Chapter IV Prayer

Unconsidered Prayer.––It is hard to separate the functions of the Soul, because, indeed, all work together; but it is necessary to fulness of life that we should have continual speech with God, and also––though the soul is abashed before the greatness and sweetness of this hope––continual answering speech. These things are a necessity of that intimate union with our Father for which we are made. A hundred times a day our thoughts turn Godward in penitence, in desire, in fear, in aspiration, and––this is a truly delightful thought––in sympathy. Our hearts glow with delight at the blue of a gentian, the glory of a star, the grace of some goodness that we get news of: we lift up our hearts unto the Lord, though without a word; and the throb is one of sympathy, for we know that His delight, also, is in beauty and goodness.

Response.––These continual movements of the soul Godward hardly seem to us to be prayer, but they meet with response. We cry in fear, and hope is spoken to us; in penitence, and we breathe peace; in sympathy, and we expand in love. These are the answers of our 'Almighty Lover' to the dull, uncertain movements of our poor hearts. We all know how prayers for definite things have a thousand times brought answers which we have recognised; even the wilful prayer, which does not add, 'Thy will be done,' is not without its answer; the passionate heart is calmed; we learn to see God's way of looking at the matter, and are quiet.

Probably most persons who are seeking the knowledge of God would say, that, never once in the course of a long life has a prayer remained unanswered; but, that they have had in every case an answer which has reached their consciousness.

The walls of Jericho have fallen before them, the Jordan has been divided, their enemies have been smitten on the field of battle; and these things have come to pass in natural, unobvious ways, without any interference with what men call the laws of nature, but none the less supernatural, because they are over nature, above nature, ordered by Him who doth "refrain the spirit of princes," and "the hearts of kings are in whose rule and governance."

Habitual Prayer.––But, though there is this continual commerce between God and the Soul, the habit of prayer must be strengthened by set seasons, places, and purposes. We must give ourselves time to pray and times of prayer; rising early in the morning, we must seek our God and lay our day before Him, with its fears, hopes, and desires, in reverent attitude and with attentive mind. We must bring those who are dear to us for the blessing of our Father, and those in sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity, for His help. As the habit of prayer becomes confirmed, we shall be constrained to go abroad and help, while yet upon our knees.

Every record of war or famine, ignorance, crime, distress, will quicken our prayers. As we pray, our love for all men will increase, and ways of help will offer. We shall remember our Lord's caution against using many words, for our God is in heaven and we upon earth; and, therefore, before we kneel to pray we shall meditate.

   "Ye are coming to a King;
   Large petitions with you bring,"––

but they must be petitions thought out with purpose and winged with strong desire. Though

   "Prayer is the breathing of a sigh,
   The falling of a tear,
   The upward glancing of an eye
   When none but God is near,"––

yet, we must not neglect the ordered and purposeful approaches to our God wherein the soul stretches her wings.

"Watch and pray."