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The nature of prayer is, however, better known by experience than by any description. One who had just begun to be in earnest about religion, said, “ I was most affected with the difference which I found in my prayers. I had never thought of doing any thing more than outwardly repeating a form; but I was surprised to find, how God enabled me, in my private devotions, earnestly to ask, in the name of his Son, those mercies which I needed, and really to desire those things which I had before only formally expressed."
Many arguments might be urged to shew THE DUTY OF PRAYER; but we will confine ourselves to some plain
GOD HAS EXPRESSLY COMMANDED US TO PRAY TO HIM. -Our Lord says, Isk, and it shall be given you. Mat. vii, 7. He declares, Men ought always to pray, and. not to faint. Luke xviii, 1. St. Paul exhorts, I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands. 1 Tim. ii, 8. Testimonies to this effect might be multiplied. See Eph. vi, 18. Phil. iv, 6. Rom. xii, 12. Col. iv, 2. Matt. xxvi, 41. &c. &c. The great God, then, that made Heaven and earth, and before whom you will stand in judgment, plainly requires you to worship him. THERE ARE SEVERE THREATENINGS AGAINST THOSE
The Psalmist says, Pour out thy wrath upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name. Ps. Ixxix, 6. Daniel (ix, 13, 14.) ascribes the evil that came on the Jews to their neglect of prayer. Those were to be cut off, who turned back from the Lord, and those that have not sought the Lord. Zeph. i, 6. It is the character given of the wicked, who are far from God, (Ps. Ixxii, 27.) that they call not upon the Lord ; (Ps. xiv, 4.) and of the hypocrite, that he
WHO NEGLECT THIS DUTY.
will not always call upon God. Job xxvii, 10. Ile may, perhaps, in a time of trouble, seek God's help, but he neglects it as his daily duty.
The duty of prayer may be farther proved from the PRACTICE OF HOLY PERSONS.-I need not do more than enumerate those of old, Abraham, (Gen. xviii, 22-32. xsi, 33 ;) Isaac, (Gen. xxiv. 63 ;) Jacob, (Gen. xxxii, 24, 28. Hosea, xii, 3, 4;) Moses, (Exod. xxxiv, 28 ;) Jabez, (1 Chron. iv, 10 ;) David, (Ps. Iv. 16, 17;) Elijah, (James v, 17 ;) Daniel, (ch. vi, 10;) Paul, (Acts ix, 11. Rom. i, 9. Eph. i, 15, 16. Phil. iii, 4. 2 Tim. i, 3 ;) Peter, (Acts x, 9 ;) with many others : or, those holy women, Rebecca, (Gen. xxv, 22 ;) Hannah, (1 Sam. i, 13, 15 ;) Anna, (Luke ii, 58 ;) and others, to shew that they lived in prayer. And why is their devotion recorded? Not for their glory, but as examples for us. The man of much prayer resembles those Patriarchs of old who walked with God, and has something of their privileges to whom God manifester himself in the flesh, and with whom he conversed on earth. Not to dwell on these, let us look to our Lord himself, whose example is especially set before us to be followed. Few parts of his character are more plainly exhibited, than his constant regard of this duty. The reader is referred to the following passages, Matt. xiv, 23; Mark i, 35; vi, 46; Luke v, 16, 19, 26; vi, 12; xxii, 39-45; Heb. v, 7; vii, 25.
Prayer is also AN INDISPENSABLE MEANS TO BE USED IN ORDER TO OBTAIN SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS.-The good things of this life are given indeed indiscriminately to good or bad inen: God thus shewing how little value we ought to set on those things which the wicked often abundantly possess. But grace and pardon, mercy and salvation, are promised expressly to those who pray. "If thou shalt pray unto God, he shall be favourable unto thee.” Job xxxiii, 26. “ Thou Lord art good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto all that call upon thee.” Ps. Ixvi, 5. No excellencies can compensate for the want of prayer., In fact, it lies at the root of the real benefit of all the other gifts of God to man.
But religion is in a low state in the heart of that man on whom prayer must be urged as a duty. It ought ever to be considered as the greatest of all inercies, that we are permitted to pray to God, and assured that Every one that asketh receiveth. We shall, therefore, in the following Chapter, consider prayer rather as a privilege than as a duty.
THE PRIVILEGE OF PRAYER.
« THE true happiness of every Christian,” says Bishop Wilkins,“ does properly consist in his spiritual communion with God." Prayer is, then, a necessary part of the Christian's happiness, for it brings him into the presence of God, and is the most direct act of communion with him.
Every one that prays aright can adopt David's expression, “It is good for me to draw near to God.” It is pleasant, it is honourable, it is advantageous. IfI have riches, they may or may not be good for me. If I have human knowledge, power, eloquence, talent, and earthly glory, or any of the good things of this life, they may or may not be good for me: but if I have the grace of prayer, the heart to draw near to God, it is unmixed, unqualified good. It is certainly and unquestionably good for me.
Consider some of the ADVANTAGES of prayer.
Prayer is THE MEANS WHICH GOD HAS APPOINTED FOR YOU TO OBTAIN EVERY GOOD, AND TO ESCAPE EVERY EVIL.-It has pleased him to appoint this means for various, wise and holy purposes; and especially that we may acknowledge and glorify his attributes; that we may see our dependence on him, and prove our obedience to him. There is no evil that you may now suffer, or that you may expect to suffer, which prayer is not the appointed means to alleviate or avert.
Our Lord declares, “ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be open ed unto you.” Greater blessings than we can think of may thus be obtained. “Call upon me, and I will answer thee, and will shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not. Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel.”
WE ARE CERTAIN OF OBTAINING WHAT WE ASK IX FAITH, ACCORDING TO GOD'S WILL.The numerous promises made to faithful prayer fully confirm this remark. He is “ able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Eph. iii, 20. You may labour for riches, and lay by money year after year, and after every care your money may be lost, and you die poor ; or it may bring you trouble and sorrow rather than
any vantage. You may pursue the pleasures or favour of the world, and live miserable, and die despised. But if you seek the blessing of God in fervent prayer, you cannot be disappointed. This has been the testimony of every servant of God from the beginning. How differently men reason about earthly and spiritual things. If a great and faithful and gracious monarch were to promise riches, pleasures, or honors, to those who come to him, his court would soon be crowded; men would anxiously ask what has he promised ? how may I go to him ?' But God himself has earnestly invited us to come to him, has promised to supply all our wants, and to give us durable riches and righteousness. It is the solemn declaration of Jesus Christ to his disciples, • Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you ; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” You may not indeed obtain the first time you ask ; the promise gives no assurance that you shall. St. Paul had a thorn