II. Near to the Heart of God
Tom Haire is a rare compound of deep, tender devotion, amazing good sense and a delightful sense of humor. There is about him absolutely nothing of the tension found in so many persons who seek to live the spiritual life.
Tom is completely free in the Spirit and will not allow himself to be brought under bondage to the rudiments of the world nor the consciences of other people. His attitude toward everyone and everything is one of good-natured tolerance if he does not like it, or smiling approval if he does. The things he does not like he is sure to pray about, and the things he approves he is sure to make matters of thanksgiving to God. But always he is relaxed and free from strain. He will not allow himself to get righteously upset about anything. "I lie near to the heart of God," he says, "and I fear nothing in the world."
That he lies near to God's heart is more than a passing notion to Tom. It is all very real and practical. "God opens His heart," he says, "and takes us in. In God all things are beneath our feet. All power is given to us and we share God's almightiness." He has no confidence at all in mankind, but believes that God must be all in all. Not even our loftiest human desires or holiest prayers are acceptable to God. "The river flows from beneath the throne," he explains, "and its source is not of this world. So the source of our prayers must be Christ Himself hidden in our hearts."
Though he counts heavily on the power of prayer he has no faith in the virtue of prayer itself as such. He warns against what he calls "merit-prayer" by which he means any prayer offered with the secret notion that there is something good in it which will impress God and which He must recognize and reward. Along with "merit-prayer" goes "merit-faith," which is the faith we think will in some way please God.
"Too many of God's people are straining for faith," says Tom, "and holding on hard trying to exercise it. This will never do at all. The flesh cannot believe no matter how hard it tries, and we only wear ourselves out with our human efforts. True faith is the gift of God to an obedient soul and comes of itself without effort. The source of faith is Christ in us. It is a fruit of the Spirit."
He flatly rejects the notion that we "can buy something with prayer." "God's gifts come from another source," he insists. "They are 'freely given,' and have no price attached. It is the goodness of God that gives us all things. God gives His free gifts generously to those of His children who bring themselves into harmony with His will. Then they have but to ask and He gives."
Brother Tom fasts quite often and sometimes the fast is prolonged for some time. But he scorns the thought that there is any merit in it. "Some people," says Tom with a shake of the head, "some people half kill themselves by ascetic practices. They imagine God to be so severe that He enjoys seeing them hungry. They go about pale and weak in the mistaken belief that they are making themselves dear to God. All such notions come from the flesh and are false." Once during a prolonged season of prayer he got suddenly thirsty and without a qualm of conscience broke off prayer and went out for a cup of tea. This got him into difficulties with certain fellow Christians who felt that he was surrendering to fleshly appetites. But he has dwelt so long in the spacious heart of God that he is unaffected by the scruples of others. God's heart is no strait jacket even if some imperfectly taught saints insist on acting as if it were. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
Wherever there is a strain in the life we may be sure the flesh is operating. The Holy Spirit gives fruitful burdens but never brings strain. Our very eagerness to have our prayers answered may cause us to lapse into the flesh if we are not watchful. So Tom reasons. A woman sent for him recently and wanted him to pray for her healing. She was in very bad condition, but Tom would not pray. He detected in her eagerness to get well a bit of rebellion against the will of God. So he set about breaking her rebellion down. "Sister," he asked innocently, "and have you ever read the Scripture, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints? Sure, and you would not want to rob the Lord of all that preciousness, would you?" It was his way of telling her that she was not fit to live unless she was willing to die. The shock had its intended effect, and after some further conversation Tom felt that the woman had surrendered her will to God. Then he prayed for her healing. She received some help physically, and in addition she had also the benefit that comes from a new spiritual experience.
Tom holds back from the highly advertised healing meeting, but he ardently believes that an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on a life may easily result in physical healing. "Should God ever pour out His Spirit again upon all flesh," he says, "we may expect physical healings to accompany the outpouring. It is part of the divine pattern."
Tom's conception of prayer is so lofty and so different from the popular conception as to be something of another order entirely. To him prayer is a spiritual art, subject to divine laws which must be obeyed if our prayers are to achieve success. "Harmony" and "dominion" are two words that come easily from his lips when talking about prayer. Once in a sermon I spoke of God's making man in His image. At the close of the service Tom spoke a word of approval of the sermon and then went on to develop the thought further. He called attention to the words occurring so close together, "image" and "dominion." "Do you notice," he asked, "how God made man in His own image and then gave him dominion? The dominion followed the image, and so it is with us now. Our dominion in prayer depends upon how much of the image of God we carry in our hearts. There must be complete harmony between the soul and God if we are to enjoy answered prayer. The degree of success we enjoy in prayer depends upon the image within us." Then he added a significant sentence: "For instance, God would not hear a man who would kick a dog."
From THE PRAYING PLUMBER OF LISBURN - A Sketch of God's Dealings with Thomas Haire by A. W. TOZER. Published in 1954 in The Alliance Weekly magazine. It has been explicitly authorized by the Alliance Life editors to be made available free online. The only stipulations are: 1) The work may only be made available for FREE. 2) The following citation must appear: Originally published in the Alliance Weekly (now Alliance Life) January 6, 13, and 20, 1954. Used by permission. Creative Commons license: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0.
Insights of the past for the present
Plumber of Lisburn - A.W. Tozer
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.