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persons of prayer, know the difficulty of keeping up a proper degree of fervency; all lament their occasional coldness of heart and inattention of mind; yet all from frequent experience know what it is to wrestle with God; and oh! that we all of us were more spiritually and intensely affected in our supplications and prayers: for "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much," whether it be offered for others or for himself.
III. Thirdly, observe that the prayer which is here recorded, is itself a beautiful specimen of the manner in which we should pray in such cases. We do not present it to you as a part of the supplication which he made in his wrestling, for it appears to have been offered previously, but it is altogether on the subject then so near his heart, and is expressive of great fervency. It begins as all prayer should begin, with a devout recognition of God and his mercies; it acknowledges the supplicant's own unworthiness, and the Lord's unmerited goodness and mercy; it proceeds to state, in a very
moving manner, the distress in which he was, and to ask for help; and it concludes by urging powerful pleas, framed on the gracious declarations and promises of God himself. You will do well to study it at leisure. You may learn from it to acknowledge yourselves to be unworthy creatures, who have no claim whatever of your own on the least of his regards, nay even as sinners who entirely deserve to be rejected and driven from his presence; to be particular in expressing the danger or difficulty in which you are, with the special help that you need and desire ; and how to plead his many gracious promises, and his own faithfulness and truth.
There are several similar specimens of prayer in various parts of the Bible, and if we pray after these models, and put into our prayers such a fervency as they express, most assuredly we shall find that we do not pray in vain.
IV. I observe, in the fourth place, that the length of the struggle represents the importunity with which we must persevere
prayer. The wrestling continued all night;
and at the dawn of day, the angel said, "let, me go, for the day breaketh." But Jacob said, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." Even though the hollow of his thigh had been put out of joint, he would not let go his hold, nor suffer the angel to escape from him. He would have the blessing for which he had struggled so long and so painfully. Here we see that we "ought always to pray and not to faint." Prayer must be a constant, regular, and daily habit. It is not to be taken up hastily, and continued eagerly for a time, and then laid aside, but to be kept up statedly at the proper seasons of the day. Sometimes perhaps at these stated seasons our minds may seem indisposed for prayer. Let not that tempt us to omit it. We may seem cold and dull when we begin, with our thoughts wandering, and our feelings torpid; but our hearts become warmed as we proceed; attention is aroused; devotion grows fervent; we prolong our spiritual exercise; self-abasing confessions are multiplied; our wants increase in number and our desires are enlarged; intercession branches
out to persons and objects before unthought of; we become importunate with God for ourselves and others; and rise from our knees in a frame altogether different from that in which we bent them. We must persevere also under discouragements. Though we do not seem to obtain our requests, though we are weak and enfeebled, worn out and lamed, as it were, with waiting and watching and wrestling, yet we must not relax in our earnestness, nor cease to supplicate the blessings which we need. We must ask, and seek, and knock, and continue to ask, and seek, and knock, and at last we shall have, and find, and the door will be opened to us. We know that the Apostle Paul, in a season of great distress when a thorn in the flesh was given him, a messenger of Satan to buffet him, for this thing besought the Lord thrice. We know that our Lord delivered two parables to this same effect, for both of the supplicants are represented as obtaining their desires only because of their importunity. And he who spake the parables has himself shewn us the example
by continuing all night in prayer to God: and oh! what importunity and what fervency did he exhibit, when "he fell on his face, and prayed saying, O my father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." And "he went away again the second time and prayed saying, O my father, if this cup may not pass from me except I drink it, thy will be done." And " he went away again and prayed the third time, saying the same words." We know not which to admire most, whether the importunity, or the fervency, or the entire submission of his own will to his father's, with which he uttered these memorable words. Oh that we, in every case of our own distress, could pray in the same spirit and manner.
V.. Finally, the success of Jacob gives us an assurance that such fervent and importunate prayer will always eventually prevail. Jacob got a blessing from the divine person with whom he had wrestled, and in token of it his name was changed: "He said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob," that is,