« AnteriorContinuar »
goodness. We feel our wants and our inability to supply them; and we see the impotence of the creatures around us. If then we believe there is an invisi. ble Being, infinite in power, wisdom and goodness, always present with us and exercising a continual provi. dence over us, it is obviously reasonable to direct our desires to him. And desires directed to him are prayer.
To clothe our desires in language is not essential to prayer. God hears the desire of the humble.
But as we are accustomed to the use of language in commu. nicating our thoughts to one another, we naturally fall into the use of it, in directing our desires to God. In social prayer this is necessary, that we may with one mind glorify the Father. And in our secret devotions a kind of silent language usually accompanies the sentiments of our hearts. This assists us to fix our atten. tion, arrange our thoughts and enliven our affections. Creatures organized as we are, and accustomed to the use of words in their intercourse with one another, cannot easily frame a mental prayer without something like verbal expressions.
“But if God is powerful, wise and good, what need of any prayer? Will he not do for us what is best without our solicitation ?"
As well may you ask, “ What need is there of diti. gence in our calling P Cannot God by his own omnipotence supply our wants without our help po He has given us powers, and he requires us to use them. And there is the same reason for daily prayer, as for daily labor. We are dependent on God, and we know this dependence ; and it is as reasonable that we should express our sense of dependence by prayer, as that we should express our sense of want by labor. If we have desires, to whom shall we direct them, but to him who can supply all our need?
Prayer is a mean of enlivening our pious sentiments and exciting us to the practice of daty, and thus of preparing us to receive divine favors. In short, it is
founded in the same reasons, as love to God, the fear of him and trust in him. It is founded in his perfections and providence, and our relation to him and de pendence on him. And you may as well ask, what reason there is to love, fear and trust God, as what reason there is to praise him and pray to him. The former is the temper of a pious soul; the latter is the exercise and expression of that temper. observe,
II. Prayer is of several kinds, social and secret, pubke and domestic, stated and occasional : And it con sists of several parts, confession, supplication, inter cession and thanksgiving. The Apostle here points out no part or kind of prayer in distinction from all others, but exhorts us in general to pray with all prayer,
He seems, however, to have a more special regard to domestic or family prayer. He had just been treat. ing on the relative duties, as those between husband and wife, parent and children, master and servants; and the exhortation to prayer, immediately subjoined, may most naturally be understood as respecting that som cial exercise of devotion which families should main tain.
Family prayer was a usage observed by the ancient patriarchs, by pious Jews and by the early Christians. It was a practice well known in the Apostle's day.. The expression, therefore, " Pray with all prayer, **
". must include this,
Among the Jews there was a daily sacrifice, offered part in the morning, and part in the evening. This was called "the continual sacrifice." The hours of this sacrifice were considered as “ hours of prayer." In allusion to this, the Apostle directs Christians to
pray without ceasing," and to "offer the sacrifice of praise continually." These words therefore, “ Pray always with all prayer," clearly and strongly enjoin on families the stated maintenance of morning and evening prayer,
III. The Apostle next instructs us concerning the manner in which our prayers should be offered. “Pray with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watch thereunto with all perseverance."
The spirit and temper of the heart in our prayers, is the main thing necessary to qualify them for God's ac: ceptance. Those hypocrites, who draw near to him with their lips, while their hearts are far from him, wor: ship him in vain.
The first thing necessary in prayer is faith, or a believing view of God's providential government, and of the wisdom and goodness with which it is administered.' “ Without this faith it is impossible to please him.” And as he has appointed a Mediator through whom wė, unworthy creatures, may approach his throne, all our prayers must be presented to him in the name of this Mediator. Our spiritual sacrifices are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ; and whatever we do in word or deed, we must do all in his name.
Our desires must be good and reasonable. is the confidence which we have in God, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us; and if we know that he heareth us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him." There are some,
some, “who ask and receive not.” And the reason is, “ They ask amiss, that they may consume it on their lusts."
Attention of mind, collection of thought and warmth of affection,' are qualifications required in prayer. These are implied in our watching unto prayer—in our attending upon God without distraction in our engaging the heart to approach him—in our praying with the Spirit, and with a fervent spirit.
We must serve God with reverence and godly fear ; for “he is greatly to be feared in the assembly of his saints, and to be had in reverence of all that are about him." We must not be rash with our mouth, nor hasty to utter any thing before him, for he is in heaven,
and we upon earth.” “He humbles himself to behold the things which are in heaven." “ The angels vail their faces before him.” What are we, that he should be mindful of us ?-He is high, but he has respect to the lowly, and gives grace to the humble.
That our prayers may be acceptable to God, they must be accompanied with justice to men. to the Jews, “When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes; when ye make many prayers, I will not hear ; for your hands are full of blood. Wash ye, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings." of the Pharisees,' "'who made long prayers, and de. voured widows' houses," Christ says, “they shall receive greater damnation."
Charity is an essential qualification in prayer. “When ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any man, that your heavenly Father may forgive you.” "Be sober and watch unto prayer, and above all things have fervent charity among yourselves."
We must bring before the throne of God a meek and peaceable Spirit. This is the direction of the gospel : * Be likeminded one toward another, that ye may with one' mind and one mouth glorify God-study the things which make for peace and receive ye one another, as Christ hath received us.”
Our prayers must be accompanied with a sense of, and sorrow for sin. For “ if we regard iniquity in our heart, the Lord will not hear us." “ The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry ; but his face is against them who do evil. He is nigh to them who are of a broken heart ; but evił shall slay the wicked."?
We are to "continue in prayer, and watch thereunto with all perseverance"-" to pray always and not to faint.” It is “ by faith and patience that we receive the promises.” In our prayers for pardon, grace and glory, we may adopt the language of the patriarch ;
I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” We
Seku. XLVIII. are to “ seek until we find.” Our prayers for temporal benefits, however importunate, should be accompanied with submission to the unknown will of God, and to his perfect wisdom, which can judge for us better than we can judge for ourselves. In prayer Christ has taught us to say, “Our Father-thy will be done." I proceed to observe,
IV. The Apostle here teaches us the duty of intercession for others. “ Pray--with supplication for all saints, and for me
The goodness of God is the foundation of prayer. If God is good to others, as well as to us, there is the same ground on which to offer our social intercessions, as our personal petitions. The acceptableness of prayer much depends on our real desires of the things for which we pray. Intercession is therefore the most excellent part of prayer, because it is the most remote from selfishness, and implies the greatest degree of charity and disinterestedness. It is an expression of our desire for the happiness of others.
Good will to men is a necessary qualification in our prayers for personal blessings ; and prayers dictated purely by this principle are peculiarly acceptable to God.
Some will ask, “What reason is there why we should
for others? Will not God do good to men without our importunity ?"
This question is the same as if you should ask, " What reason is there, why we should love our neighbors ? If you ought to love them, you ought to desire and seek their good ; and if you believe, they are de. pendent on God for the blessings which they need, then you ought, in their behalf, to direct your desires and make your requests to hini."
Yea, you may as well ask, “What occasion is there for alons to the poor, instruction to the ignorant, or relief to the afflicted ?" God can feed the hungry, guide the simple and comfort the sorrowful without our good