Prayer is the duty of dependent creatures. Those who are self-sufficient do not need it. It is one of those signs which have ever distinguished the people of God. How desirable that we so understand it, as to excel in its holy and happy exercises! Its true spirit is from above; we cannot acquire it from men, or by mental research and skill. The disciples, convinced of this, said to Jesus: "Lord, teach us to pray."
I. What is Prayer?
It is the presenting of our requests to God, either verbally or by lifting up our hearts to him, and breathing out our desires before him. In prayer,
1. The heart must be the agent.
Without this, lip service will be an abomination to the Lord. Sincerity and earnestness must distinguish all our approaches to the throne of grace. Pro_28:9; Pro_15:8.
2. God is the object of prayer.
None else is possessed of those attributes which the Being whom we worship should possess; infinite knowledge—almighty power—unbounded goodness—omnipresence, &c. Psa_65:2.
3. Christ Jesus is the only medium of prayer.
He is the way to the Father; by him we have access; we must ask all things in his name, and expect all through his merits, &c. He is the mediator between God and us, &c.
4. Prayer must be our constant exercise.
We ever stand in need—God is ever ready to bless—prayer is the appointed medium of communication. Eph_6:18.
II. Why should we desire to be taught how to pray?
1. Because of the importance of prayer.
Prayer moves the hand that moves all things. To be distinguished for prayer is the highest distinction we can receive. To be thus exercised is the safest, happiest, and most profitable of all employments.
We should desire to learn to pray,
2. Because of our natural ignorance of this duty.
We know not how to pray, or what to pray for, as we ought, &c.
3. Because God desires us to be proficient in this duty.
"Open your mouths wide," &c. If ye have not, it is because ye ask not, or because ye ask amiss.
III. Why should we desire the Lord to Teach us how to Pray?
1. Because he was distinguished for this holy exercise.
He prayed in public and in private—when he preached or wrought miracles when he was baptized, tempted, and transfigured; and his dying breath was employed in prayer. Who then so fit to teach us how to pray?
2. Because he is our Master, and in all things we ought to hear him.
He has taught us how to act in times of trouble, persecution, and adversity; how to act towards our friends and enemies. And he has taught us, likewise, how to pray: "When ye pray, say after this manner," &c. Luk_11:2, &c.
3. Because with him is the Spirit of prayer.
That Spirit which he promised to send as a Comforter is also a Spirit of prayer "For the Spirit itself maketh intercession," &c. Rom_8:26; Zec_12:10.
4. Because he is our great High Priest; "Who ever liveth to make intercession for us." He presents our prayers—removes their imperfections—he offers them with the fragrant incense of his own merits—and thus renders them effectual. Rev_8:3.
(1) Let us cultivate the gift of prayer. (2) Covet the true spirit of prayer; 1Co_7:5. (3) Commence and conduct all our affairs in connection with prayer; Php_4:6. (4) Continue instant in prayer, Luk_18:1. (5) In the exercise of faith look for the returns of prayer