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Directions for Prayer.

really awakened to feel his necessities, will be able, for the most part, to speak what he feels, without any assistance.

I commend extempore prayer, because I have not only my own experience, the experience of all living Christians, but the very reason of the thing to plead for it. Yet there are cases and circumstances wherein we may, no doubt, receive assistance from the labours of others; as Aaron was a mouth to Moses, so there may be helps to such as are slow of speech.

In secret we should not exclude forms of prayer, though for the most part they are rather a clog than a help to devotion, when solely made use of. They seein useful,

1. When used as a directory, we place it before us, having first considered it as applicable to our state, and, in the exercise of prayer, enlarge upon the particular circumstances we are in.

2. At times we may find such a want of expression, as to need assistance of that kind, and may experience our hearts more quickened by it. Here the end of prayer being considered, what most promotes that, is certainly best.

3. At first, having never been used at all to pray before, we may make use of the mouth of our neighbours to express our own case, and teach our lips a language which the heart wants to utter.

Directions for Prayer.

But the great use of forms of prayer seems to be in social worship.

As prayer is the duty of every individual for himself in secret, so is it also enjoined on all Christians in their social relations. The master of every family is bound, by the religion of Jesus, to make his house a house of prayer. When Christians meet together in private, as well as in the congregation, prayer is the most proper and natural employment. Abundant evidence of this occurs in the New Testament.

The gifts of God are variously dispensed. Some have a facility of expression, and readiness of elocution, which are denied to others. Hence some can speak for others, without the assistance of a form of prayer, and this is undoubtedly the most profitable; for in this case, the knowledge of the people's state gives the person who prays an opportunity of adapting his requests more exactly to the case of those who join with him ; besides that there is something much more enlivening to devotion in such exercises, when done with propriety and judgment, than in the best composed forms.

But as these gifts of knowledge and utterance may not be possessed by many, who yet (lesire to pray with and for each other, there the spiritual assistance of some experimental Christian's prayer

Directions for Prayer.

may be of the most abundant usefulness *. I confess I cannot but wish that some who take upan them to be mouths of others, had a greater diffi. dence of themselves. To hear a man before others praying absurdly, improperly, and incoherently, is as offensive to men, as it must be displeasing to God; and can serve only to shew the pride, not the humility of the speaker, and the folly, not the teachableness of the hearers. Prayer must be ever a reasonable service; it ceases to be so when in such hands.

But thè sloth of some, and too great concern of others about the manner of acquitting themselves in prayer, are equally sinful. Instead of improving their gifts and graces, they continue servilely bound to a form, however in itself good. They to whom it is given, should use to the honour of the Giver the gift he bestows; but if we make not the trial, we cannot tell what our gifts are.

As every gift improves by exercise, so does the gift of prayer particularly. We know not what we can do till we try; and it is a certain fact that persons of very slender abilities, and who could

* As many sincere people, who stand in need of helps, either for private or social prayer, may be at a loss for proper forms, I would therefore recommend Mr. JENKS's Devotions, as by far the most animated and spiritual of any I ever met with, and best suited both for families and the states and exi. gencies of particular Christians. There are also in that Manual some excellent prayers and meditations for the assistance of pious Communicants, and a very sweet and devout paraphrase upon the Creed.

Directions for Prayer.

scarce express themselves clearly on any other subject, have obtained, by exercise in prayer, not only method, but propriety; and many a heart hath been warmed with the

rayers of those whom the world hath accounted weak as well as illiterate. Every person therefore should make the attempt.

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There is a shame and diffidence which usually attend the first essays, which may for a little while distract the attention, and make us too solicitous about the persons with whom we are, instead of being wholly taken up with the consideration of Him to whom we speak; but this in general is soon got over by use. Meantime, I suppose it would be very profitable for such as begin the worship of God in their houses, or with their friends, to have before them some evangelical book of devotions, that if they found themselves confused, or barren of thought, they might recur to it, till they had attained greater ease, and overcome that bashfulness which hurried them.

Where there is really not a gift of prayer—where persons are conscious that they cannot so profitably perform the exercise of devotion without the help of a composed prayer, there it would be sinful in them not to make use of it. I have heard of some, that because they could not pray extempore in their families, would not pray at all with them ; which seems as absurd as to say, because I cannot feed my family with delicacies of my own providing, they shall starve; though I might

Directions for Prayer.

have made use of my neighbour's offers, who had broken his bread on purpose for my use.

It'must be observed that there are persons who have much of the gift of prayer, who have not the spirit of prayer; these, like the ravens who fed Elijah, bring good food to those who join with them, whilst their own pride, and vanity of their abilities, is the carrion on which they feed themselves. Their prayers may be blessed unto others, but they are an abomination to God, and bring a curse upon their own souls.

It will be needless to say many things in commendation of prayer, either respecting its necessity or excellence. The soul, who is brought to a sensibility about his real state, feels both, with an evidence which is beyond all that we can speak; and the soul who is yet dead in trespasses and şins, cannot pray, though we should write volumes to persuade him to it. For he that cometh to God, must first believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. All the miscalled prayers of unbelievers have no more of a spiritual service in them, than howling hath of harmony.

For the sake of those who have need of assistance, I have subjoined some few helps to prayer, which may be enlarged upon, and made particularly applicable to the case of those who use them ; intimating, by the way, that the more we unbosom the very thoughts and secrets of our souls to God, the more profitable will be the service.

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