I’ve been reading Sadhu Sundar Singh, the great Indian Christian mystic and evangelist. Here is a selection from his luminous devotional writings:
Prayer does not mean asking God for all kinds of things we want, it is rather the desire for God Himself, the only Giver of Life.
If we do not bear the cross of the Master, we will have to bear the cross of the world. Which cross have you taken up?
Should I worship Him from fear of hell, may I be cast into it. Should I serve Him from desire of gaining heaven, may He keep me out. But should I worship Him from love alone, He reveals Himself to me, that my whole heart may be filled with His love and presence.
There is a deep and natural craving in the human heart that can be satisfied nowhere except in God. Our being in this world is a test, a preparation for the deepest state of spiritual communion. But most of us, suppressing our deepest longings and disdaining God, seek satisfaction from this world. Such a path can lead only to despair.
Many people are immersed in sin and don’t even notice its great weight—just like a diver may be covered by tons of water without feeling its load. But if when the diver emerges from the water he tries to carry even a small bucketful, he will feel how heavy it is. The Master came to seek and save those who struggle with the burden of sin. He freely gives us rest and release from sin, but first we must feel the weight of it and turn to Him for help.
A mother once hid herself in a garden amongst some densely growing shrubs, and her little son went in search of her here and there, crying as he went. Through the whole garden he went, but could not find her. A servant said to him, “Sonny, don’t cry! Look at the mangoes on this tree and all the pretty, pretty flowers in the garden. Come, I am going to get some for you.” But the child cried out, “No! No! I want my mother. The food she gives me is nicer than all the mangoes, and her love is sweeter far than all these flowers, and indeed you know that all this garden is mine, for all that my mother has is mine. No! I want my mother!” When the mother, hidden in the bushes, heard this, she rushed out and, snatching her child to her breast, smothered him with kisses, and that garden became a paradise to the child. In this way My children cannot find in this great garden of a world, so full of charming and beautiful things, any true joy until they find Me. I am their Emmanuel, who is ever with them, and I make Myself known to them.
When we see a crane standing motionless on the side of a tank or lake, we may suppose from his attitude that he is musing on the glory of God or the excellent quality of the water. But no such thing! He stands there motionless for hours, but the moment he catches sight of a frog or small fish he springs upon it and gulps it down. Just such is the attitude and method of many with regard to prayer and religious meditation. Seated by the shore of the boundless ocean of God, they give no thought to His majesty and love, or to His divine nature that cleanses from sin and satisfies the hungry soul, but are wrapped up in the thought of acquiring some specially desired object, by means of which they may more fully indulge in the delights of this fleeting world. Thus they turn away from the fountain of true peace, and, immersing themselves in the fading joys of this world, with them also die and pass away.
I have infused into man’s nature hunger and thirst, that he may not in sheer heedlessness regard himself as God, but that day by day he may be reminded of his needs and that his life is bound up with the life and existence of Someone who created him. Thus being made aware of his defects and necessities, he may abide in Me and I in him, and then he will ever find in Me his happiness and joy.
Oftentimes men pray to the Father in My name, but do not abide in Me, that is, they take My name into their mouths and on their lips, but not into their hearts and lives. That is the reason why they do not obtain what they pray for. But when I abide in them and they in Me, then whatever they ask from the Father they receive, because they pray under the direction of the Holy Spirit in that condition. The Holy Spirit shows them what will glorify the Father and be best for themselves and for others. Otherwise they will get such an answer as a bad son got from a governor whom his father had served with great courage and honour. When the son presented a petition in his father’s name and asked for some employment and favour, the governor pointed out to him his evil life and habits, and said, “Do not petition me in your father’s name, but first go and act according to his example. Let his high worth be not on your lips only, but carry it into your life, and then your petition will be accepted.”
(Quotes from At the Masters Feet by Sadhu Sundar Singh)
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