BARRENNESS in Prayer
There are times when the heart seems dull, cold, and indifferent. Though there is joy and sweetness and effulgent emotion in prayer as a rule — yet doubtless every Christian has times when God seems far away and the heart seems to have no depth. Prayer seems to be from the lips only. The heart becomes an arid desert where never a flower bloomed, nor refreshing spring babbled forth. There are no sweet fragrances nor voices of melody. All is empty, cold, and still. But why such dryness?
Perhaps there is some secret affinity with the world. Perhaps a tiny rootlet of the heart has taken hold of some earthly thing. Perhaps a little train of thought has departed from the heavenly way, and has been straying about aimlessly, vagrantly through the earth. Perhaps we have done something we cannot call overt sin — but only the gratification of a human desire beyond the line of temperance. Perhaps there is an affinity with some worldly thing, which breaks affinity with God. It is well to search the heart at such a time, in order to discover whether some little parasite has crept in and is doing a deadly work.
If after diligent search, we discover nothing, we may conclude that Jesus has withdrawn from us — that we may surrender ourselves more to him for his own sake. He would have you long for him, because longing strengthens the affections of the heart. He wants you to taste a little of what life would be without him — so that you may the more appreciate him. He would not have you be in communion with him simply for the pleasure of communion — but to be with him even though you experience no inward joy.
At such a time do not cease to pray. Do not think that God does not hear — because he does not bless you. Wrestle with him; tell him of your love more earnestly. That is what he loves to hear. Tell him you cannot let him go, without at least one smile upon you, or a thrilling touch of his gentle Spirit upon your heart. But if you then receive no returns of his love, leave the matter with him. Let not your faith falter — but remember that he is near even though you cannot perceive him. When the heart seems dull and the spirit low and Jesus far away — it is the time to pray, and not to faint.