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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 worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”
Prayer is not the mere posture of the body.-A man may kneel till he wear 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 horny, 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 flesh longeth after thee,” and yet not offer one prayer to God.
It is not the mere invention of the mind.-Many have a peculiar gift of prayer in this respect, and can utter 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 implored.
Nor is the mere act of joining in family, social, or public worship, acceptable prayer. Uniting with others, 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 should be a sacred bond knitting the soul to God, a holy converse with him.
Mrs. Moore 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 of our own unworthiness, infirmities and sins; the petition for the supply of our wants, and for the pardon of our offences, for succor in our distress, for a blessing 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 mercy.”
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 unprofitable 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 honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;" and what follows? _“in vain do they worship me."
Two things are essentially necessary to enable us really to pray.
First. 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." Secondly-Faith in the being and goodness of God. - The prodigal thought of his father's riches and bounty, and th
returned to him. “He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” It is faith, the gift of God, realizing the views given. us in the Bible of the immensity, power, wisdom, all-sufficiency and 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 hears us, and loves us, and will help us.
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."
THE DUTY OF PRAYER.
Many arguments might be urged to show the duty of prayer; but a few obvious ones only will be adduced.
1. Prayer is a natural and reasonable act for human beings. The first feeling of the mind, and the natural expression of that feeling in any sudden and alarming emergency and distress, is an act of prayer to God. Jonah, i. 5, 6. It is natural and reasonable, for man is not an independent being ; he is created by another, and he is altogether dependent on his Creator. It is our truest wisdom to know, and our best interest to act upon this truth. It is our highest happiness to delight in him, by whose skill, power, and love, we have every faculty given, and continued to us. Prayer is the simplest and plainest expression of dependence, and the most obvious way of obtaining help from God our Creator. Hence men in all ages and in all nations, have in some way offered up prayer.
2. Prayer is an act of homage justly due from us, to the great Governor of all. We thereby adore him, who only has a right to our adoration. It is a special part of that honor and service to which he. has every possible claim. He ought to be acknowledged as the Author and Giver of every good gift. Thereby we glorify his wisdom, as knowing all things, his power, as able to extricate us from every difficulty ; his goodness, as willing to assist us, his all-sufficiency, to meet every want; his mercy, as pitying our misery; and his forbearance, in pardoning all our sins. In short, what attribute of God does not prayer acknowledge and honor, and how manifestly does it tend to maintain a constant, and lively, and general impression of his supreme excellence and glory.
3. God has expressly commanded us to pray to him. Our Lord says, “ Ask, and it shall be given you.” He declares, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” St. Paul exhorts, “I will, therefore, that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands.” The great God, then, that made heaven and earth, and before whom you will stand in judgment, plainly requires you to worship him.