If we know these things, happy are we if we do them. There are two duties incumbent on us, which may be inferred from what has been said.
1. We ought continually to glorify God for this great privilege of “the Spirit of grace and supplication;” for this is the principal means of all our intercourse with God; and without this, men wander in the dark, and know not how to deal with God. The whole work of faith is denominated from the duty of prayer, for it is said, ‘whoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved,” Rom. X.13. No heart can conceive what treasures of mercy are contained in this great privilege, of having liberty and ability to approach God at all times. This is the relief, the weapons, and the refuge of the Church, in all conditions.
It is a matter of particular praise that this privilege is bestowed in a larger measure under the gospel, than under the law; and he who has been under the law and its bondage, but has now received the Spirit of adoption, knows the difference, and will be thankful. This privilege, which was of old confined to a few, is now communicated to great multitudes, even to all who “in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” In every assembly of Mount Zion throughout the world, prayers and supplications are offered to God, through the effectual working of the Spirit, Mal. I:11. And in this lies all the glory of our worship; take this away and all is contemptible, dead, and carnal. Every family apart is enables to pray in the Spirit. He is the same to believers all the world over, in their closets or in their prisons. They have all, wherever they are, “access by one Spirit unto the Father.” And for this enlargement of grace, God expects revenue of glory.
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
(5). Frequency in the exercise of this gift, is the way to improve it. All habits are strengthened exercise, and weakened by disuse. Some who had the gift of prayer in a good measure, so as to edify themselves and others, have, by a neglect of it in public and private, (which is seldom without some secret or open enormities) so lost their ability, that they cannot open their mouth on any occasion in prayer. On the other hand, frequent exercise will increase it, by virtue of God’s blessings on His own appointment. This is the eternal law concerning the dispensation of evangelical gifts. “Unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away, even that which he hath,” Matt. XXV.29.
(6). Constant fervency of mind in this duty. Men may multiply prayers, but if they are dull, dead, and formal in them, no spiritual advantage can be expected from them. Fervency and intention of mind quicken and enlarge the faculties, and leave vigorous impressions on them. The whole soul is cast into the mold of the matter of our prayers, and is thereby prepared for fresh engagements about them.
It is our duty, then, to use this gift of prayer unto the ends for which it is freely bestowed on us. With respect to ourselves, it is a blessed means of exciting and quickening all the graces of the Spirit, particularly faith, love, and joy. It is also appointed of God to be exercised in societies, families, church-assemblies, and occasionally for the good of any; and the discharge of this duty is particularly incumbent on ministers of the gospel, and masters of families. But let us take heed that the gift be not alone; for where the gift of prayer only is exercised, without the exercise of grace in the heart, it is at best but a form of godliness, and is consistent with all sorts of secret abominations.”
-From The Holy Spirit His Gifts and Power by John Owen (1616-1683) Published by Kregel Publications Grand Rapids, MI 1954 Pages 333-334, 335, 337-338