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that, provided only you were to leave this sanctuary to-day, resolved upon a more frequent, persevering, and faithful continuance in prayer, you would realise in the carrying out of that resolve a perceptible advance in spiritual attainment, and personal meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light.
We know how intimately the exercise of prayer is associated with the first dawn of spiritual life. The soul begins to live when it begins to pray; the cry which proceeds from a broken and contrite heart; the cry of the wounded conscience, of the trembling spirit pleading for mercy-a mercy urgently needed, although miserably undeserved ; this
is the first symptom of the Divine life : it is the struggling of the soul to be free from the bondage of guilt and condemnation, which betokens that deliverance is near, that the slumber of spiritual death is broken, and the Spirit of God is about to operate in His quickening,
regenerating, recreating, and sanctifying energy
When a hitherto prayerless soul is brought to resemble him of whom it was said, “Behold, he prayeth !” then may angels in heaven rejoice, and saints on earth participate in their gladness for the rescue of another captive from Satan, and the addition of another gem to the Redeemer's crown.
Let me not, however, be misunderstood. It is not every prayer which is such a hopeful evidence of spiritual regeneration; not every cry of supplication which is fraught with such joyful earnest of blessed things in prospect for him by whom it is uttered.
There is the prayer of the formalist — the prayer of the hypocrite—the prayer which is not mingled with faith-the is prompted by no sense of urgent needand the lifeless, unmeaning prayer of those who neither deprecate in sincerity the evils from which they ask to be delivered, nor desire with sincerity the blessings for which
they make supplication. These are not the prayers which breathe of spiritual life ; these afford no reason to suppose that the spell of iniquity is broken, or the power of Satan subdued.
The prayer to which I refer, as the index of a new life imparted to the soul, is that cry of intense, eager longing, prompted by the intolerable dread of impending ruin, and the almost unutterable desire for deliverənce from God's wrath and the attainment of pardon. It is the breaking forth of an anguish such as words can ill describean anguish of spirit, produced by the consciousness of guilt and defilement, and exposure to wrath, blended nevertheless with a conviction that there must be some avenue of
escape, some door of hope through which light may at length break in to relieve the soul's insupportable gloom. There will be in such a prayer an earnestness and fervour which bespeak that the whole energies of the being by whom it is offered are, for the
while, absorbed in the one thought, "What must I do to be saved ?” And the man feeling that his soul is at stake, that on the success or otherwise of his suit heaven or hell is the alternative, will pour forth his supplications as one wrestling for his very life, or engaged in a struggle the issue of which must be everlasting glory or everlasting condemnation.
Now this is that prayer which indicates the new birth; this is that wrestling with God in supplication which bespeaks the resurrection of the soul from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, and the disenchaining of a hitherto captive spirit from the fetters of evil that it may expatiate at liberty in the light and the freedom of the Gospel of Jesus. Let me tell you this, dear brethren, with the plainness, fidelity, and affection which become an ambassador for Christ, pleading with you in God's behalf, and for your soul's sake,—that if you
have never known what it is thus to pray in ear
nest; in the privacy of your own chamber, when no eye but the omniscient eye of God was upon you; to cry with such fervency for your soul's salvation ; you have yet to be roused to that sense of need which will alone bring you to Jesus, and cause the Sun of Righteousness to shine on your soul with healing in His wings.
Such is the connexion between prayer and the first awakening of spiritual life. I will only remark further, that I believe in this respect the experience of all who have been spiritually awakened is uniform; no one was ever yet quickened from spiritual death without being led from that moment to cry mightily to God for salvation. Because of the uniformity of experience in this matter, prayer has not inaptly been described as the breath of the soul; intimating that whereas the act of breathing is the first process of the natural life, so the act of praying is the first indication that spiritual life has in reality commenced.