Steps to Christ
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 11: The Privilege of Prayer
Through nature and revelation, through His
providence, and by the influence of His Spirit,
God speaks to us. But these are not enough; we
need also to pour out our hearts to Him. In order to
have spiritual life and energy, we must have actual
intercourse with our heavenly Father. Our minds
may be drawn out toward Him; we may meditate
upon His works, His mercies, His blessings; but this
is not, in the fullest sense, communing with Him. In
order to commune with God, we must have something
to say to Him concerning our actual life.
Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to
a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make
known to God what we are, but in order to enable
us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down
to us, but brings us up to Him.
When Jesus was upon the earth, He taught His
disciples how to pray. He directed them to present
their daily needs before God, and to cast all their care
upon Him. And the assurance He gave them that
their petitions should be heard, is assurance also to us.
Jesus Himself, while He dwelt among men, was
often in prayer. Our Saviour identified Himself with
our needs and weakness, in that He became a
suppliant, a petitioner, seeking from His Father fresh
supplies of strength, that He might come forth braced
for duty and trial. He is our example in all things.
He is a brother in our infirmities, "in all points
tempted like as we are;" but as the sinless one His [p. 94] nature recoiled from evil; He endured struggles and
torture of soul in a world of sin. His humanity made
prayer a necessity and a privilege. He found comfort
and joy in communion with His Father. And if
the Saviour of men, the Son of God, felt the need of
prayer, how much more should feeble, sinful mortals
feel the necessity of fervent, constant prayer.
Our heavenly Father waits to bestow upon us the
fullness of His blessing. It is our privilege to drink
largely at the fountain of boundless love. What a
wonder it is that we pray so little! God is ready and
willing to hear the sincere prayer of the humblest of
His children, and yet there is much manifest reluctance
on our part to make known our wants to God.
What can the angels of heaven think of poor helpless
human beings, who are subject to temptation, when
God's heart of infinite love yearns toward them, ready
to give them more than they can ask or think, and
yet they pray so little and have so little faith? The
angels love to bow before God; they love to be near
Him. They regard communion with God as their
highest joy; and yet the children of earth, who need
so much the help that God only can give, seem
satisfied to walk without the light of His Spirit, the
companionship of His presence.
The darkness of the evil one encloses those who
neglect to pray. The whispered temptations of the
enemy entice them to sin; and it is all because they
do not make use of the privileges that God has given
them in the divine appointment of prayer. Why
should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to
pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith
to unlock heaven's storehouse, where are treasured [p. 95] the boundless resources of Omnipotence? Without
unceasing prayer and diligent watching we are in
danger of growing careless and of deviating from the
right path. The adversary seeks continually to
obstruct the way to the mercy seat, that we may not
by earnest supplication and faith obtain grace and
power to resist temptation.
There are certain conditions upon which we may
expect that God will hear and answer our prayers.
One of the first of these is that we feel our need of
help from Him. He has promised, "I will pour
water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the
dry ground." Isaiah 44:3. Those who hunger and
thirst after righteousness, who long after God, may
be sure that they will be filled. The heart must be
open to the Spirit's influence, or God's blessing
cannot be received.
Our great need is itself an argument and pleads
most eloquently in our behalf. But the Lord is to be
sought unto to do these things for us. He says, "Ask,
and it shall be given you." And "He that spared not
His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how
shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
Matthew 7:7; Romans 8:32.
If we regard iniquity in our hearts, if we cling to
any known sin, the Lord will not hear us; but the
prayer of the penitent, contrite soul is always accepted.
When all known wrongs are righted, we may believe
that God will answer our petitions. Our own merit
will never commend us to the favor of God; it is the
worthiness of Jesus that will save us, His blood that
will cleanse us; yet we have a work to do in
complying with the conditions of acceptance. [p. 96]
Another element of prevailing prayer is faith. "He
that cometh to God must believe that He is, and
that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek
Him." Hebrews 11:6. Jesus said to His disciples,
"What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe
that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." Mark
11:24. Do we take Him at His word?
The assurance is broad and unlimited, and He is
faithful who has promised. When we do not receive
the very things we asked for, at the time we ask, we
are still to believe that the Lord hears and that He
will answer our prayers. We are so erring and
short-sighted that we sometimes ask for things that would
not be a blessing to us, and our heavenly Father in
love answers our prayers by giving us that which will
be for our highest good—that which we ourselves
would desire if with vision divinely enlightened we
could see all things as they really are. When our
prayers seem not to be answered, we are to cling to
the promise; for the time of answering will surely
come, and we shall receive the blessing we need most.
But to claim that prayer will always be answered in
the very way and for the particular thing that we
desire, is presumption. God is too wise to err, and
too good to withhold any good thing from them that
walk uprightly. Then do not fear to trust Him, even
though you do not see the immediate answer to your
prayers. Rely upon His sure promise, "Ask, and it
shall be given you."
If we take counsel with our doubts and fears, or
try to solve everything that we cannot see clearly,
before we have faith, perplexities will only increase [p. 97] and deepen. But if we come to God, feeling helpless
and dependent, as we really are, and in humble, trusting
faith make known our wants to Him whose knowledge
is infinite, who sees everything in creation, and
who governs everything by His will and word, He
can and will attend to our cry, and will let light
shine into our hearts. Through sincere prayer we are
brought into connection with the mind of the Infinite.
We may have no remarkable evidence at the time
that the face of our Redeemer is bending over us in
compassion and love, but this is even so. We may
not feel His visible touch, but His hand is upon us in
love and pitying tenderness.
When we come to ask mercy and blessing from
God we should have a spirit of love and forgiveness
in our own hearts. How can we pray, "Forgive us
our debts, as we forgive our debtors," and yet indulge
an unforgiving spirit? Matthew 6:12. If we expect
our own prayers to be heard we must forgive others
in the same manner and to the same extent as we hope
to be forgiven.
Perseverance in prayer has been made a condition
of receiving. We must pray always if we would grow
in faith and experience. We are to be "instant in
prayer," to "continue in prayer, and watch in the
same with thanksgiving." Romans 12:12; Colossians
4:2. Peter exhorts believers to be "sober, and watch
unto prayer." 1 Peter 4:7. Paul directs, "In everything
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your
requests be made known unto God." Philippians 4:6.
"But ye, beloved," says Jude, "praying in the Holy
Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God." Jude 20, 21. [p. 98] Unceasing prayer is the unbroken union of the soul
with God, so that life from God flows into our life;
and from our life, purity and holiness flow back to
There is necessity for diligence in prayer; let
nothing hinder you. Make every effort to keep open the
communion between Jesus and your own soul. Seek
every opportunity to go where prayer is wont to be
made. Those who are really seeking for communion
with God will be seen in the prayer meeting, faithful
to do their duty and earnest and anxious to reap all
the benefits they can gain. They will improve every
opportunity of placing themselves where they can
receive the rays of light from heaven.
We should pray in the family circle, and above
all we must not neglect secret prayer, for this is the
life of the soul. It is impossible for the soul to flourish
while prayer is neglected. Family or public prayer
alone is not sufficient. In solitude let the soul be laid
open to the inspecting eye of God. Secret prayer is
to be heard only by the prayer-hearing God. No
curious ear is to receive the burden of such petitions.
In secret prayer the soul is free from surrounding
influences, free from excitement. Calmly, yet fervently,
will it reach out after God. Sweet and abiding will
be the influence emanating from Him who seeth in
secret, whose ear is open to hear the prayer arising
from the heart. By calm, simple faith the soul holds
communion with God and gathers to itself rays of
divine light to strengthen and sustain it in the conflict
with Satan. God is our tower of strength.
Pray in your closet, and as you go about your
daily labor let your heart be often uplifted to God. [p. 99] It was thus that Enoch walked with God. These
silent prayers rise like precious incense before the
throne of grace. Satan cannot overcome him whose
heart is thus stayed upon God.
There is no time or place in which it is inappropriate
to offer up a petition to God. There is nothing
that can prevent us from lifting up our hearts in the
spirit of earnest prayer. In the crowds of the street,
in the midst of a business engagement, we may send
up a petition to God and plead for divine guidance,
as did Nehemiah when he made his request before
King Artaxerxes. A closet of communion may be
found wherever we are. We should have the door
of the heart open continually and our invitation
going up that Jesus may come and abide as a heavenly
guest in the soul.
Although there may be a tainted, corrupted atmosphere
around us, we need not breathe its miasma,
but may live in the pure air of heaven. We may close
every door to impure imaginings and unholy thoughts
by lifting the soul into the presence of God through
sincere prayer. Those whose hearts are open to
receive the support and blessing of God will walk in a
holier atmosphere than that of earth and will have
constant communion with heaven.
We need to have more distinct views of Jesus and
a fuller comprehension of the value of eternal realities.
The beauty of holiness is to fill the hearts of God's
children; and that this may be accomplished, we
should seek for divine disclosures of heavenly things.
Let the soul be drawn out and upward, that God
may grant us a breath of the heavenly atmosphere.
We may keep so near to God that in every unexpected [p. 100] trial our thoughts will turn to Him as naturally as the
flower turns to the sun.
Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your
cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden
Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the
hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants
of His children. "The Lord is very pitiful, and of
tender mercy." James 5:11. His heart of love is
touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances
of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the
mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He
holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the
universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace
is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter
in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is
no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No
calamity can befall the least of His children, no
anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer
escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is
unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest.
"He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their
wounds." Psalm 147:3. The relations between God
and each soul are as distinct and full as though there
were not another soul upon the earth to share His
watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His
Jesus said, "Ye shall ask in My name: and I say
not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:
for the Father Himself loveth you." "I have chosen
you: . . . that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father
in My name, He may give it you." John 16:26, 27;
15:16. But to pray in the name of Jesus is something
more than a mere mention of that name at the beginning [p. 101] and the ending of a prayer. It is to pray in the
mind and spirit of Jesus, while we believe His promises,
rely upon His grace, and work His works.
God does not mean that any of us should become
hermits or monks and retire from the world in order
to devote ourselves to acts of worship. The life must
be like Christ's life—between the mountain and the
multitude. He who does nothing but pray will soon
cease to pray, or his prayers will become a formal
routine. When men take themselves out of social life,
away from the sphere of Christian duty and cross
bearing; when they cease to work earnestly for the
Master, who worked earnestly for them, they lose the
subject matter of prayer and have no incentive to
devotion. Their prayers become personal and selfish.
They cannot pray in regard to the wants of humanity
or the upbuilding of Christ's kingdom, pleading for
strength wherewith to work.
We sustain a loss when we neglect the privilege
of associating together to strengthen and encourage
one another in the service of God. The truths of His
word lose their vividness and importance in our minds.
Our hearts cease to be enlightened and aroused by
their sanctifying influence, and we decline in spirituality.
In our association as Christians we lose much
by lack of sympathy with one another. He who shuts
himself up to himself is not filling the position that
God designed he should. The proper cultivation of
the social elements in our nature brings us into
sympathy with others and is a means of development and
strength to us in the service of God.
If Christians would associate together, speaking
to each other of the love of God and of the precious [p. 102] truths of redemption, their own hearts would be
refreshed and they would refresh one another. We
may be daily learning more of our heavenly Father,
gaining a fresh experience of His grace; then we shall
desire to speak of His love; and as we do this, our
own hearts will be warmed and encouraged. If we
thought and talked more of Jesus, and less of self, we
should have far more of His presence.
If we would but think of God as often as we have
evidence of His care for us we should keep Him ever
in our thoughts and should delight to talk of Him
and to praise Him. We talk of temporal things
because we have an interest in them. We talk of our
friends because we love them; our joys and our
sorrows are bound up with them. Yet we have infinitely
greater reason to love God than to love our earthly
friends; it should be the most natural thing in the
world to make Him first in all our thoughts, to talk
of His goodness and tell of His power. The rich gifts
He has bestowed upon us were not intended to absorb
our thoughts and love so much that we should have
nothing to give to God; they are constantly to remind
us of Him and to bind us in bonds of love and gratitude
to our heavenly Benefactor. We dwell too near
the lowlands of earth. Let us raise our eyes to the
open door of the sanctuary above, where the light of
the glory of God shines in the face of Christ, who
"is able also to save them to the uttermost that come
unto God by Him." Hebrews 7:25.
We need to praise God more "for His goodness,
and for His wonderful works to the children of men."
Psalm 107:8. Our devotional exercises should not [p. 103] consist wholly in asking and receiving. Let us not be
always thinking of our wants and never of the benefits
we receive. We do not pray any too much, but
we are too sparing of giving thanks. We are the
constant recipients of God's mercies, and yet how little
gratitude we express, how little we praise Him for
what He has done for us.
Anciently the Lord bade Israel, when they met
together for His service, "Ye shall eat before the
Lord your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye
put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein
the Lord thy God hath blessed thee." Deuteronomy
12:7. That which is done for the glory of God should
be done with cheerfulness, with songs of praise and
thanksgiving, not with sadness and gloom.
Our God is a tender, merciful Father. His service
should not be looked upon as a heart-saddening,
distressing exercise. It should be a pleasure to worship
the Lord and to take part in His work. God would
not have His children, for whom so great salvation
has been provided, act as if He were a hard, exacting
taskmaster. He is their best friend; and when they
worship Him, He expects to be with them, to bless
and comfort them, filling their hearts with joy and
love. The Lord desires His children to take comfort
in His service and to find more pleasure than hardship
in His work. He desires that those who come to
worship Him shall carry away with them precious thoughts
of His care and love, that they may be cheered in all
the employments of daily life, that they may have
grace to deal honestly and faithfully in all things.
We must gather about the cross. Christ and Him [p. 104] crucified should be the theme of contemplation, of
conversation, and of our most joyful emotion. We
should keep in our thoughts every blessing we receive
from God, and when we realize His great love we
should be willing to trust everything to the hand that
was nailed to the cross for us.
The soul may ascend nearer heaven on the wings
of praise. God is worshiped with song and music in
the courts above, and as we express our gratitude
we are approximating to the worship of the heavenly
hosts. "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth" God. Psalm
50:23. Let us with reverent joy come before our
Creator, with "thanksgiving, and the voice of melody."
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