THE RETVRNE OF PRAYERS.
PSAL. 85. 8.
THis Psalme was penned, in the name and for the comfort of the whole Page 2 Church of the Iewes, both as a Prophecie of, and a Prayer for their returne out of the Babylonish Cap∣tivity, and the flowing in again of that ancient glo∣ry, peace, administration of Justice, liberty of Gods Ordinances, plenty and increase, which formerly they enjoyed, but had now suffered an ebbe of seventy yeares continu∣ance. And first he begin∣neth with Prayer, from the first verse to this wee have in hand, putting the Lord in minde of, and ur∣ging Him with His graci∣our dealings in former times unto His Church: this is not the first time (saith he) that the Church Page 3 hath beene in Captivity, and that thou hast return∣ed it, (as out of Aegypt, &c.) and therefore wee hope that thou wilt doe so againe; Thou hast beene fa∣vourable unto thy Land, &c. His Prayer being finished and hee having spoke, he now stands, and listens, as you use to doe when you expect an Eccho, what Eccho hee should have, what answer would bee returned from Heaven, whither his Prayer had al∣ready come, I will heare what the Lord will speake: or as some reade it, I heare what the Lord doth speake: for sometimes there is a present Eccho, a speedy answer returned to a Page 4 mans heart, even ere the Prayer is halfe finished, as unto Daniel, Dan. 9. 20. 21. And in briefe it is this, The Lord will speake peace unto His people: this an∣swer hee findes written at the bottome of the peti∣tion, but with this clause of admonition for time to come, added, But let them not returne againe to folly: a good use to bee made of so gracious an answer.
The maine observation and subject of this Discourse thence deduced: That Gods people are dili∣gently to observe the answers to their Pray∣ers: The reasons of it.
THese words being e∣specially spoken in re∣lation to the answer of God returned to his Pray∣er made, therefore in that relation I meane princi∣pally to handle them.
The observation is this; That when a man hath put up Prayers to God, hee is to rest assured, that God will in mercy answer his Prayers,Page 6 and to listen diligently, and observe how his Prayers are answered: both are here to bee observed. I will heare what God will speake, that is, how Hee will ac∣complish them: and with∣all he confidently expres∣seth an assurance, that God will speake peace. Thus doth the Church, Mich. 7. 7, 8. I will looke to the Lord, I will wait, my God will heare mee: Shee was both sure of gracious audience with Him, my God will heare me: and she will wait till hee answers her, and observe how hee doth it, I will looke to the Lord: and vers. 9. I will heare the in∣dignation of the Lord, till he plead my cause. So Habak∣kuk,Page 7 hee having made a Praier against the Tyran∣nie of Nebuchadnezzar, in the first Chapter, having ended it, hee begins the second Chapter thus, I will stand upon my watch tower, and see what hee will answer mee:* and in the end an answer comes vers. 2. and as hee thus waited for a Vision (for sometime their Prophecies were in answer to their prayers) so should wee for an an∣swer unto ours.
1. Reason,* because o∣therwise you take an Or∣dinance of God in vain in your hearts, which is to take Gods Name (with whom in that Ordinance you deale) in vaine: for it Page 8 a signe you thinke your prayer not an effectuall meanes to attain that end it is ordained for; and say secretly in your hearts, as they Iob 21. 15. What profit have we, if we pray to him? for if we use any meanes, and expect not the end, it is a signe wee thinke the meanes vaine to accom∣plish that end. Whereas every faithfull prayer is ordained of God to bee a meanes to obtaine what wee desire and pray for, and is not put up in vain, but shall have answer: 1. Ioh. 5. 14, 15. This is the con∣fidence that we have in Him, that if we aske any thing ac∣cording to His will, He hea∣reth us: tis true, God hea∣reth Page 9 an enemy, but to heare with favour, is the hearing there meant; and is so used in our ordinary speach, as we say of a Fa∣vourite, that he hath the Kings eare; and if a man bee obstinate to a mans counsell, we say, hee would not heare, though hee give the hearing; so here, to heare is a word of gracious inclination to doe the thing required; and thus Gods eares are said to bee open to their prayers; and so it followes there, that if he heareth us, whatsoever we aske, wee know that we have the petitions that wee desired of Him. Assoone as wee have prayed, wee are said to have our petitions, that is, Page 10 they are then granted, and we may be confident they are assented unto by God; although in regard of outward dispensation, the command for accomplish∣ment is not yet come forth: even as a petitio∣ner is said to have his suit, when the word of the King is gone forth that it shall be done, though it passeth not the seale, or bee not signed a good while after. And like as when a wick∣ed man sinneth, assoone as the act is committed, so soone doth sentence from God goe forth against the sinner, but the Execution overtakes him not (it may bee) a good while after, according to that of Solo∣mon, Page 11 Sentence against an e∣vill doer is not presently exe∣cuted,* it is presently senten∣ced, as the words imply, but not executed: so in like manner falleth it out, when a godly man praies, that as soone as the praier arrives in Heaven (which is in an instant) so soone is the petition granted, (So Dan. 9. at the beginning of his praier the Command came forth ver. 23. though the Angel, who brought the answer, arrived not at him till towards the end in the Evening, ver. 21.) but the reall accomplish∣ment of it may be defer∣red. So as no prayer in re∣spect of an answer to it is in vaine; but where Page 12 God hath given a heart to speake, Hee hath an eare to heare, and love to re∣turne answer: which not to regard, is to take an Ordinance in vain, which is Gods Name.
And secondly,* not sim∣ply Gods name, as in an Or∣dinance made knowne, but also His name, that is, His Attributes are taken in vaine. For it is a signe you thinke of that God you pray to, that either his eare is heavy, that hee cannot heare: or his hand shortned, that he cānot save: or his heart straitned, and his bowels restrained, that he will not: And thus you rob him, and despoile him of one of his most royall Page 13 Titles, whereby he styles himselfe,* a God that hea∣reth prayers; who is so re∣gardfull of them, that in the first of Kings 8. 59. they are said to be nigh the Lord day and night, they are all before him, and he sets them in his view, as wee doe letters of friends which wee sticke in our windows, that we may re∣member to answer them; or lay them not out of our bosomes, that wee might be sure not to forget thē: so the petitions of his people, passe not out of his sight, till hee sends an answer, which is called speaking here; God speaking as well in his workes as in his word. But you, by your Page 14 neglect herein, make an Idoll God of him, such as were the vanities of the heathen, as if hee had eares and heard not, eyes and saw not your need, &c. Such a God as Elias mockt, You must speak aloud, (saith he) he may be in a journey, &c. Even such a God doe you make the God of heaven & earth to bee, whilest you put no more confidence in him, or make no more reckoning of your prayers to him, then the heathens did of their sacrifices to their Gods. Petitioners do not onely put up their re∣quests, but use to wait at great mens doores, & en∣quire, and listen what an∣swer is given unto them; Page 15 and it is part of an honour to great men that we doe so: and for the same end are wee also to waite on God, As an acknowledge∣ment of his greatnesse, and our distance from him, and dependance upon him; as the eyes of the servants looke to the hand of their Masters,*so doe we (saith David) on thee, till thou hast mercy on us. And Psalm. 130. after he had prayed ver. 2. Hee saith, hee waited more then they that watch for the mor∣ning, like those that ha∣ving some great businesse to doe on the morrow, long for the day light, and looke often out to spy the day, so hee for a glimme∣ring, and dawning of an Page 16 answer. The like we have Psal. 5. 3. In the morning will I direct my prayer to thee, and looke, that is, for an answer.
Againe,* 3. If God doth give you an answer, if you minde it not, you let God speake to you in vaine, when you doe not listen to what hee answers: if two men walke together, and the one, when him∣selfe hath said, and spoke what hee would, listens not, but is regardlesse of what the other answers, hee exceedingly slights the man: As non responde∣re pro convitio est, not to answer againe is con∣tempt, so non attendere, not to attend to what one Page 17 sayes: Now our speaking to God by prayers, and his speaking to us by answers thereunto, and to study out his dealings with us, by comparing our praiers and his answers together, which are as Dialogues be∣tween us and him, is one great part of our walking with God. It is said of Sa∣muels prophecy,*that not a word of it fell to the ground: and so it may bee said of our prayers; and so it ought to bee of Gods an∣swers, not a word of them should fall to the ground: as there doth, if you by your observation, and listning therunto catch them not (as Benhadads servants are said to doe Ahabs words,) Page 18 apprehend, and observe them not: & by the same reason, that you are to observe the fulfilling of Gods promises, you are of your prayers also: now, 1. Kings 8. 56. it is said, not one word failed of all hee promised, Solomon had ob∣served this by a particular survay, and register made of all that God had spoken and done for them, and found not a promise un∣performed: and there is the like reason both of an∣swers to prayers, (for pray∣ers are but putting promises into suite;) and for our observing of them: and therefore Salomon brings those words in there, to this very purpose, to con∣firme Page 19 firme their faith in this, that no prayers made, would faile, being groun∣ded on a promise, thereby o encourage others, and his owne heart to dili∣gence herein, as also as a motive unto God to hear him; for vers. 59. hee in∣ferres upon it, Let my words be nigh thee, &c. See∣ing thou alwaies thus per∣formest thy good word unto thy people.
4. Yea,* you will pro∣voke the Lord not to an∣swer at all, he will forbear to answer, because hee sees it will be thus in vain. When a man is talking to one that listens not to him, hee will cease to an∣swer, and leave off speak∣ing, Page 20 and so will God. So as that which the Apostle saith of faith,* that it is not enough to beleeve, but when you have done the will of God, you have need of pati∣ence to eke out faith, that you may inherit the promi∣ses, may bee also said, and is alike true of praying: it is not enough to pray, but after you have pray∣ed, you have need to li∣sten for an answer, that you may receive your prayers; God will not ful∣fill them else. As he said, the Sermon was not done, when yet the Preacher had done, because it is not done, till practised: so our prayers are not done, when yet made, but you Page 21 must further waite for, and attend the accom∣plishment.
5. If you observe not his answers,* how shall you blesse God, and returne thankes to him for hear∣ing your prayers: Psal. 116. 1, 2. I love the Lord, because hee hath heard my voice, and my supplication, and therefore he goes on to thanke him, through∣out the whole Psalme. You are to watch unto pray∣er with thanksgiving:* and therefore, as to watch, to observe, and recollect your owne wants, which you are to pray for, that you may have matter of requests to put up, so also to observe Gods answers Page 22 for matter of thankesgi∣ving; and many fill that common place head full of matter, to furnish them for petitioning, but as for this other of thankesgi∣ving, they watch not un∣to it against they come to pray, nor study matter for that head also; and if any study will furnish you this way, it is the studying out of Gods answers to your prayers: The reason you pray so much, and give thankes so little, is, that you minde not Gods an∣swers: you doe not study them. When we have put up a faithfull prayer, God is made our debtor by promise, and wee are to take notice of his pay∣ment, Page 23 and give him an ac∣knowledgement of the receipt of it, hee loseth of his glory else.
6. As God loseth,* so your selves also the expe∣rience which you might get hereby.* 1. Both expe∣rience of GOD and his faithfulnesse, which will cause in you, hope and confidence in God ano∣ther time, when you have found him againe and againe answering your prayers. It was a speech of one eminent in holi∣nesse, upon occasion of the accomplishmēt of a great request made to God by him, That God having ne∣ver denied him any re∣quest, I have tryed God Page 24often, now (sayes he) hence∣forth I will trust him; if the hearing the prayers of a∣nother, will encourage us to goe to God, (as Psal. 33. 5. For this cause shall every one that is godly pray unto thee) much more when we observe, and have ex∣perience that our owne are heard: Therefore (sayes David) Psal. 116. 1, 2. The Lord hath heard me, and I will call upon him as long as I live: as if hee had said, Now that God hath heard mee, now I know what to doe: this experiment, if I had no more, is enough to encou∣rage me for ever to pray unto God: I have learned by it to call upon him, Page 25 as long as I live. And also 2. by observing Gods an∣swers to your prayers,* you will gaine much in∣sight into your own harts, and wayes, and prayers; and may thereby learne how to judge of them. So Psal. 66. 18, 19. Davids an∣surance that he did not re∣gard iniquity in his heart, was strengthned by Gods having heard his prayers: for thus he reasons, If I re∣gard iniquity in my heart, God will not heare me: But God hath heard me. For 1. if God doth not grant your petitions, it will put you to study a reason of that his dealing: & so you will come to search into your prayers, and the car∣riage Page 26 of your hearts there∣in, to see whether you did not pray amisse; according to that, Ye lust & have not, because ye aske amisse, Iames 4. 3. As if you send to a friend, who is punctuall in that point of friendship of returning answers, and useth not to faile, and you receive no answer from him, you will beginne to thinke there is something in it: And so also here, When a Petition is deni∣ed, you will be jealous of your selves, & inquisitive, What should be the mat∣ter, and so by that search come to see that in your prayers, which you will learne to mend the next time. Or 2. if they be an∣swered, Page 27 yet because that therein usually God deales in a proportion with you to your prayers, (as you might perceive if you would observe his dea∣lings with you) you would by this meanes come to have much insight into Gods acceptation, and o∣pinion of your wayes: For you should see His dealings with you, and yours with Him, to be ex∣ceeding parallel and cor∣respondent, and hold pro∣portion each with other. So Psal. 18. 6. In my distresse I called upon the Lord, and so verse 7, 8, &c. hee goes on to describe his delive∣rance which was the fruit of those prayers, and then Page 28 at 20, 21. verses, &c. hee addes his observation up∣on both, According to the cleannesse of my hands hath he dealt with mee, &c. For with the pure thou shalt shew thy selfe pure.
7. You will lose much of your comfort:* there is no greater joy than to see prayers answered, or to see souls converted by us, Iohn 16. 24. Aske and you shall receive, that your joy may be full: the receiving answers makes joy to a∣bound and overflow. Yea, even when we pray for o∣thers, if our prayers be an∣swered for them, our joies are exceeding great; much more when in our owne behalfe: and therein, even Page 29 in the smallest things which a Christian doth enjoy, doth his comfort exceed anothers, that hee hath them by vertue of prayers, and promises: he knowes how hee came by them; If stolne waters bee sweet, And bread eaten in secret,*&c. (as Solomon saies) to wicked men; beg'd meat is much more sweet to god∣ly men: yea, in the very praying for outward mer∣cies, there is more sweet∣nesse, than they have in enjoying them. As it is joy to a good heart to see any one converted, but much more to him that is the meanes of it. I have no greater joy (saies S. Iohn) then that my children walke Page 30 in truth: So to see God doe good to his Church, and heare others prayers is a comfort, but much more to see him do it at a mans own praiers. There∣fore when God restores comfort to a drooping soule, he is said, Esay 57. To restore comfort also to his mourners, that is, to those that prayed and mourned for him, as well as unto that soule it selfe, it be∣ing a comfort to them to see their praiers answe∣red. Comfort it is many wayes: [ 1] The heare from God; as to heare from a friend, though it bee but two or three words, and that about a small matter, if there be at the bottome Page 31 this subscription, Your lo∣ving Father, or, Your assu∣red friend, it satisfies abun∣dantly: so also, [ 2] To know that God is mindfull of us, accepts our works, fulfills his promises: [ 3] How doth it rejoice one to find ano∣ther of his mind in a con∣troversie: but that God and we should be of one mind, and concurre in the desire of the same things;*not two in the earth onely agree, but God who is in heaven and we to agree, this rejoiceth the heart exceedingly. And thus it is when a man perceives his prayer an∣swered. Therfore you lose much of your comfort in blessings, when you do not observe answers to your prayers.
Three cases propounded: The first, concerning prayers for the Church, and for the accomplishment of such promises as may fall out in ages to come.
NOw as for rules, and helps to find out Gods meaning towards you in your prayers, and to spie out answers; and how to know when God doth any thing in answer to your prayers, this is the next thing to bee handled: wherein first, I will an∣swer some cases, and que∣ries which may fall out in severall sorts of prayers, Page 33 about the answering of them▪
1 As first, concerning prayers put up for the Church, for the accom∣plishment of such things as fall out in Ages to come.
2 Concerning praiers made for others of your friends, kinred, &c.
3 Concerning those praiers, whether for your selves or others, wherein others joine with you.
For the first.* First, there may bee some prayers, which you must bee con∣tent, never your selves to see answered in this world; the accomplish∣ment of them not falling out in your time: such as Page 34 are those you haply make for the calling of the Iews, the utter downfal of Gods enemies, the flourishing of the Gospel, the full pu∣rity and liberty of Gods Ordinances, the particu∣lar flourishing and good of the society and place you live in: all you whose hearts are right, doe trea∣sure up many such praiers as these, and sowe much of such precious seed, which you must bee content to have the Church (it may be) in after Ages to reape: All which prayers are not yet lost, but will have an∣swers: for as God is an eter∣nall God, and Christs righte∣ousnesse an everlasting righ∣teousnesse, and therefore of Page 35eternall efficacie, Dan. 9. 24 Being offered up by the eter∣nall Spirit, Heb. 9. 14. So are prayers also, which are the worke of the eternall Spi∣rit of Christ, made to that God in his Name, and in him are eternally accep∣ted, and of eternall force, and therefore may take place in after Ages. So the prayer that S. Stephē made for his persecutors, tooke place in Saul when S. Ste∣phen was dead. So Davids prayer against Iudas, Psal. 109. 8, 9. took effect above a thousand yeeres after, as appeares, Acts 1. 20. So the prayers of the Church for three hundred yeeres in the Primitive times, That Kings might come to Page 36 the knowledge of the truth, and they leade peaceable and quiet lives in all godlinesse and honesty, (which S. Paul in Nero's time exhorted unto, 1. Tim. 2. 2.) were not answered, & accomplish∣ed till Constantines time, whē the Church brought forth a Man-childe.* So Esay 58. after hee had ex∣horted to, and given dire∣ctions for fasting & pray∣er in a right manner, hee adjoyneth this promise: Thou shalt raise up the foundation of many genera∣tions; thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach, name∣ly for this, because his fa∣sting, and prayers might have influence into many ages yet to come, in the Page 37 accomplishment of what was prayed for. And that which Christ saies of the Apostles, reaping the fruit of S. Iohn the Baptists mi∣nistery, and the seed he had sowne, is in like ma∣ner herein verified; Iohn 4. 37. One soweth and ano∣ther reapeth. And in this sense that which the Pa∣pists say is true, that there is a common treasury of the Church, not of their merits, but of their praiers: there are bottles of teares a filling, Vials a filling to be powred out for the de∣struction of Gods enemies: what a collection of pray∣ers hath there been these many Ages towards it? and that may bee one rea∣son Page 38 why God will do such great things towards the end of the world, even because there hath beene so great a stock of prayers going, for so many ages, which is now to be retur∣ned: and herein it falls out to us in our prayers, as in their prophecies to the Pro∣phets of old,*The Spirit in them did signifie the suffe∣rings of Christ, and the glo∣ry that should follow. Vnto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but un∣to us they did minister the things that are now revea∣led: and thus is it in the spirit of prayer, which is in∣stead of the spirit of prophe∣cy: for wee pray through the guidance of the Spirit Page 39 (who teacheth us what to aske) for many things that come to passe in after ages.
Onely at present,* it may bee, in prayer thou hast revealed unto thee by a secret impression made on thy spirit, that these things shall come to passe, and so hast thy faith con∣firmed in them, and with∣all an evidence, that even for thy prayers, among o∣thers, God will performe them; and that the contri∣bution of thy prayers, doth help to make up the summe: and upon such prayers God usually for the present also testifies the acceptation of a mans person, and reveales him∣selfe Page 40 most to him that hee is his; as he did to Moses; he never revealed his love to Moses more, then when he praied most for Gods people. And haply thou hast that as one of thy best evidences of the upright∣nesse of thy heart, that thou canst pray for the Churches good, though for a long time to come which thou maiest never behold with thine eyes even as David also did, and rejoyced in it.*
And when they are ac∣complished, and thou in heaven, thy joy will sure∣ly bee the more full for these thy praiers: as at the conversion of those thou hast prayed for, so at Page 41 the ruine of the Churches enemies, &c. whom thou didst pray against; For if there bee joy in heaven at the conversion of a sinner, (as at the birth of a new Prince and Heire of hea∣ven) then haply in a pro∣portion hee shall rejoyce most, whose prayers had most hand in it, and a spe∣ciall interest therein. And so as thy other workes, so thy prayers follow thee, and the fruit of them,* as Ieremy speakes: and how ever, yet at the day of Judge∣ment thou shalt rejoice, as well as they that enioyed the fruit of thy prayers in their times, thou having sowne the seed of their happinesse; both hee that Page 42 sowes, and hee that reapes shall then rejoyce together, as Christ sayes, Iohn 4. 36.
The second Case, concerning prayers made for others: of our friends, &c. How they are answered?
THe second case is, con∣cerning answers to our prayers for others, for particular men, as friends, and kinred, &c. and like∣wise for temporall bles∣sings.
Pray for others you know wee must:* so the Elders of the Church for Page 43 those that are sick, Iam. 5. 15, 16. Pray one for ano∣ther, sayes S. Iames: as in case a man is troubled with a lust, tell some pri∣vate friend of it, Confesse your sins one to another; that when a mans owne pray∣ers are not strong enough to cast it out, it may bee done by the help of ano∣thers praiers joyned with his. (So it followes, That yee may bee healed, ver. 16. For in that sense I under∣stand healing, in ver. 16.) So also, 1. Iohn 5. 16. If a man see his brother sin a sin, which is not unto death, that is not against the Holy Ghost, hee shall aske life for him, and God shall give him life, that sins not unto death.
Page 44 Concerning this case I give these considerations, how such prayers are an∣swered.
1. Consideration.* Such prayers God often hea∣reth; why else are any such promises made? as That they shall bee healed in their bodies, James 5. 15. Healed of their lusts, ver. 16. Converted to life, 1. Ioh. 5. 16. God hath made these to encourage us to pray, and to testifie his abun∣dant love to us; that it so overflowes and runs over, that he will heare us, not onely for our selves, but for others also: which is a signe we are in extraor∣dinary favour. So God in∣timates concerning Abra∣ham,Page 45 to Abimelech, Gen. 20. 7. He is a Prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and as he was a Prophet, so wee are Priests; as for our selves, so for o∣thers also, to God our Fa∣ther: and it is a preroga∣tive we have through the fellowship wee have, and communion of Christs Priestly office,*who hath made us Kings and Priests, to prevaile and intercede for others; and a speciall token and pledge of ex∣traordinary love. For if God heares a mans pray∣ers for others, much more for himselfe in his owne behalfe. So when Christ healed the man sick of the palsie, it was, as it is said, Page 46For the faith of the standers by, Matth. 9. 2. Hee seeing their faith, said, Thy sinnes are forgiven thee; the mea∣ning is, not as if for their faith sake he forgave that man his sins,* for, The just doth live by his (owne) faith: but to encourage them, who out of faith brought that sick man to him; and us all in like ma∣ner to bring others, and their plaints, by prayer, before him; he therefore then tooke occasion to declare and pronounce forgivenesse to that poore man;* hee therefore then said,*Thy sinnes are forgi∣ven thee.
2. Consideration: yet secondly, prayers for o∣thers Page 47 may often also not obtaine the particular thing prayed for them. So Samuels prayer for Saul, 1. Sam. 15. 35. So Da∣vid for his enemies, Psalm. •7. 13.
For it is in this,* as it is •n the use of other means and ordinances for the good of others; God ma∣king such like kinde of promises to our prayers herein, as hee hath made to our endeavours to con∣vert when wee preach to men: that looke as wee preach to many, and yet but few beleeve,* for, Who hath beleeved our report? even as many as are ordai∣ned to eternall life; wee be∣come all to all, and winne but Page 48 some: So we pray for ma∣ny, not knowing who are ordained to eternall life, which whilest wee know not, wee are yet to pray for them, 1. Tim. 2, 3, 4. Onely as where God hath set his Ordinance of Prea∣ching, it is more then a probable signe hee hath some to convert, and usually the word takes a∣mong some, though often but a few: So when hee hath stirred up our hearts to pray for others, it is a signe God will heare us for some of those we pray for: yet so as we may be denied. For God doth re∣quire it as a duty on our parts, because it is an out∣ward meanes ordained by Page 49 God, by which sometimes Hee useth to bring things to passe: but yet not as such a certaine, and infallible meanes, as hee hath tied himselfe universally unto, to bring the thing to passe on his part.
And though indeed his promise to heare and ac∣cept the praier is generall and universal:* yet the pro∣mise to heare it, by gran∣ting the very thing it selfe praied for, is but an inde∣finite promise; such as he makes to other meanes of doing men good, as to our admonitions and re∣proofes, and to our prea∣ching, &c. Hee makes such promises, because sometimes hee doth heare and convert Page 50 by them. For instance, that promise, Iam. 5. 15. of healing the sick, cannot be univer∣sall: for it might then be supposed as a truth im∣plied in it, that sick men might never die, whē as it is appointed for all men once to die,* seeing it may bee supposed that the Elders may at all such times of danger of death stil come and pray with them: but the meaning is, that it is an Ordinance, which God hath made a gracious pro∣mise unto, because he of∣ten doth restore the sick at their praiers: and there∣fore upon every such par∣ticular occasion, wee are to rely upon God for the performance of it, by Page 51 an act of recumbencie; though with an act of full assurance that we shall ob∣tain it, we cannot; the pro∣mise being not universall, out indefinite.
Of the like nature are all other promises of things temporall and outward,* (of which wee herein speak) as when God pro∣miseth to give long life to them that honour their pa∣rents; riches and honours to them that feare Him; the tenour and purport of which promises is not, as if absolutely, infallibly, & universally God doth al∣wayes performe these to those that are yet truely qualified with the condi∣tions specified in those Page 52 promises; The contrary both Scripture, instances, and common experience shewes: they are therefore indefinitely meant, and so to bee understood by us; for, because when ever God doth dispense any such mercies to any of his, hee would doe it by promise; All his wayes to His being truth, that is, the fulfilling of some truth promised; and also God having purposed in his outward dispensation of things here in this world, to bestow riches and ho∣nours upon some that fear him, (though not up∣on al, for how then should all things fall alike to all?* Poverty and cotempt up∣on Page 53 them that feare God, even as well as those that feare him not.) Hee hath therefore indefinitely ex∣pressed His gracious dis∣pensation herein:* requi∣ring answerably an act of saith (which principle in us is suited to a promise, as a faculty is to its proper object) suitable to that his meaning in the promise; That as hee intended not in such promises an abso∣lute, infallible, universall obligation of himselfe to the performance of them to all that feare him: so the act of faith which a man is to put forth to∣ward this promise, in the application of it for his owne particular, is not re∣quired Page 54 to be an absolute, infallible perswasion, and assurance that God will bestow these outward things upon him, having these qualifications in him; but onely an indefi∣nite act (as I may so call it) of recumbency and submissi∣on; casting and adventu∣ring our selves upon him for the performance of it to us, not knowing but he may in his outward dis∣pensations make it good to us, yet with submissi∣on to His good pleasure, if otherwise Hee dispo∣seth it.*
It is true indeed, that that act of generall assent, which faith is to give to this promise in the gene∣rall Page 55 abstract truth of it, is to bee an assured certaine perswasion and beleefe, that God hath made this promise, and that He cer∣tainely will, and doth per∣forme it unto some accor∣ding to his purpose ex∣pressed therein; which act of generall assent, is that beleeving without waver∣ing, namely of the truth of the promise in general, which S. Iames calls for in prayer, Iam. 1. 6. But yet that speciall act of applica∣tion (as Divines call it) re∣quired in this faith, wher∣by I am to rest upon it, for my owne particular, is not required to be such an undoubted perswasion, as to thinke that I shall cer∣tainly Page 56 have this particular promise in kinde fulfilled to me; for the truth, pur∣pose, and intent of the promise, is not universall, but indefinite. So as it is but an it may bee (as God elsewhere expresseth such promises, as Zeph. •. 1, 2.) That it shal be performed to mee: and yet because it may be God wil perform it unto mee, therefore my duty is to cast my self up∣on God, and put in for it, with submission to His good pleasure for the per∣formance of it to me. So that so farre as the truth and intent of it, is revea∣led to be infallible & cer∣tain, so far a man is bound to have an answerable act Page 57 of faith, of certaine and infallible perswasion to∣wards it, as to beleeve without wavering that God hath made such a promise, and will perform it according to His intent in making it, which is unto some: but yet withall be∣cause the tenour of it is but indefinite, and in that respect, whether it shal be performed to mee or no, is not therein certainely revealed; Therefore God requires not of mee in the application of such a pro∣mise, an absolute full per∣swasion that He will per∣forme it to mee in such or such a manner, &c. But only an act of dependance and adherence with refer∣ring Page 58 it to his wise and righteous good pleasure towards me.
And yet againe if God should at any time give a man such a speciall faith concerning any such par∣ticular temporall blessing for himselfe or another,* then hee is bound to be∣leeve it thus in particular: as when Hee gave power to any to work miracles, (as to his Apostles Hee did, with a Commission to work them,) then they were bound to beleeve that such and such a mira∣cle should infallibly bee wrought by them; as that the Devils should be cast out by them, &c. And therefore in this case Page 59 Christ rebukes His Disci∣ples, for not beleeving thus upon such particular occasions, Matth. 17. 20. And then it is also true, that if God give such a faith, Hee will infallibly perform it: and thus those his words are to bee un∣derstood, Matth. 27. 22. Whatsoever yee aske in faith beleeving,*yee shall receive, hee speakes it of the faith of miracles, for 21. ver. he had said, If ye beleeve and doubt not, yee shall say to this Mountaine, remoove into the sea, and it shall be remooved: so that, when God works such a faith, and wee are called to it, we are bound to beleeve with a certain perswasion that such a Page 60 thing will be done, and it shall bee done: but unto such a kinde of speciall faith in temporall promi∣ses for our selves or o∣thers, God doth not now alwayes call us. If indeed at any time wee did be∣leeve and doubted not, by reason of a speciall faith wrought by God, that GOD would remove a mountaine into the Sea, or bestow any outward mercy, it should be done: for he that stirred up such a faith, would accomplish the thing: but it is not that, which God requires of beleevers, that they should without doubting thus beleeve concerning outward things; the pro∣mises Page 61 thereof being not universall, but indefinite; and therefore answerably a man is not absolutely bound to beleeve that God wil certainly bestow such a temporall blessing on him, no not though he should have the qualifica∣tion, which the promise being not universal, made •o all so qualified, but in∣definite to some of such so qualified. The case is the same of beleeving promi∣ses made to our praying for others, which is the thing in hand.
*3. When the prayers •re thus made out of con∣cience of our duty for such, whom yet God doth Page 62 not intend that mercy un∣to, then they are returned againe into our owne bo∣somes to our advantage: even as S. Paul saith, that his rejoycing that others preached, though they lost their labour, should turne to his salvation, Phil. 1. 20. So prayers for others, though to the parties themselves we prayed for they prove in vaine, yet they turne to our good So Psalm. 35. 12, 13. When his enemies were sick, David he praied and humbled him∣selfe; and my prayers (saies he) returned into my bosome David did by this his prayer in secret for his enemies, testifie the since∣rity of his heart to God Page 63 and his true forgivenesse of them (for it is the usuall disposition of Gods chil∣dren, to pray for them that are the greatest ene∣mies to them,) and this prayer though it did not profit them, yet it turned to Davids owne good, it came back, and home a∣gaine to him, with bles∣sings to himselfe; God de∣lighting in, and rewarding such a disposition in his childe, as much as any o∣ther; * because therein we resemble Christ so truely, and shew that God is our Father, and our selves to have his bowels in us; and God stirreth up this pray∣ing disposition in his chil∣dren for their enemies, Page 64 not alwaies that he means to heare them for them, but because he meanes to draw forth, and so have an occasion to reward those holy dispositions, which are the noblest parts of his image in them and wherewith hee is so much delighted; and so their prayers returne into their owne bosome, and it is taken, as if they had prayed for themselves all that while. Thus in like maner, when Moses pray∣ed so earnestly for the people of Israel, God of∣fered to returne his pray∣er into his owne bosome, and doe as much for him alone, as hee had desired that God would doe for Page 65 them.*I will make of thee a great Nation (saies God to him) for whom I will doe as much for thy sake, as thou hast prayed I should doe for these. As in preaching the Gospel, Christ told the Disciples, That if in any house they came to preach peace, there were not a Sonne of peace, Luke 10. on whom the message might take place, and their peace rest, Your peace (saies hee) shall returne unto you againe. So is it, if your prayers take not place.
*4. If wee have prayed long for those, whom God •ntends not mercy unto, hee will in the end cast them out of our prayers Page 66 and hearts, and take our hearts off from praying for them. That which he did by a revelation from heaven to some Prophets of old, as to Samuel and Ieremiah, the same hee doth by a more undiscer∣ned worke; that is, by withdrawing assistance to pray for such; by with∣drawing the spirit of sup∣plication from a man, for some men, and in some businesses. Now thus he did with Samuel; Why dost thou mourne for Saul?* 1. Sam. 16. 1. So with Iere∣miah, Jer. 7. 16. Pray not for this people: and this he doth, because he is loath when his people doe pray but to heare them; and Page 67 would not that such pre∣cious breath as that of prayer is, should bee with∣out its full and direct suc∣cesse, or be in vaine: there∣fore when he meanes not to heare, he layes the key of prayer out of the way, so desirous is hee to give answers to every prayer. It falls out in this case of praying for another, as in reproving another. One whom God intends not good unto, God will lock up a mans heart towards such a man, that hee shall not bee able to reprove him, when towards ano∣ther God doth inlarge it as much, where hee in∣tends good; thus it is sometimes in praying for Page 68 another; so as in praying a man shall not be able to pray for, as not to reprove such a man, though his heart was to doe both: but it fareth with him as God threatneth concern∣ing Ezekiel towards that people, that he makes his tongue cleave to the roofe of his mouth.*
*5. God will heare those prayers for, and answer them in some others, in whom wee shall have as much comfort, as in those wee prayed for: and so it often proves and fals out. God,* to shew he lookes not as man lookes, nor choo∣seth as hee chooseth, lets our hearts be set on work to pray for the conversi∣on Page 69 or good of one hee in∣tends not mercy to; and then answers them in some other, whom Hee makes as deare unto us. When God had cast off Saul, still Samuels heart lingred after him, and hee mourned for him: but God at the same time, when hee bids him cease mourning for Saul, 1. Sam. 16. to shew that yet hee accepted that his mourn∣ing as it came from him; Goe (saies hee) and anoint one of the sonnes of lesse, 1. Sam. 16. 1. Samuel desi∣red to see a good succes∣sor in that government, and he having been their ruler, it was his speciall care; and he having an∣ointed Page 70Saul, it exceed∣ingly grieved him, that he should prove so wick∣ed; and God saw and an∣swered the ground of his desires; and therefore im∣mediately upon his pray∣ers, sent him to anoint the best King that ever was upon that Throne, who was the issue and Man-childe of those his prayers. And again, when Samuel came to anoint one of the sonnes of Iesse; when he saw Eliab, ver. 6. Surely (saies he) the Lords anointed is before me: If Sa∣muel had been to choose, hee would have chosen him, and would have prayed for and desired him: but God seeth not as Page 71 man seeth, ver. 7. and choo∣seth not as man chooseth: but in David was his prai∣er fully heard, and answe∣red, and that better. So Abraham he had prayed for Ishmael; and Oh let Ish∣mael, live in thy sight! Gen. 17. but GOD gave him Isaac in stead of him. So perhaps thou prayest for one childe more then for another, out of thy natu∣ral affection, looking on his countenance and stature; as Samuel did on Eliabs: but yet thy prayers being sincere in the ground of them, in that thou desi∣rest a childe of Promise, God therefore answers thee, though in another, for whom yet haply, thy Page 72 heart was not so much stirred; who yet when he is converted, proves to thee as great a comfort; and it is as much as if that other thou diddest most pray for, had bin wrought upon.
The third Case, about such prayers wherein others joine with us. How therein to discern the in∣fluence of our own prayers.
THe third Case to bee considered is, when a man prayes for some∣thing with others; or Page 73 which others likewise pray for with him, so as he is not alone in it; how then should he know, that his prayers have a hand in obtaining it, as well as theirs? For in such cases Satan is apt to object; though the thing is gran∣ted indeed; yet not for thy prayers, but for the prayers of those others joyned in it with thee.
*1. If thy heart did sym∣pathize, and accord in the same holy affections with those others in praying, then it is certaine thy voice hath helpt to carry it; If two agree on earth (sayes Christ) Matt. 18. 19. the word is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that is, if they harmonially a∣gree Page 74 to play the same tune: for prayers are mu∣sick in Gods eares, and so called Melody to God, Ephes. 5. 19 It is not simply their agreeing in the thing prayed for, but in the affe∣ctions: for it is the affecti∣ons that make the consort and the melody: now if the same holy affections were toucht, and struck by Gods spirit in thy heart, that in theirs, then thou doest help to make up the consort; and without thee it would have beene im∣perfect: yea, without thee the thing might not have been done; for God stands sometimes upon such a number of voices, and one voice casts it; as when he Page 75 named ten righteous per∣sons to save Sodome: when therefore the same holy motives and affections acted thee in thy prayer, which did them in theirs, it was the worke of the same spirit, both in them and thee, and God hath heard thee.
Especially if God did stir up the same secret in∣stinct in thee,* to sympa∣thize with another in praying for such a thing unbeknowne one to ano∣ther, as sometimes it falls out; then surely thy pray∣ers are in it as well as his. You shall observe some∣times a generall instinct of the Spirit, put into Gods peoples hearts, ge∣nerally Page 76 to pray for or against a thing, without each others stirring up one another: even as Eze∣kiel by the river Chebar prophecied the same things Ieremiah did at home at Ierusalem. Thus against the time that Christ the Messiah came in the flesh, there was a great expectation raised up in the hearts of the godly people, to look and pray for him, Luke 2. 27. and 38.
*2 God doth usually, & often evidence to a man, that his prayers contribu∣ted, and went among the rest towards the obtai∣ning of it; as,
1 By some circumstance: Page 77 as for example, sometimes by ordering it so, that that man that prayed most for a thing of con∣cernement, should have the first newes of it when it comes to bee accom∣plisht: which God doth, as knowing it will bee most welcome newes to him. God doth herein, as wee doe with a friend, who we know is cordiall in, and wisheth well to a busi∣nesse; hee sends him the first word of it, who was most hearty in it, & pray∣ed most about it. Good old Simeon, had surely been earnest in seeking the Lord, as wel as the rest in Ierusalem, to send the Messiah into the world, Page 78 to restore and raise up the ruines of Israel, for God did reveale to him, that hee should see him before he died: and therefore to evi∣dence to him his respect to his prayers, God carry∣ed the good old man into the Temple, just at the time when the Child was brought into the Temple, for to bee presented to the Lord, Luk. 2. 27, 28. And in like manner good Anna, who had served God with fasting and praier, night and day: God ordereth it so, that she must also come in at the same instant, Luke 2. 38. By some such like peculiar circumstance or other, doth God often use to witnesse to a mans Page 79 heart, that hee hath heard him in businesses, prayed for in common with o∣thers.
*2. By filling the heart with much joy in the ac∣complishment of what a man prayed for: which is an evident argument that his prayers did move the Lord to effect it, as well as the prayers of others. Thus that good old Sime∣on, seeing his prayers now answered, hee was even willing to die through joy; and thought he could not die in a better time, Lord now let thy servant de∣part in peace. For when the desires have vented and laid out much of themselves, then when the Page 80 return comes home, they have an answerable part and share in the comfort of it: and as desires aboun∣ded in praying, so will joy and comfort also in the accomplishment. As when a Ship comes home, not onely the chiefe owners, but every one that ventu∣red shall have a share out of the returne, in a pro∣portion to the adventure: so here, though some one whom it mainly concerns hath especiall interest in the mercy obtained, yet thou shalt have thy pray∣ers out in joy from God, that the thing is granted. S. Paul had planted a Church at Thessalonica, but hee could not stay to Page 81 water it with his owne preaching, yet when ab∣sent, hee waters those Plants which hee had set, with prayers, night and day; 1. Thes. 3. 10. Night and day praying exceedingly for you, sayes hee: and as his prayers were exceeding abundant for them, so was his joy as aboundant in them, when hee had heard that they stood stedfast, and fell not back againe; Now wee live, if yee stand fast in the Lord, ver. 8. And what thanks can we render to God for all the joy wherewith wee joy for your sakes, before the Lord? ver. 9.
*3. If God give you a heart thankfull for a bles∣sing Page 82 vouchsafed to ano∣ther, prayed for by you with others, it is another signe your prayers have some hand in it: S. Paul knew not what thankes to give for the answering of his prayers, as in that fore∣mentioned place. Old Eli had put up but one short ejaculatory petition that wee reade of, for Hannah, & that was The Lord grant thy petition, 1 Sam. 1. 17. & for the returne of that one prayer when Hannah rela∣ted how God had answe∣red her, ver. 26, 27. hee re∣turned solemne thankes, And he worshipped the Lord there. ver. 28.
*And lastly, in case the thing concerned thy self, Page 83 which was prayed for by others helping thee there∣in, what cause hast thou but to thinke that it was granted for thy owne prayers, and not for theirs onely? seeing God stirred up their hearts to pray for thee, and gave thee a heart to pray for thy selfe, and besides, gave thee the thing which thou desiredst: which argues thou art beloved aswell as they, and accepted as well as they. I know this shal turn to my salvation through your prayers, saith S. Paul, Phil. 1. 19. though their prayers went to the busi∣nesse, yet had not S. Paul beene accepted himselfe, the prayers of all the men Page 84 in the world, would have done him but little good. God may heare the pray∣ers of the godly, for wic∣ked men, when they doe not pray themselves, in temporall things; so hee did heare Moses for Pha∣raoh, Abraham for Abi∣melech; and he may heare godly men the sooner for others prayers; so hee heard Aaron and Miriam the sooner, for Moses his sake, Numb. 12. 13: But if God stirs up thy heart to pray for thy selfe, as well as others for thee; then God that gave thee a heart to pray, hath heard thy prayers also, and hath had a respect to them more in it then to theirs, Page 85 because it concerned thy selfe, as a more speciall mercy unto thee.
Common directions help∣full in all cases and pray∣ers. First, from such ob∣servations as may be ta∣ken, from before, and in praying.
HAving premised these Cases, I come now to more generall and common directions to help you in discerning and observing the minde of God, and his answers to you in your prayers. All which dire∣ctions Page 86 are such, as may be helpfull in all the fore∣mentioned cases, and in all sorts of prayers what∣ever. And they are taken from observations, to bee made upon your prayers, &c. Both before, in, and af∣ter praying;
*First, Before praying; when God bespeakes a prayer, (as I may so speak) that is, when God secret∣ly speakes to the heart to pray much about a thing; I expresse it thus accord∣ing to that phrase of Da∣vid, Psal. 27. 8. Thou saidst seeke my face: and I said, Thy face Lord will I seeke: now God then speakes to the heart to pray, when not onely hee puts upon Page 87 the duty by saying to the conscience, this thou oughtest to doe: but Gods speaking to pray is such, as his speech at first was, when hee made the world, when hee said, Let there be light, and there was light: so hee sayes, Let there be a prayer, and there is a prayer, that is, hee powres upon a man a spirit of grace and supplica∣tion, a praying disposition; hee puts in motives, sug∣gests arguments and pleas to God; all which you shall finde come in readi∣ly, and of themselves; and that likewise with a quick∣ning heat, and inlarge∣ment of affections, and with a lingring, and long∣ing, Page 88 and restlessenesse of spirit to bee alone, to powre out the soule to God, and to vent and forme those motions and suggestions into a prayer, till you have laid them to∣gether, and made a prayer of them. And this is a speaking to the heart: and observe such times when God doth thus, and neg∣lect them not; then to strike, whilest the iron is hot; thou hast then his eare, it is a speciall op∣portunity for that busi∣nesse, such an one as thou mayest never have the like. Suitors at Court ob∣serve mollissima fandi tem∣pora, their times of beg∣ing, when they have Page 89 Kings in a good mood, which they will be sure to take the advantage of; but especially if they should finde that the King him∣selfe should beginne of himselfe to speake of the businesse which they would have of him: and thus that phrase of Psal. 10. 17. is understood by some, that God prepares the heart, and causeth the eare to heare; that is, hee fashi∣ons it, and composeth it into a praying frame. And sure it is a great signe that God meanes to heare us,* when himselfe shall thus indite the Petition.
And by the way let me give this note of diffe∣rence, betweene these Page 90speakings to the heart, and those whereby Satan puts us upon such duties at un∣seasonable houres and times; as when we are o∣therwise necessarily to be imployed in our callings, to eate, or to sleepe, &c. then to put upon praying, is a device of his he useth, to tire out new converts with. The difference will appeare in this, the devill comes in a violent impe∣rious manner upon the conscience, but inlargeth not the heart a whit unto the duty: but whensoe∣ver God at such extraor∣dinary by-times doth call upon us, hee fits and pre∣pares the heart, and fills the soule with holy sug∣gestions, Page 91 as materialls for the duty; for whatsoever he calls to, he gives abili∣ties withall to the thing he calls for.
And thus usually, when hee will have any great matters done & effected, hee sets mens hearts a worke to pray, by a kinde of gracious pre-instinct; hee stirres them up and toucheth the strings of their hearts, by his Spirit sent downe upon them: Thus against the returne of the captivity he stirred up Daniels heart, Dan. 9. 1. Hee knowing by bookes, the time to be neere expiring was stirred up to seek God:* and so hee that made this Psalme, Salvation being Page 92 then nigh, ver. 9. 10. then God stirred him up to pray, and pen this prayer for their returne: which God had foretold hee would doe, Ier. 29. 10, 11, 12. For having promised ver. 10. I will cause you to returne after seventy yeares: Then (sayes he, ver. 12.) shall ye call upon me, and ye shall goe and pray unto mee, and I will hearken unto you: he speakes it not onely by way of command, what it was they ought to doe; but as prophecying also what they should doe; for then he meant to stirre up their hearts; as then hee did, as appeares by those forementioned instances. Therefore observe what Page 93 things, God, thus by an instinct doth inlarge thy heart to pray for at times, and sometimes at extra∣ordinary by-times, when haply thou diddest not think to pray about any such thing, yet hee then stirred thee up most, it may be, as thou wert wal∣king, &c. and having spare time, he drawes thee into his presence and moves thee in that maner speci∣fied.
*Now secondly: as God thus speakes to the heart to pray, so also in praying; and his speaking to the heart in prayer may bee discerned by these parti∣culars.
*1. When God quiets, Page 94 and calmes, and contents the heart in prayer, which is done by speaking some∣thing to the heart, though what is spoken, be not al∣wayes discerned: If you should see one, who was an earnest and importu∣nate suitor and exceeding anxious when he went in to a great man, but behold him after comming out from him contented, and quieted, and cheerefull in his spirit, you would con∣ceive that certainly some∣thing had beene said to him, which gave him en∣couragement, satisfaction and contentment in his suit; Thus when thou goest to God, and hast been importunate in a bu∣sinesse, Page 95 (as suppose for Christ, Oh give me Christ, or else I die!) and thy de∣sires were exceedingly up for it; But thou risest up with thy minde calmed and satisfied, and feelest the anxiousnesse, the soli∣citude of thy heart about the thing taken off, and dispelled; This is a good sign that God hath heard thy Prayer, and hath spo∣ken something to thy heart, which makes it thus composed. When Hannah out of much bit∣ternesse and with strong desires (which by a long delay had bin made more violent, so as her heart was much disquieted (for, Prov. 13. 12. Hope, and by Page 96 the same reason, desire al∣so deferred makes the soule sick) when out of the a∣bundance of her griefe, shee had poured her soule out before the Lord, 1. Sam. 1. 16. Eli the Priest joyning in prayer also for her, The Lord grant thy petition! after that prayer she found her heart so quieted, that shee looked no more sad, as the Text sayes there; She arose quieted, and calmed, and it was that prayer, that did both fill Elies mouth, with that word of prophecie, and her heart with quietnesse, and a se∣cret word from God ac∣companying it, that did still those waves: and ac∣cordingly God gave her a Page 97 Son, a Son of her desires. And the like God doth now, by speaking (as I said) something to the heart: as by dropping in some promise or other in∣to the heart, or some like consideration; saying as it were to the heart, even as Eli from God did to her, The Lord grants thy petition; As to S. Paul, when he was earnest with God about removing his buf∣fetings by Satan (which whether they were the stirring up a lust, or tem∣ptations of blasphemy, I doe not now dispute) I besought God thrice, that is, earnestly (sayes hee,) that it might depart; and to this hee had an answer in Page 98 the meane time given him, till it should bee ta∣ken away; enough to still and quiet him, so 2. Cor. 12. 8, 9. And he said, that is, in prayer the Lord did put in this consideration and promise into his thoughts, And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee, and my power is made perfect in weaknesse: This answer thus comming in, this promise thus seasona∣bly suggested stayed and quieted Pauls heart. In like manner thou hast (it may bee) been long pray∣ing against poverty, or the like distresse, and God lets fall this or the like pro∣mise into thy heart, I will never leave thee,*nor forsake Page 99 thee, which quiets and contents thy minde. This is an answer, and observe such answers, for they are precious.
*2. If whilest thou art a praying, God doth draw nigh to thy soule, and re∣vealeth himselfe to it, in and upon such, or such a particular petition. As in case thou didst mainely intend when thou diddest begin to pray, to set thy selfe to beg some tempo∣rall mercie at his hands, some great matter for the good and prosperity of the Church (as Daniel, Chap. 9. did set himselfe to seeke God for the returne of the Captivity:) and e∣ven before thou commest Page 100 to aske it, or in asking it, God smiles upon thee, welcomes thee: falleth a∣bout thy neck and kisseth thee: This thou art to ob∣serve as a signe hee heares thy prayer, and accepteth both thee and it; when there is such a strong sense of Gods favour, and presence, whilest thou art upon such a suit and request, more then at other times, or then in other passages of the same prayer, this is a token God heares thee, in that particular, and thou art to observe this his speak∣ing to thy heart: When thus thou shalt no sooner come into his presence to enquire of him, but Page 101 hee sayes, Here I am, as the promise is, Esay 58. 9. Therefore, Psal. 69. 17, 18. Heare me speedily sayes Da∣vid; and (that I may know thou hearest mee) draw nigh to mee: therefore when God drawes nigh to thee, it is a signe hee heares thee. Daniel ha∣ving fasted and prayed for three weekes together, Dan. 10. 2, 3: Then an Angell came, and one of the three Persons came and told him, hee was a man greatly beloved, ver. 11 and 19. when in like ma∣ner God by his Spirit comes downe, and meets thee, and tells thy heart in secret that thou art His beloved, and Hee is thine,Page 102 then thy prayers are cer∣tainly heard: for if hee accepts thy person, much more thy prayers, 1. Iohn 5. 19, 20. Men, false men, (false upon the ballance, as David speakes, when they come to bee tried and weighed,) they will out of cunning use suitors most kindly then, when they meane to put them off, and deny them their requests: But God who is truth and faithfulnesse it selfe, doth not use so to deale, but when he means to answer the prayer, Hee withall sometimes reveals his free grace most, to the end they may see and acknowledge the foun∣taine of all, to be his ever∣lasting Page 103 love, and so take the thing granted as a fruit of it, and thereby come to bee the more a∣bundantly thankfull.
Onely let me adde this Caution,* which may bee of great use to you. That it is not alwayes infalli∣bly true, that when God drawes nigh to you in a particular request, that that request in particular, shall bee granted in that maner you desired, but it is a certaine evidence that thy prayer is heard, and that the thing thou askest is agreeable to his will, and that hee approves of thee and thy request ex∣ceedingly, and thinketh the better of thee for it, Page 104 and hee will give thee it, or something that is bet∣ter▪ There may be herein and sometimes is a mi∣stake of Gods meaning, to thinke that alwayes, then the thing shall be granted, when God drawes nigh to a man: experience sometimes shews the con∣trary.
[Quest.] But you will say, Why doth God draw so nigh if he meanes not to grant it?
[Answ.] 1. He shewes thereby His approving will of the thing prayed for. Now GOD approves many things, hee decrees not. *There is his approving will and his decreeing will. God may shew his appro∣ving Page 105 wil of the thing thou askest, (as suppose it bee in view a matter which is of great consequence for the Church;) which hee doth for thy encourage∣ment: but yet it followes not, that his decreeing wil is for the accomplish∣ment of that very thing in particular.
2. God may accept the person and the prayer, when hee doth not grant the thing prayed for; and by that drawing nigh witnesse his acceptation of thy person and the prayer. Yea,
3. That revealing of himselfe is oftentimes all the answer he intended to such a prayer, and it is an∣swer Page 106 enough too, to enjoy in the stead of a particular mercy the assurance of Gods love. As suppose thou didst pray against some evill comming upon his Church, which he yet intends to bring; which hee did set thy heart a worke to pray against, thereby to manifest the sincerity therof; and then hee seeing thee thus sin∣cere drawes nigh to thee, and tells thee, however, it shall go well with thee, and that thou art greatly beloved of Him: Thou art sometime to take this for all the answer hee meanes to give. And this hee doth sometimes also to content the heart, and Page 107 prepare it for a deniall in the thing: whereas, other∣wise, the deniall of what a Christian hath been ear∣nest in, might occasion (as in many it doth) a questi∣oning and doubting of Gods love.
*3 When God stirres up in the heart a particular faith in a businesse: as sometimes He doth, and upholds the heart to wait for it, maugre all discou∣ragements. So hee did in David, Psal. 27. 3. David was then in great hazards by reason of Saul or Ab∣salom, and those such and so often, as that to sense and outward probabili∣ties hee was like never to live quietly againe at Ieru∣salemPage 108 and enjoy Gods Or∣dinances there in peace; but for this David had prayed, and had made it as the grand request of his whole life (as every man hath some one great re∣quest of all other, even as Hee hath some speciall grace above all other, or gift, &c. so request to God next to His salvation, as haply for his Ministery, or the like, therefore sayes David, verse 4. This one thing have I desired) and ac∣cordingly God gave him a speciall faith in this thing above all other, be∣cause it was his great re∣quest, In this will I be con∣fident▪ verse 3. And though an hoste of men should a∣gaine Page 109 and againe incom∣passeme, saies he, yet in this I will be confident, that I shall still escape, and see Ierusalem againe, and en∣joy the Ordinances and live in peace; and though his faith failed him often (as in the persecution of Saul it did) for he said he should one day perish by the hand of Saul:* yet at other times his faith was mar∣vellously upheld, and hee was confident in this. Hee used not to be so, in other requests thus absolutely particularly and distinct∣ly, and therefore he sayes, In this, &c. As there is a witnesse of the Holy Ghost immediate to the heart, sealing up adoption to a Page 110 mans person, so in some cases, there is the like te∣stimony for the obtaining of some eminent thing we have asked. Which parti∣cular speciall faith, doth in a kind of similitude ans∣wer to the faith of mira∣cles of old, whereby a man had a particular confidēce, that God would doe such a miracle by him: so in & by meanes of prayer, in some things there may be a particular strengthning & assuring the heart, that God will doe such a thing for a man: which I confesse is rare and extraordinary, as also that immediate te∣stimony concerning our persons is, which many want that goe to heaven. Page 111 And haply this other con∣cerning the accomplish∣ment of speciall mercies, is much more rare; and but in some businesses; and is a thing which some men are not acquainted with, but yet may bee in some cases existent to some mens spirits, as it was to Davids in the thing mentioned.
And concerning this al∣so I will also adde a Cau∣tion, * as about the former. That it doth not alwayes fall out upon all such kind of evidences made to a mans spirit, and that by God, that the thing pray∣ed for doth come to passe. For these very perswasi∣ons stirred up by God, Page 112 may bee and are often but conditionall, though thus immediately made to a mans spirit, and are so to bee understood, and not peremptory and absolute. It cannot bee imagined that all these should al∣wayes be of greater abso∣lutenesse and perempto∣rinesse, than were many of those revelations made by God to the Prophets, wherein Hee manifested his gracious purpose to∣wards such a man or peo∣ple, either to vouchsafe them such a mercie, or bring such a judge∣ment; which forewar∣nings though they were particular and expresse, yet limited and intended Page 113 with a condition, accor∣ding to the performance, or not performance of which, it fell out, either the judgement expresly threatned was diverted, or that good thing which was as directly and fully promised, was not be∣stowed: as it was in the case of Ionas threatning the destruction of Nine∣veb; and so in the pro∣mise concerning Ely's house, 1. Sam. 2. 30. I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father should walke before mee for ever, but now the Lord sayes, it shall not bee so: For they had broken the condition which was implied in it; they had despised the Page 114 Lord; and them that despise me, sayes God there, I will despise. In like manner is Gods meaning, expressed towards us in such like perswasions wrought in us by prayer, to be under∣stood; as that such mer∣cies will surely come to passe, but still under a condition of obedience, and performing of those vowes, which a man joy∣ned with those his petiti∣ons, to move the Lord to grant the things; which if a man faile in, or ceaseth to goe on to beleeve, it may and doth often come to passe, that things fall out contrary to that per∣swasion, and then wee are apt to question whether Page 115 it was from God or no; which it might bee, and truely wrought by his Spirit and yet not alwaies absolutely meant (that was your mistake so to take it) but conditionally onely. For in such great requests of the soule unto God there use to passe mu∣tuall covenants betweene God and us; and Inden∣tures are drawne and sea∣led unto by us, that is, we in prayer, offer and pro∣mise to doe thus and thus, if God will vouchsafe us such a mercy, and pleade it to God to move him to bestow it; and God, hee thereupon (it may bee) seales a covenant on his part to grant the thing, & Page 116 works such an undoubted perswasion; but if wee in that interim of waiting for that mercy, doe deale falsely in that covenant which we made; and this even whilest wee are yet in dependance upon God for it; whereby it appeares that we would have done so much more after wee should have received it once, in this case God de∣nies the thing, and yet notwithstanding, that per∣swasion and evidence was from God that heard the prayer. He said indeed he would doe thus and thus for thee: (as he told Da∣vid, I would have given thee much more:) because thou saidst to him, thou wouldst Page 117 walke thus and thus, or didst vow this or that to him; thou failest in thy word, upon which God ut∣tered his; and thereupon sayes God as to Ely, Now it shall not be so, and yet God had spoken it afore, and not Satan, nor thine owne heart onely.
*4. When God doth put a restlesse importunity in∣to the heart, maugre all discouragements. So in that Psalme 27. 4. One thing I have desired, and I wil seek after it, that is, as I have sought it, so I will not leave seeking to God for it: when God maintaines this in the heart, it is a signe he heares, and will answer: for you know the Page 118 Parable, that the unjust Iudge heard her for her im∣portunity; therefore when God puts an importunity into the heart, he meanes to heare.
Onely this likewise is to be added in this,* There is a double importunity: one out of such an inordi∣nate desire to a thing, as the heart knows not how to be without such a mer∣cie, and so continues to ask, but asketh amisse, and so receives not, Iam. 5. But there is an importunity joyned with a subjection to Gods will; which when it runs along with it, then God hath stird it up, and then looke for something to come; otherwise you Page 119 may bee importunate, as they seeke mee daily, when yet God heard not, Esay 58. 2.
Further Observations to be made, on the dispositi∣ons and carriage of our hearts, after Prayer: un∣till the issue of the thing prayed for.
NExt: after thou hast prayed, observe, what God doth towards thee.
*As first, how hee doth guide thy feet and heart after praying: there is much in that: that which was Page 120 the Spirit of supplication in a man when he prayed, rests upon him as the spi∣rit of obedience in his course; so as that depen∣dance hee hath upon God for the mercy hee seekes for, is a speciall motive, & meanes to keep him feare∣full of offending, and dili∣gent in duty; to looke to his paths to walke and be∣have himselfe as becomes a suitor, as well as to come and pray as a suitor. Thus David, he walked by this principle, Psal. 66. 18. If I regard iniquity in my heart, God will not heare me; that consideration still came in as a curb unto sinne; and without this a man pro∣vokes God, and so casts Page 121 himselfe behind-hand a∣gaine, and by sinning lo∣seth what ground hee had got by praying. There∣fore David, Psal. 145. 8, 9, 10. when he was to pray, even as for his life, (as then he did, it being a de∣liverance from his ene∣mies he sought) he speci∣ally prayes God to direct him and keepe him, that hee might not sin against him; for he knew by sin∣ning hee should enervate and spoile all his prayers: not onely heare me speedily (sayes he) but also Cause me to know the way wherein I should walke; Teach me to doe thy will; this he especi∣ally prayes for, and more then for deliverance, for Page 122 else he knew God would not heare him. Therefore when thou art in treaty with God for any mercy, observe, doth God still af∣ter praying keep thee in a more obedient frame of spirit? it is a signe hee in∣tends to answer thee; as in like manner, when hee keeps thee from using ill meanes, &c. When hee meant to give David the Kingdome, hee kept him innocent, and his heart tender, that it smote him but for cutting off the lap of Sauls garment: he was not so tender after. Therefore in Psal. 18. when hee was delivered from all his ene∣mies, hee sayes, God dealt with him according to his Page 123 uprightnesse: for I kept my selfe from mine iniquity. So also Psal. 27. 11.
*2 When God after pray∣er strengthneth the heart to wait for the mercy. So Psal. 27. ult. David having prayed, sayes to his soule, Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he will streng∣then thy heart. Honest men, when they nourish hopes in one that is in depen∣dance on them, who wai∣teth and is obsequious up∣on the hopes he hath of a suite, use not to deny him: it were dishonesty in thē to keep a man underhand, and then frustrate his expectations; Therefore when God keeps thy soule after praying in such a de∣pendant Page 124 frame, looke for some good answer. And indeed when a man hath prayed long, in the end he begins to wait (as I may so say) rather thā pray (though he pray still) because now he looks God should per∣forme: before, and at first, he told the Lord he desi∣red it, but now he can with some boldnesse tell him, that he waits for it and ex∣pects it. The hope of a god∣ly man and his expectati∣on should make him ashamed if it were not answered, therefore in this case ans∣wers use to come.
Both these two last we have together joyned Psa. 37. 34. Wait on the Lord, & keep his waies, and he shal ex∣alt thee.
Observations to be made after prayer, upon the is∣sue of what was prayed for: and first, if accom∣plished, whether as the fruit of prayers, or out of common providence; Helps herein.
WHen a man hath thus waited, and kept his way, then let him observe the issue and con∣clusion of what he sought for, how things are cast by God. Now of necessity, one of these two must fall out, that either the thing desired is accomplished, or not accomplished; and in ei∣ther Page 126 of these he may come to spie out answers to his prayers; for prayer may be answered, though the thing be not done.
I meane to insist seve∣rally on these.
*1 If the thing thou prayedst for doth come to passe, then what needst thou doubt of an answer, and whether God heard thee or no? For thou be∣holdest it with thine eies: and so often it falls out, that God doth grant ac∣cording to the desires of a mans heart; and not on∣ly so, but also fulfils his counsell therein, as it is, Psal. 20. 4. that is, fulfils not onely his desire, and aime of his prayer, but in that Page 127 very way, by that very meanes, which his judge∣ment and counsell pitcht upō in his own thoughts. The desire of the heart may be satisfied, when God gives some other thing, but the counsell of the heart is then fulfilled, when a man is answered in that particular, which his own judgment pitcht upon as best for him. For counsell is an act of the understanding, delibera∣ting about meanes to an end, & directing to choose a particular meanes tend∣ing to an end: so that as Eliphaz sayes to Iob, 22. 27, 28. Thou shalt make thy prayer to God, and hee shall hear thee: & decree a thing, Page 128 and it shall be established to thee, that is, a man is gui∣ded to decree and pitch upon such mercies in his prayers, as God makes good in particular: hee saies what he would have, and God performs it: and this priviledge thou shalt have (sayes Eliphaz there) if thou wilt turne to him, and be acquainted with him, and receive the Law from his mouth: thou shalt not erre in praying; but what thou settest upon to pray for, shall be accor∣dingly granted to thee▪ such a man shall have the priviledge, Fingere sibi fortunam in a right sense, to be his owne chooser, and carver of his owne Page 129 mercies; and as Christ said, Be it according to thy faith, so God sayes some∣times, Be it according to thy prayers; and Eliphaz speaks of it as of a speciall favour, that whereas other mens prayers are answered ob∣liquely, thine sayes hee shall be answered directly, which is more comforta∣ble; as direct beames are, and have more heate in them then collaterall and oblique. Thus if a man will heare God and obey him, God will heare him: for if a man be subject to Christ; Kingly Office, his Propheticall Office shall guide him, and cause him not to erre in his Petiti∣ons; but by an unerring Page 130 providence & preinstinct infused by his spirit, God will so guide him, as to ask evē that very thing which GOD intends to give; whereas of himselfe hee knowes not what, nor how to aske. So David asked long life, and God gave it him, Psal. 21. 2, 3, 4. God not onely gave him his hearts desire, but the re∣quest of his lips, v. 2. Hannah askt a sonne, and God an∣swered her in the very thing shee desired, and therefore shee called him Samuel, 1 Sam. 1. 20. Be∣cause (sayes she) I askt him of the Lord: and Verse 27. For this child I prayed, and the Lord (did not give an∣other thing in stead of it, Page 131 but) hath given me my Pe∣tition I asked of him. So, 1. Chro. 4. 10. labesh called on God (tis said) and God gran∣ted him the thing hee re∣quested. And thus God of∣ten deales with his chil∣dren. And to this end hath God given us his Spirit; and made Christ Wisedome unto us, who knowes what is good for us, though we doe not. And hath there∣fore also commanded us to spye out mercies for our selves, and then come to him for them: and to this end hath made such particular promises of par∣ticular mercies, which he would have us have an eie unto in our prayers; all which is, because often he Page 132 means to bestow the very things we aske.
And yet because,* al∣though we have the very things wee did aske and desire, such is the jealousie & infidelity of our hearts, that we often discern not, nor acknowledge that it was our prayers, that ob∣tained them from God: but we are apt, when once wee have them, either to look but to things below, and the second causes of them, though before wee did earnestly seeke them of God, or else still dis∣trustfully to questiō whe∣ther or no it was at our prayers that hee granted them, or out of common providence. Thus Iob in Page 133 his distemper, Iob 9. 16▪ although I had called, and God had answered me, yet (sayes he) I would not be¦leeve that he had hearkened to my voice, that is, not that he did it in respect to my prayer and request, be∣cause he now deales so fe∣verely with me, For hee breaketh me with a tempest, Ver. 17. And thus doe our distrustfull hearts, (which are apt to bee un∣satisfied with all the clee∣rest pledges of Gods fa∣vour, and still to miscon∣strue and pervert them,) although God doth an∣swer us upon our calling upon him, yet we will not beleeve that he hearken∣ed to our prayer in it. Page 134 Therefore that you may be further inabled to dis∣cerne, how, and when things you prayed for, come in by prayer; I give you these further directi∣ons.
*1. When God doth a thing in answer to pray∣ers, hee often doth it in such a maner, that his hand may bee in a more then ordinary maner seen in it.* There are few pray∣ers, wherein a man hath sought God much, but in the answers of them God discovers himselfe much, and turnes many great wheeles in the accom∣plishment of them, and manifests (as David de∣sires, Psal. 17. 7.) his mar∣velous Page 135 loving kindnesse; and indeed, when GOD heares prayers, that have beene a long while a ma∣king, Hee shewes usually halfe a miracle one way or other.
Now GOD discovers his immediat hand in the answers of prayers many wayes.
*1. When hee carries a thing through many diffi∣culties, when there were a great many crosse wards in a businesse prayed for, the least whereof would have kept the key from turning: when GOD shall make (as it were) a key on purpose to unlocke it; when God plots and con∣trives all the passages in a Page 136 businesse thou didst pray for, and so accomplisheth it; This is a signe, it is a fruit of prayer, and that prayer had been a making that key all that while: So in bringing David to the Kingd me; Ioseph out of prison; Mordecai to honour: and likewise S. Peter out of prison, which was done at the prayers of the Church, Act. 12. He was sleeping betweene two souldiers: if they had waked, he had beene dis∣covered: and hee was in chaines, but they fall off, ver. 6. 7. And the Keepers stood before the doore, but they mind him not, ver. 6. and when one watch is past, hee passeth Page 137 quietly through another, ver. 10. and when both those were past, an Iron gate flyes open of its own accord, ver. 10. Now such difficulties are there in many businesses, which yet in the end are accom∣plished by prayer: Iron chaines fall off, Iron gates, enemies hearts flye open of their own accord; and though not in that mira∣culous manner, by the meanes of an Angell, yet no lesse wonderfully.
*Or secondly when God facilitates all meanes to accomplish the thing which was prayed for, so as all meanes doe in view conspire and combine in it, that thou hast winde Page 138 and tyde, and a faire day, and all the way paved; or as David sayes, hast thy way made plaine before thee; and there falls out a great conjunction and meeting of many circumstances to∣gether to effect it, which had influence into it, whereof if any one had beene wanting, haply the thing had not been done, when the thing prayed for is thus granted, prayer then hath done it. Thus, when hee delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt, which was the ac∣complishment of their long desires and prayers, (their cry came up the Text sayes) how were all things facilitated! they that de∣tained Page 139 them doe them∣selves come, and intreate them to goe out, yea, are urgent, sayes the Text; and that at midnight: nay, hire them to goe out, with their eare-rings; and Pharaoh himselfe then parts lovingly and fairely with them, and desires their prayers,*Blesse me also: Yea, to shew there was no resistance, the Text sayes, a Dog did not move his tonguee: The bruite Creatures did not disturb thē, though at midnight, when those Creatures use to be most obstreperous through noises.
*3. When hee doth it suddenly, and accompli∣sheth the thing thou hast Page 140 long prayed for, ere thou art aware of it: as the re∣turne of the Captivity of Babylon, which was the conclusion of many pray∣ers, was done in a trice, they were as men in a dream, Psal. 126. 1. they could scarce beleeve it was so, when it was done, it was because they had sowen many prayers which came up on the suddaine, ver. 5, 6. So Peter, hee was fast asleepe, and did not so much as dreame of deli∣verance. So Iosephs deli∣very out of prison, and advancement to bee the greatest man in the King∣dome, the suddennesse of it shewed it was Gods re∣membring of him, and Page 141 hearing his prayers.
*4. When God grants the thing with an over∣plus, above what wee did ask, & casteth many other mercies in together with that which we long pray∣ed for; this also may be a signe God did heare our prayers in it: for when he doth heare indeed, hee useth to doe above what wee did aske or thinke, thereby the more to overcome the heart. So David asked long life, and he gave him more then he asked, Psal. 21. 2, 3, 4, 5. So Solomon he asked but wisdome, and hee gave him more then he asked, Peace, Riches, Ho∣nour, and all with it, 1 Kin. 3. 12, 13. Hannah shee as∣ked Page 142 but one male childe, 1 Sam. 1. 10. but God gave her three sonnes more and two daughters, Chap. 2. 21. When prayers are answered, usually mercies come thicke, they come tumbling in; the thing we prayed for comes not alone: as when sinnes are punished, then miseries also they come like ar∣mies in troops upon us: as temptations likewise come together, and we fall into many of them at once,* as S. Iames speakes: Thus doe mercies also.
*5. When the thing is granted by prayers, there is often some particular circumstance of provi∣dence concurrent with it, Page 143 which is a token for good, and sealeth to us that it is from God; such often as a man himselfe takes notice of, and which others take notice of also. Shew mee a token for good, sayes Da∣vid, Psal. 86. 17. that others may see it and be ashamed: and such tokens doth God often make small circum∣stances to bee. Things small in themselves, may bee magna indicia, great signes and tokens: for example Moses and Aa∣ron, and the Israelites had long cryed to GOD for the deliverance of his people, and laid up many prayers; their cry came up, as was said; and when God doth deliver them, Page 144 what tokens were there of good? and of GODS hand in it, and of his an∣swer to their prayers? The Text notes (as was observed before) that a dog did not barke at their going out, Exod. 11. 7. which was a small circumstance, but it was magnum indici∣um, and so intended by God; for the Text addes, That ye may know that God puts a difference between the Israelites and the Egypti∣ans. This was a •oken of Gods hand, to over-rule the tongues of rude bruit creatures, that use to stir at such unusuall noises, and at travellers especial∣ly in the night. So when Isaac and Abraham, and Page 145 his servant also, had pray∣ed for a Wife for Isaac, see by what a token God shewed he had heard their prayers; Rebekkah was the first that came out to the servant sent to bring a wife for him: and if shee be the woman appointed for Isaac (saies the servant) Let her offer me drinke,*and my Camels also: this was a small thing in appea∣rance, but a great indicium of Gods hand in it, and therefore the servant bow∣ed at it, and worshipped: and the signe in it selfe was such, as argued a good nature in her, and a kinde courteous dispositi∣on, which therefore (it may bee) hee singled out, Page 146 as a token of a meet wife, as a thing especially to be looked at in the mariage choise.
*Againe, the considera∣tion of the time, wherein the things we have asked▪ are granted, may much help us to discerne, whe∣ther it be in answer to our prayers. For God who doth all things in weight and measure, shewes his wisdome and love, as much in the season, as in giving the thing it selfe: GOD considereth all times of thy life, and still chosseth the best and fittest to an∣swer thy prayers in, In an acceptable time have I heard thee. So Esay 49. 8. As Da∣vid (in like maner sayes) Page 147 hee prayed in an acceptable time, Psal. 69. 13. So accor∣dingly God answers in the best and most acceptable time to us; for he waits to be gracious, for he is a God of judgement, Esay 30. 18. that is, Hee is a wise God that knowes the fittest times and seasons, where∣in to shew kindnesses, and to deale forth his favours in.
*As first, it may be, that at that very time when thou hast beene most in∣stant and earnest, yea even whilest thou art a pray∣ing or presently after, the thing is done and accom∣plisht. To this purpose is that of Esay 65. 24. That as sometimes he heares be∣fore Page 148 they call (which ar∣gues much love to give mercies unsought) so also whilest they are speaking, I will heare, and grant the thing, which argues no lesse love; and he culs out that time on purpose, that they might rest assured that it was in answer to their prayer. Thus to as∣sure Hezekiah his prayer was heard, God sent the Prophet in unto him whi∣lest hee was a praying and weeping, with his head tur∣ned towards the wall. So Isaac going out to pray in the field, meets his Re∣bekkah then a comming;* that blessing of a good Wife, being surely the great request temporall Page 149 hee was then in Treaty with God for: this Rebek∣kah was the fruit of many prayers. So when S. Peter was in prison, the Church being gathered together to pray for him, S. Peter comes and knocks at the same houre, Acts 12. from the 12. ver. to the 18. So as it often falls out herein, as to the Ruler in the Gospel, Iob. 4. 52. who in∣quiring diligently, found that the same houre that Christ had said to him, Thy sonne liveth, his son recove∣red, and so he beleeved, and his whole houshold: So also here, that sometimes the thing is done, or the newes of it comes the same houre or soone after, Page 150 wherein a man was pray∣ing about it, and haply then when the heart was most stirred about it, more then at any time else: this is a signe it was an answer of prayers, and may help to confirme a mans faith in it, as that al∣so did his.
*Or secondly, when it is the most acceptable and every way the fittest time to have the thing granted. At that time, 1. when thou hadst most neede, and 2. when thy heart was most fit for it. For in answering prayers, God aimes especially at two things: 1. To shew his mercy, that a man might magnifie and exalt that: Page 151 And 2. To have the heart satisfied and filled with joy and contentment in his answer, and the thing made sweet, and a mercy indeed to him: in briefe, that his goodnesse might be delighted in, and his mercy exalted.* And for these two purposes he culs out such times, when we have most need; and also when our hearts are most subdued, and our lusts mortified. For then we are fittest to rellish his goodnesse alone, and not to bee drawne away with the carnall sweetnesse that is in the thing. The one you have exprest, Esay 30. 18. Hee waits to bee gracious to have his mercy exalted. The se∣cond Page 152 intimated Iames 5. Ye aske and receive not, be∣cause ye aske amisse, to con∣sume upon your lusts; Such prayers, whilest the heart is in this temper, the Lord denies, or deferres in mer∣cie till the heart bee wea∣ned.
*For the first of these: As, suppose thou diddest pray long for assurance of salvation, and joy in the Holy Ghost, and when thou hadst most need of it, either when thy spirit would have failed without it, as Esay 57. 16. Or a∣gainst some great afflicti∣on approaching, or some great encounter with the world for the Name of Christ, then God filled thy Page 155 heart with it, &c. that was the fittest time: now hath God heard thy pray∣er. As S. Peter hee was in Prison, and had beene so for many dayes, as ap∣peares by the fourth and fifth verses, Acts 12. God could haue delivered him at any time, while the Church prayed for him, ver. 5. But God kept him in on purpose, till that very night, when in the next morning Herod meant to bring him forth to execution, and then God delivered him at the prayers of the Church; then was the most fit time; As the Psalmist sayes, The full time to have mercy on him was come.* And then Page 154 to receive an answer, is a signe God did it out of speciall love, which love hee would have exalted by thee, as Esay 30. 18.
*If 2. when thy heart was most fit for the mercy, it was granted, then art thou also heard in an ac∣ceptable time: for God doth not with hold mer∣cies from those that are his, out of want of love; neither so much for what is past, as for the present evill disposition of their hearts, whereby they are unfit to receive them: and in this sense likewise may that bee understood, that God prepareth the heart: and heareth the pray∣er, Psal. 10. 17.
Page 155 As first, when thy heart is most weaned from that temporall mercy (suppo∣sing it such) granted thee upon seeking of it: So David, when had hee the Kingdome in possession given him? then, when hee was as a weaned child, and had his high thoughts (which haply at the first newes of it had risen in his minde) purged out, Psal. 131. 2. I have no high thoughts, &c. sayes hee then; Thus, when thy heart had let all carnall ends goe, and had beta∣ken it selfe alone to God, for thy portion to be had alone out of him then the thing prayed for comes to passe: this was the Page 156 fittest season.
[Object.] .But you will bee ready to say, To have a thing when my heart is taken off from it, and even con∣tented not to have it, makes it to be as no mer∣cy: for where there is no desire, there is no rejoy∣cing.
[Answ.] If thy desire bee taken off the thing, then thou wilt rejoyce the more in GOD now; and though the thing of it self should now give thee lesse satis∣faction, yet God by the thing wil give thee more, and he will make it up; for thou wilt rellish his love and sweetnesse in it now, which is better then life, and therefore much bet∣ter Page 157 than that thing enjoy∣ed; and indeed the vio∣lence of the desire before, would have made it lesse sweet, for the thing alone would not have filled and contented that desire, when it was an inordinate lust, and so thou wouldst have beene vexed with it, rather than satisfied, and found a greater vanity in it: but now when it is be∣come a subordinate de∣sire unto God, that the desire is downe, and the heart quieted and con∣tented with God in the thing: the heart sayes as she said, I have enough. So 2. likewise thou maist have an affliction thou pray∣edst long against taken off Page 158 then, when thy heart was most willing to accept thy punishment (as Moses's phrase is,*) and to submit to God in it.
*A third thing you are to observe concerning the accomplishment of the thing prayed for, whereby you may discern whether granted in ans∣wer to prayers, is, when thou seest God in his dea∣lings with thee, and an∣swering of thee, to deale in a kinde of proportion with thy manner of pray∣ing and seeking of him, and of walking with him whilest thou were depen∣dant on him, for such or such a mercy. And as you may see a proportion be∣tween Page 159 sinnes and punish∣ments, which are the re∣wards of them; that you can say, such a sin brought forth this affliction, it is so like the Father: so you might see the like pro∣portion, betweene your prayers, and your walking with God, and Gods ans∣wers to you, and his dea∣lings with you. So did David, Psal. 18. 24. Accor∣ding to the cleannesse of my hands hath he recompenced me, &c. His speech notes some similitude or like∣nesse: as for example, The more by-ends or carnall desires you had in pray∣ing, and the more you mingled of these with your holy desires, and the Page 160 more want of zeale, fer∣vency, &c. were found in your prayers, the more you shall (it may be) finde of bitternesse mingled with the mercy, when it is granted; and so much imperfection, and want of comfort in it: so sayes Da∣vid in the same Psal. verse 25. 26. With the pure thou wilt shew thy selfe pure. Pure prayers have pure blessings; & è contra: With the foward thou wilt shew thy selfe froward: and a∣gaine, as you in praying sometimes slackened and grew cold, so you might see the businesse in like manner to coole, and cast backward: as when Moses hands were downe, Amalck Page 161 prevailed; but when they were lifted up, Israel had the better, Exod. 17. 12. God let him see a propor∣tion, which argued his prayer was the meanes of prevailing. A man findes in praying, that his suite sometimes sticks, and goes not on as he expected, this is because he gives not so good a fee as he was wont, and doth not ply God, and solicite him; but on the contrary, when hee was stirred up to pray, then still hee found things to goe well: by this a man may clearely see, that it was the praier which God did heare and regarded. Thus likewise when a man sees hils and dales in Page 162 a businesse, faire hopes of∣ten, and then all dasht a∣gaine, and the thing in the end brought to passe, let him looke back upon his prayers: didst not thou in like maner just thus deale with God? When thou hadst prayed earnestly, and thought thou hadst even carried it, then dash all againe, by interposing some sin, and thus againe and againe? Herein God would have you observe a proportion; and it may help you to discern, how, and when they are answe∣red, and obtained by pray∣er; because God deales thus with you therein in such a proportion to your prayers.
Seven Observations more, from the effects which the accomplishment of the mercy hath upon the heart, &c.
*FOurthly, thou mayest discerne whether they bee in answer to thy pray∣ers, by the effects upon thy heart.
As 1. If the thing that is granted upon thy pray∣ers, draw thy heart more neere unto God, it is then certaine, that it was gran∣ted as an answer to thy prayers. Things granted out of ordinary provi∣dence onely, doe increase Page 164 our lusts, and are snares to us; as Saul gave David his daughter Michol to be a snare to him:* So their full tables are made snares: so GOD gave the Israelites their will, the things they desired, but withall gave them up to their lusts, Psal. 106. 15. hee gave them their requests, but sent leannesse into their soules; the Quailes might fat some of their bodies that survived, yet their soules grew leane: there was a curse upon their Spirits: this new delicate food made their bodies more lustfull, they did eate and drinke,*and rose up to play. But things obtained by prayer are sanctified to us, Page 165 for every thing is sanctifi∣ed by prayer,* so as it shall not insnare nor intangle our hearts: a thing obtai∣ned by prayer; as it came from God; so a man will returne it to God, and use it for his glory: So Hannah having obtained Samuel by prayer, shee returnes him unto God, 1. Sam. 1. 27 28. For this childe I prayed, and God gave me my petiti∣on, and therefore also I have lent him to the Lord as long as hee liveth. If therefore thou findest this his dea∣ling with thee, in answe∣ring thee, to be a kindely motive to cause thee to mourne for sin, and to bee as a restraint against sin, it is a signe it was the fruit Page 166 of praier: Thus it wrought with David, Psal. 6. 8. Away from mee yee that work ini∣quity: God hath heard the voice of my weeping.
Also if thou rejoycest in God, more than in the thing obtained: so Hannah begins her song when she blesseth God for her child; My heart rejoyceth in the Lord, &c. 1. Sam. 2. 1. Shee rejoyceth not so much in the gift as in the giver; and his favour more in this that her prayer was answered, then in the thing obtained: this is a signe of having obtained the mercy through pray∣ers, when it is thus sancti∣fied unto a mans spirit.
*2 Prayers answered Page 167 will inlarge thy heart with thankefulnesse, and thus usually they doe; selfe-love makes us more forward to pray, than to give thankes; for nature is all of the craving and ta∣king hand: but where grace is, there will be no eminent mercie gotten with much strugling, but there will be a continued particular thankfull re∣membrance of it a long while after, with much in∣largement: and As prayers abounded, so will thanksgi∣ving abound also. Hannah, shee makes a Song, 1. Sam. 1. 2. Great blessings that are wonne with prayer, are worne with thankful∣nesse: such a man will not Page 168 ask new, but he will with∣all give thankes for old. Thankfulnesse, of all du∣ties, proceeds from pure grace, therefore if the spi∣rit stirs thee unto it, it is a signe he made the prayer; What thankes shall I render to God, for the joy I have in you, saith S. Paul, 1. Thess. 3. 9, 10? So in all his other Epistles, all those hee writes to, as he prayes for them, so hee tells them, he gives thanks for them, and for their graces which he had prayed for. And if answering prayers for others, makes S. Paul so thankfull, what when for himselfe? Prayer and thanks, are like the dou∣ble motion of the lungs, Page 169 the ayre that is sucked in by prayer, is breathed forth againe by thanks: Is thy heart afresh inlarged, as to mourne for past sins long since committed, so in like manner, to give thankes for past mercies wonne with long prayers, and this for a long while after? it is a sign that they were obtained by prayer.
*3 If the mercy obtai∣ned doth encourage thee to goe to GOD another time, to pray againe the more confidently and fer∣vently, it is a signe thou hast got the former that way: For the Holy Ghost having once shewed thee this way of procuring mercy, hence it is, thou Page 170 art thus ready to take the same course another time. Psal. 116. 2. The Lord hath heard mee, and I will call on him as long as I live. I know (sayes hee) now what course to take, if I be in any want, even to call up∣on him; and he calls upon others to doe so too.
*4 When God having heard thy prayers upon solemne vowes made by thee, thy heart is made carefull to pay those vowes, which thou didst make in the time of thy suing to GOD for that mercy, this may be an ar∣gument to thee, the thing being granted, that thy prayer was heard. For first, it argueth, that thy Page 171 heart it selfe doth secretly make such an account, that upon them God did grant the thing, and thou dost therefore make con∣science to return all again to God in service, as the condition of thy Inden∣tures made with him; and as an homage due, and an acknowledgement for e∣ver, that such a mercy was won by prayer; and by this preservest the memo∣ry of the receit of that mercy: vowes being of the nature of homage: and secondly, in this also it is an evidence, that the thing was obtained by prayer, in that God cals for those vowes from thee, by his Spirit in thy heart, Page 172 and stirs thee up to per∣form them; it argues that in relation to thy prayers answered, He takes them as dues from thee, that ha∣ving dispatcht thy suite, He now calls for what was agreed to bee given him when it should bee performed. And thirdly, in that also he doth accept the payment of these thy vows of thee, he acknow∣ledgeth that those vowes and prayers were heard: for as Manoah said in ano∣ther case, If hee meant to have destroyed us,*hee would not have accepted a sacri∣fice: so in this case it may be said, if God had not heard thy prayers, hee would not have accepted Page 173 thy vowes after thy pray∣ing. Thus David, Psal. 66. 13, 14. I will pay thee my vowes, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in my trouble; the reason follows, v. 17, 19. because that Veri∣ly God hath heard me, when I cryed to him: and so Eli∣phaz in Iob doth connect and hang these two toge∣ther, Iob 22. 27. Thou shalt make thy prayer to him, and he shall heare thee, and thou shalt pay thy vowes: This which he speakes of pay∣ing his vowes, was not onely as it was to be his duty, but also as a conse∣quent that would follow the other, that when his prayers should be heard, Page 174 he thereupon would per∣forme his vowes: for his scope is to move Iob to turne to God, shewing what benefit would accrue to him by it, and amongst others this: The hearing his prayers, and perfor∣ming his vowes.
*5 When thou art ina∣bled by faith, to see cleer∣ly Gods hand shewed forth in the effecting of that mercy over and above the power of second causes, and to acknowledge it to his glory: for the truth is, one maine cavilling rea∣son in our blinde hearts, whereby wee are usually hindred and put by from apprehending our pray∣ers to be answered, when Page 175 yet the thing is done, wee shall find to be, that our eyes are terminated and bounded in second cau∣ses, and not raised to see Gods hand in the thing: therefore on the contra∣ry, when God inableth thee to see that hee hath done thee this kindnesse, so as thy minde is cleere in it, this is a fruit of his hearing thy prayers: And this you will usually finde to be true, that so much faith and dependance as you had upon God in prayer for the obtaining of a mercy, so much faith and acknowledgement you will have in the accomplishment of it. Parallel with this rule is that other, which in a∣nother Page 176 case is usually gi∣ven, that in performance of duties, so much as the soul did goe out of it selfe to God, for strength to performe them, so much, when they are perfor∣med, will the heart ac∣knowledge Gods assistance and be humbled: And this is a signe of prayer being heard upon this ground, because Gods end of hea∣ring prayers is, that wee might glorifie him. So Psal. 50. 15. Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will de∣liver thee, and thou shalt glorify mee. Therefore when the heart hath pray∣ed much for a mercy, with dependance before the obtaining of it, and then Page 177 is enabled to exalt God when it is obtained; it is a signe that God did it in relation to those prayers. For there is that connexi∣on made betweene these, as between the cause and the effect, I will heare thee, and thou shalt glorifie me. David, when he was deli∣vered out of all his trou∣bles, (as when hee made that 18. Psal. he was, as ap∣peares by the title of it) then at the 6. verse, he re∣lates how he had prayed, and how hee was heard; and see thereupon how his heart was enlarged to acknowledge God alone to have done all, in the rest of that Psalme; so from the 27. and also from the Page 178 31. ver. When wee see Angels from God, be∣yond the power of se∣cond causes descending, it is a signe, that prayers, as Angels, first ascended, and obtained that mercy. Thus also the Church Esay 26. having obtain∣ed those deliverances by prayer, ver. 17. (for which there she makes that song by way of thankfulnesse) she ascribes all unto God, ver. 12. Thou hast wrought all our workes for us, and ver. 18. Verily we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth.
*6 When with the mer∣cy there commeth the as∣surance of Gods love, and an evidence of his favour, Page 179 when GOD sends not a bare token only, but a let∣ter also with it, to beare witnesse of his love, in which the token is wrapt. I need not make that a sign, for when this comes with a mercy, it carries its owne evidence, you will then know well enough that it is the fruit of pray∣er.
*7 Lastly, it will be evi∣dent by the event; things obtained by prayer have few thornes in them, the curse is taken out, but what comes but by ordi∣nary providence, comes as it were up of it selfe a∣lone, and like the earth untilled, is full of thornes, and bryers, and many ve∣xations: Page 180 The reason is, for what comes in by prayer comes as a blessing, and so no sorrow is added to it; and also because prayer killeth those inordinate lusts, which is the cause of that vanity and vexati∣on which is in the things enjoyed. But when the blessing of God maketh rich, he addeth no sorrow with it, Prov. 10. 22. Things long deferred, at last obtained by prayer, prove most cō∣fortable, and in a setled manner such; they prove standing and stable bles∣sings; and what trouble the heart was put to in the deferring, it is recompen∣ced by the more setled constant immixt sweet∣nesse Page 181 in the enjoying; prayer having long perfu∣med it, and the thing be∣ing steeped therein, it proves exceeding plea∣sant. So Prov. 13. 12. Hope deferred makes the heart sicke, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life, and heales that sicknesse, and abundantly comforts the heart. Thus Isaac found Rebekkah a great blessing, and a comfortable wife to him, Gen. 24. ult. Such a comfort also was Isaac to Abraham, Gen. 17. 18, 19. A sonne indeed, a sonne of laughter, as his name sig∣nifies: and such was Sa∣muel to Hannah, shee had not onely a sonne of him, but a good son, a blessed Page 182 son, a Prophet, and the Judge of the people of God: whereas Iacob get∣ting the blessing, but with∣out prayer, how imbitter∣ed was it to him, (though a blessing to him in the e∣vent) by twenty yeeres banishment from his mo∣thers house? When Israel themselves set up a King, but not by me, as God saies, what a punishment was he to them? given in wrath, and taken away in anger: Hos. 13. 11.
Considerations to quiet the heart, and to help it to dis∣cerne an answer to, and acceptation of the prayer when the thing is not accomplisht.
*BUt now the next and more difficult questi∣on is, When the thing is not granted, how shall we then discerne and know, that God doth notwithstand∣ing heare the prayer?
Concerning which, I must premise this, that it is true, that alwayes the very thing it selfe desi∣red is not granted, when yet the prayer is heard. Page 184 Christ prayed, the Cup might passe from him, which though some in∣terpret the word passing, for the short continuance of the brunt, and that therefore in that respect hee was heard directly in what he asked: yet if so, why was that clause if it be possible, added? that argues his petition was for a to∣tall removall, yet with subjection to Gods will; for he knew there was no great impossibility in a short removall of it: nay, it was impossible but that it should passe, Acts 2. 24. But howsoever, it is plain in Moses, about his go∣ing into Canaan: Deut. 3. 26. I besought the Lord,Page 185 sayes hee, ver. 23. and hee was angry with mee, and would not heare me. ver. 26. Likewise ere I come to re∣solve the case, an objecti∣on is also to be removed, which is,
That if the Spirit of GOD doth make every faithfull prayer in us, as Rom. 8. 26. it is said Hee doth; wee know not what to pray for, but the Spirit help∣eth our infirmities, &c. and he searcheth the deep things of God, as it is said, 1 Cor. 2. that therefore hee know∣ing that GOD will not grant such a thing, you may think that he should not stirre up the heart to pray for that which God meanes to deny, but al∣wayes Page 186 guide the heart a∣right, and not let us erre or misse in the things wee pray for. To this, in briefe by way of answer.
*1. The Spirit makes not prayers in us, alwayes according to what Gods secret will and foreknow∣ledge is,* but according to his revealed will to us, both in his word, and in his providence, as things therein are presented to us, and doe lie before our view, and so not alwayes according to what hee meanes to doe, but accor∣ding to what it is our duty to pray most for: for hee concurres to assist us to pray, as he doth in preach∣ing or using other such Page 187 like meanes and Ordinan∣ces, wherein though the spirit knowes whom God meanes to convert, whom not, yet he assists us Mini∣sters in our spirits often∣times as much to preach to those hee meanes not to convert, as to those hee meanes to convert: Hee dealing with us therein according to what is our duty, not according to what is his decree.
Againe, secondly, that phrase helpes to answer this, when hee is said to helpe our infirmities, and therefore not according to his owne vast know∣ledge, doth he frame our prayers, but so, as hee ap∣plies his assistance to our Page 188 infirme, weake, and nar∣row apprehensions, and stirres up desires in us to such things, as according to our knowledge wee are in duty to conceive, and which by all wee can see, by what is afore us re∣vealed in his providence, we thinke to be most for our good, and his glory; and God accepts such de∣sires as from us, but yet doth for us according to the largenese of his owne love.
*And so now to come to the case propounded, and therein unto helps to pacifie, and direct the heart about those prayers at which the things are not granted.
Page 189 And first, how diddest thou frame thy prayer for that thing which is deny∣ed thee? Didst thou pray for it absolutely, and per∣emptorily as simply best for thee? thou must not then think much, if such a prayer bee denyed, for therein thou wentest be∣yond thy commission: but if thou didst pray for it conditionally, and with an (if) as Christ did, if it be possible (which instance is a strong ground for such kinde of prayers) and not my will, but thy will be done, so, as thou didst referre it unto, and trust Gods judge∣ment in the thing, and not thine owne, onely didst put him in mind as thy Page 190 duty was, of what was re∣presented to thee as best for thee in view, and so left it to him to cast, and didst, referre it to His will and wisedome:* Then thy prayer may be most fully answered and heard, and yet the thing denied, and thou art to interpret, and God takes meaning and mind revealed in the e∣vent in the best sense, which way soever it falls: for otherwise, CHRIST had not been heard, when yet, the Text sayes, Hee was heard in all hee feared, Hebr. 5. 7.
*2. Observe, if there were not a reservation in that denial, for some grea∣ter and further mercy, Page 191 whereof that deniall was the foundation. Thus 1 oftentimes some great crosse is prevented, by the deniall of a thing, which we were urgent for: if we had had many of our de∣sires, we had been undone: So it was a mercy to Da∣vid, that his childe was taken away, for whose life he was yet so earnest, who would have been but a li∣ving monument of his shame. It was also a mer∣cy to David, that Absalom was taken away, (whom surely he prayed much for, for hee loved him much) who if he had lived, might have beene the ruine of him and his house. As a wicked mans deliverance Page 192 and the granting his re∣quest layes a foundation, and is a reservation of him to a worse Judge∣ment: So, the deniall of a Godly mans prayer is for his greater good, and is laid as a foundation of a greater mercy: 2 and a∣gaine, oftentimes the ve∣ry deniall breaks a mans heart, and brings him nea∣rer to God, puts him upon searching into his wayes, and estate, and in his pray∣ers to see what should be amisse therein, which a∣lone is a great mercy; and better then the thing, see∣ing by the losse of that one thing hee learns how to pray better, and so to obtaine a hundred better Page 193 things afterward. Christ desired the Cup might passe, it did not; and that was the foundation of our sal∣vation, & the way to His glory: Hee being to passe through that suffering in∣to His glory: The woman that had the bloody issue, though shee used many meanes, and haply prayers among the rest, and all in vaine, yet none tooke ef∣fect; that in the end shee might come to Christ, and have both body and soule healed at once.
*3 Observe if there be to a transmutation and a translation or turning of •he thing desired into some other greater bles∣•ing of the same kind: for Page 194 God (all whose wayes are mercy and truth to His peo∣ple) doth improve, hus∣band, and lay out the pre∣cious stocks of their pray∣ers, to the best advantage, in things, whereby the greatest returns and gains may accrue: as old Iacob laid not his Hand of bles∣sing as Ioseph would have guided them, but laid the right hand upon the yon∣ger Sonne, whom Ioseph did set at his left: So of∣ten doth God take off his hand of blessing from the thing we prayed for, and laies & discovers it in an∣other more for our good: and as God giving Isaac the power and priviledge to blesse a sonne, though Page 195Isaac hee intended it for Esau, yet God unbeknown to him transmitted it to Iacob, yet so, as the bles∣sing was not lost: Thus is it in our prayers for bles∣sings both upon our selves and others. There is of∣ten a transmutation, ne∣ver a frustration of them: which may as truely and directly bee called an an∣swer to the prayer; As if a factor beyond Sea, when the owner sends for such and such commodities, supposing them more ven∣dible and advantagious, but the Factor know∣ing the state of things, and the prices, sends him •ver in stead of them, such as shall sell better, Page 196 and bring in more profit, may be said to answer his letters, and that better, then if hee had sent those very commidities he writ for; Thus Abrahams pray∣ers for Ishmael were tur∣ned for Isaac: Davids for the Childe to Solomon.
*4 Observe if in the end God doth not answer thee still according to the ground of thy prayer: that is, see if that holy end, intention, and affection, which thou hadst in pray∣er, be not in the end fully satisfied, though not in the thing thou didst de∣sire: for God answers, Secundum cardinem, accor∣ding to the hinge which the prayer turnes upon. Page 197 As when a General is sent out with an Army, by a King or a State, who give him many particular di∣rections, how to order and dispose, and manage the war, although in ma∣ny particulars that fall out, wherein they could not foresee to give so pun∣ctuall and particular dire∣ctions, he swerve from the directions, yet if he keeps to the intent of their Commission, and doth what is most advantagi∣ous for their ends, he may bee said to keepe to his Commission. For as they say of the Law, Mens leg is est lex▪ the mind of the Law is the Law, not the bare words it is printed in: so Page 198 the Meaning of the Spirit is the prayer, Rom. 8. 27. and not simply the things desired, wherein wee ex∣presse those our desires: and still the meaning, the intent, the ground of our prayers shall be answered. To open this, the maine ends, and meanings of our hearts in our requests are Gods glory, the Chur∣ches good, and our owne particular comfort and happinesse: we can desire but comfort, and a man looketh out, and spieth out such a particular mer∣cie, which hee thinketh tends much to Gods glo∣ry, and his happinesse, and yet that thing is deni∣ed; yet notwithstanding Page 199 God will answer him ac∣cording to the meaning of his prayers, his glory shall certainely be advan∣ced, even for that prayer of his, some other way, and his comfort made up, which is the common de∣sire of all mankinde: and thou canst have but com∣fort, let the thing bee what it will that con∣veighs it to thee; and God will take order that that comfort thy soule desired, thou shalt have come in one way or other, which when it doth, thou canst not but say thy prayers are heard. For as God ful∣fils his promises, so hee heares prayers, there is the same reason of both: Page 200 now God hath promised, Hee that leaves Father and Mother, shall have an hun∣dred fold: not in specie, as we say, in kinde, this can∣not alwayes bee fulfilled, for an hundred Fathers he cannot have. God ful∣fills it not therefore al∣wayes in the same kinde, but in some other things, which shall be more then a hundred Fathers would bee.
Moses hee prayes hee might goe into Canaan, God answers the ground of his prayer, though not in the matter in it expres∣sed and desired, and that both for Moses his com∣fort and his owne glory; for hee takes him up to Page 201 heaven, the true Canaan, whereof that Canaan was but a type, and hee ap∣points Ioshua a fresh and a young man, comming on in the world, and one whom Moses himselfe had tutored and brought up, and was his pupill, ser∣vant and attendant, Num. 6. 11, 28. and this was more for Gods glory, for Ioshua was therein to bee he type of Christ lead∣ing us to heaven, which the Law (of which Moses was the type) could not bring us unto by reason of the weaknesse of it; and he being yong did it better: and it was not so much al∣so for Gods glory, that one man should doe all; Page 202 and whereas Moses desired to have the honour of it; in that his servant that at∣tended him, and had been brought up by him, and had all from him, that hee was the man should doe it, was well nigh as great an honour to Moses, as if hee had beene the leader himselfe. And so David when hee desired to build the Temple and an house to God, for the like rea∣sons God denied it, but yet honoured him to pre∣pare the materialls, and to draw the patterne, as also in that his Son did it, who was therein also the like type of Christ, being a Prince of peace, but David a man of blood and war, Page 203 and likewise God accep∣ted this of David, as if he had built it, and will re∣compence him as much.
*5. Observe, if in the thing which thou hast prayed much about, though it be denyed thee, yet if God doth not en∣deavour to give thee (as I may so speake) all satisfa∣ction that may be, even as if hee were tender of de∣nying thee, and therefore doth much in it for thy prayers sake, though the conclusion proves other∣wise, as being against some other purpose of his, for some other ends: As when hee denied Mo∣ses to goe into the Land of Canaan, hee did it with Page 204 much respect (as I may so speak with reverence) to Moses: he yeelded as far as might bee, for hee let him leade them, till hee should come to the very borders; and hee let him see that good Land, carry∣ing him up to an hill, and (as it is thought) by a mi∣racle inabled his sight to view the whole Land; and the man hee chose to performe this work, was his servant, which was a great honour to Moses; that one brought up by him should succeed him. So when Abraham prayed for Ishmael, Oh let Ismael live in thy sight, Gen. 17. 18. God went as far in gran∣ting his request as might Page 205 be; for, sayes hee, ver. 20. I have heard thee, and I have blessed him, and I will make him fruitfull, and multiply him exceedingly, and hee shall beget twelve Princes; but my covenant I will esta∣blish with Isaac. So like∣wise, when in casting that thing, thou didst seeke at his hands, he shews an ex∣traordinary hand in tur∣ning it; it is a signe he had a respect to thee, that hee would vouchsafe to dis∣cover his hand so much in it; let the thing fall which way it will, if Gods hand appeare much in it, thou mayest comfortably con∣clude, that there is some great thing in it, and that prayer wrought that mi∣racle Page 206 in it, to dispose it so; and that there is some great reason why hee de∣nies thee, and a great re∣spect had to thy prayers, in that he is pleased to disco∣ver so extraordinary a providence about it.
*Lastly, looke into the effect of that deniall upon thine owne heart; as,
1 If thy heart be inlar∣ged to acknowledge God, to be holy and righteous in his dealings with thee, and thine own unworthi∣nesse the cause of his de∣nying thee. Thus we of∣ten find the Saints expres∣sing themselves in their prayers: that Psal. 22. though typically made of Christ; yet as it was pen∣ned Page 207 by David, and as it may concerne his person, it may serve for an in∣stance for this, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not: this might have made him jealous of God; but saies he, Thou art holy, &c. and dealest now with me in an holy manner, and art just in it: Others have called on thee, and have been heard, though I now for my unworthinesse am denied: But I am a worme. It might have put a man off, when he should think, others are heard, but not I, but it puts not him off, but humbles him, I am a worme, &c. And Thou art holy.
*2 If God fill thy heart Page 208 with an holy contentmēt in the deniall; if he speak to thy heart, as he did to Moses, when hee denied him, Deut. 3. Let it suffice thee; if as to S. Paul, when hee was so earnest about removing that buffeting, if thou gettest but such an answer as that to him, My grace is sufficient; or that some such like considera∣tion is dropt in that stayes thee: It was the effect of Davids seven dayes fast∣ing, that he did so conten∣tedly beare the losse of the Childe, which his ser∣vants thought would have overwhelmed him, 2. Sam. 12. 19, 20, 21. But a consi∣deration was dropt in, which was the fruit of his Page 209 prayer, That he should goe to him, not hee returne hi∣ther; and his minde was comforted thereby, in so much, as it is said, ver. 24. That he comforted Bath she∣ba also.
*3 If thou canst bee thankfull to God out of faith, that God hath cast and ordered all for the best, though hee hath de∣nyed thee; and although thou seest no reason, but that the thing prayed for, would have beene for the best, yet art thankfull up∣on the deniall of it, out of faith resting in Gods judgement in it: As Da∣vid, in all those foremen∣tioned places was, Thou art holy, that inhabitest the Page 210 prayses of Israel; he praises God for all this: David before he did eate, after his seven dayes fasting for the childe, arose, And went first into the Temple and worshipped, 2. Sam. 12. 20. and of what kinde of worship it was, appeares by his anointing himselfe and changing his raiment, which was in token of re∣joycing and thanksgi∣ving, and it fell out to him according to his faith, for presently after, Solomon was begotten, vers. 24.
*4 If thou canst pray still and givest not over, although thou standest for mercies which thou missest; if when thou hast Page 211 mercies granted, thou fea∣rest most, and when deni∣ed, lovest most, and art not discouraged, thy pray∣ers are heard, Psal. 80. 4. Though God seemed an∣gry with their praiers, yet they pray, and expostu∣late with him, and give not over, for they made that Psalme as a Prayer, And how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people? So Psal. 44. 17. Though wee are cast among Dragons, yee wee have not beene false in thy Covenant. So say thou, I will pray still, though I never have an answer in this life. It moves ingenuous natures to see men take repulses and denialls well, which Page 212 proud persons will not doe: and so it moves God.
Application: A reproofe of those that pray, but looke not after the returne of their prayers: The causes of this neglect.
THe use of all is,* to re∣prove those, who put up prayers, and are ear∣nest in begging, but looke not after them when they have done, no more than if they had not prayed: who still venture, & have a great stock of prayers Page 213 going, but looke not after the returns that are made, cast not up their com∣mings in and gainings by prayers; and when they have prayed, sit down dis∣couraged, as not making account in earnest that ever they shall heare of their prayers againe, even as if they had been but as words cast away: as beat∣ing the ayre; as bread cast upon the waters, which they thinke sinks, or is carried away, and they shall finde it no more; but herein you despise Gods Ordi∣nance, and erre, not knowing the power of prayers; and yee contemne the Lord But you wil say as they in the Prophet said, Where∣in Page 214 in doe wee contemne him? if you askt a man a questi∣on, and when you had done, did turne your back upon him, as scoffing Pi∣late askt in scorne of Christ, What is truth? but would not stay for an an∣swere, did you not con∣temne him? as not to an∣swer when a question is asked you, is contempt, so not to regard the answer made, when you have beene earnest in begging, is no lesse contempt also: if you had writ letters to a very friend about im∣portant businesse, and had earnestly solicited him for an answer, and hee were carefull in due time to send one, if you should Page 215 make account to heare of him no more, should you not wrong him in your thoughts? Or if hee did write, if you should not vouchsafe to reade over his answer, were it not a contempt of him? so is it here, when you have been earnest with God for bles∣sings, and regard not the answer: and because veri∣ly this is a fault among us, I will therefore endevour to discover to you the cau∣ses and discouragements,* which though they keepe you not from praying, yet from this earnest expecta∣tion, and reall, and true making account to heare of answers of your pray∣ers; onely my scope is, not Page 216 to shew you so much the reasons, why God denies you many requests, as why even in your owne hearts you are discoura∣ged after you have pray∣ed, as if they would not bee answered, although God doth answer them. These discouragements are partly temptations, partly sinfull impediments wherein wee are more faulty.
*1 Because your assu∣rance that your persons are accepted, is weake, therfore your confidence that your prayers are heard, is weake also: For as God doth first accept the person, and then our prayers: so the beliefe, Page 217 that God doth accept our person is that which al∣so upholds our hearts in confidence that our pray∣ers shall be granted: this you may finde in 1 Iohn 5. 13, 14, 15. in the 13. vers. he sayes. These things have I written to you, that ye may know you have eternall life: and upon that assurance this will follow, Vers. 14, 15. And this is the confi∣dence that we have in him, that if we aske any thing ac∣cording to his will, he heares us, &c. And if we know he heares us, we know we have the petitions wee desired of him. Marke how he links these three together, as effects and consequences each of other. 1. These Page 218 things I write unto you, that you may be assured, that life and heaven is yours, as in 12. and 13. verses. And up∣on that 2. this confidence wil follow in your hearts, That God hears you, that is, that you have his eares o∣pen to you, and his heart enlarged towards you: and then 3. if you be assu∣red that God heares you, then from this will follow an assurance, that You shall have any thing granted you desire; yea, and he makes this one of the maine and immediate effects of As∣surance of justification; therefore he sayes, this is the confidence that we have in him; that is, this effect there is of this confidence, Page 219 for whereas they might say, what benefit will ac∣crue to us by this assu∣rance? why this saies hee, which is one of the great and maine priviledges of a Christian, even assurance that God will heare him; and not only so, but grant him all his prayers. For when a man is assured God hath given him his Son, he will then easily be induced to beleeve and expect, How shal he not with him give mee all things? Rom. 8. 32. If once he looks upon God as a Father, he will then easily conceive that which Christ sayes, If Fathers that are evill can give good things to their Children, how much more Page 220 shall not your Father give his spirit, and all good things to them that aske them: and if he gave his Son, when wee did not pray to him, how much more shall hee not with him give us all things wee pray for? If a man comes to sue to any man whose mind he knew not, whether hee loved him or not, he would have small hope or expectation of having his suite gran∣ted, though hee came a∣gaine and again; but if he be assured he is in favour with him, according to that degree of favour, hee supposeth himself to stand in with him, hee is assured and confident of obtain∣ing his request.
Page 221* 2 Discouragement is the weaknesse of their prayers: though a man thinks his person is accep∣ted, yet alas sayes he, my prayers are so poore and weake, as surely God will never regard them. To remove which, let mee first aske thee this questi∣on: [ 1] Doest thou pray with all thy might? then though that thy might be weak in it selfe, and in thine owne apprehension such, yet because it is all the might which thou hast, and which grace hath in thee, it shall be accepted. For God accepts according to what a man hath, and not ac∣cording to that he hath not. 2 Cor. 8. 12.
Page 222 [ 2] 2. Thou art to consi∣der that God doth not heare thee for thy prayers sake, though not without them, but for his Names sake, and his Sons sake, and because thou art his child, as the mother when her child cryes (suppose it be a weake child) doth not neglect to heare and re∣lieve it: but tenders it not because it doth cry more lowd, but because it cries; and pities it the more the weaker it is.
[ 3] 3. Againe, though the performance in it selfe be weake, yet confidered as a prayer, it may be strong, because a weake prayer may set the strong God a worke, as faith for the act Page 223 of it, as produced by us may be weak, yet because its object is Christ, there∣fore it justifies: so it is in prayer, it prevailes, not because of the perfor∣mance it selfe, but because of the name, which it is put up in, even Christs name; and therefore as a weake faith justifies, so a weake prayer prevailes as well as a stronger; and both for the like reason in both, for faith attributes all to God, and so doth prayer; for as faith is meerly a receiving grace, so prayer a begging grace. And therefore dost thou think thy prayers are ac∣cepted at all, notwithstan∣ding their weaknesse? if Page 224 that they are accepted, then they must be accep∣ted as prayers, now if they be accepted as prayers, then as effectuall motives to prevaile with God to grant the thing you aske; for if hee should not ac∣cept them to that end, for which they were ordai∣ned, it is as if hee accepted them not at all. As there∣fore when he approves of any mans faith as true and sincere, hee approves and accepts of it to that pur∣pose, for which it was or∣dained, which is to save and justifie, and to this end doth as fully accept the weakest act of faith, as the strongest; so is it with their prayers, which Page 225 being ordained as a means to obtaine mercies from him, if hee accepts them at all, it is with relation to the accomplishment of them, which is their end.
4. Men are mistaken in judging of the weak∣nes of their prayers, they judge of the weaknesse of their prayers by their ex∣pressions, and gifts in per∣forming them, or by the stirring and overflow of affections, whereas the strength & vigor of pray∣er should be estimated from the faith, the since∣rity, the obedience, the desires exprest in it. As it is not the lowdnesse of a Preachers voice, but the Page 226 weight and holinesse of the matter, and spirit of the Preacher, that moves a wise, and an intelligent hearer: so not gifts, but graces in prayers are they that move the Lord. The strength of prayer lies not in words, but in that it is fitted to prevaile with God; one prayer is not more strong then ano∣ther, further then it is so framed as it hath power with God more or lesse; as of Iacob it is said, he had po∣wer with God, Hos. 12. Now prayers move God, not as an Oratour moves his hearers, but as a child moves his father: two words of a childe hum∣bled, and crying at his fa∣thers Page 227 feet, will prevaile more then penned orati∣ons. Rom. 8. It is the mean∣ning of the spirit, that God lookes unto, more then the expressions: for the groans there are said to be unutterable. Hezechiahs ex∣pressions were so rude and broken, that he sayes, Esay 38. 14. that he did but chatter, (hee being then sick,) even as a crane, yet God heard them.
*A third discourage∣ment is faylings of ans∣wers; I have prayed often and long, and I have been seldome or never answe∣red, and therefore I make little account of my pray∣ers, that they are heard: o∣thers have the revenewes Page 228 of their prayers comming in, but I doe misse whatso∣ever almost I stand for: Therefore say they as those, Why have we fasted, and thou regardest it not? Isay 58. 3.
[ 1] To remove this, consi∣der, 1. That thou hast the more reason to wait, for thou hast the more ans∣wers to come: for as wick∣ed men treasure up wrath, so doe godly men mercy, and especially by their prayers; & therefore mer∣cies, and answers do often come thick together, even as afflictions also doe.
[ 2] Suppose thou shouldst have few answers concer∣ning the things thou see∣kest for here, either in Page 229 praying for thy selfe or others, yet thy reward is with the Lord. It is in pray∣ing as in preaching, a man may preach faithfully many a yeere, and yet not convert a soule, and yet a man is not to give over waiting, but to observe after every Sermon what good is done, and whe∣ther God will give men repentance, as it is, 2 Tim. 2. 25. And if none be con∣verted, yet as Esay 49. 4. A mans reward is with the Lord. Every man shall re∣ceive his own reward accor∣ding to his own labour. 1 Cor. 3. 8. and not according to the successe of his labour only. So it is in praying, though thou missest a∣gaine Page 230 and again, & nothing succeeds thou prayest for, yet be not discouraged, for thy reward is with the Lord, which will come in one day.
[ 3] 3. God doth it, not that hee heares thee not, but to try thee; for a man to say as David sayes, Psal. 116. 1, 2. God hath heard my prayer, therefore I will call upon him as long as I live, that is nothing so much as to be able to say, Well, I have prayed thus long, and for these many things, and never sped, and yet I will call upon him whilst I live, though I find no answer in this life. To finde commings in, in a trade, and yet to hold out Page 231 trading still, argues not so much faithfulnesse in a mans calling, as when a man hath losses, and ca∣stings behind hand, and yet to follow it.
[ 4] 4. God usually stayes so long that we have done expecting, Luke 18. 8. The Elect cry day and night, but God stayes so long, ver. 7. that when he comes hee findes not faith, they have done expecting, have for∣got their prayers, and then hee doth things,*they looked not for.
*Other discouragements there are wherein we our selves are more faulty, and which are our sins, more then our temptations, which yet weaken the ex∣pectation Page 232 of having our prayers answered: as,
*1 Slothfulnesse in pray∣er, when wee doe not put to all our might in pray∣ing, and then no wonder, we doe not onely not ob∣taine, but that our owne hearts misgive us, that we look for little successe and issue of such prayers, Qui frigidè rogat, docet negare; he that shews himself cold in a suite, teaches him he sues to to deny him; if wee see one seeking to us faintly, and slightly, wee are not then sollicitous to deny him, but thinke hee will be easily put off, and not thinke much; so ac∣cordingly when wee shall observe so much by our Page 233 selves, and see our selves slothfull in praying, and praying as if we prayed not, no wonder if by reason of that consciousnesse, wee looke not after the suc∣cesse of such prayers, which in the performance wee slighted; when wee pray, as if wee were wil∣ling to bee denyed, wee knowing that the Scrip∣ture sayes, that the fervent prayer onely prevailes, that prayer which is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that sets all the faculties on worke, Iames 5. 16. How should wee then ex∣pect that God should grant any good thing to us? For though God sels nothing to us for our prayers, but gives freely, Page 234 yet hee would have his gifts accepted: now with∣out large desires, and lon∣gings they would not be accepted: and what is fer∣vent prayer, but the ex∣pression of such fervent desires? Iacob wrestled when he obtained: many seeke to enter, sayes Christ, but you must strive. Now when wee know these things, and yet are sloth∣full, how can wee expect any answers at all? will not the consciousnesse of it quell all our expectati∣ons? and hence it comes to passe that God propor∣tioning his dealings with us to our prayers, because we seeme to pray, and yet pray not to purpose, Page 235 therefore God hee some∣times seemes like one a∣sleepe, and then some∣times to wake, and make faire offers to helpe, and yet falls as it were asleepe againe, because we were thus drowsie in our pray∣ers; those prayers that a∣waken God, must awa∣ken us: Those prayers that stir God, must first stirre us to lay hold on God as Isaiah speakes: as obe∣dience strengthens faith and assurance, so ferven∣cy in prayer begets confi∣dence of being heard. In all other things slothful∣nesse doth discourage and weaken expectation: doth any man expect that rich∣es should come upon him Page 236 when hee doth his busi∣nesse negligently? for it is the diligent hand that ma∣keth rich: doth any man expect a crop and a har∣vest, if hee takes not pains to plow, and sowe his Corne? no more if you doe not take paines with your hearts in Prayer, can you expect an answer, or indeed will you.
*2 Cause: or sinfull discouragement herein, is looking at prayer onely as a duty to be performed, and so performing it as a taske, and not so much out of desires stirred up after the things to be ob∣tained, nor out of faith that we shall obtain them; which is as if a PhysitianPage 237 having a sick servant, to whom he prescribeth, and commandeth to take some physicke to cure him, and his man should take it in∣deed because it is com∣manded and prescribed by his master, looking at it as an act of duty as hee obeyes him in other busi∣nesses, but not as looking at it as a medicine, or meanes, that will have a∣ny worke upon him to cure him, and therefore orders himselfe as if hee had taken no such thing. Thus doe most in the world pray to God, take prayer as a prescription on∣ly, but not as a meanes: they come to God daily, but as to a Master onely in Page 238 this performance, not as to a Father, and thus do∣ing, no wonder if they looke for little effect of prayers: for our expecta∣tion never exceeds or reaches further then our end and intention, which we had in any businesse. If I perform any Ordinance, but as a duty, then I rest therein, and expect no fur∣ther: as if a man preach∣eth for filthy lucre onely, he performs his duty and then lookes for his hire, but lookes not after any other effect of his Ser∣mons: so nor will men doe after their prayers for answers to them when they performe them as duties onely. Now to Page 239 help you in this, you are to looke to two things in prayer.* First to a command from God. Secondly to the promise of God: and so to consider it in a dou∣ble relation, first as a duty, in respect to the Command, secondly as a means to ob∣taine or procure blessings at Gods hand in relation to his promise: therefore in prayer, first an act of obe∣dience, secondly an act of faith is to bee exercised, aske in faith nothing waver∣ing, Iam. 1. Now the most in the world performe it as an act of obedience on∣ly, and so rest in the pre∣sent performance and ac∣ceptation of it, but if a man pray in faith, hee will Page 240pray with an eye to the promises; and looke on prayer as a meanes for time to come to obtaine such or such a mercy at Gods hands; and if so, then he is not satisfied till hee hath an answer of his prayers, and till then will wait, as the Church sayes, Shee would wait till hee did arise and plead her cause.
*A third sinfull discou∣ragement is returning to sinnes after prayers, when a man hath prayed for some mercy, and riseth full of much confidence that his prayers are heard, and so a while he walkes, yet falling into a sin, that sin doth dash al his hopes, undoes his prayers, (as he Page 241 thinkes) and calls them backe againe, meetes as it were with the answer, which is Gods messenger, and causeth it to returne to heaven againe. How often when God had even granted a petition, and the decree was a com∣ming forth, and the grant newly written, and the seale a setting to it, but an act of treason com∣ming betweene, stops it in the seale, and deferres it, blots and blurreth all, both prayer and grant when newly written, and leaves a guilt in the mind, which quells our hopes, and then wee looke no more after our prayers; and this especially if when we Page 242 were a sinning, such a thought came in, (as of∣ten it doth to restrain us) are you not in dependāce upon God for such a mer∣cy, and have prayed for it, and are faire for it, how then dare you doe this, and sin against him? when in this case the heart goes on, this blots all the prayer, and discou∣rageth a man; for saith the conscience, will God hear sinners? (as he said.) And thus farre it is true that sinning thus between, in∣terrupts and hinders the obtaining our petitions, that answerably as wee doe thus dash and betray and undoe our prayers,* so in a proportion, we finde Page 243 in the way to our obtain∣ing the thing wee prayed for, so many rubbes and difficulties doe arise; for as wee lay blocks in Gods way comming towards us to doe us good, so hee in ours: therefore often when a businesse goes prosperously on, and wee think wee shall carry it, comes some accident be∣tweene the cup and the lip, that casts all behinde hand againe, because an∣swerably wee dealt with God. For when wee had prayed, and were encou∣raged and in good hopes, then by some sinne or o∣ther wee spoyld all, and bereaved our selves of our expectation. But yet this Page 244 you are to consider, that as in the end praying useth to overcome sin in Gods Children, so also God in the end overcomes diffi∣culties, and brings the matter to passe: and know it is not sins past so much that hinder the prayers of Gods people, as the pre∣sent unfitnesse and indis∣position of their hearts for mercy.