Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Duties of Professing Christians

"I don't understand prayer." That was the comment of a friend who saw me reading an article on prayer in J. C. Ryle's book Practical Religion: Plain Papers on the duties of Professing Christians. It may shock some of you to know I was in Starbucks, of all places, when this conversation took place. [hint of sarcasm detected]

I am preparing to teach on the subject of prayer and Ryle (d. 1900) provides great insight. His 19th century perspective is sharp and challenging. Here are a few samples.

Speaking of prayer as a certain mark of a genuine believer:

"The first act of faith will be to speak to God. Faith is to the soul what life is to the body. Prayer is to faith what breath is to life. How a man can live and not breathe is past my comprehension, and how a man can believe and not pray is past my comprehension too." page 49

Addressing the great encouragement that comes through prayer:

"There is a way by which any man, however sinful and unworthy, may draw near to God the Father. Jesus Christ has opened that way by the sacrifice He made for us upon the cross. The holiness and justice of God need not frighten sinners and keep them back. Only let them cry to God in the name of Jesus, - only let them plead the atoning blood of Jesus, - and they shall find God upon a throne of grace, willing and ready to hear." page 52

These words still ring true today. I must agree with my friend somewhat. I don't understand all there is to understand about prayer. Yet, I understand enough to realize that I need it. I desperately need it more and more.

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