by Thomas Boston
First, I am to consider the object of this duty, or whom we are to pray to; that is, God: not to saints and angels, as the Papists do; for prayer is a part of religious worship, and therefore due to God only, Matth. 4:10; and he only knows all things, and is present everywhere to hear us, Isa. 63:16. To all the three persons in the Trinity prayer is due. That it is so to the Father, nobody doubts. That it is due to Christ, the Son, appears from Stephen's calling upon him in his last moments, and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," Acts 7:59. Even Christ the Mediator is to be worshipped, though his divine nature is the reason why he is worshipped, Heb. 1:6, "And let all the angels of God worship him." The Holy Ghost also is to be worshipped, as appears from the apostolical benediction, 2 Cor. 13:14, "The communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all."
In respect of the object of worship, people would do well to satisfy themselves, in their addresses to God, with the belief of the Trinity of persons in the Godhead, who are but one object of worship, and not think to comprehend God, but to make use of the names and titles he has taken to himself in the word. Beware of imaginations of God or the three persons, and of dividing the object of worship, as if praying to the Father, you did not also pray to the Son and the Holy Ghost.
It is most necessary our prayers begin with such a description of God, as may both strike fear and dread in our hearts; and confidence of being heard; as, "Our Father which art in heaven;" "O, Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant, and mercy," &c., Dan. 9:4. And this will readily be the case, if we have due thoughts of his glorious majesty and infinite excellency.
Secondly, The parts of prayer are three, (1.) Confession, (2.) Thanksgiving, and (3.) Petition.
1. Confession, Dan. 9:4, 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 have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled," &c. It well becomes sinful dust and ashes, in addresses to God, to come with a blush in the countenance, and tears in the eye, and confession in the mouth. It is necessary to humble us in the sight of God, and it is the humble only that are heard, Psalm 10:17. Confession is the vomiting up of the sweet morsel, and God has joined pardon and confession together, 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." God's ears are shut to those whose mouths are bound up from this. Some say they cannot pray: O can ye not confess what you are, have done, and daily are doing? How can ye want matter of prayer, while ye have so many sins to confess?
2. Thanksgiving, Phil. 4:6, "In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." Every man is God's debtor for mercies, as well as sins; the least return ye can make, is to acknowledge debt. He that is unthankful for what he has got, cannot think to come speed in addresses for more.
3. Petition, wherein prayer properly consists. It is an offering up of our desires to God. Wherein we may note the act of prayer, "offering up our desires." The prayer that God makes account of is first in the heart, 1 Cor. 14:15, "I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also." It is a pouring out of the heart to God, Psalm 62:8. The Spirit of God moves on the waters of our affections, and then they are poured out before the Lord, as the water of the well of Bethlehem was by David. Many times our prayers come as mud out of a vessel; but as water they should flow freely. The
In prayer there are real desires of what we seek of God, which desires are offered to the Lord. The mouth must not speak out anything but what is the desire of the heart. It is dangerous to mock God, who knows the heart; to confess sin, and not have the heart affected with it; to seek supply of wants from him, and not have the heart impressed with a due sense of the want of them. There are two sorts of desires.
(1.) There are natural desires, which are the mere product of our own spirits, offered unto God, but not regarded as prayer (Hos. 7:14.) by the Lord. These may be not only for temporal things but for spiritual also, as those who said to Christ, "Lord evermore give us this bread." A natural man, from a gift of prayer, may seek grace and glory, as a bridge to lead him over the waters of wrath; but coming only from their own spirits, such a prayer is not acceptable.
(2.) There are spiritual desires, Zech. 12:10; which the saints breathe out unto God, having them first breathed into them by the Spirit, Rom. 8:26. And these may be for temporal things, as well as spiritual, accepted, seeing they are put up in a spiritual manner. These are always sincere and fervent, so as the soul earnestly craves the things sought.
Thirdly, The matter of prayer, or what we are to petition and seek for. These are, the things that are agreeable to God's will. To pray for the fulfilling of unlawful desires, is horrid, Jam. 4:3. But the will of God is the rule of our prayers, 1 John 5:14, "This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us." We find the will of God in his commands and promises. Whatever God has commanded us to seek, whatever he has promised, that we may and ought to pray for. These are, (1.) Spiritual mercies, grace, glory, the increase of grace, comforts, &c. (2.) Temporal mercies, health, strength, &c., mercies relating to our bodies and temporal estate in the world.
Table of Contents
Pray Without Ceasing
Of the Spirit's Help in Prayer
Of Praying in the Name of Jesus Christ
Of God's Hearing of Prayer
On Acceptance With God
Jesus Christ the Beloved One, and Sinners Accepted of God Freely in Him