By Charles J. Fowler
God is not only the most intelligent and loving Being of all intelligences, he is the most sensitive and appreciative. None feel as quickly and deeply as he and none so appreciate the devout attentions of the creature. If God be a Person he has these feelings, and if he be God He has them in an infinite degree. The long-suffering of God in dealing with the misdemeanor of men is far from an evidence that he is unmindful of it.
God would be acknowledged; and he must be upon the part of those who would secure and maintain his favor. "In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths."
We are now seeking to emphasize a feature of devotion, with which, it is possible, we are not as familiar as with other features. By an acknowledgment of God we mean an expression to God and an attitude before him, alone, of appreciation of him and his goodness. Someone has given an interesting division of prayer in these words. "Prayer, with its face toward God, and prayer with its face toward men." The first might be illustrated by the language, "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker." Here is prayer in the aspect of worship, of adoration, of (may we say it?) appreciation; prayer of recognition and praise. The other aspect finds expression in such familiar language as "Ask and ye shall receive." Here is prayer as supplication, as a seeking to get something from heaven.
Of this latter phase we need not speak; all hardly need that this be defined. But this former exercise we wish to emphasize.
Most people are before God only when something is wanted -- the asking of prayer is that with which we are more familiar and in the habit of using, if not that about which we only know; and yet, it is not prayer's highest form. We are not saying that the time is ever with us when we are not in need and may not ask, but we are meaning to say that there is that which is higher, richer and diviner and far more profitable to one's soul than the asking form of prayer; asking if not selfish, is always laden with self-interest as to its motive.*
[The last statement of the above paragraph, that asking is "always laden with self-interest" is not altogether true. For, it is possible for one to ask God for something for another, being completely devoid of any selfish reason for that asking. When Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who crucified Him, "for they know not what they do," there was not one ounce of self-interest in that request. His words, "Father, forgive them," were not a demand, but a request, and asking -- and an asking that was totally concerned about the need of others. Further, it is possible for Christians to likewise ask of God, without a speck of self-interest in their requests. Fowler's statement would have been entirely true by simply changing one word: "asking if not selfish, is often [not always] laden with self-interest." However, these remarks are not intended to be criticism of this excellent message. Now, back to the writers point at hand. -- DVM]
God is good. In Himself and in all His relations to mankind, especially to those who trust Him. One turns his prayer around, or better, he turns himself about from the attitude of seeking something at the hand of God, and adores Him from whom everything of good comes. "O God, how gracious thou art; what hast thou not done for me and for mine. Thou art good to all. Thy tender mercies are over all thy works. Men forget Thee, but thou art gracious, O how mindful art Thou and tender and full of compassion. I love Thee; I worship Thee; I adore Thee; glory be to Thy name forevermore!"
Such is not the language of a suppliant -- not of one who wants something -- but rather is it the language of a giver -- of one sending back an appreciation of divine benefits.
This suggests what we mean by a recognition of God before him and before him alone. It is secret; it is sincere; it is successful. Did one want to get ahead with God -- have heaven really favor him -- there would be no way equal to this. But, to do this to get ahead would spoil it all. No such thought lives with him who finds his heart drawn to this holy exercise of communion.
Again, we say, nothing gives such flight of wing to the soul as this adoration; and nothing so pleases him with whom we have to do and before whom one comes. God values, as none less than God can, a spirit of appreciation upon the part of his creatures. None so in need that they live upon the bounty of another, find the hand of the benefactor so open, as those who remember in gratitude the favors of the past. What child is in such favor with the parent as the one who has a genuine spirit of appreciation of father or mother, so as to love to be with them, more than they care for the presents they may get.
There is a love for the companionship of God apart from what may come to one as a return from being in that company. To be alone with God, one sits in a chair by the window, or lies on the couch, or attends to the active duties of the house; to be alone with God at business, on the train, or anywhere that the devout nature finds itself looking away to Him in whose infinite life he lives; this is to please the Father of our spirits, who loves, infinitely, to have His own creatures bless Him.