A spark of God’s own life has been breathed into the human body, making man a living soul, the possessor of moral endowments, and a will to direct his own course of action. He has the privilege of becoming a partaker of the divine nature. This will give him power to conquer evil, and love and choose that which is good. He has a conscience, which, under the control of God, will approve the right and condemn the wrong. And he may, if he will, have fellowship with God. He may walk and talk with God as did Enoch. This holy companionship is denied to none who will believe on Christ as their personal Saviour.1
Enoch walked with God, and when assailed by the tempter, he could talk with God about it. He had no “It is written,” as we have, but he had a knowledge of his heavenly Companion. He made God his counselor, and was closely bound up with Jesus. And Enoch was honored in his course. He was translated to heaven without seeing death. And those who will be translated at the close of time will be those who commune with God on earth.2
Through nature and revelation, through His providence, and by the influence of His Spirit, God speaks to us. But these are not enough; we need also to pour out our hearts to Him. In order to have spiritual life and energy, we must have actual relationship with our heavenly Father. Our minds may be drawn out toward Him; we may meditate upon His works, His mercies, His blessings; but this is not, in the fullest sense, communing with Him. In order to commune with God, we must have something to say to Him concerning our actual life.
Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him.3
Our heavenly Father waits to bestow upon us the fullness of His blessing. It is our privilege to drink largely at the fountain of boundless love. What a wonder it is that we pray so little! . . .
Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence? Without unceasing prayer and diligent watching we are in danger of growing careless and of deviating from the right path. . . .
If we regard iniquity in our hearts, if we cling to any known sin, the Lord will not hear us; but the prayer of the penitent, contrite soul is always accepted. When all known wrongs are righted, we may believe that God will answer our petitions.4
There is no time or place in which it is inappropriate to offer up a petition to God. There is nothing that can prevent us from lifting up our hearts in the spirit of earnest prayer. In the crowds of the street, in the midst of a business engagement, we may send up a petition to God and plead for divine guidance, as did Nehemiah when he made his request before King Artaxerxes. A closet of communion may be found wherever we are.5
Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” 6. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel.
“Ask.” The asking, makes it manifest that you realize your necessity; and if you ask in faith you will receive. The Lord has pledged His word, and it cannot fail. If you come with true contrition you need not feel that you are presumptuous in asking for what the Lord has promised. When you ask for the blessings you need, that you may perfect a character after Christ’s likeness, the Lord assures you that you are asking according to a promise that will be verified. That you feel and know you are a sinner is sufficient ground for asking for His mercy and compassion. The condition upon which you may come to God is not that you shall be holy, but that you desire Him to cleanse you from all sin and purify you from all iniquity. The argument that we may plead now and ever is our great need, our utterly helpless state, that makes Him and His redeeming power a necessity.
“Seek.” Desire not merely His blessing, but Himself. “Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace.”. Seek, and you shall find. God is seeking you, and the very desire you feel to come to Him is but the drawing of His Spirit. Yield to that drawing. Christ is pleading the cause of the tempted, the erring, and the faithless. He is seeking to lift them into companionship with Himself. “If thou seek Him, He will be found of thee.” .
“Knock.” We come to God by special invitation, and He waits to welcome us to His audience chamber. . . . Let those who desire the blessing of God knock and wait at the door of mercy with firm assurance, saying, For Thou, O Lord, hast said, “Everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”7
The Elder Brother of our race is by the eternal throne. He looks upon every soul who is turning his face toward Him as the Saviour. He knows by experience what are the weaknesses of humanity, what are our wants, and where lies the strength of our temptations; for He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. He is watching over you, trembling child of God. Are you tempted? He will deliver. Are you weak? He will strengthen. Are you ignorant? He will enlighten. Are you wounded? He will heal. . . . Whatever your anxieties and trials, spread out your case before the Lord. Your spirit will be braced for endurance. The way will be opened for you to disentangle yourself from embarrassment and difficulty. The weaker and more helpless you know yourself to be, the stronger will you become in His strength. The heavier your burdens, the more blessed the rest in casting them upon the Burden Bearer.8
Humility and reverence should characterize the deportment of all who come into the presence of God. In the name of Jesus we may come before Him with confidence, but we must not approach Him with the boldness of presumption, as though He were on a level with ourselves. There are those who address the great and all-powerful and holy God, who dwelleth in light unapproachable, as they would address an equal, or even an inferior.9
There is a growing lack of reverence for our Maker, a growing disregard of His greatness and His majesty. But God is speaking to us in these last days. . . .
When the still small voice which succeeds the whirlwind and the tempest that moves the rocks out of position, is heard, let all cover their face, for God is very near. Let them hide themselves in Jesus Christ; for He is their hiding place. The cleft in the rock is hidden with His own pierced hand while the humble seeker waits in bowed attitude to hear what saith the Lord unto His servant.10
It is a wonderful thing that we can pray effectually, that unworthy, erring mortals possess the power of offering their requests to God. What higher power can man desire than this—to be linked with the infinite God? Feeble, sinful man has the privilege of speaking to his Maker. We may utter words that reach the throne of the Monarch of the universe. We may speak with Jesus as we walk by the way, and He says, I am at thy right hand.
We may commune with God in our hearts; we may walk in companionship with Christ. When engaged in our daily labor, we may breathe out our heart’s desire, inaudible to any human ear; but that word cannot die away into silence, nor can it be lost. Nothing can drown the soul’s desire. It rises above the din of the street, above the noise of machinery. It is God to whom we are speaking, and our prayer is heard.
Ask, then; ask, and ye shall receive. Ask for humility, wisdom, courage, increase of faith. To every sincere prayer an answer will come. It may not come just as you desire, or at the time you look for it; but it will come in the way and at the time that will best meet your need. The prayers you offer in loneliness, in weariness, in trial, God answers, not always according to your expectations, but always for your good.11
The way to the throne of God is always open. You cannot always be on your knees in prayer, but your silent petitions may constantly ascend to God for strength and guidance. When tempted, as you will be, you may flee to the secret place of the Most High. His everlasting arms will be underneath you. . . .
Pray with humble hearts. Seek the Lord often in prayer. In the secret place, alone, the eye sees Jesus and the ear is opened to Jesus. You come forth from the secret place of prayer to abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Temptations come, but you press closer and still closer to the side of Jesus and place your hand in His hand. Then you gain a rich experience, resting in His love and rejoicing in His mercy. The worries and perplexities and cares are gone, and you rejoice in Jesus Christ. The soul is quick to hear the Father’s voice, and you will commune with God. All criticism is banished, all judging of others has been expelled from the soul.12
All should feel it a Christian duty to pray short. Tell the Lord just what you want, without going all over the world. In private prayer all have the privilege of praying as long as they desire and of being as explicit as they please. They can pray for all their relatives and friends. The closet is the place to tell all their private difficulties, and trials, and temptations. A common meeting to worship God is not the place to open the privacies of the heart. . . .
There are some, I fear, who do not take their troubles to God in private prayer, but reserve them for the prayer meeting, and there do up their praying for several days. Such may be named conference and prayer meeting killers. They emit no light; they edify no one. Their cold, frozen prayers and long, backslidden testimonies cast a shadow. All are glad when they get through, and it is almost impossible to throw off the chill and darkness which their prayers and exhortations bring into the meeting. From the light which I have received, our meetings should be spiritual and social, and not too long. Reserve, pride, vanity, and fear of man should be left at home. Little differences and prejudices should not be taken with us to these meetings. As in a united family, simplicity, meekness, confidence, and love should exist in the hearts of brethren and sisters who meet to be refreshed and invigorated by bringing their lights together.13
Family or public prayer alone is not sufficient. Secret prayer is very important; in solitude the soul is laid bare to the inspecting eye of God, and every motive is scrutinized. Secret prayer! How precious! The soul communing with God! Secret prayer is to be heard only by the prayer-hearing God. No curious ear is to receive the burden of such petitions. In secret prayer the soul is free from surrounding influences, free from excitement. Calmly, yet fervently, will it reach out after God. Secret prayer is frequently perverted, and its sweet designs lost, by loud vocal prayer. Instead of the calm, quiet trust and faith in God, the soul drawn out in low, humble tones, the voice is raised to a loud pitch, and excitement is encouraged, and secret prayer loses its softening, sacred influence. There is a storm of feeling, a storm of words, making it impossible to discern the still, small voice that speaks to the soul while engaged in its secret, true, heartfelt devotion. Secret prayer, properly carried out, is productive of great good. But prayer which is made public to the entire family and neighborhood is not secret prayer, even though thought to be, and divine strength is not received from it. Sweet and abiding will be the influence emanating from Him who seeth in secret, whose ear is open to answer the prayer arising from the heart. By calm, simple faith the soul holds communion with God and gathers to itself divine rays of light to strengthen and sustain it to endure the conflicts of Satan. God is our tower of strength.14
In the secret place of prayer, where no eye but God’s can see, no ear but His can hear, we may pour out our most hidden desires and longings to the Father of infinite pity, and in the hush and silence of the soul that voice which never fails to answer the cry of human need will speak to our hearts. . . .
Those who seek God in secret telling the Lord their needs and pleading for help, will not plead in vain.15
My heavenly Father, we come to Thee at this time just as we are—poor and needy and helpless—unless Thou wilt take hold of our case. And Thou hast said, “Let him take hold of My strength, and make peace with Me: and He shall make peace with Me.”
May the petition of this congregation come up before Thee at this time as a power before Thy throne. We know that our Saviour is presenting His hands before Thee, saying, “I have graven them upon the palms of My hands.” Oh, God, I plead with Thee, for Christ’s sake, that Thou wilt accept our petitions for these that are going away. They know not what is before them; but they have Thy promise that Thy righteousness shall go before them, and that the glory of the Lord shall be their rearward.
We love Thee, our Saviour; and we desire to see gathered into Thy fold every soul that it is possible to save. Imbue, we beseech Thee, this whole congregation with Thy holiness upon this Sabbath day. Oh, may the light of heaven shine forth upon Thy people here. Let the Holy Spirit rest upon those who shall leave us. We have told them, Lord, that we would pray for them; and we now present our petitions in their behalf, praying that Thou wouldst help them to put on the whole armor of God. Take them in charge, Lord, and prepare them this day for service. Oh, my Lord, I beseech of Thee that Thou wouldst open doors where they can enter. Here are some who are preparing to go to China in a little while. Fit them for service, Lord; give them courage; prepare the way before them. They have been learning how to present the truth of God to those of their own nationality; and wilt Thou help them, my Father?
I beseech Thee, Lord, to arouse the church as they never have been aroused before. Oh, stir up their hearts, Lord. Many of them are now in a paralyzed condition, because they have done so little; but when they begin to use their capabilities for Thee, we know that Thou wilt give them Thy reviving power. Oh, my heavenly Father, I ask Thee that for the sake of Jesus of Nazareth, Thou wouldst bless this entire congregation. Let the sinners in Zion feel the convicting power of God upon them. Let them tremble before Thee, lest they neglect to seek thee until it is too late. I ask Thee, Lord, to open their hearts to receive the Saviour, who has been knocking, knocking, knocking for entrance, until the hairs of His head are wet with the dew of night. Oh, my Father, my Father, wilt Thou, for the sake of Christ, move upon every heart in this congregation!
I ask Thee, Jesus, that the salvation of God may be revealed, and that those of our people who by their donations have helped so nobly to carry the work, will not become weary in well doing. We know that call after call comes to them; but O my Father, Thou art giving to them gift upon gift, and art letting them have the blessings of the dew, the sunshine, and the showers, making their fields fruitful.
I ask Thee, my heavenly Father, that the rich blessing of heaven may fall upon this congregation when, after returning to their homes, they try in their humble way to visit their neighbors, to help those who are sick, and to do missionary work wherever they are.
Oh, my Father, my Father, I look right to Thee. Thou hast heard my petition so many times. I believe in Thee; I rejoice in Thee; and I know that Thy word will be verified.
Bless the sinners here. Bless the youth here. As they go to our schools to become educated, fit them up, that they may become missionaries for God. Take them as they are. Encircle them in the arms of thy mercy, and love them freely, and Thy blessed name shall have all the glory when the human family shall be gathered home by Thee—when we shall unite as members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King.
Oh, I thank Thee that we have a God who hears prayer; that we have a Saviour who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities; and that we have the privilege of working for the salvation of souls. Bless our ministers; imbue them with Thy power. Let the Holy Ghost come upon them. Oh, let heaven be opened, and let the light of Thy glory be revealed, and let it be known that there is a God in Israel who hears and answers prayer.
And now we commit all to Thee. We know that these missionaries will be kept by Thy power; for Thou alone canst keep them; and Thy blessed name shall have all the praise, all the glory, now and forevermore. Amen.16