Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.




The Gospel for today gives us a lesson in the meaning, method and result of prayer. I think that we have all felt the need of much teaching concerning prayer. I think we all have had to grow up in the school of prayer through so many difficulties, that we are quite ready to sympathize with people who share our own difficulties and who perhaps have further difficulties that we ourselves have not known. The school of prayer is not an easy one. The first lesson that most of us have had to learn is that prayer is a petition and not a demand. It really could not be that. What would happen in this world, if any one and every one who made a demand of God, were to succeed in obtaining the thing demanded? The first thing that would happen would be anarchy and chaos. For it would mean that God would have ceased to govern the world. What would happen in a family if each member were to have every desire gratified without exceptions? What would happen in Philadelphia if that were to happen? What would happen in America? What would happen in the world? As a matter of fact such a condition could not exist. The wildest anarchy would prevail at first. The wildest anarchy would have swift resort to the most furious tyranny at the last. Such schemes have often been tried. Such schemes have always been abandoned as unworkable. Whatever prayer is it is not a demand. If we expect to learn to pray, we must rid our minds of such an erroneous notion. Yet there are instances of persons who have ceased to pray, because they have failed to enforce their demands upon God. Or because they have known people who did not obtain the thing they asked for. Of course, the obvious rejoinder to this statement is: “But are you people who pray not told that whatsoever you ask, you shall receive?” The answer to that is, that we are also taught that we know not what we should ask for. We are taught that the Spirit helps our infirmities, just because we know not what we should pray for as we ought, and that the Spirit maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And we are also taught that all things work together for good to them that love God. The very first lessons taught in the school of prayer are humility and faith. Like most lessons worth learning, knowledge is attained at the cost of much discipline and not a little pain. In the end we may obtain precisely the thing we asked, in the way we desired and at the time we expected it. Or we may not. But in this event, we find sooner or later that we have obtained promotion to a higher grade in the school of prayer. We find that we have grown up a little nearer to the mind of our Teacher and a little nearer to the friendship with Him, which makes far more perfect understanding. In the light of this understanding we come to recognize that our original petition needed revising. We come to some degree of greater wisdom in prayer.

The great masters of the science of prayer have passed through this school. They have learned the elementary lesson which has enabled them to advance far as exponents of the art of prayer.

All over the world such experts are diligently exercising their profession. These are the people who are moving the world. You and I may join them, if we have the spiritual stamina to submit to the requirements of their school.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury