« PreviousContinue »
eth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God'.” Therefore ask of this gracious Sovereign, this loving and careful Father, ask of Him “ in faith,” “ nothing doubting.” “ Cast your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” Follow the counsels of St. Paul in the text, and you will obtain the blessed result which St. Paul promises you: “ Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
1 Rom. viii. 15. 26, 27.
Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Matt. vi. 6. .
THOU, WHEN THOU PRAYEST, ENTER INTO THY CLOSET.
In the preceding sermon we treated of prayer generally, and spake of it as a tribute of homage both due to God and commanded in His Holy Word. But now, that we proceed to consider it under the several special and different uses of it, by individuals, by the congregation, or by families, we must contemplate it not only in relation to God, but in its usefulness and importance to man.
“ Prayer,” says a celebrated father', “is a support to the person praying, a sacrifice to God, and
a scourge for devils.” It is not because God has any need of this homage, but because prayer is in itself beneficial to us, that He has ordained it as a means of His grace and favour. And this we shall show, in many particulars, as we proceed to discuss the several kinds of prayer above mentioned.
Our present subject is private prayer.
It is, perhaps, à necessary caution to request those, to whom this discourse may be addressed, to bear in mind, that it is not my intention, in setting forth the duty, or the advantages of private prayer, to institute any comparison between it, and public prayer, much less to depreciate the latter, or to intimate that the former may be substituted in its place, and be sufficient without it. No such comparison can be drawn; for they are both excellent, and both necessary. But they are each excellent for different purposes, and each promotes, in its measure and province, dispositions, and effects, tending to the same end. Having premised this caution, I will now proceed to state,
I. The authority for the practice of it.
I. With respect to authority, the text gives a decisive and explicit direction : “ Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet.” And, in both the Old and New Testaments, frequent examples are recorded of men, illustrious for their piety, and for their greatness in God's favour, having recourse to private prayer on remarkable occasions,—whether engaging in matters of importance, struggling with difficulties, or groaning under the pressure of affliction. Elijah, when imploring the miraculous interposition of Almighty power to restore the life of the widow's son, retires to pray in the loft in which he slept. David, in adversity, lifts up his heart to the Lord in the night season. Daniel, amidst the crafty and dangerous snares of a powerful faction anxious to take his life, retires to his chamber, to kneel upon his knees in prayer and thanksgiving before his God, three times a day. Jesus, when about to make a solemn appointment of His twelve Apostles, “ went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer.” And when the hour of His trial and agony was at hand, and the wretched traitor Judas was approaching to betray Him, He prepared Himself for the conflict, with the powers of darkness, by private prayer; He desired His disciples to remain and watch, while He went apart to pray..
Enough has been adduced to show that private prayer is recommended in Scripture, no less by example than by precept. Now let us consider its uses and advantages.
The first advantage of private prayer, is that which we alluded to in speaking of mental prayer, , that it can be brought into use and action at any time or place. Whether we are in business, or whether we are in trouble, whether we sit, or walk,—whether we rise up, or lie down, whether we labour, or whether we rest, whether in fear or in security, in joy or in sorrow, in pain or in pleasure,—amidst the noisiest throng, or in the deepest solitude,—we can privately lift up our hearts to God, and hold sweet and comforting converse with Him in prayer. “ Nothing hinders,” observes Towerson, “but, whilst the hands of the diligent woman are holding the distaff, or those of the labouring man are busied about his employment, the heart, at least, of both the one and the other may lift up itself to God in prayer, and either implore, or give Him thanks for, His assistance and protection. Sure I am, those of the ancient Church went yet farther than that, yea, such of the members of it as were sufficiently encumbered with the business of the world. For we find by a learned man of our own nation, who hath particularly remarked the testimonies of the ancients for it, that the singing of David's psalms, those excellent incentives to, and instruments of devotion, was the attendant of such persons' businesses and meals, that it was their companion in their shops, and no less so in the field, that whereas the custom of the world had taught others to deceive the wearisomeness and length of business by any kind of singing, these did it by the singing of pious and holy hymns; like the skilful and industrious pilot, having at the same time their