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Quest. XXVIII. With what faith may we pray for the continuance of the church and Gospel to any nation?'
Answ. The former answer serveth to this; our hope may be according to the degrees of probability: but we cannot believe it as a certainty by divine faith, because it is not promised by God.
Quest. xxix. 'How may we know when our prayers are heard of God, and when not?'
Answ. Two ways : sometimes by experience, when the thing itself is actually given us; and always by the promise: when we ask for that which God commandeth us to ask, or promiseth to grant; for we are sure God's promises are all fulfilled. If e ask for the objects of sense (as food, or raiment, or health, &c.), sense will tell us whether our prayers be granted in the same kind that we asked for; but if the questions be of the objects of faith, it is faith that must tell you that your prayers are granted; but yet faith and reason make use of evidences or signs : as if I pray for pardon of sin, and salvation, the promise assureth me that this prayer is granted, if I be a penitent, believing, regenerate person, otherwise not; therefore faith only assureth me that such prayers are granted, supposing that I discern the evidence of my regeneration, repentance, and faith in Christ. So if the question be, whether my prayer for others, or for temporal mercies, be answered in some other kind, and conduce to my good some other way, faith only must tell you this from the promise, by the help of evidences : there are millions of prayers that will all be found answered at death and judgment, which we knew not to be answered any way but by believing it.
Quest. Xxx. What should a Christian of weak parts do, that is dry and barren of matter, and can scarce tell what to say in prayer, but is ready to rise off his knees almost as soon as he hath begun ?'
Answ. 1. He must not be a stranger to himself, but study well his heart and life; and then he will find such a multitude of inward corruptions to lament, and such a multitude of wants to be supplied, and weaknesses to be strengthened, and disorders to be rectified, and actual sins to be forgiven, that may find him work enough for confessions, complaints, and petitions many days together, if ex
pression be but as ready as matter. 2. Let him study God, and get the knowledge of his nature, attributes, and works, and then he will find matter enough to aggravate his sin, and to furnish him with the holy praise of God from day to day. As he that is acquainted with all that is in any book, can copiously discourse of it, when he that knoweth not what is in it, hath little to say of it: so he that knoweth God and his works, and himself, and his sins and wants, is acquainted with the best prayer book; and hath always a full heap of matter before him, whenever he cometh to speak to God, 3. Let him study the mystery of man's redemption, and the person, and office, and covenant, and grace of Christ; and he need not want matter for prayer or praise. A very
child if he sees but a pedlar's pack opened, where there are abundance of things which he desireth, will learn without book to say, “O father, buy me this, and give me that, &c.' So will the soul that seeth the treasuries and riches of Christ a. 4. Let him know the extent of the law of God, and the meaning of the Ten Commandments : if he know but what sins are forbidden in each commandment, and what duties are required, he may find matter enough for confession and petition: and therefore the view of such a brief exposition of the commandment, as you may find in “ Mr. Brinsley's True Watch," and in “ Dr. Downam’s” and “Mr. Whateley's Tables,” will be a present furniture for such a use, especially in days of humiliation. So it will also to have a particular understanding of the Creed and the Lord's prayer, which will furnish you with much matter. 5. Study well the temptations which you carry about you in your flesh, and meet with in the world, and are suggested by the tempter; and think of the many duties you have to do, and the many dangers and sufferings to undergo, and you will never be unfurnished for matter for your prayers. 6. Observe the daily passages of providence, to yourselves and others : mark how things go with your souls every day, and hearken how it goeth with the church of God, and mark also how it goeth with your neighbours, and sure you will find matter enough for prayer. 7. Think of the heavenly joys that you are going to, and the streets the New erusalem will be large enough for faith to walk in. 8. For words, be ac
a Rev. ïïi. 17, 18.
quainted with the phrase of Scripture, and you will find provisions for all occasions. Read Dr. Wilkins' book, called “ The Gift of Prayer,” or “Mr. Brinsley's Watch,” or “ Mr. E. Parr's Abba Father.” 9. Keep up the heart in a reverent; serious, lively frame, and it will be a continual spring to furnish you
with matter : when a dead and barren heart hath a dry and sleepy tongue. 10. Join as oft as you can with those that are full and copious in prayer ; for example and use will be very great helps. 11. Quench not the Spirit of God that must assist you. 12. In case of necessity, use those books or forms which are more full than you can be yourselves till you come to ability to do better without them. Read further the Directions Part i. Chap. 6. Tit. 2. for more.
Quest. xxxi. · How should a Christian keep up an ordinary fervency in prayer?'
Answ. 1. See that knowledge and faith provide you matter: for as the fire will go out if there be not fuel, so fervency will decay, when you are dry, and scarce know what to say; or do not well believe what you understand. 2. Clog not the body either with overmuch eating and drinking, or over-tiring labours : for an active body helpeth much the activity of the mind : and the holiest person will be able but poorly to exercise his fervency, under a dull or languishing body. 3. Rush not suddenly upon prayer, out of a crowd of other businesses, or before your last worldly cares or discourses be washed clean out of your minds. In study and prayer how certain a truth is it, that
Non bene fit quod occupato animo fit.' Hieron. Epist. 143. ad Paulin. That work is not well done, which is done with a mind that is preposessed, or busied about other matters : that mind must be wholly free from all other present thoughts or business, that will either pray or study well. 4. Keep a tender heart and conscience that is not senseless of your own concernments; for all your prayers must needs be sleepy, if the heart and conscience be once hardened, seared, or fallen asleep. 5. Take more pains with your hearts than with your tongues. Remember that the success of your work lieth most on them. Bear not with their sluggishness; do by them as you would do by your child or servant that sleepeth by you at prayer; you will not let them snort on, but jog them till you have awakened them. So do by your hearts when you find them dull. . 6. Live as in the continual presence of God; but labour to apprehend his special presence when you are about to speak to him: ask your hearts how they would behave themselves, if they saw the Lord, or but the lowest of his holy angels? 7. Let faith be called up to see heaven and hell as open all the while before you ; and such a sight will surely keep you serious. 8. Keep death and judgment in your continual remembrance and expectation: remember how all your prayers will be looked back upon. Look not for long life: remember that this prayer for ought you know may be your last; but certainly you have not long to pray : pray therefore as a dying man should do. 9. Study well the unspeakable necessity of your souls. If you prevail not for pardon, and grace, and preservation, you are undone and lost for ever. Remember that necessity is upon you, and heaven or hell are at the end, and you are praying for more than a thousand lives. 10. Study well the unspeakable excellency of those mercies which you pray for: 0 think how blessed a life it would be, if you
could know God more, and love him more, and live a blameless, heavenly life, and then live with Christ in heaven for ever! Study these mercies till the flames of love put life into your prayers. 11. Study well the exceeding encouragements that you have to pray and hope: if your hope decay your fervour will decay. Think of the inconceivable love of God, the astonishing mercy shewed to you in your Redeemer, and in the helps of the Holy Spirit, and how Christ is now interceding for you, Think of these till faith make glad your heart ; and in this gladness, let praise and thanksgiving have ordinarily no small share in your prayers; for it will tire out the heart to be always poring on its own distempers, and discourage it to look on nothing but its infirmities : and then, a sad, discouraged temper will not be so lively a temper, as a thankful, praiseful, joyful temper is : for. Lætitia loquax res est, atque ostentatrix sui :' . Gladness is a very expressive thing, and apt to shew itselfb. But.' tristes non eloquentes sunt: maxime si ad ægritudinem animi accedat corporis ægritudo;' Hieron. Epist. 31. ad Theoph. Alexand. “Sad men are seldom eloquent: especially if the body be sick as well as the
b Symmach. Epist. 31. lib. 1. ad Auson.
mind.' 12. Let the image of a praying and a bleeding Christ, and of his praying saints be (not on a wall before your eyes, but) engraven on your minds : is it not desireable to be conformed to them? Had they more need to pray importunately than you? 13. Be very cautelous in the use of forms, lest you grow dull and customary, and before you are aware your tongues use to go without
hearts. The heart is apt to take its ease when it feeleth not some urgent instigation. And though the presence of God should serve the turn without the regard of man, yet with imperfect men the heart is best held to its duty when both concur. And therefore most are more cautelous of their words, than of their thoughts : as children will learn their lesson better, when they know their masters will hear them it, than when they think he will not. Now in the use of a form of prayer, a sleepy heart is not at all discerned by man, but by God only; for the words are all brought to your hand, and may be said by the most dull and careless mind; but when you are put to express your own desire, without such helps, you are necessitated to be so mindful of what you do, as to form your desires into apt expressions, or else your dulness or inattentiveness will be observed even by men; and
will be like one that hath his coach, or horse, or crutches taken off him, that if he have legs must use them, or else lie still. And to them that are able, it is often a great benefit to be necessitated to use the ability they have; though to others it is a loss to be deprived of their helps. I speak not this against the lawfulness of a form of prayer; but to warn you of the temptations which are in that way. 14. Join oft with the most serious, fervent Christians; for their fervour will help your
ur hearts to burn, and carry you along with them. 15. Destroy not fervency by adulterating it, and turning it into an affected earnestness of speech, and loudness of voice, when it is but an hypocritical cover for a frozen, empty heart.
Quest. XXXII. ' May we look to speed ever the better for
any thing in ourselves, or in our prayers ? Is not that to trust in them, when we should trust on Christ alone ?'
Answ. We must not trust in them for any thing that is Christ's part and not their's: but for their own part it is a
c See Mr. Mayo's Directions on this case.