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Remarks on the use of the term prayer. The prayer of adoration not frequently experienced. A communicated, and not a self-originated state. Other characteristics or marks of this state. Has its foundation in faith.

IN entering upon the subject of the present chapter, it may be proper to repeat the remark made on a former occasion, that the term PRAYER, as it is used in writers on religious experience, does not appear to be restricted to the mere act of supplication, although that is the more frequent application of it; but is sometimes employed by such writers in a more general sense, and as expressive of any and every form of truly spiritual communion with God. This more general use of the term furnishes occasion for regarding the subject of prayer in different lights, and for speaking of different kinds of prayer; different not only in the outward manifestation or manner; but different also in the precise form or the internal mental operation. Hence, in accordance with one of the higher forms of realized Christian experience, and not at variance with the approved expressions of spiritual writers, we may conveniently and properly speak of the PRAYER of ADORATION. It is our object, in the present chapter, to endeavor to illustrate, in some respects, the nature of our exalted form of spiritual communion.

2.—But before proceeding further, it may be of some consequence, to remark, that the state of mind, which we thus find it convenient as well as proper to denominate the PRAYER of ADORATION, is not, as we have reason to think, very frequently experienced by those, who are but little advanced in the divine life. Under special visitations of the Holy Spirit, they may sometimes possess it; but not frequently, nor for a great length of time. Hence it may perhaps happen, that what may be said by us on this subject, may not be readily and fully understood by such persons, in consequence of a want of personal experience. It is to be remembered, however, that the want of such experience, which is none the less to be regretted on account of its frequency, does not negative or annul the truth, although it may render the mind incapable of fully comprehending it.

3.—We proceed to remark, in the first place, that the prayer of adoration does not appear to be a
forced state of mind; or a state of mind gotten up by the compressed excitation and workings of the natural or even of the religious sensibilities. In other words, what we mean to say, is, that this state of mind is not one, which depends chiefly upon human choice, and which comes and goes at man’s bidding. The self-moved working of the internal machinery, with, however much skill and energy it may be operated, can never develope itself in this great and high result. The prayer of adoration is peculiarly and emphatically the result of the communicated influences and attractions of the Divine Mind. The power, which originates the state, may be said, in some important sense, to be from without, rather than from within. God, in his transcendent purity and in the quiet energy of his blessed and infinite nature, draws gently near, and takes possession. The soul, under the leadings of a divine inspiration, feels and recognizes his approach; and yields herself submissively and affectionately to his embraces.

4.—In accordance with what has been said, we remark secondly, that the preparatory state of the prayer of adoration is not, in general, and perhaps never, a state of interior agitation and of earnest activity, but rather of holy recollection and of divine repose. Perhaps we may describe it as a state of inward solitude. Under the influence of the inward conviction that God is, and ought to be All in all, we feel that it is not the time nor the place for the visitation of outward things. And accordingly we close our ears that they may cease to hear; we shut our eyes that they may no longer see; we repress that eager curiosity which opens the windows and doors of the mind; and remain, as it were, without sight, and without hearing, till, in the inner depths of this spiritual retirement, even from the hidden centre of the soul, there springs up the divine light of love, a heavenly illumination; and our heart rejoices, because God is with us. He comes to his own; and his own receive Him.

5.—In the third place, the prayer of adoration does not appear to be perceptive of particular and personal needs; neither is it reflective and discursive. It makes no minute recapitulation of its own necessities; it has no prolonged argumentation. In this respect it differs much from the ordinary forms of prayer. It does not undertake to teach God, nor to reason with Him; nor even to plead with Him. It forgets itself. Under the influence of a divine enchantment, it almost ceases to be cognitive of its own existence. Sweetly quiescent and annihilated as to all personal interests, it sinks unconsciously into the bosom of that divine object, which receives alike its thoughts and its affections.

6.—We remark further, that the prayer of adoration is characterized, in the subject of it, by the loss of all self-will. It is the clear perception of the perfect rectitude, of the moral beauty and excellency of the divine will, which lays the foundation of the attracting and absorbing power, which the adoring soul experiences from that source. This implies, that it does not, and cannot have, any desire or any purpose at variance with the divine desire or the divine purpose. Any movement of that kind would startle the soul, as if invaded by the presence of a terrible enemy; and would be like the entrance of Satan into Paradise.

7.—Among other things, the prayer of adoration may be said to have no language. The state of the soul is too high, too intimate with the Divine Mind, to be adequately represented in the forms of human speech. The attempt, at such a time, to subject the interior emotions and desires to the arid formularies of human language, would be disastrous to the feelings themselves. Sometimes, however, certain broken and concise forms of speech, which harmonize peculiarly with the existent feelings, pass without effort through the mind, though but seldom vocally enunciated. Such as, “Thou art my God;” “I have none other beside Thee;” “In Thee only do I trust;” “God is love;” “Thou art not a God afar off;” “Thou art my portion;” “My soul hungers and thirsts after Thee;” “I am my Beloved’s, and his desire is towards me.” If a person should at such a time attempt to bring his mind to the Meditative or Discursive form of Prayer, (that form of prayer which thinks, and particularizes, and multiplies itself upon many objects,) and should attempt to enunciate that which the meditative action had originated, he would necessarily perplex and probably terminate the prayer of Adoration. The two forms of prayer have, to some extent, two different centres; and appear, therefore, considered as existing at the same time, to be incompatible with each other. In the Meditative or Discursive form of Prayer the mind necessarily centres, in a great degree, in itself and in other inferior objects, which are now presented before it as appropriate objects of the Divine commiseration and blessing. But in the prayer of Adoration, the mind, oblivious of itself, and of every thing which has relation to self, is absorbed and centred in the Infinite. The soul is drawn out towards God in great peace and love, which is inexpressible. In being lost in God, as it were, it finds the complete accomplishment of all its desires. Hence it is neither discursive nor vocal; but centred upon one object and silent.

8.—The prayer of Adoration is not the same thing with the experience, which is denominated Ecstasy or Rapture. The state of Ecstasy or Rapture appears to possess more of an ILLUMINATIVE character. That is to say, there is not only joy, but revelation. The Ecstatic state, if we may rely on the declarations of those who have been the subjects of it, is sometimes distinctly perceptive of the glories of the heavenly world. It is also more marked, more powerful in its personal effects; so much so at times as violently to affect the physical system. It continues also only for a short time; and is not often repeated. If it were frequent and long continued, it would exhaust our physical strength; and is evidently inconsistent, as a permanent or oft-repeated state, with the present condition of things. In the prayer of adoration, on the contrary, the intellect, which is the receptacle of illuminative communications, is almost closed; and the affections are chiefly at work; operating in a peaceful and quiet manner, and yet with great richness and depth of experience. God comes near; not so much in his more striking manifestations, as in his great condescension and love; not under any form or image or in any visible shape; but revealed to the dark eye of faith, the eye that sees without seeing, as present in the soul, and as received to its hidden and inmost embraces. In the state of Rapture the voluntary power seems to be nearly or entirely lost; utterly incapable for the time being, of directing the mind promptly and calmly to any appropriate worldly business. But in the state of Adoration, if God in his Providence indicates, that duties inconsistent with that state are to be attended to, the person may break off at once and attend to them. It is easy for him to do it, because one of the leading attributes of his present state of mind is the suspension of his own will. And not only this, it may be said further, that a person is never more strengthened and never more prepared to enter upon duties, however trying they may be, than when he enters upon them, immediately successive to a season of adoration. The soul, as it recedes from this state and enters into the ordinary state, gives evidence of bringing with it a high degree of celestial invigoration and beauty.

9.—I think it is easy to perceive, that faith is, and necessarily must be the basis of the prayer of adoration. Not faith in its ordinary form, but faith existing in the highest degree. If the slightest doubt should enter, (a doubt, for instance, of God’s presence or of his moral perfections,) there can be no question, that the mind would at once sink from its state of repose and affectionate intimacy. The glory of God, as it is now displayed before the mind’s vision, would disappear; the influences of the life of self would revive; and the intimate and blessed communion, which now exists, would necessarily cease. But this is so obvious, that it is not necessary to delay upon it. We can only add, that language can but imperfectly express the blessedness of that man, whose separation from the world is such, and whose faith is such, as to result in frequent seasons of this exalted and divine prayer.