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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 men." 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, Iwill call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Ps. Iv, 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 his Fifty-two Sermons on the Church Catechism.
boldness in this than what the promises of God encourage and give sanction to. Such is the very prayer of faith."
6. BE SIMPLE, REVERENT, AND GRAVE. One part of the true character of prayer is, to express all our necessity to our God with the utmost plainness and simplicity, as David did when he could say, (Psalm cxlii. “ I poured out my complaint before him, I shewed before him my trouble." No art is needed; no extraordinary talent required; the right feeling of the heart is the great thing. "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him; he also will hear their cry, and will save them." Ps. cxlv, 19. But avoid haste and precipitation, as if you were going through a task which you wished to be over, that you may get to your worldly employments. Remember, this, this is the grand business. It is the most serious and solemn affair in which you can be engaged. Any thing like affectation, any thing that borders on an undue attention to elegance of language, or approaches to mere vehemence of gesture, should be carefully avoided. Let us not mimic devotion, but seek to be really devout. Avoid also any particular tone of voice. The character of prayer is well stated by Bonnell, where he observes, "Devotion is to the soul, what blood is to the body, which is the life of it. The best state of the body is when the blood moves regularly and evenly, and we are least sensible that we have such a thing as moving blood within us. It is so when it is in its best condition, and we are in firm health. Convulsive and extraordinary motions in our bodies are not signs of health, but of sickness. So our soul is in the best state when our mind, in our devotion, has a composed and gracious intercourse with God, in such intenseness and recollectedness of thought, that we are
hardly sensible ourselves that we are at our devotion." "Fine words and eloquent phrases," says Parr, "are not that wherein God delights; but reverence, contrition, faith, and the groaning of the spirit, however homely the words be. Strive more to pray with feeling than to be eloquent." Great seriousness and gravity should mark every prayer we make.
7. AIM TO ENJOY A HOLY FREEDOM AND BOLDNESS OF
ACCESS TO GOD. By the faith of Christ we may have boldness and access with confidence. Eph. iii, 12. There should be the liberty of the child joined to the humility of the creature. Our great necessity, and the faithful promises, and holy examples of the word of God, invite us to a resolute and determined spirit, that will wrestle and plead with God for the blessing; I was almost going to say, speaking with reverence to God, insist on what you need for your soul. Like Jacob, taking no denial. I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. Gen. xxx, 26. Our most gracious God thus suffers himself to be prevailed on, and is willingly overcome. None that wait on him shall be ashamed. You should, you may tell him all your desires freely, and fully, without hiding any thing from him. This liberty of access was purchased for us by our Lord. Having boldness to enter into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, and having an High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart." Heb. x, 19–22. Importunity, or urgent demand and entreaty, avardera, an urgency that will not be repulsed, is recommended by an example which our Lord himself brings before us. Luke xi, 8. And by that of Jacob, I *See Hamilton's Life of Bonnell,
will not let thee go except thou bless me. Yet beware of presumptuousness, or any thing like irreverence. Observe how Abraham pleads for Sodom; (Gen. xviii, 27, 30-32.) he pleads freely and boldly; yet with what reverence and humility he urges his pleas!
8. BE SINCERE AND FERVENT. Sincerity in prayer is an unfeigned desire that God would grant our petitions. "It is easy," says the Rev. Mr. Adam, " to say the words of a prayer; but to pray hungering and thirsting is the hardest of all works. Acquiescence in the bare act of prayer is a most dangerous delusion, and keeps the soul from its proper relief." Men cannot be too much warned against that mere external service which is the bane of all spiritual good. The Scriptures often insist on the provocation which a merely external service offers to God. Isa. i, 11-15; Ezek. xxxiii, 31, 32, Our Lord repeatedly reproves the Pharisees for their formal prayers.* Consider, then, the amazing value of those spiritual blessings for which you ask; believe that God, and God alone, can, and he will give them and this will, by his grace, help you to be both sincere and fervent in your
Augustine confesses to God, that "in the entrance on youth, I had prayed for chastity, and had said, 'Give me chastity and continence, but grant not my request immediately; for I was afraid lest thou shouldest quickly hear my prayer, and heal this distemper of concupiscence, which I wished rather to be fully gratified, than extinguished." Such an example should instruct us.Let us really desire that which we ask. 1 John iii, 22.
*"God," says Brooks, "looks not at the elegancy of your prayers, to see how neat they are: nor yet at the geometry of your prayers, to see how long they are; nor yet at the arithmetic of your prayers, to see how many there are; nor yet at the music of your prayers, to bear the sweetness of your voice: but at the sincerity of your prayers, how hearty they are."