Prayer-Cherishing The Gift
“2. It is our duty to make use of this gift of the Spirit. Have you an ability to pray always freely given you by the Holy Ghost, why do you not pray always in private, in families, as occasions offer? Prayer is that singular duty, in which every grace is acted, every sin opposed, every blessing obtained; the whole of our obedience is concerned in it, and much of our present and future blessedness depends upon it. What difficulties and discouragements rise up against it, what aversions there is in corrupted nature to it, what distractions often attend it, is well known to the people of God. But to help us under our various infirmities; to give us freedom and confidence in coming to the throne; to enable us as children to cry, Abba, Father, the Holy Spirit is given to us. Who then can express the sin and folly of neglecting prayer? How does it grieve the Spirit, and injure our own souls! Can we go from day to day in the neglect of opportunities and occasions of prayer? How shall we answer this contempt of the Spirit’s gracious aid? Do carnal persons habitually live without prayer? Alas! They know not how to pray; but for those who have received this gift of the Spirit, enabling them to pray, and making it pleasant to the inner man-how great an aggravation is it to their sin! I press this duty of prayer the more, because the temptations and dangers of the present day particularly call for it. If we were to talk less and pray more, things would be better than they are in this world.
It is the duty of those who have received this gift, to cherish it, to stir it up, and improve it; it is freely bestowed, but it is carefully to be preserved. It is a gospel-talent given to be traded with, and thereby increased. And this is to be done
(1). By a constant consideration, and observation of ourselves, our own hearts and our spiritual state and condition. Our state in general, by reason of the depth and deceitfulness of our hearts, and the various changes in our frames, together with the temptations that assault us will find us matter of examination all our days. To assist us in this, is a part of the work of the Spirit; and if we neglect our duty towards Him herein, how can we expect that He should continue to aid us? He who prays without a due consideration of the beginnings of temptation, the deceitful actings of indwelling sin, the risings of particular corruptions, with the occasions that give them advantage, must pray at random, “fighting uncertainly as one that beats the air;” but he who attends to this self-search and judgment, will have always in readiness the due matter of prayer, will be able to fill his mouth with arguments, and will thrive not only in the gift, but in the power and life of this duty.
(2). Constant searching of the scripture. This is the glass wherein we may take the best view of ourselves, because it represents both what we are, and what we ought to be; what we are in ourselves, what we are by the grace of God; what are our frames (mental outlook or mood), actions and ways, and what is their defect in His sight. And a better instruction what to pray for, or how to pray, cannot be given us. And who is there, who almost at any time reading the Scripture with reverence of God, and subjection of conscience to Him, has not had some particular matter of prayer or praise effectually suggested to him? And Christians would find no small advantage by constantly turning what they read into prayer or praise; for hereby the instructions of the word would be more confirmed in their minds, and their hearst would be more engaged in the practice of them.
(3) Meditation on the glorious excellencies of God. The examples of prayer which we have in the Scripture, generally begin with some expressions of the names or titles of God; to which the remembrance of some mighty acts of His power is usually added. God has revealed His name unto us for this very purpose, that we might call upon Him by the name which He owns and takes to Himself. Hereby holy reverence and godly fear are excited. We are encouraged to come with boldness to the throne of grace. It is a throne of grace that God in Christ is represented to us upon; but yet it is a throne still, whereon majesty and glory reside: and God is always to be considered by us as on a throne. Hereby also faith and confidence are excited: for prayer is our betaking ourselves to God as our shield, our rock, and our reward. Wherefore frequent meditation on the holy excellencies of the divine nature, must needs be a useful preparation for prayer.
(4) Meditation on the mediation and intercession of Christ. To this end He is proposed to us, as abiding continually in the discharge of His priestly office, Heb. iv. 15, x. 19. And this is not only an encouragement to, and in, our supplications, but a means to increase and strengthen the grace and gift of prayer itself. For the mind is hereby ready to exercise itself about the effectual interposition of the Lord Christ at the throne of grace in our behalf. This has a principal place in the prayers of believers; and hereby we may try whether our faith be evangelical or not.”
-From The Holy Spirit His Gifts and Power by John Owen (1616-1683) Published by Kregel Publications Grand Rapids, MI 1954 Pages 334-337