And He said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father Which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
It is the answer of our Saviour Christ to that disciple of His, which in the name of the rest desired to be taught a form of prayer.
Concerning prayer, among other things already noted, we are to know that it is doctrine of the Fathers, that God not prayed unto on our parts, and His Holy Spirit not yet possessing our souls, hath notwithstanding promised 'that He will pour His Spirit upon all flesh,' as it was poured upon the Apostles after Christ's ascension; namely, that Spirit Which He calls 'the Spirit of grace and prayer.'
When He thus vouchsafeth to send 'the Spirit of grace' into our souls, then from thence there do run two streams into the two several faculties of our soul: that is, the Spirit of grace hath a working on our understanding by the light of faith, and secondly, in our will, by inspiring us with holy desires; of which holy desires the interpreter betwixt us and God is prayer, for that, as the Apostle speaks our 'requests are made known to God by prayer and supplication.'
Now as prayer is properly the effect of grace, so whatsoever we obtain of God by prayer, it is the gift of grace; which [351/352] prayer is therefore our reasonable service of God, because we do therein acknowledge not only our own wants and unworthiness, but also that as God hath in his hands all manner of blessings to bestow upon us, so if we sue to Him for them 'He will withhold no good thing' from us.
Before we can pray for good things, it is required that we do conceive a love of them; which if it be in us, then we shall not only be inflamed with a desire of them which is an effect of love, but shall be stirred up to pray for them. But is the peculiar work of the Holy Ghost to shed in our hearts the love, not only of God, but of all other good things; which work He performeth not in all indifferently, for He is compared to the wind that 'bloweth where it will.' But those whom it pleaseth the Holy Ghost to inspire with a love and affection towards good things, they do not only desire them, but withal pray earnestly for them unto God; for as it is the work of Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, to enlighten 'everyone that cometh into the world,' so it is the office of the eternal spirit to inspire our hearts with holy desires.
In this answer of our Saviour, we are to consider three points: first, a time limited for prayer; secondly, the contents of the word oratis; thirdly, what is to be noted out of the word Dicite.
Touching the time limited for prayer, we have heard already that there are uses of prayer: one was the use of dignity and perfection, when men do converse and enter into familiarity with God by abstracting their minds from human affairs, and sublevating them into Heaven by a continual meditation of God and things pertaining to the life to come, which because it is peculiar to them that have already attained to some perfection we must say of it as Christ did of another matter, Qui potest capere capiat, 'He that is able to receive it let him receive it.' Our weakness is such as cannot by any means come to this use; yea, the infirmity of the disciples themselves was so great, that albeit Christ had so many other things to tell them of, yet they were able as yet to bear them.
Therefore we are to consider the two other verses, which do more nearly concern us; whereof the one is the use of necessity [352/353] which standeth either upon fear or upon want; and when necessity lieth upon us, in either of these respects, they are so forcible that they make 'all flesh to come unto Him That heareth prayer.' Of fear the Prophet saith; 'Lord, in trouble they visited Thee, they poured out a prayer when Thy chastening was upon them.' And the want of outward things is so vehement a motive, as when nothing else can move men to prayer, yet they will 'assemble themselves' before the Lord, 'corn and oil.'
These two, the one being, as Solomon termeth it, plaga cordis, 'the plague of the heart,' the other, desiderium cordis, 'the heart's desire,' do point to us two times of prayer; namely, when either we are oppressed with misery as the effect of sin, or disquieted with our selves with the conscience and guilt of sin itself, which is the cause of all our miseries.
Touching sin, the Prophet saith, 'While I held my tongue, my bones consumed away;' but after he had 'confessed his sin unto the Lord,' and craved pardon, He 'forgave His wickedness;' and because it is not his case only, forasmuch as we have all sinned, his counsel is in this behalf, Pro hoc orabit omnis pius, 'For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee.' Which being done as the Prophet speaketh, the weakest of them, that is, every sinner, shall be as David. Neither are we of necessity to pray that God will forgive the guilt of our sins past, but that He will prevent us with His grace against temptations of sins to come; for in this regard our Saviour Christ would have His disciples occupy themselves in this holy duty: Orate, 'Pray ye that ye enter not into temptation.'
For the effect of sin, which is adversity. Then is prayer necessary in the time of affliction, when outwardly through the malice of our enemies we are in misery: in which case the Prophet saith, When the ungodly, for the love he bare to them, requited him with hatred, then he gave himself to prayer. Or else inwardly, by reason of crosses which it pleaseth God to bring upon us, against which the only remedy is to use prayer, as the Apostle exhorts, 'Is any afflicted? let him pray.' A timore Tuo concepimus spiritum salutis. That is, for fear.
And when we consider our own wants, the troubles that are upon us, though for a time we hold our tongues and speak nothing, yet a fire will kindle in us, we cannot long be silent, [353/354] but the desire of our heart must have a vent by prayer, as the Prophet had experience in himself. So that as well the fear of danger to come, as present want and affliction, will lead us to prayer.
But when we are rid of all adversity, yet there is another use of prayer, which is the use of duty.
We are to pray, not in regard of ourselves, but in obedience to God, Who commendeth prayer to be made by us, as a part of His service and duty which we owe to Him.
Prayer made of duty is of two sorts, both in regard of time and place
Job in the law of nature telleth us, that it is our duty invocare Deum omni tempore, 'always to call upon God;' and our Saviour's charge unto His disciples is, that they should semper orare, pray always which the Apostle interpreteth by ¢dialeptwj, 'without ceasing.' But this cannot be performed of us, by reason of our infirmity; therefore we must expound this otherwise and, as St. Paul speaks, we must 'speak after the manner of men' propter infirmitatem, 'because of our weakness;' and so when we are commanded 'to pray always,' the meaning is, that it is our duty to appoint certain hours for prayer; for, as Augustine saith, Semper orare,qui per certa certa intervella temproum orat The reason of this exposition is, for that our service to God must be 'a reasonable service,' and the preaching of the word must not be done negligently; for it must be logikÕn g£la, which cannot continually be performed of man without some respect.
Touching the set times appointed to the service of God in the Law, it is appointed and required that there should be both morning and evening sacrifice day by day, and that upon the Sabbath there should be twice so long service as upon other days.
This public service was performed by the Jews, among whom the book of Law was read four times a day.
For private devotion the Prophet saith, 'In the evening, in the morning, and at non-day, will I call upon Thee;' and Daniel was, for praying 'three time a day' cast unto the lions' den.
In the New Testament this duty of prayer was by the practice of St. Peter limited to 'the third hour, to the sixth hour, to the ninth hour, at which time 'Peter [354/355] and John went up to the temple together to pray;' whose diligence and care ought to stir us up to the like.
Further, the disciples desire to be taught a right form of prayer, not only as here, as Christians, but as Apostles and Ministers sent forth to preach the Gospel; whereby we learn that prayer belongeth not only in general to every Christian, but more particularly and specially to those that have any ecclesiastical authority over others.
So that is an opinion very erroneous, that we have no other use of the Apostles of Christ and their successors, but only for preaching; whereas, as it is a thing no less hard to pray well than to preach well, so the people reap as great benefit by the intercession of their pastor which they continually make to God both privately and publicly, as they do by their preaching.
It is the part of the ministers of God, and those that have the charge of the soul of others, not only to instruct the flock but to pray for them.
The office of Levi and his posterity, as Moses sheweth, was not only to teach the people the laws and judgments of the Lord, and to instruct Israel in the Law, but also to offer 'incense' unto the Lord: which 'incense' was nothing else but a type of prayer made by the faithful
Therefore Samuel confesseth that he 'should sin no less in ceasing to pray for the people,' than if he were slack to shew them the good and right way.
This duty the ministers of God may learn from the example of Christ's own practices, Who 'went out early in the morning' to pray. So He prayed for Peter 'that his faith should not fail.' Also from the example of the Apostles, who albeit they did put from them the ministration of the sacraments, yet gave themselves 'continually to prayer, and the ministry of the word.'
In which regard Paul saith, he was 'sent not to baptize but to preach the Gospel;' which they did refuse to do, not as a thing impertinent to their office, but that might with more attention of mind and fervency of spirit apply with themselves to make intercession for God's people
Thus much they are to learn from hence, that the priests are angeli Domini exercituum. If angels, then they must [355/356] not only descend to the people to teach them the will of God, but ascend to the presence of God to make intercession for the people; and this they do more cheerfully, for that God is more respective to the prayers which they make for the people than the people are heedful to the Law of God taught by them.
For this cause the priests are called the Lord's remembrancers, because they put God in mind of His people, desiring Him continually to help and bless them with things needful; for God hath a greater respect to the prayers of those that have a spiritual charge, than to those that are of the common sort. Thus the Lord would have Abimelech deal well with Abraham and deliver him his wife, because he 'is a prophet, and should pray for him that he may love.'
So to the friends of Job the Lord said: 'My servants Job shall pray for you, and I will accept him.
This office was appointed to the priests in the law, Orabit pro is sacerdos, 'The priest shall pray for them.' This Hezakiah sent for Esay; so saith he, 'Lift thou up thy prayer.'
Men, as they are Christians, ought to pray three times a day, as David; but as they are prophets, and have a special charge, they must pray to God 'seven times a day,' as the same David.
This day of prayer, made by the priests in the behalf of the people, was so highly esteemed, that they took order that prayer should be made continually, and because the same priests are not to do all one thing, but to pray, therefore some were appointed for the first watches, others for the second, and others for the third watches, that so while one rested the other might pray, whereof David speaketh when he saith, 'Mine eyes prevent the night watches.' So Christ speaketh of 'the second and third watches.'
Touching David's diligence in performing of this duty for the good of the people, he saith, 'At midnight I will rise up to give thanks to Thee.' So did Paul and Silas rise 'at midnight to sing praises to God.' And it were to be wished that the like order wee taken in the Church, that the sacrifice of prayer were continually offered among Christians as it was in the synagogues of the Jews.
Secondly, in regard of the place, we are every-where to [356/357] 'lift up pure hands;' and so the Palmist extended this part of God's service to 'all places' generally 'of His dominion.' Howbeit, though it be not to be neglected in no place, yet especially we must offer this sacrifice of prayer and praise 'in the assembly, among the faithful in the congregations;' and so we must learn to distinguish the Liturgy and the public service of God in the Church from that private devotion which our Saviour would have us to perform daily when He saith, 'When thou prayest, enter into thy chamber. For God hath promised to accept that worship which we tender unto Him in the place consecrated for that purpose: 'In every place where I put My name, thither will I come and bless thee.' Non solum quod oratis sed quod ibi oratis, that is, the public place whither the saints of God from time to time assemble themselves to call upon God together. In his temple doth every man 'speak of His praise.' Our Saviour Christ did therefore tell them that it was domis orationis, to teach us that the chief end of our meeting there should be not to make it a public school of divinity and instruction, but to pour out our prayers to God; for private prayers were not enough, unless at times appointed we meet together to pray publicly.
So the Apostle St. Peter doth teach us by his example, who not only when he was at home 'went up to the top of house to pray, but 'to the temple' also.
St. Paul did not content himself to bow his knees to God when he was at Rome and Ephesus and other places, but he went to Jerusalem and prayed in the Temple; which thing as he did for himself, so no doubt he did it in behalf of the Church of God to which he was sent to preach; and it were to be wished, that in the Church there were minus oratorum et plus orantium
The second general point is, touching the contents of the word Oratis.
Our necessities are manifold, and the grace of God which we sue for to God is multiformis gratia. Besides, the Apostle saith, 'Pray with all manner of prayer:' therefore it is meet that we should take notice how many kinds of prayers there are, wherein the Apostle guides us when he saith, 'Let supplications, prayers, thanksgiving and intercession [357/358] be made. These four contain all those sorts of prayer which are contained in the body of the word Orate.
Prayer or invocation consists of confession and petition; confession is divided in to confessionem fraudis, which the Greeks call xmolÒghsij, that is, the confession of sins, whereunto they add suppplication to God for pardon like that of the Publican, 'God be merciful to me a sinner.'
The other kind of confession is confessio laudis, that is, thanksgiving to God for His goodness in pardoning our sins, and bestowing His benefits upon us, which kind of confessions is called antmÑlÒghsij. This also is a part of prayer, and ought to go with it, as appears where the Apostle doth 'thank God always' for the Churches 'in his prayer.'
Both these the Jews gather from the words of Judah and Israel; for Judah is 'confession,' and Israel is the name of 'prevailing' in wrestling with the Angel, as the faithful do strive with God in prayers. The one they call Tehillah and the other Tephillah. They had both these, Hosanna and Hallelujah
Petitions stands upon comprecation and deprecation.
Deprecation is, when we desire that evil be removed, which kind of prayer is d_hsij and Techinah.
Comprecation, is when we would have our want supplied with goods things, which is proseuc_ and Tephillah.
Intercession is in another kind of prayer proceeding from charity, as the other came from faith, when we do not only confess our own sins but the sins of others, when we pray not only for ourselves but for others; when we praise God not only for His goodness on ourselves, but for others.
So it was the charge which God by His Prophet to them in captivity, not only to pray for themselves, but to pray for the prosperity of the city where they were prisoners.
As they were to have a care of the commonwealth, so the like is to be had of the Church. Therefore when Peter was in prison, 'there was prayer made continually of the Church to God for him.' 'Pray for all saints,' saith the Apostle, 'and for me especially that utterance may be given to me,' &c. And as for them that have any special place in the Church or commonwealth, so we are bidden to pray for [358/359] such as are in misery, as David teacheth us by his example; who, when his enemies were sick, ceased not to prayer for them, no less than for himself, but 'put on sackcloth, and humbled his soul with fasting.'
Unto these kinds of prayer some add two more: the first is when upon condition that God will grant us our desire, we vow that we will faithfully serve Him afterwards, as Jacob prayed; the other is a simple prayer or petition uttered in short words, as 'Lord have mercy upon me,' and such like, which are nothing else but sparks of that fire which kindleth within us, whereof David spake, 'Hear me, Lord, and that right soon, for my spirit faileth.'
In regard of this our weakness, our Saviour hath in a short prayer comprehended whatsoever is needful for us, which brevity He used lest if He had set a large form of prayer our spirit should be dead, and our devotion key-cold before we could come to the end; and for the same purpose the Church hath prescribed of our Saviour Christ.
All these kinds of prayers were used by our Saviour Christ in the days of His flesh, as He took our nature and was Head of a body. Factus pro nobis peccatum, 'He was made sin for us,' and so did not only confess Himself a sinner, but suffered the wrath of God for it, which made Him cry, Deus Mi, Deus Mi, 'My god, My God why hast Thou forsaken me?' 'The rebuke of them that rebuked Thee, fell on Me.'
Also he was an example to us of thanksgiving: 'I thank Thee, O Father, &c.' 'I thank Thee that Thou had heard Me.'
For deprecation, as He was a man: Let this cup pass from Me.'
The good He prayed for at the hands of His Father was Pater glorifica Me gloriâ quam habui apud Te &c., 'Father glorify Me with that glory which I had with Thee before the world was.'
Touching intercession, He prayeth Pater ignosce eis. 'I pray not for them only, but for all that shall believe by their preaching,'
As he used all these kinds of prayer, so He set them all down in this form of prayer.
[359/360] The confession of sin, and the the supplication for remission, is in the five petitions; the thanksgiving is that doxologia, 'For thine is the Kingdom, power and glory;' and the good which He desireth is, the sanctification of God's name, the accomplishment of His kingdom, and the fulfilling of His will, as also a continual supply of all things needful for this present life.
The evil from which he prays to be delivered is, first, from sin itself; secondly, from the temptation of sin; thirdly, from evils which are the effects of sin.
The third and last point in this text is, that we observe something in this word Dicite, whereof the first is, that here Christ doth not say, 'Say thus,' as Matthew the sixth whereof some gather, that we may frame prayers after the form of the Lord's Prayer, but not use the words themselves; but He saith to His disciples, Dicte, Pater Noster, 'Say our Father,' &c., that is, we may boldly use the very words of this prayer; and albeit, to set forth the desire of our hearts, we use other forms of prayer, and that in more words, yet we must conclude our prayers with the prayer of Christ.
Secondly, when He says Dicite, He doth not say Cogitate or Recitate, or Murmurate, but Intus dicite et cum ore, for there is a mouth of prayer, et non est oratio sine ore, therefore He alloweth vocal prayer. And as He will have us express the desire of our hearts in words, so the chiefest thing is that our prayers be from the heart; for invocation is 'a spiritual sacrifice,' 'a reasonable service.' So both the understanding and reason must be occupied, and also the spirit or inward affection of the heart. Our Saviour requireth both in express words, 'Worship Him in spirit and truth.' 'Sing with understanding.' I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also.
We must not only have a spiritual fervency and zeal, but also must know what we pray for, which is belonging to the understanding; so that if both do not concur, our service is not reasonable, nor our sacrifice of praise spiritual.
As for that prayer that comes only from the lips, it may be said of it as God spake of hypocrites, 'Is that the fast that I required?' So of assembling to hear the word, as a people useth to do, Is that this which God requireth? 'Is this to eat the Lord's Supper.'
[360/361] It is not enough to make long prayer and use many words, there is a spiritual prayer which God will have with our vocal petitions; and therefore, that we may pray with understanding, we have need to be instructed in the sense of the Lord's Prayer.
The excellency of this prayer is in regard of Him That made it, Who is come from above, Who hath mixed nothing with these petitions that savoureth of the earth; so they are all heavenly, as He Himself is heavenly. Secondly, in respect of the form, which is a most perfect form; it was compiled by him Who was the wisdom of God, and therefore cannot be but perfect, quia perfecta sunt opera Jehovæ, 'because the works of the Lord are perfect.' Thirdly, in regard of the excellent benefits that are procured to us by it, which are so many as can be desired at the hands of God. Fourthly, for the order which Christ keepeth.
If man did make a prayer, he would begin at daily bread; but Christ in this prayer teacheth us 'first to seek the Kingdom of God.'
Our first petition must be for the glory of God, and then four our welfare, chiefly in the world to come, and also in this life; for as we may not pray at all for things that are evil, so in things that are good and lawful we must take heed that we ask not amiss.
The petitions, being seven, are divided thus: the first concerns God Himself, the other six concern us.
They concern us in a threefold estate: first, of Glory; secondly, of grace; thirdly of nature.
In these petitions that concern us, the evil that we would have removed from us is: first, sin, secondly, temptation; thirdly evil.
The God we desire to be granted to us is: first, that God's Kingdom may be in our hearts; secondly, that His will may be performed of us; thirdly, that He will give us things necessary for this present life.