Faithful Shepherd 4

Originally appearing on Heavenly Worldliness this is a modified version of Chapter 4 of Bernard's Faithful Shepherd
Of Prayer before the Sermon
The minister and man of God well prepared then, he proceeds to the godly order of divine service, as it is called. We follow the pattern appointed by the church, without wanting to give any offence. The custom is that after a psalm has been sung you may ascend into the pulpit (Ne 8:7), appropriately placed for the benefit of all, or most – so that you can see everyone and they can fix their eyes on you (Lk 4).Begin with prayer before you read the text, as was the custom of the ancient fathers (St Augustine testifies also to it). We are bound here too by religious reverence. Prayer must be the proem (or introduction). It is the Lord who gives both wisdom to understand and words of utterance. It is the Spirit (Ep 6:19, Jn 16) who strengthens their hearts in speaking, who guides them in the truth, calls things to their remembrance and makes them able ministers of the gospel. The disciples (Mt 10; 2 Co 3:5,6) might not go out before they had received the Spirit (Lk 24: Ac 1, 2:47, 13:48); nor may we go up and speak without it.It is not by the instrument that men are converted nor is it (2 Co 3:6) in the words that the power to save lies (Dt 29:4; Is 63:17). But it is the Lord's blessing thereupon, who adds to the church by this means such as are ordained to be saved. Paul plants, Apollos waters, but God gives the increase. Otherwise all is in vain, even if wonders were showed from heaven with the preaching of the Word.
What is required in a Minister to be able to pray well
Here for the minister to do his work, faith is required to go to the throne of grace boldly. Feelings of desire and need of God's blessing are required to pray ardently. Love and sympathy for his hearers are required to cry to God compassionately. A consideration of God's glorious majesty there present is required to speak to him reverently. It must be with understanding and affection; the matter well digested into an order and spoken in a few words briefly.
Long and tedious prayers not commendable
It is not helpful, usually, to be long in prayer, except sometimes on extraordinary occasions. Remember that one may more easily continue praying with devotion than others can hear in silence, religiously giving assent with good attention. Half hour prayers are too tedious, though usual with some men. This is their indiscretion - wearisome to all and liked by none but those who pray them, people who seem to strive to win God by words, or to waste time. It may be assumed that such people do not weigh men's weakness, or that they think prayer is not fervent unless it is stretched out to such a length. Meanwhile, experience shows to every man's feeling that fervency of spirit in prayer is not so lasting but even in a short while is interrupted with wavering thoughts and fantasies so that the edge of godly fervency of affection is soon blunted. Let everyone in praying consider what he is in hearing, and so measure his time and by the like or dislike of the Christianly disposed, whose minds must in these things be our measure.
Of the voice in prayer and gesture
The voice must be audible, continued with one sound, the words uttered deliberately, not huddled up in a hasty manner too irreverently. The gesture is with bended knees; with the eyes and hands lifted up towards heaven.
A set form of prayer in the beginning
It is not amiss (except on some unusual occasion) to observe in the beginning one set form of prayer, as many godly men do. In our prayer we are the people's mouth to God, therefore those who in the pulpit pray for themselves in the singular number, as thus: 'I pray thee open my mouth, etc' are by so doing breaking off from the course of their public function and making it a private action, out of tune and without concord to the rest and so a jarring thing.

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