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Our Lord declares, "ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Greater blessings than we can think of may thus be obtained. "Call upon me, and I will answer thee, and will shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not. Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel."
WE ARE CERTAIN OF OBTAINING WHAT WE ASK IN FAITH, ACCORDING TO GOD'S WILL. -The numerous promises made to faithful prayer fully confirm this remark. He is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." Eph. iii, 20. You may labour for riches, and lay by money year after year, and after every care your money may be lost, and you die poor; or it may bring you trouble and sorrow rather than any advantage. You may pursue the pleasures or favour of the world, and live miserable, and die despised. But if you seek the blessing of God in fervent prayer, you cannot be disappointed. This has been the testimony of every servant of God from the beginning. How differently men reason about earthly and spiritual things. If a great and faithful and gracious monarch were to promise riches, pleasures, or honors, to those who come to him, his court would soon be crowded; men would anxiously ask what has he promised? how may I go to him? But God himself has earnestly invited us to come to him, has promised to supply all our wants, and to give us durable riches and righteousness. It is the solemn declaration of Jesus Christ to his disciples, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." You may not indeed obtain the first time you ask; the promise gives no assurance that you shall. St. Paul had a thorn
in the flesh, and besought the Lord thrice, or frequently, before he was heard. You may not obtain the very thing which you ask, but asking aright you will obtain that which will fully satisfy the spiritual mind. 1 John v, 14, 15. Rom. viii, 27, 28. St. Paul's thorn in the flesh was not removed, but he was enabled to take pleasure in his infirmities. No prayers offered up aright will ever be made in vain.
The privilege of prayer was PURCHASED FOR us at
THE COSTLY PRICE OF THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST,
(Eph. ii, 13. Heb. x, 19.) and therefore we may easily imagine what a great and vast privilege it must be, and how excellent is that liberty of access unto God which was thus obtained. Souls now in eternal ruin are not privileged to pray. They have irrecoverably lost this good. The fallen angels have no way of access to God. Jesus took not on him their nature. Shall we, then, slight or despise the distinguishing privilege of our present life?
Prayer is A SATISFACTORY EVIDENCE OF OUR HAVING OBTAINED THE SAVING GRACE OF GOD. "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Gal. iv, 6. Prayer is the breath of the spiritual life in the soul. Lam. iii, 56. Whatever has life must breathe, and if the life be strong, it will breathe freely. If prayer be faint, weak, and disordered, the person is not in full life and health; if there be no prayer, there is no spiritual life at all; the first mark of it is, behold he prayeth ; (Acts ix, 11.) and the last account of one is his prayer, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Acts vii, 59. It is to the spiritual Church the promise belongs, "I will pour upon the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications." Zech.
xii, 10. If you have a fervent, persevering spirit of prayer, you have a sure evidence of being born again; of the life of God begun in your soul. When you can feel with David, "my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee, in a dry and thirsty land, to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary," then, you may also say with humble, yet believing confidence, O God, thou art my God.
PRAYER GAINS FOR US SPIRITUAL STRENGTH.-It is that singular duty in which every grace is acted, every sin opposed, every blessing obtained, the whole soul revived, strengthened, and invigorated for the Christian race. Just in proportion to your prayers, so is your holiness, so is your usefulness. The praying Christian is the strong, the thriving Christian, "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." As the naturally weak ivy, which if it had no support would only grovel on the earth, but adhering to some neighbouring tree, or building, and entwining itself about it, thus grows and flourishes, and rises higher and higher; and the more the winds blow, and the tempests beat against it, the closer it adheres, and the nearer it clings, and the faster its fibres embrace that which supports it, and it remains uninjured just so the Christian, naturally weak, by prayer connects himself with the Almighty, and the more dangers and difficulties beset him, the more closely they unite him to his God, he reaches towards and leans upon, and clings to him, and is strengthened with divine strength. High is the privilege of prayer, which turns our very wants to our advantage, leading us by them into a constant intercourse with God, and keeping us in a spiritual and heavenly state of mind.
BY PRAYER WE OBTAIN TRUE PEACE OF MIND, that peace to which those who never pray, are utter strangers.-This peace is a calm and entire resting upon God for the supply of every necessity of body and soul, for time and for eternity. It is casting all our burden; whatever it be, upon a kind, compassionate, Almighty friend, who willingly sustains it, and relieves and comforts us. "Casting all your care on him, for he careth for you." Let the Christian follow the Apostle's direction, "Be careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God," and he may fully expect the effect which that Apostle describes: "and the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds, through Christ Jesus." How calm and composed may he be, amid all the storms and distractions of this world, who has daily and hourly communion with the creator, ruler, and preserver of all things. The Christian falls below his true happiness in this life, if he does not enjoy constant peace of mind. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee." Isa. xxvi, 3.
Prayer is especially ADVANTAGEOUS IN THE TIME OF TROUBLE. Even those who neglect God altogether at other times, are often then compelled to apply to him, and even in such a case he has heard and accepted them. Isa. xxvi, 16. 1 Kings, xxi, 29. But with a peculiarly filial confidence may those approach unto him, when they are in trouble, whose habit of mind, whose continual practice, whose whole life, is a drawing near to God. The command and the promise belong to them, "call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." Ps. 1, 15.
Indeed, what Christian has not found in his own experience the truth of the declaration, " God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Ps. xlvi, 1. When no other ear could hear but his, no other arm save, no other power relieve or help: when we were destitute and almost in despair, then his ear heard, and through his mercy we were delivered. Prayer, like the precious metal, comes most pure from the heated furnace. Are you depressed under your guilt, your weakness, your ignorance, or your ingratitude? You may spread your distress, as Hezekiah did his letter, before God, and you need not fear but that God will help you. And what a comfort it is that we can never come unseasonably to him. A great man or a friend may be so circumstanced that we cannot interrupt him, or he will soon be wearied by repeated application, or he may be so far off that we cannot get at him; but our God is ever nigh unto us, he is always with us; a very present help in trouble. Other friends, if willing, may not be able to help us-but he has both the will and the power to give the greatest blessings. Even our guilt when confessed, becomes a plea for relief, (1 John i, 9.) and the worst condition that can be, the strongest encouragement to pray; all that is given, being given, not for our merits, but for Christ's sake.' The following affecting anecdote is told us of a poor negro woman. She was a poor slave in the West Indies, and was forbidden by her master to attend public worship, and threatened with severe punishment if she did go: the only reply she made, was, "I must tell the Lord that;" a reply that so affected her owner, that he no longer refused her liberty to go. What a view does this give us of the blessedress of prayer, that a poor and