Duties to be performed after prayer, by George Downame
After our prayer is ended we must quietly rest in the good will and pleasure of God; not doubting but the Lord as he hath heard our prayers, so in his good time will grant the same as shall be most for his glory and our good. And this is the meaning of the word Amen, where with our Saviour hath taught us (as it were) to seal up our prayers: for thereby as we signify the consent of our desire, so also the assent of faith. This was David’s disposition, Psal. 3. 4, 5. I did call unto the Lord with my voice; there is his prayer: and he heard me out of his mountain; there is his assurance that he was heard: I laid me down and slept; there is his quiet and secure resting in the good will and protection of God who did sustain him. So Psal. 4. 6, 7, 8. Psal. 5. 3. In the morning I will direct my prayer unto thee, & and I will look and wait, until thou shalt grant my desire. And such also was the disposition of Hannah after she had prayed, 1. Sam. 1. 18.
Secondly, as we crave good things at the hands of God, so we our selves must endeavour to attain unto them by all good means possible. For otherwise our prayer is a tempting of God, as if we would have our desire granted as it were by miracle, and a fruit of no faith or unfeigned desire of the thing asked. For if we did truly believe and unfeignedly desire the thing which we ask, we would leave no good means unattempted for the obtaining thereof. As for example, when I pray for faith or any other spiritual grace, I must besides my prayer use all the good means carefully which the Lord hath ordained for the begetting and increasing of those graces in us, as the hearing of the word preached, receiving the Sacrament, reading and meditating in the word, &c.
Thirdly, if having prayed and used other means we do not obtain our desires, let us before we go any further labour to find out the cause. If the fault be in our prayer, because we did ask amiss, Jam. 4. 3. as that we did not pray in faith, or in fervency, we must endeavour by the assistance of God’s spirit, which we are to crave, to amend that fault. If the fault be in our selves, as that we lie in some sin not repented of, we must by repentance wash our selves, and then renew our prayers unto God, Isai. 1. 16, 18. It may be we neither so greatly desire the thing which we ask while we want it, neither would so highly esteem it when we have it, as it deserveth, and therefore the Lord deferreth the granting of our suit, that our desire being deferred might be more fervent, and the thing so hardly obtained might both the more highly be esteemed and the more carefully kept. So Augustine, Deus differt nostra postulata, ut discamus grandia granditer desider are: God deferreth to grant our requests, that we may learn to desire greatly great things.
Fourthly, having used the means and endeavoured to remove the impediments, we are to persist and persevere in prayer without fainting. To which purpose our Saviour propounded the parable of the widow and the judge, Luke 18. 1. giving us to understand that those things which we do not obtain at the first, by reason of our perseverance and importunity shall be granted. To which purpose also serveth the parable of the two friends, Luke 11. 8. To this perseverance we are often stirred up both by precept, Rom. 12. 12. and practice; as of Hannah, 1. Sam. 1. 12. of David, Psal. 109. 4. who gave himself to prayer; of Daniel, when he was forbidden under pain of death to call upon God, Dan. 6. of Bartimeus the blind man, who calling upon Christ and being therefore rebuked of the people did so much the more cry after him, Mark 10. 46, 48. of the woman of Syrophenicia, who having received divers repulses yet by her importunity obtained her desire, Matth. 15. 22. of the primitive Church, Acts 2. 42. and 12. 5. of Cornelius, Acts 10. of Paul, who prayed without ceasing.
Fifthly, as we are to persist with a kind of importunity in our prayers, so are we with patience to expect the Lord’s leisure, Psal. 40. 1. and 130, 5, 7. and not to be hasty, according to that, Isai. 28. 16. Qui crediderit nè festinet, Let not him that believeth make haste: but, as it is Psal. 123. 2. waiting upon the Lord until he have mercy upon us, knowing, as Jeremy speaketh Lam. 3. 26. that it is good both to trust and to wait for the salvation of the Lord; being assured that the Lord, who is a present help in the time of need, will in his good time grant our requests. And therefore we are exhorted Heb. 4. 16, to come with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace, that is, for opportune help. And because we have need of this patience, Heb. 10. 36. we are to stir up and encourage our selves thereto, Psal. 27. 13, 14. Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, &c.
Sixthly, if having persisted in prayer and long expected the Lord’s leisure we yet have not obtained our suit, insomuch that the Lord may seem rather wholly to deny it than for a time to delay it, we are to rest in the good will and pleasure of God, being persuaded that he hath heard our prayers in a better manner than we desired, hearing us though not ad voluntatem yet ad utilitatem, that is, for our profit though not according to our will; after the manner of wise and careful parents, who will not give to their children what they ask but what is profitable; and of good Physicians, who will not grant their patients what they desire but what is expedient. And therefore we are in this case to be disposed as Augustine directeth us; Si quid contra quod oramus acciderit, patienter ferendo, & in omnibus gratias agendo, hoc potiùs oportuisse quod Dei non quod nostra voluntas habuit, minimè dubitare debemus, by patient bearing it, if any thing happeneth contrary to that which we have prayed for, and in all things giving thanks; neither ought we to doubt but that it is better that should come to pass which God willeth than what we desired. And this is true not only in temporal benefits, which it is good sometime to want, but also in spiritual which are not necessary to salvation. As for example; A man being troubled with some infirmity, which is as a prick in his flesh moving him to sin, prayeth unto God to be delivered from it: but howsoever his prayer in desiring to be freed from evil is acceptable unto God, yet it may be he will not grant it, the denial being more for his glory and our profit: for his glory, because his power is manifested in our weakness; to make us work out our salvation with fear and trembling, to make us more circumspect of our ways, knowing that we carry such an enemy about us, as if we stand not upon our guard will be ready to foil us. Example hereof in Paul, 2. Cor. 12. 7, 8, 9. And this ought to be our disposition when our requests do seem not to be granted.
But if contrariwise the Lord hath heard our prayers and granted our requests, then are we, First, to be thankful unto God for his goodness, Psal. 28. 6. and 66. 20. and 118. 21. Dan. 2. 23. Gen. 24. 26. John 11. 41. Secondly, our love of God must be increased and our faith confirmed with greater confidence to make our prayers unto him for the time to come, Psal. 116. 1, 2. I love the Lord because he hath heard the voice of my supplications: because he hath inclined his care unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
Extract from Chapter 29, A godly and learned treatise of prayer by George Downame.