Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

Prayer and Praise

Prayer and praise is the employment of the two families of earth and heaven—the church-militant and the church-triumphant. Prayer is the native breathings of the heaven-born soul, the lispings of the child of grace, who when grown to the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus, and taken home to his higher house—breaks forth into melodious strains of praise. Prayer suits the state below, and praise the state above. Here I am vexed with sin and temptation, with needs and infirmities—therefore I pray. But there I shall be blessed with the removal of sin and temptation, of needs and infirmities—therefore I shall praise.

Here God gives all—but for his gifts he will be inquired of, that he may bestow them—hence prayer is now my duty. But there he has given all things, and for his gifts he will be acknowledged by all the heavenly multitude—hence praise then is my debt. Prayer is the soul pouring out itself to God in a state of trial; and praise is the soul's pouring out itself to God in a state of triumph. Now, as our life is a life of trouble, a complication of calamities, and a scene of affliction—prayer is more properly our continual exercise; for "if any man is afflicted, let him pray." But in heaven, as all is peace, perfection, purity, and joy—praise is most properly their exercise. Hence the multitude before the throne are said "not to rest day nor night" in praising him who sits thereon forever.

Yet in the present—as judgment is mixed with mercy, and our condition, however calamitous, has something in it comfortable; therefore praise also is rendered to the Hearer of prayer. The foundation of prayer is God's all-sufficiency and promise, and my insufficiency; for if I needed nothing, l would ask nothing from the hand of God—like those of old who said, We are lords, we will come no more unto you. And as I must believe that God is, if I come unto him, so I must believe that God has the power and desire to give, and will give according to his promise—if I ask of him.

O divine exercise below! for while I present my supplication, and narrate my grievances, I am sometimes transported from these glooms of anguish to a calm and tranquility of mind, where I am filled with rapture, while by faith foresee all my requests fulfilled, and the causes of my sorrow annihilated in his love. By prayer, the soul's embassy on the most interesting affairs is carried to the court of heaven, sometimes in broken sentences, devout requests, pious aspirations, sighs, and groans. By prayer, I reveal my mind to the Most High, ease my burdened bosom, cast all my difficulties on God—and then composedly rest. Prayer is the Christian's evening and morning sacrifice to God. The prayerless person is the profane atheist, who denies adoration to the Author of his being. O! then, to be sensible of the majesty of God, for fear of whom my very flesh should tremble!

O deluded Papist! why commit your suits to angels, or departed saints? Though they were concerned for you, which they are not, yet, seeing they attend the throne of God in the highest heavens, they can neither know of your complaints nor you, unless possessed of omnisciency, which it were blasphemous to suppose. But is not God everywhere, and fills the very heart? As in him you live, move, and breath, so in him you think; and to him alone, through his beloved Son, you should pour out all your petitions and supplications. Friends may be removed, acquaintance taken away, public worship without reach, liberty denied, I banished from my native land; yet the soul and prayer must never separate. The royal charter is lodged within my bosom, that I may be robbed of everything sooner than of liberty to come with boldness through the blood of Jesus—to the throne of grace.

The wicked, through his pride of heart, will not call upon God; but it is my highest honor to be admitted into the presence of the King eternal, and to have his ear open, and attentive to my request. What is the saints' prayer book? Just affliction, and a body of sin and death lying hard upon him; and Christ, in all his divine offices and endearing relations. The first teaches him what to pray for, and the last to whom to pray. In this divine exercise, God condescends to wrestle with his people, and in the struggle to be prevailed upon: "Let me go," says God. "I will not," says the wrestler, "until you bless me."

In prayer God and the soul meet, and hold communion together; then the curtain of heaven is drawn aside, that I may look in, and see my large possessions. Then do I get a glance of the King in his beauty, and a glimpse of the excellences of the life above—so that I am filled with wonder, and desire to depart, and to be with Jesus! This is the well at which I drink the heavenly water, and am refreshed and strengthened for my journey.

"Lord, while allowed to come into your presence with boldness, let secret sin, (ah! what avails it that the world does not know?) never cause a secret shame before you." Meantime, may I know in whom I believe, to whom I reveal my cause, and utter my petitions, and rejoice because the day is approaching when I shall not need to ask anything, because possessed of all. O eternal triumph! when my prayers shall be turned into praise; my petitions into acclamations of joy; mourning, sighs and groans—into hosannas and endless hallelujahs; when beams of glory shall enlarge my ravished powers of mind—and sacred bounty overflow my enraptured soul forever!