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till reduced to wretchedness and misery. When David says, “ I am poor and needy," he then earnestly prays, “ make haste unto me, O God, thou art my help and my
deliverer.” Ps. Ixx, 5. While we think we can help ourselves, and get through our difficulties by our own means, we are little disposed to pray to God. The Laodicean church could not be much in the spirit of real prayer, however it might abound in the outward form, when our Lord had to say of it, “ Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Come to the throne of grace to get, and not to give. Bring your wants, and not your fulness. And if you have no feeling of your spiritual poverty and necessity, let your first prayer be for this feeling.
2. FAITH IN THE BEING AND GOODNESS OF God. The prodigal thought of his Father's riches and bounty, and then returned to him. “ He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Heb. si, 6. He who has not a scriptural knowledge of God, or who thinks him a hard and austere master, will never feel disposed rightly to approach him. It is faith, realising the views given us in the Bible of the goodness of God, of his being ever present, and of the way of access by Jesus Christ, which excites the heart to draw near to him, in full confidence that he hears us, and loves us, and will help us. And what duty can be more delightful, than thus to come to God as an almighty, compassionate, and reconciled Father in Christ Jesus, in the full conviction that he loves us, and because he loves us, will deny us nothing that is for our good ?
The nature of prayer is, however, better known by experience than by any description. One who had just begun to be in earnest about religion, said, “I was most affected with the difference which I found in my prayers. I had never thought of doing any thing more than outwardly repeating a form; but I was surprised to find, how God enabled me, in my private devotions, earnestly to ask, in the name of his Son, those mercies which I needed, and really to desire those things which I had before only formally expressed.”
Many arguments might be urged to shew THE DUTY OF PRAYER; but we will confine ourselves to some plain ones.
GOD HAS EXPRESSLY COMMANDED US TO PRAY TO HIM, -Our Lord says, Ask, and it shall be given you. Mat. vii, 7. He declares, Men ought always to pray, and not to faint. Luke xviii, 1. St. Paul exhorts, I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands. 1 Tim. ii, 8. Testimonies to this effect might be multiplied. See Eph. vi, 18. Phil. iv, 6. Rom. xii, 12. Col. iv, 2. Matt. xxvi, 41. &c. &c. The great God, then, that made Heaven and earth, and before whom you will stand in judgment, plainly requires you to worship him. THERE ARE SEVERE THREATENINGS AGAINST THOSE
Pour out thy wrath upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name. Ps. Ixxix, 6. Daniel (ix, 13, 14.) ascribes the evil that came on the Jews to their neglect of prayer. Those were to be cut off, who turned back from the Lord, and those that have not sought the Lord. Zeph. i, 6. It is the character given of the wicked, who are far from God, (Ps. lxxii, 27.) that they call not upon the Lord ; (Ps. xiv, 4.) and of the hypocrite, that he
WHO NEGLECT THIS DUTY.
will not always call upon God. Job xxvii, 10. He may, perhaps, in a time of trouble, seek God's help, but he neglects it as his daily duty.
The duty of prayer may be farther proved from the PRACTICE OF HOLY PERSONS.—I need not do more than enumerate those of old, Abraham, (Gen. xviii, 22–32. xxi, 33 ;) Isaac, (Gen. xxiv. 63 ;) Jacob, (Gen. xxxii, 24, 28. Hosea, xii, 3, 4;) Moses, (Exod. xxxiv, 28 ;) Jabez, (1 Chron. iv, 10 ;) David, (Ps.lv. 16, 17;) Elijah, (James v, 17;) Daniel, (ch. vi, 10;) Paul, (Acts ix, 11. Rom. i, 9. Eph. i, 15, 16. Phil. iii, 4. 2 Tim. i, 3 ;) Peter, (Acts x, 9 ;) with many others : or, those holy women, Rebecca, (Gen. xxv, 22 ;) Hannah, (1 Sam. i, 13, 15 ;) Anna, (Luke ii, 58 ;) and others, to shew that they lived in prayer. And why is their devotion recorded? Not for their glory, but as examples for us.The man of much prayer resembles those Patriarchs of old who walked with God, and has something of their privileges to whom God manifested himself in the flesh, and with whom he conversed on earth. Not to dwell on these, let us look to our Lord himself, whose example is especially set before us to be followed. Few parts of his character are more plainly exhibited, than his constant regard of this duty. The reader is referred to the following passages, Matt. xiv, 23; Mark 1, 35; vi, 46; Luke v, 16, 19, 26; vi, 12; xxii, 39-45; Heb. v, 7; vii, 25.
Prayer is also an INDISPENSABLE MEANS TO BE USED IN ORDER TO OBTAIN SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS. The good things of this life are given indeed indiscriminately to good or bad inen: God thus shewing how little value we ought to set on those things which the wicked often abundantly possess. But grace and pardon, mercy and salvation, are promised expressly to those who
pray. "If thou shalt pray unto God, he shall be favourable unto thee.” Job xxxiii, 26. - Thou Lord art good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto all that call upon thee.” Ps. Ixvi, 5. No excellencies can compensate for the want of prayer. In fact, it lies at the root of the real benefit of all the other gifts of God to man.
But religion is in a low state in the heart of that man on whom prayer must be urged as a duty. It ought ever to be considered as the greatest of all mercies, that we are permitted to pray to God, and assured that Every one that asketh receiveth. We shall, therefore, in the following Chapter, consider prayer rather as a privilege than as a duty.
THE PRIVILEGE OF PRAYER.
“THE true happiness of every Christian,” says Bishop Wilkins,“ does properly consist in his spiritual communion with God.” Prayer is, then, a necessary part of the Christian's happiness, for it brings him into the
presence of God, and is the most direct act of communion with him.
Every one that prays aright can adopt David's expression, “It is good for me to draw near to God.” It is pleasant, it is honourable, it is advantageous. If I have riches, they may or may not be good for me. If I have human knowledge, power, eloquence, talent, and earthly glory, or any of the good things of this life, they may or may not be good for me: but if I have the grace of prayer, the heart to draw near to God, it is unmixed, unqualified good. It is certainly and unquestionably good for me.
Consider some of the ADVANTAGES of prayer.
Prayer is THE MEANS WHICH GOD HAS APPOINTED FOR YOU TO OBTAIN EVERY GOOD, AND TO ESCAPE EVERY EVIL.-It has pleased him to appoint this means for various, wise and holy purposes; and especially that we may acknowledge and glorify his attributes; that we may see our dependence on him, and prove our obedience to him. There is no evil that you may now suffer, or that you may expect to suffer, which prayer is not the appointed means to alleviate or avert,