Father Payne eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 341 pages of information about Father Payne.

“But can people make themselves active and hopeful?” I said.  “Isn’t that just the most awful problem of all, the listlessness which falls on many of us, as the limitations draw round and the net encloses us?”

“You must kick out for all you are worth,” said Father Payne.  “I fully admit the difficulty.  But one of the best things in life is the fact that you can always do a little better than you expect.  And then—­you mustn’t forget God.”

“But a conscious touch with God?” I said.  “Isn’t that a rare thing?”

“It need not be,” said Father Payne, very seriously.  “If there is one thing which experience has taught me, it is this—­that if you make a signal to God, it is answered.  I don’t say that troubles roll away, or that you are made instantly happy.  But you will find that you can struggle on.  People simply don’t try that experiment.  The reason why they do not is, I honestly believe, because of our services, where prayer is made so ceremoniously and elaborately that people get a false sense of dignity and reverence.  It is a very natural instinct which made the disciples say, ‘Teach us to pray,’ and I do not think that ecclesiastical systems do teach people to pray—­at least the examples they give are too intellectual, too much concerned with good taste.  A prayer need not be a verbal thing—­the best prayers are not.  It is the mute glance of an eye, the holding out of a hand.  And if you ask me what can make people different, I say it is not will, but prayer.”

LXVIII

OF PRAYER

I was walking about the garden on a wintry Sunday with Father Payne.  He had a particular mood on Sundays, I used to think, which made itself subtly felt—­a mood serious, restrained, and yet contented.  I do not remember how the subject came up, but he said something about prayer, and I replied: 

“I wish you would tell me exactly what you feel about prayer, Father.  I never quite understand.  You always speak as if it played a great part in your life, and yet I never am sure what exactly it means to you.”

“You might as well say,” he said, smiling, “that you never felt quite sure what breakfast meant to me.”

He stopped and looked at me for a moment.  “Do we know what anything means?  We know what prayer is, at any rate—­one of the commonest and most natural of instincts.  What is your difficulty?”

“Oh, the usual one,” I said, “that if the God to whom we pray is the Power which puts into our minds good desires, and knows not only what is passing in our thoughts, but the very direction which our thoughts are going to take—­reads us, in fact, like a book, as they say—­what, then, is the object or purpose of setting ourselves to pray to a Power that knows our precise range of thoughts, and can disentangle them all far better than we can ourselves?”

“Why,” said Father Payne, “that is pure fatalism.  If you carry that on a little further it means all absence of effort.  You might as well say, ’I will take no steps to provide myself with food—­if God is All-Powerful, and sends me a good appetite, it is His business to satisfy it!”

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Father Payne from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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