Pray Without Ceasing
None of us will ever regret on our death bed that we prayed too much. But many of us will regret that we have not prayed more. Prayer is one of the sweetest of all the Christian experiences and yet how few are adepts at it. Prayer is to the soul what the breath is to the body. No Christian life can be sustained without much prayer. The word of God does not tell us to work without ceasing but it does command us to “pray without ceasing.” The former we could not always do but the latter we can.
The Christian is like the diver who goes down beneath the waves. He is able to remain there because of the pipe which conveys the air to him from the world above. So we can live down in this world of sin if we keep up the prayer communication which brings down the atmospheres of heaven to our souls. We might just as well understand it now that we can not maintain a Christian life without much prayer.
We know that there are people who are skeptical as to receiving answers to their prayers but it is because they never heard from heaven. But every Christian has. Others may not believe that God answers prayer but he knows it.
Thirty years ago, if any one had told us that there was such a thing as the telephone, we would not have believed it.
Who would have believed at that time that by talking into an aperture in a box fastened to the side of the wall we could convey our meaning to those at a distance, who could also hear our voice plainly? To have maintained that, would have made us fit candidates for the asylum. But God’s people have been talking without any instrument or electric battery straight into the ear of God for centuries. And they have been receiving answers too. And it is no more superstition to talk with God and get answers than to talk into the telephone and receive replies from earthly friends. More than that, there has just been invented a process whereby it is possible to talk without wires. Wireless telegraphy has been proved to be a fact. But God’s people have been sending their messages to heaven without wires for six thousand years. It is no more unreasonable to affirm that God hears and answers prayer than to affirm that people make requests and get answers by telephone every day.
To be sure a man may affirm that he has never had any answers to his prayers. But so may any one say who has never had an answer by telephone. Either he has been talking to a person who will not hear him or he has not been talking the right way. Many pray to God who get no answer because he will answer only certain people, and they, only as they come in the right way. God will not hear the prayers of sinners at all except they are penitent. He will hear only their prayer of repentance.
God nowhere in the Bible teaches or commands man to pray. It is not necessary for man will pray. It is an instinct of his soul. He commands the times when we should pray. “Men ought always to pray,” “Pray without ceasing.” He tells where men should pray, “I will that men pray everywhere.” He tells how to pray, “Without wrath or doubting.” He encourages to pray, saying “ask and ye shall receive.” But he does not absolutely command prayer, because it is natural for man to pray at certain times as it is to breathe. Men pray in times of great emergency, however much they may ridicule the idea of prayer when they are in favorable circumstances.
We have already referred to the earthquake which shook Charleston, S. C., some years ago. Men prayed that night everywhere, all through the city. There was no need of ringing the church bells that night to call men to prayer meeting. Amid the darkness and the awful sensations of the earthquake, the voice of prayer was heard everywhere. The whole city became a prayer meeting. Man will pray but the trouble is, he often prays at the wrong time when it is too late. Young converts have a stated time to pray! Pray, as God tells you to do. If you do not pray according to directions your prayer will do no good. You can not retain a Christian experience unless you are much given to prayer. We have not space to write a treatise here on prayer, but there is more in the doctrine of prayer than the majority of Christian professors have any idea of. Many books have been written on this subject but it has never been exhausted.
Every one who attempts to lead a life of prayer will find many hindrances, but we must persevere in spite of them all. We advise our readers to get some good book on the subject and study the subject thoroughly. Andrew Murray’s book entitled “With Christ in The School of Prayer,” ought to be the property of every Christian. Remember at the start that if you wish to be a real Christian and not the shoddy kind, you must be a man or woman of much prayer. Jesus while on earth was a man, not only of sorrows but of much prayer. He spent whole nights in prayer. If Jesus could not get along without a great deal of prayer you certainly need to pray a great deal to preserve the bloom of the spiritual beauty of your experience. Pray without ceasing! Pray!
We are just now discussing the most vital point of your Christian life. Here is the turning point which will determine whether you are to be an eminent Christian or a sinning and repenting professor of religion. Here is where you are to be a great success or a failure as a Christian. Which shall it be? No one can settle this matter for you. With the most sincere solicitude for those who shall read these pages, we send them forth, praying that whoever reads them may resolve that he or she will be a man or woman of much prayer. You can not be eloquent perhaps. You can not be educated possibly. You may have few gifts or talents but you can be a man of much prayer and nothing can prevent that. We give a few simple rules right here:
1) Take your Bible and a concordance and see how much prominence is given to prayer and how much is promised to those who pray aright.
2) Have stated seasons for secret prayer. Christ declared that those who go into their closets and pray in secret shall be rewarded openly. We have read of the soldier who used to retire alone daily in the forest to pray in secret. The colonel had some one follow him to see what he was about. He was finally accused of going out there to betray the secrets of the army to the enemy. In vain he protested that this accusation was untrue and that he had simply retired to pray, but he was condemned to be shot on suspicion of being a traitor. He was told that he had only so many minutes to live. The soldier then asked for a little time to pray. The request was granted and he prayed with great fervor. The colonel was much moved and said that his life would be spared, for, said he, “no man can drill like that in public who has not practiced much in private.” His public praying showed that he was accustomed to private prayer. Those who are weak in public prayer are so because they are weak in private prayer. Have a place and time for prayer!
3) Tell God all about all the things that concern you. No matter however little they may appear to you. No one can really tell how big some of the little things are. Nothing is too small to interest the God of grace if it concerns those whom he loves. He has numbered all the hairs of your head. He who tells all the little things to God comes to feel that God is interested in all his life. If we could all feel that God was with us in the little affairs of life, how differently we might live!
4) Pray aloud if possible in your secret prayer. Get accustomed to the sound of your own voice in prayer. Talk to him as you would to any trusted friend. This will be found to be a great help.
5) Do not feel that you have got to pray so long or it will not be worth while. Pray until you pray through. Pray until your heart is all unburdened. Make it a reality and when you have no more to ask, then quit until the next time.
6) Have definite requests. Take some one on your heart to God as a subject of prayer. God has seen fit to save this world through the prayers of others. We doubt if any one was ever saved except as some one prayed for that soul. Have a list of people for whom to pray daily until you see them converted.
7) Pray without ceasing. But how can I? Very easily. You can send up telegrams even when you are not on your knees. Do as Nehemiah did. When the king asked him why he was so sorrowful and he replied that it was because of the state of his native land, he says that right in the midst of his talk to the king he lifted up his heart to God in prayer. He sent up a telegram. “So I prayed to the God in heaven,” he says. You can have a prayerful attitude of soul even amidst a multitude of things that would distract. We close this chapter with an extract which we think right to the point here:
“A number of ministers were assembled for the discussion of difficult questions; and among others it was asked how the command to pray without ceasing could be carried out. Various suppositions were started; at last one of the number was appointed to write an essay on the subject and to read it at the next meeting; which being overheard by a female servant, she exclaimed, ‘ What, a whole month waiting to tell the meaning of that text? It is one of the easiest and best texts in the Bible.’ ‘ Well, well,’ said an old minister; ‘Mary, what can you say about it? Let us know how you understand it. Can you pray all the time?’
“O yes, sir –”
” ‘ What, when you have so many things to do?’
” ‘ Why, sir; the more I have to do, the more I can pray.’
” ‘ Indeed! Well Mary, do let us know how it is; for most people think otherwise.’
” ‘ Well, sir;’ said the girl, ‘when I first open my eyes in the morning, I pray ‘Lord open the eyes of my understanding;’ and when I am dressing, I pray that I may be clothed with the robes of righteousness; and when I have washed me I ask for the washing of regeneration; and as I begin to work, I pray that I may have strength equal to my day; when I begin to kindle the fire, I pray that God’s work may revive in my heart and when I sweep out the house, I pray that my heart may be cleansed from all impurities; and while preparing and partaking of breakfast, I desire to be fed with the hidden manna and the sincere milk of the word! And as I am busy with the little children, I look up to God as my father, and pray for the spirit of adoption, that I may be his child; and so on all day. Everything that I do furnishes me with a thought for prayer.’
” ‘ Enough,’ cried the divine, ‘these things are revealed to babes and often hidden from the wise and prudent. Go on, Mary, said he, ‘pray without ceasing; and as for my brethren here let us bless the Lord for this exposition and remember that he has said, “the meek shall he guide in judgment.’ “