by Spiros Zodhiates
Before a loan is contracted, there must be a borrower and a lender; before a gift is possible, there must be a receiver and a giver; before a legal will can exist, there must be an heir and a testator; before an organ is transplanted there must be a recipient and a donor.
Just as all these human transactions require a giver and a receiver, so does prayer. It is a sense of need that causes us to pray, but coupled with it must be a recognition of the abundant resources of God that are available to meet those needs.
God has all that we need, but though many of His common mercies are given freely to all, there are other gifts and graces that can only come to us through prayer. Thus James 4:2 says, "Ye have not, because ye ask not."
A benevolent father may desire that his son be equipped with a well-trained mind, but he cannot present him with a disciplined and well-informed intellect as he would a camera or an automobile. Knowledge cannot be imparted in such a way, though we sometimes wish it could! There must be personal involvement of work and study on the part of the one who is seeking knowledge. Therefore we see that desire for knowledge must precede its acquisition. We first have to want it.
Actually, nothing we enjoy as free human agents can be imposed upon us against our wills. Even love is impotent unless it is desired and sought-who hasn't heard songs and stories of unrequited love that was powerless to move the heart of the loved one to respond? If moral and spiritual gifts and qualities were forced upon us they would no longer be virtues, for the essential quality of virtue is that it be volitionally acquired. If God arbitrarily poured out His choicest gifts and graces upon us, we would become mere "dummy saints," much like a doll with a sweet expression painted on its face.
To force our will would be to annihilate it, for a will suppressed is a will destroyed. Therefore, however desirous God may be that we develop sublime moral qualities, He cannot attain that end by forcing them upon us. It would not be the part of wisdom to destroy our capacity as free moral agents-the basis of our humanity-in the process of making us godlike. Forcing His favors upon us would sink us to the level of beasts rather than elevate us to the height of divinity. Since righteousness cannot be attained without personal volition, God withholds His great moral gifts until we seek them, thus rendering prayer an absolute necessity.
It is sometimes argued, "Why trouble God about our difficulties and needs? He knows all about them, so why not just leave everything entirely to Him and let Him see that all our needs are met?" We cannot disturb God our Father more than by leaving Him alone, like a parent is disturbed when ignored by his child. Prayer is not intended to intensify His love to us, but our love to Him.
Would the fact that you stand by the window watching and listening to your children's excitement over finding a bird's nest in a nearby tree mean that you don't want them to tell you about it when they come rushing in with the news? Would you, as a parent, say to them, "You don't have to tell me, I already know all about it?" Of course not! Love delights in being told what it already knows, for in the telling of the matter there is a new expression of the loved one's personality. What love revels in is not the conversation but the communion, and God is love. Prayer is meant to be a love-tryst, and therefore the fact that God is willing and able abundantly to supply our needs does not preclude prayer.
Such abundance should rather serve as an incentive to pray. An indigent philosopher at the court of Alexander sought relief at the hand of that sovereign and received an order to his treasurer for any sum he should ask. He immediately demanded ten thousand pounds. The treasurer demurred at the extravagant amount; but Alexander replied, "Let the money be instantly paid. I am delighted with this philosopher's way of thinking: he has done me a singular honor. By the largeness of his request, he shows the high idea he has conceived of my wealth and influence." God is honored in like manner.
A child who knows his father has nothing to give will be very reluctant to ask for anything at all, but one who knows his father is wealthy and generous will be emboldened to ask whatever he needs or desires. God is abundantly able to provide for all our needs. He has ordained that we come to Him with boldness in order to obtain what we need. Thus we are admonished in Hebrews 4:16, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Sir Walter Raleigh one day asked a favor of Queen Elizabeth, who said to him, "Raleigh, when will you leave off begging?" To which he replied, "When your Majesty leaves off giving." Let us ask great things of God, expect great things, and let His past goodness make us instant in prayer.