Daily Reading for July 26 • Saint James the Apostle (transferred)

“Lord, teach us to pray.”—Luke xi.1

“Elias . . . prayed in his prayer.”—James v.17 (Marg.)

James, the brother of the Lord, and the author of this Epistle, was nicknamed “Camel-knees” by the early Church. James had been so slow of heart to believe that his brother, Jesus, could possibly be the Christ, that, after he was brought to believe, he was never off his knees. And when they came to coffin him, it was like coffining the knees of a camel rather than the knees of a man, so hard, so worn, so stiff were they with prayer, and so unlike any other dead man’s knees they had ever coffined. The translators tell us that they have preserved James’s intense Hebrew idiom for us in the margin: and I, for one, am much obliged to them for doing that. For, if I am saved at last, if I ever learn to pray, if I ever come to put my passions into my prayers,—I shall have to say to “Camel-knees,” and to his excellent editors and translators, that I am to all eternity in their debt. The apostolic and prophetic idiom in the margin takes hold of my imagination. It touches my heart. It speaks to my conscience. And it must do all that to you also. For, even after we have, in a way, prayed, off and on, for many years, in the pulpit, at the family altar, and on the platform in the prayer-meeting,—how seldom, if ever, we “pray in our prayers”! We repeat choice passages of Scripture. We recite, with sonorous voices, most excellent evangelical extracts from Isaiah and Ezekiel. We declaim our petitions in a way that would do credit to a stage surrounded with spectators. We praise one man, and we blame another man, in our prayers. We have an eye, now to this man present, and now to that man absent. We pronounce appreciations, and we pass judgments in our prayers. . . .

You have not Elijah’s prophetical office, not James’s apostolical inspiration . . . : but you have plenty of passion if you would but make the right use of it. You are all vicious or virtuous men, prayerful or prayerless men; and, then, you are effectual or unavailing men in your prayers—just as your passions are. You have all quite sufficient variety and amount of passion to make you mighty men with God and with men, if only your passions found their proper vent in your prayers. You have all passion enough—far too much—in other things. What an ocean of all kinds of passion your heart is! What depths of self-love are in your heart! . . . Yes: you have passions enough to make you a saint in heaven, or a devil in hell: and they are every day making you either the one or the other. We have all plenty of passion, and to spare: only, it is all missing the mark. . . . Our passions, all given us for our blessedness, are all making us and other people miserable. Our passions, and their proper objects, were all committed to us of God to satisfy, and to delight, and to regale, and to glorify us. But we have taken our passions and have made them the instruments and the occasions of our self-destruction. We are self-blinded, and self-besotted men: and it is the prostitution of our passions that has done it.

Does the thought of God ever make your heart swell and beat with holy passion? Does the Name of Jesus Christ ever make you sing in the night? Do His words hide in your heart like the words of your bridegroom? Do you tremble to offend Him? Do you number the days till you are to be for ever with Him? And so on—through all your passions of all kinds in your heart?

From Lord, Teach Us to Pray: Sermons on Prayer by Alexander Whyte, D.D., LL.D. (London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd., 1922), 2.6.

Past Posts