What I Want in Prayer
by James Smith, 1860
Prayer is a very important exercise, at once a solemn duty, and an invaluable privilege. Never is prayer so precious as when we are in trouble. Then the heart relieves itself by telling out all that grieves, vexes, or troubles it — at its heavenly Father's throne. In prayer I often feel dull, heavy, and lifeless, especially when the sun of prosperity shines; but I feel stirred up, stimulated, and enlivened, when the winds of adversity blow. Ob, what a mercy I feel the throne of grace to be then! To have a God to go to, and that God my Father — my Father in Jesus — and to know that he loves to listen to me, never criticizes either my matter or manner — but waits to be gracious, and is ready to help me — is indeed a mercy. But in prayer, I want to realize and enjoy several things.
I want access to God. To come into his immediate presence. To draw near unto him. To feel, that through Jesus, God and my soul are not only upon speaking terms — but are on the very best terms we can be.
I want to enjoy acceptance with God. To know and feel that God accepts my person. That all my sins have been transferred to Jesus. That he accepted of the transfer, made the necessary atonement, and has put them away forever. Not only so — but that his obedience is placed to my account, so that God accepts me, and is as well pleased with me, as if I had done in my own person, all that Jesus has done for me!
I want freedom before God. Freedom to express my thoughts, tell out my feelings, make known my needs, utter my desires, and plead for all the blessings of grace and glory which I need. I want to feel quite and easy in the Divine presence, so that with reverence and humility — and yet with boldness, I may speak to, and converse with God, as with a friend, or a father.
I want confidence in God. Confidence in his love to me, interest in me, and desire to do me good. Confidence in his written word, inviolable faithfulness, and unchanging love. Confidence in his acceptance of my person at present, in his approval of my conduct in pleading with him, and the power of the plea I use with him.
I want the enjoyment of God. Not merely the enjoyment of the exercise — but the enjoyment of God in the exercise. To enjoy worship is sweet and pleasant — but the heart may be stirred, and pleasurable feelings may be excited — and yet I may not enjoy God himself. On this point therefore I feel a little jealousy, for I wish not only that my faith may center in God, and my worship be paid to God — but that my enjoyment should flow from the presence of God.
I want the assistance of the Spirit of God. I would pray with the Spirit, and with the understanding also. O that the Holy Spirit would always help my infirmities, for I know not what to pray for as I ought! I need to be taught afresh how to pray, and what to pray for. When the Spirit helps me — prayer is very easy, pleasant, yes, delightful — but when left to pray alone, I am as dark, dead and stupid as ever.
I want answers from God. Direct answers. Answers that I can recognize. Just what the Lord seems to intend when he says, "When you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly." When I pray for grace, I want to realize that I receive grace.
Reader, I know not what may be the nature or number of your prayers, how you feel, or what you desire; but I confess to you, that I cannot feel satisfied, except in prayer I have access to God — a sense of acceptance with God — holy freedom when in the presence of God — a sensible and steady confidence in God — the enjoyment of the presence of God — the assistance of the Spirit of God — and then receive answers to my prayers from God. The mere performance of the duty of prayer, will never satisfy a soul alive to God; but I am afraid that some of us are too easily satisfied without the close, intimate, heart-affecting communion with God in prayer, which we should seek.