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to be spoken to in his own language; study scripture precepts, and turn them into prayer, study scripture promises, and turn them into pleas, study scripture threatenings, and turn them into deprecations, and study scripture patterns for imitation; you may find several excellent prayers in the bible, as that of Abraham, Gen. xviii. 23-32. Jacob prays, Gen. xxxii. 9, 12. Moses, Exod. xxxii. 11-13. Joshua, vii. 6—9. Hannah, 1 Sam. i. 11. Solomon, 1 Kings iii. 6—9. viii. 22-53. David, 1 Chron. xvii. 16—27. Nehemiah, i. 4-11. Ezra, ix. Daniel, ix. And we have many devout prayers put up and recorded by the apostle Paul, and others, too many to be mentioned, which in reading the holy scriptures you may meet with. Say not then, you have nothing to say before the Lord; it is your ignorance or negligence, if you be barren in your addresses to the throne of grace; some good divines have proposed a method and words in scripture phraseology, which I will not now trouble you with; but if you make it a daily custom to read the bible, you will find appropriate expressions flowing into your mind in prayer, which will prove pertinent matter upon all occasions; when you read scripture, think, now God is speaking to me, and thereby furnishing me with matter to speak to him in prayer; this passage suits my case, I will improve it in confession, petition, deprecation or thanksgiving, in my addresses to God, and thus you will arrive at a habit of free converse with God; and it becomes masters of families to be more employed in reading scriptures than others, God orders kings, captains, and ministers, to be daily exercised in this duty, because they were to be helpful to others; so must you: if you consult God's word, you "go in unto God," so some observe from comparing, Psal. lxxiii.
Deut. xvii. 19. Josh. i. 8. 1 Tim. iv. 13.
17, going into the sanctuary of God," with 2 Sam. vii. 18, "then went king David in, and sat before the Lord," that is, he went in to God; to intimate that reading and praying are nearly related; the one is a help to the other; if you read much, it will help you to pray much, it will help you to read and understand. Be much employed in both.
3. Learn to understand and improve the Lord's prayer, Matt. vi. 9-13. Consider the prologue, parts, and conclusion of it: get some succinct and plain exposition of it, do not cantingly, formally, and superstitiously repeat it, as a charm, but use it as a comprehensive platform of praying: I am not altogether against the use of the words in the Lord's prayer, nay, I would rather you would kneel down with your family, and say nothing but the Lord's prayer, than that you should use no prayer at all: only see you understand the meaning of it, and do not rattle it over as a parrot, but use it seriously, and beware of mocking God; hypocrisy is a sin as well as atheism: to pray otherwise than Christ has taught, is not only ignorance, but a grievous sin, saith an ancient writer; this refers both to the matter and manner of praying, for, saith he, "The Father will acknowledge the words of his Son, when we pray to him, in his name. Let him be in our voice that dwells in our hearts. the hearer of the voice but of the heart." now speaking of family prayer, wherein God requires both voice and heart, and are intending to assist with respect to the matter of prayer. It is a certain truth,
God is not
Aliter orare quam docuit non ignorantia sola est, sed et culpa. Cyprian. Serm. 6. de Orat. Dominicâ et cum ipsum habeamus apud Patrem advocatum pro peccatis nostris, advocati nostri verba promamus, id. ib.
+ Qui habitat intus in pectore, ipse sit et in voce: quia Deus non vocis, sed cordis auditor est.
that all and only the things that are to be asked of God are comprehended in the Lord's prayer; that is to say, the sum and substance of the things to be asked if you do not always utter the words, you must express the sense; therefore it is fit you should understand them, for every word hath its weight: Our Father who art in heaven: thou art the common Father of all mankind, and our Father in Christ, we humbly and reverently prostrate ourselves at thy footstool, in confidence of being received through thy well-beloved Son and our advocate: give us child-like affection for thee, with endeared love to all thine, and tender compassion for all others! Hallowed be thy name: let thy glorious titles, attributes, word and ordinances be manifested through the world, dispose all things to the glory of thy name, assist us in our confessing and forsaking our sins, adoring thine infinite perfections, believing in thee, subjecting ourselves to thee, attending on thee, and aiming at thy glory in all we are, or do, or suffer. Thy kingdom come: destroy, O Lord, the devil's kingdom of ignorance and wickedness, advance thy kingdom in converting sinners, building up thy church, maintaining the power of godliness, and hastening the kingdom of glory, confirming and preparing our souls for our Lord's second coming. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven: let thy preceptive will be our rule, enable us to comply with it, give us knowledge of it, conquer the enmity of our stubborn wills, enable us to do thy will singly, sincerely, universally, and constantly, as angels and glorified saints; help us quietly to acquiesce in thy providential will, be it apparently for us or against us. Give us this day our daily bread: vouchsafe to us a competent portion of outward comforts, for our daily supply, and thy blessing therewith, which is the staff of our bread, for we
depend on thee for all. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors: for Christ's sake and satisfaction, pardon all our sins; whereby we are indebted to divine justice, which we can never satisfy, but we lay hold by faith on the Lord our righteousness, and freely forgive all men their offences against us, and pray God to forgive them. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: Lord, we have depraved hearts, prevent occasions of sin, restrain the tempter, keep us out of harm's way, or make us conquerors of the world, the flesh, and the devil; let not sin have dominion over us. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever, Amen: we take not our encouragement in our prayers from any thing in ourselves, but from thee who art the only sovereign, all-sufficient God, able and willing to help thy poor creatures; to thee only be ascribed all dominion, blessing, honour, glory, and power, for evermore, amen, so be it.
Thus I have given you a short exposition of this excellent prayer, that you may be left without excuse for your wilful neglect.
4. Frequent Christian society; converse with pious, praying persons, this will help you in family exercises and worship, not only as it is a good example, but as it assimilates you to them, and also as it provokes to a holy emulation, it will make you shame with yourselves, that such as had no better assistance or higher education than you, have yet attained to such knowledge, gifts, and elocution; this will make you admire the grace of God in them, and think it not impossible, but that the same grace may do as much in you. Paul sought by the piety of the Gentiles, to provoke the Jews to emulation, and tells us that the zeal of the Corinthians,* in charitable contribution, had provoked * Rom. xi. 14. 2 Cor. ix. 2.
very many: it is not to tell what light, and life, and love may be conveyed from one Christian to another. If two lie together they have heat; iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend: they say boars whet their tusks one against another; and the younger ox learns of the elder to plough:† wicked men exasperate one another. So must, so will God's children consider one another, to provoke unto love and good. works: s Tаpožvσμòv, this word is borrowed from physicians, who describe a violent fever by it, which imports that at some times the fit is so strong, as to make the body to tremble, and the bed to shake under the patient. The same word is used to express the contention, or paroxysm betwixt Paul and Barnabas:|| only that was of anger, this is of love; striving which, should exceed in zeal for God, from the sense of Christ's love to them; outstripping one another in heavenly movements. However, if you frequently converse in the society of praying Christians, you will be acquainted with their expressions, which you may make use of, if only you have experience thereof, and your hearts be engaged; thus their phrases becoming yours, you will be more prepared for family duty.
5. Converse with God alone: first pray in your closets, and then you will be better able to pray in your families, both as to matter and manner: a frequent exercise of closet prayer will move you to converse with God there you will find that God will suggest words to your minds, which you may employ in your families in prayer, and this course will embolden you before others: and possibly this is one part of God's reward of closet prayer bestowed openly, which our Lord
Eccl. iv. 9-12. Prov. xxvii. 17.
+ Above majori discit arare minor. Heb. x. 24. || Acts xv. 39.