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CH A P. III.
OF THE DUTY AND EFFICACY OF PRAYER,
AS REPRESENTED IN SCRIPTURE.
H E reader will have observed, that the
refledions stated in the preceding chapter, whatever truth and weight they may be allowed to contain, rise many of them no higher than to negative arguments in favour of the propriety of addresling prayer to God. To prove that the efficacy of prayers is not inconsistent with the attributes of the Deity, does not prove that prayers are actually efficacious; and in the want of that unequivocal testimony, which experience alone could afford to this point (but which we do not postess, and have seen good reason why we are not to expect) the light of nature leaves us to controverted probabilities, drawn from the impulse hy which mankind have been almost univerfally promp ed to devotion, and from some bencficial purposes, which, it is conceived, may be better answered by the audience of prayer, than by any other mode of communicating the same blessings. The revelations which we deem authentic, completely supply this defect of natu, ral religion. They require prayer to God as a duty; and they contain positive assurances of its efficacy and acceptance. We could have no reafonable motive for the exercise of prayer, without believing that it may avail to the relief of our wants, This belief can only be founded, either in a senlible experience of the effect of prayer, or in promises of acceptance signified by divine authority, Our knowledge would have come to us in the former way, less capable, indeed, of doubt, but subjected to the abuses and inconveniences briefly described above: in the latter way, that is, by authorized significations of God's general disposition to hear and answer the devout supplications of his creatures, we are encouraged to pray, but not to place such a de pendence upon prayer, as might relax other obligations, or confound the order of events and of human expe&ations.
The scriptures not only affirm the propriety of prayer in general, but furnish precepts or examples which justify some topics and some modes of prayer that have been thought exceptionable.
And as the whole subject rests so much upon the foundation of scripture, I shall put down at length texts applicable to the five following heads; to the duty and efficacy of prayer in general ;
prayer for particular favours by name ; for public national blessings; of interceffion for others ; of the repetition of unsuccessful
1. Texts enjoining prayer in general : “ Ask " and it shall be given you, seck and ye shall find
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 ask him?” “Watch ye “ therefore, and pray always, that “ 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 instans “ in prayer.” “Be careful for nothing, but in
every thing by prayer and supplication, with
thankfgiving let your requests be made known “ unto God.” “ I will, therefore, that men pray
every wbere, lifting up holy hands without " wrath and doubting." Pray without ceasing.” Matt. vii. 7. 11. Luke xxi. 36. Rom. xii. 12.
ye may be
Phil. iv. 6. ! Thel. v. 17. I Tim. ii. 8. Add to these, that Christ's reproof of the oftentation and prolixity of pharisaical prayers, and his recommendation to his disciples of retirement and fimplicity in theirs, together with his di&tating a particular forın 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, some bodily infirmity, which he calls “ a thorn given him " in the flesh”) I besought the Lord thrice " that it might depart from me.”
Night and day praying exceedingly, that we might see your face, and perfect that which is lacking in your
faith.” 2 Cor. xii. 8. 1 Thef. iii. 10. 3. Directions to pray for national or public blessings : “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” “ Alk ye of the Lord rain, in the time of the lat“ ter rain ; so the Lord shall make bright clouds, “ and give them showers of rain to every one “ grass in the field.” “ I exhort, therefore, that “ first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, “ and giving of thanks, be made for all men'; “ for kings and for all that are in authority, that we may
lead a quict and peaceable life, in all godliness and honefly; for this is good and
" acceptable in the fight of God our Saviour." Pfalm cxxii. 6. Zech. x. 1. 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2, 3.
4. Examples of intercession, and exhortations to intercede for others: “And Mofes besought the “ Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy “ wrath wax hot against thy people? Remember “ Abraham, Isaac, and Ifrael, thy servants. And " the Lord repented of the evil which he thought “ to do unto his people.” " Peter therefore was
kept in prison, but prayer was made without
ceasing, of the Church unto God for him.” " For God is my witness, that without ceasing * I make mention of you always in my prayers.” “ Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord
Jesus Christ's fake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me,
your prayers for me.” “ Confess your faults one to " another, and pray one for another, that ye may “ be healed : the efic dual fervent prayer of a "righteous man availeth much.” Ex. xxxii. 11. Asts xii. 5. Rom. i. 9. xv. 30. Jumes v. 16.
5. Declarations and examples authorizing the repetition of unsuccessful prayers :
" And he spoke a parable unto them, to this end, that
men ought always to pray, and not to faini." " And he left thein, and went away again, and