|« Prev||XII. One of Paul's Prayers||Next »|
XII. ONE OF PAUL’S PRAYERS
“Lord, teach us to pray,”—Luke xi. i.
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father. . . .#8221;—Eph. iii. 14-19.
If we do not learn to pray, it will not be for want of instructions and examples. Look at Abraham, taking it upon him to speak unto the Lord for Sodom. Look at Isaac, who goes out to meditate in the field at the eventide. Look at Jacob, as he wrestles until the breaking of the day at the Jabbok. Look at Hannah, as she speaks in her heart. Look at David, as he prevents now the dawning of the day, and now the watches of the night, in a hundred psalms. Look at our Lord. And then, look at Paul, as great in prayer as he is in preaching, or in writing Epistles. No,—if you never learn to pray, it will not be for want of the clearest instructions, and the most shining examples.
Our Lord’s Intercessory Prayer is above us: it is beyond us. Of the people there are none with our Lord when He prays. There is inexhaustible instruction in our Lord’s Intercessory Prayer; but 144 we must take our examples from men like ourselves. After our Lord, there is no nobler sight to be seen on earth than Paul on his knees in his prison in Rome. All the Apostle’s bonds fall from off him as he kneels in prayer for the saints in Ephesus, and for all the faithful in Christ Jesus. Truly the Apostle has not fainted in his tribulations when he can rise to such intercession and adoration as this. “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.”
Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage!
No,—not when those stone walls and those iron bars have an Apostle Paul within them. For, as Paul kneels on his prison floor, its dark roof becomes a canopy of light: and its walls of iron become crystal till Paul sees the whole family in heaven and on earth gathered together in one, and all filled with the fullness of God. Not Jews and Gentiles only, of twain made one new man; but all created things that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers. He sees all the angels of God in all their endless ministries. He sees the Archangels in their mighty dominions. He sees the Cherubim shining with knowledge, and the Seraphim burning with love. “Every family,” 145 is Paul’s great and all-embracing word, “every family in heaven and earth.” Paul sees them all; he salutes them all: he loves them all: he prays for them all. Paul has the heart of a brother toward them all. And all that, because his Father is their Father; and his God their God; and his Master their Master. And as he looks up at them with wonder, they look down at him with desire. Much as they could tell him, they feel that he could tell them far more. They are not ignorant of God: God hath not left His heavenly families without a witness. Both in their creation and in their confirmation; both in their occupations and in their wages; both in their worship and in their wars,—they all live, and move, and have their being in God. But some of their elect and travelled fellows have returned, and have told them things that have set all their hearts on fire. Gabriel, for one; the angel who was sent with strength to the Garden of Gethsemane, for another; as also the multitude of the heavenly host who praised God and said, “Glory to God in the highest!”—all these favoured sons of God had it to tell their fellows that not the seventh heaven itself, but this lowest earth alone, had seen the fullness of the Father’s love. And not in envy but in love they “desire to look into these things.” Paul from his prison looks up to them, and they from a thousand shining walls and towers and battlements and palaces look 146 down at him. And then, both earth and heaven simultaneously cease from one another, and look at Christ. “And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Blessing and honour and glory and power: Amen!” And as the angels sang, Paul rose up off his knees, and took his pen and wrote this to us: “For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels: but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. . . . Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.”
Let us then also, my brethren, as often as we lift our eyes and look up at the sun and the moon and the stars,—at Arcturus, and the bands of Orion, and the sweet influences of Pleiades, and the Chambers of the South—let us see, inhabiting and holding them all for God, His “every family” named after Him. Let us often visit in faith, and in love, and in imagination, all the Father’s families, intellectual and moral and spiritual, that people the whole created universe. Let us lift up our hands and salute them, and love them in God their Maker, and in Jesus Christ their Strength, if not also their Redeemer. If they are not jealous of us, we need not be jealous of the best of them. As yet they far excel us in glory: but they would count it all loss to be “found in 147 Christ not having their own righteousness.” Yes: come, all ye shining angels of God, and I will tell you what He hath done for my soul! Tell me about your God, and I will tell you about my God. How has he made you? And out of what substance? And just in what image? How has He spoken and written to you, and in what language of Heaven? In what way has the Logos enlightened you? In what way has the Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, revealed the Father to you? Just in what way do you know what is to be known of God? Is there no kind of sin among you? Did you ever hear about sin? Do you know what it is? When one of your number is talented, and favoured, and employed, and trusted, and loved, and brought nearer the throne than another, what do you feel to your brother in your hearts? Do your hearts grow richer in love as your ages go on? Or have you ages in Heaven? Have you days and nights and weeks and years in Heaven? Do you never grow old? Have you no death? What is your occupation? What are your wages? What is your way of taking rest? How do you worship? How much do you know about us? Can you see us at your distance? Has anyone of our race of men ever visited your cities? And what did he tell you about himself, and about us? Oh, all ye lofty worlds of life, and light, and obedience, and blessedness, we take boldness to salute you in 148 the name of our Father,—in His great Name, after which every family in heaven and earth is named!
Far more out of the body than in it, the Apostle now bows his knees to the Father for that little family of saints and faithful in Christ Jesus that God has in Ephesus, “that he would grant them to be strengthened with might by His spirit in the inner man.” What a sweep of spiritual vision from every family in heaven down to the inner man of every Ephesian believer! What wonderful flights of spiritual vision Paul took! And with what swiftness and sureness of wing! But, what exactly is this that he here prays for with such importunity and nobility of mind? What is the “inner man”? And what is the strength of the inner man? An illustration is far better than a description. And our Lord Himself—Blessed be His Name!—is the best description and illustration of spiritual strength in the inner man. “And the child grew,” we read, “and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the Grace of God was upon Him.” Was upon Him, and was within Him, till He stood up in the fullness of that wisdom and that strength, and took the Book, and found the place, and said to the men among whom He had been brought up, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” And, from that notable day, our Lord’s whole life was one long and unbroken illustration to us of that strength in the inner man that 149 we are now in search of. When He loved His enemies: when He did good to them that hated Him: when He blessed them that cursed Him: when He prayed for them that despitefully used Him: when, smitten on the one cheek, He offered also the other: when His cloke was taken away, and He forbade them not to take His coat also: when He gave to him that asked of Him: when He did to all men as He would have all men do to Him: when He judged not, nor found fault, but forgave as much as if he had Himself needed to be forgiven: when He was merciful, even as His Father in Heaven is merciful: when He gave, looking not to receive again, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over into men’s bosoms: “when He was reviled, and reviled not again: when He suffered and threatened not . . . but His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree”—that was strength in the inner man. Paul, himself, in no small measure, had in himself the same inner man and the strength that his Master had. “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. . . . Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”150
Now, were some true and Paul-like friend of ours, who has power with God, to bow his knees to the Father for this same strength to strengthen us in our inner man—how would the answer show itself? It would show itself in this way. In that thing in which we are now so weak, so easily tempted, so easily overtaken, and so easily overthrown—in that thing, and at that time, we should then stand firm. At what times and in what places in your life do you bring shame and pain and defeat and bondage on yourselves? In what are you a burden, and an offence, and a hindrance, and a constant cross to your families and friends and acquaintances? Well, all that would then come to an end, or, if not all at once to an end,—as it would not,—yet all that would begin to come to an end. With that strength strengthening you in the inner man, you would begin to be patient and silent and strong to endure under provocation. You would be able to command yourself where you were wont to be lashed up into a passion. You would begin to look on the things of other men. You would enjoy other men’s happiness as, at present, you enjoy your own. You would be as grieved to hear an evil report of other men as it to-day kills you to be told evil reports about yourself. You would rejoice with them that do rejoice: and you would weep with them who weep. You would suffer long, and you would be kind: you would not entertain envy: you would 151 not vaunt yourself: you would not be puffed up: you would not behave yourself unseemly: you would not seek your own: you would not be easily provoked; you would think no evil: you would not rejoice in iniquity, but you would rejoice in the truth: you would bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. In all these things, as the outward man perished, the inward man would be renewed day by day. Brethren, pray for us! And God forbid that we should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you!
But the interceding Apostle contracts and concentrates this prayer of his for the Ephesians in a very remarkable way. He concentrates and directs his prayer on one special kind of strength. Paul is as much bent on finding faith in the Ephesians as Christ was bent on finding it in Jew and in Gentile, and was overjoyed when He found it. “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” But how?—just in what way does Christ dwell in that man’s heart in which faith is strengthened? Well, take an illustration again. How did the still absent bridegroom dwell in the heart of the bride in the song? Listen to her heart, and you will see for yourself. “By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye tell 152 him that I am sick of love. Oh, that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother’s house. His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me. Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” That is something of the way Christ dwells in his heart who is strengthened by faith. That is the way he dwelt in John and Paul and in our own Samuel Rutherford. And why not in you and me? Simply because no one has prayed for us, and we have not prayed for ourselves, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. No prayer,—no faith,—no Christ in the heart. Little prayer,—little faith,—little Christ in the heart. Increasing prayer,—increasing faith,—increasing Christ in the heart. Much prayer,—much faith,—much Christ in the heart. Praying always,—faith always,—Christ always. “Hitherto ye have asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
“That ye, being rooted and grounded in love, ..may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge..” (Eph.3:17-19) You cannot construe that. You cannot make grammar and logic out of that. You cannot make theological science out of that. You 153 cannot shut that up into a confession of faith, or contract it into a Church catechism. Paul is a mystic. Paul is a poet. Paul is of heart and imagination all compact. Paul has science, and he has clearness and crispness of intellect of the very first order. But he will tell you himself that he never in any of his Epistles speaks the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, because they are spiritually discerned. “Rooted and grounded.” I defy you when you first try it to make anything of that. I defy you, all you can do, to reconcile that. You never saw anything like that in all your experience. There is nothing created by God, or manufactured by man, like that. You never heard before this prayer, nor have you ever heard since this prayer, of anything that was both rooted and grounded. There is no such thing. There is no such thing but a saint’s heart. A tree is rooted, and a house is grounded: a tree has a root, and a house has a foundation: but no house has a root, and no tree has a foundation. No houses but holy hearts: no trees but the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord. But here—all you who love to hear of wonders and strange tales—here is a house with roots, and a tree with foundations! And all that deep down in the divine ground of love. Magnificent man! A master of men! A master of the inner man of the heart! Great Paul! Great 154 original! Great Apostle! Both Apostle and Poet of Jesus Christ!
“And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” There, again! What can we make of a man like Paul? You cannot draw out leviathan with a hook. Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? Or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens? He maketh the sea to shine after him. One would think the deep to be hoary. And yet, do not despair! For it is this same leviathan among men who has written with his own hand this combined challenge and encouragement. “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men. That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Yes! I begin to see! It passes knowledge to know it all: but, if it were not possible to me to know the love of Christ in my own measure, Paul would never mock me by such a prayer. All saints, he says, know that love well. Then the least saint, and he who is not worthy to be called a saint, may have his own little knowledge of that love. A saint, indeed, is not a saint at all: a true saint is just a great sinner seeking to taste the love of Christ. Only “tell me which of them will love Him most. . . . I suppose He to whom He forgave most . . . Thou has rightly judged.”
The truth, my brethren, the blessed truth is 155 this—that instead of it being a difficulty, and a hardship, and an offence that the love of Christ passeth knowledge,—that is the crowning glory of Christ’s love: that is our crowning blessedness. The love of Christ has no border: it has no shore; it has no bottom. The love of Christ is boundless: it is bottomless: it is infinite: it is divine. That it passeth knowledge is the greatest thing that ever was said, or could be said about it, and Paul was raised up of all men to see that and to say it. We shall come to the shore, we shall strike the bottom, of every other love: but never of the love of Christ! No, never! It passeth now, and it will for ever pass, knowledge. You, who have once cast yourselves into it, and upon it—the great mystic speaks of it as if it were at once an ocean and a mountain,—you will never come to the length of it, or to the breadth of it, or to the depth of it, or to the height of it. To all eternity, the love of Christ to you will be new. It will fill you full of wonder, and expectation, and imagination; full of joy and sweetness and satisfaction: and still the half will not be known to you. Heap up eternity upon eternity, and still the love of Christ to you will make all eternity to be but the springtime of life to you, and still but the early days of your everlasting espousals. The love of Christ will, absolutely and everlastingly, pass all knowledge. The love of Christ, like the 156 peace of God, will everlastingly pass all understanding.
“And, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” What that is, and what that will for ever be,—“it is not lawful for a man to utter.”157
|« Prev||XII. One of Paul's Prayers||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version