First of all, then, let us get fixed in our minds the saying of Jesus that “men ought always to pray and not to faint.” The very form of the saying suggests that Christ knew how easy it is for us to faint and grow weary in our prayers. Men cease from prayer on many grounds. Some there are in whom the questioning, doubting spirit has grown so strong that for a time it has silenced even the cry of the heart for God. Some there are who are so busy, they tell us, that they have no time for prayer; and after all, they ask, Is not honest work the highest kind of prayer? And some there are who have ceased to pray, because they have been disappointed, because nothing seemed to come of their prayers. They asked but they did not receive, they sought but they did not find, they knocked but no door was opened to them; there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded; and now they ask, they seek, they knock no more. And some of us there are who do not pray because, as one of the psalmists says, our soul “cleaveth unto the dust.” The things of God, the things of the soul, the things of eternity—what Paul calls “the things that are above”—are of no concern to us; we have sold ourselves to work, to think, to live, for the things of the earth and the dust.
Nevertheless, be the cause of our prayerlessness what it may, Christ’s word remains true. Man made in the image of God ought always to pray and not to faint. And even more than by His words does Christ by His example prompt us to prayer. Turn, e.g., to the third Gospel. All the Evangelists show us Jesus at prayer; but it is to Luke that we owe almost all our pictures of the kneeling Christ. Let us glance at them as they pass in quick succession before our eyes:
“Jesus having been baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened” (iii. 21).
“He withdrew Himself in the deserts, and prayed” (v. 16).
“It came to pass in these days, that He went out into the mountain to pray; and He continued all night in prayer to God”. (vi. 12).
“It came to pass, as He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him” (ix. 18).
“It came to pass about eight days after these sayings, He took with Him Peter and John and James and went up into the mountain to pray. And as He was praying the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment became white and dazzling” (ix. 28, 29).
“It came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, that when He ceased, one of the disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples” (xi. 1).
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not” (xxii. 32).
“And He kneeled down and prayed, saying, Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine be done.... And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (xxii. 41, 44).