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course may men of tolerable gifts continue all their days, unto the satisfaction of themselves and others, deceiving both them and their own souls.
Oroen. Prayer is a kind of religious exercise, which is necessary to accompany all others. “ In every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." Solemn approaches to God are adapted to impress the mind with a sense of sin, and to inspire it with self-abhorrence on account of it. It was by a view of the holiness of God, that Isajab felt himself to be a man of unclean lips; and by conversing with him, that Job was brought to abhor himself, and repent in dust and ashes. The very exercise of prayer carries in it an implication that our help must come from above-a truth, which in all cases it is highly necessary for us to know, and with which, in this case especially, we cannot be too deeply impressed. We easily get out of the way; but, if ever we return to it, it must be by his influence, who " restoreth our souls, and leadeth us in the paths of righteousness, for his name's sake.”
Fuller. Prayer is a word of an extensive sense in scripture, and includes not only a request or petition for mercies; but it is taken for the address of a creature on earth to God in heaven, about every thing that concerns bis God, his neighbour, or himself, in this world, or the world to come. It is that converse, which God bath allowed us to maintain with himself above, while we are bere below. It is that language, wherein a creature bolds correspondence with his Creator, and wherein the soul of a saint often gets near to God, is entertained with great delight, and, as it were, dwells with his heavenly Father for a short season before he comes to heaven. It is a glorious privilege that our Maker bath indulged to us; and a necessary part of that obedience which he hath required of us, at all times and seasons, and in every circumstance of life; according to those scriptures : Thess. v. 17. “ Pray without ceasing,” Phil. iv. 6. "In every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” Epb. vi. 18. “ Praying always, with all prayer and supplication.”
In the use of such prescript forms, to which a man hath been accustomed, he ought to be narrowly watchful over his own heart, for fear of that lip-service and formality, which in such cases we are more particularly exposed anto. For any one so to sit down and satisfy himself with his book-prayer, or some prescript form, and to go bo further--this were still to remain in his infancy, and not to grow up in his new nature: this would be as if a man, who had once need of crutches, should always afterwards make use of them, and so necessitate himself to continual impotency. Prayer by book is commonly of itself something flat and dead, floating for the most part too much in generalities, and not particular enough for each several occasion. There is not that life and vigour in it,
engage the affections, as when it proceeds immediately from the soul itself, and is the natural expression of those particulars whereof we are most sensible. It is not easy to express what a vast difference a man may find, in respect of inward comfort and satisfaction, betwixt those private prayers that are thus conceived from the af. fections, and those prescribed forms wbich we say by rote, or read out of books,
Bishop Wilkins. The object of prayer is God alone, through Jesus Christ, as the Mediator. All supplications, therefore, to saints or angels, are not only useless, but blasphemous. All worship of the creature, however exalted that creature is, is idolatry, and strictly prohibited in the sacred law of God. Nor are we to pray to the Trinity as three distinct Gods; for though the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost be addressed in various parts of the Scripture; 2 Cor. xiii. 14. 2 These. ii. 16, 17. yet never as three Gods; for that would lead us directly to the doctrine of polytheism. The ordinary mode the Scripture points out, is, to address the Father through the Son, depending on the Spirit to help our infirmities. Eph. ii. 18. Rom. viü. 26.
Go to the 4,8
Amyntor, at a memorable period of his life, was under great distress of conscience, and barrassed by violent temptations. He made his case known to an experienced friend, who said, “ Amyntor, you do not pray.” Surprized at this, he replied, “ I pray, if such a
thing be possible, too much. I can hardly tell how many times a day I bow my knee before God; almost to the omission of my other duties, and the neglect of my necessary studies.” “ You mistake my meaning," dear Amyntor; “ I do not refer to the
of the knee; but to the devotion of the heart, which neglects not any business, but intermingles prayer with all; wbich, in every place, looks unto the Lord; and on every occasion lifts up an indigent soul for the supply of his grace.” This, (added he, and spoke with a peculiar vehemence,) “ this is the prayer which all the devils in hell capuot withstand." This, I would farther observe, is the prayer which brings down somewhat of heaven into the heart; in which I would myself desire to abound, and would earnestly recommend to all my acquaintance, and all my readers.
Desire is the soul of prayer; and there must not only be habitual desires, but they must be actuated. Praying is the pouring out our souls in actual desires after the good things we want. Isa. xxvi. 7, 9. Yet the voice is not altogether excluded, which is necessary in public worship, and in the family; it may be used in secret for the stirring up our devotions, and keeping our minds from wandering thoughts, provided it be not done with intention to be heard and taken notice by others, which will argue gross hypocrisy.
The object of our prayers.--God alone knoweth our hearts ; is present in all places to hear the prayers of his people; omnipotent
, able to supply all their wants.
Our prayers are ordinarily to be directed to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Yet may we direct them expressly to any one of the three persons; but not excluding, but including all.
Our prayers must be offered up in the name of Christ. “ No man cometh to the Father but by me," said our Saviour. To pray in dependance upon Christ; for through bim we have access to the Father.
We are to pray for such things as he hath in his word commanded us to seek, and promised to grant. With our petitions must be joined confessions of sin, intercessions, and thanksgiving.
Prayer. It is the application of want to Him, who alone can relieve it; the voice of sin to Him, who alone can pardon it. It is the urgency of poverty—the prostration of humility—the fervency of penitence—the confidence of truth. It is not eloquence, but earnestness; not the definition of helplessness, but the feeling of it. It is the cry of faith to the ear of mercy, “ Lord, save; or I perish.”
Miss A. More.
Men are not so vaiu as to hope for skill and understanding in the mystery of a secular art or trade without the diligent use of those ineans whereby it may be attained ; and shall we suppose, that we shall be furnished with spiritual skill and wisdom in this sacred mystery without diligence in the use of the means appointed of God, for the attaining of it. The principal of them is fervent prayer. Pray, then, with Moses, that God would show you bis glory; pray with the Apostle, that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened to behold it; pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of Him.
Oren. First. A sense of the want of mercy, by reason of the danger of sin. The soul, I say, feels; and, from feeling, sighs, groans, and breaks at the heart, when it is overpressed with grief and bitterness, as blood is forced out of the flesh, by reason of some heavy burden that lieth upon it. David roars, cries, weeps, faints at heart, fails at the eyes, loseth his moisture, &c. Hezekiah mourns like a dove; Ephraim bemoans himself; Peter weeps bitterly; Christ hath strong cryings and tears; and all this from a sense of the justice of God, the guilt of sin, the pains of hell and destruction. “The sorrows of death compassed me about, the pains of hell gat hold upon me, and I found trouble and sorrow; then cried I unto tbe Lord.” Ps. cxvj. 3. And in another place, “ My sore ran in the night.” Ps. Ixxvii. 2. Again, “I am bowed down greatly, I go mourning all the day long.” Ps. xxxviii. 6. In all these instances, and bundreds more that might be named, you may see that prayer carrieth in it a sensible feeling disposition, and that, first, from a sense of sin.
In prayer, there is sometimes in the soul a sense of mercy to be re
ceived. This again sets the soul all on a flame. “ Thou, O Lord God, saith David, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house; therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray unto thee." 2 Sam, vii, 27.
This provoked Jacob, David, Daniel, with others—even a sense of mercies to be received; which caused them, not by fits and starts, nor yet in a foolish, frothy way, to babble over a few words written in a paper; but mightily, fervently, and continually, to groan out their conditions before the Lord, as being sensible ; sensible, I say, of their wants, their misery, and the willingness of God to show mercy.
A good sense of sin, and the wrath of God, with some encouragement from God to come unto him, is a better Common Prayer Book than that which is taken out of the Papistical Mass-Book; being the scraps and fragments of the devices of soine Popes, some friars, and I wot not what.
Prayer is a sincere, sensible, and affectionate pouring out of the soul to God. O the heart, strength, life, vigour, and affection, that is in right prayer ! “As the hart panteth after the water-brooks so longeth my soul after thee, O God.” Psa. xlii. 1. "I have longed for thy precepts.” Ps. cxix. 40. “I have longed for thy salvation.” “My soul longeth, yea, fainteth for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God." Psa. lxxxiv, 2. “My soul breaketh, for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.” Ps. cxix. 20. Mark ye here, My soul longeth, it longeth, it longeth, &c. O what affection is here discovered in prayer. The like you have in Daniel. “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken, and do: defer not, for thy name's sake, O my God.” Dan. is. 19. Every syllable carrieth a mighty vehemency in it. This is called the fervent, or the working prayer, by James, cb, v. ver. 16. And Luke xxii. 44. “And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly,” or had his affectious more and more drawn out after God for his helping hand. O how wide are the most of men with their prayers from this prayer, that is, prayer in God's account. A las! the greatest part of men make no conscience at all of their duty; and as for them that do, it is to be feared, that many of them are