Page images
PDF
EPUB

were engaged in altercation with a man, blaming him for a dirty trick. You know that he need not have done it; he knows it, too. You come into the presence of one whose face reminds you of a noble and unselfish act, and you think, I wish I were like him. He need not have been what he is; it is grand that he chose the higher. You would never get men to believe that the world is so colourless, so automatic, that men have no power of self-direction and self-control. This power may be much more limited than you think. I am prepared to conclude that in many instances moral responsibility is not so great as the bystanders imagine; but it is always there, however small the circle within which it is exercised. A man remains a man with the God-like faculty of willing the right and avoiding the wrong. Once you have admitted that factor of uncertainty, which experience always testifies to, you have admitted the possibility, nay, the imperative probability, of answer to prayer. For if you can take the helm out of the hands of God, you can put it back; if you are free to do wrong, you are free to pray, “ God be merciful to me a sinner”; if you are free to exercise influence over any man, you are free to pray to the Giver of the awful gift that He would help you in the exercise thereof. If you are free as a spirit to commune with the Father of spirits, you are free to transcend law. For what is law but your experience of the dependableness of God? We talk as if law was something inexorable and to be afraid of. Law presumes the Lawgiver; it is personality at the back, a consistent God who ordains the things upon which you can depend. Under the uniformity of nature there exists an inexhaustible variety. No flower will ever grow in the same spot as another; you never have two leaves in the vegetable world alike. Under the operation of law, unceasing as it is, God is making a differentiation all the time. Your life is different from that of the man who sits next to you, and though there be a Divinity that shapes your ends, rough-hew them how you will, there is power left for you to refer thought, act, and purpose back to God, who gave you the power of self-direction and self-control.

Prayer is the reinforcement of human endeavour; it is not the substitute for it. Prayer is the enlargement of your personality; prayer is working on power from the unseen-mighty are those who know how to bring it. It is said that the presence of Napoleon on the field of battle was equivalent to a reinforcement of 40,000 men. Why? Because he so increased the fighting value of every separate man, that his mere presence was equivalent to another army. Prayer will do that for you. The man of prayer

is the best kind of man. The man who can go to God when he has done his own best is drawing what the natural man cannot have. The spiritual man is the man of power, because he is the man of prayer.

The latest of fads in the semi-religious world is that which, under various titles, is most commonly described as “Christian Science.” The vogue which this fad has is a rebuke to me and to other preachers of the Gospel. For the only moiety of truth that it contains is the purest Christianity. It tells you of the possibility of a victorious life, a life of victory over ill and suffering, danger and fear; and its votaries say that what is required from those who would be Christian Scientists is power to call and power to trust; in

tune with the Infinite must you be; those who are in tune with the Infinite are masters of their destiny, never the victims of fate. Is that new in the history of the world? It was taught upon the hillside of Galilee nineteen hundred years ago by Him who spake as never man spake; it was taught by John the Beloved, in the words of our text. If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth, and if we know that He heareth, we know that we have conquered. Let there be no mistake about the power which comes into a man's life if he has the gift of prayer.

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,

Oh, what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer." I have often said that if I can get a man to pray, not now and then, but as the habit of his life, I have been the means of saving him. He will be strong, instead of weak; instead of leaning for help upon his fellows, he will be their benefactor and the ambassador of the Unseen. Get a man to pray, and you have made him strong, you have given him faith, you have made him climb; get a man to pray, and the Holy Spirit will shine through him, and the world will be better because he lives.

There no true prayer without its answer. seem a great deal to say, but I would like every young man to remember that point, if he remembers no other. Louis XI. did not pray, but that man did who said, “O God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul.” He looked up, and he stood at his highest; that prayer set heaven in motion. Prayer is just willing Godward. The answer to prayer begins at the moment when you

This may

begin to pray. Somebody prayed this morning a prayer that the preacher did not pray; perhaps nobody prayed it but himself; he does not want to publish what it was. It is of great importance to him, and to him only. Perhaps it was a prayer of wounded love, the cry of a broken heart and of ill-requited affection. It went right to the heart of the Eternal; it was worthy to go. You may have to wait a long time before you see any fruit of it, but that prayer was as the prayer of omnipotence. You took hold, as Christ would take hold, of the hand of the Father, and what is to be in response to the petition has begun now.

Will you who are tempted, who have been fighting a battle with the beast within you, who know what it is to contend against fearful odds in a world of extremes, of light and darkness, sorrow and joy, who feel as if you are being overborne in the battle of life, think of this: Every cry that goes Godward brings its immediate response to the perturbed and anxious heart. For there is always an immediate as well as a deferred answer to prayer. Some prayers are answered quickly, some slowly. All are answered more grandly than the scope of the petition itself, but there is never a failure, and if you can only learn that it is so, there will be no prayer that you will ever pray of which you will not be conscious that God has spoken in the moment of your prayer. It is God's will that you should use yours; it is God's delight to hear you pray. Have you ever gone into the presence of God when you felt as if you could not speak to anybody, as if the world was too black, your confidence in yourself too feeble, that the first thing to do was to get alone somewhere, and speak your thoughts, desires, and anxieties, to the great Friend, the living, loving, helpful One whom eyes cannot see, but whose presence we feel? How did you come out of that presence-chamber? Changed, I warrant; not because circumstances had changed, but because peace had stolen into your heart, and you felt that

God's in His heaven

All's right with the world.”

It was as though a mother had picked up her little child, and soothed its disquiet, and bidden it be still, and promised nothing, but in the love had given all. Just to know Him and to feel Him near is to have all your prayers answered before the answer to one of them has come. Some of you are thinking, maybe, less about yourselves than about those whom God has placed near you, and you may say, “I know of a prayer that was not answered; I remember praying long ago about that wife, that boy of mine whom it would seem as if nothing could save; I wrestled in agony with God, and the only answer was death.” Maybe that was the answer. Sometimes we seem unequal to the task of caring for those whom God has placed under our care, and we tell Him so. Perhaps the answer is that He takes them home, cares for them Himself, and when we stand upon the other side of death we shall see what it all means.

“ We kneel-how weak! We rise-how full of power!

Why therefore should we do ourselves this wrong,
Or others-that we are not always strong,
That we are ever overborne with care,

That we should ever weak or heartless be,
Anxious or troubled, when with us is prayer,

And joy and strength and courage are with Thee ? ”

« PreviousContinue »