Finding Rest in God’s Presence: insights on prayer from O. Hallesby

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I came across these striking words from Ole Hallesby in his classic work Prayer, published in 1931, about resting in God’s presence in prayer, even without words. I found them helpful for me as we continue to walk through this very challenging time and may need to encounter true peace and rest in God.

Prayer is really an attitude of our hearts toward God. As such it finds expression, at times in words and at times without words, precisely as when two people love each other. As conscious personalities we must and should give expression to our attitude and words one to another. It is this faculty which lifts the fellowship of human beings to such a high plane and makes it so rich.

But at the same time let us remind ourselves that life, in the last analysis, is inexpressible. There is something in our lives, also in our fellowships, which can never be formulated in words, but which can be the common experience, nevertheless, of two who share with each other everything that can be expressed in words.

In the souls fellowship with God in prayer, too, there are things which can and should be formulated in words. We have spoken of that in the preceding. But there are also things for which we can find no words. Likely it is this to which the apostle makes reference when he speaks in Romans 8:26 of “the groanings which cannot be uttered.”

My little boy came in one day and stuck his little head into the doorway of my study. Now he knew that he was not supposed to disturb me during working hoursMy little boy came in one day and stuck his little head into the. And his conscience troubled him a little on account of this. But he looked at me nevertheless with his kind, round baby eyes and said, “Papa, dear, I will sit still all the time if you will only let me be here with you!”

That he received permission when he approached my father-heart in that way, every father knows.

That little experience gave me a great deal to think about.

 it’s not that just the way we often feel with regard to our heavenly father? We do so love to be with him, just to be in his presence! Moreover, we never disturb him, no matter when we come in or how often we come!

We pray to God. We speak to him about everything we have on our minds both concerning others and ourselves. There come times, not so seldom with me at least, when I have nothing more to tell God. If I were to continue to pray in words, I would have to repeat what I have already said. At such times it is wonderful to say to God, “May I be in thy presence, Lord? I have nothing more to say to thee, but I do love to be in thy presence.”

We can spend time in silence together with people whom we know real well. That we cannot do with others. We must converse with them, entertain them either with interesting or profound things as the case may be. But with our own dear ones we can speak freely about common and insignificant things. In their presence, too, we can be silent. Similarly, it is not necessary to maintain a conversation when we are in the presence of God. We can come into his presence and rest our weary souls in quiet contemplation of him. Our groanings, which cannot be uttered, rise to him and tell him better than words how dependent we are on him.We can spend time in silence together withWe can spend time in silence together with people who we know

As evening drew nigh, and our little fellow had played until he was tired, I noticed that he drew closer and closer to his mother. At last he found the place where he was longing for, mother’s lap. He did not have a great deal to say either. He simply lay there, and let his mother caress him to sleep.

We, too, become tired, deadly tired, of ourselves, of others, of the world, of life, of everything! Then it is blessed to know of a place where we can lay our tired head and heart, our heavenly Father’s arms, and say to him, “I can do no more. And I have nothing to tell you. May I lie here a while and rest? Everything will soon be well again if I can only rest in your arms a while.”

Bibliography on Prayer

Throughout our series, “Great Prayers of the Bible,” we looked at passages of Scripture in which prayer is the central activity. Along with study of those specific Bible passages, I turned to the wisdom of many authors far more brilliant than me and from many different eras for help. At times people ask me whether I have books I recommend alongside of certain preaching series. I find that a difficult question to always answer briefly, so here is a bibliography I have been gathering (and reading) over the last twenty years on the topic of prayer.

Bibliography on Prayer:

Ruth Haley Barton. “Prayer.” In Sacred Rhythms. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2006.

Anthony Bloom. Beginning to Pray. New York: Paulist Press, 1970.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Prayerbook of the Bible. DBW, vol 5. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1996.

E. M. Bounds. Power Through Prayer in The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1990.

Brother Lawrence. The Practice of the Presence of God with Spiritual Maxims. Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1967.

Walter Brueggemann. Great Prayers of the Old Testament. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.

George A. Buttrick. Prayer. Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1944.

David Crump. Knocking on Heaven’s Door: A New Testament Theology of Petitionary Prayer. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.

Ronald Dunn. Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992.

Jacques Ellul. Prayer and Modern Man. Translated by C. Edward Hopkin. New York: The Seabury Press, 1970.

Richard Foster. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1993.

Ole Hallesby. Prayer. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1931.

James Houston. The Prayer (previously title The Transforming Friendship). David C. Cook, 2007.

Joyce Huggett. The Joy of Listening to God. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986.

Timothy Keller. Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. New York: Penguin Books, 2014.

Kenneth Leech. True Prayer: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980

C. S. Lewis. Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1964.

Richard N. Longenecker, ed. Into God’s Presence: Prayer in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002.

Paul E. Miller. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 2009.

Andrew Murray. Teach Me to Pray. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1982/2002.

Eugene Peterson. Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1989.

________. Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.

J. C. Ryle. A Call to Prayer. Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishers, 2002.

Baron Friedrich von Hugel. The Life of Prayer. New York: E. P. Dutton & Sons, 1927.

Philip Yancey. Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006.

Praying for the Glorification of God

fullsizeoutput_a84From Ole Hallesby‘s classic work Prayer, published in 1931:

Here the purpose and meaning of prayer dawned upon me for the first time. Here I was privileged to see more clearly than ever before the purpose of prayer: to glorify the name of God.

The scales fell from my eyes. I saw in a new light the misuse of prayer and the difficulties connected with prayer as well as the place of our own efforts in prayer.

Prayer life has its own laws, as all the rest of life has. The fundamental law in prayer is this: Prayer is given and ordained for the purpose of glorifying God. Prayer is the appointed way of giving Jesus an opportunity to exercise His supernatural powers of salvation. And in so doing He desires to make use of us.

We should through prayer give Jesus the opportunity of gaining access to our souls, our bodies, our homes, our neighborhoods, our countries, to the whole world, to the fellowship of believers and to the unsaved.

If we will make use of prayer, not to wrest from God advantages for ourselves or our dear ones, or to escape from tribulations and difficulties, but to call down upon ourselves and others those things which will glorify the name of God, then we shall see the strongest and boldest promises of the Bible about prayer fulfilled also in our weak, little prayer life. Then we shall see such answers to prayer as we had never thought were possible.

(Pages 127-128)