Through Prayer We Control Our Human Passions
There are desires, passions, and appetites belonging to the nature of man. These are to be kept under the control of the higher power and passion of divine love and grace in the soul. The due control and regulation of all the qualities in the human nature, is Christian triumph; it is victory.
The fiercest battles that the Christian has to fight on the ‘battlefield of life’ — are those with his own human nature. Consequently, the greatest victories lie in conquest of this nature. Thank God! there is victory available for every Christian. God places in the hand of every saint, most powerful weapons with which he can stand a conqueror in the arena of life.
The place to win these victories — is on the knees! There the victories are really won, before the battle is fought. He who goes forth to the contests of life, without first meeting them in his closet — goes forth unprepared and is likely to suffer defeat. May the Lord by his Spirit give the Christian reader understanding here, and help him to know the importance of fervent, wrestling, agonizing prayer with God in the closet!
When danger approaches the little chick, there is a shudder in its little form, a shrink, and an instinct which teaches it to fly at once for safety beneath the mother’s wing. Just so, by living with God in heart-to-heart prayer, the soul will take on an instinctiveness which will cause it to flee to God, its strength — at the approach of every danger!
Satan brings many temptations to God’s children. Sometimes these come with the rapidity of the lightning’s flash and strike terror to the soul. Sometimes they are most ridiculous. There are presentations to the mind of things which you never thought of and which you abhor.
Please allow me to relate an experience I had along this line only a few evenings ago. Satan instantly presented a temptation that seemed to touch a sensibility in my nature. My soul trembled, gave a little cry, and then, like the chick, instinctively fled for refuge beneath the wing of God. My soul felt the soft down of his feathers, and oh, how safe and secure! The sweetness of such an experience can be felt — but cannot be told.
Because of the sensibilities in the human nature, Satan gives some people a kind of moving picture entertainment. He will present many scenes — a loss of money, the home on fire, a child dying, a friend proving untrue, a disaster here and a failure there, unchaste acts, etc. Living with God in prayer, habituates the soul to hide in the secret of God’s pavilion, to take refuge beneath the shadow of his wing, and there to close the eye to all the scenes that may be presented through the sensibilities. Let the wing of God serve, like the shutter of the camera, to prevent the light from shining into the mind from an object Satan may present. The mind, like the camera, has a sensitive plate within, upon which impressions are made by light from objects without. If this light is permitted to shine in for any great length of time — the impressions will be so deepened as to become difficult to obliterate. The more the mind is turned toward God with the shutter open, the more will heavenly images be pictured upon the retina of the mind’s eye. Peace and rest of the soul will be the result.
On the other hand, if we remove the shutter and view the pictures which Satan places before the soul, we shall become troubled, and divine images will fade away. If, however, we will but “hide under the shadow of His wing,” it will put all Satanic images in an eclipse!
The wing of God is something like the pillar of cloud that stood between Pharaoh’s army and the children of Israel, and was light on the one side and dark on the other. To those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High — the shadow of the Almighty is opaque when between them and Satan’s images — but beautifully transparent when the soul lifts its eyes toward Heaven.
The apostle Peter said, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” 1 Peter 2:11. It is through the human nature of man, that the lusts of the flesh assail the soul — but there is a sweet and safe refuge in God. There we are safe from all the attacks of sin, the world, and Satan. It is through prayer, that the desires and the appetites of our human self can be duly regulated. This is freedom in Christ; the triumph that he has purchased for us; the abounding grace. The human nature has its limitations, and by grace through prayer, it can be kept within its proper bounds.
The will of man has already been spoken of in two or three chapters — but it has so many connections that it may be appropriately spoken of under different headings. In order for us to have control of ourselves — we must yield our wills to God, for the infusion of his power. We must love the will of God above all else. The prayer of our hearts must be, “May Your will be done.” Our food and drink must be to do the will of God. Our wills must flow out into the current of God’s will — and there intermingling with it, flow on as one stream. Our wills must be lost in God’s will. We must will to do the will of God.
Sometimes our wills may seem very weak. The claims of the human nature make such a demand, and appeal so strongly to the will — that it seems scarcely able to withstand. That is the time to pray. This is a fierce battle that many have to face at different times, as they press their way through to glory. It may be a dear wife is scarcely able to say, “May Your will, not mine be done,” as the fond husband implants a kiss upon her lips and says, “Goodbye,” but, believing that God has called him to publish the glad tidings of “peace on earth, good will toward men,” she struggles hard to bow in submission. Her own human self clings to him — but her heart wants to say, “Go.” The battle is on. What shall she do? She must pray; she must flee to God and give up that will, so that he may strengthen it by his own power. She triumphs through the grace of prayer. She stands a conqueror, yes, more than a conqueror.
Kindly indulge me again while I relate an experience that I met with but recently. For several days, when my mind was not actively engaged in prayer or in literary work, I would meditate upon a theme that was enjoyable and restful to my mind, and apparently perfectly innocent. After a few days, however, I discovered that my meditations were not good for my soul. They seemed to place God at a little distance from me. I felt that I must give them up — but as they had become very fascinating, I seemed reluctant to part with them. My will seemed to be very weak. Prayer was my only way to victory. I yielded my will to God and implored his aid. A look at the love of God, inspired me and strengthened me to sacrifice this little pleasurable thing — and to have only such meditations as are acceptable to him. To a degree, those innocent recreations of mine came between me and God. I could serve him and yet walk at a little distance from him, and continue in my pleasant pastime — but if I walked close to him, I knew I must give them up.
Dear reader, there may be in your life, some things which, while not overtly sinful in themselves, are nevertheless some hindrance to you spiritually — perhaps a lack of consecration, a holding a little to your own way in some matter, a little love for something not altogether pleasing to God, or an indulgence in something to a degree not pleasing to God. These must be given up — if God is to be a power in your soul to enable you to triumph and keep your human self under the control of the higher power of constraining love.
It is earnest, wrestling prayer — which keeps the ‘fire of holy love’ burning on the altar of our hearts; and it is love to God which conquers all the lower passions in the self life. When we love God as we should . . .
we will sacrifice for him;
we will forsake our own way;
we will give up the dearest idol of human affection;
we will flee from anything and everything that separates us in the least degree from God;
we will renounce anything which would hide his smile from our soul;
we never consult the passions of the human nature nor regard their voice — but we seek to know the will of God.
A father comes home from his day’s labor, fatigued and hungry. His nature is desiring and demanding food; but as he steps across the threshold of his home, his wife tells him of the sudden illness of their baby. He hastens to the little crib, where he finds the darling of his heart suffering in the grasp of a raging fever. He strokes the tresses of its hair; he cools the parched lips; he smooths the pillow; he watches and waits — altogether forgetful of hunger. He really has ceased to be hungry. The passion of his lower nature, has been supplanted by a passion of the higher.
Through prayer, our hearts can be kept in the fullness of divine love, which will enable us to triumph and to live alone for the glory of God.
But intense, passionate love to God must fill our souls — so that we may be able to ‘pluck out an eye’, or ‘sever a hand’ — if we cannot control it and use it to the praise of our Beloved. Rather than have an eye look on anything that displeases the Lord — we would pluck it out. The soul that is filled with such love, stands a conqueror over sin, the world and the desires and appetites of the flesh — and bends all to the services of its God. Temptations may come with all their power, the flesh may raise its voice — but the prayer of faith binds that soul to the everlasting throne — and gives him precious victory!
It is the prayer of faith, out of a heart passionate with love to God, which takes hold upon the throne of grace, and enables the victory. The fond mother is enabled to say, “Goodbye and God be with you,” to the son or the daughter that is ready to cross the ocean-wave to tell the sweet story of the cross.
When the human nature is touched with sorrow — only prayer can console. Kind friends offer their sympathy, which gives a bit of comfort — but cannot heal the wounded heart. Some would tell us to forget our sorrow — nd travel, to go abroad — but the grandeur of cascades, of canyons, and of snow-capped mountain peaks — can never comfort a life out of which some loved one has gone. We must look higher. “My help comes from the Lord.”
Alas! too many, we fear, are being influenced by human fleshly desires. Their desires hide from them the knowledge of the will of God. It seemed most reasonable to Martha, that she should prepare a meal for Jesus — and to her, it seemed that Mary was acting most unreasonably. It seems most reasonable to the youth and the maiden that they should unite their lives — whereas it may be only their own human fleshly desires which is prompting. Through earnest, believing prayer — we can keep the voice of our human nature — in harmony with the voice of God, and can use the world and all earthly things to our highest good, and not abuse them.