Of Importunity in Prayer, and of doing

as we would be done by.

MATT. VII. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.
Ask, and it shall be given you : Seek, and je

Shall find: Knock, and it shall be opened

unto you.

[ocr errors]

For every one that asketh, receiveth: And he

that seeketh, findeth: And to him that knock

eth, it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his

Son ask bread, will be give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will be give him a ser


If ye then 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?" Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that

men mould do to you, do ye even fo to them: For this is the law and the Prophets,

N a former paragraph our Saviour gave

us fome directions how to pray, cauI tioned us against oftentation and vain

repetitions in our prayers, and prescrib

ed us a most excellent form, in which we may address our felves to God. Here his design is to press us to a fervent and continual exercise of prayer, not only as a duty, but as a necessary and successful means of obtaining at the hands of God, all blessings which we stand in need of, temporal and eternal. And from God's dealing thus with us; like a tender Father readily answering our requests of all things needful for us, our Saviour takes occasion to recommend the like affectionate readiness amongst our felves, to all good offices one towards another, doing freely for others, what we our selves would think it reasonable they should in like cases do for us. As if he had said,

66 WHATSOEVER ye have need of, apply your « felves to God for it by importunate prayer, and ¢ he will furely answer your petitions, either in " kind, the very thing ye desire, or at least, in

quality, something which he knows to be really “ fitter for you, and that will be more to your adtage.

'Tis fit that ye should own his power and “ providence, by such an application; and those ¢ who do, shall taste of his abundant goodness. ç But if ye will not, ye may thank your selves 6 for his with-holding the blessing from ( if ye ask and have not, ’tis because ye ask amiss. . « A faint and seldom request is only begging a de66 nial; the Majesty of heaven expects to be wait« ed on with frequent, carncit, and humble peti« tions; an unwcaried and repeated diligence; and “ if ye thus sollicit him, he will not deny you, 66 for he has the affection and tenderness of a Father

towards you. And what carthly parent is there,

[ocr errors]


you. Or


[ocr errors]

« who, if his son ask of him any thing necessary “ for life, will mock at the request, by giving him can useless or an hurtful thing? If then, men, “ who are sinful creatures, passionate, weak and “ humoursome, have yet the tenderness to give « their children what is good and fit for them; 66 how much more shall the infinite goodness of “ God, whose children ye are, do fo to those who " importunately pray to him for it? Now as this “ loving-kindness of God is an encouragement to

prayer, so it yields a direction for your conduct

towards your neighbour. Since God shews him“ self a compassionate Father to mankind, in be“ ftowing whatever they request, that is really fit “ for them to have, ye ought to treat one another “ as brethren, and do for others, whatever ye « could reasonably expect they should do for you,

were ye in their condition, and they in yours: 66 For this is the sum and fubftance of your duty, " with regard to men, and of all that the law and " the Prophets have said upon it.

In this paragraph there are two distinct parts worthy of our farther consideration. I. What qualifications are requisite to make

our prayers prevailing; or what is included in

the notion of importunate prayer. II. What is the nature and extent of this rule,

of doing as we would be done by, which is

here called the law and the Prophets. I. I shall begin with the first, the qualifications necessary to make our prayers prevailing, or what is meant by importunity in prayer. Whatever view we take of our condition, whether with regard to soul or body, we find our selves in such a state of continual dependance upon God, (the exigencies of human life so many, our own inability to provide for them, so sensible and apparent) that one would think even the worst of men should not need to be excited and persuaded to prayer; yet it seems the best of men do need not only persuasion, but encouragement to this duty. The reason is, because though they know their wants, and that God, and he alone, is able to supply them, they are conscious of so much sin in themselves, that naturally (and without a mediator) they have reason to fear, he will not hear them. Christ therefore, our great and only Mediator, as in other places he assures us of his intercession, does here excite and encourage us to apply unto God, with assurances that if we do, we Mall be heard. But then 'tis expected our prayers should be importunate, that we may shew the deep sense we have of our own wants, our real desire that God would hear us, and our fteddy expectation that he will.

In order to be accepted then, we are to pray with earneftness, and with continuance or perseverance, both which are included in importunity.

FIRST then, We must pray with earnestness. And this consists chiefly in these two things, attention and affection. . (1.) In attention. When we present our selves before the infinite Majesty of heaven and earth, to offer up our praises and petitions to him, what an insolence is it to trifle in that awful presence; to have our eyes gazing about on every object that may divert them; our thoughts as little interested in what we say, as if we were repeating only an idle charm? It is not enough surely to hurry over a form of words in prayer, our minds must consider and attend to every sentence, with a close and serious application. Divine worship is the exercise of many graces, the exercise of faith and hope, humility and love: And how can we cxercise these when our minds are unconcerned? For these graces


are feated in the soul, which is only able to recollect and consider. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit, with the inward attention of the minds, as well as the outward posture of their bodies, and motion of their lips. This therefore, being fo necessary qualification of prayer, yet such withal, as even the best disposed minds find it hard enough to secure, it has been thought very proper and good advice, that before we go to prayer, we should employ a few minutes in preparation for thạt duty, to recollect, compose and fix our thoughts, and place them upon the right object, and restrain them to it, because variety of business, and objects, and circumstances, are very apt to fill our heads with a confused train of imaginations, which impertinently distract, and through the infirmity of human nature, are not easily withstood by us. This certainly requires care and diligence in the best of men ; but let the difficulty of attention to such as these, be no excuse for the profane and careless. There is a great deal of difference betwixt the distractions in prayer, which good men cannot avoid, and those which' bad men do not so much as strive against, or endeavour to avoid. The former are properly failings and sins of infirmity, and will be pardoned by a merciful God, as such, because they are involuntary; but the carelessness of an irreligious mind that freely gives into distractions and vain thoughts at such a Time, and allows the Eye to gaze about at random, and (which is too often the case) when, instead of joining in the prayers and praises of the congregation, people are reading letters, talking over news, whispering remarks upon others, laughing, and giving themselves airs, or the like. This, I say, is a gross piece of profaneness, 'tis no infirmity, but a wilfúl fin, a contempt of the presence of God, and a solemn ridicule of all religion. But,

(2.) SIN


« ForrigeFortsett »