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In the use of such prescript forms, to which a man hath been accustomed, he ought to be narrowly watchful over his own heart, for fear of that lip-service and formality, which in such cases we are more particularly exposed unto. For any one so to sit down and satisfy himself with his book-prayer, or some prescript form, and to go no further-this were still to remain in his infancy, and not to grow up in his new nature: this would be as if a man, who had once need of crutches, should always afterwards make use of them, and so necessitate himself to continual impotency. Prayer by book is commonly of itself something flat and dead, floating for the most part too much in generalities, and not particular enough for each several occasion. There is not that life and vigour in it, engage the affections, as when it proceeds immediately from the soul itself, and is the natural expression of those particulars whereof we are most sensible. It is not easy to express what a vast difference a man may find, in respect of inward comfort and satisfaction, betwixt those private prayers that are thus conceived from the affections, and those prescribed forms which we say by rote, or read Bishop Wilkins.
out of books.
The object of prayer is God alone, through Jesus Christ, as the Mediator. All supplications, therefore, to saints or angels, are not only useless, but blasphemous. All worship of the creature, however exalted that creature is, is idolatry, and strictly prohibited in the sacred law of God. Nor are we to pray to the Trinity as three distinct Gods; for though the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost be addressed in various parts of the Scripture; 2 Cor. xiii. 14. 2 Thess. ii. 16, 17. yet never as three Gods; for that would lead us directly to the doctrine of polytheism. The ordinary mode the Scripture points out, is, to address the Father through the Son, depending on the Spirit to help our infirmities. Eph. ii. 18. Rom. viii, 26.
Amyntor, at a memorable period of his life, was under great distress of conscience, and harrassed by violent temptations. He made his case known to an experienced friend, who said, " Amyntor, you do not pray." Surprized at this, he replied, “I pray, if such a
66 "You mistake
thing be possible, too much. I can hardly tell how many times a
Desire is the soul of prayer; and there must not only be habitual desires, but they must be actuated. Praying is the pouring out our souls in actual desires after the good things we want. Isa. xxvi. 7, 9. Yet the voice is not altogether excluded, which is necessary in public worship, and in the family; it may be used in secret for the stirring up our devotions, and keeping our minds from wandering thoughts, provided it be not done with intention to be heard and taken notice by others, which will argue gross hypocrisy.
The object of our prayers.-God alone knoweth our hearts; is present in all places to hear the prayers of his people; omnipotent, able to supply all their wants.
Our prayers are ordinarily to be directed to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Yet may we direct them expressly to any one of the three persons; but not excluding, but including all.
Our prayers must be offered up in the name of Christ. "No man cometh to the Father but by me," said our Saviour. To pray in dependance upon Christ; for through him we have access to the Father.
We are to pray for such things as he hath in his word commanded us to seek, and promised to grant. With our petitions must be joined confessions of sin, intercessions, and thanksgiving.
Prayer. It is the application of want to Him, who alone can re lieve it; the voice of sin to Him, who alone can pardon it. It is the urgency of poverty-the prostration of humility-the fervency of penitence-the confidence of truth. It is not eloquence, but earnestness; not the definition of helplessness, but the feeling of it. It is the cry of faith to the ear of mercy, "Lord, save; or I perish." Miss A. More.
Men are not so vain as to hope for skill and understanding in the mystery of a secular art or trade without the diligent use of those means whereby it may be attained; and shall we suppose, that we shall be furnished with spiritual skill and wisdom in this sacred mystery without diligence in the use of the means appointed of God, for the attaining of it. The principal of them is fervent prayer. Pray, then, with Moses, that God would show you his glory; pray with the Apostle, that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened to behold it; pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of Him. Owen.
First. A sense of the want of mercy, by reason of the danger of sin. The soul, I say, feels; and, from feeling, sighs, groans, and breaks at the heart, when it is overpressed with grief and bitterness, as blood is forced out of the flesh, by reason of some heavy burden that lieth upon it. David roars, cries, weeps, faints at heart, fails at the eyes, loseth his moisture, &c. Hezekiah mourns like a dove; Ephraim bemoans himself; Peter weeps bitterly; Christ hath strong cryings and tears; and all this from a sense of the justice of God, the guilt of sin, the pains of hell and destruction. "The sorrows of death compassed me about, the pains of hell gat hold upon me, and I found trouble and sorrow; then cried I unto the Lord." Ps. cxvi. 3. And in another place, "My sore ran in the night." Ps. lxxvii. 2, Again, "I am bowed down greatly, I go mourning all the day long" Ps. xxxviii. 6. In all these instances, and hundreds more that might be named, you may see that prayer carrieth in it a sensible feeling disposition, and that, first, from a sense of sin,
In prayer, there is sometimes in the soul a sense of mercy to be re
ceived. This again sets the soul all on a flame. “Thou, O Lord God, saith David, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house; therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray unto thee." 2 Sam. vii. 27.
This provoked Jacob, David, Daniel, with others—even a sense of mercies to be received; which caused them, not by fits and starts, nor yet in a foolish, frothy way, to babble over a few words written in a paper; but mightily, fervently, and continually, to groan out their conditions before the Lord, as being sensible; sensible, I say, of their wants, their misery, and the willingness of God to show mercy.
A good sense of sin, and the wrath of God, with some encouragement from God to come unto him, is a better Common Prayer Book than that which is taken out of the Papistical Mass-Book; being the scraps and fragments of the devices of some Popes, some friars, and I wot not what.
Prayer is a sincere, sensible, and affectionate pouring out of the soul to God. O the heart, strength, life, vigour, and affection, that is in right prayer! "As the hart panteth after the water-brooks so longeth my soul after thee, O God." Psa. xlii. 1. "I have longed for thy precepts." Ps. cxix. 40. "I have longed for thy salvation." "My soul longeth, yea, fainteth for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God." Psa. lxxxiv. 2. "] 'My soul breaketh, for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times." Ps. cxix. 20. Mark ye here, My soul longeth, it longeth, it longeth, &c. O what affection is here discovered in prayer! The like you have in Daniel. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken, and do: defer not, for thy name's sake, Omy God." Dan. ix. 19. Every syllable carrieth a mighty vehemency in it. This is called the fervent, or the working prayer, by James, ch. v. ver. 16. And Luke xxii. 44. "And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly," or had his affectious more and more drawn out after God for his helping hand. O how wide are the most of men with their prayers from this prayer, that is, prayer in God's account. Alas! the greatest part of men make no conscience at all of their duty; and as for them that do, it is to be feared, that many of them are
very great strangers to a sincere, sensible, and affectionate pouring out their hearts or souls to God; but even content themselves with a little lip-labour and bodily exercise, mumbling over a few imaginary prayers. When the affections are indeed engaged in prayer, then the whole man is engaged; and that in such sort, that the soul will spend itself to nothing, as it were, rather than it will go without the good desired, even communion and solace with Christ. And hence it is that the saints have spent their strengths, and lost their lives, rather than go without the blessing. Psa. Ixix. 3. Psalm Xxxvii. 9, 10. Gen. xxxii. 24-26.
All this is too, too evident, by the ignorance, profaneness, and spirit of envy, that reign in the hearts of those men that are so hot for the forms, and not the power of praying; scarce one of forty among them know what it is to be born again, and to have communion with the Father, through the Son; to feel the power of grace sanctifying their hearts; but for all their prayers, they live cursed, drunken, whorish, and abominable lives; full of malice, envy, deceit, persecuting the dear children of God. Oh, what a dreadful after-clap is coming upon them! which all their hypocritical assembling of themselves together, with all their prayers, shall never be able to help them against, or shelter them from.
Now, to pray with the spirit, (for that is the praying man, and none else, so as to be accepted of God) is for a man, (as aforesaid) sincerely and sensibly, with affection, to come to God, through Christ, &c. which sincere, sensible, and affectionate coming, must be by the working of God's Spirit.
There is no man nor church in the world, that can come to God in prayer, but by the assistance of the Holy Spirit. For, through Christ, we all have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Eph. ii. 18.
What various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy-seat!
Yet who that knows the worth of pray'r,
But wishes to be often there ?
Pray'r makes the darken'd cloud withdraw,
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw,