Talk to God, and listen
The Life, the Truth, the Way!
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod;
Lord, teach us how to pray! T hese words from the hymn by James Montgomery express the deep longing of every heart and life and teach us great lessons. With the disciples of old we come to the Master voicing the same request, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”
First of all they teach us the transforming power of prayer. Henry Drummond said once, “Ten minutes, aye even two, spent in the presence of the Christ, if it be face-to-face and heart-toheart, will make the whole life different.”
Secondly, it teaches that if prayer is to have meaning we must learn to listen. Real prayer is simply talking to God. At the same time it is listening to God. Far too often our prayer time is much like the woman who after a two-hour visit during which she had talked continuously, finally said to her hostess, “What a delightful conversation we have had!” Real prayer is a two-way street. Let us be still and listen. God may be trying to tell us something.
Thirdly, it teaches us to be patient and allow God to answer in the way he knows to be best. He may deny us what we ask for in order to give us what we want and need. The mother of Augustine, you remember, prayed night after night for God to keep her son at home. But he ran away and went to Italy. In the city of Milan he heard Ambrose preach and became a Christian. That was the thing Monica wanted most.
Above all, it teaches us that, at its highest and best, prayer is working hand in hand with him who is the Father of us all. As our Father, he will never do for us what he wants us to do for ourselves.
Once when Dwight L. Moody, the great evangelist, was making a trip across the Great Lakes the boat caught fire. One of the passengers suggested that he could best help by praying that the fire be put out. Being far more practical, Mr. Moody joined the brigade battling the blaze, saying as he did so, “We will all pray as we pass the buckets.”
The book of Exodus records one of the most unforgettable incidents in all the Bible. The Israelites, under the leadership of Moses, had escaped from slavery in Egypt and were fleeing across the desert with the Egyptian army in pursuit. Suddenly there loomed up before them a barrier— the Red Sea. To their left were infested marshes, to their right a scorching desert, and before them this sea that seemed to say, “No farther!”
In desperation, Moses cried out in prayer to God. His prayer was answered in words we might do well to ponder and never forget. God said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward!”
Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.