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pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you.” John xiv. 16.
The Spirit is said to make intercession for believers. “ Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities : for we know not what we should
pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered,” Rom. viii. 26.
Not that the Holy Ghost doth invade the office of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose peculiar work it is to pray and intercede for God's elect, as by verse 34 of this chapter, and other places, appears; but he is said to intercede for believers when he stirs up and puts the believer on praying for himself.
There are two things especially about which the Spirit's efficiency is conversant in a believer's praying.
First, About the subject matter of prayer.
First, The right knowledge of the state of sin and misery into which Adam's fall and apostasy cast all mankind. This knowledge is fetched from the law and the prophets; and the way the Spirit takes to make the same known is by writing the law of God in the heart; according to God's
promise in Jer. xxxi. 33. “ I will put my law in their inward parts; and write it in their hearts.”
Of such renewed souls as these it is that David speaks in Psalm xxxvii. 30. “ The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment; the law of God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.”
The law of God being thus written in the heart, and the Holy Ghost dwelling there too, there is nothing relating to sin, which is to be confessed and bewailed, or to the other duties whereto the law obliges, but the believer is, by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, led into the knowledge of them.
Secondly, The sovereign help and cure laid up in Christ, and held forth in the promises of the gospel, to relieve and succour poor distressed dying sinners.
Out of both these books, the law and the gospel, the Holy Ghost supplies the poor weak believer with apt and fit words in praying.
Now to that sinner who is not acted and taught by the Holy Ghost, as the law, spiritually understood, is a book sealed, which he, in his natural state cannot understand or be reconciled to, Isa. xxix. 14. Rom. viii. 7. 1 Cor. ii. 14; so the gospel of God's
grace is a hidden mystery, which the reason of an unregenerate man can neither reach nor yet be reconciled to, according to 2 Cor. iv. 3. “ But, if our gospel be hid, it is hid to
them that are lost,” &c. ; and i Cor. ii. 11. “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man that is in him ? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God."
The elect of God only are blest with this high and inestimable privilege, to be taught out of these two books, wherein their misery, and their help and recovery lie, according to Isa. liv. 13. “ And all thy children shall be taught of God, and great shall be the peace of thy children.” And John vi. 45; “ It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God; every man therefore that hath heard and hath learned of the Father cometh unto me.”
An unregenerate man, I grant, may, by the common illumination and gifts of the Spirit, see so far into both law and gospel, as from the letter of the one and also of the other he may be furnished with good expressions in prayer; but, being destitute of the Spirit of adoption, wherein doth such a man excel a well-taught parrot?
I have known some parrots which have imitated a human voice so exactly, that they have been taken for men at a distance. A natural man, having the common gifts of the Spirit, may pass among men for a praying member of Christ, and yet be but a painted sepulchre.
Thirdly, The end to which prayer is to be ultimately directed.
This lies in two things especially; first, the glorifying God above all, Matt. vi. 9. “Hallowed
be thy name,” &c. “ Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God," 1 Cor. x. 31.
None of Adam's children can aim at the glory of God but he who is savingly taught and guided by the Holy Ghost.
As all unregenerate men in serving God act from their own strength, so they never look higher than themselves. Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did ye not eat, and did ye not drink, for yourselves?” Zech. vii. 5. “ They tempted God in their hearts, by asking meat for their lust," Psal. lxxviii. 18. “ Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it on your lusts,” James iv. 3.
Secondly, The increasing and carrying on the work of sanctification is another end to which prayer must be directed. Prayer, and all other duties of religion, are but vehicles or chariots in which the soul of the true believer is carried out to meet and converse with God; by which means the sanctification begun in effectual calling is maintained and carried on.
These two ends, to which prayer is to be ultimately directed, no man can regard, so as to design them in praying, but that man who is taught and led by the Holy Ghost.
Thirdly, The other particular about which the Spirit's efficiency is conversant, in a believer's praying, is the manner. As the 'Holy Ghost directs and teaches the believer about the subject matter of prayer, so he teaches and helps the believer about the manner how he is to pray.
The right manner of praying designs five things, in each of which the Holy Ghost doth sweetly and powerfully teach and assist the true believer.
First, He operates on the will and affections to act obediently towards God about the matter contained in the believer's
prayer. The influence of the Holy Ghost on the will and affections of the believer, in prayer, is seen in three things.
First, He acts on the will of the believer to choose and love, unfeignedly, the matter discovered to the understanding out of the law and the gospel. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,” Psal. cx. 3. “ For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do,” &c. Phil. ii. 13.
To do as well as to say, is the property of a soul savingly regenerate.
ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them,” John xiii. 17. “ But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” James i. 22. “ Blessed are they that do his commandments,