For much of my childhood, the above image was prayer to me. It hung in my Lutheran Church-not in a prominant place-but I have memories of often pausing before it. I don't remember having any particularly profound thoughts in relation to it exept maybe that the praying man looked alone yet not lonely. I grew up a midwestern Lutheran and, as the novelist John Cheever once wrote, that is a "sober" way of worshipping God. So it is. And yet it is a beautiful way and not unlike the way of the Boston Unitarians in its lack of ostentation, its simplicity, and its focus on doing the next right thing-living a decent life.
So it was with Henry Ware (see all posts Ware Jr.) We left Brother Ware Meditating as the second (after reading) of his "Means of Religious Improvement." Meditation is followed in turn by Prayer. Some exerpts:
As there is no duty more frequently enjoined in the New Testament by our Saviour and the Apostles, so there is none which is a more indispensable and efficacious means of religious improvement, than Prayer... He who truly prays, feels, during the act, a sense of God's presence, authority, and love; of his own obligations and unworthiness ; of his need of being better. He feels grateful, humble, resigned, anxious for improvement. He who prays often, often has these feelings, and by frequent repetition they become customary and constant. And thus prayer operates as an active, steady, powerful means of Christian progress. Indeed nothing effectual is to be done without it That it is a chief duty, even natural reason would persuade us. That it is a condition on which divine blessings are bestowed, Christianity assures us. That it is a high gratification and enjoyment, every one knows who has rightly engaged in it. And that it is of all means of moral restraint and spiritual advancement the most effective, no one can doubt, who understands how powerfully it stirs and agitates the strongest and most active principles of man, and how complete is the dominion which those principles have over his character and conduct. All this is clear and sufficient, without adding the assurance of the Saviour, that it is effectual to draw down spiritual aid from heaven. Add this, and the subject is complete. It is, both naturally and by appointment, a chief duty of man ; from the nature of the soul and the intercourse it opens with God, it is the first enjoyment; and through its own intrinsic power and the promise of Jesus, it is the most effectual instrument of moral and spiritual culture."