Page images

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.

[blocks in formation]

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 To carry through God, and judged by

turn his very activity into a prayer.

every action as a holy work, seen of 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 has derived the most important benefits. These dispositions and affections, where they have obtained 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

uniform and powerful excitement to fidelity in every obligation.*

We, ignorant of ourselves,


Beg often our own harms, which the wise powers
Deny us for our good.


God answers our prayers not according to our wishes, but our wants; not as in our ignorance we may have asked, but as an enlightened regard to our best interests would have us to ask.

God will excuse our prayers for ourselves, whenever we are prevented from them, by being occupied in such good works as to entitle us the prayers of others. -COLTON,

There is a living principle in prayer:

For prayers have wings, and make their way to

Swift Messengers, and true, 'twixt God and Man.
No subtile and elaborate argument,

Cautiously wrought within the brain astute,
Before the Searcher of all hearts bear they :
But inward breathings of the conscious spirit,
Rising like odours from some fire-touched gum,
Articulate emotions unprepared.

Nor without high commission do they come
To us returning: but with noble hope,
Angelic comfort, meditation pure:

*From Mary Carpenter's Meditations.

Glorious assurance that the human heart
Hath holy ties and communing with God!

When fears and perils thicken fast,

And many dangers gather round;
When human aid is vain and past,

No mortal refuge to be found ;
Then can we firmly lean on Heaven,

And gather strength to meet and bear:
No matter where the storm has driven,
A saving anchor lives in prayer.

Prayer is a key which being turned with the hand of faith unlocks all God's treasures.

Prayer is the pillar of religion and the key of Paradise.


By prayer and penance Dhruva gained at last
The highest heavens, and there he shines a star!
Nightly men see him in the firmament.*


Oh, God how beautiful the thought,

How merciful the bless'd decree,

That grace can e'er be found when sought,
And naught shut out the soul from Thee.

The cell may cramp, the fetters gall,

The flame may scorch, the rack may tear;
But torture-stake, or prison-wall,

Can be endured with Faith and Prayer.

• From Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan.

« PreviousContinue »