Middletown, N. Y., Feb. 12, 1901.
Dear Brother Chick: – I have just read your editorial in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES for February 15th, on the subject of prayer, with comfort and instruction. This subject has for many years given me much comfort, as well as many doubts and fears. The question often with me is, What is prayer! and do I know anything about it as the children of God do, who often express themselves as to the comfort and sweetness of it, or in it, to them? I can remember when a mere boy I often would try to thank God for the preservation of my life, and the blessings I as a child enjoyed, also when I did wrong would ask his forgiveness. I can say, for the last thirty years I have been trying to pray, and to-day I ask solemnly, Gave I ever in the Spirit approached the throne of grace? My dear brother, such questionings occupy much of my time. My doubts and fears are many, but my assurances few, as I hardly ever get above doubt and unbelief, and some of the questions I find in my mind often bring with them horror, and I am made to mourn because of my lack of faith, trust and confidence in an all-wise and gracious God, whose promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus our Lord. I can now see that my prayers when a child were entirely selfish and without faith, and I fear they are the same to-day. When speaking publicly in the way of prayer, I often feel it is cold, lifeless and without faith, and often would rather try to preach than to try to pray. When I seem to have freedom of mind in making my wants and desires known to God, the devil comes and tells me, You are doing well to-day, the brethren will enjoy such a prayer, at once horror takes hold of me and I fear and tremble. Again, when I seem to stammer and stumble, the devil comes and says, You have not prayer in your heart, and this is only form and mockery, and my soul sinks within me. Sometimes at night in my wakeful hours, and again at my duties in the day, I try to pray, and address the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, begin with a few words, and perhaps in a few moments I come to myself and behold I have forgotten I began to pray: my mind has been taken up with something of the world, and again I fear and quake. Do you wonder at such a poor, helpless, dependent sinner as I, having doubts, fears and sufferings of mind!
“I am a stranger hero below,
And what I am ‘tis hard to know,
I am so vile, so prone to sin,
I fear that I’m not born-again.”
Lord, decide the doubtful case and give my weary conscience case.
The few thoughts above will give you an idea of what trouble I have passed through in regard to prayer, but feel sure you cannot fellowship such an experience, and this causes me doubt also, to know I am alone in such an experience, but just so I am, and instead of growing stronger, as I hoped years ago, I am getting weaker and weaker each day of my life.
You say in your editorial, The Lord waits his own time to answer prayer, and if he wait long we should not faint or be discouraged. This I fully believe, but sometimes the request is not granted at all. Now the idea presents itself that a form of words is not always prayer, and many times when we have thought we were praying, there was not a word of prayer in it; words without faith never reach God. You well remember when President Garfield was shot, how the different denominations of the United States set apart days to pray for his recovery, but he died, this fully demonstrates the fact that all which is called prayer is not prayer. Had one of the thousands who desired his recovery had faith to believe God would hear or grant his request, the president would have lived. James tells us, “We ask and receive not, because we ask amiss.” We do not know what we need, and if all our desires were granted, we would soon be cut off from the fellowship of God’s people, or would have a very different experience from what we do have. We ask to be delivered from temptation, affliction, fears, doubts, sorrows and pain, if this was granted how could we be conformed to the image of the Son of God! How could we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Nature and grace have their opposites, so what seems evil to us is good and to the glory of God. The sick child would prefer sweets to the bitter medicine it needs, and so with the children of God, they would have the sweets at all times, but their Father knowing what is good for them, gives affliction, sorrow and pain, not that he has pleasure in their sufferings, but that they may know more of him, and his strong arm, that they may have fellowship with the sufferings of Christ, and know the power of his resurrection. If we could feel as we would like, the time would be but short before we would be proud pharisees, and would be thanking God that we were not as other men. This is not according to the will of God, therefore we are a poor and afflicted people, yet trust in the name of the Lord. The very knowledge we have of our sinful and depraved nature is a blessing, because it brings us to God, and here we see Christ the Mediator between, in garments dyed with blood; he is seen and not us. He paid the debt and is forever at the right hand of God to make intercession for us. Now the question comes, Who prays and whose prayer is answered always? The apostle tells us in the following language, ‘‘Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” – Rom. viii. 20, 27. Nothing therefore in the way of prayer is answered but that which is in accordance with the will of God, consequently such petitions are given of God, and ascend to him through the Spirit, as Jesus said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” Hence we cannot come unto him in prayer only through or in Christ, any more than we can ascend to him when the summons comes that calls us from time to eternity, without having Christ, the truth, the way and the life. We poor worms of the dust should indeed be thankful and rejoice because we have such an High Priest, who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and who being tempted in all points like as we, is able to succor us who are tempted, and with his own blood did cleanse us from all sin. Yet we feel the leprosy remaining, and are in continual warfare, but through him the victory is ours, over death, sin and the grave. Notwithstanding all this, we find ourselves trying to pray always, and are neither faint or discouraged though we wait, and wait again.
The prayer of the publican is in the mind of the saint more than any other, and whether a child of God or not, it suits my case: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” For surely sin is mixed with all I do, and mercy and grace I need every moment of my life. Mercy because of my sin, unbelief and rebellion, and grace to keep me and sustain me in the trials and conflicts of my pilgrimage. So, because of my crippled condition, I go halting and stumbling along, finding in this life no continuing city, but I seek one to come, where prayer and desire are no more, but there the saints have fullness of joy, and pleasures for evermore.
With love and fellowship, I am your brother in hope of the gospel,
H. C. KER.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 69, No. 7
April 1, 1901