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النشر الإلكتروني

DISCOURSE VI.

THE POWER OF PRAYER.

Hosea, xii. 3.

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By his strength he had power with God."

THESE words were spoken concerning the Patriarch Jacob, and refer to his wrestling with the angel of the Lord at Peniel and prevailing over him. Although the Patriarch might literally wrestle with the Divinity who appeared to him on this occasion, his principal struggle was certainly of a very different nature. It was a struggle in prayer. Thus it is related in the verse following the text, that "he wept, and made supplication unto" the angel. In the earnestness of his supplication he said, as the inspired writer has recorded it, "I will not let thee go unless thou bless me. 99

Jacob was at this time in very trying and distressing circumstances. He was returning from Padanaram to the land of his nativity, with his wives, his children, his flocks, his herds, and with all his substance. In a perfectly defenceless situation himself, he had heard that his enraged brother Esau was coming out to meet him with four hundred armed men. He was neither able to stand before such a force, nor could he escape from it. In this extremity, he betook himself to prayer. He wrestled with the Jehovah of Israel. "He wept and made supplication unto him." He had " power with God and with men and prevailed." He accomplished that in prayer

which he could have accomplished by no other means. The Lord interposed betwixt him and Esau, turned the heart of this enraged enemy, and induced him to meet his brother Jacob as a friend.

Nor is Jacob the only saint who has accomplished more in prayer, than he could have accomplished by any other means. The same is true of thousands of others, and I believe of the saints generally. By the strength of their supplications they have "power with God." They have more power, as instruments, in the attitude of humble, fervent prayer, than in any other.

Before proceeding to the proof of this sentiment, I shall briefly describe the prayer to which so much power is here attributed.

Those who come to God in such prayer will believe not only that he is, but "that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him." They will feel a confidence in him, as one who heareth prayer. They have a joyful assurance, that whenever they approach him in a proper manner, his ear is open to their cry. They have such views of his character, as a holy and gracious Sovereign, a provident and merciful Father, that they fall before him, although with entire submission, yet with humble expectation of a blessing.

The prayer of which we are speaking must be offered up with penitence, and in the name of Christ. The suppliant must feel deeply, that he is an unworthy sinful creature, has no merit of his own, and does not deserve to be heard or answered. He will urge his claim entirely on the ground of mercy, and of mercy as flowing through a Redeemer. Believing that there is no other way in which mercy can flow, and in which sinners can have access to God; he will approach the throne in this living way, and present his requests in the name of Christ. And present

ing them after this manner, he reflects with comfort, that his guilt and unworthiness, however great and overwhelming, furnish no obstacle in the way of an answer. “The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin," and he is now "able to save to the uttermost all those who come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them."

It is moreover essential to prevalent prayer, that it be the result of strong, ardent, and holy desires. The objects prayed for must be good in themselves, and must be regarded by the suppliant as greatly desirable and important. They will be ordinarily of a spiritual nature; as such, of all others, are most dearly valued by the engaged Christian These are the objects which crowd most frequently upon his mind, lie with the deepest impression upon his heart, and on which the affections of his soul are most ar

dently fixed. He earnestly desires spiritual blessings for himself; and when contemplating the wants and depressions of the church, he feels so deeply and tenderly for her, that "for Zion's sake, he cannot hold his peace, and for Jerusalem's sake he will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth."

It is farther implied in prevalent prayer, that we have a sense of our own helplessness, and the exclusive ability of our heavenly Father to bestow the blessings which we seek. We ardently desire them-we greatly need them-yea, in many instances, we must receive them, or perish. Still they are beyond our reach, and beyond the reach of any, and every, created arm. All we can do is, to ask them of God. They must be sought and obtained from him alone.

With views such as these, of God, and himself, and of spiritual objects, the christian cannot be formal and indifferent in his prayers. The best affections of his soul are enkindled, and his whole heart goes with him, while he approaches the throne of his all-merciful Father, and pleads before him his necessities and wants. In the earnestness of his desires, he will look up to him from the dust and say, "I am weak, but thou art strong, I have nothing, but thou hast all things. I come to thee, for there is no other God. If thou reject me, I have no other resource. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not for thine own sake, O my God." He will plead, as his Saviour once did," with strong crying and tears;" and say, in the spirit as well as language of the determined Patriarch, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me."-This, my brethren, is humble, fervent, prevalent prayer. "This is weakness laying hold of infinite strength. It is in supplications such as these, that real saints" have power with God and prevail." In this way they have more power, and can as instruments accomplish more, than in any other.

In proof of this, I may properly adduce those wonders which have at different periods been wrought in answer to prayer. By these, saints have actually exhibited their superior power, while lying as humble suppliants before the throne of their heavenly Father. It was by prayer, that Abraham drew down the angels of heaven, and rescued his beloved Lot from the flames of Sodom. By prayer, Moses became clothed almost with omnipotence, and could ipflict judgments on the enemies of God, or procure mercies for his friends, apparently at pleasure. By prayer, Joshua arrested the course of the heavenly be

dies; and by the same powerful means, Isaiah and Hezekiah even turned their course backward. (See Is. xxxviii. 8.) "Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are; and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit."

By the faith and prayers of the ancient prophets and saints, fire was brought down to consume their enemies, the dead were restored to life, and all nature seemed obedient to their will. They "stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of flame, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and put to flight the armies of the aliens." And the same powerful effects have attended the prayers of saints under the present dispensation, as under the ancient. While Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to their God in the inner prison, and in the depth of night; suddenly the earth quakes, the foundations of the prison are shaken, bolts and bars at once leave their places, the doors open, and every one's bands are loosed. Peter also is impris oned; and under circumstances which, in the opinion of his enemies, forbid the possibility of escape. He is delivered to four quaternions of soldiers, and being bound with chains in a dungeon, is laid betwixt two of them, who constantly guard him. "But prayer is made without ceasing of the church unto God for him ;"-and what is the result? The same night in which he was to have been led forth to execution, an angel comes to him, looses his chains, brings him out in silent triumph, and delivers him to his praying friends.-Nor are we to suppose that with the age of miracles the power of prayer has

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