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ought, to engage in this duty with the people of God, will cheerfully embrace other opportunities, besides the Sabbath, to unite in public and social prayer. The apostles and primitive christians did not confine their social worship to the Sabbath, but they frequently engaged in this business on other days of the week. These extra meetings for social prayer have ever been precious to the people of God; and they have been signally attended with the divine blessing. And the blessing with which God has attended them, teaches us that it is not only a duty, but a privilege, frequently to unite in social prayer, on other days besides the Sabbath.
As to the seasons of family and secret prayer, it is abundantly evident from Scripture, we should be frequent and habitual in the performance of these duties. This we are taught by the exhortations to pray always, to continue in prayer, and to continue instant in prayer. And the Scriptures also teach, that we should perform these duties daily, and not only daily, but at least morning and evening. The Psalmist said, "Every day will I bless thee:" Ps. CXLV. 2. "Unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up ;" Ps. "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord
v. 2. 3.
-To show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night;" Ps. xcii. 1, 2. Yea the Psalmist was still more frequent in his devotions. Fot we hear him saying: "Evening and morning, and at noon will I pray;" Ps. LV. 17. Daniel prayed in his house three times a day. The daily sacrifices under the law afford us some light on this subject. They were of fered morning and evening. From all this evidence may be inferred, that family and secret prayer ought each to be performed at least twice in each day, that is, morning and evening. And reason seems to point us to prayer, at least morning and evening. It is reasonable that we should begin the day with God, thank him for the preservation and mercies of the night, and ask his presence and blessing through the day. And it is equally reasonable that we should end the day with him, and commit ourselves to his care through the night. The division of time into day and night seems to point us to the duty of prayer, morning and evening.
For ejaculatory prayer, there are no stated seasons. Frequently through the day, when in company, or when engaged in our ordinary business, we may lift up our hearts to God. This kind of prayer, says one, enters heaven sooner than any other. It is divested of that formality which is apt to be attached to our other prayers, and flows warm from the heart.
In the application of this subject, we may reflect what a blessing is it, that we may pray in hope of accept ance! If we had our deserts, we should be shut out from the presence of God, and he would refuse to hear us. But instead of this he has erected a throne of grace, and invites us to come boldly to it, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. We ought with thankfulness to embrace the permission. We ought never to feel prayer to be a task. We ought to esteem it a high privilege, and embrace it as such with delight.
But alas! how many are there who if they do pray, per form it as a necessary task, to which they are driven by conscience! They perform it, in a heartless manner; and they are glad when they have finished it. Such cannot have the temper of God's children. For they habitually delight in this duty; and whenever they feel a backwardness or coldness in the performance of it, they mourn. With David, they can say, "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord; to show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night;" Ps. xcii. 1, 2.
But alas! again, how many are there who neglect the duty of prayer altogether! They lie down and rise up, and spend day after day, without praying to the great God, who has commanded them to pray to him, on whom they are continually dependent, from whom they receive all their blessings, and at whose disposal they entirely are. That there should be such persons in our world, possessed of reason, is astonishing, and shows the exceeding depravity of fallen man. All such persons must undoubtedly be in the road to destruction. Prayerless persons are surely graceless persons. And they who will not call upon God now, but continue to neglect prayer, will ere long call and will not be heard. Let prayerless persons take warning.
It is the duty of every person, of every age and every
condition, to pray in secret; and although they may externally join in the public prayers of God's house, or in the prayers which may be offered in the families, in which they reside; and although they may even lead in public or family prayer, yet if they habitually neglect secret prayer, they must be strangers to the grace of God.
Are there any present who neglect secret prayer? Whatever your profession may be, you have no Scriptural evidence that you are christians. You cannot be christians, and live in the habitual neglect of this duty. You can have no title to heaven; but must yet be in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity. Awake to a sense of your condition; and this day go by yourselves, and begin to pray unto the Lord, and cry to him to have mercy upon you. And let no day pass without being in your closet, and on your knees before God.
Are there here any heads of families who neglect family prayer? You have heard that this is a duty. What excuse can you offer to justify the neglect of this duty? Will you say, I am not a professor of religion? But the neglect of one duty will not excuse for the neglect of another. Because you are not a professor of religion, has God no right to you, or your family? Are you under no obligations to worship him? Has he no right to your service? And are you in no danger of his wrath, if you neglect his service? How monstrously absurd!
But will you object again, I cannot find time? Are you not a candidate for eternity? And if so, what is the great and most important business of time? Is it not to prepare for eternity? And is not the care of your soul, and of the souls of your family, of more importance to you and them, than any thing else? Nothing can have such a claim upon your time as religion. If therefore you are engaged in a business which forbids you to pray in your family, you ought without hesitation instantly to relinquish it. "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?" Mat xvi. 26.
Will you say again, I know not how to pray? If you were impressed with a sense of your necessities as you ought to be, you would soon have enough to say. The beggar at your door knows how to let his wants be known, and to prefer his request for relief. If nothing more and
worse, pride, which is very criminal, lies at the foundation of this objection.
Do you say again, I have so long neglected it that I am ashamed to begin? You ought to be ashamed that you have so long neglected it; but you ought not to be ashamed to correct, what you have reason to be ashamed of.
Do you object again, my family will not join with me? But are you not, or ought you not to be the master of your own house? And have you fairly made the experiment whether your family will submit to such a regulation? And should they oppose, whom are you to obey, them or God?
There is in fact, my hearers, no excuse that will stand the test of reason, and much less of the bar of God, where you will shortly have to answer for your neglect of duty. If you felt as you ought to feel, these objections would appear trifling.
Are there here any heads of families who profess religion, and yet neglect family prayer? Such act entirely inconsistent with their profession. If your neglect be known to the world, you are a great stumbling-block to those that are without; and the authority of the church can be discharged from criminality in retaining you in the communion, only on the principle, that they are ignorant of your criminal neglect. But God knows it and he will soon reckon with you.
Every head of a family, whether he professes religion or not, who neglects the duty of family prayer is called upon seriously to consider this subject, and no longer to continue in this neglect. You are practically denying the dependence of your family on God, and that as a family you need any favours, or have received any, worthy of your gratitude. Consider all the reasons which have been offered to establish this duty, and especially consider your great responsibility, in having the interests of the immortal souls of your children and domestics committed to your care. Do you love your children? and can you bear the thought that they should be lost through your neglect? The guilt of that parent, in whose skirts the blood of the souls of his children shall be found, in the great day of account, must be great, and his doom dreadful indeed! And there is very great reason to fear
that the children of prayerless families will be lost. For God will pour out his fury upon the families that call not on his name. How will you bear to meet your children at the bar of God, and hear them tell you, heaping curses upon your heads, that it was through your neglect, they lost their souls?. How will you bear to spend an eternity with them in misery, under such reflections and imprecations? Heads of families, in whose houses there is no domestic altar, and who never collect your children around you, and pray to God with them and for them, go and seriously reflect upon this subject.
THE LORD'S PRAYER.
MATTHEW VI. 9-13.
"After this manner therefore, pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.-Amen."
"We know not, what we should pray for as we ought;" Rom. viii. 26. We need therefore to ask of Christ, as one of his disciples did, "Lord, teach us to pray;" Luk. xi. 1. We need direction from above; and the Lord has been graciously pleased to give us the needed direction, to which it becometh us diligently to attend.
The rule of direction we have pointed out in our Catechism in the answer to the 99th question:
"What rule hath God given us for our direction in prayer ? The whole word of God is of use to direct us in prayer ; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer, which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called the Lord's prayer.”