So often our prayers are the mere repetitions of time-worn phrases, revealing little or no thought, and lacking power to impress the mind, much less to move the will. It does us good sometimes to study the prayers of others, especially those noted for their power in supplication.
Peter Marshall's prayers were as profound and moving as his sermons. To attend his service of worship and to hear him pray was to experience a real sense of communion with heaven. Of course he did not know God's last-day message as we do, but he knew God. While his prayers on such occasions were extempore, yet they always revealed great preparation of heart and mind. The phrasings were often unusual, but they were simple expressions of common needs. He supplicated the throne as one who understood the Father of heaven and earth.
His call to the chaplaincy of the United States Senate seemed natural to those who truly knew him, for he seemed too big for just one pulpit. Born in Scotland, he came to America as an immigrant, yet all the while feeling a divine call to the ministry. His short span of years seems one of the tragedies of our time. It was not only a loss to Washington, D.C., but to the whole nation. We reprint a portion of two of his prayers, which may well find an echo in the heart of every worker for Christ.
A Prayer of Gratitude.—"Lord, I pause to look back on the long way Thou hast brought me, on the dark days in which I have been served, not according to my deserts but according to my desires and Thy loving mercies. . . . I thank Thee, 0 Lord, that, in Thy mercy, so many things I feared never came to pass. Fill my heart with thankful praise. Help me to repay in service to others the debt of Thy unmerited benefits and mercies. May the memories of sorrows that disciplined my spirit keep me humble and make me grateful that my God is no celestial Santa Claus but a divine Saviour. In His name I offer this sacrifice of praise. Amen."
A Prayer to Meet the Strains of Life.—"Father, many among us are tired, wearied with the strains that life imposes upon us, the pressures under which we are forced to live. . . . We remember the fears and anxieties that brooded over us like a fog, and we know that no child of Thine should ever be frightened by such specters.
"We thank Thee, our Father, for a moment like this, when we may forget the sounds that have beat upon our eardrums with relentless monotony. . . Make within our hearts a quiet place. We release to Thee our demand to see what the future holds. We rest in Thee, content to know only Thy love and care in this present hour.
"We release to Thee our struggle to cram too many activities and accomplishments into every hour. . . . We release to Thee the greed and over-ambition that has made us try to grasp too much of life too quickly. Help us to be content with simple tasks directed by Thee, done heartily and joyously as unto the Lord. We release to Thee our impatience with other people and with circumstances. We ask Thee for the grace of patience and for the ability to relax when we must wait.
"And now as we go back into the thick of life, may a quiet heart and mind attend us, to make straight our path, to open all doors ahead of us, to smooth the way in every human relationship. In Thy name, who art ever the Prince of Peace. Amen." —The Prayers of Peter Marshall, pp. 29, 37, 38.
R. A. A.
In sermon construction some have found it difficult to fit Christ into certain outlines. A rather interesting practice is sometimes followed. Why not reserve Him for the How division of the message and insert Him there under the label, "God's Part"? Can God feel honored at being thus accorded a reserved seat in some scholarly discourses? After the main theme has been developed, Christ is casually tacked on to the end, of ten by accident rather than design. This limited use of the Master's name probably accounts for the limited results attained in many instances.
The hour has struck for the reaping of earth's most abundant harvest. Will this not take place when Christ is preached more fully as a sin-pardoning Saviour?
Instead of fitting Christ into our outlines, we must recognize Christ as our sermon outline. All other themes must square with Him. It is not enough to bring Him in at the end. He must be the Alpha and Omega—the beginning and the end—and, it may be added, He strengthens all points in between. Nothing spreads more gloom in Demonville than a Christ-preaching preacher.
E. E. C.
PULLERS OF STRINGS
The ability to pull strings and get places is not solely the gift of certain men in secular professions. Like the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing, this unsavory practice has gone to church. Nor is it easy to have connections and not use them for selfish purposes.
Happy is the man who resists this temptation. Miserable is he who does not, for such never know security without a crutch. His heart knows little of the assurance that accompanies individual accomplishment.
This thought should not encourage the self-made man, for there is no such thing. Nor should it feed the ego of the success-infatuated worker who insists on charting his own course without advice or help from others. But may it spur the indolent to action and make the dependent dependable lest the string become a noose about the neck of the one who pulls it. To shun the string but not the struggle is to condemn preaching and politics to eternal but blessed separation.
E. E. C.