The Influence of a Father’s Prayer Life

Scottish pioneer missionary John G. Paton reflecting on the influence of his father’s life of earnest, secret prayer:

The “closet” was a very small apartment betwixt the other two [rooms of the house], having room only for a bed, a little table, and a chair, with a diminutive window shedding diminutive light on the scene.  This was the Sanctuary of that cottage home.  Thither daily, and oftentimes a day, generally after each meal, we saw our father retire, and “shut to the door”; and we children got to understand by a sort of spiritual instinct (for the thing was too sacred to be talked about) that prayers were being poured out there for us, as of old by the High Priest within the veil in the Most Holy Place.  We occasionally heard the pathetic echoes of a trembling voice pleading as if for life, and we learned to slip out and in past that door on tiptoe, not to disturb the holy colluquy.

The outside world might not know, but we knew, whence came that happy light as of a new-born smile that always was dawning on my father’s face: it was a reflection from the Divine Presence, in the consciousness of which he lived.  Never, in temple or cathedral, on mountain or in glen, can I hope to feel that the Lord God is more near, more visibly walking and talking with men, than under that humble cottage roof of thatch and oaken wattles.  Though everything else in religion were by some unthinkable catastrophe to be swept out of memory, or blotted from my understanding, my soul would wander back to those early scenes, and shut itself up once again in that Sanctuary Closet, and, hearing still the echoes of those cries to God, would hurl back all doubt with the victorious appeal, “He walked with God, why may not I?”

* John G. Paton, Missionary to the New Hebrides, ed. James Paton (Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1889/2002), 8.


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