REV. J. C. "TIYLE, B. A.,
CHRIST CHURCH, OXFORD,
BECTOB OF HKT.UTWOHAM, SUFFOLK.
PySUSNEO lY TfCC
y^MERicAN Tract Society
( FEL 24 i925 » I I
CALL TO PRAYER
BY THE EEV. J. C. BYLE,
KECTOH OF HELMIXGUAU, SUFFOLK.
PUBLISHED BY THE
AMERICAN TRACT SOCIETY;
150 NASSAU-STJIEET, NEW YORK.
CALL TO PRAYER.
" MEN OUGHT ALWAYS TO PRAY."' Luke 18 : L
" I WILL THAT MEN PRAY EVERYWHERE."
I HAVE a question to offer you. It is con-
'tained in three words, Do you pray ?
The question is one that none but you can
answer. "Whether you attend public worship
or not, your minister knows. Whether you
have family prayers in your house or not,
your relations know. But whether you pray
in private or not, is a matter between your-
self and God.
I beseech you in all affection to attend to
i A CALL TO PRAYEll.
tlie subject I bring before you. Do not say
that my question is too close. If your heart
is riglit in the sight of God, there is nothing
in it to make you afraid. Do not turn off my
question hy replying that you say your pray-
ers. It is one thing to say your prayers and
another to pray. Do not tell me that my
question is unnecessary. Listen to me for a
few minutes, and I wiU show you good rea-
sons for asking it.
I. I ask whether you pray, because prayer
is absolutely needful to a mans salvatiojh
I say, absolutely needful, and I say so ad-
visedly. I am not speaking now of infants
or idiots. I am not settling the state of the
heathen. I know that where little is given,
there little wiU be required. I speak especial-
ly of those who caU themselves Christians, in
a land Hke our own. And of such I say, no
man or woman can expect to be saved who
does not pray.
I hold salvation by grace as strongly as
any one. I would gladly offer a free and
full pardon to the greatest sinner that ever
A CALL TO PRAYER. , 5
lived. I would not hesitate to stand by his
dying bed, and say, "Believe on the Lord
Jesus Christ even now, and you shall be
saved." But that a man can have salvation
without asking for it, I cannot see in the
Bible. That a man will receive pardon of his
sins, who will not so much as lift up his heart
inwardly, and say, "Lord Jesus, give it to
me," this I cannot find. I can find that no-
body will be saved by his prayers, but I can-
not find that without prayer anybody will be
It is not absolutely needful to salvation
that a man should read the Bible. A man
may have no learning, or be bhnd, and yet
have Christ in his heart. It is noi abso-
lutely needful that a man should hear public
preaching of the gospel. He may hve where
the gospel is not preached, or he may be bed-
ridden, or Aeai. But the same thing cannot
be said about prayer. It is absolutely need-
ful to salvation that a man should pray.
There is no royal road either to health or
learning. Princes and kings, pool* men and
6 A CALL TO PRAYER.
peasants, all alike must attend to the wants
of tlieir owTi bodies and their own minds. No
man can eat, drink, or sleep, by proxy. No
man can get the alphabet learned for him
by another. All these are things which every-
body must do for himself, or tliey will not be
done at all.
Just as it is with the mind and body, so it
is with the soul. There are certain things
absolutely needful to the soul's health and
well-being. Each must attend to these things
for himself. Each must repent for himself.
Each must apply to Christ for himself. And
for himself each must speak to God and
pray. You must do it for yourself, for by
nobody else can it be done.
To be prayerless is to be without God,
without Cliiast, without gi-ace, without hope,
and without heaven. It is to be in the road
to hell. Now can you wonder that I ask the
question, Do you pray?
II. I ask again whether you pray, because
a habit of i^rayer is one of the surest marks of a
A CALL TO PRAYER. 7
All the children of God on earth are
alike in this respect. From the moment
there is any life and reality about their re-
ligion, they pray. Just as the- first sign of
life in an infant when bom into the world,
is the act of breathing, so the first act of
men and women when they are bom again,
This is one of the common marks of all
the elect of God, '"^^ey cry unto him day
and night." Luke 18:1. The Holy Spirit,
who makes them new creatures, works in
them the feeling of adoption, and makes them
cry, "Abba, Father." Eom. 8 : 15. The Lord
Jesus, when he quickens them, gives them a
voice and a tongue, and says to them, "Be
dumb no more." God has no dumb chil-
dren. It is as much a part of their new
nature to pray, as it is of a child to cry.
They see their need of mercy and grace.
They feel their emptiness and weakness.
They cannot do otherwise than they do.
They musi pray.
I have looked carefully over the lives of
8 A CALL TO PKAYER.
God's saints in the Bible. I cannot find one
of whose history much is told us, from Genesis
to Revelation, who was not a man of prayer.
I find it mentioned as a characteristic of
the godly, that "they- call on the Father,"
that "they call on the name of the Lord
Jesus Christ." I find it recorded as a char-
acteristic of the wicked, that " they call not
upon the Lord." 1 Peter 1:17; 1 Cor. 1:2;
Psg,. 14:4. ^ i
y I have read the Hves of many eminent
/ Christians who have been on earth since the
\ Bible days. Some of them, I see, were rich,
and some poor. Some were learned, and
some unlearned. Some of them were Epis-
copaHans, and some Christians of other names.
Some were Calvinists, and some were Armin-
ians. Some have loved to use a liturgy, and
some to use none. But one thing, I see, they
all had in common. They have all been men
I study the reports of missionary societies
in our own times. . I see with joy that hea-
then men and women are receiving the gos-
A CALL TO PRAYER. 9
pel in various paa*ts of the globe. There are
conversions in Africa, in New Zealand, in
Hindostan, in China. The people converted
are naturally unlike one another in every re-
spect. But one striking thing I observe at
all the missionary stations: the converted
people alioays pray. !
I do not deny that a man may pray with-
out heart and without sincerity. I do ikot
for a moment pretend to say that the mere
fact of a person's praying proves everything
about his soul. As in every other part of re-
ligion, so also in this, there may be deception
But this I do say, that not praying is a
. clear proof that a man is not yet a true
Christian. He cannot really feel his sins.
He cannot love God. He cannot feel him-
self a debtor to Christ. He cannot long after
holiness. He cannot desire heaven. He
has yet to be born again. He has yet to be
made a new creature. He may boast con-
fidently of election, grace, faith, hope, and
knowledge, and deceive ignorant people. But
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10 A CALL TO PRAYER.
you may rest assured it is all vain talk if he
does not pray. |
And I say, furthermore, that of all the
evidences of the real work of the Spirit, a
habit pf hearty private prayer is one of the
most satisfactory that can be named. A
man may preach from false motives. A man
may write books and make fine speeches
and seem diligent in good works, and yot
be a Judaa Iscariot. But a man seldom
goes into his closet, and pours out his soul
before God in secret, unless he is in earnest.
The Lord himself has set his stamp on pray-
er as the best proof of a true conversion.
When he sent Ananias to Saul in Damas-
cus, he gave him no other evidence of his
change of heart thaur. this, "Behold, hb pray-
eth" Acts 9: 11. '
I know that much may go on in a man's
mind before he is brought to pray. He
may have many convictions, desu'es, wishes,
feelings, intentions, resolutions, hopes, and
fears. But all these things are very uncer-
tain evidences. They are to be found in un-
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A CALL TO PRAYER.
godly people, and often come to nothing. In
many a case they are not more lastmg than
the morning cloud, and the dew that passeth
away. A real, hearty prayer, flowing from a
broken and contrite spirit, is worth all , these
things put together.
I know that the oly Spirit, who calls
sinners from their evil ways, does in many
instances lead them by very slow degrees to
acquaintance with Christ. But the eye of
man can only judge by what it sees. I can-
not call any one justified until he believes.
I dare not say that any one believes until
he prays. I cannot understand a dumb faith.
The first act of faith will be to speak to
. God, Faith is to the soul what life is to the
- body. Prayer is to faith what breath is to
life. How a man can live and not breathe
is past my comprehension, and how a man
can believe and not pray is past my compre-
hension too. ,. ^ .,.
Never be surprised if you hear ministers
of the gospel dwelling much on the impor-
tance of prayer. This is the point we want
12 A CALL TO PRAYER.
to bring you to ; we want to know that you
pray. Your views of doctrine may be cor-
rect. Your love of Protestantism may be
warm and unmistakable. But still this may
be nothing more than head knowledge and
party spirit. We want to know whether you
are actually acquainted with the throne of
grace, and whether you can speak to God as
well as speak about God.
Do you wish to find out whether you are
a true Christian? Then rest assured that my
question is of the very first importance — ^Do
m. I ask whether you pray, because there
is no duty in religion so neglected as private
We Hve in days of abounding religibus
profession. There are more places of public
worship now than there ever were before.
There are more persons attending them than
there ever were before. And yet in spite of
aU this public religion, I believe there is a
vast neglect of private prayer. It is one of
those private transactions, between God and
A CALL TO PRAYE'B^^ 13
our souls which no eye sees, and therefore
one which men are tempted to pass over and
leave undone. '
I believe that thousands never utter' a icord
of prayer at all. They eat. They drink.
They sleep. They rise. They go forth to
^^heir labor. They return to their homes.
They breathe God's air. They see God's
sun. They walk on Gx)d's earth. They en-
joy God's mercies. They have dying bodies.
They have judgment and eternity before them.
But they never speak to God. They live like
the beasts that perish. They behave like
creatures without souls. They have not one
word to say to Him in whose hand are their
. life and breath, and all things, and from whose
mouth they must one day receive their ever-
lasting sentence. How dreadful this seems;
but if the secrets of men were only known!
I beheve there are tens of thousands wJiose
prayers are nothing hut a mere form, a set of
words repeated by rote, without a thought
about their meaning. Some say over a few
14 A CALL TO PRAYER.
hasty sentences picked up in the nursery
when they were children. Some content
themselves with repeating the Creed, forget-
ting that there is not a request in it. Some
add the Lord's Prayer, but without the slight-
est desire that its solemn petitions may he
granted. . I
Many, even of those who use good forms,
mutter their prayers over after they have
got into bed, or while they wash or dress
in the morning. Men fiiay think what they
please, but they may depend upon it that in
the sight of God this is not praying. Words
said without heart are as utterly useless to
our souls as the drum-beating of the poor
heathen before their idols. Where there is
no heart, there may be lip-work and tongue-
work, but there is nothing that God listens
to; there is no prayer. Saul, I have no doubt,
said many a long prayer before the Lord met
him on the way to Damascus. But it was
not till his heart was broken that the Lord
said, "He prayeth.",
■ Does this surprise you? Listen to me, and
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A CALIi TO PEAYER. 15
I will show you that I not speaking as I do
without reason. Do you think that my asser-
tions are extravagant and unwarrantable?
Give me your attention, and I will soon show
you that I am only telling you the truth.
Have you forgotten that it is not natural to
any one to pray? " The carnal mind is enmi-
ty against God." The desire of man's heart
is to get far away from God, and have noth-
ing to do with him. His feeling towards l^im
is not love, but fear. Why then should a
man pray when he has no real sense of sin,
no real feeling of spiritual wants, no thorough
belief in unseen things, no desire after hc[li-
ness and heaven? Of all these things the
vast majority of men know and feel nothing.
The multitude walk in the broad way. I
cannot forget this. Therefore I say boldly,
I believe that few pray.
Have you forgotten that it is notfasMonaMe
to pray ? It is one of the things that many
would be rather ashamed to own. There are
hundreds who would sooner storm a hre&f^,
or lead a forlorn hope, than confess publicly
16 A CALL TO PRAYER.
that they make a habit of prayer. There aro
thousands who, if obliged to sleep in the
sameTOom with a stranger, would lie down in
bed without a prayer. To dress well, to go
to theatres, to be thought clever and agreea-
ble, all this is fashionable, but not to pray.
I cannot forget this. I cannot think a habit
is common which so many seem ashamed to
own. T believe that few pray.
Have you forgotten the lives thai, many live?
Can we really believe that people afje praying
against sin night and day, when we see them
plunging into it ? , Can we suppose they pray
against the world, when they are entirely ab-
sorbed and taken up with its pursuits? Can
we think they really ask God for grace to
serve him, when they do not show the slight-
est desire to serve- him at all? Oh, no, it is
plain as dayhght that the great majority of
men either ask nothing of God or do not mean
ivhat they say when they do ask, which is just
the same thing. Praying and sinning will
never live together in the same heart. Prayer
will consume sin, or sin will choke prayer. T
A CALL TO PEaYER. 17
cannot forget this, I look at men's lives. I
believe that few pray.
Have you forgotten the deaths that many die?
How many, when they draw near death, seen!
entirely strangers to God. Not only are they
sadly ignorant of his gospel, but sadly want-
ing in the power of speaking to him. There
is a temble awkwardness and shyness in
their endeavors to approach Him. They
seem to be taking up a fresh thing. They
appear as if they wanted an introduction to
Gpd, and as if they had never talked with
him before. I remember having heard of a
lady who was anxious to have a minister to
visit her in her last ilJaess. She desired that
- he would pray with her. He asked her what
he should pray for. She did not know, and
could not tell. She was utterly unable to
name any one thing which she wished him to
ask God for her soul. All she seemed to
want was the form of a minister's prayers.
I can quite understand this. Death-beds are
great Tevealers of secrets. I cannot forget
what I have seen of sick and dying peo--
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18 A CALL TO PEAYER.
pie. This also leads me to believe that few
I cannot see your heart. I do not know
your private history in spiritual things. But
from what I see in the' Bible and in the world,
I am certain I cannot ask you a more neces-
sary question than that before you — ^Do YOIJ
IV. I ask whether you pray, because py'ayer
is an act in religion to loliich there is great erf
There is everything on God's part to make
prayer easy, if men wiU only attempt it. All
things are ready on his side. Every objection
is anticipated. Every difficulty is provided
for. The crooked* places are made straight
and the rough places are made smooth.
There is no excuse left for the prayerless
There is a tuay by which any man, however
sinful and unworthy, may draw near to God
the Father. Jesus Christ has opened that
way by the sacrifice he made for us upon
the cross. The holiness, and justice of God
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A CALL TO PEAYEE. 19
need not frigliten sinners and keep them
back. Only let them cry to God in the
name of Jesus, only let them plead the ato-
ning blood of Jesus, and they shall find God
upon a throne of grace, willing and ready to
hear. The name of Jesus is a never-failing
passport for our prayers. In that name a -
man may draw near to God with boldness,
and ask with confidence. God has engaged
to hear him. Think of this. Is not this
There is an Advocate and Intercessor al-
ways waiting to present the prayers of those
who come to God through him. That advo-
cate is Jesus Christ. He mingles our prayers
with the incense of his own almighty inter-
cession. So mingled, they go up as a sweet
savor before the throne of God. Poor as^
they are in themselves, they are mighty and
powerful in the hand of our High Priest iand
Elder Brother. The bank-note without a
signature at the bottom is nothing but a
worthless piece of paper. The stroke of a
pen confers on it all its value. The prayer of a
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2Q A CALL TO PKAYER.
poor child of Adam is a feeble thing in itself,
but once endorsed by the hand of the Lord
•Jesus it availeth much. There was an officer
in the city of Eome who was appointed to
have his doors always open, in order to re-
ceive any Roman citizen who appHed to him
for help. Just so the ear of the Lord Jesus
is ever open to the cry of all who want mercy
and grace. It is his office to help them.
Their prayer is his delight. Think of this.
Is not this encouragement?
There is tJie Holy Spirit ever ready to help
our infirmities in prayer. It is one part of
his special office to assist us in our endeavors
^d speak with God. We need not be cast
down and distressed by the fear of not know-
ing what to say. The Spirit will give us
words if we seek his aid. The prayers of the
Lord's people are the inspiration of the Lord's
Spirit, the work of the Holy Ghost who dwells
within them as the Spirit of grace and suppli-
cation. Surely the Lord's people may well
hope to be heard. It is not they merely that
pray, but the Holy Ghost pleading in them.
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A CALL TO PRAYER. 21
Reader, think of this. Is not this encourage-
ment ? ■
There are exceeding great and precious
promises to those wlio pray. What did the
Lord Jesus mean when he spoke such words
as these: *Ask, and it shall be given you;
seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall
be opened unto you: for every one that
asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, find-
eth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be
opened." Matt: 7 :7, 8. "All things whatso-
ever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall
receive." Matt. 21:22. "Whatsoever ye
shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the
Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye
shall ask anything .in iny name, I wiU do it."
John 14:13, 14. What did the Lord mean
when he spoke the parables of The friend at
midnight and The importunate widow? Luke
11:5; 18:1. Think over these passages. If
this is not encouragement to pray, words
have no meaning. »^ ! - ^^^^s:
. There are wonderful examples in Scripture
of the power of prayer. Nothing seems to be
22 A CALL TO PRAYER.
too great, too hard, or too difficult for prayer
»to do. It has obt|iined things that seemed
impossible and out of reach. It has won vic-
tories over fire, air, earth, and water. Prayer
opened the Red sea. ' Prayer brought water
from the rock and bread from heaven. Prayer
made the sun stand still. Prayer brought
fire from the sky on Elijah'^ sacrifice. Prayer
turned the counsel of Ahithophel into fool-
ishness. Prayer overthrew the army of Sen-
nacherib. Well might Mary Queen of Scots
say, "I fear John Knox's prayers more than
an army of ten thousand men." Prayer has
healed the sick. Prayer has raised the dead.
Prayer has procured the conversion of souls.
"The child of many prayers," said an old
Christian to Augustine's mother, " shall never
perish." Prayer, pains, and faith can do
anything. Nothing seems impossible when
a man has the spirit of adoption. " Let me
alone," is the remarkable saying of Grod to
Moses, when Moses was about to intercede
- for the children of Israel ; the Chaldee version
has it, "Leave oflf praying." Exod. 32:10.
A CALL TO PKAYER. 28
So long as Abraham asked mercy for Sodom,
the Lord went on giving. He never ceased
to give till Abraham ceased to pray. Think
orthis. Is not this encouragement? »
What more can a man want to lead^him to
take iany step in religion, than the things I
have just told him about prayer? What
more could be done to make the path to the
mercy-seat easy, and to remove all Occasions
of stumbling from the sinner's way ? Surely
if the devils in hell had such a door set open
before them, they would leap for gladness,
and make the very pit ring with joy.
But where will the man hide his head at
last who neglects such glorious encourage-
ments? What can possibly be said for the
man who, after all, dies without prayer?
Surely I may feel anxious that you should
not be that man. Surely I may well ask — ^Do
TOU PEAY ?
V. I ask whether you pray, because diligence
in prayer is the secret (^eminent holiness.
Without controversy there is a vast differ-
ence among true Christians. There is an
A CALL TO PRATEH.
immense interval between the foremost and
the hindermost in the army of God.
They are all fighting the same good fight ;
but how much more valiantly some fight than
others. They are aU doing the Lord's work ;
but how much more some do than others.
They are all light in the Lord ; but how much
more brightly some shine than others. They
are all running the same race ; but how much
faster some get on than others. They all love
the same Lord and Saviour ; but how much
more some love him than others. I ask any
true Christian whether this is not the case.
Are not these things soV
There are some of the Lord's people who
seem never able to get on from the time of
their conversion. They are bom again, but
they remain babes all their lives. You hear
from thorn the same old experience. You re-
mark in them the same want of spiritual ap-
petite, the same want of interest in any-
thing beyond their own little circle, which
you remarked ten years ago. They are pil-
grims, indeed, but pilgrims like the Gibeonites
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A CALL TO PRAYER. 25
of old ; their bread is always dry and mouldy,
their shoes always old, and their garments
always rent and torn. I saj^- this with sorrow
and grief ; but I ask any real Christian, Is it
There are others of the Lord's people who
seem to be alioays advancing. They grow like
the grass after rain ; they increase like Israel
in Egypt ; they press on like Gideon, though
sometimes faint, yet always pursuing. They
are ever adding grace to grace, and faith to
faith, and strength to strength. Every time
you meet them their hearts seem larger, and
their spiritual stature taller and stronger.
Every year they appear to see more, and
know more, and beheve more, a,nd feeL more
in their rehgion. They not only have good
works to prove the reality of their faith, but
they are zealous of them. They not only do
well, but they are unwearied in well-doing.
They attempt great things, and they do great
things. When they fail they try again, and
when they fall they are soon up again. And
all this time they think themselves poor, un-
-:p^j^>S^t«sr' j^ . ."L...-
A CALL TO PRAYER.
profitable servants, and fancy they do noth-
ing at all. These are those who make reli-
gion lovely and beautiful in the eyes of all.
They wrest praise even from the unconverted,
and win golden opinions even from the selfish
men of the world. It does one good to see,
to be with, and to hear them. When you
meet them, you could believe that like Moses,
they had just come out from the presence of
God. When you part with them you feel
warmed by their company, as if your soul had
been near a fire. I know such people are
rare. I only ask. Are there not many such ?
Now hoW can we account for the differ-
ence which I have just described? What is
the reason that some believers are so much
brighter and holier than others? I believe
the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty,
arises from different habits about private
prayer. I believe that those who are not
eminently holy pray little, and those who are
eminently holy pray much. j
I dare say this opinion will startle some
readers. I have little'doubt that many look
A QALL TO PRAYER. 27
on eminent holiness as a kind of special gift,
which none but a few must pretend to aim at.
They admire it at a distance in books. They
think it beautiful when they see an example
near themselves. But as to its being a thing
within the reach of any but a very few, such a
notion never seems to enter their minds. In
short, they consider it a kind of monopoly
granted to a few favored beHevers, but cer-
tainly not to all.
Now I beheve that this is a most dangerous
mistake. I beheve that spiritual as well as
natural greatness depends in a high degree
on the faithful use of means within every-
body's reach. Of course I do not say we have
a right to expect a miraculous grant of intel-
lectual gifts; but this I do say, that when a
man is once converted to God, his progress
in holiness will be much in accordance with
his own dUigence in the use of God's ap-
pointed means. And I assert confidently
that the principal means by which most
believers have become great in the church of
Christ, is the habit of diligent private prayer.
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28 A CALL TO PfiAYEE.
Look througL. the lives of the brightest and
best of God's servants, whether in the Bible
or not. See what is written of Moses and
David and Daniel and Paul. Mark what is
recorded of Luther and Bradford the Beform-
ers. Observe what is related of the private
devotions of Whitefield and Cecil and Yenn
and Bickersteth and M'Cheyne. Tell me of
one* of all the goodly fellowship of saints and
martyrs, who has not had this mark most
prominently — ^he was a wow of grayer. De-
pend upon it, prayer is power.
Prayer obtains fresh and continued out-
pourings of the Spirit. He alone begins the
work of grace in a man's heart. He alone
can carry it forward and make it prosper.
But the good Spirit loves to be entreated.
And those who ask most will have most of
Prayer is the surest remedy against the
devil and besetting sins. That sin will never
stand firm which is heartily prayed against.
That devil will never long keep dominion
over us which we beseech the Lord to cast
A CALL TO PRAYER. 29
forth. But thfen we must spread out all our
case before our heavenly Physician, if he is
to give us daily relief. -
Do you wish to grow in grace and be a de-
▼oted Christian? Be very sure, if you wish
it, you could not have a more important
question than this — ^Do TOU peay?
VI. I ask whether you pray, because neg-
lect of prayer is one great cause cf hacksliding.
There is such a thing as going back in re-
ligion after making a good profession. Meii
may run well for a season, like the Galatians,
and then turn aside after false teachers. Men
may profess loudly while their feelings are
warm, as Peter did, and then in the hour of
trial deny their Lord. Men may lose their
first love as the Ephesians did. Men may
cool down in their zeal to do good, like Mark
the companion of Paul. Men may follow an
apostle for a season, and like Demas go back
to the world. All these things men may do.
It is a miserable thing to be a backslider.
Of all unhappy things that can befaU a man,
I suppose it is the worst. A stranded ship,
■-^ ■ ■ ,
30 A CALL TO PRAYER.
a broken-winged eagle, a garden overrun with
weeds, a harp without strings, a church in
ruins, all these are sad sights, but a backsli-
der is a sadder sight stiU. A wounded con-
science — a mind sick of itseK — a memory full
of self-reproach — a heart pierced through
with the Lord's arrows — a spirit broken with
a load of inward accusation — all this is a taste
of hell. It is a hell on earth. Truly that
saying of the wise man is solemn and weigh-
ty, "The backslider in heart shall be filled
with his own ways." • Prov. 14:14.
Now what is the cause of most backsH-
dings? I believe, as a general rule, one of the
chief causes is neglect of private prayer. Of
course the secret history of falls, will not be
known till the last day. I can only give my
opinion as a minister of Christ and a student
of the heart. That opinion is, I repeat dis-
tinctly, that backsliding generally first begins
with neglect of private prayer.
Bibles read without prayer ; sermons heard
without prayer ; marriages contracted without
prayer; journeys undertaken without prayer;
^" ^ , -i .-. .
A CALL TO PFvAYER.- 31
residences chosen without prayer; friendships
formed without prayer; the daily act of pri-
vate prayer itself hurried over, or gone
through without heart : these are the kind of
downward steps by which many a Christian
descends to a condition of spiritual palsy, or
reaches the point where God allows him to
have a tremendous falL
This is the process which forms the linger-
ing Lots, the Tinstable Samsons, the wife-idol-
izing Solomons, the inconsistent Asas, the
phable Jehoshaphats, the over-careful Mar-
thas, of whom so many are to be found in the
church of Christ. Often the simple history
of such cases is this: they became careless
about private prayer.
You may be very sure men fall in private
long before they fall in pubHc. They are
backsliders on their knees long before they
backslide openly in the eyes of the world,
tike Peter, they first disregard the Lord's
warning to watch and pray, and then like
Peter, their strength is gone, and in the hour
of temptation they deny their Lord.
S2 A CALL TO PKAYER.
The world takes notice of their fall, and
scoffs loudly. But the world knows nothing
of the real reason. The heathen succeeded
in making a well-known Christian 'offer in-
cense to an idol, by threatening him with a
punishment worse than death. They then
triumphed greatly at the sight of his coward-
ice and apostasy. But the heathen did not
know the fact of which history informs us,
that on that very morning he had left his
bed-chamber hastily, and without finishing
his usual prayers. '
If you are a Christian indeed, I trust you
will never be a backsHder. But if you do not
wish to be a backsliding Christian, remember
the question I ask you : Do you peat?
YH. I ask, lastly, whether you pray be-
cause -prayer is one of the best means of happi-
ness and contentment.
We live in a world where sorrow abounds.
This has always been its state since sin came
m. There cannot be sin without sorrow. And
until sin is driven out from the world, it is vain
for any one to suppose he, can escape sorrow.
A CALL TO PRAYER. 33
Some without doubt have a larger cup of
sorrow to drink than others. But few are
to be found who lire long without sorrows
or cares of one sort or another. Our bodies,
our property, our families, our children, our
relations, our servants, our friends, our neigh-
bors, our worldly callings, each and aU of these
are fountains of care. Sicknesses, deaths,
losses, disappointments, partings, separations,
ingratitude, slander, all these are common
things. "We cannot get through life without
them. Some day or other they find us out.
The greater are our affections the deeper are
our afflictions, and the more we love the more
we have to weep.
And what is the best means of cheerful-
ness in such a world as this? How shaU
we get through this valley of tears with least
pain ? I know no better means than the habit
of taking everything to God in prayer.
This is &te plain advice that the Bible
gives, both in the Old Testament and the
New. What says the psalmist? "Call upon
me in the day of trouble, and I will delivei
34 A CALL TO PRAYER.
thee, and thou shalt glorify me." Psa. 50": 15.
"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he
shall sustain thee : he shall never suffer ihe
righteous to be moved." Psa. 55 : 22. What
says the apostle Paul ? " Be careful for
nothing ; but in everything, by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving, let your re-
quests be made known unto God: and the
peace of God, which passeth all understand-
ing shall keep your hearts and minds through
Christ Jesus." Phil. 4: 6, 7. What says the
apostle James: "Is any afl&icted among you?
let him pray." Jas. 5 : 13.
This was the practice of all the saints
whose history we have recorded in the Scrip-
tures. This is what Jacob did when he
feared his brother Esau. This is what Moses
did when the people were ready to stone
him inHhe wilderness. This is what Joshua
did when Israel was defeated before the
men of Ai. This is what David did when
he was in danger at Keilah. This is what
Hezekiah did when he received the letter
from Sennacherib. This is what the church
r. '■tm Wf jFJajPCIf^v
A CALL TO PKAYEK. 35
did when Peter was put in prison. This is
what Paul did when he was cast into the
dungeon at Philippi.
The only way to be really happy in such
a world as this, is to be ever casting all our
cares on God. It is trying to carry their
own burdens which so often makes belieyers
sad. If they will tell their troubles to God,
he will enable them to bear them as easily
as Samson did the gates of Gaza. If they
are resolved to keep them to themselves, they
will find one day that the very grasshopper is
There is a friend ever waiting to help us, if
we will unbosom to him our sorrow — a friend
who pitied the poor and sick and sorrowful,
when he was upon earth — a friend who knows
the heart of man, for he hved thirty-three
years as a man among us — a friend who can
Veep with the weepers,' for he was a man of
sorrows and acquainted with grief — a friend
who is able to help us, for there never was
earthly pain he could not cure. That friend
is Jesus Chiist. The way to be happy is to
36 A CALL TO PRAYER.
be always opening our hearts to him. Oh
.that we were all like that poor Christian
negro who only answered, when threatened
and punished, "I must teU the Lord."
Jesus can make those happy who trust
him and call on him, whatever be their out-
ward condition. He can give them peace
o£ heart in a prison, contentment in the
midst of poverty, comfort in the midst of
bereavements, joy on the brink of the grave.
There is a mighty fulness in him for aU Ms
believing members — a fulness that is/i^ady
to be poured out on every one that mil ask
in prayer. Oh that men would understand
that happiness does not depend on outward
circumstances, but on the state of the heart.
Prayer can lighten crosses for us, how-
ever heavy. It can bring down to our side
One who will help us to bear them. Prayer
can open a door for us when our way seems
hedged up. It (can bring down One who
will say, "This »-the way, walk in it."
Prayer can let in a ray of hope when all
our earthly prospects seem darkened. It
A CALL TO PRAYER. 37
can bring down One who will saj, "I will never
leave thee, nor forsake thee." Prayer can
obtain reHef for us when those we love most
are taken away, and the world feels empty. It
can bring down One who can fill the gap in
our hearts with himself, and say to the waves
within, "Peace; be still." Oh that men were
not so like Hagar in the wilderness, blind to
the well of living waters close beside them.
I want you to be happy. I know I cannot
ask you a more useful question than this : Do
And now it is high time for me to bring
this tract to an end. I trust I Kave brought
before you things that will be seriously con-
sidered. I heartily pray God that this con-
sideration may be blessed to your soul.
1. Let me speak a parting word to those
WHO DO NOT PRAY. I dare not suppose that
all who read these pages are praying people.
If you are a prayerless person, suffer me to
speak to jwu this day on God's behalf.
Prayerless reader, I can only warn you, but
I do warn you most solemnly. I warn you
38 A CALL TO PrIyEE.
that you are in a position of fearful danger.
If you die in your present state, you are a
lost soul. You will only rise again to be eter-
nally miserable. I warn you that of all pro-
fessing Christia^^ you are most utterly without
excuse. There is not a single good reason that
you can show for living without prayer.
It is useless to say you hnoiv not how to
pray. Prayer is the simplest act in all reli-
gion. It is simply speaking to God. It needs
neither learning nor wisdom nor book-knowl-
edge to begin it. It needs nothing but heart
and will. The weakest infant can cry when
he is hungry. The poorest beggar can hold
out his hand for alms, and does not wait to
find fine words. The most ignorant man will
find something to say to God, if he has only
a mind. j
It is useless to say you have no conveniemt
place to pray in. Any man can find a place
private enough, if he is disposed. Our Lord
prayed on a mountain; Peter on«the house-
top; Isaac in the field; Nathanael under the
fig-tree; Jonah in the whale's beUy. Any
foliViijL v.,..,m',ij;>i'Sj.>-;i. .
A CALL TO PRAYER. 39
place may become a closet, an oratory, and a
Bethel, and be to us the presence of God.
It is useless to say you liave no time.
There is plenty of time, if men will employ it.
Time may be short, but time is always long
enough for prayer. Daniel had the affairs
of a kingdom on his hands, and yet he pray-
ed three times a day. David was ruler over
a mighty nation, and yet he says, "Evening
and morning and at noon will I pray." Psa.
55 :17. When time is really wanted, time can
always be found.
It is useless to say you cannot pray till you
have faith and a neic heart, and that you must
sit still and wait for them. This is to add
sin to sin. It is bad enough to be unconvert-
ed and going to hell. It is even worse to say,
"I know it, but will not cry for mercy." This
is a kind of argument for which there is no
warrant in Scripture. " Call ye upon the
Lord," saith Isaiah, "wTiile he is near." Isa.
55 :6. "Take with you words, and turn unto
the Lord," says Hosea. Hos. 14: 1. "Eepent
and pray," says Peter to Simon Magus. Acts
40 A CALL TO PRAYER,
8:22. If you want faith and a new heart, go
and cry to the Lord for them. The very at-
tempt to pray has often been the quickemng
of a dead soul.
Oh, prayerless reader, who and what are
you that you will not ask anything of God?
Have you made a covenant with death and
hell? Are you at peace with the worm and
the fire? Have you no sins to be pardoned?
Have you no fear of eternal torment? Have
you no desire after heaven? Oh that you
would awake from your present folly. Oh that
you would consider your latter end. Oh
that you would arise and call upon God.
Alas, there is a day coming when many shall
pray loudly, " Lord, Lord, open to us," but
aU too late ; when many shall cry to the rocks
to fall on them and the hills to cover them,
who would never cry to God. In all affection,
I warn you, beware lest this be the end of
your soul. Salvation 'is very near you. Do
not lose heaven for want of asking.
2. Let me speak to those who have real
DESIRES for SALVATION, but know not what
A. CALL TO PRArER. 41
steps to take, or where to begin. 1 cannot
but hope that some readers may be in this
state of mind, and if there be but one such I
must offer him affectionate counsel.
In every journey there must be a first step.
There must be a change from sitting still to
moving forward. The joumeyings of Israel
from Egypt to Canaan were long and weari-
some. Forty years pass away before, they
crossed Jordan. Yet there was some one
who moved first when they marched from
Bamah to Succoth. When does a man really
take his first step in comingtout from sin and
the world ? He does it in the day when he
first prays with his heart.
In every building the first stone must be
laid, and the first blow must be struck. The
ark was one hundred and twenty years in
buUding. Yet there was a day when Noah
laid his axe to the first tree he cut down to
form it. The temple of Solomon was a glori-
ous building. But there was a day when the
first huge stone was laid deep in mount Mo-,
riah. When does the building of the Spirit
42 A CALL TO PRAYER.
really begin to appear in a man's heart? It
begins, so far as we can judge, when he first
pours out his heart to God in prayer.
If you desire salvation, and want to know
what to do, I advise you to go this very day
to the Lord Jesus Christ, in the first private
place you can find, and earnestly and heartily
entreat him in prayer to save your soul.
Tell him that you have heard that he re-
ceives sinners, and has said, "Him that
Cometh unto me I will in nowise cast out."
Tell him that you are" a poor vUe sinner, and
that you come t<5 him on the faith of his own
invitation. Tell him you put yourself wholly
and entirely in his hands; that you feel vile
and helpless, and hopeless in yourself: and
that except he saves you, you have no hope
of being saved at all. Beseech him to deliver
you frbm the guilt, the power, and the conse-
quences of sin. Beseech him to pardon you,
and wash you in his own blood. Beseech
him to give you a new heart, and plant the
Holy Spirit in your soul. Beseech him to
give you grace and faith, and will and power
A CALL TO PRAYER. 43
to be his disciple and servant from this day for
ever. Oh, reader, go this very day, and tell
these things to the Lord Jesus Christ, if you
really are. in earnest about your souL
Tell him in your own way, and your own
words. If a doctor came to see you when
.sick, you could tell him where you felt pain.
If your soul feels its disease indeed, you can
surely find something to tell Christ.
Doubt not his willingness to save you, be-
cause you are a sinner. It is Christ's office
to save sinners. He says himself, "I came
not to call the righteous, but sinners to re-
pentance." Luke 5 : 32.
Wait not because you feel unworthy. Wait
for nothing. Wait for nobody. Waiting
comes from the devil. Just as you are, go to
Christ. The worse you are, the more need
you have to apply to him. You will never
mend yourself by staying away. v >-
Fear %t because your prayer is stammer-
ing, your words feeble, and your language
poor. Jesus can understand you. Just as a
mother understands the first Uspings of her
A CALL TO PllAYEK.
infant, so does the blessed Saviour under-
stand sinners. He can read a sigh, and see
a meaning in a groan.
Despair not because you do not get an an-
swer immediately. While you are speaking,
Jesus is listening. If he delays an answer, it
is only for wise reasons, and to try if you
are in earnest. The answer will surely come.
Though it tarry, wait for it. It will surely
come. ! ,i,^
Oh, reader, if you have any desire to be
saved, remember the advice I have given you
this day. Act upon it honestly and heartily,
and you shall be saved.
3. Let me speak, lastly, to those who do
PBAT. I trust that some who read this tract
know well what prayer is, and have the Spirit
of adoption. To all such, I offer a few words
of brotherly counsel and exhortation. The
incense offered in the tabernacle was ordered
to be made in a particular way. Not every
kind of incense would do. Let us remember
this, and be careful about the matter and
manner of our prayers.
^'%rV^.'7" ^■'^r^T' "^^CIT* -~ if
A CALL TO PRAYER. 45
Brethren who pray, if I know anything of
a Christian's heart, you are often sick of your
own prayers. Ton never enter into the apos-
tle's words, "AVhen I would do good, evil is
present with me," so thoroughly as you some-
times do upon your knees. You can under-
stand David's words, "I hate vain thoughts."
You can sympathize with that poor converted
Hottentot who was overheard praying, " Lord,
deliver me from all my enemies, and above
all, from that bad man — myself." There are
few children of God who do not often find the
season of prayer a season of conflict. The
devil has special wrath against us when b§
sees us on our knees. Yet, I beUeve that
prayers which cost us no trouble, should be
regarded with great suspicion. I beheve we
are very poor judges of the goodness of - our
prayers, and that the prayer which pleases us
least, often pleases God most. Suffer me then,
as a companion in the Christian warfare, to
offer you a few words of exhortation. One
thing, at least, we all feel: we must pray.
We cannot give it up. We must go on. swtf:
A CALL TO PEAY^ER.
I commend tten to your attention, the im-
portance of revehence and humility in prayer.
Let us never forget what we are,- and what a
solemn thing it is to speak with God. Let us
beware of rushing into his presenc'e with
carelessness and levity. Let us say to our-
selves : " I am on holy ground. This is no
other than the gate of heaven. If I do not
mean what I say, L am trifling with God. If
I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will
not hear me." Let us keep in mind the
words of Solomon, "Be not rash with thy
mouth, and let not^thy heart be hasty to ut-
ter anything before God; for God is in heav-
en, and thou on earth." Eccl. 5:2. When
Abraham spoke to God, he said, "I am dust
and ashes." When Job spoke to God, he
said, "I am vile." Let us do likewise.
I commend to you the importance of pray-
ing spiritually. I mean by that, that we
should labor always to have the direct help
of 4he Spirit in our prayers, and beware
above all things of formality. There is noth-
ing so spiritual but that it may become a
•i. 3*4*S -jL. . ,:r-.^.-i-iiv*i*-, .
. -.-.>■« ^?s5rss'v-7*"^-«^-"~'=^ ^ -• -> ■ -^r-»=^'BT^3!J>7S^!5fflspB!!BWR!B^sp-
A CALL TO PBAYEK. . 47
form, and this is specially , true of private
prayer. We may insensibly get into the hab-
it of using the fittest possible words, and of-
fering the most scriptural petitions, and yet
do it all by rote without feeling it, and walk
daily round^ an old beaten path. I desire to
touch this point with caution and dehcacy.
I know that there are certain great things we
daily want, and that there is nothing Neces-
sarily formal in asking for these things in the
same words. The world, the devil, *and our
hearts, are daily the same. Of necessity we
must daily go over old ground. But this I
say, we must be very careful on this point.
If the skeleton and outline of our prayers be
by habit almost a form, let us strive that the
clothing and tiUing up of our prayers, be as far
as possible of the Spirit. As to praying out
of a book in our private devotions, it is a hab-
it I cannot praise. If we can tell our doctors
the state of our bodies without a book, we
ought to be able to tell the state of our souls
to God. I have no objection to a man using
crutches when he is first recovering from ^
.;»i=-^^.-sJpix*iaa«S^,i*«d:- -'j^A. . -J ■^:i<<L^^ J- -- ■ .---i^t? ' - -. ^ i-^-i-'iii^' . ■
A CALL TO PRAYER.
broken limb. It is better to use crutches,
than not to walk at all. But if I saw him all
his life on crutches, T should not think it mat-
ter for congratulation. I should like to see him
strong enough to throw his crutches away.
— I commend to you the importance of ma-
king prayer a regular business of life. I might
say something of the value of regular times
in the^iay for prayer. God is a God of order.
The hours for morning and' evening sacrifice
in the Jewish temple were not fixed as they
were without a meaning. Disorder is^ emi-
nently one of the fruits of sin. But I would
not bring any under bondage. This only I
say, that it is essential to your soul's health
to make praying a part of the business of
every twenty-four hours in your life. Just
as you allot time to eating, sleeping, and busi-
ness^ so also allot time to prayer. Choose
your own hours and seasons. At the very
least, speak with God in the morning, before
you speak with the world: and speak with
God at nightj after you have done with the
world. But settle it in your minds, that pray-
=r- .-"a«,^^ -r^-j-4 '^•XT'^f^vv^j^xir^^^rFjF,^^-^ f'oitj'v^-^zrf^r:^
. ir-Ji-JlVt" '.'riiV^f^ -.t-;.^ ^'•'^'■'CTIJVB
A CALL TO PRAYER. 49
er is one of the great things of every day.
Do not drive it into a corner. Do not give
it the scraps and parings of your duty.
Whatever else you make a business of, make
a business ^f prayer.
I commend to you the importance or perse-
verance in prayer. Once having begun the
habit, never give it up. Your heart will
sometimes say, " You have had family pray-
ers : what mighty harm if you leave private
prayer undone?" Your body wiU sometimes
say, "You are unwell, or sleepy, or weary;
you need not pray." Your mind will some-
times say, " You have important business to
attend to to-dayj cut short your prayers."
Look on aU such suggestions as coming direct
from Satan. They are all as good as saying,
" Neglect your soul." I do not maintain that
prayers should always be of the same length ;
but I do say, let no excuse make you give up
prayer. Paul said, "Continue in prayer,"
and, "Pray without ceasing." He did not
mean that men should be always on their
knees, but he did mean that our prayers
Prayer. ■ 4
'-^-S'v'^J*k^-^idiu?ai.i..' -Ar\ , •^-
50 A CALL TO PRAYER.
should be, like the continual burnt-oflferiug,
steadily persevered in every day; that it
should be like seed-time and harvest, and sum-
mer and "winter, unceasingly coming round at
regular seasons ; that it should be like the fire
on the altar, not always consuming sacrifices,
but never completely going out. Never for-
get that you may tie together morning and
evening devotions, by an endless chain of
short ejaculatory prayers throughout the day.
Even in company, or business, or in the very
streets, you may be silently sending up little
winged messengers to God, as Nehemiah did
in the very presence of Artaxerxes. And
never think that time is wasted which is giv-
en to God. A nation does not become poorer
because it loses one year of working days in
seven, by keeping the Sabbath. A Christian
never finds he is a loser, in the long run, by
persevering in prayer. '
I commend to you the importance of earn-
estness in prayer. It is not necessary that a
man should shout, or scream, or be veiy loud,
in order to prove that he' is in earnest. But
A CALL TO PEAYER. 51 '
it is desirably that we should be hearty and
fervent and warm, and ask as if we were
really interested in what we were doing. It
is the " effectual fervent" prayer that " avail-
eth much." This is the lesson that is taught
us by the expressions used in Scripture about
prayer. It is called, " crjdng, knocking, wrest-
ling, laboring, striving." This is the lesson
taught us by scripture examples. Jacob
is one. _ He said to the angel at Penuel, " I
will not let thee go, except thou bless me."
; Gen. 32 : 26. Daniel is another. Hear how
he pleaded with God: "0 Lord, hear;
Lord, forgive ; O Lord,, hearken and do ; de-
fer not, for thine own sake, O niy God."
Dan. 9 : 19. Our Lord Jesus Christ is anoth-
er. It is written of him, " In the days of his
flesh, he offered up prayers and supplications
with strong crying and tears." Heb. 5 : 7.
Alas, how unlike is this to _many of our sup-
plications! How tame and lukewarm they
seem by comparison. How truly might God
say to many of us, "You do not really want
what you pra:y for." Let us try to amend
52 j A CALL TO PllAYEB.
this fault. Let us knock loudly at the door
of grace, like Mercy in " Pilgrim's Progress,"
as if we must perish unless heard. Ttet us
settle it in our minds, that cold prayers are a
sacrifice without fire. - Let us remember the
story of Demosthenes the great orator, when
one came to him, and wanted him to plead
his cause. He heard him without attention,
while he told his story without earnestness.
The man saw this, and cried out with anxiety
that it was all true. "Ah," said Demos-
thenes, " I believe you iww."
I commend to you the importeince of pray-
ing luitli faith. We should endeavor to be-
lieve that our prayers are heard, and that, if
we ask things according to God's will, we
shall be answered. This is the plain com-
mand of our Lord Jesus Christ : " Whatsoever
things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that
ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
Mark 11 : 24. Faith is to prayer what the
feather is to the arrow : without it prayer will
not hit the mark. We should cultivate the
habit of pleading promises in our prayers.
A CALL TO PRAYER. 55
We sliould take with us some promise, and
say, " Lord, here is thine own word pledged.
Do for us as thou hast said." This was the
habit of Jacob and Moses and David. The
119th Psalm is full of things asked, " accord-
ing to thy word." Above all, we should cul-
tivate the habit of expecting answers to our
prayers. "We should do like the merchant
who sends his ships to sea. We should not
be satisfied, unless we see some return. Alas,
there are few points on which Christians
come short so much as this. , The church at
Jerusalem made prayer without ceasing for
Peter in prison; but when the prayer was
answered, they would hardly beheve it. Act^
12 : 15. It is a solemn saying of Traill, " There
is no surer mark of trifling in prayer, than when
men are careless what they get by prayer."
I commend to you the importance of bold-
ness in prayer. There is an unseemly familiar-
ity in some men's prayers which I cannot
praise. But there is such a thing as a holy
boldness, which is exceedingly to be desired.
I mean such boldness as that of Moses, when
54 A CALL TO PRAYER.
^he pleads with God not to destroy Israel:
" Wherefore," says he, " should the Egyptians
speak and say, For mischief did he briitg
them out, to slay them in the mountains?
Turn from thy fierce anger." Exod. 32 : 12.
I mean such boldness as that of Joshua, when
the children of' Israel were defeated before
men of Ai : " What," says he, " wilt thou do
unto thy great name ?" Josh. 7 : 9. This is
the boldness for which Luther was remarka-
ble. One who heard him praying said, " What
a spirit, what a ponfidenee was in his very ex-
pressions. With such a reverence he sued,
as one begging of God, and yet with such
^ope and assurance, as if he spoke with a
loving father or friend." This is the boldness
which distinguished Bruce, a great Scotch di-
vine of the seventeenth century. His prayers
were said to be "like bolts shot up into heav-
en." Here also I fear we sadly come short.
tWli^do not sufficiently realize the behever's
privileges. We do not plead as often as we
might, "Ijord, are we not thine own people?
Is it not for thy glory that we should be sane-
. - . t .. ^
A CALL TO PKAYER. 55
tified? Is it not for thy honor that thy gospel
should increase?" ' ^-. I .. . •
I commend to you the importance oifuU-
ness in prayer. I do not forget that our Lord
warns us against the example of the Phar-
risees, who, for pretence, made long prayers ;
and commands us when we pray not to use
vain repetitions. But I cannot forget, on the
other hand, that he has given his own sanc-
tion to large and long devotions by continu-
ing all night in prayer to God. At all events,
we are not likely in this day to err on the side
of praying too rrmch. Might it not rather be
feared that many believers in this^generation
pray too litUe ? Is not the actual amount o^
time that many Christians give to prayer,
in the aggregate, very small? I am afraid
these questions cannot be answered satisfac-
torily. I am afraid. the private devotions of
many are most painfully scanty and limited;
just enough to prove they are alive and no
more. They really seem to want little fi'om
God. They seem to have Uttle to confess,
little to ask for, and little to thank him for.
,56 A CALL TO PRAYER.
Alas, this is altogether wrong. Nothing is
more common than to hear believers com-
plaining that they do not get on. They tell
us that they do not grow in grace as they
could desire. Is it not rather to be suspected
that many have quite as much grace as they
ask for? Is it not the true account of many,
thast they have little, because they ask little ?
The cause of their weakness is to be found
in their own stunted, dwarfish, cKpped, con-
tracted, hurried, narrow, diminutive prayers.
They have not, because they ash not. Oh, we
are not straitened in Christ, but in ourselves.
The Lord says, " Open thy mouth wide, and
I will fill it." But we are like the King of
Israel who smote on the ground thrice and
stayed, when he ought to have smitten five
or six times.
I commend to you the importance oi partic-
ularity in prayer. We ought not to be con-
tent with great general petitions. We ought
to specify our wants before the throne of
grace. It should not be enough to confess
we are sinners; we should name the sins of
A CALL TO PKAYER. 57
which our conscience tells us we are most
guilty. It should not be enough to ask for
holiness ; we should name the graces in which
we feel most deficient. It should not be
enough to tell the Lord we are in trouble ; we
should describe our trouble and all its peculi-
arities. This is what Jacob did when he
-- feared his brother Esau. He tells God exact-
ly what it is that he fears. Gen. 32 :11.
This is what EUezer did, when he sought a
wife for his master's son. He spreads before
God precisely what he wants. Gen. 24:12.
This is what Paul did when he had a thorn
in the flesh. He besought the Lord. 2 Cor.
12:8. This is true faith and confidence.^ We
should believe that nothing is too small to be
named before God. What should we think
of the patient who told his doctor he was ill,
bujb never went into particulars? What
should we think of the wife who told her
husband she was tmhappy, but did not specify
the cause? What should we think of the
child who told his father hfe was in trouble,
but nothing more? Christ is the tme bride-
58 A CALL TO PEAYER.
groom of the soul, the true physician of the /
heart, the real father of all his people. Let
us show that we feel this by being unreserv-
ed in our communications with him. Let us
hide no secrets from ..him. Let us tell him
all our hearts.
I commend to you the importance of inte?-
cession in our prayers. We are all selfish by
nature, and our selfishness is very apt to stick ..
to us, even when we are converted. There is
a tendency in us to think only of our own
souls, our own spiritual conflicts, our own
progress in religion, and to forget others.
Against this tendency we all have need to
watch and strive, and not least in our prayers.
We should study to be of a public spirit. We
should stir ourselves up to name other names
besides our own before the throne of grace.
We should try to bear in our hearts the whole
world, the heathen, the Jews, the Eoman-
cathoUcs, the body of true believers, the
professing Protestant churches, the country
in which we live, the congregation to which
we belong, the household in -which we sojourn,
f-y-iJjitiii-ji^J^i^^^a^ir^ ■ -
A CALL TO rRAYER. 59
the frieiiLls and relations we are connected
with. For each and all of these we should
plead. This is the highest charity. He
loves me best who loves me in his prayers.
This is for our soul's health. It enlarges our
sympathies and expands our heartb. This is
for the benefit of the church. The wheels of
all machinery for extending the gospel are
moved by prayer. They do as much for the
Lord's cause who intercede like Moses on the
mount, as they do who fight hke Joshua in
the thick of the battle. This is to be hke
Christ. He bears the names of his people,
as their High Priest, before the Father. Oh,
the j)rivilege of being like Jesus ! This is to
be a true helper to ministers. If I must choose
a congregation, give me a people that pray.
I commend to you the importance of thank-
fulness in prayer. I know well that asking
God is one thing and praising God is another.
But I see so close a connection between pray-
er and praise in the Bible, that I dare not
call that true prayer in which thankfulness
has no part. It is not for nothing that Paul
60 A CALL TO PllAYER.
says, "By prayer and supplication, with
thanksgiving, let your requests be made
known unto God." Phil. 4 : 6. " Continue in
prayer, and watch in the same with thanks-
giving." Colos. 4:2. It is of mercy that we
are not in hell. It is of mercy that we have
the hope of heaven. It is of mercy that we
live in a land of spiritual light. It is of mer-
cy that we have been called by the Spirit,
and not left to reap the fruit of our own
ways. It is of mercy that we still live and
have opportunities of glorifying God actively
or passively. Surely these thoughts should
crowd on our minds whenever we speak with
God. Surely we should never open our Hps
in prayer without blessing God for that free
grace by which we live, and for that loving
kindness which endureth for ever. Never was
there an eminent saint who was not full of
thankfulness. St. Paul hardly ever writes an
epistle without beginning with thankfulness.
Men like Whitefield in the last century, and
Bickersteth in our time, abounded in thank-
fulness. Oh, reader, if we would be bright
• ■' ■-■-;"-■" ..■■--' ■ ■■'.',^. -^ -.-■■'-;■■- ■
■^' -A't^i-^^ "'-^V-^^'^T^yFS^K^ ""
., A CALL TO PllAYER. 6i
and slii|aing lights in our day, we must cherish
a spirit of praise. Let our prayers be thank-
ful prayers. "
I commend to you the importance of watch-
fulness over your prayers. Prayer is that
point in religion at which you must be most
of all on your guard. Here it is that true re-
ligion begins ; here it flourishes, and here it
decays. Tell me what a man's prayers are,
dnd I will soon tell you the state of his soul.
Prayer is the spiritual pulse. By this the
spiritual health may be tested. Prayer is the
spiritual weather-glass. By this we may
know whether it is fair or foul with our
hearts. Oh, let us keep an eye continually
upon our private devotions. Here is the pith
and marrow of our practical Christianity.
Sermons and books and tracts, and commit-
tee-meetings and the company of good men,
are all good in their way, but they will never
make up for the neglect of private prayer.
Mark well the places and society and com-
panions that unhinge your hearts for com-
munion with God and make your prayers
-Vti ■i^Vli.'iV^'.i-, : <T .-.'^.■'^ij,:''i-'^i\^^-h^ C'lf^J^^-.-.r.'- :i.'*-'
62 A CALL TO PRAYER.
drive heavily. Tlwre be on your guard. Ob-
serve narrowly what friends and what em-
ployments leave your soul in the most spirit-
ual frame, and mosi ready to speak with God.
To these cleave ajul stick fast. If you will take
care of your prayers, nothing shall go very
wrong with your soul. '
I offer these points for your private con-
sideration. I do it in all humility. I know
nO|one who needs to be reminded of them
more than I do myself. But I believe them
to be God's own truth, and I desire myself
and all I love to feel them more.
I want the times we live in to be praying
times. I want the Christians of our day to
be praying Christians. I want the church to
be a praying church. My heart's desire and
prayer in sending forth this tract is tb pro-
mote a spirit of prayerfulness. I want those
who never prayed yet, to arise and call upon
God, and I want those who do pray, to see
that they are not praying amiss.
LIFE ILLUSTEATED SERIES.
Helen Manrice. * . -;^
k narrative of everj'-day home life. Three Eugi-aviaga. ■
The Glen Cabin,
Or, Away to the Hills. Exciting scenes among the White ■
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A tale of three hundred years ago. Four Engravings. '•
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opiug a character of rare beauty and nobleness under tlie
moulding power of religion. Illustrated-
Progress through obstacles to a position of great useful*
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= i Clayton Allyii;
Or, Learning Life's First Lessons. With Ei^avingg.
Saye the Erring,
Oi:, The Gospel Purpose. A pleasing and instmctiro Niur
rative. Three Cuts.
« Effle Morrison,
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The Weed with an Hi-name.
Lessons from nature impressed upon the heart. With
Our Village In War Time.
Thrilling life-sketches, inculcating true patriotism and
' ' The Swiss Children,
Welcome to the little exiles from abroad. Two Cuts.
' The Missing Boat. r ;^ v^
The perils of ihischief, and safety of true repentance
With Cuts. _ - j^
Madeline. ^P ,
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A Little More. «
The value of contentment. Two Engravings. • - .;
The Light-honse Boy.
A moral light-house for boys. ■
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Polloif Jesus. By Newman Hall -ij ,8
O'ospet Workers -^ft^- 8
(ireat Inqniry, and Great Ii|^'i;^iiiiswered. 8
Come to Jesiis. Nowman Hafi:^''- '^>- - - 4
Call to Prayer. J. C. Eyle - - - - - 4
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Warning Cry from Niagara 3
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