“Prayer; Filling our Souls with Heaven” by David MacIntyre, author of The Hidden Life of Prayer (Near to God, Ascent of the Soul, 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

__________________________________________________________________________________

Resources for Prayer Enrichment:

Pray in The Spirit from Martin Lloyd Jones

The Spirit’s Intercession from Ligonier.org

Intercessory Prayer from The Gospel Coalition

See Jesus.net (Paul Miller on Prayer, Podcast)

C.S. Lewis Institute: A Season of Prayer- Prayer Resources & Links

Pray the Scriptures: Ligonier Ministries

Praying using Scripture; The Gospel Coalition

Pray The Bible; John Piper

Intercession of Gods Promises in Prayer from Desiring God; a book

A Teaching Series on Praying The Lord’s Prayer from R.C. Sproul

Core Christianity on The Lord’s Prayer

Theology of Prayer

A Puritan Mind

Puritan Prayers Download

Praying the Psalms from the Gospel Coalition

The Gospel Coalition; on Prayer

Singing the Psalms with Seedbed

Singing the Psalms with ChurchWorks

Called to Know Jesus

The Gospel Coalition.org

Connection Points

About Jesus from Christianity.com

Scripture on Faith in Jesus

Resources to Know God from CRU

Spurgeon on Knowing Christ

Eternal Perspective Ministries

Peace with God.net

Knowing and Doing Podcast (C.S Lewis Institute)

“The Hidden Riches of Prayer”, From David McIntyre (The Blessing, Power of The Spirit, Prayer Resources)

The Hidden Riches of The Secret Place; David McIntyre (from “The Hidden Life of Prayer)

The return of prayer is, in the first instance, personal and private; it is “the hidden riches” of the secret place (Isa. 45:3). Then, as it passes out into life and action, it is made manifest. The Father who is in secret, and who seeth in secret, rewards His servants “openly.”


We read that when the Pilgrims (of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress) had come almost to the end of the enchanted ground, “they perceived that a little before them was a solemn noise, as of one that was much concerned. So they went on, and looked before them; and, behold, they saw, as they thought, a man upon his knees, with his hands and eyes lifted up, and speaking, as they thought, earnestly to one that was above. They drew nigh, but could not tell what he said; so they went softly till he had done. When he had done, he got up, and began to run towards the Celestial City.”

Holiness


This is the first reward of the secret place; through prayer our graces are quickened, and holiness is wrought in us. “Holiness,” says Hewitson, “is a habit of mind—a setting of the Lord continually before one’s eyes, a constant walking with God as one with whom we are agreed.”

And in the attainment and maintenance of unbroken communion, “Prayer is amongst duties, as faith is amongst graces.” Richard Sibbes reminds us that “Prayer exercises all the graces of the Spirit,” and Flavel confirms the sentence: “You must strive,” he writes, “to excel in this, forasmuch as no grace within or service without can thrive without it.” Berridge affirms that “all decays begin in the closet; no heart thrives without much secret converse with God, and nothing will make amends for the want of it.” On the other hand, he acknowledges, “I never rose from secret prayer without some quickening. Even when I set about it with heaviness or reluctance the Lord is pleased in mercy to meet me in it.” Similarly, Fraser of Brea declares, “I find myself better and worse as I decay and increase in prayer.”


If prayer is hindered, even though it be hindered by devotion to other duties of religion, the health of the soul is impaired. Henry Martyn laments in his diary that “want of private devotional reading and shortness of prayer, through incessant sermon-making, had produced much strangeness” between God and his soul.

Communion with God is the condition of spiritual growth. It is the soil in which all the graces of the divine life root themselves. If the virtues were the work of man, we might perfect them one by one, but they are “the fruit of the Spirit,” and grow together in one
common life.

When Philip Saphir embraced Christianity, he said, “I have found a religion for my whole nature.” Holiness is the harmonious perfection, the “wholeness” of the soul.

While we abide in Christ we ought not to allow ourselves to be discouraged by the apparent slowness of our advancement in grace. In nature, growth proceeds with varying speed. Sibbes compares the progressive sanctification of believers to “the increase in herbs and trees,” which “grow at the root in winter, in the leaf in summer, and in the seed in autumn.” The first of these forms of increase seems very slow; the second is more rapid; the third rushes on to full maturity. In a few days of early autumn a field of grain will seem to ripen more than in weeks of midsummer.

Intimacy with Christ

Communion with God discovers the excellence of His character, and by beholding Him the soul is transformed. Holiness is conformity to Christ, and this is secured by a growing intimacy with Him. It is evident that this consideration opens up a vast field for reflection. We shall merely indicate two of the many directions in which it applies.


(a) First, the habit of prayerfulness produces a singular serenity of spirit. To use Bengel’s phrase, we are “built up into a recollected consciousness of God.”


When one looks into the quiet eyes of Him that sitteth upon the throne, the tremors of the spirit are stilled. Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is but a noise; and the valley of the shadow of death is tuneful with songs of praise. Storms may rave beneath our feet, but the sky above is blue. We take our station with Christ in heavenly places; we dwell in the Sabbath of God. “Here I lie,” said Thomas Halyburton when his death-hour was drawing near, “pained without pain, without strength yet strong.” Seguier, a French Protestant, who was sentenced to death, was mockingly asked by one of his guards how he felt. He replied, “My soul is as a garden, full of shelter and fountains.”

There are towns in Europe which would be almost insupportably hot in midsummer were it not that rivers, issuing from the ice-fields of Switzerland, diffuse a cool and refreshing air even in the sultry noon. And so the river of the water of life, which flows from under the throne of God and the Lamb, makes glad the city of God. Jeremy Taylor says, “Prayer is the peace of our spirits, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of our recollection, the seat of our meditation, the rest of our cares, and the calm of our tempest.”39


(b) Again, those who continually exercise themselves in prayer are taught to rule their lives according to the will of God. This effect follows naturally upon the former, for “all noble, moral energy roots itself in moral calm.”


Prayer is the avowal of our creature-dependence. For the believer also it is the acknowledgment that he is not his own, but is, by reason of the great atonement, the “purchased possession” of the Son of God. Pius IV, hearing of Calvin’s death, exclaimed: “Ah, the strength of that proud heretic lay in this, that riches and honour were nothing to him.”

David Livingstone, in the heart of darkest Africa, writes in his Journal, “My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All, I again dedicate my whole self to Thee.” Bengel spoke in the name of all the children of faith when he said, “All I am, and have, both in principle and practice, is to be summed up in this one expression—‘The Lord’s property.’ My belonging totally to Christ as my Savior is all my salvation and all my desire. I have no other glory than this, and I want no other.”

Afterwards, when death drew near, the following words were pronounced over him, “Lord Jesus, to Thee I live, to Thee I suffer, to Thee I die. Thine I am in death and in life; save and bless me, O Savior, for ever and ever. Amen.” At the words “Thine I am,” he laid his right hand upon his heart, in token of his full and hearty assent. And so he fell asleep in Jesus.

Such is the normal attitude of the redeemed soul, an attitude which prayer acknowledges and confirms.

Further, in prayer we present ourselves to God, holding our motives in His clear light, and estimating them after the counsel of His will. Thus our thoughts and feelings arrange themselves into classes (as in a process of polishing or smoothing); those that rise towards the honour of God taking precedence of those that drift downward towards the gratification of self. And so the great decisions of life are prepared. In prayer, Jacob became Israel; in prayer, Daniel saw Christ’s day, and was glad; in prayer, Saul of Tarsus received his commission to go “far hence” among the Gentiles; in prayer, the Son of Man accomplished His obedience, and embraced His cross.

It does not always happen, however, that the cardinal points of life are recognized in the very place and hour of prayer. Helmholtz, the celebrated physicist, used to say that his greatest discoveries came to him, not in the laboratory, but when he was walking, perhaps along a country road, in perfect freedom of mind. But his discoveries merely registered themselves then; they were really brought to the birth in the laboratory. And whether it be in the place of prayer, or elsewhere, that life’s great decisions frame themselves, undoubtedly it is in the silent hour that characters are molded and careers determined.


In his Autobiography George Müller gives a striking testimony: “I never remember, in all my Christian course, a period now (in March, 1895) of sixty-nine years and four months, that I ever SINCERELY and PATIENTLY sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of the Word of God, but I have been ALWAYS directed rightly. But if honesty of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait before God for instruction, or if I preferred the counsel of my fellow-men to the declarations of the Word of the Living God, I made great mistakes.”


As we present ourselves before the Lord in prayer, we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit when we yield to the inward impulse, and the Divine energy commands our being. Our plans, if we have formed them at the dictation of nature, are laid aside, and the purpose of God in relation to our lives is accepted. As we are Spirit-born, let us be Spirit controlled: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”


(c) Through the acceptance of the will of God for us, we are led out into a richer influence and a wider usefulness.

Montalembert once complained to Lacordaire, “How little it is that man can do
for his fellows! Of all his miseries this is the greatest.” It is true that we can effect little for one another by ordinary human means, but much may be done by prayer. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Prayer brings the Divine omnipotence into the occasions of life. We ask, and receive; and our joy is full.


An English scholar has told us that those who have helped him most were not learned divines nor eloquent preachers, but holy men and women who walked with God, and who revealed unconsciously the unadorned goodness which the blessed Spirit had wrought in them. Those saintly persons had looked on Christ until they were changed into His likeness; they had tarried on the Mount of God until the uncreated glory shone upon their brow.

Tradition affirms that Columbia the Celtic missionary, Ruysbroek the recluse of Groenendaal, John Welsh of Ayr, and many others, were wrapped in a soft and tempered radiance as they prayed. Such legends, no doubt, were created by the remembrance of lives that had been transfigured. “I saw a Saint. How canst thou tell that he, Thou sawest was a Saint? I
saw one like to Christ so luminously, By patient deeds of love, his mortal taint, Seemed made his groundwork for humility.”

But a changed life is not the only gift which God bestows upon us when we stand in the unseen presence. When Moses came from the Mount he was, as it were, transfigured in the eyes of the children of Israel; but he also bore in his hands the tables of testimony—the pledges of that covenant, ordered and sure, which had been sealed to him for them. His prayer had saved the people of election, and the law-tablets were the sign. It is this tarrying in the Upper Room that secures the enduement of power.

Source: The Hidden Life of Prayer by David McIntyre

Prayer resources and links

Come from the Four Winds Oh Breath, by Charles Spurgeon

See Jesus.net (Paul Miller on Prayer, Podcast)

C.S. Lewis Institute: A Season of Prayer- Prayer Resources & Links

Pray the Scriptures: Ligonier Ministries

Praying using Scripture; The Gospel Coalition

Pray The Bible; John Piper

Intercession of Gods Promises in Prayer from Desiring God; a book

A Teaching Series on Praying The Lord’s Prayer from R.C. Sproul

Core Christianity on The Lord’s Prayer

Theology of Prayer

A Puritan Mind

Puritan Prayers Download

Praying the Psalms from the Gospel Coalition

The Gospel Coalition; on Prayer

Singing the Psalms with Seedbed

Singing the Psalms with ChurchWorks

Prayer, Music and Worship Podcasts

Confessions of St Augustine audio podcast

Prayer Pod, Prayer and poetry with music

The Moms in Prayer Podcast

Pray as You Go Podcast

The Daily Still Podcast, Guided Christian Meditations and Devotions

Worship Interludes; Piano Instrumentals for Meditation, Prayer and Devotion

Ancient and Contemporary with Liturgy; a beautiful Candlelit Service

Prayers from Taize, a Community in France

Top Worship and Praise Songs of 2022

Share God’s Heart

The Jesus Film Project

Every Home for Christ

Mission to the World

Perspectives.org

“Inspirational Quotes on Prayer”, from L.Willows (See God, The Holy Spirit, A Praying Heart)

Inspirational Quotes on Prayer

“God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers are deathless. They outlive the lives of those who uttered them.” —Edward McKendree Bounds

“Prayer delights God’s ear; it melts His heart; and opens His hand. God cannot deny a praying soul.” — Thomas Watson

 “In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” –John Bunyan

 “Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that He will provide the help we need. Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as wealthy.” —John Piper

 “When praying for the Lord’s will about something questionable, don’t give up if you don’t receive clear leading after one prayer; just keep on praying until God makes it clear.” —Curtis Hutson

“The greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.” – F.B. Meyer

 “Not to pray because you do not feel fit to pray is like saying, “I will not take medicine because I am too ill.” Pray for prayer: pray yourself, by the Spirit’s assistance, into a praying frame.” – Charles Spurgeon

“God-given prayer and praise have as their essence a waiting on God, a willingness to be wrought upon by the hammer and the fire of the Almighty, until the chains of self-centered desires fall away from the personality, and the love of Christ become the deepest hunger of the inner life.” –C. John Miller

“Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things ‘above all that we ask or think.” – Andrew Murray

 “You can see God from anywhere if your mind is set to love and obey Him.” —A.W. Tozer

“We must learn to measure ourselves, not by our knowledge about God, not by our gifts and responsibilities in the church, but by how we pray and what goes on in our hearts. Many of us, I suspect, have no idea how impoverished we are at this level. Let us ask the Lord to show us”. –J. I. Packer

 “Prayer is an exchange. We leave our burdens, worries and sin in the hands of God. We come away with oil of joy and the garment of praise.” — F.B. Meyer

“Remember, the only real leader you have is Jesus Christ. Unless you are daily taught of Him you will not be able to make the right decisions. To get to Him you need to pray, but it needs to be prayer of a unique quality. You can pray all night and all day and still not be in touch with His will. Prayer is not full and effective unless it adds up to our learning to wait upon the Lord for Him to make known His will. He needs to break down our tendency to cry out in prayer “Your will be done,” and then to get up and still try to impose our will on circumstances.”–C. John Miller, from The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters to Jack Miller

“I am convinced that prayer, effective praying, is a divine gift that comes while praying. Sounds odd, prayer comes while you are praying? But I think that really there is praying which gets results and that is fine, but then there is praying that gets into the center of God’s will and gets bigger results and also leaves the soul at peace, satisfied that God’s will has been contacted and God has responded with peace in the heart.” –C. John Miller, from The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters to Jack Miller

to-

Prayer Resources and Links

Christian Resources and Links