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And show, that in Jehovah's grace,
I share a filial part."
To believe in Jesus with the heart unto righteousness, to love him with a supreme affection, to live under the sanctifying influence of his Spirit, to draw nigh to God with the confidence of children, and to be assured that our persons and services are accepted in the Beloved, is the very essence of Christianity.
How animating is the promise of Jesus to his disciples: "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, believing, ye shall receive." But some may say: how can we thus pray ? Is not faith the gift of God; and are not our hearts naturally averse from this spiritual duty?
Jesus, who kindly supplies all our need according to the riches of his grace, has left nothing undone in his work of mercy. His chosen servant was divinely directed to encourage the hope of sinners, and to animate the efforts of believers. "The Spirit," saith he to the Romans, "helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings that cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God." Thus provision is made for every Christian pilgrim, who, journeying on his way to Zion, beholds these encouraging words : ASK, SEEK, KNOCK."
But must souls dead in sin be exhorted to pray? Certainly they must; because prayer is
of divine appointment; and because all, without exception, are dependant upon Divine Goodness, and stand in need of Divine Mercy.
Prayer is the cry of need. The infant cries when its necessities are felt; and so does the convinced sinner, when awakened by the Spirit, to a sense of his danger. The humble performance of duty, is infinitely better than a thousand speculations upon it. Man's moral inability cannot take away God's right in commanding, nor man's guilt in not obeying the divine Law.
A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. Sinners must therefore be roused from their perilous state, and in the powerful language of Isaiah, exhorted to seek after, and call upon God." Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon; for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, saith the Lord.”
While men are speculating, sinners are perishing, and Satan triumphing. Time is short. Eternity is opening upon us. Now, and only now, is the accepted time. Sinners must therefore be urged to cry for mercy, through the blood of Christ; leaving it with God to bless his own appointed means, who worketh in us to will and to do according to his good pleasure.
Peter said to Simon Magus: "Thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent, therefore, of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps
the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee, for I perceive, that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity."
On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached to a multitude of sinners, whom he addressed as the crucifiers of Jesus. And what was the effect produced? They were pricked in their hearts; and cried: "Men, and brethren, what shall we do?" Disregarding all metaphysical distinctions about the bondage and freedom of the will, Peter, under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost, thus addressed the convicted multitude: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying: "Save yourselves from this untoward generation." Then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. Thus, Scripture and Experience attest, in spite of human theories, that, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
If sinners ought to be exhorted to seek for mercy, surely saints must be stirred up to fervent prayer. It is their duty and privilege; their strength and consolation.
How encouraging are the promises of Jesus: "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." " Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there
am I in the midst of them." Thus a blessing is pronounced on secret, and social prayer. If they who fear the Lord, speak often one to another; how much more will they delight to hold communion with their heavenly Father through the Son of his love.
Reader, is prayer the delightful exercise of thy soul? Are thy refreshments sought for, and obtained, at the throne of grace? Hast thou access, by faith in the blood of Jesus, to the Father of mercies, through the power of the Holy Ghost?
Many are the apostolic exhortations to prayer: Pray without ceasing-Continue instant in prayer-Give yourselves unto prayer-I will that men pray every where."
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." This made St. Paul very desirous to have the prayers of all the churches in his behalf.
He entreats the Thessalonians: "Brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified; and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for all men have not faith."
To the Hebrews he writes: "Pray for us, for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly; but I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner."
To the Corinthians: "We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God, which raiseth the dead;
who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver, in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many on our behalf."
To the Philippians: "I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ."
To the Romans: "Now, I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judæa; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints, that I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed."
To Philemon: "Prepare me a lodging, for I trust that through your prayers, I shall be given unto you."
These highly interesting extracts show how much even an inspired Apostle valued intercessory prayer. How delightful is the thought, that Christian friends, though separated from each other, may meet in spirit at a throne of grace.
To the true believer, prayer is a precious privilege. At the mercy-seat, sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, he pours out his heart, makes known his wants, and derives renewed strength to perform his duties. There he lays his burden at the feet of his Saviour, and there he is filled with peace and joy. Like Hannah, he goes to his God with