Scriptural Selections: On Prayer, II
Every man’s life is a continual state of prayer; he is no moment free from it, nor can possibly be so. …as the heart works and wills, such and no other is its prayer.
If therefore the working desire of the heart is not habitually turned toward God, if this is not our spirit of prayer, we are necessarily in a state of prayer towards something else that carries us from God and brings all kind of evil into us. Pray we must, as sure as our heart is alive; and therefore when the state of our heart is not a spirit of prayer to God, we pray without ceasing to some or other part of the creation.
– William Law (1686-1761), The Spirit of Prayer, in Robert Llewelyn (ed.), Daily Readings with William Law (Springfield, IL: Templegate, 1986), p. 64.
Oh! How have I prayed for the lost world! For all the souls of mankind how hath my soul bowed in unutterable breathings of spirit before my God, and could not be silenced until he quieted my spirit in righteousness and excellency of his will, and bid me leave it to him. And as touching this nation, and the several sorts in it, even those who seem most cast off, and without all sense; yet the preciousness of their souls have I spread before the Lord my God with tears.
– Isaac Penington, Some Observations upon…Romans 14:20 (1662), in Works, v. 2, p.308
Perfect prayer must be the love of God. The excellence of this prayer does not consist in the number of words that we pronounce, for God sees our hearts, and knows all that we want. The heart asks only what God wills that we should have. He who does not desire with his whole heart, makes a deceitful prayer. How few are there who pray!
– François Fénelon (1651-1715), On Prayer
Notice that in Scripture the word ‘prophecy’ is used of prayer as well as preaching…. Thus every prophet’s task is to speak partly as the voice of God (in preaching), and partly as the voice of the people (in praying): ‘If you take out the precious from the vile, you shall be as My mouth’ (Jer. 15:19); ‘And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!”‘ (Neh. 8:6).
– William Perkins (1558-1602), The Art of Prophesying (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1996), p. 7
Hasten unto God. Why? Not because we ought to. Fellowship with God isn’t a bitter duty. Fellowship with God is the deepest joy of human existence. It is the Pearl of Great Price, for which we should sell all we have, and in joy, purchase the pearl…. You and I are not full selves until we are in God’s Presence and He is visibly in us, alive, energizing, glorying, making life miraculous.
– Thomas Kelly (1893-1941), The Eternal Promise (2nd ed., Friends United Press, 1988), pp. 128-129.
SCRIPTURAL SELECTIONS: ON PRAYER, II
Some exemplary Biblical prayers:
Genesis 4:13-15: God’s mercy to Cain.
 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.  Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.
 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
Exodus 32:31-32: Moses offers himself.
 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.  Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin – ; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.
1 Kings 3:5-15a: Solomon’s dream; his prayer for “an understanding heart.”
 In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
 And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.  And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.  And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.  Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
 And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;  Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.  And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.  And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.
 And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream.
Luke 17:5-6: The prayer “Increase our faith.”
 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
Luke 18:9-14: The publican’s prayer.
 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Mark 14:34-36: Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane.
 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.  And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.  And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. [This prayer is recorded in all four of the canonical Gospels. Cf. Matt. 26:39, Luke 22:41-42. John 12:27-28 sets a variant at the time of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. For Jesus’ statements that He had come not to do His own will, but His Heavenly Father’s, see John 5:30, 6:38.]
Luke 23:33-34: Jesus prays for his executioners.
 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.  Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
Acts 7:59-60: Stephen prays for his executioners.
 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.  And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Acts 16:25-31: Paul and Silas, imprisoned at Philippi in Macedonia.
 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.  And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.  And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,  And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
See also Acts 12:3-19: Peter’s miraculous release from imprisonment at Jerusalem, after the Church had prayed for him.
Revelation 4:2-11: The beasts’ and elders’ prayers before the Throne of God.
 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.  And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.  And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.  And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.  And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.  And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.  And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,  The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,  Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Revelation 22:20-21: The Bible, as we’ve received it, ends with John’s prayer:
 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
* * *
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)
SUPPLEMENT: FROM THE QUR’AN, ON PRAYER
“Be steadfast in prayer,” reiterates the Qur’an (2:43, 83, 177), “and establish regular prayer” (5:12, 20:14, etc.). Of the Qur’an’s many exhortations to prayer I’ve selected ‘Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali’s translations of some of those I find most striking and beautiful.
Citations are given here by surah or “chapter” name, surah number, followed after the colon by ayah or “verse” number):
Say: “Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds.”
Said Moses to his people: “Pray for help from God, and (wait) in patience and constancy: for the earth is God’s to give as a heritage to such of His servants as He pleaseth; and the end is (best) for the righteous.
… and pray on their behalf. Verily thy Prayers are a source of security for them: and God is One Who heareth and knoweth.
“Praise be to God, Who hath granted unto me in old age Isma’il and Isaac: for truly my Lord is He, the Hearer of Prayer!
“O my Lord! Make me one who establishes regular prayer….”
Maryam 19: 31
“And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live…”
Ta Ha 20:14
“Verily, I am God: there is no god but I: so serve thou Me (only), and establish regular prayer for celebrating my praise.”
Seest thou not that it is God Whose praises all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread? Each one knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise. And God knows well all that they do.
… and establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of God is the greatest (thing in life) Without doubt. And God knows the (deeds) that ye do.
The heavens are almost rent asunder from above them (by His Glory): and the angels celebrate the praises of their Lord, and pray for forgiveness of (all) beings on earth: Behold! Verily God is He, the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Celebrate the Praises of your Lord, and pray for His Forgiveness: for He is Oft-Returning (in Grace and Mercy).