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God, the great Being by whom the worlds were made— He to whom is given all power both in heaven and on earth ; He who with a word commanded the unclean spirits, who said to the waves, Peace, be still. It was this mighty Lord Jesus Christ, who, when He was on earth, was so often engaged in prayer.
Not in one place, but in many, is this practice of His recorded. Thus, in St. Mark, i. 35, In the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. In St. Luke, vi. 12, just before He chose His twelve apostles, we read, He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in
So again in St. Matt. xiv. 23, after the feeding of the five thousand, we are told that when He had sent the multitudes away He went up into a mountain apart to pray; and when the evening was come, He was there alone.
These passages fully confirm what I have said about our Lord's habit of prayer. He who is in all things our example, is especially our example in respect of prayer. He chose, it would seem, fixed times for prayer. He prayed early, at rising; and He prayed in the evening; He prayed—not as did the Pharisees, standing in the synagogue, or in the corners of the streets, to attract notice, but He prayed in solitude,
prayer to God.
apart, alone ; with no eye to see Him but the eye of God - of that Father who seeth in secret.
Surely we ought to follow such an example ; surely that must be good for us to do, which was done by Him. Surely we may so reason -If the holy Lord Jesus felt the need and comfort of prayer—if He, who was without sin, yet sought help and strengthening by retiring apart to hold communion with His Father-if He made prayer His daily habit, how much more ought we to do ; we who are full of faults and full of failings; who cannot do anything good in our own strength ; who, unless we have God to support us, must fall! Surely, I say, my brethren, we have far greater need than He had to seek strength of God. Surely it behoves us to cultivate in ourselves, before all things, a habit of prayer; to rise up early, as Christ was used to do, that we may have time for prayer; to seize opportunities for retiring apart, as He did, to pray; to connect our days together by a holy chain of devotion ; to do as St. Paul exhorts us in the Epistle --Pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and to watch thereunto with all perseverance !
Again observe, what is next told us in the verse of my text- As He was praying, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples !
We know not who the disciple was who made this request—whether St. Peter, or St. James, or St. John—but whoever he was, we owe him our gratitude. For the question he put is a question of deep importance, and the answer which it obtained is yet more important.
Lord, teach us how to pray! We know not of ourselves how we ought to do this. We find it hard and difficult to shape our petitions right; God is in heaven and we upon earth. The distance that separates us is immense. God is all holy, all just, all good ; and we are unholy and unrighteous, full of the evil that He hateth: and yet we feel that we must pray. There is no happiness, no peace for us, so long as we are separated from God. Who will help us in our difficulty ? We wish to pray, but we know not how to pray; we want some one to guide us in this one who is a master in the matter—who will not mislead us in so great, so necessary a duty; one whom we may safely follow. And so we echo the disciple's words - Lord, teach us how to pray!
That request was answered, and the answer was the Lord's Prayer, the Prayer of Prayers —the Prayer that, since then to now, has gone up God from successive generations of His people, and will continue to be offered until the
end. And He said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father !
In St. Matthew's Gospel, at the 6th chapter, where we have another account of the giving of the Lord's Prayer, Jesus prefaces it with these words - After this manner pray ye, Our Father, &c. After this manner as if the form He there used was meant, not only to be used just as He pronounced it, but to be used as the model and example of all Christian prayer.
After this manner : This - which follows-is to be your guide to prayer—you are to make your prayers in the spirit of this supplicationOur Father which art in Heaven !
To-day, brethren, we shall not get beyond these few words—the opening words of the Lord's Prayer : but they are words of the deepest meaning, and we may well pray God at the beginning to give us a right understanding of them.
And, first, of that little word our. We are not, when we pray, to say my Father, but our Father. The man who says my, speaks only for himself, and seeks only his own single welfare. The man who says our, brings in, by that word,
, all his brethren, all his fellow-creatures, all his enemies, and all his friends. Those who have done good to him, and those who have done him wrong-those whom he lives with, and those who are strangers to him-those whom he admires, and those whom he dislikes — those who are near, and those who are far off — those who are in prosperity, and those who are in troubleall sorts and conditions of men, without partiality and without distinction.
And this, surely, is a great advantage thus to associate all our fellow-creatures with ourselves and our own wants, when we draw nigh unto God in prayer. It strikes at the root of selfishness and pride, and that feeling so apt to grow up in our heart, that we are better than other men, when we thus at the very threshold of the Temple join hands, as it were, with the whole human race --when we come before God, not as single units, bent upon securing each some special benefit to his separate self, but as members together of one body, mutually interested in each other's welfare, with common wants, and common wishes, expressing, by the very first word of our prayer, that one is our Father - the same God over all — and that all we are brethren!
The word Father—the next word in the Lord's Prayer — carries on and completes the notion of the first; we are to pray to God as the one common Parent of us all
as our Father. Dwell, brethren, upon that gracious name.