Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Prayer of Relinquishment - Part 2 - by Catherine Marshall

It’s good to remember that not even the Master Shepherd can lead if the sheep have not this trust in him. That’s the why of Christ’s insistence on practical obedience: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Our pliability must be complete, from our wills right on through to our actions.

When we come right down to it, how can we make obedience real, except as we give over our self-will in reference to each of life’s episodes as it unfolds? That’s why it shouldn’t surprise us that at the heart of the secret of answered prayer lies the Law of Relinquishment.

So Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne, wife of the famous American author, found as she wrestled in prayer in the city of Rome one day in 1860. Una, the Hawthornes’ eldest daughter, had a virulent form of malaria. The attending physician had that afternoon warned that unless the young girl’s fever abated before morning, she would die.

As Mrs. Hawthorne sat by Una’s bed, her thoughts went to what her husband had said earlier that day. “I cannot endure the alternations of hope and fear; therefore I have settled with myself not to hope at all.” But the mother could not share Nathaniel’s hopelessness. Una could not, must not die. This daughter had the finest mind, the most complex character of all the Hawthorne children. Why should some capricious Providence demand that they give her up?

As the night deepened, the girl lay so still that she seemed to be in the anteroom of death. The mother looked out the window onto the piazza. A dark and silent sky was heavy with clouds.

I cannot bear this loss—cannot—cannot....Then suddenly, unaccountably, another thought took over. Why should I doubt the goodness of God? Let him take Una, if he sees best. I can give her to him. No, I won’t fight against him anymore. Having made the great sacrifice, Mrs. Hawthorne expected to feel sadder. Instead she felt lighter, happier than at any time since Una’s long illness had begun.

Some minutes later she walked back to the girl’s bedside, felt her daughter’s forehead. It was moist and cool. Una was sleeping naturally. And the mother rushed into the next room to tell her husband that a miracle had happened.

Now, the intriguing question is, What is the spiritual law implicit in this Prayer of Relinquishment? Fear is like a screen erected between us and God, so that his power cannot get through to us. So, how does one get rid of fear?

This is not easy when what we want most is involved. At such times, every emotion, every passion, is tied up in the dread that what we fear is about to come upon us. Obviously, only drastic measures can deal with such a gigantic fear and the demanding spirit that usually goes along with it. Trying to deal with it by repeating faith affirmations is not drastic enough.

So then we are squarely up against the Law of Relinquishment. Was Jesus showing us how to use this law when he said, “Resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39)? In God’s eyes, fear is evil because it’s an acting out of lack of trust in him.

Jesus is saying, admit the possibility of what you fear most. Force yourself to walk up to the fear, look it full in the face—never forgetting that God and his power are still the supreme reality—and the fear evaporates. Drastic? Yes. But it is one sure way of releasing prayer power into human affairs.

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