Life Line to Heaven

A few years ago in the state of Virginia an explosion took place in one of the large coal mines. The first report estimated that about 200 men might be trapped below the surface of the earth.

Rescue squads were sent into the mines immediately and soon men were being led to the safety of the surface. Before that day ended, it was discovered that thirty-seven men had lost their lives in that disaster. Some had been killed instantly by the explosion. Others had died from injuries before they could be reached. Still others had died from rock slides and other resulting occurrences from the explosion. For thirteen men, however, death came in a very strange way. They received no injury at all, for they had been far away from the explosion and resulting rock slides. When word reached them about the explosion, they set out on foot down long corridors and tunnels to find safety. Several times they talked with men on the surface through the use of mine telephones installed in the mines at various places. They seemed confident that soon they would reach the surface and freedom.

But disaster was to overtake them. In the explosion, the shaft which carried the fresh air down to the mines, and also expelled stale, poisonous gases from below, had been broken. The life-line to these men had been shattered, and they did not know it. When found, these men were together in one spot. No marks of injury marred any of them. Yet they were dead, all because the life-line of fresh air had been broken and contact with the outside was cut off.

Listen, friend, did you know that our spiritual lives also depend on a life-line? Prayer is our life-line of life here. Perhaps you may be groping about in the darkness of life, trying desperately to escape some tragedy or reality of life, yet failing on every turn and plan. Perhaps the life-line has been broken or clogged, and you, too, feel about to go down to defeat. If this is your lot, it is to you that I wish especially to speak.

We may often think of prayer as something that should be reserved for a period of crisis or emergency. We may feel that prayer is for weaklings, or perhaps the wicked or maybe the weak or aged, and probably for the children. But as we look at the life of our great Teacher and example, we find that Jesus was a man of prayer. His life so influenced those about Him that at least on one occasion His disciples came to Him and asked Him to teach them to pray.

These were not men who were in the sunset years of life. They faced no particular emergency or crisis at this moment. These were men of the world of activity. They came to Jesus in the strength of manhood. They were men of business coming from various walks of life. Yet they knew that Jesus possessed a power within which only prayer could bring, and for this power, they came to Him.

His answer is found in Matthew 6:9-13. He taught them the words of the beautiful Lord's prayer so well known to most Christians.

It may come as a shock to you to realize that prayer is not confined to the Christian religion alone. Many heathen religions who know not God or His Son, Jesus, often pray more habitually than do we Christians. The Mohammedan who does not accept Christ as Savior of the world prays at specified times, five times each day. Many other religions of the world would put Christians to shame when it comes to the habit of prayer.

It is true that there are spiritual rules that can make prayer more effective, but God is not so interested in the rules and explanations of prayer as in the condition of the heart. He is anxious that we pray! There are rules, but if we break them and come in the wrong door, God will not send us back to come in again the right way. He rejoices that we have come!

I think of the man who had followed through with much detail in arranging for an audience with one of the world's great men. At last he sat talking with him in his patio. But soon they were interrupted momentarily as the young son of this famous man came riding his bicycle through the patio with a "hi" to his dad. He did not need ceremony or arrangements. He was his son.

What we need is not so much to know the rules, but to know the Savior!

I cannot understand how God hears prayer. I cannot understand a lot of things about it. I cannot understand electricity, either. But I use it. I know it works!

We speak of the power of prayer. But prayer is not the power. It is only the switch that we turn to make contact with God. Prayer in itself can do nothing. But the God who answers prayer can do all things.

No prayer goes unnoticed. Even the unspoken prayers of our heart are noted by God, and often surprisingly answered.

God does not stack up our prayers like letters on a desk and wait for a time when He can get to them. God never has to pick up a prayer, like a neglected letter, and say, "This prayer was sent so long ago, there is no use to answer it now. The emergency is past."

God has never yet been too late. His clock is always right. The angel stopped the hand of Abraham in time. Jesus appeared to be four days late in answering the prayer of Mary and Martha. But He was not late. He was just in time to make Lazarus the recipient of the greatest of His miracles.

Read the first seven verses of Psalm 37. Here are promises unsurpassed. But verse 7 tells us, "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." That is not so easy. We are in a hurry. We stop praying too soon. Faith lets go its hold. We get discouraged when one more prayer might bring the answer.

God hears every sincere prayer. But often He says No to the little prayers, the unimportant ones, in order that He may say Yes to our big prayers, to our real needs. He takes away the things we think we want, so that He can give us the better things-the things we really want. And always He answers prayer as we would want Him to answer it if we could see and understand the intricate loving pattern of His plan for us. Never forget that!

Cannot God manage our lives better than we? Has not He promised to take care of our needs? Read Matthew 6:25-34. He takes care of the lilies and the birds and the grass all right. Can He not take care of us?

We pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." But someone has suggested that there are times when we cannot enjoy today's bread because of ulcers from worrying about tomorrow's bread.

"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." Matthew 21:22. What promises there are-if we have faith! Verse 21 says, "If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done." "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." Mark 9:23. "According to your faith be it unto you." Matthew 9:29.

Some prayers are not answered because we do not want them answered. We pray them because we think we ought to pray them. But inwardly we shrink from what the answer might cost us. Our prayers are not always as honest as our subconscious minds.

Some prayers are too casual. We ask God for something as casually as we would ask for a carton of salt at the corner grocery, and then two weeks later remember what we prayed for and wonder why God did not answer. Why should God bother to answer prayers that are not important, even to us?

Have we ever prayed as earnestly as if our life were at stake? If we were interceding with the Governor of the state for our life, or for the life of a loved one, there would be no practicing, no formality. Our very earnestness would give us words. And we would not need a list of things to talk to the Governor about. We would be concerned with one thing. Yet how often we dilute the intensity of our prayers by the multitude of items we put into them.

Sometimes we need to pray intensely. Yet prayer need not be always a wrestling, an agonizing. The better we know the Governor, the less tension there will be in our conversation. The better we know God, the more often prayer can be a quiet committing of ourselves and our problems to Him without the tenseness of fear. And if our prayers contained more of confidence and less of concern, more of trust and less of try, how much more joy they could bring to us-and to God.

God does not hear us because of the perfection of our prayer, the accuracy of its wording, the detail with which our memory can reconstruct the day and its sins. God does not hear us because of our merit, but because of our need. The only merit that we can ever plead is the merit of Jesus.

We are told to come in the name of Jesus, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." Matthew 18:20. And in verse 19 is the promise, "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven."

But is God here making a blanket promise to do anything we might ask, regardless of the wisdom of doing it? Would not the affairs of the world and of individuals be in constant turmoil if God operated on that principle?

I fear that some have not understood this promise. Would the God of heaven pledge Himself to do always and without exception anything that any two persons might think up? To do that would make God dependent upon the whims of men.

To be sure, God is ready to hear the prayers of two-or of one. But what does it mean to "agree"? The original Greek word actually means "to symphonize." Picture a symphony orchestra just before performance, as the instruments tune up. They must be in tune not only with each other, but all with the master pitch. Just so we must be in agreement, in tune, not only with each other, but with God. Then we can expect our prayers to be answered.

One of the large hindrances to prayer is explained in Isaiah 59:1,2, "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy that it cannot hear, but your iniquity have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you the He will not hear."

Let me illustrate it this way: A man lives in open sin. He also has secret sins. He does not study the Bible and thus stays away from matters of religion. He certainly does not listen to or follow the commandments. His life is one of self-seeking and greed. One day a crisis arises. He sees no solution. Then he decides to pray. He prays to God and asks God to lift the crisis. He does not confess his sins. He seeks no help to make any changes in his life. He merely prays to God and expects Him to hear him and answer his request. Then when the request does not come, he claims that God does not love him, and denounces prayer as being useless. But all the time God is powerless to answer his prayer because the life-line is clogged.

On the other hand the situation could be this way. The same man comes to his hour of crisis. He suddenly begins to see himself for what he really is, a lost sinner, without any hope whatsoever. His heart is melted, he becomes contrite and comes to Christ as the Savior and there confesses his sins. Not only does he confess the past, but he seeks help to overcome the open and secret sins. He determines that he will study God's word and follow it as God leads him along. He has confessed his sins and the blood of Christ has forgiven him. Thus the barrier to answered prayer is gone, and God can answer his prayer according to the will of God for the man's good.

Friend, God always answers prayer, when we meet the conditions. We must come to Him in faith. We must confess every known sin, every habit, every fault. We must be willing to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, following the Bible rule of life," not the traditions and popular concepts man has made. These conditions seem beyond our power to meet, and they are. But the power of Christ is ours for the asking. The blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin, and the indwelling power of the living Christ guides us in our daily walk with Him.



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