The Lord's Prayer by Thomas Watson File 4 (... continued from file 3) (18) If God be our Father, he will settle a good inheritance upon us. 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, which has begotten us again unto a lively hope, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled.' I Pet 1: 3, 4. A father may have lost his goods, and have nothing to leave his son but his blessing; but God will settle an inheritance on his children, and an inheritance no less than a kingdom. 'It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.' Luke 12: 32. This kingdom is more glorious and magnificent than any earthly kingdom; it is set out by pearls, precious stones, and the richest jewels. Rev 21: 19. What are all the rarities of the world, the coasts of pearl, the islands of spices, the rocks of diamonds, to this kingdom? In this heavenly kingdom is satisfying, unparalleled beauty, rivers of pleasure, and that for ever. 'At thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.' Psa 16: 2. Heaven's eminence is its permanence; and this kingdom God's children enter into immediately after death. There is a sudden transition and passage from death to glory. 'Absent from the body, present with the Lord.' 2 Cor 5: 8. God's children shall not wait long for their inheritance; it is but winking, and they shall see God. How should this comfort those of God's children who are low in the world! Your Father in heaven will settle a kingdom upon you at death, such a kingdom as eye has not seen; he will give you a crown not of gold, but glory; he will give you white robes lined with immortality. 'It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.' (19) If God be our Father, it is a comfort in case of the loss of relations. Hast thou lost a father? If thou art a believer, thou art no orphan, thou hast a heavenly Father, a Father that never dies. 'Who only has immortality.' I Tim 6: 16. It is comfort in case of your own death. God is thy Father, and death is but going to thy Father. Well might Paul say death is yours. I Cor 3: 22. It is your friend that will carry you home to your Father. How glad are children when they are going home! It was Christ's comfort at death that he was going to his Father. 'I leave the world, and go to the Father.' John 16: 28. 'I ascend unto my Father.' John 20: 17. If God be our Father, we may with comfort, at the day of death, resign our souls into his hand. Thus did Christ. 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.' Luke 23: 46. If a child has any jewel, he will in time of danger put it into his father's hands, where he thinks it will be kept most safe; so the soul, which is our richest jewel, we may resign at death into God's hands, where it will be safer than in our own keeping. 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.' What a comfort it is that death carries a believer to his Father's house, where are delights unspeakable and full of glory! How glad was old Jacob when he saw the wagons and chariots to carry him to his son Joseph! 'The spirit of Jacob revived.' Gen 45: 27. Death is a triumphant chariot, to carry every child of God to his Father's mansion-house. (20) If God be our Father, he will not disinherit us. He may for a time desert his children, but will not disinherit them. The sons of kings have sometimes been disinherited by the cruelty of usurpers; as the son of Alexander the Great was put out of his just right, through the violence and ambition of his father's captains; but what power on earth can hinder the heirs of the promise from their inheritance? Men cannot, and God will not cut off the entail. The Armenians hold falling away from grace, so that a child of God may be deprived of his inheritance, but God's children can never be degraded or disinherited, and their heavenly Father will not cast them off from being children. It is evident that God's children cannot be finally disinherited, by virtue of the eternal decree of heaven. God's decree is the very pillar and basis on which the saints' perseverance depends. That decree ties the knot of adoption so fast, that neither sin, death, nor hell, can break it asunder. 'Whom he did predestinate, them he also called,' &c. Rom 8: 30. Predestination is nothing else but God's decreeing a certain number to be heirs of glory, on whom he will settle the crown; for whom he predestinates, he glorifies. What shall hinder God's electing love, or make his decree null and void? Besides God's decree, he has engaged himself by promise, that the heirs of heaven shall never be put out of their inheritance. His promises are not like blanks in a lottery, but as a sealed deed which cannot be reversed; they are the saints' royal charter; and one promise is that their heavenly Father will not disinherit them. 'I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.' Jer 32: 40. God's fidelity, which is the richest pearl of his crown, is engaged in this promise for his children's perseverance. 'I will not turn away from them.' A child of God cannot fall away while he is held fast in these two arms of God - his love, and his faithfulness. Jesus Christ undertakes that all God's children by adoption shall be preserved in a state of grace till they inherit glory. The heathens feigned of Atlas that he bore up the heavens from falling; but Jesus Christ is that blessed Atlas that bears up the saints from falling away. How does Christ preserve the saints' graces, till they come to heaven? (1) Influxu Spiritus [By the influence of the Spirit]. He carries on grace in the souls of the elect, by the influence and co-operation of his Spirit. He continually excites and quickens grace in the godly; he by his Spirit blows up the sparks of grace into a holy flame. Spiritus est vicarius Christi; the Spirit is Christ's vicar on earth, his proxy, his executor, to see that all that he has purchased for the saints be made good. Christ has obtained for them an inheritance incorruptible, and the Spirit is his executor, to see that the inheritance be settled upon them. I Pet 1: 4, 5. (2) He carries on his work perseveringly in the souls of the elect, by the prevalence of his intercession. 'He ever liveth to make intercession for them.' Heb 7: 25. He prays that every saint may hold out in grace till he comes to heaven. Can the children of such prayers perish? If the heirs of heaven should be disinherited, and fall short of glory, then God's decree must be reversed, his promise broken, and Christ's prayer frustrated, which would be blasphemy to imagine. (3) That God's children cannot be disinherited, or put out of their right to the crown of heaven, is evident from their mystic union with Christ. Believers are incorporated into him; they are knit to him as members to the head, by the nerves and ligaments of faith, so that they cannot be broken off. 'The church, which is his body.' Eph 1: 22, 23. What was once said of Christ's natural body, is as true of his mystic body. 'A bone of it shall not be broken.' As it is impossible to sever the leaven and the dough when they are once mingled and kneaded together, so it is impossible, when Christ and believers are once united, that they should ever, by the power of death or hell, be separated. Christ and his spiritual members make one Christ. Is it possible that any part of Christ should perish? How can Christ want any member of his mystic body and be perfect? Every member is an ornament to the body, and adds to the honour of it. How can Christ part with any mystic member, and not part with some of his glory too? By all this it is evident that God's children must needs persevere in grace, and cannot be disinherited. If they could be disinherited, the Scripture could not be fulfilled, which tells us of glorious rewards for the heirs of promise. 'Verily there is a reward for the righteous.' Psa 58: 11. If God's adopted children should fall away finally from grace, and miss of heaven, what reward would there be for the righteous? Moses indiscreetly looked for the recompense of the reward, and a door would be opened to despair. But the doctrine of final perseverance, and the certainty of the heavenly inheritance may lead to carnal security, and unholy walking. Corrupt nature may suck poison from this flower; but he who has felt the efficacy of grace upon his heart, dares not abuse this doctrine. He knows that perseverance is attained in the use of means, and walks homily, that in the use of the means he may arrive at perseverance. Paul knew that he should not be disinherited, and that nothing could separate him from the love of Christ; but who more holy and watchful than he was? 'I keep under my body.' I Cor 9: 27. 'I press toward the mark.' Phil 3: 14. God's children have a holy fear which keeps them from self-security and wantonness; they believe the promise, therefore they rejoice in hope; they fear their hearts, therefore they watch and pray. Thus you see what strong consolation there is for all the heirs of the promise. Such as have God for their Father are the happiest persons on earth; they are in such a condition that nothing can hurt them; they have their Father's blessing, all things conspire for their good; they have a kingdom settled on them, and the entail can never be cut off. How comforted should they be in all conditions, let the times be what they will! Their Father who is in heaven rules over all. If troubles arise, they carry them sooner to their Father. The more violently the wind beats against the sails of a ship, the sooner it is brought to the haven; and the more fiercely God's children are assaulted, the sooner they come to their Father's house. 'Wherefore comfort one another with these words.' I Thess 4: 18. Use 4. For exhortation. Let us behave ourselves as the children of such a Father. (1) Let us depend upon him in all our straits and exigencies; let us believe that he will provide for all our wants. Children rely upon their parents for the supply of their wants. If we trust God for salvation, shall we not trust him for a livelihood? There is a lawful and prudent care to be used. But beware of being distrustful. 'Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; and God feedeth them.' Luke 12: 24. Does God feed the birds of the air, and will he not feed his children? 'Consider the lilies how they grow: they spin not; yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these;' ver 27. Does God clothe the lilies, and will he not clothe his lambs? Even the wicked taste of his bounty. 'Their eyes stand out with fatness.' Psa 73: 7. Does God feed his slaves, and will he not feed his family? His children may not have a liberal share in the things of this life; they may have but little meal in the barrel; they may be drawn low, and almost dry; but they shall have as much as God sees to be good for them. 'They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.' Psa 34: 10. If God gives them not ad voluntaten [what they want], he will ad sanitatem [what is good for them]; if he gives them not always what they crave, he will give them what they need; if he gives them not a feast, he will give them a viaticum - a bait by the way. Let them depend upon his fatherly providence; let them not give way to distrustful thoughts, distracting cares, or indirect means. 'Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.' I Pet 5: 7. An earthly parent may have affection for his child, and would gladly provide for him, but may not be able; but God is never at a loss to provide for his children, and he has promised an adequate supply. 'Verily thou shalt be fed.' Psa 37: 3. Will God give his children heaven, and will he not give them enough to bear their charges thither? Will he give them a kingdom, and deny them daily bread? O put your trust in him, for he has said, 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.' Heb 13: 5. (2) If God be our Father, let us imitate him. The child not only bears his father's image, but imitates him in his speech, gesture and behaviour. If God be our Father, let us imitate him. 'Be ye followers of God, as dear children.' Eph 5: 1. Imitate God in forgiving injuries. 'I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions.' Isa 44: 22. As the sun scatters not only thin mists, but thick clouds, so God pardons great offences. Imitate him in this. 'Forgiving one another.' Eph 4: 32. Cranmer was a man of a forgiving spirit: he buried injuries and requited good for evil. He who has God for his Father, will have him for his pattern. Imitate God in works of mercy. 'The Lord looseth the prisoners.' Psa 146: 7. He opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing. Psa 145: 16. He drops his sweet dew upon the thistle as well as the rose. Imitate God in works of mercy; relieve the wants of others; be rich in good works. 'Be merciful, as your Father also is merciful.' Luke 6: 36. Be not so hard hearted as to shut out the poor from all communication. Dives denied Lazarus a crumb of bread, and Dives was denied a drop of water. (3) If God be our Father, let us submit patiently to his will. If he lay his strokes on us, they are the corrections of a Father, not the punishments of a judge. This made Christ himself patient. 'The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?' John 18: 11. He sees we need affliction. I Pet 1: 6. He appoints it as a diet drink, to purge and sanctify us. Isa 27: 9. Therefore dispute not, but submit. 'We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence.' Heb 12: 9. They might correct out of ill humour, but God does it for our profit. Heb 12: 10. Therefore say as Eli, 'It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good'. I Sam 3:18. What does the child get by struggling, but more blows? What got Israel by their murmuring and rebelling, but a longer and more tedious march, till, at last, their carcass fell in the wilderness? (4) If God be our Father, let it cause in us a childlike reverence. 'If I be a father, where is mine honour?' Mal 1: 6. It is part of the honour we give to God to reverence and adore him; if we have not always a childlike confidence, let us always preserve a childlike reverence. How ready are we to run into extremes, either to despond or to grow wanton! Because God is a Father, do not think you may take liberty to sin, if you do, he may act as if he were no Father, and throw hell into your conscience. When David presumed upon God's paternal affection, and began to wax wanton under mercy, God made him pay dear for it by withdrawing the sense of his love; and, though he had the heart of a Father, yet he had the look of an enemy. David prayed, 'Make me to hear joy and gladness.' Psa 51: 8. He lay several months in desertion, and it is thought never recovered his full joy to the day of his death. O keep alive holy fear! With childlike confidence, preserve an humble reverence. The Lord is a Father, therefore love to serve him, he is the mighty God, therefore fear to offend him. (5) If God be our Father, let us walk obediently. 'As obedient children.' I Pet 1: 14. When God bids you be humble and self-denying, deny yourselves; part with your bosom sin. Be sober in your attire, savoury in your speech, grave in your deportment; obey your Father's voice; open to him as the flower to the sun. If you expect your Father's blessing, obey him in whatever he commands, both in first and second table duties. When a musician would make sweet music, he touches upon every string of the lute. The ten commandments are like a ten-stringed instrument, and we must touch every string, obey every commandment, or we cannot make sweet melody in religion. Obey your heavenly Father, though he commands things contrary to flesh and blood; when he commands to mortify sin, the sin which has been most dear: pluck out a right eye, that you may see better to go to heaven; when he commands you to suffer for sin. Acts 21: 13. Every good Christian has a spirit of martyrdom in him, and is ready to suffer for the truth rather than the truth should suffer. Luther said he had rather be a martyr than a monarch. Peter was crucified with his head downwards, as Eusebius relates. Ignatius called his chains his spiritual pearls, and wore his fetters as a bracelet of diamonds. We act as God's children, when we obey his voice, and count not our lives dear, so that we may show our love to him. 'They loved not their lives unto the death.' Rev 12: 11. (6) If God be our Father, let us show by our cheerful looks that we are the children of such a Father. Too much drooping and despondency disparages the relation in which we stand to him. What though we meet with hard usage in the world! We are now in a strange land, far from home, it will be shortly better with us when we are in our own country, and our Father has us in his arms. Does not the heir rejoice in hope? Shall the sons of a king walk dejected? 'Why art thou, being the king's son, lean?' 2 Sam 13: 4. Is God an unkind Father? Are his commands grievous? Has he no land to give his heirs? Why, then, do his children walk so sad? Never had children such privileges as they who are of the seed-royal of heaven, and have God for their Father. They should rejoice who are within a few hours of being crowned with glory. (7) If God be our Father, let us honour him by walking very homily. 'Be ye holy; for I am holy.' I Pet 1: 16. A young prince, having asked a philosopher how he should behave himself, the philosopher said, 'Memento te filium esse regis.' 'Remember thou art a king's son; do nothing but what becomes the son of a king.' So let us remember we are the adopted sons and daughters of the high God, and do nothing unworthy of such a relation. A debauched child is the disgrace of his father. 'Is this thy son's coat?' said they to Jacob, when they brought it home dipped in blood. So, when we see a person defiled with malice, passion, drunkenness, we may say, Is this the coat of God's adopted son? Does he look like an heir of glory? It is blaspheming the name of God to call him Father, and yet live in sin. Such as profess God to be their Father and live unholily, slander and defraud; they are as bad to God as the heathen. 'Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians to me, O children of Israel? saith the Lord.' Amos 9: 7. When Israel grew wicked, they were no better to God than Ethiopians, who were uncircumcised, a base and ill-bred people. Loose, scandalous livers under the gospel are no better in God's esteem than Pagans; nay, they shall have a hotter place in hell. Oh! let all who profess God to be their Father, honour him by their unspotted lives. Scipio abhorred the embraces of a harlot, because he was the general of an army. Abstain from all sin, because you are born of God, and have God for your Father. 'Abstain from all appearance of evil.' I Thess 5: 22. It was a saying of Augustus, that 'an emperor should not only be free from crimes, but from the suspicion of them.' By a holy life you should bring glory to your heavenly Father, and cause others to become his children. Est pellax virtutis odor [the fragrance of virtue is seductive]. Causinus, in his hieroglyphics, speaks of a dove, whose wings being perfumed with sweet ointments, drew the other doves after her; so the holy lives of God's children are a sweet perfume to draw others to religion, and make them to be of the family of God. Justin Martyr says, that which converted him to Christianity was beholding the blameless lives of the Christians. (8) If God be our Father, let us love all that are his children. 'How pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!' Psa 133: 1. It is compared to ointment for its sweet fragrance. 'Love the brotherhood.' I Peter 2: 17. Idem est motus animae in imaginem et rem [The motion of the soul is the same towards the image and the reality]. The saints are the walking pictures of God. If God be our Father, we shall love to see his picture of holiness in believers; shall pity them for their infirmities, but love them for their graces; we shall prize their company above others. Psa 119: 63. It may justly be suspected that God is not Father of those who love not his children. Though they retain the communion of saints in their creed, they banish the communion of saints out of their company. (9) If God be our Father, let us show heavenly-mindedness. They who are born of God, set their affections on things that are above. Col 3: 2. O ye children of the high God! do not disgrace your high birth by sordid covetousness. What, a son of God, and a slave to the world! What, sprung from heaven, and buried in the earth! For a Christian, who pretends to derive his pedigree from heaven, wholly to mind earthly things is to debase himself; as if a king should leave his throne to follow the slough. 'Seekest thou great things for thyself?' Jer 45:5. As if the Lord had said, 'What thou Barak, thou who art born of God, akin to angels, and by thy office a Levite dost thou debase thyself, and spot the silver wings of thy grace by beliming them with earth! Seekest thou great things? Seek them not.' The earth chokes the fire; so earthliness chokes the fire of good affections. (10) If God be our Father, let us own him as such in the worst times, stand up in his cause, and defend his truths. Athanasius owned God when most of the world turned Asians. If suffering come, do not deny God. He is a bad son who denies his father. Such as are ashamed to own God in times of danger, he will be ashamed to own for his children. 'Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels.' Mark 8: 38. II. The second part of the preface is, 'Which art in heaven.' God is said to be in heaven, not because he is so included there as if he were nowhere else; for 'the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee.' I Kings 8: 27. But the meaning is, that he is chiefly resident in what the apostle calls 'the third heaven,' where he reveals his glory most to saints and angels. 2 Cor 12: 2. What may we learn from God being in heaven? (1) That we are to raise our minds in prayer above the earth. God is nowhere to be spoken with but in heaven. He never denied that soul its suit that went as far as heaven to ask it. (2) We learn his sovereign power. Hoc vocabulo intelligitur omnia subesse ejus imperio [By this word we learn that all things are under his rule]. Calvin. 'Our God is in the heavens: he has done whatsoever he has pleased.' Psa 115: 3. In heaven he governs the universe, and orders all occurrences here below for the good of his children. When the saints are in straits and dangers, and see no way of relief, he sends from heaven and helps them. 'He shall send from heaven, and save me.' Psa 57: 3. (3) We learn his glory and majesty. He is in heaven; therefore he is covered with light. Psa 104: 2. He is 'clothed with honour.' Psa 104: 1: He is far above all worldly princes, as heaven is above earth. (4) We learn his omniscience. All things are naked and unmasked to his eye. Heb 4: 13. Men plot and contrive against the church; but God is in heaven, and they do nothing but what he sees. If a man were on the top of a tower or theatre, he might see all the people below; God in heaven, as on a high tower or theatre, sees all the transactions of men. The wicked make wounds in the backs of the righteous, and then pour in vinegar; but God writes down their cruelty. 'I have surely seen the affliction of my people.' Exod 3: 7. God can thunder out of heaven upon his enemies. 'The Lord thundered in the heavens; yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.' Psa 18: 13,14. (5) We learn comfort for the children of God. When they pray to their Father, the way to heaven cannot be blocked up. One may have a father living in foreign parts, but the way, both by sea and land, may be so blocked up, that there is no coming to him; but thou, saint of God, when thou prayest to thy Father, he is in heaven; and though thou art ever so confined, thou mayest have access to him. A prison cannot keep thee from thy God; the way to heaven can never be blocked up. III. I shall next speak of the pronoun 'our.' There is an appropriation of the appellation, 'Father.' 'Our Father.' Christ, by the word 'our,' would teach us thus much: that in all our prayers to God, we should exercise faith. Father denotes reverence: Our Father, denotes faith. In all our prayers to God we should exercise faith. Faith baptises prayer, and gives it a name; it is called 'the prayer of faith.' James 5: 15. Without faith, it is speaking, not praying. Faith is the breath of prayer; prayer is dead unless faith breathe in it. Faith is a necessary requisite in prayer. The oil of the sanctuary was made up of several sweet spices, pure myrrh, cassia, cinnamon. Exod 30: 23, 24. Faith is the chief spice or ingredient in prayer, which makes it go up to the Lord as sweet incense. 'Let him ask in faith.' James 1: 6. 'Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.' Matt 21: 22. Invoco te, Domine, quamquam languida et imbecilla fide, tamen fide. 'Lord,' said Cruciger, 'I pray, though with a weak faith, yet with faith.' Prayer is the gun we shoot with, fervency is the fire that discharges it, and faith is the bullet which pierces the throne of grace. Prayer is the key of heaven, faith is the hand that turns it. Pray in faith, 'Our Father.' Faith must take prayer by the hand, or there is no coming nigh to God. Prayer without faith is unsuccessful. If a poor handicraftsman, who lives by his labour, has spoiled his tools so that he cannot work, how shall he subsist? Prayer is the tool we work with, which procures all good for us; but unbelief spoils and blunts our prayers, and then we get no blessing from God. A faithless prayer is fruitless. As Joseph said, 'Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you' (Gen 43: 3); so prayer cannot see God's face unless it bring its brother faith with it. What is said of Israel, 'They could not enter in because of unbelief,' is as true of prayer; it cannot enter into heaven because of unbelief. Heb 3: 19. Prayer often suffers shipwreck because it dashes upon the rock of unbelief. O mingle faith with prayer! We must say, 'Our Father.' What does praying in faith imply? Praying in faith implies having faith, and the act implies the habit. To walk implies a principle of life; so to pray in faith implies a habit of grace. None can pray in faith but believers. What is it to pray in faith? (1) It is to pray for that which God has promised. Where there is no promise, we cannot pray in faith. (2) It is to pray in Christ's meritorious name. 'Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do.' John 14: 13. To pray in Christ's name, is to pray with confidence in Christ's merit. When we present Christ to God in prayer; when we carry the Lamb slain in our arms; when we say, 'Lord, we are sinners, but here is our surety; for Christ's sake be propitious,' we come to God in Christ's name; and this is to pray in faith. (3) It is to fix our faith in prayer on God's faithfulness, believing that he hears and will help. This is taking hold of God. Isa 64: 7. By prayer we draw nigh to God, by faith we take hold of him. 'They cried unto the Lord;' and this was the crying of faith. 2 Chron 13: 14. They 'prevailed, because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers;' ver 18. Making supplication to God, and staying the soul on God, is praying in faith. To pray, and not rely on God to grant our petitions, irrisio Dei est, says Pelican; 'it is to abuse and put a scorn on God.' By praying we seem to honour God; by not believing we affront him. In prayer we say, 'Almighty, merciful Father;' by not believing, we blot out all his titles again. How may we know that we truly pray in faith? (1) When faith in prayer is humble. A presumptuous person hopes to be heard for some inherent worthiness in himself; he is so qualified, and has done God good service, therefore he is confident God will hear him. See an instance in Luke 18: 11, 12: 'The Pharisee stood and prayed thus, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' This was a presumptuous prayer; but a sincere heart evinces humility in prayer as well as faith. 'The publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.' 'God be merciful,' there was faith; 'to me a sinner,' there was humility and a sense of unworthiness. Luke 18: 13. (2) We may know we pray in faith, when, though we have not the thing we pray for, we believe God will grant it, and are willing to stay his leisure. A Christian having a command to pray, and a promise, is resolved to follow God with prayer, and not give over; as Peter knocked, and when the door was not opened, continued knocking until at last it was opened. Acts 12: 16. So when a Christian prays, and prays, and has no answer, he continues to knock at heaven's door, knowing an answer will come. 'Thou wilt answer me.' Psa 86: 7. Here is one that prays in faith. Christ says, 'Pray, and faint not.' Luke 18: 1. A believer, at Christ's word, lets down the net of prayer, and though he catch nothing, he will cast the net again, believing that mercy will come. Patience in prayer is nothing but faith spun out. Use 1. For reproof of those who pray in formality, not in faith; they who question whether God hears or will grant. 'Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss.' James 4: 3. He does not say, ye ask that which is unlawful; but ye ask amiss, and therefore ye receive not. Unbelief clips the wings of prayer, that it will not fly to the throne of grace; the rubbish of unbelief stops the current of prayer. Use 2. For exhortation. Let us set faith to work in prayer. The husband man sows in hope; prayer is the seed we sow, and when the hand of faith scatters this seed, it brings forth a fruitful crop of blessing. Prayer is the ship we send out to heaven; when faith makes an adventure in this ship, it brings home large returns of mercy. O pray in faith; say, 'Our Father.' That we may exercise faith in prayer, consider: (1) God's readiness to hear prayer. Deus paratus ad vota exaudienda. Calvin: Did God forbid all addresses to him, it would put a damp upon the trade of prayer; but his ear is open to prayer. One of the names by which he is known, is, 'O thou that hearest prayer.' Psa 65: 2. The aediles among the Romans had their doors always open, that all who had petitions might have free access to them. God is both ready to hear and grant prayer, which should encourage faith in prayer. Some may say, they have prayed, but have had no answer. God may hear prayer, though he does not immediately answer it. We write a letter to a friend, he may have received it, though we have yet had no answer to it. Perhaps thou prayest for the light of God's face; he may lend thee an ear, though he does not show thee his face. God may give an answer to prayer, when we do not perceive it. His giving a heart to pray, and inflaming the affections in prayer, is an answer to prayer. 'In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.' Psa 138: 3. David's inward strength was an answer to prayer. Therefore let God's readiness to hear prayer encourage faith in prayer. (2) That we may exercise faith in prayer, let us consider that we do not pray alone. Christ prays our prayers over again. His prayer is the ground why our prayer is heard. He takes the dross out of our prayer, and presents nothing to his Father but pure gold. He mingles his sweet odours with the prayers of the saints. Rev 5: 8. Think of the dignity of his person, he is God; and the sweetness of his relation, he is a Son. Oh, what encouragement is here, to pray in faith! Our prayers are put into the hand of a Mediator. Christ's prayer is mighty and powerful. (3) We pray to God for nothing but what is pleasing to him, and he has a mind to grant. If a son ask nothing but what his father is willing to bestow, it will make him go to him with confidence. When we pray to God for holy hearts, there is nothing more pleasing to him. 'This is the will of God, even your sanctification.' I Thess 4: 3. We pray that God would give us hearts to love him, and there is nothing he more desires than our love. How should it make us pray in faith, when we pray for nothing but what is acceptable to God, and which he delights to bestow! (4) To encourage faith in prayer, let us consider the many sweet promises that God has made to prayer. The cork keeps the net from sinking, so the promises are the cork to keep faith from sinking in prayer. God has bound himself to us by his promises. The Bible is bespangled with promises made to prayer. 'He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry.' Isa 30: 19. 'The Lord is rich unto all that call upon him.' Rom 10: 12. 'Ye shall find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.' Jer 29: 13. 'He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him.' Psa 145: 19. The Syrians tied their god Hercules with a golden chain that he should not remove; God has tied himself fast to us by his promises. How should these animate and spirit faith in prayer! Faith gets strength in prayer by sucking from the breast of a promise. (5) That we may exercise faith in prayer, consider that Jesus Christ has purchased that which we pray for. We may think the things we ask for in prayer too great for us to obtain, but they are not too great for Christ to purchase. We pray for pardon. Christ has purchased it with his blood. We pray for the Spirit to animate and inspire us. The sending down of the Holy Ghost into our hearts, is the fruit of Christ's death. It should put life into our prayers, and make us pray in faith, to reflect that the things we ask, though more than we deserve, yet they are not more than Christ has purchased for us. (6) To pray in faith, consider there is such bountifulness in God, that he often exceeds the prayers of his people. He gives them more than they ask! Hannah asked a son, and God not only gave her a son, but a prophet. Solomon asked wisdom, and God gave him not only wisdom, but riches and honour besides. Jacob prayed that God would give him food and raiment, and he increased his pilgrim's staff into two bands. Gen 32: 10. God is often better to us than our prayers, as when Gehazi asked but one talent, Naaman would needs force two upon him. 2 Kings 5: 23. We ask one talent, and God gives two. The woman of Canaan asked but a crumb, namely, to have the life of her child; and Christ gave her more, he sent her home with the life of her soul. (7) The great success which the prayer of faith has found. Like Jonathan's bow, it has not returned empty. Vocula pater dicta in corde [The little word 'father' spoken in the heart], says Luther. The little word father, pronounced in faith, has overcome God. 'Deliver me, I pray thee.' Gen 32: 11. This was mixed with faith in the promise. 'Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good;' ver 12. This prayer had power with God, and prevailed. Hos 12: 4. The prayer of faith has opened prison doors, stopped the chariot of the sun, locked and unlocked heaven. James 5: 17. The prayer of faith has strangled the plots of enemies in their birth, and has routed their forces. Moses' prayer against Amalek did more than Joshua's sword; and should not this hearten and corroborate faith in prayer? (8) If all this will not prevail, consider how heartless and comfortless it is not to pray in faith! The heart misgives secretly that God does not hear, nor will he grant. Faithless praying must needs be comfortless; for there is no promise made to unbelieving prayer. It is sad sailing where there is no anchoring, and sad praying where there is no promise to anchor upon. James 1: 7. The disciples toiled all night and caught nothing; so the unbeliever toils in prayer and catches nothing; he receives not any spiritual blessings, pardon of sin, or grace. As for the temporal mercies which the unbeliever has, he cannot look upon them as the fruit of prayer, but as the overflowing of God's bounty. Oh, therefore labour to exert and put forth faith in prayer! But so much sin cleaves to my prayer, that I fear it is not the prayer of faith, and God will not hear it. If thou mournest for this, it hinders not but that thy prayer may be in faith, and God may hear it. Weakness shall not make void the saint's prayers. 'I said in my haste, I am cut off.' Psa 31: 22. There was much unbelief in that prayer: 'I said in my haste:' in the Hebrew, 'in my trembling,' David's faith trembled and fainted, yet God heard his prayer. The saints' passions do not hinder their prayers. James 5: 17. Therefore be not discouraged, for though sin will cleave to thy holy offering, yea, these two things may comfort, that thou mayest pray with faith, though with weakness; and God sees the sincerity, and will pass by the infirmity. How shall we pray in faith? Implore the Spirit of God. We cannot say, 'Our Father,' but by the Holy Ghost. God's Spirit helps us, not only to pray with sighs and groans, but with faith. The Spirit carries us to God, not only as to a Creator, but a Father. 'God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.' Gal 4: 6. 'Crying:' there the Spirit causes us to pray with fervency. 'Abba, Father:' there the Spirit helps us to pray with faith. The Spirit helps faith to turn the key of prayer, and then it unlocks heaven. The Lord's Prayer by Thomas Watson (continued in file 5...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: watlp-04.txt .