I Have been asked by a friend, who heard of this book being published, what the difference would be between it and the previous one on the same subject, With Christ In The School Of Prayer. An answer to that question may be the best introduction I can give to the present volume.
Any acceptance the former work has had must be attributed, as far as the contents go, to the prominence given to two great truths. The one was, the certainty that prayer will be answered. There is with some an idea that to ask and expect an answer is not the highest form of prayer. Fellowship with God, apart from any request, is more than supplication. About the petition there is something of selfishness and bargaining—to worship is more than to beg. With others the thought that prayer is so often unanswered is so prominent, that they think more of the spiritual benefit derived from the exercise of prayer than the actual gifts to be obtained by it. While admitting the measure of truth in these views when kept in their true place, The School Op Prayer points out how our Lord continually spoke of prayer as a means of obtaining what we desire, and how He seeks in every possible way to waken in us the confident expectation of an answer. I was led to show how prayer, in which a man could enter into the mind of God, could assert the royal power of a renewed will, and bring down to earth what without prayer would not have been given, is the highest proof of his having been made in the likeness of God's Son. He is found worthy of entering into fellowship with Him, not only in adoration and worship, but in having his will actually taken up into the rule of the world, and becoming the intelligent channel through which God can fulfil His infinite purpose. The book sought to reiterate and enforce the precious truths Christ preaches so continually. The glory of prayer is that you can ask and receive what you will. The highest exercise and the glory of prayer is that persevering importunity can prevail and obtain what God at first could not and would not give.
With this truth there was a second one that came out very strongly as we studied the Master's words. In answer to the question, But why, if the answer to prayer is so positively promised, why are there such numberless unanswered prayers? we found that Christ taught us that the answer depended upon certain conditions. He spoke of faith, of perseverance, of praying in His Name, of praying in the will of God. But all these conditions were summed up in the one central one: "If ye abide in Me, ask whatsoever ye will and it shall be done unto you." It became clear that the power to pray the effectual prayer of faith depended upon the life. It is only to man given up to live as entirely in Christ and for Christ as the branch in the vine and for the vine that these promises can come true. "In that day" Christ said, "ye shall ask in My Name." It is only in a life full of the Holy Spirit that the true power to ask in Christ's Name can be known. This led to the emphasizing the truth that the ordinary Christian life cannot appropriate these promises. It needs a spiritual life altogether sound and vigorous to pray in powet". The teaching naturally led to press the need of a life of entire consecration. More than one has told me how it was in the reading of the book that he first saw what the better life was that could be lived, and must be lived, if Christ's wonderful promises are to come true to us.
In regard to these two truths there is no change in the present volume. One only wishes that one could put them with such clearness and force as to help every beloved fellow-Christian to some right impression of the reality and the glory of our privilege as God's children: "Ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you." The present volume owes its existence to the desire to enforce two truths, of which formerly I had no such impression as now.
The one is—that Christ actually meant prayer to be the great power by which His Church should do its work, and that the neglect of prayer is the great reason the Church has not greater power over the masses in Christian and in heathen countries. In the first chapter I have stated how my convictions in regard to this have been strengthened, and what gave occasion to the writing of the book. It is meant to be, on behalf of myself and my brethren in the ministry and all God's people, a confession of shortcoming and of sin, and, at the same time, a call to believe that things can be different, and that Christ waits to fit us by His Spirit to pray as He would have us. This call, of course, brings me back to what I spoke of in connection with the former volume: that there is a life in the Spirit, a life of abiding in Christ, within our reach, in which the power of prayer—both the power to pray and the power to obtain the answer—can be realized in a measure which we could not have thought possible before. Any failure in the prayer-life, any desire or hope to take really the place Christ has prepared for us, brings us to the very root of the doctrine of grace as manifested in the Christian life. It is only by a full surrender to the life of abiding, by the yielding to the fulness of the Spirit's leading and quickening, that the prayer-life can be restored to a truly healthy state. I feel deeply how little I have been able to put this in the volume as I could wish. I have prayed and am trusting that God, who chooses the weak things, will use it for His own glory.
The second truth which I have sought to enforce is that we have far too little conception of the place that intercession, as distinguished from prayer for ourselves, ought to have in the Church and the Christian life. In intercession our King upon the throne finds His highest glory; in it we shall find our highest glory too. Through it He continues His saving work, and can do nothing without it; through it alone we can do our work, and nothing avails without it. In it He even receives from the Father the Holy Spirit and all spiritual blessings to impart; in it we too are called to receive in ourselves the fulness of God's Spirit, with the power to impart spiritual blessing to others. The power of the Church truly to bless rests on intercession —asking and receiving heavenly gifts to carry to men. Because this is so, it is no wonder that where, owing to lack of teaching or spiritual insight, to trust in our own diligence and effort or the influence of the world and the flesh, we work more than we pray, the presence and power of God are not seen in our work as we would wish.
Such thoughts have led me to wonder what could be done to rouse believers to a sense of their high calling in this, and to help and train them to take part in it. And so this book differs from the former one in the attempt to open a practicing school, and to invite all who have never taken systematic part in the great work of intercession to begin and give themselves to it. There are tens of thousands of workers who have known and are proving wonderfully what prayer can do. But there are tens of thousands who work with but little prayer, and as many more who do not work because they do not know how or where, who might all be won to swell the hosts of intercessors who are to bring down the blessings of heaven to earth. For their sakes, and the sake of all who feel the need of help, I have prepared helps and hints for a school of intercession for a month (see the Appendix). I have asked those who would join, to begin by giving at least ten minutes a day definitely to this work. It is in doing that we learn to do; it is as we take hold and begin that the help of God's Spirit will come. It is as we daily hear God's call, and at once put it into practice, that the consciousness will begin to live in us: I too am an intercessor, and that we shall feel the need of living in Christ and being full of the Spirit if we are to do this work aright. Nothing will so test and stimulate the Christian life as the honest attempt to be an intercessor. It is difficult to conceive how much we ourselves and the Church will be the gainers, if with our whole heart we accept the post of honor God is offering us. With regard to the school of intercession, I am confident that the result of the first month's course will be to awake the feeling of how little we know how to intercede. And a second and a third month may only deepen the sense of ignorance and unfitness. This will be an unspeakable blessing. "We know not how to pray as we ought," is the introduction to the experience, "The Spirit maketh intercession for us "—our sense of ignorance will lead us to depend upon the Spirit praying in us, to feel the need of living in the Spirit.
We have heard a great deal of systematic Bible study, and we praise God for thousands on thousands of Bible classes and Bible readings. Let all the leaders of such classes see whether they could not open prayer classes— helping their students to pray in secret, and training them to be, above everything, men of prayer. Let ministers ask what they can do in this. The faith in God's word can nowhere be so exercised and perfected as in the intercession that asks and expects and looks out for the answer. Throughout Scripture, in the life of every saint, of God's own Son, throughout the history of God's Church, God is, first of all, a prayerhearing God. Let us try and help God's children to know their God, and encourage all God's servants to labor with the assurance: the chief and most blessed part of my work is to ask and receive from my Father what I can bring to others.
It will now easily be understood how what this book contains will be nothing but the confirmation and the call to put into practice the two great lessons of the former one: "Ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done to you "; "Whatever ye ash, believe that ye have received." These great prayer-promises are to be taken as literally and actually true as part of the Church's enduement of power for her work. "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you "; "In that day ye shall ask in My Name." These great prayer-conditions are universal and unchangeable. A life abiding in Christ and filled with the Spirit, a life entirely given up as a branch for the work of the vine, has the power to claim these promises and to pray the effectual prayer that availeth much: Lord, teach us to pray.
ANDREW MURRAY. Wellington, South Africa.