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respects, would be pernicious, Who, for example, would labour, if his necessities could be supplied with equal certainty by prayer? How few would contain within any bounds of moderation those passions or pleasures which at present are checked only by fear of disease, if prayer would infallibly restore health? In short, if the efficacy of prayer, as applicable to this life, were so constant and observable as to be relied on beforehand, and to the exclusion or diminution of our own caution, vigilance, and activity, the conduct of mankind would, in proportion to that reliance, become careless, indolent, and disorderly. However, our prayers may, in many instances, be efficacious, and yet the experience of their efficacy be doubtful and obscure; therefore if the light of nature instruct us, by any arguments, to hope for effect from prayer, still more, if the Scriptures authorize these hopes by precept, by example, or by promises of acceptance, it is not a sufficient reason for calling in question the reality of such effect that we cannot observe this reality, since it appears something more than probable that this doubt about it is necessary to the safety, and order, and happiness of human life.
We have been speaking of praying for particular favours by name, and have remarked that the Scriptures authorize these prayers by example. This they do most explicitly. Hear Saint Paul: "For this thing (some bodily infirmity, which he calls a
thorn given him in the flesh,' and the example applies to any other sore grief under which we labour), for this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me." Also, for the future success of any honest intention or just undertaking, in which we are engaged, we have the same authority for imploring, and with earnestness, the aid and blessing of God" Night and day praying exceedingly, that we might see your face."
Nay further, it is to be remarked, that we are not only authorized, and even directed by Scripture ex ample, to pray for particular favours by name, but to do so repeatedly and renewedly, even in cases ultimately unsuccessful. We are to do our duty, by addressing ourselves to God under the several difficulties in which we are placed; and having done this, to resign both ourselves and them to his disposal. "I besought the Lord thrice," saith Saint Paul, "that it might depart from me." But yet it was not departed at the time of his writing, nor have we any information that it ever did. Our Lord himself drank the fatal cup to the dregs: it did not départ from him, though his prayer surely was right, and was urged, and renewed, and reiterated, even in the same words.
But this, viz. the renewal of unsuccessful prayer, is with our Lord not only a point of practice, but of doctrine: he not only authorizes it by his example, but enjoins it by his precepts. "He spake a parable
unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray and not to faint." He would not have delivered a parable upon it if he had not meant both to authorize, recommend, and enjoin it. "
But although our own distresses may both excite and justify our own prayers, yet we seem, it is said, to presume too far, when we take upon us to intercede for others, because it is allowing ourselves to suppose that we possess an interest, as it were, in the divine councils. Turn however to the Scripture, and we find intercession or prayers for others both preached and practised. "Pray for one another, that ye may be healed: the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." "God is my witness," saith Saint Paul, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers." "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers for me." "Saint Peter was kept in prison, but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him." These are strong and decisive examples of intercession, and of one in dividual interceding for another. The largest and farthest advance in this species of worship is when we take upon us to address the supreme Governor of the universe for public blessings in behalf of our country, or touching the fate of nations and empires. “I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes." Surely this humiliating
sentiment belongs to us all. Who feels not, as it were, a check to his prayers when he compares the vileness and insignificance of the petitioner with the magnitude of the favour asked, and with the infinitely exalted nature of the being from whom we ask it? Nevertheless, intercessions for the community, for blessings upon them-for national blessings, both natural and civil—are amongst the conspicuous parts of both Testaments; not only in examples, which is authority, but in precepts, which is obligation. Are we, as all are, concerned that the blessings of nature may be imparted to our land? "Ask yet of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; so the Lord shall make bright clouds and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field." Or are we more especially interested in the continuance of those civil blessings, which give, even to the bounty of nature, no small share of its value and enjoyment? "I exhort that first of all supplication, prayer, intercession, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and for all that are in authority;" and this is in order that "we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." The meaning of this passage is clearly-Pray for them, not for their sakes, either alone or principally, but for the common happiness, that under the protection of a regular government we may practise religion and enjoy tranquillity. "This is good," saith the apostle, "and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour."
pray for the peace of Jerusalein, for there is the seat of judgement, even the seat of the house of David for my brethren and companion's sake I will wish thee prosperity; yea, because of the house of the Lord God, I will seek to do thee good." Jerusalem was to the Psalmist what our country is to us, the seat of his affections, his family, his bre thren, and companions, his laws, religion, and his temple. But again, must we look to seasons of calamity and visitation; have we not the father of the faithful interceding face to face with the divine messenger for a devoted land? "Olet not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this time:" Or rather, because the piety of the patriarch was n successful, hear the leader and lawgiver of the Jewish nation effectually supplicating for his threatened and offending, but now penitent followers: "Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people? remeinber Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants. And the Lord repented of the evil which he had thought to do unto his people." Or, lastly, let us attend him in the most solemn of all devotions, which seem to have been performed in the history of the world, in that sublime prayer which he offered up in behalf of his country If they pray towards this place and confess thy name, and turn from their sin when thou afflictest them, then hear thou in heaven, thy dwelling-place; and when thou hearest, forgive; forgive the sin of thy servants and of thy people