Prayer makes things possible for men which they find impossible by other means, and they experience such wonderful things in life as are not only opposed to the rules and opinions of worldly wisdom, but are held to be impossible altogether. Scientific men do not recognize that He who set all created things in order and made laws for them, cannot be imprisoned behind the bars of his own laws. The ways of the great Lawgiver are inscrutable, because His eternal will and purpose is the blessing and prosperity of all His creatures, and the reason the natural man cannot grasp this fact is because spiritual things are spiritually discerned.
The greatest of all miracles is the new birth in man, and to the man who has experienced this miracle all others become possible. Now in very cold countries a bridge of water is a common sight, because when the surface of a river is frozen hard the water beneath still flows freely on, but men cross over the icy bridge with ease and safety. But if one were to speak of a bridge of water spanning a flowing river to people who are constantly perspiring in the heat of a tropical clime, they would at once say that such a thing was impossible and against the laws of nature. There is the same great difference between those who have been born again and by prayer maintain their spiritual life, and those who live worldly lives and value only material things, and so are utterly ignorant of the life of the soul.
He who desires by prayer to obtain from God the blessing of a spiritual life must believe and obey without questioning. The man who came to Me with a withered hand, when I commanded him to stretch out his hand instantly obeyed, and so his hand became whole as the other. But suppose instead of that instant obedience he had begun to argue and say, "How can I stretch out my hand? If I had been able to do that, why should I have come to Thee? First of all heal my hand, and then I shall be able to stretch it out." All this would have been considered very reasonable and to the point, but his hand would never have been healed.
He who prays must believe and be obedient, and stretch out to Me in prayer his weak and withered hands, and then it will be for Me to give him spiritual life, and according to his need it shall be granted to him.
Fresh Life through Prayer
Once I was sitting upon the shore of a lake. As I sat there I noticed some fish that came up to the surface and opened their mouths. At first I thought they were hungry and that they were looking for insects, but a fisherman told me afterwards that although they can breathe quite well under water they have to come up to the surface every now and again to inhale deep draughts of fresh air, or they would die.
It is the same with us. The world is like an ocean; we can live in it, carry on our work and all our varied occupations, but from time to time we need to receive fresh life through prayer. Those believers who do not set apart quiet times for prayer have not yet found their true life in Messiah.
The Necessity of Prayer
God has created both the mother's milk and the child's desire to drink it. But the milk does not flow of itself into the child's mouth. No, the child must lie in its mother's bosom and suck the milk diligently.
God has created the spiritual food that we need. He has filled the soul of man with desire for this food, with an impulse to cry out for it and to drink it in. The spiritual milk, the nourishment of our souls, we receive through prayer. By means of fervent prayer we must receive it into our soul. As we do this we become stronger day by day just like the infant at the breast.
Prayer is both the air we breathe and the mother's milk of the soul. Without prayer it is impossible to receive supernatural gifts from God.
Prayer is the necessary preparation for receiving spiritual gifts from God. Only longing and prayer make room for God in our hearts. God cannot give us spiritual gifts excepting through prayer. It is only as we are immersed in the spiritual world that we can understand spiritual things.
There are beautiful birds in the air, and twinkling stars in the heavens, but if you desire pearls you must plunge down into the depths of the ocean to find them.
There are many beautiful things in the world around us, but pearls can only be discovered in the depths of the sea; if we wish to posses spiritual pearls we must plunge into the depths, that is, we must pray, we must sink down into the secret depths of contemplation and prayer. Then we shall perceive precious pearls.
Out of the Darkness
When we are in the dark we know through our sense of touch what kind of object we are holding in our hands, whether it is a stick or a snake. Both can be felt in the darkness, but we can see them only in the light. So long as we are not in the light we grope and stumble about, and we cannot see true reality.
The man who does not believe in Divine Light is still in darkness. What then shall we do to come to the Light? We must step out of the darkness and approach the Light; that is, we must kneel before our Saviour and pray to Him fervently. Then we shall be bathed in His Light, and we shall see everything clearly. Prayer is the key that opens the door of Divine Reality.
Prayer leads us out of that darkness in which, in spite of all our intelligence and power of vision, we cannot perceive the Light of Truth. Prayer leads us into the world of spiritual light.
Strength and Joy and Peace
Through prayer, by the simple method of prayer, we become aware of Messiah's Presence and learn to know Him. You must go, into the stillness and pray to Messiah in solitude; there you will hear the Voice of Him who alone can help you. If you read His Word and pray to Him even only for half an hour every day, you will have the same experience. He will reveal Himself to your souls. I am sure that He will reveal Himself to you in prayer; then you will know Him as He is. And He will not only reveal Himself to you, but He will come and give you strength and joy and peace.
Continual Abandonment to God
The essence of prayer does not consist in asking God for something but in opening our hearts to God, in speaking with Him, and living with Him in perpetual communion. Prayer is continual abandonment to God.
Prayer does not mean asking God for all kinds of things we want; it is rather the desire for God Himself, the only Giver of Life. Prayer is not asking, but union with God.
Prayer is not a painful effect to gain from God help in the varying needs of our lives. Prayer is the desire to possess God Himself, the Source of all Life. The true spirit of prayer does not consist in asking for blessings, but in receiving Him who is the giver of all blessing, and in living a life of fellowship with Him. Prayer is not a kind of begging for favours; it is rather breathing and living in God.
The True Children of God
A little child often runs to its mother and exclaims: "Mother! Mother!" Very often the child does not want anything in particular, he only wants to be near his mother, to sit upon her lap, or to follow her about the house, for the sheer pleasure of being near her, talking to her, hearing her dear voice. Then the child is happy.
His happiness does not consist in asking and receiving all kinds of things from his mother. If that were what he wanted, he would be impatient and obstinate and therefore unhappy. No, his happiness lies in feeling his mother's love and care, and in knowing the joy of her mother-love.
It is just the same with the true children of God; they do not trouble themselves so much about spiritual blessings. They only want to sit at the Lord's feet, to be in living touch with Him, and when they do that they are supremely content.
Praying for Material Things
Have you ever seen a heron standing motionless on the shore of a lake? From his attitude you might think he was standing gazing at God's Power and Glory, wondering at the great expanse of water, and at its power to cleanse and satisfy the thirst of living creatures. But the heron has no such thoughts in his head at all; he stands there hour after hour, simply in order to see whether he can catch a frog or a little fish.
Many human beings behave like that in prayer and meditation. They sit on the shore of God's Ocean; but they give no thought to His Power and Love, they pay no attention to His Spirit that is able to cleanse them from their sins; neither do they consider His Being which can satisfy their soul's thirst; they give themselves up entirely to the thought of how they can gain something that will please them, something that will help them to enjoy the transitory pleasures of this world, and so they turn their faces away from the clear water of spiritual peace. They give themselves up to the things of this world which pass away, and they perish with them.
Sometimes people ask me this question: "If God does not wish us to ask for material things, but for Himself, the Giver of all good, why do the Scriptures never say: Do not pray for this or that, pray simply for the Holy Spirit? Why has this never been clearly expressed?"
I reply, Because He knew that people would never begin to pray if they could not ask for earthly things like riches and health and honours; He says to Himself: If they ask for such things the desire for something better will awaken in them, and finally they will only care about the higher things.
God's Purifying Rays
The heat and the sun's rays, falling upon salt water, cause evaporation, which gradually becomes condensed into clouds, which again descend in the form of sweet, fresh water. The salt, and all the other things in the water, are left behind.
In the same way the thoughts and desires of the praying soul rise to heaven like clouds; then the Sun of Righteousness cleanses them from the taint of sin by His purifying rays. The prayer then becomes a great cloud which falls in showers of blessing, life, and strength upon the earth below.
Through prayer we experience the greatest of all miracles, heaven upon earth.
Such miracles also are worked through the power of persistent intercession. There are times when one can do more good by prayer than by preaching. A man who prays incessantly in a solitary cave can help other people a great deal. An influence goes out from him which actually pervades the spiritual atmosphere, even though this influence is exerted in great stillness, unperceived by men, just as wireless messages are conveyed by unseen waves, and as the words which we speak penetrate the consciousness of other people through mysterious channels of communication.
He who searches for Divine Reality with all his heart and soul and finds it, becomes aware that, before he began to seek God, God was seeking him, in order to draw him into the joy of fellowship with Him, into the peace of His Presence; even as a child who has strayed, when he is safely back in his mother's arms, realises that she had been searching for him, with deep maternal love, before he had begun to think about her.