Prayer and Transfiguration

[Luke 9:29]---' And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered.'

More than any of his fellow Evangelists, Luke is careful to mark the place which prayer took in the life of our Lord. He reports [22:39] that it was Jesus 'habit to spend whole nights in prayer; but at every considerable crisis he notes particularly that Jesus had been thus engaged. It was so at the Baptism [3:21], when the heavens were opened, at the choice of the twelve [6:21], at the Transfiguration, when He deliberately faced towards the Cross [9:28], and again at Gethsemane [22:41]. If nothing else the Evangelist wished his readers to understand that nothing in his Master's life could safely be attribute to the accident of genius; His decisions and His achievements were all worked for, If men prayed more, another degree of elevation would be seen, for the beauty of the Lord our God would be upon them.

Think for a moment of what this exercise means which changed even the appearance of our Lord. We are apt to think of prayer as exclusively a form of asking, yet often there is very little conscious petition in it; what is essential and invariable is a deliberate movement of the soul into a relation of contact with God Himself. Where this is absent there is no religion: God and man are left remote from one another, with no coming and going, no action of God on man and no return of man to God. And what prayer does is to open up our nature so that God's life is free to come in and flood its empty channels, giving the energy and the purity that we need. It rouses us up and prepares us for great things, and especially it breaks down in us that assertion of self which continually limits the Holy One. Other aspects there are, but this elevation and fullness of life is the chief result secured by prayer; where it is prospering life is strong; and where it is hindered life at once tends to be scanty and vacant.

Jesus in His nature stood alone, and in this incident we are bound to recognize much that is unique; but we must not forget that essentially it was a spiritual experience such as all believers may share in. On the hill-top that night there was witnessed such an invasion of a man's heart by the glory of God as, on other levels, has transformed the temper and the very aspect of many of God's friends. And if prayer is to introduce us into the Holiest of all, bring down upon us highest favors, and open our eyes to see the glory of God, it must be prayer such as Christ's was. There is nothing that will be more readily admitted than this; and with the admission there will rise strait from the heart of the devout disciple the petition, 'Lord teach us to pray.' It is long since the Church put up this request, and Jesus responded by giving in His own life an example the most impressive that can be imagined, an example which has gone to the heart of everyone who has had the spiritual instinct to learn. And yet it is a question whether the Church has learned its lesson. Much that passes for prayer today is distant, formal, and mechanical, dangerously like the machine-made prayers of the Eastern pagan devotee. There is in it nothing that is uplifting, and certainly nothing that is transforming. That is not meant by prayer when we associate with it the privileges of the Holy Mount. Prayer that has transfiguring power---and who can doubt that it has that power---not the mere words of the prayer, however choice, but the act of prayer, the communion of a soul alone with God, must be prayer such as Christ's was, the genuine outcome of a pure and devoted soul.

Prayer after this sort is without a compare among the spiritual influences that transfigure our life.

When Livingstone said that we are "out here in Africa to change not so much the face of Africa as the face of the African," what did he mean? This, that be it male or female. "God makes a man's face, but man makes his own countenance."

In Christ, timothy.