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Those who JOIN SOCIAL PRAYER should guard against a spirit of criticism on the prayer which they hear, and endeavour to join in the desire intended, even when they think that the mode of expression is not altogether proper, or suitable. Watch against criticising and being offended with the mere words and manner of others. Those, indeed, who do pray, should take care to avoid occasion of offence, by simplicity and propriety in their mode of conducting the prayer. But when sinful creatures kneel together before their Almighty Creator, the solemnity of the work in which they are engaged, and the greatness of his Majesty, should prevent a rigid observance of each other. Judge not, that ye be not judged.
In this, as in every means of grace, beware of any thing like ostentation, display, or self-righteoueness. Endeavour to attain Christian simplicity, and the meekness of wisdom. James iii, 13.
THE GENERAL HABIT OF PRAYER.
HITHERTO we have dwelt on the various kinds of devotion, private, public, family, and social, which should each come in their course at stated times; but the believer's character, I give myself unto prayer, (Ps. xc, 4.) shews, that he is continually in the spirit of prayer. The Scriptures suppose, that this is the habit of the Christian mind. Hence we find directions of this kind.
Praying always, with all prayer, and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance.” Eph. vi,18. “Pray without ceasing:" i Thess.
Continuing instant in prayer.” Rom. xii, 12. These directions are in some measure fulfilled, by a constant attention to those kinds of prayer we have before mentioned ; but they may have a yet more complete fulfilment, in the habitual disposition of the Christian's mind, his readiness at all times for prayer, and the exercise of this disposition in continual aspirations of soul, and desires expressed unto God in the midst of his other duties. These aspirations are both a great sign and means of our being spiritually-minded.
Nor does this in any way hinder, but rather help attention to our various duties. A labourer's love to his family will often bring it to his mind during his work, but will only incline him to labour more constantly and cheerfully; and a Christian's love to his Saviour will have the saine effect. The breathing of the lungs, and the beating of the pulse, hinder not our being engaged
in other work; and the lifting up of holy desires unto God, will only quicken us, and animate us in the performance of the daily labours of our life.
The expression of this habit of mind has been sometimes called ejaculatory prayer; for as the ancient soldiers were accustomed to let fly javelins or darts, so when there is the habit of prayer there will frequently be short, earnest petitions darted up, on the moment, to the throne of
grace. Such an habitually devout disposition of mind, will make every action of your life holy. You will learn to do nothing without connecting it by prayer with the presence and glory of God. You will see nothing, and hear nothing, without its raising your heart to him. What a spiritual life may the Christian, improving every thing by prayer, lead! This will consecrate every field, every wood, and every dwelling place. It will turn an ordinary walk into a morning or evening sacrifice. Making this heavenly use of earthly things, you will rapidly advance in conformity to the divine image, you will be strong in overcoming sin, and you will carry on schemes of good with a power which nothing can resist.
“How highly,” says Cooke, “would a courtier prize a privy key of admittance to his sovereign at all times. This key we possess in ejaculatory prayer. It is a golden chain of union between earth and heaven."
This general spirit of devotion, prevailing in the heart at all times, is of such importance, that the chief number of EXAMPLES of prayer which we find in the Holy Scriptures are of this kind. Were all these examples to be enumerated, it would be seen, that there is no situation, nor circumstance, in which we may be placed, where such a spirit will not be suitable, and in which the blessing of God may not in this way be sought, and obtained. It may be right to bring a few specimens from different parts of the sacred volume.
When the Patriarch Jacob, after much persuasion, at length permits his sons to take their youngest brother Benjamin, his heart sends up this short, but earnest petition; “God Almighty give you mercy before the man." Gen. xliii, 14. When Joseph sees his brother, Benjamin, he suddenly prays, “God be gracious unto thee, my son.” Gen. xliü, 29.
When the Egyptians were behind the Israelites, and the Red Sea before them, and the mountains hemmed them in, and the people were repining and murmuring, in that great difficulty, the heart of Moses was with his God; and though we read of no outward prayer, yet God says to him, “ Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward." Exod. xiv, 15.
In a similar great extremity, when the people talked of stoning David, he encouraged himself in the Lord his God. 1 Sam. xxx, 6. And when, flying from his rebellious son Absolom, he was going up Mount Olivet, one told him that Abithophel, his counsellor, was among the conspirators, David prayed, on the moment, as he was going up the hill, “ O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.” 2 Sam. xv, 31.
Nehemiah is an eminent example of the same spirit of prayer. You may observe it throughout his whole history. The following is an example. Being sorrowful in the presence of the king, and having stated the reason, the history goes on, “ The king said unto me, For what dost thou make request ? So I prayed to the God of heaven, and I said unto the king, Seud ine unte
Judah.” Neh. ïi. 4. He doubtless means that he lifted up his heart to God, before he asked the king. You may see in various places how he thus brought all his actions in prayer before God, and entreated that he would remember him for them.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who left an example for us to follow, frequently thus addressed his Father. In the midst of the people, on one occasion, he said, “ Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I into the world. Father, glorify thy name." John xii, 38. Again, op the cross he says, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me. Matt. xxvii, 46. And he prayed there, not only for himself, but in the midst of his sufferings, beholding with pity his savage murderers, the mocking priests, and deriding people, his compassionate heart breathes out itself in the short and fervent prayer,
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Luke xxiii, 34. O love till then unknown! how should such an example teach us when reviled not to revile again, but rather to pray for them that despitefully use
The gracious answers vouchsafed to these prayers should encourage us to imitate the examples thus brought before us. Let us, then, fulfil our Lord's direction, « Praying always, that we may be accounted worthy to escape all these things, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke xxi, 26.
We do not sufficiently attend to the GROWTH of a devout spirit.
We are too much content with former ate tainments, and often even fall short of them. But let us labour not only to keep our ground, but to make daily progress. The Christian's devotion should be like the flowing tide, which gradually gaining point after point, the retiring waves again and again returning, filling up