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petitions, and make other prayers by. This is clear from the text, After this manner pray ye, &c. And it is a most ample directory in few words, to be eyed by all praying persons, if studied and understood. There we are taught to. pray in a known tongue, and without vain repetitions, to God only, and for things allowed; to have chief respect to the glory of God and our own advantage.
2. It may also be used as a prayer, so that it be done with understanding, faith, reverence, and other praying graces. So we own the very words may lawfully be used, Matth. vi. 9. compared with Luke xi. 2. See Larger Catechism, quest. 187. and the Directory for Public Worship, under the title, Of prayer after Sermon, parag. 5. Who can refuse this, since it is a piece of holy scripture, of the Lord's own word? And they who are so weak, as that they cannot conceive prayer, do well to use this holy form; though they should endea your to make further progress in prayer. And sometimes knowing Christians, under great desertions, not able to conceive prayer, have used it with good success. But, 3. Our Lord hath not tied us to this very form of words when we pray to God. This is evident,
(1.) Because the prayers afterwards recorded in the scripture, were neither this form of words, nor yet concluded with it. Christ himself used it not in his prayer at Laza rus's grave, John xi. 41; nor in his last prayer, John xvii, Nor did his apostles, Acts i. 24; nor the church, Acts iv.
(2.) This prayer is diversely set down by Matthew and Luke, the only two evangelists that make mention of it. And though it is obvious, that there is an entire harmony between them, as to the matter and sense of the words; yet it is equally obvious, to all who compare them together, that there is some difference as to mode or manner of expression, parti cularly as to the fourth and fifth petitions; which certainly there would not have been, had it been designed for a form of prayer. In Luke, the fourth petition runs thus, Give us day by day our daily bread;' but in Matthew, it is thus expressed, Give us this day our daily bread.' The latter contains a petition for the supply of present wants; and the former for the supply of wants as they daily recur upon us: so that both accounts being compared together, we are directed to pray for those temporal blessings which we want
at present, and for a supply of those we stand in need of as they daily recur: which shews a considerable difference in the expressions. In Luke, the fifth petition is, Forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us;' whereas, in Matthew the expression is very different, viz. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.' Again, Luke leaves out the doxology, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen;' which Matthew adds. From whence it may be justly inferred, that our Lord's design in furnishing his disciples with this prayer, was not that they should confine themselves solely to the manner of expression used therein, without the least variation; for then undoubtedly the two evangelists would have recorded it in the very same words; but he rather intended it as a directory respecting the matter of prayer, So that it is impossible to keep by the form of words precisely, since it is not one. It is said, Luke xi. 2. When ye pray say, &c. Here we are tied to the form of words, say our adversaries. Ans. By this phrase is to be understood the man, ner, viz. Say this on the matter, pray after this manner, Compare Matth. vi. 9. If it is to be understood otherwise, then, (1.) According to Matth. x. 7. Go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand;' the disciples preaching was confined to these very words, which we are sure it was not. (2.) It would be unlawful to pray in any other words, which no Christian dare assert. (3.) Neither Papists nor Episcopalians stick to these words in Luke, but use the words in Matthew; by which they give up the cause.
Further, it may be observed, that our Saviour chiefly intended this prayer as a directory, respecting the matter of our petitions, rather than a form; because it does not explicitly contain all the parts of prayer, particularly confession of sin, and thankful acknowledgement of mercies. Again, there is no explicit or direct mention of the Mediator, in whose name we are to pray; nor of his obedience, sufferings, and intercession, on which the efficacy of our prayers is founded, and their success depends: which things are to be supplied from other parts of scripture; all which, taken to gether, give us a complete directory for prayer.
From the whole, I think it is evident, that a prayer formed upon the model of this excellent pattern, having the substance of the several petitions interspersed through it, though
expressed in other words, is a true scriptural prayer; and that there is no necessity to conclude with the Lord's prayer. And therefore, I cannot but think, that Papists, and many Protestants, who conclude their prayers with the very words of the Lord's prayer, make a very superstitious use of it; causing people imagine, that the bare recital of the words of the Lord's prayer sanctifies their other prayers; and that no prayer can be accepted of God where this, I cannot but call it vain, repetition is omitted.
III. Whether are these rules sufficient to enable us to pray acceptably? Ans. They are sufficient in their kind. i. e. as external directions and helps. But besides, the inward grace and assistance of the Spirit are necessary for that end, Rom. viii. 26*.
I shall conclude with a few inferences.
Inf. 1. How gracious and ready to hear prayer is our God, who has been pleased himself to direct us how to pray to him! We ought to be duly thankful to him for his great goodness in this matter, and diligently attend to the excellent rules he has given us on this head.
2. Let us acquaint ourselves with the blessed word, that contains such a full rule of practice as well as faith; and study the holy scriptures, that we may be the better instructed to pray. The bible is a noble guide for prayer, both for the matter and manner thereof; and if we diligently study it, we will not be in hazard of uttering any thing contrary to or inconsistent with it, or of using the words he has given us without knowledge or understanding.
3. Those who neglect prayer on any pretence, and particularly on that pretence that they cannot pray, or those who stick by a mere form, without endeavouring to improve in the duty, are highly culpable and inexcusable, as they have so many and such excellent helps scattered throughout the whole word of God. Herein they sin against God, and wrong their own souls.
Lastly, See the absolute necessity of prayer in the Christian life. Be convinced, that ye cannot be without that which
The author afterwards preached a courfe of excellent fermons on this fubject, from the text here quoted, which fince have been published, and forms a very proper appendix to this and the fubfequent difcourfes.
the Lord is at so much pains to bring you to, by not only teaching you what to pray, but promising his Holy Spirit to assist you therein. Apply yourselves diligently to this duty, that you may be often with God, guiding yourselves therein by the direction of the word; and plead importunately for the quickening power and influence of the Holy Spirit, for his help and assistance. He will shew thee thy wants, to give thee matter of petition; thy sins, to give thee matter of confession; the mercies and blessings of God, to yield thee matter of thanksgiving; and the church's miseries and necessi ties, to furnish thee with matter of intercession.
THE PREFACE OF THE LORD'S PRAYER.
MATTH. vi. 9.-Our Father which art in heaven.
HE Lord's prayer consists of three parts, the preface, petitions, and conclusion. The preface is in the words which I have read, designing the object of worship, and particularly of prayer, namely, God himself. And we are directed to address ourselves in prayer to him, (1.) As à Father; (2.) As our Father; and (3.) As our Father in heaven.
The words afford this doctrine.
DOCT. If we would pray acceptably, we must address our selves to the Lord in prayer, as our Father which is in heaven.'
Here I shall shew,
I. What our being directed to call God Father in prayer doth teach us.
II. What our being directed to call God our Father teaches
III. What we are taught by our being directed to address ourselves to God as our Father in heaven.
IV. Deduce some inferences.
I. I am to shew, what our being directed to call God Father in prayer does teach us. It teaches,
1. The children of God to be those who only can or are capable to pray acceptably: for they only can indeed call God Father. We cannot pray acceptably unless he be our Father, and we his children, namely, by regeneration and adoption, John ix. 31. How can one plead the privileges of the family, if he be none of the members thereof, but of his father the devil, a stranger to the covenant of promise? Therefore, if we would pray aright, our state must first be changed, Jam. v. 16.
Quest. May none pray, then, who cannot call God, Father? Ans. There are two sorts of these.
(1.) Unregenerate persons, who are yet in the state of black nature, who have no ground to plead this saving relation to God. They may, yea, ought to pray, though they cannot pray acceptably; because prayer is the natural duty of all, which all are bound to, and the neglect of which God will punish them for, Jer. x. ult. And prayer is not a sin, but a duty, though, as it is by them managed, it is turned into sin, as all other duties are. But the neglect of it is a greater sin.
Object. But it is needless for them to pray, since they cannot pray acceptably. Ans. No: for it is a mean of grace, and an ordinance of God; and though God have no respect to it as it is their performance, yet he may have respect to it as it is his own ordinance, and do good to them by it. The matter lies here; they are neither to continue in their sinful state, nor to satisfy themselves with their praying in that condition, but come out of it, and join themselves to God's family, and so they will come to pray acceptably.. ›
(2.) The children of God who cannot discern their relation to him. These not only may pray, but pray acceptably, Psal. ciii. 13. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.' But it is their duty to endeavour to assure their hearts before him, to advance their hunger and thirst after him to an actual acceptance of God to be their Father in Christ, and thereupon to believe he is their Father.
2. That it is through Jesus Christ we have access to God in prayer, Eph. ii. 18, because it is through him alone that God becomes our Father; by him, for his sake, we are adoptVOL. III. 3 F