The Young Lady's Guide to the
Development of Christian Character
by Harvey Newcomb, 1843
Christ and the apostles insist much on the duty of
prayer; and this service has ever been the delight of the true children of
God. In ancient times, it was considered the distinguishing mark of the
pious that they "called upon God." All the holy men of God, of whom we read
in the Scriptures, abounded in prayer. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, erected
altars to the Lord wherever they pitched their tents. Moses, David, Elijah,
Daniel, and other eminent saints, under the Old Testament, were mighty in
prayer. The Jews regarded this as so essential to a pious life, that their
houses were furnished each with an apartment for private devotion; and, in
the mountains and desert places, little oratories were erected, to which
devout people retired, for more protracted seasons of communion with God.
The Lord Jesus, our great Pattern, has set before us a
life of prayer. The spirit of devotion characterized all that he did. He
observed special seasons of prayer, before engaging in matters of
importance. After having been employed in the work of his ministry, in the
most laborious manner, during the day, we find him retiring to the
mountains, or to some desert place, to commune with his Father; sometimes
spending the whole night in prayer to God. And his example was followed by
his apostles, whom he endowed with inspiration and miraculous gifts, to
qualify them for settling the order of the Christian dispensation. But, if
it became inspired apostles, and even the Lord of life and glory, to spend
much time in prayer, how much more such weak and sinful creatures as we
are, who are surrounded with temptations without, and beset with corruptions
The ADVANTAGES of prayer are twofold. It secures to us
the blessings which we need, and also brings us into a proper attitude for
receiving them. The Lord does not need to be informed of our needs, for they
are open to his view before they are known to us; but he has been pleased to
require us to ask for the things which we desire, as one condition of
granting them. And surely it is a reasonable requirement, that we should
thus acknowledge our dependence upon Him "from whom comes down every good
and perfect gift." Moreover, the necessity of so doing leads us to a sense
of our need, to feel our unworthiness, and to keep in view our dependence
upon God. It likewise exercises our faith in his existence, and confidence
in his promises. This is the great channel of fellowship between man and his
Maker, and should, therefore, be esteemed not merely a duty, but a most
As to the NATURE of prayer, it is the offering up
of the sincere desires and devout emotions of the heart to God. It consists
of the several parts of-- adoration, confession, supplication,
intercession, and thanksgiving. Adoration is
an expression of a sense of the infinite majesty and glory of God.
Confession is an humble acknowledgment of our sins and unworthiness.
Supplication is pleading for blessings upon ourselves.
Intercession is prayer for others. Thanksgiving is an
expression of gratitude to God for his goodness and mercy towards us and our
fellow-creatures. All these several parts are embraced in the prayers
recorded in Scripture, though all of them are not generally found in the
same prayer. The prayer of Solomon, at the dedication of the temple,
commences with adoration, and proceeds with supplication and intercession.
The prayer of Daniel, in the time of the captivity, commences with
adoration, and proceeds with confession, supplication, and intercession. The
prayer of the Levites, in behalf of the people, after the return from
captivity, commences with thanksgiving and adoration, and proceeds with
confession, supplication, and intercession. The prayers of David are full of
penitential confession and thanksgiving. The prayer of Habakkuk consists of
adoration, supplication, and thanksgiving. The prayer of the disciples,
after the joyous return of the apostles from the council of their
persecutors, consists of adoration, a particular rehearsal of their
circumstances, and supplication. Paul particularly enjoins "prayer and
supplication, with thanksgiving."
The prayers recorded in Scripture, though probably only
the substance of what was said on the several occasions when they were
offered, are excellent models. Their simplicity, fervor, and directness,
show them to have been the language of the heart--and this is prayer. The
Lord's prayer furnishes a comprehensive summary of the subjects of prayer;
and the prominent place assigned to the petition, "Your kingdom come," shows
that, in all our prayers, the glory of God should be our leading desire. But
it is evident that Christ did not intend this as a particular form of
prayer, to be used on all occasions; although it includes all that is
necessary. We are affected with a particular consideration of the
subjects in which we are interested; and therefore it is necessary to
specify our particular circumstances, needs, and desires. We find our Lord
himself using other words, to suit particular occasions; and so did the
apostles and early Christians. This is only intended as a general pattern;
nor is it necessary that all the petitions contained in the Lord's prayer
should ever be made at the same time.
Prayer must always be offered in the name of Christ.
There is no other way of approach to God; neither is there any other channel
through which we can receive blessings from him. Jesus is our Advocate with
the Father. He stands on the right hand of God, to make intercession for us.
If you were desirous of obtaining the favor of some exalted person, you
would not go directly to him yourself; but you would endeavor to enlist the
kind offices of someone who had influence with him, to intercede for you.
And especially, if a criminal desires pardon of a king or a governor, he
will not send a petition in his own name, but endeavor to obtain the
intercession of others. We are all condemned criminals before God, and in
the eye of his law; and therefore we cannot come directly to him in our own
name. But with Jesus he is ever well pleased. Him he always hears. And Jesus
will intercede for all who come unto God by him. But this does not forbid us
to pray directly to Christ, as God manifest in the flesh, which was a common
practice with the apostles.
It is truly amazing that the Infinite God should
condescend to be influenced in his administration, by the creatures which
his own hand has made; and much more so, that he should listen to the
petitions, and grant the requests, of such unworthy and sinful creatures as
we are. Yet no one who attentively considers the promises which he has made
to his people, can doubt the fact. Nor does this interfere with the
immutability of God; since, in the counsels of eternity, his determinations
were formed in view of the prayers of his saints; so that his administration
is eternally and unchangeably affected by them.
David addresses God as the hearer of prayer, as
though that were a distinguishing trait in his character. He says, also, "He
will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their
prayer." Solomon says, "The prayer of the upright is his delight;"
and, "He hears the prayer of the righteous." The apostle James declares that
"the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." Peter
says, "The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open
unto their prayers." And Christ himself has assured us, in the strongest
possible terms, of the disposition of God to give spiritual blessings to
those that ask for them. He says, "Keep asking, and it will be given to you.
Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be
opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches
finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." And then,
anticipating the difficulty of our believing a truth so wonderful and
glorious, he appeals to the tenderest sympathies of our natures, and asks if
any father would insult the hungry cries of his beloved son, when fainting
for a morsel of bread, by giving him a stone; or, if he asks an egg, to
gratify his appetite, will he give him a venomous scorpion, to sting him to
death? He then argues that, if sinful men exercise tender compassion towards
their children, how much more shall our heavenly Father, whose very nature
is love, regard the wants of his children who cry unto him!
These promises are confirmed by striking examples, in
every age of the church. Thus Abraham prayed for Sodom; and, through his
intercession, Lot was saved. Jacob wrestled all night in prayer, and
prevailed, and received the blessing which he sought. Moses prayed for the
plagues to come upon Egypt, and they came; again, he prayed for them to be
removed, and they were removed. It was through his prayers that the Red Sea
was divided, the manna and the quail were sent, and the waters gushed out of
the rock. And through his prayers, many times, the arm of the Lord was
stayed, which had been lifted up to destroy his rebellious people.
Samuel—that lovely example of early piety, and the judge and deliverer of
Israel—was given in answer to the prayer of his mother. When the children of
Israel were in danger of being overcome by the Philistines, Samuel prayed,
and God sent thunder and lightning, and destroyed the armies of their
enemies. Again, to show their rebellion against God, in asking a king, he
prayed, and God sent thunder and lightning upon them in the time of
wheat-harvest. In order to punish the idolatry and rebellion of the
Israelites, Elijah prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained
not for three years and six months. Again, he prayed that it might rain, and
there arose a little cloud, as small as a man's hand, which spread, and
covered the heavens with blackness, until the rain descended in torrents.
Hezekiah, when about to die, had fifteen years added to his life, in answer
to prayer; and, when Jerusalem was invaded by the army of Sennacherib, and
menaced with destruction, he prayed, and the angel of the Lord entered the
camp of the invader, and, in one night, slew one hundred and eighty-five
thousand men. When all the wise men of Babylon were threatened with death,
because they could not discover Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Daniel and his
companions prayed, and the dream and its interpretation were revealed.
It was in answer to the prayer of Zacharias that the
angel Gabriel was sent to inform him of the birth of John the Baptist. It
was after ten days of united prayer that the Holy Spirit came down, on the
day of Pentecost, "like a mighty rushing wind." Again, while the disciples
were praying, the place was shaken where they were assembled, to show that
God heard their prayers. It was in answer to the prayers of Cornelius that
Peter was sent to teach him the way of life. When Peter was imprisoned by
Herod, the church set apart the night of his expected execution for special
prayer in his behalf. The Lord sent his angel, opened the prison doors, and
restored him to the agonizing band of brethren. And when Paul and Silas were
thrown into the dungeon, with their feet fast in the stocks, they prayed,
and there was a great earthquake, which shook the foundations of the prison,
so that all the doors were thrown open.
But the faithfulness of God to his promises is not
confined to Scripture times. Although the time of miracles is past, yet
every age of the church has furnished examples of the faithfulness of God in
hearing the prayers of his children. These, however, are so numerous, that a
selection only can be here referred to. When the Arians, who denied the
Deity of Christ, were about to triumph, the bishop of Constantinople, and
one of his ministers, spent a whole night in prayer. The next day, Arius,
the leader of his party, was suddenly cut off by a violent and distressing
disease. This prevented the threatened danger. Augustine was a wild youth,
sunk in vice, and a violent opposer of religion. His mother persevered in
prayer for him nine years, when he was converted, and became the most
eminent minister of his age. The life of Francke exhibits many signal
answers to prayer. His orphan-house was literally built up and sustained by
prayer. Mr. West became pastor of the Congregational church in Stockbridge,
Massachusetts, while destitute of piety. Two pious females of his
congregation often lamented to each other that they received no edification
from his preaching. At length, they agreed to meet once a week, to pray for
him. They continued this for some time, under much discouragement. But,
although the Lord tried their faith, yet he never allowed them both to be
discouraged at the same time. At length their prayers were heard. There was
a sudden and remarkable change in his preaching. "What is this?" inquired
one of them. "God is the hearer of prayer," replied the other. The Spirit of
God had led Mr. West to see that he was a blind leader of the blind. He was
converted, and changed his cold morality for the cross of Christ, as the
basis of his sermons.
A pious slave in Newport, R. I., was allowed, by his
master, to labor for his own profit whatever time he could gain by extra
diligence. He laid up all the money he earned in this way, for the purpose
of purchasing his freedom, and that of his family. But, when some of his
Christian friends heard what he was doing, they advised him to spend his
gained time in fasting and prayer. Accordingly, the next day that he
gained he set apart for this purpose. But, before the close of the day, his
master, not knowing how he was employed, sent for him, and gave him a
written certificate of his freedom. This slave's name was Newport Gardner.
He was a man of good character and ardent piety; and, in 1825, he was
ordained deacon of a church of colored people who went out from Boston to
Instances of surprising answers to prayer, no less
striking than these, are continually occurring at the present day. But of
these I will mention only one. A few years ago, a pious widow had a son at
college, who was a wild youth, and a great trial to her. On a certain
occasion, he visited the metropolis, where there was, at the time, a
religious awakening. Going out, one evening, to seek his pleasure, he
strolled into the theater; but, without being conscious of the cause, he
began to feel uneasy in his mind, lost his interest in the play, and went
out into the street. Seeing lights in the vestry of a church not far
distant, he went in, and there was deeply affected. In the course of a few
days, he became, as was believed, a "new creature." Soon after, he received
a letter from his mother, who stated that, having heard of his intended
visit to the city, and knowing that there was an awakening there, she had
called together some of her friends to pray for him; and it appeared, from
the date, that this meeting for prayer in his behalf was held the evening
when he was at the theater!
With the evidence here presented, who can doubt that God
hears and answers prayer? But the objection arises, "If this doctrine is
true--why is it that Christians offer up so many prayers without receiving
answers?" The apostle James gives some explanation of this difficulty. "You
ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss." It becomes us, then,
seriously and diligently to inquire
how we may ask aright,
so as to secure the blessings so largely promised in answer to prayer. In
relation to this subject, there are several things to be observed.
1. We must sincerely desire the things which we ask.
If a child should ask his mother for a piece
of bread, when she knew he was not hungry, but was only trifling with her,
instead of granting his request, she would have cause to punish him for
mocking her. And do we not often come to the throne of grace when we do not
really feel our dire need of the things we ask? God sees our hearts; and he
is not only just in withholding the blessing we ask, but in chastising us
for trifling in solemn things.
2. We must desire what we ask, that God may be
glorified. "You ask amiss, that you
may consume it upon your lusts." We may possibly ask spiritual blessings
for self-gratification; and, when we do so, we have no reason to expect that
God will bestow them upon us.
3. We must ask for things agreeable to the will of
God. "And this is the confidence that we
have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears
us." The things that we ask must be such, in kind, as he has
indicated his disposition to bestow upon us. Such are spiritual blessings on
our own souls, the supply of our necessary temporal needs, and the extension
of his kingdom. These are the kind of blessings that we are to ask;
and the degree of confidence with which we are to look for an answer must be
in proportion to the positiveness of the promises. Our Lord assures us that
our heavenly Father is more willing to give good things, and particularly
his Holy Spirit, to those who ask him--than earthly parents are to give good
gifts to their children; and he declares, expressly, that our sanctification
is agreeable to the will of God. The promises of the daily supply of our
necessary temporal needs are equally positive. We may also pray for a
revival of religion in a particular place, and for the conversion of
particular individuals, with strong ground of confidence, because we know
that God has willed the extension of Christ's kingdom, and that the
conversion of sinners is, in itself, agreeable to his will. But we
cannot certainly know that he intends to convert a particular individual, or
revive his work in a particular place, at a particular time; nor can we be
sure that the particular temporal blessing that we desire is what the Lord
sees to be needful for our present necessities; though our hope and
expectation of receiving these blessings may be greatly strengthened by the
freedom of access to the mercy-seat, and the sweet and confiding
acquiescence in the will of God, which we experience in asking for them.
4. We must ask in faith.
"But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is like a
wave of the sea, driven with the winds, and tossed. For let not that man
think that he shall receive anything from the Lord." Much has been said and
written respecting the "prayer of faith;" and different opinions have
been expressed in relation to the exercise of the soul which is so
designated by the apostle James. I shall advance no theory on the subject.
The main thing is, to maintain such a nearness to God as shall secure an
experimental knowledge of it. Two things, however, are essential to the
prayer of faith. There must be strong confidence in the existence and
faithfulness of God. "He who comes unto God must believe that he is,
and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him."
The prayer of faith must also be dictated by the Holy
Spirit. Faith itself is declared to be "the gift of God;" and the
apostle says, "The Spirit also helps our infirmities; for we know not what
we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself makes intercession for
us, with groanings which cannot be uttered." "He makes intercession for the
saints, according to the will of God." When this is understood, we are no
longer astonished that God should assure us, by so many precious promises,
that he will hear and answer our prayers.
Christians are called the Temple of the Holy Spirit; and
if the Holy Spirit dwells in us, to guide and direct us in all our ways,
will he forsake us in so important a matter as prayer? O, then, what a
solemn place is the Christian's closet, or the house of prayer! There the
whole Trinity meet in solemn concert. The Holy Spirit there presents to the
Everlasting Father, through the Eternal Son--the prayers of a mortal worm!
Is it any wonder that such a prayer should be heard? With what holy
reverence and godly fear should we approach this consecrated place!
5. We must ask in a spirit of humble submission,
yielding our will to the will of the Lord, committing the whole case to him,
in the true spirit of our Lord's agonizing prayer in the garden, when he
said, "Not my will, but yours, be done." It is often the case that a
blessing is delayed until we come into just this frame of spirit—when we
seem to have no will of our own, but are willing that God should exercise
his holy and wise sovereignty, and dispose of the whole case according to
his good pleasure; and then the blessing comes, often with greater measure
than we had dared to ask.
1. Maintain a constant spirit of prayer.
"Continuing instant in prayer." "Praying always, with all prayer and
supplication in the Spirit." "And he spoke a parable unto them, to this end,
that men ought always to pray, and not to faint." The meaning of these
passages is, not that we should be all the time exclusively engaged in
prayer, to the neglect of everything else; but that we should maintain such
a prayerful frame, that the moment our minds are disengaged, our hearts will
rise up to God.
Intimately connected with this is the practice of
ejaculatory prayer, which consists of a short petition, silently and
suddenly sent up from the heart. This may be done any where, and under all
circumstances. Nehemiah offered up a silent prayer to God, as he presented
the cup to the king of Persia, that he might find favor, in the request
which he was about to make; and so may we do, in all circumstances of
difficulty. This kind of prayer is indispensable to the Christian warfare.
It helps us in resisting temptation; and by means of it we can seek divine
aid in the midst of the greatest emergencies. But to maintain this incessant
spirit of prayer is a very difficult work. It requires unwearied care and
watchfulness, labor and perseverance. Yet no Christian can thrive without
2. Observe stated and regular seasons of prayer.
Some make so much of the foregoing, as to neglect all audible and formal
prayer. This is evidently unscriptural. Our Savior directs us to enter into
our closet, and, when we have shut the door, to pray to our Father who is in
secret. And to this precept he has added the sanction of his own example. In
the course of his history, we find him often retiring to solitary places, to
pour out his soul in prayer. Other examples are also recorded in Scripture.
David says, "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray." And again,
"Seven times a day do I praise you." It was the habitual practice of Daniel
to kneel down in his chamber, and pray three times a day. But this practice
is so natural, and so agreeable to Christian feeling, that no argument seems
necessary to persuade those who have any piety to observe it. It has been
the delight of the saints in all ages to retire alone, and hold communion
No very definite rule can be given, as to the particular
TIME of prayer. There is a peculiar propriety in visiting the throne of
grace in the morning, to offer up the thanksgiving of our hearts for
preservation, and to seek grace for the day; and also in the evening, to
express our gratitude for the mercies we have enjoyed, to confess the sins
we have committed, seek for pardon, and commit ourselves to the care of a
covenant-keeping God, when we retire to rest. It is also very suitable, when
we suspend our worldly employments in the middle of the day to refresh our
bodies, to renew our visit to the fountain of life, that our souls may also
be replenished. The twilight of the evening is likewise a favorable season
for devotional exercises.
But it is of the greatest importance that everyone should
set apart stated and regular seasons, every day, for private devotion. This
is necessary in order to secure the end—to "pray without ceasing;" which
means that we should pray, not occasionally, as we happen to feel disposed,
but habitually. These seasons should be regarded as engagements with
God; and when unavoidably interrupted, the first time at our
command should be observed instead of the regular season. But, when our
souls delight in communion with God, we shall be disposed, in addition to
these regular and stated seasons, to retire often to pour out our hearts
before him, and receive fresh communications of his grace. This we need, to
prevent our hearts from coming under the power of sensible objects, and
clinging to earth.
For devotional exercises, we should select those times
and seasons when we usually find our minds vigorous and our feelings lively.
As the morning is, in many respects, most favorable, it is well to spend as
much time as we can in the closet before engaging in the employments of the
day. An hour spent in reading God's word, and in prayer and praise, early in
the morning, will give a heavenly tone to the feelings; which, by proper
watchfulness, and frequent draughts at the same fountain, may be carried
through all the pursuits of the day.
As already remarked, our Lord, in the pattern left us,
has given a very prominent place to the petition, "may your kingdom come."
This is a large petition. It includes all the instrumentalities which the
church is putting forth for the enlargement of her borders and the salvation
of the world. All these ought to be distinctly and separately remembered;
and not, as is often the case, be crowded into one general petition, at the
close of our morning and evening prayers. General truths do not much affect
the heart; and therefore we need to particularize, in order to interest our
feelings. I would therefore recommend the arrangement of these subjects
under general heads for every day of the week, and then divide the subjects
which come under these heads, so as to remember one or more of them at
stated seasons, through the day, separate from your own personal devotions.
Thus you will always have your mind fixed upon one or two objects; and you
will have time to enlarge, so as to remember every particular relating to
them. This, if faithfully pursued, will give you a deeper interest in every
3. Observe special seasons of prayer.
Before engaging in any important matter, make it a
subject of special prayer. For this you have the example of the blessed
Jesus. When he was baptized, before entering upon his ministry, he prayed.
Before choosing his twelve apostles, he went out into a mountain, and spent
a whole night in prayer. The Old Testament saints were also in the habit of
"inquiring of the Lord," before engaging in any important enterprise. And
Paul enjoins upon the Philippians, "in everything, by prayer and
supplication, with thanksgiving," to let their requests be made known to
God. Also, whenever you are under any particular temptation or affliction;
whenever you are going to engage in anything which will expose you to
temptation; whenever you perceive any signs of declension in your own soul;
when the state of religion around you is low; when your heart is affected
with the condition of individuals who are living in impenitence; or when any
subject lies heavily on your mind—make the matter, whatever it is, a subject
of special prayer. There is a peculiar fitness in this which must commend
itself to every pious heart.
In seasons of peculiar difficulty, or when earnestly
seeking any great blessing, you may find benefit from setting apart days of
fasting, humiliation, and prayer. This is especially suitable whenever you
discover any sensible decay of spiritual affections in your own heart.
Fasting and prayer have been resorted to on special occasions, by eminent
saints, in all ages of the world. The practice was very common among the Old
Testament saints. Nor is the New Testament without warrant for the same. Our
Lord himself set the example by a long season of fasting, when about to
endure a severe conflict with the Tempter. And he has further sanctioned the
practice by giving directions respecting its performance. We have examples
also in the Acts of the Apostles. The prophets and teachers in the church at
Antioch fasted before separating Barnabas and Paul as missionaries to the
heathen. And when they ordained elders in the churches, they prayed, with
fasting. Paul, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, speaks of their giving
themselves to fasting and prayer, as though it were a frequent custom.
You will find, also, in examining the lives of people of
great spiritual attainments, that most of them were in the habit of
observing frequent seasons of fasting and prayer. There is a peculiar
fitness in this act of humiliation. It is calculated to bring the body under
control, and to assist us in denying self. The length of time it gives us in
our closets also enables us to get clearer views of divine things. But there
is great danger of trusting in the outward act of humiliation, and expecting
that God will answer our prayers--for the sake of our fasting. This will
evidently bring upon us disappointment and leanness of soul. This is the
kind of fasting so common among Roman Catholics and other nominal
Christians. But it is no better than idolatry.
When you set apart a day of fasting and prayer, you ought
to have in view some definite objects. The day should be spent in
self-examination, meditation, reading the Scriptures, confession of sin,
prayer for the particular objects which bear upon your mind, and
thanksgiving for mercies received. Your self-examination should be as
practical as possible; particularly looking into the motives of your prayers
for the special objects you are seeking. Your confession of sin should be
minute and particular; mentioning every sin you can recollect, whether of
thought, word, or deed, with every circumstance of aggravation. This will
have a tendency to affect your heart with a sense of guilt, produce earnest
longings after holiness, and make sin appear more hateful and odious.
Moreover, confession of sin is one of the conditions of pardon. Your
meditations should be upon those subjects which are calculated to give you a
view of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the abounding mercy of God in
Christ. Your reading of the Scriptures should be strictly devotional. Your
prayers should be very particular; mentioning everything relating to the
object of your desires, and all the hinderances you have met in seeking it.
Carry all your burdens to the foot of the cross, and there lay them down.
Your thanksgiving, also, should be very minute and particular;
mentioning every mercy and blessing which you can recollect, with your own
unworthiness, and every circumstance which may tend to magnify the love,
condescension, and mercy of God.
4. Come to the mercy-seat with preparation of heart.
We ought, indeed, to maintain so habitually
a devout spirit, as to be always prepared to approach the throne of grace.
But our minds are so liable to be injured by contact with the world, that it
seems befitting in us to spend some time in collecting our thoughts and
stirring up our affections, before approaching the Majesty of heaven. When
you enter your closet, shut out the world, that you may be alone with God.
Bring your mind into a calm and heavenly frame, and endeavor to obtain a
deep sense of the presence of God, "as seeing him who is invisible."
Think of the exalted nature of the transaction in which you are about to
engage; think of your own unworthiness, and of the way God has opened to the
mercy-seat; think of your own needs, or of the necessities of those for whom
you intercede; think of the exhaustless fullness of Christ; think of the
many precious promises of God to his children, and come with the spirit of a
little child to present them before him.
5. Persevere in prayer.
In the eleventh and eighteenth chapters of Luke, our Lord shows, by two
impressive parables, the importance of importunity in prayer. In the first,
he presents the case of a man who was prevailed upon to do his friend a
kindness, because of his importunity, when he would not have done it for
friendship's sake; and in the other, of an unjust judge, who was persuaded
by importunity to do justice. And from these he argues that God, who is
disposed, by his own benevolence and mercy, to listen to the cries of his
children, will much more be affected by the importunity of those whom he
loves. He adds, with emphasis, "And shall not God avenge his own elect, who
cry day and night unto him, though he bears long with them? I tell
you he will avenge them speedily."
But the delay of a blessing which has been earnestly
sought should lead to self-examination. If the thing sought is agreeable to
the will of God, you may have been asking amiss, perhaps with selfish
desires, and too little regard for the glory of God; perhaps you have not
sufficiently felt your dependence, or have not humbled yourself enough to
receive the blessing; or perhaps you have regarded iniquity in your
heart, in which case the Lord will not hear you. Still, it is possible the
blessing may be delayed for the further trial of your faith. Look at the
woman of Syro-Phoenicia, who came to beseech Jesus to heal her daughter.
Here is an example of faith, worthy of imitation. She continued to beseech
Jesus to have mercy on her, although he did not answer her a word. The
disciples entreated Christ to send her away, because she troubled them with
her cries; yet she persevered. And even when Christ himself told his
disciples that he was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,
and compared her to a dog seeking for the children's bread, yet, with all
these repulses, she would not give up her suit, but begged even for the
dog's portion, the children's crumbs. When by this means our Lord had
sufficiently tried her faith, he answered her prayer. So likewise persevere
in your prayers, and "in due time you shall reap--if you faint not."