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prayers; which, though they do not so exactly express the peculiarity of this prayer, yet they embrace all its substance. But they err who consider any other prayers equal to this Prayer, or prefer them to it.
This Prayer then is divided into TWO PARTS. The FIRST is the Preface, or the Beginning, or a certain Preparation. The SECOND Contains Seven Petitions.
Our Father which art in heaven.
This certainly is a most excellent beginning or preparation, whereby we are led to know, how he to whom we are about to pray should be named, honoured, and addressed; and how every person should approach him, that he may be gracious and inclined to hear. Of all the names of God, therefore, there is no one, the using of which renders us more acceptable unto him, than that of Father: and it is a most lovely, sweet, and deeply comprehensive name, and full of mental affection. It would not be so sweet and consoling to say Lord,' or 'God,' or 'Judge;' because, the name of Father (in natural things) is ingrafted in us, and is naturally sweet. And for this reason the same name is pleasing unto God, and greatly moves him to hear us. And also, it brings us into a knowledge of ourselves as the sons of God; by which also we greatly move the heart of God; for no voice is sweeter unto a father than that of a child. This is farther discovered in what follows.
Which art in heaven.
By which words, we plainly shew our miserable straits of mind, and our exiled state, and are powerfully moved to pray, as well as God to hear. For he who begins to pray Our Father which art in heayen,' and does it from the inmost recesses of his heart, therein confesses, that he has a Father, and that it is he who is in heaven and he confesses also, that he himself is an exile, and left to travel here upon earth. And hereupon,
there must of necessity follow an inward affection of heart, such as that son has who is living far from his own country among strangers, and in exile and calamity! For it is as if he should say, 'O Father, thou indeed art in heaven, but I thy miserable son am far away from thee upon earth; that is, in exile, perils, calamities, and straits, and amid devils, enemies, and various difficulties. He, therefore, that thus prays, has his heart directed and lifted up toward God, and is in a state to pray and to obtain grace of God.
But, so high and deep are the contents of the name Father, that the nature of man can by no means bring it forth and use it, unless the Spirit of Christ be in the heart. For if we weigh and examine the matter deeplý, there is no one arrived to such a perfection as to be able to say, in truth, that he has neither father nor any thing else upon earth, but is an utter stranger, and has no other parent but God: for such is the malignity of sinful nature, that it will seek out any thing upon earth for itself, so long as it believes it has not a God to flee to in heaven.
The use of this name, therefore, evidences great confidence in God: which confidence in him, we ought above all things to hold fast: because, beside this one parent, there is no one that can aid us in coming to heaven: as it is written, "No man hath ascended into heaven, but he that came down from heaven: even the Son of man who is in heaven: on whose shoulders and wings only it is, that we can ascend to heaven.-Otherwise, all work-mongers may say this Lord's Prayer; who, nevertheless, know not what the words of it signify. But what I consider to be prayer, is that which proceeds from the heart rather than from the mouth.
And there is another kind of persons in the church, who turn over a certain number of pages, or murmur over with a great deal of noise a set of religiously-worn beads; but in all this their heart is wandering far enough from that which they utter with their lips. This certainly cannot be called prayer: for God saith to such a
supplicant, by the prophet Isaiah, "This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me."
And moreover, there are those priests and monks to be found, who hurry and bawl over certain prayers at stated hours, without any feeling or engagement of heart whatever; and afterwards, dare impudently to say, 'Ah! now I may enjoy myself, for I have performed all unto the Lord.' And they imagine that they in this way satisfy God. But I tell thee in answer,---Thou mayest perhaps have satisfied the precepts of the church, but God will say unto thee, "This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me."--Hence it is, that those who pray the least, may be found to pray the most; and, on the contrary, those who pray the most, may be found to pray the least.
But some one may say, Is it not written Luke xviii. 1, "That men ought always to pray and not to faint?""I answer: Mark those words diligently. Christ does not say that pages are to be turned over, that religiously-worn beads are to be told, and many words used, &c.; but that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.' And what it is to pray we have already shewn. But there were formerly certain heretics called Proseuchita, or petitioners, who set about putting these words of Christ into practice literally, and wished to pray day and night; wherein, they did nothing else but expose their folly; not seeing, that they were forced to omit their praying when they ate, drank, or slept. Hence, these words of Christ were spoken concerning spiritual prayer, which may be exercised at all times, even when the body is engaged in labour: though no one can wholly fulfil this command of Christ. For who can unceasingly keep his heart lifted up unto God. Therefore, these words of Christ are set before us as a mark, to which we ought to aim: and when we find that they cannot be fulfilled by us, let us confess ourselves to be weak and sinful creatures; and, being thus humbled, let us beg grace of God to supply our weakness and helplessness.
All true teachers of the Holy Scripture define the nature and meaning of prayer, to be nothing more for less, than a lifting up the mind or heart unto God. If therefore the nature of prayer be this lifting up of mind, it follows, that every thing else that does not lift up the mind and heart, is not prayer. Hence, all those chant ings, rounds of forms, and noises of organs, where the lifting up the heart to God is wanting, are no more worthy to be called prayer, than scare-crows and effigies that are placed in gardens to frighten away the birds, deserve to be called men. There is, indeed, the name and the shape, but there is neither truth nor reality.
And yet, I do not myself altogether reject vocal prayer, or a form of prayer, nor ought any one to reject it; but rather, to receive it with gratitude as a great gift of God. But what is to be rejected, is the words themselves not discharging their office, and not being attended with their fruits, that is, the raising the affection of the mind: but the hope is placed in a deceiving confidence in this only, that the whole has been murmured or muttered over, without any fruits or advantage, nay, leaving the heart in a worse state than it was before.
And yet again, let each one take care, when he conceives a spark of mental affection, or engagement of heart, (be it either with or without words,) that he fall not into the poison of the old serpent, that is, destroying pride; and say to himself, Ah, now I with my pray heart and mouth too, and I experience such an engagement of heart, as I think is difficult for any other to attain unto, that he should pray as I do now!' These thoughts the devil breathes into thee; and in this way, thou wilt come off worse at last than if thou hadst not prayed at all. Nay, such a suggestion is not far from a reviling and cursing of God. Therefore, see that thou praise not thyself, but God, in all the good which thou feelest, or unto which thou attainest.
And finally, we should observe how carefully Christ ordered this Prayer: because, he did not will that any should pray for himself only, but for all men. For he
did not teach us to say, My Father, but, Our Father.' For prayer is a spiritual and common blessing, of which no one ought to be deprived; and so, not even an enemy. For as God is the Father of us all; his will is that we should be as brethren, live together in love and friendship, and pray for each other as for ourselves.
DIVISION OF THE LORD'S PRAYER.
There are found in this Prayer Seven Petitions.
1. Hallowed be thy name.
2. Thy kingdom come.
3. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.
4. Give us this day our daily bread.
5. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
6. And lead us not into temptation.
7. But deliver us from evil. Amen.
These Seven Petitions may also be called as many good doctrines and admonitions: for, as the bishop and martyr Cyprian said, they are seven marks of our exile and want; by which, a man being brought to the knowledge of himself, may see how perilous and miserable a life he lives here upon earth; which life, is nothing but • a continued scene of offending the holy name of God, rebellion against his will, and banishment from his kingdom; a region of hunger and the want of the bread of life, and a sinful conversation and wandering filled with perils and all evil; as Christ himself particularizes in this Prayer, and as we shall see in what follows.
Hallowed be thy name.
O great and inconceivably deep petition, when it proceeds from the true affection of the heart! It is short indeed as to the words, but there is no one of the other Petitions equal in greatness to this, wherein we pray, Hallowed be thy name!"
For observe, in the first place, that the name of