The Privilege of Prayer
George Everard, 1871
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16
Imagine for a moment that on a set day in each year, our beloved Queen were to take her seat upon the throne. She had caused it to be proclaimed far and wide that, as a memorial of some great event, she will then be ready to grant any petition made to her. What crowds would flock around her! How many would anticipate the hour when they might obtain some long-sought blessing!
This thought sets before us a great reality. What would be impossible in any earthly sovereign, is actually the case with the great and glorious King who reigns in Heaven. His throne of grace is open to the poor and wretched, to those who feel burdened with ten thousand sins, and troubled by ten thousand wants and sorrows. It is open to the man who comes the first time weighed down by the remembrance of a life's iniquity. It is open to the child of God who comes again and again for the supply of grace which he needs. It is open, not once a year, but every day, every hour, every moment!
The way to this throne of grace is all paved with golden promises: Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. Before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear. Over that throne, the eye of faith can discern, in letters glittering like the bright stars of Heaven, some such invitations as these: Ask, and it shall be given you. Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Great and precious are the gifts ready to be granted to those who earnestly seek them at the mercy seat.
Years ago an Indian Prince was greatly indebted to one high in authority for the aid and support he had rendered him. The Indian Prince desired to give the Englishman some strong proof of his gratitude, so he took him into a vast underground chamber where were collected the most costly and precious jewels, gold and silver almost without limit. The Prince then bade him choose what he would — nothing should be denied him. Whatever he named, he might call his own.
There is, likewise, a rich storehouse of costly treasures open to you. Jesus, as the exalted King of Zion, has the key, and opens it to all who come to Him in prayer. Every precious gift is within reach of the earnest seeker. You may beg yourself rich — if you will only stretch out your withered hands to the Friend of sinners. He will grant you your requests with respect to this present life. Whatever earthly comfort you desire, small or great, go and ask of Jesus, and He will give it you — if it is indeed for your best interests. He will give you . . .
rich blessings for your soul,
daily pardon for daily sin,
more light to understand Divine truth,
more strength in the Holy Spirit to overcome sin and to walk with God,
more faith and love, more joy and peace — all these will He delight to give you.
You are coming to a King,
Large petitions with you bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much!
Oh, that every reader of these pages might know the preciousness of true prayer! "I thank God He has given me a praying heart," were the words often on the lips of a young girl about nineteen, shortly before she went to her rest. Surely a praying heart is a gift beyond all price, because it opens the door to the reception of every other blessing.
I want to talk with each reader of these pages about your habits of prayer. Do you pray at all? If so, how do you pray? What are your prayers? I have sometimes asked young people about this, and the answers I have received have often made me very sad. I have found some use some short form which they learned as young children. I have found others using the Lord's prayer and nothing besides, and this in a very formal way. I have found others, again, using the creed, which of course is no prayer at all. Very, very few have I found who prayed really — asking God for what they needed, or speaking to Him as if they believed that He heard them.
May it be otherwise with you, my young reader. Let your prayer be prayer indeed. Speak to God in your own words, just what you feel — if you use a form occasionally, take care that you really desire the blessings it refers to. Let every prayer be so real and true, that God who searches your heart will say, Behold she prays! For this purpose remember three important things in prayer — earnestness, humility, and faith.
1.There must be earnestness. You must not be content with an idle, dreamy prayer — a few words muttered on your bed before you go to sleep or when you rise. No, no — this will never do. Go on your knees; think of your great necessities, and then pray as for your life. By the help of the Spirit, plead earnestly with God to grant you everything you need. Be in earnest when you go in to family prayer — do not regard it as a mere part of your duty, but go in with a real desire to learn something and to gain something. Be so earnest that you are not content with your morning and evening prayer, but often send up to Heaven a cry for grace and help. A short prayer may bring down a lasting blessing — it may keep you from a sin that would have brought you sorrow even to your dying day. Let there be in your prayers something of the spirit of Jacob: "I will not let You go except You bless me!"
Then let there be true humility. You must take the lowest place — you must not go to God thinking that you can bring anything of your own — either right feelings or good deeds — as a ground of your hope; but come as having nothing of your own but sin and evil. Come empty-handed, like the beggar who pleads nothing but his poverty and need.
A woman once told me that she was not afraid of God hearing her, as she had more religion than thousands of others. This is a very sorry way of coming to God. What would you say of a beggar who said that as he had so many shillings he wished you to give him more. Nay, this is not the spirit which God loves to see. Go to God's gate, poor, needy, and wretched, waiting for the crumbs which fall from His table — and He will then supply all you really need.
We need in prayer the spirit of Abraham, who confessed that he was but dust and ashes.
We need the spirit of Jacob, who came to God confessing that he was not worthy of the least of all God's mercies.
We need the spirit of Daniel, who began his supplication by casting off all hope in his own righteousness and acknowledging how he and his people had rebelled against God.
We need the spirit of the publican, who stood afar off and smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner!
But with earnestness and humility, there must be faith — you must come to God with confiding expectation of a gracious answer to your petition. Come even as a little child — take a child's place. True, you are a sinful child, an unworthy child, a rebellious child, but as soon as ever you are willing to come back to God, He puts into your lips the precious word — Father. We see this plainly in the story of the prodigal. He came back, saying, "Father, I have sinned," and he was welcomed as a child.
God gives you ground for this confidence. He tells you that you may come to Him in the name of Jesus — you may come through His merit and death. You may say, I don't deserve that God should hear my prayers, and this is quite true. But then God does not look at you as you are in yourself, but through His well beloved Son. God listens to the prayers which He offers for you.
While, therefore, I can scarcely bear
What in myself I see,
How vile and black must I appear,
Most holy God, to Thee.
But since the Savior stands between
In garments dyed in blood,
Tis He instead of me is seen
When I approach to God!
Oh, what a blessed thought is this! Though altogether undeserving in myself — yet in Christ I may come as deserving everything. In His name I have a right to expect, because God has promised it, every good thing. Therefore cast away all doubt and unbelief; expect much and you shall receive much; believe much and you shall be much blessed.
Before I finish this paper let me ask you who are now reading it whether you know anything of this spirit of prayer? I have seen a physician take a stethoscope and place it on the chest of a patient, and then place his ear to the other end, and in this way he has sounded the lungs to see if there is anything vitally wrong. My young friend, I should like to put something like this to your bosom, to find out your true condition. I ask you, Do you pray, truly, earnestly, with real desire for a blessing?
This will tell you what life there is within. If there is no prayer — then be sure there is very, very great danger to your soul. But why not begin to pray at once? If you never prayed before, begin now; God will help you; He promises His Spirit; He will hear your very first cry; and the beginning of prayer will be the beginning of everlasting life. May our Father grant you the Spirit of grace and supplication, and abundantly answer all your petitions.