“Prayer changes things.” It puts us into direct contact with God, and thus brings God into more active contact with our personal lives and surroundings. That more intimate, active presence of God does indeed tend to change things in and around us.
Peter Forsyth, a British preacher and church leader of a century ago, wrote a little book on prayer, The Soul of Prayer, that has influenced me a lot the last several years. Forsyth is not always easy to follow but his thought is very rich and nourishing.
Here are some quotes from that book. Maybe we can each find at least three or four sentences here that will nourish or deepen our thinking about God and about prayer. Then, perhaps, our prayers will do even more good.
I suspect the first one might be the most important.
Honesty in Prayer
(1.) We are not humble in God’s sight, partly because in our prayer there is a point at which we cease to pray, where we do not turn everything out into God’s light. It is because there is a chamber or two in our souls where we do not enter in and take God with us. We hurry him by that door as we take him along the corridors of our life to see our tidy places or our public rooms.
(2.) Go into your chamber, shut the door, and cultivate the habit of praying audibly. Write prayers and burn them … Pay no attention to literary form, only to spiritual reality. Read a passage of Scripture and then sit down and turn it into a prayer, written or spoken.
(3.) Learn to be particular, specific, and detailed in your prayer so long as you are not trivial … This is the best, the wholesome, kind of self-examination. Speaking with God discovers us safely to ourselves. We find ourselves, come to ourselves …
(4.) true and close prayer … saps our self-deception and its Pharisaism.
(5.) A prayer is also a promise … Can we pray in earnest if we do not in the act commit ourselves to do our best to bring about the answer?
The Power of Prayer
(6.) To pray to the Doer must help us to understand what is done. Prayer, as our greatest work, breeds in us the flair for the greatest work of God, the instinct of his kingdom, and the sense of his track in time.
(7.) In life it is not hard work (that does it) … it is faculty, insight, gift, talent, genius. And what genius does in the natural world prayer does in the spiritual.
(8.) Nothing can give us so much power and vision … for here the springs of life continually rise.
(9.) We can offer God nothing so great and effective as our obedient acceptance of the mind and purpose and work of Christ. It is not easy. It is harder than any idealism. But then it is very mighty.
Prayer Changes Us
(10.) We come out with a courage and a humanity we had not when we went in … The true Church is thus co-extensive with the community of true prayer.
(11.) Here, above all, he who will do shall know.
(12.) It is the great producer of sympathy. Trusting the God of Christ, and transacting with him, we come into tune with men … When God fills our heart he makes more room for man than the humanist heart can find.
(13.) Prayer alone [i.e only prayer] prevents our receiving God’s grace in vain.
(14.) It settles at last whether morality or machinery is to rule the world.
Learning This Fine Art
(15.) It is an art, this great and creative prayer, this intimate conversation with God … It has to be learned.
(16.) It is a power that grows by exercise. At first it groans, at last it glides.
(17.) Do it as a duty and it may open out as a blessing. Omit it and you may miss the one thing that would have made an eternal difference.
(18.) Compel yourself to meet your God as you would meet your promises, your obligations, your fellow-men.
(19.) We must learn that art by practice, and by keeping the best society in that kind. Associate much with the great masters in this kind; especially with the Bible; and chiefly with Christ. Cultivate his Holy Spirit. He is the grand master of God’s art and mystery in communing with man. And there is no other teacher, at last, of man’s art of communion with God.
(20.) Bible searching and searching prayer go hand in hand. What we receive from God in the Book’s message we return to him with interest in prayer.
(21.) If I must choose between Christ, who bids me pray for everything, and the savant, who tells me certain answers are physically and rationally impossible, must I not choose Christ? … Christ knew everything about the God of nature and his reality. He knew more of what is possible to God than anybody has ever known about what is possible in nature.
- Then follows the homework assignment. Can you write two or three items for each of these two categories?
- QUESTIONS that come up:
- LESSONS or REMINDERS you’re glad to receive: