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MORNING AND EVENING SERVICES
THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
1 Cor. XIV. 15.
I will pray with the Spirit, and I will pray with
the understanding also. It is so easy to perceive what is here meant by
praying with the Spirit,” and “praying with the understanding,” that every reflecting mind, whether more or less instructed in the covenant of the Gospel, will immediately pronounce any other practice of prayer to be a mere waste of words and time ;-neither acceptable to God, nor useful to man. Assuming, therefore, that every rational being much more, every Christian—who seriously contemplates the nature and tendency of
PRAYER, understands, by that term, not the mere service of the lips, but that of the heart and mind; we cannot hesitate to infer, that whoever voluntarily addresses his Maker in PRIVATE PRAYER, must, in some sense, be in earnest in that practice: that is to say, although he may possibly be under some error, as to the proper object of prayer; or may suffer his mind to be occasionally drawn aside from a due attention to its purpose ; it must be his general principle, to know and feel what he is asking, and to ask for that only, which he is anxious to obtain.
The case of PUBLIC PRAYER stands, in some degree, upon different grounds. Deeply, indeed, is it to be regretted, that the sanctity of the place, and the solemnity of the occasion, should ever be insufficient to fix the thoughts of any persons, attending, as members of a Christian congregation, upon the important and affecting offices, in which they are professedly engaged. But, if we consider what various characters and motives may exist, in those, who resort to the house of God, we shall cease to wonder, that, even in that sacred place, all should not be equally attentive to the
great purposes for which they are, seemingly, assembled. Some of them may be present, not so much either from inclination, or a sense of duty, as from the force of habit, or a regard to decency and reputation. Again, in every public assembly, various objects may present themselves, but too well adapted to attract the eyes of those, who have not formed a proper determination to keep their attention better occupied : and lastly, all, whose minds are not duly prepared to join piously and seriously in the service, are liable to be seduced (each according to the particular bent of his disposition) to turn the house of prayer into a scene of idle amusement, or sordid speculation ;of frivolous recollections of the past, or equally frivolous projects for the future.
While we thus feel the necessity of some preparation, to effect an entire and cordial devotion of the soul to the several offices, of which the Service of the Church consists; we cannot but be aware, that there is an essential part of the requisite preparation, in which many well-disposed, but less informed and considerate persons are likely to be wanting ; and that too, without having hitherto so much as suspected their own deficiency: -I mean, an adequate comprehension of the design and spirit of the whole; a due sense of the exact adaptation of all the parts to the wants and exigencies of every supplicant; and a lively feeling of the sublime and pathetic sentiments with which they abound. I therefore propose to examine and explain in order those parts of the LITURGY, or COMMON PRAYER of our Church, which are in constant use; and in the course of this discussion, you will all, I trust, be induced to agree with me in the opinion, that the great ends of public prayer cannot be better i attained, than by a close and rational attention to the forms there provided.
The whole business of prayer, whether public or private, naturally resolves itself into four distinct branches. A creature, conscious of sin, must be supposed anxious to sue to his Creator for pardon. The same suppliant, reflecting that he is loaded with daily and undeserved benefits, cannot but contemplate his supreme Benefactor with veneration and gratitude. A being, sensible of a thousand wants, of which he cannot command the supply, must look up instinctively to that only Power,