The Geometry of Prayer

One of the classics books on prayer is Lord Teach us to Pray by Presbyterian minister Dr. Alexander Whyte (1836-1921), who was by general consent the greatest Scottish preacher of his day. Lord Teach us to Pray, is a compilation of sermons preached by Whyte where he took a phrase from the Lord's Prayer and combined it with some other text in order to exhibit various aspects of the life of prayer. Titles such as "The Magnificence of Prayer", "Job - Groping", "Moses - Making Haste", Jacob - Wrestling", "The Pleading Note in Prayer", and "Concentration in prayer", reveal the width and depth in which Whyte treated prayer.

One of the great legacies bequethed to us by the Scottish pulpit is just such sermon series, or "courses" of sermons, in which "some great theme could be deliberately treated, some vast tract of doctrine or experience adequately surveyed" (Preface, vii).

In one of these sermons/chapters is "The Geometry of Prayer."

In this sermon, Whyte considers "the directions and the distances, the dimensions and the measurements that, of necessity, enter into all the conceptions of our devotional life."

He treats such matters as the transcendence (distance) of God from us, and our need to "rise up and draw near" to God in our prayers.

He also considers praying out of a broken and humble heart: "Yes, he dwelleth on high; but all the time, He hath respect to the humble" and he quotes St. Augustine: "Would'st thou pray in His Temple? Then pray within thyself; for thou thyself art the true temple of the living God."

But there is one particular passage that I find sweet and compelling. In this passage White encourages his hearer/reader to "come close to Christ", bringing our burdens to him in prayer. I will quote it in full:

"Then again, 'Come unto Me, all yet that labour and are heavy laden." Now, just how do we come to Christ? We come in this way. Not on our feet, but on our knees. "Not on our feet," says Augustine, "but on our affections." When we are burdened in our minds; when we are oppressed with manifold cares and sorrows; when we are ill-used, humiliated, despised, trampled upon; when we are weary of the world and of ourselves; and then, when, instead of rebelling and raging and repining, we accept our lost as laid on us by God, and according to his invitation take all our burden to Christ in prayer, - that is the way to come to him. That is to say, we come from pride to humility; and from a heart tossed with tempest to a harbour of rest and peace; and from rebellion to resignation; and from a life of unbelief to a a life of faith and love."

Here, truly, is wisdom in regards to prayer.