Sometimes the noisiest place I can be is in the silence of my own thoughts. With so much changing information around us, it is no wonder that it’s difficult to settle my mind. Prayer, a promised source of solace and relief, becomes especially scattered when I am distracted by so many conflicting opinions. I desperately need a reset button within my mind.
One of my personal prayer reboots is found within the pages of “Quiet Talks on Prayer” by S. D. Gordon. This 1904 classic quietly reframes my understanding of prayer without lists or guilt.
Before stumbling upon this “Quiet Talks” series, I had never heard of S. D. Gordon. Unlike so many Christian writers in the early 20th century, Gordon wasn’t an ordained minister. He served as assistant secretary to the Philadelphia YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) before moving to Ohio, where he served as state secretary there for nine years.
Gordon explains that “True prayer moves in a circle. It begins in the heart of God, sweeps down into a human heart upon the earth, so intersecting the circle of the earth, which is the battle-field of prayer, and then it goes back again to its starting point, having accomplished its purpose on the downward swing.” Throughout the book, Gordon emphasizes the role that I play in the purposes of God when I allow His thoughts to stimulate my petitions.
Not merely theoretical, “Quiet Talks on Prayer” addresses hindrances to prayer with Biblical examples of God’s “No’s,” as well as delves into the “great outside hindrance,” which he labels as “the traitor prince.” “This great renegade prince is an actual active factor in the lives of men. He (satan) believes in the potency of prayer. He fears it. He can hinder its results for a while…Prayer overcomes him. It defeats his plans and himself. He cannot successfully stand before it. He trembles when some man of simple faith in God prays.”
Especially encouraging is the practicality of “The ‘How’ of Method” and “The Listening Side of Prayer.” Gordon emphasizes the importance of the “Book itself” (meaning God’s Word) as well as our portion in hearing what the Father is truly saying to us through the words. Mr. Gordon’s illustrations are numerous, pointing to a simpler time and place, but I find them insightful and refreshing to my soul.
My first reading of “Quiet Talks on Prayer” was in audio format on librivox.org. This free version, narrated by David Barnes, uniquely blends the power of the Gordon’s word with a soothing British accent. Since that time, I have also bought a print copy so that I can highlight my favorite passages. However, I often go back to my favorite sections on the audio recording when I need a calming reset.
As you struggle with so many crises that you cannot control, I pray that this introduction to a fresh resource will prove a balm and solace to your soul. May it quieten any unsettling you have and grant you renewed faith to pray the Presence, rather than worry the petition. Just know that I’m practicing this, too.