Daily thoughts from our minister.
This comment on prayer is in Spiritual Progress by François de Salignac de la Mothe Fénelon, (1651-1715), Chapter 4.
“True prayer is only another name for the love of God. Its excellence does not consist in the multitude of our words; for our Father knows what things we have need of before we ask Him. The true prayer is that of the heart, and the heart prays only for what it desires. To pray, then is to desire—but to desire what God would have us desire. [The one] who asks what they do not from the bottom of [their] heart desire, is mistaken in thinking that [they are praying]. Let them spend days in reciting prayers, in meditation or in inciting themself to pious exercises, they pray not once truly, if they really desire not the things they pretend to ask.”
Here is a hymn of prayer found in the Treasury of Sacred Song by Francis Turner Palgrave, (1824-1897). If you want to sing it, you can use common meter. An example is Dundee which we often use to sing “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.”
Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
Utter'd, or unexpress'd;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear;
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but GOD is near.
Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach
The Majesty on high.
Prayer is the contrite sinner's voice
Returning from his ways;
While Angels in their songs rejoice,
And cry, Behold, he prays!
Prayer is the Christian's vital breath,
The Christian's native air;
His watch-word at the gates of death;
He enters Heaven with prayer.
The saints, in prayer, appear as one
In word, and deed, and mind;
While with the Father and the Son
Sweet fellowship they find.
Nor prayer is made on earth, alone:
The Holy SPIRIT pleads;
And JESUS, on the eternal Throne,
For mourners intercedes.
O Thou, by Whom we come to GOD,
The Life, the Truth, the Way!
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod:
LORD! teach us how to pray!
Oswald Chambers (1874 – 1917), My Utmost for His Highest
THE DISCIPLINE OF DEJECTION
"But we trusted . . . and beside all this, today is the third day . . ." Luke 24:21
Every fact that the disciples stated was right; but the inferences they drew from those facts were wrong. Anything that savors of dejection spiritually is always wrong. If depression and oppression visit me, I am to blame; God is not, nor is anyone else. Dejection springs from one of two sources - I have either satisfied a lust or I have not. Lust means - I must have it at once. Spiritual lust makes me demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God Who gives the answer. What have I been trusting God would do? And today - the immediate present - is the third day, and He has not done it; therefore I imagine I am justified in being dejected and in blaming God. Whenever the insistence is on the point that God answers prayer, we are off the track. The meaning of prayer is that we get hold of God, not of the answer. It is impossible to be well physically and to be dejected. Dejection is a sign of sickness, and the same thing is true spiritually. Dejection spiritually is wrong, and we are always to blame for it. We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God's power (the fact that we are dejected proves that we do), and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us. If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him. One of the most amazing revelations of God comes when we learn that it is in the commonplace things that the Deity of Jesus Christ is realized.
In Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested for speaking about Jesus because it annoyed the leaders. Then we read this example of a prayer that led to more boldness, courage, and generosity. They turned to Psalm 2 for their prayer.
When they were released they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,
who by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, didst say by the Holy Spirit,
`Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples imagine vain things?
The kings of the earth set themselves in array,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed' --
for truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus."
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need. Thus Joseph who was surnamed by the apostles Barnabas (which means, Son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field which belonged to him, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. (RSV)
Two familiar prayers many know by heart. It is easy to recite these quickly. Today, take the time to rest for a moment on each phrase.
A Psalm of David.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;
he makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff,
they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil,
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for ever. (RSV)
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you;
but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (RSV)
When people with good hearts and good intent share themselves with others through speaking or writing good things happen. It is good for us to read and to hear other people pray. Exposing ourselves to the spiritual life of others has the effect of deepening and broadening ours. Throughout the month of February, I will be sharing thoughts of others around the theme of prayer. Some are from the Bible, others are hymns, prayers, and writings from Christians through history. Some perspectives will be foreign to us (as when a monk is instructing other monks), but are worth hearing.
As with everything in life, it is one thing to read and learn about something and another to do it. Reading about prayer and reading the prayers of others will do us little good if we fail to practice it ourselves. I would like to encourage us to focus on both during the month of February. If you do not already do it, set aside a few minutes each day to take in the reading for the day and then pray.