Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hannah More on Prayer

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

From chapter XI, of Perseverance in Prayer and Praise, pages 154-158.

We think, perhaps, that had [God] commanded us "to do some great thing," to raise some monument of splendor, some memorial of notoriety and ostentation, something that would perpetuate our own name with his goodness, we should gladly have done it. How much more when he only requires
"Our thanks how due!"
when he only asks the homage of the heart, the expression of our dependence, the recognition of his right!

But he to whom the duty of prayer is unknown, and by whom the privilege of prayer is unfelt, or he by whom it is neglected, or he who uses it for form and not from feeling, may probably say, Will this work, wearisome even if necessary, never know an end? Will there be no period of God will dispense with its regular exercise? Will there never be such an attainment of the end proposed, as that we may be allowed to discontinue the means?

To these interrogatories there is but one answer, an answer which shall be also made, by an appeal to the inquirer himself.

If there is any day in which we are quite certain that we shall meet with no trial from Providence, no temptation from the world, any day in which we shall be sure to have no wrong tempers excited in ourselves, no call to bear with those of others, no misfortune to encounter, and no need of Divine assistance to endure it, on that morning we may safely omit prayer.

If there is any evening in which we have received no protection from God, and experienced no mercy at his hands; if we have not lost a single opportunity of doing or receiving good, if we are quite certain that we have not once spoken unadvisedly with our lips, nor entertained one vain or idle thought in our heart, on that night we may safely omit to praise God, and to confess our own sinfulness; on that night we may safely omit humiliation and thanksgiving. To repeat the converse would be superfluous.

When we can conscientiously say, that religion has given a tone to our conduct, a law to our actions, a rule to our thoughts, a bridle to our tongue, a restraint to every wrong passion, a check to every evil temper, then some will say, We may safely be dismissed from the drudgery of prayer, it will then have answered all the ends which you so tiresomely recommend. So far from it, we really figure to ourselves, that if we could hope to hear of a human being brought to such perfection of discipline, it would unquestionably be found that this would be the very being who would continue most perseveringly in the practice of that devotion, which had so materially contributed to bring his heart and mind into so desirable a state, who would most tremble to discontinue prayer, who would be most appalled at the thought of the condition into which such discontinuance would be likely to reduce him. Whatever others do, he will continue for ever to "sing praises unto Thee, O Thou most Highest; he will continue to tell of they loving kindness early in the morning, and of thy truth in the night season."

It is true that while he considered religion as something nominal and ceremonial, rather than as a principle of spirit and life, he felt nothing encouraging, nothing refreshing, nothing delightful in prayer. But since he began to feel it as the means of procuring the most substantial blessings to his heart, since he began to experience something of the realization of the promises to his soul, in the performance of this exercise, he finds there is no employment so satisfactory; none that his mind can so little do without; none that so effectually raises him above the world; none that so opens his eyes to its empty shadows; none which can make him look with so much indifference on its lying vanities; none that can so powerfully defend him against the assaults of temptation, and the allurements of pleasure; none that can so sustain him under labour, so carry him through difficulties; none that can so quicken him in the practice of every virtue, and animate him in the discharge of every duty.

An additional reason why we should live in the perpetual use of prayer, seem to be, that our blessed Redeemer, after having given both the example and the command, while on earth, condescends still to be our unceasing intercessor in heaven. Can we ever cease petitioning for ourselves, when we believe that he never ceases interceding for us?

1 comment:

Katie said...

Very convicting. Hannah More writes with such clarity and heart-felt persuasion. There's no chance that you could just post the whole book, is there...? :-p