Prayer is the bellows of the affections; it blows up holy desires and ardours of soul. Prayer has power with God. ‘Command me’ (Isaiah 14:11). Prayer is a key which unlocks the treasury of God’s mercy. Prayer keeps the heart open to God—and shut to sin. Prayer assuages the swellings of lust. It was Luther’s counsel to a friend, when he perceived a temptation begin to arise, to betake himself to prayer. Prayer is the Christian’s gun, which he discharges against his enemies. Prayer is the sovereign medicine of the soul. Prayer sanctifies every mercy (1 Tim. 4:5). Prayer is the dispeller of sorrow—by venting the grief it eases the heart. When Hannah had prayed, ‘she went away, and was no more sad’ (1 Sam. 1:18).
All Things for Good, 20.
“Empty the bucket before you go to the fountain.”
Wise advice. If the pail be full of the best and cleanest water it is idle to carry it to the well, for its fulness disqualifies it for being a receiver. Those who think themselves full of grace are not likely to pray aright, for prayer is a beggar’s trade, and supposes the existence of need. What does a full bucket want with the well? Let it stay where it is. Fitness for mercy is not found in self-sufficiency, but in emptiness and want.
He can and will receive most of the Lord who has least of his own.
If the bucket is full of foul water, it is wise to throw it away as we go to the crystal spring. We must not come to the Lord with our minds full of vanity, lust, covetousness, and pride. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” He will not make his grace the medium of floating our unclean desires. Grace will cleanse out sin, but it will not mix with it, neither may we desire such a dishonorable compromising of the holy name of the Lord our God. Let the bucket of the heart be turned upside down and drained of the love of sin, and then prayer will be heard, and Jesus will come in and fill it.
Lord, empty me of self, of pride, of worldliness, of unbelief, and then fill me with all the fulness of God.
—Charles H. Spurgeon
Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden (Passmore & Alabaster, 1883).
Day by day, dear Lord,
of Thee three things I pray:
to see Thee more clearly,
to love Thee more dearly,
to follow Thee more nearly.
—Prayer of Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)