The following work on Prayer was submitted to me in manuscript by the Author for my perusal, before it was committed to the press. It may be proper to state that the Author is a layman, and that the work has been prepared amidst the duties of a laborious calling, demanding necessarily nearly the entire hours of the day. This work has been written during the intervals which could be secured from active duties; and by practising much self-denial. It may be proper, also, further to state, that this is the first appearance of the Author before the public as the writer of a book; and on this account, he has felt reluctant. that his name should be at present known to the public.
I have examined the work in manuscript, and as it has passed through the press, with deep and growing interest, and with increasingly augmented convictions of its utility, and of the ability with which it is written. Some of the characteristics of the work, I think, will be found to be the following.
1. It is designed to be an outline of the subjects of prayer. It is not intended to be used as a form of devotion ; but to contain the leading sentiments on the various topics of prayer, which it might be desirable to employ. It had its origin in the Author's own sense of the need of such a work when he became a professor of religion. In his private devotions, as well as in his public prayers, he deeply felt then the desirableness of* some such manual that would suggest the appropriate language, and the appropriate trains of thought on the various topics of prayer. This deeply-felt necessity in his own case, suggested to him the idea that such a work might be demanded also by the embarrassments of others. It was supposed by him—as is undoubtedly the case— that many others may have similar difficulties when they at first make a profession of religion ; and that they would be materially benefited by' some such aid as this volume is designed to furnish. Probably in all our churches there are many, particularly among the young, who experience much embarrassment when called to offer prayer in public,
and who would be materially aided by some such work as this, suggesting the appropriate language, and appropriate Scripture passages on the various topics of prayer.—There is no work, it is believed, which meets this deficiency; or which will serve to relieve the embarrassment which is so often felt. Unless"I am deceived, this work will, therefore, occupy a place which is filled by no other, and will be found to be a very material aid, particularly to the younger members of the churches.
2. The style is uncommonly pure, simple, chaste, and remarkably adapted to the subjects. It abounds with Scripture phrases and with passages happily introduced and pertinent to the subject. It is elegant and finished, without any improper attempt at ornament, and yet with as much ornament as is proper in public prayer. It is always serious and solemn ; always breathes a spirit of true devotion; and such as will express the feelings of elevated piety in an address to God. It is such as would be prompted by a well disciplined mind, a cultivated intellect, and a pure heart; a spirit chaste, and refined, and impressed with a sense of the divine presence, and of the importance of the service of prayer, when deeply conscious of addressing the Great and Eternal God. In some of the prayers, there is uncommon beauty of language; and if such language should become common, even in the pulpit, it would materially conduce to the interest which is felt in this part of public worship. Indeed, I know of no book, except the Bible, by familiarity with whose modes of expression, even the ministers of the gospel would be more directly benefited than this little volume. The more it is examined, I think, the more will the beauty of the language be appreciated and felt.
3. The sentiments are scriptural. The great truths of evangelical Christianity are presented, while at the same time there is, probably, no sentiment advanced which could not be uttered, and which is not constantly uttered in prayer, by the great body of Christians of all denominations. The doctrines of the fall and ruin of man; of the depravity of the heart; of its deep pollutions and evil tendencies; of the divinity and incarnation of the Redeemer; of his atoning sacrifice; of justification by his merits ; of the agency of the Holy Spirit in renewing and sanctifying the soul; of the eternal rewards of the righteous, and the eternal condemnation of the wicked; and the obligation to a holy life, will be found to prevail every where in the work. At the same time, it is imbued with a large and catholic spirit. It breathes benevolence towards all. It utters the language of supplication for all. And it would tend to promote a liberal and large spirit among all who should use it.
4. It is a work adapted to the times in which we live. It is fitted to direct the mind and the heart more and more towards the plans of Christian benevolence, and to foster a love for the institutions which contemplate the salvation of the world. Its constant use would make a Christian more and more the friend of Sabbath-schools ; of the poor; of the afflicted; and of the institutions for the translation and spread of the Bible, and for spreading the gospel around the world. Prayer, formed after the models here presented, would breathe always the benevolent spirit of the gospel, and would be fitted to foster in the hearts of Christians, elevated views of devotion, and Christian benevolence, and at the same time, tend to secure the divine co-operation
and blessing on the great enterprises for the conversion of this whole world to Christ.
With these characteristics, this book will do good, in my humble judgment, wherever it is used. It will be found a material and very valuable aid in the devotions of the young; and will tend to promote a spirit of self-denial and of benevolence; and to diffuse among the followers of the Redeemer, more ardent wishes for the conversion of all mankind to God.
Albert Barnes, Philadelphia, Nov. 29, 1837.