BECAUSE our citizenship is in heaven we inherit among other privileges that of direct appeal to heaven's King, just as S. Paul, by virtue of his citizenship in the Roman Empire, had the right of direct appeal to Caesar.
Our King is more ready to hear than we to pray. The doors of His audience chamber are shut neither by day nor by night. Anyone who chooses can find his way to the very throne, where the King is seated with hands of welcome reached forth to every citizen of His Kingdom.
We can never take Him by surprise, for He is always expecting us to come and exercise our right of appeal. We can never bring before Him a life too tangled and stained and wounded for Him to set right and purify and repair, for His skill, His wisdom, His power, are equal to His compassion, which in turn is as deep as the needs of men, as high as their highest desires, as broad as the human family. We can never fail to interest Him in our case, for there is nothing that concerns man which is now His concern, so that when we do any deed, good or bad, He exclaims, Ye have done it unto me.
This is the sort of King, then, to whom we have free access. If S. Paul, with confidence that he would be justly dealt with as a Roman citizen, could say, I appeal to Caesar, with how much greater confidence can we, the children of the heavenly King as well as citizens of His Kingdom, say, Let us pray!
God handles our affairs according to a large purpose, the whole of which, together with its beneficial and joyous issue, He sees, but only a fragmentary vision of which we can discern in the days of our mortality. Our capacity for entering into God's fuller counsels develops in proportion to our faithfulness in exercising our right of appeal. He would have us understand as far as we have wisdom to understand, and to trust where we cannot comprehend. The first and main thing to strive for is the conviction that God's hidden activities are surer, stronger, more vitalizing than those workings of His that we succeed in deciphering; that His whole business is the management to our advantage of our concerns. Should we be inclined, under the strain of calamity in one or another of its manifold phases, to feel as though we had been neglected or our interests flouted, the history of His Son Jesus is His standing declaration that a suffering experience is the raw material out of which He can best spin the groundwork of His choicest characters. In pointing to the one undamaged life among the sons of men, God points to Him whose visage was so marred more than any man.
Jesus placed and left His interest in the hands of the Father, with what result we know. Prayer is the committal of our way unto the Lord, just as a deed of trust is the committal of our possessions to those who can handle them better than we. God's response is a loyal execution of the trust by activities, hidden as well as seen. Our constant appeal to the King so works upon our personality as to make it possible for Him to control our destinies to our fullest benefit.
The most comfortable result of a life of prayer is the security which fellowship with God imparts. His kind and cheering counsels come darting into the soul like rays of light into a dark room. Good desires increase in multitude and vigor. Unlooked for succour rushes in to support us in moments of trial. Life expands until its branches are aflame with the sunny blossoms of hope. The King is answering His citizens' appeal-that is the explanation of the spiritual phenomenon.
With three counsels I would bid men to prayer:--
(a) Aim to see God before you address Him. In the course of time this practice will become an unbidden habit. You can see Him at least as clearly as you can the absent friend with whom you correspond, for the human lineaments are in the Divine.
(b) Pray with your intelligence. Bring things to God that you have thought out and think them out again with Him. This is the secret of good judgment.
(c) Repeatedly place your pet opinions and prejudices before God. He will surprise you by shewing you that the best of them need refining and some the purification of destruction.
O God, whose low, sweet song of love is never silent in the souls of men, make us skilled to hear the music of Thy counsels, that, vibrating with Thy message, we may learn to sing to Thee in tones of freedom and responsive joy, and so complete the antiphony that draws earth within the gates of heaven's choir; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.