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the spirit and energy of vital godliness. The divine affections of the soul thus exercised, shoot up, expand, blossom, and ripen into fruit. Say, Christians, what grief for sin, what hungering and thirsting after righteousness, what aspirations of heart towards God: what hope in his mercy, and what peace and joy in a sense of his favour, have you not sometimes felt springing up in your breast, whilst pouring out your cries to God; and hath not this happy experience an immediate effect to establish and invigorate all the powers of reStennet's Personal Religion. ligion in the soul?
Moreover, the same Spirit of adoption, who beareth witness to our spirit, that we are God's chosen children, is also the Spirit of prayer and supplication, and inflameth our hearts to call daily upon our heavenly Father. Those, therefore, who, from the certainty of predestination, do pretend, that the duty of prayer is superfluous, do plainly show, that they are so far from having any certainty of their predestination, that they have not the least sense thereof. To be slack and sluggish in prayer, is not the property of those who, by the testimony of God's Spirit, have got assurance of their elec tion; but, rather, of such as have either none, or very small appre hension thereof. For, as soon as any one, by believing, doth con ceive himself to be one of God's elect children, he earnestly desireth to procure unto himself, by prayer, those good things which be believeth that God prepared for his children before the foundation of the world. Bishop Davenport.
In holy, faithful, fervent prayer, a Christian hath very much of his converse with God; for prayer is our approach to God, and calling to mind his presence and his attributes, and exercising all graces in a holy motion towards him, and an exciting all the powers of our souls to seek him, attend him, and reverently to wor ship him. It is our treating with him about the most important business in the world, a begging of the greatest mercies, and a deprecating his most grievous judgments; and all this with the nearest familiarity that man in flesh can have with God. So that the soul is most and best at prayer; is most and best at walking with and hath most communication with him in the spirit;
withdraw from prayer is to withdraw from God. When we are commanded to pray, it includeth a command to repent, and believe, and fear the Lord, and desire his grace; for faith, and repentance, and fear, and desire, are altogether in action in a serious prayer; and naturally each one takes its place, and there is a holy order in the acting of these graces in a Christian's prayers, and a harmony which he doth seldom himself observe.
He that in meditation knoweth not how to be regular and methodical, when he is studiously contriving and endeavouring it, yet in prayer, before he is aware, hath repentance, and faith, and fear, and desire, and every grace falls in its proper place and order, and constitutes its part to the performance of the work. The new nature of a Christian is more immediately and vigorously operative in prayer than in many other duties; and therefore every infant in the family of God can pray with groanings, desires, and ordered graces, if not with well-ordered words. When Paul began to live to Christ, he began (aright) to pray. 'Behold, he prayeth," saith God to Ananias; Acts ix. 12. And because they are sons, God sends the Spirit of his Son into the hearts of his elect, even the spirit of adoption, by which they cry, Abba, Father; Gal. iv, 6. as children naturally cry to their parents for relief; and nature is more regular in its works than art or human contrivance is. Necessity teaches many a beggar to pray better for relief to men, than many learned men, who feel not their necessities, can pray to God, Baxter.
Some method must be used, in order to secure us from confusion, that our thoughts may not be ill-sorted, or mingled and huddled together in a tumultuary and unseemly manner. This will be of use also to prevent tautologies, or repetitions of the same thing, when each part of prayer is disposed of into its proper place. This will guard against roving digressions. When we have ranged our thoughts into order throughout every step of our prayer, our judgment infers what sort of matter properly and naturally follows that which we are at present speaking, so that there is no need to fill up any empty spaces with matter that is not proper, or not suited to purpose.
The third thing that relates to the gift of prayer, is expression. Though prayer be the proper work of the heart, yet in this pre sent state, in secret as well as in social prayer, the language of the lips is an excellent aid in this part of worship. A person, indeed, may pray heartily and effectually, and yet make use of no words: sometimes the desires of the heart may be too big to be expressed, when the Spirit of God is with us in plentiful operations, and assists us to plead with sighs and groans which cannot be uttered; as Rom. viii. 26. Persons that are dumb may think over their wants, and raise their souls to God in longing desires and wishes for grace in a time of need; nor is there any necessity of using language upon God's account, for he knows the desires of our heart, and our most secret breathings towards him. He that hears without ears, understands us without our words. Yet as language is of absolute necessity in social prayer, that others may join with us in our addresses to God; so, for the most part, we find it necessary in secret too; for there are few persons of so steady and fixed a power of meditation, as to maintain their devotion warm, and to converse with God, or with themselves, profitably, without words,
Choose those expressions that best suit your meaning, that most exactly answer the ideas of your mind, and that are fitted to your sense and apprehension of things; for the design of prayer is to tell God the inward thoughts of your heart: if you speak, there fore, what is not in the heart, though the words be never so fine and pathetical, it is but a mere mockery of God. Let your tongues be Dr. Watts the true interpreters of your minds,
Call upon God, adere, confess,
Petition, plead, and then declare
You are the Lord's, give thanks, and bless,
In the last place, I mention the most usual, most evident, and con vincing argument against perpetual confinement of ourselves to a form; and that is, because it renders our converse with God very imperfect: for it is not possible that forms of prayer should be com posed, that are perfectly suited to all our frames of spirit, and fitted
to all our occasions in the things of this life, and the life to come. Our circumstances are always altering in this frail and mutable state. We have new sins to be confessed, new temptations and sorrows to be represented, new wants to be supplied. Every change of providence in the affairs of a nation, a family, or a person, requires suitable petitions and acknowledgments. And all these can never be well provided for in any prescribed composition. I confess, all our concerns of soul and body may be included in some large and general form of words, which is no more suited to one time, or place, or condition, than to another: but generals are cold, and do not affect us, nor affect persons that join with us, and whose case he that speaks in prayer should represent before God. It is much sweeter to our own souls, and to our fellow worshippers, to have our fears and doubts, and complaints, and temptations, and sorrows, represented in most exact and particular expressions, in such language as the soul itself feels, when the words are spoken. Now, though we should often meet with prayers precomposed, that are fitted to express our present case, yet the gift of prayer is as much better than any form, as a general skill in the work of preaching is to be preferred to any precomposed sermons; as a perfect knowledge in the art of physic is better than any number of receipts. But he that binds himself always to read printed sermons will not arrive at the art of preaching; and that man that deals only in receipts shall never become a skilful physician; nor can the gift of prayer be attained by everlasting confinement to forms. Charnock.
A man may read a long prayer that expresseth spiritual things, and never have had one spiritual thought arise in his mind about them; for there is no exercise of any faculty of his mind required unto such reading, but only to attend unto the words that are to be read. This, I say, may be so; I do not say that it is so, or that it must be so; but, in extempore prayer, it is impossible but there must be an exercise of reason, by invention, judgment, and memory; and consequently thoughts of spiritual things. Yet may they all be merely occasioned from the present external performance of the duty, without any living spring or exercise of grace. In such a
course may men of tolerable gifts continue all their days, unto the satisfaction of themselves and others, deceiving both them and their Orven. own souls.
Prayer is a kind of religious exercise, which is necessary to ac company all others. "In every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God,” Solemn approaches to God are adapted to impress the mind with a sense of sin, and to inspire it with self-abhorrence on account of it. It was by a view of the holiness of God, that Isaiah felt himself to be a man of unclean lips; and by conversing with him, that Job was brought to abhor himself, and repent in dust and ashes. The very exercise of prayer carries in it an implication that our help must come from above-a truth, which in all cases it is highly ne cessary for us to know, and with which, in this case especially, we cannot be too deeply impressed. We easily get out of the way; but, if ever we return to it, it must be by his influence, who " storeth our souls, and leadeth us in the paths of righteousness, for his name's sake."
Prayer is a word of an extensive sense in scripture, and includes not only a request or petition for mercies; but it is taken for the address of a creature on earth to God in heaven, about every thing that concerns his God, his neighbour, or himself, in this world, or the world to come. It is that converse, which God hath allowed us to maintain with himself above, while we are here below. It is that language, wherein a creature holds correspondence with his Creator, and wherein the soul of a saint often gets near to God, is entertained with great delight, and, as it were, dwells with his heavenly Father for a short season before he comes to heaven. It is a glorious privilege that our Maker bath indulged to us; and a necessary part of that obedience which he hath required of us, at all times and seasons, and in every circumstance of life; according to those scriptures: Thess. v. 17. " Pray without ceasing." Phil. iv. 6. “In every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." Eph. vi. 18. "Praying always, with all prayer and supplication."