All the children have learned the Lord's Prayer, and I hope they remember to say it every morning and night, and whenever they feel that they need help to keep them from doing wrong. The Lord always hears us when we really want His help. We may not always have the answer that we hoped for, or we may not have it at once; but we must do our part and be patient. The Lord always helps us in the way that will be best for us, and as soon as will be best for us.
We find our lesson today in these verses that we are learning to say and in the picture of the Lord blessing the children. The Lord loved little children so much, He was so strong and kind, it is no wonder that children loved to come to Him. And I think they were better and happier children for having seen His face and heard His kind voice and received His blessing.
The disciples would have stopped the people who were bringing children to the Lord. Perhaps they thought they would be a trouble to Him. But the Lord said, No, He loved to have the children come, and He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them and blessed them. The Lord loves all little children, and He wants the mothers and fathers and friends of little children to tell them about Him and help them to know Him. This is one way of bringing the children to Him. That is one reason why parents and teachers tell the children about the Lord and read them the stories about Him in the Bible. It is a reason why they help them to see the Lord's love and wisdom in His care for the flowers and little birds and other things in the world around them. It is one reason why parents bring little children to the church to be baptized or have them baptized at home. It means that they want them to be the Lord's children always, and to grow up strong and beautiful for life in this world and in heaven. When children are brought to be baptized, the minister reads these verses about the Lord's love for little children, and we feel that the Lord and the angels are near.
With this lesson you will want to sing, "I think when I read that sweet story of old, When Jesus was here among men, How He called little children as lambs to His fold, I should like to have been with them then." Have some of you the little book "Children of Gospel Days," and in it the story called "The Children's Secret"? You may like to read the story after this lesson.
The Lord spoke a parable to teach us never to be discouraged, but always to ask His help and to feel sure that He will give it. The unjust judge answered the widow's prayer, for a selfish reason, because she troubled him; how much more must the Lord answer, who loves us so much and wants so much to help us! "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him." (Matthew 7: 11) Read verses 1-8. It says that the Lord will help "speedily." Sometimes it seems to us that His help is long delayed, but never a moment longer than is best for us. What He wants us to remember is that His help is sure; and what does it matter, a little sooner or a little later, if it is sure? Knowing this, we can be patient. (R. 4, 949)
Do you think you are not interested in this story about the Lord and little children because it is about children long ago and in another country? Surely in blessing those children the Lord showed His love for all children in all countries and at all times. Do you think you are too old to have an interest in the story, for the story to mean you? As you read or say the verses you can see that the Lord is not speaking only of children young in years, but of all who are childlike in spirit, who are willing to love Him and to do as He asks them to do. "Of such is the kingdom of heaven."
The story of the little children helps us to understand the other story in our lesson about the Pharisee and the publican praying in the temple. (Verses 9-14) What do you know about Pharisees and about publicans? Picture the two men praying in the court of the temple, one so proud and boasting of his goodness, and the other knowing that he had done wrong in many ways and needed help if the Lord could have mercy on a poor man like him. Which of the two had more of the childlike spirit which the Lord can love and help? That the publican went to his house justified means that his prayer was a real prayer and pleasing to the Lord.
This parable is a part of a lesson about prayer. At other times the Lord Himself had prayed and had taught the disciples to pray, and had given them the Lord's Prayer. But something so important He must speak of many times. There is in our chapter another parable about prayer besides the one of the Pharisee and publican. (Verses 1-8) It is to teach that men ought always to pray and not to be discouraged and give up praying if the answer does not come at once, and just the answer that we hoped for. Even the unjust judge answered the widow's prayer, for a selfish reason, because she troubled him. How much more will the Lord answer, Who loves us so much and wants so much to help us! "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him." (Matthew 7:11) It says that the Lord will help "speedily." Sometimes it seems to us that help is long delayed, but not a moment longer than is best for us. His help is sure. Knowing this, we can be patient. Even if He cannot give what we ask, it is because He knows that something else will be better for us, will be a greater blessing.
1. What did the Lord teach us about prayer, in the Sermon on the Mount?
2. What parable did the Lord give to teach that we should not be discouraged if we do not, or do not at once, see the answer to our prayer?
3. What parable did the Lord give to show the spirit in which we ought to pray? What is the right spirit?
4. What beautiful lesson does this chapter have for little children? Is it for older persons too?
We lately had a lesson upon prayer. (Vol. V, Lesson 57) Many helpful references were given at that time, and we had some earnest discussion of the subject. Two parables upon prayer are in today's chapter. Read verses 1-8. What is the special lesson of this parable? Not to be discouraged in prayer, nor to doubt that the Lord hears and that He will help. He may seem to delay to answer, as in the case of the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30) in the case of the father at the foot of the mountain of transfiguration (Mark 9:14-29) and in the case of the blind man at Jericho. (Mark 10:46-52) Always it was to bring the one who prayed into the best state to be helped. Our first prayer may be crude. It may be for what would not be really good for us. The Lord may be able to lead us to ask more wisely, with more of "Not my will but Thine be done." Remember passages of Scripture which teach the importance of continuance and patience. "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him." (Psalm. 37:7, 9) "It is good for a man that he should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." (Lamentations 3:26) "In your patience ye shall win your souls." (Luke 21:19) The spiritual thought in "speedily" is "surely." The Lord will surely answer, will surely help. "Behold, I come quickly," the Lord says in the Revelation, which means that He comes surely. "Surely" - that gives us strength and courage. A little sooner or later matters little. (R. 4, 85) It will not trouble you that the parable makes use of an unjust judge. That emphasizes the lesson, as in Matthew 7:11. How is the latter half of verse 8 related to the subject? The parable of the Pharisee and publican brings to mind other teachings about the poor in spirit, for whom is the kingdom of heaven. We had lately the lesson of the rich man who found no place in heaven and of the poor beggar Lazarus who was carried into Abraham's bosom. Later in this chapter we have the lesson of the rich man who must sell all that he had, and the Lord's warning that they that trust in riches cannot enter heaven. Do you find an example of the rich and the poor in spirit in the parable of the Pharisee and publican? (H.357)
The lesson of the little children and the Lord is for people of all ages, for the Lord is speaking also of the childlike heart which is prepared for heaven. He is speaking of the childlike states laid up in every soul in early years, which are the basis of all that is heavenly and the foundation for regeneration. He is speaking of innocence which is receptive of all blessings of heaven. Read in "Heaven and Hell" about little children in heaven, 332-341, and read also about the innocence of angels which makes them receptive of all blessings. (H. 281-283)