I’ve always admired Ray Comfort. Here’s his personal testimony in a short video entitled 10 Out Of 10 People Die.
Immediately after Hallesby talks about prayer as an expression of our “helplessness” (see previous post), he tackles the next big issue we probably all struggle with in prayer (I know I do!): Do I have enough FAITH to pray? How many of us have read passages like Matthew 21:21-22, Hebrews 11:6, or James 1:6-8 and worried that God would never hear or answer our prayers because we didn’t pray with enough faith? Hallesby makes it clear that we DO need faith to pray: “Helplessness united with faith produces prayer. Without faith our helplessness would only be a vain cry of distress in the night.” But then he goes on to describe the “faith” that is needed to pray. Here are a few of his comments:
The essence of faith is to come to Christ. …faith manifests itself clearly and plainly when sinners, instead of fleeing from God and their own responsibility, as they did before, come into the presence of Christ with all their sin and all their distress. The sinner who does this believes.
That was just what those people did who came to Christ and heard from Him these words before they departed, “Thy faith hath saved thee.” All they did was to come to Jesus and plead their distress before Him, whether it was physical or spiritual or both. …We have faith enough when we in our helplessness turn to Jesus.
Helplessness becomes prayer the moment that you go to Jesus and speak candidly and confidently with Him about your needs. This is to believe.
What about my (our) doubting heart? When I doubt whether God hears my prayers, or whether I’m praying with the ‘right words’ or the ‘right heart’, doesn’t that somehow constitute unbelief? Here Hallesby is very helpful in distinguishing between ‘doubt’ and ‘unbelief’:
Unbelief is something very different from doubt. Unbelief is an attribute of the will and consists in the refusal to believe, that is, refusal to see one’s own need, acknowledge one’s helplessness, go to Jesus and speak candidly and confidently with Him about one’s sin and distress. Doubt, on the other hand, is anguish, a pain, a weakness, which at times affects our faith. We could therefore call it faith-distress, faith-anguish, faith-suffering, faith-tribulation. …It is not harmful to faith nor to prayer. It (doubt) does serve to render us helpless. And, …helplessness is, psychologically, the sustaining and impelling power of prayer. Nothing so furthers our prayer life as the feeling of our own helplessness.
He gives a very helpful illustration of this in the man who who brought his demon-possessed boy to Jesus in Mark 9:14-30. Remember the man’s statement, “I believe! Help my unbelief”? Hallesby observes his use of the term “unbelief,” noting: He himself condemns his doubt as unbelief. That is what sincere faith always does; it judges itself strictly and unmercifully. But we should notice what judgement Jesus passed upon this doubting, unstable, shaky condition. In His eyes this was faith. This is clearly evident from the fact that Jesus healed the boy. Had the father’s doubt actually been unbelief, Jesus would not been able to heal him. …What is the reason that such a weak, unstable and doubting faith can be heard and answered? Because it was characterized by the essence of living faith: it went to Jesus. It pleaded its distress before Him.
One last comment from Hallesby that is very helpful (and very needed): the answer to prayer is not dependent upon our emotions or our thoughts before, during or after prayer. …I need not exert myself and try to force myself to believe, or try to chase doubt out of my heart. Both are equally useless. It begins to dawn on me that I can bring everything to Jesus, no matter how difficult it is; and I need not be frightened away by my doubts or my weak faith, but only tell Jesus how weak my faith is. I have let Jesus into my heart. And He will fulfill my heart’s desire. Amen!
I don’t believe it’s an overstatement to say that I think this is the most clear and profound thing I’ve ever read about prayer outside of the Bible! I started reading the classic work on Prayer by Ole Hallesby (1879-1961) this morning. (Someone gave it to me almost 10 years ago, and it’s been sitting on my shelf, unread, until God providentially brought it to my attention recently.) Here’s what struck me in just the first 20 pages:
“The results of prayer are… not dependent upon the powers of the one who prays. Our intense will, our fervent emotion, or our clear comprehension of what we are praying for are not the reasons why our prayers will be heard and answered. Nay, God be praised, the results of prayer are not dependent upon these things! To pray is nothing more involved than to open the door, giving Jesus access to our needs and permitting Him to exercise His own power in dealing with them. He who gave us the privilege of prayer knows us very well. He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. That is why He designed prayer in such a way that the most impotent can make use of it. For to pray is to open the door unto Jesus. And that requires no strength. It is only a question of our wills. Will we give Jesus access to our needs? That is the one great and fundamental question in connection with prayer.”
“What is the attitude of heart which God recognizes as prayer? …In the first place, helplessness. This is unquestionably the first and the surest indication of a praying heart. As far as I can see, prayer has been ordained only for the helpless. It is the last resort of the helpless. Indeed, the very last way out. We try everything before we resort to prayer. …I know very well that we offer many and beautiful prayers, both privately and publicly, without helplessness as the impelling power. But I am not at all positive that this is prayer. Prayer and helplessness are inseparable. Only those who are helpless can truly pray.”
“Your helplessness is your best prayer. It calls from your heart to the heart of God with greater effect than all your uttered pleas. He hears it from the very moment that you are seized with helplessness, and He becomes actively engaged at once in hearing and answering the prayer of your helplessness.”
“Prayer …consists simply in telling God day by day in what ways we feel that we are helpless. We are moved to pray every time the Spirit of God, which is the spirit of prayer, emphasizes anew to us our helplessness, and we realize how impotent we are by nature to believe, to love, to hope, to serve, to sacrifice, to suffer, to read the Bible, to pray and to struggle against our sinful desires.”
“I never grow weary of emphasizing our helplessness, for it is the decisive factor not only in our prayer life, but in our whole relationship to God. As long as we are conscious of our helplessness we will not be overtaken by any difficulty, disturbed by any distress or frightened by any hindrance. We will expect nothing of ourselves and therefore bring all our difficulties and hindrances to God in prayer. And this means to open the door unto Him and to give God the opportunity to help us in our helplessness by means of the miraculous powers which are at His disposal.”
Judy Senesac shared with me that a prayer book she finds helpful and lovely to read is A Way To Pray by Matthew Henry. She has the edition edited and revised by O. Palmer Robertson. As the book says, it is a “biblical method for enriching your prayer life and language by shaping your words with scripture.” Judy highly recommends both the book and its focus on praying Scripture-shaped prayers.
“I know not a better rule of reading the Scripture, than to read it through from beginning to end; and, when we have finished it once, to begin it again. We shall meet with many passages which we can make little improvement of, but not so many in the second reading as in the first, and fewer in the third than in the second—provided we pray to Him who has the keys to open our understandings, and to anoint our eyes with his spiritual eye-salve! The course of reading today, will give some light for what we shall read tomorrow, and throw a farther light upon what we read yesterday. Experience alone, can prove the advantage of this method, if steadily persevered in. To make a few efforts, and then give up—is like taking a few steps and then standing still, which would do little towards completing a long journey. But, though a person walked slowly, and but a little way in a day—if he walked every day, and with his face always in the same direction, year after year—he would in time travel over the globe! By thus traveling patiently and steadily through the Scripture, and repeating our progress—we would increase in Scriptural knowledge to the end of life!
(Courtesy of GraceGems)
(Another convicting reminder from Rev. J.R. Miller)
“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” 1 Peter 3:8
We should learn to look at the blemishes and faults of others–only through the eyes of love, with sympathy, patience, and compassion. We do not know the secret history of the lives of others around us. We do not know what piercing sorrows have produced the scars we see in people’s lives. We do not know the pains and trials which make life hard, to many with whom we are tempted to be impatient. If we knew all the secret burdens and the heart-wounds which many keep hidden beneath their smiling faces–we would be patient and gentle with all people.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12
(Courtesy of GraceGems)