To be honest, I am often times skeptical about books on prayer. Whether right or wrong, this is how I approach these kinds of books. Too often their desire to offer anecdotal wisdom on prayer, specifically methodology, is rooted in the writers subjective experiences and is uncomfortably disjointed from Scripture itself. At times when it is related to Scripture I feel the connection is unduly stretched. I realize that because prayer is a very personal practice, it is likely that no two people will describe the experience the same. All the same though, we need more books on prayer that move from the text of Scripture, and the prayers it contains, to the prayer life of the believer.
This is why, after having read the books, I am glad to have received David M. M’Intyre’s two classic works on prayer The Hidden Life of Prayer and The Prayer-Life of Our Lord. These two books have been combined into one volume by Granted Ministries.
While every chapter has something worth sharing I thought I would share one observation that stood out to me, that, had I read the two books separately with time between them I might not have noticed. In the first book, The Hidden Life of Prayer, M’Intyre discusses the role of confession of sin in prayer in chapter five. In the third section he answers the question, “Why deadness of heart?” He states:
That which impresses us as deadness of heart may be the operation of the Holy Spirit, convincing us of sins hitherto unnoticed. As one looks at some star-galaxy, and sees it only as a wreath of dimming mist, so one becomes conscious of innumerable unregarded sins, merely by the shadow which they fling upon the face of the heavens. But when one observes through a telescope the nebulous drift, it resolves itself into a cluster of stars, almost infinite in number. And when one examines in the secret place of communion the cloud which darkens the face of God, it is seen to scatter and break into a multitude of sins. It, then, in the hour of prayer we have no living communion with God, let us plead with the Psalmist, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see of there be any wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Ps. 139:23-24).’ …..He will bring up from the unexplored depths of our nature all that is contrary to the mind of Christ and reduce every thought and imagination to the obedience of His will. (p. 49)
These words just penetrated my heart and mind when I first read them and as I write them here they do it again. Though the sin of the believer in Christ does not change our position in Christ it does hinder and effect our prayers in Christ to the Father. But through our prayers the Holy Spirit works in us to expose our hidden sin in order to bring it to the light so we are drawn to confession and further into our communion with God in Christ.
But there is more to be said here. If we are hones with ourselves and God, the mere thought of our sin while we are praying can make it unbearable to even pray let alone allow the Holy Spirit to use that time to draw us to confession of it. Here, M’Intyre closes the chapter with some gospel encouragement:
But, on the other hand, the love of Christ at times so fills the heart that, though the remembrance of sin continues, the sense of sin is lost – swallowed up in a measureless ocean of peace and grace. Such high moments of visitation from the living God are surely a prelude to the joy of heaven. For the song of the redeemed in glory is unlike the praises of earth in this, that while it also celebrates the death of the Lamb of God there is in it no mention of sin. All the poisonous fruits of our iniquity have been killed; all the bitter consequences of our evil deeds have been blotted out. And the only relics of sin which are found in heaven are the scared feet and hands and side of the Redeemer. So, when the saved from earth recall their former transgressions, they look to Christ; and the remembrance of sin dies in the love of Him who wore the thorny-crown and endured the cross. (p. 51)
What I might have missed had I not read these books back to back is a comment made concerning Christ and sin in His prayers. In The Prayer-Life of Our Lord M’Intyre so insight-fully states:
In one Important particular, the prayers of the Lord were unlike those of other men. He who knew no sin, but always did the things that pleased the Father (2 Cor. 5:21; Jn. 8:29), had no confession of unworthiness to offer to God. His was ‘the only conscience without a scar.’ There could, therefore, be no bar to communion with the Holy One, no distance required to be surmounted, no way of access had to be devised and secured. At the close of His earthly life, He lifted up to the Father for acceptance the full tale of His sinless years, saying, ‘I glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self’ (Jn. 17:4-5). (p. 82)
Did you catch the connection and difference there? Though because we are justified in Christ before God and have access into His presence, we still come to God in prayer with sin in our lives. However, Christ never prayed to our Father with sin in His life. He never made confession of sin. If He had, there would be no gospel. The gospel requires that Christ be sinless. Can you imagine prayer, communion with God, that is untainted by sin in our lives. Christ experienced it on earth and we will one day experience it with God in eternity when sin is finally removed!
Simply put, The Hidden Life of Prayer and The Prayer-Life of Our Lord are two books that I would highly recommend on prayer. They move from text to application as they are centered on Scripture and the gospels application to our experience of prayer. These books are must reads on prayer for all Christians.
NOTE: I received this book for free from Granted Ministries in exchange for a review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the words and opinions expressed in it are mine.