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as they found. We are not to have such unworthy Thoughts of God, as to believe that he has obliged himself to answer all the most foolish, the most sinful, nay the most contradictory Petitions of all Men, or their Prayers of any kind, if they do but put up their Requests with their Mouth, though perhaps they neyer seriously think of them with their Hearts. No; though the Promise is here set down in few and general Words, it must be understood with those particular Explications and Restrictions which are mentioned in the Context, and other parallel Passages of the holy Scripture, which I shall therefore endeavour to lay together, and to open the Reason of them, that our Saviour's Meaning as to this Promise may not be misunderstood or perverted. Now, for Memory's fake, the Explications of this Promise may be reduced to these four Sorts: 1. The right Qualifications of the Persons that pray. 2. The Matter of our Prayer, or the Things we pray for. 3. The Manner of our praying or aiking. 4. The Grant of our Prayers or Petitions: Concerning all which I have something to offer towards the Explication of this Promise. •
1. As to the First, The Qualifications of the Persons that pray. I think we may take it for granted, that the Persons to whom this Advice is given, are Disciples or Christians, using their own diligent Endeavour; and therefore what they cannot attain by their own Strength, they are encouraged to attempt by the Use of Prayer. This Promise then is only made to Christ's Disciples, and consequently, only to Believers; and to such Believers as diligently make use of their
Vol. IV. L own own Endeavours. So that perhaps all that is to be said of the right Qualifications of the Persons that pray, may be reduced to these Two, Faith and Praclice. First, Faith: And thus the fame 'Evangelist explains it, Matth. xxi. 22. And all Things whatsoever ye Jloall ask in Prayer, believing, ye Jhall receive. So St. James explains the like Promise, Jam. i. 6. For having said at the preceding Verse: If any of you lack Wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all Men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it /hall be given him Which is the very fame with the Promise in my Text: He adds immediately, by Way of Application, But let him ask in Faith, nothing •wavering.
Now by Faith requisite in him that prays, there are several Things meant, as necestary to entitle us to this Promise made to Prayer in the Text. As,
1. The Person, who trusting in this Promise, puts up his Prayers to God, must believe both his Being, and his Ability, and good Will to grant those Things he prays for. He that cometb to God, saith the Apostle, Heb. xi. 6. mujl believe that he 'is, and that he is a Rewarder of them who diligently seek him. This Qualification carries its own Reason along with it; for no Man can be understood to pray to God in good Earnest, if he does not believe him capable of hearing and granting his Requests.
2. Christian Faith implies not only a Belief in God, but a Belief and Trust in the Mediation and Interceflion of Jesus Christ; for thus Christ himself explains it, Job.x'iv. 13, 14. Whatsoever ye Jhall ask in my Name, faith he, that will
J do, I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son: Is ye Jhall ask any thing in my Name, I will do it. And Job. vi. 24. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my Name; ask, and ye stall receive, that your Joy may be full.
3. Faith implies not only a general Belief in God, and that he is to be addressed through the Mediation of Jesus Christ; but- likewise a Belief of this particular Promise, that God for Christ's fake will hear and grant our Prayers, Mark xi. 24. What Things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, (or, as some other Readings have it, believe that ye jhall receive them,) and ye Jhall have them. It is indeed a very unreasonable Thing for any Man to claim Benefit by a Promise to which he himself gives no Credit.
4. By Faith in the praying Person, is not only implied, that he believes Prayer is a proper Means to obtain of God the good Things he wants; but likewise that there is no obtaining of them without it. What I mean is this, that he who comes to pray to God, should come believing that it is not in his own Power, by any Skill, Contrivance, or Endeavour of his own, to procure to himself those good Things he prays for ; and therefore that he is to depend entirely on God for them, by this Means of Prayer ^ according to the Advice of the Wife Man, Prov. iii. 5. Trust in the Lord with all thine Heart; and lean not to thine own Under/landing: in all thy Ways acknowledge him, and he jhall direct thy Paths. And according to the excellent Advice of his Father David, 1 Chron. xxviii. 9. And thou Solomon my Son, know thou the God of thy Father, andserve him with a perfeSt Heart,
L 2 and and with a willing Mind: for the Lord searchetb all Hearts, and underftandeth all the Imaginations of the Thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee: but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee offfor ever.
So much for Faith, the first Qualification required in him that prays to God, and expects the Benefit of the Promise in my Text.
Next follows Pratfice, the other Qualification requisite in him that prays to God; which imports, that in good Earnest he use his true Endeavour to obtain those good Things which he prays for. This I shall likewise branch out into some more particular Rules.
1. There must be a general Care and Endeavour to comply with all God's Commandments. 1 J oh. iii. 22. Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him; because we keep his Commandments, and do those Things that are pleasing in his Sight. If we are either in general negligent of our Lives and Conversations; or particularly, if we indulge ourselves in the Practice of any known Sin, without striving earnestly to get rid of it, we have no Reason to expect that God will grant our Requests in Prayer, Prov. xxviii. 9. He that turneth away his Ear from hearing the Law, even his Prayer shall be abomination. And Prov. xv. 8. The Sacrifice of the Wicked is an Abomination to the Lord; but the Prayer of the Upright is bis Delight.
2. We must not presume to go to God in Prayer, being conscious to ourselves of having committed any known Sin, without repenting particularly of it. If we carry any such Idol in our Bosom, it will be like Achan's accursed
2 Thing, Thing, and will deprive us of the Blessing we might otherwise expect from our Prayers. 1 "John iii. 21. Beloved, if our Heart condemn us not, then have ice Confidence towards God, and ivhatfoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his Commandments. And the Psalmist lays it down as a Rule, Pfal. lxvi. 18. If I regard Iniquity in my Heart, the Lord will not hear me. And God tells the People of Israel, that when they came to pray to him with their bloody Designs in their Minds, and Actions *>f Cruelty in their Lives, unrepented of, he would not hear their Prayers: Isa. i. 15. And when ye Jpread forth your Hands, says he, / will hide mine Eyes from you: yea, when ye make many Prayers, £ will not hear : your Hands are full of Blood.
3. Another Instance of our sincere Endeavour to amend our Lives, . to qualify ourselves for Prayer, is, that we must set about our Prayers with Hearts free from Malice, and full of Charity to all Men. When ye Jland praying, saith our Saviour, Mark xi. 25. forgive, if ye have ought again/I any, that your Father also which is in Heaven may forgive you your Trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in Heaven forgive you your Trespasses. And in another Place of this fame Sermon on the Mount, If thou bring thy Gift to the Altar, and there remembrejl that thy Brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy Gift before the Altar, and go thy Way, first be reconciled to thy Brother, and then come and offer thy Gift, Matth. v. 23.
4. A fourth Branch of this Sincerity is, that whosoever would claim any Benefit from this Promise made to Prayer, must take Care that
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