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Some, by a voice too loud or too low, or from using a particular whine or tone-or by a repulsive manner— or by excessive length, fatigue and perhaps disgust those whom they desire to edify. Let all be natural and simple, short and devout, and your voice such as you use in conversing with your friends on serious subjects. In the multiplied engagements of large towns, long prayers are not suited to the situations of most families; yet do not abridge the duty so as to make it a mere form, and as if you were glad to hurry through it. Seek, in short, to have your worship such that a piously disposed family may rejoice when the time of prayer is come: and amid the cares, distractions, and sorrows of life, may count it a relief and a privilege.
We have hitherto considered the duty of the Head of the family. The DUTIES OF THOSE WHO JOIN IN FAMILY WORSHIP, are, duly to prize the privilege, and to beware of a wandering, cold, and careless spirit, which will destroy all your benefit and comfort in it, whoever teaches, whoever prays. It is the joining of every heart in the requests offered up, which gives to family prayer its greatest efficacy. You should agree to ask; your spirit should join the spirit of him who prays; let there be a secret Amen in your hearts to every petition, (1 Cor. xiv, 16.) and thus you will obtain the promised blessing. And do not think it sufficient for you to have joined in family worship, and that you may then neglect secret prayer. Never forget to pray in secret also.
What a lovely sight it is to see a whole family thus uniting together morning and evening, preparing and being made meet, day by day, for "the inheritance of the saints in light; obtaining on earth, the humble, dependent, thankful, holy, and heavenly state of mind, which fits them for joining the family of their Lord in heaven. Whatever storms rage without, such a family,
obeying the direction, "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself as it were for a little moment, till the indignation be overpast," (Isa. xxvi, 20.) are safe. They are able to say, God is our refuge and strength. Ps. xlvi, 1.
May what has been said induce THOSE WHO HAVE HITHERTO LIVed in the neGLECT OF THIS DUTY, to take up at once David's firm resolution, Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, nor slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, an habit ation for the mighty God of Jacob." Ps. cxxxii. Let me beseech you lose no time. Not a single day. Difficulties may be multiplied; but only set about it in faith and prayer, wisely and vigorously, and they will all vanish. Say firmly, as Jacob did to his household, and to all that were with him, "Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments, and let us arise, and go up to Bethel, and I will make there an altar unto God." Gen. xxxv, 2, 3.
And may THOSE WHO HAVE ATTENDED TO THIS duty, find the hints which have been given, an additional help to the performance of it; and also feel pledged, by their prayers and instructions, to bring into the family in the day the character which they have manifested, and the graces which they requested in their united devotions.
But let them not think, as some have been ready to think, that a discharge of this duty will absolve them from the constant practice of daily morning and evening devotions in secret. He who prays only before others, has much reason to suspect that he prays to be seen of men, and has no real love to God, nor true knowledge of the nature of prayer.
THE term social, may be applied to all kinds of prayer in which we join with others, but it is here restricted to the united prayer of Christian friends, distinct from public, and family worship. It would be well if Christians were more accustomed than they are to sanctify their occasional meetings by prayer, and to meet also for the purpose of uniting in prayer to obtain those blessings which they need. The particular promise given to united prayer has led many to practise this both as a privilege and as a duty. "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." Matt. xviii, 19.
We have scriptural examples to encourage us to the performance of this. When Peter was in prison, "prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him ;" (Acts xii, 5.) and when he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John, he found there many that were gathered together, praying. Acts xii, 12. When Paul and Silas were thrown into prison, they comforted each other by social prayer. "Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God; and the prisoners heard them." Acts xvi, 25. When "Moses' hands were heavy, Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side and the other on the other side, and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun."
Bishop Hall remarks on this, "Doubtless Aaron and Hur did not only raise their hands but their minds with his: the more cords the easiser draught. Aaron was brother to Moses. There cannot be a more brotherly office than to help one another in our prayers, and to excite our mutual devotion. No Christian may think it enough to pray alone: he is no true Israelite that will not be ready to lift up the weary hand of God's saints."*
And as social prayer is a duty binding generally on all Christians, so there is a special reason for it in some particular relations. Husband and wife should pray together, with and for each other; the Apostle appears to suppose they do so, when he adds, as a reason for some directions given to them, that your prayers be not hindered. 1 Pet. iii, 7.
There are some things which seem peculiarly to call for social prayer. Let me especially mention the state of the church of Christ in our own country, and throughout the world, as calling for our attention. The various precepts and examples in the word of God on this subject, and the present remarkable signs of the times, evidently require the Christian's remembrance of this in all his social prayers. David gives us a solemn direction, and a copy of his prayer and determination on this subject; (Ps. cxxii, 6-9.) "pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sake, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek thy good." This will lead to prayers for the enlargement of the borders of Sion, by the conversion of the heathen. Is. Ixii. Nor should the state of your own nation be forgotten. 1 Tim. ii, 1, 2. *See Bishop Hall's Works.
St. Paul hoped for deliverance from his difficulties by the Corinthians helping together by prayer for him, (2 Cor. i, 11.) and thus supposes that Christians will unite in prayer for their minister. Why should not those members of a family who are under the full influence of real religion unite at stated periods in praying for those of their relatives that are careless and regardless of its holy truths? Why should not those members of a congregation who know the truth as it is in Jesus, pray for a minister appointed over them, who knows it not, and therefore does not preach it? There are various other things of general and personal, or local interest, that need not be here specified, which afford suitable subjects for social prayer.
It is a proof of the low state of religion among us, that many, and those even real Christians, (for of them only I speak,) can meet and part in our day without praying together. Is it feared that this might be counted strange and uncommon? this is only a weak objection. The devoted Christian is an uncommon character, and must expect to be often reproached for unnecessary strictness and preciseness. Have you reason to think that this would be on unwelcome service? surely, then, you should not voluntarily be much in the society of those who would think it such. Or may not another reason be, that the conversation, even among those who have professed to renounce the world and its vanities, is often so trifling, so worldly, and so vain-so much about man, and so little about God, and Christ, and his word, and his love, that your souls are unprepared and unfitted for communion with him.*
* I cannot here but subjoin the remark which a valued friend made on this passage. He says, "Conversation among Christians often takes a trifling turn, often a party turn in politics, and often one which merely concerns the circumstantials of things, and this