THURSDAY, SECOND WEEK IN LENT
ON FERVOUR IN PRAYER
Consider first, the necessity of fervour in prayer, that is to say, that we should be quite in earnest in our addresses to God. For how can we expect that God should hear or regard our supplications when we present them with so much indolence and indifference, as if we told the Almighty we did not care whether he heard us or not? Such lukewarm prayer as this, instead of drawing down his blessing upon us, will rather move him to indignation. It is doing the work of God negligently, which is a thing of the worst consequences to a Christian soul. Fervour and eagerness in prayer is recommended to us by the great example of the Son of God, ‘who in the days of his flesh, with a strong cry and tears, offered up his prayers and supplications;’ Heb. v. 7. It is recommended by the doctrine and example of all the Saints. Not a fervour of the imagination, but of the will; not expressed by the motion of the head, or any outward gestures of the body, but consisting in the strong desires of the soul, suing with all her power for the mercy and grace of God.
Consider 2ndly, how our Lord recommends to us, St: Luke xviii. 1, ‘That we should always pray, and not faint;’ that is, not to be discouraged, or to give over, if we don’t immediately find the effect of our prayers; but by the example of the poor widow, whose importunity prevailed even upon a wicked judge, still continue to knock at the gate of heaven, till God is pleased to open to us, according to his merciful promise. Perseverance in prayer, and a holy importunity, were the means by which the Saints obtained such great things of God. It is well if the want of these be not the true reason why we are not favoured in the like manner. The hand of God is certainly not shortened. But alas we have not that faith, that fervour, that perseverance, which they had, who, like their Lord, sometimes passed even whole nights in prayer.
Consider 3rdly, that nothing contributes more to render our prayers effectual with God than a profound humility. A contrite and humble heart God never despises. ‘The prayer of him that humbles himself,’ saith the wise man, Ecclus. xxxv. 21, ‘shall pierce the clouds – and not depart till the Most High behold.’ Humility always finds admittance with God, who ever resists the proud, and gives his grace to the humble. If then, my soul, thou desire that thy prayers should find admittance, see they be ever accompanied with humility. ‘I will speak to my Lord,’ said holy Abraham, Gen. xviii. 27, ‘whereas I am but dust and ashes.’ Alas! poor soul of mine, thy whole being is a mere nothing in the sight of that great God, before whom thou presentest thyself in prayer. His majesty fills heaven and earth and both heaven and earth dwindle away just to nothing at all in his presence. But what a figure, then, do thy crimes and abominations make in his eyes and how wretched an object do they make of thee! See, then, what pressing motives thou hast to humble thyself in prayer, in consideration of thy sins, and of what thou hast deserved by them. Nothing but humble prayer can remedy all thy evils, and this will effectually do it.
Conclude ever to pray with fervour and humility, and, in order thereto, begin always thy prayer by placing thyself in the presence of God, and humbly imploring the assistance of his divine Spirit. None but he can teach thee to pray well.