Prayer Feeds Spirituality
Certainly a person whose interest in something is sufficient to take his cause to God is largely interested; he will work to gain his desired thing; certainly he stands ready to be used much in the answer to his prayer if necessary. Often, too, in answering prayer, God uses those who prayed. But there is an element of answer to prayer beyond all human power or agency. Hannah was able to move God in her behalf and cause Him to give her conceiving power; Hezekiah's tears and prayers moved God to lengthen his life fifteen years; the prayers of Christian people brought an angel from heaven to unlock prison doors and loose Peter (Acts 12). Paul believed that people could pray their worries away and bring peace to their troubled hearts (Phil. 4:40-47); the writer of Hebrews believed we can "come boldly to the throne of grace and obtain mercy to help us in the time of need" (Heb 4:16). James believed that those who lack wisdom can obtain it from God through prayer (James 1:5)l. Paul requested, "With all prayer and supplication, praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints; and on my behalf, that utterance may be given unto me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak" (Eph 6: 1, 8).
The answer to a prayer like that is bound to enlarge one's spiritual stature. Daily communion with God in this was is sure to refine the soul, cleanse the spirit, and purify the mind. Psalms 34 calls God's people before the courts of heaven to account for the ways in which we seek happiness. The question is asked: "What man is he that dersireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?"
Then all men immediately are pointed to God in prayer; "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them" (Psalms 34:7) ...."The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and His ears are open to their prayers" (1 Peter 3:12) .... "The Lord is nigh unto them of a broken heart" (Psalms 34:18).
Peter quotes from this Psalm (1 Peter 3:10-12). He asks, "who is he that will harm you if you be followers of that which is good?" Verses 1-9 have directed us through many trying experiences, then Peter leads us to prayer. "His ears are open to our prayers", he says. In truth, the Bible writers, in calling us to prayer in all that we experience, are just about saying to us, "Grow up spiritually on you knees in prayer to God". I would not want to commit very much of my interests to any man who does not believe in prayer, its refining effects, and its answer from God. But I would trust everything to a man who settles everything in prayer.
The prisoner in Rome said, "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints the breadth, length, depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with the fullness of God" (Eph 3:14-19).
What soul could possibly be so sickly as not to be developed spiritually by that prayer? The ultimate on earth for all Christian development is - "That you may attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4:13).
But this attainment was to come from prayer by Paul. Moreover, we are to pray for kings (1 Timothy 2:1-2). How could one grow larger in soul and mind that he is in prayer, believing his God will direct kings to a favorable decision because that Christian prayed?
It should be kept in mind, however, that there is much difference between the use of prayer as a ceremony and its use as an act of faith; the results are much different if one prayer is largely an experiment by another is an experience. Juts imagine the growth one would experience during a year if he should read carefully each morning the Beatitudes, then earnestly pray that God may develop those qualities in him. Name them over slowly - Poor in spirit ... Purity .... Meekness ... Peacemaking ... Sympathetic mourning with others ... hunger and thirst for more individual righteousness ... bravely enduring persecutions for righteousness' sake. It is a very different prayer when one names these over one by one, then prays, "Help me this day, O God, to improve my own life in each of these qualities".
Or, again, slowly read over the model prayer in Matthew 6. It begins by saying, "After this manner pray ye". The emphasis is on the "manner". The manner in that prayer is:
1. Complete reverence and gratitude toward God as Father;
2. Complete trust in God for every daily need - unworried, untroubled;
3. Complete dependence on His mercy, trusting it fully, and practicing it ourselves;
4. Unfaltering trust that God will lead and guide each hour of the day;
5. Unwavering obedience - "Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven."
How can any one pray in that spirit continuously without growing to great spiritual stature?
These spiritual perceptions and maturities are within the reach of every Christian. Imagine the power of an entire church in which every member has developed to these heights in every category mentioned.
Though it is the responsibility of all Christians to develop these spiritual awakenings in each Self, it might well be considered that the time and reading matter available to a minister of the gospel give him the primary responsibility to manifest these attainments in himself first. Timothy was expected to show himself an example of the right things; and he was expected to give no occasion for just blame on him. Few things will give more strength to a church than for the other members to think within themselves, "Our minister is the walking example of all that I wish I could be".
Spirituality is not some strange magic or something unreal; it is not an imaginary abstraction. It is the total character qualities of Jesus Christ, gradually learned from the Bible, and constantly transferred by the Christian to himself, or herself, so that the Christian's life represents well the character which was so wonderfully portrayed in the Christ Himself. This character is not obtained by a miracle or abruptly in any sense. It is fed, developed, and matured through three channels - a constantly growing love for God and all men; a growing trust in God and seeking for a closer walk with Him; and an increasing awareness of one's own inadequacy and unworthiness. These accompanied by an equal development represents one's reliance upon God to supply all that we need to make us as we should be. This three-fold development is the Christian's spiritual life. Each Christian should pray for God to develop these qualities in him.
There is a large difference between a teacher, who holds classes regularly and examines students strictly for four hundred dollars a month, and one who does his best teaching because he wants to do a job well and is paid four hundred dollars a month for his labors of love.
Spirituality in a life is somewhat like a great reservoir with many outlets. We, in the use of those outlets, may enjoy them so much that we forget the reservoir, and let it run dry.
We may see somebody exercise what we consider to be great faith, much patience, and indulging in liberal sacrifices for goo works, and we may compliment that person. It is good to encourage such things. But knowing how that person developed those graces is quite another thing. Such virtues have to be fed daily as from a great reservoir. That total something which we call spirituality is the reservoir; it is replenished daily by the qualities of love, faith, and prayer.