Work and Pray
George Everard, 1866
One who lately visited the inventor of the new machine, tells us that he noticed these words as a motto over the door of his house, and that he could see they were words carried out in the life of this now famous inventor. Be it so in your life, my young reader. It will be no lost life, however brief, if you endeavor thus to act.
WORK. Whatever be your position, you have work to do; there are to be no idlers in this busy world. Read the book of Proverbs. See how often Solomon rebukes the slothful: "He who is slothful in his work, is brother to him that is a great waster." "Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger." Satan yet finds work for those who find none for themselves. Idleness breeds and fosters numberless sins.
In reference to the work you have to do, consider the great aim and object you should set before you.
Avoid here two mistakes, one on either hand. Do not merely regard the present life. Do not look upon it as of first importance . . .
to be the world's idol,
to win its praise,
to court its smile,
to dazzle its votaries,
to stand high in the world's honors, or
to gain as much as possible of the world's honied or golden stores.
Remember there are those who lose all — and yet gain all; who have never attained beyond the lowest step on the ladder of earthly distinction — and who yet will stand very high when all present things have passed away.
Yet avoid the opposite mistake. Some few very zealous young Christians fall into it. While you rightly look chiefly to the higher concerns of eternity, do not forget that claims and duties for the present world devolve upon you. Your constant desire should be to serve Christ most usefully in the sphere in which He has placed you on earth, and then to enjoy His presence forever in Heaven.
Then bear in mind that all the ordinary duties of life are to be regulated by Christian principle. Read the Epistles of Peter and Paul, and mark how the very commonest duties are referred to. Even the slave is to endeavor so to do his work as to please Christ.
Your work may lie chiefly among common things. It may be in the office, in the shop, or on the land, or it may consist in duties carried on within your own home. None of these are small matters. Let your religion shine forth in them, and through them. Be thoroughly painstaking, honest, and trustworthy. Be a Joseph, a Daniel — faithful in all things. Give no occasion to the enemies of the Gospel to speak evil of it on your account.
But, it may be, you have not yet launched forth upon the great sea of life. Your present work may be a training for the future, a preparation for whatever path God may open out before you. Nor can anything demand greater effort and attention. Education is the calling forth of all the powers of the mind; it is likewise the gathering together materials for thought, which may be of inestimable value in any walk of life. Therefore, throw heart and soul into your studies, only keeping uppermost the desire to approve yourself to God. Lay up a store of every kind of knowledge. "The wisdom of the Egyptians" will not be profitless even in the service of the Sanctuary. Whatever you gain now, may be useful hereafter. Language, science, history, biography, travels, even occasional light reading, if it is of the right sort — all may be helpful to you.
Be very jealous over the employment of your time. It is more precious to you than the gold of Ophir. Waste none of it. Do not rob the study for the playground or the sports field. Let not the best hours of the day be lost. Yet grudge not the time needful for healthy recreation. Heartily join in it with your companions, and show that none is happier than the true Christian.
In all branches of study, make the ground sure beneath your feet. Master thoroughly what you begin. Be content to read less, rather than gain a merely superficial knowledge on many subjects. Think too of the old proverb, "no pains — no gains." It is true here if anywhere. Therefore do your very best.
We are told of Sir Joshua Reynolds, that he never began a portrait without a determination that it should excel all his previous efforts. He kept the truth ever before him, that no great work could be produced unless head and hand were sometimes put to a strain. Working in such a spirit, what rich gains would you find, what solid acquirements in knowledge would you make! The money spent upon your education would not be thrown away. It would be richly repaid, should your life be spared, in your after success and usefulness.
It may be well to add here, do not neglect mental training after leaving school. Many a girl could find hours each day for laying stone after stone upon the edifice of knowledge, which has cost so much in previous years. Do not let it fall into decay. However occupied some readers may be, you can yet find, if you will, spare hours, or at least spare minutes, for this work.
But it is necessary to pass from these secular topics.
Christ bids you not only do all ordinary work for Him, but calls you to labor directly for the welfare of others, and for the setting up of His kingdom. He says, "Son, go work today in my vineyard." He Himself went about "doing good," and so should you. Doors of usefulness are open on every side, and Christ can find work suitable for the capacity of each one. Possibly one reader might engage in visiting the sick or the whole, another might assist in training the young, another might collect for Mission work at home or abroad. Is it too much to hope that some might feel within a call to take their place in the vanguard of the army of Christ, and give up life, and all, themselves to carry the Gospel banner into heathen lands? If so many are prepared to go forth in the Civil service — are there none who are willing in this far higher service, to go forth to minister the bread of life to myriads that are ready to perish?
One word to those who desire to work in Christ's vineyard. Put yourself into His hand, to be used by Him as He will. Be it your prayer, "Lord, make me a vessel unto honor, very useful in Your service." Be willing ever to take the lowest place. Be quite content to be only like the temple servants of old — a hewer of wood and drawer of water, in the service of the Lord. "He who will be chief among you, let him be your servant." And watch against personal feelings interfering with your work. Do not let some little pique come in and prevent your harmony with fellow-workers. You might wish for a different district to visit, or a higher class in the Sunday-school, or some change in the arrangements — but let no such thought make you leave the niche where God has placed you.
Labor on in the assurance that Christ Himself is near to bless you. Nor shall any work done in the right spirit fail of its reward. Touching are the words inscribed on a statuette given by our Queen to her grandson, in memory of the late Prince Consort:
"Walk as he walked, in faith and righteousness,
Strive as he strove, the weak and poor to aid;
Seek not yourself, but other men to bless —
So win like him a wreath that will not fade."
The Lord knows the hearts of the children of men, and doubtless those who strive, out of love to Him, to diminish the world's woe, to support the needy, and to save the souls for whom He died, shall receive the crown of glory that fades not away.
But the young Christian must also PRAY.
"Work and pray." Not one without the other. Work without prayer will one day prove to have been fruitless toil. "Except the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it."
Likewise, "Watch and pray." All our watchfulness will not keep the enemy at a distance, unless Christ watches also. "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain."
Watch, as if on that alone
Hung the outcome of the day,
Pray that help may be sent down,
Watch and pray.
The value of prayer to the young disciple of the cross is altogether beyond the power of any words to express. Without it, what are you but a defenseless soldier in an enemy's country, a pilgrim through dangerous wilds, and none near to help! With it, you have by your side the Lord God Almighty, His wisdom to guide, His arm to uphold, His love to comfort you.
Consider how great is the mercy that you are permitted to pray. That we are allowed to draw near to the very footstool of the Divine Majesty, and there present our petitions with the assurance that not one shall be disregarded — is something so exceedingly blessed, that were it not for the deep-rooted ungodliness of our evil hearts, we would at all times rejoice in so great a privilege. Say not "I must pray," though this is true; rather say to yourself as you bend the knee, "Thank God, I may pray. Christ has opened to me a door of access. His name, His blood, His intercession is my all-sufficient plea. Shall I not come boldly, and come frequently to the throne of grace, that I may receive the blessings my Father waits to bestow?"
Oh that we knew more of the joy and sweetness of prayer, and of the benefits arising from it!
With respect to prayer, study well the Gospel of Luke. Note there the Lord's example as the Man of Prayer specially brought out. Luke 3:21; 4:42; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28; 11:1; 22:41-45; 23:34, 46. Note likewise in this Gospel, three parables on prayer, not found elsewhere, setting forth the necessity of importunity, continuance, and humility, to be exercised at the mercy-seat. Luke 11:18.
Be not deterred from prayer, by the presence of others. Be alone, if you can; if you cannot, let not false shame persuade you to neglect a solemn approach to your Father's throne. In the presence of your companions, as Daniel did with the eyes of his enemies upon him — kneel down and pray. Great may be the blessing to them, as also to yourself.
A young lad at a boarding school near London, slept in the same room with five others. The first night he alone knelt down. When he arose, he quietly asked the others, if they did not themselves pray, that they would not disturb him by talking. Before a week had passed, the example of one had influenced all. They would each one kneel down for a few moments before they went to rest. He who set the example, after a short Missionary career in India, has passed to his eternal rest, testifying to the enjoyment of perfect peace since Jesus had washed all his sins away.
Neither be deterred from prayer, by feeling at any time weariness, or inability, or indisposition for it. Most desirable is it that usually you should pour out your heart in your own words, but if at any time you cannot do this, use some the Psalms, and try to throw your heart into whatever petitions you thus offer. Far better is this, than ever omitting your accustomed season of devotion.
Try to carry out the four extensions of prayer named by Paul.
Pray in everything. (Philippians 4:6.) In things temporal and in things spiritual, as to present needs and future anxieties, for the forgiveness of sins and for the graces of the Spirit — in all these things make known your requests to the Father.
Pray on behalf of all men. (1 Timothy 2:1.) Take a wide range. Pray for individuals, for families, for congregations, for Churches, for countries, for the wide world. Pray for relations, for those in authority both in Church and State. Pray for the afflicted, for the ignorant, for the ungodly. Pray for a larger supply of faithful men to serve God in the ministry of His Church. Pray that the borders of Christ's kingdom may be enlarged, and that His continual pity may cleanse and defend His Church.
Pray in all places. (1 Timothy 2:8.) Wherever your lot may be cast, thence the arrow of believing prayer can penetrate within the veil. Wherever your foot may tread, in your chamber, or in your garden, along the road, in the railway carriage, or on the deck of a ship — God is there ready to hear you. Pray, pray everywhere.
Pray at all times. (1 Thessalonians 5:17.) Morning, evening, noonday, seven times a-day, or seventy times seven — pray on, never grow weary, never cease.