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but they know at the same time that their God can do this, and if they go to him in humble prayer, they believe he will.-When they consider the wonders which have been already accomplished by means of prayer, their confidence is increased. What could Joshua of himself have done, towards arresting the progress of the heavenly bodies, and staying the flaming sun in his course? But through the power of prayer, when he gives command, the sun is in a moment still. Or what could Elijah of himself have done, towards covering the heavens with blackness, and pouring torrents of rain upon a guilty, parched land? But through the influence of prayer, all this is accomplished at his word. And though the saints now can of themselves do nothing, towards dispossessing Satan of his long usurped dominion, and filling the earth with the glory of God; yet, through the power of prayer they expect, and have reason to expect, that all this will be speedily accomplished. A good man has well remarked, "He that hath the ear of God hath his hand also." When the saints wrestle, as Jacob did, they may expect to have power with God, and to prevail. They may expect he will take his work into his own hands, and accomplish it speedily. Satan has little to fear, from any thing, and every thing, the saints can do, so long as they can be kept from prayer; but,
"Satan trembles, when he sees,
"The weakest saint upon his knees."
In the attitude of humble, fervent prayer, the weakest saint has more power than his great adversary; for by this means, he enlists the whole power of the Almighty in his behalf, and in opposition to such power, what can Satan do ?
3. We learn from our subject what is most needed for the success of the gospel both at home and abroad. It is an increase of humble, fervent prayer.-The experience of a thousand ages and the unerring voice of inspiration unitedly testify, that without the influences of the Holy Spirit the gospel will be attended with no success. Without the saving influences of the Spirit, the means of grace may indeed be used-they may be used in the Churches at home, and sent to the nations abroad; but in all places, and under all circumstances, they will be used in vain. They will be as water spilled upon the ground, or as seed sown upon the barren rock. Nore will be awakened, none converted, and no fruit will be gathered unto life eternal. To the success of the gospel, therefore, the Spirit must be regarded as all in all.-But how is this Spirit to be obtained? In no way ordinarily but in answer to prayer. It is prayer then-humble, fervent, prevalent prayer-which the interests of religion most deeply require. It is the want of such prayer, which clothes the Churches at home in sackcloth, and spreads spiritual dearth and barrenness round the land. And it is the want of such prayer, more probably, than that of any thing which Christians can bestow, which damps the energies and limits the successes of Missionaries abroad. When the hearts of christians shall become enlarged with desires for the universal success and prevalence of the gospel; when for the accomplishment of these desires they shall be willing to cast themselves unreservedly upon the Lord; and when, with such feelings, they shall humbly approach their Father's throne, and continue with one accord imploring his aid, and the influences of his Spirit; then the Spirit will be poured out, the messages of Divine mercy will be published in all lands, the gospel will
every where become the power of God unto salvation, and this will be a happy world.
4. From the power and efficacy here attributed to prayer, saints should learn in what their great strength lies. It does not lie in their own unassisted efforts, but in their interest and influence at the throne of
grace. It lies in the advantages they possess of enlisting the power and perfection of Jehovah in their favor. In other words, it lies in their prayers.Without prayer, Moses had been as weak as others; but through the efficacy of prayer, he was exalted in strength, and his rod seemed almost the rod of Omnipotence. Without prayer, the eleven Apostles were, and would have continued, illiterate and feeble men; but through the efficacy of prayer, the promised Spirit descended on them, and they were "endued with power from on high." They were enlightened with heavenly wisdom, warmed with Divine love, and fitted to spread the triumphs of the cross throughout the world. Without prayer too, christians at the present day can do comparatively nothing; but by their interest and influence at the throne of heaven, they may be instrumental of shaking the earth, overturning the nations, and introducing the universal kingdom of the Prince of peace.
Finally; in view of what has been said, we should all learn and feel the importance of prayer. It is in prayer, my brethren, that our great strength lies. It is in the attitude of prayer, that we may, "as princes, have power with God, and prevail."— But in order that our prayers may possess this power, they must be offered up, it will be recollected, in a proper manner. They must be offered up with humble confidence, and in the name of Christ. There is no other name in which sinners can be accepted,
and no other medium of access by which they may approach to God. They must be offered up with strong and holy desires. In addressing a Being who cannot be deceived and will not be mocked, it must be worse than vain to use expressions merely, and to make a shew of earnestness which we do not feel. They must also be offered up in a spirit of entire dependence upon God. We need not expect he will help us, so long as we feel that we can help ourselves; or that he will bestow his special blessings, while the impression with us is that we can do without them, or can procure them by our own strength. And our prayers must be accompanied by a correspondent example and exertions. We must do and live as well as pray. We must diligently use all appointed and proper means, while we trust and look to the God of grace to give them efficacy and grant success. By persevering prayer and persevering effort, such as have been here described, a world in ruins is to be renovated, and our miserable race will be made partakers of the blessings of the gospel.-Let us then awake at once to diligence in duty, and faith· fulness in prayer. It is on our knees, Christians, that we may possess and exert the greatest power. It is by a life of humble, fervent, persevering, and consistent prayer, that we may most effectually aid the cause of Christ, and most richly bless those around us who are ready to perish. "Prayer moves the hand that moves the world."
ENCOURAGEMENTS TO PRAYER.
John xvi. 24.
"Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name: Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."
THESE words appear to be not so much the language of authority, as of consolation and love. They were intended, doubtless, to convey warm and affectionate encouragement in the duty of prayer. "Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name : Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."-In treating here of the encouragements to prayer, I shall confine myself to a consideration of some of the principal evidences that God hears prayer, and is disposed, so far as it can be consistent, to return answers of peace. And,
1. The perfections of God furnish evidence of this nature, and may be a source of encouragement to his people in the duty of prayer. The God whom they love, and in whom they trust, they have the happiness to regard as the sole and supreme possessor of every natural and moral perfection. He is the allwise, powerful, benevolent, and gracious Sovereign of the world, whose eye is ever upon his creatures, and whose government reaches to all events. He knows the situation of his children, and he is infinitely able to help them. He knows under all circumstances what they need, and he possesses those blessings