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" is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Ps. lxvi, 18.
Watch also FOR MATTER FOR PRAYER. Maintain a temper always ready to converse with God.
" A man should be careful,” says Bishop Wilkins, “ to keep a register of the most remarkable passages of his life, as to God's dealings with him, and his conduct towards God; bis sins and defects; his sufferings and wants; his mercies and enjoyments. A common-place-book of this kind, arranged under the various heads of prayer, would be of great use."
Watch also OVER YOUR HEARTS IN PRAYER. If there be one time more than another, when the duty, “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life,” is incumbent on us, it is in the time of intercourse with the Majesty in Heaven. We should then specially take heed of uttering the words of penitence, faith, hope, and love, without a penitent, believing, hoping, and loving state of mind.
Lastly, watch for ANSWERS TO YOUR PRAYERS. Take notice how they prosper, and whether you really gain what you ask. It has already been observed, how much comfort we lose by negligence in this respect. “I know," said one, “ that the Bible is true, because I pray to God, through Christ, and he hears me. I know also that God regards me and loves me, because he gives me those very blessings which I ask at his hand ;” and David found this a great means of increasing his love to God, and his spirit of prayer also. “I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplication. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me,
therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.” Ps. cxvi, 1, 2.
In the morning you prayed for such and such blessings, to be enjoyed
in the day; at night then ask yourself, did I gain these blessings? If so, Praise the Lord: If not, you did not ask in faith, or according to the will of God; or the Lord delays an answer to try your faith. Here are reasons for humiliation, confession, and persevering prayer.
All this watchfulness requires great patience and perseverance. It is easy to go through the round of outward forms and duties, but it is another thing to be " praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance.” Hence, though the devout man be truly blessed, he is an uncommon character.
4. MEDITATE BEFORE YOU PRAY. This is a most important part of preparation for prayer. We do not work enough at our hearts before-hand, and therefore we have so little fervency, or divine unction in our prayers. " While I was musing, the fire burned ; then spake I with my tongue.” Previous to private prayer, endeavour to compose your thoughts, to attain a settled, calm, and attentive mind. Ask yourself, Why do I retire? what is my design? Examine yourself, and note down all that occurs in your mind as proper or advantageous to be said under each head of prayer. Self-examination should precede prayer. Consider before-hand the particular things which you wish to ask of God, so that you may ask freely, in order, and with method, those things which you need. And while approaching the house of the Lord for public worship, it is advantageous to meditate on the great work in which you are about to be engaged. The son of Syrach says, “before thou prayest, prepare thyself; and be not as one that tempts God.” The musician sees that his instrument is in tune before he begins to play on it; and we should surely prepare our minds for prayer and praise. “Let your prayer," says the Rev. Mr. Adam, “be short, and think a long time before you begin, what you are going to say, and what you mean by it; that is, to speak plainly, whether you would be taken at your word, and put to the pain of having your prayers answered.” “He who would pray,” says Bishop Horne, “ must first retire. Meditation, which is the mother of Devotion, is the daughter of retirement. They who do not meditate, cannot pray; they who do not retire, can do neither.” Profitable subjects of meditation abound. Consider the promises of God made to prayer; the character of Him you approach; and your own sinfulness. In the morning, call to mind the duties which are before you in the approaching day, and ask for grace to fulfil them. In the evening, think on all that has occurred in the past day, and thus you will be better able to confess your sins, and to bless God for his mercies. And continue in meditation, says Bishop Taylor, “till you get some new arguments against sin, or some new encouragements to virtue, some spiritual strength and advantage, or some act of prayer to God, or praise of him." Gerson justly observes, that “Meditation is the nurse of prayer”. “My mouth,” says David, "shall praise thee with joyful lips, when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.” Ps. Ixiii, 6. The sickle must be sharpened before we reap ;-y meditation, sharpen the sickle of prayer.
5. ASK IN FAITH. The Scriptures insist much on this. James i, 6; Heb. x, 22; Matt. xxi, 22; Mark xi, 24. All true prayer comes from faith, (Rom. x, 12.) and is the voice and expression of faith. You need, in order to gain the true spirit of devotion, an unwavering belief that God is, and that he is the rewarder of them
that diligently seek him ;” (Heb. xi, 6.) that he is able to give us all we ask, and if it be for our real good will do so. By faith realize his presence. Say with David, He is about my path, and about my bed. Fully believe that his almighty power can help and save even in the uttermost extremity, and that he is willing to hear you when you call upon him. It is, in short, a true faith that will make all the difference between a cold, heartless, unprofitable form, like praying, (as one expressed it to me,) to nothing but thin air, and the real desire of the believer which poured out unto God for things according to his will, is sure to succeed,-because Christ hath purchased every blessing, and intercedes for us; it will make all the difference between a mere ceremony and the soul-reviving and heart-cheering presence of God. To faith in the presence of God, join an undoubting confidence in the faithfulness of his promises. Vincent says, “If we did but firmly believe that God, according to his covenant, for his son's sake, has pardoned sin, and will heal our souls of their distempers, and will give grace sufficient, and make us to grow and increase with the increase of God; verily, his promises would appear to be real, and according to our faith it would be to us.” This confidence is perfectly consistent with the deepest humility, and the most entire distrust of ourselves. The larger our expectations are, the greater sense do we shew of the generosity and bounty of our unseen, but everpresent and ever-gracious benefactor. "We should endeavour," says Watts,“ to impress our minds frequently with a fresh and lively belief of God's existence, though he be so much unknown; of his presence, though he be invisible; and of his just and merciful regard to all the actions of inen." Some have found it a means of strengthening their faith, continually, in the midst of their prayers, to appeal to the attributes of God, and to plead his promises, and the name of his Son.
“ The spirit and life of prayer in faith," says Traill, « lies more in expectation, than in asking. Unwise Christians let out the vital spirits of prayer, when they let their expectations languish. When they set their face to pray, they make some conscience of searching out their wants; they labour to improve that sight to the raising of fervent desires of a supply of them: if they yet go higher to take in a sense of the fulness and freeness of that grace where their help is; yet, how rarely are they careful to raise up expectations of that helping grace? Few can say, As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Ps. lv, 16.–Our way is, if we could see the glory, then we would believe; Christ's way is just the contrary: we must first believe, and then we shall see the glory of God.” John, xi, 40. “It is the very nature of prayer in faith," says Walker,* “ to cast all manner of care and every burden on the Lord; guilt, corruption, trial, temptation, whatever it be, to come and lay it all upon Christ; and this, with a certain confidence in him, which both does him the highest honour and makes him best pleased with us. It charges Christ with all, and leaves every thing with him. It says,
Lord, here are all these sins that I have done: here are all these temptations I have to struggle with ; here are all these corruptions to subdue; here is all this work to be performed ; and I am a poor helpless thing: behold, I humbly lay it all upon thee, and leave it all and every part with thee. And I know that thou canst, and thou hast told me thou wilt take care of the whole. It is thy gracious office to do so, and thou delightest to do it: Lord, I cast all my care on thee. There is no other
* See bis Fifty-two Sermons on the Church Catechism.