I. PRAYER AND FAITH
"A dear friend of mine who was quite a
lover of the chase, told me the following story: 'Rising early one morning,'
he said, 'I heard the baying of a score of deerhounds in pursuit of their
quarry. Looking away to a broad, open field in front of me, I saw a young
fawn making its way across, and giving signs, moreover, that its race was
well-nigh run. Reaching the rails of the enclosure, it leaped over and
crouched within ten feet from where I stood. A moment later two of the
hounds came over, when the fawn ran in my direction and pushed its head
between my legs. I lifted the little thing to my breast, and, swinging round
and round, fought off the dogs. I felt, just then, that all the dogs in the
West could not, and should not capture that fawn after its weakness had
appealed to my strength.' So is it, when human helplessness appeals to
Almighty God. Well do I remember when the hounds of sin were after my soul,
until, at last, I ran into the arms of Almighty God." -- A. C. DIXON.
IN any study of the principles, and procedure of prayer, of
its activities and enterprises, first place, must, of necessity, be given to
faith. It is the initial quality in the heart of any man who essays to talk
to the Unseen. He must, out of sheer helplessness, stretch forth hands of
faith. He must believe, where he cannot prove. In the ultimate issue,
prayer is simply faith, claiming its natural yet marvellous prerogatives --
faith taking possession of its illimitable inheritance. True godliness is
just as true, steady, and persevering in the realm of faith as it is in the
province of prayer. Moreover: when faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live.
Faith does the impossible because it brings God to undertake
for us, and nothing is impossible with God. How great -- without
qualification or limitation -- is the power of faith! If doubt be banished
from the heart, and unbelief made stranger there, what we ask of God shall
surely come to pass, and a believer hath vouchsafed to him "whatsoever he
Prayer projects faith on God, and God on the world. Only God
can move mountains, but faith and prayer move God. In His cursing of the
fig-tree our Lord demonstrated His power. Following that, He proceeded to
declare, that large powers were committed to faith and prayer, not in order
to kill but to make alive, not to blast but to bless.
At this point in our study, we turn to a saying of our Lord,
which there is need to emphasize, since it is the very keystone of the arch
of faith and prayer.
"Therefore I say unto you, What things
soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall
We should ponder well that statement -- "Believe that ye
receive them, and ye shall have them." Here is described a faith which
realizes, which appropriates, which takes. Such faith is a
consciousness of the Divine, an experienced communion, a realized certainty.
Is faith growing or declining as the years go by? Does faith
stand strong and four square, these days, as iniquity abounds and the love
of many grows cold? Does faith maintain its hold, as religion tends to
become a mere formality and worldliness increasingly prevails? The enquiry
of our Lord, may, with great appropriateness, be ours. "When the Son of Man
cometh," He asks, "shall He find faith on the earth?" We believe that He
will, and it is ours, in this our day, to see to it that the lamp of faith
is trimmed and burning, lest He come who shall come, and that right
Faith is the foundation of Christian character and the
security of the soul. When Jesus was looking forward to Peter's denial, and
cautioning him against it, He said unto His disciple:
"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath
desired to have you, to sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that
thy faith fall not."
Our Lord was declaring a central truth; it was Peter's
faith He was seeking to guard; for well He knew that when faith is broken
down, the foundations of spiritual life give way, and the entire structure
of religious experience falls. It was Peter's faith which needed guarding.
Hence Christ's solicitude for the welfare of His disciple's soul and His
determination to fortify Peter's faith by His own all-prevailing prayer.
In his Second Epistle, Peter has this idea in mind
when speaking of growth in grace as a measure of safety in the Christian
life, and as implying fruitfulness.
"And besides this," he declares,
"giving diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to
knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience
Of this additioning process, faith was the starting-point
-- the basis of the other graces of the Spirit. Faith was the foundation on
which other things were to be built. Peter does not enjoin his readers to
add to works or gifts or virtues but to faith. Much depends on
starting right in this business of growing in grace. There is a Divine
order, of which Peter was aware; and so he goes on to declare that we are to
give diligence to making our calling and election sure, which election is
rendered certain adding to faith which, in turn, is done by constant,
earnest praying. Thus faith is kept alive by prayer, and every step taken,
in this adding of grace to grace, is accompanied by prayer.
The faith which pcreates powerful praying is the faith
which centres itself on a powerful Person. Faith in Christ's ability to
do and to do greatly, is the faith which prays greatly. Thus the
leper lay hold upon the power of Christ. "Lord, if Thou wilt," he cried,
"Thou canst make me clean." In this instance, we are shown how faith
centered in Christ's ability to do, and how it secured the healing
It was concerning this very point, that Jesus questioned
the blind men who came to Him for healing:
"Believe ye that I am able to do
this?" He asks. "They said unto Him, Yea, Lord. Then touched He their eyes,
saying, According to your faith be it unto you."
It was to inspire faith in His ability to do that
Jesus left behind Him, that last, great statement, which, in the final
analysis, is a ringing challenge to faith. "All power," He declared, "is
given unto Me in heaven and in earth."
Again: faith is obedient; it goes when commanded, as did
the nobleman, who came to Jesus, in the day of His flesh, and whose son was
Moreover: such faith acts. Like the man who was born blind,
it goes to wash in the pool of Siloam when told to wash. Like Peter
on Gennesaret it casts the net where Jesus commands, instantly, without
question or doubt. Such faith takes away the stone from the grave of Lazarus
promptly. A praying faith keeps the commandments of God and does those
things which are well pleasing in His sight. It asks, "Lord, what wilt Thou
have me to do?" and answers quickly, "Speak, Lord, Thy servant heareth."
Obedience helps faith, and faith, in turn, helps obedience. To do God's will
is essential to true faith, and faith is necessary to implicit obedience.
Yet faith is called upon, and that right often to wait in
patience before God, and is prepared for God's seeming delays in answering
prayer. Faith does not grow disheartened because prayer is not immediately
honoured; it takes God at His Word, and lets Him take what time He chooses
in fulfilling His purposes, and in carrying on His work. There is bound to
be much delay and long days of waiting for true faith, but faith accepts the
conditions -- knows there will be delays in answering prayer, and regards
such delays as times of testing, in the which, it is privileged to show its
mettle, and the stern stuff of which it is made.
The case of Lazarus was an instance of where there was
delay, where the faith of two good women was sorely tried: Lazarus was
critically ill, and his sisters sent for Jesus. But, without any known
reason, our Lord delayed His going to the relief of His sick friend. The
plea was urgent and touching -- "Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick,"
-- but the Master is not moved by it, and the women's earnest request seemed
to fall on deaf ears. What a trial to faith! Furthermore: our Lord's
tardiness appeared to bring about hopeless disaster. While Jesus tarried,
But the delay of Jesus was exercised in the interests of a
greater good. Finally, He makes His way to the home in Bethany.
"Then said Jesus unto them plainly,
Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes, that I was not there, to the
intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him."
Fear not, O tempted and tried believer, Jesus will
come, if patience be exercised, and faith hold fast. His delay will serve to
make His coming the more richly blessed. Pray on. Wait on. Thou canst not
fail. If Christ delay, wait for Him. In His own good time, He will
come, and will not tarry.
Delay is often the test and the strength of faith. How much
patience is required when these times of testing come! Yet faith gathers
strength by waiting and praying. Patience has its perfect work in the school
of delay. In some instances, delay is of the very essence of the prayer. God
has to do many things, antecedent to giving the final answer -- things which
are essential to the lasting good of him who is requesting favour at His
Jacob prayed, with point and ardour, to be delivered from
Esau. But before that prayer could be answered, there was much to be done
with, and for Jacob. He must be changed, as well as Esau. Jacob had to be
made into a new man, before Esau could be. Jacob had to be converted to God,
before Esau could be converted to Jacob.
Among the large and luminous utterances of Jesus concerning
prayer, none is more arresting than this:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He
that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater
works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father. And whatsoever ye
shall ask in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in
the Son. If ye shall ask anything in My Name, I will do it."
How wonderful are these statements of what God will do in
answer to prayer! Of how great importance these ringing words, prefaced, as
they are, with the most solemn verity! Faith in Christ is the basis of all
working, and of all praying. All wonderful works depend on wonderful
praying, and all praying is done in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amazing
lesson, of wondrous simplicity, is this praying in the name of the Lord
Jesus! All other conditions are depreciated, everything else is renounced,
save Jesus only. The name of Christ -- the Person of our Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ -- must be supremely sovereign, in the hour and article of
If Jesus dwell at the fountain of my life; if the currents
of His life have displaced and superseded all self-currents; if implicit
obedience to Him be the inspiration and force of every movement of my life,
then He can safely commit the praying to my will, and pledge Himself, by an
obligation as profound as His own nature, that whatsoever is asked shall be
granted. Nothing can be clearer, more distinct, more unlimited both in
application and extent, than the exhortation and urgency of Christ, "Have
faith in God."
Faith covers temporal as well as spiritual needs. Faith
dispels all undue anxiety and needless care about what shall be eaten, what
shall he drunk, what shall be worn. Faith lives in the present, and regards
the day as being sufficient unto the evil thereof. It lives day by day, and
dispels all fears for the morrow. Faith brings great ease of mind and
perfect peace of heart.
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusted in Thee."
When we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," we are,
in a measure, shutting tomorrow out of our prayer. We do not live in
tomorrow but in today. We do not seek tomorrow's grace or tomorrow's bread.
They thrive best, and get most out of life, who live in the living present.
They pray best who pray for today's needs, not for tomorrow's, which may
render our prayers unnecessary and redundant by not existing at all!
True prayers are born of present trials and present needs.
Bread, for today, is bread enough. Bread given for today is the strongest
sort of pledge that there will be bread tomorrow. Victory today, is the
assurance of victory tomorrow. Our prayers need to be focussed upon the
present, We must trust God today, and leave the morrow entirely with Him.
The present is ours; the future belongs to God. Prayer is the task and duty
of each recurring day -- daily prayer for daily needs.
As every day demands its bread, so every day demands its
prayer. No amount of praying, done today, will suffice for tomorrow's
praying. On the other hand, no praying for tomorrow is of any great value to
us today. To-day's manna is what we need; tomorrow God will see that our
needs are supplied. This is the faith which God seeks to inspire. So leave
tomorrow, with its cares, its needs, its troubles, in God's hands. There is
no storing tomorrow's grace or tomorrow's praying; neither is there any
laying-up of today's grace, to meet tomorrow's necessities. We cannot have
tomorrow's grace, we cannot eat tomorrow's bread, we cannot do tomorrow's
praying. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof;" and, most assuredly,
if we possess faith, sufficient also, will be the good.
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