Short Sermons on Christian Practice: |
Sermons on Prayer--No. III (1839)
VOLUME III.-----NUMBER VII.
SHORT SERMONS ON CHRISTIAN PRACTICE.
SERMONS ON PRAYER--No. III.
Be patient in affliction; continue instant in prayer. Rom. xii. 12. Is any man afflicted? Let him pray. James v. 13. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. I Thess. v. 16, 17. Pray always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit. Eph. vi. 18.
TWO things are strongly suggested to us in these apostolic injunctions: The occasions and the seasons of prayer. Occasions and seasons, though intimately connected, and sometimes confounded, are not identical. The occasion is the incident that calls for any thing to be done; and the season is the time when it should be done.
Among the occasions of prayer, afflictions are most prominent and chief. "In my distress I called upon the Lord," said the royal poet. Hezekiah in his afflictions besought the Lord. Jesus himself especially prayed in the scenes of darkness and distress through which he passed. "In the days of his flesh," says Paul, "when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, to Him that was able to save him from death, and was heard because he was pious," or "in that he feared."
Prayer, indeed, is the language--the natural expression of affliction and distress. And to have a tender-hearted sympathizing friend to whom to flee in times of affliction, is a relief, a consolation not to be expressed. Hence, among the many glorious attributes and accomplishments of our High Priest, that to us most suitable and admirable in our afflictions, is, that he is "touched with a feeling of our infirmities; that he was in all these respects made like to his brethren," that he might have a proper measure of compassion upon the erring and upon the afflicted.
Griefs and sorrows, if not divided, are diminished when uttered into the ears of a kind and sympathetic friend. When participated by him, they are lessened to us. And when we come into the presence of Him who "pitieth us as a father pitieth his own dear children," the belief that "he does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men," is an alleviation, a comfort not to be described. "We have had fathers of our flesh, who chastised us, and we gave them reverence," [thanks for it;] "shall we not, then, much more be in subjection to the Father of our spirits, and live," who only afflicts us for our good!
In all the afflictions of his people the Lord may be said to be afflicted: for, said Isaiah, "according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his loving kindnesses, he said, Surely they are my children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour. In all their affliction he was afflicted; and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old." Such now is our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Is any Christian afflicted? Then let him pray. Let him tell all his tale of woe and pour out his soul before God, who will certainly hear, and succor and relieve him: for if he does not think it good to take away the affliction, he will, at least, enable him to endure it.
But there are occasions of thanksgivings as well as of prayer. Favors received, and blessings enjoyed, call for thanksgivings. Therefore, said James, "Is any one merry? Let him sing psalms." "In every thing give thanks" is a blissful precept. We may even in  affliction thank the Lord on two accounts:--First, that he has not treated us as bastards; but as sons, in chastening us; and, in the second place, that he has mingled so many blessings amid so much less chastisement than we deserve.
There are seasons of prayers and thanksgiving as well as of petition and supplication. We may, indeed, convert particular times into occasions both of prayer and thanksgiving. We may make the morning and the evening not only the times, but the occasions of petition and of praise. "Thou shalt hear my voice in the morning," said David. "O Lord, in the morning will I direct my prayer to thee." Psalm v. 3. "I will sing, of thy power; yea, I will sing of thy mercy in the morning; for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of trouble." Ps. lix. 16. "In the morning shall my prayer prevent thee." Ps. lxxxviii. 13.
The Jews "gathered their manna every morning;" "the priests burned incense every morning;" and the Levites were to "stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at even." 1 Chron. xxiii. 30. From the book of Job we learn that, even under the patriarchal dispensation the good and excellent of the earth were observers of occasions and seasons in their worship of the Lord. Thus Job himself, during the seasons of festivity amongst his sons and daughters, "sent and sanctified them, and rose early in the morning and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all. Thus did Job continually." chap. i. 5.
God's people have always been a peculiar people--not like other people. They have made many occasions and seasons of devotion. The most distinguished of them have been most distinguished in these particulars. David says, "As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me: evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice." Ps. lv. 16, 17. "Daniel kneeled upon his knees three times a-day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime," or as his manner was. But the Apostles of Christ have taught us to pray always--to be instant in prayer--and to pray without ceasing. These expressions denote a habitual devotion, a constant communion with God.
In one word, then, we are to make all important occasions seasons of peculiar devotion; and we are to make the seasons themselves--morning, noon, and evening, occasions of prayer and thanksgiving. We are to take occasions when they occur, and to make occasions when they do not, of pouring out our hearts to God. It is not a pharisaic precision, a sanctimoniousness at times and seasons, a hypocritical exactness; but a genuine, unaffected, cordial engagedness of soul, on all important occasions, and at regular seasons, for which we plead as the import both of the precepts and examples of the Holy Book.
We need, then, to pray for "the spirit of grace and of supplication," and to cultivate a prayerful temper habitually and constantly; for, without this, it is impossible to enjoy Christian privileges. Our hearts cannot be kept right any other way. We cannot have confidence in God, nor in ourselves, but from living near, very near to God, in our daily and constant meditations, prayers, and thanksgivings. The stream of piety is a clear, constant, tranquil, swelling current that bears the soul nearer to the bosom of our Father and our God. 
Say not, my Christian brother, you have not time for this; rather say you have not disposition. Say not this will interfere with your business of life. Time is given you for no other purpose than to be saved; that is, to be purified, sanctified, and fitted for heaven; and your daily and constant business is, "to give all diligence to make your calling and your election sure."
[The Millennial Harbinger, New Series, 3 (July 1839): 326-328.]
ABOUT THE ELECTRONIC EDITION
Alexander Campbell's "Short Sermons on Christian Practice: Sermons on Prayer--No. III" was first published in The Millennial Harbinger, New Series, Vol. 3, No. 6, July 1839. The electronic version of the essay has been produced from the College Press reprint (1976) of The Millennial Harbinger, ed. Alexander Campbell (Bethany, VA: A. Campbell, 1839), pp. 326-328. (Note: The pages are misnumbered as 336, 337, and 338 in this edition of the reprint.)
Pagination in the electronic version has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. Inconsistencies in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and typography have been retained; however, corrections have been offered for misspellings and other accidental corruptions. Emendations are as follows:
Printed Text [ Electronic Text ----------------------------------------------------------------------- p. 326: Rom. xi. 12. [ Rom. xii. 12. in the spirit. [ in the spirit. Eph. vi. 18. p. 327: Ps. lv. 17. [ Ps. lv. 16, 17.
Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.
Created 21 February 1999.
Updated 7 July 2003.
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