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call forth your graces into exercise? Come then to the table of the Lord. This is the memorial of Christ. Do you love him? Come then and do this in remembrance of him. This is the seal of the covenant of grace. Are you willing to have the Lord for your God, and Christ for your Saviour on gospel terms? Are you willing to be the Lord's, and to make an unreserved surrender of yourselves to Christ to be saved and governed by him in his own way? come then, and seal the covenant. This is the communion of saints. Do you love the brethren? Have you forgiven all? Come then to the communion of saints. May the Lord strengthen to come, all whom he invites to this ordinance.-AMEN.
PHILLIPPIANS IV. 6. LAST CLAUSE.
"In every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, bet your requests be made known unto God."
The duty enjoined in this passage is prayer. This is a duty incumbent on all, whatever may be their character or situation in life. This none will pretend to deny, who believe the Scriptures to be the word of God. For it is too frequently and explicitly taught to admit of denial for a moment. And it is also plain from the word of God, that the right performance of this duty is essential to the favour of God; and that a prayerless person must be destitute of the grace of God. But that prayer is a duty incumbent on all, is taught, not only by the word of God, but also by the light of nature. The obligation to the performance of this duty does not rest on a positive command; but it rises out of the relation of creature and Creator; and prayer would be our duty if God had never commanded it. God is the author and upholder of our
being; he is the source of all our blessings; and he holds our lives and destinies in his hand, and can make us happy or miserable. Man is his creature, created, preserved, and supported by him, and entirely in his hands. And if God be such a being, and man such a being, surely reason teaches, that it is the duty of the latter to pray unto the former. Agreeably to this reasoning, we find the duty of prayer to be universally acknowledged by the Heathen, who are guided by the light of nature. Even among the most stupid idolaters, we find them bowing down before their respective deities, and praying unto them, though made of stocks and stones. They, therefore who neglect the duty of prayer, act not only in direct opposition to the plain and repeated instructions of Revelation; but also to those of the light of nature. And most assuredly the Heathen will rise up in the judgment against such and condemn them. And they who deny prayer to be a duty, not only deny the word of God, but act in opposition to the light of nature, and the voice of mankind in all ages and countries.
However prayer may be neglected in our world, it is a duty taught both by revelation and reason; and it is a duty so important, that the man who neglects it, must be destitute of the grace of God, and a saving interest in his favour. As soon as a man begins to be really serious, he will no longer continue prayerless; but with Paul, "Behold he prayeth ;" Acts ix. 11. That prayer is essential to the character of a truly pious man, is evident from the general tenor of the Scriptures. The Scripture saints lived in the habitual performance of the duty of prayer. Christ himself whose example his people are to follow, frequently was engaged in prayer. The duty is frequently enjoined, as in the following texts: "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint;" Luk. xviii, 1.
Watch and pray;" Mat. xxvi. 41. Continuing instant in prayer;" Rom. xii. 12. "Praying always, with all prayer;" Eph. vi. 18. "Pray without ceasing ;" 1 Thes. v. 17. And in our text, "In every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." And we find the constitution which God has ordained is, "Ask and it shall be given you every one that asketh, receiveth;" Mat. vii. 7, 8. "The Lord is nigh unto all them that call
upon him, to all that call upon him in truth;" Ps. CXLV. 18. "Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you;" Jer. xxix. From all these considerations, it is evident that the performance of the duty of prayer is essential to the character of the pious man.
Every pious person is a praying person. But persons may externally pray, and yet not be pious; for all that appears to be prayer in the sight of man is not really acceptable prayer in the sight of God. Let us therefore attend to an illustration of the nature of true prayer.
We have an excellent brief definition of true and acceptable prayer, in our Shorter Catechism, in answer to the 98th question.
"What is prayer?
Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies."
We shall endeavour in the remainder of this discourse to illustrate the duty of prayer as defined in this answer.
The parts of prayer as taught in this answer, and in the Scriptures generally, are three, viz. : petition, confession, and thanksgiving.
Petition is asking of God, those things which we desire for ourselves, or others. This is the principal part of prayer. That this is a part and a principal part of prayer, there can be no doubt, and needs no proof.
Confession, or an acknowledgment of our sins, is also a part of prayer. Thus we frequently find the saints of old, in their prayers, making coufession of their sins unto God. "I acknowledge (said David) my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord;" Ps. xxxii. 5. "I acknowledge my transgressions. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight;" Ps. Li. 3, 4. "I prayed (said Daniel) unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said-we have sinned-O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, because we have sinned against thee;" Dan. ix. 4, 5, 8.
Again, thanksgiving, or an acknowledgment, with grati tude and praise of the mercies of God, is another part of prayer. This is evident from our text, "In all things by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your re
quests be made known unto God." And it is frequently taught in other parts of Scripture, both in the exhortations to the duty, and in the examples which we have of the practice of the saints.
Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God." Prayer is to be made to God, and God only. We are not allowed to pray to angels or saints, as the Papists do; but to God only. For prayer is an important part of religious worship; but the Scriptures teach us; " Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him ouly shalt thou serve;" Mat iv. 10. Besides, God only is able to search the heart, and therefore to know the desires of them that. pray; he alone is every where present to hear prayer; he alone can pardon sin; and he alone is able to supply the necessities of his creatures; and therefore he alone is the proper object of prayer, and it is to be made to no
"Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God." It is not the presenting of our bodies before the Lord, and addressing him with our lips, that constitutes prayer. This, if the desires of the heart are wanting, is no prayer in his sight. Words, without thoughts and desires, will never enter heaven as acceptable prayer. God requires the heart in all our services: "My son give me thine heart ;" Prov. xxiii. 26. "Pour out your heart before him;" Ps. Lxii. 8. "God is a Spirit and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth;" John iv. 24. And God by his prophet Isaiah denounced judgments against those who drew near unto him with their mouth, and honoured him with their lips; but removed their heart far from him;" Is. xxix. 13, 14. God looks at the desires, and not at the words. Should our words be ever so well selected and arranged, if we be destitute of desires after those things we express in words, our prayers are a mere lifeless form, unacceptable to God; yea, more, they are an abomination to him. On the contrary, if we go to God with desires, even if we are not able to express these desires in words, or can express them, but in a stammering, and unconnected manner, if the desires be right, our prayers will be accepted.
Again, "Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God, for things agreeable to his will." Thus we read, 1 John v. 14; "This is the confidence that we have in him, that,
if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us." And James tells us, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts;" Jam. iv. 3. If therefore we ask for any thing sinful, or not according to the will of God, we have no right to expect that he will hear us. In his word we have his will made known, whatever therefore, he has there taught, he is willing to do for ourselves or others, we are authorized to pray for. And it becomes us to study the word of God, that we may know for what things to pray.
Again, to pray acceptably we must pray in the name of Christ. Man is a sinful creature; and as such, he cannot acceptably approach an infinitely holy and just God, in his own name, or through his own merits. An adequate atonement must be made for sin. There must be a mediator between God and the sinner, able to reconcile the infinitely holy and just God to the guilty sinner. This mediator is the Lord Jesus Christ alone; for he alone is able to make, and has made, an adequate atonement for sin. That we must pray in the name of Christ is further taught by many express texts of Scripture, as the following: "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son;" John xiv. "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name he will give it you;" John xvi. 23. “I am the way, and the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me;" John xiv. 6. "In whom (that is Christ) we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him;" Eph. iii. 12. "He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such a high priest became us;" Heb. vii. 25, 26. Hence it is evident that all acceptable prayer must be offered up in the name of Christ.
But here it is important to observe, that to pray in the name of Christ, is not barely to mention his name with our lips in the conclusion, or in any part of our prayers. Many thus use the name of Christ, who do not pray in his name; but who are enemies of his cross. Many thus call him Lord, Lord, to whom he will at last say, I never knew you, depart from me all ye workers of iniquity. To pray in the name of Christ is, under a sense of our unworthiness, guilt, and necessities; and believing in the media66