“‘Prayer is to us the opening of the sluice-gate between my soul and the Infinite.’ I came on those words of Tennyson’s the other day, and they came back again and again today with a special sense of the reality with which, instantly and unfailingly the taking in the Name of Jesus for this and that village and for all those dear unreached and unreachable mountains and deserts does set the sluicegates open to them. The powerlessness to go gives an intensity to the joy of it.
“One can stand in spirit among the dear mud-huts of Tolga, and the domed roofs of the Souf and the horseshoe arches of Touzer and tiled huts buried in prickly-pear hedges in the hills, and bring down the working of the Holy Ghost – by faith in that Name – perhaps more effectually than if one were there bodily. One can ‘shut the door,’ as it were, and stand alone with God over it, as one cannot do on the spot, with the thronging outward distractions of the visible.” 26 March 1904
We have just returned from a brief visit to Lake Wales – home of our hearts for almost 4 decades – having luxuriated in fellowship at a church family dinner, spoken to our MOPS group, fresh-faced mothers of pre-schoolers, eagerly armed with loving ideals, attended the monthly meeting of my “Circle Sisters.” We savored each and every moment with these – and other dear ones – friendships forged over the decades of ups and downs of everyday living.
On the way out-of-town, we made one brief and final visit with our own “personal prayer warrior” (albeit not exclusively to us alone!). When we arrived in Lake Wales, callow kids of 28 and 29 years, she was at her peak of strength and involvement. An educator – public and Sunday School – her life was characterized by service. Now her activities are limited to the reach of her increasingly limited strength. As we listened to her testimony of her gratitude for God’s Grace we witnessed a spirit no less vital or relevant than the vigorous soul of 40 years past. And, I confess, I slipped her a picture of our family, 21 strong, knowing that she will continue to pray for them by name. As she does for others…
“One can stand in spirit.. perhaps more effectually than if one were there bodily.” When Lilias wrote these words, over 100 years ago, she was referring to people and places scattered over the face of Algeria that she had neither the time nor energy to follow-up personally – many with whom she had forged relations, individuals who indicated a spirit hunger for God. How her heart ached for contact with those people, to look them in their eyes, to assure and be assured of their well-being, spiritually, as well as in other aspects of their lives. Reassured not only by the spirit connection between her soul and God, she had the additional insight of the potential of concentrated power of prayer – free from “the thronging outward distractions of the visible.”
What a wonderful concept: “standing in spirit” for our loved ones! The thought that my prayers may even be more “effectual” by my absence than by my presence – “without distractions” – is comforting to me, separated by miles, from family and friends of many decades.
I have been blessed to have had people who “stood in spirit” for me all my life: Grandma Bricker (my original “prayer warrior”) from her Michigan farm, my parents after I left home, a church with individuals who embraced a young minister (and his even younger wife) and “stood in spirit” as we learned on the job how to shepherd a flock while raising a family – many of whom continue to “stand in spirit” for us as we begin a new chapter of life “off-site.”
Just as we have been covered with prayer, it is a comfort to know that we, in turn, can “stand in spirit” for our loved ones, out-of-sight but not out-of-mind. We long to “be there” for our adult children, to be able to “do for” our grandchildren – to embrace them in our arms – but, in truth, we can “stand in spirit” for them – embracing them in our hearts -keeping up with their needs and concerns and translating them into prayers on their behalf. We can “stand in spirit” with ministries – those who implement them, those who benefit from them. And, yes, even now when it seems our country suffers from divisiveness and diversity, we can “stand in spirit” for those who lead and for those who are led.
I conclude, with Lilias, and with the countless people of prayer who have gone before her and have followed after her: “the powerlessness to go” – to “be there on the spot” – need not inhibit the power of God to hear and to respond, with His Infinite Wisdom, to the prayers of our hearts.
“Prayer is to us the opening of the sluice-gate between my soul and the Infinite.”
Painting: watercolor from her Journal, “A Week in a Strong City” 1908