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THE CHURCH, .

“Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophøts, Jesus Christ himpelf being the

chief corner-stone."

JUNB, 1864.

A PLEA FOR PRAYER-MEETINGS.

BY THE REV. JOHN COX. A FRAYER-KEETING! In what does it consist! It is a meeting together of God's professed people, for the most interesting and important objects : which are, to enjoy the highest pleasure, and receive the richest blessings themselves, also to be the instruments of bringing down the streams of Divine mercy and goodness upon others. At a prayer-meeting (if we enter into the real spirit and design of it

) we realize converse with God, enjoy communion with each other, and glow with compassion towards sinners : there we sympathize with God in his high designs and glorious purposes, prove that Jesus sympathizes with us in all our temptations and griefs, while we sympathize with each other, and with all the tried family of God in their various afflictions and distresses. At a prayer-meeting it is our privilege to rise to God in true devotion, while we sink low before him in deep humility, and thus, like Abraham," to fall upon our faces, while God talks with us."

Who should attend upon, and by every means in their power support prayermeetings? There can be but one answer to this question-every member of a Christian church. All who are united together for each other's good, and for the increase of the church, should meet together for prayer whenever they have the opportunity. I affectionately submit the following proposition to the consideration of every believer in Christ. No Christian should stay away from a prayermeeting unless his conscience justifies his absence, and at the same time his

say, “I wish I was there." It is a great mercy when spiritual duties, whether private or public, become habitual to us without becoming formal ; and this is just the state of mind we should seek to realize as regards prayer meetings. That which is habitual

easy ; and highly favoured indeed is that church where there are many members whose conduct says, " We cannot get on, and we will not go on, without prayer meetings." To bring about this desirable state of things, some degree of consideration and decision

is necessary. Still I cannot help thinking that if many a husband and wife who are members of Christian churches, and who never scarcely attend prayer-meetings or week-day services, had

made it part of their arrangements at first beginning life, how

they could best keep up their attendance at God's house, they would have fared much better in spiritual things, and none the worse in temporal things.

Doubtless there are cases of non-attendance which are excusable, and by which the Lord is not dishonoured. Besides instances of sickness and old age, there are domestic servants and others, whose

time is not their own-mothers whose little families fill both hands and head and others who by employing all their time scarcely provide for the wants of their families. None of them are required to neglect obvious duties in order publicly to worship God on week

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days; but, after making all these deductions, are there not many professors, whom neither sickness nor old age, the authority of others, the care of families nor the dictates of honesty, keep from prayer-meetings ? And yet they are not there! The fact is, if all who could attend would make a point of doing so, we should see a great alteration for the better in our week-day services.

How may prayer-meetings become more interesting and profitable? If we had more of the presence of the Spirit of God in our midst, we should not have to ask this question, which implies that there is a deficiency of interest in them and of profit from them. How, then, may we obtain the presence of the Holy Spirit? He certainly has not abandoned the Church, for Jesus promised “He shall abide with you for ever." But it may be that he has been grieve and quenched, and hence the Church is weak and unhappy, having but a sma measure of the spirit of power and spirit of adoption. May not the Lord sa to the professed sons of Jacob, when so few of the church and congregation ar met together to pray, and there is so little of the spirit of prayer, O thou the art named of the house of Jacob, is the Spirit of the Lord straitened ? are thes his doings ? do not my words do good to them that walk uprightly?." (Mica ii. 7). Let us, then, "search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord, with a fixed resolution that we will seek him until he shall pour down a blessing upon us.

I would with all Christian kindness, conscious of the imperfection of my ow prayers, fearful of wounding the weakest brother, and yet anxious to promo the object in view, inquire, What kind of prayers should be offered up at praye meetings ? Not long prayers; all are agreed on this point, and yet how man transgress their own rules in practice. Prayers of fifteen and twenty minute duration (and some will pray longer) are sure to make the meeting tiresom and uninteresting. Few persons ought to pray more than five minutes. Net preaching prayers; we come to the throne of grace to supplicate, not to teach to obtain mercies, not to tell others our creed; to plead the promises, not ti explain the Scriptures. “Prayer," says one, “is the application of want to Hin who alone can relieve it; the voice of confession to Him who alone can pardo) sin. It is the urgency of poverty, the prostration of humility, the fervency penitence, the confidence of faith. It is not eloquence, but earnestne88– the definition of helplessness, but the feeling of it; it is the cry of faith in th. ear of mercy.", Not formal prayers; we should watch against customar expressions, and beware of adopting an unwritten litany. The same string words frequently repeated (especially when one borrows from another) seer to betoken want of thought and feeling. Above all, not contentious prayers;i:anything in the church or anything in the ministry displeases a person, it irreverent and cowardly to introduce it into his prayers. God should be soug! unto with thought, feeling, reverence, faith, and hope; we should aim to able to say on leaving the prayer meeting as Jacob did

on his dying bed, have waited for thy salvation, O Lord;" also as Jacob at Bethel, “How awfuli this place!" When we engage in public or social prayer, we should endeavour, a much as possible, to feel ourselves alone with God, losing sight of those aroun us; we should acquaint ourselves with the promises of his book, and thus see to come to God with his own words. How does the loving, beseeching agonizing prayer of a brother carry the heart with it from earth to heaven However plain the language, we feel he is confessing his sin, and we confet ours also

that he is embracing the cross, we feel its mighty power—that he taking hold of God's name, and our souls say, “ Who is so great à God as ou God?

Fervent, tender, penitent, believing prayer is what we want; then shall ou harps be tuned, our hands strengthened, our pace quickened, and our churche increased." A firm conviction of God's power to save, and of God's willingnes

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to bless ; a believing view of God's glory, as arising out of the prosperity of his people and the conversion of sinners, is what we should aim to realize. God is lore—his arm is not shortened-his ear is not heavy-his resources are not diminished ; after all we have done, he says return ; after all the sin of omission and commission of which the Church is guilty, “he is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think." Oh, let us believe, heartily believe, ali this

, and we shall pray in faith that the blessing we seek will certainly be bestowed.

I only add one more suggestion on the manner of prayer. Would it not be conducive to profit if some of the brethren who engage were to endeavour to plead with God respecting those things which were omitted by those who prayed before? No brother is expected or wished to embrace the whole range of the subjects of prayer; an attempt to do this produces lengthiness, same. ness, and weariness.

Whether anything could be done to make prayer meetings more profitable, by varying the manner of conducting them, by interspersing short observations, or reading short portions of Scripture, or appointing special subjects for prayer for different evenings, are important inquiries ; but do not come within Christians, if you would enter more into the spirit of relative prayer, and feel more power and pleasure in this holy exercise, study the subjects which you should bring before God's throne. Here are your families and relatives, around whom your tenderest affections twine-your neighbours, with whom you come in contact from day to day, and whose eternal well-being should lie near your heart your country, with all its advantages and all its crimes--yea, the wide world, with

all its teeming myriads ; for all these you may, for all these you should pray (1 Tim. ii. 1). Six hundred millions) of heathens, two thousand of whom die every hour, call us to prayer. The spread of infidelity, the efforts of Popery, the

commotions among the nations, the unbelief of the Jews

, all say, Pray. Look at the vast machinery at work both at home and abroad

, and then look at the comparatively small results ; think of the tens of thousands of sermons preached every week in Britain, and the few souls brought to God; of the hundreds of thousands of children in our schools, and the few savingly impressed ; of the millions of Bibles,

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, and yet truth despised, and fiction and error greedily swallowed-and et all these things stir you up to pray,

Missionaries labouring abroad, ministers, village-preachers, Sabbath-school teachers, visitors of the sick, tract distributors working at home, all say, "Pray for us. The widow's heart will be keered to hear you remember her ; the fatherless may learn to trust in God as they hear your appeals to God for them; the afflicted will be comforted in thersek chambers, and the aged and dying be strengthened for their last conflict, 27 228wers to your prayers ; whilst the poor, the sorrowful, the tempted, and

mourner in Zion will find their sorrow lightened by the manifestation of your Christian sympathy at the throne of grace. Oh

, how much do those Christians lose, who, from choice, neglect the hallowed 8ons of social prayer! It deserves attentive consideration, that eminent piety

always been found in connection with a disposition to pray for others. How id Abraham, the friend of God, intercede for guilty Sodom? For what did dacob intercede with the angel P The leading object was, that the Divine proletion might be around,

and the Divine blessing upon, his beloved family. Gen. xxxii.) When was Moses

favoured with the greatest manifestations of Dirine love, and the greatest unfoldings of Divine glory! It was when he pleaded for guilty Israel. (Ex. xxxiii.) Daniel was addressed as the man nereally beloved,” when he had just poured out his fall soul on behalf of captive Zion. (chap. ix.) When does Paul appear most like

his Master, but when he is

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plying the throne of grace on behalf of the churches of the saints ? (Ephes. iii. 14–21; Coloss. i. 28, 29; ii, 1–3; 2 Thess. i. 11, 12). And to crown all, is not the great love of Jesus to his Church manifested by his perpetual intercession on her behalf? If we, then, say we abide in him, let us seek to walk as he walked, and to be followers of those who were men of prayer. In thus acting, we shall consult our highest happiness, for it may with truth be said concerning Zion, and him that loves her,—

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Nor are encouragements wanting to pray without ceasing. The character of God—the name of Jesus—the promised help of the Holy Spirit-the engage ments of Divine faithfulness— the end to be answered by prayer, even " that the Father may be glorified in the Son;" all, all encourage us to come with boldness to the throne of grace. Prayer has already gained many victories, and, by God's help, may yet gain many more. When we feel inclined to despair or grow weary, let us study such Scriptures as the following: John xvi. 23, 24: in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name : ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” John xv. 7: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." 1 John v. 14. 15 : “ And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."

Let us also study the instances of successful prayer which God's word records: Shall I tell you of Peter, and how the prayers of the Church were more than a match for Herod and his mighty men P (Acts xii.) Prayer made the fetters fall ott-opened the prison doors_locked the guards in sleep, and filled the Church with wonder and praise. Shall I tell how, when Jerusalem was surrounded by the Assyrian host, Isaiah lifted up bis prayer for the remnant, Hezekiah spread the letter before the Lord, and their united requests turned the might of thousards of warriors into the impotence of death Shall I tell you how believing prayer built walls with water, and made the sea a highway for the feeble and a grave for the strong ? Let us think on these things with many others "and pour out our hearts like water before the face of the Lord our God :" let us cry mightily for blessings on the Church, and for the salvation of sinners. In acting thus, we shall be, as we have already seen, associated with patriarchs

, prophets, and apostles, and, most of all, be conformed to Him who sought by his strong cries on earth, and who still seeks by his prevalent intercession in heaven, the destruction of sin and the salvation of sinners, the triumph of truth and the honour of God.

Dear Christian friends, you who have felt the power, the pleasure, and the profit of believing prayer, to you the ministers of the Gospel especially make their appeal; and in the language of the apostle say, “ Brethren, pray for us. We seek not yours, but you. Consider, I beseech you, the connection there must be between a spirit of prayer and the prosperity of the Church of God. What is prosperity ? It is the possession and exercise of those graces and gifts which only God can bestow, and which God will only bestow in answer to prayer. If this observation be true, the point is settled; we need go no farther; we see that if we would have prosperity we must ask, and ask in faith, nothing doubting (James i. 5). We may get numbers without prayer; we may get respectability and wealth without prayer ; but prosperity we cannot get without prayer ; and of what avail is anything or everything else, without spiritual prosperity ?' We

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want, then, more prayers ; real heart prayers. True, we are glad to hear gifted brethren ; we wish the head as well as the heart to be engaged. Prayer should be thoughtful, sensible, and orderly; but all will not do without the heart. By

prayer, I mean for the heart to be with God; thinking on him, loving him, desiring him; on the promise, leaning on it, pleading it, expecting its fulfilment; for the Church, feeling for her sorrows and longing for her welfare. That was heart

prayer which Paul thus describes : Striving according to his vorking, which worketh in me mightily. For I would that ye knew what great konflict I have for you" (Coloss. 1. 29). And such prayer he desired from the Church : “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive (or agonize) together with me in your prayers to God for me” (Rom. xv. 30). Such heart prayer as this will be sure to produce prosperity, for prayer not only bringe down blessings from God, but it elevates the soul to God-prepares for service--fits us to receive and improve God's blessings-and meetens us to be efficient instruments in his hand ; in -i-short, capacitates us to be “ labourers together with God." Communion with God produces spirituality and liumility : and spiritual and humble souls are those whom God will employ, bless, and honour. As there is an intimate connection between prayer and prosperity, so is there between the spiritual prosperity of the Church and the coaversion of sinners. On this point I appeal to facts, and call upon all to search the word of God, and also to explore the field of observation around them for proof, whether it is 80 or not

. The Acts of the Apostles abundantly demonstrate, that when the 1: Church was most full of the Divine life, then was she most honoured to bring

sinners to God (Acts ii. 41 ; iv. 4 ; xi. 19–24 ; xiii. 2). Then three thousand, Cand afterwards five thousand, were converted; next we read of a multitude of the priests being obedient to the faith ; and of much people being added to the Lord ; 80 mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. And even now, I ask with confidence, where do we find the work of conversion going on, but where there is the spirit of grace and supplication ? Christians, let us endeavour to feel our responsibility in this

matter, for assuredly it is far greater than we imagine

. If the prosperity and increase of the Church is thus connected with a spirit of prayer, are we not verily guilty if we rest satisfied without such a spirit? The conversion of sinners is the work of God; we know it, we feel it; but when was it the case that a spiritual church went on praying without the arm of the Lord being revealed, without an addition of members ; yea, and such as shall be saved? Brethren, are we prepared to pray more than ever—to pray ferrently—to pray perseveringly and patiently? Are we prepared to make any dually

, until it communicates from heart to heart, and the Church becomes what it ought to be, a representation of Jesus in his love to his people, his zeal for God's glory, and his pity for sinners? Your closets and the prayer-meetings, of the Church will tell how far you are prepared for this. May the love of Christ forbid that any Christian should say, "I pray thee have me excused; for in that case

the solemn words of James are applicable to us : “Draw nigh to God , and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse

your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded!” Recollect, Christians, the claims of God upon you—your infinite obligation--your solemn profession-your glorious prospects the impression your influence and example must make-the account you have to render-and the faithful promise of Jehovah to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him ; and then go and act accordingly. Ipswich.

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