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Chapter XXXV.

Prayer Is The Sign Of A True Christian, That Is, Of One Who Is Anointed Of The Lord.

Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me: for I am poor and needy.Ps. 86:1.

These words give us an admirable account of the grounds and reasons of prayer; that it is quickened by affliction and a sense of misery, and is a mark of a true Christian.

2. I. For, first, every Christian is anointed and baptized with the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20), who, when he is not resisted nor grieved, but obeyed, is continually groaning (Rom. 8:26) in the heart of man, raising and exalting the devout soul from earth to heaven. For as spirituous liquor extracts the strength and virtue of the herbs and flowers on which it is poured; so man, who is the flower of God, planted by the Lord himself, “a plant in the house of God” (Isa. 61:3; Ps. 92:13), must receive the preparation of the Holy Spirit, that his odor and sweet smell may therewith ascend up to God. Whosoever will faithfully attend to the workings of the Holy Spirit, and not resist his operations, will soon be convinced of the truth of these observations; he will perceive a devout sigh springing up from his heart, and breaking forth into these or the like words: “Great God, Holy Father, have mercy upon me!” As myrrh, frankincense, or other sweet perfumes, by being thrown upon burning coals, send forth a smoke and delicious fragrance, which they would not do without the help of fire; so whenever the fire of the Holy Spirit touches our hearts, and He is not hindered, there immediately arises a most fragrant perfume of sighs and prayers. And these are “golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.” Rev. 5:8. Whence it appears, that devout sighs and prayers are the truest sign or indication of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man.

3. II. The soul of man is also called the temple or habitation of the Holy Ghost; and what is more likely to be heard there, than the prayers of its divine Inhabitant, who is emphatically called, “The Spirit of grace and of supplication”? Zech. 12:10. Hence prayer, when it proceeds from the very bottom of the heart, is a certain sign of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I do not here refer to the prayers of hypocrites, of whom God speaketh by the mouth of his prophet, saying: “This people draw near me with their mouth, but have removed their heart far from me” (Isa. 29:13); but the true prayer, which is of the operation of the Holy Spirit, arises from the depth of the soul; and is like plentiful springs of water, for which the more deeply you dig, the higher you may raise them. Christ is the pure and beautiful fountain of salvation. Let every one, therefore, that thirsteth, come and drink. Isa. 55:1. His spring is very deep, namely, his eternal Divinity. “He that believeth on him, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38); that is, prayers and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

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4. III. This is confirmed by the office of the Holy Spirit, which is, “to teach and to comfort” (John 16:7-13), neither of which he can do, unless He speaks; and that He cannot do, unless He have a church and a temple to speak in. This temple is the heart of man; and his language consists of the devout aspirations of the souls in which He operates; he has a secret and heavenly voice, which our heart hears, for he beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God,—whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Rom. 8:15, 16. Man cannot receive comfort, unless his heart, by being broken and contrite, be made capable of consolation. Ps. 51:17. This is a very significant figure taken from human bodies. For when the arm, or any other part, is broken, or bruised by some accident, what pleasure the broken and bruised part feels when soothed with some healing ointment! How does it assuage the throbbing pains of the limb, and, as it were, lull it into soft repose! So when the heart is wounded with affliction and sorrow, is broken and bruised with a lively sense of its misery, then the Holy Spirit shows himself truly a Comforter, shedding forth the oil of heavenly consolation into our afflicted breasts. For “he healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Ps. 147:3. “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.” Jer. 17:14.

5. IV. Hence then we may learn the advantage of afflictions, and the benefit of the cross. Our blessed Lord has told us, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Matt. 9:12. Come, therefore, thou divine Physician of souls; for we all have need of thee! “Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me: for I am poor and needy” (Ps. 86:1),—poor in righteousness and true holiness. So great is the poverty of man, that unless he be covered with the mercy of God, and clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Isa. 61:10), he must appear with shame and nakedness before the judgment of God and all his holy angels; and in this respect, man is by nature reduced so very low, that there is not a more indigent creature in the world. We may here apply that which was spoken to the church of Laodicea, “Thou knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Rev. 3:17.

6. Moreover, the misery of which the Psalmist complains, is the effect of poverty. He that is poor, may easily be conceived to be miserable. He certainly is so, who is forsaken by all, has none to help him, wanders about, having neither house nor home, nor a place where to lay his head. And now, what state can we conceive to be more wretched, than that of a man by nature? He has no place where to rest himself, and knows not whither to fly for refuge! “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” 1 Cor. 15:19. Let us then acknowledge our poverty and spiritual misery in this life; we shall then receive the instructions and consolations of the Holy Spirit. He will teach us in our poverty, to sigh earnestly after the riches of divine grace and mercy; and in our spiritual misery and banishment, to lift up our eyes to God that dwelleth in the heavens. For our blessed Lord has assured us, that “in his Father's house are many mansions” (John 14:2); and the Psalmist, that “when our fathers and 287 mothers forsake us, the Lord will take us up.” Ps. 27:10. Come then, ye that are in want and banishment, think upon your heavenly country. Ye that are poor, naked, and destitute, remember that the righteousness of Christ is your clothing, and the garment of salvation (Isa. 61:10); therefore, take ye care to preserve this clothing, “lest ye walk naked, and men see your shame.” Rev. 16:15.

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