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friendless outcast may thereby obtain the aid of the great Governor of the universe!
In Prayer WE ENJOY THE PRESENCE OF GOD.-Draw nigh to God, says St. James, and he will draw nigh to you. The devout soul, having found in the solitude of the closet, the presence of God, is glad to withdraw itself from the distraction of the world, and retire to hold converse with him in secret. "As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. When shall I come and appear before God." Ps. xlii, 1, 2. The Saviour assured his disciples, "he that loveth me shall be loved of my father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." John xiv, 21. There is an experience therefore of this presence, into which only those who love Christ can enter. Jeremiah seems to feel the loss of it when he affectingly exclaims, "O thou hope of Israel, thou Saviour thereof in the time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night." Jer. xiv, 8.
truly our fel
Prayer PREPARES US FOR THE ENJOYMENT OF GOD HEREAFTER.—He who has had this heavenly intercourse on earth, and has here been able to say, lowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ," is prepared to enter into the blissful society above. God is not a stranger to him; he has long known him; his Saviour is his tried and constant friend. And just as a man who has been continually experiencing the bounty and goodness of a friend whom he has never seen, will rejoice in beholding his face, so will it be to the devout believer. He will enter heaven with the conviction, In thy presence is fulness of joy. The devout believer then is the only TRULY HAPPY
What a delightful life does he live, whose
prayers afford him constant communion with God! No fears and anxieties about future things need distract him, nor present difficulties and burdens weigh him down. He may calmly, steadily, and cheerfully pass through all the varieties of this life, living in the most exalted and yet endearing friendship with his Maker, having a constant support and a hidden but solid joy from intercourse with him, possessing an ample resource in every circumstance here below, and an assured expectation of everlasting felicity with him at whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Let the hap piness of the life of devotion, induce you diligently to seek divine grace, to enable you to say with David, I give myself unto prayer.
These and many other things which might be mentioned, are the advantages of prayer. But men err in two ways concerning this privilege: some wholly neglect their prayers, and some trust in them.
Some neglect prayer, and this on various grounds. They say, GOD KNOWS WHAT I WANT WITHOUT MY ASKING, and he is too wise and too good to need my information in order to relieve me.-This should be an argument to raise your faith and hope, and not to hinder your prayers. Matt. vi, 8, 9. God is indeed wise, infinitely wise, and, being so wise, he has in his word directed you to make known your wants unto him by prayer. His knowledge is one reason why you should pray to him, and his goodness another, why you may confidently apply to him. Will you pretend to be wiser than he is? Whatever his design may be in it, your duty is clear, to obey his will. He knows when you will die, and might support you without food, and yet you daily eat. Remember that " it may be agreeable to perfect wisdom, to grant that to our prayers, which it
would not have been agreeable to the same wisdom to have given us, without praying for." What if prayer be his plan for making you humble, dependent, devout, believing and thankful. In short, for impressing you with a sense and feeling of your wants, and for bringing you to a proper state of mind to receive his blessing? But whatever his design may be, it is your highest wisdom and interest to follow his directions.
A similar objection is, that GoD IS UNCHANGEABLE,
AND PRAYER WILL NOT ALTER NOR REVERSE HIS PURPOSES.
-We do not say that prayer really changes the purpose of God, though it may be sometimes so expressed in condescension to our infirmities; but we say his course of dealing is quite different with those who pray and those who do not. We may think, indeed, that we are drawing God nearer to us, when we in truth draw nearer to him, as a person with a boat-hook which he fixes to the shore is ready to think when he draws the boat, that he is moving the land towards him, when in fact he himself is coming nearer the land. But you quite mistake the true design of this perfection of God, if you think it should keep you from praying. The unchangeableness of God, so far from being an argument against prayer, is the reason why you should pray, and secure to yourself the fulfilment of his promises. What are the purposes of God? are they known or secret? If KNOWN, as if he has threatened judgment, prayer may avert it. Look at the example of Nineveh, and see the effect of the Ninevites humbling themselves before God, though God had threatened, Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed. Prayer arrests the judgment. Or, if he had made promises, it is still our duty to pray that they may be accomplished. When Daniel knew that the return of the Jews at a certain time was decreed of God,
it only stirred him up to pray more earnestly for the blessing. You cannot tell what the SECRET purposes of God are, but you know that God has appointed prayer as the means of obtaining good and averting evil. If you neglect the means which he has directed you to use, you have no reason to expect the blessing which you desire but if you are induced by his grace to use the means, it is a good sign that you are likely to obtain the desired end. Remember, then, that though there be no variableness nor shadow of turning with him, yet the means are ordained as well as the effect, and pray to gain that which God ordains to be obtained by prayer. Jesus Christ himself prayed, and commanded you to pray and an excuse drawn from the unchangeableness of God will never avail you in answer to a plain command, sanctioned by such an example, and especially when there are such great and evident advantages in obtaining your desires through prayer.
Others say, I CANNOT PRAY.-Indeed you cannot of yourself, and this is your guilt and your sin; but you may pray by the help of God, and I purpose to shew how to them that have no might God increaseth strength. But have you ever tried to pray? have you ever asked God to enable you to pray? Many children, when a hard lesson is given them, say to their teachers, I cannot learn it; yet by trying, and attending to the instructions they receive, the hardest lessons are mastered. So it will be with you as to prayer. Only try, remembering that God accepts the willing mind. 2 Cor. viii, 12. The greatest obstacle is not want of ability, but want of will. I know that the poor often say, I have no book learning, and therefore cannot pray. And some are ignorant enough to suppose that only ministers of religion need pray. Had you no personal wants, then indeed you might more
plausibly thus reason. But remember, that prayer must be an individual act of the soul. The prayer of your minister, your relatives and friends, does not make your own prayer unnecessary. Their prayers may be of use in obtaining for you grace to seek God more earnestly; but you cannot expect to obtain his mercy and blessing unless you yourself unfeignedly apply to the throne of grace. And as to ability to pray, it is a deep sense of your necessities that forms the great qualification for real prayer. Hence all persons, high and low, learned and unlearned, are by nature on a level in this respect. A beggar feeling his poverty and wretchedness, does not want book learning to teach him how to come to ask your alms. He simply tells you his distress, points to his tattered garment, or his pallid or diseased body, and thus most effectually makes his way to your heart. And so, though you cannot read, you may still pray to God, and be accepted by him.
It is not an uncommon objection, I AM TOO MUCH OCCUPIED TO PRAY.-Prayer is very proper for those who have time, but I am so full of other engagements that I cannot attend to it.-You surely do not mean to say so. Time! cannot get Time! How do you employ your time? Do you never find leisure to talk about your children's or friends' good qualities? Do you never find opportunity to thank man for earthly favours? and have you not time to acknowledge God's goodness of which your lives are full? If you are afflicted, can you not find time to unbosom yourself to a friend? and shall you not tell your cares and sorrows to God, your best friend? But you forget that devotion itself is the most important part of your business, the greatest work of your life. You have more to do with God than with the whole world. Prayer will obtain God's blessing on all