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Of the Form of Prayer.
In all kinds of adoration-except, perhaps, in the pious ejaculations which are called forth by some unexpected cause for gratitude, some sudden danger, or some sorrowful visitation—it is becoming and expedient to use a premeditated form of address to the great God whom we invoke. In the public worship of the Church,-in private oral devotions, and even in the mental unuttered homage, which we are bound to render "without ceasing," on all occasions which call for, and admit of, the lifting up of the heart to God, it is our duty, as sinful and dependant creatures, to shew the reverence and caution with which we approach the Majesty on high, by adhering as nearly as possible to a preconsidered mode of expression; as nearly, at least, as the nature of any peculiar case, and the justifiable impulse of a pious and grateful heart will ordinarily permit.
§2. The Church of God has in all ages, with the ostensible blessing of the Almighty, joined in public
Prayer; and in conformity with the positive and implied directions, and with the example of the Founder of our faith, and his Apostles, the Christian Church has, from her first establishment, adopted a precomposed form in the performance of the public service of the sanctuary, and as a guide to her sons in their private exercises of devotion. In a Liturgy, fitted for general purposes, we may expect to find, that confession is made of the distinguishing tenets of the Christian faith,-that prayers, thanksgivings, and praises are furnished, in which all members of a religious communion may unite, and in which they may collectively offer up, with one accord and one voice, a sacrifice which is acceptable to God;-by the tenour and tone of which, faith and devotion may be enkindled, and charity towards our neighbour may be produced and strengthened;-in which the re. collection is kept alive, that we are all brethren suing to one common Father ;-in which, by agreeing together upon what they shall ask, Christians may lay hold on the promise that Christ will be in the midst of their assembly ;-in which the words of soberness and truth are adopted, to the exclusion of superstition and fanaticism, and the Deity is addressed in language carefully calculated to convey an impression of the reverence, love, and fear, with which a Christian congregation ought ever to be actuated; -in a tongue understood by all who are to join in the sacred office.
§ 3. Strictly in accordance with these principles, and eminently distinguished by these characteristics, is the Liturgy of the Church of England,-comprehending all the different modifications of Prayer,
which constitute religious intercourse with God. It is as general in its addresses to heaven, as the spi. ritual and temporal wants of men are various, and their subjects for gratitude great and manifold,particular enough to admit of application to each individual's case,-profoundly humble, and invariably expressive of human unworthiness in its confessions, -earnest and convincing in its exhortations,-fervent and persevering, even to repetition, in its supplications,-devout and cordial in its acknowledge. ments of spiritual mercies, and in gratitude for temporal benefits,-sublime and constant in its praises, -throughout couched in pure and exalted language, more nearly approaching to that of inspiration, than the production of any pen undirected by immediate and especial guidance of the Spirit,—the language of firm reliance on the promises of the blessed Gospel, and on the prevailing efficacy of that holy Name in which all its appeals to the throne of grace are uniformly concluded.
§ 4. In the private devotions of the closet a premeditated form is still required, upon the same principles of reverence and expediency. Nothing can more evince a want of due awe and respect in the presence of our Father who seeth in secret, than to approach him with the unadvised effusion of our lips; and if we desire that our prayers should be heard, it is but prudent to construct them according to the will of God,—that we offer not the vain sacrifice of fools.
The mental service in which the pious mind never fails to find delight, correction, and support, and in which it is continually exercised, though consisting
but of a momentary reflection on the presence of the Omniscient, or of the short ejaculation which is occasioned by some present proof of his benevolence or justice, though less restricted, may habitually assume the form of scriptural allusion, or be breathed in the language of David or St. John.
§ 5. But no argument in favour of a prescribed method of Prayer can be so coercive as the express command of our Divine Instructor; who when requested by his disciples to teach them how to pray, as a set form had always customarily been adopted by the teachers of God's people, distinctly enjoins a certain form of his own: "After this manner pray ye;" and "When ye pray, say" that which we hence denominate the Lord's Prayer. Our blessed Master does not mean by this to exclude from the devotions of his Church all other prayers, for this were inconsistent with his other precepts, and with his own example; but we are to understand that all our addresses to heaven should be so consistent with this formulary, both in spirit and in order, that they may resemble their Divine Model, and avoid the faults which are to be condemned as incompatible with a sincere and spiritual worship. The two accounts which the Evangelists give of the institution of this brief form of Prayer, imply thus much-that we should never pray orally, either in public or private, without making use of this divinely authorized summary, and that our other prayers should be, like it, short and comprehensive, consisting of devout acknowledgement expressive of firm trust in God, in petition, primarily, for the supply of our spiritual, and secondarily, of our bodily wants; and that all be to the praise and glory of
Him, from whose power and bounty all good gifts proceed.
§ 6. The Lord's Prayer consists of a preface,-of certain petitions for spiritual blessings,-of others for temporal gifts, and of a conclusion, or ascription of praise to God.
In the Preface, or solemn compellation of the Deity, we plead our relationship to him as the work of his hands who created the universe and every thing which it contains, as the objects of his paternal care and constant preservation, and, above all, as his adopted children, the accepted brethren of Christ, his only-begotten Son, and as the heirs, through promise, of immortal life. In this light we offer up the sacrifice of our lips, in acknowledgement of the filial fear, reverence, trust, love, and obedience of our hearts. If we be deficient in these affections, we mock God by calling him our Father.
We are taught to pray in the words our Father, and not my Father, by way of confession that the Almighty is the universal Father of all men, but especially of Christians, whom he regards, without respect of persons, as co-heirs with his eternal Son,that we are brethren one of another, and therefore bound to exercise fraternal charity towards each other.
When we say, "Our Father which art in heaven," we are reminded that we should entertain the most profound respect and awe for all the temples of the omnipresent Deity, but especially for that holy place in which his majesty and glory are most conspicuously revealed; to set our affections on things in heaven, and not on things on the earth, that our