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great work of piety and virtue which we have before us ; that we may be assisted in watching over ourselves where we are most likely to fall; to give us such prevailing love to wisdom and goodness, as may keep us above the mean gratifications of our appetites and every un. lawful desire, and make all the enticements and temptations of the world lose their power
The reason why many neglect and entirely disuse prayer to God, or find no satisfaction therein, but perform it reluctantly, and are glad when the irksome task is over, ariseth : hence, Because they have no love to God, to virtue and goodness: so that they are not interested in these things which they ask in prayer; their thoughts are turned another way ; they have no desire to become holy and good. Could they be brought to see the excellency of virtue, it would lead them to God; they would take delight in the thought of him, in conversing with him, if we may so speak; in seeking his favourable regards,—and help to secure them against dangerous temptations, and qualify them for a better and more perfect state. Like that philosopher of old, who thanked
God that he had made him a man, a creature rational, that he might devote himself to celebrate and make known his praises and goodness to others,—they would still more devote themselves, as they have greater obligations, to spread the knowledge of God and his truth amongst men, and to be instrumental in carrying on his designs of making all men holy, good, and finally happy.
Lastly,: It was the counsel of wisdom i (Eccl. v. 2.) “Be not rash with thy mouth; nor let thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth : therefore let thy words be few.”
With this, our Saviour's caution plainly agrees.
We should not burden ourselves with asking many things at a time, and making a variety of requests at once to God; for it will be apt to diminish our reverence of the divine majesty, and abate the fervour of our devotion.
The thought of God, and the putting ourselves before him, into his immediate presence, is so awful a thing, however mixed with solemn joy and delight, that the mind cannot bear it long; but will relieve itself by intermixing serious meditation on his mercies, on its state
and condition before him, with the desires which it offers up to him.
Such we may presume to have been our Saviour's method and holy employ in those his devout retirements, for a considerable space of time, of which the sacred historians speak.
To young persons, and at the beginning of a religious course of life, forms of prayer are useful, and
be found so to many through life. But it would seem right, that we should all endeavour to attain an ability to express our desires without a book before God, because the words of others may not always suit
And in this there would be no difficulty. Every one does it in some measure, daily. For, each morning that we awake and begin our life afresh, it is presumed that no one enters into the world without considering his business in life, how best to conduct himself so as to please his Maker, and the particular temptations and danger he has to encounter with, and begging his especial blessing and protection over him. And in like sort at night, to recollect the blessings received, and be thankful for them. And this offering up of our. actual desires to God is the most acceptable
prayer to him.
In these things, however, no one can prescribe to another what he is to do. But all must endeavour to discharge so important a duty in the way most beneficial to themselves, without embarrassment or perplexity, so as to make it easy and pleasant to them. The great end of
prayer is to bring us to live under an habitual sense of the divine presence, with which it will be impossible for any to live or continue in
known evil or dishonest practice; and which, far from interrupting or taking men off from their worldly employments, would furnish greater alacrity to go through the necessary duties of life, and spread continual comfort, cheerfulness, and joy around us.
O eternal, and infinitely glorious Lord our God! who dwellest in light and glory unapproachable, yet at the same time fillest all things with thy presence, and condescendest to take care of us and our concerns :
We desire with humblest reverence to render thee the tribute of our thanksgiving and praise, for making us reasonable beings, and capable of being happy in the knowledge and enjoyment of thee, the chief and infinite good.
And we acknowledge it as our great privilege from thee, that thou, the most high and holy God, allowest us to speak unto thee; for that none can come into thy sacred presence as he ought, but must become better by it.
Suffer us not, therefore, we pray thee, vainly to imagine that we can recommend ourselves to thee by the frequency or importunity of our addresses, where the heart is not in thy laws; but teach us to consider our prayers as a means appointed by thee to convey thy blessings to us, and also to strengthen our pious affections in us, and to engage us the more effectually to the obedience of thy laws, and a constant uniform pursuit of every thing virtuous and good.
And as thou hast placed us in a world full of dangers and temptations, to try and exercise our faith and loyalty to thee and thy righteous government, but where
suffer themselves to be drawn to violate thy laws, and fall away from thee,–Be thou, O God! our ever present help to support us, that we may never cast off our confidence in thee, or forfeit thy favour by deserting the paths of truth and righteousness, but may go on in our virtuous course rejoicing; referring all