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The father's promises.

Its implied limitations.

Improper requests.

wants. When you wish for any thing, write to me and you shall have it. And may God bless you, and keep you safe and happy."

My reader will observe that this language, which is not fiction, but fact, for it has in substance been addressed in a thousand instances under the circumstances above described, contains a promise to send the son whatever he shall ask for. But the meaning of it is not-and no boy would understand it to be that every possible request which he might make would be certainly granted. Although the promise is made in the few simple words, "whenever you want any thing, write to me and you shall have it," yet the meaning expressed fully would be, whenever you wish for any thing, which as far as you can see is proper for you, if you will let me know it I will send it, unless I see that it is better for you not to have it, or unless there are other special reasons which prevent my complying with your request.”

Now a boy may in such a case make a great many requests which the father might refuse without being considered by any one as breaking his promise.

1. He may ask something which the father knows would, in the end, injure him. Suppose he should request his father to supply him with double his usual quantity of pocket money, and the father should see clearly that the effect of granting the request would be to cultivate in him. careless and extravagant habits of expenditure, and to divert his attention from his business. In such a case the father would undoubtedly refuse, and no one would imagine that he was breaking his promise. The boy, if he had acted right, would not have asked such a favor.

2. He may ask something which, if granted, would interfere with the rights or happiness of others. There was a watch, we will imagine, hanging up in his father's house, used by all the family, the only time-piece accessible to

Requests in an improper manner.

The letter.

them. Now suppose that the boy, growing selfish and vain, and thinking that his importance among his comrades would be increased by his wearing a watch, should write to ask his father to send this family watch to him. Who would think that his father would be bound to comply on account of his parting promise to his son to supply all his wants? Christians very often make such selfish requests, and wonder why their prayers are not heard. A farmer who has one field which needs watering, will pray for rain with great earnestness, forgetting that there are ten thousand fields all around his own, and that they perhaps need the sun. A mother who has a boy at sea, will pray for prosperous winds for him, forgetting that the ocean is whitened with sails all under God's care, and that the breeze which bears one onward, must retard another. But more on this subject presently.

3. He may ask in an improper manner.

Suppose the father should take from the post-office a letter in his son's handwriting, and on breaking the seal, should read as follows:



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You must let me come home next week to Christmas. I wanted to come last year, but you would not let me, and now I must come. I wish you to write me immediately, and send the letter by the return post, saying that I may come. 'I am your dutiful son,

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Who would think that a father ought to grant a request made in such a way as this? It is to be feared that Christians sometimes bring demands, instead of requests, to God.

I have mentioned now three cases in which the father might, without breaking his promise, refuse the requests of his boy; where it would be injurious to him, unjust to

Our Savior's promise.

Prayers denied.

others, or where the request is made in an improper manner. All promises of such a sort as this are universally considered as liable to these exceptions.

Our Savior says to us, "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father, in my name, he will do it." This is common language, such as men address to men, and is to be understood exactly in the same way-in just such a sense, and with just such exceptions. The language means, if it is honestly used, that requests on our part will, in ordinary cases, have a real influence with the Creator in regard to things entirely beyond our control. It must mean, that, generally, all our proper requests will be granted. At the same time it must be liable to the exceptions above stated, for such exceptions apply in all similar cases. God must reserve the right to deny our requests when they are made in an improper spirit, and when they ask what would injure us, or interfere with the general good.

If any of you have, in accordance with the views presented in the two preceding chapters, confessed your past sins and chosen Jesus Christ for your friend, you will take great pleasure in bringing your requests to God. And you may, in doing this, sometimes pray for success in some enterprise, when God sees that it is on the whole best you should fail. A man may ask that God will place him in some important station of influence or usefulness, when the eye that can see the whole, discovers that the general good will be promoted by another arrangement. Thus in many similar ways your prayers may sometimes come within the excepted cases, and then God will not grant them. These cases, however, it may be hoped, you will generally avoid, and thus in a vast majority of instances your prayers will be heard.

There is even among Christians a great deal of distrust of the power of prayer. Some think that prayer exerts a good influence upon their own hearts, and thus they continue

Power of prayer.

The boy asking for a knife.

the practice, without, however, having any very cordial belief that they are really listened to and granted as requests, by the great Jehovah. Many persons imagine that prayer has an efficacy in some such way as this: a man asks God to protect and bless him in his business; by offering the prayer every day, he is reminded of his dependence, he thinks of the necessity of his own industry and patient effort, and thus, through the influence of his prayer, the causes of prosperity are brought to operate more fully in his case, and prosperity


This is indeed often one of the happy results of believing prayer; but it by no means embraces the whole import of the promise, "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father, he shall do it." The Father shall do it. This is a promise that God shall do something that we ask him to do,—not simply that the natural effect of our asking will be favorable in its influence upon us.


There is another way in which it seems to me there is a great deal of want of faith in God in regard to the efficacy of prayer. It is often said that requests may not be granted in the precise form in which they were offered, but that they are always answered in some way or other. mother, for instance, who has a son at sea, prays morning and evening for his safe return. Letter after letter comes, assuring her of his continued safety, until at last the sad news arrives that his ship has been dashed upon a rock or sunk in the waves. Now can it be said that the mother's prayer was granted? Suppose that she was, by this afflicting providence, weaned from the world and prepared for heaven, and thus inconceivably benefited by the event. Was this, in any common or correct use of language, granting the request in another form, or was it denying it because it was inconsistent with her greatest good? Suppose a child asks his father to let him keep a knife that he

The sick man unexpectedly cured.

has found, and the father takes it away, knowing that he will probably injure himself with it. Is this granting the request in another form? No. We ought, whenever the particular request we make is not granted, to consider it a denial, and to suppose that it comes under one of the cases of exceptions I have already specified.

There is, indeed, such a thing as granting a request in another form from that in which it was made. A family, one of whose members is in feeble health, prays for that member, that God would restore him. They come sincerely and earnestly to the throne of grace, and ask God to spare his life and make him well. Instead however of growing better, he grows suddenly worse. He is attacked with violent sickness, and his friends think that their prayers can not be heard, and suppose that they must follow him to the grave. The sickness however soon passes away, and instead of carrying him to the tomb, it produces by means of some mysterious influence which is in such cases often exerted upon the constitution, such effects that the patient rises from his sick-bed with renewed bodily powers, and as his strength gradually returns, he finds that his constitution is renewed and health entirely restored. Now this is granting the request, because the thing requested, that is, the restoration of health, is obtained, though the manner was unexpected; but if the man should die, no matter what great benefits resulted from his death, it is certainly not right to say that the request was granted in any way. It was denied, because God saw it was best that it should be denied.

Let us then keep constantly in view the fact, that our petitions are and must be often denied,-positively and absolutely refused. The language which our Savior uses, though without any specified exceptions, contains the exceptions that in all human language are in all such cases

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