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Introdurtory Remarks on Forms of Prager,
EXHORTATION TO MORE GENERAL PRAYER,
IN PUBLIC, IN PRIVATE, AND IN THE FAMILY.
REV. FRANCIS KING, A.B.,
CURATE OF OSWESTRY, SALOP.
“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am
in the midst of them."-Matt. xviii. 20.
WERTHEIM AND MĂCINTOSH,
135. d. 41.
ON FORMS OF PRAYER,
The object of these pages is to supply a simple and scriptural form of prayer, more especially intended for the use of the
poor, whether in private, or in the family. Scripture itself contains a rich mine of prayers, by digging in which, we may find the treasure hid in the field ; and may thus offer up almost inspired prayer to the throne of grace. I have long desired time to attempt a book of prayers on a larger scale, culling, as far as possible, the beautiful language and spirit of the Sacred Volume. But the immediate calls, among some of our awakened poor, for a cheap and simple book of prayer, induce me to publish for them, on a small scale, prayers for one week, taken especially from some of the Epistles. It is the scriptural vein which runs through our Liturgy, that gives it such an incomparable superiority to the best of what are called extempore prayers—which are only safe or valuable in proportion as they keep close to the written word. And here I would remind my lessinformed parishioners, who sometimes object to written
prayers, that, whether the minister prays with a book or without one, his prayers, so far as the congregation is concerned, are forms of prayer, inasmuch as they do not flow from the worshippers themselves, but are composed for them, and adopted by them—in our case, composed by our martyred Reformers—in the case of non-conformists, by their minister for the time-being.
And without disparaging extempore prayer, we think that we, as Churchmen, have this decided superiority over other worshippers, that we know the prayers and petitions we are going to offer up, and can heartily concur in them, while, on the other hand, we have no guarantee that the minister, who uses an unwritten form of prayer (for such it is to us) may not introduce petitions in which we cannot conscientiously join, and perplex us, as each sentence ends, by the distracting consideration, how far can I join in this ? Besides, some of the highest Dissenting authorities themselves have seen as clearly as we, the evils attendant on extempore prayer.
“ We are often,” says one of them, Mr. James," prayed into a good frame, “ and then prayed out of it again.” “ The brethren, “ who lead our devotions (in Dissenting Churches)
are so outrageously long and dull.”* “ The mode of “ conducting the devotional part of our worship,” says another Dissenting writer), “is not always so solemn
or methodical as may be desired. Sometimes it par“ takes of an odious familiarity : at others too much of
grimace.”+ While, on the other hand, Robert Hall (a Dissenter) says of our Liturgy, " The evangelical purity of its sentiments, the chastened fervour of its “ devotion, and the majestic simplicity of its language, “ have combined to place it in the very first rank of “uninspired compositions." “ The Church,” says the “ Eclectic Review," (a leading Dissenting periodical,) “puts into the lips of the people a language of devo“tion, unrivalled in majesty, beauty, propriety, and “ comprehension."
* James's “ Church Member's Guide," page 66. + “ Remarks on the present State of the Dissenting Interest,"
With such high authorities before us, we may console ourselves that, even upon the verdict of Dissenting Christians, there are more weighty objections to the unwritten prayer in public, than to those of our Liturgy. And as regards our devotions in the family or in the closet, have we not the very highest authority for a form of prayer in the command of our Lord himself ? “When ye pray, say, Our Father,". &c. (Luke xi. 2.) So then the prayer, which our Lord himself hath taught us, is a form of prayer. And what language did he use himself, when “ being “ in an agony, he prayed more earnestly ; and his sweat
was as it were great drops of blood, falling down " to the ground !” “He prayed the third time," St. Matthew tells us (chap. xxvi. 44), saying the same “ words." Let the timid believer take courage from this, nor be disheartened that he cannot command a flow of words at the throne of grace. He may come, and come, and come again, “ using the same words,” and the most eloquent prayer that he can utter may be, after all, “groanings which cannot be uttered," 6 God, be merciful to me a sinner.” The most eminent servants of God, in all ages, have had recourse to written prayer, both in public and private, to help