Prayer is the eye of faith turned upward to gaze on the unseen. It is the pause of the soul from worldly pursuits to commune with its God. It is a return of the spirit, wearied by earthly anxiety and care, to rest upon the bosom of its Father and Maker, and to be renewed again for the battles and toils of time. Prayer is the life-breath of the Christian. By its aid he feeds upon heavenly manna, and is nourished by the spiritual meat and drink of angels. The place of prayer is one of the holiest, safest, and most blessed spots upon earth. While bowed before the mercy-seat, no danger can harm us. The seasons that we spend in prayer are those in which we dwell near to heaven, and which will be the least regretted and the most happily remembered in a dying hour.
Prayer is a glorious privilege. It is surpassing condescension that the eternal Jehovah should be a Hearer and Answerer of prayer. That to the pious heart every spot of earth becomes a temple, in which we may find God and talk with Him, and receive an impartation of His blessing. Prayer is one of the most precious helps of the Christian. It is the hand that takes hold upon the Hand that moves the world.
The Devil trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.
We are never stronger than when we rise from prayer; the tempter is never farther from us; and our souls never feel more as if they breathed the morning air of heaven, and were mightily renewed for running well the Christian race.
Prayer is a precious means of piety. Continuing “instant in prayer,” begets the Christian temper. Ever communing with Christ, an image of His pure Spirit is formed within us. From prayer, flow meekness, faith, self-consecration, and courage to be crucified in the work of the Lord. Prayer baptizes the Christian with that dew of heaven which fertilizes his whole nature with the breath of God. No one, then, who daily and fervently prays will ever be seen relapsing from grace. But his course in piety will be onward and upward.
The holiest men have ever been the most diligent in prayer. The patriarch Jacob wrestled in prayer with the Holy One at Penuel until the break of day, saying, “I will not let thee go unless thou bless me. And he blessed him there.” Moses prayed so fervently that he even asked God to blot his name out of His book, unless he would answer, and at last the Almighty yielded, and granted what He had before refused. The Psalms of David are but the breathings of his prayers. And so far and rapt was the flight of his Faith in prayer, that her wing even carried him over unborn ages, until he beheld the glorious vision of the future Messiah of the world.
But above all, what a life of prayer was that of Christ! Tried by the contradiction of sinners, He begins His career by spending a whole night in prayer. His mightiest miracle at the grave of Lazarus was not performed until He had turned His heart upward in prayer, and asked the Holy Father to glorify Him before men. It was, too, in the stillness of Gethsemane, just before His sharp agony on the cross, that He prayed so earnestly that His sweat, falling like great drops of blood, reddened and hallowed the ground. And His last expiring cry, as his soul in death took that awful leap into eternity, was the prayer: “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”
And how was the beloved Luther distinguished as a man of prayer! We are astonished that amid his press of duties he could daily find several hours for the holy calm of prayer. What a moving prayer was that one on record which nerved him for his heroic but dangerous confession at Worms! It was wonderful, indeed, how this holy man talked and pleaded with God, even as one would speak with a friend.
And how, then, can the young disciple expect to be preserved in the midst of so many dangers, without daily and fervent resort to the throne of grace? “Watch and pray,” was the Master’s great command. Prayer is the sentinel which guards on the watch-towers of the Christian, and keeps him awakened and vigilant against the approach of every disguised artifice of the old Enemy.
It is the Spirit that teaches us how to pray aright. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” It is the one who is baptized with the Holy Ghost, and in whom the Spirit abides, who can ask for those things which are best for him, and who can so make intercession for them that God cannot refuse.
But we must also pray like the Saviour, “Not my will but Thine, O God, be done.” “No good thing will the Lord withhold from them that walk uprightly.” But He will withhold that which He knows not to be for our good, even if we pray ever so earnestly for it. He often, too, refuses us for the present, that He may but answer our prayers in a different, a larger, and a better way than in the precise form and manner we had wished. And we must not be rash, then, to doubt His goodness, or to accuse His faithfulness to His holy promises.
Let, then, the pilgrim often resort to the mercy-seat if he would have grace to press forward upon the way of life. There is no more beautiful and hopeful scene for the young confessor than when his protecting angel hastens to the presence of God with the joyful tidings, “Behold he prayeth.” “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not faint.” Like David, then, morning, evening, and at noon,— yea! in the silent night watches, and in the busy and crowded day,—ever let thy spirit ascend to thy Maker in prayer, and He will draw near to bless thee and to “give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” Frequent closet prayer, and regular public worship in the assembly of God’s people, will be a mighty help to thee in thy journey heavenward, and never neglecting, but conscientiously and fervently attending to this holy and delightful duty, thy love and zeal will know no relapse.
When is the time for prayer?
With the first beams that light the morning sky.
Ere for the toils of day thou dost prepare,
Lift up thy thoughts on high:
Commend thy footsteps to His watchful care:
Morn is the time for prayer.
And when the stars come forth—
When to the trusting heart sweet hopes are given.
And the deep stillness of the hour gives birth
To pure, bright dreams of heaven;
Kneel to thy God—ask strength life’s ills to bear;
Night is the time for prayer.
When is the time for prayer?
In every hour while life is spared to thee;
In crowds or solitude, in joy or care,
Thy thoughts should heavenward flee,
At home, at noon and eve, with loved ones there,
Bend thou the knee in prayer.