Prayer is no easy pastime. As I grow old I find that I am more conscious than ever of my need to pray, but it seems at the same time to become more of a struggle. It is harder to concentrate, for one thing. I was greatly helped by some private notes Amy Carmichael wrote to her "Family" (hundreds of children and their helpers, both Indian and European) in Dohnavur, South India, to help them prepare for a special day of prayer.
She quoted Paul's letter to the Colossians (2:1, KJV): "I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you." He is referring at least in part to the conflict of prayer. The same verse is translated "how greatly I strive" in the Revised Version; "how deep is my anxiety" in J.B. Phillips; and, in the Jerusalem Bible, "Yes, I want you to know that I do have to struggle hard for you... to bind you together in love and to stir your minds, so that your understanding may come to full development, until you really know God's secret in which all the jewels of wisdom and knowledge are hidden."
Here are Amy's notes:
WITH WHAT DID I STRUGGLE?
1. With all that says to me, what is the use of your praying? So many others, who know more of prayer than you do, are praying. What difference does it make whether you pray or not? Are you sure that your Lord is listening? Of course He is listening to the other prayers but yours are of such small account, are you really sure He is "bending His ear" to you?
2. With all that suggests that we are asked to give too much time to prayer. There is so much to do. Why set aside so much time just to pray?
3. With all that discourages me personally--perhaps the remembrance of past sin, perhaps spiritual or physical tiredness; with anything and everything that keeps me back from what occupied St. Paul so often--vital prayer.
WHAT WILL HELP ME MOST IN THIS WRESTLE?
1. The certain knowledge that our insignificance does not matter at all, for we do not come to the Father in our own name but in the Name of His beloved Son. His ear is always open to that Name. Of this we can be certain.
2. The certain knowledge that this is Satan's lie; he is much more afraid of our prayer than our work. (This is proved by the immense difficulties we always find when we set ourselves to pray. They are much greater than those we meet when we set ourselves to work.)
3. Isaiah 44:22 and kindred words, with 1 John 1:9, meet all distress about sin. Isaiah 40:29-31 with 2 Corinthians 12:9,10 meets everything that spiritual or physical weariness can do to hinder. Psalm 27:8 with Isaiah 45:19 meets all other difficulties. And the moment we say to our God, "Thy face, Lord, will I seek," His mighty energies come to the rescue. (See Colossians 1:2,9.) Greater, far greater, is He that is in us than he that is against us. Count on the greatness of God. But are we to go on wrestling to the end?
No, there is a point to which we come, when, utterly trusting the promise of our Father, we rest our hearts upon Him. It is then we are given what St. Paul calls access with confidence (Ephesians 3:12). But don't forget that this access is by faith, not by feeling, faith in Him our living Lord; He who says "Come unto Me" does not push us away when we come. As we go on, led by the Holy Spirit who so kindly helps our infirmities, we find ourselves in 1 John 5:14,15 and lastly in Philippians 4:6, . It is good to remember that immediate answer to prayer is not always something seen, but it is always inward peace.
And if the day ends otherwise and we are discouraged? Then tell Him so, "nothing ashamed of tears upon His feet" [here she is quoting from F.W.H. Meyers's poem "St. Paul"]. Lord, Thou knowest all things. Thou knowest that I love Thee. "Yes, my child, I know." But don't settle down into an "it will never be different" attitude. It will be different if only in earnest we follow on to know the Lord.
Prayer is Conflict by Elisabeth Elliot
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