Our eyes should be taken off ourselves. They should be removed from our own weakness and allowed to rest totally on God's strength. "Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward" (Heb. 10:35).
A simple, confiding faith, living day by day, will drive fear away. A faith that casts its burden on the Lord, each hour of the day, will drive away misgiving and deliver from doubt.
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Phil. 4:6). That is the divine cure for all fear, anxiety and excessive concern for the soul.
We need to guard against unbelief as we would against an enemy. Faith needs to be cultivated. We need to keep on praying, "Lord, increase our faith" (see Luke 17:5).
Faith is increased by exercise, by use. It is nourished by painful trials (see 1 Pet. 1:6-7). It also grows by reading and meditating on the Word of God. Most of all, faith thrives in an atmosphere of prayer.
Prayer introduces us to a life of faith. Paul declared that the life he lived, he lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved him and gave Himself for him (see Gal. 2:20)--that he walked by faith and not by sight (see 2 Cor. 5:7).
Prayer is absolutely dependent on faith. It has virtually no existence apart from it and accomplishes nothing unless it is faith's inseparable companion. Faith makes prayer effective and, in a certain important sense, must precede it, for "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).
This is the primary step in praying. In this regard, though faith does not bring the blessing, it puts prayer in a position to ask for it. It leads to another step of understanding by helping the petitioner believe that God is able and willing to bless.
Yet faith is narrowed down to one particular thing. It does not believe that God will reward everybody. It does not believe that He is a rewarder of all who pray but that He is a rewarder of those who "diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).
Faith rests its case on diligent prayer. It gives assurance and encouragement to diligent seekers after God, for it is they alone who are richly rewarded when they pray.
Faith is the final, essential condition of true praying. James put this truth very plainly: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord" (James 1:5-7).
Great incentives to pray are furnished in Scripture. Our Lord closes His teaching about prayer with the assurance and promise of heaven.
The presence of Jesus in heaven and the preparation He is making there for His saints help the weariness of praying. The assurance that He will come again to receive the saints strengthens and sweetens its difficult work! These things are the star of hope to prayer. They are the wiping away of its tears and the putting of the sweet odor of heaven into the bitterness of its cry.
The spirit of a pilgrim makes praying easier. An earthbound, earth-satisfied spirit cannot pray. The flame of spiritual desire in such a heart has either gone out or is smoldering in a faint glow. The wings of its faith are clipped, its eyes are filmed, its tongue is silenced.
But they who, in immovable faith and unceasing prayer, wait continually upon the Lord do renew their strength, do mount up with wings as eagles, do run and are not weary, do walk and not faint (see Is. 40:31).
Edward McKendree (E.M.) Bounds (1835-1913) was a pastor in the Methodist Episcopal Church, editor of the Christian Advocate and a prolific author on the subject of prayer.
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