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posed by several expositors to intend the powerful suggestions of the Iloly Spirit to the minds of the prophets, by which they were inwardly moved to ask, with confidence and earnestness, the miraculous interposition of God, on particular occasions, in support of their testimony: and the prayer of Elijah, by which he illustrates the subject, was certainly of this kind. Yet this would never have been proposed as an example and encouragement to believers in general, if there had not been something of a similar nature in their acceptable prayers. Through our heavenly Advocate " we all “ have access by one Spirit unto the Father :" for " the Spirit helpeth our infirmities:” and thus we pray in or by the Spirit. In order therefore that our supplications may be accepted and answered, they must be dictated to our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
But how shall we know this ?-We cannot distinguish between the acting of our own minds and the effect of divine influences, except by considering the nature and tendency of our desires and expectations : but we may conclude, safely and without hesitation, that every prayer, which accords to the Scriptures, is presented by the teaching and assistance of the Holy Spirit. We may premise, therefore, that no formal lifeless prayer, the language of the lips without any corresponding affections or emotions of the heart, can accord with the holy Scriptures: but supposing that we
earnestly desire some real or imagined good, and fervently and importunately intreat the Lord to bestow it upon us; we have only to enquire, whether the motive and object of such desire be scriptural, in order to determine the question before us. • To instance in some particulars : We may enquire, Whether the supposed good, which we are earnestly seeking, be expressly promised in the word of God? Can we present our prayer, and pour out our hearts, in the language of the promises? Do we understand them in their genuine import? And do we seek the fulfilment of them in the due order and manner?
Again: Do our supplications and requests accord to the precepts of the holy law of our God, and to the spirit of the blessed gospel? And are they dictated by that love to God and man, which the whole Scripture inculcates ? The prayers which are presented under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are uniformly of this kind; for “ his “ fruit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and “ truth.”
This consideration ought particularly to be attended to, in our intercession for the church and nation: for we cannot expect to prevail in these prayers, except we cultivate a compassionate, forgiving, and loving spirit towards our enemies, which no crimes or injuries can overcome or weary out; as well as an expansiye benevolence
for the whole human race. We should be peculiarly desirous of being preserved, if it be the will of God, in the manner which is most conducive to the general good of mankind, and in particular to that of the nation with which we are now at war. In this respect we have need, very diligently and jealously, to watch over our own hearts; lest any leaven of resentment, or desire of aggrandizement, wealth, or prosperity, should pollute our prayers, and defeat the end of them. For these things must certainly come from our own spirit, and not from the Spirit of truth and love,
A due regard to Providence is another mark, by which acceptable prayer may be distinguished. We should enquire therefore, whether we desire to acknowledge the hand of God, to submit to and adore bis justice, and to thank him for his mercies, in all the events and changes which we witness and experience? Whether we expect protection and success from him alone, whatever instruments or means are employed? And whether we are prepared to give him all the glory?—The subordination likewise of all temporal concerns to the good of our immortal souls, and the best interests of mankind; and the desire of being protected, and assisted, in order that we may usefully fill up our stations in the church and in the community with a contented mind, and without “ seeking great “ things for ourselves,” are implied in this regard
to Providence. The prayers, which spring from this happy frame of mind, are doubtless dictated by “the Spirit of grace and supplication.” Thus Solomon prayed for wisdom, that he miglit be qualified to govern in a suitable manner the kingdom to which God had advanced him; but he offered no petition for “ long life, riches, or the “ life of his enemies:" and if his lot had been cast in a humbler station, the same views and desires would have influenced him to request grace sufficient to enable him to discharge the duties of it, in a manner honourable to God and profitable to his brethren; and not to have sought advancement to a higher rank in life. But if discontent, impatience, ambition, or avarice dictate our supplications, the Lord may graciously pardon them, but he will by no means accept or answer them.
The prayers, offered under the influence of the divine Spirit, will also be accompanied with correspondent exertions in the use of all proper means, in order to obtain the blessings we desire. For instance; he, who prays aright for the conversion and salvation of his children, is sedulous in giving them pious instructions, careful in setting them a good example, punctual in bringing them under the means of grace, and watchful in keeping them out of the way of temptation. Like Abraham “he “commands his children and his household after “him, that they may keep the way of the Lord:” and worldly motives do not induce him to place
them at a distance from the ordinances of God, or in the midst of bad examples and ensnaring allurements.
Thus our prayers, if spiritual, will influence our conduct in every particular; and the same fervent desire, which dictates the petition, will stimulate the endeavour. That effectual fervent prayer especially, which we are now called on to present in behalf of the church and nation, should be connected with a steady exertion, in our several places, to accomplish the general and particular objects of our supplications.
The holy Scriptures further teach us, that all those, who in former ages prayed with the greatest acceptance and success, had an especial regard to the glory of God in their requests, and were ready to subordinate every other interest to this grand concern; requesting personal and national deliverance and protection, in order that God might be honoured in the open view of mankind, by his interpositions in behalf of his worshippers. And this, in every possible case, furnished them with a never-failing plea. Thus Moses, Joshua, David, Daniel, Nehemiah, and many others, supplicated the Lord for Israel, beseeching him to deliver them “ for his name's sake, that it should not be pollusted among the heathen:" and that “all the ” nations of the earth might know, that he was “ the Lord God, even he only.” Our Lord also most emphatically teaches us the same, by begin