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 relatives know. But whether you pray in private or not, is a matter between yourself and God.
Reader, I beseech you in all affection to attend to the subject I bring before you. Do not say that my question is too close. If your heart is right in the sight of God, there is nothing in it to make you afraid. Do not turn off my question by replying that you say your prayers. 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 will show you good reasons for asking it."
I know that much may go on in a man's mind before he is brought to pray. He may have many convictions, desires, wishes, feelings, intentions, resolutions, hopes, and fears. But all these things are very uncertain evidences. They are to be found in ungodly people, and often come to nothing. In many a case they are not more lasting than the morning cloud, and the dew that passes away. A real hearty prayer, flowing from a broken and contrite spirit, is worth all these things put together."
"There are some of the Lord's people who seem never able to get on from the time of their conversion. They are born again, but they remain babes all their lives. They are learners in Christ's school, but they never seem to get beyond A B C, and the lowest form. They have got inside the fold, but there they lie down and get no further. Year after year you see in them the same old besetting sins. You hear from them the same old experience. You remark in them the same want of spiritual appetite,—the same squeamishness about anything but the milk of the Word, and the same dislike to strong meat,—the same childishness,—the same feebleness, —the same littleness of mind, the same narrowness of heart,—the same want of interest in anything beyond their own little circle, which you remarked ten years ago. They are pilgrims indeed, but pilgrims like the Gideonites of old,—their bread is always dry and mouldy, their shoes always old and clouted, and their garments always rent and torn. I say this with sorrow and grief. But I ask any real Christian, Is it not true?
There are others of the Lord's people who seem to be always getting on. They grow like the grass after rain. They increase like Israel in Egypt. They press on like Gideon,—though sometimes "faint, yet always pursuing" (Judges viii. 4). 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 bigger, taller, and stronger. Every year they appear to see more, and know more, and believe more, and feel more in their religion. 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, unprofitable servants, and fancy they do nothing at all. These are they who make religion 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. These are they whom it does one good to see, to be with, and to hear. 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, Is it not so? Now, how can we account for the difference 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."
"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 the trying to carry their own burdens which so often makes believers sad. If they will only 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 a burden.
There is a friend ever waiting to help us if we will only 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 lived thirty-three years as a man amongst us,—a friend who can weep 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 Christ. The way to be happy is to 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 tell the Lord."
Jesus can make those happy who trust Him and call on Him, whatever be their outward condition. He can give them peace of 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 all His believing members,—a fulness that is ready to be poured out on every one that will 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 however 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 is the way, walk ye in it." Prayer can let in a ray of hope when all our earthly prospects seem darkened. It can bring down One who will say,— "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." Prayer can obtain relief 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! (Genesis xxi. 19).
Reader, I want you to be happy. I know I cannot ask you a more useful question than this,—DO YOU PRAY?"