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fected by his conduct: what greater difficulty is there in fuppofing, that the prayers of an individual may avert a calamity from multitudes, or be accepted to the benefit of whole communities?
С НАР. CH A P. III.
OF THE DUTY AND EFFICACY OF PRAYER,
AS REPRESENTED IN SCRIPTURE.
T HE reader will have observed, that the
1 reflections 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 addressing 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 possess, and have seen good reason why we are not to expect, the light of nature leaves us to controverted probabilities, drawn from the impulse by which mankind have been almost universally prompted to devotion, and from some beneficial 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 natural religion. They require prayer to God as a duty; and they contain positive assurances of its efficacy and acceptance. We could have no reasonable 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 sensible 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 dependence upon prayer, as might relax other obligations, or confound the order of events and human expectations,
The scriptures not only affirm the propriety of prayer in general, but furnish precepts or examples which justify some topics and modes of prayer that have been thought exceptionable. And as the whole subject rests so much upon
the foundation of fcripture, I shall 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 blessings; of intercefsion for others; of the repetition of unsuccessful prayers.
Texts enjoining prayer in general: “ Ask and “ it shall be given you, seek 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 there“fore, and pray always, that ye may be ac“ counted 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 instant “ in prayer.” “ Be careful for nothing, but in “ every thing by prayer and supplication, with “ thanksgiving let your requests be made known “ unto God.” “I will, therefore, that men pray “every where, lifting up holy hands without “ wrath and doubting.” “ Pray without ceasing." Matt. vii. 7. 11. Luke xxi. 36. Rom. xii, 12. Phil. iv. 6. I Thel. v. 17. | Tiin. 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 simplicity in theirs, together with his dictating a particular form of prayer, all presuppose prayer to be an acceptable and availing service.
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 Thes. iii, 10.
Directions to pray for national or public blesfings : “ Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” “ Ask “ ye of the Lord rain, in the time of the latter “ 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, fupplications, 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 quiet and peaceable life, in all “ godliness and honesty; for this is good and “ acceptable in the fight of God our Saviour.” Psalm cxxii. 6. Zech. x. i. I Tim. ii, 1, 2, 3.