“Prayer; Filling our Souls with Heaven” by David MacIntyre, author of The Hidden Life of Prayer (Prayer Resources)

Prayer; Filling our souls with Heaven
by David MacIntyre, Puritan Pastor; author of The Hidden Life of Prayer

Prayer is the most sublime energy of which the spirit of man is capable.

It is in one aspect glory and blessedness; in another, it is toil and travail, battle and agony. Uplifted hands grow tremulous long before the field is won; straining sinews and panting breath proclaim the exhaustion of the ‘heavenly footman.’ The weight that falls upon an aching heart fills the brow with anguish, even when the midnight air is chill.

Prayer is the uplift of the earth-bound soul into the heaven, the entrance of the purified spirit into the holiest; the rending of the luminous veil that shuts in, as behind curtains, the glory of God. It is the vision of things unseen; the recognition of the mind of the Spirit; the effort to frame words which man may not utter.

A man that truly prays one prayer,’ says Bunyan, ‘shall after that never be able to express with his mouth or pen the unutterable desires, sense, affection, and longing that went to God in that prayer.’

The saints of the Jewish Church had a princely energy in intercession: ‘Battering the gates of heaven with storms of prayer,’ they took the kingdom of heaven by violence. The first Christians proved in the wilderness, in the dungeon, in the arena, and at the stake the truth of their Master’s words, ‘He shall have whatsoever he saith.’ Their souls ascended to God in supplication as the flame of the altar mounts heavenward. The Talmudists affirm that in the divine life four things call for fortitude; of these, prayer is one.

One who met Tersteegen at Kronenberg remarked, ‘It seemed to me as if he had gone straight into heaven, and had lost himself in God; but often when he had done praying he was as white as the wall.’

David Brainerd notes that on one occasion, when he found his soul ‘exceedingly enlarged’ in supplication, he was ‘in such anguish, and pleaded with so much earnestness and importunity,’ that when he rose from his knees he felt ‘extremely weak and overcome.’ ‘I could scarcely walk straight,’ he goes on to say, ‘my joints were loosed, the sweat ran down my face and body, and nature seemed as if it would dissolve.’ A living writer has reminded us of John Foster, who used to spend long nights in his chapel, absorbed in spiritual exercises, pacing to and fro in the disquietude of his spirit, until his restless feet had worn a little track in the aisle.

One might easily multiply examples, but there is no need to go beyond Scripture to find either precept or example to impress us with the arduousness of that prayer which prevails. Should not the supplication of the Psalmist, ‘Quicken Thou me, according to Thy word…quicken me in Thy righteousness…quicken me after Thy loving-kindness…quicken me according to Thy judgments…quicken me, O Lord, for Thy name’s sake;’ and the complaint of the Evangelical Prophet, ‘There is none that calleth upon Thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee,’ find an echo in our experience?

Do we know what it is to ‘labour,’ to ‘wrestle,’ to ‘agonize’ in prayer?

Another explanation of the arduousness of prayer lies in the fact that we are spiritually hindered: there is ‘the noise of archers in the places of drawing water.’

St. Paul assures us that we shall have to maintain our prayer energy ‘against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’ Dr. Andrew Bonar used to say that, as the King of Syria commanded his captains to fight neither with small nor great, but only with the King of Israel, so the prince of the power of the air seems to bend all the force of his attack against the spirit of prayer. If he should prove victorious there, he has won the day.

Sometimes we are conscious of a satanic impulse directed immediately against the life of prayer in our souls; sometimes we are led into ‘dry’ and wilderness-experiences, and the face of God grows dark above us; sometimes, when we strive most earnestly to bring every thought and imagination under obedience to Christ, we seem to be given over to disorder and unrest; sometimes the inbred slothfulness of our nature lends itself to the evil one as an instrument by which he may turn our minds back from the exercise of prayer.

Because of all these things, therefore, we must be diligent and resolved, watching as a sentry who remembers that the lives of men are lying at the hazard of his wakefulness, resourcefulness, and courage.

‘And what I say unto you,’ said the Lord to His disciples, ‘I say unto all, Watch! ‘

There are times when even the soldiers of Christ become heedless of their trust, and no longer guard with vigilance the gift of prayer. Should anyone who reads these pages be conscious of loss of power in intercession, lack of joy in communion, hardness and impenitence in confession, ‘Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.’

‘Oh, stars of heaven that fade and flame,
     Oh, whispering waves below!
     Was earth, or heaven. or I the same,
     A year, a year ago!

     ‘The stars have kept their home on high,
     The waves their wonted flow;
     The love is lost that once was I,
     A year, a year ago.’

The only remedy for this sluggish mood is that we should ‘rekindle our love,’ as Polycarp wrote to the Church in Ephesus, ‘in the blood of God.’ Let us ask for a fresh gift of the Holy Spirit to quicken our sluggish hearts, a new disclosure of the charity of God.

The Spirit will help our infirmities, and the very compassion of the Son of God will fall upon us, clothing us with zeal as with a garment, stirring our affections into a most vehement flame, and filling our souls with heaven.

‘Men ought always to pray, and ‘-although faintness of spirit attends on prayer like a shadow-‘not faint.’

The soil in which the prayer of faith takes root is a life of unbroken communion with God, a life in which the windows of the soul are always open towards the City of Rest. We do not know the true potency of prayer until our hearts are so steadfastly inclined to God that our thoughts turn to Him, as by a Divine instinct, whenever they are set free from the consideration of earthly things.

‘The vision of God,’ says Bishop Westcott, ‘makes life a continuous prayer.’ And in that vision, all fleeting things resolve themselves and appear in relation to things unseen.

In a broad use of the term, prayer is the sum of all the service that we render to God, so that all fulfillment of duty is, in one sense, the performance of Divine service, and the familiar saying, ‘Work is worship,’ is justified.

‘I am prayer,’ said a Psalmist (Psa. cix. 4). ‘In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving,’ said an Apostle.

In the Old Testament that life which is steeped in prayer is often described as a walk with God. Enoch walked in assurance, Abraham in perfectness, Elijah in fidelity, the sons of Levi in peace and equity. Or it is spoken of as a dwelling with God, even as Joshua departed not from the Tabernacle; or as certain craftsmen of the olden time abode with a king for his work.

Again, it is defined as the ascent of the soul into the Sacred Presence; as the planets, ‘with open face beholding,’ climb into the light of the sun’s countenance, or as a flower, lit with beauty and dipped in fragrance, reaches upwards towards the light.

At other times, prayer is said to be the gathering up of all the faculties in an ardor of reverence, and love, and praise. As one clear strain may succeed in reducing to harmony a number of mutually-discordant voices, so the reigning impulses of the spiritual nature unite the heart to fear the name of the Lord.

Source: David MacIntyre, The Hidden Life of Prayer

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From L.Willowslinks for further reading on Prayer: also see “Prayer, Breathing God”

“The Power of Prayer”, from R.A. Torrey (united prayer, worship, God who Loves)

Rejoice in Hope, Be Patient in Tribulation, Be Constant in Prayer by John Piper

Draw Near to God in Prayer: John Calvin on The Definition and Effectiveness of Prayer, by Dr. Joel R. Beeke

Draw Near to God Through Prayer; John Calvin’s “Rules of Prayer”

Rejoice in Hope, Be Patient in Tribulation, Be Constant in Prayer by John Piper

Conforming to God’s Holiness from Ligonier Ministries of RC Sproul

Is Anything Too Hard For The Lord? Sermon from C.H.Spurgeon, 1888 Metropolitan Tabernacle

Draw Near to God in Prayer: John Calvin on The Definition and Effectiveness of

Prayer, by Dr. Joel R. Beeke

Puritan Prayer, The Deeps

The Love of Jesus, Puritan Prayer

Praying in the Spirit, Martin Lloyd Jones

Praying in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, by John Walwoord

Praying in the Name of Jesus by O Hallesby

And So We Pray, Reconciliation

The Saint’s Happiness by Richard Sibbes

“Praying in the Name of Jesus”, by O. Hallesby, Ph.D (Prayer, the Spirit of Prayer, Presence of God)

PRAYbeloved

Praying in the Name of Jesus by O. Hallesby Ph.D

To pray in the name of Jesus is, in all likelihood, the deepest mystery in prayer. It is therefore exceedingly difficult for the Spirit of prayer to explain this to us. Furthermore, it is easier for us to forget this than anything else which the Spirit teaches us. Scripture speaks of “the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4).

The name of Jesus is the greatest mystery in heaven and on earth. In heaven, this mystery is known; on earth, it is unknown to most people. No one can fathom it fully. Behold, a sinner stands in the heavenly light which the Spirit of God has shed upon him. The longer he stands there, the more he sees of his own sins, his past life, his unclean thoughts, his impenitent heart, his aversion to God and his desire toward sin. He knows that he must turn to God and that no one else can help him. But the closer he comes to God, the worse things seem. He feels that God cannot have anything to do with any one who is as impure and dishonest in every way as he is. To him the Spirit of prayer says, “Come in the name of Jesus. That name gives unholy men access to a holy God.”

The sinner protests and enumerates all the reasons why God cannot receive him. But, sooner or later, light dawns upon his soul. He begins to see what the name of Jesus means and enters into the presence of God with all his sin and with all the impurity and impenitence of his heart. Then the Spirit says, “Now pray for whatsoever you will. In the name of Jesus you have permission, not only to stand in the presence of God, but also to pray for everything you need.”
The sinner raises a number of objections again, “I can not pray. I do not have enough faith. Nor do I have enough love and earnestness. My heart is not spiritual, and I am not sufficiently zealous.” The Spirit listens calmly to all his objections and says, “Everything you say is true. And there would be no hope for you if you were to pray in your own name. But listen again. You are to pray in the name of Jesus. It is for Jesus’ sake that you are to receive what you ask for.”

Nothing means so much to our daily prayer life as to pray in the name of Jesus. If we fail to do this, our prayer life will either die from discouragement and despair or become simply a duty which we feel we must perform. What a relief to every sincere soul who sees the un-spirituality and worldliness of his own heart and his lack of faith, love and solicitude, when it becomes clear to him that it is not necessary for us when we pray to work ourselves up to a state of spirituality which we feel that we lack. Nor do we need to put forth any effort to make what little faith we have seem as great as possible. And we do not need to fan the cold embers in our hearts in order to make our waning zeal flare up again. It is not necessary for us to go through such spiritual gymnastics when we pray. We need do but one thing: tell God about our condition, about our faith, our solicitude, and our worldly and prayer-weary heart; and then pray in the name of Jesus.

We can come before God and say to Him, “I do not have a right to pray because I do not have a truly prayerful heart. Much less do I have any right to receive what I ask for. Everything which Thou seest in my heart, O Lord, is of such a nature that it must close Thy heart to me and all my supplications. But hear me, not for my sake, nor for the sake of my prayer, and not even because of my distress, for it is a result of my own sinfulness. But hear me for Jesus’ sake.”
Such souls as these have from time immemorial rejoiced to sing:
Thy name, O Jesus, beckons me,
That trusting I shall come to Thee,
In faith and love on Thee lay hold
And deep within my heart enfold.
I call upon Thy name each day,
Where’er on earth I wander may,
It is for me a house of peace,
Where from all grief I find release.
(Translation by P. A. Sveeggen.)
We have learned that to pray in the name of Jesus is the real element of prayer in our prayers. It is the helpless soul’s helpless look unto a gracious Friend. The wonderful results which attend prayer of this kind can be accounted for only by the fact that we have opened the door unto Jesus and given Him access to our helplessness. We have seen above that Jesus wills of His own accord to come in to us and, in His own power, to deal with our needs. It is not necessary for us to constrain Him by our prayers to take an interest in us. This is another wrong way of praying.

When Jesus hears our prayers and intervenes in our distress, He does so because His love toward us is free and unmerited, and because He by His suffering and death has purchased and won for us all that we need. And He is now ready at all times to give us these things. He waits only for one thing, and for this He must wait, and that is for us to ask Him to help us. For Jesus will not and cannot force Himself into our distress. We ourselves must open unto Him. And that is the only purpose that our prayers should serve.

The idea is deeply imbedded in all of us that we can by means of our prayers influence God and make Him interested in us, good to us, and kindly disposed toward us, so as to give us what we ask of Him. This is the heathen within us, lifting his head. Among the heathen, prayer is looked upon as a means whereby man can win the favor of the gods and move them to give away some of their divine surplus. This same thought flashes upon us frequently when we pray, without our thinking a great deal about it. We feel that there is something God must see in us before He can answer our prayer.
We think that He must find an earnest, urgent, burning desire within us in the event that we are praying for something for ourselves. And if we are interceding on behalf of others, we think that He must find a hearty and spiritual solicitude for them in our prayers if He is to hear us. For this reason our prayers often become a soul-exertion by means of which we endeavor to produce within ourselves attitudes which will make an impression upon God. You have undoubtedly noticed that most of us even change our tone of voice when we pray to God. We adopt a peculiar, pleading, tearful tone of voice. With some it is pure affectation. But this is certainly not the case with most people. It is with them a naive, unaffected, genuine expression of Old Adam’s views of God and prayer: When God hears how great our need is, and how urgent it is for us to receive that for which we are praying, He will likely be moved to such an extent that He will yield and let us have it!
A complete revolution with reference to this will take place in our prayer life as soon as the Spirit has taught us to pray in the name of Jesus. He will teach us plainly that what we lack in fervency, solicitude, love and faith are not the things which prevent us from being heard and answered when we pray. These things merely reveal our helplessness. And helplessness is, as we have seen above, fundamental in prayer.

When the Spirit shows us the hardness, the slothful-ness, and the indifference of our hearts toward prayer, we now become anxious and confused no longer. Instead, they become added incentives to prayer, that is, the opening of our heart’s door to give Jesus access to all our distress and all our impotence. A new and wonderful thing now occurs. Our seasons of prayer become real hours of rest to our weary souls. They become quiet hours, hours in which we lie at the feet of Jesus and point to all those things which we lack and which make our hearts tired and weary.

When our prayer chamber thus becomes a resting place, then we begin to long for it and to look forward to it with joy and anticipation from one prayer session to the next. This again will result in another change. We will begin to accomplish something in prayer. Joyfully and thankfully we will take up the work of prayer. Our secret prayer chamber will become not only a resting place, but a workshop also.

Source: O. Hallesby, PHD from the book “Prayer” Copyright 1931
Augsburg Publishing House
Minneapolis, Minnesota

“The Hidden Life of Prayer”, from David MacIntyre (the Inner Sanctuary)

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In one of the cathedrals of Northern Europe an exquisite group in high relief represents the prayer life. It is disposed in three panels. The first of these reminds us of the apostolic precept, ‘Pray without ceasing.’ We see the front of a spacious temple which opens on the market-place. The great square is strewn with crowds of eager men, gesticulating, bargaining-all evidently intent on gain. But One, who wears a circlet of thorn, and is clothed in a garment woven without seam from the top throughout, moves silently through the clamorous crowds, and subdues to holy fear the most covetous heart.

The second panel displays the precincts of the temple, and serves to illustrate the common worship of the Church. White-robed ministers hasten here and there. They carry oil for the lamp, and water for the laver, and blood from the altar; with pure intention, their eyes turned towards the unseen glory, they fulfill the duties of their sacred calling.

The third panel introduces us to the inner sanctuary. A solitary worshipper has entered within the veil, and hushed and lowly in the presence of God, bends before the glancing Shekinah. This represents the hidden life of prayer of which the Master spoke in the familiar words, ‘But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee’ (Matt. 6:6, R.V.).

Our Lord takes it for granted that His people will pray. And indeed in Scripture generally the outward obligation of prayer is implied rather than asserted. Moved by a divinely-implanted instinct, our natures cry out for God, for the living God. And however this instinct may be crushed by sin, it awakes to power in the consciousness of redemption. Theologians of all schools, and Christians of every type, agree in their recognition of this principle of the new life.

Chrysostom has said, ‘The just man does not desist from praying until he ceases to be just;’ and Augustine, ‘He that loveth little prayeth little, and he that loveth much prayeth much;’ and Richard Hooker, ‘Prayer is the first thing wherewith a righteous life beginneth, and the last wherewith it doth end;’ and Père la Combe, ‘He who has a pure heart will never cease to pray, and he who will be constant in prayer shall know what it is to have a pure heart;’ and Bunyan, ‘If thou art not a praying person, thou art not a Christian;’ and Richard Baxter, ‘Prayer is the breath of the new creature;’ and George Herbert, ‘Prayer…the soul’s blood.’

And yet, instinctive as is our dependence upon God, no duty is more earnestly impressed upon us in Scripture than the duty of continual communion with Him. The main reason for this unceasing insistence is the arduousness of prayer. In its nature it is a laborious undertaking, and in our endeavor to maintain the spirit of prayer we are called to wrestle against principalities and powers of darkness.

‘Dear Christian reader,’ says Jacob Boehme, ‘to pray aright is right earnest work.’ Prayer is the most sublime energy of which the spirit of man is capable. It is in one aspect glory and blessedness; in another, it is toil and travail, battle and agony. Uplifted hands grow tremulous long before the field is won; straining sinews and panting breath proclaim the exhaustion of the ‘heavenly footman.’ The weight that falls upon an aching heart fills the brow with anguish, even when the midnight air is chill. Prayer is the uplift of the earth-bound soul into the heaven, the entrance of the purified spirit into the holiest; the rending of the luminous veil that shuts in, as behind curtains, the glory of God. It is the vision of things unseen; the recognition of the mind of the Spirit; the effort to frame words which man may not utter.

A man that truly prays one prayer,’ says Bunyan, ‘shall after that never be able to express with his mouth or pen the unutterable desires, sense, affection, and longing that went to God in that prayer.’

The saints of the Jewish Church had a princely energy in intercession: ‘Battering the gates of heaven with storms of prayer,’ they took the kingdom of heaven by violence. The first Christians proved in the wilderness, in the dungeon, in the arena, and at the stake the truth of their Master’s words, ‘He shall have whatsoever he saith.’ Their souls ascended to God in supplication as the flame of the altar mounts heavenward.

The Talmudists affirm that in the divine life four things call for fortitude; of these prayer is one. One who met Tersteegen at Kronenberg remarked, ‘It seemed to me as if he had gone straight into heaven, and had lost himself in God; but often when he had done praying he was as white as the wall.’ David Brainerd notes that on one occasion, when he found his soul ‘exceedingly enlarged’ in supplication, he was ‘in such anguish, and pleaded with so much earnestness and importunity,’ that when he rose from his knees he felt ‘extremely weak and overcome.’ ‘I could scarcely walk straight,’ he goes on to say, ‘my joints were loosed, the sweat ran down my face and body, and nature seemed as if it would dissolve.’

A living writer has reminded us of John Foster, who used to spend long nights in his chapel, absorbed in spiritual exercises, pacing to and fro in the disquietude of his spirit, until his restless feet had worn a little track in the aisle.

One might easily multiply examples, but there is no need to go beyond Scripture to find either precept or example to impress us with the arduousness of that prayer which prevails. Should not the supplication of the Psalmist, ‘Quicken Thou me, according to Thy word…quicken me in Thy righteousness…quicken me after Thy loving-kindness…quicken me according to Thy judgments…quicken me, O Lord, for Thy name’s sake;’ and the complaint of the Evangelical Prophet, ‘There is none that calleth upon Thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee,’ find an echo in our experience? Do we know what it is to ‘labour,’ to ‘wrestle,’ to ‘agonize’ in prayer?

Another explanation of the arduousness of prayer lies in the fact that we are spiritually hindered: there is ‘the noise of archers in the places of drawing water.’ St. Paul assures us that we shall have to maintain our prayer energy ‘against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’

Dr. Andrew Bonar used to say that, as the King of Syria commanded his captains to fight neither with small nor great, but only with the King of Israel, so the prince of the power of the air seems to bend all the force of his attack against the spirit of prayer. If he should prove victorious there, he has won the day. Sometimes we are conscious of a satanic impulse directed immediately against the life of prayer in our souls; sometimes we are led into ‘dry’ and wilderness-experiences, and the face of God grows dark above us; sometimes, when we strive most earnestly to bring every thought and imagination under obedience to Christ, we seem to be given over to disorder and unrest; sometimes the inbred slothfulness of our nature lends itself to the evil one as an instrument by which he may turn our minds back from the exercise of prayer.

Because of all these things, therefore, we must be diligent and resolved, watching as a sentry who remembers that the lives of men are lying at the hazard of his wakefulness, resourcefulness, and courage.

‘And what I say unto you,’ said the Lord to His disciples, ‘I say unto all, Watch! ‘

There are times when even the soldiers of Christ become heedless of their trust, and no longer guard with vigilance the gift of prayer. Should any one who reads these pages be conscious of loss of power in intercession, lack of joy in communion, hardness and impenitence in confession, ‘Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.’

‘Oh, stars of heaven that fade and flame,
Oh, whispering waves below!
Was earth, or heaven. or I the same,
A year, a year ago!

‘The stars have kept their home on high,
The waves their wonted flow;
The love is lost that once was I,
A year, a year ago.’

The only remedy for this sluggish mood is that we should ‘rekindle our love,’ as Polycarp wrote to the Church in Ephesus, ‘in the blood of God.’ Let us ask for a fresh gift of the Holy Spirit to quicken our sluggish hearts, a new disclosure of the charity of God. The Spirit will help our infirmities, and the very compassion of the Son of God will fall upon us, clothing us with zeal as with a garment, stirring our affections into a most vehement flame, and filling our souls with heaven.

‘Men ought always to pray, and ‘-although faintness of spirit attends on prayer like a shadow-‘not faint.’ The soil in which the prayer of faith takes root is a life of unbroken communion with God, a life in which the windows of the soul are always open towards the City of Rest. We do not know the true potency of prayer until our hearts are so steadfastly inclined to God that our thoughts turn to Him, as by a Divine instinct, whenever they are set free from the consideration of earthly things.

It has been said of Origen (in his own words) that his life was ‘one unceasing supplication.’ By this means above all others the perfect idea of the Christian life is realized. Intercourse between the believer and his Lord ought never to be interrupted.

‘The vision of God,’ says Bishop Westcott, ‘makes life a continuous prayer.’ And in that vision all fleeting things resolve themselves, and appear in relation to things unseen. In a broad use of the term, prayer is the sum of all the service that we render to God, so that all fulfillment of duty is, in one sense, the performance of Divine service, and the familiar saying, ‘Work is worship,’ is justified. ‘I am prayer,’ said a Psalmist (Psa. cix. 4). ‘In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving,’ said an Apostle.

In the Old Testament that life which is steeped in prayer is often described as a walk with God. Enoch walked in assurance, Abraham in perfectness, Elijah in fidelity, the sons of Levi in peace and equity. Or it is spoken of as a dwelling with God, even as Joshua departed not from the Tabernacle; or as certain craftsmen of the olden time abode with a king for his work.

Again, it is defined as the ascent of the soul into the Sacred Presence; as the planets, ‘with open face beholding,’ climb into the light of the sun’s countenance, or as a flower, lit with beauty and dipped in fragrance, reaches upwards towards the light.

At other times, prayer is said to be the gathering up of all the faculties in an ardor of reverence, and love, and praise. As one clear strain may succeed in reducing to harmony a number of mutually-discordant voices, so the reigning impulses of the spiritual nature unite the heart to fear the name of the Lord.

But the most familiar, and perhaps the most impressive, description of prayer in the Old Testament, is found in those numerous passages where the life of communion with God is spoken of as a waiting upon Him. A great scholar has given a beautiful definition of waiting upon God: ‘To wait is not merely to remain impassive. It is to expect-to look for with patience, and also with submission. It is to long for, but not impatiently; to look for, but not to fret at the delay; to watch for, but not restlessly; to feel that if He does not come we will acquiesce, and yet to refuse to let the mind acquiesce in the feeling that He will not come.’

Now, do not let any one say that such a life is visionary and unprofitable. The real world is not this covering veil of sense; reality belongs to those heavenly things of which the earthly are mere ‘patterns’ and correspondences. Who is so practical as God? Who among men so wisely directed His efforts to the circumstances and the occasions which He was called to face, as ‘the Son of Man who is in heaven? ‘Those who pray well, work well. Those who pray most, achieve the grandest results. To use the striking phrase of Tauler, ‘In God nothing is hindered.’

The cultivation of the habit of prayer will secure its expression on all suitable occasions.

In times of need, in the first instance; almost everyone will pray then. Moses stood on the shores of the Red Sea, surveying the panic into which the children of Israel were cast when they realized that the chariots of Pharaoh were thundering down upon them. ‘Wherefore criest thou unto Me?’ said the Lord. Nehemiah stood before King Artaxerxes. The monarch noted his inward grief, and said, ‘Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? This is nothing else but sorrow of heart.’ That question opened the door to admit the answer to three months’ praying; and the hot desire that had risen to God in those slow months gathered itself into one fervent ejaculation, ‘So I prayed to the God of heaven.’

Again, one whose life is spent in fellowship with God will constantly seek and find opportunities for swift and frequently-recurring approaches to the throne of grace. The apostles bring every duty under the cross; at the name of Jesus their loyal souls soar heavenward in adoration and in praise. The early Christians never met without invoking a benediction; they never parted without prayer. The saints of the Middle Ages allowed each passing incident to summon them to intercession-the shadow on the dial, the church-bell, the flight of the swallow, the rising of the sun, the falling of a leaf.

The covenant which Sir Thomas Browne made with himself is well-known, but one may venture to refer to it once more: ‘To pray in all places where quietness inviteth; in any house, highway, or street; and to know no street in this city that may not witness that I have not forgotten God and my Saviour in it; and that no parish or town where I have been may not say the like. To take occasion of praying upon the sight of any church which I see, or pass by, as I ride about. To pray daily, and particularly for my sick patients, and for all sick people under whose care soever. And at the entrance into the house of the sick to say, ‘The peace and the mercy of God be upon this house.’ After a sermon to make a prayer and desire a blessing, and to pray for the minister.’ And much more of a like nature.

Once more, one who lives in the spirit of prayer will spend much time in retired and intimate communion with God. It is by such a deliberate engagement of prayer that the fresh springs of devotion which flow through the day are fed. For, although communion with God is the life-energy of the renewed nature, our souls ‘cleave to the dust,’ and devotion tends to grow formal-it becomes emptied of its spiritual content, and exhausts itself in outward acts. The Master reminds us of this grave peril, and informs us that the true defense against insincerity in our approach to God lies in the diligent exercise of private prayer.

In the days of the Commonwealth, one of the early Friends, ‘a servant of the Lord, but a stranger outwardly,’ came into an assembly of serious people, who had met for worship. ‘And after some time he had waited on the Lord in spirit he had an opportunity to speak, all being silent; he said by way of exhortation, ‘Keep to the Lord’s watch.’ These words, being spake in the power of God, had its operation upon all or most of the meeting, so that they felt some great dread and fear upon their spirits. After a little time he spake again, saying, ‘What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.’ Then he was silent again a little time, but the whole meeting, being sensible that this man was in some extraordinary spirit and power, were all musing what manner of teaching this should be, being such a voice that most of the hearers never heard before, that carried such great authority with it that they were all necessitated to be subject to the power.’

Soldier of Christ, you are in an enemy’s country; ‘Keep to the Lord’s watch.’

Source: David MacIntyre; “The Secret Life of Prayer: The LifeBlood of a Christian” (Published 2010)