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Prayers That Must Cease
'The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.' There are prayers that must not be prolonged. We have wearied God, we are talking unwisely to Him; we think we are praying when we are only aggravating Divine providence; it would be the supreme mercy if we could only learn to hold our tongue. It is as if God had said, We have had enough of this matter; this is mere ignorance or selfishness; this is no piety, it is anything but piety; thou art now talking wordily and ineffectively, and nothing can follow such talk as this but bitter disappointment; drop it! This is a great and blessed mystery in the Divine sovereignty and providence of the world. Some people you cannot get to be still; your only hope of partial safety is in not allowing them to begin; by all means prevent them from opening their lips; if you once permit them to begin, they will never imagine that it can be possible that you would wish them to end. A remarkable instance is that of Moses. There was a longing in his courageous, kingly old heart to go over and to go into the land. 'I pray Thee let me go over and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain and Lebanon; I have had a long hard time of it; who could repeat the miserable experience I have had with this wild, unchastened Israel? Do let me go over and see the end of it all, which shall also be the beginning of it all, as sunset seems to hide in its radiant heart white and glorious sunrise.' The Lord said in effect: Moses, we have had enough of this; let there be no whining and no continuance of this poor mean prayer; speak no more to Me of this matter; the arrangement is complete and final; fall into My hands, having first encouraged Joshua, thy successor, who has not done one-hundredth part of thy work; but I have a meaning in this; speak no more about it. Hence we come almost abruptly upon the subject of stifled prayers, prayers cut right in two, a most tragic and heart-paining bisection of our prayer. We thought we might talk always to God, but herein we are rebuked; we have been offering, mayhap, poor prayers, mean, worthless, superstitious, or superficial prayers; we have not gone deeply down into the root and life of the matter; and God seems to say, For My sake, drop it; speak no more about it. 'The Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me,' would not hear even me after this lifetime of priestly solicitude and fatherly intercession. Thus we are driven to consider whether there may not be some prayers that ought not to be prayed, and thus we are further driven to consider whether we may not have sinned in prayer; for if some people begin there is no getting rid of them any more.
I. What are the prayers which ought to be stifled, and of which God wishes to hear nothing more? They are selfish or self-considering prayers, which never find their way into heaven. No nail could carry them up so high, no eagle-nail so strong in pinion could lift up the burden of such worthless prayers to the threshold of heaven.
One of the things we shall have to repent of some day, when we are bigger and wiser souls, will be our prayers.
II. There are prayers that minister subtly but surely to intellectual or social vanity. A man will set himself to pray for knowledge of the future. The future has always been fascinating to a certain type of imagination. If we could only find out, without other people being also able to find out, what is coming tomorrow! There is a field for fancy! The Lord will not hear us; when He does admit anybody into His more secret chambers it is the babe. What babe ever took up any room, or were we not so fond of the babe that we imagined it occupied no place at all, but was just as welcome as a sunbeam and as little likely to incommode us in the matter of space?
III. There are prayers that do not involve thorough renewal and submission of heart; they are anecdote prayers, little pottering prayers about fine days and fine harvests and rain and divers little comforts that are specially and locally desired and needed; it will require all the grace of God to turn these whinings into real and effectual prayers. There is no prayer worth praying that does not aim at the submission of the human will to the Divine 'Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done'. That is true prayer, and prayer, we have often said, that is always and necessarily, when offered in the right spirit, answered and glorified.
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. III. p. 40.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 3". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26