I wish to remind you of a privilege that is yours, and of which you should make frequent use. I refer to the liberty you have of lifting your heart to the Lord at all times. I do not at all mean on only such occasions as you are compelled to do so by reason of the great difficulties that surround you. Then you instinctively look above. Even the heathen call upon their gods in the day of trouble, as we find the storm-tossed mariners did in Jonah's day. But it is an excellent Christian habit to "seek the face of the Lord" as much as possible, being moved to do so because of the joy you experience in so doing.
I think I can hear some of you saying that you do not often experience any such joy. But surely the reason for this lies with yourself. Perhaps you content yourself with just a bare enumeration of a few of your more general needs in a formal way; and then you wonder why your heart has not swollen with emotion.
There are those who kneel down at night, for instance, and say in a very perfunctory way, something like this: "O Lord, I thank Thee for all Thy love to me this day; for Thy goodness which has followed me all the days of my life; for Thy grace which saved me and Thy mercy which keeps me. Now, O Lord, help me to live as I ought. Bless me in everything. Give me strength for everything. Save all my friends, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."
Please do not suppose that I am about to find fault with this prayer, its brevity, its wording, or its subjects of petition. There is the most perfect liberty of access to the throne of grace, and the most perfect freedom to ask "what we will." Neither are we heard for our much speaking, nor for our fine speaking. At the same time it is much to be deplored if persons continue month after month and year after year, never getting beyond just asking for a small portion of the things they require. Communion means far more than that.
Can you imagine sons or daughters never speaking to their parents except for the purpose of asking for what they want? Because of their relationship in the home they are entitled to converse on family affairs, and to find a certain pleasure in so doing. What concerns the father concerns them. What he proposes to do commands their interest and their attention.
You may see this spirit illustrated in Mary of Bethany, who "sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word." We are not told that she was asking favours, but she grasped the opportunity when the Lord was in the house to place herself in the attitude of a disciple before Him, and to listen to His word. This was pleasing to the Lord. He told Martha she had chosen the good part; and though He Himself would depart as to bodily presence, the part she had chosen of waiting before Him should not be taken from her. After the Lord's ascent and the Spirit's descent she might prove this in a way still more beneficial to her soul.
And so may we. Depend upon it, it would be an excellent thing for you to cultivate the practice of getting away to be alone, so that the Lord may speak to you from His word, and that your heart may be turned upward to Him with regard to the things you find in that word. It will be found that this habit takes you away from being altogether engaged with what you yourself need in your own life and your own circumstances. Self is forgotten for a time; and divine things fill your heart. In this way the new spiritual life grows and develops heavenward as it should do. For the things of self, even the good things of self, should never be allowed to become the centre of any Christian's life. "Not I, but Christ liveth in me," the apostle wrote (Gal. 2:20). Christ therefore is the central object for each believer's heart.
Oh, draw me, Saviour, after Thee,
So shall I run and never tire:
With gracious words still comfort me:
Be Thou my hope, my sole desire.
On Thee I'd roll each weight and fear:
Calm in the thought that Thou art near.
What in Thy love possess I not?
My star by night, my sun by day,
My spring of life when parch'd with drought:
My wine to cheer, my bread to stay,
My strength, my shield, my safe abode,
My robe before the throne of God!
Unchangeable Thy gracious love
My earthly path has ceaseless view'd;
Ere yet this beating heart could move,
Thy tender mercies me pursued:
Ever with me may they abide,
And close me in on every side.
O Saviour, blessed Saviour,
Whom yet unseen we love
O name of might and favour,
All earthly names above!
We worship Thee, we bless Thee!
To Thee alone we raise
Our songs of adoration,
Our God and Saviour's praise.
F. R. Havergal.