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We have also an instance of Daniel's drawing nigh to God with an uncommon reverence, and awful fear of his divine Majesty, and an account of the manner in which he addresses himself to him, with confession of those sins which Israel had been guilty of, in Dan. ix. 4, 5. I prayed unto the Lord my "God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant, and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments: We have sinned, and committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts, and from thy judgments.' And we have this humble confession and supplication, continued to ver. 19. and then an account of the success thereof, in the gracious answer that God sent him by an angel from heaven.
We also read of Joshua's interceding for Israel, when he • fell upon his face before the ark of the Lord, with his clothes rent,' Josh. vii. 6. and we have the plea that he makes use of in ver. 9. What wilt thou do unto thy great name.'
We have also an instance of fervency in Moses, (when pleading for the people, after they had worshipped the golden calf,) who prefers God's glory to his own happiness; and had rather have no name in the church, or be blotted out of the book which God had written, than that his wrath should wax hot against Israel, to consume them; of which we have an account in Exod. xxxiii. 10, 11, 31, 32. (a)
There are many other instances of this nature mentioned in scripture; which, for brevity sake, I pass over; and, indeed, the whole book of the Lamentations is of use to direct us in prayer, under pressing afflictions, either feared or undergone; and the book of Psalms is a directory for prayer to the believer, suited to every condition which he may be supposed to be in, and of praise for mercies of all kinds, whether temporal or spiritual. And the same may be said of many other parts of scripture.
From what has been said concerning the word of God being a direction to us in prayer, we may infer,
(1.) That, as reading the scriptures in our families and closets, is a great help to raise our affections, and bring us into a praying frame: So the application of scripture-doctrines and examples to our own case, will supply us with fit matter and expressions upon all occasions, when we draw nigh to God in this duty.
(2.) The pretence of some that they know not how to pray, or that they cannot do it without a prescribed form, arises, for the most part, from an unacquaintedness with, or a neglect to study the scriptures, to answer this end.
(a) Vide ante vol. I. p. 19. in note.
(3.) Since the word of God is a directory for prayer, we ought not to affect modes of expression, or human strains of rhetoric, which are not deduced from, or agreeable to scripture; but, on the other hand, we are to use such a simplicity of style, and spirituality of expression, as we find contained therein; especially in those parts thereof, as are more directly subservient to this duty.
(4.) It will be of very great use for us sometimes, in the course of our reading scripture, especially in private, to turn what we read into prayer, though it do not contain in itself the form of a prayer; as when we read of the presumptuous sins committed by some, and the visible marks of God's dipleasure that ensued hereupon, we ought to lift up our hearts to him, to keep us from them; or, if we have reason to charge ourselves as guilty of them, that we may be humbled, and obtain forgiveness from him. And when we read, the excellent characters of some of the saints, in scripture, we ought to pray that God would enable us to be followers of them herein; or when, in some parts thereof, believers are represented as praying for particular mercies, we ought, at the same time, to lift up our hearts to God for the same: This will be a means, not only to furnish us with matter and proper expressions in prayer; but to excite our affections when we engage in this duty, in those stated times which are set apart for it. This leads us to consider,
III. That there is a special rule of direction contained in that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called the Lord's prayer. This prayer is mentioned only by two of the evangelists, viz. Matthew, in chap. vi. 8, -13. and Luke, in chap. xi. 2, 3, 4. in which we may observe, that though there be a perfect harmony between them, as there is between all other parts of scripture, as to the matter or sense of them; yet it is obvious to all who compare them together, that there is some difference as to the mode of expression; particularly as to the fourth and fifth petition, (and that not only in the translation, as being sufficiently just, but in the original) which there would not have been, had it been designed for a form of prayer.
1. In the fourth petition, Luke teaches us to say, Give us day by day our daily bread: Whereas, in Matthew, it is expressed, Give us this day our daily bread, in which there are different ideas contained in the respective words. This is very common, when the same sense, for substance, is laid down in different parts of scripture. (a) Give us this day our daily bread, contains a petition for what we want at present; and, Give us
(a) The petition in Luke offered daily, is equivalent to that in Matthew.
this, day by day, implies, that these wants will daily recur upon us, in which it will be necessary to desire a supply from God; and therefore, if both these accounts of this petition be compared together, we are hereby directed to pray, Lord, give us the blessings which we want at present; and let these wants be daily supplied, as we shall stand in need of a supply from thee.(a)
2. In the fifth petition, Luke directs us to pray, Forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us: Whereas, in Matthew, the expression is very different, viz. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
3. The evangelist Luke leaves out the doxology, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen; which Matthew.adds.
From hence, I conceive, it may be inferred, that our Saviour's design, in dictating this prayer to his people, was not that they should confine themselves wholly to the mode of expression used therein, without the least variation; for then, doubtless, the two Evangelists would have laid it down in the very same words; but he rather designed it as a directory respecting the matter of prayer.
I am sensible it will be objected to this, that the preface," which Luke prefixes to it, is, when we pray, say, Our Father, &c. which seems to intimate that these very words should be used, and no other: But to this it may be replied, that the evangelist Matthew, who beyond dispute, laid down this prayer more fully than Luke does, says, by way of preface to it, After this manner pray ye; which seems to be an intimation that it was designed rather to be a directory, as to the matter of prayer, than a form of words to be used without the least variation; and therefore I cannot but think, that what Luke says, when you pray, say, &c. imports nothing else but, pray after this manner.
It farther appears, that our Saviour principally designed this prayer as a directory, respecting the matter of our petitions, rather than a form; because it does not explicitly contain all the parts of prayer, nor particularly, confession of sin, or thankful acknowledgment of mercies. I say, it does not contain these explicitly, but only implicitly, as a deduction, or inference from the petitions themselves; as when we say, Forgive us our debts, or sins, this supposes that we acknowledge ourselves to be sinners. It cannot be denied, but that there are some expressions which contain matter of thanksgiving; as when we pray, Hallowed be thy name, it implies, a thankful acknowledgment of all those instances in which God has sanctified his name, as well as a desire that he would do it, q. d.
(a) is found only in this prayer, and rather means necessary.
thou hast, in the various dispensations of thy providence; and in all thine holy institutions, set forth the glory of thy perfections that thou mayest be adored and magnified by thy crea tures; this we own with thankfulness at the same time that we desire the continuance thereof. And when we pray, Give us daily bread; we do, in effect, acknowledge the bounty of his providence, from whence we receive all the comforts of life, and the large share thereof, which he has communicated to us, whereby our wants have hitherto been supplied. This, I say, is an implicit direction for thanksgiving. But if our Saviour had designed that it should be a perfect form of words, to be used without varying in the least from them, he would have given us some more full and direct account of what sins we are to acknowledge, and what mercies we are to thank him for, which is more plainly contained in some other scriptures, than it can be supposed to be in this prayer; therefore, it seems to be principally designed as a rule for our direction what we are to ask for; or how that part of prayer, which includes in it petition, ought to be performed, agreeably to the mind and will of God.
Moreover, there is no explicit mention of the Mediator, in whose name we are to pray; nor of his obedience, sufferings, or intercession, on which the efficacy of our prayers is founded, which our faith is to have a great regard unto. These things therefore are to be supplied by what we find in other parts of scripture, all which, taken together, give us a perfect directory for prayer; though neither this, nor any other prayers used in scripture, sufficiently appear to have been designed as a form of words which we are to confine ourselves to, without the least variation from them.
As to what is observed in the latter of the answers, under our present consideration, viz. that the Lord's prayer is not only for direction, as a pattern, but may be used as a prayer, provided it be done in a right manner. It is granted that the Lord's prayer is of use, as a pattern and rule for our direction, in common with all other prayers contained in scripture; but the main difficulty relating to this matter, is, whether our Saviour designed that his disciples, and the church, in all following ages, should confine themselves to the words thereof, so far as that the mode of expression should not be, in the least, altered, or any thing added to the petitions contained therein, how agreeable soever it be to the sense, and words of scripture. This does not seem to have been his intention therein; and, as it will not be denied by any, that every one of the petitions contained in it, may be interspersed and joined with other petitions to God in prayer, so, when this has been done, or, at least, the sense thereof expressed in other words, it will
be very hard to prove that it is absolutely necessary that these petitions should be recollected, and prayed over again, in the same method in which they are laid down in this prayer, barely for the sake of our making use of it as a form; especially if this is not expressly commanded by our Saviour, as it does not sufficiently appear to be, if what was before observed be true, that those words, When we pray, say, Our Father, &c. implies nothing else but, pray after this manner.
However, I would be very far from censuring or blaming the practice observed by many of the reformed churches, who conclude their ex tempore, or premeditated prayers with it, provided it be done with understanding, reverence, and suitable acts of faith, as any other petition contained in scripture may be made use of by us in prayer; not only in words agreeable thereunto, but in the express words thereof. The principal thing that I would militate against, is not so much the using the words, as doing this in a formal way, supposing that the bare recital of them doth, as it were, sanctify our other prayers; which, though very agreeable to the sense thereof, are, as some suppose, rendered so incomplete, that they will hardly be regarded by God without it. And I cannot but conclude the Papists highly to blame, who think the frequent repetition of it, though in a tongue unknown to the common people, is not only necessary, but, in some measure, meritorious. And the practice of some ignorant superstitious persons, who think that it may be made use of as a charm; and that the words thereof repeated, as the Jews of old did their Phylacteries, as a means to drive away evil spirits, is not only to be disapproved, but it is a vile instance of profaneness; very remote from the design of our Saviour in giving it.
QUEST. CLXXXVIII. Of how many parts doth the Lord's prayer consist?
ANSW. The Lord's prayer consists of three parts, a preface, petitions, and a conclusion.
QUEST. CLXXXIX. What doth the preface of the Lord's pray.er teach us?
ANSW. The preface of the Lord's prayer [contained in these words, Our Father which art in heaven] teacheth us, when we pray, to draw near to God with confidence of his fatherly goodness, and our interest therein, with reverence, and all other child-like dispositions, heavenly affections, and due ap