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  • CONCERNING PRAYER
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    FA40 The mind of man hath so large room to receive good things, that nothing indeed can fully fill it but only God; whom then thy mind fully possesseth, when it fully knoweth him, it fully loveth him, and in all things is framed after his will. They therefore, dear Lord God, that are thy children and have tasted somewhat of thy goodness, do perpetually sigh, that is, do pray, until they come thereto: and, in that they love thee also above all things, it wonderfully woundeth them that other men do not so, that is, love thee, and seek for thee with them. Whereof it cometh to pass, that they are inflamed with continual prayers and desires that thy kingdom might come every where, and thy goodness might be both known, and in life expressed, of every man.

    And because there are innumerable many things, which as well in themselves as in others be against thy glory, they are kindled with continual prayer and desire sighing unspeakably in thy sight for the increase of thy Spirit: and sometimes when they see thy glory more put back than it was wont to be, either in themselves or in any other, then are they much more disquieted and vexed. But because they know that thou dost rule all things after thy good will, and that none other can help them in their need, they oftentimes do go aside, all businesses laid apart, and give themselves to godly cogitations and talk with thee, complaining to thee as to their Father of those things that grieve them, begging thereto, and that most earnestly, thy help not only for themselves, but also for others, especially for those whom singularly they embrace in thee; and often do repeat and remember thy gracious benefits both to others and to themselves also: where-through they are provoked to render to thee hearty thanks; thereby being inflamed, as well assuredly to hope well of thy good will towards them, and patiently to bear all evils, as also to study and labor to mortify the affections of the flesh, and to order all their whole life to the service of their brethren and to the setting forth of thy glory.

    This they know is that prayer thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord commanded to be made to thee “in the chamber, the door being shut.” In this kind of prayer he himself did watch often even “all the whole night.” Herein was Paul frequent, as all thy saints be. This kind of prayer is the true lifting up of the mind unto thee: this standeth in the affections in the heart, not in words and in the mouth. As thy children be endued with thy Spirit, so frequent they this talk with thee: the more thy Spirit is in them, the more are they in talk with thee.

    O give me plentifully thy Spirit, which thou hast promised to “pour out upon all flesh,” that thus I may with thy saints talk with thee night and day, for thy only beloved Son’s sake, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    Moreover thy saints, to provoke them to this kind of prayer, do use, First , their necessity, which they consider in three sorts; inwardly concerning their souls; outwardly concerning their bodies; and finally concerning their names and fame, whereto they add the necessity of those that be committed to them, the necessity of thy church, and of the commonweal.

    Secondly , they use thy commandments, which require them, under pain of sin, to pray to thee in all their need.

    Thirdly , they use the consideration of thy goodness, which art naturally merciful to “young ravens calling upon thee;” much more then to them for whom ravens and all things else were made, for whom thou hast “not spared thy dear Son, but given him,” etc.

    Fourthly , they use thy most sweet and free promises made to hear and help “all them that call upon thee” in Christ’s name.

    Fifthly , they use examples how that thou, which art the God of all, and “rich unto all them that call upon thee” in Christ’s name, hast heard and holpen others calling upon thee.

    Sixthly , they use the benefits given them before they asked, thereby not only provoking them to ask more, but also certifying their faith that, if thou wast so good to grant them many things unasked, now thou wilt not deny them any thing they ask to thy glory and their weal.

    Last of all, they use the reading and weighing of psalms and other good prayers, because they know thereby peculiarly (besides the other scripture) there is no small help; as may appear by Paul, where he willeth the congregation to use “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,” but so that in the heart we should sing and say them: not that thy children do not use their tongues and words in praying to thee; for they do use their tongues, speech, and words, to stir up their inward desire and fervency of the mind; full well knowing that else it were a plain mocking of thee, to pray with lips and tongues only.

    O that I might feel now thy Spirit so to affect me, that both with heart and mouth I might heartily and in faith pray unto thee!

    Now, concerning the things that are to be prayed for, thy children know that the prayer taught by thy Son most lively and plainly doth contain the same: and therefore they often use it, first asking of thee their heavenly Father through Christ, that thy name might every where be had in holiness and praise; then that thy kingdom by regeneration and the ministry of the gospel might come; and so thirdly, that willingly, perfectly, and perpetually, they might study to do, yea, do indeed thy will, with thy holy and heavenly angels and spirits. These things they seek and pray for, namely thy kingdom and thy righteousness, before any worldly benefit. After which petitions, because all things, yea, even the benefits of this present life, do come from thee, they do godly desire the same under the name of “daily bread,” being instructed of thy wisdom, that after small benefits to ask corporal is not unseemly to thy children, which know both spiritual and corporal to come from thy mercy. In the other petitions they pray for things to be taken from them, beginning with forgiveness of sins, which were impudently prayed for, if that their hearts were not so broken, that they could forgive all things to all men for their part: they add their profession, that is, charity, whereby they profess that they have forgiven all offenses done to them.

    Howbeit, because it is not, enough to have pardon of that which is past, except they be preserved from new offenses, they pray thee not to lead them into temptations by permitting them to the perverse suggestion of Satan, but rather to deliver them from his importunity and power; by “evil” understanding Satan the author of all evil.

    O, dear God, that thou wouldest endue me with thy Spirit of grace and prayer, with thy children accordingly to make this prayer always whensoever I do pray!

    As for outward evils, so long as they do not, as it were, enforce thy people to sin, in that christian perfection doth account them amongst thy benefits, thy Son hath not taught thy church to pray for the taking away of them in this prayer; for here he hath contained but those things, for the which all christians, generally and particularly, may of faith pray at all times. It often cometh to pass that exterior evils, because they be not evils indeed, that is, they are not against God’s grace in us, therefore they cannot of faith be prayed for to be taken away; for thy children that have faith do always prefer thy judgment before their own: the which judgment when they know by that which happeneth to them, they submit themselves thereto wholly; although the Spirit make his “unspeakable groanings” to help their infirmities by prayer, not to have them taken away, but that they might have strength and patience to bear the burden accordingly. Which burden, if it be too heavy in the bitter sense and feeling thereof, they in their prayers do complain something, rather than pray to have it taken away; as our Savior did in the garden, when he added to his complaint, “Not my will, but thy will, be done.” So do thy people in all their complaints add, ‘Not as we will, but as thou wilt:’ for they are taught by thy Spirit no otherwise to pray for the taking away of corporal evils, either from themselves or from others, unless they by the same Spirit do certainly see the same to make to thy glory; (as did thine apostles and servants, when absolutely and without condition they did ask health or miracle for any, when they healed or raised the dead by prayer;) for they know nothing can be better than when it is according to thy will. O that I might always know thy will in all things, and forever apply myself thereto!

    Hereof it cometh that thy saints and dear children, which love their neighbors as themselves, do yet notwithstanding in their prayers ask vengeance of some, as we may read in the psalms of David; because, in praying and talking with thee, they see by thy holy Spirit (for without it is no true prayer) sometimes thy judgments upon some which they perceive to “sin to death,” and therefore ought not to be prayed for, but rather to be prayed against, because thy glory cannot be set forth as it should be without their destruction. Thy will is always best, and the thing whereto they frame all their desires. Therefore, when they perceive it decreed with thee, such and such by their destruction to set forth more mightily thy glory; how should they but desire and pray for the same, and write it as David hath done? that the godly in reading and weighing such prayers might receive comfort, and the ungodly be afraid. Else, when that they perceive not so manifestly the determined judgment of God, they in their prayers do most heartily pray for them, as Samuel did for Saul, Moses for the Israelites, Abraham for the Sodomites.

    O good Father, for thy mercy’s sake, give me the true love of mankind; but yet so that I may love man for thee and in thee, and always prefer thy glory above all things, through Christ our Lord.

    Now, though thy children do know that thy will cannot but be done, and nothing can be done but that thou of thine own will hast determined to do (although no man should desire the same), yet are they earnest and frequent in prayer; first, to render obedience to thee, which requirest prayer as a spiritual service to thee; secondly, because thou hast ordained prayer to be as an instrument and mean by the which thou workest things with thee already decreed and determined.

    Thy children do use prayer to offer thee their service, if it shall please thee to use the same. As they do eat and drink, which is a mean ordained of thee for the conservation of their life, not looking hereby to lengthen their days above their bounds which already thou hast appointed, but as be-cometh them to use thy means which thou hast ordained to serve thy providence; so do they herein (as men not curious to know thy providence further than thou revealest it) use prayer as a mean by the which thou art accustomed to work many of thy children’s desires, that according to thy good will thou mayest use the same. They do not think a mutability in thee; (for thou art God, and art not changed, “with thee there is no variableness;”) and therefore, they pray, not as men which would have thy determinations and ordinances, which are in most wisdom and mercy, to be altered; but rather that they might submit their wills to thine, and make them more able to bear thy will and pleasure. They know thou hast promised to help them calling upon thee: wherefore they doubt not but thou so wilt do, and therefore pray accordingly.

    They love thee heartily, and therefore they cannot but desire much to talk with thee, that is, to pray; even as a well-mannered and loving wife will not take upon her to ask any thing of her husband at all but that she hopeth he would take in good part, and do of his own free will, although she had spoken nothing thereof. When she knoweth what her husband’s will is in things, she gladly talketh with him thereof; and, accordingly as she seeth he is purposed to do, she will often desire him to do it. Even so thy children, I say, which heartily love thee, in that they know thy wisdom and will is best, how can they but often talk with thee, and desire thee to do that which they know is best; which they know also thou wouldest do, if none should ask or pray for the same?

    Thy children use prayer as a mean by which they see plainly thy power, thy presence, thy providence, mercy, and goodness towards them, in granting their petitions; and by prayer they are confirmed of them all. Yea, thy children use prayer to admonish them how that all things are in thy hands.

    In prayer they are, as it were, of thee put in mind of those things they have done against thee their good Lord: by reason whereof repentance ensueth, and they conceive a purpose to live more purely ever afterwards, and more heartily to apply themselves to all innocency and goodness.

    Who now considering so many great commodities to come by reason of prayer would marvel why thy children are much in prayer, and in laboring to provoke others thereunto? For, as none that is a suitor to any other will use any thing which might offend or hinder his suit, so no man that useth prayer will flatter himself in any thing that should displease thee, to whom by prayer he moveth suit whensoever he prayeth: so that nothing is a more provocation to all kind of godliness than prayer is. And therefore not without cause we may see thine apostles and servants to labor so diligently, and desire that others might use prayers for themselves and others.

    As concerning outward things which thy children pray for, although they know thy will and decree is not variable, and thy purpose must needs come to pass, yet do they receive by their prayer no small commodity. For either they obtain their requests, or no: if they do obtain them, then prove they by experience that thou doest the will of them that fear thee, and so they are more kindled to love and serve thee. And indeed for this purpose thou art wont, when thou wilt do good to any, to stir up their minds to desire the same good of thee, to the end that both thou and thy gifts may be so much more magnified and set by of them, by how much they have been earnest suitors and petitioners for the same: for how can it but inflame them with love towards thee, to perceive and feel thee so to care for them, hear them, and love them? If they do not obtain that they pray for, yet undoubtedly they receive great comfort to see that the evils which press them, and whereof they complain still, do not oppress and overcome them; and therefore they receive strength to bear the same the better.

    O good Father, help me that I might heartily love thee, complain to thee in all my needs, and always by prayer to pour out my heart before thee.

    Amen.

    A PARAPHRASE

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