HELPS TO DEVOTION.
"The whole word of God is of use to direct us in Prayer."
Assembly's Shorter Catechism.
EXAMPLES OF PRAISE.
From the beginning of the world to the present day, the sober-minded and thinking part of mankind have regarded prayer as a duty of high importance. The wise have considered it as strengthening that sense of dependence, those sentiments of gratitude, of reverence, and of love, which are due from the creature to the bountiful, ever-present, all-perfect Creator:--as exciting our benevolence towards those with and for whom we pray,--and as awakening a right sense of our own sinfulness and infirmity. The conscientious have esteemed it as a duty enforced by the express command of God. The pious have found it a privilege, conveying joys and honours which the world knoweth not. Its blessed influence is not confined to the sunny hours of life, when every pulse is health and every scene is pleasure. Thousands have attested that it can pour upon the season of sickness, of poverty, of reproach, and of death, not flashes of momentary rapture merely, but calm, enduring, ineffable joy.
Before it can accomplish such effects, it must have become not only "the form of sound words," but the utterance of the heart; not an occasional resort in difficulty or distress, but the settled habit of the soul. To assist the young in the attainment of this most precious habit, is the design of the following compilation. Let it not be supposed that it is meant to supersede the use of larger or more judicious manuals; much less to prescribe set forms of prayer; and least of all to represent these few extracts as comprising the whole, or even any great number, of those parts of Scripture, which are suitable for devotion. My intention is only to offer specimens of the manner in which the language of devotion may be extracted from the inspired writings; in the earnest hope that the beauty, simplicity, and suitableness of the expressions, may allure my young friends to drink deep of the pure fountain, from which this is but a scanty stream.
I solemnly warn them against considering the following examples,--or any other form of words, even though drawn from the oracles of the living God,--as sufficient of themselves to constitute a prayer acceptable to the Almighty, or useful to the souls of men. God is a Spirit, and they who worship him must worship him in spirit. No prayer deserves the name, which is not the overflowing of a humble, penitent, and obedient heart; nor can any be accepted of God, which is not made in a lowly sense of our own unworthiness, offered to him in the name of a crucified Redeemer.
Therefore let every act of devotion be preceded by a sincere and earnest endeavour to awaken in ourselves dispositions suitable to prayer. Before praise, let us rouse our minds to contemplate the perfections of Jehovah: lest we incur the guilt of those who honour him with their mouths, while their heart is far from him! Before thanksgiving, let us call to mind his benefits; lest an empty form of gratitude, where the sentiment is wanting, be an offence to the Searcher of hearts! Before confession, let us strive to awaken our hatred to our own particular sins; lest a careless catalogue of transgressions, which we intend not to forsake, seem but an audacious braving of Him, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Before petition, let us humbly consider the urgency of our necessities, and the feebleness of our claims; lest, in begging that without which we perish, we come short of the earnestness and importunity to which the Lord has promised his blessing.
In prayer, as in acts of less importance, practice, though by no means sufficient, is necessary for the attainment of perfection. Those who are but beginners in this holy art find it difficult, perhaps impossible, to fix their minds in a protracted act of devotion. The following examples therefore are short; not from any intention to confine the aspirations of the devout heart, but that such as are pleased to take the assistance of this little book, may have opportunities of pausing when the attention grows languid; and of reviving it by turning to some kindred subject, more consonant to the feeling of the moment.
We know not what to pray for as we ought; and, as we have the gracious assurance that the Spirit helpeth our infirmities, I prefix a prayer for the assisting and directing influences of the Holy Ghost. God grant that it may so be used as to call down upon the worshipper the same Spirit which at first gave it utterance!
My dear young friends! (for the intention of doing you a kindness warms my charity towards you,) it is no solitary recluse, no surly misanthrope, no fanatic, no enthusiast, who addresses you; but a woman in the prime of life, as cheerful, as happy, though perhaps not quite so gay, as most of you--active in the business, alive to many of the pleasures, of the present state of existence. But her chief business, as well as yours, is to extend the kingdom of God in her own heart, and in those of others; and if she shall be made the instrument of attracting even the least of her brethren to that service which is perfect freedom, she will at once give and receive pleasures, which excel all those of a present world, as far as the capacities of angels exceed those of the babe that was born this hour.
This presentation of Emmeline. With Some Other Pieces., by Mary Brunton is Copyright 2003 by P.J. LaBrocca. It may not be copied, duplicated, stored or transmitted in any form without written permission. The text is in the public domain.