Excerpt From “The Spirit Of Prayer” by Hannah Moore (1745-1833)
He to whom the duty of prayer is unknown, and by whom the privilege of prayer is unfelt ; or he by whom it is neglected ; or he who uses it for form and not from feeling, may probably say, “Will this work, wearisome even if necessary, never know an end ? Will there be no period when God will dispense with its regular exercise? Will there never be such an attainment of the end proposed, as that we may be allowed to discontinue the means?”
To these interrogatories there is but one answer an answer which shall be also made, by an appeal to the inquirer himself. If there is any day in which we are quite certain that we shall meet with no trial from Providence, no temptation from the world, any day in which we shall be sure to have no wrong tempers excited in ourselves, no call to bear with those of others, no misfortune to encounter, and no need of Divine assistance to endure it, on that morning we may safely omit prayer. If there is any evening in which we have received no protection from God, and experienced no mercy at His hands; if we have not neglected a single opportunity of doing or receiving good ; if we are quite certain that we have not once spoken unadvisedly with our lips, nor entertained one vain or idle thought in our heart ; on that night we may safely omit to praise God and to confess our own sinfulness ; on that night we may safely omit humiliation and thanksgiving. To repeat the converse would be superfluous.
When we can conscientiously say, that religion has given a tone to our conduct, a law to our actions, a rule to our thoughts, a bridle to our tongue, a restraint to every wrong passion, a check to every evil temper, then some will say. We may safely be dismissed from the drudgery of prayer; it will then have answered all the ends which you so tiresomely recommend. So far from it, we really figure to ourselves, that if we could hope to hear of a human being brought to such perfection of discipline, it would unquestionably be found that this would be the very being who would continue most perseveringly in the practice of that devotion, which had so materially contributed to bring his heart and mind into so desirable a state, who would most tremble to discontinue prayer, who would be most appalled at the thought of the condition into which such discontinuance would be likely to reduce him.
Whatever others do, he will continue forever to "sing praises unto Thee, O Thou most Highest; he will continue to tell of Thy loving kindness early in the morning, and of Thy truth in the night-season."
It is true that while he considered religion as something nominal and ceremonial, rather than as a principle of spirit and of life, he felt nothing encouraging, nothing refreshing, nothing delightful in prayer. But since he began to feel it as the means of procuring the most substantial blessings to his heart, since he began to experience something of the realisation of the promises to his soul, in the performance of this exercise, he finds there is no employment so satisfactory ; none that his mind can so little do without; none that so effectually raises him above the world ; none that so opens his eyes to its empty shadows ; none which can make him look with so much indifference on its lying vanities ; none that can so powerfully defend him against the assaults of temptation, and the allurements of pleasure ; none that can so sustain him under labour, so carry him through difficulties ; none that can so quicken him in the practice of every virtue, and animate him in the discharge of every duty.
An additional reason why we should live in the perpetual use of prayer, seems to be, that our blessed Redeemer, after having given both the example and the command, while on earth, condescends still to be our unceasing intercessor in Heaven. Can we ever cease petitioning for ourselves, when we believe that He never ceases interceding for us?
If we are so unhappy as now to find little pleasure in this holy exercise, that, however, is so far from being a reason for discontinuing it, that it affords the strongest argument for perseverance. That which was at first a form, will become a pleasure; that which was a burden, will become a privilege; that which we impose upon ourselves as a medicine, will become necessary as an ailment, and desirable as a gratification. That which is now short and superficial, will become copious and solid. The chariot-wheel is waned by its own motion. Use will make that easy which was at first painful. That which is once become easy will soon be rendered pleasant. Instead of repining at the performance, we shall be unhappy at the omission. When a man recovering from sickness attempts to walk, he does not discontinue the exercise because he feels himself weak, nor even because the effort is painful. He rather redoubles his exertion. It is from his perseverance that he looks for strength. An additional turn every day diminishes his repugnance, augments his vigour, improves his spirits. That effort, which was submitted to because it was salutary, is continued because the feeling of renovated strength renders it delightful.
But if prayer be so exhilarating to the soul, what shall be said of praise? Praise is the only employment, we had almost said it is the only duty, in which self finds no part. In praise we go out of ourselves, and think only of Him to whom we offer it. It is the most purely disinterested of all services. It is gratitude without solicitation, acknowledgment without petition. Prayer is the overflowing expression of our wants; praise of our affection. Prayer is the language of the destitute; praise, of the redeemed sinner. If the angelic spirits offer their praises exempt from our mixture of infirmity or alloy, yet we have a motive for gratitude, unknown even to the angels. They are unfallen beings: they cannot say as we can, " Worthy the Lamb, for He was slain for us."
Prayer is the child of faith; praise, of love. Prayer is prospective; praise takes in, in its wide range, enjoyment of present, remembrance of past, and anticipation of future, blessings. Prayer points the only way to heaven; praise is already there.
(Editor's Note: Hannah Moore, according to the book Glorious Companions: Five Centuries Of Anglican Spirituality by Richard H. Schmidt , was a socialite, friend of John Newton and William Wilberforce. A socialite, she was the second youngest of five daughters. Her writings came out of her desire to run schools and work among the poor. She also wrote in support of abolition of slavery.)