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never can ask too much. We need every thing; and God is ready to bestow on us "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." In coming to Christ by prayer, we come to a fountain of living water, which never dries up; and we eat of bread which endureth to everlasting life. Jesus himself has said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled."
The power to pray, we have not from ourselves : it is the gift of God's Holy Spirit. He it is who puts into our minds good desires; and He it is who gives us faith, without which we should receive nothing of the Lord. We have need, therefore, continually to begin our prayers with, "Lord, teach us to pray!"-and, "Let thy good Spirit help our infirmities, for Jesu's sake!"
Suffer me to ask, "Have you learned thus to pray?" If not, O now begin! And if you find it difficult, yet, at least, remember this short prayer, and often repeat it from your heart: "Lord, teach me how to pray aright!" Be sure of this, that the longest prayer, without faith, will gain nothing : but the shortest prayer, nay, even a sigh or a groan, sent up to heaven with faith in Christ, will surely be heard.
But, as St. Paul says, we should "pray without ceasing. And our most merciful Saviour spake the parable which I have read to you, to teach us "that men ought always to pray, and not to faint." He compares the humble praying soul to a
widow. A widow, you know, is naturally weak, helpless, and unprotected. She has lost her husband, who was her support and defence. In the same manner, our souls are weak and defenceless; and "we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves." Vain, also, is the help of man.
While we are in this world, serve Christ, we shall find
The world itself will be
This widow, our Saviour mentions, had an adversary. There was some one, in the city where she lived, who grieved and oppressed her. It is just so with our souls. if we heartily desire to enemies on every side. our enemy: the children of the world hate the children of God; and they employ ridicule, illnature, and temptations, to draw them from God. Satan, too, is the bitter enemy of our souls: he would do any thing to tempt us, or drive us, from God: especially, he endeavours to make us unbelieving, discontented, and weary of prayer. He seems to whisper, "It is vain for you to wait on God: he will never hear you!" Above all, we we have the worst of enemies within ourselves; a heart, deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked."
Moreover, when this poor woman came to the judge of the city, to be protected from her adversary, the judge, for a long time, would not hear her. Now, her case seemed hopeless; but she went on wearying him with her cries, till at last she forced him to hear her cause, and to do her justice.
We have, in heaven, a Judge and Saviour, who
sometimes, we may think, does not hear: and yet He is only waiting to see whether we will " pray without ceasing." When a temptation to sin presses us sorely, we are sometimes ready to think that the Spirit of God is departing from us. When sorrows upon sorrows, and troubles upon troubles, roll over us, we are ready to sink, and to cry out, "All these things are against me." When the soul walketh in darkness, and hath no light, the painful thought springs up, "Where is now thy God?"To all these trials of the soul, there is one answer: "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint." Did this unjust judge bestir himself; "and will not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you, that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" Faith is what we want: faith to begin with, faith all through, and faith to the end. This is what the parable is intended to teach. Oh, what a precious gift of God is faith! Faith is the life of prayer; and prayer increases faith. I cannot do better than leave with you these two short texts of Scripture: "Pray without ceasing;" and, "Lord, increase our faith!"
O Lord, who seest that we are not sufficient of ourselves, to think any thing as of ourselves; let thy good Spirit help our infirmities! O teach us what to ask, and how to order our cause before
thee. Let us not be discouraged because we are vile, and sinful; seeing thou invitest such, and such only, to come for pardon, and the healing of their souls. Let not our ignorance keep us back; since thou art ever ready to give wisdom to the simple, when they ask in faith. Suffer us not to faint, through weariness, or unbelief; but may we be strong in faith, continuing instant in prayer; watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication, for ourselves, and for all men. Assist us in coming boldly to thy throne of grace; that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in every time of need.
Holy Lord God! our iniquities oft-times prevail against us: O be thou merciful unto our sins! Remove from us the curse which they would bring upon us; subdue their power; and enable us to walk in Christ Jesus, with a believing and an upright heart. Let no condemnation rest on us; nor any unholy thing cleave to us. But may Jesus be made unto us, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.
Comfort thy people, O Lord, when they are in any tribulation, or persecution, for the name of Jesus. Purify, and establish thy Church: be thou in the midst of her; and, finally, bring us to thine everlasting kingdom above, where we shall ever give thanks unto thy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord!
THE PHARISEE AND THE PUBLICAN.
LUKE Xviii. 9-14.
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven; but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner!
I tell you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Two sorts of persons are here described.
"The Pharisee" means the self-righteous; those who are self-pleased, self-admiring, self-satisfied. "The Publican" means the self-abased; those who are low in their own eyes, feeling what miserable sinners they are.
Both went to the temple at the usual hour of prayer: but Jesus Christ, who reads the heart, tells us in what spirit they prayed.
The Pharisee did not pray at all; but boasted of his own righteousness. He begins with a common phrase, “Thank God!" but it is plain that he is not praising God, but himself. All his speech is about himself; giving reasons, why he thinks God ought to be pleased with him.