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What Prayer Meant to Jesus

What Prayer Meant to Jesus

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Published by glennpease






BY EDWARD LEIGH PELL






BY EDWARD LEIGH PELL

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Published by: glennpease on Jun 24, 2013
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WHAT PRAYER MEANT TO JESUSBY EDWARD LEIGH PELL
TO most people who are content with asecond-hand knowledge of God, prayer issimply a device for getting something fornothing or for as near nothing as possible. It maybe the act of a beggar or it may be the act of atrader: in either case it is an effort of him who hasnot to get at the resources of him who has. Inother words, it is a purely selfish undertaking inwhich no interests or wishes are regarded exceptone's own. As for God, He is not supposed tohave any part in the matter except as a source of supply. He is like the head of the family in ahome in which fathers are supposed to be devicescreated solely for the convenience of children whohave purses to fill.In the teachings of Jesus selfishness, instead of being the soul of prayer, is its worst enemy. Self-ishness cannot enter prayer without killing it. In-stead of being the cry of a selfish heart, prayer isthe cry of a heart that is struggling to get rid of self; a heart that is struggling to dethrone self and70What Prayer Meant to Jesus 71to put God in its place. To Jesus a man does notreally approach God in prayer so long as his mindis centered in himself; he approaches Him onlywhen he is more concerned about God's interestsand will than his own, or when he is struggling toput God's interests and will ahead of his own.When Jesus came the mercenary idea of prayerwas practically universal. Apparently the onlyhuman beings in those days who cried to God un-selfishly — thinking first of all of God's will andthen of the needs of their fellow-men and lastly of their own needs — were a few choice spirits amongthe Jews, such as Simeon and Anna, " who waitedfor the consolation of Israel," and a few earnestseekers after God groping about here and there inthe vast darkness of heathendom. The great mass
 
of humanity was self-centered. There were warm-hearted men and women who had pity upon thepoor and the suffering, and there were a few de-voted worshippers who had conceived somethingof a passion for God, but nowhere was there any-thing like what we call nowadays a passion forhumanity. Selfishness was written large all overthe face of the earth.It was natural that the world in that day shouldthink of prayer as the utterance of selfish desire.Men went to God's altar simply with the hope of getting what they wanted. It was no business of theirs what God wanted or what their fellow-menneeded. It was a matter of attending to one's own72 What Did Jesus Teach About Prayer?business. A man wanted rain for his crops and hevalued prayer as a device which sometimes broughtrain; and he used it whenever his crops needed itwithout stopping to ask what other men's cropsmight need or whether it v»/^ould accord with God'splans or laws. It was none of his business to in-quire whether the rain that would help his cropmight not also send a freshet down the river thatwould destroy a hundred men's crops; and as forGod's plans or laws, he never gave a thought tothem.And very naturally there had grown up aroundthis mercenary idea of prayer a tangle of equallyabsurd ideas, such as we associate nowadays witha wizard's mysterious gestures or a poor illiterate'streasured left hind-foot of a graveyard rabbit.They thought of their prayers as having virtue inthem. Either there was a hidden magical powerin them or else there was something about themthat would cause God to keep account of them andplace them to their credit — something to encouragethem to believe that they would be heard if theywould only say their prayers often enough or longenough. Even among the Jews of that day it wascommonly believed that men would be heard fortheir " much speaking."IITo Jesus these ideas were not only foolish bututterly repugnant. His sensitive soul shrank fromWhat Prayer Meant to Jesus 73
 
the proud Pharisee standing on the street cornermumbHng his prayers — shrank as a beautiful, re-fined woman would shrink from a loathsome leper.There were two things about men which Heseemed never to have been quite prepared for : onewas that men could doubt the Father's care and theother was that they could so entirely misjudge theFather's mind and heart. How could any saneman doubt his Father ? And how could any saneman imagine that he could influence his Fathersimply by repeating certain words regardless of thestate of his mind or heart? Or how could any-body imagine that the Father would be pleasedwith one's prayers when one was not really praying,at all, but only saying prayers on the street cornersto make people think he was pious ?All this was as horrifying to the Master as theattempt of an unnatural child to work " tricks "on his father for gain would be to us. He couldnot think of the prayers of the Pharisees as realprayers: they were only pagan tricks. To Hismind prayer was not a beggar's scheme or atrader's device: it was a child's privilege. To thepagan it was a plot to get something from God ; toJesus it was the privilege of unbosoming oneself toone's heavenly Father. It was not primarily anopportunity to get something but an opportunity togive something. The world thought of prayer-only in connection with its answer ; it was not in-terested in anything except the answer. Jesus also74 What Did Jesus Teach About Prayer ?thought of the answer, and He urged men to praywith the expectation of receiving an answer, butHe did not urge them to pray because He regardedthe answer as the only thing or even the main thingthat made prayer worth while. To His mindprayer was not given to us mainly that we mightget what we asked for, any more than the privilegeof going to one's father or mother was given tochildren mainly that they might get what theyasked for.Fathers and mothers can provide for their chil-dren's wants fairly well' without any suggestionsfrom them, and if there were no other reason whya child should go to his parents it is not likely thatin the development of the family this privilegewould have come to be generally recognized.Most parents would have said that they knew bet-ter what John needed than he did and didn't care

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