J. H. Jowett on Prayer

(Taken from The Whole Armour of God, 1916)

Lord Tennyson, in what must have been
a wonderful conversation on the subject of
prayer with Mr. Gladstone, and Holman
Hunt, and James Addington Symonds,
said that to him prayer was the opening of
the sluice-gates between his soul and the
waters of eternal life. It is worth while
just to dwell upon Tennyson's figure for
a moment. The figure may have been
taken from a canal. You enter a lock
and you are shut up within its prison.
And then you open the sluice-gates, and
the water pours into your prison and lifts
you up to the higher level, and your boat
emerges again on a loftier plane of your

Or the figure may have been taken from
a miller's wheel: There are the miller and
his mill. And the wheel is standing idle,
or it is running but sluggishly and wearily
at its work. And then the miller opens
the sluice-gate, and the waiting water
rushes along, and leaps upon the wheel,
and makes it sing in the bounding rapidity
of its motion. Prayer, says Tennyson, is
the opening of the sluice-gates and the
letting into the soul of the waiting life and
power of God. Prayer opens the sluice-
gates, and the water of life floods the slug-
gish affections, and freshens the drowsy
sympathies, and braces and speeds the will
like the glorious rush of the stream upon
the miller's wheel.

That, to me, is the dominant conception
of prayer. Prayer opens the soul to God.
Prayer opens the life to the workings of
infinite grace. And now I see why the
Christian soldier should be so urgently
counselled to pray. Prayer keeps open his
lines of communication. Prayer keeps him
in touch with his base of supplies. With-
out prayer he is isolated by the flanking
movements of the world, the flesh, and the
devil, and he will speedily give out in the
dark and cloudy day. "Men ought always
to pray and not to faint."


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