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make these things familiar to our minds by frequent meditation on them, we may be said to pray without ceasing, because we have in us the essentials of prayer. But tho this may be included in the precept, yet I cannot think it is all that is meant by it. And therefore, · 2. If we would fulfil the design of it, we should be found in the actual exercise of prayer every day. How many times a-day I will not determine, because I do not find it determined in fcripture. We read that Daniel kneeled on his knees three times a-day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God; Dan. VI. 1o. But example alone doth not prove a duty. Therefore I only deliver it as my opinion, that a
y every day, without determining how often. To be sure, they who have more leisure, should do it oftner than they who have less. But I think no man, let him have as much business as he will, should suffer a whole day to pass over his head without some folemn address to his maker, And whosoever rises in the morning, and returns to his rest at night, without once applying himself to the throne of
man should prav every day without
grace, may, without breach of charity, be counted guilty of a breach of this precept to pray without ceafing. * 3. If we would fulfil this precept, we must persevere in our prayers, tho providence should not favour us with a present and speedy answer to them. We should not grow weary of devotion because we do not presently feel all the good effects of it. When we have once alked a favour, we are not to desist because it is not immediately granted ; but must press it over and over again, and never cease till we obtain. I speak this principally with regard to fpiritual blessings: for I do not say that the same zeal and earnestness is to be used in relation to temporal. When we have pray'd for them several times, and are not heard, I think it will be better to, desist, and to rest contented without them: but with respect to spiritual mercies, we are not only permitted, but èven obliged to use a holy violence with the Almighty ; and should say to him as Jacob to the angel, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
The words thus explained, I shall discourse from them in the following manner,
I. I shall prove that prayer is a duty incumbent on us.
II. I shall answer objections against
III. I shall conclude with an exhortațion to it.
I. I shall prove that prayer is a duty incumbent on us. This I will do from reafon and fcripture.
1. From reason. Our obligation to prayer arises from the relation we stand in towards God as creatures. We are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand; therefore we should worship and bow down, and kneel before the Lord our maker; Psalm XCV. 6,7. We must first cease to be dependent, before we should cease to pray. If man had made himself, or could sustain himself, he would be under no obligation to pray ; for upon that supposition there would be, no proper object of prayer. He would have no occafion to pray to other beings, because he would have no dependence on them : and to pray to himself would be very absurd ;* for if he is conscious of a power to support himself, what need of praying to him
himself for his own preservation ? That will not promote either his power or his inclination to help himself. Therefore, if any, man is independent and self-sufficient, I would by no means advise that man to pray; it would be very unsuitable for him, and a degradation to his dignity. But as for us who acknowledge ourselves to be dependent creatures, who believe that God is the author of our beings, and the source and fountain of alĩ happiness; for us, I say, prayer is very suitable and becoming ; it is the most just and reasonable thing in the world, and we shall not act like wise and considerate men, if we neglect it.
It is a duty that is founded in the nature and reason of things, and would have been incumbent upon us tho it had never been enjoined by any positive command. The Psalmist having given an elegant description of a tempest at sea, and the confusion which men are wont to be in upon that occasion, represents them as calling upon God for deliverance, Psalm CVII. 25-28. He commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof; they mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the
depths ; their soul is melted because of trouble, they reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits end : then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble. And what is here pre- : sented to us only in an image, is verified in a real history in the book of Jonah. In the first chapter of that Þook we are told, that Yonah went into a ship that was going to Tarshish, but the Lord sent out a great wind into the rea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken : then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man to his God: and the master of the ship coming to Jonah, and finding him asleep, said unto him, What meanest thou, o sleeper, arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us that we perisa not. These men were heathens; and yet nature itself dictated unto them to cry unto God in their extremity; and they thought it very strange, that in such a time of danger Jonah should be asleep whilst they were at their prayers.
Our own weakness and insufficiency, and the almighty power and infinite goodness of God, are invincible arguments for prayer. As we did not make our