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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel

Of Prayer.

Q. 98. What is prayer?
A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies

Q. 1. Who is the proper and only object of prayer?
A. God only is the proper object of prayer; it is a part of his natural worship, therefore it is peculiarly his honour and prerogative, and none else can hear and answer them but God; Psalm 65:2. O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.

Q. 2. Through whom, or in whose name, are our prayers to be directed to God?
A. Our prayers are to be directed to God only through Christ, and his name; and not by the mediation of angels or saints; Colossians 2:18. Let no man beguile you of your reward, in a voluntary humility, and worshipping of angels. For the merit and satisfaction of Christ alone give success and acceptance to our prayers; Revelation 8:3-4. And another angel came, and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints, upon the golden altar, which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God, out of the angelís band. 1 Timothy 2:5. For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

Q. 3. What is the first property or quality of acceptable prayer?
A. No prayer can be acceptable to God, except the matter of it be agreeable to his will; James 4:3. Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts; 1 John 5:14-15. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us. And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desire of him.

Q. 4. Is it enough to make prayer acceptable, that the matter is agreeable to Godís will?
A. No, it is not; for the manner, as well as the matter, must be so too; Psalm 66:18. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.

Q. 5. What is the first qualification of an acceptable prayer, respecting the manner of it?
A. That it be sincere, and flowing from the heart of a regenerate person; Proverbs 15:29. The Lord is far from the wicked; but he heareth the prayer of the righteous. Jeremiah 29:13. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Q. 6. What is the second qualification of prayer respecting the manner?
A. It must be performed in the heart of a child of God by the Spirit of adoption; Galatians 4:6. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Romans 8:26. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spin itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Q. 7. What is the third qualification of an acceptable prayer, respecting the manner?
A. It must be fervent and important, not cold and formal, James 5:16. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, Matthew 7:7. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Q 8. Wherein doth true importunity with God in prayer consist?
A. Not in the multitude of words: Matthew 6:7. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the Heathen do: for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking. But in an holy earnestness of spirit to be heard; Psalm 143:7. Hear me speedily, O Lord, my spirit faileth; hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit. A prudent choice of prevalent arguments; Job 23:4. I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. And a resolute persistance in our requests, till they be granted; Isaiah 62:7. And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.

Q. 9. Do not prayers thus qualified sometimes miscarry?
A. God may delay and suspend the answer of them for a time; Psalm 22:2. O my God I cry in the day-time, but thou hearest not, &c. But sooner or later God will always answer them, either in the very thing we ask; 1 John 5:15. We know that we have the petitions that we desired of him: Or in that which is equivalent, or better; Genesis 17:18-19. And Abraham said unto God, 0 that Ishmael might live before thee: And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed, and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him, for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.

Q. 10. Is there no prayer but what is stated and fixed?
A. Yes, there is a sudden occasional prayer, which we call ejaculatory. Such was Jacobís, Genesis 49:18. I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord. And this is exceeding useful, to maintain constant communion with God, and keep the heart in a spiritual frame.

Q. 11. Is all stated and fixed prayer public in tile congregation or church?
A. No; stated prayer ought to be in our families, with those under our charge; and in our closets, betwixt God and us alone; Joshua 24:15. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, And Matthew 6:6. But 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.

Q. 12. What do you infer from hence?
A. That the restraint of prayer is not only a great sin, but an ill sign of a graceless heart; Job 6:4. Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God. And that which entails a judgment and curse upon men, arid their families; Jeremiah 10:25. Pour out thy fury upon the Heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not upon thy name.

Q. 13. What is the second inference from the ordinance of prayer?
A. That the true reason why we enjoy not the mercies we pray for, is not because God is unwilling to grant mercies, but because we either neglect prayer, or miscarry in the manner of prayer; James 4:2-3. Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

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