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prove them really to have experienced. They came to him, saying, "Lord, teach us to pray;" and this their request is itself a prayer. They appear to have thought themselves unable to pray, and at the same time were actually presenting from the heart a most seasonable and appropriate petition!
This affords instruction and encouragement to you in times of darkness and despondency. You may think you cannot pray, when, at the very time, you are really doing it: you may be so bewildered as that you cannot reflect with any degree of desirable composure; so afflicted as not to be able to arrange your thoughts in order, and to utter words before God; while yet your heart ascends to him, and the secret desire of your soul is only to the remembrance of his name. The self-righteous Pharisee went up into the temple to pray. That was professedly his errand, and he uttered many words; but what was their meaning? He prayed not. On the other hand, the brokenhearted publican seemed as if he thought he could not pray at all; he stood at humble distance, in the attitude of conscious penitence, his heart burthened with guilt and grief; and, under the pressure of that heavy load, he exclaimed, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" This short sentence was a most appropriate and comprehensive petition: it evidenced a heart affected as it ought to be. He said not much : he was not able; the feeling of his afflicted soul prevented it but what he did say was exactly to the point; it was the utterance of his heart, the earnest desire of his soul, for the blessing which, of all others, he most needed. What is it that constitutes prayer? Not a multitude of words, nor yet these words well selected, and well expressed: it is the soul
ascending to God; the spirit of the man fervently engaged. Where this is found, though it be "with groanings which cannot be uttered," there is genuine devotion; and of this man it may be said, with the strictest truth," Behold he prayeth."
5. The request implies a high opinion of the ability and grace of Christ.-They had low views of themselves: they came to Jesus, indeed, as if they knew nothing but they were well convinced that he was able to instruct them, and had good reason to conclude that he was equally willing-" Lord, teach us to pray." It is highly probable that what the disciples had just then witnessed encouraged this application. They had seen and heard their blessed Lord pray to his heavenly Father: they had noticed the devout affection, the sacred fervour, of his soul. It was not envy, but holy emulation, which was excited they desired to pray more as he did; and who so proper to instruct them as himself?" When he ceased," therefore, they "said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray.
Was there difficulty attending this on account of their ignorance? Was there grace requisite, because of their unworthiness? They had seen their Lord and Master perform the greatest acts of power and grace. He had evinced that nothing was too hard for him to effect; that none were too mean for him to bless. His power was the power of God. His compassion was the compassion of God. And, let us not forget, he is " the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever!"
It is easy to think too meanly of Jesus Christ; but you cannot think too highly of him. He is "over all, God blessed for ever." And, as Mediator, "all
power in heaven and on earth is given unto him." Come, therefore, to him with this earnest request; "Lord, teach us to pray!" Remember, for your encouragement, no mind is too dark for him to enlighten, no heart is too hard for him to soften, no soul is too sinful for him to save. Let your case be ever so calamitous, your feelings ever so uncomfortable, only apply to the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will receive you! Be persuaded of his matchless ability and grace, and, in the steady belief of this, urge your humble suit, and he will bless you: he will even do "exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think!"
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE REQUEST WAS REGARDED.
We may observe, in the general, it was answered.The disciples said, "Lord, teach us to pray." The Lord Jesus did teach them. If, in their allusion to John's teaching his disciples, they had reference to any form of prayer which John had given them, after the example of the Jewish doctors, our Lord in this way complied with their request. He gave to these his disciples a most admirable and comprehensive directory for prayer, which we have in the verses immediately following. "And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father," and so on. The Evangelist, Matthew, states it; "After this manner pray ye." The propriety of the frequent use of what is commonly called "the Lord's Prayer" is not denied; but that we are bound to the constant and invariable adoption of these express words is no where taught, nor is it fairly to be inferred. We have the highest opinion of this short
form as a comprehensive directory or guide in prayer; and agree with an able commentator, that it perhaps contains more important instruction than can any where else be found in so few words *.
But are we to suppose that Jesus taught his disciples merely to repeat such and such words? This would have been answering their request in a very partial way indeed. If prayer be chiefly the business of the heart, for Jesus Christ to teach to pray must include something in which the heart is particularly concerned. Many persons learn the words and sentences of prayer: they are very fluent in the use of them, and here they rest satisfied. But Jesus Christ teaches much more than this, and by means the most effectual: he teaches by the Spirit as well as by the Word; and the Spirit is explicitly promised for this purpose: "If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"-But more particularly; Christ. teaches to pray,
1. By convincing us more clearly of the necessity of prayer.---We may be convinced of this in a slight degree, so as to pay some respect to the duty; but the clearer and stronger the conviction is, the more earnest will our supplications be. A man asks another for a favour: if he suppose he shall have it unrequested; he asks coolly; on the contrary, if he know that he cannot have unless he ask, and ask earnestly too, he will be earnest, in such proportion as he values the favour which he seeks. Thus it is in prayer. God hath promised inestimable blessings:
* Scott. + Luke xi. 13.
he hath pledged his faithfulness for the bestowment of them. He hath said, "I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it." And again; "Thus saith the Lord God, I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them *." As if it were; "I will be asked. The blessings which I have promised shall be sought, and sought with diligence and importunity." You see, then, you feel the necessity of prayer. Act accordingly. "I say unto you,' says the Lord Jesus, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened †."-Christ teaches
2. By giving us more impressive views of our wants.-A superficial view of them will produce a languid wish; but an heart-felt impressive view awakes the energies of the soul. We may illustrate this in a familiar way. Indeed, the cases have occurred within our own knowledge. Admission for two boys has been sought in a Sunday-school: the desire of parents alone has gained entrance for the one; the other boy's own desire, and repeated request, have obtained for himself the privilege. Now there is scarcely any comparison in the improvement of these boys: the one remains almost as ignorant as ever; the other applies with diligence, and his proficiency is pleasingly evident. It is owing to the different view which they have of their want. Both know that they are ignorant, and ought to learn; but only one is deeply impressed with this conviction,