How God Gives

How God Gives.

Some one may object to all this that the statements of God's word do not

agree with this point of view.

At random memory brings up a few very familiar passages, frequently

quoted. "Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and will shew thee great

things, and difficult, that thou knowest not."[9] "And call upon Me in the

day of trouble; I will deliver thee and thou s
alt glorify Me."[10] "Ask,

and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be

opened unto you."[11] Here it seems, as we have for generations been

accustomed to think, that our asking is the thing that influences God to

do. And further, that many times persistent, continued asking is necessary

to induce God to do. And the usual explanation for this need of

persistence is that God is testing our faith, and seeking to make certain

changes in us, before granting our requests. This explanation is without

doubt quite true, _in part_. Yet the thing to mark is that it explains

_only_ in part. And when the whole circle of truth is brought into view,

this explanation is found to cover only a small part of the whole.

We seem to learn best about God by analogies. The analogy never brings all

there is to be learned. Yet it seems to be the nearest we can get. From

what we know of ourselves we come to know Him.

Will you notice how men give? Among those who give to benevolent

enterprises there are three sorts of givers, with variations in each.

There is the man who gives because he is influenced by others. If the

right man or committee of men call, and deftly present their pleas,

playing skillfully upon what may appeal to him; his position; his egotism;

the possible advantage to accrue; what men whom he wants to be classed

with are doing, and so on through the wide range that such men are

familiar with; if they persist, by and by he gives. At first he seems

reluctant, but finally gives with more or less grace. That is one sort of


There is a second sort: the man of truly benevolent heart who is desirous

of giving that he may be of help to other men. He listens attentively when

pleas come to him, and waits only long enough to satisfy himself of the

worth of the cause, and the proper sort of amount to give, and then gives.

There is a third sort, the rarest sort. This second man a stage farther

on, who _takes the initiative_. He looks about him, makes inquiries, and

thinks over the great need in every direction of his fellow men. He

decides where his money may best be used to help; and then himself offers

to give. But his gift may be abused by some who would get his money if

they could, and use it injudiciously, or otherwise than he intends. So he

makes certain conditions which must be met, the purpose of which is to

establish sympathetic relations in some particular with those whom he

would help. An Englishman's heart is strongly moved to get the story of

Jesus to the inland millions of Chinese. He requests the China-Inland

Mission to control the expenditure of almost a million dollars of his

money in such a way as best to secure the object in his heart. An American

gives a large sum to the Young Men's Christian Association of his home

city to be expended as directed. His thought is not to build up this

particular organization, but to benefit large numbers of the young men of

his town who will meet certain conditions which he thinks to be for their

good. He has learned to trust this organization, and so it becomes his


Another man feels that if the people of New York City can be given good

reading they can thereby best be helped in life. And so he volunteers

money for a number of libraries throughout that city. And thousands who

yearn to increase their knowledge come into sympathy with him in that one

point through his gift. In all such cases the giver's thought is to

accomplish certain results in those whose purpose in certain directions is

sympathetic with his own.

Any human illustration of God must seem crude. Yet of these three sorts of

givers there is one and only one that begins to suggest how God gives. It

may seem like a very sweeping statement to make, yet I am more and more

disposed to believe it true that _most persons_ have unthinkingly thought

of God's answering prayer as the first of these three men give. Many

others have had in mind some such thought as the second suggests. Yet to

state the case even thus definitely is to make it plain that neither of

these ways in any manner illustrate God's giving. The third comes the

nearest to picturing the God who hears and answers prayer. Our God has a

great heart yearning after His poor prodigal world, and after each one in

it. He longs to have the effects of sin removed, and the original image

restored. He takes the initiative. Yet everything that is done for man

must of necessity be through man's will; by his free and glad consent. The

obstacles in the way are not numberless nor insurmountable, but they are

many and they are stubborn. There is a keen, cunning pretender-prince who

is a past-master in the fine art of handling men. There are wills warped

and weakened; consciences blurred; minds the opposite of keen,

sensibilities whose edge has been dulled beyond ordinary hope of being

ever made keen again. Sin has not only stained the life, but warped the

judgment, sapped the will, and blurred the mental vision. And God has a

hard time just because every change must of necessity be through that

sapped and warped will.

Yet the difficulty though great is never complex but very simple. And so

the statement of His purpose is ever exquisitely simple. Listen again:

"Call unto Me, and I will answer thee and shew thee great things and

difficult which thou knowest not." If a man call he has already turned his

face towards God. His will has acted, and acted doubly; away from the

opposite, and _towards_ God, a simple step but a tremendous one. The

calling is the point of sympathetic contact with God where their purposes

become the same. The caller is beset by difficulties and longs for

freedom. The God who speaks to him saw the difficulties long ago and

eagerly longed to remove them. Now they have come to agreement. And

through this willing will God eagerly works out His purpose.

A Very Old Question.

This leads to a very old question: Does prayer influence God? No question

has been discussed more, or more earnestly. Skeptical men of fine

scientific training have with great positiveness said "no." And Christian

men of scholarly training and strong faith have with equal positiveness

said "yes." Strange to say both have been right. Not right in all their

statements, nor right in all their beliefs, nor right in all their

processes of thinking, but right in their ultimate conclusions as

represented by these short words, "no," and "yes." Prayer does not

influence God. Prayer surely does influence God. It does not influence His

purpose. It does influence His action. Everything that ever has been

prayed for, of course I mean every right thing, God has already purposed

to do. But He does nothing without our consent. He has been hindered in

His purposes by our lack of willingness. When we learn His purposes and

make them our prayers we are giving Him the opportunity to act. It is a

double opportunity: manward and Satanward. We are willing. Our willingness

checkmates Satan's opposition. It opens the path to God and rids it of the

obstacles. And so the road is cleared for the free action already planned.

The further question of nature's laws being sometimes set aside is wholly

a secondary matter. Nature's laws are merely God's habit of action in

handling secondary forces. They involve no purpose of God. His purposes

are regarding moral issues. That the sun shall stay a bit longer than

usual over a certain part of the earth is a mere detail with God. It does

not affect His power for the whole affair is under His finger. It does not

affect His purpose for that as concerning far more serious matters. The

emergencies of earth wrought by sin necessitate just such incidents, that

the great purpose of God for man shall be accomplished.

Emergencies change all habits of action, divine and human. They are the

real test of power. If a man throw down the bundle he is carrying and make

a quick wild dash out into the middle of the street, dropping his hat on

the way, and grasp convulsively for something on the ground when no cause

appears for such action we would quickly conclude that the proper place

for him is an asylum. But if a little toddling child is almost under the

horse's hoofs, or the trolley car, no one thinks of criticising, but

instead admires his courage, and quick action, and breathlessly watches

for the result. Emergencies call for special action. They should control

actions, where they exist. Emergencies explain action, and explain

satisfactorily what nothing else could explain.

_The world is in a great emergency through sin._ Only as that tremendous

fact grips us shall we be men of prayer, and men of action up to the limit

of the need, and to the limit of the possibilities. Only as that intense

fact is kept in mind shall we begin to understand God's actions in

history, and in our personal experiences. The greatest event of earth, the

cross, was an emergency action.

The fact that prayer does not make any change in God's thought or

purpose, reveals His marvellous love in a very tender way.

Suppose I want something very much and _need_ as well as want. And I go to

God and ask for it. And suppose He is reluctant about giving: had not

thought about giving me that thing; and rather hesitates. But I am

insistent, and plead and persist and by and by God is impressed with my

earnestness, and sees that I really need the thing, and answers my prayer,

and gives me what I ask. Is not that a loving God so to listen and yield

to my plea? Surely. How many times just such an instance has taken place

between a child and his father, or mother. And the child thinks to

himself, "How loving father is; he has given me the thing I asked for."

But suppose God is thinking about me all the time, and planning, with

love-plans for me, and longing to give me much that He has. Yet in His

wisdom He does not give because I do not know my own need, and have not

opened my hand to receive, yes, and, further yet, likely as not, not

knowing my need I might abuse, or misuse, or fail to use, something given

before I had felt the need of it. And now I come to see and feel that need

and come and ask and He, delighted with the change in me, eagerly gives.

Tell me, is not that a very much more loving God than the other conception

suggests? The truth is _that_ is God. Jesus says, "Your Father knoweth

what things ye have need of _before ye ask_." And He is a Father. And

with God the word father means mother too. Then what He _knows_ we need He

has _already planned_ to give. The great question for me then in praying

for some personal thing is this: Do _I_ know what _He_ knows I need? Am I

thinking about what He is thinking about for me?

And then remember that God is so much more in His loving planning than the

wisest, most loving father we know. Does a mother think into her child's

needs, the food, and clothing and the extras too, the luxuries? That is

God, only He is more loving and wiser than the best of us. I have

sometimes thought this: that if God were to say to me: "I want to give you

something as a special love-gift; an extra because I love you: what would

you like to have?" Do you know I have thought I would say, "Dear God,

_you_ choose. _I_ choose what _you_ choose." He is thinking about me. He

knows what I am thinking of, and what I would most enjoy, and He is such a

lover-God that He would choose something Just a bit finer than I would

think. I might be thinking of a dollar, but likely as not He is thinking

of a double eagle. I am thinking of blackberries, big, juicy blackberries,

but really I do not know what blackberries are beside the sort He knows

and would choose for me. That is our God. Prayer does not and cannot

change the purpose of such a God. For every right and good thing we might

ask for He has already planned to give us. But prayer does change the

action of God. Because He cannot give against our wills, and our

willingness as expressed by our asking gives Him the opportunity to do as

He has already planned.

The Greatest Prayer.

There is a greatest prayer, _the_ greatest that can be offered. It is the

substratum of every true prayer. It is the undercurrent in the stream of

all Spirit-breathed prayer. Jesus Himself gives it to us in the only form

of prayer He left for our use. It is small in size, but mighty in power.

Four words--"Thy will be done." Let us draw up our chairs, and _brew_ it

over mentally, that its strength and fragrance may come up into our

nostrils, and fill our very beings.

"_Thy_": That is God. On one side, He is wise, with all of the

intellectual strength, and keenness and poised judgment that that word

among men brings to us. On another side, He is strong, with all that that

word can imply of might and power irresistible. On still another side He

is good, pure, holy with the finest thought those words ever suggest to us

in those whom we know best, or in our dreams and visions. Then on a side

remaining, the tender personal side, He is--loving? No, that is quite

inadequate. He is _love_. Its personification is He. Now remember that we

do not know the meaning of those words. Our best definition and thought of

them, even in our dreams, when we let ourselves out, but hang around the

outskirts. The heart of them we do not know. Those words mean infinitely

more than we think. Their meaning is a projection along the lines of our

thought of them, but measurelessly beyond our highest reach.

And then, this God, wise, strong, good, and love, _is kin to us_. We

belong to Him.

"We are His flock;

He doth us feed.

And for His sheep,

He doth us take."

We are His children by creation, and by a new creation in Jesus Christ. He

is ours, by His own act. That is the "Thy"--a God wise, strong, pure, who

is love, and who is a Father-mother-God, and is _our_ God.

"Thy _will_." God's will is His desires, His purposes, that which He

wishes to occur, and that to which He gives His strength that it may

occur. The earth is His creation. Men are His children. Judging from wise

loving parents among men He has given Himself to thinking and studying and

planning for all men, and every man, and for the earth. His plan is the

most wise, pure, loving plan that can be thought of, _and more._ It takes

in the whole sweep of our lives, and every detail of them. Nothing escapes

the love-vigilance of our God. What _can_ be so vigilant and keen as love?

Hate, the exact reverse, comes the nearest. It is ever the extremes that

meet. But hate cannot come up to love for keen watchfulness at every

turn. Health, strength, home, loved ones, friendships, money, guidance,

protecting care, the necessities, the extras that love ever thinks of,

service--all these are included in God's loving thought for us. That is

His will. It is modified by the degree of our consent, and further

modified by the circumstances of our lives. Life has become a badly

tangled skein of threads. God with infinite patience and skill is at work

untangling and bringing the best possible out of the tangle. What is

absolutely best is rarely relatively best. That which is best in itself is

usually not best under certain circumstances, with human lives in the

balance. God has fathomless skill, and measureless patience, and a love

utterly beyond both. He is ever working out the best thing possible under

every circumstance. He could oftentimes do more, and do it in much less

time if our human wills were more pliant to His. He can be trusted. And of

course _trust_ means _trust in the darkest dark_ where you cannot see. And

trust means trust. It does not mean test. Where you trust you do not test.

Where you test you do not trust. Making this our prayer means trusting

God. That is God, and that His will, and that the meaning of our offering

this prayer. "Thy will _be_." A man's will is the man in action, within

the limits of his power. God's will for man is Himself in action, within

the limits of our cooperation. _Be_ is a verb, an action-word, in the

passive voice. It takes some form of the verb to be to express the

passive voice of any action-word. It takes the intensest activity of will

to put this passive voice into human action. The greatest strength is

revealed in intelligent yielding. Here the prayer is expressing the utter

willingness of a man that God's will shall be done in him, and through

him. A man never _loses_ his will, unless indeed he lose his manhood. But

here he makes that will as strong as it can be made, as a bit of steel,

better like the strong oak, strong enough to sway and bend in the wind.

Then he uses all its strength in becoming passive to a higher will. And

that too when the purpose of that higher will is not clear to his own

limited knowledge and understanding.

"Thy will be _done_." That is, be accomplished, be brought to pass. The

word stands for the action in its perfected, finished state. Thy will be

fully accomplished in its whole sweep and in all its items. It speaks not

only the earnest desire of the heart praying, but the set purpose that

everything in the life is held subject to the doing of this purpose of

God. It means that surrender of purpose that has utterly changed the lives

of the strongest men in order that the purpose of God might be dominant.

It cut off from a great throne earth's greatest jurist, the Hebrew

lawgiver, and led him instead to be allied to a race of slaves. It led

that intellectual giant Jeremiah from an easy enjoyable leadership to

espouse a despised cause and so be himself despised. It led Paul from the

leadership of his generation in a great nation to untold suffering, and to

a block and an ax. It led Jesus the very Son of God, away from a kingship

to a cross. In every generation it has radically changed lives, and

life-ambitions. "Thy will be done" is the great dominant purpose-prayer

that has been the pathway of God in all His great doings among men.

That will is being done everywhere else in God's great world of worlds,

save on the earth and that portion of the spirit world allied to this

earth. Everywhere else there is the perfect music of harmony with God's

will. Here only is heard the harsh discordant note.

With this prayer go two clauses that really particularize and explain it.

They are included in it, and are added to make more clear the full intent.

The first of these clauses gives the sweep of His will in its broadest

outlines. The second touches the opposition to that will both for our

individual lives and for the race and the earth.

The first clause is this, "Thy kingdom come." In both of these short

sentences, "Thy will be done," "Thy kingdom come," the emphatic word is

"Thy." That word is set in sharpest possible contrast here. There is

another kingdom now on the earth. There is another will being done. This

other kingdom must go if God's kingdom is to come. These kingdoms are

antagonistic at every point of contact. They are rivals for the same

allegiance and the same territory. They cannot exist together. Charles II

and Cromwell cannot remain in London together. "Thy kingdom come," of

necessity includes this, "the other kingdom go." "Thy kingdom come" means

likewise "Thy king come," for in the nature of things there cannot be a

kingdom without a king. That means again by the same inference, "the other

prince go," the one who makes pretensions to being rightful heir to the

throne. "Thy will be done" includes by the same inference this:--"the

other will be undone." This is the first great explanatory clause to be

connected with this greatest prayer, "Thy kingdom come." It gives the

sweep of God's will in its broadest outlines.

The second clause included in the prayer, and added to make clear the

swing of action is this--"deliver us from the evil one." These two

sentences, "Thy will be done," and "deliver us from the evil one," are

naturally connected. Each statement includes the other. To have God's will

fully done in us means emancipation from every influence of the evil one,

either direct or indirect, or by hereditary taint. To be delivered from

the evil one means that every thought and plan of God for our lives shall

be fully carried out.

There are the two great wills at work in the world ever clashing in the

action of history and in our individual lives. In many of us, aye, in all

of us, though in greatly varying degree, these two wills constantly clash.

Man is the real battle-field. The pitch of the battle is in his will. God

will not do His will in a man without the man's will consenting. And Satan

cannot. At the root the one thing that works against God's will is the

evil one's will. And on the other hand the one thing that effectively

thwarts Satan's plans is a man wholly given up to God's will.

The greatest prayer then fully expressed, sweeps first the whole field of

action, then touches the heart of the action, and then attacks the

opposition. It is this:--Thy kingdom come: Thy will be done: deliver us

from the evil one. Every true prayer ever offered comes under this simple

comprehensive prayer. It may be offered, it _is_ offered with an infinite

variety of detail. It is greatest because of its sweep. It includes all

other petitions, for God's will includes everything for which prayer is

rightly offered. It is greatest in its intensity. It hits the very

bull's-eye of opposition to God.