[The Classic Christian Network] Classic A. B. SIMPSON: "The Life of Pray…

Posted: April 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

“Traditional Christianity Saved by Grace”

 Hell got bigger. Grace got Greater, and the world is heading for Hell in a Handbasket. You really don’t want to go there. Unless you seriously don’t do something about it, You are Going to Hell. Hell was not made for you and you weren’t made for Hell, but it isn’t oblivion you are facing when you die, but Hell. You are going in the wrong direction and admit it or not, Hell is waiting for you. Jesus Said, Call on Me and You Shall Be Saved. We call it Salvation because it is. It is not going where you deserve to be, and that is Hell. Jesus said, Call on me. Read these so you can be assured God wants you in heaven.“Call on the Name of the Lord, and You Shall Be Saved”. Reject them, pure and simple, You Go to hell. It’s your call, it just might be your Last Call. –Michael James Stone

 

 This Weeks Classic  

 A. B. SIMPSON

 

 The Life of Prayer

Introduction

PREFACE

I have read and reread Dr. Simpson’s book 

“The Life of Prayer”

 with the deepest interest and profit. No one can give this little book a careful reading without realizing that the author has lived in the secret of his Master’s presence. Every page makes it evident that here is a man who has prayed through. Down through the Christian centuries few men have had greater prayer results. Great would be the spiritual quickening if every Christian mastered this classic on the prayer life.

–Jonathan Goforth

§

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The Life of Prayer—great and sacred theme! It leads us into the Holy of Holies and the secret place of the Most High. It is the very life of the Christian, and it touches the life of God Himself.

We enter the sacred chamber on our knees. We still our thoughts and words, and say, “Lord, teach us to pray. Give us Thy holy desires, and let our prayer be the very echo of Thy will. Give us Thy Spirit as our Advocate within. Open our eyes to see our Great High Priest and Advocate above, and help us so to abide in Him, and to have His Word so abiding in us, that we shall ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us.” And as in ignorance and weakness we venture to speak and think upon this vital theme, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” And may every true word and thought of this little volume be a living experience to him who speaks and to all who hear, and so minister to the life of prayer in all our lives, that it shall bring, in some humble measure, an answer to the greatest of all prayers, and the prayer with which this opening chapter begins and to which this book is dedicated, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”

–A. B. Simpson

 

 

 

 

 One

 

The Pattern Prayer

“And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil” (Luke 11:2-4).

This wonderful prayer was dictated by our Lord in reply to the question on the part of His disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray.” His answer was to bid them pray. This is the only way we shall ever learn to pray, by just beginning to do it. And as the babbling child learns the art of speech by speaking, and the lark mounts up to the heights of the sky by beating its little wings again and again upon the air, so prayer will teach us how to pray; and the more we pray, the more shall we learn the mysteries and heights and depths of prayer. And the more we pray, the more we shall realize the incomparable fullness and completeness of this unequaled prayer, the prayer of universal Christendom, the common liturgy of the Church of God, the earliest and holiest recollection of every Christian child, and the latest utterance often of the departing soul. We who have used it most have come to feel that there is no want which it does not interpret and no holy aspiration which it may not express. There is nothing else in the Holy Scriptures which more fully evolves the great principles that underlie the divine philosophy of prayer.

It teaches us that all true prayer begins in the recognition of the Father.

It is not the cry of nature to an unknown God, but the intelligent converse of a child with his heavenly Father. It presupposes that the suppliant has become a child, and it assumes that the mediation of the Son has preceded the revelation of the Father. No one, therefore, can truly pray until he has accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and received through Him the child-heart in regeneration, and then been led into the realization of sonship in the family of God. The Person to whom prayer is directly addressed is the Father as distinguished from the Son and the Holy Ghost. The great purpose of Christ’s mediation is to bring us to God and reveal to us the Father as our Father in reconciliation and fellowship. It is not wrong to address the Son and Spirit in our hearts. The name suggests the spirit of confidence, and this is essential to prayer.

The first view given of God in the Lord’s Prayer is not His majesty but His paternal love. To the listening disciples this must have been a strange expression from the lips of their Lord as a pattern for them. Never had Jewish ear heard God so named, at least in His relation to the individual. The Father of the Nation He was sometimes called, but no sinful man had ever dared to call God his Father. They, doubtless, had heard their Master speak in this delightful name of God as His Father, but that they should call Jehovah by such a name had never dawned upon their legal and unillumined minds. And yet it really means that we may and should recognize that God is our Father in the very sense in which He is His Father, and ours as partakers of His Sonship and His Name. The Name expresses the most personal and tender love, protection, care, and intimacy; and it gives to prayer, at the very outset, the beautiful atmosphere of the home circle and the delightful affectionate and intimate fellowship of friend with friend.

Beloved, have you thus learned to pray? Do wondering angels look down upon your closet every day to see a humble and sinful creature of the dust talking to the majestic Sovereign of the skies, as an infant lies upon its mother’s breast or prattles without a fear upon her knee? Can it be said to you, “I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father”?

It teaches us that prayer should recognize the majesty and almightiness of God.

The words, “who art in heaven,” or, rather, “in the heavens,” are intended to give to the conception of the Divine Being a very definite and local personality. He is not a vague influence or pantheistic presence, but a distinct Person, exalted above matter and nature and having local habitation, to which the mind is directed, and where He occupies the throne of actual sovereignty over all the universe. He is also recognized as above our standpoint and level, in the heavens, higher than our little world, and exalted above all other elements and forces that need His controlling power. It enthrones Him in the place of highest power, authority and glory.

And so true prayer must ever recognize at once the nearness and greatness of God. The Old Testament, therefore, is full of the sublimest representation of the majesty of God, and the more fully we realize His greatness, the more boldly will we dare to claim His interposition in prayer in all our trials and emergencies.

Beloved, have we learned, as we bow the knee in prayer, that we are talking with Him Who still says to us as to Abraham, “I am El Shaddai, the Almighty God”; to Jeremiah, “I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?”; to Isaiah, “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.”

It teaches us that prayer is not only a fellowship with God but a fellowship of human hearts.

“Our Father” lifts each of us at once out of ourselves, and, if nowhere else on earth, at least at the throne of grace, makes us members one of another. Of course, it is assumed that the first link in the fellowship is Christ, our Elder Brother, and so there is no single heart, however isolated, but that may come with this prayer with perfect truthfulness, and hand in hand with Christ say, “Christ’s and mine.” But, undoubtedly, it chiefly refers to the fellowship of human hearts. The highest promises made to prayer are those who agree, or, as the Greek more beautifully expresses it, “symphonize” on earth. There is no place where we can love our friends so beautifully or so purely as at the throne of grace. There is no exercise in which the differences of Christians melt away as when their hearts meet together in the unity of prayer, and there is no remedy for the divisions of Christianity but to come closer to the Father, and then, perforce, we shall be in touch with each other.

It teaches us that worship is the highest element in prayer.

“Hallowed be thy name” is more than any petition of the Lord’s Prayer. It brings us directly to God Himself and makes His glory supreme, above all our thoughts and all our wants. It reminds us that the first purpose of our prayers should ever be, not the supply of our personal needs, but the worship and adoration of our God. In the ancient feasts everything was first brought to Him, and then it was given to the worshiper in several cases for his use, and its use was hallowed by the fact that it had already been laid at Jehovah’s feet. And so the spirit that can truly utter this prayer and fully enter into its meaning can receive all the other petitions of it with double blessing. Not until we have first become satisfied with God Himself and realize that His glory is above all our desires and interests are we prepared to receive any blessing in the highest sense; and when we can truly say, “Hallowed be thy name whatever comes to me,” we have the substance of all blessing in our heart.

This is the innermost chamber of the Holy of Holies, and none can enter it without becoming conscious of the hallowing blessing that falls upon and fills us with the glory which we have ascribed to Him. The sacred sense of His overshadowing, the deep and penetrating solemnity, the heavenly calm, that fills the heart which can truly utter these sacred words, constitute a blessing above all other blessings that even this prayer can ask.

Beloved, have we learned to begin our prayer in this holy place, on this heavenly plane? Then, indeed, have we learned to pray.

It teaches us that true prayer recognizes the establishment of the Kingdom of God as the chief purpose of the divine will and the supreme desire of every true Christian.

More than our own temporal or even spiritual needs are we to pray for the establishment of that Kingdom. This implies that the real remedy for all that needs prayer is the restoration of the Kingdom of God. The true cause of all human trouble is that men are out of the divine order and the world is in rebellion against its rightful Sovereign, and not until that Kingdom is reestablished in every heart and in all the world can the blessings which prayer desires be realized. Of course, it includes in a primary sense the establishment of the Kingdom of God in the individual heart, but much more in the world at large, in fulfillment of God’s great purpose of redemption. It is, in short, the prayer for the accomplishment of redemption and its glorious consummation in the coming of our Lord and the setting up of His Millennial Kingdom. What an exalted view this gives of prayer! How it raises us above our petty selfish cares and cries! It is said of a devoted minister, Dr. Backus, of Baltimore, that when told he was dying and had only half an hour to live, he asked them to raise him from his bed and place him upon his knees, and he spent the last half hour of his life in one ceaseless prayer for the evangelization of the world. Truly that was a glorious place to end a life of prayer! But the Lord’s Prayer begins with this lofty theme and teaches us that it should ever be the first concern and petition of every loyal subject of the Redeemer’s Kingdom.

Must it not be true, beloved, that the failure of many of our prayers may be traced to their selfishness, and the innumerable efforts we have spent upon our own interests, and the little we have ever asked for the Kingdom of our Lord? There is no blessing so great as that which comes when our hearts are lifted out of self and become one with Christ in intercession for others and for His cause. There is no joy so pure as that of taking the burden of our Master’s cause on our hearts and bearing it with Him every day in ceaseless prayer, as though its interests wholly depended upon the uplifting of our hands and the remembrance of our faith. “Prayer shall be made for him continually,” is one of the promises respecting our blessed Lord.

Beloved, have we prayed for Jesus as much as we have for ourselves? There is no ministry which will bring more power and blessing upon the world and from which we ourselves will reap larger harvests of eternal fruit than the habit of believing, definite and persistent prayer for the progress of Christ’s Kingdom, for the needs of His church and work, for His ministers and servants, and especially for the evangelization of the world and the vast neglected myriads who know not how to pray for themselves. Oh, let us awaken from our spiritual selfishness and learn the meaning of the petition, “Thy kingdom come!”

It teaches us that true prayer is founded upon the will of God as its limitation and encouragement.

It is not asking for things because we want them, for the primary condition of all true prayer is the renunciation of our own will that we may desire and receive God’s will instead. But having done this and recognizing the will of our Father as the standard of our desires and petitions, we are to claim these petitions when they are in accordance with His will with a force and tenacity as great as the will of God itself. And so this petition, instead of being a limitation of prayer, is really a confirmation of our faith, and gives us the right to claim that the petition thus conformed to His will shall be imperatively fulfilled. Therefore, there is no prayer so mighty, so sure, so full of blessing, as this little sentence at which so many of us have often trembled, “Thy will be done.” It is not the death-knell of all our happiness, but the pledge of all possible blessing; for if it is the will of God to bless us, we shall be blessed. Happy are they who suspend their desires until they know their Father’s will, and then, asking according to His will, they can rise to the height of His own mighty promise, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” “Thus saith the Lord, . . . Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.” What more can we ask of ourselves and others than that God’s highest will, and that for us, shall be fulfilled?

How shall we know that will? At the very least, we may always know it by His Word and promise, and we may be very sure we are not transcending its infinite bounds if we ask anything that is covered by a promise of His Holy Word, but we may immediately turn that promise into an order on the very Bank of Heaven and claim its fulfillment by all the power of His omnipotence and the sanctions of His faithfulness. Why, the very added clause itself, “as it is in heaven,” implies that the fulfillment of this petition would change earth into a heaven and bring heaven into every one of our lives in the measure which we meet this lofty prayer! This petition, therefore, while it implies the spirit of absolute submission, rises to the height of illimitable faith.

Beloved, have we understood it and learned thus to pray, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven”?

It teaches us that prayer may include all our natural and temporal wants and should be accompanied by the spirit of trustful dependence upon our Father’s care for the supply of all our earthly needs.

“Give us this day our daily bread,” gives to every child of God the right to claim a Father’s supporting and providing love. It is wonderful how much spiritual blessing we get by praying and trusting for temporal needs. They greatly curtail the fullness of their spiritual life and separate God’s personal providence from the most simple and minute of life’s secular interests who try, through second causes or through ample human provision, to be independent of His direct interposition and care. We are to recognize every means of support and temporal link of blessing as directly from His hand, and to commit every interest of business and life to His direction and blessing.

At the same time, it is implied that there must be in this a spirit of simplicity and daily trust. It is not the bread of future days we ask, but the bread of today. Nor is it always luxurious bread, the bread of affluence, the banquet, and the feast, but daily bread, or rather as the best authorities translate it, “sufficient bread,” bread such as He sees to be really best for us. It may not be always bread and butter; it may be homely bread, and it may be sometimes scant bread, but He can make even that sufficient and add such a blessing with it and such an impartation of His life and strength as will make us know, like our Master in the wilderness, that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” It implies, in short, a spirit of contentment and satisfaction with our daily lot and a trust that leaves tomorrow’s needs in His wise and faithful hand to care for us day by day as each new morrow comes.

Beloved, have you thus learned to pray for temporal things, bringing all your life to God? bringing it in the spirit of daily trust and thankful contentment with your simple lot and your Father’s wisdom and faithfulness?

It teaches Us that true prayer must ever recognize our need of the mercy of God.

There are two versions of this petition, “Forgive us our trespasses,” and “Forgive us our debts.” This is not accidental. There may be an honest consciousness in the heart of the suppliant that there has been no willful or known disobedience or sin, and yet there may be infinite debt, omission, and shortcoming as compared with the high standard of God’s holiness and even our own ideal. The sensitive and thoroughly quickened spirit will never reach a place where it will not be sensible of so much more to which it is reaching out and God is pressing it forward, that it will not need to say, “Forgive us our debts,” even where perhaps it could not conscientiously say, “Forgive us our transgressions.”

This sense of demerit on our part throws us constantly upon the merits and righteousness of our Great High Priest and makes our prayers forevermore dependent on His intercession and offered in His name. This enables the most unworthy to “come boldly unto the throne of grace” to “obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” We do not mean that our dear Lord encourages us to expect to be constantly sinning and repenting, for the final petition of this prayer is for complete deliverance from all evil, but He graciously stoops to the lowest level and yet grades the prayer so as to cover the experience of the highest saint, to meet the finer sense of the most sanctified spirit as well as the coarser consciousness of actual sin on the part of the humblest penitent.

This petition presupposes a very solemn spirit of forgiveness in the heart of the suppliant. This is indispensable to the acceptance of the prayer for forgiveness. The Greek construction and the use of the aorist tense expresses a very practical shade of meaning, namely, that the forgiveness of the injury that has been done to us has preceded our prayer for divine forgiveness. Freely translated it should be thus expressed, “Forgive us our trespasses as we have already forgiven them that trespassed against us.”

There are certain spiritual states, therefore, that are indispensable to acceptable prayer, even for the simplest mercies, and without which we cannot pray. The soul that is filled with bitterness cannot approach God in communion. Inferentially, it must therefore be true that the soul that is cherishing any other sin and sinful state is thereby hindered from access to the throne of grace. This is an Old Testament truth that all the abundant grace of the New Testament has not provoked nor weakened. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me,” was a lesson which even David learned in his sad and solemn experience. “I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar,” is the eternal condition of acceptable communion with the Holy One. The most sinful may come for mercy, but they must put away their sin and freely forgive the sins of others. Above all others there seem to be two unpardonable sins, one, the sin which willfully rejects the Holy Ghost and the Saviour presented by Him, that is, the sin of willful unbelief; and the other, the sin of unforgivingness.

It teaches us that prayer is our true weapon and safeguard in the temptations of life, and that we may rightly claim the divine protection from our spiritual adversaries.

This petition, “Lead us not into temptation,” undoubtedly covers the whole field of our spiritual conflicts and may be interpreted, in the largest sense, of all we need to arm us against our spiritual enemies. It cannot strictly mean that we pray to be kept from all temptation, for God Himself has said, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation,” and “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptation,” and, “Let patience have her perfect work.” It rather means, “Lead us not into a crisis of temptation,” “and lead us so that we shall not fall under temptation or be tried above what we are able to bear.” There are spiritual trials and crises which come to souls, too hard for them to bear, snares into which multitudes fall; and this is the peculiar promise which this prayer claims, that they shall not come into any such crisis, but shall be kept out of situations which would be too trying, carried through the places which would be too narrow, and kept safe from peril.

This is what is meant by the word “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations,” and also the still more gracious promise in First Corinthians 10:13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” When we think how many there are who perish in the snare, and how narrow the path often is, oh, what comfort it should give us to know that our Lord has authorized us to claim His divine protection in these awful perils to meet the wiles of the devil and the insidious foes against whom all our skill would be unavailing!

This was the Master’s own solemn admonition to His disciples, in the garden in the hour and power of darkness, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation,” and this was His own safeguard in that hour. The apostle has given it to us as the unceasing prescription of wisdom and safety in connection with our spiritual conflict, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.”

The crowning petition of the Lord’s Prayer is a petition for entire sanctification, including deliverance from every other form of evil.

“Deliver us from evil.” This has frequently been translated “from the evil one,” but the neuter gender contradicts this and renders it most natural to translate it, as the old version does, of evil in all forms rather than the author of evil. This is more satisfactory to the Christian heart. There are many forms of evil which do not come from the evil one. We have as much cause to pray against ourselves as against the devil. And there are physical evils covered by this petition as well as special temptations. It is a petition, therefore, against sin, sickness and sorrow in every form in which they could be evils. It is a prayer for our complete deliverance from all the effects of the Fall, in spirit, soul and body. It is a prayer which echoes the fourfold gospel and the fullness of Jesus in the highest and widest measure. It teaches us that we may expect victory over the power of sin, support against the attacks of sickness, triumph over all sorrow and a life in which all things shall be only good and work together for good according to God’s high purpose. Surely the prayer of the Holy Ghost for such a blessing is the best pledge of the answer! Let us not be afraid to claim it in all its fullness.

All prayer should end with praise and believing confidence.

The Lord’s Prayer, according to the most correct manuscripts, really ends with “Deliver us from evil,” but later copies contain the closing clause, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen.” And while it is extremely doubtful whether our Lord uttered these words, yet they have so grown into the phraseology of Christendom that we may, without danger, draw from them our closing lessons.

The doxology expresses the spirit of praise and consecration. We ascribe to God the authority and power to do what we have asked, and give the glory of it to His name; and then, in token of our confidence that He will do so, we add the Amen, which simply means “So let it be done.” In fact, it is faith ascending to the throne and humbly claiming and commanding in the name of Jesus that for which humility has petitioned. Our Lord does require this element of faith and this acknowledgment and attestation of His faithfulness as a condition of answered prayer. No prayer is complete therefore until faith has added its “Amen.”

Such, then, are some of the principle teachings of this universal prayer. How often our lips have uttered it! Beloved, has it searched our hearts this day and shown us the imperfection, the selfishness, the smallness, the unbelief of what we call prayer? Let us henceforth repeat its pregnant words with deeper thoughtfulness and weigh them with more solemn realization than we have done before, until they shall come to be to us what they indeed are, the summary of all prayer, the expression of all possible need and blessing and the language of a worship like that of the holy ranks who continually surround the throne above. Then indeed shall His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Beautiful and blessed prayer! How it recalls the most sacred associations of life! How it follows the prodigal even in his deepest downfall and his latest moments! How it expands with the deepening spiritual life of the saint! How it wafts the latest aspirations and adorations of the departing Christian to the throne to which he is ready to wing his way! Let it be more dear to us henceforth, more real, more deep, wider and higher, as it teaches us to pray and wings our petition to the throne of grace. And oh, if there be any one reading these words now who has often uttered it without having any right to say “Our Father,” or any real ability to enter into its heart-searching meaning, may you this very moment, beloved reader, stop; and as you think with tears of the lips that once taught you its tender accents years ago, but that are silent now in the molding grave, kneel down at the feet of that mother’s God, that father’s God, that sister’s God; and if you are willing to say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us,” you may dare to add, linked in everlasting hope and fellowship with those that first voiced those words to you, “Our Father, which art in heaven.”

On a lonely bed in a Southern hospital, a soldier lay dying. A Christian friend called to see him and tried to speak of Christ, but was repelled with infidel scorn. Once or twice he tried in vain to reach his heart, but at last simply knelt down by the bed and tenderly repeated the Lord’s Prayer, slowly and solemnly. When he arose to leave, the infidel’s eyes were wet with tears. He tried to brush them away and conceal his feelings, but at last broke down and said, “My mother taught me that more than fifty years ago, and it quite broke me up to hear it again.” The missionary passed away, not wishing to hinder the voice of God. The next time he called, the patient had disappeared. Sending for the nurse he asked about him and was told that a night or two before the soldier had died, but just before the end she heard him repeating the words, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” and then he seemed to add in a husky voice, “Mother, I am coming! He is my Father, too.”

Dear friend, let this old prayer become to you a holy bond with all that is dearest on earth and a stepping-stone to the very gates of heaven!

Chapter Two

Encouragements to Prayer

“And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he asks a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:5-13).

This is our Saviour’s second teaching about prayer. His first was an actual example of prayer. This is an unfolding of some of the special encouragements to prayer which are afforded by the gracious care of God, our Father and Friend, and also some deeper instructions respecting the nature and spirit of true prayer.

Encouragements to Prayer

God is our Father. This had already been suggested in the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer, but it is amplified in this passage by a comparison between the earthly and heavenly Parent: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” God is not only a Father, but much more than any earthly father. How much this expresses to many of us! There are few who cannot recall, in the memories of home, the value of a father’s or a mother’s love and care; or, if they have been wanting, all the more, perhaps, has the orphaned heart felt its deep need and reached out for a father’s heart and hand. Who of us has not felt in some great emergency, needing a wisdom and resource beyond our own, “Oh, if my father were only here,” or, perhaps, has said to God: “If Thou wert my earthly father now, Thou wouldst sit down by my side and let me tell Thee of all my perplexity, and Thou wouldst tell me just what to do, and then wouldst do for me what I cannot do for myself.” And yet His presence is as real as if we saw Him, and we may as freely pour our hearts out with all their fears and griefs and know that He hears and helps as no earthly father is able to do either in love or relief. Perhaps even better than the memory of our childhood is the realization of our own fatherhood or motherhood. Who that has ever felt a parent’s love can fail to understand this appeal? It is a love which neither the helplessness nor the worthlessness of its object can affect. It is a love which often has gladly sacrificed every thing, even life itself, for the loved one. But it was from the bosom of God that all that love came at first, and infinitely more is still in reserve. The depth, and length, and height of this “much more” can only be measured by the distance between the infinite and the human. Much more than you love your child does He love you; much more than you would give or sacrifice is He ready to bestow and has He already sacrificed; much more than you can trust or ask a father for, may you dare to bring to Him; much more unerring is His wisdom, illimitable His power, and inexhaustible His love! Shall we, then, with the little alphabet of our human experience, try to spell out all His love and learn the deeper meaning of the prayer, “Our Father, which art in heaven”?

He is our Friend. “Which of you shall have a friend?” This also finds its full significance through the actual experience of each one of us. Who has not had a friend, and more of a friend in some respects than even a father? There are intimacies not born of human blood that are the most intense and lasting bonds of earthly love. Jonathan was more to David than Jesse was, and Timothy was more to Paul than a very son. How much our friends have been to us! One by one let us count them over, recall each act and bond of love, and think of all that we may trust them for and all in which they stood by us; and then, as we concentrate the whole weight of recollection and affection, let us put God in that place of confidence and think He is all that and infinitely more. Our Friend! The One who is personally interested in us; Who has set His heart upon us; Who has made Himself acquainted with us; Who has come near to us in the tender and delicate intimacy of unspeakable fellowship; Who has spoken to us such gracious words; Who has given us such invaluable pledges and promises; Who has done so much for us; Who has made such priceless sacrifices, and Who, we feel, is ready to take any trouble or go to any expense to aid us to Him we are coming in prayer, our Heavenly Friend.

He is a Friend in extremity. The case here supposed is a hard one. The suppliant is in great need, has a case of suffering on his hands and is wholly without means to meet it. It may represent any emergency in our lives. Other friends are for fair weather. This is always God’s time.

The friends who in our sunshine live,

When winter comes, have flown,

And he who has but tears to give
Must weep those tears alone.

But this Friend has authorized us to claim His help especially in times of need. “Call upon me,” He says, “in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.” “Thou hast known my soul in adversities,” is the testimony of one who proved His faithful friendship under the severest pressure. “God that comforteth those that are cast down,” “The Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort” are His chosen names and titles. Let us not fear, therefore, to come to Him when we have nothing to bring to Him but our grief and fear. We shall be welcome. He is able for the hardest occasions, and He is seated on His throne for the very purpose of giving help in time of need. Even if the case seems wholly helpless and the hour is as dark as the dark midnight of this parable, cast thy burden on the Lord, yes, all your care, for “he careth for you,” and “the Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth suc

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