ONE WORD THAT SETTLES ALL

BY EDWARD LEIGH PELL
THERE are two kinds of questions which we ask about prayer — the questions we ask in our heads and the questions we ask in our hearts. To all our head questions — all the questions we ask from the viewpoint of science or reason — there is one answer which, when clearly understood, completely satisfies both science and reason. That answer is the scientific fact which underlies the promise of Jesus, " If ye will ask anything in my name I will do it." This fact is that everything in creation, including man, on coming into harmony with law, comes into vital communication with the sources of supply. All the objections to prayer that have been offered by materialistic scientists vanish before this simple fact. The materialistic scientist does not see this — apparently because he shares the popular misapprehension of the meaning of prayer. He thinks of prayer as the effort of men who are out of harmony with law to persuade God to make His will conform to their desires, and to his mind this is absurd. And he is right. It is impossible for an intelligent mind, whether it is a scientific mind or not, to conceive of 199

200 What Did Jesus Teach About Prayer ? God as bending or breaking His law to bring it into harmony with the desires or whims of one of His creatures. But, as I have tried to show, this is not prayer. Prayer is not the effort of a lawless or self-willed man to bend God's law to his will. That is not only unscientific ; it is absurd. A lawless man cannot pray. The thief on the cross was lawless before he prayed, but not when he prayed. He did not begin to pray until he had repented — until his mind and heart had turned away from his lawlessness. Prayer is not like the cry of a plant that has been uprooted and torn away from harmony with law ; it is like the effort of a plant trying to bring itself more perfectly into harmony with law by pushing its roots a little farther down into the soil and opening the pores of its leaves wider in accordance with the demands of that law.

But it is quite possible to answer all of one's intellectual questions about prayer and at the same time leave one's heart questions unsettled, and as everybody knows it is even more important to satisfy our hearts than it is to satisfy our intellects. Happily Jesus has come to our help in this matter also. In a single word He has given us the answer to every question that the human heart has ever asked about prayer. That word is — Father. There may be exceptions to this rule, as there are to most rules, but I have never found one. Recall one by one all the anxious questions about prayer

One Word That Settles All 201 that ever came up in your heart, including those you never dared to utter aloud, and note how readily and how completely and satis fyingly this one word answers them all. What reason have I to believe that God has provided a way to communicate with Him ? There is but one finally satisfying answer in the world to this question, and that answer is Father, If I had no assurance that God is my Father nothing could satisfy my heart on that point. If God is not my Father I can see no important reason why He should have provided a way for me to get into touch with Him. On the other hand, if He is my Father, I can conceive of no important reason why He should not have provided a way for me to get into touch with Him. It is impossible for me to conceive that a true father would deliberately shut up his child in a strange room, hermetically seal up the door on both sides and leave him to himself for his whole natural life. It is absurd to say that the Omnipotent One is our Father and with our next breath insist that He has never spoken to us and could not provide a way to speak to us if He could. II So with all the other questions which our hearts arc asking about prayer. Take the following for example : What assurance have I that God is sufficiently interested in me to listen to my prayer? There is one answer that will satisfy my heart and

202 What Did Jesus Teach About Prayer ?

only one. He is my Father. How do I know that He is not too deeply engrossed in the great affairs of the universe to look after my little wants ? The answer is the same : He is my Father. What father is too busy with the great affairs of this life to look after the wants of his children? Can we depend upon God to do for us all that infinite love and infinite wisdom may prompt Him to do ? Yes, He is our Father. Has God made any arbitrary rules about prayer? No, He is our Father. What father worthy of the name would make arbitrary rules to govern his children ? Does God place Himself at our disposal to do just as we would have Him do? No; He is our Father. What father would surrender his will to his children? Can we gain anything by telling God that we will be good if He will do thus and so? No; He is our Father. What father would make such a bargain with his children? Can God answer our prayers as an autocrat answers the petitions of his subjects? No; He is our Father. How can a true father be an autocrat? Why does God give more to the wicked than to the good? God does not give more to the wicked than to the good. He is our Father. Does a father do more for his disobedient children than for those who obey Him? But why does God give to the wicked at all ? Why does He send His rain and sunshine upon the unjust as well as upon the just? Because He is our Father. Does a father arrange things so that onl^

One Word That Settles All 203 those of his children who obey him shall share the bread which he provides for his family ? It is not because God does more for the wicked than for the good that the wicked so often have more than the good; it is because the wicked selfishly use what He gives them to enrich themselves, while the good devote themselves and what He gives them to His interests and the welfare of their fellow-men. If all this is true — if all our heart questions about prayer are answered the moment we think of God as our Father — it would seem to follow that these questions at bottom are not questions about prayer at all, but questions about God. That is to say, when we thus express our doubts about prayer we are really expressing our doubts about God. We are uncertain about our prayers because we are not certain about Him to whom we pray. If this is true then our duty is plain. When we are troubled with doubts about prayer we should

not be content to go only to the teachings of Jesus: we should go to Jesus. The Master has given to . men the only satisfying view of prayer because He was able to give them the only satisfying view of God. It is not sufficient, therefore, that we should learn from His teachings that prayer is the unbosoming of ourselves to our heavenly Father; we must go to Him as our Saviour and Lord, and let Him show us the Father's face.

In the light of that face we shall be satisfied.

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