|'How much more?' Or, The Infinite Fatherliness of
man is there of you, who, if his son ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone;
or if he shall ask for a fish, will give him a serpent? If ye then, being
evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your
Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?'--MATT. vii.
these words our Lord proceeds further to confirm what He had said of the
certainty of an answer to prayer. To remove all doubt, and show us on what
sure ground His promise rests, He appeals to what every one has seen and
experienced here on earth. We are all children, and know what we expected
of our fathers. We are fathers, or continually see them; and everywhere we
look upon it as the most natural thing there can be, for a father to hear his
child. And the Lord asks us to look up from earthly parents, of whom the
best are but evil, and to calculate HOW MUCH MORE the heavenly Father will give
good gifts to them that ask Him. Jesus would lead us up to see, that as
much greater as God is than sinful man, so much greater our assurance
ought to be that He will more surely than any earthly father grant our childlike
petitions. As much greater as God is than man, so much surer is it
that prayer will be heard with the Father in heaven than with a father on
As simple and intelligible as this parable is, so deep
and spiritual is the teaching it contains. The Lord would remind us that
the prayer of a child owes its influence entirely to the relation in which he
stands to the parent. The prayer can exert that influence only when the
child is really living in that relationship, in the home, in the love, in the
service of the Father. The power of the promise, 'Ask, and it shall be
given you,' lies in the loving relationship between us as children and the
Father in heaven; when we live and walk in that relationship, the prayer of
faith and its answer will be the natural result. 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
And what is the true child-life? The answer can
be found in any home. The child that by preference forsakes the father's
house, that finds no pleasure in the presence and love and obedience of the
father, and still thinks to ask and obtain what he will, will surely be
disappointed. On the contrary, he to whom the intercourse and will and
honour and love of the father are the joy of his life, will find that it is the
father's joy to grant his requests. Scripture says, 'As many as are
led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God:' the
childlike privilege of asking all is inseparable from the childlike life under
the leading of the Spirit. He that gives himself to be led by the Spirit
in his life, will be led by Him in his prayers too. And he will find that
Fatherlike giving is the Divine response to childlike living.
what this childlike living is, in which childlike asking and believing have
their ground, we have only to notice what our Lord teaches in the Sermon on the
Mount of the Father and His children. In it the prayer-promises are
imbedded in the life-precepts; the two are inseparable. They form one
whole; and He alone can count on the fulfilment of the promise, who accepts too
all that the Lord has connected with it. It is as if in speaking the word,
'Ask, and ye shall receive,' He says: I give these promises to those whom
in the beatitudes I have pictured in their childlike poverty and purity, and of
whom I have said, 'They shall be called the children of God' (Matt. v. 3-9):
to children, who 'let your light shine before men, so that they may
glorify your Father in heaven:' to those who walk in love, 'that ye may be
children of your Father which is in heaven,' and who seek to be perfect 'even as
your Father in heaven is perfect' (v. 45): to those whose fasting and
praying and almsgiving (vi. 1-18) is not before men, but 'before your Father
which seeth in secret;' who forgive 'even as your Father forgiveth you' (vi.
15); who trust the heavenly Father in all earthly need, seeking first the
kingdom of God and His righteousness (vi. 26-32); who not only say, Lord, Lord,
but do the will of my Father which is in heaven (vii. 21). Such are the
children of the Father, and such is the life in the Father's love and service;
in such a child-life answered prayers are certain and abundant.
not such teaching discourage the feeble one? If we are first to answer to
this portrait of a child, must not many give up all hope of answers to prayer?
The difficulty is removed if we think again of the blessed name of father
and child. A child is weak; there is a great difference among children in
age and gift. The Lord does not demand of us a perfect fulfilment of the
law; no, but only the childlike and whole-hearted surrender to live as a child
with Him in obedience and truth. Nothing more. But also, nothing
less. The Father must have the whole heart. When this is given, and
He sees the child with honest purpose and steady will seeking in everything to
be and live as a child, then our prayer will count with Him as the prayer of a
child. Let any one simply and honestly begin to study the Sermon on the
Mount and take it as his guide in life, and he will find, notwithstanding
weakness and failure, an ever-growing liberty to claim the fulfilment of its
promises in regard to prayer. In the names of father and child he has the
pledge that his petitions will be granted.
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. It
is not enough for us to know that God is a Father: He would have us take
time to come under the full impression of what that name implies. We must
take the best earthly father we know; we must think of the tenderness and love
with which he regards the request of his child, the love and joy with which he
grants every reasonable desire; we must then, as we think in adoring worship of
the infinite Love and Fatherliness of God, consider with how much more
tenderness and joy He sees us come to Him, and gives us what we ask
aright. And then, when we see how much this Divine arithmetic is beyond
our comprehension, and feel how impossible it is for us to apprehend God's
readiness to hear us, then He would have us come and open our heart for the Holy
Spirit to shed abroad God's Father-love there. Let us do this not only
when we want to pray, but let us yield heart and life to dwell in that love.
The child who only wants to know the love of the father when he has
something to ask, will be disappointed. But he who lets God be Father
always and in everything, who would fain live his whole life in the Father's
presence and love, who allows God in all the greatness of His love to be a
Father to him, oh! he will experience most gloriously that a life in God's
infinite Fatherliness and continual answers to prayer are
Beloved fellow-disciple! we begin to see what the
reason is that we know so little of daily answers to prayer, and what the chief
lesson is which the Lord has for us in His school. It is all in the name
of Father. We thought of new and deeper insight into some of the mysteries
of the prayer-world as what we should get in Christ's school; 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.'
'LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.'
Blessed Lord! Thou knowest that
this, though it be one of the first and simplest and most glorious lessons in
Thy school, is to our hearts one of the hardest to learn: we know so
little of the love of the Father. Lord! teach us so to live with the
Father that His love may be to us nearer, clearer, dearer, than the love of any
earthly father. And let the assurance of His hearing our prayer be as much
greater than the confidence in an earthly parent, as the heavens are higher than
earth, as God is infinitely greater than man. Lord! show us that it
is only our unchildlike distance from the Father that hinders the answer to
prayer, and lead us on to the true life of God's children. Lord Jesus!
it is fatherlike love that wakens childlike trust. O reveal to us
the Father, and His tender, pitying love, that we may become childlike, and
experience how in the child-life lies the power of prayer.
Son of God! the Father loveth Thee and hath given Thee all things.
And Thou lovest the Father, and hast done all things He commanded Thee,
and therefore hast the power to ask all things. Lord! give us Thine
own Spirit, the Spirit of the Son. Make us childlike, as Thou wert on
earth. And let every prayer be breathed in the faith that as the heaven is
higher than the earth, so God's Father-love, and His readiness to give us what
we ask, surpasses all we can think or conceive. Amen.
Father which is in heaven.' Alas! we speak of it only as the
utterance of a reverential homage. We think of it as a figure borrowed
from an earthly life, and only in some faint and shallow meaning to be used of
God. We are afraid to take God as our own tender and pitiful father.
He is a schoolmaster, or almost farther off than that, and knowing less
about us--an inspector, who knows nothing of us except through our lessons.
His eyes are not on the scholar, but on the book, and all alike must come
up to the standard.
Now open the ears of the heart, timid
child of God; let it go sinking right down into the inner most depths of the
soul. Here is the starting-point of holiness, in the love and patience and
pity of our heavenly Father. We have not to learn to be holy as a hard
lesson at school, that we may make God think well of us; we are to learn it at
home with the Father to help us. God loves you not because you are clever
not because you are good, but because He is your Father. The Cross
of Christ does not make God love us; it is the outcome and measure of His love
to us. He loves all His children, the clumsiest, the dullest, the worst of
His children. His love lies at the back of everything, and we must get
upon that as the solid foundation of our religious life, not growing up into
that, but growing up out if it. We must begin there or our
beginning will come to nothing. Do take hold of this mightily. We
must go out of ourselves for any hope, or any strength, or any confidence.
And what hope, what strength, what confidence may be ours now that we
begin here, your Father which is in heaven!
to get in at the tenderness and helpfulness which lie in these words, and to
rest upon it--your Father. Speak them over to yourself until
something of the wonderful truth is felt by us. It means that I am bound
to God by the closest and tenderest relationship; that I have a right to
His love and His power and His blessing, such as nothing else could give me.
O the boldness with which we can draw near! O the great things we
have a right to ask for! Your Father. It means that all His
infinite love and patience and wisdom bend over me to help me.
In this relationship lies not only the possibility of holiness; there is
infinitely more than that.
we are to begin, in the patient love of our Father. Think how He knows
us apart and by ourselves, in all our peculiarities, and in all our weaknesses
and difficulties. The master judges by the result, but our Father judges
by the effort. Failure does not always mean fault. He knows how much
things cost, and weighs them where others only measure. YOUR FATHER.
Think how great store His love sets by the poor beginnings of the little
ones, clumsy and unmeaning as they may be to others. All this lies in this
blessed relationship and infinitely more. Do not fear to take it all as
1 From Thoughts on Holiness, by Mark Guy
Pearse. What is so beautifully said of the knowledge of God's Fatherliness
as the starting-point of holiness is no less true of
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