« ZurückWeiter »
the blessing of God may not in this way be sought, and obtained. It may be right to bring a few specimens from different parts of the sacred volume.
When the Patriarch Jacob, after much persuasion, at length permits his sons to take their youngest brother Benjamin, his heart sends up this short, but earnest petition; "God Almighty give you mercy before the man.” Gen. xliii, 14. When Joseph sees his brother, Benjamin, he suddenly prays, "God be gracious unto thee, my son." Gen. xliii, 29.
When the Egyptians were behind the Israelites, and the Red Sea before them, and the mountains hemmed them in, and the people were repining and murmuring, in that great difficulty, the heart of Moses was with his God; and though we read of no outward prayer, yet God says to him, "Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.” Exod. xiv, 15.
In a similar great extremity, when the people talked of stoning David, he encouraged himself in the Lord his God. 1 Sam. xxx, 6. And when, flying from his rebellious son Absolom, he was going up Mount Olivet, one told him that Ahithophel, his counsellor, was among the conspirators, David prayed, on the moment, as he was going up the hill, “O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness." 2 Sam. xv, 31.
Nehemiah is an eminent example of the same spirit of prayer. You may observe it throughout his whole history. The following is an example. Being sorrowful in the presence of the king, and having stated the reason, the history goes on, "The king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven, and I said unto the king, Send me unto
Judah." Neh. ii. 4. He doubtless means that he lifted up his heart to God, before he asked the king. You may see in various places how he thus brought all his actions in prayer before God, and entreated that he would remember him for them.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who left an example for us to follow, frequently thus addressed his Father. In the midst of the people, on one occasion, he said, "Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I into the world. Father, glorify thy name." John xii, 38. Again, on the cross he says, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me. Matt. xxvii, 46. And he prayed there, not only for himself, but in the midst of his sufferings, beholding with pity his savage murderers, the mocking priests, and deriding people, his compassionate heart breathes out itself in the short and fervent prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Luke xxiii, 34. O love till then unknown! how should such an example teach us when reviled not to revile again, but rather to pray for them that despitefully use us!
The gracious answers vouchsafed to these prayers should encourage us to imitate the examples thus brought before us. Let us, then, fulfil our Lord's direction, "Praying always, that we may be accounted worthy to escape all these things, and to stand before the Son of Man." Luke xxi, 26.
We do not sufficiently attend to the GROWTH of a devout spirit. We are too much content with former attainments, and often even fall short of them. But let us Jabour not only to keep our ground, but to make daily progress. The Christian's devotion should be like the flowing tide, which gradually gaining point after point, the retiring waves again and again returning, filling up
all the vacancies, advancing and still advancing, at length replenishes, in regular progress, the whole space. Let the spirit of devotion advance till it fill our whole souls. Indeed, the truly advanced Christian is known by this mark, as much as by any other. The man after God's own heart, is the man of devotion; one who is always in prayer; who says in the morning, "when I awake I am still with thee;" and in the evening, "I will both lay me down in peace and take my rest, for thou Lord only makest me to dwell in safety." Ps. xxv. 5. In the midst of his business he is " fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." Rom. xii. 11. He can say, "On thee do wait all the day." Ps. xxv. 5. He," says Law, "is the devout man, who considers God in every thing, who serves God in every thing, who makes all the parts of his common life parts of piety, by doing every thing in the name of God, 'and under such rules as are conformable to his glory."
Men of this world, the covetous and the impure, the licentious and the gay, even when outwardly engaged in other things, have their minds full of their particular sins. Let the Christian's heart then be filled with that great work in which he is engaged. As they pollute all their sacred duties by worldly thoughts, so let him consecrate all his common actions, by the constant and heavenly breathings of his soul unto God.
But how often is nature in the believer stronger than grace! Do not Christians sometimes pass a whole day with hardly a single devout aspiration ?
Let me mention particular SEASONS which seem pecuHarly to call for the exercise of this habit of prayer. What Christian can pass along the streets of a great city, and see vanity and sin manifested every where, and hear, almost on every side, oaths and curses, without praying for those whom he thus sees sunk in sin! What
miserable objects continually pain his heart! And, though in many cases his judgment may forbid him to think of giving any thing to those who would only squander his bounty away, his piety will yet incline him in secret to pray for them, while thus obliged to withhold his alms. It was an excellent practice of a pious minister never to hear an oath from any one, without praying to God for the offending individual; and, if compelled by his judgment not to relieve a beggar in the street, still to lift up his heart in secret prayer for a blessing on his soul.
In conversing with others on religious subjects, in going to the poor and afflicted, in visiting your own friends, in coming to the house of God, in hearing his word, in these, and the various other circumstances of our lives, the heart of the devout Christian will be sending upward many a secret petition; he will be silently wrestling with God, and gaining that divine blessing on all in which he is engaged, which others lose by carelessness and indifference.
This is the old religion; this is the good way; these are the old paths. Jer. vi, 16. Thus Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and David walked with God; and those who walk thus now, find rest to their souls. In inviting the reader to this constant intercourse with God, we are inviting him to his highest privilege-friendship with his Creator; and to his richest enjoyment-delighting himself in communion with his Lord.
Do you ask, how you are to obtain, and how you are to keep alive this spirit of prayer? You must seek it; you must cultivate it. The grace of God is sufficient.
And first, MEN NEED A NEW RELATIONSHIP TO GOD, being by nature born in sin, and afar off from God, we must first be reconciled to him by Jesus Christ. Can two
walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos ii, 3.)Lay hold, then, by faith, of the great salvation provided in Christ for guilty sinners; see its fulness, its freeness; accept the offered mercy; and then, being justified by faith, you will have peace with God. One, when unacquainted with real religion, was much perplexed as to the meaning of the expression so often occurring in the Scripture of walking with God. But, having at length embraced free salvation by a crucified Saviour, his heart was continually ascending in devout aspirations, especially in his walks; and then he said, "Now I know what it is to walk with God."
And they also need THE CONTINUAL AID OF THE HOLY GHOST. Outward devotion may be practised by the natural man. The Mahomedans are perpetually counting their beads, and saying many prayers with their lips ; a work of mere self-righteousness, or proceeding from ignorance, pride, or superstition. The Roman Catholics are not without similar superstitious practices. And many Protestants have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. When the Holy Ghost is given, then, and then only, we shall belong to that company, of which the Apostle says, "we are the circumcision which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Phil. iii, 3. The Holy Spirit alone can enable us to pray spiritually and constantly.
Thus reconciled to God by Christ, thus aided by his Spirit, you have the first principles of this habit of prayer, which must be cultivated by continual watchfulness, determined resolution, and patient perseverance.