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Prayer A War Measure





Prayer a War Measure.


This world is God's prodigal son. The heart of God's bleeds over His
prodigal. It has been gone so long, and the home circle is broken. He has
spent all the wealth of His thought on a plan for winning the prodigal
back home. Angels and men have marvelled over that plan, its sweep, its
detail, its strength and wisdom, its tenderness. He needs man for His
plan. He will _use_ man. That is true. He will _honour_ man in service.
That is true. But these only touch the edge of the truth. The pathway from
God to a human heart is through a human heart. When He came to the great
strategic move in His plan, He Himself came down as a man and made that
move. _He needs man for His plan._

The greatest agency put into man's hands is prayer. To understand that at
all fully one needs to define prayer. And to define prayer adequately one
must use the language of war. Peace language is not equal to the
situation. The earth is in a state of war. It is being hotly besieged and
so one must use war talk to grasp the facts with which prayer is
concerned. _Prayer from God's side is communication between Himself and
His allies in the enemy's country_. Prayer is not persuading God. It does
not influence God's purpose. It is not winning Him over to our side; never
that. He is far more eager for what we are rightly eager for than we ever
are. What there is of wrong and sin and suffering that pains you, pains
Him far more. He knows more about it. He is more keenly sensitive to it
than the most sensitive one of us. Whatever of heart yearning there may be
that moves you to prayer is from Him. God takes the initiative in all
prayer. It starts with Him. True prayer moves in a circle. It begins in
the heart of God, sweeps down into a human heart upon the earth, so
intersecting the circle of the earth, which is the battle-field of prayer,
and then it goes back again to its starting point, having accomplished its
purpose on the downward swing.



Three Forms of Prayer.


Prayer is the word commonly used for all intercourse with God. But it
should be kept in mind that that word covers and includes three forms of
intercourse. All prayer grows up through, and ever continues in three
stages.

The first form of prayer is _communion_. That is simply being on good
terms with God. It involves the blood of the cross as the basis of our
getting and being on good terms. It involves my coming to God through
Jesus. Communion is fellowship with God. Not request for some particular
thing; not asking, but simply enjoying Himself, loving Him, thinking about
Him, how beautiful, and intelligent, and strong and loving and lovable He
is; talking to Him without words. That is the truest worship, thinking how
worthy He is of all the best we can possibly bring to Him, and infinitely
more. It has to do wholly with God and a man being on good terms with each
other. Of necessity it includes confession on my part and forgiveness upon
God's part, for only so can we come into the relation of fellowship.
Adoration, worship belong to this first phase of prayer. Communion is the
basis of all prayer. It is the essential breath of the true Christian
life. It concerns just two, God and myself, yourself. Its influence is
directly subjective. _It affects me._

The second form of prayer is _petition_. And I am using that word now in
the narrower meaning of asking something for one's self. Petition is
definite request of God for something I need. A man's whole life is
utterly dependent upon the giving hand of God. Everything we need comes
from Him. Our friendships, ability to make money, health, strength in
temptation, and in sorrow, guidance in difficult circumstances, and in all
of life's movements; help of all sorts, financial, bodily, mental,
spiritual--all come from God, and necessitate a constant touch with Him.
There needs to be a constant stream of petition going up, many times
wordless prayer. And there will be a constant return stream of answer and
supply coming down. The door between God and one's own self must be kept
ever open. The knob to be turned is on our side. He opened His side long
ago, and propped it open, and threw the knob away. The whole life hinges
upon this continual intercourse with our wondrous God. This is the second
stage or form of prayer. It concerns just two: God and the man dealing
with God. It is subjective in its influence: _its reach is within_.

The third form of prayer is _intercession_. True prayer never stops with
petition for one's self. It reaches out for others. The very word
intercession implies a reaching out for some one else. It is standing as a
go-between, a mutual friend, between God and some one who is either out of
touch with Him, or is needing special help. Intercession is the climax of
prayer. It is the outward drive of prayer. It is the effective end of
prayer _outward_. Communion and petition are upward and downward.
Intercession rests upon these two as its foundation. Communion and
petition store the life with the power of God; intercession lets it out on
behalf of others. The first two are necessarily for self; this third is
for others. They ally a man fully with God: it makes use of that alliance
for others. Intercession is the full-bloomed plant whose roots and
strength lie back and down in the other two forms. _It_ is the form of
prayer that helps God in His great love-plan for winning a planet back to
its true sphere. It will help through these talks to keep this simple
analysis of prayer in mind. For much that will be said will deal chiefly
with this third form, intercession, the outward movement of prayer.



The Climax of Prayer.


To God man is first an objective point, and then, without ceasing to be
that, he further becomes a distributing centre. God ever thinks of a man
doubly: first for his own self, and then for his possible use in reaching
others. Communion and petition fix and continue one's relation to God, and
so prepare for the great outreaching form of prayer--intercession. Prayer
must begin in the first two but reaches its climax in the third. Communion
and petition are of necessity self-wide. Intercession is world-wide in its
reach. And all true rounded prayer will ever have all three elements in
it. There must be the touch with God. One's constant needs make constant
petition. But the heart of the true follower has caught the warm contagion
of the heart of God and reaches out hungrily for the world. Intercession
is the climax of prayer.

Much is said of the subjective and objective value of prayer; its
influence upon one's self, and its possible influence upon persons and
events quite outside of one's self. Of necessity the first two sorts of
prayer here named are subjective; they have to do wholly with one's self.
Of equal necessity intercessory prayer is objective; it has to do wholly
with others. There is even here a reflex influence; in the first two
directly subjective; here incidentally reflex. Contact with God while
dealing with Him for another of necessity influences me. But that is the
mere fringe of the garment. The main driving purpose is outward.

Just now in certain circles it seems quite the thing to lay great stress
upon the subjective value of prayer and to whittle down small, or, deny
entirely its value in influencing others. Some who have the popular ear
are quite free with tongue and pen in this direction. From both without
and within distinctly Christian circles their voices come. One wonders if
these friends lay the greater emphasis on the subjective value of prayer
so as to get a good deep breath for their hard drive at the other. Yet the
greater probability is that they honestly believe as they say, but have
failed to grasp the full perspective of the picture. In listening to such
statements one remembers with vivid distinctness that the scriptural
_standpoint_ always is this: that things quite outside of one's self, that
in the natural order of prevailing circumstances would not occur, are made
to occur through prayer. Jesus constantly so _assumed_. The first-flush,
commonsense view of successful prayer is that some actual result is
secured through its agency.

It is an utter begging of the question to advance such a theory as a
sufficient explanation of prayer. For prayer in its simplest conception
supposes something changed that is not otherwise reachable. Both from the
scriptural, and from a rugged philosophical standpoint the objective is
the real driving point of all full prayer. The subjective is in order to
the objective, as the final outward climactic reach of God's great
love-plan for a world.



Six Facts Underlying Prayer.


It will help greatly to step back and up a bit for a fresh look at certain
facts that underlie prayer. Everything depends on a right point of view.
There may be many view-points, from which to study any subject; but of
necessity any one view-point must take in all the essential facts
concerned. If not, the impression formed will be wrong, and a man will be
misled in his actions. In these talks I make no attempt to prove the
Bible's statements, nor to suggest a common law for their interpretation.
That would be a matter for quite a separate series of talks. It clears the
ground to assume certain things. I am assuming the accuracy of these
scriptural statements. And I am glad to say I have no difficulty in doing
so.

Now there are certain facts constantly stated and assumed in this old
Book. They are clearly stated in its history, they are woven into its
songs, and they underlie all these prophetic writings, from Genesis clear
to the end of John's Patmos visions. Possibly they have been so familiar
and taken for granted so long as to have grown unfamiliar. The very old
may need stating as though very new. Here is a chain of six facts:

First:--The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof.[3] His by
creation and by sovereign rule. The Lord sat as King at the flood.[4]

Second:--God gave the dominion of the earth to man. The kingship of its
life, the control and mastery of its forces.[5]

Third:--Man, who held the dominion of the earth in trust from God,
transferred his dominion to somebody else, by an act which was a double
act. He was deceived into doing that act. It was an act of disobedience
and of obedience. Disobedience to God, and obedience to another one, a
prince who was seeking to get the dominion of the earth into his own
hands. That act of the first man did this. The disobedience broke with
God, and transferred the allegiance from God. The obedience to the other
one transferred the allegiance, and through that, the dominion to this
other one.

The fourth fact is this:--The dominion or kingship of this earth so far
as given to man, is now not God's, for He gave it to man. And it is not
man's, for he has transferred it to another. It is in the control of that
magnificent prince whose changed character supplies his name--Satan, the
hater, the enemy. Jesus repeatedly speaks of "the prince"--that is the
ruling one--"of this world."[6] John speaks in his vision-book of a time
coming when "the kingdom (not kingdoms, as in the old version) of the
world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ."[7] By clear
inference previous to that time it is somebody's else kingdom than His.
The kingship or rulership of the earth which was given to man is now
Satan's.

The fifth fact:--God was eager to swing the world back to its original
sway: for His own sake, for man's sake, for the earth's sake. You see, we
do not know God's world as it came from His hand. It is a rarely beautiful
world even yet--the stars above, the plant life, the waters, the exquisite
colouring and blending, the combinations of all these--an exquisitely
beautiful world even yet. But it is not the world it was, nor that some
coming day it will be. It has been sadly scarred and changed under its
present ruler. Probably Eve would not recognize in the present world her
early home-earth as it came fresh from the hand of its Maker.

God was eager to swing the old world back to its original control. But to
do so He must get a man, one of the original trustee class through whom He
might swing it back to its first allegiance. It was given to man. It was
swung away by man. It must be swung back by man. And so a Man came, and
while Jesus was perfectly and utterly human, we spell that word Man with a
capital M because He was a man quite distinct from all men. Because He was
more truly human than all other men He is quite apart from other men. This
Man was to head a movement for swinging the world back to its first
allegiance.

The sixth fact is this:--These two, God's Man, and the pretender-prince,
had a combat: the most terrific combat ever waged or witnessed. From the
cruel, malicious cradle attack until Calvary's morning and two days longer
it ran. Through those thirty-three years it continued with a terrificness
and intensity unknown before or since. The master-prince of subtlety and
force did his best and his worst, through those Nazareth years, then into
the wilderness,--and Gethsemane--and Calvary. And that day at three
o'clock and for a bit longer the evil one thought he had won. And there
was great glee up in the headquarters of the prince of this world. They
thought the victory was theirs when God's Man lay in the grave under the
bars of death, within the immediate control of the lord of death. But the
third morning came and the bars of death were snapped like cotton thread.
_Jesus rose a Victor._ For it was not possible that such as _He_ could be
held by death's lord. And then Satan knew that he was defeated. Jesus,
God's Man, the King's rightful prince, had gotten the victory.

But, please mark very carefully four sub-facts on Satan's side. First, he
refuses to acknowledge his defeat. Second, he refuses to surrender his
dominion until he must. He yields only what he must and when he must.
Third, he is supported in his ambitions by man. He has man's consent to
his control. The majority of men on the earth to-day, and in every day,
have assented to his control. He has control only through man's consent.
(Satan _can_not get into a man's heart without his consent, and God _will_
not.) And, fourth, he hopes yet to make his possession of the earth
permanent.



The Victor's Great Plan.


Now, hold your breath and note, on the side of the Victor-prince, this
unparalleled and unimitated action: He has left the conflict open, and the
defeated chief on the field that He may win not simply against the chief,
but through that victory may win the whole prodigal race back to His
Father's home circle again. But the great pitched battle is yet to come. I
would better say _a_ pitched battle, for the greatest one is past. Jesus
rides into the future fight a Victor. Satan will fight his last fight
under the shadow and sting of a defeat. Satan is apparently trying hard to
get a Jesus. That is to say Jesus was God's Man sent down to swing the
world back. Satan is trying his best to get _a man_--one of the original
trustee class, to whom the dominion of the earth was intrusted--a man who
will stand for him even as Jesus stood for God. Indeed a man who will
personify himself even as Jesus was the personification of God, the
express image of His person. When he shall succeed in that the last
desperate crisis will come.

_Now prayer is this: A man_, one of the original trustee class, who
received the earth in trust from God, and who gave its control over to
Satan; a man, _on the earth_, the poor old Satan-stolen, sin-slimed,
sin-cursed, contested earth; a man, on the earth, _with his life in full
touch with the Victor, and sheer out of touch with the pretender-prince,
insistently claiming that Satan shall yield before Jesus'-victory, step by
step, life after life_. Jesus is the victor. Satan knows it, and fears
Him. He must yield before His advance, and he must yield before this man
who stands for Jesus down on the earth. And he _will_ yield. Reluctantly,
angrily, as slowly as may be, stubbornly contesting every inch of ground,
his clutches will loosen and he will go before this Jesus-man.

Jesus said "the prince of the world cometh: and he hath nothing in Me."[8]
When you and I say, as we may say, very humbly depending on His grace,
very determinedly in the resolution of our own imperial will, "though the
prince of this world come he shall have nothing in me, no coaling station
however small on the shores of my life," then we shall be in position
where Satan must yield as we claim--victory in the Victor's Name.





Next: How God Gives

Previous: A Prehistoric Conflict



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