James Smith, 1865
"Praying with all prayer." Ephesians 6:18
As there are different kinds of prayer — private, public, social, and domestic — the Christian is exhorted to pray always with all prayer. Whatever leads us to God does us good — and the seasons when we approach him are our best seasons. Pray we must, if we are born of God, for prayer is then the breath of the soul. And pray we should, alone, or with others, as opportunity may offer. We cannot go to God too often — or be with God too much. We have many needs — and prayer will obtain a supply for them. We have many temptations — and prayer will prove a preservative against them. Are we private individuals? We should pray as such. Are we public characters? We should pray as such. Are we at the head of a family? We should pray in that situation. Let us reflect for a few minutes upon family prayer.
It is necessary, for we should acknowledge God in our social relations, we should say by our conduct, without fear or shame, "I am the Lord's!" It is included in bringing up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Our children and servants should hear us pray. The daily, devout, and scriptural prayers of the head of a family — are the best lessons that can be given on prayer. It is beautiful, for what sight is more lovely than to see the master of the family with all his domestics around him, first reading God's word to them, and then praying for God's blessing upon them. They all hear the same truth, bow before the same throne, and are led to the same good and gracious God. Oh, it is a lovely sight!
It is beneficial, it is the means which God often employs to produce beneficial impressions, which issue in a sound conversion. Many have had to bless the day they ever went into a praying family.
Then, it often prevents disagreements, and works out a reconciliation where parties have disagreed. It is also God's ordinance, through which he sends down innumerable blessings upon them. God is specially present when a family meets for prayer — he receives the confessions, listens to the needs, pardons the sins, grants the requests and imparts his blessing to the favored group. A family without prayer is a family exposed to ten thousand dangers. A house without a family altar is only imperfectly furnished. To profess Christ and have no family prayer — is beneath the poor heathens who have, and worship, their worthless household gods!
Prayer in the family should be short; long prayers are never acceptable in the presence of others — but they are very injurious in families where there are children or unconverted servants.
Prayer in the family should be simple; it should be a simple confession of sin, acknowledgment of mercies, application for blessings, and pleading for pardon. The less of are and the more of nature in family prayer the better.
Prayer in the family should be spiritual; with too many it is a mere form. The party conducting it does not live near to God, so as to imbibe the Spirit of God, and, therefore, cannot pour out spiritual thoughts, desires, hopes, thanksgivings, and intercessions to God. We shall be pretty much in the family — what we are in the prayer closet: if familiar with God when alone, we shall be spiritual when we pray before others.
Prayer in the family should be varied, sameness always tires; and with so many needs to be supplied, so many mercies to be acknowledged, so many parties to be remembered, so many promises to plead — there can be no reason why there should be a tiresome sameness. Variety generally interests, engages, and pleases, therefore aim at variety in family prayer.
Prayer in the family should be regular; some have family prayer only on Lord's-days, and some only on particular occasions. Supper parties appear to be the invention of Satan to set aside family prayer, and do mischief in the families of professors, and his scheme too frequently succeeds. He who wishes to bring up his family for God, or to set an example which is likely to make a beneficial impression on his domestics — should avoid all parties or meetings which are prolonged to a late hour. They have done, and in some places are doing incalculable mischief.
Many professors have no family prayer; reader, have you? If not, what is the reason? Do you plead the lack of gifts? Allow me to ask you, have you ever made the trial? Have you ever sought the gift from God? Many people who can talk very fluently before their families upon matters of business, or politics, or other subjects of conversation — pretend that they cannot pray with their families. They can talk to them, or to others about them — but they cannot go upon their knees and talk to God for them. There is something radically wrong here, and it is to be feared that it lies in the state of the heart — and not in the lack of talent.
The gift of prayer, like every other gift, grows by a judicious use of it. Those who have found great difficulty in commencing family prayer, have soon found the difficulty vanish by use. The devil hates family prayer, and will do all he can to keep us from it, or to make us weary of it.
Many who have family prayer may almost as well have none. They drive it off to such a late hour, that all are thoroughly tired out and cannot enjoy it. Or, they read over a lifeless, tiresome, barren form. Or, they pray in such a dull, monotonous, formal manner — that no one feels an interest, or derives any benefit from it. Or, they act so inconsistently in the business, or the family, when they are off their knees — that their domestics do not believe what they say when they do pray. The actions of the day — and the devotions of the evening, should agree.
A man is really what he is customarily. A spiritual man will be spiritual in all places; and a devout man will always be more or less devotional. Lively, devoted and zealous Christians, always approve of and practice family prayer. They could not be happy without it. They enjoy it, and, generally speaking, their domestics enjoy it with them. They exercise their judgment, and adapt their devotions to times, persons, and circumstances. They throw their hearts into their prayers. Their affections are engaged, and show themselves. They manifest that they know God, are in friendship with him, and feel at home in his presence.
Reader, is there a family altar in your house? Do you collect your household regularly around it? Do you aim so to conduct family prayer, as to make a good, a pleasing, a profitable impression? Is there incense on your altar twice in the day — or only once; every day — or only occasionally? Is there a sweet perfume of devotion, grateful alike to spiritual people and to God?
Beloved, family prayer will never be what it ought to be — until we live nearer to God. When our fellowship with God is close, intimate, and filial — then all our mercies, whether in the sanctuary, the sick room, or the family — will be savory, beneficial, and impressive. There will be a power, a sweetness, and a spirituality wholeness about them — which must be realized to be known, and even then cannot be described.
Alas! we are so worldly, so carnal, so cold — that the difference between us and the world is very slight. Oh, that God would pour down his Holy Spirit upon us, and fill us with love, zeal, and power; that so we may worship him in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
Lord Jesus, send the blessed Comforter into our hearts and homes — that we may reflect your praise, and that our families may be consecrated to your service! Holy Spirit, come and preside in our households, bring every member into union with Christ, and enable us to preside over them to your glory!
Gracious God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — we worship you, and desire that all that are under our influence may be the temples of God, the epistles of Christ, the habitation of the Comforter. Take, oh, take them, and consecrate them to yourself forever!