With Christ in the School of Prayer




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


                                    By Andrew Murray



 

                                               Lord, teach us to pray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                 Fleming H. Revell

                                                    Public Domain

                                  NEW YORK  CHICAGO  TORONTO

                                        Fleming H. Revell Company

                                    Publishers of Evangelical Literature.


                                     Table of Contents

Preface  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
FIRST LESSON.  Lord, teach us to pray . . . .  5

SECOND LESSON.  In spirit and truth.  . . . .  10

THIRD LESSON.  Pray to your Father, which is in secret . . . .   15

FOURTH LESSON:  After this manner pray  . . . .  20

FIFTH LESSON.  Ask, and it shall be given you . . . .   25

SIXTH LESSON.   How much more?  . . . .   30

SEVENTH LESSON.  How much more the Holy Spirit  . . . .  36        
EIGHTH LESSON.  Because of his importunity . . . .   41              
NINTH LESSON.  Pray the Lord of the harvest . . . .   46

TENTH LESSON.  What will you?  . . . .  51
ELEVENTH LESSON.  Believe that you have received . . . .   56

TWELFTH LESSON.  Have faith in God  . . . .  61

THIRTEENTH LESSON.  Prayer and fasting . . . .   66

FOURTEENTH LESSON.  When you stand praying, forgive . . . .  72
FIFTEENTH LESSON.  If two agree  . . . .  77
SIXTEENTH LESSON.  Speedily, though bearing long  . . . .  82
SEVENTEENTH LESSON.   I know that You hear me always  . . . .  89
EIGHTEENTH LESSON:  Whose is this image?  . . . .  95           
NINTEENTH LESSON.  I go unto the Father! . . . .   100
TWENTIETH LESSON.  That the Father may be glorified  . . . .  105
TWENTY-FIRST LESSON.  If you abide in me . . . .   110
TWENTY-SECOND LESSON.  My words in you  . . . .  116

TWENTY-THIRD LESSON.  Bear fruit, that the Father may give what you ask . . . 121

TWENTY-FOURTH LESSON.   In my Name . . . .   126

TWENTY-FIFTH LESSON.  At that day . . . .   132
TWENTY-SIXTH LESSON.  I have prayed for you . . . .   138

TWENTY-SEVENTH LESSON.  Father, I will  . . . .  145
TWENTY-EIGHTH LESSON.  Father!  Not what I will . . . .   150
TWENTY-NINTH LESSON.  According to His will v 155

THIRTIETH LESSON.  An holy priesthood  . . . .  161
THIRTY-FIRST LESSON.  Pray without ceasing . . . .   166

GEORGE MULLER, AND THE SECRET OF HIS POWER IN PRAYER . . . .  171
Indexes 186


 

                                       PREFACE.

 

   Of all the promises connected with the command, ABIDE IN ME,' there is

   none higher, and none that sooner brings the confession, Not that I

   have already attained, or am already made perfect,' than this: If you

   abide in me,  ask whatsoever you will, and it shall be done unto you.'

     Power with God is the highest attainment of the life of full abiding.

 

   And of all the traits of a life LIKE CHRIST there is none higher and

   more glorious than conformity to Him in the work that now engages Him

   without ceasing in the Father's presence--His all-prevailing

   intercession.  The more we abide in Him, and grow unto His likeness,

   will His priestly life work in us mightily, and our life become what

   His is, a life that ever pleads and prevails for men.

 

   Thou have made us kings and priests unto God.'  Both in the king and

   the priest the chief thing is power, influence, blessing.  In the king

   it is the power coming downward; in the priest, the power rising

   upward, prevailing with God.  In our blessed Priest-King, Jesus Christ,

   the kingly power is founded on the priestly He is able to save to the

   uttermost, because He ever lives to make intercession.'  In us, His

   priests and kings, it is no otherwise:  it is in intercession that the

   Church is to find and wield its highest power, that each member of the

   Church is to prove his descent from Israel, who as a prince had power

   with God and with men, and prevailed.

 

   It is under a deep impression that the place and power of prayer in the

   Christian life is too little understood, that this book has been

   written.  I feel sure that as long as we look on prayer chiefly as the

   means of maintaining our own Christian life, we shall not know fully

   what it is meant to be.  But when we learn to regard it as the highest

   part of the work entrusted to us, the root and strength of all other

   work, we shall see that there is nothing that we so need to study and

   practise as the art of praying aright.  If I have at all succeeded in

   pointing out the progressive teaching of our Lord in regard to prayer,

   and the distinct reference the wonderful promises of the last night

   (John xiv. 16) have to the works we are to do in His Name, to the

   greater works, and to the bearing much fruit, we shall all admit that

   it is only when the Church gives herself up to this holy work of

   intercession that we can expect the power of Christ to manifest itself

   in her behalf.  It is my prayer that God may use this little book to

   make clearer to some of His children the wonderful place of power and

   influence which He is waiting for them to occupy, and for which a weary

   world is waiting too.

 

   In connection with this there is another truth that has come to me with

   wonderful clearness as I studied the teaching of Jesus on prayer.  It

   is this:  that the Father waits to hear every prayer of faith, to give

   us whatsoever we will, and whatsoever we ask in Jesus' name.  We have

   become so accustomed to limit the wonderful love and the large promises

   of our God, that we cannot read the simplest and clearest statements of

   our Lord without the qualifying clauses by which we guard and expound

   them.  If there is one thing I think the Church needs to learn, it is

   that God means prayer to have an answer, and that it hath not entered

   into the heart of man to conceive what God will do for His child who

   gives himself to believe that his prayer will be heard.   God hears

   prayer; this is a truth universally admitted, but of which very few

   understand the meaning, or experience the power.  If what I have

   written stir my reader to go to the Master's words, and take His

   wondrous promises simply and literally as they stand, my object has

   been attained.

 

   And then just one thing more.  Thousands have in these last years found

   an unspeakable blessing in learning how completely Christ is our life,

   and how He undertakes to be and to do all in us that we need.  I know

   not if we have yet learned to apply this truth to our prayer-life. Many

   complain that they have not the power to pray in faith, to pray the

   effectual prayer that avails much.  The message I would fain bring

   them is that the blessed Jesus is waiting, is longing, to teach them

   this.  Christ is our life:  in heaven He ever lives to pray; His life

   in us is an ever-praying life, if we will but trust Him for it.  Christ

   teaches us to pray not only by example, by instruction, by command, by

   promises, but by showing us HIMSELF, the ever-living Intercessor, as

   our Life.  It is when we believe this, and go and abide in Him for our

   prayer-life too, that our fears of not being able to pray aright will

   vanish, and we shall joyfully and triumphantly trust our Lord to teach

   us to pray, to be Himself the life and the power of our prayer.

 

   May God open our eyes to see what the holy ministry of intercession is

   to which, as His royal priesthood, we have been set apart.  May He give

   us a large and strong heart to believe what mighty influence our

   prayers can exert.  And may all fear as to our being able to fulfill our

   vocation vanish as we see Jesus, living ever to pray, living in us to

   pray, and standing surety for our prayer-life.

   ANDREW MURRAY

   WELLINGTON, 28^th October 1895

                    FIRST LESSON.  Lord, teach us to pray

 

  Or,    The Only Teacher .

 

   And it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, that when He

   ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, Lord, teach us to

   pray.'--Luke xi. 1.

 

   THE disciples had been with Christ, and seen Him pray.  They had learnt

   to understand something of the connection between His wondrous life in

   public, and His secret life of prayer.  They had learned to believe in

   Him as a Master in the art of prayer--none could pray like Him.  And so

   they came to Him with the request, Lord, teach us to pray.'  And in

   after years they would have told us that there were few things more

   wonderful or blessed that He taught them than His lessons on prayer.

 

   And now still it comes to pass, as He is praying in a certain place,

   that disciples who see Him thus engaged feel the need of repeating the

   same request, Lord, teach us to pray.'   As we grow in the Christian

   life, the thought and the faith of the Beloved Master in His

   never-failing intercession becomes ever more precious, and the hope of

   being Like Christ in His intercession gains an attractiveness before

   unknown.  And as we see Him pray, and remember that there is none who

   can pray like Him, and none who can teach like Him, we feel the

   petition of the disciples, Lord, teach us to pray,' is just what we

   need.  And as we think how all He is and has, how He Himself is our

   very own, how He is Himself our life, we feel assured that we have but

   to ask, and He will be delighted to take us up into closer fellowship

   with Himself, and teach us to pray even as He prays.

 

   Come, my brothers!  Shall we not go to the Blessed Master and ask Him

   to enroll our names too anew in that school which He always keeps open

   for those who long to continue their studies in the Divine art of

   prayer and intercession?  Yes, let us this very day say to the Master,

   as they did of old, Lord, teach us to pray.'  As we meditate, we shall

   find each word of the petition we bring to be full of meaning.

 

   Lord, teach us to pray.'  Yes, to pray.  This is what we need to be

   taught.  Though in its beginnings prayer is so simple that the feeblest

   child can pray, yet it is at the same time the highest and holiest work

   to which man can rise.   It is fellowship with the Unseen and Most Holy

   One.  The powers of the eternal world have been placed at its

   disposal.  It is the very essence of true religion, the channel of all

   blessings, the secret of power and life.  Not only for ourselves, but

   for others, for the Church, for the world, it is to prayer that God has

   given the right to take hold of Him and His strength.  It is on prayer

   that the promises wait for their fulfillment, the kingdom for its

   coming, the glory of God for its full revelation.  And for this blessed

   work, how slothful and unfit we are.  It is only the Spirit of God can

   enable us to do it aright.  How speedily we are deceived into a resting

   in the form, while the power is wanting.  Our early training, the

   teaching of the Church, the influence of habit, the stirring of the

   emotions--how easily these lead to prayer which has no spiritual power,

   and avails but little.  True prayer, that takes hold of God's strength,

   that avails much, to which the gates of heaven are really opened

   wide--who would not cry, Oh for someone to teach me thus to pray?

 

   Jesus has opened a school, in which He trains His redeemed ones, who

   specially desire it, to have power in prayer.  Shall we not enter it

   with the petition, Lord! it is just this we need to be taught! O teach

   us to pray.

 

   Lord, teach us to pray.'  Yes, us, Lord.  We have read in Your Word with

   what power Your believing people of old used to pray, and what mighty

   wonders were done in answer to their prayers.  And if this took place

   under the Old Covenant, in the time of preparation, how much more will

   You not now, in these days of fulfillment, give Your people this sure

   sign of Your presence in their midst.  We have heard the promises given

   to Your apostles of the power of prayer in Your name, and have seen how

   gloriously they experienced their truth:  we know for certain, they can

   become true to us too.  We hear continually even in these days what

   glorious tokens of Your power You dost still give to those who trust

   You fully.  Lord! these all are men of like passions with ourselves;

   teach us to pray so too.  The promises are for us, the powers and gifts

   of the heavenly world are for us.  O teach us to pray so that we may

   receive abundantly.  To us too You have entrusted Your work, on our

   prayer too the coming of Your kingdom depends, in our prayer too You

   canst glorify Your name; Lord teach us to pray.'  Yes, us, Lord; we

   offer ourselves as learners; we would indeed be taught of You.  Lord,

   teach us to pray.'

 

   Lord, teach us to pray.'  Yes, we feel the need now of being taught to

   pray.  At first there is no work appears so simple; later on, none that

   is more difficult; and the confession is forced from us:  We know not

   how to pray as we ought.  It is true we have God's Word, with its clear

   and sure promises; but sin has so darkened our mind, that we know not

   always how to apply the word.  In spiritual things we do not always

   seek the most needful things, or fail in praying according to the law

   of the sanctuary.  In temporal things we are still less able to avail

   ourselves of the wonderful liberty our Father has given us to ask what

   we need.  And even when we know what to ask, how much there is still

   needed to make prayer acceptable.  It must be to the glory of God, in

   full surrender to His will, in full assurance of faith, in the name of

   Jesus, and with a perseverance that, if need be, refuses to be denied.

   All this must be learned.  It can only be learned in the school of much

   prayer, for practice makes perfect.  Amid the painful consciousness of

   ignorance and unworthiness, in the struggle between believing and

   doubting, the heavenly art of effectual prayer is learnt.  Because,

   even when we do not remember it, there is One, the Beginner and

   Finisher of faith and prayer, who watches over our praying, and sees to

   it that in all who trust Him for it their education in the school of

   prayer shall be carried on to perfection.  Let but the deep undertone

   of all our prayer be the teachableness that comes from a sense of

   ignorance, and from faith in Him as a perfect teacher, and we may be

   sure we shall be taught, we shall learn to pray in power.  Yes, we may

   depend upon it, He teaches to pray.

 

   Lord, teach us to pray.'  None can teach like Jesus, none but Jesus;

   therefore we call on Him, LORD, teach us to pray.'  A pupil needs a

   teacher, who knows his work, who has the gift of teaching, who in

   patience and love will descend to the pupil's needs.  Blessed be God!

   Jesus is all this and much more.  He knows what prayer is.  It is

   Jesus, praying Himself, who teaches to pray.  He knows what prayer is.

   He learned it amid the trials and tears of His earthly life.  In heaven

   it is still His beloved work:  His life there is prayer.  Nothing

   delights Him more than to find those whom He can take with Him into the

   Father's presence, whom He can clothe with power to pray down God's

   blessing on those around them, whom He can train to be His

   fellow-workers in the intercession by which the kingdom is to be

   revealed on earth.  He knows how to teach.  Now by the urgency of felt

   need, then by the confidence with which joy inspires.  Here by the

   teaching of the Word, there by the testimony of another believer who

   knows what it is to have prayer heard.  By His Holy Spirit, He has

   access to our heart, and teaches us to pray by showing us the sin that

   hinders the prayer, or giving us the assurance that we please God.  He

   teaches, by giving not only thoughts of what to ask or how to ask, but

   by breathing within us the very spirit of prayer, by living within us

   as the Great Intercessor.  We may indeed and most joyfully say, Who

   teaches like Him?'  Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach,

   only how to pray.  He did not speak much of what was needed to preach

   well, but much of praying well.  To know how to speak to God is more

   than knowing how to speak to man.  Not power with men, but power with

   God is the first thing.  Jesus loves to teach us how to pray.

 

   What think you, my beloved fellow-disciples! would it not be just what

   we need, to ask the Master for a month to give us a course of special

   lessons on the art of prayer?  As we meditate on the words He spake on

   earth, let us yield ourselves to His teaching in the fullest confidence

   that, with such a teacher, we shall make progress.  Let us take time

   not only to meditate, but to pray, to tarry at the foot of the throne,

   and be trained to the work of intercession.  Let us do so in the

   assurance that amidst our stammerings and fears He is carrying on His

   work most beautifully.  He will breathe His own life, which is all

   prayer, into us.  As He makes us partakers of His righteousness and His

   life, He will of His intercession too.  As the members of His body, as

   a holy priesthood, we shall take part in His priestly work of pleading

   and prevailing with God for men.  Yes, let us most joyfully say,

   ignorant and feeble though we be, Lord, teach us to pray.'

 

 


 

 

                       LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.'

 

   Blessed Lord! Who ever lives to pray, You canst teach me too to pray,

   me too to live ever to pray.  In this You love to make me share Your

   glory in heaven, that I should pray without ceasing, and ever stand as

   a priest in the presence of my God.

 

   Lord Jesus!   I ask You this day to enroll my name among those who

   confess that they know not how to pray as they ought, and specially ask

   You for a course of teaching in prayer.  Lord! teach me to tarry with

   You in the school, and give You time to train me.  May a deep sense

   of my ignorance, of the wonderful privilege and power of prayer, of the

   need of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of prayer, lead me to cast away

   my thoughts of what I think I know, and make me kneel before You in

   true teachableness and poverty of spirit.

 

   And fill me, Lord, with the confidence that with such a teacher as You

   art I shall learn to pray.  In the assurance that I have as my teacher,

   Jesus who is ever praying to the Father, and by His prayer rules the

   destinies of His Church and the world, I will not be afraid.  As much

   as I need to know of the mysteries of the prayer-world, You will

   unfold for me.  And when I may not know, You will teach me to be

   strong in faith, giving glory to God.

 

   Blessed Lord! You will not put to shame Your scholar who trusts You,

   nor, by Your grace, would he You either.  Amen.


 

                     SECOND LESSON.  In spirit and truth.

 

  Or,    The True Worshippers.

 

   The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship

   the Father in spirit and truth:  for such doth the Father seek to be

   His worshippers.  God is a Spirit:  and they that worship Him must

   worship Him in spirit and truth.'--John iv. 23, 24.

 

   THESE words of Jesus to the woman of Samaria are His first recorded

   teaching on the subject of prayer.  They give us some wonderful first

   glimpses into the world of prayer.  The Father seeks worshippers:  our

   worship satisfies His loving heart and is a joy to Him.  He seeks true

   worshippers, but finds many not such as He would have them.  True

   worship is that which is in spirit and truth.  The Son has come to open

   the way for this worship in spirit and in truth, and teach it us.  And

   so one of our first lessons in the school of prayer must be to

   understand what it is to pray in spirit and in truth, and to know how

   we can attain to it.

 

   To the woman of Samaria our Lord spoke of a threefold worship.  There

   is first, the ignorant worship of the Samaritans:  You worship that

   which you know not.'  The second, the intelligent worship of the Jew,

   having the true knowledge of God: We worship that which we know; for

   salvation is of the Jews.'  And then the new, the spiritual worship

   which He Himself has come to introduce:  The hour is coming, and is

   now, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and

   truth.'  From the connection it is evident that the words in spirit and

   truth' do not mean, as is often thought, earnestly, from the heart, in

   sincerity.  The Samaritans had the five books of Moses and some

   knowledge of God; there was doubtless more than one among them who

   honestly and earnestly sought God in prayer.  The Jews had the true

   full revelation of God in His word, as thus far given; there were among

   them godly men, who called upon God with their whole heart.  And yet

   not in spirit and truth,' in the full meaning of the words.  Jesus

   says, The hour is coming, and now is;' it is only in and through Him

   that the worship of God will be in spirit and truth.

 

   Among Christians one still finds the three classes of worshippers.

   Some who in their ignorance hardly know what they ask:  they pray

   earnestly, and yet receive but little.  Others there are, who have more

   correct knowledge, who try to pray with all their mind and heart, and

   often pray most earnestly, and yet do not attain to the full

   blessedness of worship in spirit and truth.  It is into this third

   class we must ask our Lord Jesus to take us; we must be taught of Him

   how to worship in spirit and truth.  This alone is spiritual worship;

   this makes us worshippers such as the Father seeks.  In prayer

   everything will depend on our understanding well and practising the

   worship in spirit and truth.

 

   God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit

   and truth.'  The first thought suggested here by the Master is that

   there must be harmony between God and His worshippers; such as God is,

   must His worship be.  This is according to a principle which prevails

   throughout the universe:  we look for correspondence between an object

   and the organ to which it reveals or yields itself.  The eyou has an

   inner fitness for the light, the ear for sound.  The man who would

   truly worship God, would find and know and possess and enjoy God, must

   be in harmony with Him, must have the capacity for receiving Him.

   Because God is Spirit, we must worship in spirit.  As God is, so His

   worshipper.

 

   And what does this mean?  The woman had asked our Lord whether Samaria

   or Jerusalem was the true place of worship.  He answers that henceforth

   worship is no longer to be limited to a certain place:  Woman, believe

   Me, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem,

   shall you worship the Father.'  As God is Spirit, not bound by space or

   time, but in His infinite perfection always and everywhere the same, so

   His worship would henceforth no longer be confined by place or form,

   but spiritual as God Himself is spiritual.  A lesson of deep

   importance.  How much our Christianity suffers from this, that it is

   confined to certain times and places.  A man, who seeks to pray

   earnestly in the church or in the closet, spends the greater part of

   the week or the day in a spirit entirely at variance with that in which

   he prayed.  His worship was the work of a fixed place or hour, not of

   his whole being.  God is a Spirit:  He is the Everlasting and

   Unchangeable One; what He is, He is always and in truth.  Our worship

   must even so be in spirit and truth:  His worship must be the spirit of

   our life; our life must be worship in spirit as God is Spirit.

 

   God is a Spirit:  and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit

   and truth.'  The second thought that comes to us is that the worship in

   the spirit must come from God Himself.  God is Spirit:  He alone has

   Spirit to give.  It was for this He sent His Son, to fit us for such

   spiritual worship, by giving us the Holy Spirit.  It is of His own work

   that Jesus speaks when He says twice, The hour cometh,' and then adds,

   and is now.'  He came to baptize with the Holy Spirit; the Spirit could

   not stream forth till He was glorified (John i. 33, vii. 37, 38, xvi.

   7).  It was when He had made an end of sin, and entering into the

   Holiest of all with His blood, had there on our behalf received the

   Holy Spirit (Acts ii. 33), that He could send Him down to us as the

   Spirit of the Father.  It was when Christ had redeemed us, and we in

   Him had received the position of children, that the Father sent forth

   the Spirit of His Son into our hearts to cry, Abba, Father.'  The

   worship in spirit is the worship of the Father in the Spirit of Christ

   , the Spirit of Sonship.

 

   This is the reason why Jesus here uses the name of Father.  We never

   find one of the Old Testament saints personally appropriate the name of

   child or call God his Father.  The worship of the Father is only

   possible to those to whom the Spirit of the Son has been given.  The

   worship in  spirit is only possible to those to whom the Son has

   revealed the Father, and who have received the spirit of Sonship.  It

   is only Christ who opens the way and teaches the worship in spirit.

 

   And in truth.  That does not only mean, in sincerity.  Nor does it only

   signify, in accordance with the truth of God's Word.  The expression is

   one of deep and Divine meaning.  Jesus is the only-begotten of the

   Father, full of grace and truth.'  The law was given by Moses; grace

   and truth came by Jesus Christ.'  Jesus says, I am the truth and the

   life.'  In the Old Testament all was shadow and promise; Jesus brought

   and gives the reality, the substance, of things hoped for.  In Him the

   blessings and powers of the eternal life are our actual possession and

   experience.  Jesus is full of grace and truth; the Holy Spirit is the

   Spirit of truth; through Him the grace that is in Jesus is ours in deed

   and truth, a positive communication out of the Divine life.  And so

   worship in spirit is worship in truth; actual living fellowship with

   God, a real correspondence and harmony between the Father, who is a

   Spirit, and the child praying in the spirit.

 

   What Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, she could not at once

   understand.  Pentecost was needed to reveal its full meaning.  We are

   hardly prepared at our first entrance into the school of prayer to

   grasp such teaching.  We shall understand it better later on.  Let us

   only begin and take the lesson as He gives it.  We are carnal and

   cannot bring God the worship He seeks.  But Jesus came to give the

   Spirit:  He has given Him to us.  Let the disposition in which we set

   ourselves to pray be what Christ's words have taught us.  Let there be

   the deep confession of our inability to bring God the worship that is

   pleasing to Him; the childlike teachableness that waits on Him to

   instruct us; the simple faith that yields itself to the breathing of

   the Spirit.  Above all, let us hold fast the blessed truth--we shall

   find that the Lord has more to say to us about it--that the knowledge

   of the Fatherhood of God, the revelation of His infinite Fatherliness

   in our hearts, the faith in the infinite love that gives us His Son and

   His Spirit to make us children, is indeed the secret of prayer in

   spirit and truth.  This is the new and living way Christ opened up for

   us.  To have Christ the Son, and the Spirit of the Son, dwelling within

   us, and revealing the Father, this makes us true, spiritual

   worshippers.

 

  


 

                     LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.'

 

   Blessed Lord!  I adore the love with which You didst teach a woman,

   who had refused You a cup of water, what the worship of God must be.

   I rejoice in the assurance that You will no less now instruct Your

   disciple, who comes to You with a heart that longs to pray in spirit

   and in truth.  O my Holy Master!  do teach me this blessed secret.

 

   Teach me that the worship in spirit and truth is not of man, but only

   comes from You; that it is not only a thing of times and seasons, but

   the outflowing of a life in You.  Teach me to draw near to God in

   prayer under the deep impression of my ignorance and my having nothing

   in myself to offer Him, and at the same time of the provision You, my

   Saviour, make for the Spirit's breathing in my childlike

   stammerings.  I do bless You that in You I am a child, and have a

   child's liberty of access; that in You I have the spirit of Sonship

   and of worship in truth.  Teach me, above all, Blessed Son of the

   Father, how it is the revelation of the Father that gives confidence in

   prayer; and let the infinite Fatherliness of God's Heart be my joy and

   strength for a life of prayer and of  worship.  Amen.


 

       THIRD LESSON.  Pray to your Father, which is in secret

 

  Or,    Alone with God.

 

   But you, when you pray, enter into your inner chamber, and having

   shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret, and your Father

   which sees in secret shall recompense you'--Matt. vi. 6.

 

   AFTER Jesus had called His first disciples, He gave them their first

   public teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.  He there expounded to them

   the kingdom of God, its laws and its life.  In that kingdom God is not

   only King, but Father, He not only gives all, but is Himself all.  In

   the knowledge and fellowship of Him alone is its blessedness.  Hence it

   came as a matter of course that the revelation of prayer and the

   prayer-life was a part of His teaching concerning the New Kingdom He

   came to set up.  Moses gave neither command nor regulation with regard

   to prayer:  even the prophets say little directly of the duty of

   prayer; it is Christ who teaches to pray.

 

   And the first thing the Lord teaches His disciples is that they must

   have a secret place for prayer; everyone must have some solitary spot

   where he can be alone with his God.  Every teacher must have a

   schoolroom.  We have learnt to know and accept Jesus as our only

   teacher in the school of prayer.  He has already taught us at Samaria

   that worship is no longer confined to times and places; that worship,

   spiritual true worship, is a thing of the spirit and the life; the

   whole man must in his whole life be worship in spirit and truth.  And

   yet He wants each one to choose for himself the fixed spot where He can

   daily meet him.  That inner chamber, that solitary place, is Jesus'

   schoolroom.  That spot may be anywhere; that spot may change from day

   to day if we have to change our abode; but that secret place there must

   be, with the quiet time in which the pupil places himself in the

   Master's presence, to be by Him prepared to worship the Father.  There

   alone, but there most surely, Jesus comes to us to teach us to pray.

 

   A teacher is always anxious that his schoolroom should be bright and

   attractive, filled with the light and air of heaven, a place where

   pupils long to come, and love to stay.  In His first words on prayer in

   the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus seeks to set the inner chamber before us

   in its most attractive light.  If we listen carefully, we soon notice

   what the chief thing is He has to tell us of our tarrying there.  Three

   times He uses the name of Father:  Pray to your Father;'  Your Father

   shall recompense you;' Your Father knows what things you have need

   of.'  The first thing in closet-prayer is:  I must meet my Father.  The

   light that shines in the closet must be:  the light of the Father's

   countenance.  The fresh air from heaven with which Jesus would have it

   filled, the atmosphere in which I am to breathe and pray, is:  God's

   Father-love, God's infinite Fatherliness.  Thus each thought or

   petition we breathe out will be simple, hearty, childlike trust in the

   Father.  This is how the Master teaches us to pray:  He brings us into

   the Father's living presence.  What we pray there must avail.  Let us

   listen carefully to hear what the Lord has to say to us.

 

   First, Pray to your Father which is in secret.'  God is a God who hides

   Himself to the carnal eyou.  As long as in our worship of God we are

   chiefly occupied with our own thoughts and exercises, we shall not meet

   Him who is a Spirit, the unseen One.  But to the man who withdraws

   himself from all that is of the world and man, and prepares to wait

   upon God alone, the Father will reveal Himself.  As he forsakes and

   gives up and shuts out the world, and the life of the world, and

   surrenders himself to be led of Christ into the secret of God's

   presence, the light of the Father's love will rise upon him.  The

   secrecy of the inner chamber and the closed door, the entire separation

   from all around us, is an image of, and so a help to that inner

   spiritual sanctuary, the secret of God's tabernacle, within the veil,

   where our spirit truly comes into contact with the Invisible One.  And

   so we are taught, at the very outset of our search after the secret of

   effectual prayer, to remember that it is in the inner chamber, where we

   are alone with the Father, that we shall learn to pray aright.  The

   Father is in secret:  in these words Jesus teaches us where He is

   waiting us, where He is always to be found.  Christians often complain

   that private prayer is not what it should be.  They feel weak and

   sinful, the heart is cold and dark; it is as if they have so little to

   pray, and in that little no faith or joy.  They are discouraged and

   kept from prayer by the thought that they cannot come to the Father as

   they ought or as they wish.  Child of God!  listen to your Teacher.  He

   tells you that when you go to private prayer your first thought must

   be:  The Father is in secret, the Father waits me there.  Just because

   your heart is cold and prayerless, get you into the presence of the

   loving Father.  As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities

   you.  Do not be thinking of how little you have to bring God, but of

   how much He wants to give you.  Just place yourself before, and look up

   into, His face; think of His love, His wonderful, tender, pitying

   love.  Just tell Him how sinful and cold and dark all is:  it is the

   Father's loving heart will give light and warmth to yours.  O do what

   Jesus says:  Just shut the door, and pray to your Father which is in

   secret.  Is it not wonderful?  to be able to go alone with God, the

   infinite God.  And then to look up and say:  My Father!

 

   And your Father, which sees in secret, will recompense you.'  Here

   Jesus assures us that secret prayer cannot be fruitless:  its blessing

   will show itself in our life.  We have but in secret, alone with God,

   to entrust our life before men to Him; He will reward us openly; He

   will see to it that the answer to prayer be made manifest in His

   blessing upon us.  Our Lord would thus teach us that as infinite

   Fatherliness and Faithfulness is that with which God meets us in

   secret, so on our part there should be the childlike simplicity of

   faith, the confidence that our prayer does bring down a blessing.  He

   that cometh to God must believe that He is a rewarder of them that seek

   Him.'  Not on the strong or the fervent feeling with which I pray does

   the blessing of the closet depend, but upon the love and the power of

   the Father to whom I there entrust my needs.  And therefore the Master

   has but one desire:  Remember your Father is, and sees and hears in

   secret; go there and stay there, and go again from there in the

   confidence:  He will recompense.  Trust Him for it; depend upon Him:

   prayer to the Father cannot be vain; He will reward you openly.

 

   Still further to confirm this faith in the Father-love of God, Christ

   speaks a third word:  Your Father knows what things you have need of

   before you ask Him.'  At first sight it might appear as if this thought

   made prayer less needful:  God knows far better than we what we need.

   But as we get a deeper insight into what prayer really is, this truth

   will help much to strengthen our faith.  It will teach us that we do

   not need, as the heathen, with the multitude and urgency of our words,

   to compel an unwilling God to listen to us.  It will lead to a holy

   thoughtfulness and silence in prayer as it suggests the question:  Does

   my Father really know that I need this?  It will, when once we have

   been led by the Spirit to the certainty that our request is indeed

   something that, according to the Word, we do need for God's glory, give

   us wonderful confidence to say, My Father knows I need it and must have

   it.  And if there be any delay in the answer, it will teach us in quiet

   perseverance to hold on:  FATHER!  YOU KNOWEST I need it.  O the

   blessed liberty and simplicity of a child that Christ our Teacher would

   fain cultivate in us, as we draw near to God:  let us look up to the

   Father until His Spirit works it in us.  Let us sometimes in our

   prayers, when we are in danger of being so occupied with our fervent,

   urgent petitions, as to forget that the Father knows and hears, let us

   hold still and just quietly say:  My Father sees, my Father hears, my

   Father knows; it will help our faith to take the answer, and to say:

   We know that we have the petitions we have asked of Him.

 

   And now, all you who have anew entered the school of Christ to be taught

   to pray, take these lessons, practise them, and trust Him to perfect

   you in them.  Dwell much in the inner chamber, with the door shut--shut

   in from men, shut up with God; it is there the Father waits you, it is

   there Jesus will teach you to pray.  To be alone in secret with THE

   FATHER:  this be your highest joy.  To be assured that THE FATHER will

   openly reward the secret prayer, so that it cannot remain unblessed:

   this be your strength day by day.  And to know that THE FATHER knows

   that you need what you ask;  this be your liberty to bring every need,

   in the assurance that your God will supply it according to His riches

   in Glory in Christ Jesus.

 

 


 

                      LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.'

 

   Blessed Saviour!  with my whole heart I do bless You for the

   appointment of the inner chamber, as the school where You meet each

   of Your pupils alone, and reveal to him the Father.  O my Lord!

   strengthen my faith so in the Father's tender love and kindness, that

   as often as I feel sinful or troubled, the first instinctive thought

   may be to go where I know the Father waits me, and where prayer never

   can go unblessed.  Let the thought that He knows my need before I ask,

   bring me, in great restfulness of faith, to trust that He will give

   what His child requires.  O let the place of secret prayer become to me

   the most beloved spot of earth.

 

   And, Lord!  hear me as I pray that You would everywhere bless the

   closets of Your believing people.  Let Your wonderful revelation of a

   Father's tenderness free all young Christians from every thought of

   secret prayer as a duty or a burden, and lead them to regard it as the

   highest privilege of their life, a joy and a blessing.  Bring back all

   who are discouraged, because they cannot find ought to bring You in

   prayer.  O give them to understand that they have only to come with

   their emptiness to Him who has all to give, and delights to do it.

   Not, what they have to bring the Father, but what the Father waits to

   give them, be their one thought.

 

   And bless especially the inner chamber of all Your servants who are

   working for You, as the place where God's truth and God's grace is

   revealed to them, where they are daily anointed with fresh oil, where

   their strength is renewed, and the blessings are received in faith,

   with which they are to bless their fellow-men.  Lord, draw us all in

   the closet nearer to Yourself and the Father.  Amen.


 

                 FOURTH LESSON:  After this manner pray

 

  Or,    The Model Prayer.

 

   After this manner therefore pray you:  Our Father which art in

   heaven.'--Matt. vi. 9.

 

   EVERY teacher knows the power of example.  He not only tells the child

   what to do and how to do it, but shows him how it really can be done.

   In condescension to our weakness, our heavenly Teacher has given us the

   very words we are to take with us as we draw near to our Father.  We

   have in them a form of prayer in which there breathe the freshness and

   fullness of the Eternal Life.  So simple that the child can lisp it, so

   divinely rich that it comprehends all that God can give.  A form of

   prayer that becomes the model and inspiration for all other prayer, and

   yet always draws us back to itself as the deepest utterance of our

   souls before our God.

 

   Our Father which art in heaven!'  To appreciate this word of adoration

   aright, I must remember that none of the saints had in Scripture ever

   ventured to address God as their Father.  The invocation places us at

   once in the centre of the wonderful revelation the Son came to make of

   His Father as our Father too.  It comprehends the mystery of

   redemption--Christ delivering us from the curse that we might become

   the children of God.  The mystery of regeneration--the Spirit in the

   new birth giving us the new life.  And the mystery of faith--ere yet

   the redemption is accomplished or understood, the word is given on the

   lips of the disciples to prepare them for the blessed experience still

   to come.  The words are the key to the whole prayer, to all prayer.  It

   takes time, it takes life to study them; it will take eternity to

   understand them fully.  The knowledge of God's Father-love is the first

   and simplest, but also the last and highest lesson in the school of

   prayer.  It is in the personal relation to the living God, and the

   personal conscious fellowship of love with Himself, that prayer

   begins.  It is in the knowledge of God's Fatherliness, revealed by the

   Holy Spirit, that the power of prayer will be found to root and grow.

   In the infinite tenderness and pity and patience of the infinite

   Father, in His loving readiness to hear and to help, the life of prayer

   has its joy.  O let us take time, until the Spirit has made these words

   to us spirit and truth, filling heart and life:  Our Father which art

   in heaven.'  Then we are indeed within the veil, in the secret place of

   power where prayer always prevails.

 

    Hallowed be Your name.'  There is something here that strikes us at

   once.  While we ordinarily first bring our own needs to God in prayer,

   and then think of what belongs to God and His interests, the Master

   reverses the order.  First, Your name, Your kingdom, Your will; then, give

   us, forgive us, lead us, deliver us.  The lesson is of more importance

   than we think.  In true worship the Father must be first, must be all.

   The sooner I learn to forget myself in the desire that HE may be

   glorified, the richer will the blessing be that prayer will bring to

   myself.  No one ever loses by what he sacrifices for the Father.

 

   This must influence all our prayer.  There are two sorts of prayer:

   personal and intercessory.  The latter ordinarily occupies the lesser

   part of our time and energy.  This may not be.  Christ has opened the

   school of prayer specially to train intercessors for the great work of

   bringing down, by their faith and prayer, the blessings of His work and

   love on the world around.  There can be no deep growth in prayer unless

   this be made our aim.  The little child may ask of the father only what

   it needs for itself; and yet it soon learns to say, Give some for

   sister too.  But the grown-up son, who only lives for the father's

   interest and takes charge of the father's business, asks more largely,

   and gets all that is asked.  And Jesus would train us to the blessed

   life of consecration and service, in which our interests are all

   subordinate to the Name, and the Kingdom, and the Will of the Father.

   O let us live for this, and let, on each act of adoration, Our Father!

   there follow in the same breath Your Name, Your Kingdom, Your Will;--for

   this we look up and long.

 

   Hallowed be Your name.'  What name?  This new name of Father.  The word

   Holy is the central word of the Old Testament; the name Father of the

   New.  In this name of Love all the holiness and glory of God are now to

   be revealed.  And how is the name to be hallowed?  By God Himself:  I

   will hallow My great name which you have profaned.'  Our prayer must be

   that in ourselves, in all God's children, in presence of the world, God

   Himself would reveal the holiness, the Divine power, the hidden glory

   of the name of Father.  The Spirit of the Father is the Holy Spirit:

   it is only when we yield ourselves to be led of Him, that the name will

   be hallowed in our prayers and our lives.  Let us learn the prayer:

   Our Father, hallowed be Your name.'

 

   Your kingdom come.'  The Father is a King and has a kingdom.  The son

   and heir of a king has no higher ambition than the glory of his

   father's kingdom.  In time of war or danger this becomes his passion;

   he can think of nothing else.  The children of the Father are here in

   the enemy's territory, where the kingdom, which is in heaven, is not

   yet fully manifested.  What more natural than that, when they learn to

   hallow the Father-name, they should long and cry with deep enthusiasm:

   Your kingdom come.'  The coming of the kingdom is the one great event on

   which the revelation of the Father's glory, the blessedness of His

   children, the salvation of the world depends.  On our prayers too the

   coming of the kingdom waits.  Shall we not join in the deep longing cry

   of the redeemed:  Your kingdom come'?  Let us learn it in the school of

   Jesus.

 

   Your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.'  This petition is too

   frequently applied alone to the suffering  of the will of God.  In

   heaven God's will is done, and the Master teaches the child to ask that

   the will may be done on earth just as in heaven:  in the spirit of

   adoring submission and ready obedience.  Because the will of God is the

   glory of heaven, the doing of it is the blessedness of heaven.  As the

   will is done, the kingdom of heaven comes into the heart.  And wherever

   faith has accepted the Father's love, obedience accepts the Father's

   will.  The surrender to, and the prayer for a life of heaven-like

   obedience, is the spirit of childlike prayer.

 

   Give us this day our daily bread.'  When first the child has yielded

   himself to the Father in the care for His Name, His Kingdom, and His

   Will, he has full liberty to ask for his daily bread.  A master cares

   for the food of his servant, a general of his soldiers, a father of his

   child.  And will not the Father in heaven care for the child who has in

   prayer given himself up to His interests?  We may indeed in full

   confidence say:  Father, I live for Your honour and Your work; I know

   You care for me.  Consecration to God and His will gives wonderful

   liberty in prayer for temporal things:  the whole earthly life is given

   to the Father's loving care.

 

   And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.'  As

   bread is the first need of the body, so forgiveness for the soul.  And

   the provision for the one is as sure as for the other.  We are children

   but sinners too; our right of access to the Father's presence we owe to

   the precious blood and the forgiveness it has won for us.  Let us

   beware of the prayer for forgiveness becoming a formality:  only what

   is really confessed is really forgiven.  Let us in faith accept the

   forgiveness as promised:  as a spiritual reality, an actual transaction

   between God and us, it is the entrance into all the Father's love and

   all the privileges of children.  Such forgiveness, as a living

   experience, is impossible without a forgiving spirit to others:  as

   forgiven expresses the heavenward, so forgiving the earthward, relation

   of God's child.  In each prayer to the Father I must be able to say

   that I know of no one whom I do not heartily love.

 

   And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'

   Our daily bread, the pardon of our sins, and then our being kept from

   all sin and the power of the evil one, in these three petitions all our

   personal need is comprehended.  The prayer for bread and pardon must be

   accompanied by the surrender to live in all things in holy obedience to

   the Father's will, and the believing prayer in everything to be kept by

   the power of the indwelling Spirit from the power of the evil one.

 

   Children of God! it is thus Jesus would have us to pray to the Father

   in heaven.  O let His Name, and Kingdom, and Will, have the first place

   in our love; His providing, and pardoning, and keeping love will be our

   sure portion.  So the prayer will lead us up to the true child-life:

   the Father all to the child, the Father all for the child.  We shall

   understand how Father and child, the Your and the Our, are all one,

   and how the heart that begins its prayer with the God-devoted YOUR,

   will have the power in faith to speak out the OUR too.  Such prayer

   will, indeed, be the fellowship and interchange of love, always

   bringing us back in trust and worship to Him who is not only the

   Beginning but the End:  FOR YOUR IS THE KINGDOM, AND THE POWER, AND

   THE GLORY, FOR EVER, AMEN.'  Son of the Father, teach us to pray, OUR

   FATHER.'

 

  


 

                            LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.'

 

 

   O You who are the only-begotten Son, teach us, we beseech You, to

   pray, OUR FATHER.'  We thank You, Lord, for these Living Blessed Words

   which You has given us.  We thank You for the millions who in them

   have learnt to know and worship the Father, and for what they have been

   to us.  Lord! it is as if we needed days and weeks in Your school with

   each separate petition; so deep and full are they.  But we look to You

   to lead us deeper into their meaning:  do it, we pray You, for Your

   Name's sake; Your name is Son of the Father.

 

   Lord!  You didst once say:  No man knows the Father save the Son,

   and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.'  And again:  I made

   known unto them Your name, and will make it known, that the love

   wherewith You have loved Me may be in them.'  Lord Jesus! reveal to us

   the Father.  Let His name, His infinite Father-love, the love with

   which He loved You, according to Your prayer, BE IN US.  Then shall we

   say aright, OUR FATHER!'  Then shall we apprehend Your teaching, and the

   first spontaneous breathing of our heart will be:  Our Father, Your

   Name, Your Kingdom, Your Will.'  And we shall bring our needs and our

   sins and our temptations to Him in the confidence that the love of such

   a Father care for all.

 

   Blessed Lord! we are Your scholars, we trust You; do teach us to pray,

   OUR FATHER.'  Amen.


 

              FIFTH LESSON.  Ask, and it shall be given you

 

  Or,    The Certainty of the Answer to Prayer.

 

   Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it

   shall be opened unto you:  for every one that asks receives, and he

   that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be

   opened,'--Matt. vii. 7, 8.

 

   You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss.'--Jas. iv. 3.

 

   OUR Lord returns here in the Sermon on the Mount a second time to speak

   of prayer.  The first time He had spoken of the Father who is to be

   found in secret, and rewards openly, and had given us the pattern

   prayer (Matt. vi. 5-15).  Here He wants to teach us what in all

   Scripture is considered the chief thing in prayer:  the assurance that

   prayer will be heard and answered.  Observe how He uses words which

   mean almost the same thing, and each time repeats the promise so

   distinctly:  You shall receive, you shall find, it shall be opened unto

   you;' and then gives as ground for such assurance the law of the

   kingdom:  He that asks, receives; he that seeks, finds; to him

   that knocks, it shall be opened.'  We cannot but feel how in this

   sixfold repetition He wants to impress deep on our minds this one

   truth, that we may and must most confidently expect an answer to our

   prayer.  Next to the revelation of the Father's love, there is, in the

   whole course of the school of prayer, not a more important lesson than

   this:  Every one that asks, receives.

 

   In the three words the Lord uses, ask, seek, knock, a difference in

   meaning has been sought.  If such was indeed His purpose, then the

   first, ASK, refers to the gifts we pray for.  But I may ask and receive

   the gift without the Giver.  SEEK is the word Scripture uses of God

   Himself; Christ assures me that I can find Himself.  But it is not

   enough to find God in time of need, without coming to abiding

   fellowship:  KNOCK speaks of admission to dwell with Him and in Him.

   Asking and receiving the gift would thus lead to seeking and finding

   the Giver, and this again to the knocking and opening of the door of

   the Father's home and love.  One thing is sure:  the Lord does want us

   to count most certainly on it that asking, seeking, knocking, cannot be

   in vain:  receiving an answer, finding God, the opened heart and home

   of God, are the certain fruit of prayer.

 

   That the Lord should have thought it needful in so many forms to repeat

   the truth, is a lesson of deep import.  It proves that He knows our

   heart, how doubt and distrust toward God are natural to us, and how

   easily we are inclined to rest in prayer as a religious work without an

   answer.  He knows too how, even when we believe that God is the Hearer

   of prayer, believing prayer that lays hold of the promise, is something

   spiritual, too high and difficult for the half-hearted disciple.  He

   therefore at the very outset of His instruction to those who would

   learn to pray, seeks to lodge this truth deep into their hearts:

   prayer does avail much; ask and you shall receive; every one that

   asks, receives.  This is the fixed eternal law of the kingdom:  if

   you ask and receive not, it must be because there is something amiss or

   wanting in the prayer.  Hold on; let the Word and the Spirit teach you

   to pray aright, but do not let go the confidence He seeks to waken:

   Every one that asks, receives.

 

   Ask, and it shall be given you.'  Christ has no mightier stimulus to

   persevering prayer in His school than this.  As a child has to prove a

   sum to be correct, so the proof that we have prayed aright is, the

   answer.  If we ask and receive not, it is because we have not learned

   to pray aright.  Let every learner in the school of Christ therefore

   take the Master's word in all simplicity:  Every one that asks,

   receives.  He had good reasons for speaking so unconditionally.  Let

   us beware of weakening the Word with our human wisdom.  When He tells

   us heavenly things, let us believe Him:  His Word will explain itself

   to him who believes it fully.  If questions and difficulties arise, let

   us not seek to have them settled before we accept the Word.  No; let us

   entrust them all to Him:  it is His to solve them:  our work is first

   and fully to accept and hold fast His promise.  Let in our inner

   chamber, in the inner chamber of our heart too, the Word be inscribed

   in letters of light:  Every one that asks, receives.

 

   According to this teaching of the Master, prayer consists of two parts,

   has two sides, a human and a Divine.  The human is the asking, the

   Divine is the giving.  Or, to look at both from the human side, there

   is the asking and the receiving--the two halves that make up a whole.

   It is as if He would tell us that we are not to rest without an answer,

   because it is the will of God, the rule in the Father's family:  every

   childlike believing petition is granted.  If no answer comes, we are

   not to sit down in the sloth that calls itself resignation, and suppose

   that it is not God's will to give an answer.  No; there must be

   something in the prayer that is not as God would have it, childlike and

   believing; we must seek for grace to pray so that the answer may come.

   It is far easier to the flesh to submit without the answer than to

   yield itself to be searched and purified by the Spirit, until it has

   learnt to pray the prayer of faith.

 

   It is one of the terrible marks of the diseased state of Christian life

   in these days, that there are so many who rest content without the

   distinct experience of answer to prayer.  They pray daily, they ask

   many things, and trust that some of them will be heard, but know little

   of direct definite answer to prayer as the rule of daily life.  And it

   is this the Father wills:  He seeks daily intercourse with His children

   in listening to and granting their petitions.  he wills that I should

   come to Him day by day with distinct requests; He wills day by day to

   do for me what I ask.  It was in His answer to prayer that the saints

   of old learned to know God as the Living One, and were stirred to

   praise and love (Ps. xxxiv., lxvi. 19, cxvi. 1).  Our Teacher waits to

   imprint this upon our minds:  prayer and its answer, the child asking

   and the father giving, belong to each other.

 

   There may be cases in which the answer is a refusal, because the

   request is not according to God's Word, as when Moses asked to enter

   Canaan.  But still, there was an answer:  God did not leave His servant

   in uncertainty as to His will.  The gods of the heathen are dumb and

   cannot speak.  Our Father lets His child know when He cannot give him

   what he asks, and he withdraws his petition, even as the Son did in

   Gethsemane.  Both Moses the servant and Christ the Son knew that what

   they asked was not according to what the Lord had spoken:  their prayer

   was the humble supplication whether it was not possible for the

   decision to be changed.  God will teach those who are teachable and

   give Him time, by His Word and Spirit, whether their request be

   according to His will or not.  Let us withdraw the request, if it be

   not according to God's mind, or persevere till the answer come.  Prayer

   is appointed to obtain the answer.  It is in prayer and its answer that

   the interchange of love between the Father and His child takes place.

 

   How deep the estrangement of our heart from God must be, that we find

   it so difficult to grasp such promises.  Even while we accept the words

   and believe their truth, the faith of the heart, that fully has them

   and rejoices in them, comes so slowly.  It is because our spiritual

   life is still so weak, and the capacity for taking God's thoughts is so

   feeble.  But let us look to Jesus to teach us as none but He can

   teach.  If we take His words in simplicity, and trust Him by His Spirit

   to make them within us life and power, they will so enter into our

   inner being, that the spiritual Divine reality of the truth they

   contain will indeed take possession of us, and we shall not rest

   content until every petition we offer is borne heavenward on Jesus' own

   words:  Ask, and it shall be given you.'

 

   Beloved fellow-disciples in the school of Jesus!  let us set ourselves

   to learn this lesson well.  Let us take these words just as they were

   spoken.  Let us not suffer human reason to weaken their force.  Let us

   take them as Jesus gives them, and believe them.  He will teach us in

   due time how to understand them fully:  let us begin by implicitly

   believing them.  Let us take time, as often as we pray, to listen to

   His voice:  Every one that asks, receives.  Let us not make the

   feeble experiences of our unbelief the measure of what our faith may

   expect.  Let us seek, not only just in our seasons of prayer, but at

   all times, to hold fast the joyful assurance:  man's prayer on earth

   and God's answer in heaven are meant for each other.  Let us trust

   Jesus to teach us so to pray that the answer can come.  He will do it,

   if we hold fast the word He gives today:  Ask, and you shall receive.'

 

 


 

                        LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.

 

   O Lord Jesus!  teach me to understand and believe what You have now

   promised me.  It is not hid from You, O my Lord, with what reasonings

   my heart seeks to satisfy itself, when no answer comes.  There is the

   thought that my prayer is not in harmony with the Father's secret

   counsel; that there is perhaps something better You would give me;

   or that prayer as fellowship with God is blessing enough without an

   answer.  And yet, my blessed Lord, I find in Your teaching on prayer

   that You didst not speak of these things, but didst say so plainly,

   that prayer may and must expect an answer.  You dost assure us that

   this is the fellowship of a child with the Father:  the child asks and

   the Father gives.

 

   Blessed Lord!  Your words are faithful and true.  It must be, because I

   pray amiss, that my experience of answered prayer is not clearer.  It

   must be, because I live too little in the Spirit, that my prayer is too

   little in the Spirit, and that the power for the prayer of faith is

   wanting.

 

   Lord!  teach me to pray.  Lord Jesus!  I trust You for it; teach me to

   pray in faith.  Lord!  teach me this lesson of today:  Every one that

   asks receives.  Amen.


 

                  SIXTH LESSON.   How much more?

 

  Or,    The Infinite Fatherliness of God.

 

   Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask him for a loaf, will

   give him a stone; or if he shall ask for a fish, will give him a

   serpent?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your

   children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good

   things to them that ask Him?'--Matt. vii. 9-11

 

   IN these words our Lord proceeds further to confirm what He had said of

   the certainty of an answer to prayer.  To remove all doubt, and show us

   on what sure ground His promise rests, He appeals to what every one has

   seen and experienced here on earth.  We are all children, and know what

   we expected of our fathers.  We are fathers, or continually see them;

   and everywhere we look upon it as the most natural thing there can be,

   for a father to hear his child.  And the Lord asks us to look up from

   earthly parents, of whom the best are but evil, and to calculate HOW

   MUCH MORE the heavenly Father will give good gifts to them that ask

   Him.  Jesus would lead us up to see, that as much greater as God is

   than sinful man, so much greater our assurance ought to be that He will

   more surely than any earthly father grant our childlike petitions.  As

   much greater as God is than man, so much surer is it that prayer will

   be heard with the Father in heaven than with a father on earth.

 

   As simple and intelligible as this parable is, so deep and spiritual is

   the teaching it contains.  The Lord would remind us that the prayer of

   a child owes its influence entirely to the relation in which he stands

   to the parent.  The prayer can exert that influence only when the child

   is really living in that relationship, in the home, in the love, in the

   service of the Father.  The power of the promise, Ask, and it shall be

   given you,' lies in the loving relationship between us as children and

   the Father in heaven; when we live and walk in that relationship, the

   prayer of faith and its answer will be the natural result.  And so the

   lesson we have today in the school of prayer is this:  Live as a child

   of God, then you will be able to pray as a child, and as a child you

   will most assuredly be heard.

 

   And what is the true child-life?  The answer can be found in any home.

   The child that by preference forsakes the father's house, that finds no

   pleasure in the presence and love and obedience of the father, and

   still thinks to ask and obtain what he will, will surely be

   disappointed.  On the contrary, he to whom the intercourse and will and

   honour and love of the father are the joy of his life, will find that

   it is the father's joy to grant his requests.  Scripture says, As many

   as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God:'  the

   childlike privilege of asking all is inseparable from the childlike

   life under the leading of the Spirit.  He that gives himself to be led

   by the Spirit in his life, will be led by Him in his prayers too.  And

   he will find that Father-like giving is the Divine response to childlike

   living.

 

   To see what this childlike living is, in which childlike asking and

   believing have their ground, we have only to notice what our Lord

   teaches in the Sermon on the Mount of the Father and His children.  In

   it the prayer-promises are imbedded in the life-precepts; the two are

   inseparable.  They form one whole; and He alone can count on the

   fulfillment of the promise, who accepts too all that the Lord has

   connected with it.  It is as if in speaking the word, Ask, and you shall

   receive,' He says:  I give these promises to those whom in the

   beatitudes I have pictured in their childlike poverty and purity, and

   of whom I have said, They shall be called the children of God' (Matt.

   v. 3-9):  to children, who let your light shine before men, so that

   they may glorify your Father in heaven:'  to those who walk in love,

   that you may be children of your Father which is in heaven,' and who

   seek to be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect' (v. 45):

   to those whose fasting and praying and almsgiving (vi. 1-18) is not

   before men, but before your Father which sees in secret;' who forgive

   even as your Father forgives you' (vi. 15); who trust the heavenly

   Father in all earthly need, seeking first the kingdom of God and His

   righteousness (vi. 26-32); who not only say, Lord, Lord, but do the

   will of my Father which is in heaven (vii. 21).  Such are the children

   of the Father, and such is the life in the Father's love and service;

   in such a child-life answered prayers are certain and abundant.

 

   But will not such teaching discourage the feeble one?  If we are first

   to answer to this portrait of a child, must not many give up all hope

   of answers to prayer?  The difficulty is removed if we think again of

   the blessed name of father and child.  A child is weak; there is a

   great difference among children in age and gift.  The Lord does not

   demand of us a perfect fulfillment of the law; no, but only the

   childlike and whole-hearted surrender to live as a child with Him in

   obedience and truth.  Nothing more.  But also, nothing less.  The

   Father must have the whole heart.  When this is given, and He sees the

   child with honest purpose and steady will seeking in everything to be

   and live as a child, then our prayer will count with Him as the prayer

   of a child.  Let anyone simply and honestly begin to study the Sermon

   on the Mount and take it as his guide in life, and he will find,

   notwithstanding weakness and failure, an ever-growing liberty to claim

   the fulfillment of its promises in regard to prayer.  In the names of

   father and child he has the pledge that his petitions will be granted.

 

   This is the one chief thought on which Jesus dwells here, and which He

   would have all His scholars take in.  He would have us see that the

   secret of effectual prayer is:  to have the heart filled with the

   Father-love of God.  It is not enough for us to know that God is a

   Father:  He would have us take time to come under the full impression

   of what that name implies.  We must take the best earthly father we

   know; we must think of the tenderness and love with which he regards

   the request of his child, the love and joy with which he grants every

   reasonable desire; we must then, as we think in adoring worship of the

   infinite Love and Fatherliness of God, consider with how much more

   tenderness and joy He sees us come to Him, and gives us what we ask

   aright.  And then, when we see how much this Divine arithmetic is

   beyond our comprehension, and feel how impossible it is for us to

   apprehend God's readiness to hear us, then He would have us come and

   open our heart for the Holy Spirit to shed abroad God's Father-love

   there.  Let us do this not only when we want to pray, but let us yield

   heart and life to dwell in that love.  The child who only wants to know

   the love of the father when he has something to ask, will be

   disappointed.  But he who lets God be Father always and in everything,

   who would fain live his whole life in the Father's presence and love,

   who allows God in all the greatness of His love to be a Father to him,

   oh! he will experience most gloriously that a life in God's infinite

   Fatherliness and continual answers to prayer are inseparable.

 

   Beloved fellow-disciple!  we begin to see what the reason is that we

   know so little of daily answers to prayer, and what the chief lesson is

   which the Lord has for us in His school.  It is all in the name of

   Father.  We thought of new and deeper insight into some of the

   mysteries of the prayer-world as what we should get in Christ's

   school;  He tells us the first is the highest lesson; we must learn to

   say well, Abba, Father!'  Our Father which art in heaven.'  He that can

   say this, has the key to all prayer.  In all the compassion with which

   a father listens to his weak or sickly child, in all the joy with which

   he hears his stammering child, in all the gentle patience with which he

   bears with a thoughtless child, we must, as in so many mirrors, study

   the heart of our Father, until every prayer be borne upward on the

   faith of this Divine word:  How much more shall your heavenly Father

   give good gifts to them that ask Him.'

 

  


 

                       LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.

 

   Blessed Lord!  You know that this, though it be one of the first

   and simplest and most glorious lessons in Your school, is to our hearts

   one of the hardest to learn:  we know so little of the love of the

   Father.  Lord!  teach us so to live with the Father that His love may

   be to us nearer, clearer, dearer, than the love of any earthly father.

   And let the assurance of His hearing our prayer be as much greater than

   the confidence in an earthly parent, as the heavens are higher than

   earth, as God is infinitely greater than man.  Lord!  show us that it

   is only our unchild-like distance from the Father that hinders the

   answer to prayer, and lead us on to the true life of God's children.

   Lord Jesus!  it is father-like love that wakens childlike trust.  O

   reveal to us the Father, and His tender, pitying love, that we may

   become childlike, and experience how in the child-life lies the power

   of prayer.

 

   Blessed Son of God!  the Father loves You and hath given You all

   things.  And You love the Father, and have done all things He

   commanded You, and therefore have the power to ask all things.  Lord!

   give us Your own Spirit, the Spirit of the Son.  Make us childlike, as

   You wert on earth.  And let every prayer be breathed in the faith that

   as the heaven is higher than the earth, so God's Father-love, and His

   readiness to give us what we ask, surpasses all we can think or

   conceive.  Amen.

 

   NOTE. 1

 

   Your Father which is in heaven.'  Alas!  we speak of it only as the

   utterance of a reverential homage.  We think of it as a figure borrowed

   from an earthly life, and only in some faint and shallow meaning to be

   used of God.  We are afraid to take God as our own tender and pitiful

   father.  He is a schoolmaster, or almost farther off than that, and

   knowing less about us--an inspector, who knows nothing of us except

   through our lessons.  His eyes are not on the scholar, but on the book,

   and all alike must come up to the standard.

 

   Now open the ears of the heart, timid child of God; let it go sinking

   right down into the inner most depths of the soul.  Here is the

   starting-point of holiness, in the love and patience and pity of our

   heavenly Father.  We have not to learn to be holy as a hard lesson at

   school, that we may make God think well of us; we are to learn it at

   home with the Father to help us.  God loves you not because you are

   clever not because you are good, but because He is your Father.  The

   Cross of Christ does not make God love us; it is the outcome and

   measure of His love to us.  He loves all His children, the clumsiest,

   the dullest, the worst of His children.  His love lies at the back of

   everything, and we must get upon that as the solid foundation of our

   religious life, not growing up into that, but growing up out if it.  We

   must begin there or our beginning will come to nothing.  Do take hold

   of this mightily.  We must go out of ourselves for any hope, or any

   strength, or any confidence.  And what hope, what strength, what

   confidence may be ours now that we begin here, your Father which is in

   heaven!

 

   We need to get in at the tenderness and helpfulness which lie in these

   words, and to rest upon it--your Father.  Speak them over to yourself

   until something of the wonderful truth is felt by us.  It means that I

   am bound to God by the closest and tenderest relationship;  that I have

   a right to His love and His power and His blessing, such as nothing

   else could give me.  O the boldness with which we can draw near!  O the

   great things we have a right to ask for!  Your Father.  It means that

   all His infinite love and patience and wisdom bend over me to help me.

   In this relationship lies not only the possibility of holiness; there

   is infinitely more than that.

 

   Here we are to begin, in the patient love of our Father.  Think how He

   knows us apart and by ourselves, in all our peculiarities, and in all

   our weaknesses and difficulties.  The master judges by the result, but

   our Father judges by the effort.  Failure does not always mean fault.

   He knows how much things cost, and weighs them where others only

   measure.  YOUR FATHER.  Think how great store His love sets by the poor

   beginnings of the little ones, clumsy and unmeaning as they may be to

   others.  All this lies in this blessed relationship and infinitely

   more.  Do not fear to take it all as your own.

 

   1 From Thoughts on Holiness, by Mark Guy Pearse.  What is so

   beautifully said of the knowledge of God's Fatherliness as the

   starting-point of holiness is no less true of prayer.


 

         SEVENTH LESSON.  How much more the Holy Spirit

 

  Or,    The All-Comprehensive Gift.

 

   If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children,

   how much more shall the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them

   that ask Him?'--Luke xi. 13.

 

   IN the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord had already given utterance to His

   wonderful HOW MUCH MORE?  Here in Luke, where He repeats the question,

   there is a difference.  Instead of speaking, as then of giving good

   gifts, He says, How much more shall the heavenly Father give THE HOLY

   SPIRIT?'  He thus teaches us that the chief and the best of these gifts

   is the Holy Spirit, or rather, that in this gift all others are

   comprised  The Holy Spirit is the first of the Father's gifts, and the

   one He delights most to bestow.  The Holy Spirit is therefore the gift

   we ought first and chiefly to seek.

 

   The unspeakable worth of this gift we can easily understand.  Jesus

   spoke of the Spirit as the promise of the Father;' the one promise in

   which God's Fatherhood revealed itself.  The best gift a good and wise

   father can bestow on a child on earth is his own spirit.  This is the

   great object of a father in education--to reproduce in his child his

   own disposition and character.  If the child is to know and understand

   his father; if, as he grows up, he is to enter into all his will and

   plans; if he is to have his highest joy in the father, and the father

   in him,--he must be of one mind and spirit with him.  And so it is

   impossible to conceive of God bestowing any higher gift on His child

   than this, His own Spirit.  God is what He is through His Spirit; the

   Spirit is the very life of God.  Just think what it means--God giving

   His own Spirit to His child on earth.

 

   Or was not this the glory of Jesus as a Son upon earth, that the Spirit

   of the Father was in Him?  At His baptism in Jordan the two things were

   united,--the voice, proclaiming Him the Beloved Son, and the Spirit,

   descending upon Him.  And so the apostle says of us, Because you are

   sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying,

   Abba, Father.'  A king seeks in the whole education of his son to call

   forth in him a kingly spirit.  Our Father in heaven desires to educate

   us as His children for the holy, heavenly life in which He dwells, and

   for this gives us, from the depths of His heart, His own Spirit.  It

   was this which was the whole aim of Jesus when, after having made

   atonement with His own blood, He entered for us into God's presence,

   that He might obtain for us, and send down to dwell in us, the Holy

   Spirit.  As the Spirit of the Father, and of the Son, the whole life

   and love of the Father and the Son are in Him; and, coming down into

   us, He lifts us up into their fellowship.  As Spirit of the Father, He

   sheds abroad the Father's love, with which He loved the Son, in our

   hearts, and teaches us to live in it.  As Spirit of the Son, He

   breathes in us the childlike liberty, and devotion, and obedience in

   which the Son lived upon earth.  The Father can bestow no higher or

   more wonderful gift than this:  His own Holy Spirit, the Spirit of

   sonship.

 

   This truth naturally suggests the thought that this first and chief

   gift of God must be the first and chief object of all prayer.  For

   every need of the spiritual life this is the one thing needful, the

   Holy Spirit.  All the fullness is in Jesus; the fullness of grace and

   truth, out of which we receive grace for grace.  The Holy Spirit is the

   appointed conveyancer, whose special work it is to make Jesus and all

   there is in Him for us ours in personal appropriation, in blessed

   experience.  He is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus; as wonderful as

   the life is, so wonderful is the provision by which such an agent is

   provided to communicate it to us.  If we but yield ourselves entirely

   to the disposal of the Spirit, and let Him have His way with us, He

   will manifest the life of Christ within us.  He will do this with a

   Divine power, maintaining the life of Christ in us in uninterrupted

   continuity.  Surely, if there is one prayer that should draw us to the

   Father's throne and keep us there, it is this:  for the Holy Spirit,

   whom we as children have received, to stream into us and out from us in

   greater fullness.

 

   In the variety of the gifts which the Spirit has to dispense, He meets

   the believer's every need.  Just think of the names He bears.  The

   Spirit of grace, to reveal and impart all of grace there is in Jesus.

   The Spirit of faith, teaching us to begin and go on and increase in

   ever believing.  The Spirit of adoption and assurance, who witnesses

   that we are God's children, and inspires the confiding and confident

   Abba, Father!  The Spirit of truth, to lead into all truth, to make

   each word of God ours in deed and in truth.  The Spirit of prayer,

   through whom we speak with the Father; prayer that must be heard.  The

   Spirit of judgment and burning, to search the heart, and convince of

   sin.  The Spirit of holiness, manifesting and communicating the

   Father's holy presence within us.  The Spirit of power, through whom we

   are strong to testify boldly and work effectually in the Father's

   service.  The Spirit of glory, the pledge of our inheritance, the

   preparation and the foretaste of the glory to come.  Surely the child

   of God needs but one thing to be able really to live as a child:  it

   is, to be filled with this Spirit.

 

   And now, the lesson Jesus teaches us today in His school is this:  That

   the Father is just longing to give Him to us if we will but ask in the

   childlike dependence on what He says:  If you know to give good gifts

   unto your children, HOW MUCH MORE shall your heavenly Father give the

   Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.'  In the words of God's promise, I

   will pour out my Spirit abundantly;' and of His command, Be you filled

   with the Spirit' we have the measure of what God is ready to give, and

   what we may obtain.  As God's children, we have already received the

   Spirit.  But we still need to ask and pray for His special gifts and

   operations as we require them.  And not only this, but for Himself to

   take complete and entire possession; for His unceasing momentary

   guidance.  Just as the branch, already filled with the sap of the vine,

   is ever crying for the continued and increasing flow of that sap, that

   it may bring its fruit to perfection, so the believer, rejoicing in the

   possession of the Spirit, ever thirsts and cries for more.  And what

   the great Teacher would have us learn is, that nothing less than God's

   promise and God's command may be the measure of our expectation and our

   prayer; we must be filled abundantly.  He would have us ask this in the

   assurance that the wonderful HOW MUCH MORE of God's Father-love is the

   pledge that, when we ask, we do most certainly receive.

 

   Let us now believe this.  As we pray to be filled with the Spirit, let

   us not seek for the answer in our feelings.  All spiritual blessings

   must be received, that is, accepted or taken in faith.^1  Let me

   believe, the Father gives the Holy Spirit to His praying child.  Even

   now, while I pray, I must say in faith:  I have what I ask, the fullness

   of the Spirit is mine.  Let us continue steadfast in this faith.  On the

   strength of God's Word we know that we have what we ask.  Let us, with

   thanksgiving that we have been heard, with thanksgiving for what we

   have received and taken and now hold as ours, continue steadfast in

   believing prayer that the blessing, which has already been given us,

   and which we hold in faith, may break through and fill our whole

   being.  It is in such believing thanksgiving and prayer, that our soul

   opens up for the Spirit to take entire and undisturbed possession.  It

   is such prayer that not only asks and hopes, but takes and holds, that

   inherits the full blessing.  In all our prayer let us remember the

   lesson the Saviour would teach us this day, that, if there is one thing

   on earth we can be sure of, it is this, that the Father desires to have

   us filled with His Spirit, that He delights to give us His Spirit.

 

   And when once we have learned thus to believe for ourselves, and each

   day to take out of the treasure we hold in heaven, what liberty and

   power to pray for the outpouring of the Spirit on the Church of God, on

   all flesh, on individuals, or on special efforts!  He that has once

   learned to know the Father in prayer for himself, learns to pray most

   confidently for others too.  The Father gives the Holy Spirit to them

   that ask Him, not least, but most, when they ask for others.

 

 


 

                    LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.

 

   Father in heaven!  You didst send Your Son to reveal  Yourself to us,

   Your Father-love, and all that that love has for us.  And He has taught

   us, that the gift above all gifts which You wouldst bestow in answer

   to prayer is, the Holy Spirit.

 

   O my Father!  I come to You with this prayer; there is nothing I

   would--may I not say, I do--desire so much as to be filled with the

   Spirit, the Holy Spirit.  The blessings He brings are so unspeakable,

   and just what I need.  He sheds abroad Your love in the heart, and fills

   it with Yourself.  I long for this.  He breathes the mind and life of

   Christ in me, so that I live as He did, in and for the Father's love.

   I long for this.  He endues with power from on high for all my walk and

   work.  I long for this.  O Father!  I beseech You, give me this day

   the fullness of Your Spirit.

 

   Father!  I ask this, resting on the words of my Lord:  HOW MUCH MORE

   THE HOLY SPIRIT.'  I do  believe that You hear my prayer; I receive

   now what I ask; Father!  I claim and I take it:  the fullness of Your

   Spirit is mine.  I receive the gift this day again as a faith gift; in

   faith I reckon my Father works through the Spirit all He has promised.

   The Father delights to breathe His Spirit into His waiting child as He

   tarries in fellowship with Himself.  Amen.

 

   ^1The Greek word for receiving and taking is the same.  When Jesus

   said, Everyone that asks receives,' He used the same verb as at the

   Supper, Take, eat,' or on the resurrection morning, Receive,' accept,

   take, the Holy Spirit.'  Receiving not only implies God's bestowment,

   but our acceptance.


 

           EIGHTH LESSON.  Because of his importunity

 

  Or,    The Boldness of God's Friends.

 

   And He said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go

   to him at midnight, and say to him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a

   friend of mine is come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set

   before him' and he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not:

   the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise

   and give you.  I say unto you, though he will not rise and give him

   because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise

   and give him as many as he needs.'--Luke xi. 5-8.

 

   THE first teaching to His disciples was given by our Lord in the Sermon

   on the Mount.  It was near a year later that the disciples asked Jesus

   to teach them to pray.  In answer He gave them a second time the Lord's

   Prayer, so teaching them  what to pray.  He then speaks of  how they

   ought to pray, and repeats what he formerly said of God's Fatherliness

   and the certainty of an answer.  But in between He adds the beautiful

   parable of the friend at midnight, to teach them the two fold lesson,

   that God does not only want us to pray for ourselves, but for the

   perishing around us, and that in such intercession great boldness of

   entreaty is often needful, and always lawful, youa, pleasing to God.

 

   The parable is a perfect storehouse of instruction in regard to true

   intercession.  There is, first, the love which seeks to help the needy

   around us:  my friend is come to me.'  Then the need which urges to the

   cry  I have nothing to set before him.'  Then follows the confidence

   that help is to be had:  which of you shall have a friend, and say,

   Friend, lend me three loaves.'  Then comes the unexpected refusal:  I

   cannot rise and give you.'  Then again the perseverance that takes no

   refusal:  because of his importunity.'  And lastly, the reward of such

   prayer:  he will give him as many as he needs.'  A wonderful setting

   forth of the way of prayer and faith in which the blessing of God has

   so often been sought and found.

 

   Let us confine ourselves to the chief thought:  prayer as an appeal to

   the friendship of God; and we shall find that two lessons are specially

   suggested.  The one, that if we are God's friends, and come as such to

   Him, we must prove ourselves the friends of the needy; God's friendship

   to us and ours to others go hand in hand.  The other, that when we come

   thus we may use the utmost liberty in claiming an answer.

 

   There is a twofold use of prayer:  the one, to obtain strength and

   blessing for our own life; the other, the higher, the true glory of

   prayer, for which Christ has taken us into His fellowship and teaching,

   is intercession, where prayer is the royal power a child of God

   exercises in heaven on behalf of others and even of the kingdom.  We

   see it in Scripture, how it was in intercession for others that Abraham

   and Moses, Samuel and Elijah, with all the holy men of old, proved that

   they had power with God and prevailed.  It is when we give ourselves to

   be a blessing that we can specially count on the blessing of God.  It

   is when we draw near to God as the friend of the poor and the perishing

   that we may count on His friendliness; the righteous man who is the

   friend of the poor is very specially the friend of God.  This gives

   wonderful liberty in prayer.  Lord!  I have a needy friend whom I must

   help.  As a friend I have undertaken to help him.  In You I have a

   Friend, whose kindness and riches I know to be infinite:  I am sure

   You will give me what I ask.  If I, being evil, am ready to do for my

   friend what I can, how much more will You, O my heavenly Friend, now

   do for Your friend what he asks?

 

   The question might suggest itself, whether the Fatherhood of God does

   not give such confidence in prayer, that the thought of His Friendship

   can hardly teach us anything more:  a father is more than a friend.

   And yet, if we consider it, this pleading the friendship of God opens

   new wonders to us.  That a child obtains what he asks of his father

   looks so perfectly natural, we almost count it the father's duty to

   give.  But with a friend it is as if the kindness is more free,

   dependent, not on nature, but on sympathy and character.  And then the

   relation of a child is more that of perfect dependence; two friends are

   more nearly on a level.  And so our Lord, in seeking to unfold to us

   the spiritual mystery of prayer, would fain have us approach God in

   this relation too, as those whom He has acknowledged as His friends,

   whose mind and life are in sympathy with His.

 

   But then we must be living as His friends.  I am still a child even

   when a wanderer; but friendship depends upon the conduct.  You are my

   friends if you do whatsoever I command you.'  You see that faith

   wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; and the

   scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and he

   was called the friend of God.'  It is the Spirit, the same Spirit,'

   that leads us that also bears witness to our acceptance with God;

   likewise, also,' the same Spirit helps us in prayer.  It is a life as

   the friend of God that gives the wonderful liberty to say:  I have a

   friend to whom I can go even at midnight.  And how much more when I go

   in the very spirit of that friendliness, manifesting myself the very

   kindness I look for in God, seeking to help my friend as I want God to

   help me.  When I come to God in prayer, He always looks to what the aim

   is of my petition.  If it be merely for my own comfort or joy I seek

   His grace, I do not receive.  But if I can say that it is that He may

   be glorified in my dispensing His blessings to others, I shall not ask

   in vain.  Or if I ask for others, but want to wait until God has made

   me so rich, that it is no sacrifice or act of faith to aid them, I

   shall not obtain.  But if I can say that I have already undertaken for

   my needy friend, that in my poverty I have already begun the work of

   love, because I know I had a friend Who would help me, my prayer will

   be heard.  Oh, we know not how much the plea avails:  the friendship of

   earth looking in its need to the friendship of heaven:  He will give

   him as much as he needs.'

 

   But not always at once.  The one thing by which man can honour and

   enjoy his God is faith.  Intercession is part of faith's

   training-school.  There our friendship with men and with God is

   tested.  There it is seen whether my friendship with the needy is so

   real, that I will take time and sacrifice my rest, will go even at

   midnight and not cease until I have obtained for them what I need.

   There it is seen whether my friendship with God is so clear, that I can

   depend on Him not to turn me away and therefore pray on until He gives.

 

   O what a deep heavenly mystery this is of persevering prayer.  The God

   who has promised, who longs, whose fixed purpose it is to give the

   blessing, holds it back.  It is to Him a matter of such deep importance

   that His friends on earth should know and fully trust their rich Friend

   in heaven, that He trains them, in the school of answer delayoud, to

   find out how their perseverance really does prevail, and what the

   mighty power is they can wield in heaven, if they do but set themselves

   to it.  There is a faith that sees the promise, and embraces it, and

   yet does not receive it (Heb. xi. 13, 39).  It is when the answer to

   prayer does not come, and the promise we are most firmly trusting

   appears to be of none effect, that the trial of faith, more precious

   than of gold, takes place.  It is in this trial that the faith that has

   embraced the promise is purified and strengthened and prepared in

   personal, holy fellowship with the living God, to see the glory of

   God.  It takes and holds the promise until it has received the

   fulfillment of what it had claimed in a living truth in the unseen but

   living God.

 

   Let each child of God who is seeking to work the work of love in his

   Father's service take courage.  The parent with his child, the teacher

   with his class, the visitor with his district, the Bible reader with

   his circle, the preacher with his hearers, each one who, in his little

   circle, has accepted and is bearing the burden of hungry, perishing

   souls,--let them all take courage.  Nothing is at first so strange to

   us as that God should really require persevering prayer, that there

   should be a real spiritual needs-be for importunity.  To teach it us,

   the Master uses this almost strange parable.  If the unfriendliness of

   a selfish earthly friend can be conquered by importunity, how much more

   will it avail with the heavenly Friend, who does so love to give, but

   is held back by our spiritual unfitness, our incapacity to possess what

   He has to give.  O let us thank Him that in delaying His answer He is

   educating us up to our true position and the exercise of all our power

   with Him, training us to live with Him in the fellowship of undoubting

   faith and trust, to be indeed the friends of God.  And let us hold fast

   the threefold cord that cannot be broken:  the hungry friend needing

   the help, and the praying friend seeking the help, and the Mighty

   Friend, loving to give as much as he needs.

 

 


 

                      LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY

 

    O my Blessed Lord and Teacher!  I must come to You in prayer.  Your

   teaching is so glorious, and yet too high for me to grasp.  I must

   confess that my heart is too little to take in these thoughts of the

   wonderful boldness I may use with Your Father as my Friend.  Lord

   Jesus!  I trust You to give me Your Spirit with Your Word, and to make

   the Word quick and powerful in my heart.  I desire to keep Your Word of

   this day:  Because of his importunity he will give him as many as he

   needs.'

 

   Lord!  teach me more to know the power of persevering prayer.  I know

   that in it the Father suits Himself to our need of time for the inner

   life to attain its growth and ripeness, so that His grace may indeed be

   assimilated and made our very own.  I know that He would fain thus

   train us to the exercise of that strong faith that does not let Him go

   even in the face of seeming disappointment.  I know He wants to lift us

   to that wonderful liberty, in which we understand how really He has

   made the dispensing of His gift dependent on our prayer.  Lord!  I know

   this:  O teach me to see it in spirit and truth.

 

   And may it now be the joy of my life to become the almoner of my Rich

   Friend in heaven, to care for all the hungry and perishing, even at

   midnight, because I know MY FRIEND, who always gives to him who

   perseveres, because of his importunity, as many as he needs.  Amen.


 

                NINTH LESSON.  Pray the Lord of the harvest

 

  Or,          Prayer provides Labourers.

 

   Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but

   the labourers are few.  Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that

   He will send forth labourers into His harvest.'--Matt. ix. 37-38.

 

   THE Lord frequently taught His disciples that they must pray, and how;

   but seldom what to pray.  This he left to their sense of need, and the

   leading of the Spirit.  But here we have one thing He expressly enjoins

   them to remember:  in view of the plenteous harvest, and the need of

   reapers, they must cry to the Lord of the harvest to send forth

   labourers.  Just as in the parable of the friend at midnight, He would

   have them understand that prayer is not to be selfish; so here it is

   the power through which blessing can come to others.  The Father is

   Lord of the harvest; when we pray for the Holy Spirit, we must pray for

   Him to prepare and send forth labourers for the work.

 

   Strange, is it not, that He should ask His disciples to pray for this?

   And could He not pray Himself?  And would not one prayer of His avail

   more than a thousand of theirs?  And God, the Lord of the harvest, did

   He not see the need?  And would not He, in His own good time, send

   forth labourers without their prayer?  Such questions lead us up to the

   deepest mysteries of prayer, and its power in the Kingdom of God.  The

   answer to such questions will convince us that prayer is indeed a

   power, on which the ingathering of the harvest and the coming of the

   Kingdom do in very truth depend.

 

   Prayer is no form or show.  The Lord Jesus was Himself the truth;

   everything He spake was the deepest truth.  It was when (see ver. 36)

   He saw the multitude, and was moved with compassion on them, because

   they were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd,' that He

   called on the disciples to pray for labourers to be sent among them.

   He did so because He really believed that their prayer was needed, and

   would help.  The veil which so hides the invisible world from us was

   wonderfully transparent to the holy human soul of Jesus.  He had looked

   long and deep and far into the hidden connection of cause and effect in

   the spirit world.  He had marked in God's Word how, when God called men

   like Abraham and Moses, Joshua and Samuel and Daniel, and given them

   authority over men in His name, He had at the same time given them

   authority and right to call in the powers of heaven to their aid as

   they needed them.  He knew that as to these men of old, and to Himself

   for a time, here upon earth, the work of God had been entrusted, so it

   was now about to pass over into the hands of His disciples.  He knew

   that when this work should be given in charge to them, it would not be

   a mere matter of form or show, but that on them, and their being

   faithful or unfaithful, the success of the work would actually depend.

   As a single individual, within the limitations of a human body and a

   human life, Jesus feels how little a short visit can accomplish among

   these wandering sheep He sees around Him, and He longs for help to have

   them properly cared for.  And so He tells His disciples now to begin

   and pray, and, when they have taken over the work from Him on earth, to

   make this one of the chief petitions in their prayer:  That the Lord of

   the harvest Himself would send forth labourers into His harvest.  The

   God who entrusted them with the work, and made it to so large extent

   dependent on them, gives them authority to apply to Him for labourers

   to help, and makes the supply dependent on their prayer.

 

   How little Christians really feel and mourn the need of labourers in

   the fields of the world so white to the harvest.  And how little they

   believe that our labour-supply depends on prayer, that prayer will

   really provide as many as he needs.'  Not that the dearth of labour

   is not known or discussed.  Not that efforts are not sometimes put

   forth to supply the want.  But how little the burden of the sheep

   wandering without a Shepherd is really borne in the faith that the Lord

   of the harvest will, in answer to prayer, send forth the labourers, and

   in the solemn conviction that without this prayer fields ready for

   reaping will be left to perish.  And yet it is so.  So wonderful is the

   surrender of His work into the hands of His Church, so dependent has

   the Lord made Himself on them as His body, through whom alone His work

   can be done, so real is the power which the Lord gives His people to

   exercise in heaven and earth, that the number of the labourers and the

   measure of the harvest does actually depend upon their prayer.

 

   Solemn thought!  O why is it that we do not obey the injunction of the

   Master more heartily, and cry more earnestly for labourers?  There are

   two reasons for this.  The one is:  We miss the compassion of Jesus,

   which gave rise to this request for prayer.  When believers learn that

   to love their neighbours as themselves, that to live entirely for God's

   glory in their fellow-men, is the Father's first commandment to His

   redeemed ones, they will accept of the perishing ones as the charge

   entrusted to them by their Lord.  And, accepting them not only as a

   field of labour, but as the objects of loving care and interest, it

   will not be long before compassion towards the hopelessly perishing

   will touch their heart, and the cry ascend with an earnestness till

   then unknown:  Lord!  send labourers.  The other reason for the neglect

   of the command, the want of faith, will then make itself felt, but will

   be overcome as our pity pleads for help.  We believe too little in the

   power of prayer to bring about definite results.  We do not live close

   enough to God, and are not enough entirely given up to His service and

   Kingdom, to be capable of the confidence that He will give it in answer

   to our prayer.  O let us pray for a life so one with Christ, that His

   compassion may stream into us, and His Spirit be able to assure us that

   our prayer avails.

 

   Such prayer will ask and obtain a twofold blessing.  There will first

   be the desire for the increase of men entirely given up to the service

   of God.  It is a terrible blot upon the Church of Christ that there are

   times when actually men cannot be found for the service of the Master

   as ministers, missionaries, or teachers of God's Word.  As God's

   children make this a matter of supplication for their own circle or

   Church, it will be given.  The Lord Jesus is now Lord of the harvest.

   He has been exalted to bestow gifts--the gifts of the Spirit.  His

   chief gifts are men filled with the Spirit.  But the supply and

   distribution of the gifts depend on the co-operation of Head and

   members.  It is just prayer will lead to such co-operation; the

   believing suppliants will be stirred to find the men and the means for

   the work.

 

   The other blessing to be asked will not be less.  Every believer is a

   labourer; not one of God's children who has not been redeemed for

   service, and has not his work waiting.  It must be our prayer that the

   Lord would so fill all His people with the spirit of devotion, that not

   one may be found standing idle in the vineyard.  Wherever there is a

   complaint of the want of helpers, or of fit helpers in God's work,

   prayer has the promise of a supply.  There is no Sunday school or

   district visiting, no Bible reading or rescue work, where God is not

   ready and able to provide.  It may take time and importunity, but the

   command of Christ to ask the Lord of the harvest is the pledge that the

   prayer will be heard:  I say unto you, he will arise and give him as

   many as he needs.'

 

   Solemn, blessed thought!  this power has been given us in prayer to

   provide in the need of the world, to secure the servants for God's

   work.  The Lord of the harvest will hear.  Christ, who called us so

   specially to pray thus, will support our prayers offered in His name

   and interest.  Let us set apart time and give ourselves to this part of

   our intercessory work.  It will lead us into the fellowship of that

   compassionate heart of His that led Him to call for our prayers.  It

   will elevate us to the insight of our regal position, as those whose

   will counts for something with the great God in the advancement of His

   Kingdom.  It will make us feel how really we are God's fellow-workers

   on earth, to whom a share in His work has in downright earnest been

   entrusted.  It will make us partakers in the soul travail, but also in

   the soul satisfaction of Jesus, as we know how, in answer to our

   prayer, blessing has been given that otherwise would not have come.

 

  


 

                       LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY

 

   Blessed Lord!  You have this day again given us another of Your

   wondrous lessons to learn.  We humbly ask You, O give us to see aright

   the spiritual realities of which You have been speaking.  There is the

   harvest which is so large, and perishing, as it waits for sleepy

   disciples to give the signal for labourers to come.  Lord, teach us to

   look out upon it with a heart moved with compassion and pity.  There

   are the labourers, so few.  Lord, show us how terrible the sin of the

   want of prayer and faith, of which this is the token.  And there is the

   Lord of the harvest, so able and ready to send them forth.  Lord, show

   us how He does indeed wait for the prayer to which He has bound His

   answer.  And there are the disciples, to whom the commission to pray

   has been given:  Lord, show us how You canst pour down Your Spirit and

   breathe upon them, so that Your compassion and the faith in Your promise

   shall rouse them to unceasing, prevailing prayer.

 

   O our Lord!  we cannot understand how You canst entrust such work and

   give such power to men so slothful and unfaithful.  We thank You for

   all whom You art teaching to cry day and night for labourers to be

   sent forth.  Lord, breathe Your own Spirit on all Your children, that

   they may learn to live for this one thing alone--the Kingdom and glory

   of their Lord--and become fully awake to the faith of what their prayer

   can accomplish.  And let all our hearts in this, as in every petition,

   be filled with the assurance that prayer, offered in loving faith in

   the living God, will bring certain and abundant answer.  Amen.


 

                      TENTH LESSON.  What will you?