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matter, method, and expression, ascribe ton little to the Spirit of God. Such grossly err, likewise, as wait for an inclination to pray, from immediate and present dictates of the Spirit of God, or expect such aids from him, as to render their prayers the proper work of inspiration, and to make their own study and labor needless. They indeed awfully pervert and abuse, as well as misapprehend the doctrine of the influences of the Spirit of all grace, in prayer, and turn it to the purposes of enthusiasm. We are, without doubt, to conceive of the Spirit of God as assisting us in prayer, in the following ways; as directing our natural capacities, understanding, judgment, memory, invention, and affections; as blessing our own diligence in reading, hearing the word, meditation, study, and attempts; in disposing us to pray and keeping us deeply attentive while praying; in sometimes sup: plying us with the matter of prayer by his secret teachings ; influencing the method ; in helping to proper expressions, and ex, citing such graces as are suited to the solemn work. Would we be favored with the gra. cious aids of the ever-blessed Spirit, we must earnestly seek them, be diligent in acquiring the gift, by studying a proper method, proper language, and matter; plead the promise of God that he will give his Spirit, con. fine ourselves to no set forms whatever, avoid formality and lip-service, be thankful for all
assistance granted, fear a spirit of pride and self-sufficiency, and order our conversation, in the world, according to the gospel, and our prayers.
THE encouragement to the duty of prayer will now be explained and laid before the mind.
To persuade people to practise this great duty is of the highest consequence. And to this, the most weighty and influential consid. erations urge us. And one great branch of the encouragement to stated prayer arises from the divine command enjoining it. From the goodness and benevolence of Jehovah we have every reason to conclude, that prayer would not have been made an express duty, had it not been not only in itself fit, but of salutary effect. An infinitely wise and gracious Being never commanded any thing as duty, which is not of happy tendency. Even the beauty of holiness mainly consists in its blessed tendency. Barely, therefore, our being commanded statedly to offer our supplications to the throne of grace is a full evidence of their usefulness. Were petitions and acknowledgments, homage and adorations offered to an omnipresent and almighty Being, of no avail or significance, they would not be required of us. But that prayer is requires!
of us, in holy writ, none can deny ; and is therefore beneficial in its effects and consequences. The wisest and best of all beings would not have required it of us, if it were in vain, and could answer no valuable purposes. A holy, glorious God does nothing in vain. All his works are good, and answer a valuable end, though we, short-sighted and imperfect creatures, cannot comprehend how they will do this. His commandments are all holy, just, and good. But it would be neither holy, just, wise, or good to command us, to live in the practice of stated solemn prayer if it were in vain. God has; by express and positive precept, commanded us to pray to him. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. And ne spake a parable to this end that men ought always to pray and not to faint. Pray without ceasing. Seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near.Enter thou into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father who seeth in secret, and he shall reward thee openly." We are as much commanded to offer stated prayer to God, in all the ways, in which , that duty is to be performed, as we are to fear him--or to do justly-or to love mercy. And the divine command is both our warrant and encouragement. Again,
The instances of the success of prayer, on divine record, are a strong and powerful en
couragement to the duty. Prayer is a sacred and appointed mean to obtain all the blessings, which we want, whether they relate to this life or the life to come. And shall we refuse the very means, which infinite wisdom has ordained for our own happiness ? Shall so glorious a privilege lie unimproved through our negligence ? How efficacious has prayer been, in past ages! Every instance of success, in the duty, is an inducement to others, to go, and do likewise. When we see that God, in his Providence, has rewarded the duty, and conferred favors in consequence of it, we cannot but feel that we ought to seek to the throne of grace with fervor and importunity for all the blessings, which we may need, pertaining to life and godliness. Every answer to prayer is an invitation to us to attend upon it. Jacob, Elias, David, Daniel, and Joshua, are remarkable instances of the power of fervent prayer. Gen. xxxii. 24, 30, and xxxv. 3. Elias or Elijah was a very eminent prophet ; a man of a quick and passionate temper. “ Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain ; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit." Innumerable almost are the instances of David's crying to God for relief, and of God's hearing him. “ I cried,” says he, “ unto the Lord in the day of trouble and he heard me and delivered me.” Dan. vi. 10, 20. Joshua x. 12,13. What wonders have been wrought by the power of prayer ! God delights to own and bless praying breath. “I said not unto the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain. Those that seek me shall find me.” In scripture, and in the history of pious people, in ancient and modern days, in all ages, we find how powerful prayer is with God. He is the hearer of prayer-" O thou that hearest prayer.” And this is the highest encouragement to us to call upon him for all we need, and to acknowledge him in all our ways. Further,
The example of our Saviour strongly presses us to the duty. None ever stood in so little need of prayer, and yet none were ever so diligent, constant, and devout in it. Religious retirement and secret prayer were his delight. Often were the mountain, the desert, and silence of the night witnesses of his requests to heaven. We read of his seeking a retreat for devotional exercises. “ He sent the multitude away, and went up into a mountain apart to pray." He spent, sometimes, the whole night in prayer. He was also a perfect pattern of submission and fervor in his petitions. “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, ( Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent,