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  • Of the Power of Prayer.

    Chapter XXIX.—Of the Power of Prayer.

    For what has God, who exacts it ever denied8945

    8945 Routh would read, “What will God deny?”

    to prayer coming from “spirit and truth?”  How mighty specimens of its efficacy do we read, and hear, and believe! Old-world prayer, indeed, used to free from fires,8946

    8946 Dan. iii.

    and from beasts,8947

    8947 Dan. vi.

    and from famine;8948

    8948 1 Kings xviii.; James v. 17, 18.

    and yet it had not (then) received its form from Christ. But how far more amply operative is Christian prayer! It does not station the angel of dew in mid-fires,8949

    8949 i.e. “the angel who preserved in the furnace the three youths besprinkled, as it were, with dewy shower” (Muratori quoted by Oehler).  [Apocrypha, The Song, etc., Song of the Three Children 26,27" id="vi.iv.xxix-p7.1">verses 26, 27.]

    nor muzzle lions, nor transfer to the hungry the rustics’ bread;8950

    8950 2 Kings iv. 42–44.

    it has no delegated grace to avert any sense of suffering;8951

    8951 i.e. in brief, its miraculous operations, as they are called, are suspended in these ways.

    but it supplies the suffering, and the feeling, and the grieving, with endurance: it amplifies grace by virtue, that faith may know what she obtains from the Lord, understanding what—for God’s name’s sake—she suffers. But in days gone by, withal prayer used to call down8952

    8952 Or, “inflict.”

    plagues, scatter the armies of foes, withhold the wholesome influences of the showers. Now, however, the prayer of righteousness averts all God’s anger, keeps bivouac on behalf of personal enemies, makes supplication on behalf of persecutors. Is it wonder if it knows how to extort the rains of heaven8953

    8953 See Apolog. c. 5 (Oehler).

    —(prayer) which was once able to procure its fires?8954

    8954 See 2 Kings i.

    Prayer is alone that which vanquishes8955

    8955 [A reference to Jacob’s wrestling. Also, probably, to Matt. xi. 12.]

    God. But Christ has willed that it be operative for no evil: He had conferred on it all its virtue in the cause of good.  And so it knows nothing save how to recall the souls of the departed from the very path of death, to transform the weak, to restore the sick, to purge the possessed, to open prison-bars, to loose the bonds of the innocent. Likewise it washes away faults, repels temptations, extinguishes persecutions, consoles the faint-spirited, cheers the high-spirited, escorts travellers, appeases waves, makes robbers stand aghast, nourishes the poor, governs the rich, upraises the fallen, arrests the falling, confirms the standing. Prayer is the wall of faith: her arms and missiles8956

    8956 Or, “her armour defensive and offensive.”

    against the foe who keeps watch over us on all sides. And, so never walk we unarmed. By day, be we mindful of Station; by night, of vigil. Under the arms of prayer guard we the standard of our General; await we in prayer the angel’s trump.8957

    8957 1 Cor. xv. 52; 1 Thess. iv. 16.

    The angels, likewise, all pray; every creature prays; cattle and wild beasts pray and bend their knees; and when they issue from their layers and lairs,8958

    8958 Or, “pens and dens.”

    they look up heavenward with no idle mouth, making their breath vibrate8959

    8959 As if in prayer.

    after their own manner. Nay, the birds too, rising out of the nest, upraise themselves heavenward, and, instead of hands, expand the cross of their wings, and say somewhat to seem like prayer.8960

    8960 This beautiful passage should be supplemented by a similar one from St. Bernard: “Nonne et aviculas levat, non onerat pennarum numerositas ipsa? Tolle eas, et reliquum corpus pondere suo fertur ad ima. Sic disciplinam Christi, sic suave jugum, sic onus leve, quo deponimus, eo deprimimur ipsi:  quia portat potius quam portatur.” Epistola, ccclxxxv. Bernardi Opp. Tom. i. p. 691. Ed. (Mabillon.) Gaume, Paris, 1839. Bearing the cross uplifts the Christian.]

    What more then, touching the office of prayer? Even the Lord Himself prayed; to whom be honour and virtue unto the ages of the ages!


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