And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, Lord…
There are, no doubt, many who have experienced at times an intense dissatisfaction with their prayers. They seem so lame, so cold, so profitless, till you are inclined to exclaim, "What a weariness, what a mockery it is!" You are constantly disappointed with yourselves. The heart that seemed so full has run empty ere you reached your knees. You have nothing to say; all your thoughts have fled from you; and the intense longing comes across your heart that some one would teach you how to pray. I do not pretend to supply the want here indicated; but I wish to touch upon some of the causes of this trying sense of barrenness in prayer.
I. SELF-CONCEIT. We are very slow to learn the lesson of our own inability. We feel at some time, perhaps, that our hearts are prompted by an earnest desire to pray. We grow keenly alive for the moment to our own wants; but when we attempt to pray, we find the edge of that sense of need is gone. The heart appeared full, but when we knelt we found it empty. Vexed and disappointed, we murmur at our privation, but are too blind to see its cause. We cannot see that our own self-conceit lies at the root of our failure. We thought we could do it of ourselves — we anticipated rich heart communion; but we were miserably mistaken, because we did not realize that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but that our whole sufficiency is of God. We need, then, to pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the very dawn of spiritual light, the very threshold of prayer.
II. SELF-IGNORANCE. They tell God that they have sinned, that they have grievously broken His commandments; they ask God to give them true repentance, and to forgive them for Jesus Christ's sake. Such a prayer might be from a certain heart a true and noble expression of spiritual longing; but with the persons alluded to this prayer is the stereotyped plate from which all their prayers for themselves, morning and evening, are struck off. With very little variation, and in the most conventional way — though, perhaps, with very real desire — they confess that they are sinners, unworthy and polluted, but there is not the confession of a single definite sin, or if there is, it is perhaps the result of some very rare circumstance which has impressed some special transgression more vividly upon their minds. To realize our sinfulness, we must adopt a more particular mode of dealing with our own hearts, taking them to task; recalling each special sin, and confessing it before God.
III. SELFISHNESS IN PRAYER. By this I mean that spirit in prayer which confines all our supplications to our own individual needs. Often God visits us with barrenness because we fail to grow in heart-sympathy and Christian longing for the welfare of others. It is the very law of Christ that His love should spread, as it is the law of hydrostatics that pressure should circulate in all directions through a volume of water; and when we in a niggardly forgetfulness of others violate that law, we are met with the punishment of a straitening in ourselves.
(Bishop Boyd Carpenter.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.