“Pray without ceasing” is God’s admonition to us to pray always, be in the “state of prayer” and to come boldly before His throne of grace. John Gill in his excellent work “Body of Practical Divinity” sets forth the various ways we pray and exhorts Christians to a healthy prayer life. Consider the exercise of each one of these in your own prayer life.
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“Prayer is the speech of the soul to God; a talking to him, a converse with him, in which much of its communion with God lies. Prayer is an address to God in the name of Christ, and through him as the Mediator, under the influence and by the assistance of the Spirit of God, in faith, and in the sincerity of our souls, for such things we stand in need of, and which are consistent with the will of God, and are for his glory to bestow, and therefore to be asked with submission. Now though it is public prayer, or prayer as a public ordinance in the church of God, I am in course to consider, yet I shall,
1. Take notice of the various sorts of prayer, which will lead on to that; for there is a praying with all prayer, which denotes many sorts and kinds of prayer. Consider the exercise of each one in your own prayer life.
1a. There is mental prayer, or prayer in the heart; and, indeed, here prayer should first begin; so David found in his heart to pray (2 Sam. 7:27), and it is “the effectual fervent,” or ενεργουμενη, “the inwrought prayer of the righteous man that availeth much;” which is wrought and formed in the heart by the Spirit of God (James 5:16). Such sort of prayer was that of Moses, at the Red Sea, when the Lord said to him, “Wherefore criest thou unto me?” and yet we read not of a word that was spoken by him; and of this kind was the prayer of Hannah; “She spake in her heart,” (1 Sam. 1:13) and this may be performed even without the motion of the lips, and is what we call an ejaculatory prayer, from the suddenness and swiftness of its being put up to God, like a dart shot from a bow; and which may be done in the midst of business the most public, and in the midst of, public company, and not discerned; as was the prayer of Nehemiah in the presence of the king (Neh. 2:4, 5), and such prayer God takes notice of, and hears; and, as an ancient writer Clemens Alex. ut supra. observes, “Though we whisper, not opening our lips, but pray in silence, cry inwardly, God incessantly hears that inward discourse,” or prayer to him, conceived in the mind.
1b. There is prayer which is audible and vocal. Some prayer is audible, yet not articulate and intelligible, or it is expressed by inarticulate sounds; as, “with groanings which cannot be uttered;” but God knows and understands perfectly the language of a groan, and hears and answers. But there is vocal prayer, expressed by articulate words, in language to be heard and understood by men, as well as by the Lord; “I cried unto the Lord with my voice,” &c. (Ps. 3:4, 5:2, 3) and to this kind of prayer the church is directed by the Lord himself (Hosea 14:2).
1c. There is private prayer, in which a man is alone by himself; to which our Lord directs (Matthew 6:6), an instance and example of this we have in Christ (Matthew 14:23; see also an instance of this in Peter; Acts 10:9).
1d. There is social prayer, in which few or more join together, concerning which, and to encourage it, our Lord says, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” (Matthew 18:19, 20) an instance of this social prayer with men is in Acts 20:36 and it is this social prayer with fewer or more the apostle Jude has respect unto (Jude 1:20).
1e. There is family prayer, performed by the head and master of the family in it, and with it. Joshua set a noble example of family worship (Josh. 24:15), and an instance we have in David (2 Sam. 6:20), and even Cornelius, the Roman centurion, before he was acquainted with Christianity, was in the practice of it (Acts 10:2, 30), and the contrary behaviour is resented, and the wrath and fury of God may be expected to fall upon the families that call not on his name (Jer. 10:25), and it is but reasonable service, since family mercies are daily needed, and therefore should be prayed for; and family mercies are daily received, and therefore thanks should be every day returned for them.
1f. There is public prayer, which is performed in bodies and communities of men, who meet in public, unite and join together in divine worship, and particularly in this branch of it; for prayer always was made a part of public worship.”
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In Christ we live, move and have our being and Gill’s discourse on prayer reminds us to be “constant in prayer” at all times in all ways and as you worship in corporate (public) prayer this Lord’s Day, be reminded of these thoughts as you worship and pray.
For more articles on prayer, see our study here and archives at TheologyGirl and Reformed Women.