ŇAnd when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.Ó Matthew 6:5,6

 

 

ŇAnd when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.Ó (v.5)

 

In this verse, and the rest to the fourteenth, Christ entreateth of the duties of prayer, wherein He dealeth as in the former point touching alms-giving; for first, He forbids a twofold vice in prayer: hypocrisy and babbling; and then teacheth the contrary virtues and the right practice of prayer. The vice of hypocrisy in prayer is forbidden in this fifth verse, and the contrary virtue enjoined in the next.

 

I.

The exposition.

When thou prayest. To pray properly is to entreat of God the gift of some good thing concerning ourselves; and in this sense it is only one part of that holy worship of God which is called invocation; for (1 Tim. 2:1) the apostle maketh four kinds or parts of invocation, to wit, (1) Supplication, when we entreat God to remove some evil from us. (2) Prayer, whereby we beg at the hands of God the gift of some good thing unto us; and these two concern ourselves. (3) The third is intercession, when as we entreat the Lord to grant some good thing unto our brethren, or to remove some evil from them. (4) The fourth is thanksgiving, whereby we give laud and thanks to God for blessings received, either by ourselves, or by our brethren. Now in this place prayer is not to be taken strictly for one part of invocation, but generally for the whole worship of God by invocation; as it is commonly taken of us, and often used in Scripture, one part being put for the whole.

 

Be not as the hypocrites, that is, do not as they do in prayer. By hypocrisy, He understandeth principally the Jewish teachers, the Scribes and Pharisees, for at them He aimeth in this part of  His sermon.

 

For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the streets. We must not here conceive that Christ condemns altogether this gesture of standing in prayer as unlawful; for Himself prayed standing when He raised up Lazarus (John 11:41); and the primitive church in their assemblies called stations, prayed standing; but He reproveth here the abuse of this gesture in these Jewish teachers. For first, they used this gesture to a wrong end, namely, thereby to get the praise of men; because standing is the fittest gesture which a man can use in prayer to make him be seen of others. Secondly, these Scribes and Pharisees thought themselves more righteous than all other men, and therefore judged that they had no need to humble themselves so much either in soul or body as the publicans and sinners did. Again, Christ here condemneth not the action of prayer in these places, the synagogues and the streets; for no man was ever forbidden of God to pray in any place. The Patriarchs were not tied to any place; and under the law, howsoever the temple was the place appointed for GodŐs outward worship in sacrificing, and such like, yet even then it was lawful for the Jews to pray in any place; and after ChristŐs coming, Paul (1 Tim. 2:8) willeth that men pray everywhere, lifting up pure hands unto God. But here is condemned this gross fault of these Scribes and Pharisees, that they minded to pray nowhere else but in these open and public places, which is expressed by this phrase, they love to stand and pray; so that in a word this is the meaning of this verse: You my hearers, when you pray, take heed of the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees, for they regard only the praise of men, and therefore do use such gesture in prayer, and choose such places to pray in that they may best be seen of men. Where we see He directly condemns their hypocrisy, as well in respect of the ground thereof, which was the pride of their hearts and not GodŐs grace; as also in regard of the end thereof, which was the praise of men and not the glory of God.

 

The use.

1. Whereas Christ saith, When thou prayest, He taketh it for granted that all men of years must pray; and whereas He condemns the false manner of prayer, and sets down the right form and manner thereof,  He teacheth us that it is a most necessary thing for all that have discretion, to exercise themselves religiously in this duty of prayer. And because our Saviour here urgeth this duty so much, I will here shew the necessity of prayer; which may appear unto us by sundry reasons: (1) Prayer is one of the most principal parts of GodŐs worship; for herein we acknowledge Him to be the giver of all goodness, the searcher and knower of our hearts; and hereby we testify the faith, hope and confidence we have in God. And prayer is called the calves of our lips (Hos. 14:2), because it is a sacrifice well-pleasing to God. (2) By prayer we do obtain, and also continue and preserve unto ourselves every good grace and blessing of God, especially such as concern eternal life; for God promiseth His Spirit to them that ask it by prayer; and the first conversion of a sinner, howsoever it be the free gift of God, yet by GodŐs grace moving and enabling a man thereunto, is obtained by prayer; and so are all the good graces following our conversion, both gotten and increased. (3) The true gift of prayer is a pledge of the spirit of adoption; and therefore Zechariah calls the spirit of prayer (Zech.12:10) the spirit of grace. And Paul saith (Rom. 8:26,15), The Spirit helps our infirmities, even the spirit of our adoption, which teacheth us to cry, Abba Father. (4) By prayer we have spiritual communion and familiarity with God; for in the preaching of the Word, God speaks to us; and in prayer we speak to God, and the more we pray, the nearer and greater fellowship we have with God; which one reason (if there were no more) is sufficient to persuade us of the necessity of prayer, and to move us unto diligence therein.

 

But sundry objections are made against the necessity of prayer:

 

Objection 1: It is said God knows our thoughts before we pray, and therefore it is needless to express them by prayer unto Him. Answer: We pray not to acquaint God with our suits, or with our hearts, as though He knew them not, but to perform obedience unto His commandment, who requireth this duty at our hands. Again, we pray unto God, to honour Him, in acknowledging Him to be the knower of our hearts, the giver of all goodness, the stay of our faith and hope, in whom only we put all our trust and confidence.

 

Objection 2: Whether we pray or not, God will give us the blessings which He means to bestow on us. Answer: This is flat atheism; and yet we must distinguish of GodŐs blessings, for some are common blessings which God oft gives to men without their asking, because they serve to preserve nature; as rain and fruitful seasons, food, raiment, etc. (Acts 14:17). And yet even these common blessings must be prayed for; (Phil. 4:6) In all things let your requests be made known to God. And James saith (Jam. 4:2), You lust and have not because ye ask not. (Psa. 106:23), Moses prayer saves the people from destruction. Others are special blessings of the elect, and these must always be sought and obtained by prayer.

 

Objection 3: God hath decreed all events, and everything shall so fall out as He hath appointed, and therefore it is needless to pray, and oftentimes it is but the crossing of GodŐs will. Answer: The reason is naught; for as God hath decreed the event of all things, so likewise He hath appointed the means whereby His decree shall be effected; and prayer many times is a principal means to bring GodŐs will to pass (1 Kin. 18:1). God shewed to Elijah that He would send rain in Israel after that long drought, and yet the prophet crouched unto the earth, and put his face between his knees (v.42); no doubt humbling himself in prayer to God for it, as St James saith (Jam. 5:17,18). Where we may see that prayer is not contrary to GodŐs decree, but a subordinate means to bring the same to pass; and therefore we must rather reason thus, that because God hath decreed the event of all things, and hath appointed prayer as a means to effect sundry of His decrees, therefore we must use it.

 

Considering then that prayer is necessary, notwithstanding all that can be said against it, we must learn with special reverence to give ourselves unto this duty, both publicly in the assemblies of the saints, and privately in our families, being masters and governors; for no family ought to want this morning and evening sacrifice of prayer and thanksgiving; yea, we must pray by ourselves particularly in regard of our particular wants. Indeed the most do thus plead for themselves that they use to pray often; but the truth is that the common practice of our people in prayer is nothing but lip-labour and a mocking of God; for what be their prayers but the saying over the ten commandments and the Creed, which are no prayers. Yea, their repetition of the LordŐs prayer without understanding or devotion, is no prayer with God, when they do it only of custom, and rest in the work done. But here is required another manner of prayer than this. And to incite us unto it, let us consider the worthy examples of GodŐs servants herein. Moses prayed for the saving of the Israelites, forty days and forty nights without meat or drink (Exod. 34:28). David prayed seven times a day (Psa. 119:164). And our Saviour Christ spent whole nights in prayer (Luke 6:12). Now these examples were written for our learning, to teach us to addict ourselves to this holy duty, wherein our hearts speak unto God. The want hereof is the cause of the common atheism that is in the world, of injustice and cruelty in menŐs callings, or swearing, pride and backbiting in menŐs lives; for if men would often set themselves in the presence of God, by unfeigned invocation, the remembrance thereof would still be before their eyes, and cause them to abstain from all these iniquities; for who being stained with such transgressions durst present himself before the majesty of God, who is a consuming fire against all sin and wickedness, having fiery eyes to see their sins, and feet of brass to bruise them in pieces that will not repent (Rev. 1:14,15).

 

2. Secondly, in this prohibition against hypocrisy in prayer, we may see that to conceive a prayer and to make profession of religion, may for the outward work, as well be performed from pride of heart as from the grace of God. Carnal men may do that in pride, which GodŐs children do by grace, as we shewed in the former point of alms-giving. That therefore which Christ said of hearing the Word, take heed how you hear, must be conceived to be spoken to us of prayer and the profession of religion, take heed how you pray, and how you profess religion. And indeed before we pray, we ought to enter into our hearts, and there to search out our corruptions diligently, that we may be able to discern in ourselves between pride and GodŐs grace; and to perceive upon what ground we pray, that it be not from a damnable pride, but from the saving grace of GodŐs Holy Spirit.

 

3. Thirdly, in this prohibition Christ condemns this false end of prayer, when men do it to have praise of men; whereby we may see that it is a thing incident to the professors of the gospel, to do the duties of religion, for the approbation of men, which notably bewrays the hypocrisy of our hearts, which naturally have more respect to men than to the Lord, even then when we have to deal with God Himself. Thus did the Scribes and Pharisees, and it is to be feared that the same fault is common among us; for men are far more forward and careful to perform the public duties of religion, in the assemblies of the church, than private duties, either in families or by themselves. Many will pray in the church, that never regard private prayer at home. Again, in performing public duties, many have more care of the outward action than of truth and sincerity in the heart; and many study more for fit words to delight menŐs ears, than for good affections, which God approveth; for what is the cause that many ancient professors, when they come to die, know not how to commend themselves to God? Surely, this especially, that in the whole course of their profession, they more respected men that God; and therefore in the time of death, when they must needs deal with God indeed, they know not what to do, nor how to behave themselves.

 

4. Lastly, Christ here reproves their behaviour in prayer, which was standing, without all humbling of themselves, either in soul or body. This is a thing incident to many in our congregations, who use to shew no manner of reverence or humility in the time of prayer; but either stand or sit as though they had no need to humble themselves; or else intended only that men should see them. But we must know that howsoever the Word of God prescribes no peculiar gesture in this action, yet it is not a thing indifferent, either to use, or not to use, some seemly gesture of humiliation in this worship of God; but some must needs be used, to express and further the humility of the heart, which is chiefly required. The seraphims standing before God (Isa. 6:2) cover their feet and faces with their wings, in regard of GodŐs presence; and the poor publican that prayed with the Pharisee, howsoever he prayed standing (Luke 18:13), yet he cast down his countenance, and smote himself on the breast, to testify his humiliation. Yea, Christ Jesus our Lord, when He bear the punishment of our sins in the garden, fell down upon His face, and prayed (Matt. 26:39). Thus also did Moses  and Aaron (Num. 16:45), Elijah (1 Kin. 18:42), Ezra (Ezra 9:5) and Daniel (Dan. 6:10) humble themselves. And it hath always been the practice of GodŐs servants in prayer, by some convenient gesture of the body, to express the humility of their hearts; which checketh the custom of our common people in prayer, who are so far from bringing a broken heart to God, which is the thing He chiefly requires, that they know not what to ask; and many there be that will not submit themselves to such outward gesture as might express their inward humiliation. These things are far unseemly for GodŐs people, and therefore let us learn to humble ourselves at GodŐs footstool, first in our very hearts, and withal, we must be careful to testify the same by some convenient outward humiliation.

 

 

II.

ŇBut thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.Ó (v.6)

 

Christ having forbidden hypocrisy in the former verse, doth here command the contrary virtue; namely, sincerity, setting down the right manner of prayer to God in that behalf. Now because the words are not to be taken in that sense, which at the first reading they seem to bear; therefore for the better understanding of them, I will here lay down two grounds:

 

(1) First ground. That in this place our Saviour Christ doth not forbid public prayer in the congregation, or in public places; for public prayer is GodŐs ordinance. Where two or three (saith Christ (Matt. 18:19,20)) be gathered together in my name, there am I in the middle among them; and whatsoever they desire, shall be given them of my Father. Again, public prayer serves for most worthy uses, for which it may be maintained; as first, to make menŐs prayers unto God more fervent and effectual; as in the commonwealth, a private manŐs supplication is not so much respected, as when a whole incorporation, or a whole shire make petition to the prince. Secondly, by public prayer, a man professeth himself to be a member of GodŐs church, and one that severeth himself from all profane societies and companies of men in the world. Thirdly, public prayer serves to stir up zeal in them that be cold and backward; for herein they are made acquainted with GodŐs blessings, they are left to see their own wants, and they have the good example of GodŐs children.

 

(2) 2nd ground. That private prayer (though it be GodŐs own ordinance) is not here directly commanded; for look what was forbidden in the former verse, the contrary thereto is here commanded; but Christ did not simply there forbid public prayer, He aimed at an higher thing therein; namely, hypocrisy, and therefore here He commandeth not private prayer directly, but intendeth the right manner thereof, for sincerity, whether public or private.

 

Having laid down these two grounds, I now come to the true meaning of these words.

 

When thou prayest, that is, either by thyself alone, or with others, enter into thy chamber, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray, etc., that is, be as though thou didst pray in thy closet, intending only to approve thyself and thine heart unto the Lord, having no respect to any creature in the world; for this Christ means by praying in a chamber or closet; namely, that a man in prayer should not respect himself, or any creature, but simply intend and approve himself unto God only.

 

In the words thus explained, we are to observe two things: a commandment, and a reason thereof.

 

1. The commandment is in these words: When thou prayest enter into thy chamber, and when thou hast shut the door, pray unto thy Father which is in secret. This commandment in joining the right disposition of the heart to Godward in our prayers, doth prescribe the true and perfect manner of prayer; whereto that we may better attain, I will shew how the same is performed.

 

That a man in prayer may approve himself and his actions unto God alone, three kinds of duties are required: some going before prayer, some in the act of prayer, and some after prayer.

 

(1) Before prayer four duties are required:

 

(i) A man must have knowledge of three things concerning prayer (for every prayer must be made in faith and in obedience unto God, which without knowledge cannot be done), to wit, of GodŐs commandment to pray; of the things we ask in prayer, and of the manner of asking, which is this: spiritual blessings concerning life eternal, such as remission of sins, sanctification, and other necessary graces, must be asked simply without condition. But temporal things concerning this life, such as health, wealth, liberty and such like, must be asked with condition of GodŐs will, as they serve for His glory, the good of ourselves and of our brethren.

 

(ii) A man must labour to find himself converted unto God, having a true purpose of heart not to live in any sin; for (John 9:31) God heareth not sinners; and David saith (Psa. 66:18), If I regard wickedness in my heart, God will not hear my prayer. When men come to the LordŐs table, they forsake their sins, and turn unto God; which must also be done before we pray, for therein we are to deal with God, who cannot abide iniquity.

 

(iii) A man must seek to be in Christ, that would pray with comfort (John 15:7), If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask what ye will, and it shall be done for you. In the Old Testament the sacrifices were to be offered only upon the altar of God in the temple or in the tabernacle, which prefigured this means: that in the New Testament, our prayers, which are our sacrifices, must be offered only in Christ Jesus, who is our intercessor in heaven (Rom. 8:34), and our spiritual temple.

 

(iv) Before prayer a man must sever himself from all creatures in his thoughts and desires, and bring himself before God with fear and reverence, that every power and faculty of the soul may say, as Cornelius did to Peter (Acts 10:33), We are all here in the presence of God. For this end, his mind and memory must be taken up with divine and holy thoughts, and his heart possessed with holy desires; God in Christ must be his whole delight, and all by-thoughts must be banished. Our Saviour Christ used to pray in the night, and in solitary places apart from the societies of men; this He did (no doubt) for this end: that He might set Himself wholly before God, and be set free from all occasions of distraction in that divine duty.

 

(2) Duties in prayer are especially five:

 

(i) We must labour to have a true sense and feeling of our wants, of our sins and corruptions, and be inwardly touched in conscience for the same; for as the beggar sits still at home, and never goes to beg relief till he feel himself pinched with hunger and want, so it is with us, till we feel our own wants and miseries by reason of our sins, we can never put up an earnest and hearty prayer to God.

 

(ii) We must have an inward, fervent and unfeigned desire toward God, for the supply of all our wants and miseries. This is a special thing in prayer, which maketh it not only to be a petition of the lips, but a true request of the heart. This the prophet David expressed, when he said unto God (Psa. 143:6), My soul desireth after thee, as the thirsty land doth after rain. And Hannah also when she told Eli (1 Sam. 1:15), that she poured out her soul as water before the Lord.

 

(iii) Every petition must be made in obedience, that is, we must have a commandment enjoining us to ask the thing we pray for, and a promise to assure us that it shall be granted unto us. And yet here this special caveat must be remembered, that we leave both the time and the manner of accomplishing our requests to the good pleasure and wisdom of God.

 

(iv) Every petition must be presented to God in the name and mediation of Christ (John 16:23,26); for in ourselves we are sinners, and (Isa. 59:2) Our iniquities make a separation between God and us; so that we cannot have access unto the Father, save only be the mediation of Jesus Christ. If we would come with boldness into the holy place, it must be by the new and living way, which Christ hath prepared for us through the veil, that is, His flesh.

 

(v) In prayer we must have faith, whereby we believe that the thing we ask shall be done unto us (Mark 11:24), Whatsoever ye ask in prayer, believe ye shall have it, and it shall be done unto you. Now the ground of this faith must be GodŐs commandment and His promise, which I mentioned before.

 

(3) The duties after prayer are two:

 

(i) We must call to remembrance the prayer we made to God. If one man talk with another, he will be so attentive that, as near as may be, he will remember the words that passed between them; and much more ought we so to do when we talk with God. Now we must thus meditate on our prayers for this end, that we may the better do the thing we ask, as we crave in prayer the pardon of our sins, so we must after prayer endeavour to leave the practice of them. What a horrible shame is it for men to beg at GodŐs hands the pardon of sin, and when they rise from prayer, to fall again to the practice of it? This is with the dog to return to his vomit (2 Pet. 2:22), and with the desperate thief to stealing after he hath entreated favour of the judge.

 

(ii) After prayer we must be careful to be as plentiful in thanksgiving for blessings received, as we were in petition to crave them. This indeed may be done in the beginning of our prayer, though here I mention it last, but omitted it may not be. Ordinary men have this humanity, that where they find friendship, they will be more plentiful in tendering thanks than in making new requests; and if we deal thus with men, shall we not much more do it with God, with whom true thankfulness for one blessing is a special means to procure more? Now this thankfulness must not be only in word, but in deed testified by due obedience in life and conversation; and these are the duties whereby a man shall avoid all carnal ostentation in prayer, and approve his heart unto God therein.

 

By this description of the true manner of prayer, we may learn these things:

 

(1) First, that the Romish church doth neither know nor teach nor practise the duty of prayer aright; they pray not in knowledge, for they pray in an unknown tongue and allow of ignorance as the mother of devotion. They commend doubting by speaking against assurance, and so pray not in faith, nor obedience. They pray not in humility for mercy for their sins, for they think to merit by their prayers; and which is worst of all, they direct not their prayers to God only, in the name of Christ, but to God and His saints, making the virgin Mary their mediatrix; yea, they pray to the wooden cross, which is most horrible idolatry.

 

(2) Secondly, that our common people come far short of their duty in this part of GodŐs worship; for their prayers consist chiefly in the bare repetition of words, which is only a lip-labour. They pray without knowledge and feeling, and so must needs fail in many other duties. Now this bewrays the manifold wants that be in the prayers of the best Christians; for besides their ignorance of many duties in prayer, their doubting and distrust, their dullness and deadness of heart, and their by-thoughts, do all shew that their hearts are not wholly taken up with GodŐs glory, as they ought to be.

 

(3) Lastly, hereby we may see the gross ignorance of our common people, about spells and charms; because they consist of good words, and many strange things are done thereby, therefore they think them to be good prayers; but herein they are deceived through ignorance in the right form of prayer; for they that make them and use them are either graceless persons that have society with the devil, or grossly deluded through palpable ignorance; and they cannot set themselves before God to approve their hearts unto Him in this action; nay, the worship that is done herein is to the devil, and the cure that is wrought thereby, is his work; for these charms are his watchword, to stir him up to such exploits.

 

Furthermore in this clause, Pray unto thy Father which is in secret, that is, an invisible God; is couched a reason to induce men to the obedience of this commandment, to this effect: He to whom thou prayest is an invisible God, therefore thou must endeavour to approve the hidden man of thy heart unto Him. Hence I gather:

 

(1) First, that it is an horrible thing to make an image to represent the true God, or to worship God in it; for God is invisible. The second commandment condemneth them both, as Moses himself doth expound it (Deut. 4:15,16), Ye saw no image in the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, therefore corrupt not yourselves by making you a graven image, or representation of any sign.

 

(2) Secondly, that there should be no outward pomp in prayer, either for gesture or for garments; for prayer is made to an invisible Father. This overthrows the whole worship of the popish church, which stands in outward shews of carnal pomp; if there be any pomp, it most be inward, in the graces of the heart, among which humility is the first ornament.

 

(3) Thirdly, that all places are alike in respect of GodŐs presence, and of His hearing; for he is a God in secret, wheresoever a man hath occasion to pray, there God is; which confuteth them that make the church a more holy place for prayer than elsewhere, and therefore reserve all their prayers till they come thither; for now difference of place, in respect of GodŐs presence, is taken away. God is as well in the hold, and in the private house, as in the church; and yet churches are ordained and used in a godly policy, because a congregation may more conveniently there meet, to their mutual edification, in the public exercise of the Word and prayer; otherwise private houses were as good places for GodŐs worship as churches, if they were so decent and convenient for edification; for in all places men may lift up pure hands unto God, as the apostle teacheth (1 Tim. 2:8).

 

2.

And thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

These words contain a twofold reason whereby Christ persuadeth His hearers, and in them all others, to the careful practice of the former duty, of sincerity in prayer. The first reason is drawn from GodŐs all-seeing property; the second from His bounty.

 

(1) GodŐs all-seeing property is set out in these words: And the Father which seeth in secret; that is, though the Father Himself be invisible, yet when thou prayest in secret, that is, as though thou wert in secret, intending only to approve thine heart unto God in prayer, then thy Father seeth thee, He knows thine heart and hears thy prayer. This is verified by the example of Jonah, who was heard praying in the whaleŐs body; or of Daniel, praying in the LionŐs den, and of Moses, who is said to cry unto the Lord, whenas he prayed only in heart (Exod. 14:15).

 

The use of this point is manifold:

 

First, it serveth to admonish us, that when we pray, we must in singleness of heart, bring ourselves into GodŐs presence, and heartily and truly put up our requests unto God, so as we may approve unto Him, both our hearts and our prayers; for there is nothing in our prayers that can be hid from God; and therefore we must not content ourselves with the thing done, but labour so to pray that God may be well-pleased with the manner thereof.

 

Secondly, hereby we are taught to make conscience, not only of our doings and speeches, but even of our very thoughts, and that in secret places; for though we may conceal the same from men, yet we cannot cover them from the eyes of God; He is invisible, and yet all things are naked before Him (Heb. 4:13).

 

Thirdly, this proveth that no prayer can lawfully be made to the virgin Mary, or to any other saint departed; for He alone is to be called upon in prayer, who sees in secret. But God only sees in secret, neither the virgin Mary, nor any other of the saints can see in secret; and therefore prayer is to be made to none but to God alone. The papists answer that saints departed see in secret, though not of themselves, yet by God and in God; but that is false. The angels before their fall, saw not their own future fall, nor the fall of man. The blessed angels in heaven, know not now the time and day of the last judgment; yea, and the saints departed lie under the altar crying, How long Lord? (Rev. 6:9,10), being ignorant of the time of their full redemption; and therefore the saints departed see not in secret.

 

(2) The second reason drawn from GodŐs promised bounty, is in these words: Shall reward thee openly; that is, shall repay thee for thy prayer in the day of judgment, before the saints and holy angels, as we expounded the same words in the fourth verse. This is a notable reason to induce men to pray in a true and holy manner; wherein we may see the endless mercy of God, vouchsafed to them that pray aright. If any subject  put up a supplication to his earthly prince, he takes it for a special favour if the prince vouchsafed to admit him to his presence. Behold here the King of Kings will not only vouchsafe access unto the throne of grace, when we put up our supplications unto Him, but if we pray aright, He doth hold Himself indebted unto us for the same, and promiseth one day to reward us openly. This far exceeds the love of all creatures in heaven and earth, no prince is so kind and gracious to his best subjects, as the Lord is to all that call upon Him in spirit and truth.

 

From this place the papists would gather that prayer is a work that merits at GodŐs hand eternal life, for thus they reason: Where there is repaying by way of reward, there is something done which meriteth; but unto prayer there is a repaying; therefore it doth merit at GodŐs hand. Answer: Reward is due to man two ways: either by desert, or of free gift and promise. Now in this place God will reward man for his prayer, not for his desert, but of His own free will and grace, because He hath promised so to do. That this is so, may thus appear: If a beggar should ask an alms of any man, it were absurd to say that the beggar by asking did deserve the alms; and so stands the case for the merit of our prayers; thereby we beg things at GodŐs hands, and therefore can no more merit thereby than the beggar can deserve his alms by asking; nay rather we may gather here that GodŐs rewarding them that pray, proceeds from His own free grace alone; for prayer properly is a work of man unto God, wherein man gives nothing unto God, as the Jews did in the sacrifices, or as is done in other spiritual sacrifices of the New Testament; but only asketh and receiveth something from God, and therefore cannot hereby merit anything at GodŐs hands. And by this may all other places be expounded, where reward is promised to manŐs works.

 

Lastly, note the phrase here used: He shall reward thee openly; that is, at the last day. Whence I gather that till the day of judgment, no servant of God shall fully reap the fruit and benefit of his prayers. This must be well considered of all that have care to call upon God unfeignedly; for many times after long and earnest prayer, we feel little or no comfort, whereby we may be brought to dislike our estate, as though God had no respect unto us; but we must know that God doth often long defer to reward His servants that pray unto Him. No doubt but Zachariah and Elizabeth prayed for issue in their younger age, and yet they were not heard till they were both old; and David saith, his eyes failed for waiting on God when He would accomplish His promise made unto him (Psa. 38). This we may also see in the petitions of the LordŐs prayer; for they be all according to His will, yet the full fruition of the benefits there asked, is referred to the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.