By William Hirsche
There is nothing so detrimental to prayer as a wrong motive. Prayer’s efficacy is cut down immeasurably the moment the intercessor ceases to seek God’s glory. To the degree in which vainglory prevails and “self” looms up as the end, prayer loses its power. There must be the singleness of eye of which our Lord was wont to speak, else He will not be able to release the power of His omnipotence in answer to prayer. The Lord has said that He will not give His glory to another.
This is another way of saying that we are not to seek God for mere personal convenience. Again let it be said that to think of prayer as a means of getting things from God is nothing short of a vulgar degradation of the highest art of which man has any knowledge. We ask and receive not, says James, because we ask amiss. Now we ask amiss when we seek God not for Himself but for things. The Giver is infinitely more than the gift. If we value some blessing for which we pray or some “thing” above God prayer is degraded and God is dishonored.
The primary office of prayer is communion with God. To have Him is to have all. To lose Him is to lose all. In Him, as Paul puts it in his Epistle to the Ephesians, we are complete. Now to aim at anything less than God Himself is to miss the mark. Unless the Lord in answering our prayers can get us to Himself, He may have to turn to us a deaf ear. The Savior reproved the multitudes which sought Him for the loaves and fishes. Then may we never ask for things? Indeed we may. But these things must be sought in and for Him. His Name’s honor and glory must be the soul’s master passion. It is one thing, for example, for a good wife to seek the Lord for the conversion of, let us say, a husband because it would be so delightful to have him come home not as a drunken sot to beat up the children, but as the neighbor Tom Brown who is a Christian and whose very presence is a blessing to the entire neighborhood. It is another thing for this suffering
soul to call upon God for the conversion of her husband so that His Holy Name might be glorified in a life dedicated to the honor and praise of God. If this good wife can say, “Lord bring my husband to know and love Thee that Thy Name might be glorified in him,” her prayer takes on an efficacy that heaven cannot resist. The answer will come, for such a prayer God must answer.
“As the hart panteth after the water brooks,” cried the psalmist, “so panteth my soul after thee.” Here is the right motive. God must be sought for Himself alone. Could aught be compared with Him? Heaven itself would be drab and empty and meaningless without Him. Were He to give us all that we could ask for: Blessings and riches and health and length of days, but not Himself, that were pain and shame and futility and bitter loss too great to fathom. That were hell. If we will but seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness we have the promise that all else that is needed will be added to us.
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” Here you have it. The prayer opens with the right motive – that God’s Name might be glorified. The zeal of His house must eat us up as it did the Saviour. To
bring us to that, what purging, what discipline, what tears, what repentance, what an application of the Cross to the old self-life is needed. “Self” dies hard. “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh.” Even so, should one get out of focus with the Cross and fail to let the Holy Spirit apply what has been called “the death – resurrection – mid-process,” self will lift its ugly head and lust anew for glory. “Self” is out to rob God of His glory for “the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7,8).
So we have come back to where we started when we spoke about the law of a right position; that is to say, union with Christ. We have been brought back to the Cross as the basic principle according to which God administers His government. In Revelation five we read that in that midst of the throne that is a “Lamb as it had been slain.” In other words, God’s throne is now eternally associated with Christ’s Cross. Thrones are for government. And Calvary is the basic principle from which God proceeds in His dealings with men. That is why God can be just and yet justify the sinner, and deal with him as a son the moment he believes in the Lord Jesus Christ though he may have trampled underfoot times without number His holy law and mocked and defied Him a million times. Such a man deserves to be cut off forever from God’s mercy. Yes, but the Kingdom of God is based on the fact that the chastisement of his peace was upon Christ who bore in His body on the tree the sins of all men.
So much for the divine side which declares that God’s dealings with man (repentant, believing man) are mediated through the Cross. Now as to the human, it goes without saying that man’s approach to God must also have the Cross as its basic principle. Jesus our Lord is the way; no man cometh unto the Father but by Him. And His way is the way of the Cross. The “old man” as we read in Romans six, was crucified together with Christ. The Christian is simply commanded to reckon himself dead unto sin and alive unto God.
Here we have God’s method of dealing with that principle which has upset the universe and given Satan such a hold on this old world, the principle which we call sin. It goes without saying that here we have also God’s method of dealing with the hindrances in prayer as the Christian approaches the throne of His grace. Pride is the all-comprehensive obstacle. The old “I” can have no dealings with God. Judicially it is a crucified thing. In the midst of the throne is a “Lamb as it had been slain.” Now the Lamb is a Man (the God-Man). Man representatively is already in the throne. But to actually get to the throne man must stand where his great forerunner stood: in death and resurrection.
Nothing else can take care of that principle in man which seeks to rob God of His glory. In other words, nothing equips the Christian for prayer like the Cross. It is when he enters by faith and the co-working of the Holy Spirit into the experience of Romans six that he enters into the glories which are the inheritance of those who are single in eye. They have no aim but God’s glory, for they have been crucified together with Christ. The motive now is right. In all things they seek but one thing: God’s glory. From such a position prayer’s power is simply without limit. The Christian now is one with the source of all spiritual riches and power and he may draw on the bank of heaven, as Spurgeon used to put it, to his heart’s content. Now as never before, that breath-taking promise of the Savior, “If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you,” becomes gloriously real.
Here you have the reason, too, why so few Christians enter into the ministry of prayer though urged to do so by the exceeding great and precious promises of God’s Holy Word. It costs. “If any man be in Christ,
he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” It costs the destruction of the “old things.” “Flesh” with its idolatry of “self and all its corrupt motives must be crucified. The “single eye” which means the scaling of a veritable Everest (nay, Calvary) must be achieved. God’s glory must be the goal.
We have a challenging example in that great prayer of Moses which has already been cited. It was on the occasion of Israel’s great sin in the worship of the golden calf. Moses said he was afraid of the “anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the Lord was wroth against [Israel] to destroy [her]” (Deut. 9:19). Forty days and forty nights Moses tells us, he fell down before the Lord, as he fell down at the first. It was a long, hard
prayer conflict. Moses was determined that the Lord should forgive. “Remember… Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” he cries, “look not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin.”
And now we come to the central core of Moses’ argument as he pleads his cause. It is a revelation of the basic motive of the great leader’s prayer. He was thinking of God’s glory. The Lord’s great and glorious Name which must be magnified was what had kindled the flames of his passion. Listen to him as he prays: “Lest the land whence thou broughtest us out say, Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which he promised them” (Deut. 9:28). Ah, how precious! Moses is concerned about God’s glory. The
rest is of no consequence. He could not brook the thought of the Egyptians speaking ill of the Lord. He must be glorified in Egypt. Little wonder that he prevails and wins the day.
It is to him whose eye is single that the Lord speaks as in the Song of Songs where the Beloved says: “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.” This is something that God cannot resist. It simply overcomes Him. He is led captive. The wealth of His Kingdom is at the disposal of those who seek only His glory. It is one thing to pray with mixed motives and something vastly different to be actuated by a passion for the glory of God. These are the intercessors whose prayers have changed the course of history and whose cry before the throne of grace has brought a flood tide of blessing upon whole nations. To these heaven can deny nothing. Lord, teach us so to pray.
(The above material was taken from Prayer’s Deeper Secrets.)
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