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The plain Christian, as was before observed,
cannot explain why it is so; but while hefeeh
the efficacy, he is content to let the learnttd de-
JvM it ; and he will no more postpone prayer till
he can produce a chain of reasoning on the
manner in which he derives benefit from it,
than he will postpone eating till he can give a
scientific lecture on the nature of digestion ; he
is contented with knowing that his meat has
nourished him ; and he leaves to the philosopher,
who may choose to defer hb meal till be has
elaborated his treatise, to starve in the interim.
The Christian feels better than he is able to ex.
plain, that the functions of his spiritual life can
no more be carried on without habitual prayer,
than those of his natural life without frequent
bodily nourishment He feels renovation and
strength grow out of the use of the appointed
means, as necessarily in the one oase as in the
other. He feels that the health of his soul oan
no more be sustained, and its powers kepi ia
continued vigour, by the prayen of a distant
day, than his body by the aiuneat of a distant

But there is one motive to the duty in ques-
tion, far more constraining to the true believer
than all others that can be named ; more im-
perious than any argument on its utility, than
any convictions of its efficacy, %ven than any
experience of its consolations. Prayer ia the
command tf O^d f the plain, positive, repealed
injunction of the Most Hijrii, who declares,
* He will be inquired of.' This is enough to
secure the obedienct of the Christian, even
though a promise were not, as it always is, at-
tached to the command. But in this case, to
our unspeakable comfort, the promise is as clear
as the precept : ' Aek^ and ye shall receive —
eeek^ and ye shall /nd — Knock, and it shall be
opened unto you.* This is encouragement
enough for the plain Christian. As to the msji*
ner in which prayer is made to coincide with
the general scheme of God*s plan in the iravera-
ment of human affiurs ; how God has left him-
self at liberty to reconcile our p|rayer with his
own predetermined will, the Christian does not
very critically examine, his precise and imme-
diate duty being to pray, and not to examine ;
and probably this being among the * secret
things which belong to God,' and not to us, h
will lie hidden among those numberless myste-
ries which we sbalT not fully understand tiO
faith be lost in sight

In the meantime it b enough for the hnmUe
believer to be assured, that the Judjre of all tha
earth is doing right ; it is enough fer him to be
assured in that word of God * which cannot lie,'
of numberless actual instances of the efficacy
of prayer in obtaining blessing and averting
calamities, both national and individual: it is
enough for him to be convinced exoerimentally.

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tf Chat internal evidence, which ia perhaps
pmnKmnt to all other evidence, the comfort he
Aimself haa received firom prayer when all other
comforts have &iled : — and above all to end with
the same motive with which we be^en, the only
motive indeed which he requires for the perfor-
mance of any duty — it is motive enoncrh for
him— that ^m9 $aith the Lord. For when a
•erions Cliristian has once got a plain unequivo-
cal command from his Maker on any point, he
never suspends his obedience while he is amus-
ing himself with looking about for suborcKnate
motives of action. InAead of curiously ana-
lysing the nature of the duty, he considers
how he shall best fulfil it : for on these points
at least it may be said without controversy
that ^ the ignorant (and here who is n9t igno-
rant T) ham uMing to d6 wUh the latd but to

' Others there are, who, perhaps not contro-
verting any of the prenuses, yet neglect to build
practical consequences on the admisssion of
them, who neither denying the dntv nor the
efficaoT of prayer, yet go on to live either in the
irregular observance or the total neglect of it,
as appetite, or pleasure, or business, or humour,
may happen to predominate; and who by living
almost without prayer, may be said *to live
almost without God in the world.' To such we
can only sa]^, that they little know what they
lose. — ^tlie time is hastiMiiag on when they will
look UDon those blessings as invaluable, which
now they think not worth aridng for ; when
they will bitterly regret the absence of those
means and opportunities which now they either
neglect or despise. * O that they were wise !
that they understood this ! that tliey would con-
•ider their latter end !'

There are again others, who it is to be foared
having once lived in the habit of prayer, yet not
having been wdl grounded in those principles
of faith and repentance on which geiniine praver
IB built, have by degrees totaUy discontinued it
* They do not find,* sav they, * that their aftirs
prosper the better or the worse; or perhaps they
were unsuccessful in their aflkirs even before
they dropped the practice, and so had no en-
couragement to go on.' They do not Inioto that
they had no encour^nent; they do not hmmn
bow much worse their affkirs mighAave gone
€W, had thev discontinued it sooner, or how Uieir
prayers helped to retard their ruin. Or they
do not hww that perhaps * they asked amiss,'
or that if they had obtained what they asked,
they might have been for more nnhappr. For
a true believer never 'lestrains prayer' becaose
be is not certain he obtains every individual re-
quest; for he is persuaded that God, in com-
pission to our ignorance, sometimes in great
mercy withholds what we desire, and often dis.
appoints his most fkvoored chikiren by giving
them, not what they aak, but what he knows is
leaOy good for them. The ftoward child, as a
' us prelate* observes, cries for the shining

de, which the tender parent withholds, know-

\ it would out his fingers.

rhus to persevere when we have not the en-
oonragement of visible success, is an evidence

• mtbopBalL

lof it


of tried futh. Of tliis holy perseverance Job
was a noble instance. Defoat and disappoint-
ment rather stimulated than stopped hie prayers-
Though in a vehement strain of passionate elo-
quence he exdaims, * I cry out of wrong, but I
am not heard; I cry aloud, but there is no
judgment,' yet so persuaded was he, notwith-
standing, of the duty of continuing this holy
importunity, that he persisted against all human
hope, till he attained to that exalted pitch of
unshaken faith, by which \A was enabled to
break out into that sublime apostrophe, * Though
he slay me, yet I will truet in him.'

But may we not say that there is a consider
able class, who not only bring none of the ob-
jeotions which we have stated against the use
of prayer ; who are so fkr fh>m rejecting, that
they are exact and regular in the perforroanee
of it ; who yet take it op on as low ground as is
consistent with their ideas of their own safety ;
who while they considsr prater as an indispen-
sable fbrm, believe nothing of that oban|re of
heart and of those holy tempers which it is in-
tended to produce? Many wIm> yet adhere
scrupofeusly to the letter, are so far from enter-
hug into the sphit of this duty, that they are
strongly inclined to suspect those of hypocrisy
who adopt the true scriptural views of prayer.
Nay, as even the BiUe may be so wrested as to
be made to speak almost any language in support
of almost any opinion, these persons lay hold on
Scripture itself to bear them out in their own
slight views of this doty ; and they profess to
borrow fh>m thence the ground of that censure
which they cast on the more serious Christians.
Among the many passaees which have been
made to convey a meaning foreign to their
oiiffinal des^, none have been seized upon
with more avidity by such persons than the
pointed censures of our Saviour on those * who
for a pretence make long prayers ;' as well as
on those *who use vain repetitions, and think
they shall be heard fbr much speaking.' Now
the things here intended to be reproved, were
the hypocrisy of the Pharieeee and the igno-
ranee of the heathen, together with the error of
aU those who dependsd on the success of their
prayers, while they imitated the deceit of the
one or the folly of the other. But our Saviour
nevoid meant those aevere reprehensions should
cool or abridge the devotion of pious Christians,
to which they do not at aU apply.

More or fower words, however, so little con-
stitute the true value of prayer, that there is nc
doubt but one of the most afi^ctiuF specimens
on record b the short petition of the publican ,
fhll fraught as it is with that sinrit of contrition
and self-abasement which is the ^^tj principle
and soul of prayer. And this specimen perhaps
Sm the best model fbr that sudden lifting up of
the heart whidi we <^ ejaculation. But 1
doubt, in general, whether those few hasty
words to which these frugal petitioners would
stint the scanty devotions of others and them-
selves, will be always found ample enough to
satisfy the humble penitent, who, being a sinner,
has much to confess ; who, hoping he is ••par-
doned sinner, has much to acknowledge. Such
an one perhaps cannot always pour out the ful.
ness of his soul within the prescribed abridg


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onents. Even the f incerest ChriBtian, wbeo he
wishes to find his heart warm, has o^n to la-
ment its coldness. Thoagh he (eel that he has
receiTed macb, and has therefore modi to be
thankful for, yet he is not able at once to bring
his wayward spirit into such a. posture as sfaaS
fit it fi>r the solemn business ; for such an one
has not merely his form to repeat ; but he has
his tempers to reduce to order ; his affections to
excite, and his peace to make. His thoughts
may be realizing the sarcasm of the prophet on
the idol Baal, * they may be gone a journey,*
and must be recalled ; his heart perhaps *sleep-
eth and must be awaked.* A devout supplicant
• too will labour to affect and warm his mind
with a sense of the great and gracious attributes
of God, in imitation of the holy men of dd.
Like Jehosaphat, he will sometimes enumerate
* the power, and the might, and the mercies of
the Most High,' in order to stir up the senti-
ments of awe, and gratitude, and love, and hu-
mility in his own soul.* He will labour to imi-
tate the example of his Saviour, whose heart di-
lated with the expression of the same holy
affections. * I thank thee, O Father, Lord of
heaven and earth.* A heart thus animated, thus
warmed with divine love, cannot always scru-
pulously limit itself to the mere business of
prayer, if I may so speak. It cannot content
Itself with merely spreading out its own neces-
eities, but expands in contemj^ating the perfec-
tions of Him to whom he is addressing them.
The humble supi^cant, though he be no longer

fovenud by a Icve of the world, yet grieves to
nd that he cannot totally exclude it from his
thoughts. Though he has on the whole a deep
sense of his own wants, and of the abundant pro-
vision which is made for them in the Gospel ;
yet when he most wishes to be rejoicing in those
strong motives for love and gratitude, das! even
then he has to mourn his worldliness, his insen-
sibility, his deadness. He has to deplore the
littleness and vanity of the objects which are
even then drawing away his heart from his Re-
deemer. The b^ Christian is but too liable,
during the temptations of the day, to be ensnared
by * the lust of the eye, and the pride of life,*
and is not always brought without effort to re-
flect that he is but dust and ashes. How can
even good persons who are just come perhaps
from listening to the flattery of their fellow-
worms, acknowledge before God, without any
preparation of the heart, that they are miserable
sinners ? They require a little time to impress
on their own souls Uie truth of that solemn con-
fession of sin they are making to Him, without
which brevity and not length miffht constitute
hypocrisy. Even the sincerely pious have in
prater grievous wanderings to lament, from
which others mbtakingly suppose the advanced
Christian to be exempt Such wanderings that,
as an old divine has observed, it would exceed-
ingly humble a good man, could he, afler he
had prayed, be made to see his prayers written
down, with exact interlineations of all the vain
and impertinent thoughts which had thrust
themselves in amongst them. So that such an
one will indeed, from a strong sense of those
distractions, feel deep occasion with the prophet
* 3 Cbron. xv. S, 6.

to ask forgiveness for * the iniquity of his Ady
things ** and would find cause enough for homi-
liation every night, had he to lament the sins af
his pravers only.

We know that such a brief petition as ' Lord
help my unbelief^ if thesoj^cant be in so hap-
py a frame, and the prayer be darted up with
such strong &ith that his very soul mounts with
the petition, may sufiice to draw down a blessing
which may be withheld from the more prolix
petitioner : yet, if by prayer we do not mean a
mere form of words, whether they be long or
short ; if the true definition of prayer be, that it
is the desire of ike heart : if it be that secret
communion between Grod and the soul, which b
the very breath and being of religion ; then is
the Scripture so &i firom suggesting^ that short
measure of which it is accused, that it expressly
says, * Fray without ceasing* — ^ Pray evermore
— '' I will that men pray every where* — '' conti*
nue instant in prayer.*

If such * repetitions* as these objectors re-
probate, stir up desires as yet nnawakened, or
protract affections already excited (for * tmn re.
petitions' are such as awaken or express no new
desire, and serve no religious purpose) then are
'repetitions not to be condemn^ And thai
our Saviour did not give the warning against
* long prayers and relations* in the sense these
objections allege, is evident from his own prac-
tice; for once we are told *he continued «fi
night in prayer to God.' And again, in the
most awful crisis of his life, it is expressly said,
'He prayed the third time, using the smms

* All habits gain by exerdse ; of course the
Christian graces gain force and vigour by being
called out, and, as it were, mustered in prayer.
Love, faith, and trust in the divine promises, if
they were not kept ali^ by this stated inter-
oourpe with God, would wither and die. Prayer
is also one great source and chief encourager of
holiness. ' If I regard iniquity in my heart the
Lord will not hear me.*

Prayer possesses the two-fiild property of
fighting and preparing the heart to receive the
blessings we pray for, in case we should attain
them ; and of fi>rtifying and disposing it to sub-
mit to the will of God, in case it should be his
pleasure t^withhold them.

A sense of sin diould be so fiu* from keepiag
us from prayer, through a fklse jdea of onwor-
thiness, that the humihty growing on this very
consciousness is the truest and strongest incen-
tive to prayer. There is, for our example and
encouragement, a beautiful union of feith and
humility in the prodigal — * 1 have sinned against
heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy
to be called thy son.* This as it might seem to
imply hopelessness of pardon, might be supposed
to promote unwillingness to ask it; but the
heart-broken penitent drew the direct contrary
conclusion — ' I will arise and go to my ^ther !'
Prayer, to make it accepted, requires neither
genius, eloquence, nor langua^ ; but sorrow fiir
sin, faith, and humility. It is the cry of dis-
tress, the sense of want, the abasement of eon
trition, the energy of gratitode. It is not an
elaborate string of well arranged periods nor an
• Matt xxvl. 44.

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exercise of ingenuity, nor an eiSbrt of the me-
mory ; but the devout breathing of a soul struck
with a sense of its own misery, and of the in/i
nite holiness of Him whom it is addiessing ; ex<
perimentally convinced of its own emptiness,
and of the abundant fulness of Grod. It is the
complete renunciation of self, and the entire de-
pendence on another. It is the voice of a beg-
gar who would be relieved ; of the sinner who
would be pardoned. It has nothing to offer but
sin and sorrow ; nothing to ask but forgiveness
and acceptance ; nothing to plead but the pro-
mises of the Gospel in the death of Christ It
never seeks to obtain its object by diminishing
the guilt of sin, but by exaltmg the merits of the

But as it is the effect of prater to espand the
affections as well as to $anctify them ; Uie bene-
volent Christian b not satisfied to commend
himself alone to the divine favour. The heart
which is full of the love of God will overflow
with love to its neighbour. All that are near to
himself he wishes to bring near to Grod. He
will present the whole human race as objects of
divine compassion ; but especially the faithful
fbllowcnrs of Jesus Christ Religion makes a
man so liberal of soul, that he cannot endure to
restrict any thing, much less divine mercies, to
himself: he therefore spiritualizes the social af-
ibctions, by adding intercessory to personal
prayer ; for he knows that petitionin|r for others
IS one of -the best methods of exercismg and en-
larging our own love and charity, even if it were
not to draw down those blessings which are pro-
mised to those for whom we ask them. It b
unnecessary to produce any of the numberless
instances with which Scripture abounds, on the
efficacy of intercession : in which God has pro-
ved the truth of hb own assurance, that * his ear
was open to their cry.* I shall confine myself
to a few observations on the benefits it brings to
him who offers it When we pray for the object
of our dearest regard, it purifies passion, and
exalts love into rekgion ; when we pray for those
with whom we have worldly intercourse, it
smooths down the swellings of envy, and bids
the tumults of anger and ambition subside:
when we pray for our oountry, it sanctifies pa-
triotbm : when we pray for those in authority.

it adds a divine motive to human obedience :
when we pray for our enemies, it soflens the
savageness of war and molifies hatred into ten-
derness, and resentment into sorrow. And wo
can only learn the duty so difficult to human
nature, of forgiving those who have offended us,
when we bring ourselves to pray for them to
Him whom we ourselves daily offend. When
those who are the faithful followers of the same
Divine Master pray for each other, the recipro-
cal intercession delightfully realizes that beauti.
ful idea of ' the communion of saints.* There b
scarcely any thing which more enriches the
Christian than the circubtion of thb hoi v com
merce ; than the comfort of believing, while ht
b praying for hb Christian friends, that he is
also reaping the benefit of their prayers for him.
Some are for confining their intercessions on-
ly to the good, as if none but persons of merit
were entitled to our prayers. Merit ! who has
\i1 Desert ! who can plead it 7 in the sight of
Grod, I mean* Who shall bring his own piety,
or the piety of others, in the way of claim, be-
fore a Being of such transcendant holiness, tiiat

* the heavens are not clean in his sight ?* And
if we wait for perfect holiness as a preliminary
to prayer, when shall such erring creatures pray
at all to Him * who chargeth Uie angels with
folly !*

ui dosing thb little work with the subject of
intercessory prayer, may the author be allowed
to avail herself of the feeling it sugeests to her
own heart 7 And while she earsestly implores
that Bein^, who can make the meanest of hb
creatures instrumental to his glory, to bless ihb
humble attempt to those for whom it was written,
may she, without presumption, entreat that this
work or Christian charity may be reciprocal ;
and that those who peruse these pages may put
up a petition for her, that in the great day to
which we are all hastening, she may not be
found to have suggested to others what she her-
self did not believe, or to have recommended
what she did not desire to practice 7 In that
awful day of everlasting decision, may both the
reader and the writer be pardoned and accepted,

• not for any works of righteousness which they
have done,* but through the merits of the Great





The fear of God begins with the Heart, and purifies and rectifies it ; and fVom the Heart, thus
rectified, grows a conformity in the Life, the Words, and the Actions.— ^»r Mattheto HaWh


An eminent professor of our own time modestly declared that he taught chembtry in order
hat he might bam it The writer of the following pages might, with for more justice, offer a

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timilar dedaratioii, as aa apdogy for so repeatedlj trealmg on the importaBt topiei of rehgHB
and mormJa
Abashed by the aquitahfe preoepC,

Let those teach others irbo t h esM cl y sj ezeel—

she is aware, how Surly she is potthig^ it in the power of the reader, to 'ask, in the eearefunf
word« of an eminent ok! prelate, * Tbej that spesx thos, and adTise thns, do thej do thos V She
can defend herself in no other way, than by adopting for a reply the words of the samemeaeraUe
dirioe, which immediately follow : — *0 that it were not too true. Tet although it be bat little
that b attained, the Tery aim is right, and something there is that is done by it It is better to
have snch tbooghts and desires, than altogether to gire them np ; and the fery desire, if it be
serious and sincere, may so much change the habitode of the aool and life, that it is not to be

The world does not require so mnch to be informed as reminded. A remembrancer mafbe
almost as osefbl as an instroctor ; if his office be more hamble, it is scarcely less neceasary. The
man whose emplorment it was, statedly to proclaim in the ear of Phili|s mSMtMBEE that rmm
AKT MosTAL, had his plain admonition been allowed to make its doe impressioo, poight hate
prodaced a more salutary effect on the royal osnrper, than the imeassioned orations of his im
mortal assailant—

n^iote resistless eloqiMBee
Shook th* aneaal and fvlfluaed over Oreees
To If asedon sad Artazerzes* throne.

While the orator boldly strore to check the ambition, and arrest the injnstice of^he km^r, the
simple herald barely reminded him, how short would be the reign of injustice, how ineTxtahls
and bow near was the final period of ambition. Let it be remembered to the credit of the mo-
narch, that whUe the thimders of the politician were intolerable, the monitor was of his own ap-

This slight sketch, for it pretends to no higher name, aims only at being plain and practical
Contending sdely for those mdispensable points, which by InTolving present duty, involve fbtue
happiness, the writer has avoided, as far as Christian sincerity permits, all controverted topics ;
has shunned whatever might lead to disputation rather than to profit

We live in an age, when, as Mr. Pope observed of that in which he wrote, it is criminal to be mo-
derate. Would it could not be said that Religion has her parties as well as politics ! Those who
endeavour to steer clear of all extremes in eiUier, are in danger of being reprobated by both. It
is rather a hardship for persons, who have considered it as a Christian duty to cultivate a spirit
of moderation in thinking, and of candour in judging, that, when these dispositions are brought
into action, they frequenUy incur a harsher censure Uian the errors which it was their chief aim
to avoid.

Perhaps, therefore, to that human wisdom whose leading olnect is human applause, it might
answer best to be exclusively attached to some one party. On the protection of that party at letft,
it might in that case reckon ; and it would then have this dblike of the opposite class alone to
contend against ; while those who cannot go all lengths with either, can hardly escape the dis-
approbation of both.

To apply the remark to the present case : — ^The author is apprehensive that she may at once
be censured by opposite classes of readers, as being too strict and too relaxed : — ^too much attach-
ed to opinions, and too indifferent about them ; — as havin? narrowed the broad field of Christian-
ity by labouring to establish its peculiar doctrines; — as having broken down its enclosures by

Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 100 of 135)