NOTE A, Chap. VI. p.73
Just this day I have been meeting a very earnest lady missionary from India. She confesses and mourns the lack of prayer. But -- in India at least -- it can hardly be otherwise. You have only the morning hours, from six to eleven, for your work. Some have attempted to rise at four, and get the time they think they need, and have suffered, and had to give it up. Some have tried to take time after lunch, and been found asleep on their knees. You are not your own master, and must act with others. No one who has not been in India can understand the difficulty; sufficient time for much intercession cannot be secured.
Were it only in the heat of India the difficulty existed, one might be silent. But, alas! in the coldest winter in London, and in the moderate climate of South Africa, there is the same trouble everywhere. If once we really felt -- intercession is the most important part of our work, the securing of God's presence and power in full measure is the essential thing, this is our first duty -- our hours of work would all be made subordinate to this one thing.
May God show us all whether there indeed be an insuperable difficulty for which we are not responsible, whether it be only a mistake we are making, or a sin by which we are grieving Him and hindering His Spirit!
If we ask the question George Muller once asked of a Christian, who complained that he could not find time sufficient for the study of the Word and prayer, whether an hour less work, say four hours, with the soul dwelling in the full light of God, would not be more prosperous and effective than five hours with the depressing consciousness of unfaithfulness, and the loss of the power that could be obtained in prayer, the answer will not be difficult. The more we think of it the more we feel that when earnest, godly workers allow, against their better will, the spiritual to be crowded out by incessant occupation and the fatigue it brings, it must be because the spiritual life is not sufficiently strong in them to bid the lever stand aside till the presence of God in Christ and the power of the Spirit have been fully secured.
Let us listen to Christ saying, |Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's| -- let duty and work have their place -- |and unto God the things that are God's.| Let the worship in the Spirit, the entire dependence and continued waiting upon God for the full experience of His presence and power every day, and the strength of Christ working in us, ever have the first place. The whole question is simply this, Is God to have the place, the love, the trust, the time for personal fellowship He claims, so that all our working shall be God working in us?
NOTE B, Chap. VII. p.89
Let me tell here a story that occurs in one of Dr. Boardman's works. He had been invited by a lady of good position, well known as a successful worker among her husband's dependents, to come and address them. |And then,| she added, |I want to speak to you about a bit of bondage of my own.| When he had addressed her meeting, and found many brought to Christ through her, he wondered what her trouble might be. She soon told him. God had blessed her work, but, alas, the enjoyment she once had had in God's word and secret prayer had been lost. And she had tried her utmost to get it back, and had failed. |Ah! that is just your mistake,| he said. |How that? Ought I not to do my best to have the coldness removed?| |Tell me,| he said, |were you saved by doing your best?| |Oh, no! I tried long to do that, but only found rest when I ceased trying, and trusted Christ.| |And that is what you need to do now. Enter your closet at the appointed time, however dull you feel, and place yourself before your Lord. Do not try to rouse an earnestness you do not feel; but quietly say to Him that He sees how all is wrong, how helpless you are, and trust Him to bless you. He will do it; as you trust quietly, His Spirit will work.|
The simple story may teach many a Christian a most blessed lesson in the life of prayer. You have accepted of Christ Jesus to make you whole, and give you strength to walk in newness of life; you have claimed the Holy Spirit to be in you the Spirit of Supplication and Intercession; but do not wonder if your feelings are not all at once changed, or if your power of prayer does not come in the way you would like. It is a life of faith. By faith we receive the Holy Spirit and all His workings. Faith regards neither sight nor feeling, but rests, even when there appears to be no power to pray, in the assurance that the Spirit is praying in us as we bow quietly before God. He that thus waits in faith, and honours the Holy Spirit, and yields himself to Him, will soon find that prayer will begin to come. And he that perseveres in the faith that through Christ and by the Spirit each prayer, however feeble, is acceptable to God, will learn the lesson that it is possible to be taught by the Spirit, and led to walk worthy of the Lord to all well pleasing.
NOTE C, Chap. IX. p.111
Just yesterday again -- three days after the conversation mentioned in the note to chap. vii. -- I met a devoted young missionary lady from the interior. As a conversation on prayer was proceeding, she interposed unasked with the remark, |But it is really impossible to find the time to pray as we wish to.| I could only answer, |Time is a quantity that accommodates itself to our will; what our hearts really consider of first importance in the day, we will soon succeed in finding time for.| It must surely be that the ministry of intercession has never been put before our students in Theological Halls and Missionary Training Homes as the most important part of their life-work. We have thought of our work in preaching or visiting as our real duty, and of prayer as a subordinate means to do this work successfully. Would not the whole position be changed if we regarded the ministry of intercession as the chief thing -- getting the blessing and power of God for the souls entrusted to us? Then our work would take its right place, and become the subordinate one of really dispensing blessings which we had received from God. It was when the friend at midnight, in answer to his prayer, had received from Another as much as he needed, that he could supply his hungry friend. It was the intercession, going out and importuning, that was the difficult work; returning home with his rich supply to impart was easy, joyful work. This is Christ's divine order for all thy work, my brother: First come, in utter poverty, every day, and get from God the blessing in intercession, go then rejoicingly to impart it.
NOTE D, Chap. X. p.123
Let me once again refer my readers to William Law, and repeat what I have said before, that no book has so helped me to an insight into the place and work of the Holy Spirit in the economy of redemption as his ADDRESS TO THE CLERGY.
The way in which he opens up how God's one object was to dwell in man, making him partaker of His goodness and glory, other way than by himself living and working in him, gives one the key to what Pentecost and the sending forth of the Spirit of God's Son into our hearts really means. It is Christ in God's name really regaining and retaking possession of the home He had created for Himself. It is God entering into the secret depths of our nature there to |work to will and to do,| to |work that which is pleasing in His sight in Christ Jesus.| It is as this truth enters into us, and we see that there is and can be no good in us but what God works, that we shall see light on the Divine mystery of prayer, and believe in the Holy Spirit as breathing within us desires which God will fulfil when we yield to them, and believingly present them in the name of Christ. We shall then see that just as wonderful and prevailing as the intercession and prayer passing from the Incarnate Son to the Father in heaven is our intercourse with God; the Spirit, who is God, breathing and praying in us amid all our feebleness His heaven-born Divine petitions: what a heavenly thing prayer becomes.
The latter part of the above-mentioned book consists of extracts from Law's letters. These have been published separately as a little shilling volume. No one who will take the time quietly to read and master the so simple but deep teaching they contain, without being wonderfully strengthened in the confidence which is needed, if we are to pray much and boldly. As we learn that the Holy Spirit is within us to reveal Christ there, to make us in living reality partakers of His death, His life, His merit, His disposition, so that He is formed within us, we will begin to see how Divinely right and sure it is that our intercessions in His name must be heard; his own Spirit maintains the living union with Himself, in whom we are brought nigh to God, and gives us boldness of access; what I have so feebly said in the chapter on the Spirit of Supplication will get new meaning; and, what is more, the exercise of prayer a new attractiveness; its solemn Divine mystery will humble us, its unspeakable privilege lift us up in faith and adoration.
The Power of the Spirit: An Address to the Clergy. By WILLIAM LAW. With additional Extracts and an Introduction by Rev. A. M. James Nisbet & Co.2s.6d.
The Divine Indwelling. Selections from the Letters of William Law. With Introduction by A. M. James Nisbet & Co.
NOTE E, Chap. XI. p.136
There is a question, the deepest of all, on which I have not entered in this book. I have spoken of the lack of prayer in the individual Christian as a symptom of a disease. But what shall we say of it, that there is such a widespread prevalence of this failure to give a due proportion of time and strength to prayer? Do we not need to inquire, How comes it that the Church of Christ, endued with the Holy Ghost, cannot train its ministers and workers and members to place first what is first? How comes it that the confession of too little prayer, and the call for more prayer, is so frequently heard, and yet the evil continues? The Spirit of God, the Spirit of Supplication and Intercession, is in the Church and in every believer. There must surely be some other spirit of great power resisting and hindering this Spirit of God. It is indeed so. The spirit of the world, which under all its beautiful and even religious activities is the spirit of the god of this world, is the great hindrance. Everything that is done on earth, whether within or without the Church, is done by either of these two spirits. What is in the individual the flesh, is in mankind as a whole the spirit of the world; and all the power the flesh has in the individual is owing to the place given to the spirit of this world in the Church and in Christian life. It is the spirit of the world is the great hindrance to the spirit of prayer. All our most earnest calls to men to pray more will be vain except this evil be acknowledged and combated and overcome. The believer and the Church must be entirely freed from the spirit of the world.
And how is this to be done? There is but one way -- the Cross of Christ, |by which,| as Paul says, |the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.| It is only through death to the world that we can be freed from its spirit. The separation must be vital and entire. It is only through the acceptance of our crucifixion with Christ that we can live out this confession, and, as crucified to the world, maintain the position of irreconcilable hostility to whatever is of its spirit and not of the Spirit of God; and it is only God Himself who, by His Divine power, can lead us into and keep us daily dead to sin, and alive unto God in Christ Jesus. The cross, with its shame and its separation from the world, and its death to all that is of flesh and of self, is the only power that can conquer the spirit of the world.
I have felt so strongly that the truth needs to be anew asserted, that I hope, if it please God, to publish a volume, The Cross of Christ, with the inquiry into what God's word teaches as to our actual participation with Christ in His crucifixion. Christ prayed on the way to the cross. He prayed Himself to the cross. He prayed on the cross. He prays ever as the fruit of the cross. As the Church lives on the cross, and the cross lives in the Church, the spirit of prayer will be given. In Christ it was the crucifixion spirit and death that was the source of the Intercession Spirit and Power. With us it can be no otherwise.
NOTE F, Chap. XIV. p.177
I have more than once spoken of the need of training Christians to the work of intercession. In a previous note I have asked the question whether, in the teaching of our Theological Halls and Mission Training Houses, sufficient attention is given to prayer as the most important, and in some senses the most difficult part of the work for which the students are being prepared. I have wondered whether it might not be possible to offer those who are willing, during their student life, to put themselves under a course of training, some help in the way of hints and suggestions as to what is needed to give prayer the place and the power in our ministry it ought to have.
As a rule, it is in the student life that the character must be formed for future years, and it is in the present student world that the Church of the future must be influenced. If God allows me to carry out a plan that is hardly quite mature yet, I would wish to publish a volume, THE STUDENT'S PRAYER MANUAL, combining the teaching of Scripture as to what is most needed to make men of prayer of us, with such practical directions as may help a young Christian, preparing to devote his life to God's service successfully, to cultivate such a spirit and habit of prayer as shall abide with him through all his coming life and labours.