Innerweave: The Wholeness Story
Some 60 years ago now, I was introduced to the theology of P.T. Forsyth by my then major professor Dr. Edward Heppenstall, no average theologian himself. The best of Forsyth’s writing is on prayer, in his wee volume The Soul of Prayer, first published in 1916. Herewith is a sampling of Forsyth’s sense of prayer in the Christian’s life:
“Prayer is often represented as the great means of the Christian life. But it is no mere means; it is the great end of that life. It is, of course, not untrue to call it a means. It is so, especially at first. But at last it is truer to say that we live the Christian life in order to pray than that we pray in order to live the Christian life. It is at least as true. Our prayer prepares for our work and sacrifice, but all our work and sacrifice still more prepare for prayer. And we are, perhaps, oftener wrong in our work, or even our sacrifice, than we are in our prayer—and that for want of its guidance. But to reach this height, to make of prayer our great end, and to order life always in view of such a solemnity, in this sense to pray without ceasing and without pedantry—it is a slow matter. We cannot move fast to such a fine product of piety and feeling. It is a growth in grace. And the whole history of the world shows that nothing grows so slowly as grace, nothing costs as much as free grace—a fact which drives us to all kinds of apologies to explain what seems to be the absence of God from His world, and especially from His world of souls. If God, to our grief, seems to us far absent from history, how does He view the distance, the absence of history from Him. In God’s eyes the great object of prayer is the opening or restoring of free communion with Himself in a kingdom of Christ, a life communion which may, amid our duty and service, become as unconscious as the beating of our heart. In this sense, every true prayer brings its answer with it; and that not ‘reflexly’ only, in our pacification of soul, but objectively in our obtaining a deeper and closer place in God and His purpose. If prayer is God’s great gift, it is one inseparable from the giver, who, after all, is His own great gift, since revelation is His Self-donation. He is actively with us, therefore, as we pray, and we exert His will in praying. And, on the other hand, prayer makes us realize how far from God we were; i.e. it makes us realize our worst trouble and repair it. The outer need kindles the sense of the inner, and we find that the complete answer to prayer is the Answerer, and the hungry soul comes to itself in the fullness of Christ.”
These words do not give their meaning at a glance, but a deep study of their intent can change much of what we do as we pray.
By Wil Alexander, PhD
Professor of family medicine, School of Medicine