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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 bim; 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. Convul. sive 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,“ 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. will not let thee go, except thou bless me. Gen. xxv, 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 si, 8. And by that of Jacob, 1 * See Hamilton's Life of Boonell,
will not let thee go except thou bless ine. Yet beware of presumptuousness, or any thing like irreverence. Observe how Abraham pleads for Sodom; (Gen. xviii, 27, $0-32.) 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 prayers.
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
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,”!
John ix, 31. «The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.” Ps. cxlv, 18. Ye shall seek me, and find
shall search for me with all your heart.” Jer. xxix, 13. It has been observed, " In our prayers, sincerity is their best art, simplicity their garb, and zeal their gloss." It is evident that the mind should devote itself entirely to the solemn exercise, and dismissing all foreign and outward cares, be as far as possible carried above them. How defective, then, are our prayers! how needful our Saviour's intercession! how all important is the aid of bis Spirit ! Guard also against that sinful sloth and indifference, which is often indulged in, from the vain idea, that, if our intentions be right, any substance or form of prayer will serve. Offer not to God such imperfect sacrifices. Mal. i, 13, 14, It may assist you in ascertaining your sincerity, often to ask yourself questions on your prayers, as did I really desire what I asked ? &c.
And be not merely sincere; aim also at fervency of desire. “ The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much."
All the various expressions by which prayer is described in the scriptures, point out to us the sincerity and fervency of true devotion-It is to “call upon the name of the Lord,” (Rom. x, 13,) to “stretch forth the hands to him,” (Job, xi, 13,) to“ follow hard after him," (Ps. Ixiii, 8,) to "take hold of God," (Is. Ixiv, 7,) to "pour out the heart before him,” (Ps. Ixii, 8,) as it were to empty all the desires of the soul.-It is to “ give the Lord no rest,” (Is. Isii 6.) It is “striving in prayers,” (Rom. xv, 30,)“always labouring fervently in prayers." (Col. iv, 12.) Now it is evident that expressions of this kind shew that it is not a trifling matter in which we are engaged ; they imply the greatest earnestness of spirit. How strong are the expressions of God's
dislike of lukewarmness. Rev. iii, 16. The fervour of devotion will be much promoted by constant perseverance in the performance of this duty. “The chariot wheel is warmed by its own inotion.” But after all, remember the caution, that though where God inclines the heart fervently to pray, he usually bestows the blessing; yet we are not to draw our hopes of success merely from our fervency, but only from the name of Christ.
9. Be Frequent and PERSEVERING. Appoint the most convenient times, and be constant in keeping to them. Let your hours of prayer be duly regulated, and constantly observed. The Apostle exhorts us to the duty of “ Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance." Undoubtedly our many wants and dangers, and the examples of the Bible, call for daily, regular, constant, and incessant prayer. Undoubtedly also, it requires much patient perseverance, really to maintain the spirit of devotion. Your evil heart, your great spiritual enemy, your old habits, your present ease and indulgence, and perhaps those about you, oppose. But “be not weary in well doing.” Grudge not the time which you spend in devotion. It is the most truly profitable way of passing time. Perseverance in prayer will carry away the blessing. Consider the example of the woman of Canaan, who thus gained her desire from our Lord. Matt. xv, 22. This is written for our encouragement. Consider the case of Moses being obliged to hold up his hands in prayer during the whole battle with Amalek. Do you think it presumptuous ? nay, it is most pleasing and acceptable to God. The whole scope of one of our Lord's parables is, to teach us that “men ought always to pray and not to faint.” Luke xviii, 1.