Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Hidden Life of Prayer

The Hidden Life of Prayer: The Lifeblood of the ChristianThe Hidden Life of Prayer: The Lifeblood of the Christian by David McIntyre

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book will help you to pray. It strings together what some of the great prayer warriors of the past have had to say about prayer (p.20). You’ll hear from hall-of-famers like Andrew Bonar, Robert Murray McCheynne, and Richard Baxter. Unfortunately, this wisdom from the ages also comes with the original packing, and some readers will struggle a little with the older styles of writing.

Our equipment for prayer is a quiet place, a quiet hour, and a quiet heart. Of course, in our noisy world, it’s hard to find anything that’s quiet. Yet, as George Bowen says, “it will never be altogether well with us till we convert the universe into a prayer room, and continue in the Spirit as we go from place to place” (36).

Of the three tools, the most important is a quiet heart. We can quiet our hearts for prayer by directing our hearts to

    - our acceptance with God through Christ’s offering
    - the Spirit’s grace
    - the Holy Scriptures.

What about our posture in prayer? Kneel? Sit? Lie down—surely not! When it comes to prayer, it’s not so much the posture of our bodies that counts, but the posture of our minds. Our minds need to open to God’s presence, honest before him, and full of faith in him who as God is all-powerful and as Father is all-gracious. Here is the posture the author extols:

Lord, here I hold within my trembling hand,

This will of mine—a thing which seemeth small;

And only thou, O Christ, canst understand

How, when I yield thee this, I yield mine all.

It hath been wet with tears, and stained with sighs,

Clenched in my grasp till beauty hath it none;

Now, from thy footstool where it prostrate lies

Thy prayer ascendeth, Let thy will be done. (p.58)

After devoting a chapter to each of the forms of prayer (worship, confession, and request), the book concludes with two chapters on the rewards of prayer. Prayer’s rewards are both “hidden” (changing you) and “open” (blessing others).

Prayer changes you! One of its “hidden” riches is the knowledge of God’s will:

In prayer we present ourselves to God, holding our motives in his clear light, and estimating them after the counsel of his will. Thus our thoughts and feelings stratify themselves: those that rise towards the honour of God taking precedence of those that drift downward towards the gratification of self. And so the great decisions of life are prepared.

In prayer, Jacob became Israel; in prayer, Daniel saw Christ’s day, and was glad; in prayer, Saul of Tarsus received his commission to go ‘far hence’ among the Gentiles; in prayer, the Son of Man accomplished his obedience, and embraced the cross. (107)

Prayer changes others! One of its “open” rewards is the spread of the kingdom by prayer:

By prayer, the tentmaker of Tarsus won the dissolute Corinthians to purity and faith, laid the enduring foundations of Western Christianity, and raised the name of Jesus high in the very palace of Nero. (121-2)

Robert Roberts preached a sermon that led to an awakening in Wales. A friend asked the preacher a few days later where he got “that wonderful sermon.” Roberts led him to a small parlour and said “It was here I found that sermon you speak of—on the floor here, all night long, turning backward and forward, with my face sometimes on the earth” (122).

“In a word, every gracious work which has been accomplished within the kingdom of God has been begun, fostered and consummated by prayer” (123). There is no secret to revival; it is only “ask and receive.”

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