Prayer is …

“Prayer is the application of want to Him who only can relieve it, the voice of sin to Him who alone can pardon it. It is the urgency of poverty, the prostration of humility, the fervency of penitence, the confidence of trust. It is not eloquence, but earnestness; not the definition of helplessness, but the feeling of it; not figures of speech, but compunction of the soul. It is the ‘Lord, save us, we perish,’ of drowning Peter [Matt. 8:15]; the cry of faith to the ear of mercy.

Adoration is the noblest employment of created beings; confession, the natural language of guilty creatures; gratitude, the spontaneous expression of pardoned sinners. Prayer is desire; it is not a mere conception of the mind, nor a mere effort of the intellect, nor an act of the memory; but an elevation of the soul towards its Maker; a pressing sense of our own ignorance and infirmity; a consciousness of the perfection of God, of His readiness to hear, of His power to help, of His willingness to save. It is not an emotion produced in the senses, nor an effect wrought by the imagination; but a determination of the will, and effusion of the heart.”

—Hannah More (1745-1833), Practical Piety: or the Influence of the Religion of the Heart on the Conduct of Life (New York: The American Tract Society, 1811), p. 83.

Notice the usage of ‘want’ in that day is different than in ours; we ‘want’ out of essentially coveting, yet here ‘want’ connotes a deep, unmet desire for a true need to be satisfied.


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