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required to appear in court-dress; you must send in your card, or present a letter of introduction, stating who you are and the object of your visit; you must await the monarch's good pleasure in the ante-room, till he appoints the time and place for the interview. He can spare you but a few moments, he may be secretly wearied by your presence, and he will dismiss you with a formal bow and a faint smile, whilst you esteem yourself exceptionally favored if he bestows some gift upon you. And so elated are you by the interview that you devour every word uttered by royalty as eagerly as Lazarus desired to be filled with the crumbs which fell from the table of Dives, and you treasure up the gift he bestowed with as much care as you would preserve a saintly relic.
But how much greater is the honor to be admitted into the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords, to converse familiarly with Him, and to present to Him your petitions !
And to be favored with an interview with the Divine Majesty you have not to appear in courtdress. The garment He desires you to wear is the robe of innocence, or the sackcloth of humiliation ; and the ornaments most precious in His sight are the jewels of faith, humility, and devotion. These sparkle in the light of the Sun of justice; these delight the heavenly King, for “all the glory of the king's daughter is within.” 1
You are not obliged to
1 Ps. XLIV.
be furnished with a letter of introduction, for no one knows you as well as your Creator. You are not compelled to wait till the place of interview is appointed, for He is everywhere. He restricts you to no time, because He is never engaged, or preoccupied, but always at home, always ready to receive and hear you: "The eyes of the Lord are upon the just; and His ears unto their prayers.”? And when you enter His holy presence, you need not have your petition engrossed on vellum or satin, expressed in choice language and well-rounded periods. Those eloquent and impressive prayers of which we sometimes read in the papers, reach no farther, I fear, than their authors intended them to go. They tickle men's ears, but do not pierce the clouds. To such prayers we can apply the words which God saith in Job: “Who is he that wrappeth up sentences in unskilful words ?"2 The prayers which move the heart of God are those which flow directly from the soul, such as the prayer of the publican when he cried out: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner!”
You are not ordinarily required to clothe your prayers in any words at all. It is sufficient to express them in thought; for thoughts are acts in the sight of God, who is the searcher of the hearts and the reins of men. Nay, there are times when your prayer may be most acceptable in the sight of God, though your mental conceptions may assume
1 Ps. XXXIII., 16. 2 Job XXXVIII., 2.
no definite shape, and though they formulate no particular need.
To sum up: Prayer is the most exalted function in which man can be engaged, because it exercises the highest faculties of the soul,—the intellect and the will; it brings us into direct communication with the greatest of all beings,—God Himself; it is the channel of Heaven's choicest blessings; it excludes no one, it embraces all in the circle of its benedictions; it gives us access to our Heavenly Father at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances. In a word, prayer renders us co-operators with our Creator in the moral government of the world, since many of the events of life are shaped in accordance with our pious entreaties. Conceive, then, the dignity of God's saints. The affairs of life are decreed from all eternity; and the eternal decrees themselves are in a measure, regulated by the prayers of His servants. ' Prayer moves the Hand that moves the universe.”
1 John V., 2-4.
REFUTATION OF OBJECTIONS AGAINST PRAYER.
This chapter will be devoted to the consideration and refutation of some of the most popular objections against Prayer.
1st. Some men have condemned the practice of prayer as vain, on the assumption that there is no Providence.
If the assumption were correct, their conduct would be logical. But this objection need not detain us, as the existence of a Providence, and the reality of a divine government has been already demonstrated in a preceding chapter.
2d. All prayers have reference to some future event. In all our petitions, we ask God to grant us some temporal or spiritual favor, or to avert some calamity. Now, all future events are foreordained by the eternal decrees of the Divine Legislator and regulated by His immutable laws. Therefore, our prayers cannot alter these laws, and hence they seem to be useless. How can we expect God to change these laws for our good pleasure,—not once, but at every instant, throughout the world? Would not a favorable response to our prayers disturb at every moment the stability of order, existing in the physical and moral world? Would not science be an impossibility, based as it is on fixed and uniform laws?
1 Malach. III., 14.
Of what use, for instance, were the prayers of Moses for Josue and the Israelites, when they fought against the Amalecites? Of what benefit were the prayers of the primitive Christians for Peter's deliverance from prison ?! Would not these events have turned out precisely as they did, whether Moses and the first Christians had prayed or not?
Of what use were Samuel's prayers for thunder and rain? Of what avail were the prayers of St. Paul for the safety of the passengers during a storm in the Mediterranean ?3 Was it any advantage to Ezechias to pray for the recovery of his health ?4 The wishes of the suppliants were all fulfilled, it is true; but were the results due to their prayers ? Are not rain and storms and fevers controlled by fixed and immovable laws? And how can Providence interpose, in answer to our prayers, to alter or modify those laws which His wisdom has framed ? In a word, is it not vain to ask of God grace to avoid sin, since our salvation or condemnation is already determined in the eternal decrees of God?
ANSWER: The efficacy of prayer does not infringe on the eternal decrees of God, and is entirely com
1 Acts XII.,
3 Acts XXVII.