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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 inestimable 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
suggest 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, “ that he kneeled on his knees three times
"ą day",” and prayed and gave thanks to God. And David says of himself, “ at
evening, and morning, and at noonday s will I pray, and that instantly.” It were well if we followed the example of these distinguished servants of the Most High; but, at least, every morning and evening we ought to direct our supplications to God, imploring the pardon of our sins, and his protection from dangers spiritual and temporal,
Besides our private devotions, those, who are fathers and masters of families, should observe the old and excellent custom of family prayers; and none of us ought ever, without some very sufficient reason, to absent ourselves on the Lord's day from the public prayers of the Church.
It has appeared then, I trust, that it is both our interest and our duty to call upon
Dan. vi. 10. • For this purpose, I would recommend either the Lord's Prayer, General Confession, Collect for the week, and morning and evening Collects; or Bp. Wilson's Family Prayers; or Bp. Gibson's; or the selection of Family Prayers from the New Ma, nual, which is published by the Society for Promot, ing Christian Knowledge.
God in prayer, because prayer is the instituted means of obtaining his blessings, temporal and spiritual; because in itself it has a tendency to keep us from sin, to nou rish in us a heavenly frame of mind, and because it is enforced by the precepts of holy writ, and recommended by the example of all the true servants of God.
It has appeared in the second place, that in order to their being accepted, they must proceed from a humble and penitent heart; must be offered up in faith, and in the name of Christ; must be preferred with attention, with earnestness, and with warmth; and that they must be not only fervent, but also frequent.
My friends, let us seriously examine our own conduct by what has been above urged. Are we in the habit of thus calling upon God, or, as it is in the text, of praying without ceasing? We read of men,
in their hearts, “What is the Almighty, that
we should serve him; or what profit shall " we have if we pray unto him;" and of others, who are branded with the censure, that “they have not called upon God.” Are we liable to the same reproach? If we are living without prayer, we are living in a state of the utmost danger; from which we may indeed be recovered by divine grace, but one of the first symptoms of our recovery will be found in our calling upon God. Or, though we do sometimes pray with our lips, do we pray without attention, without earnestness? While we outwardly seem to be engaged in our devotions, do we wilfully suffer our thoughts to wander to earthly things, without lamenting and striving against this waywardness of spirit? In proportion as this is the case, we have reason to fear that our hearts are not right with God, that we are but little influenced by real piety, that we are still far from the kingdom of heaven. We must contend against this dulness of religious feeling to the utmost of our power; must beseech God to assist us in our prayers, and to pour into our hearts the genuine spirit of grace and supplication.