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1 COR. xiv. 15.

PRAYER is an ordinance of God, and that to be used both
in public and private : yea, such an ordinance as brings those
that have the spirit of supplication into great familiarity with
God. It is also so prevalent an action, that it getteth of
God, both for the person that prayeth, and them that are
prayed for, great things; it is the opener of the heart of God,
and a means by which the soul, though empty, is filled.
By prayer the Christian can open his heart to God, as to a
friend, and obtain fresh testimony of God’s friendship to him.

I might spend many words in distinguishing between
public and private prayer; as also between that in the heart,
and that with the voice. Something also might be spoken to
distinguish between the gifts and graces of prayers; but
eschewing this method, my business shall be at this time
only to show you the very heart of prayer, without which,
all your lifting up of hands, and eyes, and voices, will be
to no purpose at all. “I will pray with the Spirit.”

The method that I shall go on in, at this time, shall be,
1. To show you what true prayer is. 2. To show you what
it is to pray with the Spirit. 3. What it is to pray with the Spirit and the understanding also. And so, 4. To make some short use and application of what shall be spoken. I. WHAT PRAYER Is. Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as. God hath promised, or are according to his word, for the good of the church; with submission, in faith, to the will of God. In this description are these seven things. 1. It is a sincere; 2. A sensible; 3. An affectionate, pouring out of the soul to God, through Christ; 4. By the strength or assistance of the Spirit; 5. For such things as God hath promised, or are according to his word; 6. For the good of the church; 7. With submission, in faith, to the will of God. 1. For the first of these : It is a sincere pouring out of the soul to God. Sincerity is such a grace as runs through all the graces of God in us, and through all the acts of a Christian, and hath the sway in them too, or else their acts are not any thing regarded of God; and so of and in prayer, of which particularly David speaks, when he mentions prayer: “I cried unto the Lord with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Ps. lxvi. 18. Part of the exercise of prayer is sincerity, without which God looks not upon it as prayer in a good sense. “Then ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jer. xxix. 12, 13. The want of this made the Lord reject their prayers, where he saith, in Hosea vii. 14, “They have not cried unto me with their heart,” (that is, in sincerity,) “when they howled upon their beds.” But for a pretence, for a show in hypocrisy, to be seen of men, and applauded for the same, they pray. Sincerity was that which Christ commended in Nathaniel, when he was under the fig-tree : “Behold an Israelite, indeed, in whom there is no guile.”


John i. 47. Probably this good man was pouring out his soul to God in prayer under the fig-tree, and that in a sincere and unfeigned spirit before the Lord. The prayer that hath this in it as one of the principal ingredients, is the prayer that God looks at. Thus, “The prayer of the upright is his delight.” Prov. xv. 8. And why must sincerity be one of the essentials of prayer which is accepted of God, but because sincerity carries the soul in all simplicity to open the heart to God, and to tell him the case plainly, without equivocation; to condemn itself plainly, without dissembling; to cry to God heartily, without compliments. “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke.” Jer. xxxi. 18. Sincerity is the same in a corner alone, as it is before the face of all the world. It knows not how to wear two wizards, one for an appearance before men, and another for a short snatch in a corner; but it must have God, and be with him in the duty of prayer. It is not a lip-labor that it doth regard, for it is the heart that God looks at, and that which prayer comes from, if it be that prayer which is accompanied with sincerity. 2. It is a sincere and sensible pouring out of the heart or soul. It is not, as many take it to be, even a few babbling, prating, complimentary expressions, but a sensible feeling there is in the heart. Prayer hath in it a sensibleness of diverse things; sometimes the sense of sin, sometimes of mercy received, sometimes of the readiness of God to give mercy, and the like. * Sometimes it is a sense of the want of mercy, by reason of the danger of sin. The soul, I say, feels, and from feeling, sighs, groans, and breaks at the heart. For right prayer bubbleth out of the heart when it is overpressed with grief and bitterness, as blood is forced out of the flesh by reason of some heavy burden that lieth upon it. David roars, cries, weeps, faints at heart, fails at the eyes, loseth his moisture, &c.; Hezekiah mourns like a dove; Ephraim bemoans himself; Peter weeps bitterly; Christ hath strong crying and tears; and all this from a sense of the justice of God, the guilt of sin, the pains of hell and destruction. “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then cried I unto the Lord.” And in another place, “My sore ran in the night.” Again, “I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.” In all these instances, and in hundreds more that might be named, you may see that prayer carrieth in it a sensible, feeling disposition, and that first from a sense of sin. v Sometimes there is a sweet sense of mercy received; encouraging, comforting, strengthening, enlivening, enlightening mercy, &c. Thus David pours out his soul, to bless, praise, and admire the great God for his loving-kindness to such poor vile wretches. “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities: who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” And thus is the prayer of Saints sometimes turned into praise and thanksgiving, and yet is prayer still. This is a mystery; God’s people pray with their praises; as it is written, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer, and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” A sensible thanksgiving for mercy received, is a mighty prayer in the sight of God; it prevails with him unspeakably. In prayer, there is sometimes in the soul a sense of mercy to be received. This again sets the soul all on a flame. “Thou, O Lord God,” saith David, “hast revealed to thy

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