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The other clause of the text," with all prayer," refers to the different kinds of prayer in which it is our duty to engage. Thus the phrase is generally understood. Hence this clause will lead us to consider the several kinds of prayer. The object of the ensuing discourse is to treat of the kinds and seasons of prayer.
1. The several kinds of prayer. Prayer may be divided into four kinds; viz. public, family, secret, and ejaculatory. The two former are social, the two latter are personal and private.
1. Public prayer. This is that which is offered up in the public assembly, met for the worship of God. Public worship is a duty frequently enjoined in the word of God. Among other texts, the following is very explicit. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is;" Heb. x. 25. It is a duty which the people of God have performed, and have prized in all ages. And it is a duty, to the right performance of which, the Lord has made many special and precious promises; such as, "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob;" Ps. LXXXVii. 2. And
Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst, of them;" Mat. xviii. 20. Prayer is a part, and an important part of public worship, as we abundantly learn from the Scriptures. And although it is not the duty of all to lead in the public prayers of the congregation; yet it is their duty to attend upon them, and unite in spirit with those who may lead in them.
2. Family prayer. That this is a duty may be proved from its reasonableness and advantages; and from the examples, precepts, and imprecations of Scripture.
1. The duty of family prayer may be proved from its reasonableness. Man is a social creature, and it is therefore a dictate of natural religion that he should engage in social worship, and therefore in social prayer, which is a part of worship. And if it is agreeable to his nature, that he should engage in social prayer, and therefore a duty, it must be his duty to engage in family prayer; for in the family he has the best opportunity to engage in social prayer, and here the social feelings are naturally the strongest. Besides if it be our duty, as must be admitted by all, to acknowledge our dependence on God, to implore his blessing, and to thank him, in every capacity or
state in which we are dependent, need his blessing, and receive it, then is family prayer highly reasonable, and obligatory upon us. For as families, we derive our existence from God; as families, we are as much dependent on him as individuals; as families we need his blessing and cannot prosper without it; and as families we are made the subjects of many favours, which deserve family thanksgivings. And to neglect family prayer is a practical denial that God has anything to do with us, or deserves anything from us as families. It is a practical denial that as families we are dependent on him, need his blessing, or have received any favours at his hands, worthy our gratitude. And most assuredly the Heathen will rise up in judgment against such; for they, guided by the light of nature alone, have their Penates, or household gods which they worship in their families.
2. The advantages of family prayer prove the duty.Families are radical societies, out of which all others, both civil and ecclesiastical are formed; and as are the parts so will be the whole. If then the prosperity, and even the existence of the church of God in the world be important, and if it be our duty to endeavonr to maintain. the existence and promote the prosperity of the church then is family prayer important, and a duty; for if God be feared, he will be honoured in our families; and if the fear of God were excluded from families, it would be excluded from the church too, and of course the church must cease to exist. For it cannot exist without the fear of God.
Further it is an incontrovertible fact that religion is conducive and necessary to the well-being of civil society." Therefore since society is composed of families, it is important that religion, of which prayer is an essential part, should be maintained in families. And if it were universally neglected in families, in vain would we look for its influence on society.
Further it is our duty to endeavour to effect the piety of our children and domestics. God has committed them to our care, and he will call us to an account for our faithfulness in training them up for his service. He has commanded us, "Train up a child in the way he should go :" and to show the importance of it, he has added," when he is old, he will not depart from it ;" Prov. xxii. 6. And a
gain he has commanded; "Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;" Eph. vi. 4. He commended Abraham for his attention to the religious education of his children, saying, "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him,and they shall keep the way of the Lord;". Gen. xviii. 19. And he reproved Eli, and entailed a lasting curse upon his family, for neglec ting this duty. Hence it is evident that our duty to our God requires that we should labour to effect the piety of our children and domestics; and ifit be advantageous to ourselves to perform our duty, and secure the approbation of our God, then it is important that we should bring up those under our care in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
The advantages of piety in our children aud domestics, both to church and state, also teach that it is our duty to use the means calculated to secure this end. And further the advantages of piety to our children and domestics themselves, and its necessity to their everlasting happiness, teach us that it is our duty to use our endeavours that they may possess it. If they have true religion, they will be forever happy; and if they fail of true religion, they will be forever miserable. From all these considerations we conclude,it is very important, that those under our care should have true religion,and that we ought anxiously to use the means which are calculated to effect this desirable end. Our own interest, the interests of the church, and of civil society, and the eternal interests of those under our care, all demand it. And if the piety of our families, be so impor tant, family prayer must also be important, and an indispensable duty for family prayer is an important means of grace. Precept without example will have but little effect. If we tell those under our care, it is their duty to pray, and seek the salvation of their souls, if they never see us pray, or hear us pray for them, they will not be likely to feel our advice to be important, or to follow it. And therefore without family prayer we can have but little reason to hope our children and domestics will be pious. And further, facts teach the advantages of the habitual performance of this duty. Facts prove that the church is chiefly replenished from such families; that in general those who are educated in such families make the most 67
orderly, and useful members of society; and that they, who become hopefully pious, are generally the children of such families. Hence we infer the duty. If the advantages of family religion are so great, its performance must be duty.
3. This duty may be argued from the examples of some of the Scripture saints. Of Abraham the Lord testified, "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord;" Gen. xviii. 19. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in their sojournings, where they pitched their tents, built altars to the Lord, at which they worshipped God with their families. Job "rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of his children. "Thus did Job continually;" Job. i. 5. Joshua resolved" As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord;" Josh. xxiv. 15. David after spending the day, in bringing the ark to its place," returned to bless his household;" 2. Sam. vi. 20. Daniel at the risk of his life, "Went into his house, and kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime;" Dan. vi. 10. Paul thrice mentions a church in a private house. And of Cornelius, it is said, he feared God with all his house, and prayed to God always;" Acts x. 2. It is probable that all these instances relate to family worship. And that some of them do, there can scarcely be a doubt. These examples are left on record for our imitation, and they teach us the duty. For we are exhorted, "Be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises;" Heb. vi. 12. In addition to the foregoing examples we may mention that of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose example, as far as it can be imitated by us, it is our duty to follow.We frequently find him praying with his family, the apostles. And we may add further under this argument drawn from example, that the most pious persons in every age have felt themselves bound to perform this duty and have accordingly performed it with delight.
4. This duty may also be argued from some few Scripture precepts. Peter exhorted husbands to dwell with their wives according to knowledge, that their prayers might not be hindered; 1. Pet. iii. 7; which clearly implies that they are to pray together. Paul having exhorted the Colossians to a number of relative duties in
famlies, subjoined, "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;" Col. iv. 2. This text from its connexion appears to be addressed to families. And the same apostle said, "I will that men pray every where" 1 Tim. ii. 8. And in our text he exhorted men to pray with all prayer." The presumption is that under these comprehensive terms, family prayer is included.
5. The duty of family prayer is further proved by that dreadful imprecation of the prophet Jeremiah. "Pour out thy fury upon the families that call not on thy name;" Jer. x. 25.
We proceed to consider the
3. Kind of prayer, viz. secret, which should be performed by each individual alone. Much need not be said to prove this kind of prayer to be duty. Pious persons in all ages have lived in the habitual practice of it. Numerous examples of its performance are recorded in Scripture. Our Saviour also has set us an example in this respect that we should follow in his steps. We read that he went apart to a mountain, a garden, and other private places to pray; and that he rose before day, and retired in the night for this purpose. He has also given us directions how this duty should be performed, which certainly implies the duty. "When thou prayest (said he) enter into thy closet;" that is, some place removed from human observation, "and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly;" Mat. vi. 6.
4. The 4th kind of prayer is called ejaculatory. This also is personal and secret; and it differs from secret prayer, properly so called, only in this, that we retire for the latter, and formally engage in it, while the former is putting up with our hearts a short petition, confession, or thanksgiving, while engaged in our ordinary worldly business. We proceed to the
II. General head of our discourse, viz. to consider the proper seasons for prayer, or how often we ought to engage in this duty.
As to the public prayers of the congregation, in which it is our duty to unite, we ought to engage in them, at least every Sabbath, except when necessarily prevented. And the christian who loves prayer, and who delights, as he