Steps to Christ
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 11: The Privilege of Prayer
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Through nature and revelation, through His
providence, and by the influence of His Spirit,
God speaks to us. But these are not enough; we
need also to pour out our hearts to Him. In order to
have spiritual life and energy, we must have actual
intercourse with our heavenly Father. Our minds
may be drawn out toward Him; we may meditate
upon His works, His mercies, His blessings; but this
is not, in the fullest sense, communing with Him. In
order to commune with God, we must have something
to say to Him concerning our actual life.
Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to
a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make
known to God what we are, but in order to enable
us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down
to us, but brings us up to Him.
When Jesus was upon the earth, He taught His
disciples how to pray. He directed them to present
their daily needs before God, and to cast all their care
upon Him. And the assurance He gave them that
their petitions should be heard, is assurance also to us.
Jesus Himself, while He dwelt among men, was
often in prayer. Our Saviour identified Himself with
our needs and weakness, in that He became a
suppliant, a petitioner, seeking from His Father fresh
supplies of strength, that He might come forth braced
for duty and trial. He is our example in all things.
He is a brother in our infirmities, "in all points
tempted like as we are;" but as the sinless one His [p. 94] nature recoiled from evil; He endured struggles and
torture of soul in a world of sin. His humanity made
prayer a necessity and a privilege. He found comfort
and joy in communion with His Father. And if
the Saviour of men, the Son of God, felt the need of
prayer, how much more should feeble, sinful mortals
feel the necessity of fervent, constant prayer.
Our heavenly Father waits to bestow upon us the
fullness of His blessing. It is our privilege to drink
largely at the fountain of boundless love. What a
wonder it is that we pray so little! God is ready and
willing to hear the sincere prayer of the humblest of
His children, and yet there is much manifest reluctance
on our part to make known our wants to God.
What can the angels of heaven think of poor helpless
human beings, who are subject to temptation, when
God's heart of infinite love yearns toward them, ready
to give them more than they can ask or think, and
yet they pray so little and have so little faith? The
angels love to bow before God; they love to be near
Him. They regard communion with God as their
highest joy; and yet the children of earth, who need
so much the help that God only can give, seem
satisfied to walk without the light of His Spirit, the
companionship of His presence.
The darkness of the evil one encloses those who
neglect to pray. The whispered temptations of the
enemy entice them to sin; and it is all because they
do not make use of the privileges that God has given
them in the divine appointment of prayer. Why
should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to
pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith
to unlock heaven's storehouse, where are treasured [p. 95] the boundless resources of Omnipotence? Without
unceasing prayer and diligent watching we are in
danger of growing careless and of deviating from the
right path. The adversary seeks continually to
obstruct the way to the mercy seat, that we may not
by earnest supplication and faith obtain grace and
power to resist temptation.
There are certain conditions upon which we may
expect that God will hear and answer our prayers.
One of the first of these is that we feel our need of
help from Him. He has promised, "I will pour
water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the
dry ground." Isaiah 44:3. Those who hunger and
thirst after righteousness, who long after God, may
be sure that they will be filled. The heart must be
open to the Spirit's influence, or God's blessing
cannot be received.
Our great need is itself an argument and pleads
most eloquently in our behalf. But the Lord is to be
sought unto to do these things for us. He says, "Ask,
and it shall be given you." And "He that spared not
His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how
shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
Matthew 7:7; Romans 8:32.
If we regard iniquity in our hearts, if we cling to
any known sin, the Lord will not hear us; but the
prayer of the penitent, contrite soul is always accepted.
When all known wrongs are righted, we may believe
that God will answer our petitions. Our own merit
will never commend us to the favor of God; it is the
worthiness of Jesus that will save us, His blood that
will cleanse us; yet we have a work to do in
complying with the conditions of acceptance. [p. 96]
Another element of prevailing prayer is faith. "He
that cometh to God must believe that He is, and
that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek
Him." Hebrews 11:6. Jesus said to His disciples,
"What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe
that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." Mark
11:24. Do we take Him at His word?
The assurance is broad and unlimited, and He is
faithful who has promised. When we do not receive
the very things we asked for, at the time we ask, we
are still to believe that the Lord hears and that He
will answer our prayers. We are so erring and
short-sighted that we sometimes ask for things that would
not be a blessing to us, and our heavenly Father in
love answers our prayers by giving us that which will
be for our highest good—that which we ourselves
would desire if with vision divinely enlightened we
could see all things as they really are. When our
prayers seem not to be answered, we are to cling to
the promise; for the time of answering will surely
come, and we shall receive the blessing we need most.
But to claim that prayer will always be answered in
the very way and for the particular thing that we
desire, is presumption. God is too wise to err, and
too good to withhold any good thing from them that
walk uprightly. Then do not fear to trust Him, even
though you do not see the immediate answer to your
prayers. Rely upon His sure promise, "Ask, and it
shall be given you."
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