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deliverance from temptations to evil, and from the bad passions and corruptions of our nature. Now the spirit of that man must be bold and shameless indeed, who can go on praying to God to deliver him from evil, while at the same time he does not try, does not use any exertion on his own part, to avoid what he knows to be displeasing to God, and to conquer the sinful dispositions, the evil propensities within him. It is an old saying, that either praying will make a man leave off sinning, or sinning will make him leave off praying.
Again: there is not one of us but has reason to lament his deficiency in heavenlymindedness. We all probably feel, that our souls are too prone to grovel upon earth, to fix themselves upon worldly things, and are sadly wanting in genuine religious feeling and fervency of spirit. Prayer is the most likely way to correct this evil; not only as it is the appointed means of procuring the aid of God's good Spirit, but also from the tendency which it has in itself to raise and spiritualize our thoughts and affections. The habit of devoutly addressing ourselves to God in prayer, naturally
leads our minds away from earthly and visible things, to those unseen things which are eternal ; it transports them from the objects of sense and whatever relates to this life only, to the world of spirits and the contemplation of heavenly subjects; and keeps alive and nourishes within us some portion of that religious feeling, which the world and the flesh are continually labouring to extinguish.
But farther ; it is our duty to call upon God in prayer, because it is enjoined by numberless precepts in holy writ, and recommended by the example of our blessed Lord himself, and by that of all the true servants and saints of God. Our Saviour directs us to pray,” as well as to watch, “ that we enter not into temptation.” He commands us to ask, that we may have; to seek, that we may find; to knock, that it may be opened unto us“. He has given us in the Lord's prayer a most excellent form for the model or pattern of our devotions; and in two striking parables has instructed us, that men ought always to
c Matt. xxvi. 41.
Matt. vii. 7.
pray, and not to faint. His chosen followers enforce these injunctions of their divine Master. Thus St. James says, “if
any man lack wisdom,” (and we all do lack it,) “ let him ask of Godf.” Thus St. Paul bids us in the text to "
without “ ceasing;" and in other places, to "con“ tinue instant in prayers,” and to watch unto the same with thanksgiving. He directs us to“ pray always with all prayer and “supplication, and to watch thereunto with “all perseveranceh," and in the first Epistle to Timothy, he wills that men pray every “ where, lifting up holy handsi."
Examples of fervency and perseverance in prayer abound in every part of the holy Scriptures, which have recorded many of the sublime and excellent petitions offered up by holy men of old to the throne of grace. I will not pretend to enumerate these, or to tell of the prayers of the patriarchs, of Moses, of Daniel, and of those many pious souls, who, by means of prayer, walked with God while on earth, and whose devotion will in the world to come be re
e Luke xi. 5. and xviii. 3. i James i. 5.
warded through the merits of Christ with everlasting happiness. Our blessed Lord, who gave us an example that we should follow his steps, was a pattern to us in this as in all other instances. We read repeatedly of his earnestness in prayer, and that he continued whole nights in prayer to God. His chosen followers were distinguished like their divine Master for the fervency of their devotions; and yourselves well know, that earnest and persevering prayer has always been a leading feature in the character of the true servants of God.
II. I proceed now in the second place to consider the qualifications, the disposition of mind, with which our prayers ought to be accompanied, in order to their being accepted of God; in other words, to point out how we ought to pray.
One of the first requisites of acceptable prayer, is a sincere wish and endeavour to get the better of our sins. For, what is it but an instance of gross hypoerisy, an insulting mockery of God, to pray with our lips that he would enable us to overcome our corruptions, while we feel in our hearts no real wish, and in fact do not try to be delivered from them? Thus it is said, " He " that turneth away his ear from hearing “ the law, even his prayer shall be an abo6 mination\;" and again, “ the sacrifice of " the wicked is abomination to the Lord!." Where you will observe, that it is not the having sinned, or the feeling much of sin still remaining within us, that should prevent our praying to God: this sense of sin, if attended with an earnest desire to be delivered from it, is one of the strongest arguments for prayer ;-but it is the persevering boldly in wickedness, without any endeavour to amend.
Again; our prayers to be acceptable must be offered in faith. 66 Let a man ask in " faithm,” says St. James; and our Saviour, “ whatsoever ye shall ask in my name believ“ing ye shall receive".” Our prayers must proceed from a firm belief that God is, and that he is a God that heareth prayer; from a full persuasion that his ear is ever open to receive our supplications, and that he will grant them, if not immediately, yet in his own good time; provided, that is, that
* Prov. xxviii. 9. * Prov. xv. 8. ** James i. 6. * Matt. xxi. 22.