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Stand in awe^ and sin not: commune tvithyour own heart upon yourbed^ andbestUV^ — Psalm iv. 4. n^HIS psalm, Kke the one before it and after it, is supposed to have been composed by David at the period of his flight from Absalom — this psakn probably later than the last, and when his restoration was accomplished, or at least near at hand ; for whereas the third psalm begins thus : " Lord, how are they increased that trouble me !" this begins in its first verse thus : " Thou hast set me at liberty when I was in troubla" The whole psalm seems to set before us the acceptableness of prayer in God's sight, where the life corresponds with the devout expressions of the heart and lips. The poor blind man to whom our Lord restored the gift of sight seems to express very much the same idea as this psalm conveys, when he replied to the cavils of the Jews thus : " ow we know that God heareth not sinners ; but if any man be a worshipper of God, and daeth His vdll, him He heareth;" for here, as in this psalm, is combined the worship of God with the doing His wD]. Ouf Lord expressed the very same truth when
28 PSALM IV, He said, " ot every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ; but he that DOETH the will of my Father which is in heaven." Our prayers must be the true expression of our heart and life; for if these contradict our prayers, our prayers will not be accepted before God, except it be to our condemnation. So it was said to Cornelius : " Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God." And so S. James declares : " The effectual fervent prayer of a rightemis man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain : and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit." All these
passages may well exemplify the direction bf this psalm; viz., it sets forth the power which prayer has with God when the life is altogether holy and pleasing in His sight. Good works and good prayers must go together ; the one helps the other ; and as good prayers will ever lead on to good works and holy living, so without these last our prayers will have little power with God. Of course, my brethren, there are to many persons great difficulties in doing as they would wish in this respect. In the many crowded homes that there are in most parishes, some may think themselves altogether excused from making any effort to pray because of the interruptions of their home. But not so. They who cannot
ALL MUST MAKE SOME PLACE FOR PRAYER. 29 find a time and place for their prayers at home must, if they would desire to grow in God's grace, and fit themselves for heaven, they must find and make a time and place for their prayers elsewhere. ow if you have no time and place in your own homes where you can be quiet and by yourself, that time and opportunity you may always have in God's house, when it is open for service. God says of His earthly temples : " Mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people." It is not necessary to limit the use of a church like this to acts of public worship; it is a place tor private prayer as well as public, and those who cannot find quiet and solitude at home ought the more gladly to come here for their private devotions, as well as to join together in acts of public worship. There are very many of you, my brethren, who do not come, but who might come to our week-day prayers, if only you had the desire and heart to do so. I am quite sorry to think and to see how few avail themselves of these opportunities. I think many of you might easily arrange your homework and duties so as to come together for this short act of public worship. In this respect, as in every other, our Lord's own example is full of instruction for us, Tou may say that you have a crowded home, and cannot there say your prayers with any comfort to yourselves, and so you omit them altogether; but remember, He had no home. It is His own description of His own life, that " the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air
30 PSALM IV. have nests ; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head." But what did He do ? Did He give up His prayers, and say He had no place to pray in ? And as for crowds, who was ever so pressed upon by multitudes as He ? By night and by day, in the city and in the wilderness alike, they pressed upon Him to hear the word of God ; the people thronged Him, they followed Him on foot out of all the cities and country around. The Lord and His apostles had no time so much as to eat ! Besides this, we might well suppose that prayer would be unnecessary for Him, We might well have supposed that He who was the very true and eternal God, the Creator who made us in the beginning — "for without Him was not anything made that was made" — ^that He, of all men, might have done without prayer on earth. But not so. Ycni may have a crowded home; but the Saviour had no settled home at all ! You may have your own family about you ; He had crowds and multitudes pressing around Him at all times, by night and by day ! We have all intense 'need of prayer ; it is as necessary to our spiritual condition as our daily food is necessary for our bodies. But He, though man, was God^ with all things at His command. As he says at last, by one prayer He could have brought twelve legions of angels to His rescue; but how then would the Scriptures have been fulfilled ? Of His prayers, both as to time and place, we have most especial mention. When He was at Jerusalem
CHRIST'S PRAYERS: WHE A D WHERE. 3 1 He made use of the garden of Gethsemane for this purpose; for we are expressly told that "Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with His disciples," so that Judas knew where to find Him, though it was night. But besides this, I would have you especially attend to the intimations which are left us respecting our Lord's prayers both as to their time and place. S. Mark (i. 35) says, "And in the morning, rising up a great while 'before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary
place, and there prayed." S. Matthew (xiv. 23) says, "When He had sent the multitudes away. He went up into a moimtain a'part to pray: and when tjie evening was come. He was there alone." S. Luke speaks of the Lord's prayers again and again. In one place (v. 16) thus: "And He withdrew Himself into the wilderness, and prayed." Again (vL 12) : " And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." And again (ix. 28) : "And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistering." Let us pause for a moment upon the picture which is thus given us of our Lord's habit of prayer. The time He took, or rather rfiade, out of His busy life was "before daybreak," or it is "all night long;" and the place, it was in "solitary places," or "on the mountain,"
32 PSALM IV. or "in the wilderness," or the garden of Gethsemane ofttimes. othing teaches us, my brethren, the necessity of prayer so strongly as our Lord's own example in this respect. He had no sins of His own, as we have, to pray for, that they might be forgiven. He had no grace to seek; for He had received of the Spirit without measure. Yet He, above all other saints whose lives are recorded in the Bible, spent much time during His all-busy life in His prayers. Surely this teaches us that the most holy people are ever the most full of prayers. They jn^ay most, because they are most holy ; and they are most fioly, because they pray most. The one answers to the other. ' And it may further be remarked that our Lord's prayers are always especially mentioned before any one of the greater events in His life. It is not only in Gethsemane, in the night before He suffered, that He is on His knees, or fallen down upon the ground in His agony of supplication, when Judas entered the garden with his band of men : but at His "baptism, S. Luke says, "Jesus also being baptized, and praying^ the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him." Again, lefore He called the twelve who
were to be His own daily companions, and!' afterwards the first founders of His Church, we find that He spent the whole night in prayer to God. Then, again, it was during His prayers that His glorious transfiguration took place, when " His raiment was white and glister-
GOD'S HOUSE FOR PRIVATE PRAYER. 33 ing, and His face shone as the sun.*' From all this, my brethren, we leam that a life of habitual prayer is a lift of the highest perfection, and that our prayers will be more or less perfect in proportion as our state of holiness is more or less advanced. The most perfect example of prayer is that of Him who was perfect in holiness. I think, then, nothing could be said to recommend what this verse of my text expresses so well as these facts recorded of the Saviour's own most holy life. In this, as in every other way, that is presented to us as the mark for us all to aim at, as the model for us to copy — "Stand in awe, and sin; commune with thine own heart, and in your chamber, and be still." Is this what each of us does, or tries to do ? Somehow or other we must make both time and place for this. We have seen how our Lord did so. He rose up before the world was stirring, or spent the whole night alone upon the mountain, or departed into the wilderness, and at Jerusalem made the garden of Gethsemane His house of prayer. Let none of us say, then, with that example before our eyes, that we have no time or no place in which to say our prayers ; but as a ready reply to any feeling of the kind in any heart, let me advise you to find some solitary place, as He did, or to make more use than you do now — all the use that you can — of this holy place, and any like it. This is God's house, set apart for prayer and the oifices of religion, and for D
34 PSALM IV.
nothing else. You have not, as your Saviour had, to seek a wilderness, or a mountain-top, before you can pray to your Father quietly and undisturbed. If your homes are crowded, in the Church we may generally say, "And yet there is room." If your homes are noisy, here are no sounds to disturb a devotional spirit, but everything to help and sustain it. Oh that God would thus revive His work amongst us ! that He would awaken our hearts to the great necessity of prayer, and would teach us to love the courts of His house, and this place wherein His honour dwelleth ! All graces of the Spirit are measured within us and to us by the frequency and fervency of our prayers. Prayer is the^ breath of our spiritual lungs. Let us learn how precious are solitary places and homes when others are sleeping or away ; in the night season, or a great whUe before day, when earth and heaven are stiU, and the busy world is not yet come abroad to trouble the creation of God. It must be by a rekindling amongst us of the spirit of prayer that we shall really grow in grace, and see the work of God's Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives ,of men. But to bring this about in any general way, we must do it each one for himself alone. We must be indeed men of prayer before we may ever hope to help others to become so. The most perfect prayers, it is said, are those of saints and of little children, because both have the same present awe of God, the same tenderness of conscience, the same
THE PR A VERS OF CHILDRE A D OF SAI TS, 35 simpKcity, humility, and truthfulness. The very weakness of children has the same effect as the strength of the saints. Children have not yet learned to know the world, and saints have renounced it: both in some measure fulfil my text. So let us do — " Stand in awe, and sin not ; commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still."
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