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in the most earnest petitions, where your own heart is unmoved, will avail you nothing.
All these things may be as the mere husk and shell without the kernel: the body without the spirit. God expects the desire of the heart. Your devotions shouldbe a sacred bond knitting the soul unto God, a holy converse with him.
Dr. Watts thus expresses himself on this subject:“When a holy soul comes before God, he has much more to say than merely to beg. He tells his God what a sense he has of the divine attributes; and what high esteem be pays to his majesty, his wisdom, his power, and his mercy. He talks with him about the works of creation, and stands wrapt up in wonder.He talks about the grace and mystery of redemption, and is yet more filled with admiration and joy. He talks of all the affairs of nature, grace, and glory. He speaks of his works of providence, of love, and vengeance, in this and the future world. Infinite and glorious are the subjects of this holy communion between God and his saints.”
Mre. More observes, “Prayer is a term of great latitude, involving the whole compass of our intercourse with God. St. Paul represents it to include our adoration of his perfections; our acknowledgment of the wisdom of his dispensations, and of our obligations for his . benefits, providential and spiritual; the avowal of our entire dependence on him, and of our absolute subjection to him; the declaration of our faith in him; the expression of our devotedness to him; the confession
own unworthiness, infirmities, and sins; the petition for the supply of our wants, and for the pardon
of our offences, for succour in our distress, for a bles. sing on our undertakings, for the direction of our conduct, and the success of our affairs."'*
“Prayer,” says the same writer, " is the application of want to Him who only can relieve it; the voice of sin to Him who .only 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; not figures of speech, but compunction of soul. It is the Lord save us, we perish, of drowning Peter; the cry of faith to the ear of mer
This is acceptable, prayer.
But how often are our devotions a mere form to satisfy our conscience! We know it is our duty to pray; we know that none go to heaven but men of prayer; we have been taught to pray in our youth, and therefore we go through the outward form; but is it not too often without the inward motion and desire of the heart towards God? Let us remember, that the mere form is not only uoprofitable to the soul, but brings .guilt upon it; and when trusted in, is a dangerous delusion. It may gain us a religious name in the world, it may pacify an alarming conscience for the moment, but it gains nothing from God. Our Lord says, this people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me: and what follows ;-in vuin do they worship me. Matt. xv, 8.
* See Essay on St. Paul, vol. ii, p. 227.
See Practical Piety, vol. i, p. 102.
From this description of the nature of prayer, it must be obvious, that with the gift of the spirit of grace and supplications, two things are essentially necessary to enable us really to pray.
1. THE KNOWLEDGE OF OUR WANTS.- -As the needy only will stoop to ask for alms, so a real, deep, and abiding sense of our indigence, is the first spring of a true and earnest desire to obtain help from God. --The prodigal son thought not of returning to his father, till reduced to wretchedness and misery. When David says, I am poor and needy, he then earnestly prays, make haste unto me, O God, thou art my help and my deliverer. Ps. Ixx, 5. While we think we can help ourselves, and get through our difficulties by our own means, we are little disposed to pray to God. The Laodicean church could not be much in the spirit of real prayer, however it might abound in the outward form, when our Lord had to say of it, Thou sayest I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, und naked. Come to the throne of grace to get, and not to give. Bring your wants, and not your fulness. And if you have no feeling of your spiritual poverty and vecessity, let your first prayer be for this feeling. 2. Faith IN THE BEING
OF GOD. The prodigal thought of his father's riches and bounty, and then returned to him. He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Heb. xi, 6. He who has not a scriptural knowledge of God, or who thinks him a hard and austere master, will never feel disposed rightjy to approach him. It is faith, the gift of God, realiz
ing the views given us in the Bible of the goodness of God, of his being ever present, and of the way of access by Jesus Christ, which excites the heart to draw near to him in full confidence that he bears us, and loves us, and will help us. And what duty can be more delightful than thus to come to God as an almighty, compassionate, and reconciled Father in Christ Jesus, in the full conviction that he loves us, and, because he loyes us, will deny us nothing that is for our good ?
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 HIM.–Our Lord says, Ask, and it shall be given you. Matt. 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.
WHO NEGLECT THIS DUTY.
The Psalmist says, Pour out thy wrath upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name. Ps. lxxix, 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 will not always call upon God. Job xxvii, 10. He 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 ; xxi, 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.lv, 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, 38;) and others, to shew that they lived in prayer. And why is their devotion recorded ? not for their glory, but as examples
The man of much prayer resembles those Patriarchs of old, who walked with God, and has some. thing of their privileges, to whom God manifested 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,