Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. . . . Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.
We are not always so situated that we can enter into our closets to seek God in prayer, but there is no time or place in which it is inappropriate to offer up a petition to God. There is nothing that can hinder us from lifting up our hearts in the spirit of earnest prayer. In the crowds of the street, in the midst of a business engagement, we may send up a petition to God, and plead for divine guidance, as did Nehemiah when he made his request before the king Artaxerxes. A closet of communion may be found wherever we are. We should have the door of the heart open continually, and our invitation going up that Jesus may come and abide as a heavenly guest in our souls.
Although there may be a tainted, corrupted atmosphere around us, we need not breathe its miasma, but may live in the pure atmosphere of heaven. We may close every door to impure imaginings and unholy thoughts by lifting the soul into the presence of God through sincere prayer. Those whose hearts are open to receive the support and blessing of God, will walk in a holier atmosphere than that of earth, and will have constant communion with God. But those who reserve their thoughts of God, their earnest soul longings for purity and grace, for certain times, and places, and occasions, will be overcome by temptation. The thoughts will be impure, the promptings of the natural heart will be fulfilled, and the man will be worsted in the conflict; for he will be drawn away of his own lust and enticed. The injunction of the Saviour is, “Pray without ceasing.” The heart is to be continually going out in desire for the presence and grace of Jesus, that the soul may have divine enlightenment and heavenly wisdom.
We need to have more distinct views of Jesus, and a fuller comprehension of the value of eternal realities. The beauty of holiness is to fill the hearts of God’s people, and that this may be accomplished, we should seek for divine disclosures of heavenly things. Brethren, we should pray in all places, and under all circumstances. Our petitions may be only broken ejaculations, or they may be but secret thoughts of the heart, but whatever we have opportunity for, let the soul be drawn out and upward, that God may grant us a breath of his heavenly atmosphere. Let the spirit groan after God, and mingle faith with fervent desire. We should encourage gratitude and praise, and always be found warring against every unholy impulse, crushing out of the soul every unclean lust. This is the warfare that must be accomplished. We may keep so near to God that in every unexpected trial our thoughts may turn to God as naturally as the flower turns to the sun. The sunflower keeps its face sunward. If it is turned from the light, it will twist itself on the stem, until it lifts up its petals to the bright beams of the sun. So let everyone who has given his heart to God, turn to the Sun of Righteousness, and eagerly look up to receive the bright beams of the glory that shine in the face of Jesus. Thus we may educate the soul to press its way out of the corrupted moral atmosphere of the world, of sin and selfishness, into the atmosphere that is divine and health-giving.
We are to pray in the Spirit, with the understanding also, and God will prompt the longings of the soul, and satisfy the desires of the heart. We must become intelligent as to the conditions upon which God will hear and answer prayer. There are many useless, meaningless words employed in prayer, but these heartless petitions are not acceptable, and cannot prevail with God. If the soul is stained with impurity, if iniquity is cherished in the heart, the offering of prayer is an abomination to God.
The psalmist says: “Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” Says the prophet Isaiah: “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
The psalmist says again: “Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt-offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” “Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly; but the proud he knoweth afar off.”
The Lord is under no obligation to grant us his favors, yet he has pledged his word that if we will comply with the conditions stated in the Scriptures, he will fulfill his part of the contract. Men often make promises, but do not live up to them. Often we have found that in trusting to men we have leaned upon broken reeds; but the Lord will never disappoint the soul that believes in him. “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed.” He still speaks to the soul, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” “With everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee.”
— E.G. White, Signs of the Times, December 16, 1889