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be immediately connected with all the blessings
We shall endeavour to explain,
II. That assistance of the Holy Spirit by which he is relieved under them.
Prayer is the offering up our desires to God for the blessings we need. It is, then, the expression of the heart; the pouring out the soul to God, the lifting up the mind, and the drawing nigh to him in holy affection. It includes invocation or calling on the name of the Lord, adoration of his perfections, humble confession of our sins, the imploring of his grace, the pleading of his promisés, the dedicating of ourselves to his service, the praising of him for the blessings which he has bestowed on us, and the ascribing of glory and power and dominion to
Prayer is our INDISPENSABLE DUTY. The proofs of this are various. We all are sinners,
and need mercy and salvation. We are also rational and accountable creatures, and have the invitations of the Gospel proposed to us. We have the mediation of the Son of God to encourage our approach. God deserves our gratitude and praise. Our necessities perpetually require his aid. We must perish, if we call not on God. We are also expressly commanded, to pray without ceasing; to continue in prayer; to pray always with all prayer and supplication; to pray and not faint ; to be careful for no. thing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication to make our requests known unto God. These directions, connected with numerous other passages of Scripture, make it obvious that solemn prayer in the church, and in our families, together with earnest supplications in private, are the bounden duty of every Christian. The obligation of public prayer has never been doubted. Nor can that of family devotion be for a moment called in question by those who feel duly impressed with the holy examples of Abraham, Joshua, and David, or who understand the extent and spirit of all the injunctions of the word of God that may be applied to this subject. As to private prayer, our Lord's express words are, Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee
openly. No man, therefore, can be a true Christian without the habitual practice of secret devotion, and an attendance, where he has the opportunity, on the public worship of Almighty God. Nor, I conceive, can any head of a fumily be a sincere and well-informed servant of Christ without superadding his constant prayers with his own household.
Our Infirmities IN PRAYER are many. The word infirmities here used is emphatical. It properly means discases cr sicknesses; for the corrupt state of our nature has debilitated and weakened all our spiritual powers. Even after receiving the grace of Christ and partaking of the inspiration of his Spirit, we still remain greatly disordered, and suffer much from the agency of this latent contagion, though some of the more noxious effects of it have been healed. Our moral frame is neither sound nor vigorous; and we are subject to relapses and vicissitudes in our spiritual health. These infirmities, though apparent in all we do, are yet most of all evident in prayer. The reason is obvious; for this duty places us immediately before God: it tries the whole state and temper of our souls; and it admits of little external help. It is an effort of principles and feelings which have been divinelý implanted; and hence it is the most opposite to the fallen heart of a sinner, which is by nature
alienated from God, and flies from all communion with him.
IN PUBLIC AND FAMILY DEVOTION these infirmities tend to prevent that fixed and holy address of the soul to God which alone constitutes prayer. The words of the minister, or the parent, or master, may be highly spiritual and appropriate (and in our Liturgical services this is eminently the case); and yet our thoughts may wander, our affections be cold, our hearts remain barren and worldly. In the confession of sin, how difficult is it to conform in spirit to the words of humiliation as they are uttered, and to prostrate our souls before God in deep self-abasement! In the offering of praise, how rarely is the heart elevated with the church or the family, to a dye tone of humble and sincere gratitude for the divine mercies of which we are so entirely unworthy! In presenting our supplications for future blessings, how seldom do we accompany the language of the minister or head of the household, with correspondent fervour of affection! What Christian is not sensible of coldness, languor, inertness, and infirmity in the duties of every sabbath, and in his attendance on family worship! How often may he detect himself wandering in thought from the subject by which he ought to be occupied ! And at the close of the performance, what occasion has he to bewail that malady of his soul
which has depressed him so much in all his efforts to rise towards God and attain communion with him.
But it is to SECRET PRAYER that we must more particularly direct our remarks, because it is here that our infirmities are most apparent; and because what may be said with respect to it, will apply for the most part to public and family devotion. Our failings, then, in private supplications regard either the MATTER or the MANNER of them. We know not what to pray for, and we know not how to pray as we ought.
So far as the MATTER of our supplications is concerned, we know not what to pray for. Such is our ignorance of ourselves and of the things which are really good for us, that we need the illumination of the Holy Spirit to show us what we should implore of God. By nature we are utterly blind as to religion; and even when we are converted, and pardoned, and devoted to the service of Christ, our infirmities are so many, that we require the unremitting aid of divine grace. Can Jacob, though so pious a servant of God, be supposed to have known what to pray for, when he exclaimed of some of the merciful appointments of God, All these things are against me? Did Rebekah know what to ask for, when she said, Give me children, or else I die? Did Job, when he cursed his day Did Moses, when he spake unadvisedly with his