We want to look a little more in detail at the subject of prayer, which has already been before us to some extent. Perhaps some of our readers have already felt that we were giving an undue prominence to mere study. It has been with no thought of excluding prayer, but rather preparing the way for it. We would say, however, even here, that the word of God must ever precede prayer. We are not sanctified by prayer, but by "Thy word." There is danger in being occupied with prayer as a service, instead of looking upon it as simply a means and the natural out-going of the heart to God. But there is, without doubt, a danger of our becoming merely intellectual in our study and of losing that freshness of soul which is ever the mark of communion with God.
We are not now speaking of prayer in general, nor of that pouring out of soul to God in worship and supplication which is needed in our daily life. We are ever to be worshipers, suppliants, and intercessors—worshipers in recalling to mind the infinite fulness of that grace which has been shown to us and which has opened to our adoring gaze the perfections of the person and work of our blessed Lord; suppliants, because we are in a great and weary land where needs are constant in every direction, and where enemies on all sides would assail us and temptations allure us; intercessors, because there are those who are dear to us whom we must ever hold up before God—family, kindred, and friends. There are also the needs of the people of God in ever-widening circles, needs which we should never forget—His servants at home and abroad, the work of the gospel, the upbuilding of His people, the spread of His truth, the various means of a Scriptural character used to this end. All these and much more will take us often to the throne of grace, and we need hardly say that morning and evening we should spend a season upon our knees before God.
It is not, however, of prayer in this way that we speak, but rather as connected with our subject. Our studies are to be conducted in a prayerful way, and here we cannot be too simple. Whenever we open our Bibles, whether for reading our daily chapter or for any particular course of study, there should be a sense of incompetence and self-distrust. We should realize our special tendency to having our own thoughts instead of having a mind open to the thoughts of God. We should therefore be as specific as possible.
For instance, one may say: "How can I bring my mind to bear upon a topic for only five minutes; it will take me that long to collect my thoughts." How would it do to ask the Lord to fix our attention on what is before us? Perhaps the subject is a little distasteful to us at the time. Can we not confess this to Him, and ask His help? Perhaps some difficult point meets us at the very outset. Let us ask Him to explain it to us. And so on, throughout the entire fifteen minute period or longer, let prayer be mingled with our study. We will be astonished and delighted to find how often we will receive direct answers to the simplest kinds of requests.
Of course, we shall not always at once get our answer. If we did, it would make us careless and we would lose that sense of reverence which must ever become us. Doubtless there will often be exercises and a sense of failure, but let us not be discouraged, only "continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving." This will keep our study from being formal or merely intellectual. We will find our very prayers becoming more intelligent and direct; and if we really have desires, we will find them granted far oftener than we had thought possible.
In connection with this general subject of prayer, we would add another thought. Let us be on our guard against losing a sense of having to do with divine things; that we are really in the presence of God, and the ground whereon we stand is holy. This will make us reverent, and in connection with this, we will not lose that sense of glad enjoyment of even the most familiar truth and of wondering surprise as new things are opened to us.
If it were merely the natural mind trafficking in divine things, or even an investigator into Scripture subjects without any special personal interest in them, one would soon grow accustomed to truths, and the deepest and most wondrous things would lose their attractiveness; but where the soul is really engaged, and where the Spirit of God, the inspirer of all, is opening up to us "things new and old," this sense of wonder and surprise will not be wanting. Let us challenge ourselves if we begin to take things as a matter of course; and above all, if the simplicities of divine grace cease to have a special charm to us.
From How to Study the Bible by S. Ridout. New York: Bible Truth Press, [n.d.]. Part 3: General Responsibilities, Chapter 3
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