Do You Give Up or Do You Surrender?

One of the best Christian books I’ve ever read is O. Hallesby’s Prayer. Hallesby is billed as Professor of Independent Theological Seminary of Oslo, Norway and the book was written in 1931. As a new Christian, I remember being introduced to this book during a Sunday school class. We read chapters at a time, but the book was so dense and rich with insights it took us forever to get through it. This was fine by me. It revolutionized my thinking then and I promptly forgot about it. Now, almost 25 years later, I found it again, on a shelf in my closet. Untouched and unread for so many years, it was waiting for me to pick it up again at the opportune moment. I believe all books find us this way. When we most need a “word” from the Lord or when we are at our most vulnerable, I believe God directs us to the most needed resource, and not just to books either. It’s that little voice that tells us to call someone, to send a card of encouragement, or to bring over a meal. But when we are directed to books, they can be so apropos to any situation.

Hallesby’s book is just such a book for me, especially when I read these words, “It is Jesus who moves us to pray. He knocks. Thereby He makes known His desire to come in to us. Our prayers are always a result of Jesus’ knocking at our heart’s doors” (page 11). What an eternal comfort knowing that it is Jesus who seeks me out, not by my own feeble, too infrequent efforts. Hallesby goes on,

It is not our prayer which draws Jesus into our hearts. Nor is it our prayer which moves Jesus to come in to us. All He needs is access. He enters in of His own accord, because He desires to come in. And He enters in wherever He is not denied admittance. (page 12)

What a comfort! I’ve often castigated myself for not having a great prayer life. I am a person who prays on the go, at all times of the day. Short exclamations here, longer two sentence prayers there. I have never been able to spend long hours in prayer as some have claimed they can do, not even one hour of prayer. Yet these long pray-ers are just the examples held up for us to imitate as if this is the only true way to commune with God. So, I gave up trying and I always felt condemned for it. What a breath of fresh air to read Hallesby’s statements, “To pray is nothing more involved than to open the door, giving Jesus access to our needs and permitting Him to exercise His own power in dealing with them…For to pray is to open the door unto Jesus. And that requires no strength. It is only a question of our wills. WILL we give Jesus access to our needs? That is the one great and fundamental question in connection with prayer” (age 13).

I love the image of Jesus knocking on my heart’s door. Mind you, it’s only an image and not literal. Jesus already indwells the believer and doesn’t stand outside of us waiting to come in each and every time we ask. The door of our hearts is what Hallesby is talking about, not the door of our believing spirits. This “heart’s door” is where our prayers issue forth and where the Lord comes in and out to commune with us. It is a kingdom inside the kingdom, so to speak; the control center for our spiritual lives. Our hearts are the most inner sanctum, the alter of God where the “ark of the covenant” dwells, the Holy of Holies. Our bodies are the temples, the outer court if you will, but it is only in this Holy of Holies where true fellowship with Jesus takes place through prayer and surrender.

For years, I’ve spiritually meandered in the Outer Court of my spirit. I taste of the true vision of God every now and then, dip my toe into the waters, and back out every so slowly, knowing that if I dive in, I’ll be changed completely. Even though Jesus has torn down the “veil” between God and humankind, our own flesh serves as our individual “veil” one that prevents us from offering “spiritual sacrifices, acceptable and pleasing to God” (1 Peter 2:5). I am still hesitant to enter the Holy of Holies, unwilling to surrender completely, for fear of what might be done to me. You see I have banished the term “surrender” from my vocabulary from way back when. Surrender to me implies doing violence to the most sacred part of my will. It’s been done by humans over and over again, as anyone who’s been raped or abused can attest. So is it any wonder that I cannot “surrender” my will to God? Surely God knows that? Surely God understands that hesitancy on my part?

Yet, Hallesby offers me a loving Jesus quietly knocking at the door of my heart, asking for access, not tearing the door down and demanding it. Hallesby uses the illustration of the serpents and the bronze staff in the wilderness to emphasize how this act works in prayer:

Num 21:6-9 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

The people were being bitten by servants and were dying and the Lord sent a remedy that was as easy as “turning and looking” Turning and looking. Repenting and trusting, something Hallesby says is all we have to do in prayer, “To pray is nothing more involved than to lift the eye of prayer unto the Savior who stands and knocks, yea knocks through our very need, in order to gain access to our distress, sup with us and glorify His name” (page 13-14).

More to come….

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