I’m continuing my summary of the chapters from Isaac Watts A Guide to Prayer, which is enriching my communication with God. Today, I’m reviewing Chapter 3, The Grace of Prayer.
Watts distinguishes the gift and the grace of prayer in this way:
“The gift chiefly consists in a readiness of thought appropriate to the various parts of prayer, and a facility of expressing those thoughts in speaking to God. The grace consists in the inward workings of the heart and conscience toward God and religion.”
In other words, the grace of prayer refers to the life, affection, sincerity, and vigor that characterize our praying. It stems from an awareness of God’s favor and a dependence on His work in us. Although this is a short chapter, it’s a significant topic. It’s hard to imagine how many young Christians or unbelievers have been hindered in their relationship with God by listening to dull, unaffected, “laundry-list” prayers. On the other hand, just as much damage has been done by passionate praying that lacks substance, thoughtfulness, or coherence. Why not strive to have both passion and content in our prayers?
Under the general graces of prayer, Watts cites faith in the being of God, solemnity and serious of spirit, heavenly-mindedness, sincerity, watchfulness, humility, delight, and pleasure. He then describes how grace is evidenced in the particular parts of prayer that he laid out earlier in the book. This chapter is wonderfully beneficial for uniting head and heart in our prayers.
As we begin to call upon God, Watts believes an appropriate awe, humility, wonder, and pleasure should fill our hearts, that we can even address the one who inhabits eternity (Is. 57:15). I was helped by this comment on Petitions:
“When we pray for the things of the upper world and eternal blessings, we cannot be too warm in our desires. When we seek the mercies of life, the degree of fervency should be abated, for it is possible that we may be happy and yet go without many of the comforts of the present state.”
My experience reveals how often I’m more passionate about getting earthly, temporal prayers answered than enjoying the richer blessings of being conformed to God’s will and the image of His son.
Watts comments on each part of prayer, and then lays out directions to attain the grace of prayer he’s been describing. I’ve simplified them to this:
1. Remember who God is and who I am.
2. Remember what a privilege it is to pray.
3. Seek assurance of my reconciliation with God.
4. Rejoice that Christ is my necessary and eternal Mediator.
5. Work at prayer until I delight in it.
6. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s assistance.
I hope you’ll join me in seeking to grow in this grace of prayer, both in private and public, so that praying becomes a more meaningful, consistent, and delightful part of your life.
Next week I’ll share thoughts on the Spirit of Prayer.