Prayer: Faith

David McIntyre:
Once more, it is necessary that when we draw near to God we should come in faith: “Pray to thy Father.” “When we pray say, Our Father.” “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of” (Matt. 6:8). “The Father Himself loveth you” (John 16:27). The whole philosophy of prayer is contained in words like these. “This word ‘Father,’” writes Luther, “hath overcome God.”

(a) Let it be once admitted that with God, no miracle is impossible. Let it be acknowledged that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, no true prayer will remain unblessed. But faith in God is by no means a light or trivial thing. Robert Bruce of Edinburgh used sometimes to pause in his preaching, and, bending over the pulpit, say with much solemnity, “I think it’s a great matter to believe there is a God.” Once he confessed that during three years he had never said, “My God,” without being “challenged and disquieted for the same.” “These words, ‘My God,’” said Ebenezer Erskine, “are the marrow of the Gospel.” To be able to hold the living God within our feeble grasp, and say with assurance, “God, even our own God, shall bless us” (Psa. 67:6), demands a faith which is not of nature’s birth.

But it is comforting to remember that even a feeble faith prevails to overcome. “Is it not a wonder,” says Robert Blair, “that our words in prayer, which almost die in the coming out of our lips, should climb so well as to go into heaven?” It is indeed a wonder, but all the doings of God in grace are wondrous. Like the miner, whose trained eye detects the glitter of the precious metal sown in sparse flakes through the coarse grain of the rocks, He observes the rare but costly faith which lies imbedded in our unbelief. Standing somewhere on the slopes of that goodly mountain Hermon, our Lord said to His disciples, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove: and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matt. 17:20). The mountain which the word of faith was to pluck up and cast into the sea was the immeasurable mass which fills the horizon to the north of Palestine, whose roots run under the whole land of Immanuel, whose dews refresh the city of God.

“Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees,
And looks to that alone;
Laughs at impossibilities,
And cries, It shall be done.”

When the pilgrims came to the Delectable Mountains, the shepherds showed them a man standing on Mount Marvel who “tumbled the hills about with words.” That man was the son of one Mr. Great Grace, the King’s champion, and he was set there “to teach pilgrims to believe down, or to tumble out of their ways what difficulties they should meet with, by faith.”

(b) But this God who is ours is our Father. Our Lord confers on us His own rights and privileges. He puts into our hand the master-key, which unlocks all the doors of the treasury of God. “For however many be the promises of God, in Him is the yea: wherefore also through Him is the Amen” (2 Cor. 1:20, R.V.). In Him we draw nigh to God. In Him we plead with boldness our requests. Ralph Erskine tells us that, on a certain Sabbath evening, he had unusual liberty in prayer through the name of the Lord Jesus; “I was helped to pray in secret with an outpouring of the soul before the Lord, owning my claim to the promise, my claim to pardon, my claim to grace, my claim to daily bread, my claim to a comfortable life, my claim to a stingless death, my claim to a glorious resurrection, and my claim to everlasting life and happiness: to be, only, only in Christ, and in God through Him as a promising God.”

When we pray to our Father we offer our prayers in the name of Jesus with His authority. We must not think, however, that the name of Jesus may be used by us as we like. God can in no wise deal with His children as Ahasuerus dealt with Mordecai when he handed him the great seal with the words, “Write as you like, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring: for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse” (Esther 8:8). John Bunyan shows his accustomed spiritual discernment when, in his Holy War, he discourses of the petitions which the men of Mansoul sent to Emmanuel, to none of which did He return any answer. After a time “they agreed together to draw up yet another petition, and to send it away to Emmanuel for relief. But Mr. Godly-Fear stood up, and answered that he knew his Lord, the Prince, never did, nor ever would, receive a petition for these matters from the hand of any unless the Lord Secretary’s hand was to it. ‘And this,’ quoted he, ‘is the reason you prevailed not all this while.’ Then they said they would draw up one, and get the Lord Secretary’s hand to it. But Mr. Godly-Fear answered again that he knew also that the Lord Secretary would not set His hand to any petition that He Himself had not a hand in composing and drawing up.”25

The prayer of faith is a middle term between the intercession of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of Christ.26 It is the divinely appointed means by which the unutterable groanings of the Spirit, who dwells within His people as in a temple, are conveyed and committed to the exalted Mediator, who “ever liveth to make intercession” for us. And thus in a peculiar and especial manner those who make mention of the Lord are graced to become fellow-laborers together with God.

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