Monday, October 27, 2008

Prayer, from the Palms of Elim

"This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing"--

"Effectual fervent prayer" -- James v.16

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask?" -- Matt vii.11


There is a reposeful rest beyond all other at the mercy-seat. When the hurricane of temptation and trial--the simoom blast of the wilderness is fiercest--who has not felt the peaceful overshadowing of this Elim palm?

Prayer for ourselves, the unburdening the heart of its sins and sorrows into the ear of our Heavenly Father; unbosoming our wants, our weaknesses, our frailties and backslidings; it may be the crimson and scarlet stains of which none but the Heart-searcher is cognizant. The cry for "more grace;" realising our own weakness, yet realising, too, the strong arm on which we are encouraged to lean, when our temporary Elim must be left, and the buffeting storm of the wilderness and the unknown perils of the renewed journey must be faced!

Prayer for others. Delightful it is to feel that our intercessions fetch down blessings on the absent. Prayer annihilates space; it knows nothing of distance. That friend, that brother, the companion of your youth, is far separated from you,--out on the perilous ocean, away in the distant colony. The sound of the Sabbath-bell falls no more on his ear; you can go with him no longer to the house of God in company; his place is vacant in the pew; his chair is empty at the table; his voice is missed at the home-hearth! But you can be present with him. Prayer can bring you to his side. Prayer can whisper a father's benediction over him. Prayer can sprinkle him with better than a mother's tears. Prayer can fetch the angels of God around him as a guard; his shield in danger, his defense in trouble. Far off in her cottage-home, a thousand miles away, a mother, all unconscious at the moment of the danger of her sailor-boy, is uttering her midnight pleadings for the wanderer. They have ascended at the very crisis of destruction. The cry of the trembling form kneeling by her lonely couch has rocked the waves to rest. Is is a mother's "effectual fervent prayers" that have turned the storm into calm!

Prayer is still the golden key by which we can unlock, alike for ourselves and for others, the treasury of heaven, and "move the arm of Omnipotence." Yes, and what we owe, on the other hand, to the prayers which have hovered over our cradles and our early years, followed us into the world, grappling for us in our strong temptations, and which, like Jacob wrestling with the angel, have prevailed, will never be known until that day when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed!

Gracious indeed is this Palm-tree; to be under its shelter is to be beneath the shadow of God. As the devout Payson expresses it, using a different simile, "The best means of keeping near the Lord is the closet. Here the battle is lost or won."

What an encouragement to prayer is the divine challenge given in the second of our motto-verses; the earthly father yielding to the requests and importunities of his children-- the pledge and guarantee of a still greater willingness on the part of the Heavenly Parent to respond, and that too with a royal plenitude to our wants! "How much more?" Never let us suppose that God is unwilling to hear. There is no exhausting that infinite fullness treasured up in him. It is one of Philip Henry's quaint sayings, "When Abraham interceded for Sodom, God granted as long as he asked, Abraham left off first." He is able to do "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." 'It is said,' observes the saintly Rutherford, '"He answered not a word." But it is not said, "He heard not a word." These two differ much. Christ often heareth, when He doth not answer. His not answering is an answer and speaks thus, "Pray on, go on, and cry; for the Lord holdest His door fast bolted, not to keep you out, but that you may knock and knock."' Can we doubt either His willingness or ability to hear, when we think of Him who is our Advocate with the Father?--the Angel Intercessor with His censer "full of much incense," sprinkling therewith the polluted and unworthy prayers of His people, and causing them to ascend with acceptance before God? "Ask in My name," says that Divine Intercessor Himself; adding, "And I say not unto you that I will pray the Father for you." What means He by this asserted suspension or intermission of His pleadings? Simply, because the utterance of His name is sufficient. It is the passport to the Mercy-seat, the Key which unlocks the Treasury of heaven, and obtains the "how much more" from the Father's heart!

"Thou hast prayed for much
In the time that's past,
Thou must still pray on,
For thy wants come fast;
Now ask what ye will
From His boundless store,
The Father is able
To give 'much more.'

"Hold out the empty hand,
And He will fill it;
Tell Him Thy vexing fear,
And He will still it.
Now take what ye will
From His boundless store,
The Father is willing
To give 'much more.'"

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you."

from J. R. Macduff, Palms of Elim; or Rest and Refreshment in the Valleys. New York: Carter, 1879. pp109-112