THE GOD OF BETHEL
"I am the God of Bethel." Genesis 31:13.
God is now His own Artist. Hitherto, the divine portraits upon which we have
gazed with such sacred delight, were drawn by human hands, "holy men of God,
as they were moved by the Holy Spirit," presenting such views of the
character of God as met the varied conditions of His people; thus confirming
our previous observation, that each title and perfection of God harmonized
with some particular need of His Church. But, in the present chapter of our
work, the Great I AM shall present His own Divine likeness, drawn with a
vividness and fidelity such as He only could command. "I am the God of
Who can mistake the Artist, or question the identity of the picture? The
language of the one is too stately and commanding, and the likeness of the
other too divine and life-like, to admit of a moment's doubt. It is Jehovah
who speaks, and speaking of Himself, says "I am the God of Bethel." The word
"Bethel" means, "the House of God," and the occasion on which it was thus
used marked a memorable event in the history of Jacob, suggesting some
spiritual reflections appropriate and profitable to the Christian and devout
The patriarch was now an exile and a wanderer, fleeing from the vengeance of
Esau. He had, on this occasion, been journeying more than four hundred miles
through wild and inhospitable deserts; and at night, weary and footsore, he
took a stone for a pillow, and laid himself down on the cold, dewy earth to
sleep. That was a memorable night in his history. While he slept, a vision
of singular character and glory appeared to him. It was a 'ladder,' its foot
resting on the earth, and its top in heaven. Ascending and descending this
mystic communication between the two worlds, innumerable angels were seen,
'ministering spirits,' doubtless, sent from heaven to 'minister' to this
tried servant of God. But the most significant and glorious part of this
vision was the appearance of Jehovah at the top of the 'ladder,' addressing
the lonely and desolate patriarch slumbering at its foot. The words which He
uttered, and the tones in which He spoke, were well calculated to quell the
fears, to comfort and assure the mind of God's servant, now passing under
the corrective hand of a righteous yet loving Father– a fugitive from man's
rage, yet 'beloved of God,'– a lonely exile, yet waited on by angels– a
stranger and destitute, yet the heir of the very land upon which he lay–
single and alone, yet destined to be the head of a race countless as the
dust of the earth, and through whom, as concerning the Messiah, "all the
families of the earth should be blest."
Not less consolatory and assuring was the gracious promise of the Divine
presence and care which God spoke to him on that memorable night: "Behold I
am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go, and will bring
you again into this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that
which I have spoken to you of." What a vision of glory, and what a night of
repose must that have been to the desolate mind, lonely spirit, and weary
body of the patriarch! How he must have desired to prolong it, and how have
regretted its close! And when he awoke, we marvel not at the wondering
exclamation of his awe-stricken mind, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and
I knew it not"– that is, I did not expect such a vision of God in such a
"He was afraid and said, What an awesome place this is! It is none other
than the house of God—the gateway to heaven!" The next morning he got up
very early. He took the stone he had used as a pillow and set it upright as
a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. He named the place
Bethel—house of God."
God, in a subsequent period of his history, reminded him of this memorable
incident, doubtless with a view of strengthening his faith and comforting
him under a new and severe trial through which he was then passing- the
grinding avarice and base treachery of Laban, his father-in-law. Speaking to
him again in a dream, God said, "I have seen all that Laban does unto you."
Mark, God notes all the unkindness and injustice done to His saints, and
will vindicate their wrong, and avenge the wrong-doer.
"I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar, and where you made a
vow unto me." What an unfolding of the character of God is here! What tender
love, what covenant faithfulness, what Almighty power! Surely, if ever God
gave Jacob a song in the night season of woe, it was now! Angels must have
bent an ear to that song, and have learned new strains from its melody.
God's dealings with men, His dealings especially with His Church, must form
a subject of profound study and of rich instruction to these celestial
students. The Church is their Bible, in the marvelous history of which its
election and redemption, its calling and keeping, its grace and glory- they
see the will, and study the mind, and fathom the heart, of Jehovah– "Which
things the angels desire to look into."
Here we may for a moment pause, and in faith appropriate to ourselves the
promise which God made to His servant Jacob, "Behold I am with you." That
promise was not his alone, but is ours also, on whom the ends of the world
are come. We are taught that, "no prophecy of Scripture is of any private
interpretation"- that is, that no individual believer has a personal and
sole right to any part of God's Word, exclusive of other believers; but
that, as there is "one God and Father of all," "of whom the whole family on
earth and in heaven is named," so the promises of God, from Adam downward,
are the property alike of all the children of that one family, not a
solitary member, the obscurest and the weakest, being exempt.
Oh, what a uniting truth is this! How should it constrain us to recognize
and love as brethren all the members of the one and indivisible family of
God, even though they may occupy different apartments, and feed at different
tables, in the one Great House, than ourselves. God loves them all; Christ
died for all, and recognizes in all His own divine image; and the Holy
Spirit dwells alike in all, and seals on the lips of all, "Abba, Father!"
We repeat, what an exceeding great and precious promise of our covenant God
is here- intended for all saints, intended, my beloved, for you! "Behold I
am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go." What is the New
Testament but the echo of the Old? Hear we not the echo of this promise in
the words of Jesus spoken to His disciples on the eve of His departure from
them, when, like the patriarch, they were to be left as orphans in the
world, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Take hold
of this divine promise of your Lord, repeated with yet more earnest
emphasis, and given under yet more affecting circumstances than it was to
Jacob, and Jehovah Jesus will make it good in your individual and daily
experience. God in Christ is with you, His child, and will keep you in all
places where His providence leads you. No time or circumstance shall
interpose to prevent its fulfillment.
How soon did God fulfill His promise in Jacob's experience! Listen to his
touching admonition with Laban, "In fact, except for the grace of God—the
God of my grandfather Abraham, the awe-inspiring God of my father, Isaac—you
would have sent me off without a penny to my name. But God has seen your
cruelty and my hard work. That is why he appeared to you last night and
vindicated me." Our God is unchangeable. The same divine faithfulness and
love are pledged to make good the same divine promise in your history. Like
Jacob, you may be an exile and a wanderer from the land of your birth, and
from the home of your parents. But Jacob's God is your God, and the promises
made to Isaac and to Jacob, were equally made to all their spiritual seed,
were made, beloved, to you.
Oh! then, embrace in faith, and clasp to your lonely heart, this precious
promise that God in Christ is with you in all places, and will never leave
nor forsake you. You are not alone. You are not Fatherless, nor homeless;
you are neither a fugitive nor an orphan. Oh, no! Christ, your Friend and
Brother, is with you. His heart is your dwelling-place, and His Father is
your Father, and His God is your God. "Happy is he that has the God of Jacob
(the God of Bethel) for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God."
We have remarked upon the word "Bethel," as signifying the House of God.
This naturally suggests the subject of our present chapter– PRAYER, or,
communion with God, as "the God of Bethel." The believer has a Bethel
everywhere, since there is no place where God is not. The pious home, the
secret closet, the public sanctuary, and even the fields where he walks at
eventide to meditate, is a Bethel– the place where God in Christ meets him
and communes with him from above the mercy-seat.
Next to the revelation of God as the God of atonement, the God that pardons
sin, the most needed and precious revelation of Him is, as the God that
hears and answers prayer. Prayer is everything to the believer. It is his
vital element, the right hand of his power, his invincible armor, the feet
with which he runs in the way of obedience, the wings which uplift his soul
to God, and which waft him within the veil of glory. But let us, on so
interesting and important a subject, exchange these general observations for
a few particulars illustrative of the nature, privilege, and influence of
Our first and most natural inquiry relates to the OBJECT of prayer. To whom
is prayer properly to be addressed? Reason would answer, God; but revelation
goes further, and explains who God is, and the Triune relation He sustains
to us as the Being that it answers prayer, and to whom all flesh should
come. We are at once brought in contact with the revealed truth, that prayer
is addressed to the Triune-Jehovah, and yet separately and equally, to each
distinct Person in the Godhead. There may be a mystery in this statement to
some minds, even as there is a mystery in the doctrine of the Trinity
itself. But, let it be observed that, if the human mind could fully
comprehend this truth, either God must cease to be divine, or man must cease
to be human.
But we may possibly simplify this statement by presenting it in a kind of
syllogistic form, thus- There are Three distinct Persons in the one God- the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is the Divine Object of Prayer;
therefore, each distinct Person in the Godhead is a Being to whom it is
proper that prayer should be separately, divinely, yet unitedly addressed.
We get this truth in the Epistle to the Ephesians (2:18), a passage which
affords one of the most remarkable and conclusive evidences of the doctrine
of the Trinity found in the Bible, "Through Him (Christ), we both (Jew and
Gentile) have access by one Spirit unto the Father." Apart from the clear
light in which this text places the doctrine of the Trinity- a doctrine upon
which the entire superstructure of Christianity rests- its relation to the
article of prayer is as conclusive as it is beautiful. We have here God the
Father as the Object of prayer- God the Son, as the Medium of prayer- and
God the Spirit, as the Author of prayer. Each as a Divine Person is thus
essentially engaged in the divine act of receiving prayer, as each one is
embraced in the believer's act of offering prayer. There exists no
inferiority of nature, as there is nothing subordinate in office- the Father
receiving, the Son presenting, the Spirit inspiring, the prayers of all
saints, and these Three essentially and indivisibly One.
Let us address our thoughts, in the first place, to the FATHER. What a
warrant and encouragement have we in prayer to approach the "God of Bethel"
as a Father! Such is His divinely paternal relation to us. It is the highest
relation He sustains. To pardon our sins is a great act of His grace; but to
adopt us into His family, a yet greater. It were a great act of the
sovereign's clemency to pardon the criminal at the bar; it were a yet more
transcendent act of the royal favor to adopt that criminal as his son, and
share with him the dignity and privileges of his throne. But all this our
God has done, "having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by
Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of His will."
Concerning this view of prayer, how explicit is the teaching of God's Word
in reference to the paternal relation of God! "You shall call Me FATHER, and
shall not turn away from Me" These are wonderful words of God Himself. With
such a warrant, what child of God will hesitate, through unbelief or
unworthiness, to approach God in prayer as his Father? When we have God's
warrant, we have the strongest ground to believe. He cannot go higher than
His own word, confirmed by an oath, and sworn by Himself: "for when He could
swear by nothing greater, he swore by Himself." Here, then, is His own word
of invitation, bidding you draw near to Him as a Father, yes, as our Father.
Hesitate not to recognize His paternal relation, and, though it may be with
the lisping accents of a babe, draw near, and cry, "My Father."
The apostle inculcates the same truth, illustrated by his own example. "For
this cause I bow my knees unto the FATHER of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom
the whole family in earth and in heaven is named." Here you have the example
of one who esteemed himself the "chief of sinners," and "less than the least
of all saints," bowing his knees in prayer to God as his FATHER, yes, as the
Father of the one family of God. Why, then, should we hesitate? Why stand
afar off, trembling in the bonds of a slave, when we may draw near in the
free spirit of a child?
But, more illustrious and mightier than all, is the precept and the example
of Christ himself. Listen to the holy precept; " When you pray, say, our
FATHER who is in heaven." One great design of Christ's conning was to
dissipate the clouds of ignorance and guilt which gathered around the human
mind concerning the Fatherhood of God. Until He dissolved and scattered
those clouds, no man, by his own ingenuity or research, could discern this
wondrous truth. Here are our Lord's emphatic words; "My Father has given me
authority over everything. No one really knows the Son except the Father,
and no one really knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son
chooses to reveal him."
And how touching and forcible His own filial example! How frequently the
endearing name of Father breathed from His lips, in language like this- "O
Father, Lord of heaven and earth," "Righteous Father," "My Father." Behold,
then, beloved, the God of Bethel as your Father, and approach Him in prayer
as such, with a heart dissolved and poured out in filial love and communion
at His feet. Your highest attainment in the divine life is to arrive at the
assurance of your adoption, and your highest privilege as a believer is to
commune with God as your Father. This His Spirit can give you.
Many, alas! are satisfied with knowing no more of the parental relation of
God than what they learn in a continuous and parrot-like repetition of "Our
Father who is in heaven." But this will not bring us to the Father's house.
This will furnish no title or fitness for the many-mansioned home of heaven.
And yet thousands of poor formalists, it is feared, have descended into the
shades of eternal despair with these very words upon their lips!
But we hope better things of you, O humble and sincere believer in Jesus!
You have not in the school of Christian experience, and in the region of
your own heart's plague and nothingness, so learned Christ. Approach Him,
then, in prayer as a child, beloved of God, as one standing in, and accepted
through, Christ, and pour out your heart before Him, emptied of all its
sorrow, sin, and need, as into the listening ear and loving heart of your
Father in heaven.
Come as a child! Are you in need? "Your Father knows that you have need of
these things." Are you in sorrow? "As a father pities his children, so the
Lord pities those who fear Him." Have you sinned, and are you returning as a
humble penitent to His feet? "And when he was yet a great way off, his
father saw him, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck, and kissed
him." Is the cloud of adversity darkening, is the wave of sorrow swelling,
is trouble near? "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink
it?" Has the stroke fallen? Has the flower faded? Is the strong and
beautiful staff broken? "My Father, not my will, but Yours be done." These,
my beloved reader, are but the several parts of the magnificent Litany,
breathing from the heart and uttered by the lips of a humble child of God
bowing the knee before Him in the filial, loving, obedient spirit of a
Equally with the Father is the SON an object of prayer. Who can doubt it, at
all intelligently acquainted with the Bible, and taught experimentally the
truth as it is in Jesus? And yet that some have mooted this point, whom we
might suppose to have been better instructed, and from whom we should have
expected an enlightened and spiritual acquaintance with the truth, shows how
important it is that we should "prove all things," while we "hold fast that
which is good." If Christ is God, as essentially and most truly He is, then
it equally follows that He is a Being to whom prayer is rationally,
properly, and scripturally to be addressed. Who can reasonably doubt the
Scripture warrant and propriety of addressing prayer to the Lord Jesus
Christ, who is acquainted with the history of the early Church, and is
conversant with the numerous examples illustrating the fact? The informed
reader will not fail to recall to mind the famous letter of Pliny addressed
to the Emperor Trajan, furnishing an explicit and unbiased testimony to the
practice and purity of the early Christians, especially as it bears upon the
point in question- divine worship addressed to Christ. "When they were
assembled together," says Pliny, "they sang a hymn to Christ as God."
Such is the testimony of an enemy. Could anything be more explicit bearing
upon the fact that the first disciples offered divine worship to their God
and Savior Jesus Christ? But we have their own testimony. For instance, we
find the apostle Paul dedicating his Epistle to the Corinthians, "We are
writing to the church of God in Corinth, you who have been called by God to
be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as
he did all Christians everywhere—whoever calls upon the name of Jesus
Christ, our Lord and theirs."
This would appear to set the question at rest, as it embraces the whole body
of the early Christian Church. Added to this, we have the memorable and
touching instance of the thief on the cross praying to Christ with his last
breath, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." Superadded to
this is the equally conclusive and not less affecting instance of Stephen,
the first martyr to the Christian faith, thus addressing his dying prayer to
Jesus the Savior: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." What further testimony do
we need? Imitate these illustrious examples of prayer addressed to Christ,
and hesitate not to add to your sincere faith in Jesus your Savior the
humble tribute of your worship of Him as your God.
What a severe deprivation would it be were we debarred from approaching
Christ as our Savior, Friend, and High Priest, presenting our needs,
unveiling our sorrows, and confessing our sins? "Lord, to whom shall we go
but unto You? Into whose ear should we breathe our sins- upon whose breast
should we weep our sorrows- upon whose shoulder should we cast our burdens-
and upon whose arm should we lean, as, in weakness and weariness, we come up
out of the wilderness, but Yours? Oh, the precious privilege of going, as
the bereaved disciples of John did, and telling Jesus all and everything!
Unscriptural is that creed, lifeless that religion, and cruel that teaching,
that would rob me of the precious and comforting privilege of offering my
sacrifice of prayer and praise to my Savior. The glorified saints worship
Him, praise Him, and adore Him in heaven, casting, their crowns at His feet,
and exclaiming, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and
riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing,"- and
who shall debar us this privilege on earth?
The same argument applies to prayer as addressed to the HOLY SPIRIT. A
distinct Person in the Godhead– of the same nature and substance with the
Father and the Son– He is equally an Object of divine worship, and on this
ground we are authorized and justified in praying to Him as GOD. One or two
Scripture examples will suffice. That of Ezekiel is remarkable, in which the
prophet thus invokes the power and presence of the Holy Spirit: "Then he
said to me, "Speak to the winds and say: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord
says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so
that they may live again. So I spoke as he commanded me, and the wind
entered the bodies, and they began to breathe. They all came to life and
stood up on their feet—a great army of them."
We have another example in the case of the apostles; "Who, when they were
come together, prayed for them (Peter and John), that they might receive the
Holy Spirit. . . . Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the
Holy Spirit." Here was an invocation of the Holy Spirit scarcely made before
it was manifestly granted. And what was the effusion of the Holy Spirit on
the day of Pentecost, but an answer to the prayer addressed to Him by the
little company of praying disciples, who, assembled in an upper room,
"continued with one accord in prayer and supplication"? And while thus "they
were all with one accord in one place," their invocation of the Spirit was
answered; "And they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak
with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."
Need we multiply, as we might, these Scripture proofs of prayer addressed to
God the Eternal Spirit? Hesitate not then, with these examples before you,
to honor the Spirit, even as you honor the Father and the Son, by addressing
to Him, as a Divine Person in the Godhead, your prayers, and supplications,
and praises. Are you in affliction?- pray to the Spirit for comfort. Are you
sensible of your spiritual ignorance?- pray to Him for His teaching. Are you
discovering more of the hidden evil of your heart?- pray to Him for His
sanctifying grace. Are you thirsting for a clearer sense of your salvation?-
pray to Him for His assuring, sealing power. Do you long to know more fully
your adoption?- pray to Him to breathe "Abba, Father," in your heart. Does
your soul travail in prayer for the conversion of those dear to you?- cry
earnestly to the Spirit. Do you desire the vineyard of your own soul to be
fruitful and fragrant with His grace?- pray to the Spirit; "Awake, north
wind! Come, south wind! Blow on my garden and waft its lovely perfume to my
"Eternal Spirit! we confess
And sing the wonders of Your grace;
Your power conveys our blessings down
From God the Father and the Son.
Enlightened by Your heavenly ray,
Our shades and darkness turn to day;
Your inward teachings make us know
Our danger and our refuge too.
The troubled conscience knows Your voice,
Your cheering words awake our joys;
Your words allay the stormy wind,
And calm the surges of the mind."
"I am the God of Bethel." What encouragement does this title of our God hold
out to draw near to Him, and "by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving,
make known our requests"! All that He was to Jacob, He is to us. Like him,
are we passing through a night of loneliness and sorrow? Are we flying from
a foe, or do we dread some impending trouble? Behold the mystic "ladder"– to
Jacob but a vision, to us a divine and glorious reality, on whose rounds we
may ascend near, nearer, and still nearer, to heaven, until we find
ourselves in wrapped communion with the God that hears and answers prayer.
That ladder is Christ Jesus, the "one Mediator between God and man," whose
invitation to ascend is contained in His own gracious and assuring words:
"Whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be
glorified in the Son." "If you shall ask anything in my name, I will do it."
With such a " new and living way" to God, with such steps raising you above
trial, above sorrow, above need, above your enemies round about you,
uplifting your soul to Him whose ear hears you, whose hand is outstretched
to support you, all whose boundless resources are at your command, will you
not draw near by the blood of Christ, enter into the holiest, and take hold
of the "God of Bethel," nor relax your hold until He bless you?
Oh, the mighty power of prayer with the God of Bethel! "Let him take hold of
my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with
me," says God. Take hold of "Christ, the power of God," and you have taken
hold of God's strength; and the "worm Jacob" though you are, you shall
prevail with the God of Jacob, even with the God of Bethel. "Do not be
afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you," declares
the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. You will be a new threshing
instrument with many sharp teeth. You will tear all your enemies apart,
making chaff of mountains. You will toss them in the air, and the wind will
blow them all away; a whirlwind will scatter them. And the joy of the Lord
will fill you to overflowing. You will glory in the Holy One of Israel."
The night of your woe maybe dark and long; and you may "wait for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning," but that night, dark and long
though it is, shall not be without its blessed vision of faith. You shall
see Jesus! Through Him shall see God your Father, all whose thoughts are
thoughts of peace, ordaining and shaping your every step with a wisdom that
can make no mistake, with a power that nothing can baffle, with a
faithfulness that cannot falter, and with a love that knows no
variableness,, neither the shadow of a turning, and your night of weeping
shall brighten into a morning of joy!
You are perhaps puzzled as to the scope of prayer. You wonder if its range
is so wide as to embrace the needs of the present, as the hope of the life
that is to come. But why debate this question for a moment? Has not Christ
told you that, whatever you ask in His name He will grant you? Has He not
instructed you to ask of your Heavenly Father your "daily bread"? Does He
not bid you look down upon the lily of the field, robed with a beauty which
Solomon might have envied, and then bid you learn that He who so clothed
that lily will clothe you? Does He not bid you, on some lovely morning of
spring, upraise your eyes to the bird floating above you in the richest
plumage and with the sweetest song, and then learn that He who provides for
the sparrow will not allow His children to need.
The scope of prayer, then, clearly embraces supplication for all temporal
good. Look at that flower! It toils not, it spins not; and why? because your
Heavenly Father clothes it. Look at that bird, leaping from bow to bow,
springing from hill to valley, sparkling with beauty, gushing with song, and
wild with ecstatic delight! It has not a thought or care of its own; and
why? because God thinks and cares for it. Oh, you of little faith! Why do
you hesitate to trust all your personal interests, to confide all your
worldly affairs, to disclose all your temporal needs and sorrows in prayer
to God? He is not too high for your lowest need, nor too great for your
smallest care. "If the buzzing of a fly troubles me," says John Newton, "I
may take it to God." This is not mere sentiment. It is the practical
embodiment of a principle of experimental religion most honoring to God and
sanctifying to us- the principle of faith, which acknowledges God in all our
ways, sees God in everything, and takes everything, the smallest, to God.
But if prayer in its scope takes in things temporal, much more does it
embrace our spiritual and higher interests. Where can we repair with our
varied soul-exercises but to Christ? Even His ministers may either not
understand, or understanding, may yet grow weary of them. Our spiritual
exercises may be beyond their own personal experience, our soul-perplexities
may baffle their acutest skill, our spirit's sorrow distance their deepest
sympathy. An eminent minister of Christ was on one occasion observed to
betray deep emotion while a member of his flock was unfolding to him her
spiritual case. "Have I said anything to wound your feelings?" she earnestly
inquired. " No," was the humble reply of the man of God, "but I am affected
with the thought that you are unfolding a stage of Christian experience to
which I have not yet myself attained." This is a possible case.
We may in our ministries overstep the boundary of our own personal
experience, or we may not be able to reach the more advanced experience of
our hearers. But, prayer brings us to the feet of Him who can understand all
our religious exercises, can harmonize all our doctrinal difficulties, can
guide all our soul-perplexities, and bring us safely through all our
spiritual temptations, doubts, and fears. Jesus leads us along no path
untraveled by Himself. The flock shall not walk where the Shepherd's
footprint is not seen, for in everything "He has left us an example that we
should follow His steps." Then give yourself to prayer, and the "God of
Bethel," who is a prayer-hearing, a prayer-answering, and a prayer-exceeding
God– for He is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we are able
to ask or think"- will withhold from you no blessing that will be for your
good to receive and for His glory to bestow.
Are you living a prayerless life, knowing nothing of communion with the "God
of Bethel?" Then, dying so, you die a hopeless death. A prayerless life
involves a Christless death. What! never pray? Never pray from a broken
heart, never pray with a humble, contrite spirit? Sinner! the time is coming
when you will pray, but too late! So prayed the rich man, lifting up his
eyes in torment, "Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in
water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame." But it was too
late to pray then. Hell is the only place where God turns a deaf ear to
prayer. Rise, then, and pray, though it be but in the publican's words, "God
be merciful to me a sinner." That prayer, breathed from the heart, and
offered in the name of Jesus, will enter the ear of the "God of Bethel," and
bring down the saving mercy for which it pleads.
"The time will come, when, humbled low
In sorrow's evil day,
Your voice of anguish shall be taught,
But taught too late, to pray.
When, like the whirlwind over the deep,
Comes desolation's blast,
Prayers then extorted shall be vain,
The hour of mercy past.
The choice you made has fixed your doom,
For this is Heaven's decree
That, with the fruits of what he sowed,
The sinner filled shall be."
In concluding this chapter, let the truth remain deeply and permanently
fixed upon the reader's mind that, without prayer we are necessarily without
life in, or from, Christ; and in God's eye are dead in sin. It is most true
that prayer does not save us. Salvation is only in Christ. By His merits and
intercession alone are we saved. Nothing meritoriously and vitally enters
into our salvation, but His blood and righteousness. The one cleanses us
from our sins; the other justifies us. But the necessity of prayer arises
from the fact, that there is no other divinely-appointed channel by which we
make known our needs to God, and by which God meets them. True, He knows our
needs before we make them known; but He has said: "For this cause will I be
inquired of to do it for them." We may, indeed, reach heaven without books,
or learning, or talents; but we can never reach heaven without prayer.
"Behold, he prays!" is Heaven's first recognition of the sinner's conversion
on earth. A soul without prayer is like a house exposed to the pelting storm
without a covering. How can the temptations of Satan be repelled? How can
the corruptions of the flesh be resisted? How can the seductions of the
world be overcome, but by prayer? Then, above all things, cultivate prayer–
closet prayer, family prayer, sanctuary prayer, social prayer. Pray, pray,
pray; above all things, PRAY.
Seek the aid of the Holy Spirit, promised to "make intercession for us,
according to the will of God." He will teach you how to pray, and what to
pray for. And when He has laid a burden on your heart, you may be well
assured it is according to the Divine will, and that the God of Bethel will
answer your prayer in that particular thing for which you have besought Him.
And when your heart is led out to pray, not for worldly wealth and
distinction, as did the mother of Zebedee's children, but for an increase of
faith, that you may crucify the world, live as a stranger and pilgrim here,
love Jesus more, have more zeal for God, more resemblance to Christ, more of
the spirit of adoption, a clearer sense of your present acceptance in the
Beloved, more love to, and union with, "all saints," you may be assured that
you are asking those things which are in accordance with His will; and you
may with boldness enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, and draw
near to the God of Bethel with a true heart, and in full assurance of faith
that your penance shall, like Queen Esther's, find acceptance, and your
petition, like hers, be granted, not merely to the half, but to the whole of
Christ's kingdom; for, not as the world gives does Jesus give His royal
favors to His people.
Let our homes be Bethels, where the "God of Bethel" loves to dwell. Oh, that
our children, our servants, ourselves, may be molded into Christian
families, pious households, whose altars, domestic and private, are reared
in the Name and consecrated to the worship of the God of Bethel, even the
God of Jacob, "in whom, and in whose seed, shall all the families of the
earth be blessed."
"O God of Bethel! by whose hand
Your people still are fed;
Who through this weary pilgrimage
Have all our fathers led.
"Our fervent prayers we now present
Before Your Throne of grace
God of our fathers! be the God
Of their succeeding race.
"Through each perplexing path of life
Our wandering footsteps guide;
Give us each day our daily bread,
And clothing fit provide.
"Oh, spread Your covering wings around,
Until all our wanderings cease,
And at our Father's loved abode
Our souls arrive in peace."
"Call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you shall