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The word of God generally is of use to direct us in prayer. It teaches us our necessities and duty, and what things are agreeable to the will of God, for which we may pray. It teaches us, for our encouragement, the character of God, as a sin-pardoning, and a prayer-hearing God, ready to bestow upon those who ask him, the blessings they need. It contains also, for our encouragement, many precious promises which we may plead in prayer, and examples of answers to prayer. And it furnishes us with many petitions, used by others in situations similar to our own, which we may use and make our own. An acquaintance with the word of God, will therefore be found of great use, to direct and assist us in prayer; and it becomes us to study it, that we may know for what, and how to pray.
But while the word of God generally is of use to direct us in prayer, we have a special rule of direction in that form of prayer, which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called the Lord's prayer. This undoubtedly may be used as a prayer. But that it was intended to be a directory by which to frame our prayers, rather than a form, to the express words of which, we are obliged to be confined, appears from several considerations.
1. From the manner in which it is introduced in our text; "After this manner, therefore pray ye," which seems clearly to be an intimation, that it was intended to be, rather a directory, after the manner of which prayers were to be framed, than a form of words to be used without variation.
It is true that Luke introduces this prayer in different words. "When ye pray say, "Our Father, &c. ;" Luk. xi. 2. But as Matthew has given this prayer much more fully than Luke, we have reason to believe, that, "When ye pray, say," in Luke, means the same, as "After this manner pray ye," in Matthew.
2. If this prayer was intended to be, not a directory, but a precise form, we should have had it in the same words in both Matthew and Luke. These two are the only evangelists who have recorded this prayer; and the time when it was spoken, as recorded by Luke, was evidently different from the time when it was spoken as recorded by Matthew. If therefore our Lord had intended that it should be used as a form instead of a directory, it 68
is reasonable to suppose, that when he spake it the second time, he would have used precisely the same words, as he did the first time; but this is not the case. In some petitions, different words are used, though the sense is retained; and a part is entirely omitted. In Matthew the fourth petition is, "Give us this day our daily bread;" in Luke it is, "Give us day by day our daily bread." In Matthew the fifth petition is, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;" in Luke it is, "Forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us." And the last sentence, according to Matthew; "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen," is entirely omitted by Luke. From this variation we infer, that the Lord's prayer was not intended to be used as a precise form, but principally as a directory in prayer.
3. We have no proof that the apostles used this form of prayer. For it is no where said in the New Testament that they did although we have several of their prayers recorded, and although they kept themselves within the limits of this directory.
But while we believe and maintain that we are not bound to use the Lord's prayer as a form, in its precise words; yet we allow, that it is proper to use it, either by itself, or as some do, to begin or conclude other prayers with. But while it is thus used, it ought to be done with understanding and reverence; and we ought carefully to guard against all formality, and all superstitious use of it, as though there was a merit in using it, and as though there was a charm in the words to procure blessings, apart from the temper of heart, with which the words are pronounced.
But while we hold that we are not bound to use this prayer as a form, we hold it to be an important directory, to which it becomes us to take heed; and a very comprehensive summary of the matter proper to be used in prayer.
In the remainder of this discourse, I will endeavour to explain the meaning of the several parts of the Lord's
It consists of three parts, viz. a preface, petitions, and
I. The preface," Our Father which art in heaven." This preface of the Lord's prayer, according to our
Catechism"teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us, and that we should pray with and for others."
In this preface we are tanght, that we ought to begin our prayers, with making mention of the name of God, and some of his divine perfections; that we ought to address him with reverence, under a sense of the infinite distance that there is between us and him, as he is not only our Father, but our Father in heaven, infinitely exalted above us; and that we should approach him in prayer, in the way of the covenant of grace, relying upon the merits of Christ for pardon and acceptance, and with a filial temper; for it is only in the covenant of grace, which is made in and through Christ, that God is to the sinner a reconciled God and Father; and it is certain that he is the covenant God and Father of none but those who are reconciled unto him, and have a filial temper. This preface further teaches us that the people of God may and ought to approach him with a humble confidence,as children come to a good Father, able and ready to help them. For if God be our Father, it certainly belongs to his character, to listen to the requests of his children, and to grant them as far as they are for their good.
Further, this preface teaches us the duty of social prayer. We are not only to pray, each one by himself in seeret, and say, my Father; but we are also to pray together and say "our Father."
II. We proceed to the second division of the Lord's prayer, viz. the petitions, which are six.
1. The first is "hallowed be thy name."
In this petition "We pray that God would enable us and others to glorify him in all that whereby he maketh himself known, and that he would dispose of all things to his own glory."
By the name of God, we are to understand himself, as made known to us, in all the ways in which he manifests his character as by his names properly so called, titles, attributes, ordinances, words, and works. By hallowing the name of God, we are to understand, sanctifying, honouring, or glorifying God himself. In this petition therefore we are taught to pray, that God may be glorified in all whereby he maketh himself known; and as he maketh himself known by all his works, we are here taught to pray that he would dispose of all things for the advancement of his own glory; and that he would by his grace en
able us and others, willingly and actively to glorify him; and that therefore he would enable us and others to hate and forsake, sin, which robs God of his glory to believe in, admire, adore, and love him, and thus glorify him in heart; to speak forth his praise, and thus glorify him with the tongue and to obey his commandments and thus glorify him in the conduct of our lives.
And here it is worthy of observation that this petition, that God's name may be hallowed, is placed first, which may teach us, that the glory of God should be our first and chief object, to which every other ought to be subordinate. And here we may further remark; how inconsistent, and wicked is the conduct of many! They pretend to pray to God; and run over the Lord's prayer, and using this petition, pray that his name may be glorified, and yet constanly dishonour him with their hearts, their lips, and their lives; and while they pretend to pray that he may be glorified, at the same time do almost all that they can to dishonour him themselves, and to lead others also to do the same.
2. The second petition is, "thy kingdom come." In this petition, 66 we pray that Satan's kingdom may be destroyed, that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it and kept in it, and that the kingdom of glory may be has
By the kingdom of God here, for the coming of which we are to pray, we are not to understand the kingdom of his providence; for this was already come when Christ spake this prayer; but his spiritual kingdom, or the kingdom of grace and glory, which our Saviour very frequently called the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom of grace has already come in part; but still it is proper to pray that it may come more fully and gloriously. Satan has usurped a dominion in this world; be is called the prince of this world, and he ruleth in the hearts of the children of disobedience. The kingdom of God, and of Satan, are directly opposed to each other, and the kingdom of God's grace has been set up in our world on purpose to destroy the kingdom of Satan. Therefore in praying, " thy kingdom come," we pray that Satan's kingdom may be destroyed, in our own hearts, and the hearts of others throughout the world. We pray that the grace of God may rule, abound, and in
crease in our hearts; and that every thing which is opposite to it, in our hearts or lives, may be put down and taken away. We pray also, that the gospel may have free course where it is preached; that they who are out of the kingdom of Christ may be brought in; that all his people may be abundantly replenished with his grace, and bring forth holy fruit to his glory; that the gospel may be sent where it is not; that all the means using for the spread of the gospel may be prospered; that Pagan idolatry, Jewish infidelity, Mahometan delusion, and Popish superstition may come to an end; that the Sun of Righteousness may arise upon these benighted parts of the earth with healing in his wings; and that the glorious millennial period, when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, may speedily come.
In this petition we also pray that the kingdom of glory may be hastened or that the day of the complete triumph of Christ over all his enemies, when the church shall pass from its militant to its triumphant state, may speedily come. "Surely I come quickly," says Christ. And every christian ought to respond; "Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus;" Rev. xxii. 20, 21.
3. The third petition is, "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." In this petition," we pray that God by his grace would make us able and willing to know, obey, and submit to his will in all things as the angels do in heaven."
By the will of God here, we are to understand, that which he requires of us to do, and that which he pleases to do with us. And this petition teaches us to pray, that we may become acquainted with the will of God; that knowing his will we may have a desire and disposition to do whatsoever he commands, and strength to act according to the desires and resolutions of our hearts; and that we may without murmuring and with patience and resignation bear and submit to his will, when he pleases to chastise us. And we are further taught in this petition to pray that we may know, obey, and submit to the will of God, with the same temper, and in like manner, as saints and angels in heaven; that is with the like humility, cheerfulness, faithfulness, diligence, zeal, sincerity, and constancy. And we are further taught to pray, not only that