for a time to pray; but we must patiently, believingly, continue in prayer until we obtain an answer; and further we have not only to continue in prayer unto the end, but we have also to believe that God does hear us, and will answer our prayers. Most frequently we fail in not continuing in prayer until the blessing is obtained, and in not expecting the blessing."-Autobiography, p. 320.

41Richard Sibbes Divine Meditations, p. 5.

42The following extract from the Life of John Howe may serve to point a caution which has sometimes been too lightly heeded: "At that time [in the days of the English Commonwealth] an erroneous opinion, still cherished by some few pious people, respecting the efficacy of a special faith in prayer, pervaded the religious community. The idea was entertained that if a believer was led to seek a favor in prayer, such as the recovery or conversion of a child, or victory on the battlefield, with unusual fervor, and with the strong persuasion that the prayer would be favorably answered, such would certainly be the case. This notion was carried by some to still greater lengths of extravagancy, until it amounted to a virtual assertion of inspiration. The court of Cromwell was not unfavorable soil for the nourishment of a conceit like this; indeed, it appears to have taken deep hold of the mind of the Protector himself. Thoroughly convinced of its erroneous nature and unhallowed tendencies, and having listened to a sermon at Whitehall, the avowed design of which was to maintain and defend it, Howe felt himself bound in conscience to expose its absurdity when next he should preach before Cromwell. This he did...Cromwell's brow furnished indications of his displeasure during the delivery of the discourse, and a certain coolness in his manner afterwards, but the matter was never mentioned between them."

43This "particular faith in prayer" sometimes engages itself in receiving the answer to prayers offered for spiritual interests. Speaking of the memorable revival in Kilsyth, of which the first fruits were seen on Tuesday, 23rd July. 1839 "a morning fixed from all eternity in Jehovah's counsel as an era in the history of redemption"-William Burns wrote: "I have since heard that some of the people of God in Kilsyth, who had been longing and wrestling for a time of refreshing from the Lord's presence, and who had, during much of the previous night, been travailing in birth for souls, came to the meeting," not only with the hope, but with well-nigh the certain anticipation of God's glorious appearing, from the impressions they had upon their own souls of Jehovah's approaching glory and majesty."

44"Being asked by a lady if he would have bread and a glass of wine, he replied, 'If you please, I'll have bread and a glass of water.' 'Prison fare,' remarked the lady. 'No, garrison fare: He shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks; bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.'-John Duncan, The Pulpit and Communion Table, p. 37.

45Mr. D. L. Moody used to say that he thanked God with all his heart that many of his most earnest prayers had not been granted.

46F. W. Krummacher, Autobiography (Edin., 1869). p. 143.

47Memoir of J. A. Bengel. by J. C. F. Burk (Lond., 1837), pp. 491, 492.

48"'The Church of God in Corinth,' a blessed and astounding paradox!"-Bengel.

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