' ( (ONVERSATION ON I'rA.\iY[' "
A SAILOR BOY
'AND IlIS FOOER
SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER.
THE RELIGIOtUS TRACT SOCIFITY;
DEP5oITony, 56" PATERNOSTER ROW, AND
65, ST. PAUr'S CHURCHYARD.
CONVERSATION ON PRAYER,
A SAILOR BOY AND HIS FORMER
SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER.
a S-abbath evening, I met with a
stout hearty lad in a sailor's dr ess,
whom I presently recognized as one
who had formerly been under my
care in the Sunday school. He had
obtained leave of his captain this day
2 CONVERSATION ON PRAYER.
to come home arid see his poor wi-
dowed mother and his two younger
brothers, who now, all three, accom-
panied him on his way back. I en-
tered into conversation with this lad.
His head was quite without a cover-
ing ; and there was a certain wildness
of manner about him, and a sort of
fear-nothing expression in his coun-
tenance and tone of voice; so that,
on first addressing myself to him, I
felt somewhat discouraged. This
feeling, however, did not last long;
for I quickly perceived that what I
had taken for hardihood and care-
lessness was more apparent than real;
and the change observable in his
manners, I soon discovered was only
the natural result of his present ha-
bits and mode of life.
After some inquiries concerning
what had taken place since he left the
school, in the courseof which I learned
CONVERSATION ON PRAYER. 3
with much satisfaction, that his cap-
tair was a pious man, or at least was
piously disposed, I proceeded to put
some questions to him of a more per-
sonal nature, and to give him a little
serious advice, which turned chiefly
upon the important subject of prayer;
the substance of which, though with
some enlargement, will be found in
the following conversation.
Teacher. Well, John, I hope you
have not quite forgotten the religious
instruction that you received at the
*John. Oh no, sir; I often think of
the time when I first went there; and
I can recollect sometimes a good
many hymns, and a part of the cate-
chism, and the other lessons I used
T. That's right, John. What you
learned there was designed to be of
use to you now, and through all your
4 CONVERSATION ON PRAYER.
future life ; therefore you will do well
frequently to set yourself purposely
to think of those things, and endea-
vour to recall them to your mind.
Especially do this when you are alone
at any time. On such occasions, I
would have you repeat over to your-
self all you can remember, and pon-
der it in your heart. By so doing,
you will not only keep many foolish
and sinful thoughts out of your head,
but this is the way to store your me-
mory with all that is worth retaining,
and, by the blessing of God, to get
some lasting good from it.
J. Yes, sir; what you say is very
true. I am sure, many a time I learn-
ed hymns and other lessons without
thinking any thing about the mean-
ing ; but when I recollect them now,
I see better what they mean.
T. And you never need suppose
you are too old to profit by the re-
CONVERSATION ON PRAYER. 5
collection of them. Simple and easy
as they are, those little hymns and
catechisms are founded upon the
word of God, and they contain the
most important and glorious truths
that the minds of men or angels can
contemplate. They will bear think-
ing upon a thousand times, and almost
every time you may discover some-
thing in them that you never saw
before. But now, John, I have a
serious question to ask you-Do you
ever pray to God ?
J. I always say my prayers at
night, and in the morning too, some-
T. It is well that you have not laid
aside the forms of devotion. But do
you not know that a person may say
prayers very constantly, and yet
never pray ? In prayer we speak to
God, that God who searcheth the
heart; and it is the inward feeling
6 CONVERSATION ON PRAYER.
and desire that he regards, and not
the mere expressionof the lips. Words
have their use to us, in fixing our
thoughts, and leading them on from
one thing to another; but God un-
derstands the meaning of a sigh or
a groan, just as well as the most
correct language. It is not enough,
therefore, to adopt a form of prayer,
however appropriate and solemn it
may be, and to repeat it ever so
punctually, if we are not concerned
at the same time to possess the true
spirit of prayer. Do you know what
that is ?
J. I do not think I do, sir, rightly:
perhaps you will tell me.
T. By the true spirit of prayer, I
mean something more than that our
thoughts should go along with the
words we utter; something more, too,
than a general belief in the being
and the goodness of God, and our
CONVERSATION ON PRAYER. 7
dependence upon him as our Creator
and Preserver; although it necessarily
includes all this. I mean, that state
of mind which is produced by the
influence of the Holy Spirit, when he
convinces the sinner of his guilt and
danger, reveals Jesus Christ as the
all-sufficient Saviour, and leads him,
with self-abasement and with ear-
nestness, to cry for mercy and for
grace, through the merits and media-
tion of him who died to make an atone-
ment for human guilt. There can be
no acceptable prayer offered to God,
till we are brought to this. For
since he has declared his willingness
to pardon our sins, and to bestow
upon us all the rich blessings of his
grace, for his dear Son's sake ; if we
turn away from those blessings, and
persist in making light of that mercy,
we have no right to expect that he
will hear our prayers for providential
8 CONVERSATION ON PRAYER.
favours. This is what our Saviour
means, when he says, Seek ye first
the kingdom of God, and his right-
eousness ; and all these things shall
be added unto you," Matt. vi. 33.
And again : I am the way, and the
truth, and the life : no man cometh
unto the Father, but by me," John
J. I recollect, sir, I have often
heard the same things before about
prayer; but I have not minded them
so much as I ought.
T. Then I hope, John, you now
begin to consider these matters more
seriously. Unless we are taught to
pray by God's Holy Spirit, it would
avail us nothing, if we were able,
without the aid of any form, to pray
ever so fluently. If, however, we
have this Divine teaching, we shall
soon find it just as impossible to
confine ourselves entirely to any mere
CONVERSATION ON PRAYER. 9
form of words, as a drowning man
would in calling out for help. You
know, when Peter attempted to walk
to Christ upon the water, he found
he was beginning to sink, and seeing
Jesus close by, he instantly cried out,
"Lord, save me!" Matt. xiv. 30.
Now, my dear boy, remember, you
and I are sinners; and as such, we
are in danger of sinking into "the
bottomless pit,"--" the lake which
burneth with fire and brimstone;
which is the second death," Rev.
xxi. 8. There is One near at hand,
who is both able and willing to save
us. You know whom I mean; it is
Jesus. But there is no other Saviour;
and if we are not saved by him, pe-
rish we must, and that for ever !
Shall we, then, or can we manifest
less eagerness to be saved from eter-
nal death, than a drowning person
does to be saved from temporal
10 CONVERSATION ON PRAYER.
death ? If we do, surely our prayers
are very far from being what they
ought to be.
J. I am afraid that I have never
yet prayed in the right manner. But
I hope God will help me and teach
T. No doubt he will, if you ask
him. Say, therefore, like the disciples,
" Lord, teach me to pray." We
are assured that our heavenly Fa-
ther will give the Holy Spirit to
them that ask him," Luke xi. 13.
And as your mind begins to be en-
lightened by that good Spirit, you will
find many short prayers in the word
of God, so exactly suited to your
feelings and to your wants, that it
will seem as if they were placed there
on purpose for you. For instance,
that of Peter, Lord, save me ;" and
that of the publican, God be mer-
ciful to me a sinner." The book of
CONVERSATION ON PRAYER. 11
Psalms, especially, abounds with
short but earnest prayers of this de-
scription. But it appears, John,
from what you said just now, that
you sometimes altogether omit kneel-
ing in the morning.
J. Why, sometimes, to be sure, sir,
I have no time.
T. You should endeavour to se-
cure time for this, by rising earlier
than you are obliged to do. And
when you are unavoidably hindered
from attending to it directly you
get up, you should try if you cannot
find an opportunity soon afterwards.
If but a few minutes are thus occu-
pied, you cannot think how much
good they may do you. We equally
need Divine protection in the day
time as in the night season ; indeed,
our souls are then still more exposed
to temptation, and to evils without
number, from which God only can
12 CONVERSATION ON PRAYER.
deliver us. How important, then, it
is, that we should enter upon the
concerns of every day, with our
minds well fortified against these evils
by prayer! How needful that we
should daily commit ourselves to
God's keeping; for we are safe only
so long as he preserves us.
J. That's all very true, sir, I know.
I will try and remember what you
T. I. am glad, my dear boy, to
find you are willing to listen to what
I have to say to you for your good.
It is also very desirable that you
should read a portion of Scripture, if
possible, every morning and evening.
For, "Wherewithal shall a young
man cleanse his way, but by taking
heed thereto, according to God's
word ?" Psa. cxix. 9. You have, now
and then, a good deal of spare time;
how can you employ it better than in
CONVERSATION ON PRAYER. 13
the prayerful study of "the Holy
Scriptures, which are able to make
thee wise unto salvation ?" 2 Tim. iii.
15. To study the Scriptures, is to
read them thoughtfully, as youwould
something that deeply interested
you, and that you wished very much
to understand. And to study them
prayerfully, is to lift up your heart
to God frequently, as you proceed,
in language similar to that of David,
" Open thou mine eyes, that I may
behold wondrous things out of thy
law," Psa. cxix. 18. If you do this,
you will seldom be at a loss, either
for a proper subject of.prayer, or for
suitable expressions. But you know,
we should not pray only at stated
times, or upon extraordinary occa-
sions; Christians are exhorted to
" pray without ceasing," 1 Thess. v.
J. I think, sir, I have heard you
14 CONVERSATION ON PRAYER.
say, this does not mean that we
should be always on our knees.
T. No ; that would be impossible.
God does not require any such thing.
It signifies that we should persevere
in prayer, or pray without leaving off
the habit of prayer : and also, that
we should endeavour constantly to
maintain the spirit of prayer. Not
only every morning and evening
should we call upon God, but many
times in the course of the day we
should silently lift up our hearts to
him, imploring strength to resist
temptation, and grace to do his will.
This we may often do, while our
hands are busily employed; and, if
wur minds are rightly directed, almost
every thing that we hear or see, may
furnish us with matter either for sup-
plication, intercession, or thanks-
giving. Many a little interval of
time, too, which would otherwise be
CONVERSATION ON PRAYER. 15
wasted, or worse than wasted, may
in this manner be turned to the most
useful account. This is the way to
live a life of communion with God;
and can there be any life so safe or
so pleasant as this ?
J. I think not, sir.
T. You see, then, it is not only
our duty, but it should be esteemed
our highest privilege, thus to give
ourselves unto prayer. Oh yes, it
is indeed the greatest happiness that
can be enjoyed on this side heaven,
to live thus near to God, and, like
Enoch, to walk with God. The
man of the world has no God to go
to in the time of trouble; but the
Christian, the man of prayer, has a
never-failing refuge.. He has the
wisdom of God to guide him in all
his perplexities, his power to protect
him in every season of danger, his
bounty to supply all his necessities,
16 CONVERSATION ON PRAYER.
and his love and grace to console him
under every affliction and trial. It
is his unspeakable joy, likewise, to
know that he has an almighty and
compassionate Redeemer, pleading
on his behalf in heaven, and pre-
paring there a place for him; and
that he has promised to come again
and receive him unto himself; that
he may abide with him, and share in
his glory for ever and ever. Can I
wish you any thing better at parting,
than that all this blessedness, here
and hereafter, may be yours ? Then
learn to live a life of prayer now,
and earnestly seek to have the true
spirit of prayer, and it certainly will
be your happy portion. Good bye,
John, my prayers shall be offered for
you; and I hope you will never for-
get to pray for your poor mother,
and for your brothers, and for me.
King Solomon of old
A happy choice had made;
Twas not for life, 'twas not for gold, -
Nor honour that he prayed.
SHe chose that better part,
That ;r:ul~ jo 1h, eiinl joys;
A wise and understanding heart,
And God approved the choice.
If this is what we seek,
We cannot ask amiss; [speak,
The youngest, poorest child may
And ask the Lord for this.