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A Meditation concerning Prayer, with a brief paraphrase upon the Petitions of the Lord's Prayer

The mind of man has such large room to receive good things, that nothing can fully fill it but God alone; whom thy mind fully possesses, when it fully knows him, fully loves him, and in all things is framed after his will. They therefore, dear Lord God, that are thy children, and have tasted somewhat of thy goodness, do perpetually sigh, that is, do pray, until they come thereto; and since they love thee above all things, it wonderfully wounds them that other men do not so, that is, love thee, and seek for thee, with them. Whereof it comes to pass, that they are inflamed with continual prayers and desires, that thy kingdom might come everywhere, and thy goodness might be both known, and in life set forth by every man.

And because there are innumerable things, which as well in themselves as in others are against thy glory, they are kindled with continual prayer and desire, sighing unspeakably in thy sight for the increase of thy Spirit. And sometimes, when they see thy glory more put back than it was wont to be, either in themselves or in any others, then are they much more disquieted and vexed. But because they know that thou dost rule all things after thy good will, and that none other can help them in their need, they oftentimes go aside, all business laid apart, and give themselves to godly cogitations and talk with thee, complaining to thee as to their Father, of those things that grieve them, begging thereto, and that most earnestly, thy help, not only for themselves, but also for others, especially those whom especially they embrace in thee. And they often repeat and remember thy gracious benefits to others and to themselves also; wherethrough they are provoked to render to thee hearty thanks, thereby being inflamed, assuredly to hope well of thy good will towards them, and patiently to bear all evils; also to study and labour to mortify the affections of the flesh, and to order their whole life to the service of their brethren, and the setting forth of thy glory.

This they know is that prayer which thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord commanded to be made to thee in the chamber, the door being shut. (Matt. vi.) In this kind of prayer he himself watched often, even all the whole night. Herein was Paul frequent, as all thy saints are. This kind of prayer is the true lifting up of the mind unto thee; this stands in the affections, in the heart, not in words and in the mouth. As thy children are endued with thy Spirit, so they frequently thus talk with thee the more thy Spirit is in them, the more are they in talk with thee. Oh! give me plentifully thy Spirit, which thou hast promised to pour out upon all flesh, that thus I with thy saints may talk with thee night and day, for thy only beloved Son's sake, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Moreover, thy saints, to provoke themselves to this kind of prayer, use first their necessity, which they consider in three sorts; inwardly, concerning their souls; outwardly, concerning their bodies; and finally, concerning their names and fame: whereto they add the necessities of those committed to them, of thy church, and the common weal.

Secondly, they use thy commandments, which require them under pain of sin, to pray to thee in all their need.

Thirdly, they use the consideration of thy goodness, who art naturally merciful to young ravens calling upon thee, much more then to them for whom ravens and all things else were made, for whom thou hast not spared thy dear Son, but given him up for us all. (Rom. viii.)

Fourthly, they use thy most sweet and free promises, made to hear and help all them that call upon thee in Christ's name.

Fifthly, they use examples, how that thou, who art the God of all, and rich unto all them that call upon thee in Christ's name, hast heard and helped others calling upon thee.

Sixthly, they use the benefits given them before they asked; thereby not only provoking them to ask more, but also certifying their faith, that if thou was so good to grant them many things unasked, now thou wilt not deny them any thing they ask to thy glory and their weal.

Last of all, they use the reading and meditation upon psalms and other good prayers, because they know thereby peculiarly, besides the other Scriptures, there is no small help, as may appear by Paul, (Eph. v., Col. iii.) where he wills the congregation to use psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, but so that in the heart we should sing and say them; not that thy children do not use their tongues and words in praying to thee, for they do use their tongues, speech and words, to stir up their inward desire and fervency of the mind; full well knowing that else it were plain mocking of thee, to pray with lips and tongue only. Oh! that now I might feel thy Spirit so affect me, that with heart and mouth I might heartily and in faith pray unto thee.

Now concerning the things that are to be prayed for, thy children know that the prayer taught by thy Son, most lively and plainly contains the same; and therefore they often use it. First, asking of thee, their heavenly Father, through Christ, that thy name might everywhere be had in holiness and praise; then, secondly, that thy kingdom, by regeneration and the ministry of the gospel, might come. And, thirdly, that willingly, perfectly, and perpetually, they might study to do, yea, to do indeed thy will, with thy holy and heavenly angels and spirits. These things they seek and pray for, namely, thy kingdom and thy righteousness, before any worldly benefit. After which petitions, because all things, yea, even the benefits of this present life, come from thee, they godly desire the same under the name of daily bread; being instructed of thy wisdom, that after spiritual benefits to ask for corporeal, is not unseemly to thy children, who know that both spiritual and corporeal come from thy mercy. In the other petitions they pray for things to be taken from them, beginning with forgiveness of sins, which, if their hearts were not so broken, that they could forgive all things to all men for their own part, were impudently prayed for. They add their profession, that is, charity, whereby they profess they have forgiven all offences done to them; howbeit, because it is not enough to have pardon of the past, except they are preserved from new offences, they pray thee not to lead them into temptation, by permitting them to follow perverse suggestions of Satan; but rather to deliver them from his importunity and power. By evil, they understand that Satan the author of all evil is meant. Oh! dear God, that thou would endue one with thy Spirit of grace and prayer, with thy children, so to make this prayer always when I pray.

As for outward evils, so long as they do not, as it were enforce thy people to sin, Christian profession accounts them among thy benefits, and thy Son has not taught thy church to pray for the taking away of them in this prayer; for here he has contained only those things for which all Christians, generally and particularly, may of faith pray at all times. It often comes to pass; that exterior evils, because they are not evils indeed, that is, because they are not against God's grace in us, therefore they cannot of faith he prayed against to be taken away; for thy children that have faith always prefer thy judgment before their own; which judgment when they know, by that which happens to them, they submit themselves thereto wholly although thy Spirit make his unspeakable groanings to help their infirmities by prayer, not to have them taken away, but that they might have strength and patience to bear the burden accordingly. Which burden, if it be too heavy in the better sense and feeling thereof, they in their prayers complain somewhat of, rather than pray to have it taken away. As our Saviour did in the garden, when he added to his complaint, "Not my will, but thy will be done;" so do thy people in all their complaints add, "Not as we will, but as thou wilt;" for they are taught by thy Spirit not to pray for the taking away of corporeal evils, either from themselves or from others, unless they by the same Spirit can certainly perceive that the same makes to thy glory; as did thy apostles and servants, when absolutely and without condition they asked health or miracle for any, when they healed or raised the dead by prayer, for they know nothing can be better, thaw when it is according to thy will. Oh! that I might always know thy will in all things, and for ever apply myself thereto. Hereof it comes that thy saints and dear children, who love their neighbours as themselves, do yet in their prayers ask vengeance on some, as in the Psalms, because, in praying and talking with thee, they see by thy Holy Spirit (without it there is no true prayer) sometimes thy judgments upon some, whom they perceive to sin to death, who therefore ought not to be prayed for; but rather prayed against, because thy glory cannot be set forth as it should be without their destruction. Thy will is always best, and the thing whereto they frame all their desires. Therefore when they perceive it decreed with thee, that such and such by their destruction set forth more mightily thy glory, how should they but desire and pray for the same, and write it as David has done, that the godly in reading and weighing such prayers might receive comfort, and the ungodly be afraid? Else when they perceive not manifestly the determined judgments of God, they in their prayers do most heartily pray for them, as Samuel did for Saul, Moses for the Israelites, Abraham for Sodom. Good Father, for thy mercy's sake, give me true love of mankind; but so that I may love man for thee and in thee, and always prefer thy glory above all things, through Christ our Lord.

Now though thy children know, that thy will cannot but be done, and that nothing can be done but what thou of thine own will hast determined to do, although no man should desire the same, yet are they earnest and frequent in prayer; first, to render obedience to thee, who requires prayer as spiritual service to thee; secondly, because thou hast ordained prayer to be as an instrument and mean, by which thou works things with thee already decreed and determined. Thy children use prayer to offer to thee their service, if it please thee to use the same. As they eat and drink, which is a mean ordained, for the preservation of life, not looking thereby to lengthen days above the bounds which already thou hast appointed; but as it becomes them to use means which thou hast ordained to serve thy providence, so they (herein as men not curious to know thy providence further than thou reveals it) use prayer as a mean by which thou art accustomed to work many of thy children's desires, that according to thy good will thou may use the same. They do not think there is mutability in thee, for thou art God, and art not changed with thee there is no variableness, and therefore they pray, not as men who would have thy determinations and ordinances altered, which are ordained in the fullest wisdom and mercy, but rather that they might submit their wills to thine, and make them more able to bear thy will and pleasure. They know that thou hast promised to help them who call upon thee; wherefore they doubt not, but that thou wilt do so, and pray accordingly. They love thee heartily, and therefore they cannot but desire much to talk with thee, that is to pray even as a well mannered and loving wife will not ask anything of her husband at all, but what she hopes he would take in good part, and do of his own free will, although she had not spoken thereof. When she knows what her husband's will is, she gladly talks with him, and accordingly as she sees he is purposed to do, she will often desire him to do. Even so thy children, who heartily love thee, since they know thy wisdom and will is best; how can they but often talk with thee, and desire thee to do that which they know is best, which they know also thou would do, though none should ask or pray for the same? Thy children use prayer as a means, by which they see plainly thy power, thy presence, thy Providence, mercy, and goodness towards them, in granting their petitions, and by prayer they are confirmed of them all. Yea, thy children use prayer to admonish them that all things are in thy hands. In prayer they are, as it were, of thee put in mind of those things which they have done against thee their good Lord. By reason whereof repentance ensues, and they conceive purpose to live more purely ever afterwards, and more heartily to apply to all innocence and goodness. Who now, considering that so many great advantages come by reason of prayer, would marvel why thy children are much in prayer, and labour to provoke others thereto?

For as no one that is a suitor to any other, will use any thing which might offend or hinder his suit, so no man that uses prayer will flatter himself in any thing that should displease thee, to whom by prayer he makes suit whenever he prays; so that nothing is greater provocation to all kinds of godliness than prayer. Therefore not without cause we see thine apostles and servants laboured so diligently, and desired that others might use prayer for themselves and others. Concerning outward things, which thy children pray for, although they know thy will and decree is not variable, and thy purpose must needs come to pass yet they receive by their prayer no small advantage. For either they obtain their requests, or not; if they obtain them, then they prove by experience that thou does the will of them that fear thee, and they are more kindled to love and serve thee. For this purpose thou art wont, when thou wilt do good to any, to stir up their minds to desire the same good of thee, that thou and thy gifts may be more magnified, and set by of them, by how much they have been earnest petitioners for the same: for how can it but inflame them with love towards thee, to perceive and feel thee so to care for them, hear them, and love them? If they do not obtain what they pray for, yet undoubtedly they receive great comfort to see, that the evils which press them, and whereof they complain still, do not oppress and overcome them, and therefore they receive strength to bear the same the better. O good Father! help me that I may heartily love thee, complain to thee in all my need, and always by prayer pour out my heart before thee. Amen.

 

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