The recent holidays several times brought me to my knees, reminding me of the power and importance of prayer in our daily walk, both my own prayer and the prayers of God’s people. I also learned to put an emphasis on the word “daily” for my walk with God, a point I had known but not really learned before. More on that and the past several weeks later, Deo volente. My coming back to the sweet and utter grace of God in His receiving our prayers reminded me of a recent sermon excerpt from my pastor Stephen Davey, which follows for your edification:
J. Sidlow Baxter was a pastor in the early 1900’s. A prolific writer, powerful expositor, Baxter graduated from Spurgeon’s Pastor’s College in London and went on to be used greatly in his generation, on both sides of the pond. His life literally spanned the 20th century – from 1903 to 1999.
He struggle with prayer as a pastor. He let his schedule get in the way of private communion. One morning he took a good look into his heart, and found there was a part of him that did not want to pray and a part that did. The part that did not was his emotions; the part which did was his intellect and will. He writes – and I quote, a rather lengthy page, but we’re finished when I’m through and I believe you will be equally inspired and challenged by this – As never before, my will and I stood face to face. I asked my will a straight question, “Will, are you ready for an hour of prayer?” Will answered, “Here I am, and I’m quite ready, if you are.” So Will and I linked arms and turned to go for our time of prayer. At once all the emotions began pulling the other way and protesting, “We are not coming.” I saw Will stagger just a bit, so I asked, “Can you stick it out, Will?” and Will replied, “Yes, if you can.”
So Will went, and we got down to prayer, dragging those wriggling, unruly emotions with us. It was a struggle all the way through. At one point, when Will and I were in the middle of an earnest intercession, I suddenly found one of those traitorous emotions had snared my imagination and had run off to the golf course; and it was all that I could do to drag the wicked rascal back. A bit later I found another of the emotions had sneaked away with some off-guarded thoughts and there I was in the pulpit, two days ahead of schedule, preaching a sermon I had not yet finished.
At the end of that hour, if you had asked me, “Have you had a good time?” I would have had to reply, “No, it has been a wearying wrestle with contrary emotions and a truant imagination from beginning to end.” What is more, that battle with the emotions continued for weeks. If you had asked me at the end of that period, “Have you had a good time in your daily praying?” I would have had to confess, “No, at times it has seemed as though the heavens were brass, and God too distant to hear, and the Lord Jesus strangely aloof, and prayer accomplished nothing.”
Yet something was happening. For one thing, Will and I were teaching emotions that we were independent of them. In fact, one morning, just when Will and I were going for another time of prayer, I overheard one of the emotions whisper to the other, “Come on, you guys, it is no use wasting any more time resisting; they’ll go just the same.” That morning, for the first time, even though the emotions were completely uncooperative, they were at least quiet, which allowed Will and me to get on with prayer without distraction.
Then another few weeks later, what do you think happened? During one of our prayer times, when Will and I were no more thinking of emotions than of the man in the moon, one of the most vigorous of the emotions unexpectedly sprang up and shouted, “Hallelujah!” at which all the other emotions exclaimed, “Amen!” And for the first time, the whole of my being, intellect, will and emotion –was united in the coordinated operation of prayer.
This is not only our directive . . . this is to be our delight.
More from Pastor Baxter here and here.