The inestimable grace of praying is the peculiar privilege of the church on earth.

We see in the beginning of the new company in Luke 10:39, 11:1, the first trait - the Word of God and prayer - literally, what God says to us and what we say to Him. The disciples say, in chap. 11, "Lord, teach us to pray," and the Lord figuratively sets forth in the man who went to his friend at midnight how prayer begins with the sense that my friend has what I want. It is not so much a question of what the want is, but I know my friend has what I want, and that he is my friend; and I repair to him to relieve me of my want, without taking into account the various things which might intervene. One thing is fixed in my mind - that he has what I want, and that I have nowhere else to get it; this is the first great sense of prayer - absolute dependence on God, and His infinite ability to meet what I require.

The sense so peculiar to real prayer is that the greater our need, and the more we need, the nearer we get to Him, as if the only chance and the only hope of relief is our being with Him. The circumstances we are in generally impart a character to our prayers; so you will find that if you begin with the troubles about you, and keep on praying, you are getting more free of the trouble, and really getting more occupied with Himself; just as in the parable in Luke 11 the man succeeds at last, and gets more than he asked for - an intimation of what the Lord says in the end - "How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him."

If we were to hear the prayers which are uttered we should have an idea of the circumstances which gave rise to them; but the nearer we get to the Lord the more we feel dependent on Him, and the more we get occupied with Him instead of with the circumstances.

We get an interesting illustration of this in 1 Cor. 14:14, the man praying with his spirit. Though he does not know what he is praying for, he is in spirit impressed by the association he is found in; in spirit he speaks mysteries (1 Cor. 14:2), because of his nearness to the Lord. The nearer we come to the Lord the more spiritual our desires are; we can account for prayers which take in our circumstances being suggested by the circumstances, and not by our association with the Lord. Here we learn a truth of deep importance (where many wishing to be spiritual have failed, not having entered into the magnitude of the truth) - that we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, and we cannot be in both at the same time. If you are in the Spirit you (by the Spirit) mortify the deeds of the body; you are not only preserved from the deeds, but you are dead to the desires of the flesh. The Spirit lusteth against the flesh, "so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." Hence we see the great advance in the character of prayer; the more you are apart from the flesh and from the natural man, the more you are occupied exclusively with and derive from Christ Himself. Anyone may notice in a prayer-meeting the difference between the two. The prayer that is occupied with things suits the mass, but it is a happy day when one learns that the nearer he is to Christ the less he wants anything but Christ, that though still in human circumstances he can thank God that he is not only free from the man that is contrary to God, but that he is in the Spirit, and as he walks in the Spirit he is absolutely free from the old way. When Paul was severed from Jerusalem he had to learn in the ship (Acts 27) that he was not to be directed by any providence or human influence, but by God Himself, outside everything here.

Another thing has to be noted, that when prayer reaches to this, your dependence on Christ becomes more and more necessary to you, like the infant that cannot bear to leave its mother, not only because its wants are met, but she is the source of its supply. Now He so absorbs your heart that it is true of you that to God you are beside yourself, and, like the Queen of Sheba in the presence of Solomon, you have no more spirit left in you; and as to prayer, you have the double blessing - the peace of God in coming to Him as touching things here, as we read in Phil. 4:7; and you have also what we get in 1 John 5:14, the sense of what His present will is - the sense of His will, as one in constant intimacy with a friend gets his mind without being directly instructed in it. This necessarily gives a peculiar and intense spirituality, and as union is realized it deepens, so that the one great desire of the soul is the prayer in Eph. 3. Like Rebekah, your one desire is that you might be a comfort to Him who has brought you to Himself.

I cannot conceive anything greater to a heart that knows union with Christ than to be ever seeking to be in keeping with His pleasure, and though occupied with His glory on the earth you rise, as you see in Habakkuk 3, from "Shigionoth" (variable notes) to "Neginoth" (stringed instruments). J. B. Stoney.