“Counsels of the Aged to the Young” – XIX. Prayer


19. Seek divine direction and aid—by incessant fervent prayer. You need grace to help you every day. Your own wisdom is folly, your own strength weakness, and your own righteousness altogether insufficient. “Lord, we know that people do not control their own destiny. It is not in their power to determine what will happen to them.” (Jer 10:23) But if you lack wisdom, you are permitted to ask; and you have a gracious promise, that you shall receive. Whatever we need will be granted, if we humbly and believingly ask for it. “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” (John 16:24; Matt 7:7; Luke 11:9) “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil 4:6)

Faith and prayer are our chief resources, under all the various and heavy afflictions of this life. When all other refuges fail, God will hide His people who seek Him, in His secret pavilion, and shelter them under the shadow of His wings.

Prayer is essential to the existence and growth of the spiritual life. It is the breath of the new man. By this means he obtains quick relief from innumerable evils, and draws down from heaven blessings of the richest and sweetest kind. Possess your minds fully of the persuasion that prayer is efficacious, when offered in faith and with importunity, to obtain the blessings which we need. God has made Himself known as a Hearer of prayer: yes, He has promised that we shall have, as far as may be for His glory and our good—whatever we ask. The most important events may be brought about by prayer. One righteous man, by fervent and effectual prayer, has been able to shut heaven and open it again. How often did Moses by his prayers avert the divine wrath from the people of Israel! That man who has access to a throne of grace will never lack anything which is really needful. “God will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11) “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will allow the house of Israel to ask me to do this for them.” (Ezek 36:37)

Banish, as most unreasonable, the idea that prayer is a dull or melancholy business. Such a sentiment must have been invented by Satan; for it never could have been suggested by reason, or taught by experience. Fellowship with the greatest and best of all beings must be a source of exalted pleasure; and surely, man can have no greater honor and privilege conferred upon him, than to be admitted to converse intimately and confidentially with the God whom angels adore! The experience of every saint attests that “it is good to draw near to God”; (Psalm 73:28) and that “one day in his courts is better than a thousand”. (Psalm 84:10) I need not be afraid, therefore, to counsel the young to cultivate the spirit of prayer and to be constant in its exercise. “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess 5:17) “Be instant in prayer.” (Rom 12:12)

It will not spoil your pleasures, but will open for you new sources of enjoyment, far more refined and satisfactory than any which prayerless people can possess. Prayer is the only method by which fellowship between heaven and earth can be kept open. Often, too, in the performance of this duty, a taste of heaven is brought down to earth; and the pious worshiper anticipates, in some degree, those joys which are ineffable and eternal. Prayer will, moreover, be your most effectual guard against sin and the power of temptation:
For Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.

– Archibald Alexander; Counsels of the Aged to the Young (See here for more info)

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