Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hannah More on Prayer

I like little books. My dad is very generous. Thus, he semi-regularly gives me little books. Sometimes when he bestows small volumes on me he does so for size or binding. This particular book he gave me for the content (and because I asked nicely).

Herewith, an excerpt from The Spirit of Prayer, by Hannah More. New York: Swords, Stanford, and Co., 1883, pages 22-25.

Chapter III.

Prayer.-- Its Definition.

"Prayer is the application of want to Him who alone can relieve it, the voice of sin to him who alone can pardon it. It is the urgency of poverty, the prostration of humility, the fervency of penitence, the confidence of trust. It is not eloquence, but earnestness; not figures of speech, but compunction of soul. It is the "Lord, save us, we perish," of drowning Peter; the cry of faith to the ear of mercy.

Adoration is the noblest employment of created beings; confession, the natural language of guilty creatures; praise, the spontaneous expression of pardoned sinners. Prayer is desire; the abasement of contrition; the energy of gratitude. It is not a mere conception of the mind, nor an effort of the intellect, nor an act of the memory; but an elevation of the soul towards its Maker. It is the devout breathing of a creature struck with a sense of its own misery, and of the infinite holiness of Him whom it is addressing, experimentally convinced of its own emptiness, and of the abundant fulness [sic] of God, of his readiness to hear, of his power to help, of his willingness to save. It is not an emotion produced in the senses, nor an effect wrought by the imagination; but a determination of the will, an effusion of the heart.

"Prayer is the guide to self-knowledge, by prompting us to look after our sins, in order to pray against them; it is a motive to vigilance, by teaching us to guard against those sins which, through self-examination, we have been enabled to detect.

"Prayer is an act both of the understanding and of the heart. The understanding must apply itself to the knowledge of the Divine perfections, or the heart will not be led to the adoration of them. It would not be a reasonable service, if the mind was excluded. It must be rational worship, or the human worshipper [sic] would not bring to the service the distinguishing faculty of his nature, which is reason. It must be spiritual worship, or it would want the distinctive quality to make it acceptable to Him who is a spirit, and who has declared that he will be worshipped [sic] "in spirit and in truth." Prayer is right in itself as the most powerful means of resisting sin and advancing in holiness. It is above all right, as every thing is, which has the authority of Scripture, the command of God, and the example of Christ.

"There is a perfect consistency in all the ordinations of God; a perfect congruity in the whole scheme of his dispensations. If man were not a corrupt creature, such prayer as the Gospel enjoins would not have been necessary. Had not prayer been an important means for curing those corruptions, a God of perfect wisdom would not have ordered it. He would not have prohibited every thing which tends to inflame and promote them, had they not existed; nor would he have commanded every thing that has a tendency to diminish and remove them, had not their existence been fatal. Prayer, therefore, is an indispensable part of his economy and of our obedience."

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