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Extracts from the writings of Hannah More. Prayer is desire. It is an elevation of the soul towards its Maker: a pressing sense of our own ignorance and infirmity, a consciousness of the perfections of God, of bis readiness to hear, of his power to help, of his willingness to save.
The preparation of prayer is to live in all those pursuits which we may safely beg of God to bless, and in a conflict with all those temptations into which we pray not to be led.
If God be the centre to which our hearts are tending, every line in our lives must meet in him. With this point in view, there will be a harmony between our prayers and our practice, a consistency between devotion and conduct.
The design of prayer, is not merely to make us devout while we are engaged in it, but that its odour may be diffused through all the intermediate spaces of the day, enter into all its occupations, duties, and tempers.
It is obvious, that the precept to pray without ceasing, can never mean to enjoin a continual course of actual prayer. But while it more directly enjoins us to embrace all proper occasions of performing this sacred duty, so it plainly implies that we should try to keep up constantly that sense of the Divine presence which shall maintain the disposition. In order to this, we should inure our minds to reflection ; we should encourage serious thoughts; and a good thought must be fixed, or it will produce no practical effect.
On the other hand, if we give the reins to a loose
ungoverned fancy at other times; if we abandon our minds to frivolous thoughts; if we fill them with corrupt images; if we cherish sensual ideas during the rest of the day, can we expect that the "temple into which foul things” have been invited, will be cleansed in a given moment; that worldly thoughts will recede and give place, at once, to pure and holy thoughts? Will that spirit “ grieved” by impurity, or “resisted” by levity, return, with with its warm beams and cheering influence, to the contaminated mansion from which it has been driven out? We cannot, by retiring into our closets, change our natures as we do our clothes. The disposition we carry thither will be likely to remain with us. We have no right to expect that a new ternper will meet us at the door. It is not easy, rather, it is not possible, to graft genuine devotion, on a life of an opposite tendency; nor can we delight ourselves regularly for a few stated moments, in that God whom we have not been serving during the day. We may, indeed, take up the employment of prayer, but cannot take up the state of mind which will make the employment beneficial to ourselves, or the prayer acceptable to God, if all the previous day we have been careless of ourselves, unmindful of our Maker. They will no
They will not pray differently from the rest of the world, who do not live differently.
Those who are so far conscientious as not to intermit a regular course of devotion, and who yet allow themselves, at the same time, to go on in a course of amusements, which excite a directly opposite spirit, are inconceivably augmenting their own difficulties. They are voluntarily adding to the temptations against which they ask grace to struggle. To acknowledge at the same time, that we
find it hard work to serve God as we ought, and yet to be systematically indulging habits, which must naturally increase the difficulty, makes our characters almost ridiculous, while it renders our duty almost impracticable.
What construction can be put upon that prayer, in which our wants and dependence is acknowledged, our sins confessed, mercy supplicated for, entreaty made for the aid of the Spirit to overcome our many infirmities, and to relinquish our own will, if many of the intervening hours are habitually passed in pursuits of a totally different complexion? Pursuits which raise the very passions we are praying may be allayed. Will the cherished vanities go at our bidding? Will the required dispositions come at our calling? Hence the necessity to believe as we pray; to think as we pray, to feel as we pray, and to act as we pray, otherwise what right have we to expect prayer will be availing.
The habitual tendency of the life, should be the preparation for prayer. Hence be who keeps up an habitual intercourse with his Maker, who is vigilant in thought, self-denying in conduct, and who strives to keep his mind in such a frame, that loving, serving, and pleasing God, maintain their predominant station in the heart,-he may hope to be favoured to witness that simple, solid, pious strain of prayer, in which he does not merely imagine, but feels assured, that God is nigb to him, as a reconciled Father. This is the perfection of prayer.
IF use could make a wrong thing harmless, that which is about to be noticed would be no evil at all; since it is hardly possible to travel the public roads, or to pass an hour in the streets of our cities or towns, without being painful witnesses of the sinful practice of taking the holy name of God in vain.
It is the custom of many, on very slight occasions, to use such expressions as these : In the name of God! For God's sake! Good God! Lord have mercy ! Lord bless me! and the like. Now all this is wrong. That holy name should never be mentioned but on serious subjects, deliberately, and with fear and reverence. Let us not, by thus abusing it, provoke bis displeasure, who intends it for higher purposes, even for his worship and praise: remembering the solemn injunction, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain : for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain."
Indeed, had there not been this express command, yet knowing that holy and reverend is his