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the very breath of a new creature, nor can he live without it. Hence, though the Lord hath determined to bestow particular blessings on his people, he will be sought unto for these very blessings, because this is the only method in which he will bestow them. It is a duty calculated to affect the heart by bringing into view many of the most solemn and interesting objects, such as God himself, who is always the immediate object of prayer. A mind properly engaged in this duty, takes a comprehensive and affecting view of God in his being and perfections; in his glory, goodness, purity, justice, faithfulness; in his omniscience and omnipresence. Such a view of God is calculated to affect the heart, and cause the suppliant to take his own place. He views Christ as the medium of prayer. by him," says Paul, “ we have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” In this new and living way he draws near to God, and humbly hopes for audience and acceptance. Through faith, his prayers are offered upon that golden altar which sanctifieth both the gift and the giver, and maketh the comers thereunto perfect. When rightly engaged in this duty, he has solemn and affecting views of himself, his sins, guilt, dangers, weaknesses and wants; all which tend to make him importunate, and to humble him.
The good man has a great concern for the church when in her low state. “ If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning; if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof my mouth; if I prefer pot Jerusalem above my chief joy.”
Nor is the pious heart less affected with the value of the souls of men. He is impressed with the thought that they are immortal, and must consequently be happy or miserable to all eternity. If Christians duly realized this truth, they would pray much for the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon a guilty world. If ministers realized the exposed situation of many of their hearers, and that themselves have shortly to give an account of their stewardship, would they not preach and pray as for eternity?
Many are the advantages resulting from prayer.
1. The good man feels it to be a solemn thing when in his closet, to be alone with his God. He enters this retired apartment and shuts his door, and then pours the desires of his inmost soul into the bosom of his Father, who seeth in secret, and who in his own time rewardeth him openly.
Here he is free from all restraint with respect to the manner and matter of his prayers, which he feels too much of when any persons are present. He can unbosom himself in this retired moment without reserve. Nor has he the same temptation to vanity and pride as when attempt. ing to pray before his fellow worms, whose good opinion he is likely to overvalue.
2. Public prayer gives opportunity for those who are engaged in a common cause to supplicate the throne of grace at the same time, and with one heart. Such seasons serve to impress the mind with a solemn sense of dependence on God, of his all-wise and universal providence, and to raise and strengthen our confidence in him, Prayer, as well as all other institutions of reli
gion, is calculated to promote the public good, as well as to increase the happiness of individuals.
· The union of so many Christians in the same duty, at the same time, must be a pleasing thought to the pious mind. The God who hear. eth prayer has never encouraged the seed of Jacob to seek him in vain.
II. I pass to consider the circumstances that urge us to the duty, and our ehcouragements to
engage in it.
1. A sense of personal weakness, wants and dangers urges us often to engage in this duty. At some times, our sense of these things is much more lively than it is at other times; but always it presses us to ask of God those things we need.
2. A sense of sin, of guilt, and of danger of everlasting ruin urges us to pray for pardon and cleansing; for sanctifying and preserving grace; for comfort and joy.
3. Gloomy and threatening prospects of evil drive us to God, that he would save us from what we fear, or sustain us when it shall have come upon us.
4. Afflictions in our persons or families have the same tendency. “In their affliction," said God by the prophet Hosea, “they will seek me early.”
As a people, we have many public incentives to this duty. The whole prosperity of nations, as of individuals, is of God; hence the propriety of days of annual prayer, and of thanksgiving. How proper that we should open the season with prayer for the divine blessing, on our husbandry, fishery, navigation, &c. Our dependence on God is absolute, therefore we should acknowl.
edge him in all our ways, and he has promised to direct our steps.
It remains that we consider what encouragements we have to engage in this duty. These arise,
1. From the very nature of God, who is dis. posed, by his benevolence, to do good to his creatures. He is said to make the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man.
He sends his rain on the evil and on the good, and causeth his sun to shine on the just and unjust. He is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.
2. We derive very great encouragement, in our addresses to God, from the many declarations of scripture. His language to us, necessitous creatures, is, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near." “ Ask, and it shall be given you ; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you : for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth ; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”
Not to multiply passages like these, which hold up to our view the same encouragement, I shall only add the text; “O thou who hearest prayer." This expression not only teacheth us that God hears prayer, but that he answers it. Thus Jacob had power with God, and prevailed. Elijah's prayer was also heard and answered. David says, “ This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of all his troubles." Daniel was heard from the den of lions; the three Jewish believers from the fiery furnace; Jonah from the whale's belly. Peter was delivered from
his prison through the strength of prayer. The history of the church and of the world furnishes us with many striking answers of prayer.
In your own private lives, Christians, you have had a rich experience of this pleasing truth, that God heareth prayer. When ready to sink under trouble, you have sought the Lord, and he hath answered you. Let us remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.
A few reflections must close the subject.
1. We learn, that prayer is one of the most important duties of the Christian life. As it is founded in the relation we stand in to God, as his dependent creatures, our obligation can never cease, so long as we have a want to deplore, or he a favour to bestow.
2. What a blessed privilege we enjoy in discharging this important duty. Our heavenly Father permits us, in this solemn act, to draw near to him; and graciously invites us to come, with the humble boldness of children to a father. In this way we converse and enjoy communion with God. We leave our wants with him, and in due time receive gracious answers of peace ; or, if denied the things we ask, we rest satisfied that a God of infinite goodness has done right. Christians, , you know the preciousness of this privilege : for often have you gone to a throne of grace
burdened with sorrows and afflictions, and ready to sink in despondency; but found yourselves comforted in leaving your cause with God, and casting your cares upon him.
We add, in concluding the subject, that the want of a disposition to pray, is a sad omen of a