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"Cast all your care upon him: for he careth for you." And again, Christ saith, Mat. vi. "Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they V All which agreeth with the present consolation of the apostle, and hath the same meaning as the following: The Lord is at hand.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. In these words the apostle teacheth us to cast our care upon God, and turn to him by prayer and supplication. He, who will not put his trust in God, when he meets with difficulty and disappointments, but will first weigh all things by his own reason, and order them according toTiis own judgement, will find himself involved in many perplexities, and will lose all joy and quietness thereby. Such a person laboureth in vain, and plungeth himself still deeper into trouble and misery, from which he is not able to extricate himself. This we may learn by our own, and by the experience of others.
The admonition of Paul concerning prayer is given, lest we should be sleepy and slothful, and not pray for the things of which we stand in need. He that indulgeth himself in slothfulness, shall be easily wrapped in the cares of this world. Therefore, in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. When we are in trouble, we must flee unto prayer, and make known our wants to God, and desire him to bestow upon us those things of which we stand in need.
We must here take some notice of the formation
of prayer, and what is the true manner of praying.
The apostle mentioneth four things; prayer, supplU
cation, giving of thanks, and requests or petitions, Prayer is the words or speech wherein something is desired; as the Lord's Prayer, the Psalms, &c. Supplication, is when the petition is urged with earnestness, as when one prayeth for something that is very dear and excellent to him; as when we pray unto God by his mercy, by his Son, by his promise, by his name, &c.; as in the following passages: Psalm cxxxii: "Lord, remember David and all his afflictions." And Paul saith, Romans xii. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God;" and 2 Cor. x. "I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ," &c.
A petition or request is, when we name that which is desired, and for which supplication is made; as we may see in Mat. vii. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened unto you : for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." Thanksgiving is, when the benefits of God are rehearsed, whereby faith is strengthened, and stirred up to look for that which is desired, with more confidence. Wherefore, prayer urgeth or earnestly entreateth by supplication, but is strengthened and made sweet and acceptable by thanksgiving, and therefore obtaineth whatsoever it asketh.
We read that this manner of prayer was used in the church, among the holy fathers of the Old Testament ; who always in their prayers were wont to ask with supplication and thanksgiving. The same also we see in the Lord's Prayer; which beginneth with thanksgiving and with praise ; in the beginning thereof we confess God to be our Father, unto whom we have access by his fatherly love, and through the merits of his Son.
Paul hath well expressed the mystery of the golden censer, mentioned in the Old Testament, whereof we read many things in the books of Moses. It was lawful for the priests only, to burn incense ; but now, all we who believe in Christ, are priests; wherefore it is lawful for us, and for us only, to burn the incense of prayers. The censer, that golden vessel, is the words which we utter in prayer: surely golden and precious are those, of which the Lord's Prayer consisteth, the Psalms, and other prayers used in the holy scripture.
Vessels, in scripture, frequently signify words. Wine, water, burning coals, and the like, are contained in vessels; so the meaning of what we express, is contained in words. By the cup of Babylon-, is understood the doctrine of men; and by the cup from which the blood of Christ is drank, the gospel. The burning coals whereon the frankincense was laid, signify thanksgiving, and the rehearsing of benefits in prayer : which we are wont to do in making supplication. That fiery coals signify benefits, is manifest by referring to Romans xii. where the apostle reciteth the words of Solomon ; Proverbs xxv. "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink : for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." Benefits may properly be called coals of fire, for they inflame the heart with love, which was before cold and inactive.
In the law it was prohibited to lay the frankincense upon any other coals except those that were of the altar of the Lord: which signifieth that we must not rehearse our own good deeds in prayer, as did the pharisee, (Luke xv.) but only the benefits of God bestowed upon us in Christ: he is our altar, and by him we must offer: and for the benefits received by him we must give thanks, and make mention of them in prayer for the increasing of our faith. This Paul teacheth, where he saith, Col. iii. "Do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." For God will not suffer us to glory in any thing else in bi» sight, which he declared in a type or figure, Lev. x. where we read that Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, were consumed in a flame from the altar of the Lord, because they burned incense, taking other fire than that of the altar.
The works of Christ are acceptable to God; we must therefore give thanks for these only, and rejoice in prayer. Incense signifieth the petitions made in prayer. Paul saith, let your petitions be made known unto God; wherein he seemeth to have considered and interpreted them as a sweet savour ascending from the censer. As though he had said, when ye burn incense sweet and acceptable unto the Lord, make your petitions known unto God with supplication and thanksgiving: this incense and savour being sweet and acceptable to God, ascendeth to heaven like vapours of smoke, and entereth even unto the throne of God.
As burning coals give a strong savour and make it ascend upward, so the memory of the benefits of God which we rehearse in thanksgiving, maketh prayer steadfast and bold, which ascendeth into heaven; but without which it fainteth, is cold, and of no force. Therefore, before we can pray effectually with faith, our hearts must be inflamed by the memory of the benefits which God hath bestowed upon us in Christ.
Perhaps some may demand how our petitions are to be made known to God, seeing they are known unto him before we pray 1 I answer; the apostle adjoined this, that he might instruct us of what sort true prayer ought to be: namely; being assured, and having confidence and trust in God. Such a prayer is not made at adventure, neither passeth it * way into the wind, as the prayer of those who have - regard whether God hear or not, yea, rather here that he doth not hear; which is not to pray or f of God, but to tempt and mock him.
If a man desire money of me, whom I certainly know to be persuaded in his own mind that he shall not receive it, I should not grant his request, but consider myself mocked. How much more is God offended at our much crying and babbling, when we do not consider whether he heareth us or not. Let us therefore learn to make known our petitions unto God; that is, so ask that we doubt not that they are known and accepted by him. If we in faith believe that we shall receive whatsoever we ask, we shall receive it: for as we believe, so it cometh unto us. As the smoke carrieth the savour upward from the censer, so faith carrieth the petitions of the believers into the presence of God; whereby we assuredly believe that our petitions will ascend to God, and that we shall obtain those things that we ask. - It is said in the Psalms, "God hath heard my petition; give ear Lord unto my prayer," &c. Christ saith, Mat. xxi. "Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." And James saith, chap, i- "Ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth, is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord." Who cannot perceive that the babbling and noise which is made through the world in monasteries, is mockery and delusion 1 The prayers of these, if they may be called prayers, are abundantly shown before men; but God doth not regard them, neither doth he hear them; for they do not believe, neither are they assured that their prayers are heard by him ; therefore as they believe, so do they receive. It was time, long ago, that those mockeries and blasphemies should have been abolished.
If we pray as we are here taught, there shall be nothing which we may not obtain. We pray for many things which we do not receive, but this is not