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ward God: of devotion, I say, the which (to engage, excite, and encourage us to the careful and constant practice thereof) we may consider enjoined us as a necessary duty, commended to us as a requisite means of good, and a special instrument of all piety, and as a high privilege granted to us by God.
1. It is a natural duty and debt we owe to God, (both in correspondence to the design of our being made and endowed with rational capacities agreeable to our relations; and in requital for our being, and for all the good we have, and do continually receive from him,) as most highly to love and reverence him in our hearts, so to declare our esteem of his excellences, and our sense of his bounty toward us, to avow the dependence we have upon his will and providence; the obligations we are under to his mercy and goodness; to yield our due homage of respect, submission, and obedience to him: if we do acknowledge a God, our Maker, our Lord, our continual Benefactor, to be, we must consequently acknowledge these performances in reason, justice, and gratitude due to him; and God accordingly requires, and positively enjoins them: he is the Lord our God, whom Deut. x. 20. we must worship and serve; the God whom praise waiteth for; who heareth prayers, and to whom Ps. lxv. 2. therefore all flesh must come. The scripture is very frequent in commanding the duty.
2. It is a most useful means, or a condition requisite, for the procurement of benefits and blessings upon us. God hath declared that he doth accept, Exƒ dihe hath promised that he will reward, all devotions. with an honest intention and pure mind offered up unto him; that he is nigh unto all them that call 18, 19, upon him in truth; that he will be found of them Jer. xxix.
22. vii. 7. Luke xi. 9.
ve John xiv.
13. XV. 7. xvi. 23.
1 John iii. who seek him with all their heart; that he will fulMatt. xxi. fil the desire of them that fear him; he will hear their cry, and will save them; that they who seek him shall not want any good thing; that, whatever we ask in prayer believing, we shall receive; that if we ask, it shall be given us; if we seek, we shall find; if we knock, it shall be opened to us. Prayer is also a means of procuring a blessing upon all our undertakings; it sanctifieth every performance, &c. There is no good thing so great and precious; so high above the reach of common power; so strange to expect, or difficult to compass, which we may not easily and surely by this means obtain; relief in all distresses, both of our outward and inward estate; supplies of all our needs, both corporal and spiritual; comfort in all our sorrows and sadnesses; satisfaction in all our doubts and darknesses of mind; help and strength against all our temptations, we may be confident to obtain, if we duly seek them from the Almighty Dispenser of all good gifts: sure promises there are, and obvious examples hereof, too many to be now recited: as, on the other hand, they that will neglect this duty, that will not vouchsafe to seek help and remedy of God, may be sure to want it; shall certainly suffer for their proud contempt, John v. 40. profane diffidence, or foolish sloth; You will not, saith our Saviour, come to me, that ye may have life: no wonder then if they do not receive it, if they will not go thither for it, where only it is to be had. All good things are in God's hand; and we shall never by any force or policy get them thence without his will, moved by entreaty: all good gifts come from heaven; and thence we shall never fetch them down, without ascending thither in our hearts and
affections; spiritual goods especially are so high above us, that we can never reach them otherwise than by God's help by humble supplication obtained.
3. It is not only a means, by impetration acquiring for us, but it is an effectual instrument working in us, all true good; it is the channel, by which God conveyeth spiritual light into our minds, and spiritual vigour into our hearts. It is both the seed Difficilliand the food of spiritual life; by which all holy dis-opus orare. positions of soul and all honest resolutions of practice are bred and nourished, are augmented and strengthened in us. It exciteth, it quickeneth, it Fervour of maintaineth all pious affections; the love of God can no otherwise than by it be kindled, fomented, or kept in life, (without it we certainly shall have an estrangement, and an aversation from him ;) it alone can maintain a constant reverence and awe of God, keeping him in our thoughts, and making us to live as in his presence; it chiefly enliveneth and exerciseth our faith and our hope in God; it is that which begetteth in our hearts a savoury relish of divine things, which sweeteneth and endeareth to our souls the practice of piety, which only can enable us with delight and alacrity to obey God's commandments; it alone can raise our minds, from the cares and concernments of this world, to a sense and desire of heavenly things. By it God imparteth strength to subdue bad inclinatións, to restrain sensual appetites, to compress irregular passions; to evade the allurements to evil, and the discouragements from good, which this world always presenteth; to support also with patience and equanimity the many crosses and troubles we must surely meet with therein. It is, in short, the only strong bulwark
against temptation and sin; the only sure guard of piety and a good conscience; no man indeed can be a faithful servant to God, a real friend to goodness, a serious practiser of duty, without a constant tenor of devotion.
4. It is a most high privilege and advantage to us, that we are allowed to pray and address our devotions to God. To have a free access to the presence and audience of an earthly prince (to the effect of receiving from him all that we could desire) would be deemed a matter of great honour and much advantage: how much more is it so to us, that we are admitted to the presence and ear of the great King of all the world; so mighty in power, so large in bounty, so full of goodness and pity; so thoroughly able, so exceedingly willing to grant and perform our requests! How sweet a thing, of what Ps. lxii. 8. comfort and benefit is it, to have the liberty of pouring out our souls and our hearts, as the Psalmist speaks, before God; of disburdening our minds of all their cares, their desires, their doubts, their griefs, and anxieties, into the breast of so kind a friend, so wise a counsellor, so able a helper; who alone indeed can afford relief, ease, satisfaction, and comfort to us! Considering which things we shall appear, not only very disobedient to God, and highly ingrateful toward him, (who so infinitely condescends Gen. xviii. in vouchsafing to us dust and ashes (vile and unworthy creatures) leave to speak and converse with him,) but very injurious and unfaithful to ourselves, and to our own good; if we neglect this duty commanded, or slight this privilege indulged to us :
In the due performance of which we are directed and assisted by this form of prayer, composed and
dictated for that purpose by him, who best knew Deus solus what we ought to pray for, and how we ought to tuit, ut se pray; what matter of desire, what manner of ad- vellet orari. dress, what disposition of mind would be most pleas- Orat. c. 9. ing and acceptable to his Father, would most become and befit us in our approaches to him. We might consequently observe many things concerning those particulars discernible in this form: the sublimity, the gravity, the necessity, the singular choiceness of the matter; together with the fit order and just disposition thereof, according to the natural precedence of things in dignity or necessity; the full brevity, the deep plainness, the comely simplicity of expression; the lowly reverence signified therein, accompanied with due faith and confidence: these, and the like virtues directive of our devotion, we might observe running generally through the whole contexture of this venerable form: but we shall rather choose to take notice of them as they shall offer themselves in their particular places; to the consideration of which in order we now do apply ourselves.
Dur Father which art in heaven.
Our Father: upon this title, or manner of compellation, we may first observe, that although our Saviour prescribeth this form as a pattern, and an exercise of private prayer to be performed in the closet, (and alone in secret, as is expressed in the gospel,) yet he directeth us to make our addresses to Matt. vi. 6, God in a style of plurality, saying, not my Father, but our Father; thereby, it seems, implying, 1. That we should in our prayers consider and acknowledge the universality of God's power and goodness.
BARROW, VOL. VI.