*Prayer being the cure of darkness of soul
O Lord…examine my heart and my mind. Psalm 26:2 (NIV)
To suppose that the cure is the same in all cases is a great and fatal mistake but an extremely common one. The cure of spiritual, as well as bodily, diseases must be as various as the causes of them. The first thing, then, is to determine the cause; this will naturally point out the cure.
For instance: Is it sin which occasions darkness? What sin? Does your conscience accuse you of committing any sin whereby you grieve the Holy Spirit? How can you expect His light and peace should return until you put the thing from you and receive His pardon? Or perhaps it is some sin of omission: Do you reprove those who sin in your sight? Do you walk in the means God has given: public, family, private prayer? If you habitually neglect these known duties, make haste to be no more “disobedient to the heavenly calling.” Till the sin, whether of commission or omission, be removed, all comfort is false and deceitful. Look for no peace within till you are at peace with God, which cannot be without fruits suitable to repentance.
Or is there some inward sin which springs up to trouble you? Have you thought more highly of yourself than you ought to think? Have you gloried in anything other than Jesus Christ? Have you ascribed your successes to your own strength, wisdom, or courage? If so, you see the way you are to take: Humble yourself under the hand of God that, in due time, He may exalt you.
*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
In lesson 7 on prayer, Wesley is advocating asking God for the cause of what is bringing any darkness of soul we might have in our lives. He starts with the obvious, asking us to ask God to reveal any sin we might have whereby we grieve the Holy Spirit.
Helen Simons, writing on activechristianity.org says,
“Am I grieving the Holy Spirit? What does that even mean? How am I to know if I am grieving Him? Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” In this case the word grieve is used as a verb, meaning: “to cause to feel grief or sorrow.” In other words, the Scripture is exhorting me not to cause the Holy Spirit to feel grief or sorrow as a result of my choices. I grieve the Holy Spirit by not allowing myself to be led by Him, but choosing my own way instead. I grieve the Holy Spirit by not obeying Him.”
Wesley continues with sins of omission; perhaps not saying something when we know we should, or neglecting public, family, or private prayer. He says if we continually neglect these things, we are disobedient to the heavenly calling and cannot expect peace with God until we repent and make it right. “Till the sin, whether of commission or omission, be removed, all comfort is false and deceitful.”
Wesley now moves to inward sins of selfishness and pride. He says, “Or is there some inward sin which springs up to trouble you? Have you thought more highly of yourself than you ought to think? Have you gloried in anything other than Jesus Christ? Have you ascribed your successes to your own strength, wisdom, or courage? If so, you see the way you are to take: Humble yourself under the hand of God that, in due time, He may exalt you.”
Proverbs 29:23 says, “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.”
Luke 1:52 declares, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has exalted the humble.”
Luke 14:11 tells us, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
In James 4:6 we read, “But He gives us more grace. This is why it says: ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”
And 1 Peter 5:6, which Wesley draws from says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, so that in due time He may exalt you.”
Wesley once said, “It is good to renew ourselves, from time to time, by closely examining the state of our souls, as if we had never done it before; for nothing tends more to the full assurance of faith, than to keep ourselves by this means in humility, and the exercise of all good works.”