Teach us how to pray
Job 37:19 NKJV
Teach us what we should say to Him,
For we can prepare nothing
because of the darkness.
New American Standard Bible
Teach us what we are to say to Him;
We cannot present our case because of darkness.
Teach us what we shall say unto him
This seems to be addressed to Job.
It is the language of Elihu, implying that he was overawed with a sense of the majesty and glory of such a God.
He knew not in what manner, or with what words to approach such a Being, and he asks Job to inform him, if he knew.
We cannot order our speech by reason of darkness
Job had repeatedly professed a desire to bring his cause directly before God, and to argue it in his presence.
He felt assured that if he could do that, he should be able so to present it as to obtain a decision in his favor; see Job 13:3 ; Job 13:18-22.
Elihu now designs, indirectly, to censure that confidence.
He says that he and his friends were so overawed by the majesty of God, and felt themselves so ignorant and so ill qualified to judge of Him and His works, that they would not know what to say.
They were in darkness.
They could not understand even the works of his hands which were directly before them, and the most common operations of nature were inscrutable to them.
▪︎ How then could they presume to arraign God?
▪︎ How could they manage a cause before him with any hope of success?
It is scarcely necessary to say, that the state of mind referred to here by Elihu is that which should be cultivated, and that the feelings which he expresses are those with which we should approach the Creator.
We need someone to teach us. We are surrounded by mysteries which we cannot comprehend, and we should, therefore, approach our Maker with profound reverence and submission
Seeing Jesus in prayer, and noticing how different his prayer was from theirs, the disciples besought him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1).
Their request implied a high estimation of true prayer, and at the same time a deep sense of their own inability to pray in the right way.
The same feelings are here expressed to us by Elihu.
What is Required in true prayer.
The greatness of God suggests to Elihu the importance of speaking to God in the right way.
The vastness and splendour of the heavens, as well as the majesty of the thunder and the government of the clouds, impress us with the majesty of God; and yet His greatest glory is not seen in these phenomena, but it is revealed in His moral rule and his fatherly goodness.
It would be a foolish thing for us to shrink from approaching God on account of his majesty in the physical universe.
He is not like a stately monarch who surrounds himself with the ceremony of a court.
Formal manners are an abomination in prayer.
God does not look for formal action and behavior, He seeks the child’s confidence.
At the same time, His kingly state is crowned by holiness.
We have to approach Him in awe of His purity.
He dwells in eternal light.
This fact, much more than His power and wide sway over the physical universe, calls for a deeply reverent spirit in prayer.
Then the spiritual nature of God requires spiritual worship, and we must be true in heart if we would pray acceptably.
The difficulty of attaining to true prayer.
Elihu and the disciples of Christ both felt this difficulty.
Job’s friend gives the cause of it – “for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness.” This darkness points to:
We do not know what God wills; nor do we know our own hearts.
Not only is the spiritual realm strange to us; we even have problems to know what are the needs of our own heart.
This is the darkness that really hinders and ruins our prayer.
The father is not vexed at his child’s helpless prattle when the child is loving and obedient.
He does not look for pompous phrases; he prefers the natural, simple outpouring of the child’s heart. But he is grieved at duplicity, insincerity, unreality. When our hearts are far from God we cannot pray in an an acceptable way to Him.
The great difficulty is want of sympathy with God; want of sympathy is the one hindrance to all human intercourse, and it is the one thing that prevents us from praying acceptably.
The way to reach true prayer.
This is by prayer.
We must pray to be taught to pray.
The confession of our inability to pray is the first step towards doing so acceptably.
Pride and self-sufficiency keep us back from the right spirit of prayer.
We have to learn to bow our will, as well as to bend our knees.
But the prayer to be taught this lesson, may be answered in unexpected ways.
We may learn what we should say to God in a school of adversity.
Humbled and subdued by sorrow, we may be brought down to the right spirit of prayer in the experience from which we shrink with dismay. Or perhaps the lesson may come through more directly spiritual influences.
We need to contemplate the character of God in order to pray to him in the right way. The revelation of God in Christ shows us how we should approach God. When we see Jesus we learn how to pray.
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