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occurring. Man is a praying being. The fact cannot be disputed. Ancient and modern history both testify it. False and true religions equally sanction and enforce the invoking of divine aid. Now and then an obscure and small tribe may be found, only just removed from the brute creation in point of intellect, who have but the vaguest and most confused notions of a deity, and do not bend the knee to Him. What of that? It no more invalidates the statement that humanity is devout than the existence of cripples and idiots disproves the prevalence of health and reason. Has there ever been a time in which temples were not built ? Can any one indicate a period at which worship was not observed ? He would be a bold man who should undertake such a task. Pericles, the great Athenian statesman, never began to address an audience without first praying to the gods. Cornelius Scipio, the famous Roman general, when once he had assumed the toga, never undertook any affair of importance without having passed some time alone in the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. “The best and noblest action,” says Plato, “which a virtuous man can perform, and that which will most promote his success in life, is to live, by vows and prayers, in continual intercourse with the gods. Nay, all who woul. act with due consideration ought, before beginning any undertaking, whether great or small, to invoke god."
Yes ! men will pray. All the science and philosophy in the world will not dissuade them from it. Eloquence and learning will fail to convince them that it is superstitious and useless. Some pray to heathen gods, others to Buddha, others to the God of nature, others to the Jehovah of the Hebrews, others to the Father revealed in Christ, but to some person or persons they persist in praying. A very poor prospect of success lies before our materialistic teachers. They may secure the allegiance of a few, but they have no chance with the many. Surely it must be clear to Tyndall and Huxley that the probability of converting multitudes to their cheerless creed is remarkably remote. Take England as a case in point. However neglectful many may be respecting the practice of supplication, the wide-spread conviction of its utility is palpable enough. Here is an instance. A few years ago, death threatened royalty. The Prince of Wales was prostrated by & most malignant fever. Physicians despaired of his life. A dark cloud hung over the horizon of the future. Happily, Providence was pleased to dispel it. The heir to the British throne recovered. He recovered, we say; but not before clear and impressive witness had been borne to the public faith in prayer's power. The regal invalid was made the subject of intercession throughout the land ; Jews, Protestants, Romanists, people of all sects, offered special entreaty on his behalf
. The thousands who then bowed before the mercy-seat showed most unequivocally that the assaults of scepticism on this great privilege had not aprooted the deep-seated belief in its efficacy. Except they are ambitious of being on the losing side, positivists and neologists had better strike their fag. Mankind refuses to endorse their dreary
dogmas. Even Comte, after he had denied God's existence and the divinity of Christianity, prayed! For an hour every day he prayed to the spirit of his dead wife. He had renounced a Deity, but he could not bring himself to renounce prayer.
Prayer is Christ-like. “He was praying in a certain place," A characteristic occurrence. Prayer was His habit. The Mount of Olives bore witness to the devotions of Jesus. At His baptism He prayed; before He sent out the apostles, He prayed ; during the transfiguration, He prayed ; when He raised Lazarus, He prayed ; on the cross, He prayed. "I give myself to prayer," was the experience of both David and David's greater Son.
To some this is perplexing. It confounds them. They cannot understand why our Lord should pray. " That He should have worked miracles,” they say, “ is not strange. They were needed as credentials of His Messiahship. He who made such astounding demands on men's faith as to require that they should believe Him to have come down from heaven, might well do signs and wonders 'to support His claims. Nor is it surprising that He should have suffered. How could it be otherwise ? Perfect in love, He must have inevitably pitied the victims of pain, poverty, bereavement, and disappointment, whom He so often encountered. Nay, He came to suffer : to be a Sacrifice for human sin. But prayed--that is mysterious indeed! Why should He
The pure mirror of His soul was never dimmed by the faintest breath of evil--what had He to pray for ? ”
That there are difficulties connected with the subject we have no wish to deny. Nevertheless, while the fact that He prayed may be mysterious, there would have been far more mystery had He never prayed at all. Devotion is the mainspring of religion. A prayerless man is a godless one, Supplication is the very atmosphere of piety, Religion cannot exist without it. The holier we become, the more frequent and fervent is our communion with our heavenly Father. It follows, therefore, that (speaking now of Christ's human nature) the purest Being that ever existed would needs be the most prayerful Being that ever existed. To quote from the late Canon Melvill : " However incomprehensible it may be that a Being, as truly God as He was Man, should, as man, have been as much thrown on a man's resources as though He had not also been God, yet what a comfort it is that Christ was thus identified with ourselves, that He went through our trials, met our dangers, and experienced our difficulties! We could have had but little confidence in committing our prayers to a Highpriest who had never had to pray Himself. But, oh, how it should encourage us to wrestle in prayer, to be fervent and importunate in prayer, that it is just what our blessed Lord did before us; and that having, as our Mediator, known continually the agony of supplication, He must, as our Advocate, be all the more disposed, in the language of the psalmist, to put our tears into His bottle, and to gain audience for our cries. It might strike me with greater amazoment, to see Christ raise the dead ;
it might fill me with deeper awe to behold Christ upon the cross; but it ministers most to my comfort to look at Christ upon His knees, Then I must know Him as my Brother in all but my sinfulness, myself in all but the corruption which would have disabled Him from being my Deliverer."
Prayer is contagious. The word is used for want of a better. Is there not a sacred contagion in prayer? Nothing can be more obvious. Recur again to the text. What led this disciple to say, "Teach us to pray"? Had the Master been speaking of prayer ? Not a word. It was on quite another occasion that He said, “ Men ought always to pray." How was it, then, that the desire for increased power in devotion was awakened ? It was through hearing and seeing our Lord pray. Prayer begets prayer.
One live coal kindles another. There is an Eastern proverb, as true as it is poetic, “I am not the rose ; but I have been with the rose, and therefore I am sweet.” It is so spiritually. Sappose a case. A Christian is engaged in business. He has much to try him. Little more is accomplished than to keep from falling into sin. Temptation proves extremely powerful in the course of the day, Temper and principle are alike put to a severe strain. Evening comes, He remembers that it is the night for social prayer. Alas, he feels very far from devotional. What shall he do ? Stay away from the meeting ? That would only make matters worse. He adopts a better plan. When his commercial engagements are over, he goes to the service. He feels in a dull, dark, deadened condition. But after a hymn has been sung and a prayer offered he gets something better. The load is lighter than it was. Another hymn and another prayer still further quicken and elevate his thoughts. In fine, he returns to his house thoroughly refreshed and invigorated in soul. This is a common experience. Prayer is infectious. An occurrence took place in a certain town which so well illustrates this that it deserves recording and remembering. A plain, humble man was once visited by one of the most eminent lawyers in the district, who spent a night with him. In the morning he had a struggle as to whether he should omit family prayer, for the lawyer was a sceptical man, and a man of great learning and eloquence. But although vehemently tempted, the Christian said, “Sir, it is our custom to read a portion of the Scriptures, and to follow it with prayer. We should, if you please, be happy for you to join with us.
"Certainly," replied the lawyer, for he was a gentleman and knew the duties of a guest. That day the latter went home. A revival was in progress. At night he went to the meeting. When persons who wished to be prayed for were requested to rise, to the astonishment of everybody present, he did so. In giving his personal testimony, he said, “In staying one night with this man, whom I knew to be a plain man, and in no respect superior to ordinary men, and seeing him take his Bible and read, then kneel down and pray,
I knew how much he must suffer in doing it, and it made me feel that
he had something that I lacked." He became an earnest, useful Christian.
Prayer is effectual“Teach us to pray." That petition was granted. And real prayer is always answered. It cannot fail. As Bishop Hall says: “I am sure that I shall receive either what I ask or what I should ask.” Whatever we may think now, it will be found at last that no supplication has been offered in vain.
Take only one aspect of the subject. Personal holiness is a prominent and frequent object of supplication. We plead for strength to conquer sin. Our hearts yearn for purity. Promises in which we have the assurance of divine help are pleaded. We cry, " Deliver us from evil.” Will any one dare to affirm that such petitions are futile ? Do they fail to secure the end which they have in view ? Why, the very prayer itself is a mighty aid to excellence. How it hallows the mind! How it quickens the conscience! How it tranquillises the winner man”! Thomas Aquinas was said to be lifted from the ground by the fervour of his devotions. Nobody believes that. Albeit, it may be taken as a parable. It indicates accurately the effect which communion with God has on the soul. It elevates us above the world : exalts us above its sordid cares and seductive sins. A certain artcritic has remarked that those faces always look the most beautiful the eyes of which are upturned. All Guido's pictures of Magdalenes, virgins, and saints, have their countenances directed above. What holds good of these paintings is true of life's picture. The beauty of holiness results from the heavenward glance.
“ It has been remarked by a physician,” writes a suggestive author, " that doctors who catch infectious diseases are those who are afraid. It is not difficult to account for this. Fear unstrings the nervous system. It causes vital changes through which vital force is lost. On the other hand, a man whose sense of duty is strong, or whose sympathy with pain is greater than his dread, or whose will is master of his nerves, retains his nervous energy, loses no force, and the disease finds no feeble point in the frame defenceless. In the same way prayer acts. It may not directly take away a trial, but it preserves the strength of the whole spiritual fibre, so that the trial does not pass into sin.
A sorrow comes upon you. Meet the dreadful hour with prayer, cast your care on God, claim Him as your Father, and the embittering, paralysing effects of pain and sorrow pass away, a stream of sanctifying and softening thoughts pours into your soul, and that which might have caused your fall works the peaceable fruits of righteousness.
One other thought and we close. The expression, “ As John also taught his disciples,” bas more in it than at first sight appears. It is not the cry of false conservatism. We shall err if we suppose that he who uttered it simply wanted our Lord to follow in the track of another. Surely, there was an argument, and a fine one, in the words. What did it mean? Something like this: "John was Thy servant, and
he helped the devotion of his followers; wilt Thou, the great Master, do less ? John was only a herald and forerunner, but he watched over his disciples; wilt not Thou, the promised and predicted One, do the same
It was good reasoning. Better logic cannot be imagined. Let us take the benefit of it. Inspired by the faith which it teaches, be our prayers both frequent and fervent.
"More things are wrought by prayer
THE ORPHAN BOY.
The bustle of the fight was over; they were rude and coarse, he the prisoners had been secured, and delicate and sensitive. Often, the decks washed down, the watch when they jeered him for his piped, and the schooner had once melancholy, he would go apart more relapsed into midnight quiet by himself and weep. He never
I sought my ham- complained of his lot, though his mock, and soon fell asleep. But companions imposed on him conmy slumbers were disturbed by tinually. Poor lad ! his heart was wild dreams, which, like the visions in the grave with his lost parents. of a fever, agitated and unnerved I took a strange interest in him, me; the last strife, the hardships and had lightened his task as much of
my early life, and a thousand as possible. During the late fight other things mingled together as I had owed my life to him, for he figures in a phantasmagoria. Sud- rushed in just as a sabre stroke denly a hand was laid on my was levelled at me; and by intershoulder, and, starting up, I behelă posing his feeble cutlass had averted the surgeon's mate.
the deadly blow. In the hurry and "Little Dick, sir, is dying,” he confusion since I had quite forsaid.
gotten to inquire whether he was At once I sprang
ham- hurt, though, at the time, I had mock. Little Dick was a sort of inwardly resolved to exert all my protégé of mine. He was a pale, little influence to procure him a middelicate child, said to be an orphan, shipman's warrant in requital for and used to gentle nurture; and, his service. It was with a pang of from the first hour I joined the reproachful agony, therefore, that schooner, my heart yearned to. I leaped to my feet. wards him, for I, too, had once “I fear, sir," said the messenger, been friendless and alone in the shaking his head sadly, 66 that he
He had often talked in cannot live till morning." confidence of his mother, whose “And I have been lying idle memory he regarded with holy here!” I exclaimed, with remorse. reverence, while to the other boys “ Lead me to him.” of the ship he had little to say; for “He is delirious, but at the in