« FöregåendeFortsätt »
THE SUBJECTS OF PRAYER.
97 prayers. He introduces only one petition for earthly good, and that the most limited possible, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Bread is what he tells us to implore, and that for but one day at a time.
Earthly blessings should not be a leading subject in prayer. It is true you may pray for them, and for deliverance from temporal evils; for the most eminent saints did so. But for every thing of this kind you should pray with resignation and submission, leaving the subject after all to God; for time is short, and earthly good of little importance to one who has to live for ever. Besides, our own blindness should teach the necessity of praying humbly and conditionally for what we may deem earthly blessings. God sees more than we see, and he may see that the very objects we most importunately desire, might be a source of ruin here or destruction hereafter, Rachel said, Give me children or I die! God granted her desires; she had children given her, and died through the grant. God may see the objects we desire would be a bitter curse; the troubles we deprecate our greatest blessing. Life, that desired object, the sorest of evils; death, that dreaded foe, the best of friends. We may desire life for ourselves or others, when we might see storms of affliction too heavy to be borne arising, and therefore send death to lay our bodies in the grave, that silent abode, over which the tempests of life may pass, but which they never reach; and to conduct our spirits to that world, where
" Pains, and groans, and griefs, and fears,
For spiritual blessings you may pray without apprehension of asking amiss. For them you may go boldly to the throne of grace. These are blessings, which it is for the glory of God to bestow, and for the good of man to receive. These are of everlasting importance, and everlasting worth. Whatever trifles others pray for, when your heart rises to heaven, in solemn devotion, let your petitions chiefly relate to the glory of God and the honour of Christ. Pray that you may understand clearly, and believe firmıly, the invaluable gospel ; that you may discern the infinite evil of sin, and comprehend the love of Christ ; that you may be cleansed from all sin in his atoning blood; that with full confidence you may rest your eternal all on him, as on the Rock of ages; that you may
THE SUBJECTS OF PRAYER. obey his holy instructions, copy his spotless example, and trust his sacred promises; that you may live on earth as one who belongs to heaven; that swelling multitudes may travel with you to that happy world; that the divine Spirit may rest on them and you, and that at length you may enter that world where, all error and corruption being left behind, you shall continue to eternity, praising, loving, admiring, and adoring him that sits upon the throne, and the Lamb that was slain, and redeemed you to God by his blood.
To see that such should be the leading subjects of prayer, observe what is expressed in a few scriptural petitions.
“ Hallowed be thy name," " Thy kingdom come.” “ Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."a Done in us, and done by us, and done with us, and done as perfectly and as cheerfully as it is done in heaven. “ Pray that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified.” “ I pray that your love may abound yet more and more ;"C “ that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye may know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge."d “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly : and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ ”e “ Now the God of peace make you perfect in every good work to do his will." 6. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all."
What important prayers are these! The direction of an ancient poet, to pray for, mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a healthful body, has been admired and applauded; but how unspeakably did the noblest advice of a heathen philosopher fall below the sublimity and importance of the subjects of Christian prayer.
$ 5. The word of God also represents what are the requisites of acceptable prayer.
Prayer must be sincere. If it be not the offering of the heart, it is worse than nothing. “ God is a spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth." The bended knee, the suppliant look, the devout expression, cannot please him where the heart presents not the offering. No bodily services, or repetition of devotional but lifeless (a) Matt. vi. 9, 10. (6) 2 Thess. iii. 1... (c) Phil. i. 9. (d) Eph. iii. 15–21. (e) 1 Thess. v. 23. (6) Heb. xiii. 20, 21. (g) 2 Cor. xiii, 14.
(1) John iv. 24.
PRAYER MUST BE SINCERE AND FERVENT. 99 i words, is sufficient. If that were prayer, teach a parrot to re
peat them, and a parrot could pray. Such were the prayers 5 of Israel of old. “ This people draw nigh unto me with Es their mouth, and honour me with their lips, but their heart is
far from me."i Such are the prayers of myriads now. They ask for what they do not desire; beg for holiness and follow sin, and mock God with their solemn requests; because their hearts join not sincerely in any petition that their lips
utter. 7 $ 6. Prayer should be solemn and fervent. “ The effectual , FERVENT prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
In the season of devotion we address that God whom we cannot love enough, and implore blessings of everlasting imtri portance. At such a time reverence, humility, unfeigned sor
row for sin, earnest desire for blessings needed, and thankEl fulness for blessings possessed, cannot be called into exercise
sufficiently lively. Think of God, and what is man! What * a moment his life! 'What an insect himself! What an atom be the world on which he dwells! Before that God what humi
lity should we feel ! with what reverence adore! What deep
self-abasement should we cherish, and what entire abhorrence lil of the dreadful ingratitude and hellish evil of sin committed T against such a Friend ! Then too should the immense, un- bounded love of God call forth gratitude the most devout.
Who would cross the Atlantic ocean to save a fly perishing on the other side that ocean! Such love to a dying insect warms no human breast. But the Son of God, at his Father's appointment, performed a miracle of mightier love. Man, compared with him, is far more worthless than a fly compared with man. Yet, given by his Father, for us he left his hea
venly dwelling, and becaine obedient unto death, even the The death of the cross. This “ love of infinite degree," this “im
measurable grace," should ever be remembered in the hour of devotion. At such a season too there is every thing in our
state to excite fervour. We speak to the God whose decision Lovely will fix our everlasting state, whose smile is life eternal, and
whose frown eternal death. We ask him for blessings of ETA eternal worth. How earnestly would a wretch condemned to je die, implore the mercy of his judge, if he saw that judge meltSain ing with compassion over him. And can we in prayer feel (1) Matt. xv. 8.
(k) James v. 16.
100 OFFERED IN FAITH AND A FORGIVING SPIRIT. our state, and look forward to the solemn and decisive scenes of an endless world, and not be earnest ?
$ 7. Prayer should be offered while exercising faith in your Redeemer's atonement and your heavenly Father's love. “ What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”m
It is true some or all of these passages have a peculiar and special reference to faith in God, enabling the apostles to perform miracles for the confirmation of the gospel ; but while this is allowed there can be no reasonable doubt of the importance of the exercise of faith, in imploring the more common blessings of his providence and grace. The exercise of faith will add fervour, solemnity, and reverence to your devotions. You will then pray as seeing him who is invisible, and with the confidence of a child addressing a beloved and lov. ing father. And to all Christians it is said, “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. But let him ask in faith.”n
$ 8. With acceptable prayer must be connected the exercise of a benevolent and forgiving disposition. As an important part of prayer is the imploring of forgiveness for sins and defects, so we are solemnly assured, that while asking forgiveness of God we must exercise it to man. “When ye stand praying, forgive.” “ If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”p The divine Saviour also taught his friends to pray “forgive us our debts AS we forgive our debtors." « Forgive us our sins; FOR we also forgive every one that is indebted to us." In the latter of these petitions the Christian is taught, while asking forgiveness, solemnly to declare to God, that he forgives all who have trespassed against him. An assertion which, if uttered by a person of an unforgiving disposition, would be a lie told to God himself. In the former !1) Mark xi. 24. (m) Matt. xviii, 19, 20.. .(n) Jaines i. 5.6..
rk xi. 25, 26." (p) Matt. vi. 14, 15. ) Matt. vi. 11.6 Luke si a
PRAYER SHOULD BE PERSEVERING. 101 petition, we are taught to ask for that measure of forgiveness which we exercise. Forgive as we forgive. It is obvious, that a person using this petition who does not forgive others, in fact asks God not to forgive him, and thus implores a curse instead of a blessing. And this the Son of God has solemnly declared the unforgiving worshipper will bring down on his own soul: as he does not forgive he shall not be forgiven.
$ 9. Prayer should also be persevering. “Be careful (full of care) for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” “Continuing instant in prayer." The Lord Jesus taught perseverance in prayer by two instructive parables. The blessings you solicit may not immediately be granted, yet still pray, and if they are really blessings, depend upon it God at length will hear. He may see it wise and kind to exercise your faith and patience, by delaying mercies he intends to bestow; still, therefore, pray. Let not delay or discouragements damp your earnestness. “Wait on the Lord and be of good courage, and he will strengthen thine heart.”
$ 10. Prayer should be constant. “Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks." "Watch ye, therefore, and pray always." At every suitable opportunity; on every stated season, and at other times, having the heart kept in a praying frame. This may be called praying always, praying without ceasing, in the same way as the sacrifice that was regularly offered every morning and evening in the temple, was called the perpetual sacrifice. Those prayers which are only offered by fits and starts, proceed not from a heart reconciled to God. When any alarming danger threatens to overwhelm them, many, who never otherwise think of prayer, profess to pray. The profligate, or the man of the world, languishing out what he thinks his last hours, begins to pray ; but let health return, and the profligate forgets his promises, his devotions, and his vows. Can such prayers be heard in heaven? Prayer should be a stated employment of part of every day. How often these seasons should be appointed, must partly depend upon the situation and circumstances in which persons are placed. The Psalmist appears to have had seven such
(5) Phil. iv. 6. (c) Rom. xii. 12. (u) Luke xviii. 1-8. xi. 5-8. (v) Ps. xxvii. 14. (w) 1 Thess. v. 17. (r) Luke xxi. 35.