But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is…
"He that cometh to God" — this is a special characterisation of prayer. It seems to localise the omnipresent God. To come to Him is to be vividly conscious of Him, and to realise His goodness and grace; to touch Him, and speak to Him.
I. The first postulate of prayer is BELIEF IN THE PERSONALITY OF GOD. If I think of God as a universal ether, as a highly-sublimated steam which pervades and works the machine of the universe, I can no more pray to Him than I could pray to the steam of the locomotive to put me down at such and such a station. If I think of God as an unconscious something, idea, or what else, which is necessarily and unconsciously developing itself into the universe, I can no more pray to that than I can to the principle of evolution. If God be not a person, if He be a mere force, as pray to that I might as well say to gravitation, which has broken my head, "Heal me," or to time, which has left me behind, "Wait for me."
II. We must not only believe that God is, but also that He is the rewarder of them that seek after Him, which involves as a second postulate of prayer that GOD HAS POWER TO HEAR AND ANSWER PRAYER. Prayer, it is said, has a great reflex action. It certainly has. Going over and giving .thanks for God's mercies excites my gratitude, even though there be no God to receive my thanks. But I would not so befool myself as to give thanks, if I did not believe God is to reward my thanks by receiving them. A celebrated scientific lecturer, while insisting on the operation of law, once said: "The united voice Of this assembly could not persuade me that I have not at this moment the power to lift my arm if I wished to do so." And if, in spite of gravitation, man has this power, surely we cannot deny a corresponding power to God. In answer to my child's prayer I can lift my arm, though gravitation operates to keep it down. And in answer to my prayer, God my Father, being no less personal than I, can do what is analogous to my lifting my arm. He can subordinate, combine His laws according to His mighty power and wisdom, so that, without dishonouring, but rather honouring them in using them, He brings about the result, which is the reward of my prayer.
III. But to reward, there must be something more than the power; there must be the grace. We note, then, as the third postulate of prayer, GOD'S WILLINGNESS TO REWARD. Some, learning that this earth is but a small part of the solar system, and the solar system but a mote in the sunbeam of the universe, say, with more than the psalmist's meaning: Well, what is man that God should be mindful of him, or the son of man that God should visit him? Why should God answer the prayers of one so insignificant? The question would have force if man were nothing more than matter. But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of God hath given him understanding; we are His offspring. A solar system, therefore, might expire, but it would touch God less than the cry of one of His children. Insignificant man is materially, but not spiritually. He has a quality transcending all matter; he has a life which shall flourish with immortal energy when the fires of the sun are sunk into cold ashes. God will hear His child, though the child be small. Ah, but we are sinful, and He is holy; will He suffer us to come near Him? Verily, God is willing that the sinful, being penitent, should draw near to Him. Why, has He not drawn near to them in every inviting word and gracious deed of prophet and saint? Has He not drawn near to them in Christ Jesus? Yea, does He not draw near to us sinful now? What is that loathing of sin which sometimes comes upon the sinner? What is that sense of shame and feeling of disgust which sometimes fills him? What is that longing for good, that wistful looking back to the days when the heart was pure? What are these but God coming to the sinner? What are our hungerings for righteousness, our longings for truth, our aspirations for goodness, but God in us, working in us to will and to do of His good pleasure? To meet, then, such operations is to fulfil His own desires; to reward such feelings is to satisfy Himself. If God has come thus to us, how can we doubt that He will reward us coming to Him? How can He deny our prayer, when to fulfil it is to fulfil His own will?
(A. Goodrich, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.