And he spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;…
A distinguished man of science, an Englishman, was reported in the newspapers the other day to have said to an assembly in the American capital, "I am not a praying man." He was not bemoaning himself, or making confession of sin, or even uttering regret. If he did not speak boastfully, he certainly spoke without any sense of shame, and apparently with some degree of superiority over the commonplace and lag-behind people who still think it right to pray. Another distinguished man, an Englishman likewise, not a man of science, but a man of profound thought, was asked on his deathbed how he felt, and his reply was, "I can pray, and that's a great thing." In his judgment prayer was the highest service to which a whole man can give himself; not something to be left to the ignorant and feeble, but to be risen to, and aspired after by the greatest intellect and the most illumined mind. Which of the two was right? Which of them possessed the truest conception of the whole duty and privilege of man?
I. Let us see WHAT MAY, JUSTIFIABLY OR UNJUSTIFIABLY, INDUCE A MAN TO TAKE THE POSITION INVOLVED IN THE AVOWAL, "I am not a praying man."
1. He may take this position who is conscious of no want which scientific study and material good cannot satisfy. But what shall we say of such a man as this? Is he a true type of our common humanity, or of our most educated humanity? Or, rather, is he not less than a man — only part of a man? The intellect is not the soul, and intellectual pleasure cannot satisfy the soul, or, if there be some souls which profess to be satisfied with it, it only proves how untrue souls may be to their own highest capacities.
2. He may take this position who is separated from mankind by the non-possession of anything of the nature of a religious faculty. An old Greek said, "You may find peoples without cities, without arts, without theatres; but you can find no people without an altar and a God." An Englishman, not a believer in Christianity, said that upon accurate search, religion and faith appear the only ultimate differences of man" — those which distinguish him from a brute.
3. He who has ascertained that God cannot, consistently with His own laws, or will not, for some other reason, hear prayer, may take the position implied in the saying, "I am not a praying man." But where is such a man to be found? To know that God cannot answer prayer consistently with His own laws, implies a knowledge which is properly Divine.
4. He who would justify his position must be conscious that he has no sins to be forgiven. And if any one should aver that his conscience acquits him, we should say (1 John 1:8, 10).
5. The man who would justify himself in saying, "I am not a praying man," must have already attained all moral excellence, or be conscious of power to attain it by his unaided efforts. In this matter we discern the blindness that has fallen on men. They can see very clearly the power that is needed to produce physical results, but not that which is needed to produce moral. And in this they only prove how much sense has acquired dominion over them.
II. THE REASONS FOR NOT PRAYING WHICH MEN, IF HONEST ABOUT THEMSELVES, WOULD AVOW.
1. Prayer is distasteful to them. They have no heart for it. This is a sure sign of being spiritually out of health. Seek the aid of the Healer of souls.
2. They feel that prayer is inconsistent with their habits of life. Then change those habits. "Wash you, make you clean."
(J. Kennedy, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
WEB: He also spoke a parable to them that they must always pray, and not give up,