A Suggestion for Developing the Prayer Life

By Clifton L. Fowler

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


The question is repeatedly propounded, “How can I develop a balanced prayer-life?” Such a question grows out of the fact that the natural man has no method of spiritual expression. Learning to talk to God is like learning a new language. The soul has been, during its early years, under the dominance of the old man. The language of the old man is the language of the world and the flesh. When a soul awakens to the need of the development of the life of prayer, the first step is to learn this new language,—the language of faith, the language of the redeemed. The Text Book of the new: language is the Bible. ‘Through a proper use of the Text Book a normal and happy prayer-life may be developed.

The Bible takes this place of importance in the development of the prayer-life. The soul has no natural knowledge of God; the Bible furnishes that knowledge. The soul, having been reared in a world of sin, has no basis on which to build a life of prayer; the Bible furnishes the basis. ‘The soul, having been developed in an environment of pleasure, and philosophy, and money-getting is unacquainted with the terminology of prayer. The Bible supplies the vocabulary of the Spirit. The soul, having been taught only the crassness and materiality of this present age, knows naught of faith; the Bible reveals the reasonableness of a simple and child-like faith. ‘The Bible is God’s inspired prayer-manual.

The use of the Bible in prayer was practiced by George Whitefield. He followed the custom of reading the Bible on his knees, and this, his biographer declares, is one of the special reasons for the particular blessing of God which manifestly rested upon Whitefield’s preaching. It is this simple and practical reading of God’s Word while kneeling, and then translating the message of the Book into the soul’s outpoured prayer, that we believe is the surest method of learning the language of heaven.

That David Brainerd, that mighty man of prayer, had caught a glimpse of this truth, is indicated by many hints which are scattered through his diary. We quote a few of these:

“I read the story of Elijah the Prophet in I Kings 17, 18 and 19. * * * My soul breathed after God, and pleaded with Him, that a double portion of that spirit which was given to Elijah might rest on me.”

Here is God's Word used as the basis for the development of the prayer-life of God's child. What a sweet and normal use of the Written Word. God is permitted to speak to the believing soul from the printed page, and the prayer which rises from the heart in reply to God is the self-same message which has been received from that} printed page translated into the longing cry of the needy! suppliant.

Again, in his diary, Brainerd says: “While reading II Kings 19, my soul was moved and affected, * * * I saw there was no other way for the afflicted children of God to take, but to go to God with all their sorrows; as Hezekiah, in his great distress, went and spread his complaint before the Lord. * * * I was then enabled * * * to cry unto Him ardently for His power and grace to be exercised toward me.”

Here again, we see God’s method of stimulating prayer. Brainerd employs God’s Word as the basis of the petition which with fervent cryings he lifted to God. This use of the Scripture is of frequent occurrence in the diary, of this famous man of God. God had given His servant a glimpse of one of the great blessings which the Christian man may, find in his Bible if he will but pay the price of reading that Book! while on his knees.

And God’s spirit opened the eyes of the saintly Andrew Bonar to the same blessed truth. We find him, after forty-eight years of ministerial labor saying in his Diary and Letters:

“Connecting Gal. 5:22 with the fullness of the Spirit, I have been praying much for fulness of love, fulness of peace, fulnes of joy, fulness continually, fulness of goodness, fulness of long suffering, fulness of faith.”

With Andrew Bonar the Bible had become the source from which he drew not only the spirit of prayer, but the very phraseology of his prayer. Let the awakened Christian of this age recognize the peculiar value of God’s Book here revealed and begin to read his Bible on his knees, mingling, his reading with his praying and letting the Word of God be the inspiration for his petition and his appeal. Oh, for the spirit of fervent prayer to come upon the Church of today.

That consecrated messenger of the Cross, Henry Martin, is another child of God who discovers the power of the Word to draw the soul out in prayer. He speaks of it frequently in his diary. On one occasion he said:

“Had a solemn season of prayer by the favor of God, over some of the chapters of Genesis, but especially the conclusion of the 119th Psalm. Oh, that these holy resolutions and pious breathings were entirely my own.”

And again we find that the Spirit of the living God has led a willing one out into the richest blessings of the prayer-life by teaching that one to pray over the Bible. ‘When the Bible is thus used the Lord and His child have sweet conversation and the intimacy of the acquaintance ship becomes the inspiration and joy of the believer's life. How wonderful indeed is God’s Inspired Book.

George Muller also became convinced of the value of this specific method of cultivating a deeper touch with God. The biography of George Whitefield was used to bring Muller to this conviction. In 1838, when he learned of Whitefield’s practice of reading the Bible on his knees, Muller, being a man of keen spiritual insight, saw the value and beauty of the method. From that time onward, he practiced reading the Inspired Book on bended knee.

These men of God, who have found so rich a stimulant for the prayer-life in the Bible, were following along lines that were definitely indicated by the Holy Spirit. In Dan. 9:2-3 we find the Prophet Daniel has been reading the Book of Jeremiah. With Jeremiah before him, he turns to God in prayer:

“In the first year of his (Darius') reign I, Daniel, understood by books the number of the years, whereof, the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sack cloth, and ashes.

And the greater part of the balance of the chapter is given over to Daniel’s prayer. It is an impassioned outburst of supplication which is the direct product of having read the book of Jeremiah, It is one of the greatest prayers in the entire Inspired Book. If the child of God of today will get alone before the Father with an open Bible, as Daniel did, his prayer-life, like Daniel’s, will be marked by an increase of love, self-sacrifice, and power. Daniel sets a mighty pace in the life of prayer. He takes God's own covenant, His Word, which cannot be broken, and pleads the efficacy and immutability of that Word. “This is exactly the prayer-method into which the Holy Spirit led Brae, and Muller, and Carey, and Martin, and many others.

The use of God's covenants and His promises as the basis of prayer is frequently found throughout the Bible. It is not a new thing for believing souls to put the finger on some mighty pledge in God’s Word, and looking by faith into His face, plead that promise, confidently and reverently reminding Him that He cannot lie! When God’s ancient people were smitten sore by famine and word, Jeremiah’s appeal was on this very ground.

“Do not abhor us, for Thy name’s sake, do not disgrace the throne of Thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us” (Jer. 14:21).

The Psalmist, marvelously taught of the Holy Spirit, saw this relationship between God’s Word and the prayer: life of the individual soul, and stated it with refreshing clearness:

“My lips shall utter praise when Thou hast taught me Thy statutes” (Ps. 119:191).

When will God’s people learn the lesson? When will they see that men will not be able to pray and praise until they have knowledge and confidence in the inspired statutes of God? Modernism murders prayer because it undermines the inspiration of the Bible. The prayer-life perishes when God's Book is questioned. Well may we join with the Psalmist in saying, “My lips shall utter praise when Thou hast taught me Thy statutes.”

Child of God, hungering for a closer walk with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ, here is an open door of opportunity. Would you find an easy channel of entrance into the the very presence of God? Come by way of His Word! Would you always pray according to the Divine will? Then open the Word, and on bended knee, come the Bible way! Would you, when guidance is so sorely needed, escape the fallacy of special revelations? Then let the light of H's changeless Word be your unfailing guide as you look to Him in prayer. Would you have God speak to you when you speak to Him? Then open the Book and He speaks!

We submit a suggestion for the nurture and development of the prayer-life. It is a suggestion which is simple, practical, effective and scriptural. We suggest that you read your Bible on your knees, letting the Book inspire the soul in its praise and thanksgiving, in its petition and supplication. True prayer finds its ground and its root in the Bible

Try the suggestion, today!