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- How to Live a Holy Life - 10/22 -
their countenances flows an influence that causes you to forget the things of earth and makes you feel as if you had joined the society of angels. Such ones have a secret hidden root-life that generates this peculiar charm in their visible life. Down in a closet is a secret laboratory where the fragrance and beauty and glory that flow out of their lives are compounded. There the roots of their inner life take hold upon the riches of heaven's grace and drink in of the waters that flow. In their oft and silent communion with God they take root downward, and then they go forth into life and bear fruit upward. While others are talking with their friends about the things of earth, they meet with God in the garden of graces, where the sweet spices flow out and the frankincense and myrrh scent the air, and there they become laden with a profusion of fruits and impregnated with a sweet odor, which they bear out into the world. They are like the tree planted by the rivers of water, whose leaf does not wither.
O beloved pilgrim, see that the roots of your inner being are well watered. Let them drink in the sparkling waters of life. Remember, effectual work for God consists more in being than in doing. Do not go about in your labor with an empty basket. It is only when you go out from deep and silent communion with God that your labor will be effectual. Never think that you have so much to do that you have not much time for prayer. An hour's work done in the quiet, secret power of the Spirit is worth more than a day of your own efforts. Keep the roots watered.
UNDER THE FIG-TREE.
In the beginning of his ministry Christ called to Philip to follow him. Upon being called Philip went in search of Nathanael to tell him that he (Philip) had found the Christ. Nathanael was somewhat doubtful, but at Philip's invitation he went to see. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, he said, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" Nathanael, wondering how this man happened to know him, asked, "Whence knowest thou me?" Jesus answered, "When thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee." John 1:48.
It is evident that something had occurred with Nathanael under the fig -tree outside the common details of every-day life. If there had not something rather unusual or something higher than the common events of life occurred there, the Savior would not have mentioned this one particular place. Any other place would have done as well. There was in this answer something that was highly significant to Nathanael. At this time there were many devout people looking for the "consolation of Israel." They were looking for the coming of the King of the Jews. It is not difficult for me to believe that Nathanael was under the fig-tree praying to God for the speedy coming of the Messiah. When Jesus said to him, "When thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee," Nathanael immediately replied, "Thou art the King of Israel." He was doubtless under the tree in prayer to this end not once only, but very probably for months and maybe for years. He had been praying for this very thing. He had selected one especial fig-tree as a place for prayer. It was not a fig-tree, but the fig-tree. There he had prayed long and often for Israel's King to come. So when Jesus said, "When thou wast under the fig -tree, I saw thee," he knew at once that his oft-repeated prayers were answered, and therefore said, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel."
Many a devout one since that day has had his secret communion-place with God. Perhaps it was in the woods on a mossy knoll, under an oak, on a grassy spot on the bank of a stream, or under a shade-tree that grew by the brook in the meadow. To these places of solemn silence they would retreat when the shades of night were falling or when the light of the morning was streaking the sky, and there from the fulness of their souls they would pour out their praise and thanksgiving to God. These were the dearest places in the world to them. It may be there are aged ones today who had such places in the earlier days of their lives. Though they are now far removed from those scenes, these are still sacred in their memory.
There are those today who have their altars of prayer in some secluded place. There they meet God and tell him all their sorrows and cares, there they recount to him his loving kindness, there they implore his grace to sustain them through all their trying scenes of life, and there they worship at his feet. Bless his name! Beloved, have you a "fig-tree"? and are you often found under it? Have you a quiet nook somewhere which is hallowed by the presence of God?
The beloved disciple John, when in the Spirit, saw golden vials in the hands of the worshipers of the Lamb around the throne. These golden vials, he says, were "full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints" (Rev. 5: 8). Are you, dear reader, every day filling golden vials around God's throne with the sweet odor of prayer? Again, this disciple, when the seventh seal was opened, saw seven angels standing before God with seven trumpets. Then came another angel, with a golden censer. To him was given incense, which he offered with the prayers of saints upon the golden altar, and the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of saints ascended before God. (See Rev. 8:3, 4.) We have the privilege of mingling our prayers with the incense that is being offered before the throne.
The Psalmist seemed to comprehend something of the nature of prayer when he said, "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." Psa. 141:2. The prayers that were offered by the devout Cornelius were so fragrant before God that they were kept as a memorial of him. A memorial is something kept in remembrance of any one. If you want to be kept in remembrance before God, see that your prayers are highly impregnated with a sweet odor. You must pray or die. No one can retain spiritual life any great length of time without prayer. So we exhort you to a life of prayer.
SHUT THE DOOR.
It is as impossible to live and prosper spiritually without prayer as it is to live and prosper physically without food. Those who enjoy a close walk with God and have power with him are those who pray. Natural abilities and intellectuality can never supply any lack in spirituality. Unless you are spiritual, you are of but little use to God; and to be spiritual, you must live much in prayer. It is not those who are on their knees the oftenest or the longest that do the most praying. Some may pray more real prayer in one hour than others in two or three hours. Too many people leave the door open. Prayer that feeds the soul must be offered with the door shut. "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret." Matt. 6:6.
God is in secret. He is hidden from the world. The world does not see him, neither knows him. You can never reach God in your prayers unless you shut out the world. Shutting the door means something more than closing the door of your literal closet. Persons may enter the literal closet and close the door, and yet have the world in their hearts and thoughts. Such have not closed the door in the true sense.
In the public assembly you must enter your closet when you pray, and shut the door, or your prayers avail not with God. You must talk from your heart to the heart of God. Those assembled may hear your words, but they do not know the secret. The secret is between your heart and the heart of God. You scarcely hear your words. You know and hear more of the speaking of your heart. There is a blessing in such praying; there is a joy that can not be told. Such prayer feeds the soul upon the divine life and lifts us in realms of light and happiness. Thank God for the sweet privilege of secret intercourse with him. O beloved, when you pray, enter into your closet, and be sure to close the door.
ALONE WITH GOD.
This life of ours will never be all that it should be unless we are much alone with God. Only those who are oft alone with him know the benefit that is derived therefrom. You can not be like God unless you are much with him, and you can not live like him unless you are like him. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus departed into the mountain to be alone with the Father and that he was often "alone praying." When Jesus had anything of great importance to say to his disciples, he always took them aside from the multitude. When he was transfigured, he took three of his disciples into a mountain apart from all the world. When he was one time alone praying with his disciples, he asked them who he was. Peter answered, "The Christ of God" (Luke 9:18). It was only when he was alone with them and after prayer that he could bring them into such nearness to him that they might know in their hearts that he was the Son of God. When amid the active duties of life and when in contact with the world, we can scarcely come into that sacred nearness to God that will enable us to feel in our hearts all that God is. We may get slight glimpses of his glory, we may occasionally get a dim view of some of his beauty, we may feel a little warming of his love in our bosoms; but only when alone with him are we awed into wonder at the sight of his glory and great beauty. It is only then that we see him in his purity and feel the warm sunshine of his love. It is only then that our hearts can be deeply impressed with the knowledge that he is God, and in childlikeness we can look up to him and call him Father.
At evening time when dark'ning shades draw nigh And flickering rays of light go chasing by, When all around glad nature sweetly sings And seems you hear the sound of angel's wings, Some one in memory may be brought to thee.
Maybe some one from distant land away, Of whom you had no thought for many a day. 'Tis passing strange; you do not understand Why such a one and from such distant land Should step across the threshold of your mind, Why he to you at this time should be brought. 'Tis mystery when all else claims your thought; You seek to understand, but learn it not.
Maybe this one has conflict great and sore, Is struggling long and hard 'gainst grim despair, And God who rules the thought and mind of man Has brought him this long way to you for prayer. Then do not drive these whisperings from your mind Nor cast them carelessly upon the wind: 'Tis but the voice of God, in tender care For suffering one on life's broad way somewhere, Inviting you to plead for him in prayer.
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