“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

“For the Sake of Love” Scriptures on Love, Prayer from L.Willows (Grace, Loving One Another, God’s Spirit)

Walking in Love is walking with The Holy Beloved.  We have been given a decree to love one another as we have been loved (John 15:12).  When we live and step forward for the sake of love it means that we make a promise to live with hearts that are devoted, forsaken – given up in surrender to the will of God with a gaze set beyond what the mortal eyes can see.

When our own hearts are “forsaken”, it means that we renounce and leave behind whatever we cling to that would separate us from the Love of God. We place whatever must “die to self” (Galations 2:20) with gladness and pray that sacrifice is granted. We cannot move forward while grasping to what is behind us.

When we do something for the “sake” of another means for the benefit of another or on the account of another. In the Bible, the words “for Jesus sake”, refer to the truth that all is done on the merit of Jesus, that we have none of our own.

In the same way, when we long to move forward in Love and walk in The Love of God we need to renew our Hearts. Yet we cannot “see our own hearts” by our own ability. This is one of our greatest obstacles to walking forward. We need the Power of The Holy Spirit that enables the wisdom of God to help us. We ask for revelation in prayer and seek redemption so that we can walk more closely with the Lord. David’s prayer in Psalm 139:23 (Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my concerns) is a perfect example of calling to God for the ability to know one’s, own heart.

It takes courage to encounter this kind of bold truth. Yet how can we live with anything less than truth? We pray for the strength and courage to rise above our dependency on false strength, the kind that pulls us back into a sense of power over circumstances and our own abilities rather than being true warriors of The Spirit, ones that serve God. (Romans 8:5, John 3:30, Deut. 6.5) This servitude is one that lives with hearts “forsaken” to the Truth.

because only The Truth will ever set us Free.

John 8:31-32
If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

Scripture on Loves’ Decree

John 17:21
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

Leviticus 19:18,34
Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD…

Matthew 5:44
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

John 15:17
This is My command to you: Love one another.

Romans 12:10
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring one another.

Romans 13:8
Be indebted to no one, except to one another in love, for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law.

Romans 13:10
Love does no wrong to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.

Galatians 5:14
The entire Law is fulfilled in a single decree: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Ephesians 5:2
and walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant sacrificial offering to God.

1 Thessalonians 4:9
Now about brotherly love, you do not need anyone to write to you, because you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.

Hebrews 13:1
Continue in brotherly love.

1 Peter 1:22
Since you have purified your souls by obedience to the truth so that you have a genuine love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from a pure heart.

for The Sake of Jesus Christ

Holy Father,
I run to you in worship today with awe.
My heart offers praise that lifts all to the Heavens that You alone have made.
I cannot fathom the beauty of the worlds that Your eyes can see
or the vastness of life that Your heart beholds.
I am small and here- and Father, You from the Throne of All.
Your Love is planted within my own heart and promised from the beginning.

You are my Redeemer, the Faithful One, our Healer, the Restorer of our Souls.
Your Love is more powerful than all of the tides of the oceans at sea.
It weathers all of the storms of life.
It is my rock and my fortress. You sustain me through all seasons.
I pray that you hold my heart, all hearts with protection against the forces of this world.
Father, Lord keep us safe with you in every hour.

Give us pure hearts, Lord.
I pray that Your Spirit reveal new ways that I need to grow; help us all to see.
Show me the impurities of my heart in this hour, keep us apart from what binds us to sin.
Help me in my need to repent and surrender, let us find humility as we bend to You.
To return with gladness and rejoicing to your lap of Love.
Renew my faith and give me the perseverance to walk with courage and leave behind all that would keeps me apart from You.

You are our watchtower, our protection night and day.
Your strength upholds us, the righteousness of Your heart gives direction and boldness to ours. Your Spirit indwells and prompts as our cause.
Lord, we stand, walk and move only because of You.

Fasten our Hearts to Yours.
We walk forward with You and for the sake of You.
Our hearts beat and breathe because You. You have given us first breath.
I praise and breathe gratitude from all that I am.
For the sake of Christ Jesus.
Let Love Be. Let it walk forward in me.

In the Name of Jesus

Amen

“Speak my Heart, Hope”, a worship poem from L.Willows (Prayer, Hope, Blessing)

Speak my heart, hope –
it longs, it lasts,
throughout and until
in these times, Love casts.

Let me be like a child,
taking sweet cover
in the great mist
of our God’s Great Hover.
How His peace stills,
how it becomes
like a sky wrapping
soft clouds in its’ other.

Speak my heart – hope,
it longs, it prays.
Whisper calls of Your Splendor,
bows low with praise.

Tomorrow –find blessings
for each and for all,
in the new dawn day sweetness
of Love’s mighty call.

Let me run like your child
on the wind clouds
of time
with eyes set upon
the Glory sublime.

Speak my heart, hope
it will live and outlast
season through season
in eternity’s vast.

© 2020 Linda Willows

Numbers 6:24-26 –The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Psalm 31:19 –How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

John 16:33 –I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.