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PRAYER is measured, not by time, but by intensity.
Earnest souls who read of men like Praying Hyde are today
anxiously asking, "Are we expected to pray like that?"
We hear of others who sometimes remain on
their knees before God all day or all night, refusing food
and scorning sleep, whilst they pray and pray and pray. We
naturally wonder, "Are we to do the same? Must all of us
follow their examples?" We must remember that those men of
prayer did not pray by time. They continued so long in
prayer because they could not stop praying.
Some have ventured to think that we must all
follow in their train. Let's not let any such thought --
such fear? -- distress us. Let's just be willing to do what
He will have us do---what He leads us to do. Let's think
about it; pray about it. We're bidden by the Lord Jesus to
pray to our loving Heavenly Father. We sometimes sing, "Oh,
how He loves!" And nothing can fathom that love.
Prayer is not given us as a burden to be
borne, or an irksome duty to fulfil, but to be a joy and
power to which there is no limit. It's given us that we "may
find grace to help us in time of need." (Heb. 4:16, R.V.)
And every time is a "time of need." "Pray ye" is an
invitation to be accepted rather than a command to be
obeyed. Is it a burden for a child to come to his father to
ask for some boon? How a father loves his child, and seeks
its highest good! How he shields that little one from any
sorrow or pain or suffering! Our heavenly Father loves us
infinitely more than any earthly father. The Lord Jesus
loves us infinitely more than any earthly friend. God
forgive me if any words of mine, on such a precious theme as
prayer, have wounded the hearts or consciences of those who
are yearning to know more about prayer. "Your heavenly
Father knoweth," said our Lord: and if He knows, we can but
trust and not be afraid.
A schoolmaster may blame a boy for neglected
homework, or unpunctual attendance, or frequent absence; but
the loving father in the home knows all about it. He knows
all about the devoted service of the little laddie in the
home circle, where sickness or poverty throws so many loving
tasks in his way. Our dear, loving Father knows all about
us. He sees. He knows how little leisure some of us have for
prolonged periods of prayer.
For some of us, God makes leisure. He makes
us lie down (Psa. 23:2) that He may make us look up. Even
then, weakness of body often prevents prolonged prayer. Yet
I question if any of us, however great and reasonable our
excuses, spend enough thought over our prayers. Some of us
are bound to be much in prayer. Our very work demands it. We
may be looked upon as spiritual leaders; we may have the
spiritual welfare or training of others. God forbid that we
should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray enough for
them. (I Sam. 12:23) Yes, with some it is our very
business---almost our life's work---to pray, Others--- Have
friends who give them pain, Yet have not sought a friend in
Him. For them they cannot help praying.
If we have the burden of souls upon us, we
shall never ask, "How long need I pray?"
But how will we know the difficulties, which
surround the prayer-life of many! A little pile of letters
lies before me as I write. They are full of excuses, and
kindly protests, and reasonings it is true. But is that why
they're written? No! No! Far from it. In every one of them
there's an undercurrent of deep yearning to know God's will,
and how to obey the call to prayer amid all the countless
claims of life.
Those letters tell of many, who can't get
away from others for times of secret prayer; of those who
share even bedrooms; of busy mothers, and maids, and
mistresses who scarcely know how to get through the endless
washing and cooking, mending and cleaning, shopping and
visiting; of tired workers, who are too weary to pray when
the day's work is done.
Our heavenly Father knows all about it! He's
not a taskmaster. He's our Father! If we have no time for
prayer, or no chance of secret prayer, why, let's just tell
Him all about it---and we'll discover that we're praying!
To those who seem unable to get any solitude
at all, or even the opportunity of stealing into a quiet
church for a few moments, may we point to the wonderful
prayer-life of St. Paul ? Did it ever occur to us that he
was in prison when he wrote most of those marvelous prayers
of his which we possess? Picture him. He was chained to a
Roman soldier day and night, and was never alone for a
moment. Epaphias was there part of the time, and caught
something of his master's passion for prayer. St. Luke may
have been there. What prayer-meetings! No opportunity for
secret prayer. No! but how much we owe to the uplifting of
those chained hands! You and I may never be, or rarely ever,
alone, but at least our hands are not fettered with chains,
and our hearts are not fettered, nor our lips.
Can we make time for prayer? I may be wrong,
but my own belief is, that it's not God's will for most of
us---and perhaps not for any of us---to spend so much time
in prayer as to injure our physical health through getting
insufficient food or sleep. With very many it's a physical
impossibility, because of bodily weakness, to remain long in
the spirit of intense prayer.
The posture in which we pray is immaterial,
I think. God will listen whether we kneel, or stand, or sit,
or walk, or work.
We're quite aware that many have testified
to the fact that God sometimes gives special strength to
those who curtail their hours of rest in order to pray more.
At one time, the writer tried getting up very early in the
morning---and every morning---for prayer and communion with
God. After a time he found that his daily work was suffering
in intensity and effectiveness, and that it was difficult to
keep awake during the early evening hours! But do we pray as
much as we might do? It's a lasting regret to me that I
allowed the days of youth and vigor to pass by without
laying more stress upon those early hours of prayer.
Now, the inspired command is clear enough:
"Pray without ceasing." (I Thess. v. 17) Our dear Lord said,
"Men ought always to pray, and not to faint" -- "and never
lose heart." (Weymouth) (Luke 18:1)
This, of course, cannot mean that we are to
be always on our knees. I'm convinced that God does not wish
us to neglect rightful work in order to pray. But it is
equally certain that we might work better and do more work
if we gave less time to work and more to prayer.
Let's work well. We're to be "not slothful
in business." (Rom. 7:11) St. Paul says, "We exhort you,
brethren, that ye abound more and more; and that ye. . . do
your own business, and to work with your hands. . . that ye
may walk honestly . . . and have need of nothing." (I Thess.
4:11, 12). "If any will not work, neither let him eat." (I
But are there not endless opportunities
during every day of "lifting, up holy hands" -- or at least
holy hearts -- in prayer to our Father? Do we seize the
opportunity, as we open our eyes upon each new day, of
praising and blessing our Redeemer? Every day is an Easter
day to the Christian. We can pray as we dress. Without a
reminder we shall often forget. Stick a piece of stamp-paper
in the corner of your mirror, bearing the words, -- "Pray
without ceasing." Try it. We can pray as we go from one duty
to another. We can often pray at our work. The washing and
the writing, the mending and the minding, the cooking and
the cleaning will be done all the better for it.
Do not children, both young and old, work
better and play better when some loved one is watching? Will
it not help us ever to remember that the Lord Jesus is
always with us, watching? Aye, and helping.
The very consciousness of His eye upon us
will be the consciousness of His power within us. [ The End