In my trouble I will call upon the Lord, and complain unto my God; so shall He hear my voice out of His holy temple, and my complaint shall come before Him; it shall enter even into His ears. -- Ps. xviii.5, 6.
The Lord is nigh unto them that call upon Him; He also will hear their cry, and will help them. -- Psalm cxlv.18, 19.
In the day when I cried Thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul. -- Psalm cxxxviii.3.
The older I grow, and the more I see of the chances and changes of this mortal life, and of the needs and longings of the human heart, the more important seems this question: Is there anywhere in the universe any being who can hear our prayers? Is prayer a superfluous folly, or the highest prudence? I say: Is there a being who can ever hear our prayers? I do not say a being who will always answer them, and give us all we ask; but one who will at least hear, who will listen consider what is fit to be granted or not, and grant or refuse accordingly?
Is that strange instinct of worship which rises in the heart of man as soon as he begins to think, to become a civilized being and not a savage, to be disregarded as a childish dream when he rises to a higher civilization still? Is the experience of men, heathen as well as Christian, for all these ages to go for nought? Has every utterance that has ever gone up from suffering and doubting humanity gone up in vain? Have the prayers of saints, the hymns of psalmists, the agonies of martyrs, the aspirations of poets, the thoughts of sages, the cries of the oppressed, the pleadings of the mother for her child, the maiden praying in her chamber for her lover upon the distant battlefield, the soldier answering her prayer from afar off with "Keep quiet, I am in God's hands" -- those very utterances of humanity which seemed to us most noble, most pure, most beautiful, most divine -- been all in vain? Mere impertinences, the babblings of fair dreams, poured forth into no where, to no thing, and in vain? Has every suffering, searching soul which ever gazed up into the darkness of the unknown, in hopes of catching even a glimpse of a divine Eye, beholding all, and ordering all, and pitying all, gazed up in vain? Oh! my friends, those who believe, or fancy they believe, such things, and can preach such doctrines without pity and sorrow, know not of what they rob a mankind already but too miserable by its own folly and its own sin -- a mankind which if it have not hope in God and in Christ, is truly, as Homer said of old, more miserable than the beasts of the field.
When the human heart asks, Have we not only a God in Heaven, but a Father in Heaven? that question can only be answered by our Lord Jesus Christ. Truly He said, "No one cometh unto the Father but by Me. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath revealed Him." And therefore we can find boundless comfort in the words, "Such as the Father is, such is the Son and such the Holy Ghost." For now we know that there is A MAN in the midst of the throne who is the brightness of God's glory and the express image of His person -- a high priest who can be touched by the feeling of our infirmities, seeing He was tempted in all things like as we are. To Him we can cry with human passion and in human words, because we know that His human heart will respond to our human hearts, and that His human heart again will respond to His Divine Spirit, and that His Divine Spirit is the same as the Divine Spirit of His Father, for their wills and minds are One, and their will and their mind is boundless love to sinful men.
Yes, we can look up in our extreme need by faith into the sacred face of Christ, and by faith take refuge within His sacred heart, saying, If it be good for me, He will give what I ask; and if He gives it not, it is because that too is good for me, and for others beside me. In all the chances and changes of this mortal life we can say to Him, as He said in that supreme hour -- "If it be possible let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless not My will but Thine be done;" sure that He will present that prayer to His Father and to our Father, and to His God and our God; and that whatsoever be the answer vouchsafed by Him whose ways are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts, the prayer will not have gone up to Christ in vain.
I have been praying long and earnestly, and have no fears now. "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, believing, ye shall receive." "Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief." Those two texts were my stronghold when the night of misery was most utterly dark, and in the strength of them we shall prevail. Fret not then, neither be anxious; what God intends He will do.
Letters and Memories.
The longer I live the more I see that the Lord's Prayer is the pattern of all prayers; and whether it be consistent with that to ask that God should alter the course of the universe in the same breath that we say, "Thy will be done on earth" -- judge you. I do not object to praying for special things. God forbid! I do it myself. I cannot help doing it any more than a child in the dark can help calling for its mother. Only it seems to me, that when we pray, "Grant this day that we run into no kind of danger," we ought to lay our stress on the "run," rather than on the "danger"; and ask God not to take away the danger by altering the course of nature, but to give us light and guidance whereby to avoid it.
Letters and Memories.
Pray night and day very quietly, like a little, weary child, for everything you want, in body as well as in soul -- the least thing as well as the greatest -- nothing is too much to ask God for -- nothing too great for Him to grant -- and try to thank Him for everything. Glory be to thee, O God!
Letters and Memories.
When you are in the deep -- whatever that depth be -- cry to God: to God Himself, and none but God. If you can go to the pure fountain-head, why drink of the stream, which must have gathered something of defilement as it flows? If you can go to God Himself, why go to any of God's creatures, however holy, pure, and loving? Go to God, who is light of light, life of life. From Him all goodness flows.
Go then to Him Himself. Out of the deep, however deep, cry unto God, unto God Himself. If David the Jew of old could do so, much more we who are baptized into Christ; much more can we who have access by one Spirit unto the Father; much more can we who, if we know who we are and where we are, should come boldly to the Throne of Grace, to find mercy and grace to help us in the time of need. Hath He promised, and shall He not do it? To every one of you -- however weak, however ignorant, aye, however sinful, if you desire to be delivered from those sins -- this grace is given; liberty to cry out of the depth to God Himself, who made sun and stars, all heaven and earth; liberty to stand face to face with the Father of the spirits of all flesh, and cling to the One Being who can never fail nor change, even to the One immortal, eternal God.
The seed which we sow -- the seed of repentance, the seed of humility, the seed of sorrowful prayers for help -- shall take root and grow and bring forth fruit, we know not how, in the good time of God who cannot change. We may be sad -- we may be weary; our eyes may wait and watch for the Lord more than they who watch for the morning; but it must be as those who watch for the morning, for the morning which must and will come; for the sun will surely rise, and the day will surely dawn, and the Saviour will surely deliver those who cry unto Him.
For the poor soul who is abased, who is down, and in the depth; who feels his own weakness, folly, ignorance, sinfulness, and out of the deep cries unto God as a lost child crying after its father -- even as a lost lamb bleating after the ewe -- of that poor soul, be his prayers never so confused, stupid, and ill expressed -- of him it is written: "The Lord helpeth them that fall; He is nigh unto all that call upon Him; He will fulfil the desire of those that fear Him; He also will hear their cry, and will help them."