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What is said of the privacy of prayer will literally apply to that which is personal, or expressive of individual desire. The proper: resort for tbis is the closet, or a place of retirement from the interruptions and observations of men. A vain-glorious professor may cojoy no freedom in this, because there is none to witness and admire bis devotions : but the child of God is here at home, even in the presence of his Father, who heareth him in secret. If we have no freedom in private prayer, but live nearly if not entirely in the neglect of it, and at the same time possess great zeal and fluency in our public exercises, we ought surely to suspect that things are far from being right between God and our souls.
The words of our Lord, however, must not be literally applied to all cases. Respect is had more to the principle of the act, than to the act itself. To understand it of the latter would be to censure all public prayer, and standing in prayer, which was no part of the design. A good man might pray standing in the synagogue, or even at a corner of the street, on some occasions. Paul prayed with the Tyrian disciples, with their wives and children, and gave thanks to God, in the presence of a ship's company. That which Christ meant to censure, was the loving to pray in public places in order to be seen of men. His object was not to appoint the place or the posture of prayer; but to detect the vanity of the mind, and to direct his followers to seek the appro. bation of God, rather than the applauses of men.
The motives with which these counsels are urged is very impressive. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward! God will apportion our rewards according to the things we seek. If the objects of our desire be confined to this world, this world shall be our all: but if they extend to another, that other shall be our portion.
What is said of vain petitions, and much speaking, admits of sim, ilar remarks as that which goes before it. In general, it is right to avoid long prayers, especially in the family, and in the church, wbich are not only wearisome to men, but offensive to God. A proper sense of the majesty of the Great Supreme would cure this evil. God is in heaven, and we on earth : therefore let our words be few. The contrary/ practice savours of heathenism. Let the devotees of Baal vociferate from morning till noon ; but let not the worsbippers of Jehovah imitate them.* Our beavenly Father knoweth what things we need. If he require importunity in prayer, it is not because he needs to be persuaded; but that his favours may be known, accepted, and prized.
It is not our Lord's design, however, to condemn all long prayers, nor all repetitions. He himself, on some occasions, con. tinued for a whole night; and in Getbsemane he three times repeated the same words. They are vain repetitions which he censures, and the hope of being heard for much speaking. It is observable, however, that whenever Christ or any of the apostles were long in prayer, it was in private. If many who pray for an hour or longer, in public, and with tedious repetitions, were equally circuitous in the closet, whether we should commend their discre. tion or not, we might hope well of their sincerity. But where the reverse of this is true, it certainly has the appearance of the very spirit which it was our Saviour's intention to condemn.
ON THE LORD'S PRAYER.
Matt. vi. 9-16.
This admirable summary of prayer, as introduced by Matthew, would seem to be only for the purpose of illustrating by example
* Heathenism still retains the same character as it did in the days of Elijah. The Hindook at this day, in worshipping the idol Kreeshnoo, or Hurry, will cry for hours together, without intermission, “Hurry bolo !” Hurry bolo !” i. e. Kreeshnoo, speak! Kreeshnoo, speak!
the foregoing precepts. Luke, however, represents it as occasioned by our Saviour's being engaged in prayer at a certaia place, and when be ceased, one of his disciples saying unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. If in any thing we need divine instruction, it is in drawing near to God. It does not appear to have been Christ's design to establish a form of prayer, nor that it was ever so used by the disciples : but merely
a brief directory as to the matter and manner of it. Such a et directory was adapted not only to instruct, but to encourage acht Christians in their approaches to God. It was putting words into
k their mouths. In supplicating divide mercy, they might plead, the Thus and thus our Saviour taught us 80 say; even he in whom poliny soul delighted : bear us for his sake!? Observe, Ertan First: The character under which we are allowed to draw Teitä near to the Lord of heaven and earth. Our Father. It has been Beh a question, though I conceive it ought not, whether God is here to 20841 be cousidered as our Father in Jesus Christ, and not rather as our Beni Creator ; and whether the prayer be not suited to all men, who
are God's creatures, as well as to believers. That the prayer jo free to every one who can cordially utter its sentiments, there is vo doubt : but, whatever others have done, Christ would never prescribe a prayer suited to an unbeliever. As the scriptures io. culcate no precept, but what, if obeyed in its true intent, would prove us in the way to eternal life, so they prescribe no prayer but what, if offered up in its true meaning, would be heard and an swered. It is true that God is the Father of all men by creation ; but like prodigals, they are by sin alienated from him, and his love to them as a Creator is in a manner extinguished. He cannot cousistently treat them as children, but as straugers and enemies. If strict justice had its course, he would destroy man whom he hath created from the face of the earth. The effect is, that if any of the sons of meu approach him as a Father, it must be through a Mediator. The original relation is, as to any access to him, or
communion with him, dissolved. If any sinner be now treated as 75 ofb' a child of God, it is as an adopted alien, put umong the children, Hurry See John i. 13. uppyli Vol. VIII.
It is no small proof that the privilege of approaching God as a Father has respect to the mediation of Christ, that it is almost confined to the gospel dispensation. To Israel, it is true, pertained the national adoption ; but this was only a shadow of that to which believers were predestinated through Jesus Christ. Old Testiment believers were no doubt related to God as a Father, as well as we; but they were not ordinarily in the habit of addressing bim under that endearing character. The spirit of that dispensation was, when compared with ours, a spirit of bondage. It was reserved for the times of the Messiah, in the spirit of adop. tion, to cry, Abba, Father. The encouragement contained in this tender appellation is inexpressible. The love, the care, the pity which it comprehends, and the filial confidence which it inspires, must, if we are not wanting to ourselves, render prayer a most blessed exereise.
Secondly : The place of the divine residence.-Our Father, who art in HEAVEN. · As the endearing character of a father in. spires us with confidence, this must have no less a tendency to excite our reverence; and both together are necessary to acceptable worship. As for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy : ard in thy FEAR will I worship toward thy holy temple. Fear without hope, would sink us into despair; and hope without fear, would raise us to presumption ; but united together, they constitute the beauty of holiness. It is not, however, for the purpose of inspiring reverence only,'that God is said to be in heaven, but to encourage us to confide in his absolute supremacy, and almighty power. He is above all our enemies, and has the direction and control of all events. What can be more consoling than the thought of having the Lord of the universe for our Father! When the heathen triumphed over the church, and sneeringly asked each other, Where is now their God?' it was sufficient to answer, Our God is in the heavens, he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. I
Thirdly : The social principle which pervades the prayer.-OUR Father-forgive us, &c. Assuredly we are hereby taught not to confme our petitions to what respects ourselves, but to identify with our own cases those of our brethren. Nor is it necessary
that they should be actually present to hear us, and join with us : the prayer of faith and love will embrace in its arms brethren at the greatest distance; and not only such as are known, but such as are unknown, even the whole family of God upon earth. Neither is it necessary to social prayer, that all who are present should be believers. Were this the case, we must restrain prayer in our congregations, and in our families. The worship of the primitive churches had in it both prayer and singing, and that in a language that might be understood ; yet it was open to unbe. lievers, or any person who chose to join in it. I Cor. xiv. 15. 23-25. If either prayer or praise were positive institutions, we might be under the necessity of refusing admission to some characters, as is the case in other positive institutions ; but if they are immediately binding on all men, whatever be their characters, any man has a right to be present. If he can join in either, let him ; and if not, it is to himself only. Our only concern in such cases is, not to give upbelievers to understand that they are considered differently from what they are ; and this may be avoided, without re. fusing to pray or praise in company with them. Paul would not have united with the ship's company in celebrating the Lord's supper, but he did not scruple to take common bread, and give thanks on their behalf, in the presence of them all.
Fourthly : The brevity of it.—Use not vain repetitions, but in THIS MANNER pray ye. The prayers recorded in the scriptures are commonly as brief as they are impressive. It is true our Lord continued in prayer for a whole night; but he was then by himself. The importunity which induces us wben alone, to wrestle with our heavenly Father for a blessing, and to be unwilling to retire without it, is very different from that tedious circumlocution, so wearisome to families, and disgusting to the most solemn assemblies. There may be indeed an extreme on the other side. Some persons conclude their prayers ere they have well begun them ; and without affording opportunity for their own hearts or the bearts of others, to be affected in thein. Prayer is the pouring out of the soul before God; it therefore requires to be lung enough to interest the mind and affections, and not so long as lo drown them in a flood of onmeaning words.