My friend Wendy has introduced me to a treasure in J.C. Ryle. He pastored an English church in the mid-1800s, and though that was ages ago now, his words are no less poignant today.
In finishing “A Call to Prayer” this week, Ryle instructs on the vitalness of prayer to the believer. At one point, he contrasts the lives of two saints: the “good ole’ glory days” Christian with the filled-with-glory Christian as quoted below:
There are some of the Lord’s people who seem never able to get on from the time of their conversion. They are born again, but they remain babes all their lives. You hear from them the same old experience. You remark in them the same want of spiritual appetite, the same want of interest in anything beyond their own little circle, which you remarked ten years ago. They are pilgrims, indeed, but pilgrims like the Gibeonites of old; their bread is always dry and mouldy, their shoes always old, their garments always rent and torn. I say this with sorrow and grief; but I ask any real Christian, Is it not true?
There are others of the Lord’s people who seem to be always advancing. They grow like the grass after rain; they increase like Israel in Egypt; they press on like Gideon, though sometimes faint, yet always pursuing. They are ever adding grace to grace, and faith to faith, and strength to strength. Every time you meet them their hearts seem larger, and their spiritual stature taller and stronger. Every year they appear to see more, and know more and believe more, and feel more in their religion. They not only have good works to prove the reality of their faith, but they are zealous of them. They not only do well, but they are unwearied in well-doing. They attempt great things, and they do great things. When they fail they try again, and when they fall they are soon up again. And all this time they think themselves poor, unprofitable servants, and fancy they do nothing at all. These are those who make religion lovely and beautiful in the eyes of all. They wrest praise even from the unconverted, and win golden opinions even from the selfish men of the world. It does one good to see, to be with, and to hear them. When you meet them, you could believe that like Moses, they had just come out from the presence of God. When you part with them you feel warmed by their company, as if your soul had been near a fire. I know such people are rare I only ask, Are there not many such?
Now how can we account for the difference which I have just described? What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others? I believe the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits about private prayer. I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little and those who are eminently holy pray much….I believe that spiritual as well as natural greatness depends in a high degree on the faithful use of means within everybody’s reach….And I assert confidently that the principal means by which most believers have become great in the Church of Christ is the habit of diligent private prayer.
This calls to mind:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for his righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6
To be hungry. To be thirsty. Not for the crusty molded bread cast off by the world, but to be full-up with manna and living water that quenches a soul. And this promise says, they will be filled. We seek it through disciplined, spirit-filled, private prayer. Longer than a sentence on the way into the grocery store and more needy than a few wandering requests as I drift off to sleep.
But to hunger and to go hungry in prayer. To be driven to my knees because I know where my needs are met. Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all these things shall be added unto you.
We seek it not for our own glory–not for the favor of man, but to know God’s glory. Because He is the essence of a life, and he sustains eternally.