Want to learn more about building a life of prayer? Me too. Meet me here on Wednesdays for an ongoing series exploring prayer using Dr. Andrew Murray's book, With Christ in the School of Prayer. I'm honored to learn alongside you.
We've spent the last thirteen chapters working through our relationship with God in prayer. Chapter fourteen asks us to look at our relationship to others. This is a beautiful chapter and I am going to get out of the way and let Dr. Murray do most of the talking here. I hope you will find time to read his words because this is a timely and important message.
First, he outlines for us a lifestyle of forgiveness which is the hallmark of all forgiven people:
It is as if the Lord had learned during His life at Nazareth and afterwards that disobedience to the law of love to men was the great sin even of praying people, and the great cause of the feebleness of their prayer. [...]
The first lesson taught here is that of a forgiving disposition....God’s full and free forgiveness is to be the rule of ours with men. Otherwise our reluctant, half-hearted forgiveness, which is not forgiveness at all, will be God’s rule with us. Every prayer rests upon our faith in God’s pardoning grace. If God dealt with us after our sins, not one prayer could be heard. [...]
...when [pardon] has taken possession of the heart, we live in love. God’s forgiving disposition, revealed in His love to us, becomes a disposition in us; as the power of His forgiving love shed abroad and dwelling within us, we forgive even as He forgives. If there be great and grievous injury or injustice done us, we seek first of all to possess a Godlike disposition; to be kept from a sense of wounded honour, from a desire to maintain our rights, or from rewarding the offender as he has deserved. In the little annoyances of daily life, we are watchful not to excuse the hasty temper, the sharp word, the quick judgment, with the thought that we mean no harm, that we do not keep the anger long, or that it would be too much to expect from feeble human nature, that we should really forgive the way God and Christ do. No, we take the command literally, ‘Even as Christ forgave, so also do ye.’ The blood that cleanses the conscience from dead works, cleanses from selfishness too; the love it reveals is pardoning love, that takes possession of us and flows through us to others. Our forgiving love to men is the evidence of the reality of God’s forgiving love in us, and so the condition of the prayer of faith.
Second, Dr. Murray reminds us that our lives cannot be compartmentalized. Who we are with our brothers and sisters, with the world, is who we are before Christ:
How often the Christian, when he comes to pray, does his utmost to cultivate certain frames of mind which he thinks will be pleasing. He does not understand, or forgets, that life does not consist of so many loose pieces, of which now the one, then the other, can be taken up. Life is a whole, and the pious frame of the hour of prayer is judged of by God from the ordinary frame of the daily life of which the hour of prayer is but a small part. Not the feeling I call up, but the tone of my life during the day, is God’s criterion of what I really am and desire. My drawing nigh to God is of one piece with my intercourse with men and earth: failure here will cause failure there. And that not only when there is the distinct consciousness of anything wrong between my neighbour and myself; but the ordinary current of my thinking and judging, the unloving thoughts and words I allow to pass unnoticed, can hinder my prayer. The effectual prayer of faith comes out from a life given up to the will and the love of God. Not according to what I try to be when praying, but what I am when not praying, is my prayer dealt with by God.
Thirdly, we are called to a life of love:
In our life with men the one thing on which everything depends is love. The spirit of forgiveness is the spirit of love...This love is of special consequence when we labour for such and pray for them. We sometimes give ourselves to work for Christ, from zeal for His cause, as we call it, or for our own spiritual health, without giving ourselves in personal self-sacrificing love for those whose souls we seek. No wonder that our faith is feeble and does not conquer. To look on each wretched one, however unloveable he be, in the light of the tender love of Jesus the Shepherd seeking the lost; to see Jesus Christ in him, and to take him up, for Jesus’ sake, in a heart that really loves, —this, this is the secret of believing prayer and successful effort. [...]
Love is the only soil in which faith can strike its roots and thrive. As it throws its arms up, and opens its heart heavenward, the Father always looks to see if it has them opened towards the evil and the unworthy too. In that love, not indeed the love of perfect attainment, but the love of fixed purpose and sincere obedience, faith can alone obtain the blessing. It is he who gives himself to let the love of God dwell in him, and in the practice of daily life to love as God loves, who will have the power to believe in the Love that hears his every prayer. It is the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne: it is suffering and forbearing love that prevails with God in prayer. The merciful shall obtain mercy; the meek shall inherit the earth.
There's not much more I can add to these incredible words. Effective prayer depends on our honesty in our relationship with Christ and with others. Forgiveness is central to both and we cannot live as a Christ-follower without a lifestyle of forgiveness and love.
Shall we pray?
We come before You very humbled and quiet. It has been too easy to suppose that we could hang on to unforgiveness with one hand and yet come boldly into Your presence in prayer. You...who died to give us the mercy of Your forgiveness. We stand before You guilty and without excuse. All we can do is ask for more of Your grace and mercy. Wash us from our sins, release us from the grip of bitterness and anger and help us to forgive from our hearts every person who has sinned against us. Make us true in the inward parts, we pray, Lord.
Teach us, we pray, to forgive immediately and purposefully. Teach us to enter into mercy and wage war against bitterness, malice, hate, anger. Teach us to live without holding on to hurt, but open and free from fear, vulnerable, yet sheltered in Your strong arms. We have much to learn and we know this will be a life-long school. Please help us to please You and live a life of love.
If there is anything now that is hidden in our hearts that hinders our prayers, please reveal it to each one. Please show us how to forgive and give us the grace to obey.
In the precious name of our Savior, Jesus Christ,
Next week I'll be sharing my thoughts on chapter fifteen: "If two agree; or, The Power of United Prayer"
Previous entries in this series can be found here: Wednesday Prayer Series