We are now come to the last word of the Lord's Prayer, the power and efficacy whereof at this time is to be considered, for there is in it every way matter worthy of our consideration, and we cannot perfectly accomplish our duty in prayer, except we understand this word aright; for after we have laid out our several petitions to God, and made our allegation to God why we desire to be respected by Him, namely, because we are of His kingdom and jurisdiction, for that we have no power of ourselves to do anything; and lastly, because that we confess that all glory is to be ascribed to Him, then it remaineth that we desire of God that those petitions and allegations made by us may by Him be ratified, which is done in the word 'Amen.'
Wherein the ancient writers consider two things: first, Jerome saith it is signaculum consensûs nostri that by it we acknowledge that whatsoever we can desire is contained in this form of prayer.
Secondly, as St Cyprian saith, it is votum desiderii nostri, that as we allow of this form of prayer and the petitions made therein, so we desire that it will please God to perform and accomplish them; so in this word is implied the consent of our mind to allow of the things which we are taught to pray for in this prayer, and secondly the desire of our heart for the obtaining of the same.
The one is the seal of our faith, inasmuch as we acknowledge those things to be true. The other is the seal of our love, whereby we testify our desire for the accomplishment of these petitions. The one is referred to truth, the other to the [467/468] fervency of the spirit; in which things, as our Saviour affirmeth, the right worship of God consisteth. Concerning which word to be added in the end of our supplications, there is an absolute commandment, not only in the Old Testament. 'Let all people say Amen,' but in the New, as appeareth by St. Paul's, question, who to shew the necessity of this word, he saith 'How shall the unlearned say Amen to thy thanksgiving?' For, indeed, it concerneth every one, as he will answer the transgression of Dicet omnis populus, 'All the people shall say,' which is a flat commandment, not to be omitted, to add this word to their prayer. The word itself is originally Hebrew, but used by the Evangelists, and retained still in every language, and tongue, without translation or alteration either in Greek, Latin or any other. The reason of the retaining of it is, that it might appear that the synagogue of the children of Israel, and the true congregation of the Church of Christ, gathered out of all nations, is but one mystical body, whereof Christ is the Head. The same we are given to understand by this, that 'the Spirit of Adoption' is said to 'cry' not only 'Abba' in the hearts of the Jews, but also Pat_r, and 'Father' in the hearts of the Gentiles. Therefore our Saviour would not have His name to be either entirely Hebrew, as Jesus, Messias; or entirely Greek, as CristÕj, Ewtnr but the one in Hebrew, the other in Greek, Jesus Christ, to shew that 'He is our peace, Who of two made one,' Who hath reconciled us both in one body, and that He is the corner-stone whereby the Church consisting and 'growth to be the one holy Temple to the Lord.' Though they be, as the Apostle speaketh, congregatio primogenitorum, 'the congregation of the first born;' yet we are the Church of God as well as they, we, I say, that are born after them; we that are of Gentiles have none other law for our direction than that which the Jews had, as the Apostle saith, 'I write no new commandment, but an old commandment which you have heard from the beginning. We have no other faith, but as the Spirit saith, enumdem spiritum habentes 'having the same spirit of faith.' The same grace is offered to us that was offered to the Fathers, 'For we believe it be saved by the faith of [468/469] Jesus Christ as well as they.' And we have no other Sacraments than those which the Jews had, of whom St. Paul saith, 'They did all eat the same spiritual meat, and drank the same spiritual drink and therefore it is meet likewise that we should make the same prayer that they made; and indeed there is no petition in the Lord's Prayer which is not found in the Old Testament, used by the Church of the Jews, For that which the Prophet prayeth, 'Lift up Thyself, O God, above the heavens, and Thy glory above all the earth, that Thy way may be known upon earth,' 'that Thy way may be known upon earth,' &c. is nothing else but the hallowing of God's name.
Secondly, 'Remember me, O God, that I may see the felicity of Thy chosen.' It is nothing else but an exposition of the second petition when we pray, 'Thy Kingdom come.'
Thirdly, these words of the Prophet, 'Teach me to do the thing that pleaseth Thee,' is a full comprehension of the third petition, when we desire that His 'will be done.'
Fourthly, the eyes of all things do look upon Thee, and Thou givest them meat in due season, and the prayers of Solomon, Give me not poverty, nor riches, but feed me with food meet, is a full expressing of the fourth petition.
Fifthly, 'My misdeed prevail against me, O be merciful to our sins,' is a sum of the fifth petition, and the condition of this petition is found in Psalm the seventh, wherein the Prophet saith, 'If I have done any such thing, or if there be any wickedness in my hands; if I have rewarded evil to him that dealt friendly with me (yea I have delivered him that without a cause was my enemy) then let my enemy persecute my soul;' whereby he desireth no otherwise to be forgiven of God, than as he doth forgive his brother.
Sixthly, that which the Prophet prayeth, 'Turn away my eyes, that they behold not vanity,' and 'Set a watch before my mouth,' and keep the door of my lips, is that which Christ teacheth us to pray, 'Lead us not into temptation.'
Seventhly, 'Redeem Israel from all trouble,' in effect is as much as Deliver them all evil, which is the seventh petition.
Lastly, look what reason Christ teacheth us to use here, the same doth David use.
Therefore having the same prayer that the Jews had, it is [469/470] meet that we should have the same conclusion that they had, and the same is; they said 'Amen,' and so do we.
Touching the use of this word, it is found in Scriptures to have two seats of places, and accordingly two several expositions, to wit, in the beginning and in the end, before and behind. In the beginning as in the doctrine of the Sacrament of Baptism concerning which our Saviour saith, 'Amen, Amen, except a man be born of the water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.' And touching the Sacrament of the holy Eucharist, 'Verily, verily, except ye eateth the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.' And touching the effect of prayer Christ saith also, 'Verily, verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you.'
In those places the word 'Amen' is used, and that thereby our Saviour laboureth to express the truth of that which He doth teach. In the end likewise it is said, 'Praised be the Lord for evermore. Amen, Amen.' And in the New Testament, when the Apostle sheweth that of the Jews 'according to the flesh came Christ, Who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.' Here the word is used, and set behind, to signify that we desire that that may be performed, which God before by His Amen hath affirmed to be true. Therefore David, having received promise from the Lord by the hand of Nathan, saith, 'Let the thing Thou hast promised be Amen.' Let there be an accomplishment of the same. So when the Prophet Hananiah had prophesied in the name of the Lord, 'I have broken the yoke of the king of Babel, and after two years will I bring again, into this place, all the ornaments of the house of the Lord,' Jeremy the Prophet said, Amen, the Lord do as thou hast said.
As in the beginning it ratifieth the truth of God's promise, so being set in the end it signifieth the desire of our hearts for the accomplishment of the same, and this desire always followeth and is grounded upon the promise of God and the truth thereof; in which regard the Prophet saith; 'Remember me, O Lord, concerning Thy word, wherein Thou causest me to put my trust;' and therefore to Christ's 'Amen' in the beginning, where He promiseth, 'Verily, verily, whatsoever ye ask in my name,' we may boldly add our 'Amen,' in the end, that [470/471] His 'Amen,' may be performed; and by right do we ground our 'Amen' upon God's 'Amen,' for He is called 'Amen' that is 'truth.' So the Apostle expresseth it, when speaking of Jesus Christ he saith, 'Thus saith Amen, the faithful and true witness.'
Therefore St. Paul saith of Christ, that 'in Him all the promises are made to us yea;' in the beginning 'and Amen' to us in regard of the certain accomplishment.
The reason of our 'Amen' is, because not only faith but trust and confidence doth proceed from the truth of God; fides hath relation to God's truth but fiducia or confidence is settled upon God's faithfulness, and both are affirmed of God.
Moses saith of God that He is verus and fidelis, and Esay 'The Lord is faithful.' Paul in the New Testament, 'He is faithful That promised.' 'He deemed Him faithful That promised.' For there are two things required in faithfulness, without the which a man cannot be said to be faithful: the one is ability, of which Abraham doubted not of God's faithfulness, 'being fully persuaded that what He promised He was able to perform;' the other is will and readiness to do, touching which the Apostle saith, 'Faithful is He that called you,' et Ipse faciet.
These are the parts of faithfulness, and they are both found in God, and therefore not only God the Father is true, but Christ is said to be 'the truth,' and the Holy Ghost is called 'the Spirit of Truth.' So that albeit men deal so untruly that is verified of them, 'All men are liars,' yet God abides faithful, and cannot deny Himself.
So much the Prophet [Isaiah] teacheth when he saith, 'The mountains shall be removed,' but the thing which He hath spoken shall not fail. And our Saviour saith, 'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but one jot of my word shall not pass,' that is, in regard of his power and ability.
For the other part of His faithfulness, which is His will and readiness, He is said to be 'a faithful Creator,' that will have care of the souls committed to Him; and to this purpose serveth that which St. John affirmeth, 'Behold what love the Father had shewed us, that we should be the sins of God.'
[471/472] There is in God that faithfulness that is in a mother towards her children, for as a woman cannot but pity her own child and 'the son of her womb,' so the Lord 'will not forget' His own people. As His arm is not shortened but is still able to help, so his affection towards us is such that He is most willing to help.
In this regard, as hath been observed, He is both a King and a Father, the one shewing His power, the other His willingness and good will towards us; upon both these we do ground our 'Amen,' and do learn not only credere Vero, 'believe in God Which is true,' but fidere Fideli, trust Him Which is faithful. Upon this faithfulness we may ground all our petitions: if we seek forgiveness of our trespasses, as Christ teacheth us to pray, then 'God is faithful to forgive us our sins;' if we will pray against temptation, the Apostle saith 'God is faithful and will no suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear;' if to be delivered from evil, which is the last petition, the Apostle tells us, 'the Lord is faithful and will stablish us, and keep us from all evil.'
Thus we see both what is our 'Amen' and whereupon it is grounded.
The last thing is, the right saying of this word, which is a thing to be required; for the Apostle, as though he took care for the right saying of it, saith, 'How shall the unlearned say Amen?' teaching us that it is not enough to say 'Amen,' unless it be said in right form and manner.
The right saying is reduced to four things first that, as the Apostle says, 'We pray with the Spirit.' For of the four evil Amens which the Hebrews note, one is, when our 'Amen' doth not come from an earnest desire: We must 'pour out our hearts before Him.' So our 'Amen,' must come from the heart, we must be so disposed that we may say, 'As the hart brayeth for the rivers of waters, so thirsteth my soul after Thee O God. My soul thirsteth for Thee in a barren and dry land where no water is.' Without this 'Amen' our 'Amen is exanime a dead Amen.'
Secondly, a man may desire a false thing: so did the Prophet [Jeremiah] give his 'Amen' to the false prophecy of Hananiah, but we be must be careful that it be true that we pray for; therefore [472/473] the Apostle saith, he will not pray 'with the spirit' only, but with his 'understanding' also. So our Saviour tells us we must 'worship' God not in spirit only, but 'in spirit and truth,' that is, we must have understanding that our petition be true and agreeable to God's will; for as in thanksgiving it is requisite that we 'sing praise with understanding,' so the like must be done in prayer; they are both good, both to pray with both, than with but one alone. Therefore it is a marvel that any should think it enough to pray with the spirit, though they do not know in their mind what they pray form but pray in an unknown tongue as the Church of Rome doth, seeing the Apostle saith he 'will pray both with the spirit and with the understanding,' and this understanding is not of words only but of the matter that we pray for.
We may understand the words wherein the prayer is made, and yet not understand the thing that is prayed for. The sons of Zebedee prayed in their own language, an yet our Saviour tells them, 'Ye know not what ye ask.'
The eunuch that was reading the Prophet Esay, no doubt understood the language of the Prophet, and yet when Philip asked him, 'Understandest thou what thou readest?' he answered, 'How can I, except I had a guide?' Therefore we must pray not only intelligentere but scienter; we must know what we ask, we must be careful that whatsoever we ask be according to his will, for then may we be assured that He will hears us; we must ask, in Christ's name
Lastly, to a good end, for otherwise our prayers shall not be heard: 'Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss.' But this is not all that is required, that ye may pray with the mind and understanding; for we must intend the thing that we may pray for with our heart, that the Lord may not have cause to complain of us, as of the Jews, 'that honoured Him with their lips while their heart was far from Him.' That we may with more attention of heart address ourselves to pray, our Saviour bids us to gather ourselves from all things that may carry away or distract our minds, and to enter into our chamber, there to pray 'our Father' Which is in heaven. This did not St. Peter observe when he prayed, [473/474] 'Master, let us make here three tabernacles,' and therefore the Evangelist saith, he knew not what he said.
Thirdly, that we may say 'Amen' aright, we must not only understand in our mind and desire in our spirit the thing that we pray for, but must confidently look for the performance of that we desire; for unto this confidence there is a promise made on God's part, of Whom the Prophet saith, that 'the Lord is night to all that call upon Him in truth,' that is in faith and confidence that they shall obtain the thing that they pray for. Therefore our Saviour saith, 'Whatsoever ye pray for, believe and it shall be done;' and the Apostle saith, If we will obtain our requests, we 'must ask in faith, without wavering;' or else we shall be like the waves of the sea, that are tossed with the wind, and carried but we shall be heard if we pray in a right manner, if we pray for a right end, that we may say, Tua est gloria.
This confidence and trust hath certain limitations: first, we may assure ourselves that God will grant our requests, if it be expedient for us; and therefore we must not limit God, nor appoint Him His time, but as the Psalmist saith, we must 'direct our prayers early to Him,' and wait for His pleasure. We must 'tarry our Lord's leisure.'
Secondly, though He grant not the same thing we desire yet He will grant us a better. The Apostle prayed Christ that 'the prick in the flesh, the messenger of Satan, might be taken from him;' but he had another answer, 'My grace is sufficient for thee:' but that was better than if God had said Apage Satanas. For if we pray to God in such manner and sort as He requireth, we may assure ourselves our prayers 'shall not return into our own bosoms,' but He will either grant the thing we desire or else that which shall be better for us.
Fourthly, that our 'Amen' be indivisible, that is, we must say 'Amen' to every petition of the the Lord's Prayer; for naturally our corruption is such that we can be content to desire the accomplishment of some of them but not of others. We do willingly say 'Amen' to 'Thy kingdom come,' but as 'Hallowed be Thy name,' we give no 'Amen' to that, as appears by the whole course of our life, which is nothing else [474/475] but a profaning and polluting of God's most glorious and fearful name.
We would gladly pray for daily bread but as for doing of God's will and obeying His commandments, we agree not to that.
We like well of the last petition, 'Deliver us from evil,' but as for that goes before it, 'Lead us not into temptation,' we will not subscribe to that; for we do seek by all means to tempt ourselves, and to draw ourselves unto sin.
We can be content to pray that He will 'forgive us our trespasses,' but as for the condition which is the forgiving of 'those that trespass against us,' we give no 'Amen' to that, as is clear by the wrathful and revenging spirit that carrieth most men into all manner of outrages while they will not learn to put up wrong, as they are taught by God's word. Therefore in regard of this petition, and the condition annexed, our Saviour saith, Take heed ye say 'Amen' to this entirely; 'except ye forgive one another, your heavenly Father will not forgive you.'
Therefore we must have a care as well to hallow God's name in this life, as to be partakers of His kingdom in the life to come; we must labour as well for the fulfilling of His will, as for the obtaining of daily bread.
If we be freed from evil which is the effect of sin, we must take heed that we do not tempt ourselves; and as we would be forgiven of God, so we must forgive our brethren.
Lastly, we must say 'Amen' to the reason which our Saviour useth in the conclusion of the prayer. As the Apostle saith, 'How shall the unlearned say Amen to thy thanksgivings?' For there are many that will say with the lepers, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us;' but being cleansed, few or none will return to give God thanks, and to say as our Saviour teacheth, 'Thine is the King, Power and Glory.' We must not only pray to Him to comfort us 'and to make our bed in our sickness,' but to sing praises to Him when He saveth us from adversity and 'delivers us out of our enemies' hands;' our Hallelujah must be sounded as loud as Hosanna. The saints in heaven have no other prayer but thanksgiving; they cry, 'Amen, blessing and glory, and wisdom, and [475/476] honour and power be to God. All their song is 'Amen,' 'Hallelujah.'
Therefore it we will come where they are, we must sound out the praises of God as they do; if we will be like the heavenly Angels, we must speak with the tongue of Angels; if we say 'Amen' to his praise and honour, He will ratify His word towards us, so that His promise to us shall be 'Yea and Amen.'