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As, therefore, by the term watchfulness, we understand something more than the bare act, a posture of mind set and prepared to meet whatever danger our spiritual adversary may assail us with—so to pray without ceasing, supposes also a frame of mind always fitted for prayer, intent, it is true, upon our proper worldly employments, but so intent as to be able to detach itself at the shortest notice from the attraction of earth, and to cut all the cords that would hinder and impede its ascent towards Heaven. It is, to have our turbulent passions subdued and pacified, our hearts and thoughts spiritualized ; our affections elevated—in short, to have our whole soul and spirit sweetly attuned and harmonised to religion. It is not to make long prayers, nor yet formal ones ; a practice our Lord so severely reprobated in the Pharisees of his day. A sigh, a devout aspiration, a holy ejaculation, will oftener pierce the sky, and reach the ear of Omnipotence, than a long and set exercise of prayer, a minutely detailed catalogue of wants and woes, during which the spirit of prayer is too often suffered inadvertently, to escape, and to leave the suppliant at last but where it found him-on earth, instead of in heaven; entangled and perplexed about many things, and losing sight of the one thing needful. To be always long, is
not essential to prayers; they may acquire in fervency what they want in length. Few can long continue on the wing: and our proper callings are perhaps necessary to bring us down, lest, by forgetting them, we should be inclined to remain too long in unprofitable abstraction.
Much less, on the other hand, should we converse too long at a time with the world. The Christian cannot long together breathe this lower atmosphere without endangering his spiritual life, or finally quenching that spirit of devotion, which was originally kindled above. And, happily, there is no necessity for his running such a risk : since, even in our busiest moments, our most entangling perplexities, our most trying embarrassments, we may send up a sigh and a wish : and such a sigh, in the discriminating judgment of our all-merciful and all-bounteous God, will mark the character of the soul, and discover its tone. Our Lord has said, that where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also. And, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. So it is with regard to prayer. When all the best feelings and affections of a soul habitually devout, are thus wound up to that devotional pitch implied in the text : like a well-tuned lute, the slightest impulse, the smallest external impression, is sufficient to make it speak, and to give it utterance. On the contrary, when this world has the preponderating share of our regard and thoughts, our account with heaven is too often closed, devotion languishes and dies, the soul is out of tune, and it requires much time and previous preparation to bring it back to its proper pitch and harmony. We cannot, therefore, with such a feeling of aversion and reluctance, pray at all, at least, to any good purpose. For to pray with the soul out of tune, unprepared, unabstracted, unelevated—such a prayer must grate as harshly and offensively on the ear of sovereign grace and love, as discord in music upon the natural ear. In a word, to pray without ceasing, supposes such a constant, such an habitual preparation of the heart to seek the Lord, as that in every situation and circumstance of life, we may with the most natural, and easy, and decent transition, pass in our thoughts, desires, and affections, from the world of flesh, to the world of spirits—from intercourse with men to communion with God.
I have thus pointed out to you the duty and extent of prayer. I might here dwell on its divine efficacy, but the time would fail me. I leave it, therefore, to be tried by your own
experience. Pray without ceasing, and you will find yourselves in possession of a jewel beyond all estimation, all price.
To those who omit the duty, I would observe, that you cannot be Christians and live without prayer. Be assured, unless you pray, and pray fervently, you are very far from the kingdom of heaven. It is a true observation that either praying will make a man leave off sinning, or sinning will make him leave off praying. This is most true. Prayer is the germ and first fruits of the spirit. The beginning of grace within us. This was the case with no less a man than St. Paul. Behold he prayeth, said the angel to Ananias. A new scene of things had commenced within his heart; from the fiery persecutor he had become the humble follower of the Cross. Prayer, therefore is necessary to show yourselves Christians in the lowest degree. Pray without ceasing, pray fervently, would you be perfect Christians, thoroughly instructed to the kingdom of heaven. Powerful and almost miraculous is the prayer of faith. It takes heaven by storm, and assails the Almighty on his very throne. “I will not leave thee except thou bless me,” was the language of Jacob when he wrest. led with the angel. On the contrary, your own experience will tell you, that you owe all your declension in religion and relapse into sin, to omitting prayer. “ Apostacy begins at the closet door.” This opens the flood-gates to temptation. We throw away our armour, and Satan takes advantage of our defenceless situation. Pray, therefore, with all prayer and supplication, and watch thereunto with all perseverance. This is your life, and thus alone will you be strong in the Lord, and overcome the world, the flesh and the devil.