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Questions Answered Extempore by Miss Emma Hardinge 1866

 

Question 5

 

WHAT is the philosophy of prayer?

Answer

 

WE are asked, “What is the philosophy of prayer?” Oh, answer, little child, thou who has ever looked in the mother’s eye, or the father’s tender face, with such assurance, such full and confiding trust and affection that thou didst know, ere the request was made, thou hadst the answer in the mother’s love or the father’s care already, Why dost thou pray? Why dost thou ask a mother or father for love, or solicit tenderness of which thou art already assured? Why dost thou repeat the fond appeal for some wish still ungratified, but sure to find response in parental love? With all thy trust and confidence in father or mother thou must needs pour out thy heart in prayer, for it is the very voice of trust, the appeal of natural faith in love. We are but children of a larger growth; and, waking up in the midst of life’s phenomena, we hear the rushing wheels of creation sounding around us in the universal crash of life’s grand yet awful procession. We bend beneath the wild wing of the driving storm; we listen to the voice of the awful thunder, and our pulses quicken at the hoarse shout of the booming tempest and the anthem of the winds; ‘tis then, in our infinite littleness, that we shrink back from unsympathetic nature in her wildest moods, and feel that we are but helpless waifs on the mighty ocean of life’s tempestuous billows.

 

We stand on the shore of the restless sea, and listen to the ceaseless murmur of its tossing waves; we cannot intepret their voice, and yet they speak to our spirits in a tone that thrills us to their inmost depths. We gaze upon the bright summer sky - how glad it is! How beautiful! How deep the arch of blue that is glittering above us! How the translucent air through which we look out into the vast unknown! - looking for God - looking for God! Perhaps we stand in the presence of the solemn stars, and count the multitudes of God’s hosts trooping up before our eyes even as their fiery hosts were marshalled before the enraptured gaze of the ancient Chaldean. Do we remember how long, how very long ago it was that he gazed on those same stars, and


 

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numbered them, and mapped them out as in a chart of human destiny? And as the canvas of the divine eternity from whence we come rolls out in inspiration’s pictured forms before us, and we think of all the mighty phantasmagoric past, how small a thing we seem to be! - a mere waif, an atom, a single dew-drop, a being of time yet living in eternity, a child of space lost in this vast infinity! We stretch the tendrils of our yearning hearts, fainting beneath our sense of littleness and weakness to anchor them around the heart of God, our strength and safety; and, humbly bending low in reverent prayer, we murmur, “Our Father, which art in heaven!” We are so weak, so powerless, such creatures of finality in the midst of this vast array of nature’s wild phenomena.”The Lord passes by,” and lo! We hear the sound of the rending rocks, and the crashing storm, and the rush of His chariot-wheels of fire, and quaking earth, and then comes the still small voice of our Father’s love and mercy; and, as its tender accents steal into our hearts, and say to our spirits “Peace” - “Be still, and know that I am God,” we recognise it is our Father’s voice that speaks to us, and then again we humbly answer Him in prayer. In sadness ‘tis our cheer; in dark despair our anchor; in overwhelming joy our strong necessity of praising and overpowering thankfulness.

 

“The philosophy of prayer!” It is the inevitable appeal of the child to the Father; it is the necessity of our souls; it is the link of connection which God Himself establishes between Himself and His creatures. We often know not why we pray, but we do so when we feel our spirits yearn for a communion with our Author, and our souls are too full for mortal utterance; and then it is that we must bow down in prayer, and we know that nothing but communion with the Fountain of all Spirit can hear or answer prayer. I claim that the philosophy of prayer is, first, the expression of our relation to the Great Spirit; next, the recognition of our faith in, and dependence upon His Almighty care. I believe, too, it is the voice of God speaking in our own heart’s yearnings, and crying ever in the midst of earth’s Eden of forgetfulness and sin, “Adam, where art thou?” We must pray and the effect of prayer upon ourselves is to bring us nearer and nearer yet to God, not in the sense that He is moved, approaches, or answers our finite supplications by change of His eternal purposes, but prayer connects us with Him, by drawing us up to Him. It is the soul’s foot pressing into the temple of His presence. Prayer is the grandest, sweetest, holiest privilege that is granted to man. It is by prayer that we raise ourselves from the gravitating arms of matter that are drawing us down, and obey the grand magnetism of the central mind that is seeking to draw us up to Himself. It is the speech of the soul crying “Abba, Father.” We cannot lay down to you a system of prayer; we cannot in mortal words or speech, or set forms, dictate to you how to appeal to the Infinite. The spirit pleads for us itself alone. Let your own spirits arise and go to your Father after their own needs and aspirations. Trust that in this mode you commune with the Great Spirit as only spirit can; God is nearer to your spirit than any being else can be, who would make prayers for you. Pray for yourself, and you shall find in your own nature a spiritual answer, that none but your spirit can interpret - that words cannot render - that does not admit of being formed into a “philosophy.” Philosophies are but the creeds, dogmas, and set forms by which we seek to define scientific principles, and understand the fundamental laws of matter; prayer transcends all philosophy. It is in the strength of prayer that human hosts avail not against the resistless power of spirit. The soul that prays and realises the actual presence of the Great Spirit to whom it appeals, is unmoved by all that man can do against it. There is no philosophy in prayer; prayer is the spirit’s voice of man’s appeal whose answer is in itself; whose

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best response is its utterance, when the tones of faith direct it to the throne of Him who ever hears, and ever answers prayer.

 

Question 6  February 5th, 1866