« PreviousContinue »
assembly and church of the First-born, which are written in heaven; and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant;”—through whose boundless merits, and all-sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, God, of his infinite mercy, grant that we all may be saved. Amen.
ON THE IMPORTANCE AND EFFICACY OF PRAYER.
PSALM LXV. 2.—“O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee
shall all flesh come.”
THE necessity and advantages of
prayer are so founded in the exigencies of mankind, and are, moreover, so frequently inculcated in the Word of God, that in addressing an audience of believers in that holy book, it appears almost useless to be diffusive. If there be a Supreme Being, the author of this world, which he fills with life and happiness, and upholds by the word of his power,—surely our first duty must be to raise our eyes, or rather our hearts, towards his throne in heaven-to acknowledge the Sovereign Lord of Creation, and to declare our sense of gratitude and dependence on the Divine Being, by regular returns of praise and adoration.
The worship of God, as founded in nature and reason, is the first great commandment of revelation. If the world be a scene of temptation,-if wealth and prosperity taint and swell the heart,-if poverty and affliction give birth to discontent and despair,-if “knowledge puffeth up,” and ignorance leads us astray,—if business oppress the mind with “cares of this life,”-if retirement expose it to the assaults of temptation,-in short, if, since the fall of Adam, every thing within us and around us, affords the materials of sin,—what hope of safety remains for us frail creatures, but to implore the aid of that all-powerful and all-gracious Creator, who is both willing and able to support our weakness, and to raise us when we fall ? The very first duty, therefore, of a christian, is prayer.
His origin, his situation, his nature, his hopes, his fears, all remind him of this, and declare its expediency: whilst he who neglects this duty, separates himself from the communion of Christ's church, and not providing for the welfare of his own soul, avows himself virtually an infidel. In discoursing on this most important subject, I shall first make a few observations on the nature of prayer, and then point out those qualifications which are essential to its due performance.
Prayer is the most effectual means of raising the heart towards God. It is the appointed sign of devotion, the language in which it naturally
Of prayer, indeed, as of true piety, it may be said, its most appropriate seat is in the heart. It is not an effort of intellect, a flight of imagination, a penetration into heavenly mysteries ;—but simply an affection of the soul; a lively sense of its wants and weaknesses, and of its entire dependence upon the Father of Spirits. Great talents are not required in the petitioner for the expression of his wants; nothing is necessary but a sincere desire to be delivered from the bondage of sin, and to obtain the mercy and favour of God. This duty is obvious to the meanest understanding. “ The carnal mind, is indeed, enmity against God ;" but every one who has a susceptible heart, and can love the Author of his being “with all his soul and all his strength,”-every one, who, through grace, is capable of discerning the imperfection of the creature, and the excellence of the Creator, must know how to “worship him, and to give him thanks,” to make known his wants to him, to
trust in him,” to pray to be delivered from his displeasure, and to implore his mercies.
The object therefore, of prayer, is, not to pay an homage profitable to that God whose supreme majesty can receive no increase of honour, even from the tongues of angels, and the innumerable host of heavenly spirits ;-neither is it to reveal our necessities to Him who knoweth them before we ask;- but it is to make our adora
tions as perfect, as imperfect creatures can make them;—to express, in the fullest manner, our dependence upon God, and to acknowledge those wants before him, from which we pray to be relieved. Neither is it the length of prayer which constitutes devotion. “When ye pray,” saith our Saviour, “be not like the Pharisees, who think they shall be heard for their much speaking.” A short sentence, a mere ejaculation of the soul, may be a comprehensive and powerful petition ; while, on the contrary, a long prayer, proceeding, as it too often does, from the head rather than the heart, may be but an empty sound in the ear of the Almighty. “He is a spirit, and they who worship him, must do it in spirit and in truth.”
But the blessed Redeemer, who taught his followers thus to worship God,—has, “in compassion to our infirmities,” left us, in the prayer that is called by his name, a form of the truest devotion that ever was uttered — a model, the shortest and most perfect, that ever comprised, in
so small a compass, all the necessities of mankind, both spiritual and temporal. In this prayer, he teaches us to address the God of heaven, as a father, kind and merciful, with a confidence mixed with reverence and love ; to speak the language of our weakness and imperfections ; to pray for the establishment of his kingdom in the hearts of men ; for a ready sub