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12. On Devotional Feelings merely · ·
On the Nature and the Duty of Prayer,
MEN in general think it an honour to be admitted into the company of those who are distinguished by their rank, their power, or their attainments. They · feel it a privilege to converse with a man of the first
consequence in the State, a man eminent in wisdom or knowledge, or the monarch of a mighty empire. A Christian justly reckons it no small privilege to be permitted, for a season, to associate with a person of peculiar piety And if, while the greatest good may be obtained from a distinguished person, there be only a limited time in which we can go to bim, the importance of using an opportunity that is offered, is evidently greatly increased. 'If we can say, . now the way of access is open, but it will soon be closed; now you may hold converse, and get intimately, acquainted with him; you may obtain all you want; you may secure a lasting interest in his affections; he has invited you to come to bim, and you will never have this privilege offered again: surely, no other arguments need be urged, to induce a man wanting his help to go to him, without delay.'
When the Lord of Glory dwelt on earth, we often read of the great multitudes who assembled together and crowded around him, to see and to hear him. On one occasion, we find even a rich man Zaccheus, unable to approach him, and climbing a tree to have a transient glimpse of so remarkable a character. Had we lived at that time, and possessed any thing of our present knowledge, we should doubtless have thought it a high honour to be in his company, and, like Mary, to sit at the feet of Jesus, and bear his words.
This privilege was counted the more valuable in sea sons of difficulty. When any were in sickness, or danger, and believed that if they could see our Lord, he would help them, they then desired his presence with peculiar earnestness. When Lazarus is dying, then his sisters send a special message to their Lord. When the disciples are in the storm, they awaken him, saying Carest thou not that we perish? When the people are sick, they break through the roof of a dwelling to come to him; or press through the crowd to touch the hem of his garment.
It is the nature of prayer, that it gives to needy and sinful men, in the limited time of this life, every day, yes, every hour, this great privilege of access to the Kings of Kings and Lord of Lords, to the Most High and the Most Holy, and this with the utmost freedom and confidence; the access not merely of a servant to a master; or a subject to a king but of a child to a tender parent. .
Prayer is, then, a holy intercourse with God.--"' It is," as the martyr Bradford expresses it, “ a simple, unfeigned, humble, and ardent offering of the heart be.
fore God, wherein we either ask things needful, or give thanks for benefits received." Acceptable prayer is the desire of the heart, offered up to God, through the influ ence of his Spirit, in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, for things according to his will, and in confidence that he hears us, and will answer us. There is no prayer without the exercise of holy and suitable dispositions and affections. The true worshippers, says our Lord, shall wor. ship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Futher seeketh such to worship him. John iv, 23.
Prayer is not the mere posture of the body.- A man may. kneel till he weat out the stones; like the Mahomedans, he may put himself into every variety of posture, throw himself on the earth and lie in the dust; like Ahab, he may put on sackcloth and ashes; or like the monks of modern times, kneel till his knees become hors ny, and yet never pray at all.
It is not the mere expression of the mouth.– A man may repeat a hundred times in a day that comprehensive and affecting prayer which our Lord has taught us to use; or he may say, My soul thirsteth for thee, my fleshu longeth after thee, and yet not offer up one prayer unto God. . .
It is not the mere invention of the mind.--Many have a peculiar gift of prayer in this respect, and can pour out fluently, perspicuously, and at length, a form of words; but, both the mind and the tongue may be thus employed, while the heart neither feels the sentiments expressed, nor longs for the blessings inplored.
Nor is the mere act of joining in family, social or public worship, acceptable prayer. Uniting with others,