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I. PRAYER IS A GREAT MYSTERY.
I. Prayer is a great mystery.
For is not prayer, in great part, man's request to God to do something; and does it not imply that God does what man requests upon his requesting it ? Now what can be a greater mystery than that the desires and requests of a creature like man, or indeed of any creature, should affect and influence God's' actings in ordering the affairs of the world ? And the mystery may seem all the greater when it is found that this prayer which prevails with God is not confined to requests addressed to him by the strong-minded, the intellectual, and the educated among men; but that the prayer of the illiterate, of the feeble-minded, and even of the little child prevails with the great God, so as, in some way or other, to enter into those influences that affect God's dealings with this world, and his creatures in it.
Known unto God are all his works from the beginning. He is of one mind. He is the unchanging
and unchangeable God. And yet prayer deals with him as a Being who will have respect to the requests of men, and women, and little children, so as to shape his procedure according to these requests, and because of them. This is verily a great mystery—how such requests, addressed to God from day to day, can be interwoven with his eternal purposes, and be an influence in directing and carrying out these purposes ! Philosophy has not been able to fathom this mystery ; and therefore proud philosophy has, in the case of many, rejected prayer altogether. But are there not a few other mysteries that philosophy fails to fathom, and yet does not altogether reject? Whilst prayer is undoubtedly to be regarded as a great mystery, it is not, on that account, to be rejected as a superstition and a delusion. For there are abundant grounds for
a a rational belief, that though it be a great mystery, yet notwithstanding
II. Prayer is a great fact.
It is a fact that men have prayed in all ages and everywhere—to imaginary gods, to idols, and to the true God-expecting to be heard and answered, and believing that often they were heard and answered. This is perfectly certain. The only thing that admits of a doubt is whether there is any good warrant for their so doing. Now, it seems very like as if prayer was a thing real, and efficacious for obtaining things asked in it, else how did men come so generally to
pray at all? But still may it not be quite a delusion -a superstitious fancy to believe and act on the belief that prayer has something to do with obtaining from God, those things that are asked in prayer ? Men do pray everywhere : so far, prayer is undoubtedly a fact. But is it a fact that prayers are heard and answered by God, so as that he grants the things asked in prayer? Yes; this is also a great fact. For not only has prayer been made in all ages, and in all places, either to false gods or to the true God, but also through prayer things asked from the true God, have been done or given by him.
Believing this to be a most important and blessed truth, though it is in many quarters much spoken against, how is it to be commended to belief and acceptance ? We have been led to think that, passing from philosophical speculation, much may be done towards this end by calling attention to the prayers and the answers to them recorded in the Scriptures. These are far more numerous than many people seem to be aware of. And as recorded in the Scriptures, these many prayers and the answers to them are very specific and distinct ; so that either prayer is a great fact, or else the Bible is the most lying book in the world. It is plain that men must make
their mind either to reject both prayer and the Scriptures, or to accept and believe in both.
Let the prayers of the Scriptures be all gathered out and put together, and let a person read them one
after another, to the number of several hundreds, (for that many they are) and we are persuaded that a conviction of their reality and truth will spring up and fasten itself on the mind, such as cannot be shaken off. And in this view of the matter, we have often thought that a little volume containing a collection of all the prayers of the Scriptures, with the answers to them in the very words of Scripture, might not only be for edification as a precious and very interesting portion of the Word of God, but also have a powerful influence towards securing a belief in the reality and efficacy of prayer. As one prayer is read after another, with the recorded answer to it —often the immediate answer—it is like the repeated strokes of a hammer driving home the convic
a tion that these prayers and their answers are all true —that prayer is indeed a great fact. In that belief, and with that view, I have made this collection of the prayers recorded in the Scriptures. May God own it and bless it as a humble attempt to promote the reception of his truth, and the enjoyment and benefit of prayer—that GREAT MYSTERY, yet GREAT FACT !
III. Prayer is a great power.
The Scripture records of prayers and the answers to them being true, there can be no doubt about the great power of prayer. Had there been no such records, an unbelieving world might have had some plausible ground for counting a belief in the efficacy