Rev Knox Little Canon Of Worcest
Prayer is a comprehensive word and includes, in fact, all communion
between the soul and God. It is, however, commonly used to mean the
asking for benefits from God. Christians believe that prayer is a
power, that it does act in the fulfilment of God's purposes, and that
the results of prayer are real results, not only in the spiritual, but
also in the physical world. This is no mere matter of opinion, it is
part of the Christian faith. For better, for worse, however difficult
the doctrine may appear, the Church is committed to it. As in the case
of other difficult doctrines, such as the resurrection of the body for
instance, she, so to speak, "stakes her reputation" on loyalty to this
The power of prayer is, of course, a mystery, i.e., a truth, but a
truth partly concealed, partly plain. To deal with it, therefore, in a
mathematical temper rather than a moral temper is absurd if not wrong.
Mathematical demonstration cannot be given for moral truth, and is in
fact out of court. The bent of mind formed by constant scientific
research--good as it is in its own province--sometimes unfits men for
moral and theological research. In this way the "difficulties of prayer"
are often exaggerated. (1) It is said God knows already; why tell Him?
The same objection would apply to many a request on earth. (2) It is
said God fore-sees; why try to influence what He knows is sure to be?
This objection applies to all our actions; to follow out this we should
not only not pray, but also never do anything. We are in face of a
mystery. A little humility and obedience to revelation helps us out. It
has been truly said that when a practical and a speculative truth are in
apparent collision, we must remember our ignorance of a good many
things, and act with the knowledge which is given us, on the practical
Prayer, we may remember, is not to change the holy counsels of the
Eternal, but to accomplish those ends for which it is an appointed
instrument. Anyhow, this is certain, the abundant promises to faithful
and persevering prayer are kept, and--where God sees it to be good for
us--they are kept to the letter. The following are examples which come
within the knowledge of the writer of this paper.
A family, consisting of a number of children, had been brought up by
parents who had very "free" ideas as to the divine revelation and the
teaching of the Church. The children, varying in age from seven or
eight, to one or two and twenty years, had, one way or another, been
aroused to the teaching of Scripture and desired to be baptised. The
father point-blank refused to permit it. The older members of the family
consulted a clergyman. He felt strongly the force of the fifth
commandment and advised them not to act in haste, to realise that
difficulties do frequently arise from conflicting duties, and above all
to pray. The clergyman asked a number of devout Christians to make the
matter a subject of prayer. They did. In about three weeks the father
called upon this very clergyman and asked him to baptise his children.
The clergyman expressed his astonishment, believing that he was opposed
to it. The father answered that that was true, but he had changed his
mind. He could not say precisely why, but he thought his children ought
to be baptised. They were; and he, by his own wish, was present and most
devout at the administration of the sacrament of baptism.
A few years ago, a clergyman in London had been invited to visit a
friend for one night in the country in order to meet an old friend whom
he had not seen for long. It was bitter winter weather and he decided
not to go. Walking his parish in the afternoon, he believed that a voice
three times urged him to go. He hurriedly changed his arrangements and
went. The snow was tremendously deep, and the house of his friend, some
miles from the railway station, was reached with difficulty. In the
course of the night the clergyman was roused from sleep by the butler,
who begged him to go and visit a groom in the service of the family, who
was ill and "like to die." Crossing a field path with difficulty, as the
snow was very deep, they reached the poor man's house. He had been in
agony of mind and longed to see a clergyman. When it was found
impossible to fetch the nearest clergyman, owing to the impassable state
of the roads, he had prayed earnestly that one might be sent to him. The
poor fellow died in the clergyman's arms in the early morning, much
comforted and in great peace.
A strangely similar case happened more recently. An American gentleman
travelling in Europe was taken suddenly and seriously ill in one of our
northern towns. The day before this happened, a clergyman, who was at a
distance in the country, was seized with a sudden and unaccountable
desire to visit this very town. He had no idea why, but prayed for
guidance in the matter, and finally felt convinced that he must go.
Having stayed the night there he was about to return home, rather
inclined to think himself a very foolish person, when a waiter in the
hotel brought him an American lady's card and said that the lady wished
to see him. He was the only English clergyman of whom she and her
husband had any knowledge. They had happened to hear him preach in
America. She had no idea where he lived, but when her husband was taken
ill she and her daughter had prayed that he might be sent to them. On
inquiry, strange to say, he was found to be in the hotel, and was able
to render some assistance to the poor sufferer, who died in a few hours,
and to his surviving and mourning relatives.
A still more striking instance, perhaps, is as follows: Some years ago
in London a clergyman had succeeded, with the help of some friends, in
opening a "home" in the suburbs to meet some special mission needs. It
was necessary to support it by charity. For some time all went well. The
home at last, however, became even more necessary and more filled with
inmates, whilst subscriptions did not increase but rather slackened. The
lady in charge wrote to the clergyman as to her needs, and especially
drew his attention to the fact that L40 was required immediately to meet
the pressing demand of a tradesman. The clergyman himself was
excessively poor, and he knew not to whom to turn in the emergency. He
at once went and spent an hour in prayer. He then left his house and
walked slowly along the streets thinking with himself how he should act.
Passing up Regent Street, a carriage drew up in front of Madame Elise's
shop, just as he was passing. Out of the carriage stepped a handsomely
dressed lady. "Mr. So-and-so, I think," she said when she saw him. "Yes,
madam," he answered, raising his hat. She drew an envelope from her
pocket and handed it to him, saying: "You have many calls upon your
charity, you will know what to do with that." The envelope contained a
Bank of England note for L50. The whole thing happened in a much shorter
time than it can be related; he passed on up the street, she passed into
the shop. Who she was he did not know, and never since has he learnt.
The threatening creditor was paid. The "home" received further help and
did its work well.
Another example is of a different kind. A person of real earnestness in
religious questions, and one who gave time and strength for advancing
the kingdom of God, some years ago became restless and unsatisfied in
spiritual matters, failing to enjoy peaceful communion with God, and
generally upset and uneasy. The advice of a clergyman was asked, and
after many conversations on the subject, he urged steady earnest prayer
for light, and agreed himself to make the matter a subject of prayer.
Within a fortnight, after an earnest midday prayer, it was declared by
this troubled soul that it had been clearly borne in upon the mind that
the sacrament of baptism had never been received. Enquiry was made, and
after much careful investigation it was found that, while every other
member of a large family had been baptised, in this case the sacrament
had been neglected owing to the death of the mother and the child being
committed to the care of a somewhat prejudiced relative. The person in
question was forthwith baptised, and immediately there was peace and
calmness of mind and a sense of quiet communion with God.
Instances of this kind might be multiplied, but these are, perhaps,
sufficient. "In everything," says the Apostle, "by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving (the Eucharist) let your requests be made
known unto God." "Cast all your care upon Him, for He careth for you."
The power of the "prayer of faith" is astonishing in its efficacy, if
souls will only put forth that power. I am able to guarantee, from
personal knowledge, the truth and accuracy of the above instances.
Next: William Quarrier Of Glasgow
Previous: Rev John Watson Or Ian Maclaren