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they are offered according to his will, and that the granting them will be for our own real benefit. This faith, this belief, is founded upon the promises of his Son, to which I have already referred : “ Ask and
ye shall have, seek and ye shall find, “ knock and it shall be opened unto you.” From this promise, and many
passages in holy writ, we know, as the apostle asserts, that “ if any man ask according to 6 God's will, he heareth him.”
Nearly allied to this qualification of prayer, if indeed it is not rather to be considered as a branch, or part of it, is the precept that our supplications be offered in the name of Christ. Our iniquities you know had separated between us and our God. Christ however, by bearing in his own person the punishment of our sins, has reconciled us to his Father, and stands ever ready to make intercession for us, and, as our Mediator and High Priest, to present our prayers before the throne of the Most High. “No man can come unto the Fa" ther,” he tells us, “but by him;" and it is “ through him that we have access to
• Matt. vii. 7.
66 the Father.” He therefore enjoins us to offer all our prayers in his name. “ Whatever ye shall ask the Father in my “ name, he will give it youp.”
Humility and contrition of spirit form another very important qualification of prayer. When we address ourselves to God, we should “ fall low on our knees before his “ footstool,” penetrated with a deep sense of our unworthiness, and grieving at the remembrance of our numberless transgressions. “To this man will I look, saith the
Lord, even to him that is poor and of a “ contrite spirit;” and again, “a broken and “ a contrite heart God will not despise ,' Thegracious acceptance which attended the lowliness of the poor publican in the parable is familiar, I trust, to most of you.
It is indispensably requisite, when we call upon God in prayer, that we should be attentive to what we are about. If while we pretend to be praying to him, we wilfully suffer our thoughts to wander to any earthly vanity, we certainly are in some degree chargeable with the guilt of drawing near to God with our lips, while our hearts
P John xiv, 13. 9 Isaiah lxvi. 2.
are far from him. Let not, however, any one be discouraged by this expression. The best men, who are most exemplary in their devotions, are not at all times able entirely to conquer this wandering, this distraction of the mind. It is an instance of human weakness, which, it may be, will cling to us as long as we continue to be clothed in mortality. We must lament it as such, and strive and pray against it. If we wilfully give way without thus contending against it, it is no doubt highly blameable; and we must bear in mind, that in
mind, that in proportion as this wandering of the mind in prayer is suffered to prevail, so far are we wanting in genuine piety, so far do we fall short of that holiness, the attainment of which ought to be the great object of our lives.
But we must not only be attentive in our devotions, we must also be earnest, impora tunate, and fervent. The spiritual blessings for which we ought principally to pray are blessings of the greatest importance, blessings without which we shall be lost for
We should therefore sue for them with no little warmth and earnestness. We
should pray with heart and soul, like men who are begging for their life. If we prefer our petitions coldly and languidly, we act as if we had no proper sense of the inesti. mable value of those blessings which we pretend to implore, almost as if we meant to be refused, or, at least, did not greatly care whether we were refused or not.
And here I would observe-and I must beg you to pay particular attention to the observation that this attention and earnestness must accompany not only our private devotions, but also the public prayers of the Church. The greater part of those prayers indeed are pronounced aloud by the minister alone, but the whole congregation should take part in them in their hearts, and make them their own, by saying, Amen, at the conclusion of each. Some men in Church appear to listen to the prayers as they listen to the lessons or to the sermon, without in any way joining in them. But surely this is to defeat one great end of public worship, which was instituted that all might heartily join together in putting up their common supplications to God, and by the united strength of their prayers draw
down his blessing upon them. When the prayers in church are pronounced by the minister, he is not praying alone, but is speaking in the name of the whole congregation, who are not merely to listen to what he says, but are themselves to join with earnestness and devotion.
III. And now, in the third place, I will offer a few remarks upon the times, at which our prayers should be offered
up; gest to you when you ought to pray. The direction of the apostle is, that we should pray every where, and at all times, should
pray,” in short,“without ceasing." Not that we are required to be always on our knees, to be continually without intermission engaged in offices of devotion. This would be inconsistent with the lawful business of this world. What is required is, that we should always be in a readiness to pray; that we should very often offer up short ejaculations and petitions for protection and spiritual strength; and that we should have stated times for devotion, in the observance of which we should be regular and constant. Of Daniel we read, 6. that he kneeled on his knees three times