I wish we did believe in prayer: I am afraid most of us do not. People will say, "What a wonderful thing it is that God hears George Müller's prayers!" But is it not a sad thing that we should think it wonderful for God to hear prayer? We are come to a pretty pass certainly when we think it wonderful that God is true! Much better faith was that of a little boy in one of the schools at Edinburgh, who had attended the prayer-meetings, and at last said to his teacher who conducted the prayer-meeting, "Teacher, I wish my sister could be got to read the Bible; she never reads it."
"Why, Johnny, should your sister read the Bible?" "Because if she once could read it, I am sure it would do her good, and she would be converted and be saved?" "Do you think so, Johnny?" "Yes, I do, sir, and I wish the next time there's a prayer-meeting you would ask the people to pray for my sister, that she may begin to read the Bible."
"Well, well, it shall be done, John." So the teacher gave out that a little boy was very anxious that prayers should be offered that his sister might begin to read the Bible. John was observed to get up and go out. The teacher thought it very unkind of the boy to disturb the people in a crowded room and go out like that, and so the next day when the lad came, he said, "John, I thought that was very rude of you to get up in the prayer-meeting and go out. You ought not to have done it." "Oh! sir," said the boy, I did not mean to be rude, but I thought I should just like to go home and see my sister read her Bible for the first time." That is how we ought to believe, and wait with expectation to see the answer to prayer. The girl was reading the Bible when the boy went home. God had been pleased to hear the prayer; and if we could but trust God after that fashion we should often see similar things accomplished.
There is no music in the rarest sounds compared with these three syllables, which drop from the Redeemer's lips like sweet-smelling myrrh. "Beloved!" If he had addressed but that one word to any one of us, it might create a heaven within our soul, which neither sickness nor death could mar. Let me sound the note again, "Beloved!" Doth Jesus love me? Doth he own his love? Doth he seal the fact by declaring it with his own lips? Then I will not stipulate for promises, nor make demands of him. If he loves me he must act towards me with lovingkindness; he will not smite his beloved unless love dictates the blow; he will not forsake his chosen, for he never changes. Oh, the inexpressible, the heaped-up blessednesses which belong to the man who feels in his soul that Christ has called him beloved!
God has given to all the creatures he has made some peculiar form of strength—one has such swiftness of foot that at the baying of a hound it escapes from danger by outstripping the wind; another, with outspread wing, is lifted beyond the fowler; a third with horns pushes down its enemy, and a fourth with tooth and claw tears in pieces its adversary. To man he gave but little strength compared with the animals among which he was placed in Eden, and yet he was king over all, because the Lord was his strength. So long as he knew where to look for the source of his power, man remained the unresisted monarch of all around him. That image of God in which he shone resplendent sustained his sovereignty over the fowls of the air, and the beasts of the field, and the fish of the sea. By instinct man turned to his God in Paradise; and now, though he is to a sad degree a discrowned monarch, there lingers in his memory shadows of what he was, and remembrances of where his strength must still be found. Therefore, no matter where you find a man, you meet one who in his distress will ask for supernatural help. I believe in the truthfulness of this instinct, and that man prays because there is something in prayer. As when the Creator gives his creature the power of thirst, it is because water exists to meet its thirst; and as when he creates hunger there is food to correspond to the appetite; so when he inclines men to pray it is because prayer has a corresponding blessing connected with it.
Is there a grander verse in the whole Bible, is there anything in the compass of Scripture, that ever glorified God more than that notable expression of David when he had been sinning with Bathsheba, and made himself as foul and as filthy as the very swine of hell? and yet he cries, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy Under mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." Ah! "Wash me," that is the cry, "wash me, the most scarlet and the blackest of hell-deserving sinners, do thou but wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Believe in the omnipotent power of the atonement. Still believe thou, and hold fast to Christ. Cling to his skirts, and if he even seem to frown upon thee, hold to him, like the woman whom he called a dog, and yet she said, "The dogs eat of the crumbs." Do not believe that which thou thinkest thou dost hear him say, for he cannot say otherwise than this, that whosoever believeth in him is not condemned; and he that believeth in him, though he were dead yet shall he live. Out of thy very death believe him; from thy very hell of sin believe him. Wherever thou mayst be, still believe him. Never doubt him, for the just shall live by faith.
If Jesus Christ be thy companion, thou mayest walk unharmed through Vanity Fair; and if thy path should lie through it, thou needst not care for all the fools that pluck at thy garment. Through a shower of mud it is safe and blessed travelling if Jesus be our companion. I hope you are not one of those who would choose to walk with him in silver slippers, but who would leave him if he came in poverty and shame! If so, you do not know the love of Jesus at all. Through briars and thorns lies the path of love; and yet that thorny road is paradise if Jesus do but tread it with us, and permit us to lean upon his arm. The more severe the troubles of life become, the higher shall your comforts rise if Jesus be with you. Tried soul, rest in Jesus! Only cast yourself on him, confide entirely in him, and you shall find that the peace which he gives you none can take from you.
In a few hours, dear friends, I shall be crossing the sea, and I will suppose that there shall be a good stiff wind, and that the vessel may be driven out of her course, and be in danger. As I walk the deck, I see a poor girl on board; she is very weak and ill, quite a contrast to that fine strong, burly passenger who is standing beside her, apparently enjoying the salt spray and the rough wind. Now suppose a storm should come on, which of these two is the more safe? Well, I cannot see any difference, because if the ship goes to the bottom, they will both go, and if the ship gets to the other side of the channel they will both land in security. The safety is equal when the thing upon which it depends is the same. So, if the weakest Christian is in the boat of salvation—that is if he trusts Christ—he is as safe as the strongest Christian; because if Christ failed the weak one, he would fail the strong one too. Why, if the least Christian who believes in Jesus does not get to heaven, then Peter himself will not get to heaven. I am sure of it, that if the smallest star which Christ ever kindled does not blaze in eternity, neither will the brightest star. If you who have given yourselves to Jesus, should any of you be cast away, this would prove that Jesus is not able to save, and then all of us must be cast away too. Oh, yes! "we believe that we shall be saved, even as they."
—Flashes of Thought