Imatges de pÓgina
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CHA P. III.

OF THE DUTY AND EFFICACY OF PRAYER,

AS REPRESENTED IN SCRIPTURE.

TH

HE reader will have obferved, that the reflections stated in the preceding chapter, whatever truth and weight they may be allowed to contain, rife many of them no higher than to negative arguments in favour of the propriety of addrefling prayer to God. To prove that the efficacy of prayers is not inconfiftent with the attributes of the Deity, does not prove that prayers are actually efficacious; and in the want of that unequivocal teftimony, which experience alone could afford to this point (but which we do not poffefs, and have feen good reafon why we are not to expect) the light of nature leaves us to controverted probabilities, drawn from the impulfe by which mankind have been almost univerfally prompted to devotion, and from fome beneficial purposes, which, it is conceived, may be better anfwered by the audience of prayer,

than

than by any other mode of communicating the fame bleffings. The revelations which we deem authentic, completely fupply this defect of natural religion. They require prayer to God as a duty; and they contain pofitive affurances of its efficacy and acceptance. We could have no reafonable motive for the exercife of prayer, without believing that it may avail to the relief of our wants. This belief can only be founded, either in a fenfible experience of the effect of prayer, or in promises of acceptance fignified by divine authority, Our knowledge would have come to us in the former way, lefs capable, indeed, of doubt, but fubjected to the abufes and inconveniences briefly defcribed above: in the latter way, that is, by authorized fignifications of God's general difpofition to hear and answer the devout fupplications of his creatures, we are encouraged to pray, but not to place fuch a dependence upon prayer, as might relax other obligations, or confound the order of events and of human expectations.

The scriptures not only affirm the propriety of prayer in general, but furnish precepts or examples which juftify fome topics and fome modes of prayer that have been thought exceptionable.

And

And as the whole fubject refts fo much upon the foundation of fcripture, I fhall put down at length texts applicable to the five following heads; to the duty and efficacy of prayer in general; of prayer for particular favours by name; for public national bleffings; of interceffion for others; of the repetition of unsuccessful prayers.

1. Texts enjoining prayer in general: "Afk "and it fhall be given you, feck and ye fhall find

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-If ye, being evil, know how to give good

gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father, which is in heaven, give good things to them that afk him?" "Watch ye "therefore, and pray always, that ye may be " accounted worthy to escape all those things that "shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son "of man. "Serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing inftant "in prayer." "Be careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and fupplication, with "thanksgiving let your requests be made known "unto God." "I will, therefore, that men pray

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every where, lifting up holy hands without "wrath and doubting." "Pray without ceafing." Matt. vii. 7. 11. Luke xxi. 36. Rom. xii. 12.

Phil.

Phil. iv. 6.1 Theff. v. 17. 1 Tim. ii. 8. Add to thefe, that Chrift's reproof of the oftentation and prolixity of pharifaical prayers, and his recommendation to his difciples of retirement and fimplicity in theirs, together with his dictating a particular form of prayer, all presuppose prayer to be an acceptable and availing service.

2. Examples of prayer for particular favours by name: "For this thing (to wit, fome bodily infirmity, which he calls "a thorn given him "in the flesh") I befought the Lord thrice "that it might depart from me.'

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Night and day praying exceedingly, that we might fee your face, and perfect that which is lacking in 66 your faith." 2 Cor. xii. 8. 1 Theff. iii. 10.

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3. Directions to pray for national or public bleffings: Pray for the peace of Jerufalem." "Afk ye of the Lord rain, in the time of the lat

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ter rain; fo the Lord shall make bright clouds, "and give them fhowers of rain to every one "grafs in the field." "I exhort, therefore, that "first of all, fupplications, prayers, interceffions, "and giving of thanks, be made for all men; "for kings and for all that are in authority, that "we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all

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'godliness and honefly; for this is good and

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acceptable in the fight of God our Saviour." Pfalm cxxii. 6. Zech. x. 1. 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2, 3.

4. Examples of interceffion, and exhortations to intercede for others: "And Mofes befought the "Lord his God, and faid, Lord, why doth thy "wrath wax hot against thy people? Remember “Abraham, Ifaac, and Ifrael, thy fervants. And "the Lord repented of the evil which he thought "to do unto his people." "Peter therefore was

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kept in prison, but prayer was made without "ceafing, of the Church unto God for him." "For God is my witnefs, that without ceafing

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I make mention of you always in my prayers." "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jefus Chrift's fake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye ftrive together with strive together with me, in your prayers for me." "Confefs your faults one to "another, and pray one for another, that ye may "be healed: the effectual fervent prayer of a

righteous man availeth much." Ex. xxxii. 11. As xii. 5. Rom. i. 9. xv. 30. James v. 16.

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5. Declarations and examples authorizing the repetition of unfuccefsful prayers: "And he fpoke a parable unto them, to this end, that "men ought always to pray, and not to faint." "And he left them, and went away again, and prayed

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