16. The Practice of Praise and Prayer

Praise and Prayer

 GOD will become our All in the consummation. The practice of praise and prayer is the approximation of this ideal in the present. In a busy life there may be little time and few occasions for formal, lengthy petitions or supplications, phrased in precise terms and given audible expression. These have their place, but are by no means essential to the constant and continuous attitude of worshipful submission, so that the least incident in life calls forth a conscious thought of thankfulness and an appeal for divine intervention. A few practical examples may help to illustrate this.

The doorbell rings. There is no time to retire to a place of prayer. We are not aware who it is, or what it is, that brings a visitor to our door, so there is no possibility of praising for specific blessing or praying for definite guidance. All that we really know is our own inability to cope with any matter apart from God, and that He is working all together for our good. Our desire is not only to be well pleasing to Him, but also to be used as a channel of blessing to others. To put all this into words would be improper and impossible, and a very bad introduction to our visitor, who would be patiently waiting outside or impatiently ringing the bell. So we bow our head in spirit, with a fleeting consciousness of thankfulness and petition to Him, and open the door.

The telephone rings. We are right in the midst of this sentence, let us say, and want to finish it. But the telephone is not very patient. It persists in ringing, and is well calculated to make us impatient. Why should it come just at this time, when we are trying so hard to serve the saints? But such thoughts are swiftly banished by the underlying consciousness that everything--—even the telephone--—is cooperating for our good, and we instantly thank God for it and pray for His presence and help in responding to the message, which may come over the wires. Once more, we may have no idea whatever of what is coming, so have no basis for definite petitions, although these may well follow, without saying a word, as we listen to the voice of the speaker.

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WHAT MUST BE

In the consummation, we will know that all must be right. Now we know that much must be wrong. We know God's ultimate will but we do not know His present intention, for His will must be withstood during this eon. “It is a necessity for snares to be coming” (Matt.18:7). If we knew all that must be, and its purpose in God's plan, we would praise, but have little incentive to pray. As in the case of Israel, God is not leading us out of the servitude of sin into the freedom of His sons by the shortest and most direct route, for we need to learn, by the want and woe of the wilderness, the evil of our own hearts, and the goodness and grace of His fellowship and favor.

Cooperation with the inevitable is the philosopher's substitute for submission to the will of God. It is far better than fighting with your fate, but it is only the way of a slave cringing before his hard-hearted master, not of a son delighting in the doings of his father. It is fatalism, and fosters fear and despair, nor does it promote prayer. Even resignation to the irresistible is far from the exultant acceptance of the perfect and praise-worthy will of God. No impersonal force, no matter how powerful, can take the place of a living, enlightening, loving Father, Whom we know, and whose ultimate He has made known to us. We cannot appeal to mere principles, nor applaud them, nor love them. Yet we do not merely cooperate with God, but lift our inmost hearts to Him in prayer and praise.

How ignorant were those who were redeemed from the bondage of Egypt! And how helpless! And how stubborn! Yet how essential were these failures in order to reveal Jehovah's pity and power and provision! They did not know the way in the wilderness waste. Yet they knew more than most men do today of their goal and the intervening journey. They had heard of their fore-fathers, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, all of whom had lived in the promised land, and all had journeyed to Egypt. We have had no such forerunners. The trials and tribulations ahead of us are hidden from our gaze. Nothing can be relied upon but the assigned manna, the water from the Rock and the shining Shekinah, for with us it is always night so far as our future down here is concerned. We are constantly driven to prayer, because of our ignorance.

What living thing is so helpless as a human infant! It can do little except to cry to its parents in its distress. Thus it is taught its need of a mother and father. But, when it becomes mature and strong, it is apt to forget that, in a higher, a spiritual sense, it is just as helpless as a babe, and its dependence on God is just as real. But few fully realize this, even after God has called them and imparted to them His spirit, so that they now cry to Him, “Abba, Father.” He must graciously use weakness or failure, or some form of evil to bring them to a realization of it, so that they cry to Him as a little child. This is prayer. Eventually, some may learn to come to him at all times with their requests, and to solve their perplexities. It is possible to live in constant communion, like a beloved son with his father. This will be the fortunate fate of all in the consummation. It will be the full fruitage of prayer.

How poor is a newborn babe apart from its parents! Unless provided with food and shelter, it would soon perish. Other animals are at least clothed, and need no protecting garments. It pleases God to bring those to whom He will allot the riches of the universe into the world as the most needy creatures of all creation. Apart from their parents, what have they? Unless provided internally with nourishment and externally with clothing and housing by those who generated them, they would perish long before they reach maturity. Indeed, a vast proportion do not develop into self-supporting, life-transmitting members of the race. And is that not the case in the spiritual sphere as well? Those whom God calls seldom realize their sonship and its privileges. Hence they are much better beggars from the Father, than acclaimers of the Deity.

Most of the saints are absorbed by their private fortune, or, rather, misfortunes, and these monopolize their praise and prayer. And, indeed, they should be occupied with the way by which God is leading them into a knowledge of Himself. It would be better, however, if they were more engaged by their future expectation, the prospect that lies beyond this time of trial and testing. But, far better still, let us view all from God's standpoint: “what must be”, as much as possible. A correct knowledge of His purpose and plan as a whole, and of as much detail as possible, is of the greatest value in our intercourse with God, and will keep us, to some extent, free from praying for that which must not be.

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PRAYER MOVEMENTS

Many of the great “prayer movements,” have been quite contrary to God's present intention. For instance, it is God's expressed will that all mankind should be saved (1 Tim.2:4), and He will carry out His determination at the consummation, when all will be vivified and reconciled (1 Cor.15:22; Col.1:20). We do not need to pray for that. Instead, we should praise Him for thus fulfilling one of the deepest desires which He has implanted in our hearts. But to pray for “the evangelization of the world in this generation,” to implore, if not pester Him “to keep His Word,” to “lay hold on the promises,” none of which apply to the present, leads to apparent failure and brings down dishonor and disgrace upon His great name.

We should know the great outlines of “what must be” as unveiled in God's revelation, so that we can at least avoid insisting that God must go contrary to His revealed intentions in this secret administration. But He has disclosed only the broad outlines. In order to assure the fulfillment of His promises, He must also fix the fate, and determine the numberless details in the life and experience of every single soul. These He has not revealed. It is well that we should know the outline and the outcome of His plan, but it would not be well if He had revealed all the infinite incidentals of each life. What a Bible that would make! Indeed, the world could not hold the volumes! He reaches down to us through the darkness to guide us on the way. We must learn the lesson that we are lost the moment that we lose our grip upon His helping hand.

But let us not lose the comforting consolation that all cooperates for our good. Even that which is contrary to His will is in accord with His intention. If we let go of His hand and stray away into the darkness of distance from His presence, the evil itself will be used by God to drive us back, and becomes the principal incentive to prayer and praise.

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HUMANITY DEPENDENT

Is it not clear that mankind was created to be dependent? Its constitution and its experience are all, designed for subordinate reception of blessing. Even its likeness to the Deity helps to teach the same lesson. When those below us are in harmonious subjection and obedience, they are happy. The function of generation, which normally makes us dependent infants and children and then, as parents, gives us dependents, is designed to teach us the blessed portion of thankful, trusting obedience. How many have heaved a sigh for the happy days of their childhood! How many have wished they had someone to whom they could go as a child to its parent, confident that all would be well? All these experiences are but a preparation for that delightful day when all will look to the Deity as their Father, thankful and assured that all is in His beneficent hand and heart.

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THE BEST MEDICINE

A state of constant submission, thankfulness and assurance that all is cooperating for our good is a tree of life to all who live under its shade and enjoy its fruit. All the so-called “faith healing” of believers or unbelievers, cannot be compared to it. I have known of many who acclaimed to be healed of bodily ills by believing the evangel of the kingdom that God intervenes miraculously now, as He will in the future, so that all our ills can be instantly cured if we have enough faith. Most of these “believers” are now in their graves, some due to overdoses of medicine, while I am still able to deal with trying tasks of translation. There is some distorted truth in the basic, idea of so-called “Christian science,” and “faith healing,” for the mental state powerfully affects the physical functions (even if the faith is false), but it is far more healthful to believe the undiluted truth of God'’s benevolent designs, and His constant care and provision for the evils which must mar the way. We have the true, the trustworthy, the triumphant “faith healing!”

Physical relaxation is one of the best cures for the nerves. A beloved brother in Christ once came to me in a very excited state, so that he could hardly express himself. So I insisted that he be seated, lean far back, stretch out his legs, let his arms hang limply at his side, and drop his jaw so that his mouth was open, and let everything go! It was not long till his nervousness vanished and the tenseness of his muscles disappeared. He was relaxed and felt much better. Even more benefits may be obtained in the spiritual sphere if we fall back wholly on God and rid ourselves of the spiritual strain under which almost all of us live in this ferocious era. Its therapeutic value is greater than that of any school of medicine, for it is, to a limited degree, the normal condition of creation, which will be fully realized only after vivification.

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INSECURE SECURITY

Everyone today seems to crave security because he feels insecure. Some “lay aside something for a rainy day,” although this is outmoded by insurance of various kinds, health, job, and death. The socialistic governments seek to make their subjects secure from the cradle to the grave. But the feeling of insecurity persists. An early experience taught the writer how little reliance may be placed in these man-made schemes. His father belonged to a lodge which paid quite a sum to survivors at death. This money came from the living members. But, as he was the last of all to die, there were no others to pay. So all the “security” was a large expense for nothing. Other “safer” schemes are used today, which have accomplished much. But even the largest of them is faced with inflation, which might wipe out all the bank assets. This is true of social security which promises a certain sum of money. It may become practically worthless if the present trend persists.

The only secure “security” lies in reliance on God. Everyone is convinced of this in case of death. No one can assure any benefits to the deceased. In truth, no one can really assure a dying mortal of anything, not even taxes or death. The saints who live until the descent of Christ to the air or His coming in glory to the mount of Olives, cannot be assured of death. And then they won't pay taxes either! The only real security, without the feeling of insecurity, lies in constant contact with God in prayer and praise. Then, whatever evil comes, even it, will be invaluable in its operation for our spiritual welfare.

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THE FATALITY OF THE INFINITE

Throughout our lives, we are taught the fatality of the infinite. Our weal or woe is not determined by the great things that we accomplish, but often by a tiny incident that we might have prevented, had we known of it beforehand. Many a man boasts of his unconquerable will, and his power to shape his own destiny, when he was not even consulted in the most important and far-reaching event of his existence! In Europe, they used to have a sarcastic saying to the effect that a man cannot be too careful in the choice of his ancestors and the place of his birth. Yet this single occurrence may have a greater influence on his life and destiny than his whole career. Again, a single mistake, a sudden accident, may close that career in an instant. In these, man's will is excluded. If God is not responsible for them then He also has lost control of the helm of the universe, and we are drifting upon the rocks of imminent and catastrophic disaster.

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DIVINE INFINITUDE

God is not only guiding the stars of limitless space, but controlling the course of the composite molecule. His hand cannot only span the universe, but His power can split the atom. Some may have thought that it makes little difference if an atom explodes or not, but now that we have heard of its unparalleled power, we are more inclined to acknowledge the importance and efficacy of the infinitesimal. A single atom may set off a chain reaction which would destroy the whole world. And, indeed, this very thing may happen with the heavens and the earth, for they are stored with fire, and a single word from the mouth of God will dissolve their elements before the coming of the day of God (2 Pet.3:7-13).

The point of the parable lies in this: Just as we do not need to pray that God will keep the sun and moon and stars in their courses, so we need not be concerned that He fulfills the great promises of His inspired Word. He is faithful and will perform it even if we fail to prod Him. These things we know, so they are the subjects of praise, rather than prayer. But the smallest things that make up our daily grind, which may have far more influence on our present life and experience, these, are hidden, like the Shekinah in the tabernacle, behind a beautiful curtain of the divine glories, for the light behind it is too bright for mortal gaze. We could not bear to know all this beforehand. It might be fatal. And the purpose of God would not be attained, for it would eliminate prayer, which is the principle preparation for praise.

Any single incident in our lives, no matter how trivial it may seem, may be vital to our career, or fatal to our hopes, therefore all should be the subject of prayer, for God alone can control our environment as well as ourselves. We may inhale one tiny, invisible germ that may cause illness or death. We may take a single step that will cripple or kill us. A single glance may lead to trials interminable. And, on the other hand, a single word, either heard or seen, may lead to fame or fortune, yes, even to salvation and reconciliation and vivification by the spirit of God. In fact, even as God chooses the stupid and the weak and the ignoble and that which is not, so that no flesh may boast, so He seems to select the most insignificant action by which to accomplish His purpose, so that human work may be excluded, and man may be utterly cast upon Him, even in the smallest items of his experience. A single sentence may lead a sinner to salvation!

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PRAISE FOR DISAPPOINTMENTS

The publication of the Concordant Version is the consuming passion of my life. After years of dire drudgery and patient plodding on the part of many, it would seem to be a small and simple matter to put it into print. And, indeed, sometimes it seemed to go of itself. As a rule, however, we have had to reckon with seemingly silly yet insurmountable obstacles which hardly ever interfere in printing secular publications. For example, no one would make the type for the Greek text. At the same time, I could not get work on account of the first world war. So I gave thanks and made it myself, after a long delay. There were other severe trials in printing, which would usually have ruined my health and disposition. Thankfulness overcame it all.

The German version seemed to be an exception at first. Everything went well. The first edition was sold out in the second world war. We had saved all the type so that corrections could be made and it could be reprinted without cost for composition. But it was destroyed in the bombing of Berlin. We had saved up the receipts from sales so as to reprint. We tried our utmost to do this immediately, but one of the occupation administrations refused, and nine-tenths of the sum was lost in the currency reform due to the inflation. But we are thankful and confident that all this evil will work out for our good and His glory.

But these and other such “misfortune” experiences are not to be compared to the many hindrances in publishing the version of the Hebrew. We made unusual and extraordinary provision to take care of the comparatively simple composition of its pages, but it has been practically impossible to proceed. Coupled with the fact that we were forced to disappoint our friends, and any explanation would sound silly, this should have soured our disposition and undermined our health. But we have been given grace to believe that all is cooperating for our good, so that it has had the opposite effect. And now we begin to see why it was, for there are still some matters not quite matured, and the recently recovered Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah may enable us to settle these satisfactorily. We ask all to join us in thanksgiving and praise for the future, whatever it may be, and however dark it may appear today.

We are also concerned about the truth which has been committed to us. We are persuaded that He is able to guard it, even in this day of apostasy and opposition (2 Tim.1:12), yet we would be glad to have all our friends join us in heartfelt thanksgiving for “what must be,” for that alone is for His glory and our good. We wish to publish many books, the fruit of our toil and travail in compiling our texts and concordances and versions of the inspired Originals, such as this exposition of Praise and Prayer, and we pray for guidance to conform to His will, but would preface it with praise for the future, whether it appears to be evil or good, for it must be as He intends, in order to display the greatness of His grace and the grandeur of His glory.

A. E. Knoch

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