|`I know that Thou hearest me always;' Or Prayer in harmony with the being of
I thank Thee that Thou heardest me. And I knew that Thou hearest me
always.'--JOHN xi. 41, 42.
`Thou art my Son; this day have I
begotten Thee. Ask of me, and I shall give Thee.'--PS. ii. 7,
the New Testament we find a distinction made between faith and knowledge.
`To one is given, through the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to
another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to another
faith, in the same Spirit.' In a child or a simple-minded Christian
there may be much faith with little knowledge. Childlike simplicity
accepts the truth without difficulty, and often cares little to give itself or
others any reason for its faith but this: God has said. But it is
the will of God that we should love and serve Him, not only with all the heart
but also with all the mind; that we should grow up into an insight into the
Divine wisdom and beauty of all His ways and words and works. It is only
thus that the believer will be able fully to approach and rightly to adore the
glory of God's grace; and only thus that our heart can intelligently apprehend
the treasures of wisdom and knowledge there are in redemption, and be prepared
to enter fully into the highest note of the song that rises before the throne:
`O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of
In our prayer life this truth has its full application.
While prayer and faith are so simple that the new-born convert can pray
with power, true Christian science finds in the doctrine of prayer some of its
deepest problems. In how far is the power of prayer a reality? If
so, how God can grant to prayer such mighty power? How can the action of
prayer be harmonized with the will and the decrees of God? How can God's
sovereignty and our will, God's liberty and ours, be reconciled?--these and
other like questions are fit subjects for Christian meditation and inquiry.
The more earnestly and reverently we approach such mysteries, the more
shall we in adoring wonder fall down to praise Him who hath in prayer given such
power to man.
One of the secret difficulties with regard to
prayer,--one which, though not expressed, does often really hinder prayer,--is
derived from the perfection of God, in His absolute independence of all that is
outside of Himself. Is He not the Infinite Being, who owes what He is to
Himself alone, who determines Himself, and whose wise and holy will has
determined all that is to be? How can prayer influence Him, or He be moved
by prayer to do what otherwise would not be done? Is not the promise of an
answer to prayer simply a condescension to our weakness? Is what is said
of the power--the much-availing power--of prayer anything more than an
accommodation to our mode of thought, because the Deity never can be dependent
on any action from without for its doings? And is not the blessing of
prayer simply the influence it exercises upon ourselves?
seeking an answer to such questions, we find the key in the very being of God,
in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. If God was only one Person, shut up
within Himself, there could be no thought of nearness to Him or influence on
Him. But in God there are three Persons. In God we have Father and
Son, who have in the Holy Spirit their living bond of unity and fellowship.
When eternal Love begat the Son, and the Father gave the Son as the Second
Person a place next Himself as His Equal and His Counsellor, there was a way
opened for prayer and its influence in the very inmost life of Deity itself.
Just as on earth, so in heaven the whole relation between Father and Son
is that of giving and taking. And if that taking is to be as voluntary and
self-determined as the giving, there must be on the part of the Son an asking
and receiving. In the holy fellowship of the Divine Persons, this asking
of the Son was one of the great operations of the Thrice Blessed Life of God.
Hence we have it in Psalm ii.: `This day I have begotten Thee:
ask of me and I will give Thee.' The Father gave the Son the place
and the power to act upon Him. The asking of the Son was no mere show or
shadow, but one of those life-movements in which the love of the Father and the
Son met and completed each other. The Father had determined that He should
not be alone in His counsels: there was a Son on whose asking and
accepting their fulfilment should depend. And so there was in the very
Being and Life of God an asking of which prayer on earth was to be the
reflection and the outflow. It was not without including this that Jesus
said, "I knew that Thou always hearest me.' Just as the Sonship of Jesus
on earth may not be separated from His Sonship in heaven, even so with His
prayer on earth, it is the continuation and the counterpart of His asking in
heaven. The prayer of the man Christ Jesus is the link between the eternal
asking of the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father and the prayer of men
upon earth. Prayer has its rise and its deepest source in the very Being
of God. In the bosom of Deity nothing is ever done without prayer--the
asking of the Son and the giving of the Father.1
This may help us somewhat to understand how the
prayer of man, coming through the Son, can have effect upon God. The
decrees of God are not decisions made by Him without reference to the Son, or
His petition, or the petition to be sent up through Him. By no means.
The Lord Jesus is the first-begotten, the Head and Heir of all things:
all things were created through Him and unto Him, and all
things consist in Him. In the counsels of the Father, the Son, as
Representative of all creation, had always a voice; in the decrees of the
eternal purpose there was always room left for the liberty of the Son as
Mediator and Intercessor, and so for the petitions of all who draw nigh to the
Father in the Son.
And if the thought come that this liberty and
power of the Son to act upon the Father is at variance with the immutability of
the Divine decrees, let us not forget that there is not with God as with man, a
past by which He is irrevocably bound. God does not live in time with its
past and future; the distinctions of time have no reference to Him who inhabits
Eternity. And Eternity is an ever-present Now, in which the past is never
past, and the future always present. To meet our human weakness, Scripture
must speak of past decrees, and a coming future. In reality, the
immutability of God's counsel is ever still in perfect harmony with His liberty
to do whatsoever He will. Not so were the prayers of the Son and His
people taken up into the eternal decrees that their effect should only be an
apparent one; but so, that the Father-heart holds itself open and free to listen
to every prayer that rises through the Son, and that God does indeed allow
Himself to be decided by prayer to do what He otherwise would not have
This perfect harmony and union of Divine
Sovereignty and human liberty is to us an unfathomable mystery, because God as
THE ETERNAL ONE transcends all our thoughts. But let it be our comfort and
strength to be assured that in the eternal fellowship of the Father and the Son,
the power of prayer has its origin and certainty, and that through our union
with the Son, our prayer is taken up and can have its influence in the inner
life of the Blessed Trinity. God's decrees are no iron framework against
which man's liberty would vainly seek to struggle. No. God Himself
is the Living Love, who in His Son as man has entered into the tenderest
relation with all that is human, who through the Holy Spirit takes up all that
is human into the Divine life of love, and keeps Himself free to give every
human prayer its place in His government of the world.
is in the daybreak light of such thoughts that the doctrine of the Blessed
Trinity no longer is an abstract speculation, but the living manifestation of
the way in which it were possible for man to be taken up into the fellowship of
God, and his prayer to become a real factor in God's rule of this earth.
And we can, as in the distance, catch glimpses of the light that from the
eternal world shines out on words such as these: `THROUGH HIM we have
access BY ONE SPIRIT unto THE FATHER.'
`LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY.'
Everlasting God! the Three-One and
Thrice Holy! in deep reverence would I with veiled face worship before the
holy mystery of Thy Divine Being. And if it please Thee, O most glorious
God, to unveil aught of that mystery, I would bow with fear and trembling, lest
I sin against Thee, as I meditate on Thy glory.
I thank Thee that Thou bearest this name not only as the Father of Thy
children here on earth, but as having from eternity subsisted as the Father with
Thine only-begotten Son. I thank Thee that as Father Thou canst hear our
prayer, because Thou hast from eternity given a place in Thy counsels to the
asking of Thy Son. I thank Thee that we have seen in Him on earth, what
the blessed intercourse was He had with Thee in heaven; and how from eternity in
all Thy counsels and decrees there had been room left for His prayer and their
answers. And I thank Thee above all that through His true human nature on
Thy throne above, and through Thy Holy Spirit in our human nature here below, a
way has been opened up by which every human cry of need can be taken up into and
touch the Life and the Love of God, and receive in answer whatsoever it shall
Blessed Jesus! in whom as the Son the path of
prayer has been opened up, and who givest us assurance of the answer, we beseech
Thee, teach Thy people to pray. O let this each day be the sign of our
sonship, that, like Thee, we know that the Father heareth us always.
`"God hears prayer." This simplest view of
prayer is taken throughout Scripture. It dwells not on the reflex
influence of prayer on our heart and life, although it abundantly shows the
connection between prayer as an act, and prayer as a state. It rather
fixes with great definiteness the objective or real purposes of prayer, to
obtain blessing, gifts, deliverances from God. `Ask and it shall be
given," Jesus says.
`However true and valuable the reflection
may be, that God, foreseeing and foreordaining all things, has also foreseen and
foreordained our prayers as links in the chain of events, of cause and effect,
as a real power, yet we feel convinced that this is not the light in which the
mind can find peace in this great subject, nor do we think that here is the
attractive power to draw us in prayer. We feel rather that such a
reflection diverts the attention from the Object whence comes the
impulse, life, and strength of prayer. The living God, cotemporary and
not merely eternal,1 the living, merciful, holy One, God
manifesting Himself to the soul, God saying, "Seek my face;" this is the magnet
that draws us, this alone can open heart and lips. . .
Jesus Christ the Son of God we have the full solution of the difficulty.
He prayed on earth, and that not merely as man, but as the Son of God
incarnate. His prayer on earth is only the manifestation of His prayer
from all eternity, when in the Divine counsel He was set up as the Christ. . . .
The Son was appointed to be heir of all things. From all eternity the Son
of God was the Way, the Mediator. He was, to use our imperfect language,
from eternity speaking unto the Father on behalf of the world.'--SAPHIR, The
Hidden Life, chap. vi. See also The Lord's Prayer, p.
1Should it not rather be cotemporary, because eternal, in the
proper meaning of this latter word?
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