for the Ministry of Intercession (Part Two)
By Andrew Murray
- Have Faith in God
This just brings us back again to the lesson we learned when
Jesus, before telling us to believe that we receive what we ask,
first said, 'Have faith in God.' It is God, the living God, into
whom our faith must strike its roots deep and broad, and then
it will be strong to remove mountains and cast out devils. 'If
ye have faith, nothing shall be impossible to you.'
Oh, if we do but give ourselves up to the work God has for us
in the world, coming into contact with the mountains and the devils there are
to be cast away and cast out, we should soon comprehend the need there is of much
faith, and of much prayer, as the soil in which alone faith can be cultivated.
Christ Jesus is our life, the life of our faith too. It is His life in us that
makes us strong, and makes us simple to believe. It is in the dying to self which
much prayer implies, in closer union to Jesus, that the spirit of faith will come
Faith needs prayer for its full growth.
And prayer needs
fasting for its full growth: this is the second lesson. Prayer is the one hand
with which we grasp the invisible; fasting, the other, with which we let loose
and cast away the visible. In nothing is man more closely connected with the world
of sense than in his need of food, and his enjoyment of it. It was the fruit,
good for food, with which man was tempted and fell in Paradise. It was with bread
to be made of stones that Jesus, when a hungered, was tempted in the wilderness,
and in fasting that He triumphed.
The body has been redeemed to be a temple
of the Holy Spirit. It is in body as well as spirit, it is very specially, Scripture
says, in eating and drinking, we are to glorify God. It is to be feared that there
are many Christians to whom this eating to the glory of God has not yet become
a spiritual reality. And the first thought suggested by Jesus' words in regard
to fasting and prayer, is, that it is only in a life of moderation and temperance
and self-denial that there will be the heart or the strength to pray much.
then there is also its more literal meaning. Sorrow and anxiety cannot eat: joy
celebrates its feasts with eating and drinking. There may come times of intense
desire, when it is strongly felt how the body, with its appetites, lawful though
they be, still hinder the spirit in its battle with the powers of darkness, and
the need is felt of keeping it under.
We are creatures of the senses: our
mind is helped by what comes to us embodied in concrete form. Fasting helps to
express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice
anything, to sacrifice ourselves, to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God.
And He who accepted the fasting and sacrifice of the Son, knows to value and accept
and reward with spiritual power the soul that is thus ready to give up all for
Christ and His kingdom.
And then follows a still wider application. Prayer
is the reaching out after God and the unseen; fasting, the letting go of all that
is of the seen and temporal. While ordinary Christians imagine that all that is
not positively forbidden and sinful is lawful to them, and seek to retain as much
as possible of this world, with its property, its literature, its enjoyments,
the truly consecrated soul is as the soldier who carries only what he needs for
Laying aside every weight, as well as the easily besetting
sin, afraid of entangling himself with the affairs of this life, he seeks to lead
a Nazarite life, as one specially set apart for the Lord and His service. Without
such voluntary separation, even from what is lawful, no one will attain power
in prayer -- this kind goeth not out but by fasting and prayer.
of Jesus, who have asked the Master to teach you to pray, come now and accept
His lessons. He tells you that prayer is the path to faith -- strong faith that
can cast out devils. He tells you: 'If ye have faith, nothing shall be impossible
to you;' let this glorious promise encourage you to pray much.
Is the prize
not worth the price? Shall we not give up all to follow Jesus in the path He opens
to us here. Shall we not, if need be, fast? Shall we not do anything that neither
the body nor the world around hinder us in our great life-work -- having intercourse
with our God in prayer, that we may become men of faith, whom He can use in His
work of saving the world.
'Lord, Teach us to Pray'
Jesus, how continually Thou hast to reprove us for our unbelief! How strange it
must appear to Thee, this terrible incapacity of trusting our Father and His promises.
Lord, let Thy reproof, with its searching, 'Because of your unbelief,' sink into
the very depths of our hearts, and reveal to us how much of the sin and suffering
around us is our blame. And then teach us, Blessed Lord, that there is a place
where faith can be learned and gained -- even in the prayer and fasting that brings
into living and abiding fellowship with Thyself and the Father.
Thou Thyself art the Author and the Perfecter of our faith. Teach us what it is
to let Thee live in us by Thy Holy Spirit. Lord, our efforts and prayers for grace
to believe have been so unavailing. We know why it was -- we sought for strength
in ourselves to be given from Thee. Holy Jesus, do at length teach us the mystery
of Thy life in us, and how Thou, by Thy Spirit, dost undertake to live in us the
life of faith, to see to it that our faith shall not fail.
O let us see
that our faith will just be a part of that wonderful prayer life which Thou givest
in them who expect their training for the ministry of intercession, not in word
and thought only, but in the Holy Unction Thou givest, the inflowing of the Spirit
of Thine own life. And teach us how, in fasting and prayer, we may grow up to
the faith to which nothing shall be impossible. Amen.
Notes on Faith
At the time when Blumhardt was passing through his terrible conflict
with the evil spirits in those who were possessed, and seeking to cast them out
by prayer, he often wondered what it was that hindered the answer. One day a friend,
to whom he had spoken of his trouble, directed his attention to our Lord's words
about fasting. Blumhardt resolved to give himself to fasting, sometimes for more
than thirty hours.
From reflection and experience he gained the conviction
that it is of more importance than is generally thought. He says, 'Inasmuch as
the fasting is before God, a practical proof that the thing we ask is to us a
matter of true and pressing interest, and inasmuch as in a high degree it strengthens
the intensity and power of the prayer, and becomes the unceasing practical expression
of a prayer without words, I could believe that it would not be without efficacy,
especially as the Master's words had reference to a case like the present.
tried it, without telling anyone, and in truth the later conflict was extraordinarily
lightened by it. I could speak with much greater restfulness and decision. I did
not require to be so long present with the sick one; and I felt that I could influence
without being present.
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