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to be the dictate of natural religion that our Creator deserves our homage. It is on this ground that the Psalmist bases his call to prayer :-"O come, let us worship and bow down : let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand,” Psa. xcv. 6, 7. Thus the prophet Jeremiah says (xiv. 22): “ Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain ? or can the heavens give showers ? art not Thou he, O Lord our God ? therefore we will wait upon Thee: for Thou hast made all these things.” So also the apostle Paul declared at Athens that God had made the world, and had given to all life and breath, and all things, and had exercised over them the care of a watchful and superintending Providence, for this end" that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him." Not to pray, then, is to reject His authority, and to withhold from Him the glory due unto His name; it is to rob Him of that which was His chief purpose in creating you, and which is His obvious and indisputable right.
You further, by neglecting prayer, DISOBEY THE MOST EXPRESS COMMANDS.
It would have been our duty to pray, even though no such commands had been addressed to us. The thought of God's infinite excellence might well elicit our homage; our sense of need might lead us to Him by whom alone it can be supplied ; and our convictions of guilt might impel us to cry to Him for mercy. But He has not left us to mere inference. There is “line upon line, precept upon precept,” on the obligation of prayer. There is no duty more frequently or more urgently enforced. Having revealed Himself as the “hearer of prayer,” He requires that to Him should "all flesh come.” The title which He gave to His house was, the “ house of prayer.” What calls to devotion are contained in the book of Psalms, and what fervent prayers are recorded there as models for all succeeding time! The Great Teacher often inculcated the duty, and enforced his exhortations, by his own example. There was a garden at the foot of Olivet, to which He ofttimes resorted for prayer. The midnight silence of Judea's desert solitudes was often broken by the voice of His supplications. Far above the habitations of men, on one or other of the mountain heights of Palestine, He held communion with His Father, and descended, nerved with strength for conflict and for toil. “Watch and pray,” said He, “lest ye enter into temptation.”—“ Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret." He gave to His disciples a model
prayer; and the
express design for which He spoke one of His many beautiful parables was, “ that men should pray always, and not faint.” The purpose of His death was, that He might “open for us a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh;" and we are exhorted, in consequence, to "draw near with true hearts, in full assurance of faith.” He intercedes for us in heaven, and we are therefore invited to “come boldly to the throne of grace.” These are but a few of the precepts which are addressed to us in the word of God on the subject of prayer. They meet us in every part of it. We can scarcely read a page of its more devotional and practical portions without finding something which bears more or less directly on this solemn duty; and there is no requirement which is urged by a greater variety of motive. You cannot well be ignorant of all this; and yet you do not pray. If your child neglected any precepts or commands of yours, as pointed and as numerous as these, in reference to any duty he owed to you, would you not deem him a monster of perverseness and rebellion ? And are not you far more guilty than he would be, inasmuch as that Being whose commands you thus disobey is your Maker and
Again ; in neglecting prayer you are CHARGEABLE WITH THE
There is scarcely any offence which we are disposed to brand with greater execration than this. Who does not detest the man who has stung the bosom that cherished him, or wounded the hand that fed or preserved him ? If the charge of ingratitude against a parent, a friend, a benefactor, were alleged against you, you would repel it with the utmost indignation. But if you do not pray, you are guilty of this crime against the tenderest parent, the most bountiful benefactor, and the kindest friend. Who gave you life, with all its susceptibilities of enjoyment? Whose air is it you breathe ? Whose bounty is it that has supplied your ever-recurring wants ? Whose hand is it that, unseen, has led you even until now? Are not all these things of G
Is there one good, one perfect gift, which you can trace to any other source than the Father of Lights? And what have you done to evince your gratitude ? As little as you could do were to thank Him. Have you ever entered into the spirit and adopted the language of the Psalmist, “ Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name ?” Have the rising morn and the closing eve ever found you on your knees in prayer, acknowledging His rich and undeserved goodness ? But there are nobler mercies. He “ so loved the world, that He gave
only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And He has offered to you, through Him, pardon, holiness, heaven! Is there no call for gratitude here If providential mercies call for thankful acknowledgment, how much more do these? And yet your heart never glows in thankfulness, and you never address to heaven the ascription of your sincere and grateful praise ! We bring against you no ungrounded accusation when we say that you are guilty of base ingratitude, for it is amply sufficient to fix on you that charge that you do not pray!
But there is another aspect of the question. We have dwelt chiefly, in the preceding remarks, on the duty of prayer. We would now appeal to your self-love, and endeavour to show you that you are inflicting an indescribable injury on yourselves by neglecting prayer.
You thus DEPRIVE YOURSELVES OF AN UNSPEAKABLE PRIVILEGE. We do not now speak of the many blessings which are directly bestowed in answer to prayer ; that will be the subject of future remark. We would remind you that
prayer is an act of communion with the greatest and best Being in the universe. « Truly,” said the beloved disciple,
our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” The holiest men have always reckoned this an invaluable privilege.
“ It is good for me,” said the Psalmist, “to draw near to God.” It was the object of his most intense desire, when deprived of the opportunity of access to God in his house, that he might “ see His power and His glory, so as he had seen Him in the sanctuary. You would deem it a high advantage if, in every time of difficulty and trial, you could betake yourself to a friend in whose wisdom you could confide. You would count it an honour if you were admitted to the society of a man who was distinguished alike for intellectual and moral greatness. You would feel that the very act of intercourse with such men was a blessing, and that you
could hardly leave such society unimproved. But who shall describe the honour and the advantage of fellowship with God? All who have availed themselves of this privilege have felt that they have experienced from it an influence of indescribable worth and power, elevating them above all that was mean, and purifying them from all that was vile, calming all their disquietude, and filling them with unutterable joy. Do you not see, then, that in neglecting to pray you are neglecting that which in itself is calculated greatly to alleviate the sorrows of time, to raise you high above the conflicting elements of earthly passion, and to exert upon you an influence of all others the most
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ennobling? This is only what you do when you
prayer before God !”
You ALSO There are mercies which God bestows on men irrespective of their moral character, and without their being sought in prayer. Such are many of the bounties of his providence. “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” You often find the wicked more largely endowed with this world's good than the righteous. We do not say there is no connexion at all between prayer and the bestowment of these blessings. We believe that temporal prosperity is often granted in answer to prayer. Our Lord taught his disciples to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread.” It was promised to Israel: “I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth ; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil ; and they shall hear Jezreel.” But there are blessings inestimably more precious than these, which are bestowed only in answer to prayer ; blessings for all of which God" will be inquired of," that He
may bestow them upon us. They relate in some degree to our present, but chiefly to our future, welfare. They are for the soul and for eternity. You are guilty ; but there is in Christ Jesus the forgiveness of sins. God is ready, for Christ's sake, to blot out all your transgressions. But for this you must pray. Believing in Christ, you must cry, like the Psalmist, “For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great;" or like the Publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” You are sinful ; so sinful that you can take no delight in anything that is holy; but you can be “born again 66 saved according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost;" and for this He requires you to pray, “ Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” You are exposed to the wrath of God, and that wrath must be endured for ever in hell; but Jesus Christ can deliver
from the wrath to come, and for this you are to pray, “Lord, save; I perish.” Having “neither part nor lot" in heaven, He can give to you a name and a place amongst its citizens ;
but for this you must pray that the Spirit of His Son may
make you “meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” You are surely aware of all this, and yet you do not pray. Though oppressed by such a load of guilt, though so deeply depraved, though exposed to such a curse, and though there is arrayed before you the vision of a heaven so glorious, and though these evils can be averted and these blessings secured, only as you pray, you do not pray. Were you exposed to the peril of shipwreck, and did you know that the hoisting of the signal flag, or the firing of the signal gun, would bring you immediate aid, how eager would you be to make the indication of
your distress! Feeling that it was for your life, you would not lose a moment ! You would do it at once! But when your soul is perishing, and one single cry of true penitence and of sincere believing entreaty would bring you deliverance, you do do not utter that cry! What is this but the proof that you despise those blessings which God has promised in answer to prayer—those blessings which are of greater value to you than the whole created universe? Need we say a single word in condemnation of the folly and the recklessness of which you are guilty in refusing to pray ?
us, and the
There is just another thought. God is not indifferent to your neglect of His service. You EXPOSE YOURSELVES, BY TÀE RESTRAINT OF YOUR PRAYER, TO HIS EXTREME DISPLEASURE. After all the condescension He has displayed in permitting us to approach Him; after the many precepts He has addressed to
many invitations He has given us to seek Him; after the promises which He has given to encourage us to pray; and, most of all, after He has removed, at a cost so great as that of the sacrificial death of His only begotten Son, the obstacles which prevented our access to His feet, and constituted Him the perpetual intercessor for the guilty, and assured us of His readiness to bestow His Holy Spirit to teach us to pray, and to help all our infirmities; after having done all this, is it likely, think
you, that He can regard with any other sentiments than those of deep disapproval the soul that will not pray? That soul stands exposed to His everlasting curse.
He 66 His wrath
the heathen, and upon the kingdoms that call not upon His name;" and how much more will He pour out that wrath on him who amid all the light of the gospel, and with the many inducements to prayer which that gospel extends to him, still “casts off fear, and restrains prayer before God !"
Why not pray ? Do you say, “It is of no use, for God is unchangeable, and no entreaties of mine can make the slightest difference in His dealings with me?” We reply by asking, if you carry out that spirit of fatalism into the affairs of ordinary life? You believe that the duration of your earthly existence is fixed. Are you therefore negligent of everything which is likely to preserve your health and prolong your days? Do you not labour that you may procure food and raiment; and if