God and Ourselves

If God is real to us we shall pray, and the better we know Him the more often we shall seek His presence and talk with Him. Spiritual life must languish if prayer is neglected; it will not be neglected if God is to us the living God, who sees us, knows us, and cares for us with a care more tender than can be described in human words.

When we speak of prayer we are not thinking of it as a duty that must be done at stated times, and which we will do conscientiously no matter how irksome it may be, but as something that we cannot live without. A Christian poet has called it our "vital breath," and there is much truth in that, but the importance of it lies in the fact that it is the way in which we come into contact with God, in whom we live, and move, and have our being, and who in His amazing grace has made us His children by faith in Christ Jesus. So that it is not the mere act of prayer with which we would be occupied but the God to whom we pray. "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee" cried the Psalmist, and the man who feels like that will pray; he must, he cannot live without it.

It should be as necessary for us to pray and as natural, as it is for a little child to call to its mother in its need. Let us set a little child in the midst and learn of him in this matter. He cannot string enough words together to make a sentence, but he knows his mother, and life is not worth living if she is not within reach; he will certainly wail until she returns. He is no grammarian, concerned about the correctness of his sentences, but he knows that he wants something and expresses his want in cries, and it is marvellous how the mother-sense interprets those efforts to make his wants known. Mother is his waking thought in the morning and he will not grumble if he has no other companion throughout the day; and when weary at night, nothing will soothe him but his mother's arms and breast. The child we are considering has no doubt about his mother's ability to meet all his needs; she is indispensable and enough; his confidence in her is beautiful. Oh that it were more so with us in our relations with God! We would that we had more of this child-confidence and dependence before Him; we should be stronger, and quit us more like men before the world if we had.

In addition to this instructive child-dependence and trust there ought to be intelligence in us. God has revealed Himself that we might know Him, and hold communion with Him, and when confidence in God and communion with Him combine they give to the Christian life and prayer the reality and blessedness that the Bible shows that it has. But we do not put confidence in a theory and hold communion with a doctrine, for these we must have a living person. His mother is the most real thing in life to a child; is God this to us? A Zulu Christian said to me as we sat outside his hut in Natal, "God is a greater reality to me than my wife and children," and they were there sitting with us. Some white Christians (?) some miles away who knew less than he did of these things, had refused to hold communion with him because he was black. He felt it, of course, but God was his solace and stay in his isolation, and God was enough for him. It is twenty years ago since I heard those words from his mouth, but I have not forgotten them; they went straight as an arrow to my heart — I, a preacher, who had gone to help and comfort a despised brother, sat and listened, I wanted to hear the dear man talk, for I felt that in that simple yet great saying lay the whole secret of Christian living.