Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wrestling in prayer

The name of “Israel” was given to Jacob, because he “wrestled with the angel, and prevailed.” Are you a man of prayer? Come now, answer the question, each one of you for yourselves. Are you men of prayer, and women of prayer? Alas! Some of you may use a form of prayer, but it hath no life in it. You ask, do I object to forms of prayer? I answer, no. I believe that sometimes forms of prayer, moulded according to the mind of the Spirit, are offered up with the vital breath of the same Spirit of God. Far be it from me to say, that because you use a form of prayer, therefore you do not pray at all; this however I remind you, your form of prayer is merely a vehicle, that moveth not except as it is drawn. Of itself it is like a steam engine, motionless till the furnace is heated; or rather, it is like the carriage which is drawn by the steam engine, being linked thereto with chains. A form of prayer is a heavy material thing, which prayer has to drag after it. It is no help to prayer, but rather a burden to it. There may be prayer with the huge cumbrous thing called the form attached but the form is distinct in every sense from the power.

The prayer is the spirit, the life, the desire, the wish, the agonizing panting with God to obtain the blessing. I ask you not whether you use a form of prayer, or whether you utter extempore prayers; for you may speak extemporaneously in prayer, and talk as much nonsense, ay, and a great deal more than you would if you used a prescribed form; you may avoid formality, and become frivolous. It is not uttering spontaneous words that is prayer any more than repeating a litany. But I ask you, do you pray? If you are prayerless, then you have no right to call yourselves God’s elect. God’s people are a praying people. They are an Israel, a wrestling race; and unto them the promise is made — “I will be unto them as the dew unto Israel.”

From a sermon entitled "Grace Reviving Israel." Flickr photo by Mih.; some rights reserved.

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