Knowing God Through Prayer
By An Unknown Christian
Prayer is much more than merely asking God for something, although that is a very valuable part of prayer if only because it reminds us of our utter dependence upon God. It is also communion with God – talking with Him, not only to Him. We get to know people by talking with them. We get to know God in like manner. The highest result of prayer is not deliverance from evil, or the securing of some coveted thing, but knowledge of God.
"And this is life eternal, that they should know Thee, the only true God" (John 17:3). Yes, prayer discovers more of God, and that is the soul’s greatest discovery. Men still cry out, "O, that I knew where I might find Him! that I might come even to His seat!" (Job 23:3).
The kneeling Christian always "finds" Him, and is found of Him. The heavenly vision of the Lord Jesus blinded the eyes of Saul of Tarsus on his downward course, but he tells us, later on, that when he was praying in the temple at Jerusalem he fell into a trance and saw Jesus. "I...saw Him" (Acts 22:18). Then it was that Christ gave him his great commission to go to the Gentiles. Vision is always a precursor of vocation and venture. It was so with Isaiah. "I saw the Lord...high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple" (Isa. 6:1). The prophet was evidently in the sanctuary praying when this happened. This vision also was a prelude to a call to service, "Go...." Now, we cannot get a vision of God unless we pray. And where there is no vision the soul perishes.
A Thirst for God Alone
A friend of Horace Bushnell was present when that man of God prayed. There came over him a wonderful sense of God’s nearness. He says: "When Horace Bushnell buried his face in his hands and prayed, I was afraid to stretch out my hand in the darkness, lest I should touch God." Was the psalmist of old conscious of such a thought when he cried, "My soul, wait thou only upon God"? (Psa. 62:5). I believe that much of our failure in prayer is due to the fact that we have not looked into this question, "What is prayer?" It is good to be conscious that we are always in the presence of God. It is better to gaze upon Him in adoration. But it is best of all to commune with Him as a Friend – and that is prayer.
Real prayer at its highest and best reveals a soul athirst for God – just for God alone. Real prayer comes from the lips of those whose affection is set on things above. What a man of prayer Zinzendorf was. Why? He sought the Giver rather than His gifts. He said: "I have one passion: it is He, He alone."
Of course, we know that God bids us "ask" of Him. We all obey Him so far; and we may rest well assured that prayer both pleases God and supplies all our need. But he would be a strange child who only sought his father’s presence when he desired some gift from him! And do we not all yearn to rise to a higher level of prayer than mere petition? How is it to be done?
It seems to me that only two steps are necessary – or shall we say two thoughts? There must be, first of all, a realization of God’s glory, and then of God’s grace.
A Realization of God’s Glory
Do you think that any one of us spends enough time in pondering over, yes, and marveling over, God’s exceeding great glory? And do you suppose that any one of us has grasped the full meaning of the word "grace"? Are not our prayers so often ineffective and powerless – and sometimes even prayerless – because we rush unthinkingly and unpreparedly into God’s presence, without realizing the majesty and glory of the God whom we are approaching, and without reflecting upon the exceeding great riches of His glory in Christ Jesus, which we hope to draw upon? We must "think magnificently of God."
May we then suggest that before we lay our petitions before God we first dwell in meditation upon His glory and then upon His grace – for He offers us both. We must lift up the soul to God. Let us place ourselves, as it were, in the presence of God and direct our prayer to the King of kings, and Lord of lords, Who only hath immortality, dwelling in light...to Whom be honor and power eternal (1 Tim. 6:16). Let us then give Him adoration and praise because of His exceeding great glory. Consecration is not enough. There must be adoration.
"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts," cry the seraphim; "the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isa. 6:3). "Glory to God in the highest," cries the "whole multitude of the heavenly host" (Luke 2:13-14). Yet some of us try to commune with God without stopping to "put off [our] shoes from off [our] feet" (Ex. 3:5).
And we may approach His glory with boldness. Did not our Lord pray that His disciples might behold His glory? (John 17:24). Why? And why is "the whole earth full of His glory"? The telescope reveals His infinite glory. The microscope reveals His uttermost glory. Even the unaided eye sees surpassing glory in landscape, sunshine, sea and sky.
What does it all mean? These things are but a partial revelation of God’s glory. It was not a desire for self-display that led our Lord to pray, "Father...glorify Thy Son"..."O, Father, glorify Thou Me" (John 17:1, 5). Our dear Lord wants us to realize His infinite trustworthiness and unlimited power, so that we can approach Him in simple faith and trust.
In heralding the coming of Christ the prophet declared that "the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" (Isa. 40:5). Now we must get a glimpse of that glory before we can pray right. So our Lord said, "When ye pray, say, Our Father, Who art in heaven [the realm of glory], hallowed be Thy name" (Luke 11:2). There is nothing like a glimpse of glory to banish fear and doubt.
Expressing God’s Glory
Most of us need some help to realize the glory of the invisible God before we can adequately praise and adore Him. William Law said, "When you begin to pray, use such expressions of the attributes of God as will make you sensible of His greatness and power."
This point is of such tremendous importance that we venture to remind our readers of helpful words. Some of us begin every day with a glance heavenwards whilst saying, "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost." The prayer, "O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and merciful Savior!" is often enough to bring a solemn awe and a spirit of holy adoration upon the soul. A verse of a hymn may serve the same purpose:
My God, how wonderful Thou art!
Thy majesty how bright.
How beautiful Thy mercy-seat
In depths of burning light!
How wonderful, how beautiful
The sight of Thee must be;
Thine endless wisdom, boundless power
And awful purity.
This carries us into the very heavenlies, as also do the words:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,
All Thy works shall praise Thy name
In earth and sky, and sea.
We need to cry out, and to cry often, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior" (Luke 1:46-47). Can we catch the spirit of the psalmist and sing "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name"? (Psa. 103:1). "Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, Thou art very great; Thou art...clothed with honor and majesty" (Psa. 104:1). When shall we learn that "in His temple every thing saith Glory!" (Psa. 29:9). Let us, too, cry, Glory!
All He is and all He does is glory. His holiness is "glorious" (Ex. 15:11). His name is "glorious" (Deut. 28:58). His work is "glorious" (Psa. 111:3). His power is "glorious" (Col. 1:11). His voice is "glorious" (Isa. 30:30).
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all for His glory.
Reflecting His Glory
"For of Him and through Him and unto Him are all things; to whom be glory for ever" (Rom. 11:36). And this is the God who bids us come to Him in prayer. This God is our God, and He has "gifts for men" (Psa. 68:18). God says that everyone that is called by His name has been created for His glory (Isa. 43:7). His church is to be a "glorious" church – holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:27).
Have you ever fully realized that the Lord Jesus desires to share with us the glory we see in Him? This is His great gift to you and me, His redeemed ones. Believe me, the more we have of God’s glory, the less shall we seek His gifts. Not only in that day "when He shall come to be glorified in His saints" (2 Thes. 1:10) is there glory for us, but here and now – today. He wishes us to be partakers of His glory. Did not our Lord Himself say so? "The glory which Thou has given Me, I have given unto them," He declares (John 17:22). What is God’s command? "Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." Nay, more than this: "His glory shall be seen upon thee," says the inspired prophet (Isa. 60:1-2).
God would have people say of us as Peter said of the disciples of old: "The Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God resteth upon you" (1 Pet. 4:14). Would not that be an answer to most of our prayers? Could we ask for anything better? How can we get this glory? How are we to reflect it? Only as the result of prayer. It is when we pray, that the Holy Spirit takes of the things of Christ and reveals them unto us (John 16:15).
It was when Moses prayed, "Show me, I pray Thee, Thy glory," that he not only saw somewhat of it, but shared something of that glory, and his own face shone with the light of it (Ex. 33:18; 34:29). And when we, too, gaze upon the "glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6), we shall see not only a glimpse of that glory, but we shall gain something of it ourselves.
Now, that is prayer, and the highest result of prayer. Nor is there any other way of securing that glory, that God may be glorified in us (Isa. 60:21). When we can declare, with John, "Yea, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3), people will say the same of us: "They have been with Jesus!"
As we lift up our soul in prayer to the living God, we gain the beauty of holiness as surely as a flower becomes beautiful by living in the sunlight. Was not our Lord Himself transfigured when He prayed? And the "very fashion" of our countenance will change, and we shall have our Mount of Transfiguration when prayer has its rightful place in our lives. And men will see in our faces "the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace." Our value to God and to man is in exact proportion to the extent in which we reveal the glory of God to others.
A New Vision of God’s Glory
What is prayer? It is a sign of spiritual life. I should as soon expect life in a dead man as spiritual life in a prayerless soul! Our spirituality and our fruitfulness are always in proportion to the reality of our prayers. If, then, we have at all wandered away from home in the matter of prayer, let us today resolve, "I will arise and go unto my Father, and say unto Him, Father...."
"The secret of failure is that we see men rather than God. Romanism trembled when Martin Luther saw God. The ‘great awakening’ sprang into being when Jonathan Edwards saw God. Scotland fell prostrate when John Knox saw God. The world became the parish of one man when John Wesley saw God. Multitudes were saved when Whitefield saw God. Thousands of orphans were fed when George Müller saw God. And He is ‘the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ "
Is it not time that we got a new vision of God – of God in all His glory? Who can say what will happen when the church sees God? But let us not wait for others. Let us, each one for himself, with unveiled face and unsullied heart, get this vision of the glory of the Lord.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). Dr. Wilbur Chapman wrote to a friend: "I have learned some great lessons concerning prayer. At one of our missions in England the audiences were exceedingly small. But I received a note saying that an American missionary...was going to pray God’s blessing down upon our work. He was known as ‘Praying Hyde.’ Almost instantly the tide turned. The hall became packed, and at my first invitation fifty men accepted Christ as their Savior. As we were leaving I said, ‘Mr. Hyde, I want you to pray for me.’ He came to my room, turned the key in the door, and dropped on his knees, and waited five minutes without a single syllable coming from his lips. I could hear my own heart thumping and his beating. I felt the hot tears running down my face. I knew I was with God. Then with upturned face, down which the tears were streaming, he said ‘O God!’ Then for five minutes at least he was still again; and then, when he knew that he was talking with God...there came up from the depth of his heart such petitions for men as I had never heard before. I rose from my knees to know what real prayer was. We believe that prayer is mighty, and we believe it as we never did before."
Dr. Chapman used to say, "It was a season of prayer with John Hyde that made me realize what real prayer was...and I had a longing which has remained to this day to be a real praying man." And God the Holy Spirit can so teach us.
– Taken from The Kneeling Christian.