I was reading this morning from Living by Faith, which is a selection of writings from E.J. Waggoner and A.T. Jones. It serves as a sequel of sorts to the compilation Lessons on Faith. Both are absolutely pivotal for a person who is on the journey of faith.
This morning’s reading for me was simply called “Prayer,” and it was an article Waggoner wrote in 1893. It is absolutely fantastic and is probably one of the best things I’ve ever read on prayer, confirming the very realizations and experiences I’ve been having lately – namely, that prayer and helplessness go hand-in-hand and until one feels his/her helplessness it is pointless to urge prayer. This thought, in particular, speaks to that powerful point:
[God] waits for you to realize your need of Him. He cannot consistently, with the infinitely wise principles by which He works, bestow on you spiritual blessings that you would not appreciate. . . . Your heart must be in a condition to receive an appropriate gift before it can be bestowed. And when it is in that condition, you will feel an earnest longing that will naturally take the form of prayer.
This has been my precise experience!
But read the whole quote in context. I am simply going to reproduce the short article here. Read it and be blessed – and challenged! (This is taken from The Present Truth, October 5, 1893):
Prayer is the channel of the soul’s communion with God. Through it our faith ascends to God, and His blessings descend to us. The prayer of the saints ascend as incense before God. They come actually into His presence. Ps. cxl. 2; Rev. v. 8; viii. 3, 4. Prayer is the index of the soul’s spirituality. There is “the prayer of faith,” spoken of by James, and there is also the wavering prayer, mentioned by the same writer. There is “the effectual, fervent prayer,” which “availeth much,” and there is also the cold, formal prayer, which avails nothing. Our prayers show the exact measure of our spirituality.
The effectual prayer takes hold by faith upon the word of God. Faith not only believes that God is, but that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Heb. xi. 6. It is offered not formally, but with a sense of need; not doubtingly nor despairingly, but with full confidence that it is heard, and will receive an answer in due time.
The effectual prayer is not argumentative, for it is not the province of man to argue with God. Its statements are not for the purpose of conveying information to God, or of persuading Him to do what He had not intended to do. God cannot be persuaded by man. The arguments and appeals of a finite man cannot change the mind of the Omniscient. The man of faith does not plead with God for any such purpose. He does not want to persuade God to work in man’s way, for he believes God’s statement that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than man’s ways. His prayer is ever, Thy will, not mine, be done.
What then is prayer, and what the purpose for which it is offered? It is the expression of our assent to that which God is willing and waiting to do for us. It is expressing to God our willingness to let Him do for us what He did wants to. It is not left for us to instruct the Lord in regard to what we need. “Your heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him.” He knows what we need much better than we know ourselves. “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.” Rom. viii. 26.
God knows every need that we have, and is ready and anxious to give us that which will supply them; but He waits for us to realise our need of Him. He cannot consistently with the infinitely wise principles by which He works, bestow upon men spiritual blessings of which they would have no appreciation. He cannot work for man without man’s co-operation. The heart must be in a condition to receive an appropriate gift before it can be bestowed. And when it is in that condition, it will feel an earnest longing which will naturally take the form of prayer. And when this longing is felt, when the soul feels an intense desire for the help that God alone can give, when the language of the soul is, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God,”-the effect is to open the channel between God and the soul and let the flood of blessings which was already waiting to descend. And it is the intensity of the desire that determines how wide the door shall be opened.
We need to realise more the great truth that God sees and knows everything that we need and has every provision made for all our wants, before we have even considered those wants ourselves, and that our work is not to determine what must be done to relieve them, but to place ourselves in a position where God can relieve them by the means which He has provided; to conduct ourselves with Him, to know His mind and thus to move according to His plans, and not set about the fruitless task of trying to make Him work for us according to some plans of our own.