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It is desirable that our prayers should be copious and full: our burlens, cares, and wants, are many, so are our fins and mercies. The promises are numerous and
very rich, our God gives liberally, and hath bid us open our mouths wide and he will fill them, will satisfy them with good things. We are not straitened in him, why then should we be stinted or straitened in our bosoms ? Christ had taught his disciples the Lord's prayer, and yet tells them, Jobn xvi 24, that hitherto they had asked nothing ; i e. nothing in compaison with what they should ask when the spirit should be poured out, to abide with the church forever; and they should fee greater things than these. Then ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full, we are encouraged to be particular in prayer,and in every thing make our request known to God, as we ought also to be particular in the adoration of the divine perfections, in the confession of our sins, and our thankful acknowledgment of God's mercies.
But since at the same time we cannot go over the tenth part of the particulars fit to be the matter of prayer, without making the duty burdensome to the flesh which is weak, even where the spirit is willing (an extreme which ought carefully to be avoided) and without danger of entrenching upon other religious exercises, it will be requisite that what is but briefly touched upon at one time, thould be enlarged upon at another time : and herein this ftorehouse of materials for prayer may be of use to put us in remembrance of our several errands at the throne of grace, that none may be quite forgotten.
And it is requisite to the decent performance of the duty, that some proper method be observed, not only that what is said be good, but that it be said in its proper place and time : and that we offer not any thing to the glorious Majesty of heaven and earth which is confused, impertinent, and indigested.. Care mast be taken then more than ever that we be not rash with our mouth, nor hafty to utter any thing before God; that we say not what comes uppermoft, nor use such repetitions evin
dence not the fervency, but the barenness and flightness of our spirits; but that the matters we are dealing with God about being of such vast importance, we observe a decorum in our words, that they be well chosen, well weighed, and well placed.
And as it is good to be methodical in Prayer, so it is to be sententious: the Lord's prayer is remarkably so ; and David's psalms, and many of St. Paul's prayers, which we have in his epistles : we must consider that the greatest part of those that join with us in prayer will be in danger of losing or mistaking the sense, if the period be long, and the parenthesis many; and in this, as in other things, they who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak. Jacob must lead, as the children and flocks can follow,
As to the words and expreffions we use in prayer, though I have here in my enlargements upon the several heads of prayer confined myself almoft wholly to scripture language, because I would give an instance of the sufficiency of the scripture to furnish us for every good work, yet I am far from thinking but that it is convenient and often necessary to use other expreflions in prayer, besides those that are purely fcriptural; only I would advise that the sacred dialect be most used, and made familiar to us and others in our dealing about facred things; that language, Christian people are most accustomed to, most afe fected with and will most readily agree to ; and where the scriptures are opened and explained to the people in the ministry of the word, scripture language will be most intelligible, and the sense of it best apprehended This is found speech that cannot be condemned ; and those that are able to do it, may do well to enlarge by way of descant or paraphrase upon the scriptures they make use of; still speaking according to that rule, and comparing spiritual things with spiritual, that they may illustrate each other.
And it is not to be reckoned a perverting of fcripturc, but it is agreeable to the usage of many Divines, especially the Fathers, and I think is warranted by divers quotations in the New Testament out of the Old, to allude to a scrip
ture phrase, and to make use of it by way of accommo. dation to another sense, than what was the first intendment of it, provided it agree with the analogy of faith. As for inftance these words Pf. lxxxvii. 7, All mysprings are in thee -may very fitly be applied to God, tho' there it appears by the feminine article in the original, to be meant of Zion ;Nor has it ever been thought any wrong to the scripture phrase, to pray for the blessings of the upper Springs, and the nether Springs, tho' the expression from which it is.. borrowed, Judges i. 15. hath no reference at all to what we mean : but by common use every one knows the figni. fication, and many are pleased with the fignificancy of it.
Divers heads of prayer may no doubt be added to those which I have here put together. and many fcripture exprelfions too, under each head, (for I have only set down fuch, as first occurred to my thoughts) and many other expreffions too, not in fcripture words, which may be very comprehenlive and emphatical, and apt to excite devotion. And perohaps, those who covet earnestly this excellent gift, and co. vet to excel in it, may find it of use to them to have such a book as this interleav'd, in which to insert such other heads & expressions as they think will be most agreeable to them, and wanting here. And tho’ I have here recommended a good method for prayer, and that which has been generally approved, yet I am far from thinking we should always tie ourselves to it ; that may be varied as well as the expresfion : thanksgiving may very aptly be put sometimes before confeffion or petition, or our intercessions for others before. our petitions for ourselves, as the Lord's
Some times one of these parts of prayer may be enlarged upon much more than another ; or they may be decently interwoven in some other method : Ars est celare artem.
There are those (I doubt not) who at some times have their hearts so wonderfully elevated and enlarged in prayer, above themselves ; at other times such a fixedness and fulness of thought, such a fervour of pious and devout affections, the product of which, is such fluency and variety of pertinent and moving expressions, and in such a juft and natural method, that then to have an eye to such a seheme as this, would be a biodrance to them, and would be in danger to cramp and straiten them ; if the heart be full of its good matter, it may make the tongue as the pen of a
ready writer. But this is a case that rarely happens, and ordinarily there is need of propofing to ourselves a certain method to go by in prayer, that the service may be performed decently and in order, in which, yet one would avoid that which looks too formal. - A man may write Nraight, without having his paper ruled.
Some few forms of prayer I have added in the last chapter, for the use of those who need such helps, and that koow not how to do as well or better without them; and therefore I have calculated them for families. ihink them too long, let them observe that they are divided into many paragraphs, and those mostly independent, fo that when brevity is neceflary, fome paragraphs may be omitted.
But after all, the intention and close application of the mind, the lively exercises of faith and love, and the out. goings of holy defire towards God, are so effentially necelsary to prayer, that without these in fincerity, the best and molt proper language is but a liteless image. If we had the tongue of men and angels, and have not the heart of humble ferious Christians in prayer, we are but as a found
ing brass, and a tinkling cymbal. 'Tis only the effectual . fervent prayer, the Deesis energumene, the inwrought, in
laid prayer that avails much. Thus, therefore, we ought to approve ourselves to God in the integrity of our hearts, whether we pray by or without a pre-composed form.
When I had finished the third volume of Expositions of the Bible, which is now in the press, before I proceed, as I intend, in an humble dependence on the Divine providence and grace, to the fourth volume, I was willing to take a little time from that work to this poor performance, in hopes it might be of some service to the generation of them that seek God, that seek the face of the God of Jacob; And if any good Christians receive aslistance from it in their devotions, I hope they will not deny me one request, which is, that they will
me, that I may obtain mercy of the Lord, to be found
the faithful watchmen on Jerusalem's walls, Who never hold their peace day nor night, but give themselves to the word and prayer, that ar length I may finish iny course with joy.
CHESTER, March 25th, 1710.