If ever there was a time when every house should be a house of prayer, it is now. Infidelity and skepticism are prevailing. Iniquity abounds, and in consequence, the love of many waxes cold. Corruption flows in the vital currents of the soul, and rebellion against our heavenly Father breaks out in the life. Depravity spreads its loathsome canker over the entire heart. The moral powers, enslaved by sin, are under the tyranny of unholy appetites and passions. The soul is made the sport of Satan’s temptations; and unless some mighty arm is stretched out to rescue him, man goes where the arch-rebel leads the way.
It is Satan’s regular employment to work for the destruction of the race. Says the apostle Peter, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Here Satan is represented as prowling about, hoping to find some poor soul off his guard, separated from God, that he may make his prey. And man in his pride is utterly helpless. He may well tremble at the awful power, cunning, and deception exercised by Satan over all who are not by faith holding fast the hand of Christ.
And yet in this time of fearful peril some who profess to be Christians have no family altar. They do not honor God in the home, nor teach their children to love and fear him. There are persons who attempt to teach the Bible who open their meetings without prayer; and there are not wanting some who profess to be followers of Jesus, and yet argue that there is nothing in the word of God that teaches the duty of vocal prayer. These things grieve me; for I know that continual watchfulness and unceasing prayer are necessary for every soul that would successfully resist the wiles of the great deceiver. Those who maintain such positions are not sincere Christians. There are many, who, like unruly children, have separated themselves so far from God that they feel under condemnation in approaching him. They cannot “come boldly unto the throne of grace,” “lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” They have not clean hands; they have not pure hearts; they have no living connection with God. Theirs is a form of godliness without the power.
The idea that prayer is not essential is one of Satan’s most successful devices to ruin souls. Prayer is addressing the mind to God, the Fountain of wisdom, the Source of strength and peace and happiness. Prayer includes acknowledgment of the divine perfections, gratitude for mercies received, penitential confession of sins, and earnest entreaty for the blessing of God, both for ourselves and for others. Jesus prayed to the Father with strong crying and tears. Paul exhorts believers to “pray without ceasing.” “In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” “Pray one for another,” says James. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” God has a right to command our devotions; his authority is sacred and unquestionable. We are under obligation to pray because he requires it; and in obeying his requirements we shall receive a gracious and precious reward.
I know of nothing that causes me so great sadness as a prayerless home. I do not feel safe in such a house for a single night; and were it not for the hope of helping the parents to realize their necessity and their sad neglect, I would not remain. The children show the result of this neglect; for the fear of God is not before them. Parents should make a hedge about their children by prayer; they should pray with full faith that God will abide with them, and that holy angels will guard themselves and their children from Satan’s cruel power.
In every family there should be order, and regular habits. There should be a fixed time to rise in the morning, a time for breakfast, and a time for prayer, either directly before or directly after the morning meal. How appropriate it is for parents to gather their children about them before their fast is broken, and direct their young minds to our heavenly Father, who bestows upon us the bounties of his providence. Let them thank God for protecting them during the night, and ask for help and grace and the watchcare of angels through the day. Man should not be as unmindful of God as the beasts of the field, that eat and drink, but render no tribute of prayer or grateful praise to their Maker. Beasts have no reason; but men should understand the great condescension of God to finite, sinful mortals.
Fathers and mothers, at least morning and evening lift up your hearts to God in humble supplication for yourselves and your children. Your dear ones are exposed to temptations and trials. There are frets and irritations that daily beset the path of old and young; and those who would live patient, loving, cheerful lives amid daily annoyances, must pray. This victory can be gained only by a resolute and unwavering purpose, constant watchfulness, and continual help from God.
The father, who is the priest of his household, should conduct the morning and evening worship. There is no reason why this should not be the most interesting and enjoyable exercise of the home-life, and God is dishonored when it is made dry and irksome. Let the seasons of family worship be short and spirited. Do not let your children or any member of your family dread them because of their tediousness or lack of interest. When a long chapter is read and explained and a long prayer offered, this precious service becomes wearisome, and it is a relief when it is over.
It should be the special object of the heads of the family to make the hour of worship intensely interesting. By a little thought, and careful preparation for this season, when we come into the presence of God, family worship can be made pleasant, and will be fraught with results that eternity alone will reveal. Let the father select a portion of Scripture that is interesting and easily understood; a few verses will be sufficient to furnish a lesson which may be studied and practiced through the day. Questions may be asked, a few earnest, interesting remarks made, or incident, short and to the point, may be brought in by way of illustration. At least a few verses of spirited song may be sung, and the prayer offered should be short and pointed. The one who leads in prayer should not pray about everything, but should express his needs in simple words, and praise God with thanksgiving.
Abraham, the friend of God, set us a worthy example. His was a life of prayer and humble obedience, and he was as a light in the world. Wherever he pitched his tent, close beside it was set up his altar, calling for the morning and evening sacrifice of each member of his family. When his tent was removed, the altar remained. The roving Canaanite, as he came across that altar, knew who had been there before him; and when he had pitched his tent, he repaired the altar, and worshiped the living God.
From Christian homes a similar light should shine forth. Love should be revealed in action. It should flow out in all home intercourse, showing itself in thoughtful kindness, in gentle, unselfish courtesy. There are homes where these principles are carried out,–homes where God is worshiped and truest love reigns. From these homes morning and evening prayer comes up before God as sweet incense, and his mercies and blessings descend upon the suppliants like the morning dew.
We must have more religion. We need the strength and grace that are born of earnest prayer. This means of grace should be diligently used in order to gain spiritual muscle. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to him. It makes us realize more and more our great needs, and hence our obligation to God and our dependence upon him. It leads us to feel our own nothingness and the weakness of our judgment.
God has made earnest prayer the condition of the bestowal of his richest blessings. Prayer brings us nearer and nearer to Jesus. However fully we may have given ourselves to God at conversion, it is of no avail unless we renew our consecration in each separate duty as it presents itself. Dear reader, consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first business, even if you have to rise half an hour earlier in order to find time. Let your prayer be, “Take me, O Lord, as wholly thine. I lay all my plans at thy feet. Use me to-day in thy service. Whatever errand I may do, send me. Whatever I may say to honor thee, or lead souls to Christ, help me to say it.”
This is a daily matter. Each morning consecrate yourself and your family to God for that day. Make no calculation for months or years; for they are not yours. One brief day is given you, and that one day work for yourself and your family as though it were your last. Surrender all your plans to God, to be carried out or given up, as his providence shall indicate. In this manner you may, day by day, be giving your life with its plans and purposes into the hands of God, accepting his plans instead of your own, no matter how much they may interfere with your arrangements nor how many pleasant projects may have to be abandoned. Thus the life will be moulded more and more after the divine Model; and “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”