Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Piper's Pen and Prose: Learning How to Pray

I just finished reading Andrew Murray’s With Christ in the School of Prayer . What a wonderful classic that every Christian should read. It is impossible for me to quote the entire book, so I shared the prose that pricked my heart in a good, powerful way. I pray you are encouraged by them too.

I pray that these few musings will ignite in you a desire to communicate with your Heavenly Father, to know Him and to experience Him in a powerful way.~

~The more we abide in Him, and grow unto His likeness, will His priestly life work in us mightily, and our life become what His is, a life that ever pleads and prevails for men.
~It is only when the Church gives herself up to this holy work of intercession that we can expect the power of Christ to manifest itself in her behalf

Lesson I
~Though in its beginnings prayer is so simple that the feeblest child can pray, yet it is at the same time the highest and holiest work to which man can rise.   It is fellowship with the Unseen and Most Holy One.

~Nothing delights Him more than to find those whom He can take with Him into the Father’s presence, whom He can clothe with power to pray down God’s blessing on those around them, whom He can train to be His fellow-workers in the intercession by which the kingdom is to be revealed on earth. 

~Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach, only how to pray.

Lesson II
~From the connection it is evident that the words ‘in spirit and truth’ do not mean, as is often thought, earnestly, from the heart, in sincerity.

~Jesus says, ‘The hour is coming, and now is;’ it is only in and through Him that the worship of God will be in spirit and truth.
~A man, who seeks to pray earnestly in the church or in the closet, spends the greater part of the week or the day in a spirit entirely at variance with that in which he prayed.  His worship was the work of a fixed place or hour, not of his whole being.  God is a Spirit:  He is the Everlasting and Unchangeable One; what He is, He is always and in truth.  Our worship must even so be in spirit and truth:  His worship must be the spirit of our life; our life must be worship in spirit as God is Spirit.

And in truth.  That does not only mean, in sincerity.  Nor does it only signify, in accordance with the truth of God’s Word.  The expression is one of deep and Divine meaning.  Jesus is ‘the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.’  ‘The law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’  Jesus says, ‘I am the truth and the life.’  In the Old Testament all was shadow and promise

~And so worship in spirit is worship in truth; actual living fellowship with God, a real correspondence and harmony between the Father, who is a Spirit, and the child praying in the spirit.

Lesson III
~There alone, but there most surely, Jesus comes to us to teach us to pray.

~A teacher is always anxious that his schoolroom should be bright and attractive, filled with the light and air of heaven, a place where pupils long to come, and love to stay.  

~The first thing in closet-prayer is:  I must meet my Father.  The light that shines in the closet must be:  the light of the Father’s countenance.

~Do not be thinking of how little you have to bring God, but of how much He wants to give you. 

~O do what Jesus says:  Just shut the door, and pray to thy Father which is in secret.  Is it not wonderful?  To be able to go alone with God, the infinite God.  And then to look up and say:  My Father!

Lesson IV
~The little child may ask of the father only what it needs for itself; and yet it soon learns to say, Give some for sister too.  But the grown-up son, who only lives for the father’s interest and takes charge of the father’s business, asks more largely, and gets all that is asked.  And Jesus would train us to the blessed life of consecration and service, in which our interests are all subordinate to the Name, and the Kingdom, and the Will of the Father.  O let us live for this, and let, on each act of adoration, Our Father! There follow in the same breath ThyName, Thy Kingdom, Thy Will;—for this we look up and long.

Lesson V
~It is one of the terrible marks of the diseased state of Christian life in these days, that there are so many who rest content without the distinct experience of answer to prayer.  They pray daily, they ask many things, and trust that some of them will be heard, but know little of direct definite answer to prayer as the rule of daily life.

Lesson VI
~And so the lesson we have today in the school of prayer is this:  Live as a child of God, then you will be able to pray as a child, and as a child you will most assuredly be heard.

~This is the one chief thought on which Jesus dwells here, and which He would have all His scholars take in.  He would have us see that the secret of effectual prayer is:  to have the heart filled with the Father-love of God.

~He tells us the first is the highest lesson; we must learn to say well, ‘Abba, Father!’  ‘Our Father which art in heaven.’  He that can say this, has the key to all prayer.  In all the compassion with which a father listens to his weak or sickly child, in all the joy with which he hears his stammering child, in all the gentle patience with which he bears with a thoughtless child, we must, as in so many mirrors, study the heart of our Father, until every prayer be borne upward on the faith of this Divine word:  ‘How much more shall your heavenly Father give good gifts to them that ask Him.’

Lesson IX
~How little Christians really feel and mourn the need of labourers in the fields of the world so white to the harvest.  And how little they believe that our labour-supply depends on prayer, that prayer will really provide ‘as many as he needeth.’  Not that the dearth of labour is not known or discussed. 

~O give us to see aright the spiritual realities of which Thou hast been speaking.  There is the harvest which is so large, and perishing, as it waits for sleepy disciples to give the signal for labourers to come.  Lord, teach us to look out upon it with a heart moved with compassion and pity.  There are the labourers, so few.  Lord, show us how terrible the sin of the want of prayer and faith, of which this is the token.  And there is the Lord of the harvest, so able and ready to send them forth.  Lord, show us how He does indeed wait for the prayer to which He has bound His answer.  And there are the disciples, to whom the commission to pray has been given:  Lord, show us how Thou canst pour down Thy Spirit and breathe upon them, so that Thy compassion and the faith in Thy promise shall rouse them to unceasing, prevailing prayer.

Lesson XIX
~The Lord gave the wonderful promise of the free use of His Name with the Father in connection with the doing of His works.  It is the disciple who gives himself wholly to live for Jesus’ work and kingdom, for His will and honour, to whom the power will come to appropriate the promise.  He that would fain grasp the promise when he wants something very special for himself, will be disappointed, because he would make Jesus the servant of his own comfort.  But to him who seeks to pray the effectual prayer of faith, because he needs it for the work of the Master, to him it will be given to learn it; because he has made himself the servant of his Lord’s interests.  Prayer not only teaches and strengthens to work:  work teaches and strengthens to pray.

~let us with the small measure of grace already received, give ourselves to the Master for His work:  work will be to us a real school of prayer.

~It was when Moses had to take full charge of a rebellious people that he felt the need, but also the courage, to speak boldly to God and to ask great things of Him (Ex. xxxiii. 12, 15, 18).  As you give yourself entirely to God for His work, you will feel that nothing less than these great promises are what you need, that nothing less is what you may most confidently expect.
~Believer in Jesus!  You are called, you are appointed, to do the works of Jesus, and even greater works, because He has gone to the Father to receive the power to do them in and through you.
~Whatsoever ye shall ask in my Name, that will I do.  Give yourself, and live, to do the works of Christ and you will learn to pray so as to obtain wonderful answers to prayer.  Give yourself, and live, to pray and you will learn to do the works He did, and greater works.  With disciples full of faith in Himself, and bold in prayer to ask great things, Christ can conquer the world.
Lesson XX
~THAT the Father may be glorified in the Son: it is to this end that Jesus on His throne in glory will do all we ask in His Name.  Every answer to prayer He gives will have this as its object:  when there is no prospect of this object being obtained, He will not answer.   It follows as a matter of course that this must be with us, as with Jesus, the essential element in our petitions:  the glory of the Father must be the aim and end, the very soul and life of our prayer.

~For the sake of God’s glory, let us learn to pray well.

~No wonder that there are so many unanswered prayers:  here we have the secret.  God would not be glorified when that glory was not our object.  He that would pray the prayer of faith, will have to give himself to live literally so that the Father in all things may be glorified in him.

Lesson XXII
~To offer a prayer—to give utterance to certain wishes and to appeal to certain promises—is an easy thing, and can be learned of man by human wisdom.  But to pray in the Spirit, to speak words that reach and touch God, that affect and influence the powers of the unseen world,—such praying, such speaking, depends entirely upon our hearing God’s voice.  Just as far as we listen to the voice and language that God speaks, and in the words of God receive His thoughts, His mind, His life, into our heart, we shall learn to speak in the voice and the language that God hears.  It is the ear of the learner, wakened morning by morning, that prepares for the tongue of the learned, to speak to God as well as men, as should be (Isa. l. 4).

~According to Thy word;’ in such expressions they showed that what God spake in promise was the root and the life of what they spake in prayer. 

Lesson XXIII
~What we need is to realize that in our relationship to the Infinite Being whom we call God who has created and redeemed us, the first sentiment that ought to animate us is that of subjection:  the surrender to His supremacy, His glory, His will, His pleasure, ought to be the first and uppermost thought of our life.  The question is not, how we are to obtain and enjoy His favour, for in this the main thing may still be self.  But what this Being in the very nature of things rightfully claims, and is infinitely and unspeakably worthy of, is that His glory and pleasure should be my one object.  Surrender to His perfect and blessed will, a life of service and obedience, is the beauty and the charm of heaven.  Service and obedience, these were the thoughts that were uppermost in the mind of the Son, when He dwelt upon earth.  Service and obedience, these must become with us the chief objects of desire and aim, more so than rest or light, or joy or strength:  in them we shall find the path to all the higher blessedness that awaits us.

~It is the man who is entirely consecrated to God and His will who will find the power come to claim everything that His God has promised to be for him.

~O how often we have sought to be able to pray the effectual prayer for much grace to bear fruit, and have wondered that the answer came not.  It was because we were reversing the Master’s order.  We wanted to have the comfort and the joy and the strength first, that we might do the work easily and without any feeling of difficulty or self-sacrifice.  And He wanted us in faith, without asking whether we felt weak or strong, whether the work was hard or easy, in the obedience of faith to do what He said:  the path of fruit-bearing would have led us to the place and the power of prevailing prayer.  Obedience is the only path that leads to the glory of God.  Not obedience instead of faith, nor obedience to supply the shortcomings of faith; no, but faith’s obedience gives access to all the blessings our God has for us.  The baptism of the Spirit (xiv. 16), the manifestation of the Son (xiv. 21), the indwelling of the Father (xiv. 23), the abiding in Christ’s love (xv. 10), the privilege of His holy friendship (xv. 14), and the power of all-prevailing prayer (xv. 16),—all wait for the obedient.

Lesson XXIV
~WHATSOEVER ye shall ask in my Name, that will I do.’  Jesus means the promise literally.  Christians have sought to limit it:  it looked too free; it was hardly safe to trust man so unconditionally.  We did not understand that the word ‘in my Name’ is its own safeguard.  It is a spiritual power which no one can use further than he obtains the capacity for, by his living and acting in that Name.  As we bear that Name before men, we have power to use it before God.  O let us plead for God’s Holy Spirit to show us what the Name means, and what the right use of it is.  It is through the Spirit that the Name, which is above every name in heaven, will take the place of supremacy in our heart and life too. 

~Disciples of Jesus!  Let the lessons of this day enter deep into your hearts.  The Master says:  Only pray in my Name; whatsoever ye ask will be given.  Heaven is set open to you; the treasures and powers of the world of spirit are placed at your disposal on behalf of men around you.  O come, and let us learn to pray in the Name of Jesus.  As to the disciples, He says to us, ‘Hitherto ye have not asked in my Name:  ask, and ye shall receive.’  Let each disciple of Jesus seek to avail himself of the rights of his royal priesthood, and use the power placed at his disposal for his circle and his work.  Let Christians awake and hear the message:  your prayer can obtain what otherwise will be withheld, can accomplish what otherwise remains undone.  O awake, and use the name of Jesus to open the treasures of heaven for this perishing world.  Learn as the servants of the King to use His Name:  ‘WHATSOEVER ye shall ask in my Name, THAT WILL I DO.’ 

~Lord!  Teach me what it is to pray in Thy Name.  Teach me so to live and act, to walk and speak, so to do all in the Name of Jesus, that my prayer cannot be anything else but in that blessed Name too.

Lesson XXV
~Brother!  What we need to pray in the Name of Christ, to ask that we may receive that our joy may be full, is the baptism of this Holy Ghost.  This is more than the Spirit of God under the Old Testament.  This is more than the Spirit of conversion and regeneration the disciples had before Pentecost.  This is more than the Spirit with a measure of His influence and working.  This is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the glorified Jesus in His exaltation-power, coming on us as the Spirit of the indwelling Jesus, revealing the Son and the Father within.  (John xiv. 16-23.)

~It is the Spirit dwelling within us that prays, not in words and thoughts always, but in a breathing and a being deeper than utterance.  Just so much as there is of Christ’s Spirit in us, is there real prayer.  Our lives, our lives, O let our lives be full of Christ, and full of His Spirit, and the wonderfully unlimited promises to our prayer will no longer appear strange.  ‘Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my Name.  Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.  At that day ye shall ask in my Name.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the father in my Name, He will give it you.’

~Prayer has often been compared to breathing:  we have only to carry out the comparison fully to see how wonderful the place is which the Holy Spirit occupies.  With every breath we expel the impure air which would soon cause our death, and inhale again the fresh air to which we owe our life.  So we give out from us, in confession the sins, in prayer the needs and the desires of our heart.  And in drawing in our breath again, we inhale the fresh air of the promises, and the love, and the life of God in Christ.  We do this through the Holy Spirit, who is the breath of our life.

~And this He is because He is the breath of God.  The Father breathes Him into us, to unite Himself with our life.  And then just as on every expiration there follows again the inhaling or drawing in of the breath, so God draws in again His breath, and the Spirit returns to Him laden with the desires and needs of our hearts.  And thus the Holy Spirit is the breath of the life of God, and the breath of the new life in us.  As God breathes Him out, we receive Him in answer to prayer; as we breathe Him back again, He rises to God laden with our supplications.  As the Spirit of God, in whom the Father and the Son are one, and the intercession of the Son reaches the Father, He is to us the Spirit of prayer.  True prayer is the living experience of the truth of the Holy Trinity.  The Spirit’s breathing, the Son’s intercession, the Father’s will, these three become one in us.

Lesson XXVI
~The Christian life is no longer the vain struggle to live right, but the resting in Christ and finding strength in Him as our life, to fight the fight and gain the victory of faith.

~His life in us is an ever-praying life.  When it descends and takes possession of us, it does not lose its character; in us too it is the every-praying life—a life that without ceasing asks and receives from God. 

Lesson XXVII
~This prayer is ordinarily divided into three parts.  Our Lord first prays for Himself (v. 1-5), then for His disciples (6-19), and last for all the believing people through all ages (20-26).  The follower of Jesus, who gives himself to the work of intercession, and would fain try how much of blessing he can pray down upon his circle in the Name of Jesus, will in all humility let himself be led of the Spirit to study this wonderful prayer as one of the most important lessons of the school of prayer. 

~First of all, Jesus prays for Himself, for His being glorified, that so He may glorify the Father.  ‘Father! Glorify Thy Son.  And now, Father, glorify me.’  And He brings forward the grounds on which He thus prays.  A holy covenant had been concluded between the Father and the Son in heaven.  The Father had promised Him power over all flesh as the reward of His work:  He had done the work, He had glorified the Father, and His one purpose is now still further to glorify Him.  With the utmost boldness He asks that the Father may glorify Him that He may now be and do for His people all He has undertaken. 

~Disciple of Jesus!  Here you have the first lesson in your work of priestly intercession, to be learned from the example of your great High Priest.  To pray in the Name of Jesus is to pray in unity, in sympathy with Him.  As the Son began His prayer by making clear His relation to the Father, pleading His work and obedience and His desire to see the Father glorified, do so too.  Draw near and appear before the Father in Christ.  Plead His finished work.  Say that you are one with it, that you trust on it, live in it.  Say that you too have given yourself to finish the work the Father has given you to do, and to live alone for His glory.  And ask then confidently that the Son may be glorified in you.  This is praying in the Name, in the very words, in the Spirit of Jesus, in union with Jesus Himself.  Such prayer has power.  If with Jesus you glorify the Father, the Father will glorify Jesus by doing what you ask in His Name.  It is only when your own personal relation on this point, like Christ’s, is clear with God, when you are glorifying Him, and seeking all for His glory, that like Christ, you will have power to intercede for those around you. 
 ~Our Lord next prays for the circle of His disciples.  He speaks of them as those whom the Father has given Him.  Their chief mark is that they have received Christ’s word.  He says of them that He now sends them into the world in His place, just as the Father had sent Himself.  And He asks two things for them:  that the Father keep them from the evil one, and sanctify them through His Word, because He sanctifies Himself for them. 

~Just like the Lord, each believing intercessor has his own immediate circle for whom he first prays.  Parents have their children, teachers their pupils, pastors their flocks, all workers their special charge, all believers those whose care lies upon their hearts.  It is of great consequence that intercession should be personal, pointed, and definite.  And then our first prayer must always be that they may receive the word.  But this prayer will not avail unless with our Lord we say, ‘I have given them Thy word:’ it is this gives us liberty and power in intercession for souls.  Not only pray for them, but speak to them.  And when they have received the word, let us pray much for their being kept from the evil one, for their being sanctified through that word.  Instead of being hopeless or judging or giving up those who fall, let us pray for our circle, ‘Father!  Keep them in Thy Name;’ ‘Sanctify them through Thy truth.’  Prayer in the Name of Jesus availeth much:  ‘What ye will shall be done unto you.’ 

~And then follows our Lord’s Prayer for a still wider circle.  ‘I pray not only for these, but for them who through their word shall believe.’  His priestly heart enlarges itself to embrace all places and all time, and He prays that all who belong to Him may everywhere be one, as God’s proof to the world of the divinity of His mission, and then that they may ever be with Him in His glory.  Until then ‘that the love wherewith Thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.’ 

~The disciple of Jesus, who has first in his own circle proved the power of prayer, cannot confine himself within its limits:   he prays for the Church universal and its different branches.  He prays specially for the unity of the Spirit and of love.  He prays for its being one in Christ, as a witness to the world that Christ, who hath wrought such a wonder as to make love triumph over selfishness and separation, is indeed the Son of God sent from heaven.  Every believer ought to pray much that the unity of the Church, not in external organizations, but in spirit and in truth, may be made manifest. 

~So much for the matter of the prayer.  Now for its mode.  Jesus says, ‘FATHER!  I WILL.’  On the ground of His right as Son, and the Father’s promise to Him, and His finished work, He might do so.  The Father had said to Him, ‘Ask of me, and I will give Thee.’  He simply availed Himself of the Father’s promise.  Jesus has given us a like promise:  ‘Whatsoever ye will shall be done unto you.’  He asks me in His Name to say what I will.  Abiding in Him, in a living union with Him in which man is nothing and Christ all, the believer has the liberty to take up that word of His High Priest and, in answer to the question ‘What wilt thou?’ to say, ‘FATHER!  I WILL all that Thou hast promised.’  This is nothing but true faith; this is honouring God:  to be assured that such confidence in saying what I will is indeed acceptable to Him.  At first sight, our heart shrinks from the expression; we feel neither the liberty nor the power to speak thus.  It is a word for which alone in the most entire abnegation of our will grace will be given, but for which grace will most assuredly be given to each one who loses his will in his Lord’s.  He that loseth his will shall find it; he that gives up his will entirely shall find it again renewed and strengthened with a Divine Strength.  ‘FATHER!  I WILL:’ this is the keynote of the everlasting, ever-active, all-prevailing intercession of our Lord in heaven.  It is only in union with Him that our prayer avails; in union with Him it avails much.  If we but abide in Him, living, and walking, and doing all things in His Name; if we but come and bring each separate petition, tested and touched by His Word and Spirit, and cast it into the mighty stream of intercession that goes up from Him, to be borne upward and presented before the Father;—we shall have the full confidence that we receive the petitions we ask:  the ‘Father!  I will’ will be breathed into us by the Spirit Himself.  We shall lose ourselves in Him, and become nothing, to find that in our impotence we have power and prevail. 

~Disciples of Jesus!  Called to be like your Lord in His priestly intercession, when, O when!  Shall we awaken to the glory, passing all conception, of this our destiny to plead and prevail with God for perishing men?  O when shall we shake off the sloth that clothes itself with the pretense of humility, and yield ourselves wholly to God’s Spirit, that He may fill our wills with light and with power, to know, and to take, and to possess all that our God is waiting to give to a will that lays hold on Him. 

~Into Thy hands I would believingly yield my whole being:  form, train, inspire me to be one of Thy prayer-legion, wrestlers who watch and strive in prayer, Israel’s, God’s princes, who have power and prevail. 

~Yes, in Him, as He bows there in Gethsemane, I must abide.  As my Head, He not only once suffered for me, but ever lives in me, breathing and working His own disposition in me too.  The Eternal Spirit, through which He offered Himself unto God, is the Spirit that dwells in me too, and makes me partaker of the very same obedience, and the sacrifice of the will unto God.  That Spirit teaches me to yield my will entirely to the will of the Father, to give it up even unto the death, in Christ to be dead to it. 

Lesson XXIX
~In the word the Father has revealed in general promises the great principles of His will with His people.  The child has to take the promise and apply it to the special circumstances in His life to which it has reference.  Whatever he asks within the limits of that revealed will, he can know to be according to the will of God, and he may confidently expect.  In His word, God has given us the revelation of His will and plans with us, with His people, and with the world, with the most precious promises of the grace and power with which through His people He will carry out His plans and do His work.

~But this apprehension of God’s will is something spiritual, and must be spiritually discerned.  It is not as a matter of logic that we can argue it out:  God has said it; I must have it.  Nor has every Christian the same gift or calling.  While the general will revealed in the promise is the same for all, there is for each one a special different will according to God’s purpose.  And herein is the wisdom of the saints, to know this special will of God for each of us, according to the measure of grace given us, and so to ask in prayer just what God has prepared and made possible for each.  It is to communicate this wisdom that the Holy Ghost dwells in us.  The personal application of the general promises of the word to our special personal needs—it is for this that the leading of the Holy Spirit is given us.

~O let us no longer throw the blame of our unanswered prayers on the secret will of God, but on our praying amiss.  Let that word, ‘Ye receive not because ye ask amiss,’ be as thelantern of the Lord, searching heart and life to prove that we are indeed such as those to whom Christ gave His promises of certain answers.  Let us believe that we can know if our prayer be according to God’s will.  Let us yield our heart to have the word of the Father dwell richly there, to have Christ’s word abiding in us.  Let us live day by day with the anointing which teacheth us all things.  Let us yield ourselves unreservedly to the Holy Spirit as He teaches us to abide in Christ, to dwell in the Father’s presence, and we shall soon understand how the Father’s love longs that the child should know His will, and should, in the confidence that that will includes all that His power and love have promised to do, know too that He hears the petitions which we ask of Him.  ‘This is the boldness which we have, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.’

Lesson XXX
~And as the blood gives the right, the Spirit gives the power, and fits for believing intercession.  He breathes into us the priestly spirit—burning love for God’s honour and the saving of souls.  He makes us so one with Jesus that prayer in His Name is a reality.  He strengthens us to believing, importunate prayer.  The more the Christian is truly filled with the Spirit of Christ, the more spontaneous will be his giving himself up to the life of priestly intercession.  Beloved fellow-Christians!  God needs, greatly needs, priests who can draw near to Him, who live in His presence, and by their intercession draw down the blessings of His grace on others.  And the world needs, greatly needs, priests who will bear the burden of the perishing ones, and intercede on their behalf. 

Lesson XXXI
~Because everything is weighed and tested by the one thing that fills the heart—the glory of God, and because the soul has learnt that only what is of God can really be to Him and His glory, the whole life becomes a looking up, a crying from the inmost heart, for God to prove His power and love and so show forth His glory.  The believer awakes to the consciousness that he is one of the watchmen on Zion’s walls, one of the Lord’s remembrancers, whose call does really touch and move the King in heaven to do what would otherwise not be done

~To forget oneself, to live for God and His kingdom among men, is the way to learn to pray without ceasing.

George Muller Prayer and Trust in God
~There are other points on which I would be glad to point out what is to be found in Mr. Muller’s narrative, but one more must suffice.  It is the lesson of firm and unwavering trust in God’s promise as the secret of persevering prayer.  If once we have, in submission to the teaching of the Spirit in the word, taken hold of God’s promise, and believed that the Father has heard us, we must not allow ourselves by any delay or unfavourable appearances be shaken in our faith.
~Patient, persevering, believing prayer, offered up to God, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, has always, sooner or later, brought the blessing.  I do not despair, by God’s grace, of obtaining any blessing, provided I can be sure it would be for any real good, and for the glory of God.

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