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the most exalted and yet endearing friendship with his Maker, having a constant support, and a hidden but solid joy from intercourse with him, possessing an ample resource in every circumstance here below, and an assured expectation of everlasting felicity with Him at whose right hand “there are pleasures for evermore.” Let the happiness of the life of devotion induce you diligently to seek divine grace, to enable you to say with David, “I give myself unto prayer."
OBJECTIONS TO PRAYER ANSWERED.
1. Some who neglect prayer, say, “ God knows what I want without my asking, and he is too wise and too good to need my information in order to relieve me."
This should be an argument to raise your faith and hope, and not to hinder your prayers. God is indeed wise, infinitely wise; and, being so wise, he has in his word directed you to make known your wants to him by prayer. His knowledge is one reason why you should pray to him, and his goodness another, why you may confidently apply to him. Will you pretend to be wiser than he is? Whatever his design may be in it, your duty is clear-to obey his wil. Ile knows when
you will die, and mi ht support you without food, and yet you daily eat. Remember that " it may be agreeable to perfect wisdom, to grant that to our prayers which it would not have been agreeable to the same wisdom to have given us without
praying for.” What if prayer be his plan for making you humble, dependent, devout, believing, and thankful? In short, for impressing you with a sense and feeling of your wants, and for bringing you to a proper state of mind to receive his blessing ? But whatever his design may be, it is your highest wisdom and interest to follow his directions.
2. A similar objection is, that God is unchangeable, and prayer will not alter nor reverse his purposes. We do not say that prayer really changes the purpose of God, though it may be sometimes so expressed in condescension to our infirmities: but we say his course of dealing is quite different with those who pray, and those who do not. think, indeed, that we are, drawing God nearer to us, when we in truth draw nearer to him, as a person with a boat-hook which he fixes to the shore is ready to think when he draws the boat, that he is moving the land towards him, when in fact he himself is coming nearer the land. But you quite mistake the true design of this perfection of God, if you think it should keep you from praying. The unchangeableness of God, so far from being an argument against prayer, is the reason why you should pray, and secure to yourself the fulfilment of his promises.
You cannot tell what the secret purposes of God are; but you know that God has appointed prayer as the means of obtaining good and averting evil. If you neglect the means which he has directed you to use, you have no reason to expect the blessing which you desire: but if you are induced by his grace to use the means, it is a good sign that you are likely to obtain the desired end. Remember, then, that though there be “no variableness nor shadow of turning” with him, yet the means are ordained as well as the effect, and pray to gain that which God ordains to be obtained by prayer. Jesus Christ himself prayed, and commanded you to pray; and an excuse drawn from the unchangeableness of God will never avail you in answer to a plain command, sanctioned by such an example, and especially when there are such great and evident advantages in obtaining your desires through prayer.
3. Others say, I cannot pray.-The greatest obstacle is not want of ability, but want of will. I know that the poor often say, I have no learning, and therefore cannot pray. And some are ignorant enough to suppose that only ministers of religion need pray. Had you no personal wants, then indeed you might more plausibly thus reason. But prayer must be the act of your own mind, of yourself individually. God requires you to pray. The prayer of your minister, your relatives and friends, does not make your own prayer unnecessary. Their prayers may be of use in obtaining for you grace to seek God more earnestly; but you cannot expect to obtain his mercy and blessing unless you yourself unfeignedly apply to the throne of grace. And as to ability to pray, it is a deep sense of your necessities that forms the great qualification for real prayer. Hence all persons, high and low, learned and unlearned, are by nature on a level in this respect. A beggar feeling his poverty and wretchedness, does not want learning to teach him how to come to ask your alms. He simply tells you his distress, points to his tattered garments, or his pallid or diseased body, and thus most effectually makes his way to your heart. And so, though you cannot read, you may still pray to God, and be accepted by him.
4. It is not an uncommon objection, I am too much occupied to pray.- Prayer is very proper for those who have time, but I am so full of other engagements that I cannot attend to it-You surely do not mean to say so! Time! cannot get time! How do you employ your time? Is none of it wasted in sinful pleasures or pursuits? Do you never find leisure to talk about your children's or friends' good qualities? Do you never find opportunity to thank men for earthly favors ? and have you not time to acknowledge God's goodness, of which your lives are full? If you are afflicted, can you , not find time to unbosom yourself to a friend, who yet perhaps can afford you no effectual help; and should you not tell your cares and sorrows to God, your best friend, who can deliver you from all your troubles ? But you forget that devotion itself is the most important part of your business, the greatest work of your life. You have more to do with God than with the whole world Prayer will obtain God's blessing on all you do. It
will prepare you for a happy eternity. You are ' not lavishing away your time or misemploying it
by prayer. It was a saying of Dr. Donne's, " that the only time he saved, or employed to the best purpose, he spent in piety and prayer, and in doing good.” I answer your plea of business, by the
experience of a devout man, who said," when I have hastened over the duties of God's worship, out of a too eager desire to follow my worldly business, I did many times meet with some secret cross in my affairs; whereas when I took my ordinary time, God did make my other business to succeed the better, or else my mind was brought to a quiet submission to the divine will." No business in the world brings such unspeakable gain as private prayer does. He that prays well will do all well besides. What are you laboring for? the good things of this life? Remember, then, that devotion “ procures wealth, inestimably precious, pleasure infinitely satisfactory, honor incomparably noble above all that this world can afford.” Look at David, Daniel, and St. Paul, men the most constant in devotion, and yet incessantly engaged, and manifestly blessed, in their several stations.
5. Another man will tell us, I find no benefit from prayer.— I have prayed, and seem no better for it; nay,
rather worse. If you feel more of your guilt and sinfulness, that of itself is an advantage, and should bring you more to the Saviour. This is a yain excuse. Shall the minister give up preaching because his congregation seem to receive no immediate benefit? Shall the husbandman, because the seed just sown in one part of the field has not directly sprung up, not sow the remainder of the field ? Let this objection lead you not to neglect your prayers, but to examine their character. We know that true prayer is attended with the greatest benefits. One devout person would sometimes say