As never before, my will and I stood face to face. I asked my will the straight question, “Will, are you ready for an hour of prayer?” Will answered, “Here I am, and I’m quite ready, if you are.” So Will and I linked arms and turned to go for our time of prayer. At once all the emotions began pulling the other way and protesting, “We are not coming.” I saw Will stagger just a bit, so I asked, “Can you stick it out, Will?” and Will replied, “Yes, if you can.” So Will went, and we got down to prayer, dragging those wriggling obstreperous emotions with us. It was a struggle all the way though. At one point, when Will and I were in the middle of an earnest intercession, I suddenly found one of those traitorous emotions had snared my imagination and had run off to the golf course; and it was all I could do to drag the wicked rascal back. A bit later I found another of the emotions has sneaked away with some off-guard thoughts and was in the pulpit, two days ahead of schedule, preaching a sermon I had not yet finished preparing!
At the end of that hour, if you had asked me, “Have you had a ‘good time’?” I would have had to reply, “No, it has been a wearying wrestle with the contrary emotions and a truant imagination from beginning to end.” What is more, that battle with the emotions continued for between two and three weeks, and if you had asked me at the end of that period, “Have you had a ‘good time’ in your daily praying?” I would have to confess, “No, at times it has seemed as though the heavens were brass, and God too distant to hear, and the Lord Jesus strangely aloof, and prayer accomplished nothing.”
Yet something was happening. For one thing, Will and I really taught the emotions that we were completely independent of them. Also, one morning, about two weeks after the contest had began, just when Will and I were going for another time of prayer, I overheard one of the emotions whisper to the other, “Come on, you guys, it is no use wasting any more time resisting: they’ll go just the same.” That morning, for the first time, even though the emotions were still suddenly uncooperative, they were at least quiescent, which allowed Will and me to get on with prayer undistractedly.
Then, another couple of weeks later, what do you think happened? During one of our prayer times, when Will and I were no more thinking of the emotions than of the man in the moon, one of the most vigorous of the emotions unexpectedly sprang up and shouted, “Hallelujah!” at which all the other emotions exclaimed, “Amen!” And for the first time the whole of my being – intellect, will and emotion – was united in one coordinated prayer operation.
This amazing thought comes from a fella called Sidlow Baxter, who in 1928 entered the ministry determined he would be a spiritual pastor, a real man of prayer. But before too long the work load began to crowd prayer out of his life.
Horrified one morning that he had become what he was, that he was not one of the “spiritual sort” he took a good look at his heart and found there was a part of him that did want to pray, and a part that didn’t.
I love this passage as it is so honest. I also love it because it links so well with a conversation that was had after Church, that we can wait for emotion to stir us up and fail to live for God, fail to read his word and fail to pray to Him. This, for me, just helps in so many ways to sum up many of us. But seeing ourselves in this is pointless if we have no desire to grow and to want to have discipline in our prayer times and our quiet times. Let us not hang around for emotion to carry us but to seek to unite our entire selves in dedication to the Lord.
Thank you Sidlow Baxter.