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It is not under great and overwhelming calamities only, and those which come in a manner directly from the hand of God, that we are to resort to prayer. Afflictive events frequently befall us, which, compared, for instance, with the death of a dear relative, would be accounted small, but which, however, in no small degree, imbitter our existence. We daily think of them, and perhaps complain; and especially if they have arisen from the misconduct of others, we are apt to make them too often the subjects of conversation with our friends, while we neglect to mention them to our Father who seeth in secret.' Surely this is not the method in which He, without whose notice not a sparrow falls to the ground, would have his children receive his dispensations.
Were half the breath thus vainly spent,
We are daily exposed to temptation. Each is liable to be drawn away by his own lust and enticed.' The perverse tempers of some with whom we have to deal, the insidious designs of others, and our peculiar circumstances, sometimes all conspire to lay a snare for us. Alas! how many have been taken in an evil hour! How many have brought anguish to their own bosoms, and a reproach to religion! Where then is our own security? Our Lord has left a solemn admonition: Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.' Prayer is admirably adapted to calm the tumult of the passions, to repress every unholy desire, and awaken a becoming recollection that the eye of God is upon us. And if deeply impressed with this recollection, could you, brethren, plunge into sin? On the contrary, you would find that God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able to bear; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape.' It is folly, it is sin, to wait for the near approach of danger. Let us rather secure beforehand the protection of the Almighty. But however sudden and strong may be the temptation, nothing can excuse us from turning away, or making a pause, and raising at least a silent prayer to heaven.
Is the appearance or demeanor of any around us disagreeable? Perhaps the fault is in ourselves. But whether it is or not, we shall find that prayer for them in particular, is one of the best expedients for enabling us to bear with them, and for preventing in them, as well as in ourselves, the tendencies to strife and animosity.
Have we been injured by any persons unfriendly to us? are in danger of indulging unchristian feelings towards them. To guard against those feelings, to produce in ourselves the forgiving temper which the gospel requires, and the pity which our enemies need, what can be better adapted than to pray for them? Aud what is the direction of our Lord? Pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.' Indeed it is impossible to offer for ourselves an acceptable prayer, while in our hearts we have ill
will towards any person. This the Saviour most explicitly teach
es; and of this he would have us solemnly reminded whenever we bow before God, and ask the forgiveness of our trespasses.*
Has a brother fallen into sin, or by some means has he had his affections alienated? We endeavor to reclaim him. But a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city.'t Shall we go in our own strength? Shall we not rather first of all spread the case before Him without whom we can do nothing, and engage him to undertake for us? Perhaps it is a personal offence against us that the alienated brother has committed. It has been repeated, and others have been added, till we can endure it no longer. We feel that he must either make retraction or be excommunicated; and perhaps we have so far lost our charity for him that we insensibly begin to prefer that he be excommunicated. But, though we do not expect to gain him, we must, for the sake of form, take the previous steps requisite in order to bring him for trial before the church. Brethren, whenever such are our feelings, we are in the utmost danger of going to the offender with a wrong spirit. Would it not be wise for us to retire, and humble ourselves in prayer at the feet of the great Searcher of hearts? Would it not be wise to pray for ourselves and for the offending brother, not only once, but again and again, till the injury done to us, or to our particular friends, becomes the least of the motives that actuate us; till the bleeding cause of Christ fills our view, and constrains us; till we feel that tenderness of heart, that sincere and ardent desire for our brother's reformation, which will lead us to entreat him with tears? Prayer thus attended to, we are sure, would be followed with a blessing. Many new offences would be prevented, and many an old one would be healed forever. The number of doubtful and distracting cases brought for the decision of the church, would thus be diminished, while the spiritual health of her members, and the honor of her Redeemer, would be promoted.
İs any one in doubt with regard to some doctrine or duty of religion, or with regard to the place which he should occupy in the church? He is exposed to error. Even while he is laboriously employed in seeking the path in which he should go, his own heart may secretly incline to lead him astray. He needs the faithful hand of a kind, a heavenly Father to guide him. Is he a child, and will he not ask for it? Prayer, genuine prayer, cannot but tend to produce that teachable and obedient disposition, that humility, that entire resignation to the divine will, which says from the heart, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' Then with increased faith he may read, 'If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.'
In our worldly concerns, as well as in our spiritual, we need the guidance of an unerring friend, and the blessing of Heaven. Whenever, therefore, we think of taking any important step, let us
*Matt. vi. 12 and 15.
t Prov. xviii. 19.
+ James i. 5.
not neglect the best of counsellors. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.'
Our remarks have hitherto related to prayer as performed chiefly in secret. We can now say but a few words concerning it as performed elsewhere.
Who can number the benefits which prayer in the family is obviously adapted to produce? It is a good thing,' says the Psalmist, 'to give thanks unto the Lord-to show forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.' It is a most reasonable service. It promotes habits of regularity. It reminds those who are under our care, that in our government of them, we are acting under the authority of the great Parent in heaven. Above all, it tends to produce on our own minds, and on the minds of those whom we are commanded to bring up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,' a deep impression of dependence on God, and of obligation to him. It affords us daily the most favorable opportunities of reading the words of eternal life to our families, and of giving them to perceive, as we bear them in our hearts to the throne of grace, our ardent desires for their salvation. In this duty, dear brethren, let us be constant. Let us have some fixed time allotted for the service-an early hour-a time when, in general, the family can most conveniently be together. Then, if possible, let no worldly business intrude upon the season assigned for devotion. In our prayers let us aim to be simple and pertinent; simple, that our children may understand us; and pertinent, alluding to the occurrencies of the day, or whatever may be of special importance to any of the family, that all may be interested. And let us be concise, that none may be wearied. Thus our prayers, varied, and solemn, and brief, and frequent, will be likely to ascend warm from the heart. We may rest assured that they will not ascend in vain. Only let us remember that through the day our conduct before our families, must attest the genuineness of our devotions.
In public worship prayer holds a most important place. It imparts additional weight and solemnity to all the other performances; and often its influence upon a congregation is not less salutary than that of preaching. But were we to avoid more carefully, an indolent, not to say a disrespectful position of the body, the roving eye, and the wandering inind; were we never to forget that it is our duty, not only to hear a minister or another person pray, but devoutly to join with him, and, as with one heart and one voice, to pray ourselves, we have reason to believe that the public supplication would oftener be answered in copious showers of heavenly blessings upon the people.
Meetings designed principally for social prayer, have ever been among the most precious to Christians. How often at such meetings, dear brethren, have your drooping spirits been revived, your faith invigorated, your very souls refreshed! How often have your hearts glowed with increased love to the disciples of Christ! How often have you had an affecting view of the infinite value of
* Prov. iii, 6,
the gospel, and longed for the conversion of sinners! And how often, in fact, have prayer meetings been the precursors of signal deliverance to the church, and of extensive revivals of religion!
To encourage his followers, however few in any place they may be, that can assemble, our Redeemer has made the gracious declaration: Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.' It is not, indeed, to be supposed that the mere fact of our being assembled will excite in the omniscient Jehovah a greater attention to our prayers than they would receive if offered by us apart and at different times. But surely it is our duty to regard every indication of his will; and it is delightful to observe how admirably he has adapted all his requirements of us to our condition, and all the means that he employs to the accomplishment of his purposes. We are not merely individuals we are also social beings. We are affected by the feelings and the actions of those who are around us. At a prayer meeting, some person is impelled by the call of manifest duty to proceed. The spirit of ardent devotion breathed forth by one in a company of Christians, is an obvious and a common means of exciting it in the rest. One is also roused by the present example of another. Thus more prayers are made than would have been made, had there been no meeting: they are offered with the voice and the heart by more of the saints, and with more faith and fervency.
The same grand motives which urge us to meet once, urge us to continue to meet; and the permanent appointment of a time that recurs regularly after certain intervals, it is evident, conduces much to the continuance of a meeting, and to a general attendance. And the reasons which exist for Christians who reside near each other to assemble at the same place, exist, in a great degree, for them all to assemble somewhere at the same time. The exam
ple in one town or country calls loudly to the friends of religion in others to awake. It reproaches their neglect. It encourages their humble attempts. When the appointed hour of special prayer arrives, the recollection that the children of God in various parts of the world, in America, in Europe, in Africa, and in Asia, are this moment presenting their fervent supplications for the coming of the kingdom of our Lord, can hardly fail to produce in the Christian some emotions favorable to devotion. It reminds him of his own duty, and of his exalted privilege. It asks him how he, saved from eternal wo, a child of God, an heir of heaven, can be so engaged in worldly pursuits as to forget the perishing millions around him, or be unable to spend an hour or two in entreating his heavenly Father to cause them to taste and see that the Lord is gracious.' It prompts him to attend the appointed meeting, and it inspires him with additional fervency as he approaches the throne of grace.
With these views, dear brethren, we indulge the pleasing confidence, that, in every church, you will, with increasing interest and promptitude, unite with our brethren throughout the world, in supporting a meeting for special prayer. "The establishment
of a prayer meeting, the first Monday evening in every month, for the revival of religion and the extension of Christ's kingdom in the world, was at an association of Baptist ministers and churches held at Nottingham, (England,) in 1784. Soon after this period, Christians of other denominations began to meet on the same evening for the purpose of offering up solemn prayer and praise to God. The pious example has been almost universally followed. On the first Monday in every month, the prayers of the saints ascend to the Father of mercies, like one vast column of incense, from every quarter of the globe."*
It will be recollected that the monthly concert has been affectiontely recommended to all our churches by the General Convention of the Baptist denomination in the United States. It is now affording to multitudes of them some of their most delightful seasons. Songs of praise, fervent prayers, brief accounts of revivals, and striking pieces of religious intelligence, following each other in due succession, give variety and interest to all the exercises; while, to the eye of faith, the divine Saviour appears in the midst of the assembly, breathing on them the Holy Spirit.
Partakers of the heavenly calling! Disciples of Christ, that love his truth and his commands! let us all wait on the Lord,' and 'be of good courage.' In this day of wonders, let us with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours,' present our supplications for all men; for all in authority, that they may rule in the fear of God, and that the rights of man may every where be enjoyed. At a time of political commotion, especially, let us humbly and earnestly commend our country with all its endeared institutions, to the holy and gracious Ruler on high; and then we may hope, in proceeding to the discharge of our duties as members of the civil community, to exhibit a salutary example of Christian moderation and dignity. Let us pray for the churches, that they may be built up in the most holy faith, and in the order of the gospel, abounding in brotherly love, and adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things; for different denominations of professed Christians, that all may be delivered from every error in principle and in practice; for the right instruction of the young; for heavenly wisdom upon all to whom have been intrusted in any measure the interests and character of seminaries, whether of secular or of sacred learning; and for continual showers of divine, sanctifying influence upon the instructers and the instructed. Let us pray for the enlightening of the poor and ignorant; for the diffusion of the Scriptures, that all the inhabitants of the earth may read, each in his own language, the word of God; and for the success of other efforts, whether direct or indirect, to make known the truth as it is in Jesus. Let us pray more fervently than ever for ministers of the gopel, that they may be full of the Holy Ghost and of faith, scribes well instructed, able and faithful; that they may be sustained under all their trials, that they may shun not to declare all the counsel of
* See American Baptist Magazine, Vol. I. p. 19.