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The Prophet (Muhammed) said, "when you say your prayers, do it like that of a man who has forsaken everything besides God; as if they were your last."
An old writer has said,
God looks not at the oratory of our prayers, how
Nor at their Geometry, how long they are;
When you come into the house of worship, you should try your best so to to realize God's presence that you may acquire faith, joy, strength, and purity, by holy and quiet communion with the Lord; and carry those blessings always with you wherever you may go. -KESHUB CHUNDER SEN.
Do not omit thy prayers for want of a good oratory or place to pray in.
Private or secret prayer is that which is used by a man alone, apart from all others, wherein we are to be more particular, according to our particular needs, than in public it is fit to be. And this of private prayer is a duty which will not be excused by the peformance of the other of public. They are both required, and one must not be taken in exchange for the other: And whoever is diligent in public prayers, and yet negligent
• Translated from Arabic by Captain Matthews.
in private, it is much to be feared he rather seeks to approve himself to men than to God.
"THE WHOLE DUTY OF MAN."
Some duties are more incumbent on some persons, and some on others; depending on the difference of talents, wealth, leisure, learning, station, and opportunities; but the duty of prayer is of imperative obligation; it is universal, because it demands none of any of the above requisites; it demands only a willing heart, a consciousness of sin, a sense of dependence, a feeling of helplessness. Those who voluntarily negect it, shut themselves out from the presence of their Maker. "I know you not," must assuredly be the sentence of exclusion on those who thus "know not God." Nothing, it is true, can exclude them from his inspection, but they exclude themselves from his favour.
We should certainly pray to God at least once in a day, if not twice; especially in the morning ought prayers to be offered to Him, as at that time the emotions of the heart are pure.
(An admonition ).
Prayer is the key of the day and lock of the night. And we should everyday begin and end, bid ourselves good morrow and good night, with prayer.
Of all duties, prayer certainly is the most easy. There are some duties which occasion a troublesome opposition to the
By the Ahmedâbâd Prârthanâ Samáj.
may seem to natural work
ings of flesh and blood, such as the forgiveness of injuries, and the love of our enemies; others which will force us unavoidably into a perpetual struggle with our passions, which war against the soul, such as chastity, temperance, humility. There are other virtues which, seem to bid us forget our present interest for a while such as charity and generosity; others that teach us to forget it at all times, and wholly to fix our affections on things above, and in no circumstance to act like men that look for a continuing city here, but upon one to come, whose builder and maker is God. But this duty of prayer and thanksgiving to God has no such oppositions to encounter: it takes no bullock out of thy field, no horse out of thy stable, nor he-goat out of thy fold; it costeth no weariness of bones, no untimely watchings; it requireth no strength of parts, or painful study, but just to know and have a true sense of our dependence and of the mercies by which we are upheld. And with this, in every place and posture of body, a good man may lift up his soul unto the Lord his God.
It is not enough to say prayers, unless they live them too.
But we are too apt to associate prayer exclusively with the house of God, or with the knees bended at the bedside in the silence of the night, and to separate it from the trials and business of life. Now, it is not every one who can find time for long and frequent communing in secret with God; but every one can lead a praying life.
It is best of all to be able so to command our time as to give to active duty and to secret prayer their due proportion. But the most active can pray to God, and turn his very activity into a prayer. To carry through every action as a holy work, seen of God, and judged by Him, this is to lead a life of prayer. A sudden temptation befalls us; and the fervent wish for a strength beyond our own to meet it flies up then and there to our God and judge. A disappointment or a loss falls heavily on us; and amidst our distress we are able to say, It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good. Some one most dear to us goes forth from our hearth to face the world's trials; and a heart-felt word commends him to God, who alone is able to keep him. safe to the end. Our temper, our industry, our resolutions for good, do not keep pace with our wishes. We hate and abhor the shortcoming, and wish that God's love might possess us wholly, and burn out of us all baser feelings. Such occasions are the stuff of which our human life is made up; and every one of them may become an acted prayer to God.*
What is prayer? Have we thought that the use of certain forms is necessary to it? Have we deemed it requisite, in order to pray, that we should either join with others, or retire into some secret place to open our hearts to God? Have we supposed that prayer could be performed only at fixed seasons, or when the heart is in a peculiar state of excitement? All these circumstances may be, and often are, highly favourable to devotion. But if we think them necessary, our views of the duty are too narrow. Prayer is far less the use
• From Sermons by William Lord, Archbishop of York.
of certain language than the exercise of certain dispositions and affections; and the great design of the expression of prayer is, to strengthen the dispositions and affections in which it peculiarly consists. The design of forms of prayer is, to secure us against inconsistency, and impropriety, either in the sentiments or the expressions of devotion. The purpose of social worship is, peculiarly, to unite our social with our pious affections; and by the same act, to bind us at once more closely to each other and to God. The object of secret prayer is, the free expression to God of what we could not freely express with, or before, one another. And seasons of prayer are prescribed, because the duty, for which we have no allotted time, is easily deferred from hour to hour, from day to day, till it is utterly forgotten. But if the dispositions and affections, in which prayer peculiarly consists are felt to any considerable degree, it cannot be shut up within the limits of stated hours, and of particular forms and places of devotion; it cannot always wait till others are ready to join in it, nor be restrained by the forms, from which, perhaps, it has derived the most the most important benefits.
These dispositions and affections, where they have obtain
ed an ascendancy, will often burst asunder the bonds by which our labours or cares or pleasures would confine them. They will rise to God under the pressure of circumstances and events, which would bear them down to the earth; and in proportion as they are exercised and cherished, will produce the most important effects on our characters, our habits, and our happiness. These momentary, but sincere references and expressions to God are an accomplishment of the precept, "pray without ceasing.' And not only may we thus pray without neglecting any other duty; but in this habitual devotion is the most