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prayer may be present, yet the heart not engaged. This is the requisite wbich must make prayer availing; this is the requisite wbich must make it that which the Scripture means, whenever it speaks of prayer. Every outward act of worship, without this participation of the beart, fails; not because men do not pray sincerely, but because, in the Scripture sense, they do not pray at all. I fear that many understand and reflect little upon what they are about, upon the exceedingly great consequence of what they are asking, when they pray to God, as we do in our liturgy, to “cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of his Holy Spirit,” to “ give us increase of grace,” to “grant that his Holy Spirit may, in all things, direct and rule our hearts,"
Paley. Desire first, and pray next; and remember, that desire is the soal of prayer.
may term secret prayer the invisible light of the soul in the bosom of God. Out of this beavenly closet rises Jacob's ladder, whose rounds are all of light : its foot stands upon the basis of the covenant in thy heart; its top reaches the throne of grace.
A weeping countenance, and a wounded spirit, are most beautiful prospects to the eye of heaven; when a broken heart pours out repenting tears, like streams from the rock, smitten by the rod of Moses's law in the band of a Mediator. David
gave himself to prayer ; in the Hebrew it is, “but I-prayer.” A Christian is all over prayer; he prays at rising, at lying down, and as he walks ; like a prime favourite at court, who has the key to the privy stairs, and can wake his prince by night.
Such as are truly converted have no need to pray by a prescribed form; they have the Spirit of God to assist and enable them; and they need not drink of another's bucket, who have the fountain theniselves to go to.
Lee's Sermon on Secret Prayer. Prayer is the offering our desires to God in the name of Christ. Now, as the desires, the native, genuine desires of a truly Christian Leart are the main part of internal religion ; so the actually presenting them to God, and that frequently in this duty, hath a manifest tendency to strengthen these springs of action, and to promote
the spirit and energy of vital godliness. The divine affections of the soul thus exercised, shoot up, expand, blossom, and ripen into fruit. Say, Christians, what grief for sin, what hungering and thirsting after righteousness, what aspirations of heart towards God : what hope in his mercy, and what peace and joy in a sense of his favour, have you not sometimes felt springing up in your breast, wbilst pouring out your cries to God : and hath not this happy experience an immediate effect to establish and invigorate all the powers of religion in the soul?
Slennet's Personal Religion.
Moreover, the same Spirit of adoption, who beareth witness to our spirit, that we are God's chosen children, is also the Spirit of prayer and supplication, and inflameth our hearts to call daily upon our heavenly Father. Those, therefore, who, from the certainty of predestination, do pretend, that the duty of prayer is superfluous, do plainly show, that they are so far from having any certainty of their predestination, that they bave not the least sense thereof. To be slack and sluggish in prayer, is not the property of those who, by the testimony of God's Spirit, have got assurance of their election; but, rather, of such as have either none, or very small apprehension thereof. For, as soon as any one, by believing, doth con ceive himself to be one of God's elect children, he earnestly desireth to procure unto himself, by prayer, those good things which be believeth that God prepared for bis children before the foundation of the world.
Bishop Davenport. In boly, faithful, fervent prayer, a Christian hath very much of his converse with God; for prayer is our approach to God, and calling to mind bis presence and his attributes, and exercising all his graces in a holy motion towards him, and an exciting all the powers of our souls to seek bim, attend him, and reverently to worship him. It is our treating with him about the most important business in the world, a begging of the greatest mercies, and a deprecating his most grievous judgments; and all this with the nearest familiarity that man in flesh can bave with God. So that the soul is most and best at prayer ; is most and best at walking with God; and bath most communication with bim in the spirit ; and to
withdraw from prayer, is to withdraw from God. When we are commanded to pray, it includeth a command to repent, and believe, and fear the Lord, and desire his grace ; for faith, and repentance, and fear, and desire, are altogether in action in a serious prayer; and naturally each one takes its place, and there is a holy order in the acting of these graces in a Christian's prayers, and a harmony which he doth seldom himself observe.
He that in meditation knoweth not how to be regular and methodical, when he is studiously contriving and endeavouring it, yet in prayer, before he is aware, hath repentance, and faith, and fear, and desire, and every grace falls in its proper place and order, and constitutes its part to the performance of the work. The new nature of a Christian is more immediately and vigorously operative in prayer than in many other duties; and therefore every infant in the family of God can pray with groanings, desires, and ordered graces, if not with well-ordered words. When Paul began to live to Christ, he began (aright) to pray.
“ Behold, he prayeth,” saith God to Ananias; Acts ix. 12. And because they are sons, God sends the Spirit of his Son into the hearts of his elect, even the spirit of adoption, by which they cry, Abba, Father; Gal. iv, 6. as children naturally cry to their parents for relief; and nature is more regular in its works than art or human contrivance is. Necessity teaches many a beggar to pray better for relief to men, than many learned men, who feel not their necessities, can pray to God, Baxter,
Some method must be used, in order to secure us from confusion, that our thoughts may not be ill-sorted, or mingled and buddled together in a tumultuary and unseemly manner. This will be of use also to prevent tautologies, or repetitions of the same thing, when each part of prayer is disposed of into its proper place. This will guard against roving digressions. When we have ranged our thoughts into order throughout every step of our prayer, our judgment infers what sort of matter properly and naturally followg that which
we are at present speakivg, so that there is no need to fill up any empty spaces with matter that is not proper, or not suited to
The third thing that relates to the gift of prayer, is expressiorf
. Though prayer be the proper work of the beart, yet in this present state, in secret as well as in social prayer, the language of the lips is an excellent aid in this part of worship. A person, indeed, may pray beartily and effectually, and yet make use of no words: sometimes the desires of the heart may be too big to be expressed, when the Spirit of God is with us in plentiful operations, and assists us to plead with sighs and groans which cannot be uttered; as Rom. viii. 26. Persons that are dumb may think over their wants, and raise their souls to God in longing desires and wishes for grace in a time of need; nor is there any necessity of using language upon God's account, for he knows the desires oř our beart, and our most secret breathings towards him. He that bears without ears, understands us without our words. Yet as language is of absolute new cessity in social prayer, that others may join with us in our addresses to God; so, for the most part, we find it necessary in secret too; for there are few persons of so steady and fixed a power of meditation, as to maintain their devotion warm, and to converse with God, or with themselves, profitably, without words,
Choose those expressions that best suit your meaning, that most exactly answer the ideas of your mind, and that are fitted to your sense and apprebension of things; for the design of prayer is to tell God the inward thoughts of your heart: if you speak, therefore, wbat is not in the heart, though the words be never so fine and pathetical, it is but a mere mockery of God. Let your tongues be the true interpreters of your minds.
Petition, plead, and then declare
And let Amen confirm the prayer, In the last place, I mention the most usual, most evident, and conpincing argument against perpetual confinement of ourselves to a form; and that is, because it renders our converse with God very imperfect: for it is not possible that forms of prayer should be coinposed, that are perfectly suited to all our frames of spirit, and fitted
to all our occasions in the things pf this life, and the life to come. Our circumstances are always altering in tbis frail and mutable state. We have new sins to be confessed, new temptations and sorrows to be represented, new wants to be supplied. Every change of providence in the affairs of a nation, a family, or a person, requires suitable petitions and acknowledgments. And all these can never be well provided for in any prescribed composition. I confess, all our concerns of soul and body may be included in some large and general form of words, which is no more suited to one time, or place, or condition, than to another: but generals are cold, and do not affect us, nor affect persons that join with us, and whose case he that speaks in prayer should represent before God. It is much sweeter to our own souls, and to our fellow worshippers, to have our fears and doubts, and complaints, and temptations, and sorrows, represented in most exact and particular expressions, in such language as the soul itself feels, when the words are spoken. Now, though we should often meet with prayers precomposed, that are fitted to express our present case, yet the gift of prayer is as much better than
any form, as a general skill in the work of preaching is to be preferred to any precomposed sermons; as a perfect knowledge in the art of physic is better than any number of receipts. But he that binds himself always to read printed sermons will not arrive at the art of preaching; and that man that deals only in receipts shall never become a skilful physician ; nor can the gift of prayer be attained by everlasting confinement to forms.
A man may read a long prayer that expresseth spiritual things, and never have had one spiritual thought arise in his mind about them; for there is no exercise of any faculty of his mind requirect unto such reading, but only to attend unto the words that are to be read. This, I say, may be so; I do not say that it is so, or that it must be so; but, in extempore prayer, it is impossible but there must be an exercise of reason, by invention, judgment, and memory;
consequently thoughts of spiritual things. Yet may they all be merely occasioned from the present external performance of the duty; without any living spring or exercise of grace. In such a