“Walking the Walk:” Prayer as Action.


P.T. Forsyth (1848-1921) is so quotable that you can practically open any of his books at random and find nuggets of truth and grace, which is pretty much what I have done today.

This one is on prayer.  For Forsyth prayer was not at all passive, but powerfully active. Here is one of his thoughts about what today we might call “walking the walk as well as talking the talk.” It is a perfect thought for Lent:

A prayer is also a promise. Every true prayer carries with it a vow. If it do not, it is not in earnest. It is not of a piece with life. Can we pray in earnest if we do not in the act commit ourselves to do our best to bring about the answer? Can we escape some kind of hypocrisy? This is especially so with intercession. What is the value of praying for the poor if all the rest of our time and interest is given only to becoming rich . . .

If we pray for our child that he may have God’s blessing, we are really promising that nothing shall be lacking on our part to be a divine blessing to him. And if we have no kind of religious relation to him (as plenty of Christian parents have none), our prayer is quite unreal, and its failure should not be a surprise.

To pray for God’s kingdom is also to engage ourselves to service and sacrifice for it. To begin our prayer with a petition for the hallowing of God’s name and to have no real and prime place for holiness in our life or faith is not sincere.

The prayer of the vindictive for forgiveness is mockery, like the prayer for daily bread from a wheat-cornerer. No such man could say the Lord’s Prayer but to his judgement.

What would happen to the Church if the Lord’s Prayer became a test for membership as thoroughly as the Creeds have been? The Lord’s Prayer is also a vow to the Lord. . .

Great worship of God is also a great engagement of ourselves, a great committal of our action. To begin the day with prayer is but a formality unless it go on in prayer, unless for the rest of it we pray in deed what we began in word. (“The Soul of Prayer,” p 27-28)

(Photo:  R. L. Floyd, Living Water 2,  Pittsfield State Forest, March 2010)

5 thoughts on ““Walking the Walk:” Prayer as Action.

  1. >Jason,The photos are from my daily walks, and I typically post them the day of, or the day after, I blog. My thoughts and my photos often seem to be all of one piece.Yes, Forsyth really does challenge us here, and our reach always exceeds our grasp. What good news it is that we are justified by faith and not by works, even by prayer.That is, of course, not to be used as an excuse to avoid the challenge he presents us with here. Have a safe trip to Scotland, and my prayers are already with you.Peace,Rick

  2. >I agree with Forsyth. I've found that true prayer is action. At times I have been guided to not act outwardly, to shut up and listen, to commune with the Holy Spirit, to go to a quiet place and turn all over to God.Perhaps we've all heard, during an ordeal, "now all we can do is pray." For me, prayer is the first course of action! Not something to be resorted to when all else fails.I'm currently looking for a place to rent. I truly know of myself the hardest thing is not to go nuts, driving around, spending hours on the web researching, networking with every one I meet. The more I do that, the more stressed out I become,See, "He knows you have need of these things." Now that's a prayerful resting place to be!Sometimes I'm told, after mentioning I'll pray regarding a matter, "yeah but you have to act to." As if prayer isn't the primary activity? For me, no. Prayer comes first. It's not a crutch to avoid doing the work; prayer IS the work.Prayer isn't generating a warm fuzzy hopeful feeling about something; it's the work of a warrior, a spiritual athlete. Maintaining a consistent, committed prayer life demands stamina of the soul.So maybe I disagree with Foster a bit after all, or I've misunderstood him.

  3. >Thanks, Student, for you thoughts on this.I do think that you and Forsyth were indeed much in agreement.Without action on our part to follow our prayer, we tend to think of God as some kind of magician or good luck charm.It's more like, when we pray, God answers, "OK, I hear your prayer, now what are you going to do about it. If you mean it it, I will help you." Or something like that.

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