What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray to him?
I. OBJECTIONS URGED AGAINST THE DUTY OF PRAYER.
1. Does not the Omniscient God know our wants and desires much better than we do ourselves? Answer — Is not prayer an acknowledgment of our dependence upon God for life, and breath, and all things? Every intelligent creature ought to acknowledge his dependence. Self-sufficiency is not the property of any created being.
2. Another objection is drawn from the immutability of the Divine nature. No petitions of ours, it has been said, can ever change Him. Answer — Though prayer produces no change in God, it may, through the promised influences of His grace, change the temper and dispositions of our minds, and prepare us for the reception of those blessings which He has promised to those who call upon Him in sincerity and truth. The change, then, is not in God, but in ourselves.
3. Another objection — As every event is foreordained, it is vain for us to imagine that God's eternal purposes can be reversed; or that He will depart from His system in the government of the universe, in order to gratify our desires. Answer — Apply this mode of reasoning to the ordinary affairs of life, and its fallacy will at once appear. The great duties of personal religion rest on a ground of obligation similar to that of all the ordinary duties of life. On the same principle on which the farmer acts, when he ploughs his ground and sows his seed, we are morally obliged to improve all the means and ordinances of religion. Prayer is not inconsistent with the Divine decrees; it is one of the means leading to their accomplishment.
II. THE NATURE OF ACCEPTABLE PRAYER.
1. Prayer must be the desires of the heart.
2. Prayers must be for such things only as God hath promised to give.
3. They must be fervent and persevering.
4. They must be offered in faith. We must believe that God is able and willing to grant our requests.
III. POINT OUT SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES OF PRAYER.
1. Its fixing the heart upon God, the true centre of its happiness.
2. By fixing the heart on God, prayer prepares it for the reception of His richest blessings.
3. The benefit of prayer is particularly felt in the hour of affliction and distress, and in the immediate prospect of death. In order to give a full and satisfactory answer to the question in the text, consider man in his social, as well as his individual capacity, in social and family worship.
(James Ross, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?