The Universal Call to Prayer
What a dreadful delusion hath prevailed over the greater part of mankind, in supposing that they are not called to a state of prayer! whereas all are capable of prayer, and are called thereto, as all are called to and are capable of salvation.
Prayer is the application of the heart to God, and the internal exercise of love. S. Paul hath enjoined us to |pray without ceasing| (1 Thess. v 17), and our Lord saith, |I say unto you all, watch and pray| (Mark xiii.33, 37): all therefore may, and all ought to practice prayer. I grant that meditation is attainable but by few, for few are capable of it; and therefore, my beloved brethren who are athirst for salvation, meditative prayer is not the prayer which God requires of you, nor which we would recommend.
Let all pray: we should live by prayer, as we should live by love. |I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that ye may be rich| (Rev. iii.8), this is much more easily obtained than we can conceive. |Come, all ye that are athirst, to these living waters|; nor lose your precious moments in |hewing out cisterns, broken cisterns that will hold no water| (John vii.37; Jer ii.13). Come, ye famished souls, who find naught whereon to feed; come, and ye shall be fully satisfied!
Come, ye poor afflicted ones, who groan beneath your load of wretchedness and pain, and ye shall find ease and comfort! Come, ye sick, to your Physician, and be not fearful of approaching Him because ye are filled with diseases; expose them to His view and they shall be healed!
Children, draw near to your Father, and He will embrace you in the arms of love! Come, ye poor, stray, wandering sheep, return to your Shepherd! Come, sinners, to your Saviour! Come, ye dull, ignorant, and illiterate, ye who think yourselves the most incapable of prayer! ye are more peculiarly called and adapted thereto. Let all without exception come, for Jesus Christ hath called all.
Yet let not those come who are without a heart; they are not asked; for there must be a heart, that there may be love. But who is without a heart? O come, then, give this heart to God; and here learn how to make the donation.
All who are desirous of prayer may easily pray, enabled by those ordinary graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which are common to all men.
Prayer is the guide to perfection and the sovereign good; it delivers us from every vice, and obtains us every virtue; for the one great means to become perfect, is to walk in the presence of God: He Himself hath said, |walk in my presence and be ye perfect| (Gen. xvii.1). It is by prayer alone, that we are brought into this presence, and maintained in it without interruption.
You must then learn a species of prayer, which may be exercised at all times; which doth not obstruct outward employments; and which may be equally practiced by princes, kings, prelates, priests and magistrates, soldiers and children, tradesmen, labourers, women and sick persons: it cannot, therefore, be the prayer of the head, but of the heart; not a prayer of the understanding alone, which is so limited in its operations that it can have but one object at one time; but the prayer of the heart is not interrupted by the exercises of reason: indeed nothing can interrupt this prayer, but irregular and disordered affections: and when once we have tasted of God, and the sweetness of His love, we shall find it impossible to relish aught but Himself?
Nothing is so easily obtained as the possession and enjoyment of God, for |in him we live, move, and have our being;| and He is more desirous to give Himself into us, than we can be to receive Him.
All consists in the manner of seeking Him; and to seek aright, is easier and more natural to us than breathing. Though you think yourselves ever so stupid, dull, and incapable of sublime attainments, yet, by prayer, you may live in God Himself with less difficulty or interruption than you live in the vital air. Will it not then be highly sinful to neglect prayer? But this I trust you will not, when you have learnt the method, which is exceedingly easy.