ANSWER TO OBJECTIONS: SIGNAL INSTANCES OF PRAYER
If Jesus prays and does not pray in vain, if He obtains His requests through prayer and it may be would not have received them without prayer, who of us is to neglect prayer? Mark tells us that |in the morning long before daybreak he arose and went out and departed to a lonely place and there prayed.| Luke says: |And it came to pass, as He was at prayer in a certain place, that one of His disciples said to Him when He ceased, . . . and elsewhere: And He passed the night in prayer to God.| John records a prayer of Him in the words:
|These things spoke Jesus, and lifting up His eyes unto heaven He said, Father the hour is come; glorify your Son that your Son may also glorify you.'| And the Lord's saying, |I knew that you hear me always,| recorded in the same writer shows that it is because He is always praying that He is always heard.
What need is there to tell the tale of those who, through right prayer, have obtained the greatest of things from God, when it is open to everyone to select any number of them for himself from the Scriptures? Hannah did service to the birth of Samuel, who is numbered along with Moses, because though barren she prayed in faith unto the Lord. Hezekiah, who while still childless learned from Isaiah that he was about to die, is included in the Savior's genealogy because he prayed. When the people were already on the point of perishing under a single decree as the result of Haman's conspiracy, it was the heard prayer with fasting of Mordecai and Esther that added to the Mosaic festivals and gave rise to the Mordecaic day of rejoicing for the people.
It was, moreover, after offering holy prayer that Judith with God's help overcame Holophernes, and thus a single woman of the Hebrews wrought shame upon the house of Nebuchadnezzar. It was on being heard that Ananiah and Azariah and Mishael became worthy to receive a hissing rain and wind which kept the flame of the fire from taking effect. Through Daniel's prayers the lions in the Babylonians' pit were muzzled.
Even Jonah, because he did not despair of being heard from the belly of the monster that had swallowed him, was able to quit the monster's belly and complete his interrupted prophet's mission to the Ninevites. And further, how many things could each of us recount should he choose to recall with gratitude the benefits conferred upon him and to offer praise to God for them! Souls that have long been barren but have become conscious of their intellects' sterility and the barrenness of their mind, through persevering prayer have conceived of the Holy Spirit and given birth to thoughts and words of salvation full of contemplated truth.
How many of our foes have been dispersed, when often countless thousands in the adverse host were wearing us down with intent to sweep us away from the divine faith, and we rejoiced, when their appeal was to chariots and horses but ours to the name of the Lord, to see that in truth deceptive is a horse for safety! Many a time indeed does he whose trust is in praise to God -- for Judith means praise -- cut his way through guileful and persuasive speech, that chief commander of the adversary who brings numbers even of reputed believers to their knees.
What need is there to go on to tell of all who many a time have fallen among temptations hard to overcome, whose burn was sharper than any flame, and have suffered naught under them but emerged from them in every way unscathed, without so much of scathe as the slightest odor of the hostile fire; or again of all the brutes exasperated against us, in the form of wicked spirits or cruel men, that we have encountered and often muzzled by our prayers, so that they were impotent to fasten their fangs in our members which had become those of Christ. Often in each saint's experience has the Lord dashed together the teeth of lions, and they were brought to nothing, as water flowing by.
We know that often fugitives from God's commands who have been swallowed by death, which at the first prevailed against them, have been saved by reason of repentance from so great an evil, because they did not despair of being able to be saved though already overpowered in the belly of death: for death prevailed and swallowed, and again God took away every tear from every face. What I have said after my enumeration of persons who have been benefited through prayer, I consider to have been most necessary to my purpose of turning aspirants after the spiritual life in Christ from prayer for little earthly things, and urging readers of this writing towards the mystical things of which the above mentioned were types.
For it is always and wholly prayer for the spiritual, mystical things which we have instanced, that is practised by him who does not war according to the flesh but with the Spirit mortifies the body's actions, preference being given to the things suggested by analogy and study over the benefaction apparently indicated by the language of scripture as having accrued to those who had prayed.
For in ourselves also we are to strive, hearing the spiritual law with spiritual ears, that barrenness or sterility may not arise, but that we may like Hannah and Hezekiah be heard, being freed from barrenness or sterility, and like Mordecai and Esther and Judith be delivered from plotting enemies -- in our case the spiritual powers of evil. Inasmuch as Egypt is an iron furnace and also a symbol of every earthly place, let every one who has escaped from the wickedness of the life of men without having been scorched by sin or having had his heart like an oven full of fire, give thanks no less than the men who experienced rain amid fire.
Let him, too, who has been heard when he has prayed and said |Deliver not to the brutes a soul that makes acknowledgment to you,| and who has suffered naught from asp and basilisk because through Christ he has trod on them, and who has trampled lion and snake and enjoyed the good authority bestowed by Jesus to walk over serpents and scorpions and upon the whole power of the enemy, without having been injured by any of them, give thanks more than Daniel as having been delivered from brutes more terrible and harmful.
Let him, moreover, who has learned by experience what manner of monster that which swallowed Jonah typified, perceiving that it is of such that Job has spoken, |May He curse it that curses that day, He that is to worst the great monster,| if he should ever come by reason of any disobedience to be in the belly of the monster, pray in penitence, and he shall come out thence; and if, after coming out, he abides in obedience to the commands of God, he shall be able according to the kindness of the Spirit to be a prophet to perishing Ninevites of today and to become a means to their salvation, without discontent with the kindness of God or desire that He should abide in severity towards penitents.
The very highest thing that Samuel is said to have done through prayer is spiritually possible of achievement today by every genuine dependant upon God who has become worthy to be heard. It is written: |And now do but stand and see this great thing which the Lord does under you eyes. Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord and He will give thunders and rain.| And then shortly after it says |and Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord gave thunders and rain in that day.| To every saint who is genuinely in discipleship to Jesus it is said by the Lord, |Lift up your eyes and behold how the fields are white already unto harvest. He that harvests receives wages and gathers fruit unto life eternal.|
In this time of harvest the Lord does a great thing under the eyes of those who hear the prophets; for when he that is adorned by the Spirit calls upon the Lord, God gives from heaven thunders and rain that waters the Soul, in order that he who was before in vice may deeply fear the Lord and the minister of God's benefaction whose claim to reverence and veneration has been attested through the hearing of his prayers. Elijah indeed by a divine word opened the heavens after they had been shut to the impious three years and six months, a thing which anyone may accomplish at any time when through prayer he receives the Soul's rain, if he be one who has hitherto been deprived of it because of sin.