« AnkstesnisTęsti »
IF asked to name one of the conditions which most distinguish this generation from its predecessors, one might readily instance the growing difficulty it finds in prayer, and the increasing proportion of its members who, for a time at least, feel compelled to remit the action altogether as an impossibility,-a difficulty and an impossibility, which, where they obtain, are the results of causes that have not hitherto been viewed by the religionist as the chief hindrances to a spirit of Prayer. That is to say, it is not the merely sensual nature of the man of the nineteenth century that prevents or restricts the exercise of his Nature in fervent communion with God, but the Reason of man itself, working on a method known as "The Scientific" (operating through the results of physical experiment being submitted to the profound and patient cogitation of the intellect) has arisen, to protest on principle against the use of Prayer as being mostly futile and injurious;-the 'dogmatisers" of this class going so far as to say that it is always unreasonable.
Whatever the causes may be, it is certain beyond all question, that the difficulties themselves do exist, and in places where they might least be expected to be found. Even ministers themselves are confessing their inability to petition for things which their forefathers asked for with simplest sincerity of expectation. One frequently hears complaints from members of the Church of England of their inability to use such expressions in prayer, as those that ask for a long life for the Queen in wealth, or for the preservation of peace in our time "because there is none
other that fighteth for us, but only thou, O God." The man who is in the habit of using language sincerely, would feel it more necessary to pray for a short life for a poverty-stricken subject, if the mere possession or non-possession of wealth were a proper subject for prayer at all. Again, in what sense does only God fight for us, in which He does not fight for our enemies? Or why should peace be preserved merely because the most powerful help is on our side? The instinctive feeling of to-day is that peace should be preserved because the killing or maiming of man by his fellow-man is followed by deplorable and injurious results both to the victor and the vanquished.
I know that such phrases as these are exceptional and rare in that Liturgy whose very language is a source of Consolation or Inspiration to thousands who, with affection and earnestness, use it constantly. But a sense of, and ever growing sensitiveness to such expressions, reveals that same exercise of reason already noted. And this ought, if rightly considered, to give the ministers of Religion nothing like the anxiety and irritability they conceive it to be their duty to express; for prayers in which the emotions and the reason were not sincerely at one, where they were both operant, could be of no avail.
Leaving the more stately offices of Prayer and dealing with the subject in the passages of ordinary life from day to day, we find the material successes of shrewd and diligent men of business to be sought for rather by an intelligent submission to the employment of well-considered means to the end in view, than by any "waiting upon Providence." True it is that in our large towns a phenomenon of a very different kind is manifested in the frequent, almost
daily assembling of men together, and amongst them men thoroughly "commercial" and keen-witted, and may-be with a good balance in their favour at the bank-for the simple purpose of united prayer; but, unless the writer is misinformed, this unusual and strenuous engagement in prayer is with the distinct intention of obtaining for the individual personally, and for society at large, a renewed sense of God in the Heart, and of Man's need for Reunion; and not to directly petition for successes of a material character.
Turning next to the Scientists, we find a deliberate and entire abstention from prayer. That the demur on their part against certain uses of prayer should have passed into a complete refusal to pray at all was perhaps caused by the advocates of Prayer quite as much as by the necessities of his reasoning on the part of the Scientist himself. He, through careful observation of the processes of Nature's workings, was long ago convinced of the uselessness and folly of praying with regard to the larger part of his needs; and, for the remainder, because of the uncharitable abuse and misrepresentation hurled upon him by the Religionist, who failed even to understand what his true position was, either in reference to Science or to Religion-for the remainder of his needs, he proudly determined to make no confession, but, by patience and selfcontrol and philosophic firmness, to o'ermaster his defects and supply his wants as best he could.
There is a further set of thinkers who, to the deductions of natural science, add the speculations of metaphysics, and with this result, that they feel compelled to state that Prayer might possibly be a very